Thursday, July 3. 2008
Your comments on the news and reflections of the day are welcome. Given the holiday weekend, they will not be posted until July 7th.
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The revelations of what has happened to the finances in Alaska drive home my previous point about trying to better manage the finances of the OCA: Hire those professional CPAs and professional personnel who know about money to manage the money.
The drive to any of the town hall meetings, unfortunately, will be too impractical for Fr. Paul or me at this time with other committments to our time.
However, I would like to suggest the following:
There really should be an aggressive and concerted effort to have in each and every OCA diocese the financial practices aligned so that they are all following best practice and that each diocese is on the same financial page with the same licensed accounting personnel.
If Fr. Michael Tassos has his hands full with just the OCA's administrative finances, then there should be a licenced CPA on the payroll for each and every diocese to make sure the finances are an accurate reflection of the actual financial activity andt that they are following best practices.
Any newly elected bishop should have at their right hand their licensed, integral CPA who can inform and guide them to make the wise financial decisions that they really seem to be incapable of making on their own.
I do not want to test a bishop's independence in the matter of finances anymore.
I am still nervous about how financial practices appear to vary from OCA church to OCA church. Some priests can sign checks and others can't. There just has to be some rules and regulations about finances from our stations, missions, and churches on up to this end (because if we don't, we end up with messes we are still trying to deal with now).
I really don't care how much bishops or priests are involved in the financial matters of the church, for they have leadership responsibilities in all areas. But this must be firmly and soundly tethered, at what I have seen at this point in my life, with a CPA, a responsible, integral financial person, besides just having the financial principles. For principles can be broken. I know persons can break financial principles, but the hope is that with enough licensed and trained CPAs who have good experience and credentials, we can stave off another Syosset or Alaska debacle. A trained CPA can do great things for the stability of the church as much as a great bishop. I don't see how the two roles can ever be separated any more with what our OCA has just gone through these past several decades of financial unaccountability from MT on forward. These CPA overseers for each diocese are properly paid and not be doing it as volunteer time. They need to have this as their full time job, being able to travel to OCA station, mission, or church to help them establish the financial principles, teach them, and review them.
For it appears that the job these honest and experienced CPAs could do in keeping honest and integral books pays off a hundredfold in helping maintaing the trust, well being, and good will for each diocese.
Whatever the town halls are discussing about which bishop may need to retire or resign, or which hieromonk or priest-nominee may need to get nominated or elected as a bishop, etc. we need to doubly make sure that we are addressing the professional personnel needs and credentials to manage the finances.
I only know the credentials of one person, Fr. Michael Tassos, who is a CPA and in a position of responsibility. I am sorry, but I don't know any one else's credentials within our several diocese when in comes to managing so much money in any of the diocese.
If we want our bishops to have good credentials, then we should want our treasurers of each diocese to have good credentials as a matter of good order and integrity.
If each diocese has a formal, prudent, honest, and integral CPA elected for their treasurer, then these 9 or 10 CPAs need to come together at least twice a year, just like the Synod of Bishops, to discuss the status of the church and diocesan finances.
I can't see how the above suggestions could not come a reality. For if this scandal is revealing anything, it appears that the honesty and integrity of church finances can have astounding consequences.
#1 Patty Schellbach on 2008-07-03 18:38
To the readers of OCA News,
Please accept my apology for incorrectly sending Mark Stokoe a copy of the draft of my statement to the Pre-Conciliar Commission Town Hall Meeting held in Washington, DC, on 28 June 2008. I have sent a copy of the version I distributed at the Town Hall Meeting to Mark Stokoe to post in place of the draft. I was rushed at the time I selected which file to attach to the email message I sent. Please forgive my mistake.
#2 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-07-04 05:58
Thank you for helping more clearly focus the criticism of the hierarchs as a lack of virtues.
However, I question your statement that we -- the clergy, the monastics, and the laity -- need to limit the episcopal candidates to those "who have consistently and powerfully shown by their deeds that they are willing to stand up for the fatherless and the widow and lay down their lives to protect the oppressed." What sort of actions would show us that an episcopal candidate is worthy in your eyes?
The basic problem with our hierarchs, as I have written in other posts on this site and elsewhere, is that so many -- if not all -- are not true, mature monks, just celibate clergy chosen because of the dearth of more qualified candidates. They apparently lack the humility necessary to properly fulfill their positions as hierarchs, as servant-leaders, particularly as members of the Holy Synod. They also apparently lack the zealous commitment to the Faith to properly defend it against threats internal and external.
We, the faithful of the OCA, need to put forth at the 15th AAC and support a decade-long Church-wide initiative to (a) expand the monastic communities within the OCA, (b) establish the endowments to support that expansion, and (c) increase especially the number of monks in the monasteries. We must also vet those involved in the oversight of the monasteries and those charged with the day-in, day-out formation of the monks, looking specifically at the theology the monks are taught.
#3 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-07-04 08:42
Why do you people think that the salvation of the church lies with monastics? More monasteries; more monastics; more recruiting young people to be monks; etc. WHY? Of course there is a place for monastics in the church, but monasteries and monks ARE NOT what you think. More grace isn't distributed to the celibate. Hopefully, there are monastics who pray and try to acquire the Holy Spirit, but so are there married people.
The reasons why monastics were chosen for the episcopate were expediency, not because celibates (monastics) had more grace. 1) The laws written gave the bishop full control of the assets of a church & diocese. His progeny inherited these assets. This is not the case today. 2) Monasteries were where the libraries were. Monastics could read, write and were educated. Parish priests were uneducated, country bumpkins. 3) Having no wife enabled a celibate to fully concentrate on only church matters. Today this is not the case. 4) Most celibates (monastics) are not psychologically stable.
Most celibates or monastics are not psychologically well-adjusted. To chose them to lead the church should be seriously questioned. The OCA has had it's full of wacko bishops. It's time to return to our own tradition in the church and choose the BEST candidates to lead, married or celibate. Continuing to chose bottom-of-the-barrel candidates to lead makes no sense.
#3.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-07 06:35
I am offended by your lack of understanding of the true Orthodox faith. Your understanding of Orthodoxy is simply wrong. Monasticism has always been the backbone of the Orthodox Church throughout history. The church is so weak in USA because Monastic life is weak - we simply won't allow and certainly don't promote our children to serve the Church with their WHOLE lives!! As soon as the faithful lose touch with the Monastic world, it becomes lost in the sea of secularism. We are simply obtaining the fruits of our labors.
#3.1.1 Gene B on 2008-07-07 12:30
I'm with you,Gene! As a priest with over 30 years of service with two grown sons,I would never want to be a bishop and a family man at the same time.I don't say that being a monastic or celibate gives ANYONE better qualification to be a bishop,I WILL say,however,that just being a parish priest took away enough time from my wife(now deceased) and children.Not that many years ago,my wife and I were all set to go on vacation when a parishoner called,his mother had just reposed and he wanted me to bury her.I was able to cancel my reservations and my wife accepted that,but maybe 99% of American-born women and perhaps almost as many Russian-born women would have revolted then and there.My wife remained devoted to the church and to my priesthood until the end for which I'm sure God rewarded her.Actually,whether a priest is married or not,someone will always find fault.My predecessor in one parish was a celibate,people floated rumours that he was gay and/or a womaniser.I came along with a family and they found fault with that.My late father-in-law, in his typical Pennsylvania "Hunkie" frankness used to say,"If Christ Himself came down from the Cross, they'd still want more!"
#188.8.131.52 Anonymous on 2008-07-07 14:20
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has taught this wherever he has taught around the world:
"Monks are the sinews and foundation of the Church."
It really basic Orthodoxy 101.
No monks. No sinews. No foundation.
Welcome to the OCA.
#184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2008-07-07 14:41
Saying "most celibates or monastics are not psychologically well-adjusted" is painting with too broad a brush. The ones I've come across were psychologically well-adjusted for the most part; and I've met some married people, both cleric and lay (yes, as much as few here want to admit it, some laypeople are "whackos" too!) who were not psychologically well-adjusted.
But the Church eventually chose an exclusively unmarried episcopate due to the following factors:
(1) Monks were often the more committed, more disciplined and more educated Christians at the time.
(2) Monastic bishops had no family to claim either the bishopric or church property as their inheritance upon his death -- a problem that arose with married bishops.
(3) Monastic bishops, having no wife or children, were freer to travel from parish to parish throughout a diocese (something a parish presbyter does not have to deal with) -- and travel was time-consuming and fraught with danger in those times (having no wife or children means leaving no widows or orphans).
That's something the "let's revive a married episcopate" (not necessarily a bad or wrong idea, though it would take the consensus of the universal Church to do, and we can all guess how that'd go right now) crowd never discusses: the impact having married bishops would have on their wives and children. If the average parish presbyter, his presbytera and his children are under a lot of stress in terms of time, income, community demands, etc., staying put and serving one parish in one place, think about how much more that would be on a bishop, his episcopissa and their children with him having to be away from home so much! It's something to be mulled over seriously.
#3.1.2 Gregory Orloff on 2008-07-07 16:53
you are very right,i am very much against the introduction of a married episcopate.the celibate episcopate has been established by an ecumenical council and has been accepted by the WHOLE CHURCH for one and a half millenia.people who propose such things are not really orthodox,and yes, monastics are the backbone of the church. there are baaaad monks,of whom i am the first,but there ARE truly great and holy monks by whose prayers GOD forgives many of our sins.
#220.127.116.11 Anonymous on 2008-07-08 13:08
"What the former Bishop failed to fully acknowledge was that the $363,341 mortgage on the property, the home of his former choir director, remains the legal responsibility and obligation of the diocese. " Ah, Anna Jarolson, widely suspected to be the "the humble parishioner Anna" who so denigrated the Alaskan faithful that dared question her benefactor. Now that Nikolai is gone, she walks away also? Is there no shame, no conscience? How was this allowed to happen? Who was overseeing the diocesan funds? Where is the liability? We need some answers, not the standard, "Oh, well, so sorry, but you need to pay the bill." The church cannot grow when its leaders reject Christian behavior.
"The total net payoff for the loans of the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska amounts to $906,925.26. One wonders why anyone would say otherwise."
Reread the former bishop of Alaska's letter, he provides the answer: "liar, noun FALSIFIER, storyteller (informal) perjurer, fibber, fabricator, prevaricator"
Seems the former bishop has a serious case of projection going on.
"The tradition of our Church encourages us not to cast blame on others in the hope of self-justification, but to ask for God’s forgiveness for our failures and thank Him for whatever success we may have in the management of what ultimately belongs to Him."
Probably the greatest failure of the Alaskan faithful was to grasp that the HS had sent yet another morally bankrupt bishop to administer the diocese. We went into emotional freefall as we began to realize that although Bishop Innocent had been removed, his replacement was even worse. Denial that the HS would so cavalierly treat the mother diocese was widespread...until finally, only the most sycophantic could support this cruel despot who keeps the gates of the hell he is locked in so thoroughly secure.
#4 K. Carlsen on 2008-07-04 10:00
Anna, the wonderful choir director for the Cathedral and the Alaska Diocese, deserves respect and appreciation, and at least to have the church hold her home in escrow until she qualifies for her home mortgage. Being paid for 7 years as a highly qualified choir director would have been better, then she wouldn't need the Church's help
#4.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-07 11:11
"Being paid for 7 years as a highly qualified choir director would have been better..."
No fooling. You might think to ask your diocesan treasurer if Anna got a 1099 for living rent free in a house worth almost 50% more than the median home value in Anchorage.
#4.1.1 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2008-07-07 13:57
And, the rent on that would have amounted to much less still than an average Alaskan salary, which would have helped qualify her for a mortagage.
#18.104.22.168 Anonymous on 2008-07-08 16:53
They say that charity begins at home, but that house for Ms. Jarolsen is ridiculous. How many people could have been housed that are truly homeless for what the Alaskans paid to house one lackey of Nikolai?
We still ask, though, why did Nikolai leave the US and as fast as he did? Where there is smoke there is fire and there's something fishy in his departure. What is the extradition treaty that the US has with Australia?
What else will be found and will Benjamin be as forthcoming as with these bank statements? Is this a ploy to say, "yeah, here is something that was bad and it involved money", as a way to avoid more damaging situations that Nikolai was involved in? A piece of red meat to the faithful for their consumption and contentment while more is hidden?
#22.214.171.124.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-09 10:44
Clearly, I'm missing something. Why should the church hold Ms. Jarolson's home in escrow? Why should the church be responsible for her mortgage?
It may be exactly the right thing to do. But why?
#4.1.2 josephine on 2008-07-07 15:24
Hello all, this is the first time I have posted on one of these things so bear with me. I heard it through the grapevine that my name was mentioned here and pridefully wanted to see what people were saying (by the way I am definitely NOT the "humble" Anna - anyone who knows me will testify to that :^). When I read these comments I thought it would be good to set the record straight on a couple points, I have absolutely nothing to hide.
The first is, as I said above, I have never posted anything before now and am NOT the “Humble Anna” that posted on the AskVladyka site. I did see that posting and my heart jumped into my throat when I saw the name but then realized that there just MIGHT be other people named Anna in Alaska. :^) Again, that definitely wasn’t me, I don’t know enough about Alaska to even begin writing something like what I remember reading (although it was a while ago) and wouldn’t even if I did – not my style – I am nervous enough writing this now. Also not my style to not identify myself completely, subtlety and tact aren’t my strong points. :^)
The second is the choir, Fr. John told me some people might be angry and I was willing to accept that but if people are wondering why, again, nothing to hide. Obviously there was a lot of emotional turmoil and I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent. Add to that the fact that my job is getting more demanding by the day and they are asking me to travel to VA for weeks at a time (I am in VA now in fact). On top of all that my manager wanted me to go back to school for a degree in management. Something had to give. I have been going to Church here in VA and it has been a time to step back, heal and rest spiritually. Physically my job and going back to school are filling up more time than I ever thought possible but emotionally and spiritually I really needed a break. I ask forgiveness if anyone was hurt by my decision, Fr. John was wonderfully loving and understanding as were the people in the choir that I spoke to and I thank everyone at the Cathedral and especially Fr. John, Matushka Maggie, and the choir for being so wonderful. I love all of them very much.
Third is of course the house. I laughed out loud when I read “rent free”!! To start at the beginning, I have loved that house for years, it was my dream house and was big enough for ALL of us – 3 kids (still at home), 3 cats, a dog and my mother-in-law. (And my daughter, son-in-law and grand-baby when they visit:^) His Grace knew we were cramped and wanted to help us purchase a house (we have never been homeowners) so we tried to qualify but didn’t have a downpayment and our credit wasn’t good enough for a 0% downpayment loan. The bank suggested paying rent for 18 months, most of which goes towards the loan and some in a savings account for the downpayment. We have qualified already for the loan and are working out the details with Bishop Benjamin and our mortgage broker now and hopefully the sale will go through soon, but at least by the agreed upon time frame of October. It is important that people know that WE are paying on that loan, not the Diocese, and that we ARE going to purchase the house if at all possible. If not then the Diocese will sell it to someone else, either way that loan will be paid off and in the meantime we are sending in the cash to cover it (and we do not want to move so we will live there as long as we are in Alaska which will be quite a while as our kids are established here). 2928.71 a month to be exact – which is why I laughed when I read “rent-free”. It has been a financial struggle but we know it will be worth it in the end (and the house certainly isn’t worth anything near 500k).
That’s it – if anyone has any questions my name and email are on this post, I will not be posting again as it makes me very nervous for some reason, but feel free to write me, I have nothing to hide.
The “not-so-humble” Anna
#126.96.36.199 Anna Jarlson on 2008-07-09 07:50
PS - oops, thought my email would display, I see it doesn't. So here it is - firstname.lastname@example.org - since I said it was provided.
#188.8.131.52.1 Anna Jarlson on 2008-07-10 04:22
Refinance your house yourself. We in Alaska are struggling and do not have to be burden with your home. ...
#184.108.40.206.1.1 Alexie on 2008-07-10 18:17
"When criticism is thick, love is thin!" Our Lord commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, this is the whole law in a nutshell.
#220.127.116.11.1.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-11 09:52
Mr. Stokoe wrote:
"Preliminary dates for the joint Synod and Metropolitan Council meeting at which the Special Investigative Committee report will be issued have been pushed back yet again. The report is now being scheduled for release at a joint meeting to be held in September, after the last Town Hall has met, and long after the deadline for resolutions to the All-American Council (August 15th) has passed."
Sadly, I think the point about the deadline for resolutions is moot. We the Church (laity and clergy, aside from the Synod of Bishops) will never be given a chance to make any meaningful or efficacious resolutions.
There are so many restrictions on who can make what resolutions (much less what is "within the competency of the AAC") that the Synod can effectively stymie any push for change.
Whatever the findings of the SIC report, I doubt there was ever a chance we could have done anything about it, regardless of whether it debuted before or after the resolution deadline.
Is there a loophole I have overlooked? As far as I can see from those rules, basically any major resolution has to pass the desk of either the diocesan bishop, or the Holy Synod, and their track record does not inspire hope. I hope I'm wrong.
Nilus Klingel, from
St. Andrew's Church, Dix Hills, NY
#5 Rdr. Nilus Klingel on 2008-07-05 09:09
"Is there a loophole I have overlooked? As far as I can see from those rules, basically any major resolution has to pass the desk of either the diocesan bishop, or the Holy Synod,"
The short answer is no. However, the Statute itself does not spell out the exact procedures for submitting resolutions (which is reason enough to amend the Statute). And resolutions have been introduced from the floor of past AAC's. So technically it is possible.
A word of caution, however. Resolutions are always considered last. So what's the point on submitting a resolution on a matter that has already been voted on (such as the budget)? The answer is, it is imperative that an alternative agenda be submitted at the beginning of the AAC, in which Statute amendments and resolutions are considered FIRST.
#5.1 Michael Strelka on 2008-07-07 06:56
At the very least, one would hope that it will now become much more difficult for hierarchs to mortgage property of the Church. In my view, a ruling bishop should not be able to mortgage property of the Church and diocese without appoval of the Holy synod and the diocesan council of his own diocese. While the bishop may technically be the "corporate sole" in his diocese, there needs to be much more supervision and independent audit in the financial activities of every diocese, as well as the jurisdiction itself.
I am still left to wonder where the IRS has been in some of these cases.
Your Eminence: Article 7, Sec. 3 of the Statute of the OCA states that the ability to buy, sell and/or encumber properties is with the sole purvue of the Diocesan Assembly. The Diocesesan Bishop alone does not have this authority. His Grace Nicolai sure seems to me to have committed an illegal act.
#6.1 Michael Strelka on 2008-07-07 07:30
PS "take these town hall meetings and shove it i ain't working here no more." isn't that a song? what lame cleric thoght we'd fall for this crap. just more of the same in a new box. we know who and what you all are, i guess you just don't know-sad, very sad indeed.
#7 no name on 2008-07-06 14:06
I do not understand why this is such a revelation.
I don't know of any OCA institution that is without a mortgate.
As a matter of fact, the Honesdale Bank probably owns St. Tikhons Monastery, Seminary and Religious Center - from what I understand, Herman can borrow $200,000 over the telephone.
With the Romanians leaving and Alaska in disarray, it's time to downsize or rightsize. A new demographic study needs to be done. The synod needs to shrink, since they shirk their responsibilities any way. It's time for Kucynda to take a new count - I'm certain that we have left the million count.
#8 MP on 2008-07-06 17:34
Ha! Kucynda would probably proclaim 3 million now! Never one to let reality cloud the delusions.
#9 Anonymous on 2008-07-07 13:24
Some have you mentioned in your comments that perhaps the future of the Church does not lie with the monastics. In fact, the future of the Church must be accomplished by all, laity, clergy and monastics. Above all, however, it is the laity who are needed in the frontlines in this present time of troubles. I will agree that man monastics are unstable. Indeed, many people who enter monasticism do so because of psychiatric or psychological problems. This does not mean that monasticism has not produced some outstanding bishops. It is just that we should no over-romanticise monastics and monasticism. Monastics are simply any special category of layman unless they are ordained. I must say, too, that the I find offensive the notion that we monastics outrank married clergy simply by virtue of being monastics. A pirest is fully a priest whether he be married or monastic. There are no gradients of grace, higher for monastic priests and lower for married priests.
In Christ, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo.
A wonderful reply - one of the best I've seen from you. The problem people in the West have is their actual view of monasticism. Immediately upon seeing a monk people think they are in the presence of God Himself. If one should visit Mt. Athos or any other "SERIOUS" monasteries, they will find celibates who are seriously praying, trying to live the Christian life and acquire the Holy Spirit. Yet, many, many fail miserably. Those who are able to progress are known for their lives and most of them would have nothing to do with the episcopacy. The prayers of one REAL holy monk may be enough to save the world. This is their calling.
In the West, we choose celibates for bishops hoping they can completely concentrate on their diocese and church work. Yet, most of these candidates have serious past issues - which is why they are celibate. They go into a diocese and screw it up worse than it was due to their incompetence.
We need to go back to the early church methodology and choose the best men to lead the church - married or not married. 11 of the 12 apostles were married men. No universal council is needed to OK married bishops. They are part of the Orthodox tradition and since the church has a "need" for them, they should be re-instituted as the norm.
#10.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-08 07:24
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