This morning I wrote checks to 2 charities instead of my Antiochian church (which I will mostly likely leave after how Phillip has treated my priest and diocesean bishop). The displaced priests and charities can use our money and put it to a better Christian use.
If all the Metropolitan understands is power and money, then so be it.
Unfortunately, Mr. Barker misses the underlying issue with withholding from the parish - most of the diocese and national operations get their money whether or not the parish membership gives. In other words, it comes off the top, in the form of an "assessment".
By not giving, or giving with strings, the local ministries are devastated, while the mothership goes merrily along.
Plus, theologically, the idea of giving with strings attached (while thoroughly American) is somewhat "un-Orthodox". Our offerings are just that, offerings. The use becomes not our use, but the Church's use. Otherwise, we would have to determine the "worthy-ness" of our recipients. If we give gifts to our family, do we ask for an accounting of that gift?
Our offerings are statements of our faith that God will provide for us. In agricultural times, by giving the first fruits, the remainder of the harvest was by no means guaranteed. By offering to God, we have our faith that God will provide for us.
Having said that, it is important for us, as the whole Church (Bishops, clergy, and laity) to begin to establish a different system of accountability within our structures. Accountability should exist independently of the individual. Formerly, the Church had governmental oversight in the form of an Emperor or Sultan or Central Committee. In our democracy, that necessary check against the administration of the Church doesn't exist. In our society, the state is accountable (ok, in theory at least) to the people. Non-profits are accountable to their Boards, corporations to their shareholders, and governments to their constituents.
In some cases, synodal leadership provides accountability. The example of Archbishop JOB of blessed memory comes to mind. It is more difficult to get complicity the more people are involved.
To that end, the biggest change faced by our episcopacy is the Episcopal Assembly. Once there is a true functioning Holy Synod, with 60+ Bishops operating in consensus, then the risk of malfeasance drops dramatically. Also, the "flatter" an organization is, the lower the risk of malfeasance.
The OCA learned this lesson the hard way. The OCA has made significant strides in a positive direction by resurrecting the "sobor" concept, in which all levels of the Church participate in the administration of the Church. It is an adjustment, for sure, but one for which positive results are being seen. Still, it is the idea of "assessment" which gives me the most heartburn when it comes to individual giving.
In my ideal world, which doesn't exist, we'd be able to designate our gifts as "local", "diocesan", and "primate". That would certainly force the leadership at all levels to be responsive. We would, however, need to insulate our leaders from the perception that issues of faith can be bought and sold.
How can we be good stewards if we do not monitor how the money we provide to the diocese and the national church is used? Doesn't the Church teach through various Gospel readings that Our Saviour will judge us in part on our stewardship of the blessings He gives to each? How should I answer Him at the Judgment? "I just did as I was told?" That sounds like an attempt on my part to avoid responsibility for my own failure, otherwise known as sin.
From my reading and the teaching I have received, I have the impression that we offer the first fruits of God's blessings back to Him in thanksgiving for what He has given to us. The acknowledgement that all we have comes from Him is a secondary or an indirect statement.
If the money to support the operation of the diocese or national church is sent in response to an assessment, which is in essence a bill, how can that money be considered an offering? Do I make an offering to the federal, state, or county governments when I pay my taxes? Do I make an offering to a merchant when I pay the bill presented for goods or services I have received? In all three cases, I think the answer is no.
...the idea of giving with strings attached (while thoroughly American) is somewhat "un-Orthodox". Our offerings are just that, offerings.
I'm not sure this is entirely accurate. A cursory look at the dedications in many a church (from churches themselves, to icons, to candlestands) shows people gave for quite specific things - sometimes this took the form of simply giving the thing, rather than money for it.
Also, giving with strings attached is possible only insofar as an organization respects federal charities law and respects the wishes of the giver. This is not always or often the case, and this is not an issue within the Orthodox Church alone. The only way one can be assured earmarked gifts are spent only on those earmarks is to conduct an impartial, external audit on a regular basis - or to provide only 'things' to the church, not money for them.
I appreciate your perspective and agree with what you say, but I feel that my hand has been forced. My "tithe" (working torwards the ideal) wouldn't be spent on luxuries, eating out, etc, but towards a charity in line with my Christian beliefs.
Besides going to the OCA where lessons have been learned the hard way, the Antiochians in charge are resisting financial accountability (which was the main reason to get rid of Bp Mark,; even more than Detroit not wanting an American convert bishop).
Do you have any ideas beside the "power of the purse" to get proper Christian behavior and financial accountability from Metropolitans Phillip and the rest?
In the case of the OCA the root of all reform was Archbishop JOB of blessed memory. Protodeacon Eric Wheeler served as the whistleblower. This site disseminated information and allowed a forum for discussion.
Ultimately it was Abp. JOB who blessed the parishes in His diocese who wanted to withhold. It was His Eminence who, when ordered to have this site shut down, famously said "we are free men in the Midwest"
There were letters signed by senior clergy, letters and petitions and comments from the faithful. But in the end the Holy Synod did the right thing.
Under the revised scenario of no dioceses and auxiliary bishops, Metropolitan Philip is accountable only to the Synod in Damascus. With the current allegation of some type of fraud in the resolution, one wonders if a Synod halfway around the world can ever make an appropriate judgement regarding their flock in North America.
While withholding made parishes and parishioners feel better, I don't believe, in the final analysis it made a significant difference. Only when Abp. JOB escrowed the diocesan checks to Syosset did the Holy Synod finally take him seriously and deal with it.
In the Antiochian situation, someone other than MP will need to gain an ear in Damascas. Perhaps with the statement by Archimandrite Touma the process is beginning. I hope so, because healing will take time.
Dear Jason: By all means, continue donating to your parish. Let the Parish Council decide whether or not to remit the assessment to the Crown. (or Mitre).
Perhaps another answer was provided by Our late Archbishop Job.
If the Parish Council's decide not to remit their assessments, create either individual or deanery escrow accounts, deposit the funds in it (them), and continue doing that until +Philip either resigns, reposes, or is officially removed
As for giving to individual charities, the answer comes straight from the recent O.C.A. scandal.
Continue donating to your chosen charities directly via personal check.
Remove +Philip and the Chancery from the list of "Charities". Or, depending on the frequency of your donations, you could arrange for electronic transfer at times of your choice. (an interesting 21st century solution, don't you think?)
See to it that he becomes responsible for only the funds in the diocese in which His Cathedral is located.
At some point, +Philip's funds will dry up, and then change will come. *Immediately*.
Give freely, generously, and joyously to those you trust. Withhold from the untrustworthy (i.e.+Philip).
God rewards a cheerful giver, and I suspect those who withhold for just reasons as well.
And please don't quote me on the last part. (There probably isn't scriptural proof of it).
Mark Sudia: I would be worried that the parish priest's head will be on a chopping block if the parish council puts its 10% Antiochian Archdiocese assessment in escrow. Also, what is to say +Phillip doesn't try to dissolve that that parish council.
I think it is up to the individual to do what their conscience tells them and not put the priest or parish council in jeprody.
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. 10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
"[Met.] Philip has forbidden clergy organizations to be formed or to meet. Basically he has reinforced and is using to his advantage what I think is the intrinsic error of the American "congregationalist" mindset that has infiltrated the American Orthodox Church: if he can through fear of losing their congregational existence keep the clergy and laity from standing up with one voice as a diocese to him and the Patriarch, he wins. As long as the clergy see their ministry congregationally and are watching out for themselves and their parish, they have by default divided and conquered themselves and Mp. Philip's directive is moot. Just a thought..."
That is, congregationalism is bad, except when it isn't. Economia is also good, except when akriveia is needed. One is tempted to cry 'Arbitrary!' except that, coincidentally, the choice always aligns with a certain episcopal autocrat's own self-interest and preference with little regard to Orthodox tradition - except when it does (e.g., authority of a Metropolitan over his bishops and priests).