Wednesday, July 28. 2010
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For those who haven't read the full text of Met. Filaret of Kiev regarding Chambesy, do so. He is correct! There are no Orthodox Canons about who can or cannot declare autocephaly. In the case of Kiev/Rus, after the Council of Florence, they rejected the decisions of that council. In fact, only they remained truly Orthodox while Constantinople fell into heresy. They then declared themselves "autocephalous." It took Constantinople over 200 years and much cash before they would recognize the Kievan/Rus autocephaly. Chambesy does not follow Orthodox Canon Law from the beginning. Furthermore, foreign bishops cannot decide the determination over local churches not under their jurisdiction. The entire process of Chambesy is flawed and not really Orthodox!
#1 Anonymous on 2010-07-28 13:46
Instead of a meeting next month, the Secretary, Treasurer and Audit Committee members met last week at the Chancery. One member of the committee was not present in person, but participated by telephone.
The central issue was the word used in the statute amendment "stavropegial". That word has no meaning within the legal system, and frankly I'm told has a shaky meaning within canon law. A variety of individuals, including the chancellor (I'm told) are researching that concept.
The crux of the issue is that the All-American Council does not have the legal authority to bind what are independent monastic communities to any course of action. Monasteries as stavropegial institutions are not addressed in the Statutes of the OCA. Of course, the key element of risk to the OCA is primarily lawsuits, although certainly actions contrary to the Statutes and the Typicon of the community itself could create liability. The Metropolitan Council will need to address the relationship between OCA and monastic communities under the Metropolitan.
A couple of things to note:
The intent of the statute amendment was to incorporate the seminaries only, and have the committee review the audited financial statements. That is what the committee intends to do. Some documentation may be required initially to ensure appropriate activities are included in the audit, such as seminary press and bookstore. In the case of SVS, the seminary owns the press and bookstore, and it is incorporated into a single audited financial statement. At St. Tikhon's, the bookstore is owned by the monastic brotherhood, but staffed with both monastics and seminarians. It is still unclear to the committee who "owns" St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, and how those activities are captured in the financial reports.
Secondly, the Seminaries are the only stavropegial institutions that are audited. Some monastic communities are having outside CPA's come in and perform some level of assurance work, generally much lower-level in scope than an audit. The four monastic communities (Nuns, Companions, and Monks of New Skete in New York, Holy Protection in North Carolina, St. Tikhon's in Pennsylvania, and Holy Myrrhbearers in New York) have a variety of activities going on.
Thus far, the only community to invite the Committee to visit, which has been done, is Holy Myrrhbearers. Each of the other monastic communities have responded to the committee's request for information, as have the Seminaries.
I believe the activities thus far fall in the category of "organizational" in nature. The committee outlined its plans in two reports to the Metropolitan Council. As is typical within large organizations with multiple simultaneous issues to resolve, the report didn't really register until the process began to unfold. At that point, the committee and the Chancery staff, including the Metropolitan and the Holy Synod, took a step back to consider the scope of the Audit Committee's work. The letter was the result of that consideration.
I hope this better explains what is happening from the Audit Committee's perspective. We have received full cooperation thus far, and are hopeful that we can contribute to the functioning of the monasteries as well as the Chancery and Seminaries.
Dn. Marty Watt
Chair, OCA Audit Committee
(Editor's note: Thanks for the update, Deacon!)
#2 Dn. Marty Watt on 2010-07-28 17:33
Where did you get the idea that "the intent of the statute amendment was to incorporate the seminaries only"? Assuming you attended the All American Council in Pittsburgh, please remind me what was said publicly by the hierarchs or members of the Central Church Administration at the Council that the statute amendment was meant to cover only seminaries and not all of the institutions that report directly to the Metropolitan? Why is the church at large just now finding out the intent was/is something other than that which the text clearly conveys? Given that each statute amendment had to be reviewed and approved by the Synod before it was presented to the Council for consideration, is the church at large now faced with another case of hierarchical misfeasance?
Where are there any truly "independent monastic communities"? Are you saying that a monastic community can exist in the OCA, or elsewhere in the Orthodox world, without having the oversight of a hierarch at some level. Are you saying that a monastic community can be established without the blessing of a diocesan hierarch or the Primate? Are you saying that a monastic community can operate without continuing oversight from the blessing hierarch?
My cynicism regarding Orthodox hierarchs and the OCA Central Church Administration shouts that the Synod and the CCA have returned to the old ways of doing business ... the same ways that brought us the various recent scandals. Cut corners, ignore tried and true business practices, and ignore those parts of the Normal Statute that run counter to the current desires of members of the Synod or the Central Church Administration rather than take the time to properly deal with the problem at hand. There is apparently more "bad news" involving misfeasance or malfeasance at one or more of the stavropegial institutions that is not a seminary that has not yet seen the light of day.
#2.1 Mark C. Phinney on 2010-08-02 03:32
Hello Mr. Phinney,
I was not at the Pittsburgh All American Council, however a member of the committee, Michael Strelka from Chicago, was in attendance and was the individual who drafted the statute amendment. He stated to the Committee and the Chancery staff that the intent was to include only the Seminaries.
The Monasteries have individual charters and articles of incorporation that typically vest the authority within the community, not with the presiding bishop. The fact that they are to have oversight from the Metropolitan is not at issue - that is the meaning of Stavropegial. However, the role the Metropolitan plays is largely dependent on the request and bylaws of the community.
The question the audit committee has is the definition of "stavropegial" and the corresponding legal interpretation of the relationship of that institution to the Church. To use a practical example, does the mortgage holder at St. Tikhon's have recourse to the OCA for repayment? The committee awaits legal interpretation. We know, by statute, the Metropolitan cannot assume that debt - only the Metropolitan Council can. No one (to my knowledge) is proposing that possibility, either.
One of the first tasks CPAs have in examining the financial statements of any organization is to determine the appropriate scope, meaning which organizations are included and which are not. An entire technical sub-discipline was formed in the promulgation of Financial Interpretation 46 relating to the assessment of non-equity ownership control in consolidating financial statements.
Does the OCA, as represented by the All-American Council, have the legal right to require the audit of a monastic community? No, not in the mind of most. But, neither do the communities receive support from the Church, other than the individual "free-will" gifts of the membership. None of the primary revenue stream of the Church, the assessments, are spent on monastic communities.
The situation is parallel to requiring audits of the Dioceses of the South and Midwest, as the person of the Metropolitan is the Locum Tenens of both. The relationship of the Metropolitan to the stavropegial monastic communities is similar. Or, one might choose to say the Diocese of Washington might require audit, as it is the Diocese of the Metropolitan. Yet that Diocese operates as a Diocese, not a dependency of the All-American Council or Metropolitan Council.
The Committee stands willing and able to do audit work at the Monasteries. Two monasteries have requested the Metropolitan's blessing to allow the Committee to come in, and one of those reviews is completed. The other will be undertaken in the fall.
From the Committee's perspective, this is ideal - the monastic communities themselves are asking for assistance.
If you (or anyone else) has information about financial malfeasance at any OCA institution, you should forward that information to either the Chair of the Metropolitan Council Ethics Committee, the Chair of the MC Governance Committee, or myself. We are all committed to a culture of transparency.
Dn. Martin Watt
Chair, OCA Audit Committee
#2.1.1 Dn. Marty Watt on 2010-08-04 09:06
"Where did you get the idea that "the intent of the statute amendment was to incorporate the seminaries only"?"
Dn. Watt got the idea from me, since I was the one who drafted the amendment. The committee had no idea before its first meeting that our apparent mission included a number of small monasteries. We presented our plans to Syosset, but with more pressing issues at hand, the reality of our plans were kind of glossed over.
However I must add a slight caveat. I did intend the audit committee to have some oversight over St Tikhon's Monastery and Bookstore, since they (presently, at least) have no outside audit, and given their past financial "irregularities."
We will be visiting St Tikhon's in the very near future, as well as next year, and will be making our report to the MC. They have already been very open with sending us financial information.
However, your statement that "There is apparently more "bad news" involving misfeasance or malfeasance at one or more of the stavropegial institutions that is not a seminary that has not yet seen the light of day" seems to way overblown, given the size of places like Otego.
#2.1.2 Michael Strelka on 2010-08-21 13:03
Michael and Fr. Deacon Martin,
If the intent of the resolution in question was to require the financial oversight of only those stavropegial without charters and by-laws creating "independent" institutions, then that intent should have been made clear in the resolution and its presentation to those attending the All-American Council. I read the texts of all the resolutions that were included in the Council materials available shortly before the Council convened and those made available during the Council. I was left with the clear impression that the resolution applied to *all* stravropegial institutions without excerption. This controversy seems to me to be an instance of the Metropolitan and the Synod changing the rules after the fact, of trying to "pull the wool over the eyes" of the clergy and the laity regarding how the national church is governed, and the Metropolitan Council once again abdicating its legal responsibilities to enforce the Normal Statutes and the duly enacted resolutions of the All-American Councils. If I am in error, please show where in the publicly available materials I am wrong.
Mark C. Phiney
#126.96.36.199 Mark C. Phinney on 2010-08-30 04:14
Just for the sake of clarification - there will be a DOS Assembly next year in conjunction with the AAC. Your post seems to suggest that there will be no assembly next year. Though Oct/Nov is not the summer, there will still be a DOS Assembly. The decision to have the assembly in conjunction with the AAC is too keep the cost down and keep participation in the AAC up.
Fr. Christopher Foley
(Editor's note: Thanks, Fr. Chris for your clarification.)
High Point, NC
#3 Fr. Christopher Foley on 2010-07-28 18:42
Here we are back to talking about the Episcopal Selection Process. So, we turn over every rock to look for ANY celibate who is still breathing - no matter how uneducated or unsuitable they may be. The entire idea of only considering celibates and insisting that they become monks is NOT really of Orthodox tradition. There is nothing about marriage that disqualifies a man from elevation to the episcopacy. Celibates & monks were sought out only for practical purposes. Monks were chosen because they were educated - the monasteries had the libraries. Celibates (clerics wives died) were chosen because they were known in a diocese and could devote all their time to administration. In today's American climate, it only makes practical sense to consider both celibate and married men for the episcopacy. This is not adverse to Orthodox theology nor practice. And for only wearing black; this is the color of death. We are people of the Resurrection - blue, grey, white, etc. is fully acceptable. Regarding kamilavkas, these were enforced on the Orthodox by Muslim rulers to show in public which clerics were Orthodox and which were Muslim. Throw the kamilavkas out!
#4 Anonymous on 2010-07-29 07:10
Every time I read about celibate vs. non-celibate bishops, I think of the Diocese of Alaska, the Diocese of Canada, and the Diocese of the West. Canada covers more than 3 million square miles! Together, I'm guessing Alaska and the West cover roughly 1 million square miles, or one-third the total land mass of the US. Imagine if the diocesan bishop of the West (who, in this case, also happens to be the locum tenens in Alaska) were a family man. What sort of life would that be? Even if the two dioceses were separated, as they ultimately will be, the amount of travel would be crushing, especially in Alaska, with remote communities accessible only by plane or boat. Archbishop Seraphim, whose job is moderated somewhat by having ONE auxilliary bishop (the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles has six), is quoted elsewhere on this Web site regarding the huge travel demands of his job. So--why do we think opening the ranks of the episcopacy to married men would make the positions easier to fill? What married priest with a family would accept a position that involved virtually 100% travel? Would the job come with a fleet of Winnebagos? A plane? I suspect we'd end up looking at the same sort of candidates we do now: monks and widowers. No one else could manage the lifestyle.
#4.1 Morton on 2010-08-02 14:07
If you have more bishops (married & celibate) you can have smaller dioceses. CA split into 3; Midwest spit into 3; Canada into 4 or 5; etc.
#4.1.1 Anonymous on 2010-08-03 07:35
Increase the number of bishops and decrease the size of the diocese and grow the Church. Look at monks and widowers first; but don't look askance at married if the need is pressing and the man is godly and Christlike.
Christ is in our midst.
#4.1.2 lexcaritas on 2010-08-03 16:29
"why do we think opening the ranks of the episcopacy to married men would make the positions easier to fill?"
Imagine this! A smaller diocese which allows the bishop to actually KNOW his flock, both priest and laity. What SANE bishop would not welcome a smaller area in which he could REALLY attend to the spiritual needs of his people?
All of this will be a moot point once the Phanar has its way. All the OCA bishops will become "metropolitans" of the Greek Archdisease
#4.1.3 Ken Elliot on 2010-08-03 19:25
... or a married priest whose children are grown up and out of the house, whose wife consents to his consecration as bishop.
Despite what appear to me to be extreme cases of impracticality, I believe the qualifications stated by the Holy Apostle Paul are valid. In the end, you need 3 other bishops, right? And in the OCA, the Holy Synod must agree, right? I'm sure if they were to choose a married priest, they'd choose a married priest whose circumstances (and especially whose wife) would allow him to be elevated to the Episcopacy.
Considering the temptations out there that bishops surely face, perhaps it would be very good indeed to trust in:
1) the consent of his wife (just as married priest and deacon candidates should hopefully have), who probably knows him better than anyone else (even better than an abbot or brother monks might know), and
2) her ability to keep him out of trouble.
#4.1.4 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2010-08-09 10:33
Mark, actually the Episcopal search committee members for the Bulgarian Diocese actually have been announced. See
#5 Protodeacon Michael on 2010-07-29 12:12
Mark, please add this link to my last post:
I may have forgotten it or you may have missed including it. Thanks!
#5.1 Protodeacon Michael on 2010-07-30 07:13
So some Alaskan clergy actually wanted a hand in suggesting episcopal candidates! Well, one can certainly see why that kind of activity had to be suppressed, and fast. Bishop Benjamin can't afford to have people concerning themselves with their own spiritual lives and future! He has a tradition to uphold. Next thing you know they'll want prayers aloud and doors open or something. The memory of Nikolai must be kept alive. If it's wrong to suggest which candidates should be the next bishop, could a diocese at least vote to become the next vacant see? The West always did better unattached.
#6 Ba'ab on 2010-07-29 23:07
I wish someone could explain to me why the diocese in Alaska is treated so differently from the other OCA dioceses. Your post seems to indicate this is of longstanding tradition. But, why does it continue, especially since the people in the diocese seem to wish a more open and modern selection process for choosing their bishop?.
Why does Bp. Benjamin squash their efforts, instead of working with them to put together a search plan? How can one bishop impose this upon one particular OCA diocese? What would happen if Met. Jonah, the locum tenens, decided to do something similar to the South, as what Bp. Benjamin, Alaska's locum tenens, did to Alaska's efforts to organize a search committee? How can one diocese be treated so completely different from the other dioceses in the OCA? Why is there no uniform process for all the dioceses to follow?
I seem to remember that New England was given a bishop, as was EPA, while WPA followed a very extensive search, and New York/NJ had a hybrid search, with the original choice of the powers that be selected via a search process involving several names...My memory is not what it used to be, so if I have any of this wrong, I apologize. But, my main point is, to ask: Is this variety of approaches by different dioceses a good thing?
#6.1 cate on 2010-07-31 15:08
Why the different treatment? We are still ignorant semi-savages that need the guidance of the Great White Christian Fathers to show us the way to God; our minds are like those of children after all (Even St. Innocent of Alaska shared in this racist drivel), and we simply cannot be trusted to make decisions for ourselves...Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss...
#6.1.1 Moses on 2010-08-03 08:59
At least in the examples you gave, each diocese was allowed to proceed within the OCA statute. Why can't our sisters and brothers in Alaska be allowed to follow the OCA statute in determining who their next bishop will be? Why does the OCA Synod allow this unfair treatment?
#6.1.2 Pat Collins on 2010-08-05 16:04
Because there are monies and land and control of such assests at stake.
#188.8.131.52 Anonymous on 2010-08-29 16:05
Silenced again? Maybe the old Stokoe was buried away ????"?
#6.1.3 Anonymous on 2010-08-19 22:12
Re: Fr. Michel Najim's flat out denial of anyone asking him to write up this presentation. The original article, under MP Dispells Rumors, didn't say anyone asked Fr. Michel to do this work. It said he supposedly was working on a presentation for the Holy Synod of Antioch, in favor of Auxiliary Bishops. This could also mean that no one asked him to do it, but that he decided to do it on his own. We will know the truth soon, but the fact that he is also over there in the Middle East right now, and the fact that he got so upset at Mark Stokoe's article - well maybe there is some truth to it. Fr. Michel may have stumbled on the English language, which he still struggles with after being here for 23 years, but he also may have caught himself in his own trap. We'll know soon what his involvement, or not, was in this mess. Let us hope that he is not telling us stories, but revealing the truth to all of us. Otherwise, his credibility will be right down the tubes with that of MP and his inner circle.
So what is the OCA REALLY? In the 70's & 80's it was truly becoming an American church with it's own identity via the influence of Frs. Schmemann & Meyendorff. Then we had the fall of Communism. The leaders of the OCA wanted close relations with Russia which continues today. First, to have support for it's autocephaly, but today, trying to find it's identity. We find American OCA priests growing long beards; having pony tails; wearing more weird hats; cassocks in public and just pretending to be anything but American. Even the new Met is willing to give up the OCA's autocephaly and go under Moscow - AND HE'S A CONVERT! Well, it really is time to correct this identity crisis of the OCA. We are Americans and we are an American Orthodox Church that is FULLY independent of foreign bishops. Where is our American Typikon? Where are our American liturgical practices & pheremma? Who are we REALLY? The heck with Istanbul & Moscow. We have our own church and it's time to quit being something we're not!
#8 Any Moose on 2010-08-26 07:26
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