Wednesday, January 4. 2006
Whatever you feel needs to be said about the scandal, this website, pro or con, we encourage you to share your thoughts.
(Please note: In the interests of promoting a serious, edifying discussion, we request all responses include your name and a valid email address. If, for some reason, you do not wish your name to appear, please indicate that you wish your name withheld, and provide a pseudonym that we may use. We will not post anonymous responses, or those pseudonymous responses which fail to provide a valid email address.)
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Thank you Mark et al, for putting "yourself out there " on this issue. As a young member of the OCA - I am deeply distressed about the direction of the Church and I firmly believe that if we want to bring Orthodoxy to all - we need to have the "house" in order. Too long have we allowed our leadership to betray their office and while I grieve about this situation, I can't help but Pray that this website and the voice of the people will once again save the Church from destruction.
#1 Shawn Michael Karney on 2006-01-06 18:20
At last! A place where all this can be publically hashed out with background information and supporting documentation. I hope more is to come I also hope the atmosphere is free enough so that visitors can contribute without fear of some sort of retribution by the OCA.
#2 Jay Holman on 2006-01-07 02:58
Congratulations, Mark and company. You've done a wonderful job on this site. While the information is disturbing, the OCA Faithful need to be brought up to speed. May your endeavor bear good fruit.
Good for you!
I have been seething about this situation and it's good
to see that someone is doing something to involve
the laity. After all, they can't fire us!! We're here to
stay and "they" have no power over us except what
we allow them to have. I suspect that a groundswell
of indignation from us foot soldiers who can't be
recalled or fired and who, after all, are the church,
will strike more trepidation in the hearts of whoever
is being dishonest. It's good to see that priests and
bishops are writing strong letters but the leaders of
the church need to see all of us getting involved.
The answer to darkness is a bright light right in the
#4 Dave Cooper on 2006-01-08 13:51
As I was reading the chrononlogy of events, I noticed that there is a big gap between years right before 2005. I remember some questions about 9-11 Relief funds that were never answered. Has any more come to light about that matter? I am wondering whether there is a claim that all has been well since the 2002 All American Council, that all the problems were created prior to July 2002.
You are to be congratulated on the quality of the web site. It is well organized, the documentation expands upon the narrative, and making it interactive, accomodating readers' comments and questions renders it a priceless resource for all the faithful. gertie
#5 Gertie Trumbore on 2006-01-08 14:56
Thanks for your questions Gertie. Yes, there are serious allegations about the 9/11 Appeal Funds being diverted as well. Until now, Syosset has refused to discuss or comment on the topic. Be on the lookout here at OCANews.or in the next few weeks for an article on the topic....
And no, there has been no public claim that all is well since 2002. That would, in fact, be admitting that all was not well before then....
#5.1 Editor on 2006-01-08 20:34
I must say, I've mixed emotions about this website. I do not doubt, for one second, that there are problems that need fixing and that there are financial issues that needs addressing. That seems perfectly clear to me. It disturbs me to no end to read that these problems have been going on for as long as they have been.
What upsets me is that this is a public site for any and all people to read and I cannot help but wonder the effect it may/will have on those who are seeing the True Faith. Had I read or known all of this prior to being received into the Church, I may have thought twice about doing so. But since my conversion was more about spirituality, prayer and worship, those thoughts might have been fleeting. I can't help but wonder what my spouse would think, who did not join me in converting.
I also can't help but think that some comments I've read here and elsewhere sound so "protestant" in nature. Almost congregational. We are a hierarcheal church, run from the top down. No?
The other thing that bothers me is that Met +HERMAN asked Bishop +JOB to not speak of this matter at least on the clergy forum, and to ask his priests to do the same. How is it we think we are any better or above obeying Met +HERMAN? At least that what I feel like this site is saying.
I dunno. These are my rambling thoughts. If nothing else, I add my feeble prayers for Met +HERMAN and our leaders to take the bull by the horns and turn him 'round. May God grant them all courage, wisdom, and patience. Lord have mercy!
#6 Philippa Alan on 2006-01-08 20:22
Thank you for your honesty. I, too, am embarrassed that these issues have not been raised in more private church forums. One has to ask oneself, why didn't last summer's AAC talk about this openly? Why haven't more diocesan assemblies discussed it? These are good questions that need to be asked of our priests and of ourselves.
And yes, I, too, have non-Orthodox relatives. I, too, worry it might cause some of them to think twice about the Church. But what better witness can we have in a fallen world than to practice the Faith we preach by calling ourselves to accountability, confessing our errors, and repenting of them?
I cannot speak to the comments you may have read on other websites that sound "Protestant"; but I do not think it is "Protestant" to ask a question. And it is certainly not anti-hierarchical to ask the same question one of our Church's senior Bishops is asking: Are the allegations true?
Finally, about the appearance of this website at this time. His Beatitude requested only that Archbishop Job not make any comments at this time - no one else. His Eminence then asked his own clergy not to post on the internet until after the Lesser Synod - no one else. As our goal here is to encourage open and public dialogue about these issues, it seemed to us that it would be better to begin as soon as possible, rather than wait yet again. It's been nine years since this started and its about time we all began talking about the elephant in the room.
Once again, thanks for your thoughts, and prayers. We too pray that Met+Herman "takes the bull by the horns" and turns it around!
#6.1 Editor on 2006-01-08 20:58
In light of this call for accountability, I would like to point out that a solid leadership baseline was established after the 1995 All-American Council. It occured at the Administrative Summit held at St. Tikhon's Seminary. I had the pleasure of facilitating this summit of the bishops and approximately 80 clergy leaders with the help of Ben Williams. As a Church in council (this summit was mandated by the Church in Council) we were able to identify and prioritize the obstacles to growth and right administration. The OCA Newspaper lableled this experience "A Powerful Moment". The exit surveys were uniformly enthusiastic. The next step was an Administrative Task Force which, as I recall, met only once. I would encourage a fresh look at the results of the Administrative Summit as a baseline from which to address the issues of accountability and lack of trust raised by this latest crisis.
I was reminded that the Administrative Summit occured in June of 1993 following the 10th All-American Council, not following the 11th Council as I stated in my previous post. Time flies.
Dear Mark and all of the staff that have contributed to this website,
I thank you for posting this information and hope and pray that the wrongs committed in this scandal will truly come to light and that those responsible be prosecuted.
I, myself, am blessed to be both an Orthodox priest and a certified public accountant. I would simply like to say that the letters from the CPA firms probably do not have any special agendas and were clearly the same type of letters I wrote for many years as an auditor. No CPA firm in the United States that wants to keep its license would ever certify a financial statement unless all of the information was available for audit. Clearly all of the relevant information was not available and this is why the CPA firm was not able to complete its work. While I am not in the OCA I have several parishioners that attend my parish that are and your website was brought to my attention. I am absolutely shocked that +Herman and others would not want a full and complete audit of the books and records of the archdiocese. The idea that a discretionary fund should not be accountable is absurd.
God's blessings to you and your staff for bringin this information to light.
#8 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2006-01-09 16:01
Fifty years my husband and I have been in the Church (my husband and I are both Cradle Orthodox) and we will be moving on to another Mission parish in Raleigh, NC. We as a family have been founders in four Missions in our life.
I for one will not pay "dues" to the OCA any more, until the Bishops do what they are supposed to do and oversee their charges. I've spent most of my life working and I've always had someone looking over my shoulder and seeing if I did my job right. Is there no oversight in the OCA? Do they send priests out and not look to see what they are doing? Do they not think that someone else is looking over their shoulder? Or do they think GOD is watching? They will have to answer to a higher power, but I would like to see them answer to us that have sustained them. If in any way I can help... please let me know.
In the Lord, Diane Gloumakoff
#9 Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-01-09 21:41
I am not certain if people realize from her spare self-definition how important is Diane's post. I know her family from my time in Woodside, NY, and know that my faith is as a mustard seed compared to theirs --- if pillars like Diane are troubled, the people in Syosset would do well to worry.
To my mind, it is possible that it is thought we members of the ecclesia are not spiritually mature enough to deal with this. (cf. Metropolitan Herman's statement that financial matters are in his purview). It is perhaps an understandable opinion. Whether this is true or whether it is not true, the apparent efforts at concealment are an incorrect reaction to spiritual immaturity.
When money is given to the Church, that money represents the fruit of labor, whether physical or intellectual. Indeed, the services for All Saints of North America refers to the labors of our forebears in the faith with these words:
'Comforted by the beauty of the Orthodox Faith,
they labored in mines and mills, they tilled the land,
they braved the challenges of the great cities,
enduring many hardships and sufferings.
Never failing to worship God in spirit and truth,
and unyielding in devotion to His most pure Mother,
they erected many temples to His glory.'
Money given to the Church is the fruit of one's often irksome toil; it is not therefore the attitude of a "paid-up member of the lodge" to wish to make certain that it doesn't go to silly purposes. The fundamental reason we give to the Church is for the glory of God; I would suggest another element of our gifts to the Church is that we thereby dignify our human labor, making our labor accomplish something more than the gratification of our needs for food, clothing and shelter. Does the reimbursement of "embarrassing credit card debts" dignify the human labor that is represented by the money involved?
There is nothing particularly ecclesiastical about a balance sheet and an income statement done according to generally accepted accounting principles (one of the references to reviews referred to "accepted accounting principles," leaving out the accountant's iota of general acceptance). We are not asking the faithful to vote as to whether we should use homoousios or homoiousios in relation to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. We are simply asking what happened --- before healing from abuse can take place, the nature of the abuse needs to be named. Once that happens, then people can start to move away from the trauma and go on with life.
Before the ecclesia can move away from this trauma, a full forensic accounting needs to take place (which is a different animal from a simple audit). Let all things that have happened financially be revealed. Let us restate our financial statements back to 1988 (the date mentioned by Fr. Dn. Wheeler as when the financial situation started). In the renovation of an old house, all the dry rot needs to be excised from the structural members so that they can once again carry their burdens. We need to name the abuse; we need to figure out officially, once and for all, what the financial practices (or malpractices, if any) were, and figure out what procedures to put in place to make recurrences less likely.
I would suggest, in response to the idea that the members of the ecclesia lack the spiritual maturity to handle the scandal, that a thoroughgoing open examination of the finances would be iconic of the maturity that is expected when we engage in wrongdoing.
Given that the Matins for Holy Saturday implores God to make "all the strife and scandal of the Church to cease," it is clear that there are no perfect deacons, presbyters or bishops (and certainly Ed Unneland is far from perfect), and that problematic clergy and laity have always been in the Church. The Almighty and Everliving is the One whose power is makes itself manifest in our works despite our weakness, not because of our perfection. Bad things will happen in the Church, what marks us as Church is not so much the manifestations of human weakness, but rather our reaction.
#9.1 Ed Unneland on 2006-01-10 16:19
I am humbled by your comment about my family. Whoever you are, know that my husband and I will always stand for what is right and if in anyway we can help make all this right we will.
We have lived a life in the Church and don't know a life outside of it. But it must be a Church that follows all that Christ asks of us...the lay people. How much more do the Bishops have to answer for... they are the shephards...do we hear their voice?
Lovingly in the Lord,
#9.1.1 Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-01-19 20:25
Who are you? I don't recognize your name. I would like to thank you for your kind feelings for my family and me.
#126.96.36.199 Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-01-23 20:29
What we experience now is just the tip of the iceberg. Every Diocese and every bishop now has the ability to redirect funds BEFORE THEY WERE RECORDED. This in fact is the big issue. WHO CAN CONTROL THOSE FUNDS ? Who can know how many accounts a bishop or a person working for the diocese has and where? Shouldn't this be raising a red flag ?
We all must think about this issue, which is greater that the one we discuss right now. The corruption starts by one person, the one who is in the entire control. The president of United States discloses his finances but not our bishops. What about that ? Have we not been taken for a ride for so many years?
#10 Fr. Remus Bleahu on 2006-01-09 21:48
Thank you so much for all of this!!
#11 The Davis Family on 2006-01-09 22:00
Very nicely done.
Very depressing when you see it all listed out. Some of it quite shocking, in fact.
If we find broken links, would you like that pointed out or are you systematically working through them.
#12 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-01-10 12:52
Fr. Remus raises some interesting questions. But before this turns into a remake of the French Revolution, let's remember that our priests, our bishops, our hierarchy must be presumed to be honest God fearing men who have devoted their lives to spreading the good news of our faith.
Having known a priest or two, I am humbled of the difficult life they have chosen for themselves. If I had one tenth the faith of most of the clergy I've met, I'd be a far better man.
There very well might be problems that occured in our church, and this site as well as our prayers and our pointed questions at parish and diocese meetings will get to the root of them. I just don't want to presume that there's a lot more ice under that iceburg tip.
#13 Marty Brown on 2006-01-10 18:36
Thank you for your prayers and thoughtful words. If asking the simple question "But are the allegations true?" makes Archbishop Job a "revolutionary", then I can only hope all our Bishops join such a revolt! Seriously, His Eminence's call for a Commission, and Audit, etc. are the only ways many feel we can restore trust in our national administration again. The confusing thing to many of us is why some in Syosset seem to resist such a common-sense, prudent and effective means to put this all behind us all.
Sadly, by stonewalling, denying, etc., they are the ones who are creating more and more doubts among the faithful that maybe there is more than just the "tip of the iceberg" here...
I sincerely hope you will join your voice to those in parishes and diocesan meetings acorss the country for a Commission and audit, so that, as you say, we can "get to the root".
#13.1 Editor on 2006-01-10 19:35
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This is not an OCA problem, this is a problem that affects the entire Orthodox Church throughout North America, regardless of jurisdiction. This is a Greek, Antiochian and ROCOR problem for we are all ONE Church! We must PRAY! We must repent! We must pray for those who MAY have perpetrated these sinful crimes against Christ and His Church that He will grant unto them a spirit of humility and repentance. We must pray for courage to deal with the ROOT issues of this problem. We must pray and ask the Lord's mercy for our own failings in these areas on a personal and parochial level. We must repent for our benign neglect of true stewardship and we must repent for our denial that Christ has called His One Church to Unity. This unfortunately, will cause those in the world to scorn our presentation of the Gospel more than ever. May God have mercy upon us and may we embrace this as an opportunity for purification.
#14 Fr. Timothy Cremeens on 2006-01-11 05:15
The Implications of the Financial Mismanagement in the OCA are Extremely Dire. There is a very strong likelihood that an IRS audit of the years in question will likely bring about serious and damaging long-term consequences.
Fr. Jason Kappanadze speaks the truth and raises some critical issues about the OCA Financial Crisis and the serious implications of the alleged lack of proper leadership and stewardship by a handful of those in leadership positions. These leaders are threatening the entire OCA by continually refusing to address the issues, fully disclose the truth, and seek full accountability of the financial situation detailing more than $2 million in funds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditures over several years.
As an attorney with experience and understanding of both federal and state tax laws I confirm everything Fr. Kappanadze is warning us about and the dangerous and devastating implications a removal of non-profit status of the OCA administrative bodies and parishes, and the enormous IRS fines will have on the entire church. Indeed, the penalties and fines that are likely to be imposed by the IRS would certainly bankrupt the OCA and create a tsunami of financial and legal problems. Such a potential scenario will seriously damage the image, credibility, and integrity of the OCA, tarnish the reputation of everyone associated with the leaders responsible for this crisis, create horrible publicity, and pass on an ugly legacy to future generations.
I have reviewed all of the documents, chain of events, correspondence, and information on the www.OCAnews.org site and the implications of what happened are dire indeed:
Folks, this is very, very, serious business. As an attorney and Orthodox Christian, descendant of four generations of Orthodox priests, it is my duty to also stand up and demand Full Disclosure and Full Accountability. I add my name to the growing chorus of other Orthodox Christian laymen, priests, and hierarchs who are demanding a full, independent, and open audit of what has happened with the millions of dollars in funds and expenditures during the years in question. Our faith demands it! Our Ethics require it!
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 11:15)
Chris Banescu, Esq.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
#15 Chris Banescu, Esq. on 2006-01-12 05:43
Thanks Chris, for both your insight, and links. If more and more OCA parishoners, professionals, and dedicated laymen like yourself are now willing to join their voices together, we can really help our Bishops in making the changes that need to be made.
I encourage you, Chris, to write more - perhaps something for our Reflection section when you get a chance?
#15.1 Editor on 2006-01-12 07:19
I attended an OCA church for two years (mid 2002 to mid 2004). I've been Orthodox for 26 years.
I was very concerned about the lack of good business practices in the handling of monies at the OCA parish I attended. My concerns were not well received by the priest, and the council members were hesitant to speak up. I ultimately left the parish and returned to a Greek parish.
My observation is that there is indeed a tremendous need to handle parish and dioceses finances professionally, including an independent audit on an annual basis. Steven
Steven Pottier, CLU, Ph.D.
Insurance, Legal Studies, & Real Estate
Brooks Hall 206
Terry College of Business
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-6255
#16 Steven Pottier on 2006-01-12 07:06
Thanks for writing Steve. Comments from professionals like you and Chris, should motivate everyone to understand how serious these problems are, and how vital it is they be addressed.
(On a personal note, I am sorry your experience with the OCA was not happy, but thanks for helping us to do better in the future...)
#16.1 Editor on 2006-01-12 07:13
I do respect your expertise in financial field but my question is:
How can we know what happen with the money which were not recorded in the books but went into Bishop's personal accounts?
One of the Russian sayings used by Ronald Regan was:" We belief you but we must
verify it" and this is the problem. Some Bishops will not disclose their salary nor tell anyone who donated to them anything. Is this right?
I would like to get your and other's opinion.
A cancer illness is not erradicated or treated until is well known. And this has to come out on all the OCA dioceses. We don't need POPES or DICTATOR. We need sincere spiritual PARENTS who never say "you" and "me", who can say "we" or "us".
#16.2 Fr. Remus Bleahu on 2006-01-12 11:42
Remember, if one Orthodox is hurting, we all are hurting. Only the evil one can find joy in the pain caused by these allegations. We all must stand together in agape love and prayer with our OCA brethren -- no matter if we are new calendar, old calendar, SCOBA or non-SCOBA. If there is any IRS involvement, we all could be vulnerable to any precedent established. May there be a speedy resolution. May this be a lesson for all of us to get our houses in order and keep them in order. Let us not give anti-Christian organizations and the secular media any excuse to descend upon us like vultures.
#17 Teresa Polychronis on 2006-01-12 07:51
Your posted Deacon Wheeler's observations about his tenure at Syosset. Didn't he leave there about the time another official, Mr. Paul Hunchak, also left? Were their exits
connected? Thanks for your time, Mark!
Rev. David Kossey
#18 Rev. David Kossey on 2006-01-12 09:18
Dear Fr. David:
Good question. Since he left Syosset in 2000, I believe, Paul has made no public comment on the scandal - nor has he made any public comment on Protodeacon Wheeler's allegations since they were made public in November 2005. I will ask him to do so now.
#18.1 Editor on 2006-01-12 09:58
I applaud you, Eric, Bishop Job and the others who are going forward with this.
Don't we have enough graft in this country without it being in the Church? I have known about this for sometime and was waiting to see if there would be any follow-up. If I can be of help in any way please let me know.
I've sent the website to the President of our Church and asked that he bring this to the attention of the council and at the Annual Meeting on January 29th. There are many people who know about this and are concerned. The word is definitely being spread and rest assured you would have many people who want to help clean up this mess....
I've been in the Orthodox Church all my life and want our Church to continue to be a shining light and beacon so that we
are truly "The Church" in the eyes of the world.
With love in Christ,
#19 Diane Dounouk on 2006-01-12 11:23
Dear Mark Stokoe,
Please accept my thanks and congratulations for creating your website. Aside from the courage you are showing, the site appears to be of very high quality, technically and in content. I commend you and wish you the best in this endeavor.
Good luck. You are doing God's work, although I'm sure you'll be demonized for it.
Paul Cromidas, Dallas TX
#20 Paul Cromidas on 2006-01-12 12:45
On second thought, perhaps restating the financial statements back to 1988 is unrealistic. The point is that the unstated truths are a drag on our life as a Church. Let there be a full forensic accounting so that we all can know all that has happened fiancially; only then we can get it out our system and proceed with life.
#21 Ed Unneland on 2006-01-13 09:16
Has anybody contacted the Attorney General in New York State?
I think it's high time for a grand jury investigation.
Sadly, there are times when criminal prosecution and public embarresment in the news is the only way to hold church administration accountable.
Some people need to be shamed into repentance.
#22 Paul S. Fenster on 2006-01-13 14:45
I am sure the Editor perhaps others, can confirm that Federal authorities are very aware of the situation. However, this brings very interesting dynamic and politically sensitive considerations into play. The Federal government, is reluctant to often involve themselves in "church related matters" because of the bad impression it casts in public , this is not to say the gov't never involves itself, obviously there exists a host of examples where it has, and recently, I think we have seen more crackdowns on such financial abuses, especially in NY State where we have a very attuned AG.
#22.1 Shawn Michael Karney on 2006-01-13 19:39
Thanks for your question, Paul. I do not know if anyone in New York has contacted the Attorney General. Moreover, I do not live in that jurisdiction.
But here, let me add a very personal comment , that many may not agree with. I think it important that we, as the Church, try to "clean house" before we expect outside authorities to do so. We claim to be an autocephalous Church - and yet we cannot even deal with blatant misdeeds? Is there any reason we cannot do so besides our own fears? What does it say about the OCA that we allow this to go on, unable or unwilling to practice in our Church, even those "professional ethics" that so many of us are required to manifest and abide by in our secular lives, let alone those of the Gospel! A fine ecclesial witness that!
Here is one of my fears: If you think this is embarrassing, how much more is it going to be if a Grand Jury hands down indictments not only to those who diverted funds, but to all those who knew of this scandal, and abetted it by doing nothing to stop it?
This is a crisis of moral leadership challenging us all, and no government intervention can change, or remove that charge laid to us at this time, in this place, to address this evil. Apathy, sloth, complacency, fear, indecision, timidity, waiting to see which way the winds blow, the excuses for inaction are many. But they all come back to a simple choice: close your eyes and walk away, or take courage, and confront the evil.
Personally, I believe the OCA is worth fighting for. Having read the documents for yourself - and there are more to come - I hope you will raise your voice to your priest, Dean, Bishop, Diocesan Council members, Metropolitan Council members, and Syosset itself, this coming week, and tell them that you support a Commission and audit.
#22.2 Editor on 2006-01-13 19:48
Good work! Transparency in financial matters is most important. These clandestine actions and accounts may have run afoul of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Regulations of the U.S. Government. This is no trivial matter in light of today’s intense focus on BSA.
It's imperative that a full financial audit conducted under Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) be performed as soon as possible.
At a very minimum, an engagement letter should be signed within 90 days after the January meeting, and a full, complete opinion audit start shortly thereafter and be completed within 180 days.
Now that the matter has been brought to light, actions outside these time ranges referenced above, will only increase your exposure to other administrative and regulatory remedies.
Again, good work. I wish you the best.
#23 C. William Voytan on 2006-01-14 06:55
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