Monday, October 26. 2009
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I would ask "Are the allegations true or false?", but no allegations have been made - questions have simply been asked.
The only thing that turns such questions into allegations are the way people have responded to those questions. The language used - "allowed Satan to use them for evil", "we will have an audit on your dead body" - speaks to the high stakes involved in simply answering such normal accounting questions honestly.
I can't imagine how someone with a track record of using such threatening language (e.g., ""we will have an audit on your dead body") to laity, priests and bishops could be allowed to continue attending an Orthodox parish, much less to be a member of the Parish Council, the sole representative of a parish's multimillion dollar property or an honorary member of the Archdiocesan Council. When this person has also been implicated in the illegal drug trade and money laundering, well, this is an obvious case for excommunication; the person should at least be barred from church property and contact with those he has threatened after repeated outbursts and repentance - Fr. Antypas can visit him at home to commune him of the Mysteries, if he should wish to commune.
Well spoken, Orr. Hear hear! ...
#1.1 Strawberry Fields on 2009-10-26 09:58
What is interesting, is that the mess in Troy is decreasing the pressure on Englewood. Thanks Fr Antypas and Mr Khalife for running interference for MP.
#1.2 Yanni on 2009-10-30 14:15
Oh, I beg to differ with you. It's not taking the heat off of Englewood. It's only showing that the problems we have are spouting off all over the Archdiocese. The heat is hardly off - we're just getting going. Every week, a new problem arises, and it's now month 9. We are growing weary of this mess, but this is OUR HOLY CHURCH, given to us from GOD, our only allegiance and total obedience. We will fight to the end to take back our church and bring peace and joy to all of the faithful..... But don't ever think this is over or quieting down - that won't happen. Too many people have been around for too many years and have been hurt too much by the selfish attitudes of a few. We won't tolerate any more. If you can't worship GOD and GOD alone, then get out, and don't bother to come back. There is no room for your selfish, unchristian attitudes in our faith.
"Pink slip" the Parish/Archdiocese coffers? Hmmmm...interesting idea, Mr. Samra. It certainly sends a message, as Mr. Khalife seems to understand.
#2 Mickey Hodges on 2009-10-26 10:05
This whole thing stinks! ......Where are the full external audits to prove this isn't happening?
#3 Anonymous on 2009-10-26 10:44
Well that sure looks like a death threat. I assume Mr. Samra has contacted the police?
#4 markw on 2009-10-26 11:47
This is an unbelievable story for an Orthodox church. Someone could write one of those novels for publication using this scenario in the main part. It is difficult to believe that a certain party is even allowed inside an Orthodox church, he should be in the Narthex under about a ten year pennance for threatening the death of someone....
#5 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-10-26 11:53
..... I commend Mr. Samra for not reacting to a death threat as I probably would.
#5.1 Christopher on 2009-10-26 15:30
And I commend Mr. Samra on his professionalism and self control in all his correspondence and interactions with the very strange people he is force to deal with, including MP. Lord, have mercy on you and all your family.
#5.1.1 pelagiaeast on 2009-10-27 17:02
Does anyone doubt why the IRS should be involved? There will be no audit at that parish unless the authorities get involved, or worse, Metropolitan Philip orders an audit and puts crooked people in charge so the truth never sees the light of day. Seems to me George Samra has done everything possible to rectify the situation at a tremendous personal cost. If he were to turn this over to the IRS, he could file for a percentage of anything the IRS recovers...(if he files the correct paperwork) in back taxes and fees. He could then give whatever is given to him back to the parish. There would be transparency, possibly some funds to offset the loss, and Fr. Joseph and Walid Khalife would finally have to answer all the questions that have been raised.
#6 Gail Sheppard on 2009-10-26 11:59
You basically are saying the Metropolitan is a liar. Do not make statements unless you really mean it. I'm sure you don't even care what people are thinking but remember you just called the hierarch of this archdiocese a flat out liar. Isn't good.
#6.1 Again on 2009-10-26 14:31
Perhaps it "isn't good," but I'm not sure that it's Ms. Sheppard at fault. For how long do you think it reasonable to give the benefit of the doubt to a man who seems unwilling to fulfill the very reasonable expectation for an external audit? What better way to clear the air? What better way to demonstrate accountability? What better way to demonstrate adherence to the law? What better way to demonstrate appropriate stewardship of funds given in good faith? What better way to show the accusers themselves to be liars and judges? His Eminence is the one who holds the moral power right now to end all this, but it seems he refuses. I believe this, also, "isn't good."
#6.1.1 Brian Jackson on 2009-10-26 19:56
How long have you known the Metropolitan? How many times have you discussed the Church and Archdiocese with him? How many times have you participated in the complexity of this Archdiocese pertaining to the different departments and how it works? It is not some small organization. Each department has their own books too.
Plus, just because the Metropolitan is not pushing hard for an External Audit doesn't mean its wrong. I promise, external audit or not...people will still be complaining about something. Metropolitan retires and new one comes in...people will still be complaining. Priest gets transfered...new priest will be persecuted. New bishop gets elected....people will complain about him saying unaxios. It's a matter of realizing that there seeds planted on good soil and take root, then there are those that are planted on rocks/soil and have trouble taking root. and those just planted on rocks that never take root. i.e. complainers.
#220.127.116.11 Again? on 2009-10-27 06:59
Your missing the point habibi. People complain; always have and always will. But, this is not about complaints. This is about malfeasance in Troy, and MP's powerplays on behalf of his buddy, in another bishop's diocese. What was the decision from the Holy Synod? Our bishops are "ruling bishops." What right has the Metropolitan to stick his nose in Bishop Mark's jurisdiction?
#18.104.22.168.1 Antionymous on 2009-10-27 18:50
Interesting. So, only those who have personally sat down with His Eminence and discussed these matters individually with him (a fantasy) have a potential right to expect a level of financial accountability and transparency which we would expect of any nonprofit organization? Those who expect His Eminence to abide by the SCOBA policy on clerics guilty of sexual offenses, a policy signed by him, are simply complainers? Because the books are so complicated we should not expect an objective external audit? Short of personal acquaintance with His Eminence, I should simply shut up and pay up? Surely, you don't mean this. I am curious what forms of critique or calls for accountability meet your criteria as being acceptable. There must be some, right? Or are your exhortations to cease simply an excuse to engage in namecalling in your posts ("and those just planted on rocks that never take root, i.e. complainers"-- certainly a novel interpretation of that parable). In the end, the frequent resort to namecalling and ad hominem attacks only magnifies the defensiveness of those who oppose the calls of others for greater accountability.
#22.214.171.124.2 Brian Jackson on 2009-10-27 21:34
Again asks: "How long have you known the Metropolitan?"
I suggest that this question puts on an accurate finger on a delicate point.
The overwhelming majority of faithful in this Archdiocese do NOT know the Metropolitan.
How could they? The Archdiocese is simply too big for this to be the case.
I have been making the same argument for most of this year—our Archdiocese is suffering from growing pains. Our various structures were designed for an institution that was less than a third the size of the present Archdiocese. There is serious need for structural reform.
I especially address this concern to Bishops Joseph, Basil, and Thomas, who will be revising the episcopal handbook. Please, dear bishops, take some of the pressure off of Englewood. Entirely too much work, and too many decisions, come across the desks of the Metropolitan and Bishop Antoun. I don't know how they can be expected to handle it.
And now Bishop Antoun, in addition to everything else, must head up an audit. Aagghh, let's have a bit of mercy for this man!
#126.96.36.199.3 Father Patrick Reardon on 2009-10-28 15:56
Well, for heaven's sake, if the shoe fits, wear it.
#6.1.2 Steve Knowlton on 2009-10-26 21:11
I didn't call Metropolitan Philip a "flat out liar." I suggested he was capable of putting crooked people in charge of an audit. After being told ALL the facts, it was Metropolitan Philip who rejected the idea of an audit of Troy’s finances. After what happened in TX, is it really such a leap to suggest that he might put someone like Whalid Khalife in charge of an "internal" audit? He likes promoting his friends. - I never make statements I don't mean (notice I always sign my name) and it doesn't matter what people think. The only people I care about are the people who have been wronged.
(Editor's note: For the record, the Metropolitan did not put Mr. Khalife in charge of the internal audit. Secondly, there is not evidence that the Metropolitan was told " all" the facts in the Troy affair. Without an audit, how could one?)
#6.1.3 Gail Sheppard on 2009-10-26 23:34
Re: (Editor's note: For the record, the Metropolitan did not put Mr. Khalife in charge of the internal audit. Secondly, there is not evidence that the Metropolitan was told " all" the facts in the Troy affair. Without an audit, how could one?)
Good point, Mark. Although it's true Metropolitan Philip couldn't know all the facts, he was aware of the facts as Mr. Samra presented them and his initial reaction was that nothing was amiss.
Regarding your statements, Mr. Again: From a common sense point of view, using checks with someone's signature who is unable to authorize a specific expenditure is wrong, unless she authorized them in advance. If she didn't, and this practice is considered "kosher," it's even more alarming.
I don't know Mr. Samra other than from his writing. To me, he seems to know what he is talking about. If he is a "troublemaker" as you've suggested, why is it only being addressed now, amid some rather serious allegations? From our perspective, he seems credible. As far as I know, no one has accused him of any wrong doing. Being known as a "trouble maker" is not such a bad thing. The "trouble makers" are often the ones who get things changed.
It's hard to "suspend judgment" when facts come to light that raise all sorts of suspicions, but there is no closure in sight.
People do internal audits at organizations for all kinds of reasons. To answer your question, I honestly wouldn't care if a "heathen" checked out my personal finances, because I have nothing to hide. If I did, you probably would have heard about it by now. - I have no problem with a member of the Orthodox Church checking out the finances at Troy, as long as it's someone who is not associated with shady dealings. Even the appearance of impropriety makes me nervous, given what I've seen in this Archdiocese during my short tenure as a member of the Church. ...
#188.8.131.52 Gail Sheppard on 2009-10-27 17:16
I personally do not know you and never met you but having only being Orthodox for a short time I must ask your forgiveness. I do not intend to cause you or anyone grief when I try to make my point. It seems that I just fuel the flame.
Please forgive me. The Orthodox faith is not built upon any of these topics. Yet it is hard to separate Church from difference of opinion.
In closing, do not let any of my comments or other comments that we all wish not to read turn us from the gift we all possess. It is Christ who unifies us and the freewill that tragically separates us.
I am glad you found the church. Pray for me a sinner. Again?
#184.108.40.206.1 Again? on 2009-10-27 21:54
You do not have to ask for my forgiveness. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. This relationship supersedes any disagreements we may have. Forgiveness is a given.
I respect your loyalty to Metropolitan Philip. It says a lot about your character. You can love the man, but please don't let that blind you to the truth. The things he has done, or allowed other people to do, are wrong and in some cases, border on criminal. Instead of righting the wrongs of the past, he seems intent on burying them. Unfortunately, this has shaken our confidence in him as our spiritual leader.
I will pray for you. Please pray for me, as well.
#220.127.116.11.1.1 Gail Sheppard on 2009-11-01 16:34
>>"you just called the hierarch of this archdiocese a flat out liar. Isn't good."
Well, it's the implication. But look at the original story -- do you think that this account can be reconciled -- the mysterious disappearance of money and other serious problems with MPs statement that everything is okay? How -- can you explain it? I realize it is easy to snipe from the sidelines but this is important -- as are the threats by hoods that don't want their dark nest disturbed.
Or don't you care to reconcile it? Samra is himself lying? Is that your implied conclusion? That is no worse than calling a hierarch a liar -- Christ did not seem to draw those distinctions about calling people names. Or truth or lie -- it's not important -- Samra is simply "poking his nose where it doesn't belong"? Well, he's already been warned about that by his parish priest when Samra was simply doing his job. That's nice.
I'll ask you something "Again", if financial impropriety was discovered by the IRS -- should the treasurer of the organization be one of the defendants?
#6.1.4 Anonymous on 2009-10-27 01:15
There are trouble makers in every parish. W should pray for them. In regards to this entire story. I do understand everyones concerns, sincerely, it makes sense to only have these outcomes based on these stories.
But first off, and i know this sounds wrong, the supposed checks Fr. signed already had the signatures of the (forgive me for saying this due to the request) late treasurer. Yes that wasn't a kosher thing to do and i'm not sure if it is legal, but the checks already had the signature on them previously.
I never believe 100% of any story, and I only believe about half the story based on the reporters track record and history. In this regards, George Samra is known to cause problems. We all have trouble makers in every parish...some people like to do this because they want to have some kind of power that does not exist. Now, Samra does show some good points, but there is always the benefit of the doubt.
Also, people do internal audits at organizations to help save money and also because these organizations have talented individuals that want to donate their services. Would you rather have an Orthodox person check out your personal finances or a heathen? I know that was a pretty lame analogy but i hope it makes more sense that the keystrokes i used to type it.
#18.104.22.168 Again? on 2009-10-27 07:08
Talk about lame analogies, yours takes the cake.
1. "There are troublemakers in every parish." Maybe that is true, so every parish should find their troublemakers and appoint them to be parish treasurer so that they have some to pray for. ROTFLMAO
(Editor's note: It means Rolling On The Floor, Laughing My A-- Off.)
2. "the supposed checks Fr. signed already had the signatures of the (forgive me for saying this due to the request) late treasurer." Yep, dear Fr Antypas looked ahead as every farsighted priest should and saw the the future looked grim and he needed enough checks presigned to last him for two years. Now that is really looking to future needs. ROTFLMAO
3. "George Samra is known to cause problems. He "like(d) to do this because" he want(ed) to have some kind of power that does not exist." Oh, that is plain, George accepted the appointed office as parish treasurer because he wanted power, he was on a power trip. Now, that is a real power trip, parish treasurer, a parish treasurer who is 'forbidden, it turns out' to even ask questions such as 'where is money', where is the $1,000,000? ROTFLMAO
4. "people do internal audits at organizations to help save money and also because these organizations have talented individuals that want to donate their services." You really said a mouthful that time, you described Mr Samra quite well, a man is talented, wants to help save the parish money by doing the ongoing auditing that any good treasurer is supposed to do, and he was able to donate his time and money; he even purchased some software to organize the books which was a mistake, because keeping a good set of books obviously started him to thinking about the money that wasn't there.
5. "Would you rather have an Orthodox person check out your personal finances or a heathen?" Good point again Mr Again?, we who are Orthodox should always try to seek out competent Orthodox CPA firms to do out external audits.
Audits are ongoing at any function that handles money by internal means. If the amounts are small, then external audits are almost unnecessary (unless there is a question of malfeance), buy in cases where there is large amounts of money and incomes from rentals, etc than an external audit is always required at periodic points in time. In the case of the apartments, it appears that there is no financial records available and if some records suddenly show up then they are more than likely cooked.
Turn on the lights and see who heads for cover.
#22.214.171.124.1 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-10-27 14:40
Fr Joseph admits to signing thewoman's name.
They were not pre-signed.
Come up with another defense!
#126.96.36.199.2 anonymous on 2009-10-28 13:47
What's with the "exclamation point". Blood pressure too high. No need to get angry about comments. These are just words that are basically opposing yours. Is that wrong. Do you want me to submit myself and sit back and watch clergy get persecuted. No I will not...
I'm not sure where you heard that he admitted that he signed them. If that is the truth I would like to find the source to either read the transcript or have other proof rather than someones anonymous comment.
P.S. I knew that analogy was bad but it was the point i was trying to make. Again?
#188.8.131.52.2.1 Again? on 2009-10-29 10:14
Mr. Samra reports that the checks were not pre-signed, but ended up with the dear ladies signature on them. Sounds kind of like forgery to me, how about you, Mr Again??
And, reportedly, the lady had not been treasurer for several years before her death.
Turn on the lights.
#184.108.40.206.2.1.1 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-10-30 11:33
May God truly have mercy on us and on this archdiocese, if men like Whalid Khalife are in positions of authority.
#7 Kevin Allen on 2009-10-26 12:01
And people question me when I suggest that it's time to leave this Archdiocese. When one sees how the Treasurer of this Church (one of the Metropolitans "good friends" is the priest) has been treated, and then the Metropolitan writes a letter to this priest, saying that the Parish is solvent, and the very "timid" and conciliatory suggestions from Bishop Mark are totally ignored. And the payments in cash. How much more has to happen before these wicked and dishonest deeds are revealed? This is a travesty.
#8 anon on 2009-10-26 12:50
The Metropolitan, without action, has no clothes.
Be steadfast George Samra, I salute your bravery and efforts to do what is right.
I've done some HUD compliance audits here in MN and they are mandatory. I'm surprised the 'Towers' were not required to have annual third party audits. Perhaps it was in the fashion of receipts or the state, but it seems worthwhile to check into whether compliance audits were done and whether they reflect donations or if the operating funds were somehow separate.
If HUD audits were not mandatory, it surely seems the Inspector General would be interested in determining more on this matter.
#9 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-10-26 12:56
NOTE: Not a member of the Antiochian Archdiocese
Thank you, Daniel, for posting the imaginative suggestion. The potential extent of the scandals in Troy requires the use of all reasonable means to bring the necessary transparency and accountability to church financial affairs.
#9.1 Mark C. Phinney on 2009-10-27 04:47
It should be noted that I am not a member of the AOCA either, but I consider myself an Orthodox Christian and I have an accounting degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
My honest hope is that I can offer insightful, mostly objective commentary. I have no beef with the Metropolitan of the AOCA, however, his actions and decisions recently, do not seem to be wise in my opinion, and it has been tough to be purely objective. Actions like removing a priest for asking tough questions, or saying things are fine, when the person concerned is not fully satisfied do merit me forming opinions.
In my families history, there were accounting questions asked by one member of the church and there was uncertainty. I know that accusations of one person misusing church monies or even the mere insinuation of such a thing is very controversial, but I understand how it happens and no church leader ought to think it is bad that someone has concerns over fiduciary matters.
In fact, if Mr. Samra had not asked difficult questions, what kind of true steward would anyone think he was?
Is it right to gloss over things when you are concerned about them just to save face or avoid controversy?
For those people who feel threatened, the best course of action is to allow a full audit. A CPA review of the churches books is another option, but it doesn't carry the weight of an audit.
I would agree with one statement a dissenting opinion made. It is not right for Mr. Samra to walk about during the service asking people to stop giving. This is a task that is certainly more appropriate offline. I'm not sure what he was saying, though, that is heresay.
From my perspective, the namecalling/excommuning of Samra is a poor effort to demoralize him, and to threaten anyone that would side with him and want his questions answered. Its a sad thing for any priest to even consider, let alone want.
#9.2 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-10-27 11:50
I think Mr.Samras "sin of walking about..."is so much smaller than Fr.Antypas refusing him Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy,and Fr.Antypas an S.V.S. graduate.I wonder which class he missed during his three years at St.Vlads?
#9.2.1 Abbuna Habib on 2009-10-29 17:30
Daniel,are you saying that HUD employees cant be "asked"to look the other way by someone who has something to "hide"?Or are they as "honest" as the day is long?
#9.3 Abbuna Habib on 2009-10-29 17:20
I admire your strength and courage Mr Samra and I am sorry you have had to endure this horrible situation.
#10 Kristine Patico Koumentakos on 2009-10-26 13:41
george tries to play victim and is a known troublemaker at our church. he can go jump into the detroit river. i could give a damn what he thinks.
im glad he is excommunicated and i will increase my offerings to offset his contributions.
#11 ramsy d on 2009-10-26 13:43
ramsy d, you are obviously part of the problem. Righteous men have nothing to fear from audits....
#11.1 Antionymous on 2009-10-26 19:34
Assuming the multitude of comments on other posts purporting to be from St. George parishioners such as this one from "ramsy d" really are from St. George parishioners, it is clear to me that there is something very rotten there. The anger, the condemnation, the wishes for death, the name-calling seem so pervasive in posts from parishioners there that it is hard to imagine any Christian soul enduring it. What a cross. May God grant Mr. Samra many, many years.
#11.2 Brian Jackson on 2009-10-26 19:42
Heavens! Asking questions about what happened to church funds. Such shame, such a trouble maker!
Something is really wrong with this picture.
#11.3 Robert Fortuin on 2009-10-26 23:31
Ramsy, I am so glad you've chosen to post here...
>>"george tries to play victim and is a known troublemaker at our church."
Then answer this -- how did he become the treasurer? What kind of priest would choose or parish elect a man who is a "trouble-maker" to watch over the money of the parish? -- evidently a significant amount of money.
>>"i could give a damn what he thinks."
You could give a damn? Okay.
>>"im glad he is excommunicated and i will increase my offerings to offset his contributions."
God bless America that you can do that -- and good for you that you are able to do that in a hard economy.
You know, Ramsy, if George's account does not square with your observations of the parish, nothing stops you from writing a reflection describing your view of the matter. Now, I understand you're not privy to many of the financial details that George is (or are you?) -- but if he is painting a very different picture of the parish then you are free to draw out a very different description of the parish and it's workings. But most of all, Ramsy, please explain to us why this hardened trouble-maker became the treasurer.
#11.4 Steve D on 2009-10-27 01:28
I was wondering the same thing -
If Mr. Samra is such a well known and long term trouble maker, how and why exactly did he end up as treasurer of the parish?
In addition, what exactly has Mr Samra done that is so objectionable? He became concerned about finances at his parish and he had the audacity to ask questions?
Thats why he's been exommunicated?
Thats why he received a death threat?
That why he was thrown off the parish council?
Thats why a bunch of nuts on this thread are calling him names, even calling him the devil personified, WITHOUT being able to give one iota of concrete information that might call into question Mr Samra's concerns? What possible motive could Mr. Samra have for wanting to "destroy the church".
How can a person threaten the church or a priest by asking questions? Only one thought comes to mind. Either there is something to hide or the priest/leadership involved have such pathological egos and need for power that they cannot withstand anything they see as criticism or threat.
If there is nothing to hide, answer the damn questions and move along.....um, unless thats not possible......
All of this "discipline" directed at Mr. Samra looks a lot like muddying the waters to me...the old smoke and mirrors routine.
Sadly, sounds very familiar...different jurisdiction, same sad story.
#11.4.1 kristine patico koumentakos on 2009-10-27 17:01
To Mr. George Samra:
First of all, Mr. Samra, May God bless you for all of your efforts!!!
The Metropolitan's assurances that he has conclusively determined that nothing is wrong financially at St. George Church speaks volumes about how low his credibility is and casts a pall on the believability of anything that comes out of his mouth, especially any assurances that all is well financially at the Archdiocese level.
Commenter #9 made an excellent suggestion. If The Towers has a HUD loan, HUD will certainly have an interest in investigating the issues you raise. Also, speak with the lending institution that holds the current mortgage. If the individual or individuals who signed for this mortgage did not have the proper authority to do so, then those individuals will be prosecuted for fraud by the lending institution - and whoever signed the loan documents without the authority to do so will be personally liable for repaying the loan. In other words, let the lending institution go after any wrongdoers.
Finally, may God bless Mark Stokoe for creating this forum so that issues like this can be aired, and hopefully resolved.
#12 Disgusted Life-long Antiochian Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-26 14:01
NOTE: Not a member of the Antiochian archdiocese.
1. Who has the sufficient standing to report allegations of financial improprieties involving HUD loans?
2. What documentation is required to provide sufficient evidence of possible financial improprieties?
3. Similarly, who has sufficient standing with the mortgage lender to report possible financial improprieties? Any member of St. George with (a) a current copy of the parish by-laws, and (b) one or more affidavits declaring that the parish has not complied with the by-laws?
4. To force the issue with the mortgage lender, would one or more "members in good standing" of St. George have to formally challenge the validity/enforceability of the mortgage contract? If so, in what venue?
5. Why does Bishop Mark seem to be so reluctant to properly deal with the numerous and public scandals involving a parish in his diocese? As a bishop, is he not the ruling hierarch of Diocese of the Midwest, the diocese which includes St. George Church, with the God-given responsibility to oversee the Orthodox communities of that diocese? Don't the Orthodox canons prohibit the interference of bishops in the internal affairs of a diocese not their own? What am I missing?
#12.1 Mark C. Phinney on 2009-10-27 05:26
Regarding point 5, King Philip has done everything he can to maintain control of the entire Archdiocese. Although some of his recent efforts have been thwarted (auxiliary bishops), he has remained de facto bishop of the AONA. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out between +Mark and MP as this usurping is precisely the heart of matters on the issue of the roles of "diocesan" bishops.
#12.1.1 Anonymous on 2009-10-27 09:59
To Mark C. Phinney:
I believe that anyone who has credible evidence of possible wrongdoing can approach HUD or any other mortgage lender with the evidence. It shouldn't matter to the lender who the person providing the evidence is. It would seem to me that if the lender were given a copy of Mr.Samra's letter that an investigation would be started. You could do this yourself by contacting the lender. Or anyone else reading this posting could do it. Why don't we all do it? If anyone out there does it, let us know. We have the power, so let's do it!
I bet this posting will send a chill up the spine of a few people in Troy!!
#12.1.2 Disgusted Life-long Antiochian Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-27 10:21
i am not a member of St. George in Troy but know many members from that parish as I am a member from a sister parish in the detroit area. Effective immediately, in addition to my weekly offerings to St. Mary's (my home parish), I will contribute the same to St. George in Troy to help make up any differences from that miserable person, George Samra. This man should be removed from the parish roster as he has caused nothing but trouble over the last 2 years. My sincere hope is that he continues to remain steadfast so that he can see that despite his hardwork at hurting the church, it wi8ll still persevere without problem due to contributions from others that make up the difference. we dont need people like geortge in our archdiocese.
#13 Anonymous on 2009-10-26 14:13
Don't you get it? He is doing his job as TREASURER. You don't just turn your head while the priest and others play games with the parish's (God's really) finances. He will have to stand before Gos some day and give his own accounting. WHAT would you have him do? Do you all not fear God?
#13.1 Antionymous on 2009-10-26 19:36
I don't know you or Samra, but the things said by Samra from an accounting perspective are credible and objective. His list is painfully long, but it seems he is trying to cover the bases like an audit would with his own questions. The statements by you and another person are subjective, basically name calling.
By asking for an audit or having concerns about where monies have been used; you suggest he is hurting the church?
Suppose this Samra fellow is wrong, why not just do an audit to show it, to legitimize your opinion?
Your anonymity precludes your opinion without credible support to your statements. Any wise person would see it.
For people in the OCA, the rules have changed because these false 'excommunications' will now be brought to light by this website.
And now people in the AOCA can know what their Metropolitan is all about. Cronyism and corruption it seems. Saying things are fine, when one person doesn't agree, as if his word is the word of God. Clearly, it ain't friend.
And you, by your anonymous statements lacking credibility, make the Metropolitan look very, very, very bad.
... What kind of man would say everything is fine when one person in the church is being treated in such a malign fashion and has credible concerns?
The former Metropolitan of the OCA got involved/allowed Communion to be used as leverage against an internal auditor similiar to Samra.
It was ultimately his biggest disgrace.
Disgraced is how I will remember this Metropolitan of yours I think unless he does something right.
#13.2 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-10-26 20:06
All indications are your money would line the pockets of swindlers and deceivers. What message is this church teaching its people? Is it not written that a branch that bears no good fruit will be cut off and thrown into the fire? Enough of this thuggery and nonsense. May the Light of Christ shine into this place and illumine all.
#13.3 Anonymous on 2009-10-26 20:43
The money that you "give" with hatered will not do any good to any church that you give it to!It will bring judgement on you and a curse on who ever recieves it.Better you burn that money and go to confession!
#13.4 Abbuna Habib on 2009-10-29 17:48
I am worried for the safety of George Samra. It breaks my heart to have to say that, but I am. I hope he and his family are taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the wolves that sadly seemed to have seized so much control of the Orthodox church, both on his local level and on the US national level.
I almost wish I didn't know all this. How can this be happening in the body of Christ???
#14 Nobody on 2009-10-26 15:51
Also, I find it interesting that all the attacks on George Samra posted here are on a personal level - those against him do not seem to be able to give logical and coherent answers to the concerns he has raised; they just call him names. It seems to give further creedence to the idea that something is rotten in Denmark - or rather, Detroit.
#15 Nobody on 2009-10-26 18:35
George Samra is a good man - PERIOD. The whole situation here should be reported to the IRS.
#16 BT on 2009-10-26 18:40
george is a poor excuse for a human being. to blatently disrupt our church and cause controversy at this level is nothing short of being the devil himself. if you look at the icon for the nativity, you see the devil in human form speaking to joseph in order to draw him into a den of iniquity as the angels and shepards praise the Lord. this is what george samra is doing in our parish.
this past sunday in the midst of the doxology, george was walking around to various parishioners trying to get them to not give money in the collection basket. what a disgrace and a disgusting person.
#17 Fakhoury on 2009-10-26 18:55
I'm starting to wonder what is so scandalous about a parish treasurer asking questions about parish money. Again, we have personal attacks on Mr. Samra and nothing at all about the substance of the issue. It is amazing and distressing to see the amount of invective hurled at a man for merely asking questions.
Truly, if I had run across this sort of thing in my time as an inquirer, I never would have bothered to become a catechumen. Met. Philip's defenders and the bile they produce are themselves a skandalon, a stumbling block.
St Paul says in 1st Corinthians that he could do an number of great things for God, up to and including martyrdom by fire, but if he were to lack love, he would be nothing, and all of his great deeds would add up to nothing more than the noise of a clanging gong.
If love isn't there, it isn't the Church anymore. It's an elaborate pantomime that we engage in every Sunday because we like the illusion of thinking we can love God while wishing death or eternal damnation on our neighbor.
#17.1 Scott Walker on 2009-10-27 09:32
A fish always start rotting at the head. This rotten mess appears to go to very high levels in the overall organization.
Some of these folks would say that there are too many 'dogs' in the Archdiocese. But, it has to be remembered that the dogs keep the wolves away. Looks like there aren't enough dogs around at least at high levels or even at the parish level.
Turn on the lights.
#17.1.1 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-10-27 14:51
Fakhoury, you get the same question posed to Ramsy -- how did this "devil" become treasurer? Who did that?
#17.2 Steve D on 2009-10-27 10:21
Mark, are all these shameless posts from Antypas/Khalife and co. from the same person? An IP address could confirm that. They're practically all the same: bad grammar, bad spelling, bad attitude and calling Mr. Samra names for doing his job.
And people wonder why I want nothing to do with this Archdiocese? Sheesh.
(Editor's note: Sadly, they all have different IP's, and come from as diverse areas as Detroit, Oklahoma City, LA and back East. )
#17.3 Kevin Klein on 2009-10-27 12:17
Don't you find it interesting that when the Treasurer called the management company, they called Fr Joseph Antypas?
Were they not filing a a Federal 990 using every Council Members' name as the Board of Directors for St George Towers?
I saw that form when I Googled it!
So why would the Managment Company alert the priest that one of the Board Membes called, especially the Treasurer?
Pehaps the AUDITS of the TOWERS have been done in accordance with HUD REQUIREMENTS, but who chose the company?
Also it would seem the Fr Joseph, Fr Ayman, the Parish Council and the parish may be facing serious issues with HUD and the IRS if they were siphoning off money indirectly by over-billing for Fr Ayman to maintain the website for a MERE $1500.00 a month for St George Towers.
I believe the smartest thing Council Members could do at this point is to INSIST UPON AN EXTERNAL AUDIT.
Maybe by blowing the WHISTLE THEY CAN DEMONSTRATE THEY ARE NOT ACCOMPLICES.
As for the members of St Geoge, HOLD THE MONEY IN ESCROW UNTIL THE AUDIT IS DONE.
YOU CAN GET YOUR CHURCH BACK, IF YOU MAKE A STAND.
IF YOU DO NOT THEN YOU HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT YOURSELVES.
#18 anonymous on 2009-10-26 19:42
The whole inner circle of clergy need to hav xternal audits of their parishes.
Where has the Jerusalem Task Force money actually gone?
Where has the Food For Hungry People Money actually gone?
Does the Archdiocese pay the taxes on the Condo in Florida?
Whose name is the Condo in?
Who lives in the Condo in New Jersey? Where is the rent?
Given the Board of Trustees acknowledged that an EXTERNAL AUDIT IS BEST BUSINESS PRACTICE could they not be held liable for the financial losses of delaying a comprehensive AUDIT?
#19 anonymous on 2009-10-26 19:49
This information from: http://www.antiochianinfo.org/documents/IntroNAEntourageToDamascus.html might explain some of what is going on in the St. George parish in Troy, MI.
"Fr. Joseph’s parish owns and operates a reception facility that in 2007-08 earned roughly $60,000.  He is also the President of St George Tower Ltd, a tax-exempt organization that owns a HUD-certified senior living facility.  Walid Khalife is Chairman of this organization, and Archdiocesan Board Members Nicola Antakli, George Darany, and Robert Koory serve as directors thereof.  The organization’s Form 990 for 2007 shows annual gross revenue of roughly $1.3-$1.5 million for the years 2003-2007. Despite being break-even for tax purposes,  the facility’s net cash flow has doubled each year since 2005."
Makes one wonder where all of the money is going. Mr Samra stirred up a hornet's nest by doing a good job as treasurer and asking that question.
#19.1 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-10-28 21:58
Well, you haven't really said anything. Breaking even for tax doesn't need to be directly correlated to cash flows.
#19.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-10-29 20:05
What's really sad and disheartening is that the more we learn, the more only two scenarios seem to be plausible:
1) This is a big misunderstanding and a clash of cultures has resulted in inflated emotions, hasty decisions, and an avenue for the evil one to obscure all of our common sense, but when everything dies down it will be much ado about nothing.
2) A small group of people led by a charismatic leader took advantage of their church through both charisma and intimidation in order to build for themselves a quite impressive illicit little empire.
As a member of the Antiochian Archdiocese who saw first-hand many irregularities and shameful behavior by the hierarchs and several senior priest, and at the time saw similar problems brewing in the OCA, I am now for some years a former Orthodox Christian. My heart grieves as I'm condemned as an apostate and would dearly love to return to a Church committed to following faithfully the Holy Canons and Traditions of the Faith. In my heart I still pray for the Archdiocese and now find the OCA slowly beginning to look more faithful to its promise... But how can my spriitual confusion be resolved when all of these un-Christian thngs continue?
(Editor's note: For the same reason that if someone comes to you and in sincere repentance and asks forgiveness, you forgive them as Christ as forgiven you. There is no doubt shameful behaviour on the part of the OCA occurred; but like a penitent, we are trying to address our failings and seek forgiveness. I pray that in God's time you will find it in your heart to see that attempt on our part, and judge us not only on what we have done, but what we are trying to become once again. Like the story of the prodigal, having squandered the riches of your presence, we have abandoned our prior claim on you, such that you may never accept us as before. Then accept us as you would any servant Church, and forgive us, and release any anger. May God help you, even as He is helping us find our way back home.)
#21 anonymous former member on 2009-10-27 03:36
Unfortunately, there will always be tares amongst the wheat. This site should give you an idea that there are plenty committed to faithfulness to the cannon and to God. Don't give up the struggle for the faith on account of the other bad apples.
#21.1 Anonymous on 2009-10-27 10:46
I'm sure you have seen alot of things that would make most of us want to leave. In my first two years of being Orthodox, I saw several things that sorely tempted me as well, but I had nowhere else to go.
Part of this came from reading the history of the church which spurred my becoming Orthodox. Especially after it became a legal religion in Rome, the story gets ugly when you look at the larger political movements -- as opposed to reading individual biographies of St Basil or St Gregory Naz which have a holy person at their center which changes ones view of the story entirely. But that's the point -- to find the proper center of the story -- in our modern case the center is NOT Met P. When we see endless stories of ecclesiastical misbehavior, it is disheartening. Look at the St Athanasius -- repeatedly condemned by counsels of bishops and in one case some actually tried to frame him as one who used occultic works at the altar. However, in all that St Athanasius himself kept up the struggle -- although we really don't know how much he either questioned himself or wondered why all of this was coming down on him. One other story, that takes place not far removed from our own day is that of St Nektarios and there is a book about him that is very readable.
Former member -- it is a struggle, I'll grant you. But the corruption I see in the church at large is alot like what I see within myself -- and the fact that I'm not clergy does not make that alright. I do unChristian things too -- but I still try to be a Christian -- which is the point, I think. I struggle against temptation and frequently cave into it, but I'm small-fry so the effect isn't that great -- there aren't as many people watching me for proper behavior.
I think sometimes spiritual confusion can be resolved by watching and being around people (the effect of truly holy elders, for instance) but that's a rarity in our day and a special grace of God for particular people. And bishops are not spirit-bearing elders like Elder Paisios. However, most of us don't have that, so we try what we can -- trying to pursue Christ but within the context of His Church. Maybe your confusion is good -- you realize you're confused. I think alot of times I'm confused but I don't realize it.
#21.2 Anonymous on 2009-10-27 10:52
Anonymous,As a priest of more than 32 years,I've experienced much of the same frustration as you have.I would reminder you,however,that Christ promised us that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.I've been tempted to bail out at times;to the Traditionalist Pius X Society,to the Ukrainian Catholics;or even the Greek Old Calendarists(the last is still a possibility because at least I consider them still Orthodox).The fact that the church experiences scandals is nothing new;hasn't the church survived scandals since Judas, and didn't all the disciples flee from the Cross EXCEPT for St.John the Theologian?I think that very fact that Satan is attacking the Church through scandals is proof to me that we possess the truth,that's why the evil one desperatly wants to seperate me and you from her.At the Last Judgement,neither you nor I will answer for Metropolitan Philip,nor Metropolitan Herman,nor Mr.Kondratick,but we WILL ANSWER for our own failings.I don't think I know you personaly,but I'm sure that my own sins may have driven many away from the Church.Hoping in God's mercy,I beg foregiveness for my many sins.I pray that God will strengthen you to resume the struggle.An unworhy Archpriest
#21.2.1 Anonymous on 2009-10-28 16:14
this whole thread is the result of the devious lies spread by george and his friend david. it is really disgusting and sick the way they have leveled these charges against our church. as if people can just hide 1 million dollars without anyone or hud knowing...do you think people are stupid? the council and priest are in full agreement. the board of directors and towers are in full agreement. this is all caused by a yuppie named george. just as they say in the baptismal service we should breath and spit on the devil, i wish to do that to george next time i see him.
#22 Anonymous on 2009-10-27 06:00
Note that no charges have been leveled at all. Questions have been asked. These are the normal sorts of serious questions any Treasurer or Accountant would ask. The fact that answers were not readily given, access to accounts and records have not been given, etc. is what has escalated the situation. There may be no wrong doing, but the reaction of Fr. Anytpas and others makes it seem as if there is wrong doing. If there is not, then there is nothing to worry about if the books and accounts are open to the normal, regular review of an appointed Treasurer. Again, any Treasurer or Accountant would be legally bound to continue to ask such questions and to demand access to necessary accounts and documents. This isn't even a question of an audit, either internal or external; the duly appointed Treasurer is not even being allowed to manage the books to begin with.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is pour reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matt. 5:10-12. OSB
So while you may spit, you are also bestowing a blessing or two. Think about it.
#22.2 pelagiaeast on 2009-10-27 17:23
While many are horrified, depressed and outraged by the events in our Archdiocese generally and in Troy specifically I think it is rather a very hopeful time.
The disinefecting light is being shone in the dark corners and it is causing these dark dwellers great discomfort.
We have obviously had significant and ongoing malfesance for quite some time. Those responsible and complicet certainly will not cooperate in exposing their own misdeeds. The stonewalling and vicious attacks upon the persons willing to pusue these questions will only increase in their intensity.
Keep up the good fight Mr. Samra. I believe because of your efforts and others in this truly God Protected Archdiocese it is only now a matter of time for those who were not ashamed in the dark to now be shamed in the open for all to see.
#23 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-10-27 06:14
Over a decade ago the metropolitan sent out a directive that each parish check and financial accounts must be signed by two parish council members which does not include the priest. If the priest is to be a signature his is to be in addition to the two council members. Thus the question should be asked: Who were the two council member signatures on Troy’s financial accounts – aside from Fr. Antypas? If there has been only one council member’s signature in addition to the pastor’s, then it would appear once again that there are two sets of rules in the archdiocese - one for FOP (friends of +Philip) and another for the rest of us.
Metropolitan Philip is now reaping what he has sown.
#24 Disgusted Antiochian Priest on 2009-10-27 07:33
I think all the anti-Samra posts provide evidence for the disease endemic in Troy and throughout much of the archdiocese.
They can offer nothing beyond: "BAD man...devil...trouble-maker" and they cannot by force of any modicum of intellect see that all George did was uncover a very serious problem. George isn't a "trouble-maker" he's a "trouble-finder"...which is part of his job. He stumbled upon it and DID THE RIGHT THING.
All these Pro-Walid, Antypas, Phil posters are either blind or "in on it." Additionally I sense NOTHING that would lend itself to Christian charity in their expressions of outrage that even here apparently calls for Mr. Samra's death. Amazing.
I would encourage all of those who are angry with George Samra and Mark Stokoe to write as much and as often as you can. Offer to Mark pages and pages of your hatred, anger, and venom. With each word the truth is more clearly presented. PLEASE present your side to the world so that we may see...and marvel.
The needle is about to lance the boil. Someone in the AOCNA needs to make the push. +MARK? +BASIL? It's time. Hello?
#25 markw on 2009-10-27 08:12
I cannot agree with the call for people to "offer to Mark pages and pages of your hatred, anger, and venom."
It is true that these vicious attacks vividly demonstrate the destructive mindset prevalent in some factions within the Archdiocese -- a mindset I critiqued in an earlier article -- and, therefore, there is some value in clarifying the attitudes and behaviors of some individuals within these factions.
At the same time, however, while there is some value in allowing these individuals and factions to expose their sin so that it might potentially be healed, it is another matter entirely to encourage them to sin.
St. Philotheos of Mt. Sinai explains the process through which we become controlled by sin in this way: "First there is provocation; then a coupling with the provocation; then assent to it; then captivity to it; then passion, grown habitual and continuous. This is how the holy fathers describe the stages through which the devil gets the better of us."
St. Philotheos makes clear that by provoking these people to further engage in such extravagantly sinful behavior, we would unfortunately -- even if unwittingly -- be assisting the devil in enslaving them.
Therefore, while I understand that your point is simply to make clear for all the extremely anti-Christian spirit of some of these posts, I would not want anyone to goad some of these individuals and factions into further damaging the spiritual lives of themselves and others in our beloved Archdiocese.
#25.1 Jason Barker on 2009-10-27 17:31
It's a very natural response to want to defend you and your own when you sense them being attacked. However, some of the actions reported, assuming the reporting is accurate, have criminal and civil implications not only for those who have committed them but also for those who, knowing of them, do nothing or lend aid to assist or cover up the act.
Being a cleric or a religious organization does not shield us from criminal and civil liability and if we don't take steps to hold people and structures accountable we risk having the civil authorities come in and do this for us. If we think our honor and reputation is being damaged now just think of what it would be if some of us are led away in handcuffs.
Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
Nobody #15 made a simple observation that should shut the mouths of anyone who'd accuse Mr. Samra: No accusation is substantial, they are all ad hominem, and that's not how Orthodox Christians should behave. Mr. Khalife's behavior, by contrast, is patently shameful. And it it is impossible for a rational person to understand how +MP could support and honor a man in the church who habitually sends in writing his hope for the death of others. If this is an Arab thing it certainly is NOT a Christian thing. Please repent of it!
Saying Mr. Samra is a bad man is not news. It merely qualifies him to stand with other sinners like me praying for mercy. If anyone has a complaint it must be a material charge of impropriety by a church treasurer; something substantial that can be investigated just like those charges that Mr. Samra has brought against his opponents.
The gig is up. Investigations will occur. Lights will shine on past deeds in Troy and Englewood. We don't need to go after these actors. We just need enough good judgment to free our Archdiocese of these scandals and those who perpetuate them. Honest men and open books will not hinder the gospel from illuminating this continent. Christ is behind and Christ before us. To God be all Glory.
#27 MichaelPatrick on 2009-10-27 13:06
I am not in the Antiochian archdiocese, but the OCA. When will people learn? An external audit would reveal the truth, if the audit is done by a third party. For the sake of truth, and not malice a third party audit should be done. The Metropolitan, from appearances, wants to hide what monies are where. For what reason? And the Metropolitan focusing his "hatred" on Mark Stokoe, because Mark has an open forum for honest discussion and a place to give a voice to those who would be shut down by the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan removed the independence of his local bishops and therefore Bishop Mark has no real authority, only what Metropolitan P. allows Bishop Mark to say or do. Metropolitan Philip acts as a Roman Pope, he is the law, not canon law. The people who write in on the forum and only speak of hatred, where is there christian brotherly love? ....
#28 anonymous on 2009-10-27 13:36
First, my heart utterly breaks over this whole St. George mess which is part and parcel of the Archdiocesan debacle. My family were Detroit natives some three to four decades ago and my cousins were actively involved at St. George, then in the city of Detroit. It was at that time a wonderful parish. The 1960's and early 70's saw a thriving and healthy community who certainly embraced their Arabic heritage but looked outwardly in a spirit of missions and were led by a couple of fine priests and a humble, ethical and honest council. Mr. Samra's own family as well as that of Mr. David Thomas were upstanding pillars of the faith community and indeed Mr. Samra shows just the kind of integrity that St. George was built upon. Over the past 20 or so years many of those of Mr. Samra's character have either left through discouragement, or may be still there and just want to serve our Lord, but don't want to "stand out" even though everyone who sees wrong needs to stand together.
I am utterly ashamed of those who make continuous attacks against a man who stands with the courage of Christ, asking only honest questions. He is a voice for many who are not only at St. George, but in the Archdiocese who for whatever reason, maybe just weakness of the flesh, are afraid to speak out. All the facts that have been shown bear witness that this man speaks truth. The tirades and attacks that people witness on this site only confirm Mr. Samra. The attacks of those who supposedly "represent" St. George are appalling and interestingly as one examines closely the rather tortured language and grammar used show that they appear to come from the same very few menacing spectres. The light is shining into the darkness and vampires are scared.
And if, and I only have heard second hand information from those I still have contact with in Detroit, that these things are true about what the priest has done, or this Mr. Khalife, or anyone who has brought disgrace upon Christ and His Church, they will indeed answer for it before our Lord and Savior. St. John Chrysostom was right that the road to hell is scattered with stoles of impure and impious priests and bishops.
God bless Mr. Samra, Mr. Thomas, all those parishonners who stand anonymously together at St. George and pray for a resolution.
Remember our Lord's words to those who abuse His children, "it would be better if a millstone were tied around your neck....."
Sincerely in love, Dorothy Dooramy
#29 Dorothy Dooramy on 2009-10-27 14:02
This is a nice comment, but there is not a "Dooramy" to be found on any search engine. Who are you? It's more strange to post under a false name than to post anonymously.
(Editor's note: People post all sorts of strange things - and names. But the attempt to decieve is not Christian, and unworthy, no matter what one's goal.)
#29.1 Anonymous on 2009-10-31 12:25
Following this entire thread I have to admire the courage of Mr. Samra. He could have taken the easy way out and simply shaken the dust of this troubled parish off his feet. He could have then gone to the local Greek or OCA parish. I'm sure there are lots of places in the Detroit area that would have welcomed him, after he had been refused communion. But he did not! And that is a courageous act.
Speaking as one who was treasurer of a small parish for two terms, (only one checking account and one savings account) it is hard for me to think that one would have to buck up against a priest and a metropolitan. But he did, and his reflection on this list seems credible to me.
It is time for all of us who read this list to get down on our knees and pray for George Samra, Fr Antypas and Metropolitan Philip, as well as Bishop Mark and all the people who have posted here, pro and con, objective and ad hominem, that all live lives according to the Gospel of Christ, and that we all be saved. Oh, yes, let's remember Mark Stokoe in our prayers also!
Thanks for listening...
#30 Rdr. James on 2009-10-27 14:20
Funny, Mr. Stokoe how very obvious are your double standards! Some Bishops and clergy get dumped on big time and others are allowed to do and say what they want while you praise them for rebellion, no matter their own dishonest and misleading prictices. Guess you are all members of the same club, but of course when Metropolitan Philip has friends or suppporters, they are "cronies." You are all a righteous gang of pretenders, n'est pas?
We know your two main sources of info concerning AOCA Board meetings and Synod meetings and they are on not so solid ground. The case is building.
(Editor's note: Nice try. Take your threats elsewhere. Grown ups are talking here.)
#31 Khalil Habib on 2009-10-27 17:44
"Some Bishops and clergy get dumped on big time and others are allowed to do and say what they want while you praise them for rebellion, no matter their own dishonest and misleading prictices (sic)."
I simply repeat a line so often found on this site:
"You have no evidence." Nor is there even the appearance of any such thing - something that cannot be said said of the events in Troy.
#31.1 Brain Van Sickle on 2009-10-27 19:47
Perhaps more of the "Old Friends" from Chicago care to explain the transactions of the "Task Force Jerusalem" accounts.
Also, the fact that there has never been any evidence that "Food For Hungry People" fully disburses what Robin collects.
Yes, I hear a case is building as well.
#31.2 anonymous on 2009-10-27 22:21
Task force Jerusalem - a Met. Philip clever "invention" has never had donations reported. Funds to "aid" never approved by our Patriarch.
Funds used to "fund" an Anaheim, CA "mission" to destroy a nearby Jerusalem Orth. parish whose Priest left Englewood years ago. My Aunt attends the Jerusalem parish. Funds were used by the "Task Force" (Met P.) to bing a Priest from Jordan, set him up, hoping to destroy a parish a few miles away! How sad.
Food for Hungry People Fund long known to "fund" Met. P's own favorite charities abroad. A few USA legitimates to deceive the faithful and the rest "abroad" to win "friends"! No listing of where the funds went as an External Audit would reveal. That's WHY many clergy make this a lo-profile appeal in their parishes but save "face" by minimum participation. We trade notes as can be observed!
#31.2.1 Anonymous Priest on 2009-10-29 09:23
I am and have been the treasurer of our OCA parish for a number of years and we get the following types of reports in the mail. In fact, I posted this particular one onto our church's bulletin board with our priest's blessing. Try posting this one onto Troy's bulletin board or just email it around. Basically, if there is smoke, look for the cause of that smoke, because there is probably a fire there somewhere. You just have to have the guts to pursue it. Pay particular note to the part on "Warning signs of embezzlement".
The following is an excerpt from Church Mutual Insurance Company's Risk Reporter series, Spring 2009, Vol 8, Issue 3.
(Mark, if you would, please make the url link live.)
"A financial pandemic is sweeping the country"!
There is an employee at your religious organization you have known and trusted for a long time. She is a delight to work with and is an excellent representative of your office to the entire congregation and community. What happens when it is discovered she has been quietly embezzling thousands of dollars from the organization’s funds?
“It was absolutely horrible,” said the Rev. Larry Scharmann of Oak Meadow United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas. Scharmann is all too familiar with that scenario.
“The person was such a wonderful woman with the church. She opened her heart and knew everyone and everything going on,” Scharmann said. “I thought her enthusiasm for the church was genuine.”
In 2006, an employee of Scharmann’s organization was silently writing checks to herself and purchasing items from a national club retailer for her and her husband with Oak Meadow’s credit card. In the end, she had bilked the religious organization out of $30,000.
John Peters from Peters & Associates, a forensic accounting firm in Brookfield, Wis., has witnessed Scharmann’s situation time and time again over the years.
“The problem is more frequent than you think it is,” Peters said. “It’s not an isolated occurrence, and there are many, many church-related institutions that consistently suffer financial losses. It’s a pandemic.”
Warning signs of embezzlement
A review of fraud claims filed with Church Mutual Insurance Company revealed that 42 percent of the time the treasurer is the person involved in the embezzlement and/or fraud. Accounting experts say there are signs to look for if embezzlement is suspected in a religious organization.
Excuses by the person in charge of the finances to avoid an audit
Failure to keep the check register with the checkbook
Failure to provide financial reports at meetings
Very protective of his/her job
Peters also points out that hiring staff at a religious organization should be approached with caution.
“You should be wary in the hiring process — especially if someone seems to be too eager to get the job,” Peters said. “Some people apply at churches because they know they’ll have easy access to money and the trust of the staff. My advice would be to conduct background checks even if it’s a voluntary position.”
When Scharmann found out about the embezzled money, he realized that trust is a valued commodity in this world.
“You never know what someone is going through or what they’re capable of,” Scharmann said.
And speaking from experience, Peters has seen astronomical embezzlement amounts.
“Getting to $15,000, $20,000 or even $100,000 is no problem,” Peters said. “I’ve seen others take well over $1 million.”
.................................... (Fast Forward)...
The current poor economic environment has no influence on employee dishonesty and embezzlement.
“Good economy or bad economy; Thursday or Friday—it doesn’t matter. It happens all over the country any time of the year or any year. It’s a problem that’s been around for decades,” Peters said.
Trust is such an important part of our social connections to friends, families, communities and congregations. Unfortunately, that trust is broken all too often in religious organizations.
“Trust is nice,” Peters said. “But ‘trust me’ is not a good philosophy when it comes to financials.”
(Editor's note: Dave, we published that article in full on 8.18.09! But it never hurts to re-read a classic.)
#32 DHH on 2009-10-27 18:09
If a layman can be excommunicated for asking financial questions, can a priest be defrocked for responding to financial questions by excommunicating him?
#33 ba'ab on 2009-10-27 23:10
"(Editor's note: Nice try. Take your threats elsewhere. Grown ups are talking here.)
#31 Khalil Habib on 2009-10-27 17:44 (Reply)"
A classic non-answer!
An editor's sarcastic note appears whenever you attempt to evade a truthful criticism.
Yes, we all know your agenda but you might try a little fairness and not allow some pretenders to skate while using the real AOCA people as target practice. In any case, they are solid and there to stay and like it or not you can look forward to more of the same for years to come. I and others will continue to increase our donations while you and your East Coast Priest contributers coax the Zrakes of this world to stop their little payments.
You can subborn and support all the false and trumped up reasons you find pleasing to try to ruin men whose feet you should wash and drink the water when you've finished. We and our contributions to and faith in both Enlelwood and Antioch will cover any puny deficit you think you can effect.
You always ask what you have published that is not true. Among the many other things I have pointed out, you and the silliness who resides in Toledo called a real man and son of Antioch a forgerer. THis with nothing more than inuendo and no proof. It is a lie and you stand behind it. When you poove this, I will personally subsidize any cause you choose. Otherwise, address and prove it or retract it like an honest true journalist (Lord, how that sticks in my throat when describing your tactics).
I will be in North America through Sunday and visiting Englewood this weekend where the talk will be of the new sources of income we have developed through resources with which you cannot hope to interfere.
Keep whistling in the wind, it will improve your pucker.
(Editor's note: I have no goal to ruin anybody. I have no agenda with the AOCA. I am simply the website people interested in transparency and accountability read. If more and more people are reading the site because of growing interest in these questions, it might behoove you to ask why, rather than in your words developing
" new sources of income ...through resources with which you cannot hope to interfere." Such an attitude I would opine will only exacerbate the fundamental problem, not solve it.
I have never called anyone a forger. I reported that forged documents, in the sense that illicit and false documents bearing what may or may not be the Patriarch's authentic signature, (but obtained without his knowledge or approval even if it were his signature) by someone in Damascus, appeared on the Archdiocesan website. The Patriarchal website confirmed this reportage by denouncing the document as invalid and inauthentic as well. The Archdiocese seems to accept that judgement as well, since it has since pulled down the offending documents. The "ruin" ocassioned by that attempt to mislead the Archdiocese is not my fault, but he who ordered them published. Once again, I am only the messenger.
Finally, I have never advocated withholding money from the Archdiocese. I did so with the OCA, but then, I am a member and it was my money being misused. If others suggest that in the AOCA, for the same reasons, that is their right as Americans, and in their minds, their responsibility as good stewards until and independent audit is conducted and questions concerning the finances resolved.
I think we can all agree it would be best for allegations and questions to be resolved. Or not. )
#34 Khalil Habib on 2009-10-27 23:48
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
It's not about money. Or is it?
#34.1 Brian Van Sickle on 2009-10-28 18:57
So as long as you have good funds flow everything is fine and Christianity is being followed?
#34.2 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-10-28 19:22
TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY...are two words that are misused on this website by the editor ..It is transparent that you are a mouthpiece for certain bishops. Any reference to them is done with the most reverence and piety. We can almost see the glow of their halo. Let's not be so naive.
Your sources are cloaked by your professional newservice badge. The "leaks and rumors" in this blog are transparent in trying to defame and destroy those who they have on their Nixonian "enemies list".
This newservice and blog are not for grown ups but for the self righteous and the paranoid. It is a "one way street" where those that are slandered in the AOCA (there is a great litany of them) have no means to defend themselves.
You and your cronies have created a hostile environment.
I would suggest that your quest for accountablilty begin with yourself. How long have you looked down upon the AOCA for it's trivial raffles, haflis, village, and the Order? It seems that this is not pure enough for your poetic vison of transparency and accountabilty. But I am sure ,you believe that, your comments and words are beyond reproach. Audit is the buzzword now. The masses have spoken, they will solve all the churches and diocese ills. Just ask those who reviewed the Madoff books. Just ask those who received a clean audit from every other Ponzi schemer both internal and external.
Good luck to all that.
(Editor's note: Never having been to a hafli, nor an Order event, nor participated in a Church raffle, it is hard for me to imagine looking down on things of which I have no experience of.... As a former Scandinavian folk musician, I tend to like ethnic things, so if that was your point, you missed again. And to critique the idea of an audit because of Madoff is absurd. The whole point of the Madoff scheme was he never used an independent external auditor to review his books! He used an in-house partner, who was able to cover things up for 20 years. Sound familiar? I afraid you just hoisted yourself on your own petard, as they say. )
#34.3 Anon on 2009-10-28 22:10
Actually, it's "hoist with [your] own petard," good sir.
(Hamlet, Act III, scene iv)
(Editor's note: Really? I never knew it was from Hamlet. Can't have too much Shakespeare. I just knew the expression originated from the seige of Malta.)
#34.3.1 pobrecita on 2009-10-29 10:12
(Editor's note: ... I afraid you just hoisted yourself on your own petard, as they say. )
And I think we all know how painful that can be!
#34.3.2 Anonysilly on 2009-10-30 03:52
You said: "You can subborn and support all the false and trumped up reasons you find pleasing to try to ruin men whose feet you should wash and drink the water when you've finished. "
Questions: have you ever washed Met. Philip's feet? If you have, did you drink the water, too? If you have not, would you drink the water if given the opportunity? If you would not drink the water, why would you ask someone else to?
If you are wondering why some of us have stopped supporting the Metropolitan, it is because of outrageous and silly things said by his defenders, starting with that stupid letter signed by Antypas-Shalhoub-Baalbaki-Kfouf. He continues to allow Walid to humiliate the Archdiocese with his rogue behavior.
So many of my generation have left the Church because we are ashamed of this kind of behavior. You make us look like ignorant savages. You may travel around "North America", but we live here. This is our only home, and you are ruining our reputation with regular Americans.
Please stop and think. Sane Americans don't talk about drinking bath water. The problem is that the Metropolitan's supporters look crazy from the things they say.
#34.4 anonymous on 2009-10-28 22:37
"So many of my generation have left the Church because we are ashamed of this kind of behavior. You make us look like ignorant savages. You may travel around 'North America', but we live here. This is our only home, and you are ruining our reputation with regular Americans."
Amen. I'm not of Arab descent, but I am an "ethnic" cradle, and I stand amazed and embarrassed at the appearance all this presents. It's righteousness, not fitting in, that's most important — but, as a secondary matter, I have to say that I can't believe the sheer vulgarity of this whole affair.
I can't decide which is worse — the atrocious grammar of most submissions defending Fr. Joseph, or their atrocious ad hominem "arguments" and blithe excuse-making. Have they no sense of propriety at all? Can one even have a discussion about this without an insult?
You need to recalibrate if you think, for example, that it was fine for Fr. Shalhoub to have Jamie Farr autograph the Gospel on the Holy Altar, because he's Lebanese and played Klinger on M.A.S.H. [ http://is.gd/4HBvh ]. Oh, and I bet he's got money , too. Again, what's important is that this is wrong — but it's hard not to notice that it's also incredibly vulgar. And O.F.F.C.D. thinks Bp. Mark is silly! Well, at least he doesn't pimp out the Gospel-book or forge an old woman's signature after putting her in the grave.
Pretty much anything shows more class than that.
(No criticism intended of Mr. Farr, I should add. Most likely, he has little Church training and was merely fulfilling the priest's request in gracious fashion.)
Then there's business standards …. This has to be the most amazing minutes excerpt ever: "This money used to help off set Father Aymen's salary but due to information getting back to HUD this no longer can happen.” Seriously, has civilization reached this parish yet?
That, maybe, is what Met. Philip and others don't grasp about an external audit — in America, it's just the standard-issue, proper thing to do. You don't list assets off the top of your head, adding them up as you go, as though … actually, I don't even know what that's like. The guy who sells hot dogs at a baseball game?
And then there's that notion someone recently expressed, that having a non-Orthodox auditor would demean us. In fact, someone who's culturally American is proud to have books that will pass an outsider's scrutiny. It means his operation is objectively righteous and can win the approval of a fair man of any background.
Do we want to do what we do in America for real, or not?
#34.4.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-30 19:26
Interesting — evidently, the loss of these "puny" contributions is severe enough to get you and whomever else over to Englewood. And not just to write a check, but to have meetings about "new sources of income we have developed."
In any event, Mark makes a good point — just do the external audit, and most people will be satisfied. I would be.
Or can that not be allowed to take place?
#34.5 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-30 15:54
Oh, so the forgery thing is your issue. Well, you are quite right that Mark didn't give conclusive hard evidence for his narrative — he relied on anonymous sources.
The thing is, Mark has an established, years-long history of getting things right, such that he's never had to make a serious retraction. And, on the few occasions he's erred regarding minor matters he's corrected it immediately. His track-record makes him a trustworthy reporter of fact, even when he's using anonymous sources.
Is this the one time he really got things wrong? I wouldn't bet on it even if I had your kind of cash.
Now, let me address this: "a real man and son of Antioch." First of all, I hope that "son of Antioch" reference isn't an ethnic one. But it doesn't make much sense otherwise. It was Bp. Mark, and not Met. Philip, who obeyed the Patriarch in the matter of propagating the Synodal decision. I find it absurd that you can praise Met. Philip as a "son of Antioch" when his established record is one of blunt contempt for the authority of that synod.
And as to "a real man": Jesus Christ is a real man. He is the real man. And Christ said to let your "yes" be "yes" and to let your "no" be "no." The St. Vlad's switch was about the "Syro-Byzantine tradition"? Please! Met. Philip made a few "minor adjustments" to the constitution? Ridiculous! Bp. Demetri just had a bad lawyer? Absurd! I could go on and on.
This is one thing in American culture that already reflects the Gospel: ordinary Americans believe that a man says what he means and mean what he says . Period. Met. Philip, when the going gets tough, often doesn't. And that has led more than a few people — the everyday people you'll fly over as you drop by "North America" — to an increasingly poor opinion of him.
(Editor's note: I have used no anonymous sources in discussing the "forged" checks. The Treasurer, George Samra, brought the allegation forward, no anonymous source. Secondly no one has disputed the existence of the checks, nor that Fr. Antypas signed them, including Fr. Antypas himself, who admitted such in the presence of scores of witnesses at the parish meeting at the end of August. So, while, I do cite anonymous sources on ocassion and of necessity, in my stories, this is not one of those cases. )
#34.6 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-30 17:37
I apologize — I was unclear. I was referring to the matter of the Synodal decision.
#34.6.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-11-02 12:52
We know your two main sources of info concerning AOCA Board meetings and Synod meetings and they are on not so solid ground. The case is building.
Well I 'm sure they must be shaking in their boots. Is Bishop Antoun in charge of that investigative body? Heh maybe Khalid Khalife could drop your prime suspects a note telling them it might not be so good for their health if they don't clam up.
#35 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-10-28 05:56
In one respect there may be some information available: In our county at least, one can get the county records on any piece of property, including the mortgages past and present. This should all be public information.
#36 Marcel Herlé on 2009-10-28 14:22
To Kevin KHArwan:
The man you keep complaining about is WA-lid not KHA-lid
Perhaps you could get at least that right.
#37 Khalil Habib on 2009-10-28 17:24
You are right, the name is correctly spelled at:
#37.1 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-10-28 22:10
#37.1.1 Gabriel Stewart on 2009-10-30 20:37
Unless leadership outside of the inner circle take some action, nothing, but nothing will change in this archdiocese. The latest is that the Metropolitan has appointed his good friend Fr. Anthony of Montreal to head the "Planning and Development Committee." This is the priest who was in the delegation to Damascus whose wife Lynne kept writing posts talking about how they took the (false) statement from the Patriarch to sent back to the United States, that is to say, he was part of the "funny business" regarding the issue of the status of Bishops. Now he will head the committee filled with more of the Metropolitan's friends to plan for the future. These stables will NEVER be cleaned. At some point new leadership has to emerge. Probably the truest statements about the situation have been made by one Khalil Habib because his attitude reflects the attitude of the insiders who run this archdiocese. Very, very discouraging.
#38 anon on 2009-10-28 17:57
YOUR VISION OF THE CHURCH...
is toxic...there is only judgement of those who have served and brought people to salvation in the Church. What have you accomplished? You have set up smokescreens (audits )to protect your selfrighteous view that mid westrn bishops are walking saints. Your main agenda is to
spread unsubstantiated rumors (false documents) to destroy reputations. It is transparent that you want to demonize the AOCA leadership and fill the void with those cynical sychophants who share the narcisstic vision of this blogs editor. It is apparent that a majority of the pro radical element have a deep seated dislike of the success of the AOCA over the years. Instead of constructive criticism it is fashionable on this website to proclaim their intense distain wrapped in journalistic non accountability.
(Editor's Note: Narcissistic is a new one for me. I am also confused as to who the "pro-radical" element that objects to success would be. Or why an audit is a "smokescreen"? Methinks your comment about "midwestern bishops being saints" reveals your problem though. I am sure that Archbishop Iakovos of Chicago and Bishop Longin of Detroit, not to mention Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit, all Midwestern Bishops, appreciate the saint reference, though. )
#38.1 Glad to be an Antiochian.. on 2009-10-31 15:23
“I have never called anyone a forger. I reported that forged documents, in the sense that illicit and false documents bearing what may or may not be the Patriarch's authentic signature, (but obtained without his knowledge or approval even if it were his signature) by someone in Damascus, appeared on the Archdiocesan website. The Patriarchal website confirmed this reportage by denouncing the document as invalid and inauthentic as well. The Archdiocese seems to accept that judgement as well, since it has since pulled down the offending documents. The "ruin" ocassioned by that attempt to mislead the Archdiocese is not my fault, but he who ordered them published. Once again, I am only the messenger.”
You are the messenger of lies in this instance and the patriarch has/had at least as much knowledge of the documents in question when he knowingly signed them as he has/had of what was published on his website.
He changed his mind, as sweet old men, often do and you need to know that Miter-mouth you take your info from is the greatest, if not the only real travesty existing in the AOCA. That he was single and had a pulse was what propelled him to the “peter principle” from which he now operates so inefficiently.
That the patriarch changed his superannuated mind is what the Archdiocese accepts and not that the documents were forged, switched or presented under false pretenses.
(Editor's note: If your account is to be believed one would be led to suspect "that sweet old man"'s mind is more duplicitious than "superannuated". But the evidence indicates he is neither - and that having been caught in the act, all your types can do is continue to cast aspersions on everyone around them to distract from your own misadventures - including now, it seems, an elderly Patriarch himself. Shame on you.)
#39 Nabil Zein on 2009-10-28 18:04
I simply cannot believe that Zein is attacking our beloved Patriarch. Shame on him indeed. Also, shame on all of these folks who are attacking the messenger and talking crazy. Lord have mercy on them and guide them into the light. Carl
#39.1 Carl on 2009-10-29 15:27
To Kevin KHArwan:
The man you keep complaining about is WA-lid not KHA-lid
Perhaps you could get at least that right.
My regrets for the typo. I certainly do not wish to insinuate that some innocent man named Khalife is a boorish ill-mannered thug.
Hope you keep us informed as to the outcome of your meeting in Englewood about those new found sources of income you have found...? Oh wait that's a secret right?
Just as well, if you explained it any further for all we know, it could lead to indictments.
#40 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-10-28 19:14
i would also add that this website is all sensationalism to say the least. the stories that are printed here are not objective whatsoever. have you, mark, ever contacted the priest or members of the parish council in troy to hear their side of the story? or do you just take it at george's word what he says? have you ever tried to get both sides of the story for fair and balanced reporting? no! you only write stories that will further your agenda. you have no interest in fair reporting on orthodox news. you spread gossip and lies. it may not be gossip you created, but it is still gossip that you get from the likes of that evil david thomas and george samra.
everyone on this site should stop and wake up!! if you want truth and accountability then all sides to the story must be reported. if you cant do that, then all you have is false garbage.
(Editor's note: I report on the basis of documents. George Samra's allegations have been documented. To my knowledge Fr. Antypas has never provided any written explanation of his actions, etc., in regards to this case. I would be happy to interview him at his convenience. Hope you can set it up for me. Thanks. )
#41 Fakhoury on 2009-10-28 19:27
"if you want truth and accountability then all sides to the story must be reported. "
Ummm...no Fakhoury...if we want truth and accountability we would seek an external audit. And it YOU wanted truth and accountability (surely you do right? Or do you prefer falsehoods and unnaccountability?) then you would want an external audit.
Ask very simply: WHY NOT AN EXTERNAL AUDIT? WHY NOT?
It's like asking a child to show us what he or she has hidden in their hands behind their back and they refuse. What are we led to logically infer?
You could end all this commotion by simply revealing what's in the AOCNA's hands. But they won't do it. WHY?
#41.1 markw on 2009-10-29 09:40
Fakhoury has the audacity to call for balance when the utter unjust imbalance perpetrated upon the Godly like George Samra and others is shouted down, their microphones grabbed away from them by the likes of Mr. Walid Khalife and excommunicated for asking reasonable intelligent questions which have been evaded, swept under the rug, turned on their head by double speak from priests and the right friends? Balance?? Even as we seen the Metroplitan of this God protected Archdiocese send a "blank check" letter of his absolute approval of the debaucle at St. George, Troy, not even having the courtesy to go there and listen to Mr. Samra, or Mr. Thomas, or many, many others who would be glad to set the record straight. If I were a psychologist reading the illogical, ranting, angry letters of Fakhoury and the anonymous friends of St. George, et al. I would start to truly question balance on many levels. Lord have mercy! What a fiasco. I am truly thankful that my husband and I are in ROCOR. We pray for our remaining friends in AOCA..We pray for the Samra's, Thomas', and others who continue to fight the good fight and pray they will NEVER stop until the truth shines in all its brightness and the demons are driven out. Then we shall have balance.
#41.2 Dorothy Dooramy on 2009-10-29 14:37
I keep reading about how "complex" an external audit would be because of all the organizations under the Archdiocesese umbrella. Anyone who has worked for any municipal, county, or governmental organization, corporation, or pension fund of any size submits to an external audit. The audit is not at all complicated to people who are committed to keeping books and cash flow organized. In fact, the audit is an ,routine, non-event that the finance department of any organization or corporation is prepared to handle. Following the audit, a management letter is issued. The bullet points in the management letter are actually more insightful than the audited financial statements, because the letter highlights issues of protocol and procedures that need to be addressed. As members of the Antiochian Archdiocese, we need to press not only for an external audit but also that the management letter itself be posted and published along with the audited financial statements.
#42 anonymous for fear of reprisal on 2009-10-29 05:49
What a great idea presented by Fakhoury. Let us all hear Fr. Antypas explain himself on this forum. I am confident that Mark Stokoe would be more than happy to allow him the opportunity to justify his actions and refute the claims of the dread and now excommunicated George Samara.
I'm sure his explanations will shine with the same insightful brilliance as those presented by Fakhoury, Nabil Zein and of course the man of some means (you can just ask around) Khalil Habib.
#43 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-10-29 13:28
It is telling that every time a supporter of Met. Philip posts here it is always threats, ad hominum attacks and self-aggrandizement. To me that alone proves that something is rotten in Engelwood.
#44 Michael Bauman on 2009-10-29 17:34
Pertaing to your update, it is not true. First David has not been in church for the last one and a had months. When he did come he came at the end of the service. His testimony that George never left the choir is ridiculous as he was never there let alone early enough to attend the doxology. Secondly george DID approach people before liturgy starts and before heading to the choir and engaged on several conversations in the pews with members. He is lying. I will not reveal my name for I wish not to draw attention to myself. It is true he did those things. David is not credible whatsoever. On a side note, Walid contacted a lawyer because the document that he threw at George several weeks back that had the written statement was forged. Walid did not write that and has given handwritinnaamplea to the judge involved on the case. These people are causing such a stir and it is all based on falsehoods. I would ask that you talk with father Joseph or members of our council rather than print their lies.
(editor's note: The original claim was that Samra engaged people during Liturgy; which he denied. Now the claim is that he did it before Liturgy. Before one makes an allegation, it is always best to check the facts. Secondly, you now claim that the paper note thrown to Samra was "forged." But you agree Khalife threw it. Apart from the question why anyone throws paper at someone during services, like a junior high cafeteria, why would one throw a forged note at someone? Did one pick it up to throw it, lay it down so it could be forged, and then pick it up again? Or was it forged before he threw it - which begs the question, why throw a note at someone you did not write? Then you claim D. Thomas has not been to services in 1.5 months, and then in the same sentence, claim that when he did come, he only came "at the end". Which is it? I'm sorry, your account seems to be insconsistent and unreasonable as presented.
Finally, no one from St. George's Council has written me for publication, so it is a bit unfair to suggest I am not telling "their side". They need, if it is their desire, to tell "their side", and are welcome to do so on OCANews.org)
#45 Anonymous on 2009-10-30 09:29
I think that very fact that Satan is attacking the Church through scandals is proof to me that we possess the truth,that's why the evil one desperatly wants to seperate me and you from her.
Hey, that's our line.
By the way, can someone tell me what O.F.F.C.D. means? I'm pretty much up on my Internet abbreviations and my Orthodox ones, too, but this one's over my head.
#46 catholic visitor on 2009-10-30 10:05
It is, as Mr. Kirwan says, "Old Friend From Chicago Days." But the phrase isn't nefarious — just sort of offensive.
It originated with a comment on another, now-defunct, discussion-board by Khouria Lynn Gabriel, whose husband, Fr. George, is a well-connected friend of the Metropolitan. She was testifying against the accusation that a fraud had been perpetrated in Damascus by some portion of the American delegation there, which included Fr. George, whom she had accompanied.
In the course of doing so, she casually mentioned how she had met up with some "old friends from Chicago days" during the trip, and that she had sat around shooting the breeze with them about synodal goings-on — information that the rest of the Archdiocese had been, and was still being, denied. The air of cliquishness about her description, represented rather nicely by that phrase, was striking enough to become a point of discussion.
Then, unexpectedly, a person claiming to be a member of this privileged band started posting under that moniker — sometimes abbreviated to O.F.F.C.D. Before long, the writer revealed his name to be Khalil Habib, but he still tags his posts with the abbreviation, which is useful for those who have followed his posting career. Also, as you can see, he revels in his Inner Circle status. Indeed, part of his position is that there is nothing wrong with a club of wealthy buddies from way back when being, for those reasons alone, in possession of special ecclesiastical influence and privileges.
Such dynamics have long been a part of the culture of the Archdiocese. As long as we were not attending to Orthodox ecclesiology — that is, as long as Met. Philip could order the other bishops around as his "vicars" — this situation chafed some people but was basically sustainable. However, now that the other bishops are true diocesans and are beginning to claim their proper rights as such, life for the clergy component of this Inner Circle is becoming less special — because they are being told to behave like everyone else. Bp. Mark of Toledo, God help him, has what seem to be the worst of the bunch: priests and laymen whose misbehavior, such as in the present case, is so excessive as to alienate even some supporters of the Metropolitan.
An irony in all this is that Met. Philip finally has before him the groundwork for the mature, canonically ordered North American Church that he's worked toward for decades. But he hadn't anticipated how it'd end up crimping his style, and now he and his are actively undermining these labors. Even more ironic, though, is that much of the opposition you see here had its fires lit by the Metropolitan himself, who communicated his vision and sense of urgency with great effectiveness — and who taught the people never to take no for an answer, no matter who they had to stand up to.
#46.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-30 15:11
It is Fr. Anthony Gabriel.
#46.1.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2009-10-31 12:46
Good heavens — thank you! I'm afraid I was rather tired when posting: never a great idea.
Would you please fix this, lest someone view the message in linear mode (or simply fail to read to the end)?
#220.127.116.11 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-11-02 12:57
my claim is not incoherent...you are wrong. david came one and a half months ago and at that time he came at the end...do you get it now or should i type slower. also, george did talk to people during divine services...is not the doxology part of the service? you are using semantics. the doxology ends just prior to the divine liturgy and it is then that he did that. be open-minded and dont rush to conclusions. also, walid through the pink slip at george. however, he did not write comments on it. george may have written those statments himself on the crumpled paper after it was thrown on him and tried to pass it off as walid writing on it before he threw it. use your brain and stop the nonsense.
(Editor's note: Wow. Unfortunately, if I hadn't got the same kind of threats from Mr. Khalife earlier this year, as did Bishop Mark, and Fr. Reardon, your speculation might be more convincing.....)
#47 Anonymous on 2009-10-30 11:54
Your claim that Mr. Samra spoke to people on his way to the choir is interesting, but, even if I believe you — whoever "you" are — that doesn't mean that he discussed giving with those people. Until there are first-hand reports from them supporting your accusation, there is no reason for anyone to accept it. Scripture itself demands real witnesses to improper behavior.
Mr. Thomas, I note, does not claim to have been present, but rather asserts that all the choir-members can verify Mr. Samra's account. It would be odd if he had written to Mark without having been present, and if he did he ought to have said so, but in that case I would assume he has his information from the choir-members.
Most importantly: why not use your name? I know why I don't: I'd rather not risk reprisals against anyone else for what I say. And I'm not claiming to have witnessed anything. You, on the other hand, are claiming to have seen Mr. Samra having discussions with others, to know the contents those discussions, and to know that Mr. Khalife wrote nothing on the paper he threw at Mr. Samra.
The only reason I can think of that someone in your position would stay anonymous is that he'd rather not stand behind his testimony.
And that inclines me to dismiss it.
#47.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-30 13:55
Mr. Khalife threw the pink slip. George [picked it up and it had writing on it. Mr. Khalife didn't put it there, maybe George did.
Quite the wizard, that George, stopping time long enough to write on that paper while everyone else stood frozen, then noting there was writing on it after time started again. Either that or he's one hell of a fast writer...
And by the way, anonymous, what you said in THIS post is different from your LAST post, and Mr. Stokoe's comments are correct.
Get your story straight BEFORE you post is the best advice I can give.
#47.2 Anonymous on 2009-10-30 17:15
By the way, can someone tell me what O.F.F.C.D. means?
Well it certainly doesn't stand for truth, justice, or accountability. Our friend of some means (you can ask around) is according to his own account currently meeting behind closed doors in Englewood with the Metropolitan and I quote: "where the talk will be of the new sources of income we have developed through resources with which you cannot hope to interfere"
For special effect re-read that quote out loud with a deep and sinister voice and follow it with a exaggerated maniacal laugh.
And please don't inquire as to what those newly developed sources of income might be? To have such knowledge may not be good for one's health.
Since our friend is currently occupied in this shrouded in mystery high level meeting I will answer your question.
O.F.F.C.D. Stands for, Old Friend From Chicago Days. Again I don't think any of us want to know anything more than that...Capiche?
#48 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-10-30 12:26
Hello Mr. #45 Anonymous. Your post is a crock as the Editor has pointed out, full of discrepancies.
It is very interesting that, according to your post, "Walid contacted a lawyer . . . " (and) "Walid did not write that" (the note?) "and has given handwritinnaamplea to the judge involved on the case." This is one of the fastest judicial processes in modern American history. Mr. Khalife throws a 'forged note' at Mr. Samra and within two weeks it in the hands of a judge who is a handwriting 'expert'. One question regarding this lawyer/judge process, is how did Mr. Khalife reobtain the 'forged' note? Did Mr. Samra throw it back at him? Why would a judge even be interested in such childish behavior, something that a kindergarten child might do, have a temper tantrum and throw wads of paper at others, definitely not adult behavior?
Your scenario of 'what happened' resembles a Dr Seuss book,
Who throw the 'forged' note
Why its Walid,
The cat in the hat?
And, he gave the 'forged' note
to de Judge,
who should smell a rat.
Someone turn on the lights.
#49 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-10-30 14:56
I think you misunderstand — Mr. Samra is asking for a protective order against Mr. Khalife, on the basis of the note.
#49.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-10-30 16:25
True, Mr Samra should have police protection. ....This whole scenario is like a soap opera and it is taking the spotlight off the real problem, Englewood.
Somebody please turn on the lights.
#49.1.1 Glad to not be Antiochian on 2009-11-02 20:02
If someone is shot the police ask witnesses to describe what happened and who did it. It is not offten you will get 2,3,4 people with the same story.All this talk, so many different stories. It's the people writing in with out proof causing the problems get out of control. Tempers raised, blame put on one person then another. Their are 2 sides to every story. But even if both sides have some truth- proof is what needes to be the only thing written any where. This I heard , she said he said he did ...is like we are back in 8th grade (DID YOU HERE?).We all have camera's on our phone's take a picture if you want proof.
Now who do we tell this truth to? Some of us try to reslove our conflicts with proof in our churchs. But (for what ever reason) we are not allowed to show our proof or even try to talk about it. Then where do we go? We go to our Bishop. He turns his head away from our pleaging to sit down to show our
proof, or won't even speek to us. Then who we turn to?
I might not agree with what Mark S.is letting be published, but at least he is stepping up to try to get the truth out Maybe he should ask for proof before we drown ourselves in so many stories we all turn against each other, oh wait we have already started doing this.
Maybe Mark S.can also reach out to others with who we can turn to with questions (when we have no where else to turn).
Different things from Detroit- what where the checks written to?
Why would the bank cash them (anyone ever ask)
Where do we go if the priest, board bishop will not listen or let someone present proof of wrong doing. Do we have a group we can go to to present the facts?Since one person should not have to carry the load.Or where it says (by the Met. or rules (like robert's rules)) that a treasurer should not take over the books unless they have been audited.Or churches like any organization should have there books audited. I am sorry but no matter who handles the books should share it with everyone.I know from book keeping. We all make mistakes. Some not on purpose others because the money is there or we are convinced from someonewhat we are doing is o.k. Things like can a priest changing icons without honoring the pleading of it's members to see if the original iconographer can see if the original icons that where blessed for the church can be touched up or fixed.
We need a place for ideas passed on from one church to the other- how to get your teens involved,Things St. John does at other churches. On how to make a better bulliteen to serve the members....
We need a web site to improve the church.Not just about the Saint or about icons.
We need proof to help us once again not spend our energy for hating but teaching our children (hopefully if we have not pushed them all away)the future of our faith) why we gather together in Christ and why WORSHIP HIM....
#50 Anonymous on 2009-10-31 00:03
In fairness to Mr. Habib (O.F.F.C.D.):
To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Habib’s first post on this site was in response to Mr. Zrake’s open letter about his tearfully reached conviction that he could no longer support the archdiocese in good conscience. At the time Mr. Habib had just arrived for a visit in North America, a place he had apparently spent considerable time in years past; and to his surprise he found something of a rebellion occurring in the archdiocese – ostensibly due to scandal-mongering OCA News reports. How could they be saying the things they are saying about our beloved Metropolitan? And worse yet, how could anyone believe it? Frankly, his comments to Mr. Zrake at the time were, in my opinion, rather reasonable - even fatherly. Something to the effect of, “Not to worry, my boy, this is not as it appears. I’ve know the Metropolitan as a son of Antioch for many years. None of these things could possibly be true.” He sounded like someone I would want to get to know.
If I put myself in Mr. Habib’s shoes I have to say that I would probably do the same thing. If someone was reporting these things about my priest, whom I’ve known and loved for many years, I wouldn’t believe it either because he is simply not a man who would do such things. My initial reaction would be that they are trying to destroy both him and all the good he has accomplished. I would be the first to rush to his defense, having known the kind of man he is.
Fr. Reardon is correct in saying that much of our mistrust is due to the fact that a great many of us have never even met His Eminence in person. There are, no doubt, thousands of us who have been in this archdiocese for many years without ever having received an arch pastoral visit. I do not blame His Eminence for this (the archdiocese is too large for this to be possible); it is simply a fact. We have a ‘father in Christ’ whom we do not know, and this is perhaps the most potent practical argument (apart from canonical ecclesiology) for having true diocesan bishops…but I digress.
Mr. Habib wasn’t in North America when it was admitted that our archdiocese had been financially supporting a bishop (a man, by the way, for whom I have nothing but affection) who is a convicted (and registered) sex offender –and this in violation of the sanction of the local synod - to say (again) nothing of how our Church canons give very clear and wise guidance on such issues.
Mr. Habib wasn’t in North America when a duly-seconded motion to remedy the above situation was unilaterally dismissed by His Eminence at the convention in Palm Desert.
Mr. Habib wasn’t in North America when documents purporting to be from Damascus were hastily posted on our archdiocesan website – documents His Beatitude later disavowed.
Mr. Habib wasn’t in North America when public death threats were made on the lives of one of our bishops and some of our priests by an Archdiocesan Board of Trustee member.
Mr. Habib was not in North America to observe the deafening public silence on the part of His Eminence regarding the above public threats.
Mr. Habib wasn’t in North America when first-year St. Vladimir seminary students were hastily transferred to Holy Cross at the last minute in a manner that any reasonable person could only conclude was in retaliation for the seminary’s and the OCA jurisdiction’s failure to silence OCA NEWS (something they have no power to do). I say “any reasonable person could only conclude” this because of the public comments of His Eminence and the official explanation offered by the archdiocese which betrayed either the reasonable conclusion itself or an astonishing lack of planning for the distribution of our seminarians.
Mr. Habib wasn’t in North America to learn (to our disappointment) that 95% of the facts reported on OCA NEWS – not the blogger’s comments, but the news itself – has later been officially confirmed by the archdiocese (Some of us do wait for official confirmation), and the small numbers of facts that are incorrectly reported are quickly corrected and usually relate to non-issues such as to what parish a certain person belongs.
These are just a few of the things Mr. Habib was not in a position to know. And so it is clear that Mr. Habib’s defense of the archdiocese is completely understandable. I would very likely do the same as he. Most of us found ourselves in Mr. Habib’s shoes not many months ago, not wanting to believe the rumors we had heard for many years about the archdiocese and always wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt. Many of us still want to give the benefit of the doubt. But as Mr. Habib himself wrote in another context, “The case is building,” and it is not flattering to the archdiocese. Some are quick to believe anything bad about the archdiocese; many of us would prefer to believe the best. We just wish they would make it easier to do so. Moreover, there are many of us who would not be shocked or scandalized by an admission of error or wrongdoing on a given matter. Who among us is sinless? While there may indeed be a few small lynch mobs calling for blood, most of us are Christians who just want to forgive and get on with being the Church of Jesus Christ. But this cannot happen when neither admissions, corrections, nor any substantive effort to assure the faithful are forthcoming. And so we continue to flounder in an atmosphere of reasonably well-grounded suspicion. All the threats, the unchristian name-calling, the blaming of OCA NEWS for reporting what the archdiocese itself later admits to be true, and all the talk of yet more sources of income (which only reinforces the pervasive cynicism that it’s only about money) won’t improve this atmosphere.
When I first read Mr. Habib’s comment concerning Mr. Zrake on this site he struck me as an honorable man – a man who holds views which I currently find hard to believe but are nevertheless built on actual relationships rather than Web blogs. Perhaps instead of inadvertently making us all more cynical about the archdiocese he could use those relationships to help restore the unity based on truth that we so desire.
I think I can relate to Mr. Habib. Can he relate to people like me?
#51 Brian Van Sickle on 2009-10-31 10:42
(Editor's note: If your account is to be believed one would be led to suspect "that sweet old man"'s mind is more duplicitious than "superannuated". But the evidence indicates he is neither - and that having been caught in the act, all your types can do is continue to cast aspersions on everyone around them to distract from your own misadventures - including now, it seems, an elderly Patriarch himself. Shame on you.)
#39 Nabil Zein on 2009-10-28 18:04 (Reply)
You use the word “evidence” as if you are the only one who knows its meaning. What evidence are you speaking about that proves your assumptions (as stated above) concerning my account. Could you please just point it out if such evidence exists or do you think that by running this website what you present is evidence; so what have you presented?
I do not speak ill of His Beatitude who is both a relative and a beloved friend whose personality is better known by me than by you. You may choose to believe what you want but although he is not at all senile, anyone who has lived that long is by definition superannuated, as is his/her mind.
He changed his mind and prefers not to address the subject.
As to the person so dramatically shocked by the idea of washing someone’s feet and drinking the water, it is a direct translation of an old Arabic proverb often used to show how very appreciated one is. (Example: “If I had such a friend I would, “. . . ghassilo ijhrai-o, ou shraab il zoom.”)
You have often been told by others on this site that the cultural differences which exist in AOCA are responsible for much of the misunderstanding. No matter how often this is the case, you and many of your loyal posters seem to prefer to believe in malicious intent and evil. Evil to him who evil thinks! It is you who are covered with shame and for speaking of evidence which not at all in evidence.
The other O.F.F.C.D
#52 Anonymous on 2009-11-01 18:16
To the Other OFFCD,
Re: "You have often been told by others on this site that the cultural differences which exist in AOCA are responsible for much of the misunderstanding. No matter how often this is the case, you and many of your loyal posters seem to prefer to believe in malicious intent and evil. Evil to him who evil thinks! It is you who are covered with shame and for speaking of evidence which not at all in evidence."
Don't you dare make this about our relationship with our Arab brothers and sisters in Christ!!! We celebrate our differences and our lives are richer for it. - What passes for "cultural differences" in your language is outright thuggery and lawlessness, which we cannot and will not abide. This isn't a cultural war. This is a spiritual war.
#52.1 Gail Sheppard on 2009-11-02 16:48
Exactly, Ms. Sheppard. This tired accusation toward those seeking accountability of being motivated by "racism" or "anti-Arab" sentiment is a clumsy and mean-spirited attempt to distract from the real issues. Thuggery, cliquishness, and avoidance of real accountability are issues which afflict and oppress members of every culture. The acusations of prejudice are as silly as accusing Palestinian Christians of being "anti-Greek" when they object to some backroom maneuverings by the Synod of Jerusalem. It is best to note the ridiculousness of the accusations and then simply ignore them. It is a ploy of the desperate, and the truth will out. I know Christians of Arab descent who themselves are very interested in the results of the proposed external audit. May God have mercy on us all!
#52.1.1 Brian Jackson on 2009-11-03 09:49
I am hoping our friend Khalil Habib a man of some means (you can ask around) will upon his return to North America give us an update regarding the high level meeting he attended in Englewood prior to his mission to Continents unkown.
My guess is that many of the favored and considered true sons of Antioch will be strongly encouraged/persuaded to become men of lesser means for the sake of an Archdiocese which is being financially pinched because of it's own non-repentant arrogance.
The growing paranoia displayed by the untouchable unaccountables demonstrates that they are indeed being hurt where they are the most sensitive...$$$$$
The stonewalling and coverups i.e. Bp. Antoun being the overseer of an Internal Audit to Nowhere cannot hope to restore the lost confidence of those who rightfully expect pastoral accountability of those called by Christ to work in His Vineyard.
Of course it would be best to come clean now but it never works that way. We must simply endure the increasingly desperate words and actions of desperate men who now display a seige mentality reminiscent of the Nixon Whitehouse in it's final days.
#53 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-11-01 20:46
I think I can relate to Mr. Habib. Can he relate to people like me?
Brian I think it would be rather difficult for this true son of Antioch, Englewood insider, Continent hopping, man of means (you can ask around) Khalil Habib to functionally relate to you.
You have to understand the thems and the not thems dynamics to appreciate the unnavigable gulf that seperates the thems from the not thems. I would think by now it has become rather apparent to even casual observers.
Do not kid yourself our friend Mr. Habib is well aware of the manuverings of the inner circle he himself occupies with the likes of the Detroit presbytery... among a committed band of other privileged one's.
Tribal loyalty is much more important than these trivial and bothersome right and wrong issues which can be effectively squashed with the force of their will as they defend their overseer.
Quite frankly Brian relating to you is beneath their dignity.
#54 Kevin Kirwan on 2009-11-02 07:51
Perhaps, Kevin, but it never hurts to try and bridge that 'great divide.' I'm not naive, but I'd nevertheless be pleased to hear Mr. Habib's thoughts on the matter - just as I would love to hear ANYTHING of substance that could help explain the events of recent months with some modicum of rationality and Christianity.
By the way, I hope Mr. Habib will forgive me for saying so, but it's been a long time since I laughed so hard as when I read your post answering the question about who our O.F.F.C.D is. Hopefully, our man of some means has a good-natured sense of humor. I certainly do.
#54.1 Brian Van Sickle on 2009-11-03 11:53
At least Four things no one is saying. How many checks where written? What or who where they written for? How much where the checks written for?Why did the bank cashed them with the signatures on them are not the ones the bank should have in their files.I don't want someone to answer me please unless they have proof of these answers. Not a he said she said answer... Or a I think answer. PLEASE!!!!!!
#55 Anonymous on 2009-11-03 17:30
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