Our First Week In Review
by Mark Stokoe
On Friday, January 6th, OCANews.org began operations
with a courtesy email to 625 OCA clergy informing them of the
public opening of the site the following day, lest they be caught
unawares by parishioner’s questions. Hundreds of them logged
on, and downloaded more than 11,000 pages of documents. On Saturday,
January 7th, with the public announcement via the web and email,
our traffic tripled.
In the course of the first seven days, more than
206,000 hits were registered, from 3,115 distinct computers,
equivalent to visits from more than 15% of the contributing membership
of the OCA. Readership is growing, on the average, by more than
400 distinct computers a day....
In short, the word is getting out. A significant
second spike was seen on Monday, January 9 - which would indicate
people shared concerns at church - and our address. Apparently
in one Pennsylvania parish the subject came up at a Parish Council
meeting, when one observing parishioner proceeded to bark out
our address. She is reported to have
said: “What’s going on, Father? The OCA is in debt,
money is missing, etc., with the poor priest lamenting that for
the rest of the meeting he was forced to don his “damage
control” hat ....
Not only the OCA is interested. Orthodox clergy
and laity from other jurisdictions have contributed comments
and questions to the site. This is no surprise, as OCANews.org
is now linked or discussed, on every major Orthodox site in America
and several abroad. Byzantine Catholics have found us, as well
as the wider Christian community represented by such sites as
Theology Web. A growing number of visitors, happily, are signing
on from OCA.org itself. Syosset is watching.
Nor are people just visiting. They are reading.
This is not casual, recreational browsing. People want to know,
and are concerned, and if they do not have high-speed at home
to download, they are accessing us at work. Visits remain constant
throughout the day as we are almost dead even in the number of
requests during work hours and after hours.
We know they are reading because the 77% of all visitors download
more than a 1 MB of documentation.
What are they reading? The three most read documents
to date lie at the heart of the Chronology of the Scandal, the
most read section of the website. They are 1) John
letter to Metropolitan Theodosius in September 1999 (#6) ,
2) Rob Taylor’s warning
to Archbishop Herman after Wheeler is dismissed (#7) and 3) the
2005 minutes of the Columbus Deanery containing the notes of
testimony to his priests (#40). More an more people are reading
the Reflections as the week progresses, and more and more are
You Can Do”. So what are our visitors’ reactions?
The support is quite touching, and inspiring, as is the Soldier’s
prayer of commentator # 10, or confirmation from such figures
as Chris Banescu, webmaster of Orthodoxnet.com, from the OCA
Diocese of the West: “Folks”, Chris
wrote, “this is very, very, serious business. As an attorney
and Orthodox Christian, descendant of four generations of Orthodox
priests, it is my duty to also stand up and demand Full Disclosure
and Full Accountability.” I add my name to the growing
chorus of other Orthodox Christian laymen, priests, and hierarchs
who are demanding a full,
independent, and open audit of what has happened with the millions
of dollars in funds and expenditures during the years in question.
Our faith demands it! Our Ethics require it!”
No less important are the questions being
asked in our Q&A
section. Fr. Kossey, a well-known priest in the New York area
for his work through IOCC, asked about Paul Hunchak, and the
others who left Syosset shortly after the scandal broke. Another
asked what the Bishops knew, and when they knew it. I promised
to contact all these people and ask, and I will.
From all of us at OCANews.org, thank you for your
interest, your support, your constructive criticisms, and your
work in supporting accountability in the Orthodox Church in America.