Monday, October 9. 2006
Its official. No Reciepts. $1 million in cash unaccounted for. Some say, move on; others say forgive and forget. Some want answers; others just want closure. What do you say?
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That is $1,000,000 in CASH. Think about the size and frequency of the withdrawls to reach that number. While I struggled to build a business the last 6 years, not able to afford what little money I was able to give to the church, these horrible people stole money. CASH money. In every movement there comes a time for action. This is the time. We should demand some sort of council now.
Sadly, this will not go unnoticed by the government and more than likely our ex-chancellor and current/past metropolitans will go under the IRS microscope and they will find out what happened to the cash for us. God forgive us all. Anyone who new or suspected this was going on should be held accountable.
We have just placed $1.7million into the same hands that "misplaced" over $1million in the past two years.
Mom's resting calmly -- it's the kids that are sick!
#2 Searching for Sanity on 2006-10-09 20:47
To those who just want to "move on", I offer the following quote.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
#3 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2006-10-09 20:47
And after this sad revelation "moving on" may well be life after the OCA!
#3.1 Fr. Robert K. McMeekin on 2006-10-10 07:48
And so for months, many people have been exceedingly careful to use words like "allegations" or "possible misconduct".
Even in the face of compelling witness statements, first-hand accounts, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence, some other people have continued to vehemently argue, "There is no evidence of misconduct/malfeasance/criminality."
I believe the popular expression is "It ain't over until the fat lady sings?"
Well friends, the fat lady just sang, and she hit a high C.
#4 Gregg Nescott on 2006-10-09 20:49
We have reached the point where I must ask myself, and we should all ask ourselves this question:
Since there are other Orthodox jurisdictions of considerable health in the US, is there really a need for the OCA? Might it not be prudent at this point in time to take a modified approach to what was under consideration a while back (merger of the OCA and AOA) and simply let the parishes of the OCA be accepted into another cannonical jurisdiction? The seminaries could continue as independent academic entities with SCOBA "oversight".
What value does the organization known as the "OCA" bring to the Church in America? Are not truly "American" parishes and Orthodox expression not florishing in some other jurisdictions? Perhaps the creation of an Autocephalous Church was a bit premature.
All of the above is from a truly disappointed and long term OCA member and "cheerleader" whose hopes that began in the 60's have been truly dashed.
#5 Please withhold on 2006-10-09 23:52
Running to another jurisdiction is not the answer to this problem. Do you really think that the other jurisdictions haven’t been through this already and maybe are still experiencing theft and other evils within their own jurisdictions. The difference, in my mind…and I originally came from the GOA…is that the other jurisdictions do a much better job of building up their parish membership and have more money to “play with!”…and in many cases I'm sure, to hide their misdeeds! Most of the other jurisdictions have wealthy business people supporting them. There is a problem with that too though! Take for instance the GOA and the AOA…isn’t the Orthodox Church supposed to be against abortion? Why would we have to try to convince our own Bishops to show support to the Orthodox Christians for Life organizations? We have actually met resistance on this issue from both these jurisdictions. Why do they tell us to be quiet about this? Because there are a lot of prestigious “pro-choicers” out there with a lot of money and power that support these churches and the hierarchs do not want to offend them for fear that they would stop getting their financial support. So these jurisdictions have chosen to play down or ignore the Church’s teachings on this sanctity of life issue in exchange for money and power!! There are a few individual priests and at least one GOA hierarch that openly supports these very worthy organizations, but for the most part and mostly from our higher level hierarchs…there is no visible support. The OCA is the only jurisdiction that speaks out against abortion in a loud and clear voice. Maybe because they, out of all the other Orthodox jurisdictions, have the least to loose…or maybe it’s because they hold more firmly to the teachings of the church first and foremost.
What was done here by a few individuals is very bad…very illegal and against the OCA Church…for sure!! But, in my humble opinion, I have met more true Orthodox Christians in the OCA who know more about their faith and who are not afraid to stand and speak when things aren’t right! Look at what happened here! Do you honestly think that the other, more powerful, jurisdictions would have allowed this sort of openness to exist? Do you think that the priests would have the courage to speak up like our priests have? I don’t think so!! Not only that…but, consider all the people that have taken part on this website. Yes, some people have expressed anger and disgust…and there has been some mud slinging. But, for the part, most of us have kept fairly calm and continue to send the same message to our hierarchs that it’s not too late for confession and repentance.
I truly believe that there is a lot of good left in the OCA and I’m not ready to call it quits quite yet!! And here are a few more reasons why we shouldn’t be so quick to give up…to St. Herman, St. Tikhon, St. Innocent, St. Raphael, St. Alexis Toth, St. Jacob, St. John, St. Alexander Hotovitzky, St. Juvenaly, and St. Peter…and all the American Saints…we pray for their intercessions to Christ our God to have mercy on us and save us! Amen!!
Your sister in Christ,
(Parishioner of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Palatine, IL)
#5.1 Helen O'Sullivan on 2006-10-10 08:03
Thank you very much for creating and maintaining this site.
Considering all that has been revealed over the past few months, including this report from Lambrides, Lamos and Moulthrop I agree that folding the OCA into the Antiochian Archdiocese is the most logical approach to turn a highly negative situation where there is no clear way forward into a positive step towards building Orthodoxy in North America.
Every other solution seems to point toward years more of confusion and strife when the end game is unity anyway.
#5.2 Anonymous Canadian on 2006-10-10 08:55
The difference with the OCA is that we have our autocephaly. No one else does. That is valuable in itself, especially in light of the recent statement coming from the SCOBA meeting (see oca.org for the statement in its entirety).
Yes, there is a need for the OCA. In the end, we will right the ship.
#5.3 Michael Strelka on 2006-10-10 09:24
Yes, Michael, and look what has been accomplished with that autocephaly..... not very much. We elected our own bishops, the very same bishops who sit with befuddled looks when asked what happened. The very same bishops who can't ensure that charities collected are disbursed to the charities for which the collections were made. The very same bishops who can't seem to exert any leadership in their synodal activities.
And Helen -
I have met many fine Christians both within and outside the OCA. The OCA is the third largest Orthodox jurisdiction in North America, having fallen from second largest in recent times. It is not a lack of wealthy people that has made stewardship of funds a problem for the OCA. This mess came into being because the OCA has never truly been a national church, but rather a collection of parishes claiming affiliation with the OCA. The problems go far beyond "where's the money". Read Fr Hopko's long list of failings. They are 100% on the money. We, the members have had low expectations from the OCA as a jurisdiction, and the leadership has failed to even live up to the low expectations we have expressed.
And, returning to who has wealthy parishioners, it was +Tikhon who wrote in one of his pathetic internet postings that he had no choice but to replace priests when wealthy or influencial parishioners demanded so. Didn't even try to hide it. Just admitted he went to the highest bidder! But, yes, I will accept your point that there are bigger contributors in the AOA and GOA, but I would point out that this is from willingness to support the Church more than individual wealth.
I would also suggest you look a little closer at the AOA, the number of laity who are pursuing higher Orthodox Education and the quality of their education programs. Does the OCA have a Sunday School Teacher Certification program? Does the OCA enforce any standards? Has the AOA consecrated any seminary dropouts to the episcopate?
Are you telling us that if your parish was absorbed into the AOA that the members would cease to be Christian in their behavior? That only the OCA can attract or raise truly Christian people? They how is it these wonderfully Christian folks have such a bad track record in electing bishops?
The Diocese of the Midwest may be healthy, but the OCA is terminally ill. And I would restate the original question:
"What value does the organization known as the "OCA" bring to the Church in America?"
The old Russian saying says that the fish begins to stink at the head. Cut off the head and graft the part that has not yet rotted to a healthy jurisdiction.
#5.3.1 Al Fragola on 2006-10-11 07:35
It's tempting to believe "the grass is greener on the other side," but my experience in OCA, Antiochian and Greek parishes has shown me that there's good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, saints and villains, well-catechized and uncatechized in every single jurisdiction. Such is a fact of church life, from first-century Jerusalem to 21st-century America. Christ said both wheat and weeds would sprout in her field until Judgment Day, and warned us against trying to weed too rashly.
As for Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko's letter listing failures of the OCA (and if we're honest, they apply, in whole or in part, to virtually every single jurisdiction in North America), let's not put all the blame for them on the bishops or the clergy. Generations of laity in America have taught that becoming a successful doctor, lawyer, businessman or athlete was more of a priority than becoming a Christian saint, even telling their children becoming a clergyman or a monastic was "wasting their lives." Our houses may be reasonably packed on Sunday morning for Liturgy, but is that the case for Vespers and Matins? How many parish councils, for decades, have bullied their presbyters for being "too religious"? How many laypeople measure their lives in terms of their baptism, chrismation and the Eucharist, or arrange it along the lines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving? So many of us have been weak in faith and spirituality, and then we're surprised our church life is weak!
#18.104.22.168 Gregory Orloff on 2006-10-11 21:12
I return to the original question, restated a bit:
What benefit is there to the Body of Christ to have one more jurisdiction in North America? What benefit is there in perpetuating the OCA as an additional jurisdiction, if all the jursidictions have weaknesses?
The question was not how bad the people may be. The question is what benefit is gained by this specific jurisdiction's continuing to exist.
One diocese has expressed a vote of "no confidence" for all intents and purposes. Another diocese does not participate in the Metropolitan Council. Other dioceses act as if they were themselves 'autochephalous". The Synod, made of the the hierarchs of all the dioceses, does not seem willing or able (you choose) to bring the affairs of the OCA under any form of control. One bishop has proclaimed on the internet that perhaps Met Herman should retire.
This is a ship without a helm, without a rudder, without a captain. And it has been this way since autocephaly. The money issues are just the ones that finally got peoples' attention. When this rudderless, helmless, captainless ship wasn't messing with the money of the masses, no one cared. In fact, many seemed to be happy to have a diocese without a bishop - ether physically or pastorally. Similar, if not more intense feelings were held toward the Synod and the Metropolitan. Just leave us alone to do it our way, but show up in pretty clothes for our patronal feast, if you can.
But a money crisis seems to have gotten folks' attention. They have squandered your property!
It's not a matter of "jumping jurisdictions". The OCA has, sadly, never really become a united jurisdiction with a firm leadership, organizationally or pastorally. Even when standards were put in place, they were rarely ever followed or enforced. I was a delegate at AAC's where the "Clergy Compensation Guidelines" and Group Life Insurance for Clergy became mandatory. Of course, when it all came to reality, compliance by parishes was voluntary. Many clergy are still living on poverty wages, and many more are not insured to provide for their families. That's just one example.
The OCA has given us a bishop who proudly proclaimed in a public forum that he restored health to a parish by administering a "high colonic" (enema) to rid the parish of people he deemed undesireable. Who wrote that he was using his laptop to correspond on the internet while "sitting on the commode waiting for the Imodium to kick in." And then we read people responding to this filth by saying they are "kissing the hand" that typed such trash.
Yes, people's spiritual lives can and should improve. And bishops and clergy have a sacred responsibility to counsel us, face to face, about this, and LEAD us. But these same bishops and clergy who have proclaimed the Sermon of the Last Judgment over and over at the Liturgy, hesitated not one second to take money given to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, etc and divert it to other worldly purposes. And then they ask the donors to continue to give to pay off a loan taned to replace the charities they squandered. At least the people who don't attend Vespers and Matins as often as you saw the need to act like sheep in response to the needs of the least of us. It was the OCA administration and synod who acted as goats.
No, I fear that the OCA only exists so that people can have a choice other than the GOA or AOA. A choice where mediocrity, lack of standards and episcopal scatology are comfortably at home.
#22.214.171.124.1 Al Fragola on 2006-10-12 06:14
The goal of restoring the OCA will result in an exercise in futility if we adopt anti-clericalism as our rallying cry. The comments on this and other sites reveal the deep divide and misunderstanding within Orthodoxy on ecclesiology. Again - any ecclesiology that blurs Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the sake of over-promoting episcopacy is either clericalism, or worse, "hierarchology." Both clericalism and anti-clericalism are serious aberrations of Orthodox theology, and they are both variably problematic here in North America.
The laity do indeed have a responsibility in Church life. Determining taht is a major part of the problem. Do the laity passively obey, are they merely "done unto" by the sacramental actions of the ordained clergy? Orthodox ecclesiology portrays an image of the laity as co-celebrants of the liturgy (see N. Afanasiev's seminal works on this), which naturally applies to the living of Church life. Basing lay participation on Vespers and Matins attendance constitutes a reduction of Church life to liturgy and piety. The disappearance of non-Sunday worship is much more closely related to the rhythms and demands of North American life than it is to a general 'lay' malaise. After all, the clergy weren't sent to the Church from a stork - we are chosen from the laity, are a part of the laity, and work within the context of lay life.
I would like to voice the hope that this current crisis might be transformed into an ecclesiological workshop, in which we can restore our Church by learning more about her structures, her orders, and the vocations to which all are called, and to which all contribute. SUch a model could indeed help us to better articulate and understand an ecclesiology in which the layperson as co-celebrant can be ractically envisioned, and the grace of ordination understood in terms besides power and authority. Best Practices are good, but this crisis won't be solved only by more responsible accounting and financial management. We need to learn how to be the Orthodox Church in North America - we certainly have more than enough history to get us started.
#126.96.36.199.2 Dn. Nicholas Denysenko on 2006-10-12 08:15
Fr Deacon Nicholas
Yes, we must ALL relearn the nature of the Church and the Faith. We must also remember that "Where there is the bishop, there is the Church". The bishops are the successors to the Apostles. The bishops are those who exercise the laying on of hands. The bishops are the structural continuity of the Church. The bishops are to be good shepherds.
Our bishops have failed us, collectively and in several cases, individually. Our bishops have left the Diocese of New England without a episcopal pastor for a majority of the past 30 years. Our bishops accept a brother who rarely visits his parishes, in one case, a seven year span between times that he darkened (and I use that word accurately) our parish door. A bishop who has publicly denounced brother bishops on the internet for a lack of computer savy. Our bishops have allowed a brother bishop to leave a disabled priest without income, medical care or hope of a new assignment. It is our bishops who tolerate a brother bishop who is informed of clergy in the hospital with serious needs but doesn't call or visit or ensure the Sacred Mysteries are offered to the hospitalized clergy - time after time after time.
Our Church calls upon our episcopate to be shepherds. The examples above are not of a shepherd, but a neglectful fool.
Is it anti-clerical to expect a bishop to pick up the phone and call a hospitalized priest or deacon? Is it anti-clerical to expect a bishop to speak face to face to a disabled priest that he has allowed a parish to "fire"? Is it anti-clerical to expect the synod to uphold some sort of standards, any standards?
How low must we set our expectations to make the demonstrated performance of the episcopate gain a passing grade?
#188.8.131.52.2.1 Al Fragola on 2006-10-12 10:08
There is an unfortunate mentality predominant in Orthodox circles that serves to separate the clergy from the laity in general, and bishops from the Church in particular. You have identified a few of the key criteria of the episcopal ministry. I doubt that anyone of sound mind will contest your complaints of instances of abuse.
My remarks were intended to mitigate this tendency to separate laity from the clergy, as professed by Mr. Orloff. We have all been graced with the same baptism, and we are all accountable to the same judge.
I have had the opportunity to both serve as an employee of a parish (pre-ordination), and am also the grandson and great nephew of Orthodox priests. Mr. Fragola: anti-clericalism is alive and well in the Church, and in a crisis like this, we should act carefully and with prayerful wisdom so that the reversed separation of clergy and laity does not result through the blind casting of stones in an act of rage. That will only do violence to ecclesiology, and will further reduce the Church to a disunited body.
I repeat my hope that this crisis might result in a real ecclesiological workshop so that each and every order and vocation can find its rightful place and exercise its ministry through the Holy Spirit.
#184.108.40.206.2.1.1 Dn. Nicholas Denysenko on 2006-10-12 11:44
Fr Deacon Nicholas
There is no argument between us about rampant anti-clericalism in the Church, and what's worse, the majority of the most militant anti-clericals do not even know what the term means.
I share your hope that the OCA might relearn the proper ecclesiology of the Church so that each and every order and vocation can find its rightful place and exercise its ministry through the Holy Spirit. That's going to take a lot of re-education of every order and vocation. EVERY ORDER and VOCATION.
#220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168 Al Fragola on 2006-10-13 09:11
Well said--I couldn't agree with you more! Mr. Fragola is right , however, in castigating the state of our Epispocate, it's a disgrace, and maybe the price we will ultimately pay is the disappearance of the OCA. I wonder though if the bishops are any better in the other jurisdictions and certainly the "problem" with the Patriarch of Constantinople makes any merger with the Greeks problematical at this time. But in the postive quest for Orthodox unity in North America, as opposed to simply escaping to other jurisdictions, all current jurisdictions should be prepared to "die," and their bishops along with them, if One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America is to be born.
#22.214.171.124.2.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-10-12 14:52
Exactly, Mr. Tobin.
Mr. Fragola's proposed solution is extreme. The Orthodox Church in America should not simply disappear. Despite the recent failings in its central administration, and despite the failings of some of its hierarchs, the Church of Saint Tikhon and Father Schmemann is worthy of a better fate than being folded or stirred into another North American jurisdiction.
However, this a wonderful time to think about the future of Orthodoxy in North America. We in the OCA have been forcibly and publicly stripped of our organizational vanity; and - at the risk of pushing a good metaphor a bit too far - once we get past the initial embarassment, we might find our position cool but refreshing.
Let's make no mistake about it, a Phoenix of some kind will arise from these ashes, and we are at the wonderful moment - you could call it a God-given moment - when we can help define it, we can give it shape. We can look inward and shape it just among ourselves, but then it will be small and unworthy of our forebearers. Or we can look outward, joining with all our Orthodox friends on this continent, and shape it to include more if not all, to be more than it ever was.
In line with this, I'll propose a few questions for discussion. What should an Orthodox Patriarchate of North America - yes, a Patriarchate - be like? Who could it include? How should it act? What would it do? Where should it be? How can it begin?
#126.96.36.199.2.2.1 Mark Warns, Poulsbo, Washington on 2006-10-13 16:41
Presumably that is $1,000,000 in cash disbursements of less than $10,000. For those 5 years, that is just under 100 such withdrawals or an average of 20 per year - almost an average of 2 per month.
#6 Christopher Eager on 2006-10-10 05:55
Thanks for the math Christopher. I would just like to add a few more numbers to yours. According to the OCA website, the 2006 budget was a little over $4 million. Let me speculate that it was, give or take a few $Ks, about the same the last few years. That would mean that $200,000 a year disbursed as cash constituted about 5% of an annual budget. No official records for 5% of a budget for five years, and this is "alleged misconduct"?!
#6.1 Inga Leonova on 2006-10-10 07:19
In Psalm 69:4, the Psalmist and Prophet David, the ancestor of God, laments, "What I did not steal must I now restore?"
Had he been a member of the OCA, he would have learned the answer is "Yes."
For though more than $1 million dollars is missing and unaccounted for at the hands of the men in black at Syosset, now the faithful laity are being forced to repay (through the $1.7 million loan also gotten by men in black) what they did not steal to begin with.
Perhaps David was lamenting prophetically about the OCA.
Has the Church been turned into the den of thieves which so angered Christ when he entered the temple? Do none of these men have the faith or courage to resign, and then step forward and seek healing and forgiveness from the brothers and sisters whom they have robbed?
#7 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-10-10 06:09
The first thing that came to mind as I read letter from the accounting firm were verses we hear often, words I recall as I ask for forgiveness each day.
As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’" Ezekiel 33:11
Please do step forward, as Fr. Ted eloquently wrote.
Lord hear us and have mercy!
Wow! That was amazing! The accountants repeated twice that the OCA had violated the provisions of its 501(c)3 status...
The proposed resolutions in the Midwest encouraging the diocese and parishes to secure their own nonprofit status are quite timely... I hope that the entire midewest assembly has a chance to review this letter before voting!
#8 A Parishioner in the Midwest on 2006-10-10 06:13
"More than half the cash ($575,000) came from the Charity and Special Appeal funds, taken between 2001-2005. The remainder (some $425,000) came from the OCA's general funds, apparently in the past two years alone - 2004 and 2005."
This is very revealing. Not only was the previous administration stealing money from the widows, orphans, disaster victims, and missions, the PRESENT administration has continued to do so. The present Metropolitan was the acting Treasurer of the former administration after Fr. Dn Eric Wheeler was dismissed, so at the very least he has been very involved in the coverup of the millions that were misappropriated by the former administration, and the moral sins that lie behind them. Not only has he continued the coverup, he has continued the thefts.
"One can only ask where were the church's elected Auditors during these past five years? Did they not notice there were no reciepts during their annual audits? Where were the basic internal controls in the former Administration that allowed cash withdrawals on a massive scale without any documenation? Where was the Comptroller? The Treasurer? The Chancellor? The Metropolitan? How is it that nobody is responsible for these diverted and unaccounted for funds?"
Perhaps the receipts did exist prior to their being shredded by the former Chancellor.
"The Metropolitan has assumed 'full responsibility' but claims he did 'nothing wrong'. So, who did take the money? If the auditors cannot say where it went, there must be some record of who took it out. Who was it?"
Perhaps the only records that may still exist would be the records that the bank(s) may have kept. For the Metropolitan to just say he assumes 'full responsibility' is a meaningless statement. He does not confess to anything, nor express repentance for anything. Indeed, he claims to have done 'nothing wrong'. Nor does he say anything about what he is taking responsibility for.
"The bottom line: If the OCA cannot even answer that simple a question, if such basic accounting standards are not in place to even record who is taking the Church's money, let alone for what reasons, then truly they deserve no more of our hard-earned funds. Who took the money?"
Indeed, to give the administration more funds would only enable them to continue to operate as they have been, and to continue the coverup. Some may suggest that witholding funds will cause the administration to default on the ill-advised loan, but that simply is not true. There is more than enough property that can be sold to pay off the loan, saving a lot of interest to boot.
Who took the money? Why did they take the money? Why have they not publicly confessed their sin? Why have they not expressed any repentance? Some may object that they may have gone to their father confessor, however, they have wronged the whole OCA, the widows, the orphans, the little children who saved their pennies and nickels for the Stocking Fund. Before they can bring their gifts to the Altar, they must go to those whom they have wronged, confess their sins and ask forgiveness. Only then will their offering be acceptable to God. Only then can trust begin to be rebuilt. Only then will the OCA have a prayer of surviving.
#9 A Priest of the Midwest on 2006-10-10 06:40
Having been silent these past few months and barely able to absorb all the details of the unfolding crisis, the Lambrides letter left me devastated. It is far worse than I expected. Putting aside any thoughts of greed and theft that may have been committed, the Lambrides letter reveals massive malfeasance and ineptitude. There are so many ways to approach a correction to this mess - several have been suggested in this web site. The important thing is to move expediously with a view to having an austere bare-bones All American Council no later than a year from now. As for many of my other thoughts on this matter, they are best left for my next confession.
Terry C. Peet
#10 Terry C. Peet on 2006-10-10 07:06
It seems to me, now that this Lambridges Letter is out and authenticated, that the Midwest Diocesan Assembly is receiving a Big Green Light to get very demanding with the OCA (such as withholding funds) to firmly establish accountability.
We absoluteley need to have an AAC by the summer of 2007, no later than 2008.
If this is just the Lambridges Letter, what will the Proskauer Rose investigation yield?
The Diocese of the Midwest is about to grapple with how much NEEDED PRESSURE will be required to change the OCA for the Better.However, was there any firm resolution from the Midwest Diocese to unanimously bring in the Feds? This may also be the needed pressure the OCA needs to change things for the better for good. The scandal at ENRON is not unlike our own. Heads rolled.
#11 Patty Schellbach on 2006-10-10 07:07
Respectfully, Mr. Stokoe, your question "Who took the money?" is completely irrelevant to this discussion and issue in my opinion.
It doesn't matter "who" took the money. It doesn't matter "where" the Chancellor, the Metropolitan, or the milkman was for that matter. What matters is, $1,000,000 in CASH was diverted from RESTRICTED funds under their watch. Thus, since they are guilty by association, they should be taken out of leadership since clearly they are incapable of that responsiblity.
Of course, it makes perfect sense that whomever did this used CASH. No paper trail. Duh.
The first proper course of action would be for those who donated the restricted funds to produce their gift letters and cancelled checks, give them to the IRS, request for the funds to be returned to them personally, and prosecute. End of discussion. But of course, I've not read anything (or have at least missed reading it) that those who donated the money want any action taken.
The second proper course of action is for Met. THEODOSIUS, Met. HERMAN, the Chancellor, and Treasurer during that time to be removed from leadership and sent to monasteries under the strict guidance of an Abbot, to spend the rest of their days in repentance for their illegal actions.
How come I can figure this out as one who has been Orthodox for only a couple years and the rest of ya'll in leadership have done nothing but talk and write letters? Who is in charge when the apostle to whom the faith was handed down has spurned the responsibility?
In Christ, Athanasia
#12 Philippa Alan on 2006-10-10 07:56
From the IRS web site:
"Exceptions to Application Requirement
The following organizations are excepted from the exemption application requirement:
Churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches;"
In other words, churches are already exempt by definition. However, if a church violates the exempt organization rules, it possibly faces having its exempt status revoked. While I am not a lawyer, I think it unlikely that an individual church would lose its exempt status should the OCA itself lose its NY charitable org charter.
Should anyone want a comfort zone, however, you can file Form 1023, which is available on irs.gov, as well as instructions.
#13 Michael Strelka on 2006-10-10 09:46
Does anyone have any first hand knowledge about how financial operations are being carried out right now? Who does what, what checks and balances are in place and being observed, what does the record keeping process look like right now?
#14 Paula Brkich on 2006-10-10 10:15
And the lesser synod presumably heard this at their recent meeting and their response was as follows:
“2. The review of the 2001-2005 Annual and Special Appeals is ongoing. However, from the initial findings, it has been concluded that there is no receipted documentation or verification for a large portion of those funds. No further information can be made available until that review is complete.
“3. Regarding the request by the Bishops for 2004 and 2005 audits, an audit for the year 2004 was undertaken as well as a preliminary review of the financial records for 2005. However, it has been concluded that, due to the lack of documentation, no audits for those years can be completed. Therefore, the Bishops have determined not to spend any more of the Church’s resources on these audits.”
One hopes that rather than simply walking away, the MC and the LS are asking the accountants to provide as clear a picture as possible of what amounts have been disbursed in cash along with who cashed the checks -- that should be easily obtained information since we're talking about the last couple of years. But the above quotes leave me wondering whether they propose to just walk away from the whole thing.
Clearly a lot has been very, very wrong for a very, very long time. The newly published minutes of the MC meeting on the OCA website make it clear how complex cleaning this all up is -- but no matter how hard they work at cleaning it up, it's time for the current administration to recognize that they have no credibility any longer. It all went on too long. It was too big. They've been too slow to act. They were too close to it all the way through. It's time for new people to step in.
In any organization it's always tempting to define the organization to be equivalent to the people holding positions of authority in the organization. The OCA does not equal Met. Herman and the current administration.
It's also tempting to think that the only people who can do a job are the people who have been doing a job. Strangely, people who do their jobs badly often have an odd talent for making it seem that they are absolutely essential and the world would come crashing to an end if they were to leave an organization. Whenever I've seen such a person fired, without fail things work much better afterwards.
The only way that Metr. Herman is completely innocent is if he's also completely incompetent. Cash disbursments on this scale are not only unacceptable but completely unimaginable -- no one runs an organization like this. The internal auditors must have seen these amounts or they didn't do any auditing at all.
Time for a new broom.
#15 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-10-10 11:01
Surely there are photos available from the bank(s) showing the signatories on the 'Cash' withdrawal checks. In many cases there might well be signatures of endorsers also. They should give some pointers to the culprits in this case.
#16 Brad M - Inquirer into OCA on 2006-10-10 11:55
Once again stone silence. I hope everyone that is reading the posts on this website actually visits the OCA's site. There is nothing about the $1 mil in the report as it is displayed on their website. There is also nothing about how the OCA is doing this current year vs. the budget.
The only hint of any sort of concern is the constant corrections by Dr. Faith Skordinksi. I don't know her personally but God bless her appearing to be the only sane and intelligent person at the meeting. I understand that that minutes aren't meant to give you every single detail of what transpired but there is almost no meat to the minutes whatsoever. Anyone who was actually reading the OCA's web site for the first time or within the last six months would truly be hardpressed to figure out that there is any sort of controversy.
If people are stupid enough to give money to such a group of incompetent and morally corrupt individuals then they can have it.
I wonder if Metro. Herm. will actually get it one day when the lights are turned off.
When the lights are off because there is no money to pay the bills do best practices still work?
#17 Anonymous on 2006-10-10 12:58
Keep in mind wise one ripping on Best Practices means you are ripping on a future concept that was not in force in the past.
#17.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-16 06:34
The auditors did not confirm 1M in cash was taken. In fact, this is not what the letter said at all, so I'm disappointed in the title you chose. The letter said that management could not provide supporting documentation for 1M in expenditures. These are not equivalent events. In fact, your leap takes us far beyond who made the entries to who stole and this is a problem. Let me explain why.
Typically, an A/P (expenditures) accountant makes an entry when an invoice is presented, or when a check request is made. The bottom line, however, is that an accountant should not have made the 1M in entries without supporting documentation. This doesn't mean 1M in cash is missing. It just means it can't be accounted for with backup. The MC needs to know who made the entries and immediately demand the administration suspend that person. It isn't about who stole or who forced the transactions. You put the accountant on the hotseat and the whole thing blows up. Remember Enron?
The government will surely get involved now. I'm anxious to see how quickly they act.
Has anyone on the MC forwarded that audit letter to the NY AGs office or the IRS? It is their duty to do so and their duty to find out which accountant made the entries and ask them to come before them with a full accounting of why the entries were made and for what purpose. If they can't, the accountant should be terminated.
Time for the MC to turn up the heat. Get a listing of the entries and demand to know who made the entries. Go after the accountants Mark, just like in Enron, when the accountants start to take the heat, the whole thing is over.
Another option is a class action lawsuit. I believe the entire laity could sue the central administration.
#18 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-10 19:30
I am not so certain the New York Attorney General's Office will intervene. Remember, these are the people who passed on the whopper about the OCA having two million members. I have always had the suspicion that Elliot Spitzer is not quite as good as his press clippings would indicate --- especially as an administrator, as opposed to his individual skills as a lawyer (which are probably right up there with people like David Boies).
My bet is that there will probably be some sort of muddle or fudge that will allow the AG and the IRS to look good, but in the end will accomplish little or nothing.
#18.1 Ed Unneland on 2006-10-12 06:21
I want to endorse the comments made by Mr. Fall that the accountant letter does not justify the statement that $1,000,000 has been stolen. All they are saying is that this amount is not properly accounted for. Jumpers to conclusions are adding the word "stole" for their own (in my opinion inadequate) reasons
The amount actually "stolen" could range from zero to much higher than a million. The zero figure, which we all no doubt consider most unlikely, would be if all the unaccounted for money was properly used for legitimate purposes regardless of the shortcomings in accounitng for it. If there was a lot of actual theft going on, however, the figure could be higher, masked in part by seemingly proper accounting for some f the expenditures and withdrawals.
I am saddened by the way in which the ocanews headline and article writer continues to yield to the temptation to a) oversimplify and b) inflate the rhetoric well beyond what the evidence actually shows. Maybe he could use the broken ankle as an excuse to take some weight off his foot (and the foot off the gas pedal) for a while. Surely the truth can stand on its own two feet, and when duly considered on its merits is bad enough without spinning.
(Editor's note: I do not know what article Fr. George is reading, but it was certainly not mine. The word "stolen" does not appear; missing, yes, unaccounted for, yes; but nowhere do I say money was "stolen".
It is true I must now use crutches for a time- as must the truth in the OCA. Without such crutches as this website, among others, the poor truth would have had no chance of standing on its own this past year.
As for my slowing down the pace, I regret to inform Fr. George that it will more likely quicken in the weeks and months to come. As Fr. Berzonsky openly told the Midwest Diocese yesterday, quoting Metropolitan Herman at the recent Metropolitan Council meeting: "The truth is 10X worse than you have been led to believe." At the risk of being accused of spinning, I pray that is not the case.
With all best wishes,
#18.2 Fr. George Washburn on 2006-10-12 10:22
Making a mockery of someone's injury to put a rhetorical spin on your argument, no matter what you think of a person, is plain base and unworthy of any Christian, but for a priest it is outrageous. Much as everybody is wound up at the moment, we must all watch our words since, as we say in Russian, "the word is like a sparrow - once flown out, it cannot be caught."
As to the essense of your argument (and Mr. Fall's), I am not surprised that people tend to read more into the postings than what is actually said there, but if you set down to criticize them, you may want to at least get your facts straight. The Lambrides letter states that more than $1M in cash have been withdrawn and there is no supporting documentation of where they went. This doesn't by itself mean that the money is stolen, but, for all intents and purposes, it means that it is missing - it is gone without leaving the forwarding address, so to speak. Mr. Stokoe did not once use the word "stolen". He did ask, however, "who took the money?", which is a perfectly reasonable question under the circumstances, since if a transaction is performed in cash, then it means that there is a human on the giving end and a human on the receiving end.
Personally, much as I would like to know how the books could be closed every year with 5% of the budget floating somewhere, I am far more concerned about what it means for us going forward. What is becoming clearer and clearer every day is that the level of gross incompetence combined with lack of leadership have all but buried us. While the Church of Christ cannot fail, the human church (as in "multiple Orthodox jurisdictions") can and does...
#18.2.1 Inga Leonova on 2006-10-13 06:56
"As Fr. Berzonsky openly told the Midwest Diocese yesterday, quoting Metropolitan Herman at the recent Metropolitan Council meeting: 'The truth is 10X worse than you have been led to believe.'"
You forgot a zero in that number, Mark!
Get well soon! With our prayers,
#18.2.2 Fr. Robert K. McMeekin on 2006-10-13 07:33
"The auditors did not confirm 1M in cash was taken. In fact, this is not what the letter said at all, so I'm disappointed in the title you chose. The letter said that management could not provide supporting documentation for 1M in expenditures. These are not equivalent events. In fact, your leap takes us far beyond who made the entries to who stole and this is a problem."
Daniel: I am totally mystified by this statement of yours. This IS what the letter said exactly:
"Management and staff were unable to provide supporting documentation or corroborating evidence from third parties for $1,019,071 of cash withdrawals."
As a practicing accountant with many years of experience of auditing non-profit organizations, I can tell you that the withdrawal of over $1 million in cash, with no receipts or explanations of any kind in the files is totally outside the bounds of what you would expect from a secular charitable organization, much less a church entity.
Now putting aside my professional opinion, I have no problem telling you or anyone else what I think when I see a series of cash withdrawals of this magnitude. There was monkey business of the highest order going on, and I think it absolutely shameful that to this day there is still this attitude (or at least it appears so to me) that, well, there's no records, so what's done is done. Baloney! So you want to take out money in cash? You have to give the bank a check, made out to cash. So has the Administration requested copies of checks for 2001-2005? So far it appears that we will have to wait until next month to see if the PR law firm tells the MC anything substantive about the ongoing investigation.
#18.3 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-10-13 09:32
Come on people, can’t you see there is no problem, such an easy fix. “Just” get some adequate software. The following is from the OCA’s two day session posted 10-10-2006 on their website.
“…………… income and expenses for the period from January 1-June 30, 2006. He also stated that the report does not represent an audit or a review of the finances for the first six months of 2006. He noted the limitations placed upon the Comptroller by the present software program that is very inadequate.”
#19 Ande on 2006-10-10 21:48
We can forgive, surely. But, we cannot forget. And, the responsible fiduciaries that perpetrated the wrongdoings must be held accountable for their misdeeds. Not to hold them accountable is negligent. It will just encourage the next wave of those tempted to trade on other people's trust. No, there must be consequences for wrongdoing. Let the punishment fit the crime. Hate the sin. Love the sinner.
#20 Name withheld on 2006-10-10 23:39
About time! Ahem... I wonder what the so called holy men will come with now?
I trust that somehow this will all be brought to a court of law... and that the criminals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law...
I seem to recall something in the bible of how it was always the chief priests and scribes who passed judgement on others.. who or what will do the honors today?
What did Christ do when he entered the temple? Were not all those moneychangers and others there under the authority of those chief priests and others of ecclesiastical authority? It seems to me that Christ had no love for those who aspired to worldly goods and money, so bold to do so in the house of God...
What then would be just today... for men who stole from the Church - in the name of God... from innocent god fearing people who gave freely to widows, orphans and others?
I pray for swift and meciless retribution for those who've commited treason to our church and indeed God Himself
#21 Ted Panamarioff on 2006-10-11 00:14
RE: KONDRATICKS' LAWSUIT
In the public domain you can access basic information about the lawsuit they have filed. Here is the link.
If this link doesn't work, go to the NY State Courts site, where you can search by plaintiff (Kondratick).
For all those who feel that we should keep our faith in the Heirarchs and keep the cash flow coming -
The commandments plainly state
Thou shalt not steal.
They do not say
Thou shalt follow thine Heirarchy into financial ruin.
One million dollars is alot of money to lose, steal, borrow, or ask the faithful to re-donate.
#23 Anonymous on 2006-10-11 15:45
Whether you say the 1M is missing or stolen, they both evoke the same message. And both are wrong.
In fact, the 1M in expenditures were not supported with documentation. An accountant or someone with access to the general ledger is responsible because these entries were in the general ledger.
Who is that accountant? The MC must hold a session of the administrative committee and ask that this person be suspended immediately.
Oversimplifying this by saying the money is missing allows everyone to make the leap that one person perpetrated an injustice. Where is the simple question HOW? Were these all cash drafts, were the entries made by one person? Who made the entries to the general ledger?
#24 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-12 19:21
"Without such crutches as this website, among others, the poor truth would have had no chance of standing on its own this past year." - Mark Stokoe
Here is a very timely quotation from Thomas Jefferson (from the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in the state of Virginia): “[that] truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument, and debate.”
This website is exactly that "crutch" - it introduced "free argument and debate" to what has been too long mired in Byzantine secrecy and intrigue...
#25 Inga Leonova on 2006-10-14 05:48
A couple questions concerning "cash":
1. Were the Metropolitan Council and the Lesser Synod provided with the actual Lambrides letter during their last meetings, or were they given an edited summary of the letter? Specifically, if they were given an edited summary, did it mention the word "cash" and the amounts discovered by Lambrides?
2. How did this process work? Lambrides could count it, so it must have been recorded on the books; and Syosset, like most business and charitable institutions, would not naturally generate any cash at all. Income would arrive only in the form of checks and wire transfers, not as cash; and it would be distributed the same way. To generate cash would require converting funds already on the books to cash by making withdrawals or cashing checks, meaning that cash generation doesn't happen automatically, it has to be done by real people doing it on purpose by hand. So, who did it, how did they do it, where did it go, and what was their purpose?
#26 Mark Warns, Poulsbo, Washington on 2006-10-14 11:30
Lambrides said over 1M in expenditures didn't have supporting documentation. They didn't say cash was missing or stolen. However, that is somewhat implied.
The MC owes the laity a duty of diligence in determining all parties involved in this at best shoddy accounting and at worst graft. All should be removed.
Somehow Las Vegas keeps running through my mind....
And, it seems to me our Metropolitan hasn't told us everything he knows.
#26.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-16 07:13
You're being too generous. When Lambrides states that $1,019,071 was "withdrawn in cash" the clear implication is that the funds not only can't be shown to have been used for their intended purpose, they can't be shown to have been used for any OCA purpose.
So that million bucks got converted into cash, grew legs, and walked away from the building in some sort of fashion. My second question above was mechanical, and I was hoping you or Mike Strelka or Marty Brown could help me out on it. How could it happen? How is it possible for funds posted to the general ledger, funds that are sitting in the operating account, to be "withdrawn in cash" without there being any "supporting documentation or corroborating evidence from third parties" as Lambrides puts it?
#26.1.1 Mark Warns on 2006-10-16 16:55
Dear Mark: It's really quite simple. Mr. X, who has possession of some blank checks, writes out a check for $9,000 to himself and goes over to the local bank. He endorses the check, shows the teller his driver's license, and the teller gives him 90 $100 bills. Sometime later on, the bookkeeper asks Mr. X for a receipt for his expenditure (having seen the check on the monthly bank statement which he can't reconcile, because up until then he didn't know a check was written). He is told: a) none of his business; b) I'm real busy now, can I give it to you later?; c) there is no receipt, put it in (take your pick) account; d) one of 100 other possible excuses. Internal controls can always be circumvented through collusion or complicity (or threats and intimidaiton, coupled with benign neglect).
Now the writing out of a check means there is a paper trail at the bank. At this point we don't know if the either the Admistration or PR has requested the paper trail as part of their investigation. But I wouldn't rule out that they have.
#188.8.131.52 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-10-17 13:18
Agreed; however, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that since Lambrides used the broad phrase, "supporting documentation or corroborating evidence from third parties", that they had already checked with the bank, the most obvious "third party", and had come up empty-handed?
That's what bothers me. I don't care whether the operating account was accessed with a checkbook and a pen or with a mask and a gun, the bank has to have some sort of record of the missing million.
#184.108.40.206.1 Mark Warns on 2006-10-18 23:35
Folks, this is $1,000,000 in CASH from just 2001-2005. From what we know, the worst of it occurred before 2001 with the ADM money. In reality, we are probably talking millions in CASH over that last 10 years. It might not be diplomatic and I admit there are many more facts to come out, but I have no problem using the word "stole". Some things aren't grey, they are black and white. We know for sure that $1,000,000 in CASH from 2001-2005 is unaccounted for. We know for sure our leaders seemed to have steamrolled through a loan of $1,700,000 that part of which was to replace the accounts this money came from. They began the process of getting this loan before we the laity knew the facts on the missing CASH while they not only knew the facts, they undoubetedly knew the truth of the last 10 years and are doing everything they can to hide it.
It is sad that the position of some people sound like the position of what I call "elitist orthodox slackers." You know, the person who'll quote 500 year old texts on "economia" to justify code words such as "fast as you can, not as you can't" or "coming to Vespers and Matins just isn't practical".
I wish just one bishop, or priest, (heck I might do it) or deacon would wake up and storm the temple so to speak. I would love to see a Bishop on the doorstep of Syosset demanding the thieves leave. Christ had no problem cleaning our the temple of the money changers.
Folks, we have worse than money changers and the best we can do is a loan Bishop demanding answers while still giving the crooks 6 months to clean up. More likely, 6 months to shred, burn and obfuscate whatever evidence is left.
WE deserve whatever happens. I'm guilty, years ago I witnessed a certain Bishop of the West bullying laity and a priest. I wanted to speak up there and then but didn't. In little ways, we all allowed this administration and leadership to become victims of their own "Will to Power". Because ulimately it's not about money, it's about the evil and sin of a mans will run amok.
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