Friday, July 7. 2006
The Metropolitan alone? The Synod of Bishops? The Metropolitan Council? The Dioceses? Everybody? Your comments are welcome.
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Mark, I have not been for holding back MONEY from SYOSSET!Since MH is going to withold this report from the LAITY, I think it is time to play HARDBALL. By withholding Money, it may shock them into reality. We must receive a copy of this report. I am appalled by the lack of doing what MH said he was going to do.
By bdoing this, this BY DOING THIS, IT BANKRUPTING THE OCA SPIRITUALLY AND FINANCIALLY.
You have to be kidding me! The faithful are only allowed to read the findings once the church has an opportunity to censor the report?
Its time for the faithful to toss Herman and his henchmen aside like the boat anchor he is acting like, pull up stakes and move on with the busniess of healing the church and electing a honest leader.
All along he has been less than forthcoming about this scandal, its time for the OCA to put in place a new leader to lead the church instead of a leader who is trying to run a dictatorship and decide what is best for the faithful.
Cuff'em and stuff'em. Guilty as charged.
#2 Bob H. on 2006-07-07 16:27
Proskauer Rose is legally and ethically bound to comply with the law and disclose accordingly, despite what the various parties involved may or may not want, including the Metropolitan. It is not in their purview to pick and choose who, among the client's statutorily elected representatives, it chooses to disclose. It must disclose its work to the legal representatives as engaged. The Letter of Engagement is crucial. Secondly, if the contents of that letter are contradicted by who is paying the bill (the OCA), then the plot gets more twisted, now sucking in a major law firm into this confusion. If the client is the OCA, then Proskauer Rose needs to start talking to the Metropolitan Council forthwith. To do any less is to split hairs. Did the Metropolitan hire them in his capacity as Chairman (not Dictator) of the Metropolitan Council? One would assume so. The bishop has no identity (or legal corporate standing) apart from the Church.
Why is it so difficult to produce a copy of the Proskauer Rose Letter of Engagement?
#3 Name withheld on 2006-07-07 16:56
Is it so clear?
Last month there was a court decision summarily ruling against plaintiffs in the GOA who were seeking to challenge the change in their charter. The grounds are that there is well-established precedent related to the courts not interferring in the internal affairs of a hierarchical church. Things are a bit different here because the statute states that the MC has authority in these matters. But if the Metropolitan were to claim that this contradicts the Church's cannonical principles -- well, there'd be a stalemate. And attempts to resolve that stalemate by appeal to the courts might not succeed. It would be interesting to hear what some of the lawyers who read this site think about these matters.
Anyway, if we reach that kind of stalemate, we might as well all just pack up and go home. I hope the Holy Synod understands that if these matters are not resolved with the participation of the MC, everything will not simply get back to normal in a few months -- the distrust and disaffection is too broad.
On the other hand, if people who advocate for transparency continue to express themselves in the vehement and disrespectful tones that have been heard lately, the broad "middle" might be encouraged to be more sympathetic to attempts from the hierarchy to impose order. People should consider the impact of their words and of their tone in generating support for their position. Just letting all your frustration "hang out" isn't always constructive.
Two posts on this site recently have advocated for Metr. Herman's resignation -- one did so in a forceful, but reasonable, tone; the other was the kind of statement that makes many people in the Church who are completely supportive of resolving these issues and airing all the issues cringe and wonder if it might not be better to just drop the whole thing.
#3.1 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-07-07 18:16
DON'T FEED THE DUCKS!!!
If they walk like ducks, talk like ducks, act like ducks, look like ducks; they are ducks.
Don't feed "ANY" of the ducks, "not even any local good" ducks. Too many local parishioners still don't know about or believe that there is a problem.
By not feeding our local ones, the word will get around fast. This may be the only way, and "quickest" way to resolve this situation.
#4 Withheld on 2006-07-07 17:59
What we need to recognize in this investigation is that we are not talking about the "rights" of the laity or clergy to know the findings of Proskaur Rose and the audits. Rather, the issue is our responsibility for the welfare of the Church. We all have a responsibility to know what is happening in the Church as well as what happened and to know why it happened. The responsibility of knowing is a great one. And no doubt it is going to be a painful one. But we all have been entrusted with supporting and protecting and nurturing the Church by Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given to all of us. It is an awesome responsibility to be a Christian - to be the stewards of God's varied graces, to be the people of God, to be members of the Body of Christ, to be the royal priesthood and a holy nation. It is not the Metropolitan alone or the bishops alone who bear responsibility for the Church (though they do have their unique responsibility within the Church), while the rest of us have no care or responsibility for what goes on. We each are to be responsible stewards for all that is given to us personally as well as for all that by which we are blessed in the Church coporately. Being an Orthodox Christian means having a responsibility for the entire Church and for its holiness - that is what it means to believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Believing in the holy Church, doesn't mean we believe holiness occurs by magic. Holiness requires Orthodox Christians to be accountable to each other for his/her actions, and it requires that we each take responsibility for expecting accountability from one another including from our leadership.
When in Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to defraud the Church, their consequences were publicly known. "And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things" (emphases mine). The consequences were public and the whole church was edified (and not a little afraid!). And the entire scandalous event was recorded in our scriptures not only to be preserved but to be taught and openly discussed forever.
In Galatians 2:11-14, St. Paul describes his openly confronting Peter "in front of all", not just a polite conversation behind closed doors for apostles' ears only. And then he too recorded this event which is in our scriptures for all to read about the scandalous behavior of the leader of the apostles which resulted in a public rebuke, recorded in scripture for all generations to read and learn from.
Being publicly accountable and expecting accountability from others including the highest leaders in the Church is part of our history and our Orthodoxy. Proskaur Rose, the audits and all civil investigations that are done into our OCA, become part of our responsibility to deal with. We have to be responsible for handling not only Tradition, but also scandal. We have to be so responsible for the good of all of our fellow members, in order that all can have absolute trust in the integrity of the Church. We also have to be accountable before civil authorities, and nowadays before the free press and non-believers as well, and for the same reason. We are responsible for making the Church to be trustworthy witnesses to the Gospel, which is achieved partially by showing ourselves trustworthy in the little things - the finances and accountability of leadership. If we - each and all the members of the Church - cannot be viewed as trustworthy in earthly things, how, as Jesus asked Nicodemus, will the world trust our witness to heavenly things?
It is OUR handling of the scandal and of the scandalous which can help us in our witness to the world that we in fact hold the truth.
#5 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-07-07 19:49
Thank you, again, Fr. Ted for your thoughts; but I need to ask, how can we affect change? We all constitute the Body of Christ - His Holy Church. We all are responsible, but not all are given to govern. Most of our bishops and many of our parish priests are silent, giving no guidance to their flocks. If MH, the Synod, the Treasurer, etc., proclaim that only they will decide what information is shared and when, how can we change this? Should individual believers petition Syosset? To what end? I am at a loss.
I don't have a "plan" as to how to effect change, but I think that we all can do what we has been begun on this webpage - talk openly, be responsible in what we say, but continue to demand responsibility from all who do "govern." We have to examine what "govern" means, and what are the full responsibilities of all the members of the Body of Christ. We have been too willing to assume passive roles, to not ask important questions, to allow the few to do all the work and assume all the responsibiliities for the Church. We need to discuss what ministry means in the Body of Christ. I don't think "pay, pray and obey" is an acceptable model for any members of the Church. We need to have more interest in and responsibility for the Church than simply sending money to someone else to do "something." What is needed is going to demand hard work from all of us, made more difficult by a history in Orthodoxy of "clericalism" and anti-clericalism. We need to break that mold so that we see all others in the Church as co-ministers of the Gospel. This means learning to break the controlling vs. passive aggrerssive dysfunctionalism which somehow describes the relationship "leadership" in Orthodoxy has with the rest of the Church. In any family when there are controlling parents who are unreasonable, some children learn to fight back with passive aggressive behavior. Other children simply become depressed and feel helpless and hopeless and become victims of the system and do little to help themselves or the system get better. We do see this dysfunctional behavior in our church. Transparency and openness aren't simply about finances, they are also about a way of trust between leaders and workers. Learning how to communicate in a hierarchical church is a learning process. But since God has brought Orthodoxy to America, I assume He intends for the Church to figure out how not just to survive but even how to thrive in a culture with a free press, with democratic ideals, with a senes of equality of all people, with a sense of leadership being based in merit rather than in entitlement. Orthodoxy managed to survie moving into the hostile Roman Empire, survived the Constantinian revolution which totally altered church governance, survived Turkocratia when Byzantium ended, survived the reforms of Peter the Great, survived communism, and it will survive America too. It is our turn to prayerfully discover together what shape church governance must take for Orthodoxy to have an effective witness in America.
#5.1.1 Fr. Ted on 2006-07-09 19:31
This is not consistent with the OCA Statute. Article 5, Section 4 part l states that the Metropolitan Council (not the Holy Synod) has the responsibility to initiate, prosecute and defend all legal matters. Part m states that the Metropolitan Council has the right to receive reports in areas of its competence (and under part l, legal matters are one of its areas of comptence).
The Metropolitan Council, not the Metropolitan or the Holy Synod, should be the body that decides how to proceed with the findings of the report -- and whether it should be disclosed.
#6 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2006-07-07 19:55
OCANews has posted many articles regarding various seeming violations of the OCA Statute, but there hasn't been much attention paid to the Synod's decision to delay the All American Council.
This seems to me to be the most obvious of the statutory violations so far. Article III, Section 3 is unambiguous:
"The All-American Council shall be convened periodically at intervals of three years. Each All-American Council shall decide the time and place of the next regular or extraordinary session. The time and place of the meeting may, for urgent reasons, be changed by action of the Metropolitan Council with the approval of the Holy Synod ."
(from http://oca.org/DOCstatute.asp?SID=12&ID=3 emphasis mine)
It seems to me that the Synod decided, and then brought their decision to the Metropolitan Council for approval. (I don't recall if the decision was actually approved or not.)
How has the Synod's action here not raised more objection?
#7 Zach Borichevsky on 2006-07-07 23:20
Trust has been abolished and will not be redeemed while MH and his cohorts continue to play with us and our money at every twist and turn in this saga. Teachings of the church are being trampled, statutes and laity disregarded. As events continue to unfold, it's becoming obvious that MH and his army are determined to obliterate the OCA.
We need to see the restoration of trust, love and religious zeal. Hopefully a new dawn is on the horizon when we can begin to move forward.
#8 Hopeful on 2006-07-08 07:13
Just a simple question to all -- Who, exactly, is the highest ranking lay person on the Metropolitan Council?
I'm just a bit curious.
#9 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2006-07-08 08:36
Why might a report be held back from the public as promised?
If there is missing money from chartitable donations that has gone to parties, trips, and hotel bills, a revealing look may need the Synod of Bishops to Filter, Fish, Fidget, and Fudge (4F's) for the same reason other Proskauer Rose clients went up against the Navy's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
This makes for a web of concerns for non-profits and regulations v.s. Biblical Authority. It also calls the Synod of Bishops 'to Rightly define the WORD of Truth'.
Will it happen?
Or will new "spin masters" be born again to delay what need come to the light for real change and repentance.
I stand in the shadow of Bishop Job's second question,
"Can we really expect God to bless us?
#10 Matushka Carol on 2006-07-09 09:26
I would gladly help with the buttons on Fr. Ted Wojick's vestments any day. One of the best things I have read in a long time and spiritually uplifting. God Bless you and thank you for your thoughts.
#11 Fr. Michael on 2006-07-10 08:37
We seem to be conceeding a point I'd rather not conceed:
Can unethical, illegal behavior occur and still be "Church"? What constitutes the activities of the Church? Or should that be church, a non-profit association?
Are we, can we, make a distinction between Christ's church and the earthly, visible organization chartered in the State of New York?
To my mind, the alleged behaviors are not those of the Church, but the behaviors of an organization, and a corrupt organization at that. To hide corrupt behaviors behind the "shield" of the episcopacy seems the height of unChristian activity.
Why is this question important? The Metropolitan has raised the issue of ecclesiology. We are seemingly accepting of the Metropolitan's point. If this were about faith, or really about Church, then perhaps the Metropolitan's point would be well taken.
However we're talking of governance, and organizational governance, not ecclesiology, and as such there is no tension, in my mind, between heirarchical and democratic. We simply follow the statutes.
As for court decisions, I would concur if this was a canonical argument. What the allegations contemplate is fraud, not canonical disagreement. Criminal behavior, even. I have to doubt seriously the judicial system in the United States would turn a blind eye to fraud and term it an "internal church matter".
On both an ecclesial and administrative level, the visible Church has always been accountable to someone. After Constintine, it was accountable to the monarch, a situation which didn't change until the early 20th Century, even when those rulers were Ottoman and not Christian. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, to this very day, is required to be accountable to three earthly jurisdictions.
We find ourselves charting new territory here. I would contend that the accountability is to the God-installed rulers of the land, be that the Czarist Russian or the Democratic American. In this country, our government is of, by, and for the people. Just as the Russian Patriarch was accountable to the Czar, the Metropolitan in our society should be accountable to the people -- the God-installed rulers of this land. In our system, this has been designated to be the Metropolitan Council.
Let's not concede the point that the independent heirarchical model is indeed normative for Orthodoxy. Heirarchical, yes, but independent of any accountability, I believe the historical record clearly shows no.
The next step is not, in my view, to withhold funds, which further injures the innocent, but to compel proper behavior, transparency, and accountability. The question becomes: where can we turn for justice? My preference is not to turn to the civil courts, however that may be our only recourse. I would prefer to find a vehicle like SCOBA to hear our concerns and act in a canonical way to mediate the disputes.
It is apparent our voices will not be heard unless coupled with threats. Perhaps the voices of other Orthodox Bishops in this democratic land can be heard.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#12 Marty Watt on 2006-07-10 12:21
That was a great reflection, Fr. Ted. Your perspective was greatly appreciated.
#13 Pattty Schellbach on 2006-07-10 15:53
Until a report is disclosed, in full or in part, why does it matter? Its like a Seinfeld episode discussing it at length.
I, for now, give the Metropolitan the benefit of the doubt. It would be good if the MC were trustworthy, but on top of failing to meet fiduciary responsibilities, they also failed to hire a lawfirm, term Fr. K, or recognize any problem. Frankly, not sure I trust the MC with sensistive legal information, either, since it has clearly been leaking stuff to the press.
If the MC shields the letter, it might be to protect all of us. If the attorneys tell him the 1999 resolution to allow discretionary funds would invalidate us as a charity, but not disclosing that fact would keep the issue under the radar, and that removing the rule would help us in legal manuveurs, why would any of you want to know? So you could refile a stack of tax returns and pay the IRS a ton of cash?
If PR tells him he did something illegal, it certainly seems unethical to shield that from anyone. For this reason, at least two people must get the letter. I believe the Synod must first get the letter and then determine what needs to be shared, what has been recommended to be shared, etc.
There are more important issues if you ask me. The attorneys won't help the church recover from its problems.
#14 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-07-10 18:20
I have a slightly different take. I doubt seriously the IRS would attempt to revoke the tax exemption of the OCA. The OCA's exemption is because we are a church, not because we are a charitable institution.
Much more likely, in my view, is the interest of the IRS in what is known as a private inurement. If the IRS determined the Metropolitans (both Herman and Theodosios) received a private inurement through the treatment of the "discretionary funds" then they would be personally liable for all the taxes associated with that income. With penalties and interest, there may be another $1 million plus liability.
In my view, it puts the Metropolitan(s) in a very untenable position. The only way to avoid the private inurement is to produce the records showing charitable use of the funds -- records which everyone has acknowledged no longer exist (if they ever existed). The IRS will not accept a "recollection" of how the money was spent.
The IRS has no desire to prosecute (or persecute) churches. They are very interested in ensuring churches are not fronts for business activities.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#14.1 Marty Watt on 2006-07-10 19:18
If we do not hear the outcome of the audit and answers to specific questions of this scandal, how could the Synod of Bishops possibly think we will continue to respect and support the endeavors of our Mother faith?
I still feel numb visualizing the Metropolitan and Sosset begging our support for all of these wonderful causes only to find the monies did not aid the particular funds. How could they honestly pray and face the faithful knowing they've deceived us. If we do not get honest answers, a request for forgiveness etc. I, personally, feel I cannot continue to support the requests for funds. But I am so sorry for those in need who will be hurt.
By the way, how are the funds for paying off the loan coming in?
Rosalie Bagenski, Holy Trinity,Church, Wilkes-Barre, Pa
#15 Rosalie Bagenski on 2006-07-11 04:35
Trying not to be selfish here, everyone should read Proskauer Rose, everyone who is affected that is. That would be everyone who tithed right?
On the other hand, there is the whole "not let the left hand know what the right is doing" and so on and so forth.
As was mentioned prior, who cares who did it? What matters is that it was done and now it has to be paid back to the tune of $1.7 million, right?
Can't the OCA liquidate some property or something to pay that money back? Why do we need to have headquarters in Syosset? Why not Idaho? Or Iowa for that matter? Why such an expensive neighborhood? Why overseas travel?
That kind of stuff can and should be cut.
Weren't bishops supposed to be monks or something and be living under vows of poverty or something like that?
#16 Olympiada on 2006-07-11 09:01
According to our OCA site: "Since these filings require a minimum of 15 days’ notice, it is anticipated that approval from Nassau County and the state of New York will be received near the end of this month of July."
I guess this $1.7 million dollar loan is not actually approved yet?
#17 Patty Schellbach on 2006-07-11 11:42
t is our practice at Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Southbury, CT to offer a meditation after daily Matins that is taken from the subject four volume work by Saint Nikolai. In reading today's homily, I could not help by being struck by its applicability to life in our contemporary Orthodox Churches in America.
Praying that your work be blessed by our Chief Shepherd and Lord Jesus Christ, for the building up of His Holy Church in America.
The following HOMILY is taken from The Prologue from Ochrid, Volume 3, pages 46, 47 for July 10th.
- on the duties of a spiritual shepherd.
' Feed the flock of God which is among you,
taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint
but willingly in God; not for filthy lucre, but of
a good heart; neither as being lords over the
people, but being examples to the flock' (I Pet. 5:2,3)
Here are precepts for the shepherd of the flock of Christ. In a few words, the Holy Apostle Peter denounces three terrible
passions which make shepherds into wolves: the passion of pride (taking oversight, not by constraint), the passion of cupidity
(not for filthy lucre), and the passion of lust for power (neither as being lords over the people). As against these vile passions,
the Apostle cites three virtues that must adorn a priest of God: the fear of God (willingly in God), zeal (of a good heart) and
service (being an example to the flock). The Apostle gave these precepts not only as a teacher but also as a prophet, for the
centuries have shown us two kinds of shepherd: those who have been guided by their own passions in their high position in the
Church (by pride, cupidity and lust for power) and others who have been guided by the fear of God, zeal and the example of
service. The Church has suffered from the first, but has not bee destroyed, while they have been. From the second, the Church
has grown and advanced and shone forth in the world. The first are wolves and the second are shepherds. The first are the
enemies of men and of God, and the second are the friends of both. The Chief Shepherd, Christ, will seek a reckoning of the first
and of the second concerning every sheep (that is, every human soul) and will give just payment to each according to his merit.
Pride, cupidity and lust for power in a so-called shepherd will be punished by eternal fire, and the fear of God, zeal and service
of a true shepherd will be rewarded by eternal joy.
O Lord Jesus, Thou Chief Shepherd, give Thine aid to all the shepherds of Thy human flock, that they may fulfill the precept of
Thy holy Apostle to the end. To Thee be glory and praise for ever. Amen.
#18 Deacon John Zarras on 2006-07-11 14:34
What little I know about the law tells me that the P&R findings are being withheld because of Attorney Client Privelege. The findings one might assume contain facts that can prompt criminal procecution and/or law suits. Is fair to say that this is a reasonable logical conclusion!
#19 withhold on 2006-07-11 14:38
Attorney-Client Privilege is wonderful, but who is the client? Our fearless webmaster Mark has shown us that the client is the OCA. The OCA's legal person is embodied by the Metropolitan Council, not the Holy Synod. The "reasonable logical conclusion" is that PR should give its report to the MC first.
#19.1 Zsch on 2006-07-12 00:22
WHEN PR WAS HIRED BY +MH HE SAID HE DID THIS ON BEHALF OF THE OCA! WE ARE THE CLIENT!
As long as the Syosett administration continues ‘stonewalling’ the financial situation it can only get worst. Syosett has for the last couple decades used disingenuous publicity for its fund raising and now continues to evade answering Archbishop Job’s ‘simple’ questions.
In the '70s, with many of the issues that plagued the old Russian mission having been seemingly settled, I personally had hopes that a financial foundation for the OCA could be established.
There had been a few attempts that have not been mentioned during our current scandals. Indeed, I remember campaigns in the '80s to establish two $5,000,000 endowments to form such a foundation. But, after some six months of ‘fund raising’ no mention has been made since of these endowments.
Again, early in this century, a campaign was started for a FOS endowment by ‘taxing’ FOS contributors, again targeting multi-millions. The intent being that as the endowment grew, earnings, I remember 5% being mentioned, would allotted annually to increase funding for FOS funded activities. After mention was made in the first year of some $60,000 being raised and that 5% was added to the regular FOS income for the year, there has been silence!
What has become of these campaigns and where did those funds go?
With the revelations of the past six months one can deduce what happened the funds, and the financial base to which many contributed is gone!
If these attempts are so volatile at providing reliable funding for the many hard workers for Christ in the OCA, what can the contributors for Christ’s workers think when the funds are syphoned off to meet the costs of ego-building?
With an administration that we cannot depend on to do what they promise, contributors can only be assured their gifts reach the intended organizations by giving their gifts directly to the intended organizations.
Trust, indeed faith, in our leaders can only come about by fully answering Archbishop Job’s questions to all in our community.
#20 William Kosar on 2006-07-11 18:00
I am not going easy on anyone in the church administration. Good people though they may be, I believe, based on language disclosed by Bishop Tikhon regarding 2002 financial statement compilations, the entire Synod had financial information presented to them and should have known temporarily restricted funds had been used for operating expenses since the 2002 statements, or perhaps since the 2001 statements (assumed).
We just weren't told.
I'm betting on one of two schools of thought. Either they all anticipated an Andreas style bailout, or they simply weren't educated well enough in the interpretation of financial information, or some combination of those.
I sure wish Bishop Tikhon would comment here without rant, rote, or hyperbole with a just the facts answer.
Sorry, no breaks for anyone in this deal from me. I'm just not a proponent of canning anyone. Metropolitan Herman took responsibility for the problems, but I believe they are shared equally.
Fix the issues (in process, although not enough if you ask me), move on....
#20.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-07-17 18:52
Would someone please tell me who made the decision to retain attorneys at $695.00 per hour? Thats highway robbery, unless we are talking about hiring the firm with a number of attorneys working on the case.
#21 Rich on 2006-07-13 11:54
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