Wednesday, May 21. 2008
Your comments on the actions of the Council as reflected in the MC Minutes and Appendices are welcome.
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With the recent furor over Nikolai as well as the reaction to the financial scandal, one thing has got to be clear to any leader w/in the OCA. That is that this is the 21st century and the people of the OCA are not going to tolerate poor leadership. At this point, it just seems like it would be in everyone's interest to allow Herman to come clean now rather than force him into retirement and then expect cooperation from him.
#1 one chance on 2008-05-21 15:57
What do you mean they won't tolerate it? Heck, they sure tolerate it now. We've got former Syosset apparatchiks in prominent places across the OCA. They bailed from the sinking ship and found very comfortable landings, and still work to tell the hierarchs what to do and think. (Diocese of the South, anyone?)
How many of our dioceses STILL lack the financial transparency called for in the best practices? How many diocesan assemblies are little more than pro forma rubberstamps on decisions made in backrooms by chancery functionaries? Before we continue screaming about Syosset, why not scream about the lack of transparency in our own individual dioceses? Why not complain that the Town Hall dates are STILL not set in most dioceses? Why not scream about the inability to discuss (REALLY discuss) business at diocesan assemblies? (The Diocese of the South's uniform bylaws require resolutions for consideration for inclusion in the assembly's agenda to be submitted SIX months prior to the assembly. Can we really need that much lead time? It only serves to quash any substantive discussion.)
#1.1 John on 2008-05-23 09:06
Bravo! I agree, let's clean our own back-yards as well!
Alaska still needs a GOOD cleaning!
#1.1.1 Moses on 2008-05-23 14:43
Thanks for continued dialogue here Mark. I found some of your editorial to be a nit, and other parts of it provoked some thoughts.
And I was left with questions. First of all, in OCA Council voting matters, are the votes secret or public?
Which council members voted to expunge the record in the minutes of the call for the resignation of the Metropolitan? Those votes also must be made public for true transparency in our governance. Why? That way, the people that elected those folks can decide next time if they really want to keep people that vote for expunging records. If the votes are not transparent, its another needed resolution at the next AAC.
On that note, it would be interesting if you started a new section of the website on resolutions.
Onto other subjects, the Bodnar matter seems to be blown well out of proportion. What is the ethics problem? Was it just the ethics of the hiring of someone before they had cleared immigration? I see it as a management mistake, but it doesn't seem unethical. Am I missing something? In the number of foreigners hired by the administration (few or none), it doesn't seem like an absurd error. We gotta pick our battles and an immigration snafu ain't one worthy if you ask me, unless I'm missing something else. Errors do happen everyday in the management of organizations. The ones we need to go after are the biggies.
Ethics are things like a Bishop disallowing a person an Orthodox funeral without intervention from the Synod. Or a cleric stealing millions whilst a subdeacon gets fired for telling on him. Or another Bishop allowing accepting wedded women as visitors to the end that an unstable husband kills himself, for examples. Or a clergyman oversharing counseling information without reprimand or removal.
...my questions and thoughts...
(Editor's note: The heart of the ethical complaint, I believe, was that the Reorganization Team and the Administration knew of the immigration problems from the beginning but chose not to share that with the MC when the MC hired Mr. Bodnar. The presented it to the MC that Mr. Bodnar was working for the OCA, when in fact he was not, and refused to disclose that arrangement as well. The unethical conduct concerned transparency and accountability, which was lacking on the part of the Administration and Reorg Task Force. But the point has been made. People are now watching, and the old ways are no longer acceptable in word and deed....)
#2 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-05-21 17:29
These minutes are encouraging in showing how far we've come, and discouraging in showing how stubbornly the institution resists change -- a resistance that seems to be part of the very bricks and mortar of the thing, in spite of the good intentions of many of the current office holders.
The software debacle is pure keystone cops --Buy a big, shiny, professional looking solution. Fail to implement it, fail to support it, fail even to understand what it is you're buying ... then leave other people to clean up the mess while still trying to get the basic job done that the software was supposed to help with. Expensive and stupid.
And seven MC members voted to hide the motion concerning the Metropolitan's retirement. The motion is encouraging and would have been unthinkable 2 years ago. But seven? Seven MC members who still think that the "good of the Church" is about protecting our institutional and individual images.
Progress? Yes. Continuing evidence of systematic dysfunction? Everywhere. Painful? Excruciatingly so.
#3 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-05-21 20:26
It appears that the MC has taken some big steps.
One cannot but help to notice that whenever the retirement of the Metropolitan comes up, it is always tabled.
If the Metropolitan had any conscience or integrity, he would try to resolve all of the issues in a christian manner, but he continues to flounder. A good example is buying the Blackbaud Accounting System is like a person with a drivers license buying an airplane.
The way in which the Kondratick issue was approach is the same way he handles everything else - from South Canaan. If he allowed RSK to present his case and his evidence, the church would not be spending hundreds of thousands in court. This circus WILL move toa court room. The good news is that Herman will not have control of the outcome. The minutes reflect the bad accounting methods still in existence, stay tuned for what will surface.
Herman continues to manage from a distance - why? because in the end he can always blame someone else. But when matters are placed in a legal setting, he and he alone will be held responsible. After all, he had to approve EVERYTHING.
So after the ipetition, multiple meetings and the pleading of many he still holds on. Why? Because WE know and more importantly God knows, that ultimately the main man IS responsible. So Metropolitan Theodosius and Metropolitan Herman should get lawyered up because they do NOT rule the court room.
#4 MP on 2008-05-22 03:31
countersuit RSK ? He's not even in a suit with them now ??? From the word on the street , the oca better come correct because RSK will come a guns a blazin. This isn't a spiritual court when the outcome is predetermined. The synod must know that all the lies and secrets will now come out of the closet.
Plus does anyone think that 125,000 for a long suit is enough,I think not .55,000 was spent on a note. This might look good on paper now, but the oca is barking up the wrong tree.
#5 Anonymous on 2008-05-22 05:06
The budgeted amount for legal expenses is about as realistic as Strikis operating the Blackbaud system. Herman and his trio have about as much vision as a blind person. It is very surprising to me that with as many legal counselors that have availed themselves to Herman and the church, they continue on this imaginary path to nowhere. America stay tuned - the circus will soon be on the road to Pittsburgh.
#5.1 MP on 2008-05-23 06:45
That's right! RSK is hiding behind the skirt of his wife in his suit with the OCA right now. Details, details...
#5.2 Anonymous on 2008-05-25 12:28
Unfortunately, the current administration will only be able to do as Herman allows, just like the last administration. It is what it is!
#5.2.1 MP on 2008-05-29 14:47
There is no doubt that things in Syosset need to be solidified. Previously, RSK was the coordinator and from an organizational point of view, made things work. Now, there is no one who is a dynamic, strong leader nor coordinator. So, what should happen: + Herman must resign; a person must be found who can LEAD & COORDINATE in Syosset and using a basic, simple accounting software package is fine, but outside auditors need to review things MONTHLY.
#6 Anonymous on 2008-05-22 05:41
Memo to the bishops of the OCA - when the Special Investigative Committee report comes your way, no matter what it concludes, think about these words which were written about doctors and malpractice lawsuits:
“Admitting errors is only the first step toward reforming the health care system so that far fewer mistakes are made. But reforms can be more effective if doctors are candid about how they went astray. Patients seem far less angry when they receive an honest explanation, an apology and prompt, fair compensation for the harm they have suffered.” (NY Times editorial, 22 May 2008, “Doctors Who Say They’re Sorry”).
We might hope that it would be the Church offering the example of repentance to doctors, but we can accept the fact that our leadership may have to follow the ethical advice of the newsmedia. A sign of our TIMES?
#7 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2008-05-22 06:06
It s would be very helpful if all those ordained into Holy Orders in the Church were given the same directive as new physicians, "First, do no harm."
#7.1 Marc Trolinger on 2008-05-22 18:15
It takes time to turn around a culture. I am impressed with Fr. Michael Tassos, and am sorry that his personal circumstances will keep him away from Syosset. It seems to me that we take a step or two forward, one that's to the side, and maybe a half step back occasionally. But the general movement seems to be haltingly forward.
#8 Edmund Unnneland on 2008-05-22 06:13
I fully concur with the statements of the Metropolitan Council that HIs Beatitude Metropolitan Herman should retire immediately. This has gone on for far too long, and must end.
Your Beatitude: FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH, RETIRE IMMEDIATELY!!!
As far as the Stavropegial Institutions, I have one question, why are there institutions under the Primate of the Church that are located in different Diocese?
I believe that one way to guarantee accountability would be to relieve His Beatitude and all future Metropolitans of caring for these institutions.
To this end, St. Tikhon's Seminary and Monastery should be placed directly under the supervision of His Grace Bishop Tikhon.
St. Vladimir's Seminary should be transferred to the Archdiocese of New York and New Jersey, and any other orphanages or institutions should be cared for by the Bishop of the particular diocese in which they are located.
And, the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council should immediately and Unanimously order His Beatitude to vacate the Archdiocesan Residence in South Canaan, so that can be returned to the Archdiocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, and His Grace Bishop Tikhon can have his own residence from which to minister to the faithful of the Archdiocese.
I believe that these measures should all be taken immediately. We have wasted enough of God's time failing to correct the situation. Now is the time for Action.
For the Good of the Church, let us take action immediately.
Mark N. Sudia
#9 Mark N. Sudia on 2008-05-22 09:01
Regarding the stavropegial Institutions; St. Tikhon's is directly under the bishop in charge there. + Herman lives there and he really has all the influence there. St. Vladimir's is really run by a Board of Trustees and + Herman is nothing more than a figure head - thank God. (It will always remain that way) The independence that St. Vladimir's has ensures that it can be a true school of Orthodox theology and higher learning without the interference of outside agendas.
#9.1 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 05:30
i m definitely relieved to hear that St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's aren't under His Beatitude's direction.
But that still doesn't explain why the Holy Synod can't (or won't) direct him to vacate the residence in south Canaan, and return it to the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania.
And for that matter, why, after 38 years of Autocephaly, is the primate's residence still located in New York, which up until Archbishop Peter's retirement, constituted a separate diocese from the Archdiocese of Washington.
I sincerely believe that the process of electing a new bishop for New York should begin immediately. At the same time, the Holy Synod and the MC should initiate the process for finding a residence for His Beatitude and all future Metropolitans within the Archdiocese of Washington.
Finally, as i suggested some time ago, It might be wise to create a Diocese of New Jersey, so the future bishop of New York would be the Bishop of only one City and State.
Also, once theses changes are made, someone might propose that St. Vladimir's remain under the Board of Directors, which would be directly responsible to the Bishop.
Again, thanks for the info.
Mark N. Sudia
#9.1.1 Mark N. Sudia on 2008-05-23 22:17
The final presentation to the 12th All-American Council -- 1999 in Pittsburgh, PA -- was geospatial analysis of the dioceses of the OCA by a graduate student in geography. The purpose of the presentation was to provide the background for a proposal to be put forth at the 13th AAC -- 2002 in Orlando, FL -- to redraw the boundaries of the OCA dioceses more evenly distribute the "workload" of the hierarchs. No proposal to redraw diocesan boundaries was put forth at the 13th AAC: too much taking place with the election of a new metropolitan.
Perhaps one of the resolutions from the floor at the 15th AAC should be a proposal for the 16th AAC to redraw the OCA diocesan boundaries to (a) more evenly distribute the parishes, missions, and mission stations among the dioceses, and (b) prepare for a single "American Orthodox Church" by moving OCA bishops to cities where no other Orthodox bishops reside.
#22.214.171.124 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-05-28 03:09
Some progress, indeed! And it redounds to the central administration’s credit as well as the benefit of the OCA faithful. I am sorry to see that Fr. Tassos is leaving.
In re Paul Sidebottom suit, word has it that Archdeacon Panteleimon has arrived at a monastery in or near Canberra, Australia, that Archimandrite Isadore is likely to follow, as will retired +Nikolai after he secures his interest in the Las Vegas, NV house against EEOC fines and judgments. What affect this will have on the Sidebottom case is not yet clear, but it can’t be helpful. Extradition treaties are useless since this is a civil, not criminal, case.
As for the Koumentakos case, I wonder how much protection the defendants (personal and institutional) have from various malpractice insurances – in the millions? – sufficient to mount a sustained defense against the plaintiffs.
#10 Terry C. Peet on 2008-05-22 17:05
Thanks for the info. I wondered what had happened to these players. I had noticed Isidore's picture had been taken out of the OCA clergy list. I also noticed Nikolai is apparently still trying to call "foul". I wonder whether he or any of his supporters ever read section 7 of the OCA Synod Statutes. It sure appears the Synod does have the authority to assign and retire bishops. Aren't these the same statutes Nikolai said he promised to uphold?
Getting back to the MC, I fear it sounds like people are getting a false sense of hope from this group. Their authority is not going to surpass the authority of the Synod. I do believe there is strength in numbers. I think the collective voice of all the people of the OCA is more powerful and gaining strength and momentum. I hope this strength and momentum won't slow down. I'm very proud of the people of the OCA and their courage to have their voices heard and their insistance that they be taken seriously by the Synod.
#10.1 anon on 2008-05-22 18:45
"As for the Koumentakos case, I wonder how much protection the defendants (personal and institutional) have from various malpractice insurances – in the millions? – sufficient to mount a sustained defense against the plaintiffs."
While there may be exceptions, most insurers aren't going to waste money defending a case that they they don't think they can win. In fact, the presense of professionals who are only interested in saving the insurance company's money can be a real boon in this type of case.
For example, the claims of the children of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco (OCA) were only reported to the insurer after the first lawsuit was filed in February, 1994. After three years of fruitless negotiations with the church entities, including a fair and reasonable settlement aborted by the presiding bishop, three of the four claims were taken care of only six months after the insurance company was brought into the case.
Melanie Jula Sakoda
PS I guess it's just a coincidence that you're in Fr. Alexey Karlgut's parish?
I don't understand why His Beattitude should be retired. It is like paying him to quit. He hasn't been on the job for even 6 years, has he? That gets a retirement? He is a monk. He should live in a monastery with other monks if he is no longer serving as a bishop. I just do not understand this class of retired bishops.
Myanmar cyclone relief while continuing to stall on disbursing $175,000 in 9/11 special appeal funds the OCA collected more than 6 years ago. According to the "preliminary" 2007 financial statements Fr. Michael Tassos made available back in March, the OCA ended 2007 with a positive balance of $50,000+ rather than the anticipated deficit. Having solicited the 9/11 relief funds through a special appeal, which included a mass mailing, doesn't the Central Church Administration have a legal, as well as a moral, obligation to disburse the 9/11 funds in their entirety before disbursing funds for any other relief efforts?
#12 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-05-23 02:42
Thank you for a very nice job on the minutes. I just wanted to make a remark about my own personal involvement as the treasurer. While I am currently back in California I still remain actively involved with the finances of the OCA. Fr. Alexander , Fr. Andrew and I speak almost every day and I am in contact with the accounting staff every day (usually six days a week). We have also recently begun to include Fr. Eric Tosi in these discussions as well. It is certainly not without its challenges. I am also taking trips back to New York and just got back from meeting with the Holy Synod. By the way, since the Holy Synod met before the Metropolitan Council this time I completed the first quarter financial statements and presented them to the Holy Synod first. They will be going to the Metropolitan Council this week and will be posted on the OCA web site shortly. I also prepared a separate report on just the Central Administration so you can see how it is doing against the budget. The situation is not ideal of course and we are working on a plan to beef up the oversight even more.
#13 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2008-05-23 04:08
Resubmitting my 2007-11-21 question:
I noticed recently that others are also asking.
Does anyone know:
The status of the property at 33 Hewitt Ave, Bronxville, NY?
Is it being used?
Any plans for it?
Its market value? Etc?
(#40 Ande on 2007-11-21 17:09)
Who owns it, what are the expenses, who pays the expenses ………………….
Who is responsible to audit this?
Who is responsible to audit this?
Who is responsible to audit this?
#14 Ande on 2008-05-24 21:06
The Bronxville residence is empty with + Peter's death. There was talk of renting it since the housing market is very slow. Ultimately, it will be sold. It is under the Diocese of NY.
(Editor's note: a clever parsing of the question and non-response. Let me help the questioner refine his question: "And for the last three years before Peter's death, when he was in the Caribbean? Who was living in it then? It wasn't +Peter, or +Herman....
Secondly, did those occupants pay rent, or even the expenses of the house?"
Why did the Metropolitan allow it year after year? Was this good stewardship of the Church's assets?
#14.1 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 12:31
Are those rhetorical questions, Mark? If so, there are some of us for whom the answer isn't obvious. If you wouldn't mind supplying the answers to your own questions, if you can, I'd be grateful.
Can you at least tell us who was living in the house?
(Editor's note: I suggest you ask the Metropolitan or his diocesan Chancellor, Fr. Lickwar. As the stewards of the diocesan properties it would more appropriate for them to answer, rather than me. I would encourage you to continue asking, and them to answer. From such will accountability grow ...)
#14.1.1 josephine on 2008-05-27 17:49
How does one ask anything of anyone in the OCA administration, at any level, and get an answer? I've tried.
I have emailed my bishop multiple times. I have sent an email to the "send us your thoughts on the AAC" link on the OCA website. I have posted on the AAC blog on the OCA website.
All the comments on the blog -- mine and others -- have disappeared. Comments haven't been disabled. But all the comments posted previously are gone.
I have never received an answer from my bishop to any enquiry I've sent him.
I didn't get an answer to the "send us your thoughts" email. When I asked, twice, on the AAC blog why they weren't being answered, Fr. Jarvus sent me an email and asked me to send my previous email to him. I did. He hasn't responded.
I am beginning to think that the entire administration of the OCA agrees with the retired Bishop Tikhon -- that they should pay the rest of us no more attention than they would give to the rustling of mice.
#126.96.36.199 josephine on 2008-05-27 22:57
To be entirely fair, the comments on the AAC blog are back. Perhaps they were missing briefly because of a technical glitch.
#188.8.131.52.1 josephine on 2008-05-30 14:10
If you ignore the rustling of mice you will soon have an infestation. If you ignore the voices of the organizations constituency you will soon have an organization infested with distrust of its leadership.
#184.108.40.206.2 Milos Konjevich on 2008-05-30 14:25
The whole idea of Nikolai and company moving to Australia left me pondering why Irinej would accept them. Then I found my answer. Go to "Serbs in Sydney". It seems the Australian Serbs have as much trouble w/Irinej as the Alaskans had with Nikolai and company. They call him "the prince" and "Mirko (his given name) the Magician". Why is it that after you put a crown on the heads of so many of these guys they become so ungodly?
#15 one chance on 2008-05-30 12:22
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