Thursday, March 2. 2006
We've heard from the Bishops. Now lets hear from priests and laity. ( Correction, now we have heard from one Bishop here as well. )
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I read the posted statment from the Holy Synod twice, and please forgive me, it looks like there has been no real movement. The Synod restated the intent to adopt Best Practices for NPs (which we have heard before, then seen watered down), and ordered an audit for the past two years (not back far enough to address the original problem, and not new since the audit is required for a pending loan). I am unsure as to what the intent to examine OCA appeals from 2001 actually means: will the Church will find out what happened to the 9/11 monies?
I have to go read again, because I just can't tell.
#1 A former parishioner on 2006-03-02 05:45
More stalling. More of the same. Why should we have expected differently? They continue to take the tack of pretending the decade of the 1990's never happened and hoping that the current cries for accountability will subside. This statement oozes with false piety. It is arrogant of the Holy Synod to so flagrantly ignore the outcries for an audit of the 1990's and then turn around and exhort us with references to the Gospel.
#2 Name Withheld By Request on 2006-03-02 07:48
Unfortunately, the statement failed to address the most important years in question, 1995 through 2003, were not addressed and no independent audit recommended! So much for restoring trust, accountability, ethics and integrity to the OCA.
Furthermore, the Synod failed to address whether the serious allegations made by Deacon Wheeler (and supported by others) are TRUE or FALSE?
Somehow, I'm not surprised.
This is known as the "Ostrich System of Management" perfected in the OCA. Burry your head in the sand and hope it all quietly goes away by itself. Better still, they will use the Great Lent to help silence further debate and cquestions and they will remind them that during Lent we are not supposed to "judge" or "cause trouble" or "speak out" against the hierarchy.
If this is what passes for "leadership" in the OCA in this day and age, we are in deeper trouble than some financial shenanigans. I said it before and I will repeat it again, there is a serious and deep spiritual crisis in the very heart of the church hierarchy and administration. Until the truth comes out, there is true repentance and accountability, and a genuine initiative to clean house and change course, things will continue to degrade and descend into darkness. Lord Have Mercy!
Well, perhaps someone will correct me but here I my thoughts on the Bishops statement:
1) It manifestly avoids the crux of the scandal by only calling for an audit of the books of the last two years (2004-2005 if I read it correctly)
2) It reaffirms "best practices" that are quite basic and should have been a given along. They are also quite vague - just how are these best practices going to be practiced and how are they going to impact the underlying culture?
3) It says nothing about the culture, the habits of mind and heart, that would be the prerequisite to any institutional failure like the current scandal
4) I am heartened by the effort to figure out what happened to the special appeal monies.
#4 Christopher Encapera (OCA-North Carolina) on 2006-03-02 09:17
Let's take the Synod's statement point by point.
1) is a re-iteration of the Lesser Synod's statement from January. In both, what is obviously lacking is the recommended Best Practice that a non-retaliatory climate be established in regard to "whistle-blowers". Why do the Bishops think this not applicable to the OCA?
2) is new, but this is not an audit of the appeals from 2001 forward. It is only a review and dependent upon the materials which administration gives the auditors. Be skeptical.
3) The audit of 2004 and 2005. Again, this is nothing new. But it will be inconclusive about financial rectitude because it does not cover the "gap years", 1999-2003, nor does it deal with the ADM monies. Shades of Rosemary Woods here.
4) A review of the audit is projected for the Spring Session of the Synod allowing for the possibility of a special committee or review. Sounds good, doesn't it? But since many of the questionable years and activities are not addressed, it will be easy for a "review of the audit" to be deemed to warrant no need for a "committee of review".
Remember, the administration is still in place. So the potential for "cover-up" during this period should be obvious.
Are the bishops merely playing for time? If so, time just might be running out.
Left unanswered to date: "Are the allegations true or are they false?"
#5 Jack Miller on 2006-03-02 09:20
Are the allegations true, or false?
Are the allegations true, or false?
Are the allegations true, or false?
#6 Marty Watt on 2006-03-02 09:24
When I read this article, I was reminded of a similar controversy, on the local level, that several members of our parish council tried to bring to the attention of the Dean. We were dismissed as having no truth to our claim and sat through two hours of clergy accusations against us and outright lies. It is fascinating to me that the priest in question, back in the early 1980s, was subsequently removed from the clergy rolls.
I encourage the laity to keep up the pressure for great accountability.
#7 Maria Dering on 2006-03-02 10:18
We are deeply saddened by the statement of the Bishops of March 1st. It isn't adequate - what is needed is a complete audit of all accounts from the time of ADM contributions until present date. As faithful Orthodox Christians, we find the lack of accountability to be sinful and not deserving of the leadership of our wonderful Holy Church.
We are appalled by the high-handedness of Bishops who refuse to allow the members to speak freely. Especially upsetting is the Bishops calling one another names such as wacko. These are our Leaders? The Church heirachy should be ashamed of themselves, and lead like honorable men by example.
We are asked to contribute, which we have done in the past. Do we feel like contributing from our hearts, when money is not well spent and accounted for? We look for better response from the Heirarchy.
#8 Dr. Albert Maruskin and Marie Guidos0Maruskin, husband and wife on 2006-03-02 10:24
So the Holy Synod has announced that it will: a) implement best financial practices, b) review moneys collected for charitable purposes since 2001 and c) undergo an audit for 2004 and 2005.
The Synod apparently did not have the stomach to order an audit going back to 1996 -- leaving the entire Church to wonder whether accusations of financial impropriety in the late 1990s were true or false.
No matter. God will act through Caesar. The FBI has already shown an interest in the accusations of the misappropriation of funds, as has the press. It is only a matter of time before the IRS and the Justice Department become involved.
#9 Greg Denysenko on 2006-03-02 10:41
I am feeling so sad after seeing "A statement of the Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America" on the OCA site. This is so much less than I prayed for.
Where is truth? Where is repentance?
I'll continue praying... "O Lord, save Thy people!"
#10 "Janet" on 2006-03-02 13:58
I only have three questions to ask of those individuals calling for independent audits for all years in question.
Where is the money going to come from to pay for these audits?
Doesn't anyone realize how expensive an audit for just one year in question costs? At least $25,000 per year, I would assume.
If the OCA is truthfully in dire straights financially, why don't we all give His Beatitude Metropolitan Herman a break already and commend him for not allowing the Church to get us as a church, deeper into financial distress.
I for one, believe that the implimentation of best practices will work in due time. This entire fiasco has certainly demonstrated that patience is a virtue that we should all strive for and benefit by.
The poeple handling this are not idiots. But rather, competent, careful and prudently finding out the facts. Unfortunately, this task takes some time.
I'm totally confident the Church will come through this endeavor much stronger. With that thought in mind,
the last question I pose is, don't any of you out there including some of our clergy share in blind faith any more, or trust in the Holy Spirit; or have we all become like the doubting Thomas, refusing to believe unless we see?
#11 Michael Geeza on 2006-03-02 14:08
Approximately five million dollars are unacounted for,what is another quarter going to do to the church? It is laughable when our leaders quote SCRIPTURE, when they should be quoting the eighth and ninth commandment from the TEN CAMMANDMENTS.
LETS GET THIS RESOLVED NOW OR WE WILL ALL SUFFER IN THE OCA FROM THIS SMELL.
NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE PRAY IT AIN'T GOING TO GO AWAY!
#11.1 Steve Babish on 2006-03-02 15:07
I have an answer to questions #1 and #3, Michael.
We could pay for the audits out of the Metropolitan's Discretionary fund. There should be plenty of money in there.
Of course, we can sit and do nothing, as some of you seem to be proposing. Then, the IRS will pay for an audit. At this point, that sounds good enough for me.
As far as "blind faith" goes -- Richard Nixon and William Marcy Tweed were pretty smart, too. The fact that their constituents also lacked blind faith turned out to be a good thing for the USA and the City of New York, respectively.
#11.2 Greg Denysenko on 2006-03-02 21:02
It saddens me that you refer to the Metropolitan as Herman.
It also saddens me that you also make references to the fact that he hides behind dirty little secrets "just like Theodosius and Kondratick.".
What dirty little secrets are you referring to?
Don't any of you get it? Or should we all revert back to old "witch hunt" tactics of long ago?
Before any course of action can transpire, the facts must carefull be documented so that the proper course of action can be taken.
I thought the audit was taking care of that.
Why can't any of you wait until the first audit is completed?
These are very serious allegations pending. In all fairness, shouldn't the facts be made known first, before judgement is passed, or should we just incriminate now and worry about a potential law suite later on?
In any event, it's Great Lent and I for one, can no longer be bothered with this nonsense.
I hope we can all feel the same.
#11.2.1 Michael Geeza on 2006-03-06 07:48
No, blind faith does not exist - the scales have truly fallen from our eyes. And the only thing I would commend Herman for is being as adept as Theodosius and Kondratick at hiding his own little secrets.
And one last thing. We are told to forgive, let Christ forgive. He has more mercy than I do. Open your eyes and see - the Church has been dressed as a harlot and paraded before the world, so that those few may benefit from the money she earns.
#11.3 Elena Andrusezko on 2006-03-03 17:27
Yes, I am a doubting Thomas, in that I have no faith in a hierarchy that was embarrassed into action only when these allegations became public. They have still failed to confirm or deny the charges. The statement issued by the Holy Synod was at best, farcical. “Transparency”, “ethics”, “conflict interest polices”, is the leadership of the church that far off track that they have to tell the membership that they will “adopt” these values? One would expect that men in their positions would act ethically and with integrity in all matters. Moreover, if the Syosset has not been acting with transparency and integrity in financial matters, it certainly makes me wonder if it has been acting in the same manner in other areas of the church as well. The accusations leveled against the OCA are serious, blackmail payments, fraud; theft, etc, our resolve in getting to the truth of the matter should be unrelenting. The scriptures don't tell us to live by blind faith my friend, they tell us to test all things and as Jesus said when he sent his disciples out midst the wolves”[be] wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Mt 10:16.
#11.4 S McKee on 2006-03-06 03:11
The response of the Synod of Bishops to the request for a full, objective and transparent accounting of the management of funds from 1995 to present is revealing. What the clergy and laity choose to do in response to what the Bishops propose will be equally revealing. It has been wisely observed that people get the kind of leadership they deserve.
This time of the Great Fast with its invitation to confess and make amends seems to be appropriately coincident to the events at hand.
Inquiry is not judgement. It is only inquiry, however unwelcome it is perceived to be by those under scrutiny.
#12 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-03-02 14:09
Is this more of the same? It's hard to tell from the spartan news release. Personifying this meeting, it seems apparent that neither Archbishop Job nor Bishop Tikhon could walk away completely satisfied.
But before we start to castigate the apparent inaction, let's consider the following:
- Auditing records that go back over a decade is not necessarily practical nor necessary.
- Even if the records were available to audit, would an audit restore those assets?
- We weren't there, to hear what was said or to know how things were decided. Sure, I'm disappointed that the statement didn't go farther, but I can't possibly understand the tone of the conversation or understand the hearts of the people that arrived at this decision.
If we expected a stunning news release with "film at eleven" scenes of chancellors marched out of the meeting in handcuffs and raincoats over their heads, we will be disappointed with the news release. But if, on the other hand, want our church leaders to pay closer attention to the financial resources entrusted to them, I think we should be encouraged by the news.
#13 Marty Brown on 2006-03-02 14:15
Clearly, this situation will continue to develop indefinitely. It seems to me that there are really two "missions" simultaneously developing here: the first is discovering whether or not the allegations are true or false, but the underlying, second mission is to identify and establish what it means to be the Orthodox Church in America today (ecclesiology).
The first will work itself out. Every initiated Christian has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and he will work as he wishes according to his own agenda, not anyone else's. As free people, free in Christ, we have a prophetic duty to "call a spade a spade" as it were, or "tell it like it is." Until the dust settles and truth is revealed, working this out is a Christian duty, and attempts to censor free discussion and probing on this matter would be simply un-Christian. The integrity of Christ's Church is at stake, and the Holy Spirit may choose to work through very unconventional means to resolve all of this (that seems to be God's preferred method). Everyone should be open to that, and we should all be His instruments in identifying this resolution.
Of course, this involves considerable risk. What if the allegations are false? Have we just assumed that they are true based on appearances? Even if that is the case, given the threat currently posed to Church unity - nothing is more important than unity - we have to be open to that risk. Whatever the final resolution, an enormous amount of grace and forgiveness will be required for reconciliation, and it will be our duty, based on Christ's Gospel command (see this Sunday's Gospel reading), to forgive.
Finally, no matter the worst case scenario, the Church will not collapse. The Church is not Syosset, it is not the Holy Synod, but it is all the initiated people gathered together in eucharistic worship, praising God. God-willing, nothing that happens should prevent us from gathering together and praising God in thanksgiving for having the freedom to even discuss these issues. Many of our fathers did not enjoy this freedom. As others have stated above, we should have confidence in God, and fulfill our role in discovering the truth for the sake of His Church.
#14 M. Denysenko on 2006-03-02 15:15
Amen! Very well said.
#14.1 Jane on 2006-03-03 20:45
I am in a aura of astonishment after reading the statement from the Synod. A synod that totally ignored the plea's of it's membership and a synod that totally ignored the problem as we seen it. Apparently there was no problem. I find this beyond belief. A small mission station that has not received one red cent from the OCA to help us make it, lies in ruin because we receive no backing. As a matter of fact we have been totally ignored for the last 3 years while the administration of the Holy Church wasted away millions and millions of dollars and now has to get a loan to pay the debts.
William Sullivan, Smithville, Missouri
#15 William Sullivan on 2006-03-02 15:26
Now that we have heard from our Bishops, I would now like to hear, as Greg Denysenko asked too, from the IRS and Justice Department.
#16 Patty Schellbach on 2006-03-02 17:39
Say what?!!! Again the Bishops are saying " We know all about this and we'll take care of it" Yeah right. I think I'll just specify on my offering envelope for the money that I give to church to be used soley for my parish and forget about the OCA dues.
#17 Tamara on 2006-03-02 17:41
If nothing else, we should follow the advice in the closing exhortation of our Synod of Bishops, I qoute, "On the threshold of the Great Fast, we exhort the faithful to remember the Holy Gospel, to conform to the example of Christ..." Specifically I have in mind the passage from the Gospel of Mark, "He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. And he taught, and said to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him." (Mark 11:15-18)
Also, in response to a recent comment asking "have we all become like the doubting Thomas, refusing to believe unless we see?" , let us remember that even our Holy Orthodox Church sings "How wonderful is this doubt of Thomas!" (Glory verse of the Aposticha from Matins of the Monday of Thomas week)
#18 Ben Kalemba on 2006-03-02 17:48
Well.. I think in summary to all that has happened in the last few months....Fr. "Bob" Kondradick put it very well when many years ago he sat with a group of us that wanted answers as to the "retirement" of Bishop Gregory and the V. Rev. Joseph Kreta. His answer to us was and I quote..."there are things that you are not privy to.... nor should you be!!!. I guess that answer still holds true. True or false? It only takes one answer.
Yes or no.
#19 Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-03-02 18:07
As a baptised Orthodox Christian, I have seen some of the allegations posted on your website by former OCA employees. I do have some questions. How does this Dn. Wheeler approach the chalice? How can he enter into Great Lent without opening the door to repentance? Why would he want to bring such pain to the entire church? Does he realize that he signed a statement of obedience to his bishop at the time of his ordination? What kind of Christians behave in this manner?
How can you go on criticizing our Holy Synod and central administration during Great Lent?
Isn't it time to lay aside all earthly cares and focus on what we should be doing at this time of the Great Fast?
#20 Eric A. on 2006-03-02 18:41
During Great Lent??? When should we be asking these questions? I've been in five Mission Churches and the Central Administration has never helped. Where do you think the Mission money goes? It's not about the money per se. It's about everything that goes to Syosset and what comes back. ask yourself "where does it go".
#20.1 Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-03-03 19:40
Please remember that Deacon Wheeler was released from his duties in 1999 because, as treasurer, he questioned the financial irregularities that were occurring in the accounts of the OCA, i.e. both OCA donations and ADM contributions were purposely being routed to nontraceable "discretionary" accounts under the control of the bishops. As treasurer, he was faithfully doing the job he was asked to do by the church, and was fired for doing it too well.
His firing was an additional crime, when considered under the Whistleblowers Act, committed directly against him in retribution by the hierarchy. Archbishop Herman was then appointed as acting treasurer to ensure no more questions were raised about the irregularities or "discretionary" accounts. It would seem Archbishop Herman was also a faithful servant, but of a different stripe.
It is because of Deacon Wheeler's action that we have even the meager concessions to good conscience offered by the OCA heirarchy at this time. He patiently waited five years before opening these issues, I would assume in the hopes that the Synod would act honorably and responsibly over time. They never did.
Without the current situation unfolding, we would still be in the midst of an OCA where charity funds are diverted away from their intended purpose, corporate donations, intended for humanitarian aid, are hidden in untraceable accounts, and anyone questioning their actions is punished and villified. That is not an Orthodox Christian Church of God. It is a fraud wrapped in brocade.
That image may be normal for some who have long ago become accustomed to accepting a high degree of secrecy and unquestioned hierarchical privilege as the price of belonging to the Orthodox Church, but there are many who want to see a better future for the Orthodox Church in which we and our children our part.
SO TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION, I am sure Deacon Wheeler approaches communion in humility with the knowlege that it was he who has been a "good and faithful servant" to the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and we should be thankful to God for his bravery in doing what was right in the eyes of God.
When right is done, as we with faith believe it must be. It is we who should ask forgiveness for our complicit silence in allowing these injustices to go unchallenged for so long and for allowing one Christian man to bear so much of the burden alone. I only hope that one day he will be able to hear thousands of voices raised in thanks for his efforts to bring transparency to the management the church's precious resources as they are deployed in God's work.
You say Deacon Eric has brought pain upon the church. I say the church was wailing silently in pain, as a hostage to deceit, until he brought the sunlight of truth into its dark and smokey back rooms.
I copy Deacon Wheeler's message at that time:
"For a brief time in history, those of us placed in positions of administrative leadership are given the awesome responsibility of being wise stewards of the material resources of the Church. We will be held accountable before God for this. But we are also accountable to you, the clergy and faithful who provide us with the prayerful support and material resources to carry out the work of the Church."
#20.2 Gregory S. on 2006-03-03 19:41
Stewardship of Christ's Church is not an earthly care.
There have been times in the Church's history when God has called upon the laity to be the leading stewards of His Church. The False Unions of Florence and Brest come to mind. In those cases, the laity took the leading role in preserving Christ's Church against self-serving Earthly princes.
Being Orthodox doesn't mean that we should stick our heads in the clouds during Great Lent.
What has Deacon Eric done that deserves such condemnation? Has he been proven wrong? No.
Wake up and smell the incense, Eric. The Psalms say "put not your trust in Princes or the Sons of Men." My trust is in God. Period. This is the lesson that I will be taking with me into Great Lent.
#20.3 Greg Denysenko on 2006-03-03 22:15
It's okay to ask for answers ...after Great Lent? Great Lent is a time for ALL of us to reflect and come to terms with what we've done. It's also the time to answer the simple question put by bless him , Bishop Job. Are the accusations TRUE OR FALSE?
Simple isn't it? A YES or NO is sufficient. My husband and I are cradle Orthodox and have been in four mission parishes and we've seen little or no Mission Money from the OCA. Where has all the Mission Money gone? That's the answer I want.
#20.4 Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-03-07 18:04
We are deeply saddened by the Synod's cynical response (or nonresponse) to the heartfelt cries of Orthodox Christians that their leaders BE the images of Christ that God has called and ordained them to be.
The Statement of the Holy Synod, published this morning on this worthy website, is too little and, we fear, too late. So many of us have been watching and praying for our Church this week (in our own parish a Molieben was served Tuesday evening), hoping that this Body we are members of would not turn out to be as corrupted as we feared. But what now?
We've read enough Church history to know that this is by no means the first time the Church's leadership has fallen, and even to know that through it all, even at its worst, the Holy Spirit has moved powerfully and, in time, worked His will. For this we must pray now.
Many years ago we were advised by a faithful old woman in our parish that "you aren't truly Orthodox until you've had a bad priest." But how sad that the badness reaches all the way to the top and has entrenched itself there.
How hard it will be now--when the Bishop or Metropolitan comes to be humbly vested by His people in the center of our Church and thereby granted authority, by the faithful gathered there, to be their leader in worship--how hard it will be to feel the awe and beauty of this mystical relationship between the flock and its shepherd. How hard it will be not to wonder: "Is he taking our money and spending it on himself or his cronies? Has he only contempt for us and our spiritual needs? Does he live the truth he teaches? He instructs us to live as Christians and forgive, but will he ever ask our forgiveness?" (Though, thank God, we do not ask these questions about our own bishop.)
It's a very good thing that the Synod is taking its financial responsibilities seriously, if that is in fact what their statement means and what the administration intends to do. This may lead to a cleaner operation in the future. But it is so much less than what was needed, and because of this it puts that very future in jeopardy. It does nothing to address the "culture of corruption" that appears to be so rampant in the OCA (as in the world); it does nothing to restore the trust of the faithful, which has been so badly shaken. Above all, it leaves us wondering what terrible crimes were committed during the 1990s that no one dares to talk about.
And yet we could have learned to forgive if our forgiveness had been asked--for crimes penitentially acknowledged! How much worse it will be when the civil authorities move in, as they will, and do the job the Synod should have done for itself!
Fr. Alexander Schmemann is said to have commented once, after 30 years in the priesthood, that "I can truly say that the Church is spotless and without stain." By God's grace, he had won through. We pray that we can, too.
The Church is spotless because, as the Body of Christ, She is the home of the Holy Spirit--and we, all of us, bishops, priests, deacons, monks, and lay faithful, together are commanded by our Lord to keep our home in goood order. When any or each of us disfigures our home, when we sin against our Lord, each of us ruins the home for everyone else; and our wreckage remains until the Lord has mercy on us.
Our good and honorable parish priest spoke last week about falling in love with Christ over and over, deeper and still always deeper. We do so, said Father, because Christ keeps on loving us--boundlessly and immeasurably--never giving up on us.
So we must do now: keep on falling in love with the Church and never giving up, even in the very midst of this heartbreaking failure of our Church leaders.
#21 Subdeacon Don and Xenia Sheehan on 2006-03-02 19:03
A classic example of "don't screw with the big guys". The meeting of the Holy Synod had no other purpose than to endorse the statement of the Lesser Synod. The closing comment just galled me, (my paraphrase) let's enter Great Lent with a penitent spirit, etc., etc. My, why should we practice what we preach? Always keep in mind the "absolute power corrupts absolutely." We have just seen that in action. Heed ye whistleblowers and malcontents, salmon have a better chance of returning to their spawning grounds than you have of correcting wrongdoing.
#22 Thomas Sashko on 2006-03-02 19:43
I too was struck by the closing comment. Sort of the ecclesiastical equivalent of "Don't call us, we'll call you."
I'm impressed with the outpouring of support. It should be noted that Dn. Wheeler's comments were made public late last year, not "on the eve of Great Lent" as some have implied. This website began functioning in January, near Theophany -- a more appropriate time for "revelation" I doubt could be found.
In short, the question remains:
Are the allegations true, or false?
Is it time for a meeting of the laity to discuss what needs to occur? After all, the next All-American council has now been pushed back from 2008 to 2010, has it not?
#22.1 Marty Watt on 2006-03-04 11:12
To Metropolitan Herman and the Holy Synod. What is it going to take for you to get your heads out of the sand? The questions from everyone - expiicitely stated or inferred - are: Are the allegations true, and if they are , or are not, let us know!!!. Why do you continue to skirt the issue? To continue in your chosen mode of avoiding the question and not even daring to conduct an audit for the period of time in question, only supports the opinion of most OCA people with whom I have contact, that there is a great amount of guilt in the accusations leveled against you. On a very personal note, I have sponsored 11 people into the Orthodox faith since I became Orthodox in 1997. I thank God that He used me to guide those 11 into the faith. Now, I find it hard to witness (probably a term you do not understand) to non-Orthodox when I see our hierarchy behaving in such a totally irresponsible, and unChristian manner. All I can say is, you are a great disappointment to me and, as time goes on, you will realize you have failed in your positions of leadership in the OCA. Wake up!! You are not convincing anyone of innocence by the behavior you are trying to "shove down our throats".
I too am a "convert" (even though I have now been an Orthodox Christian longer than I was a Protestant Christian). I too have sponsored numerous chrismations and baptisms. And frankly, I too am ashamed at the uninspiring, self-absorbed behavior of the Orthodox Churches of all stripes in America. Frankly, I no longer encourage non-Orthodox to join our Church for the same reasons you mentioned. I feel like if I do so that I am doing these people a disservice in calling them to a Church life so full of unnecessary ethnicity, pettiness, fear, selfishness and pomposity. We call ourselves "the one true Church" then behave like reprobates. Look at these leaders. We have what we have allowed to exist. If this is to change then that change is only going to occur by exerting a dedicated, powerful counterforce to the inertia and malaise that created these leaders and this circumstance.
#23.1 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-03-03 21:18
After talking with someone (extremely high ranking, and boy was I surprised he talked about it with me!) I am much relieved.
The Holy Synod has a document that says the ADM money was intended for the Metropolitan's discretionary fund. THis document has satisfied most of the members of the Holy Synod.
Also, much of the charity was given in the form of cash, ala St. Nicholas tossing bags of gold through windows. There are no records. Also, for pastoral and privacy reasons, the Holy Synod is not willing to say who received the charity.
Now as for me, this matter is closed. I have repenting to do. It isn't my job to police the bishops. After all, didn't St. John of Damascus (Or was it St. Isaac of Syria? I'm always getting the two confused.) do his best work under a bad bishop? Bad bishops can't really hinder our spiritual progress. In some ways they can help it.
But, I am still changing my will and life insurance. When I die my money is going to St. Herman's Seminary and the OCMC.
#24 Not my real name on 2006-03-03 00:23
Wow, I'm relieved to hear that you're relieved. What you've said is that someone from HQ went over to the bank and withdrew $9,999 in cash. 300 times! Or withdrew $500 from the local ATM 6000 times. Can you spell "money laundering"?
There's an old Russian proverb "pray to God, but keep rowing to shore." I think we best man the oars.
#24.1 Mike Strelka on 2006-03-04 07:27
It is easier to audit a discretionary fund than a "regular fund".
You appoint an independent person, receive their promise not divulge any personal details about what they may see--only financial ones, and then the auditor determines how much came in and how much went out, and if the funds were handled appropriately.
And that's it. No names have to be used, it doesn't matter if the money was received by "St. Nicholas grants" or open gifts.
Just because money is going to or coming from a discretionary fund doesn't mean the controller of that fund is relieved of book-keeping. In fact it means his book-keeping must be even more stringent that an "open fund" simply to protect himself from accusations like this.
It also doesn't mean that the fund shouldn't be audited. As evidenced by this scandal, it is clear that even discrteionary funds MUST have some kind of minimum accounting. Not an open accounting, but one that involves the controller of the account and an independent, impartial third party (who promises to keep details private) who can, at the end of checking the books, sign an affadavit that states "The books check out, everything is fine."
I don't see why people can't see the utter ease with this could be done, and the benefit to all.
#24.2 Kevin Nikolai Payne on 2006-03-06 12:02
Dear not my real name,
Don't you find it odd that your source would be so forthcoming? Had you considered that you were being used as a "trial balloon" for potential creative defenses being developed by those who are pressing this Synodal arrogance? I must admit that the St. Nicholas defense is pretty creative. "Judge, I plead the St. Nicholas defense and am therefore not answerable to the requirements of IRC 501(c)(3) for proper uses and record keeping of donated funds... St. Nicholas just threw bags of money through the window. I did the same thing. St. Nicholas had no records and neither do I." The St. Nicholas Canon on giving? Very creative I must say.
#24.3 Name Withheld By Request on 2006-03-06 19:01
With one key difference, St. Nicholas used his own money!
#24.3.1 Anonymous on 2006-03-06 22:53
Who did you talk to and what is your name and who is a bad bishop? This is all smoke and mirrors. Use your real name and the real name of the high ranking person and the real name of the bishop who you think is bad if you want to be taken seriously.
#24.4 Olympiada Kane on 2006-03-08 18:28
The Holy Synod's response is disappointing, but predictable. Efforts should continue to pressure for audits for the 1995-2003 period and to report with full transparency all errors and misconduct. The faithful should be prepared to forgive if misconduct is identified.
I have long heard stories, second and third hand, from reliable sources of the misconduct emanating from Syosset. I have always remained silent for fear of scandalizing other who place trust in the church central administration. Privately, since 2000, I began redirecting all contributions formerly destined to the national church, to several priests who were neglected and/or abused by their bishops.
Some consideration must be given to administrative restructuring with specific reference to the office of chancellor. No chancellor should serve more than one five or six year term and perhaps the duties of the chancellor should be divided between two people with partially overlapping terms.
Daniel Defoe wrote: "Whenever God builds a church, the devil erects a chapel inside." It was true in Corinth and it is true today in America. For the disheartened, do as we pray: place all our hope in the Lord Jesus ("Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation.")
#25 Terry C. Peet on 2006-03-03 10:06
I have been conducting audits of non-profits for 25 years. I felt I should comment, based on prior letters to this forum.
1. An audit in conformity with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards is not a forensic audit. The outside accountants pretty clearly will be performing the former and not the latter, which would be very expensive. I should point out, however, that one of the recent audit standards requires the auditor to make inquiries regarding illegal acts and fraudulent transactions.
2. I have never seen a charitable trust or foundation make a specific purpose grant without asking the recipient for a reporting of how the grant money was spent. It would appear that no such report was sent to ADM. Nor could one claim that this grant was discetionary money not subject to scrutiny. Everything that I have read has said that this was money for St Catherine's Church in Moscow.
3. It is encouraging that the disposition of appeals monies will be looked at. It's discouraging that years prior to 2001 are still left open to question, as will the ADM grants. Also discouraging is the fact that the next AAC is still not until 2010. Nor does it appear that the audit committee of the OCA will be allowed to fully perform their function.
4. Lastly, we (in the Midwest Diocese) have not heard back yet from Archbishop Job as to what exactly was discussed out east. For the time being, until the spring session of the Synod, it appears that we will have to excercise patience.
#26 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-03-03 10:18
I am also a CPA (as mentioned here before) and would like to echo Mr. Strelka's comments. We really need to resign ourselves to the idea we will never know what occured in the distant past.
I do believe, however, that reference has been made to reports fabricated to satisfy the ADM and Andres Family Foundations regarding their donations. It is possible the family foundation could donate to the "discretion of the Metropolitan". However, it is (in my experience as an auditor and a not-for-profit Chief Financial Officer) very highly unlikely that the ADM gift would have been made with such stipulations. Most corporate foundation charters require giving only for purpose, and expressly prohibit such discretionary gifts.
#26.1 Marty Watt on 2006-03-04 11:20
As far as the IRS is concerned, can a foundation give a sizeable gift that is not designated for a specific purpose? Is a "discretionary fund" a specific enough designation?
#26.1.1 Christine G. on 2006-03-06 08:42
I have run a not-for-profit organization that received millions of dollars in donations. The declared intent of the giver was and remains a bedrock principle in the stewardship of those funds for the officers and other responsible fiduciaries in a non-profit. Put simply, to accept a donation designated for one purpose and to spend it in another way, without getting express, prior permission from the donor, is a crime. That said, non-profits get away with misuse of designated funds every day. The IRS cannot possibly police each and every not-for-profit organization. However, our American legal system and way of life (not to mention Christian moral responsibility) depend upon a baseline ethic and self-policing. One would want this to be especially true of Christian organizations. Given Bishop Job's repudiation of the Synodal "approval" of the Metropolitan's Discretionary Fund, it is also possible that Syosset sweet-talked Mr. Andreas/ADM into a similar rewording of the designation away from the original St. Catherine's proposal with wording that gave Fr. Bob Kondratick carte blanche. I do not believe we can rest until the decade of the 1990's is audited, whatever it costs. Perhaps a special fund needs to be established to pay the costs of accountants and attorneys to pursue forensic audits. Embezzlement. Money Laundering. Fraud. Misuse of Designated Funds. Breach of Fiduciary Duty. Theft. Breach of Good Faith. Abuse of the Reasonable Expectations Doctrine. Gross Negligence. Breach of Trust. Greed. Arrogance. Lying. Deception. Cheating. Abuse of the Confessional. Blackmail. Hush Money. Bribes. Abuse of Office. These dark clouds will not go away just because we find them difficult to deal with or because we face stonewalling. If there is no guilt, reputations will be cleared. Where there is guilt, accountability must occur if our Chuch is to have any credibility as a body of Truth-seekers.
#220.127.116.11 Name Witheld by Request on 2006-03-06 21:37
Seems like they are wrapping themselves in the bible, sort of granting themselves protection by making this about religion. It is and will always be misuse of YOUR funds entrusted to them.
Do we expect to see anyone out in handcuffs, if they run from the problem and don't get out ahead of it? I would say a resounding YES. Enron, WorldCom...do you think they saw themselves in jail??
The only other way to escape this without disclosing your financials is to have the Metropilitan, Chancellor and the rest of the administration resign and step aside. A new adminstration gets elected, and promises to right the ship.
You can run, but you can't hode from two entities in life, the first being GOD, the second being the Federal Government.
More to come....you betcha. And they deserve what comes next by not being honest and proactive about squaring up.
#27 Former OCA member on 2006-03-03 10:47
For some of us who are relatively recent converts from the Roman Catholic Church, the OCA financial scandal is, as Yogi Berra said, "deja vu all over again. Highest ranking prelates, thinking themselves answerable only to Canon Law, appear to have concealed wrongdoing that is addressed under civil and criminal statutes.
#28 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-03-03 15:12
Jean - keep the faith. The Church itself is Holy; it's just us people that fail sometimes.
#28.1 Mike Strelka on 2006-03-04 07:12
The Holy Synod's letter does not address the governance problem first mentioned by Taylor in 1999.
There is no finance committee.
#29 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-03-03 16:14
Alas, just business as usual. The same vague, hollow statements from our Bishops I have heard not only in connection with the current issue, but other unrelated matters on a local level. I cannot fathom that the hierachs are unable to understand the damage they are inflictiing on the OCA. Damage both financial as well as spiritual. If the allegations are false why not be completely open and call for a thorough investigation by a totally independent commision.
The only way that trust can be re-established between the hiearchs and their followers is with an independent investigation. The investigating commision should be composed of clergy, lay persons both from the OCA as well as from other jusdictions and an accounting firm.
I request that my name be witheld since I have been intimidated in the past for asking questions about the operation of our parish.
Philadelphia, PA March 3, 2006
#30 Name withheld by request on 2006-03-03 16:48
Yes, Philadelphia, so many of us lay people have been subjected to the governance of the church by fear and intimidation. You are not alone!
There's something radically wrong about this behavior being tied to religion. Where is love, piety, concern for fellow man, and honesty? Personally, I am suffering the consequences. I do not trust, respect or look for guidance to the heirarchs, but I also do not and will not fear them. My faith is in God and my church is my family . . . . wherever two or three are gathered in *My Name*. . . .!
#30.1 withhold by request on 2006-03-04 06:41
As a former member of OCA the misuse of funds just continues to add to the reasons why I have left the church. My suggestion to the remaining OCA members is to bypass the church top officials and head directly to the Federal Government & IRS, have them seize all the books, computers and bank accounts for a true audit. Shame Shame Shame on those involved in not only the theft but the coverup.
#31 Rose Kallas on 2006-03-04 09:15
Reaching down from another galaxy, far, far, away, our Synod has slapped its sheep in the face. Pretending to be shepherds called to protect their sheep, they seek only to harvest their wool and leave them to wander in circles amidst wolves. The sheep can only wonder as their shepherds claim to fulfill the apostle's call to decency and order.
Opting for an emasculated and ambiguous set of "Best Practices," the shepherds evade the central, clarion call to encourage a culture of obedience to the law and to protect those who reveal financial malpractice. Decent? Orderly?
Calling the sheep to remember the Gospel and conform to the example of Christ, the shepherds do neither. The Gospel is Good News to mankind: clear, inspired and full of light. The shepherds lead their sheep into a dark and smelly barn, and lock the door. The shearing begins. The "ba-ba" is ignored. Decent? Orderly?
Out of love for His sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled His promises, emptied Himself and suffered public, voluntary crucifixion. Our shepherds bless an emptied treasury and protect their power behind closed doors. They cleverly use words that leave them much latitude in fulfilling their promises. Decent? Orderly?
A scape-goat is found.
The shepherds should know that the sheep no longer find peace in this devastated pasture. They find no safety in the care of drowsy overseers leaning on a broken gate. The shepherds should know that many if not most of their sheep no longer trust them at all--not with their wool, not with their lives.
Name withheld by request
#32 Name withheld by request on 2006-03-04 12:56
The Holy Synod of Bishops must be commended for their action to restore the confidence of the 400,000 members in the OCA. This is a very good start , much more must be done to fully restore the badly damaged faith caused by the hierarchy in Syosset, New York. The following must be implemented.
(1) The results of the CPA audit must be made available to all church members.
(2) If the audit shows maleficence or misappropriations of funds, the evidence must be turned over to the proper authorities for prosecution and repayment.
(3) If maleficence or misappropriations is found, the Synod of Bishops must make the decision to defrock the guilty regardless of position.
(4) Within the next six (6) months, there must be a complete change of personnel under the chairmanship of the Primate, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman.
(5) The original "audit committee" must be given their due recognition for attempting to bring this to the attention of Chancellor Fr. Robert Kondratick, and His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius some 13 years ago.
(6) Discretionary and hidden accounts must never be allowed into the future. All income and expenditures must be transparent.
(7) Future "audit committee" members cannot succeed themselves, new members must not be from the same parishes as the "retiring" committee members. All committee members must be on "rotating" terms of 1, 2, 3 years each.
(8) Any "audit committee" member can refuse to approve a given audit.
(9) Entries such as " donation to an anonymous charity" must not be allowed.
(10) All "OCA credit card" expenditures must be approved by the complete "audit
Only after the above ten items are established as procedure, can the healing and the restoration of trust of the Hierarchy of Syosset, New York begin.
Being raised during the great depression, I can remember a time when "Clergy" were placed at a high level of respect and honor. Due to the many scandals exposed within the clergy, this respect must now be earned daily until it is again reverse. The administration on Route 25A on Long Island, New York is no exception. This is now in the capable hands of the Synod of Bishops. Lets all pray that the right decisions will be made.
Peter J. Sredich
#33 Peter J. Sredich on 2006-03-04 13:10
With Great Lent upon us I don't see anything being resolved anytime soon...
My hope & prayer is that Bishop Job will take a bold stand once again & eventually lead the whole midwest diocese out of the OCA. & into the Antiochian Church... For years we have heard of having one united American Orthodox church..The OCA needs to close it's doors...As It's quite clear our Metropolitan does not want to come clean on anything that has ben brought to light... No doubt he has also forced silence upon all the hierarchs..
How sad it is to think that our Metropolitan has allowed satan ( the prince of deceptions & lies) to gain control of this scandal...
#34 name witheld by request on 2006-03-05 18:58
Before we rush off into the arms of the AOC, we had better determine if their financial practices are any better than ours.
#34.1 Michael Strelka on 2006-03-06 07:58
While I share your concerns, I do not concur with your suggested remedy. The Antiochian Archdiocese is and has been dealing with similar issues of authoritarianism, philitism and ecclesiastical high-handedness. Any real solution to this accountability crisis will hopefully benefit all Orthodox in America. Jurisdication hopping simply delays the requirement to deal substantively with the endemic problems this crisis has exposed. The days of making excuses for our bad behavior because we're immigrants, uneducated, upstairs-downstairs, not worthy, persecuted, blue collar, cradle Orthodox, ethnic, poor, right-church-wrong-people and not White Anglo-Saxon Protestant are over. It is time to step up and take responsibility for our behavior and find a vital spirituality. The answers are not ultimately found in jurisdictions; they are found in Christ and His Church.
#34.2 Name Withheld By Request on 2006-03-06 18:42
How sad it is that you don't even have the guts to sign your name to your ridiculous comment.
What do you know about what the Metropolitan has or has not done regarding this mess?
There are serious legalities here where libel, (have you ever heard of that word before?), could come back to haunt those of the good guy's (believe it or not, there still are a few) who are diligently trying to quickly get to the bottom of this. . . . . . .and believe me, they ARE in the process of getting to the bottom of this.
However, it takes some time to collect the facts and truth.
My goodness, so many of you are blaming Metropolitan Herman for much of this. Why can't you just wake-up already and realize that he simply INHERITED a lousy, untruthful, grossly dysfunctional situation and obviously wasn't informed of or thoroughly aware of the serious nature of the financial problems prior to the Wheeler letter.
Do you really believe he was ever told by the previous Metropolitan or Chancellor while on the job, "Oh, by the way Your Beatitude, there are enormous amounts of monies missing from various church accounts, but no need to worry, we have it all under control?" Come on.
I think much of your venomous anger should be redirected at others.
If you personally feel so inclined to go and join the AOC, by all means, go already. Life in the OCA will go on with or without you, just as the Church will go on with or without any of us.
#34.3 Michael Geeza on 2006-03-11 11:55
Unfortunately, it appears that + Herman was told, in Sept 1999 (see Chronology of a Scandal), and later that month accepted position as Treasurer. Perhaps he hoped that he could affect a change from the inside, as Dn. Wheeler himself hoped to do for several years. There have been some passionate responses on this website but there have also been so many good and (relatively) simple suggestions made by people, it is difficult to understand why our bishops have chosen to respond they way they have. I think that is why so many are so troubled.
#34.3.1 Rachel Andreyev on 2006-03-12 16:31
Dear Fellow Concerned Orthodox Christians,
The people that have commented on this page before me have a much better understanding and are much more knowledgable about the issue at hand than I am. What I do know is this. I am studying business right know and read textbooks with pages about people in high level positions making poor choices that end up hurting their whole organization, especially the employees that work for them. I think that as the people of the church, we can treat this like any other organization would. We can get the Federal Government involved, point fingers and call for action to justify the situation by any means necessary. But we are not a business or organization like that. We have never been and we should not start now. On this day, Forgiveness Sunday, we should consider this issue in our hearts and deal with this issue as The Orthodox Church in America should. I forgave every person in my church at the end of vespers today and I did it whole heartedly. I only ask that we consider our words and actions in the same way. With God as our guiding light and forgiveness in our hearts.
#35 Ben Safchuk on 2006-03-05 21:34
I was struggling with the same issues, given my now very old MBA; however, there may be a way out of the natural unease with this kind of analysis as applied to church.
There is some evidence that the family of our father among the saints Joseph was fairly prosperous, and that the word translated as carpenter translates better into builder or even developer. Some have also suggested that our Lord, God and Savior used business allusions that would have been fairly sophisticated for the period. (Criticizing someone for burying the talent of gold is an interesting invocation of the time value of money.)
Galileo was supposed to have uttered under his breath that the satellites of Jupiter still move about the planet, as he signed his recantation. In the same sense, the OCA, owing to what the Lesser Synod termed its "human aspect," can seen as being affected by the same kind of influences as other activities that people do in common. It is not for nothing that there exists a branch of learning called "Sociology of Religion." Mind you, the church cannot be reduced to being approached only as a human organization. It is just that as having a human aspect, and as a result being subjected to the problems of human organization, there is a certain usefulness to the tools of analysis that you are now studying.
In a certain sense, I wonder if there cannot be some sort of correlation between the true humanity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, and the true humanity of the Church. On Lazarus Saturday we are taught that "Jesus wept," indicating His humanity is true. He then raised Lazarus from the dead, indicating that He cannot be reduced to His humanity.
In the same sense, the church has a human aspect that can be spoken of using all the tools of analysis that the Almighty has been pleased to vouchsafe to us, including those taught in business school. It is simply that the church cannot be reduced to simply being spoken of in this manner.
Of course, this is all tentative. There is probably a better way to put all this. (Given my mulish self, it'll probably have to be accompanied with a 2 x 4, as in the story of how the farmer got the mule's attention .)
#35.1 Ed Unneland on 2006-03-06 07:48
Mr. Safchuk and all,
Indeed, yesterday's Gospel lesson from Matthew 6 serves as a command from the Lord which his disciples must follow. We are required to forgive one another - there is no negotiation, or room for "loopholes" here.
In addition to theology degrees, I have a business degree and worked for a non-profit corporation for several years before taking on ministry again. While the Church must forgive, she also must do what is necessary to maintain her integrity, so that we will be prepared when the Lord comes again - something we pray for several times a day.
The allegations are serious, and if such behavior has occured, then it must cease. In no way should forgiveness entail toleration of deceptive lawlessness, stealing, and especially ecclesiastical abuse.
If such were the case, it would be hypothetically necessary for the Church to forgive all wrongdoers and restore them to the fullness of ecclesial communion, and still appoint new, trustworthy stewards of Christ's Church, restore trust and common work for God's glory, and helping those "on the mend" to avoid the pitfalls that led to sin in the first place.
#35.2 Name withheld by request on 2006-03-06 09:08
I agree with what Ben said about the Church not being "another institution" and should not be treated as such. However, and there is always a however, I expect a higher level of ethics from the Church.
On a strickly pragmatic level, I have said from the first day I heard of the scandal, that this will not go away until we have a full accounting. I know this because I am human being living in the United States of America.
How often have we said, "If only they had gotten out in front of it (whatever IT is) and just admitted wrongdoing and moved forward." Human nature seems to delude itself that if you just say nothing, (and perhaps villify the the accuser), the scandal will die down. We even have a word for it: "Stonewalling"
Then someone finds the tapes in the Oval Office or The Dress.
I truly want this to be resolved so we can all get back to what a Church should be doing: "Go ye therefore and baptize all nations...." Spread the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. Love God and each other. Forgive each other, "seventy times seven". Feed the poor, clothe the naked. I don't want the OCA to hear, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."
I have often said that the Final Judgment is a take home test. Lately, I believe our bishops have been failing that take home test. But I am not the Grader.
The Grader has said some things on these subjects though, so we know what he will be looking for. Think of the parable of the talent. "You have proved yourself faithful over small things...." Has the Church administration done this? We don't know.
The Synod left us, the faithful, with an exhortation. I would like to leave them with one. It is from the Acts of the Apostles:
1: But a man named Anani'as with his wife Sapphi'ra sold a piece of property,
2: and with his wife's knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3: But Peter said, "Anani'as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?
4: While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
5: When Anani'as heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
6: The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7: After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8: And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much."
9: But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."
10: Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
Please note that this couple was struck dead NOT for what they did with the money but for LYING to the Holy Spirit and the Church about the money.
Now I must get back to working on my own take home test. I am afraid this post has set me back a little but I had to say something: " All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke (And yes, I include women in this.)
I joined the Orthodox Church because I love Christ and I truly believe that the Orthodox Church is the Church founded by Christ so NOTHING this synod of bishops does can make me leave. But they have deeply saddened me. And disappointed me.
St. Patriarch Tikhon, pray for your former missionary diocese.
#35.3 Linda Elizabeth Weir on 2006-03-06 11:20
The Metropolitan won't answer the simple about the veracity of the allegations. So I have one simple question. What is the process for deposing a Metropolitan?
#36 Rich Lakey on 2006-03-06 05:26
There is no longer any question whether the allegations are true or false. They are true -- because silence is constued as consent: "silencio construitur ut consensus" in Latin. And likewise in Russian: "molchanie znak soglasia".
#37 Nina Tkachuk Dimas on 2006-03-06 14:48
There has been so much good thinking and good will on this web site with how to solve the OCA's many problems. I dare say, that there was not this type of open communication at any one of the OCA's many All-American Councils.
There is much love and care and talent out there in the OCA that has been posted here on this website. If this web site were designed as a direct conduit of directives and mandates from the faithful right to the Bishops and implementation, we would be well on our way to a revolutionized stronger, holier, Church administration.
Perhaps, how sad that we must go through such enormous energy of love and care with a rather sad anonymity to communicate all that the Synod could hear if they just had ears to hear and eyes to see.
#38 Patty Schelllbach on 2006-03-07 17:59
Subject: "Fine Writing", or "Die Schoene Literatur"
Date: March 6, 2006
Cc: Archbishop Job
How about the following for industrial strength pale purple prose? "...the naked brutality of the bishops..." I don't think any putative "naked brutality" could be effectively countered by naked hysteria. Oh, my. As Calvin states, "Sometimes the days are just too short!"
And then that cliche of what used to be called the sophomore, about the emperor's clothes. Is that original or what?
And the public sees that sort of thing! Ironic, no? There's nakedness and there's nakedness. Some has been known to "frighten the animals."
God forgives. We repent and forgive.
Commending all to Christ's love,
+Tikhon, The Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West; The Orthodox Church in America
"I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou has not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none else. I FORM THE LIGHT AND CREATE DARKNESS: I MAKE PEACE, AND CREATE EVIL: I THE LORD DO ALL THESE THINGS." (Isaiah XLV, 5-7)
#39 +Tikhon, The Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West; The Orthodox Ch on 2006-03-07 19:01
I'm sorry, but is this post really from Bishop Tikhon, or is it an email the webmaster received? If this is truly from Bishop Tikhon, the OCA as an "institution" is perhaps worse off than I realized.
While I certainly can understand the pressure, resentment, and negative feelings/thoughts the Bishop is experiencing, it is a bit hard to believe that he would respond with such cavalier and "naked" disdain for this site and the thoughts of the sinners who have posted here. Sure, the "emperors" (and other posts ) have been full of worn out cliches. Much of the frustration is exaggerated and unwarranted. It is incumbent upon the bishop to look past these rather small things and address the root cause. I certainly am not unique in that in my career I have had to manage groups of diverse people who often are poorly motivated and rather emotional about things that either I have no control over or and obviously tangential. It would never occur to me to throw gasoline on the fire as the Bishop has done here.
Bishop Tikhon is obviously a learned man. With this letter, he seems to be playing the role of a learned bully. Am I missing something here? I really think I must be.
Perhaps even more worrisome is the line "God forgives. We repent and forgive." Just what meaning is this truism supposed to convey in this context? Is the Bishop pointing out the errors that he so sarcastically referenced and exhorting a repentance? Is the Bishop perhaps asking that those concerned about the possible financial mismanagement forgive the bishops and their charges? This is obviously necessary, but that of course does not mean we simply look the other way - no, some sort of accounting needs to take place if only to prevent future mismanagement.
It is my sincere hope that I have been simply duped and this is not an actual communication from a real bishop of the OCA to the webmaster. If it is real, the OCA has a culture at the top that appears to be poisoned...
OCA - North Carolina
#39.1 Christopher Encapera on 2006-03-07 20:21
The email is indeed from Bishop Tikhon.
#39.1.1 Editor on 2006-03-08 10:35
If this is indeed an email from a Bishop, it is positively Delphic. Anyway, there's the expression that "I don't care what affectionate people do, so long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses." Maybe that is what the "frighten the animals" remark was about and it was just an imprecise quote from whoever really wrote this email. Perhaps it is suggested that there's nakedness that is shameful but at least hidden from view, and then there is the nakedness that "frightens the horses," i.e. out in public view. This would seem to go along with the comment about people seeing the things on this site.
I do object to our bishops quoting Calvin, however! Who's next? Martin Luther?
I think the point is that a scandal isn't a scandal if nobody knows about it, so it is this site that is the source of the scandal, not any clerical peculation. So there!
#39.1.2 Name Withheld on 2006-03-10 13:28
His Grace, the Right Reverend Bishop TIKHON's quote was not from Calvin the heterodox theologian, but from Calvin, of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.
Thought it would be good to get the references right.
#18.104.22.168 parishioner in diocese of west on 2006-03-14 21:38
The gods are clearly amused... If one were trying to give the OCA leadership the benefit of the doubt, this flippant post from Bishop Tikhon at such a grave moment in the OCA's history shows us that the effort is wasted.
After our many heartfelt pleas for the truth, Syosset's response is a continued silence on the critical issues, punctuated by the occasional hierarchical e-mail intended not to uplift or enlighten, but to mock and belittle.
#39.2 An OCA convert on 2006-03-07 22:54
In answer to your questions:
2) This was considered unnecesary as it clearly references the style - or lack of same - in the editorial it clearly attacks.
4) I think the choice of the quote in the context of this ongoing debate makes the meaning quite clear, disturbing as many may find it.
6) It demonstrates a generosity of spirit that speaks well of you to do so. Would that others showed such a generosity as well.
#39.2.1 Editor on 2006-03-08 13:01
I for one am not surprised by the form and content of this communique from Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald). As one who has observed the antics of this bishop "up close and personal" and from afar, I can tell you that it is pretty much standard fare for him. Accordingly, this web site should consider itself blessed to be on the receiving end of the his legendary poison pen (Matt. 5:11-2).
#39.2.2 Christopher Little (Ex-OCA) on 2006-03-09 12:42
Was this bizarre note was in response to the latest editorial?
Even so, this should have been made clear.
Am I wrong or have we just been called "animals?" As in "sometimes the "animals" are shocked at the nakedness of the emporer."
Would someone care to interpret the bishops scriptual quote?
Is there a chance that he did not expect it to be posted publically but would go to the author of the editorial directly?
That is the best read I can take of the whole bizarre episode.
All Saints of North America pray for us. St. Elizabeth, well pleasing to God, whose name I bear, pray for us.
#39.3 please withhold name on 2006-03-08 12:42
It really could not be Bishop Tikhon... no REAL Bishop of the church would stoop so low. No loving Bishop would act this way to a fellow Hierarch. No caring Bishop would send such a message after asking the faithful to enter into this season of Great Lent after asking the faithful to "conform to the example of Christ."
#39.4 Fr. M. on 2006-03-08 19:19
Since His Grace is fond of casting pithy literary phrases to others, I'm sure he will understand:
"A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
"'Tis true tis pity, and pity tis tis true."
#39.5 Anonymous on 2006-03-09 11:08
Somewhere in this mess,Tikhon said he would not comment further on any matter. He is having fun with the GOOD ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS by making stupid remarks to get us off of the real issues. Why doesn't Herman place a GAG ORDER on this dude, the same as he has done on PRIEST that have spoken openly and truthfully. With this latest barrage, it appears that he is being used as an attack dog.
#39.6 Steve Babish on 2006-03-09 12:03
Please. Don't stoop to the level of the very people you criticize. It does not help anything to call the Bishop "dude" or refer to the hierarchs by their first names only. This is the Orthodox Church with all the bells and whistles that have been there for 2000 years. This discussion is about so much more than money matters - this crisis brought to light the very essence of our autocephaly, as justly noted in the "Reflection" by a DNE priest - let's not allow the provocateurs to pull us down to the level of a kitchen squabble.
#39.6.1 Inga Leonova on 2006-03-10 14:38
While I sympathize with your desire that the discourse remain at a certain level and for certain customary respects to be paid, I am not sure if that is practical or possible for a couple of reasons.
First, we have a tradition in America of forthright and honest communication in politics and public life. This tradition can be critiqued of course, but it is what it is. A learned man like bishop Tikhon certainly understands this, and he threw himself into the breach as it were by sending this rather controversial letter.
Perhaps part of what it means for the OCA to be the Orthodox Church IN AMERICA is that it will have to live with these American traditions as well.
Second, I recall reading something to the effect that in the old countries when a monk or priest was to be chastised they would physically hold the man down and shave his beard. Perhaps not addressing the bishop with the customary honors is one way we could effect our own small yet symbolic chastisement. One thing is for certain, if the bishop can't take the heat, he should have never entered the kitchen.
(No, that last sentence is not meant as bait for the bishop...although...
OCA - North Carolina
#22.214.171.124 Christopher Encapera on 2006-03-11 21:30
As a member of the Diocese of the West who has had several days to recover, I am still in shock from the sharp words and veiled sarcasm posted here by my bishop earlier this week.
Coming on the heels of Forgiveness Sunday, I find it all the more inconceivable that His Grace would choose this time to launch an attack in the form of some convoluted babble. I can only ask ‘What was he hoping to accomplish?’ Perhaps it was only to impress others that he is a learned wordsmith, if not a humble bishop.
I am in disbelief to think that, in regards to our repeated appeals for openness and honesty, His Grace either still ‘doesn’t get it’, or worse yet, actually thinks we don’t have the right to request truth and accountability from our ecclesiastical leaders.
Those unable to defend their positions frequently launch personal attacks against the other side. Such is the case of Bishop Tikhon, who rather than responding to and addressing his flock’s appeals for the truth, chooses instead to attack Bishop Job and other laypersons for having the arrogance to ask for the simple truth.
I would remind His Grace that wanting to be good stewards, we have the obligation to ask.
I would remind His Grace that most of us are not here to make trouble, but rather to resolve a very troubling situation.
I would remind His Grace that any “hysteria” he alludes to has only been brought about by our Hierarchy’s continued refusal to address the situation that they themselves caused.
His Grace chides us by stating “God forgives. We repent and forgive.” Within the context of the Syosset debacle and his own rambling words, what does this even mean?
Since Bishop Tikhon chooses not speak in clear, plain English, it is difficult to say.
What is clear is that those from Syosset must first repent of some guilt (which, judging by their refusal to speak, is ever more apparent) if we are to have something to forgive. Without this, any healing is difficult.
Unless Syosset is willing to ‘come clean’, who among us can continue to joyfully send our annual dues assessment? I would hope that Bishop Tikhon can at least understand that.
#39.7 please withhold - afraid of upsetting my priest on 2006-03-11 20:51
During my first 5 year term as council president, the Midwest Diocese had a problem with finances being invested in junk bonds resulting in a substancial loss of funds. I went to the diocesan assembly to express my concerns.
The warning that my concerns would not be addressed soon became a reality. The response to my question evoked the feeling "Go away son you bother us". The response from Syosset to the allegations of fiscal impropriety evokes similar feelings.
During 25 years of managing people I have had my share of disgruntled employees and former employees. None has implicted themselve in any wrong doing. I suspect that is why most of keep asking if there is any truth to Dn. Wheeler's allegations.
I was once told that the OCA is a theocracy and not a democracy. The response from Syosset seems to support that belief. It is my opinion that Syosset will not muster the courage to make the truth public. It is also my opinion, probably worth nothing to those in Syosset, that going public with the truth and setting things right, the OCA would set itself above other theocracies that have tried to sweep their problems under the rug.
Maple Heights, Ohio
#40 Dimitri Wallick on 2006-03-07 19:05
My mother always said that patience is a virtue. I taught my children the same thing. It sure is difficult to practice, though. We must remember that our faith is just that. FAITH. We believe what we have not seen. Fasting and prayer produce results. It is a matter of record. This is what we believe! Now is the perfect time for fasting, prayer and patience. 40 days. Then whatever happens will be the Lord working. It won't matter what we think should happen, or what the administration thinks should happen, because God will make the right thing happen. If we are not willing to do as we preach, then all of this is in vain.
#41 Jane on 2006-03-07 20:19
The spectacle of the successors to Peter scrabbling after silver and gold is entertaining if not edifying, but, sadly, the lame are still lame, the halt still halt and the broken-hearted still broken-hearted. (Acts 3:1-10)
#42 Kathy Tsai on 2006-03-08 10:37
So much for Metropolitan Herman's request for the Bishop(s) to cease discussions via internet, as reported by Bishop Tikhon himself. He mocks the Metropolitan. He belittles Archbishop Job. He is obviously impressed with himself.
#43 Jack Miller on 2006-03-08 20:54
So, from this point on, all things will be aboveboard and open to scrutiny? Blind fools. Once again, we sweep the past under the rug (or is it the orlets?). No one will be held accountable for anything. After all, we live in a fallen world. I have heard THAT used as an excuse for many things: Inaction, remember the clergy are human too, people make mistakes, the check is in the mail (no pun intended). And the ever popular, "Well, what are we supposed to do, fire the chancellor? The metropolitan"? Can't do that. Don't mess with the church. God is gonna getcha.
#44 Elena Andrusezko on 2006-03-10 07:42
I don't believe one bishop can put a gag order on another bishop. If this weren't so serious I would suggest we might need a bishop in American Samoa or whatever the American equivalent of Siberia is....And Archbishop Tikhon might be just the man for it.
I just read the recent story. Let's wait and think about this. Maybe the funds were used for real operating needs of the national Church. No one said they went to a discretionary fund or to pay "sexual blackmail". Shudder.
Although I believe there should have been transparency and these "diversions" should have been fully reported, let's don't jump to conclusions that the funds were used for nefarious reasons.
If the Church was in such bad shape financially, we should have been having fund raisers for THAT. I think people would have responded. I know I would have. Now I can't trust WHERE my donations are going. If others, like me, are not giving to "special appeals" there will be no funds to "divert".
Honesty. And transparency. And not thinking you are "above" the laity and not "of them". Not their servants, as Christ said, but their masters. Shoot, we even sing it to them: "Despota" I believes means something a little stronger than "master".
We have contributed to this mess by letting them think they answer to no one. "Oh woe to you, scribes and pharisees, you wear your tassels long and your phalacteries wide, and like the best seat at banquets...." Quoted from memory so forgive any mistakes.
I would hope they would let us work with them in love to correct this mess. But I fear they won't.
And to Archbishop Tikhon. Did you speak the truth in love? Are we "animals" to you? As for me, I fear only God who can condemn both body and soul to hell as my only true "Master" said.
#45 please withhold name on 2006-03-10 14:43
There are some real big problems here:
1) The Chancery outspent the budget given them by the Met Council;
2) The Met Council meets quarterly I believe. Either they were/are asleep at the switch, or they were given bad financial information;
3) Appeals donations should be considered the same as a restricted gift. You cannot divert them for other purposes.
#45.1 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-03-11 12:35
I ask simple things
Are the statements true or false?
The answer is "Yes" or "No".
Please someone be brave enough to answer the question.
#46 Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-03-11 20:28
As an Orthodox Christian praying and hoping for the unity of the faith in this country, this whole affair saddens me greatly. It seems as if Satan has a particularly compelling motive for keeping Orthodoxy scattered and fragmented here in America, and this scandal is just more proof of that. God save Thy people!
I'm not in the OCA (I'm in ROCOR), so I don't write as an "insider" so to speak. But I am a concerned observer, and it troubles me the more I learn about it. This cannot continue, it simply cannot. The more it continues, the more the faithful are scandalized. And if the faithful are scandalized by this, how much more are the heterodox and the unbelievers? As this nightmare continues to unfold, it will receive more and more media attention. I shudder to think of this becoming a national news phenomenon like the sex scandals of the Roman Catholic Church. But if this continues the way it has so far, that could very well be the case. And the Church, and thus Christ Himself, will hurt because of it.
I don't know what to say really, except that I, along with others in the wider Orthodox world, are praying for you. This concerns the entire Church, not just the OCA, because in reality we are not really separated. Therefore my hope is that Archbishop Job's leadership, along with Dcn. Wheeler and others will win the day in this awful mess. Christ is with you!
#47 Mark Atkins on 2006-03-12 15:50
It is interesting to read what Michael Geeze writes everytime someone has something to say about the Metropolitan or certain bishops. His statements reveal a man with a vitriolic attitude against any "Orthodox Christian" who has a difference of opinion than that of the Holy Synod. Talk about sad!
I once talked to a grave digger and asked him how long does it take to fill up the hole after the casket is placed in it. He told me "long enough to cover it up!" It seems that since we are in the Great Fast period of our Holy Church that it is time to stop thinking about the embarrassing situation that is going on in our Orthodox Church in America. How long should we wait? Long enough to cover it up?
I for one read Mr. Geeza's statements as "in the pocket" statements and they carry very little weight with me. What would carry weight with me is handling the situation now and let the chips fall where the may.
#48 William Sullivan on 2006-03-12 18:04
What I am thoroughly impressed with is the response of the OCA's faithful and clergy to this tragedy. I think it bespeaks an incredible internal strength and commitment to Truth, that there is such a forum as this. As a layman from ROCOR, I would like to echo poster #89's comment: this concerns all Orthodox Christians in America, and my prayers are with you and with your Hierarchs.
#49 Isaac Crabtree on 2006-03-12 21:27
As a life-long member of the Antiochian Archdiocese I would like to echo the support and love our ROCOR brothers have described for all of you faithful members of the OCA. But I would also like to say the pain you are feeling is our pain too. We all share the same cup and we grieve for you! We will be praying for you and we will continue to work for Orthodox unity as you all try to "clean house." Nothing can stand in the way of a United Orthodox Church because God wants us to work together to bring the Good News to the unchurched of America and Canada. With much love in Christ for all of you!
#50 Antiochian friend on 2006-03-13 19:22
The people in our Church who we respect the most and who should be setting the ultimate example for all of us on how to handle difficult situations in our lives have proven to be dramatically lacking in leadership, character and most importantly right and wrong.
If someone accuses me of accepting a $1 donation for boy scouts, I will tell them exactly where that $1 was used so that they can confidently donate again knowing that $1 went where it was intended.
If someone accuses me of accepting MILLIONS of dollars earmarked for for important Church activities/funds and DIVERTING it to a discretiany fund....that is not accounted for...I surely would have some response in regards to why that accusition is not accurate and explain the wonderful things the money was used for. The key point is that a great portion of those donations may have been made by people that have trouble making a mortgage payment each month or keeping up with a car payment. I wonder if those discretionary funds went to some nice trips, a wonderful condo/house, many things that a lot of people who donated money can't even imagine having. I think my response to such an accusation would be more than "I promise it won't happen again, so lets not live in the past". That essentially is the current Church position...IF THESE ACCUSATIONS ARE NOT TRUE, SOMEONE NEEDS TO STEP UP AND SHOW US....call me a Doubting Thomas, I accept that, but what do you expect with the the little information our LEADERS have provided us.
Every now and then, everyone needs to take a step back.....and I am speaking to the individuals that obviously have to answer the questions posed.
1. Can you look in the mirror each morning and feel good about the utilization of this money? If you can, END THIS and explain the utlization of the money. I think we all know that is not going to happen for obvious reasons.
2. Ultimately, there is only one judge in all of this and that of course is God. GOD FORGIVES. Maybe, you think you can stonewall the faithful of our Church. Maybe you can "get away" with never having to own up to your indiscretions. However, due to your total mismanagement and lack of addressing the issue...your own church members, priests as well as the IRS and media probably won't let that occur.
Thankfully, one way or another, final judgement is what you will have to answer to and I would love to know what goes through your mind when you think about it. Was it worth it? Was it worth taking money and using it for purposes that the money was not intended for? Was it? Only you can and those involved can answer that question.
WE, the faithful of this Church want/need/pray for answers and closure and only those involved can do that.
In conclusion I say again, I PRAY all accusations our false, I pray that if wrongs were done, someone steps up and takes responsibility rather than hide behind lawyers.
#51 Sad Orthodox Christian on 2006-03-14 10:44
How was the new law firm and auditors chosen?
Any other additional input? And if so, from whom?
Also where did the finances come from for Metropolitan Theodosius "Library" at St. Tikhon's?
What else is missing?
#52 Anonymous on 2006-03-18 12:11
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