Wednesday, October 11. 2006
Too much? Too little? Just right? Will it make a difference? Your thoughts welcome.
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Congratulations to the Diocese of the Midwest and Archbishop Job. The resolution strikes a very moderate tone and provides even more time for the appropriate entities to respond. While I might have liked to see even tougher action, this is a good start designed to bring almost everyone along. In light of recent events, anyone objecting to this resolution is clearly prepared to turn a blind eye to incompetence and corruption.
#1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-10-12 05:38
I couldn't attend the Assembly, so I missed all the discussion.
I'm afraid it's too little, with much too long a timeframe. This will only allow things to continue to deteriorate even further throughout the winter months.
By the time the Spring Session rolls around, the government will have surely entered the picture. Will there even be an OCA by then?
Perhaps that is the thinking?
#2 A priest of the Midwest on 2006-10-12 06:36
The Midwest resolution shows NO resolve! Acknowledging the crisis as "intolerable" then saying we're still willing to tolerate it (until at least March 2007)?! Expressing "no confidence" in the administration then expecting them to adhere to the very statutes they flagrantly violate?! Recommending full financial disclosure from those who can't even generate a current-year financial report (it's the lack of adequate software!)?! And the only "threat" is to put assessments in escrow at some later date? How does this help to resolve anything? From the comfort of a lifeboat, they're waving goodbye to the sinking ship without even trying to rescue survivors!
#3 Extremely Disappointed on 2006-10-12 06:38
Dear Extremely Disappointed:
In fact, this not how the Lord deals with us, is it? Billions of times over He could just "throw up His hands in disgust" and damn us all.
Instead, He puts up with our sinfulness, giving us umpteen chances and years to repent, despite the fact that we continue to stumble, even after contrite confession. He is "compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and of great mercy."
Since when does anger and frustration allow us to be less merciful? The Lord will still have His dread judgment day.
#3.1 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2006-10-13 10:11
Dear Extremely Disappointed,
What survivors are you referring to? What ships have gone down, and who is floating in water drowning? If you are referring to your parish, I think there is more going on there than the financial problems in Syosset. Perhaps your eyes and fingers need to be turned around and pointed a little closer to home?
To extend your ship metaphor, it takes time and UNITED effort to turn a large ship around. That is, I believe, being accomplished. We are all frustrated by the lack of transparency and communication from Syosset. Relying on the statutes, and actually following them, is the right thing to do. This had not been tried before, hence the problem we find ourselves in.
The Midwest Diocese passed a resolution that supports our Archbishop in his continuing efforts to extract transparency and accountability from Syosset. I wonder just how many of those who complain that this resolution is not strong enough would be backing our Archbishop had those resolutions passed and done more harm than good. Would +Job be twisting in the wind, trying to prop up a course of action drafted in anger and with a desire for revenge as its overweaning purpose?
#3.2 Paula Brkich on 2006-10-14 18:44
Friends of mine from the diocese of the west told me that they were going to attend the diocesan assembly of the west Oct 2-4 in Las Vegas. They had been told that Fr. Robert Kondratick had been invited as a guest of honor by Bishop Tikhon. Bishop Nicolai and Bishop Benjamin were also expected to attend. It appears more went on at the meeting than good wishes for Bishop Tikhon's retirement!
If the OCA Statute covered embezzlement, fraud, theft and cover-up, then the Midwest Diocese's resolution would be a good step. But the Statute covers no such things. Who ever thought it would need to?
If the track record of the OCA's administration showed even a hint that they are willing to obey a standard of behavior that is for the good of the Church and not only for their own good, then the Midwest's resolution would be a good step. But OCA management has not offered any such hint, even to this day.
Because the Statute contains no provisions for handling illegal behavior, it is possible for the administraiton to fully comply with the Statute (and therefore with the Midwest's resolution) and yet continue to lie and cover-up this scandal. In other words, the resolution means little or nothing, and life goes on.
One wonders about the motives of the Diocese's leadership. The 14 strong parish and deanery resolutions were watered down in committee. The resulting resolution was pablum which, thankfully, the Assembly rejected. But why the pablum from the committee? Who are those ecclesiastical politicians trying to impress or what goodies do they seek through such compromise?
Once again, the OCA administration buys precious time while many of the faithful wonder why we can't clean up our own mess and precious time is wasted.
Thank God that the Assembly at least made a statement. But with $1-million now proven to be gone and the administration still set on covering up, it should have been a lot more. We've already lost faith in our leaders. We're about to also lose faith in our reformers.
Baba Lou Montgomery
#5 Baba Lou Montgomery on 2006-10-12 10:10
I had held out great hopes for this Diocesean Assembly, hopes that a strong statement would be sent to Syosset, a statement that business as usual would no longer be condoned. I am disapointed. I, for one, can no longer belong to a church which allows widows and orphans to be robbed while its leaders are robed in gold; that tolerates retired priests and widowed matushki existing at near poverty levels while those in power dine on a Gold Card; that finds it acceptable to spend less on Evangelism and Youth Programs than on junkets. This is not the Church to which Christ calls us.
For almost a year now I've struggled with this issue, my conscience will no longer allow me to justify remaining in the OCA under its current leadership.
#6 David Wargo on 2006-10-12 12:56
When the going gets tough . . . quit the OCA? What good is that going to do? Do people really choose their local parish based on things like this? Is it really so easy to walk away from a parish you love -- a parish that is fully Orthodox and has the fullness of the Church -- based on the deeds of those "in power" a thousand miles away?
If we really believe what we claim to believe about the Church, then the issues affecting the OCA really affect all of us as Orthodox Christians, no matter what jurisdiction we are in. This has a ripple effect through the entire Church. Leaving one jurisdiction and joining another does nothing to solve the problem -- if anything that is tantamount to running away from the problem.
I can think of many other alternative solutions other than leaving a jurisidction. If the leadership of the national church is allowing "widows and orphans to be robbed", just support the widows and orphans at the local level instead. Give directly so that you know exactly who is getting the money. If the national church is doing little to support retired priests, give the minimum national church (the minimum really is quite minimal) and give more directly to the retired priests. If we want to spend more on evangelism, let's do it at the local level.
It's really quite easy. If this is a matter of conscience, why not just give directly to those in need and cut out all the intermediaries? Isn't that consistent with what Christ calls us to? Simply ignore the special appeals and give directly to those in need, You do not need to look very far to figure out who is in need and can use your support.
#6.1 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2006-10-13 09:01
dear brother in CHRIST,don't leave the church because of the sins of a few.the grace of the holy mysteries doesn't depend on the moral state of the celebrants,to believe that would be donatism.the church ist the immaculate BODY OF CHRIST but the members are still sinners and GOD will judge them all,us too.one of the great bishops of our days metropolitan AVGUSTINOS of Florina in northern greece wrote a book on the subject of clerical corruption mourning the devastating affect it can have on the faithful,yet he doesn't tell us to leave the church,but to become better christians ourselves.CHRYSOSTOMOS talks alot on the subject warning clerics of the dire consequences for their behavior.throughout the history of the church we witness many evil deeds committed by the hierarchy,yet the CHURCH remains holy and undefiled because the personal sins of the members don't affect the essence of the church.THE CHURCH IS IN THE CHALLICE,the HOLY EUCHARIST.if you don't want to stay with the OCA,go to some other jurisdiction's parish although they are not any better either.whereever you are,you'll find genuine and humble people and wolfs in sheeps clothing.but,believe me,our OCA is still one of the best,together with ROCOR and MP and the SERBIAN CHURCH.no other churches have produced more martyrs,confessors and rightheous men and women in recent times.the OCA are the thousands of longsuffering lemkos led by St.Alexis Toft,the hardworking natives of ALASKA enlightened by ST.INNOCENT,many russian immigrants from all parts of Russia and europe,many great people,too many to name,and the thousands of american converts who have found SALVATION and the TRUTH of ORTHODOXY in the OCA,thanks the missionary efforts of so many good people.i truly believe that the devil is working here trying to destroy the church,let's not give him the satisfaction.WE MUST STAY TOGETHER!!!!!!!(forgive my english,it is not my language,i am a foreigner in your country)
#6.2 Anonymous on 2006-10-13 17:12
I just wanted to let you know how wonderful I thought your response to this person considering leaving the Church was.
A Church which is creating people like you is doing it's job - and I'm proud to be a member of it.
You're absolutely right - you will find no better elsewhere, and much worse in some. At least we are on the verge of cleaning up the mess.
God is testing us - refining us - That means something BIG must be on the way.
Brother and Sisters, Glory to God! We have a way open which can unify us rather than divide us. On Forgiveness Sunday 2007 let us gather around the headquarters of the Orthodox Church in America and hold that wonderful Vespers Service outside. We need to ask each other's forgiveness for the divisions which this crisis has caused "It's not my problem," is one way to separate. Anger divides those who disagree with us, anger with the hierarchs who have not changed anything has divided us from them. We need to repent for them along with ourselves since it is clear they are not able to do so for themselves. We can do this in the spirit of peacemaking, having compassion for ourselves in captivity to a truly desperate situation, and compassion for those clergy and hierarchs who are unable to break the chains of bondage. We have seen that knowing wrongdoing has been perpetrated, knowing that money has vanished, knowing that no one will confess - all this knowing has not resolved the crisis. Truly only prayer and fasting will serve us, and to set out on the great sea of the Fast united in forgiveness will allow the Holy Spirit to dissolve the great hardness of heart which grows daily. Where else should we be at the door of Lent but where forgiveness is needed most, in our own hearts, and at the center of the Orthodox Church in America. Those who would like to work towards this, those who hunger for unity, let us begin. Peace, Alice
#7 Alice Carter on 2006-10-12 17:48
The resolutions are very much for a Bishop to handle implementing. Putting this out to the Spring Synod meeting was wise, I sure hope the administration can meet the reasonable requests. Let us all pray that Abp. Job need not work to implement any of the remedial actions. If he does, he is at great risk of being removed, and the OCANEWs website shutdown or the sponsor whacked from the church. This would be a devastating blow for the OCA in the long run, though.
My hope is that the authorities will step in sooner if the administration can't come up with a plan on the 1M problem.
#8 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-12 19:12
For those who are disappointed by or disapproving of the resolution of the Midwest Diocese, I can only say with Archbishop Job that we are co-suffering in love for you and for, with and because of our OCA. It cannot be but otherwise. For we have all agreed to take up the cross and follow the Crucified God. I hope what we have done in the Midwest Diocese is to establish our Diocese on the Rock which is Christ - so that when the flood hits, the house will stand, unlike those whose houses are built upon sifting sands and whose fall will be great. What I witnessed was a Diocesan Church assembled around its bishop working together in conciliar love in the midst of a most difficult and divisive crisis. Archbishop Job opened the Assembly with what I think was his finest opening speech to date. He did what a Christian leader is supposed to do - he openly addressed our problems and placed them in a Christian context. He told us what he was willing and not willing to do. He also then allowed us to debate and hammer out some ideas as to what to do. Archbishop Job cannot solve the OCA crisis in leadership by himself. The Diocese of the Midwest cannot solve the OCA scandal and leadership crisis by itself. The Diocese of the Midwest needs and must work with all of the other dioceses of the OCA. And our diocese has stated where it stands and what it thinks needs to happen. Though this shouldn't be true 35 years into our history, we have just begun to experience and to understand what sobornost/conciliarity means for a Church free of state interference. The diocese is not the civil authority, and we cannot do what only the civil authorities can do. But we must do what only the Church can do (or we can do as Church). And we have called upon the Metropolitan, Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council to do what they are empowered to do by the competencies given them in the OCA Statutes. We intend to live by, defend and enforce these Statutes and to support those who will carry out their duties accordingly. This is something the Diocese can do. Our bishop told us he did not favor withholding the assessment from the OCA. We heard him. We the lay and clergy members then overwhelming passed a resolution in which we set the conditions and date by which we expect the Statutes to be followed by ALL in the OCA or we want the diocese to withhold the assessment. He heard us. This is conciliarity. We spoke in love and in concern for the Church of the Apostles. Archbishop Job knows where he stands in relationship to the Synod of Bishops and in relationship to his diocese. He has stood alone in the Synod of Bishops asking for the truth about the scandal. He has stood with his flock and heard their hopes and anger. He is doing his job as bridge between the diocese and the Synod of Bishops. Our Assembly gave unanimous approval of a final resolution giving our full support to our Archbishop. We at least are functioning as Church even if the rest of the OCA refuses to do so. We have both hierarchy and conciliarity. We are taking a stand and have revealed a firm oneness of mind as diocese. We have allowed dissent and disagreement. And our bishop is not weaker for this but stronger. Our resolution disagreed with what our bishop wanted to do. But we stand united with him in facing this scandal and we invite all other laity and clergy and bishops of all the other dioceses to join us and the example of our bishop and our assembly in openly discussing the scandal, in openness and oneness of heart and mind in discussing the OCA leadership/ecclessial crisis, and in enforcing the letter and the spirit of the Gospels and the Statutes. We could not resolve the OCA financial scandal and leadership crisis in a diocesan assembly, but we have given good chiropractic to the otherwise misshapen and virtually spineless Body of the OCA.
#9 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-10-12 19:16
Bravo, Fr Ted
Axios!!! Bishop Job
#9.1 Al Fragola on 2006-10-13 09:01
I think this is among the most sensible, compassionate and yet understanding responses to our horrid dilemma that I've read on this website. May we all grow from this tragedy once it's either resolved or somehow with God's help and guidance put behind us so that we can pick up the pieces and go on with the challenge of salvation--our own and society's.
#9.2 Anonymous on 2006-10-13 13:32
Beautifully put, Father Ted.
#9.3 Paula Brkich on 2006-10-13 15:11
It may be too late...but its action folks. What have your dioceses done to take steps in this direction.
Without the income they cannot satisfy the loan. This is a big step torward freezing them out.
I think +Job is doing an awesome job at handling this. This is leadership and vision in action.
#10 Bob H on 2006-10-13 04:06
I was in attendance at the Midwest's assembly. I was one of those who came thinking and feeling that the time had already come to cut off funds to Syosset. While at the assembly I became convinced it was not yet time.
The first reason is that many people (fellow priests and my brothers and sisters in Christ and my Bishop) were not ready themselves and the insistence on "my" position would have divided me from them. That was intolerable. Second, the Bishop deserved our support without being or becoming our puppet. He is not to be a tool of the "people" rather a servant of us yet over us. There are not a few orthodox who would like to seize on this crisis as an opportunity for a seemingly "justified" lay takeover of Episcopal/priestly function and authority. That is one of the reasons I am no longer a Protestant and that would be intolerable. Thirdly, this diocese was allowed to have a frank and open discussion of these issues. There were no fear tactics, there was no one being shut down for their opinion. To this date no other Bishop, and no other diocese to my knowledge in the OCA has allowed such a frank and open discussion of these issues before us.
Out of our discussions something happened that cannot be put on paper or described on the internet. The Holy Spirit moved through the room and created unity. The Bishop and the overwhelming majority of his priests and people became one "mind and heart". Frankly, at the beginning of the assembly that was not evident and did not seem possible. What happened at this meeting was that an entire diocese of the OCA, with one voice said that what has gone on is intolerable, the solutions have fallen short thus far, and that Syosset has until the Spring secession of the Holy Synod to function differently and according to statutes or this diocese will respond in a manner that Syosset will understand. The Metropolitan council must begin to function according to the statues and sound accounting principals must be in place. Of course there are several other parts of the statutes that are being ignored and it is up to Bishop Job and the Diocesan council to be the final arbiter as to the cutting off of funds in the Spring to Syosset. This is as it should be.
What happened at this meeting was neither to biting or too toothless it was full of the Holy Spirit.
There may be some who are disappointed with this meeting because this diocese did not just say yes to the status quo. They are those who live in fear and cannot imagine an OCA that is any different than the one they have seen for the last 20 years. Some of them lack imagination, others will miss the perks, and still others fear something even worse that what we have now.
There are others who are disappointed that the total dismantling of the National church is not already underway. These are those who have personal hurts coming out of that regime who would like to-see it end. Others are looking for a chance to greatly expand the power of the people and move to an american model of the church that is more democratic and more people powered. Neither of these can be our motivation. God forbid! Both of these groups are a minority in the Diocese of the Midwest. The overwhelming majority did what seemed good to them and the Holy Spirit and the rest of the OCA should take note. This was indeed the work of God through and in us. This same work is being prevented in the stifling of discussion in many corners of the OCA by Episcopal Lording- OVER as well as malfeasance in office and lay power motives. What happened in Palatine, IL this week was gentle, kind, self-controlled, peaceful, loving, and TRUTHFUL. The meeting allowed that the Holy Spirit moves through the entire body of Christ (including the laity) and preserved the authority and position of the Bishop. It is full of the Holy Spirit. You should not stand against it or speak ill of it. This is true of those in Syosset, other Bishops, those with various agendas related to power, and even the enemies of our Church both within and without. I am very glad to have been at the meeting. There is not any reason from this meeting not to call each man "brother!"
Fr. Andrew Moore
St. Thomas - Springfield, MO
#11 fr. Andrew on 2006-10-13 07:46
Glory to Jesus Christ!
In response to those outside the Midwest critical of the Midwest's resolution, I ask: What has your Diocese done?
To the whole OCA, I would like to add this to the eloquent words of Fr. Ted Bobosh above --
We stood as one. We issued a statement that was not as strong as I would have liked, but it was strong.
It is a statement that shows the virtue of patience.
It is a statement that, nonetheless, has teeth.
It is a statement that shows a people willing to listen to their bishop.
It is also a statement (listen up Synod!) that shows a bishop who is willing to listen to his people.
It is a statement that expresses our pain and disgust.
It is a statement that tells our Metropolitan that we will no longer tolerate the status quo, nor the way the administration has handled the scandal so far.
It is a balanced statement.
Perhaps most importantly, it was a unifying statement.
This resolution was passed by a voice vote, so we will never have an exact tally. But of the approximately 110 delegates, only about 5 or 6 voices voted "no". Even being as conservative as possible, the vote was minimally 100-10, or 91% in favor. It is absolutely miraculous that a resolution passed on a topic so divisive with that kind of consensus in as large and diverse a diocese as the Midwest.
This is what we, as a unified Diocese, could say, and we said it well. Would a more forceful statement passed by only 51% have been better or stronger? I think not. I'd rather have a few months of additional patience and have a nearly unanimous stand than have an immediate response with that eternal asterisk and footnote: "But it barely passed by a couple of votes" or worse, "Look everone, the Midwest itself is divided." The way we have done it, when March 2007 rolls around, we will have a unified force behind the withholding of assessments, and nobody can argue against it.
Finally, to anyone still disappointed, there are other options still available. There is nothing stopping your individual parishes from drafting declarations of "No Confidence" and/or calls for resignations, and flooding Syosset with them. And please, spare us the internet petitions. If you want something to have meaning, have your whole parish sign an actual piece of paper and mail your declaration in the old fashioned way. You may not cause change, but at least you will not have to explain your silence on Judgment Day.
Proud to be in the Midwest,
Priest Christopher Wojcik
#12 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2006-10-13 08:08
I believe Bishop Job's response is "fair and balanced." He is giving the OCA administration proper warning and time to get its house in order before midwest assessments start going into Escrow. This allows other diocese to also respond in time before the Spring Synod session.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I believe what Bishop Job cannot stop is the involvement of the state and federal court systems. I believe any one person can still go to legal agencies with any of this and simply get these agencies involved regardless of the voices of any of our bishops. This legal option is still a good, moral, and ethical option that is still on the table.
What actually will happen to the OCA is still a big question, but I admire Bishop Job's measured determination, courage, and restraint which allows the OCA administration time to turn themselves around and other diocsese to also determine the fate of the OCA.
#13 Patty Schellbach on 2006-10-13 12:51
The farther away we get from the assembly the more I regard the resolution with a measure of awe. It really is a good one, which is especially remarkable given the difficulty the assembly sometimes had proceeding in an orderly manner. The resolution is measured, sober, possessing I think a wisdom and maturity that is in striking contrast to the sometimes chaotic character of the discussion.
The resolution does not set us against persons but against certain behavior and actions (or inactions); and so it preserves the bond of unity "in peace". It does not set itself over against the rest of the Church but keeps us in our proper place as members calling out from within the synaxis of the whole Church. It honors the protocol of the statutes by placing the resolution of the mess back where it belongs: onto the statutory procedures.
In all of this, it strengthens those on the front line -- the members of the Met Council and the bishops, in particular our archbishop -- because it demonstrates that when they assert their statutory responsibilities and insist on the proper statutory procedures they are but the face of a very wide and very deep body of support. By agreeing to wait until the Spring Session of the Holy Synod, the body of support is showing itself longsuffering and anxious for the good. But, with the threat of escrow, it is showing that this longsuffering should not be construed as weakness of resolve or as an enabling timidity.
Indictments of criminal behavior belong to the civil courts. The resolution honors the proper spheres of the Church and the state. By making no allegations, the resolution focuses on correcting misdeeds that affect the life of the Church and leaves the question of indictments to the proper authorities.
Fr. Paul Wesche
#14 Fr. Paul Wesche on 2006-10-13 19:42
Oh my! How easily we equate our own conclusions and warm feelings with the work of the Holy Spirit. We're all smiling and still have our jobs. It must be the Holy Spirit (?)
In the past, according to our tradition, it took a long time to discern whether the Church had cooperated with or rejected the guidiance of the Holy Spirit. It wasn't based on feelings or snap judgments that the will of God had been done. Conciliar decisions only "seemed" to be right until the Church had lived with and tested its choices. Afterall, there are many spirits at work in the world that make people happy and "bring them together," until reality creeps back in.
So let's remember all the self-congratulatory adulation and sighs of relief when next March rolls around. Then and only then will we know whether the Midwest Diocese has helped or hurt the cause of Christ and His Holy Church in America. We all hope for the best!
Baba Lou Montgomery
#15 Baba Lou Montgomery on 2006-10-13 21:43
For what it's worth, critics of the Diocesan Assembly should know what we were up against in there.
The Archbishop in his message begged for change, then told us he was not in favor of withholding assessments or demanding resignations. This was terribly confusing for our lay delegates. What kind of change did he want then?
The Resolutions committee received well over 14 excellent resolutions. Not one made it to the floor in any substantial way. Not one.
Six "rah rah" resolutions were then presented by the committee (in classic Syosett style). These were resolutions like "We humbly request the Holy Synod to adhere to the Statutes of the OCA." Ouch. That one stung.
When a resolution was submitted from the floor, made of up sections of some of the original resolutions posted at midwestdiocese.org, priest after priest after priest after priest after priest got in line at the microphone to speak against the resolution. For most of them, the explicit reason was "we should not withhold assessments from Syosset." Some of these guys actually had crafted some of the original resolutions calling for the withholding of assessments and the resignation of all in Syosett!
Finally, Fr. Ted Bobosh submitted a language-mollified version of the one on the floor, and this seemed good to many.
To the surprise of all, when asked to give his opinion on the resolution, Archbishop JOB stated that he would support the resolution and he would vote for it. He also stated, and I quote;
"This resolution gives the benefit of the doubt to those who have received the benefit of the doubt many times over."
He also remarked that the Holy Spirit was clearly at work in our Assembly. And that was that.
Sadly, the next day, two more resolutions were offered for review before being offered on the floor. Again, neither made it to the floor.
Interestingly, only those resolutions offered without review ahead of time made it. Every resolution reviewed ahead of time was rejected. Every one. My lay delegate brought this to my attention. She also wondered who so many priests were so afraid.
There is a lesson to be learned here.
Unity has power - The Diocese was indeed united in our vote for the resolutions which passed. There was a powerful spirit of unity and unanimity there. No one could deny it. Indeed, no one could arrest it!
Make your resolutions from the floor - There are many in positions of authority in our Diocese clearly that do not want change, and are working against it before your very eyes. Fr. Michael Simerick spoke during the Assembly that many of those present had been in on the Syosett "gravy train" and would not support anything which required change in Syosett. As usual, I suppose he was right.
"The Question" remains unanswered - My final resolution was to insist that Syosett answer the question "are the allegations true or false?" No one seems interested in that, and that is the big question. We never got that one on the floor, but this is the crux of everything else. Nothing good can begin in Syosett until this is publicly and completely answered.
Now, in your Diocese, if you can accomplish through prayer, boldness, and freedom the same as we have done - or better, you will receive only praise and applause from us.
We look forward to supporting your work.
#16 Fr. John A. Peck on 2006-10-14 06:35
I am wondering if our relying solely on the civil authorities to determine "if" something was "wrong" in the OCA is part of our own lack of creativity and imagination as Church. We still are pretending as if we are in a church-state symphony and that the state will help us out of our ecclessial mess. In the USA, the OCA must realize the state's interests really are totally separate from our interests (the separation of church and state is real). The State has no particular interest in upholding or demanding the integrity of the Church leadership. The state has no interest in helping Orthodoxy survive in America. That really is an issue for the Church itself to resolve. Whatever the state is going to do (if anything) is their business. Whether or not the state (IRS, FBI, attorney general of NY, or whoever) decides it has a reason to bring some of our leaders to justice, we must deal with our mess on our terms as Church. It seems possible that there is no canonical precedence for the church on its own authority and by its own methods dealing with internal criminality, immorality, incompetence, gross neglect or dereliction of duty. Through the centuries and since the time of the Ecumenical Councils, apparently the Church was reliant on the state to deal with church leaders who abused the people's trust and failed in the stewardship with which they were charged. Perhaps the OCA is going to have to set precedence in dealing with our current situation.
The formula is simple enough: something happened + someone did it = some appropriately severe consequences for those someones.
Of course part of the problem will be that we have no law/statute that exactly spells out what happens to church leaders who (intentionally) abuse the public trust and abuse the stewardship entrusted to them. We don't have rules for determining what evidence is required to establish guilt, who gets to determine guilt, and what punishments are appropriate. However, we probably could extract some level of this from the scriptures and the canons.
I do remember reading that in monasteries there even were severe penalties for spilling the oil lampadas- 500 prostrations, if I remember correctly. What has happened in the OCA is much more serious than spilling oil from a lampada. It may be that the records are in fact so depleted and missing that it will not be possible to determine criminal behavior. But certainly we can determine other things which are also important to our Church's life and vitality.
Some people were entrusted with keeping records, others with auditing these records. Some were entrusted with signing checks, and even if we don't know what happened to the money once the checks were cashed, we do know to whom the checks were written, and who cashed them. We know the names of those collecting money for the OCA, and those responsible for the oversight and investment of those monies. We can see who was getting a lot of checks written to them. We can ask them for an accounting of their stewardship - give evidence for what you did with the money you received. There were people who set the budgets, and there were those who were overriding the budgets and approving money to go elsewhere. There were those actually handling the money. We know in different years who had authority to sign checks, and who had access to OCA funds and who was banking these funds. We can look through documentation and see who was signing financial directives, who assumed they had authority and who others recognized as having authority. There was an Administrative Committee which was totally involved in the financial process of the OCA, and the members of this committee are known. There were those involved in collecting and spending the money for the AACs. These people too are known. There are plenty of other examples, where we can call people into account for what they knew and what they did.
And so, perhaps we need to have a Church Appointed Commission to access who was responsible for what, who was actually doing what, who was not doing what they were supposed to do, and who was doing what they were not supposed to do.
We may not have legal authority or sufficient juridical evidence to convict in the a court of law, but we can at least establish for the sake of Church order who was responsible for our financial scandal and crisis in leadership. We can mete out appropriate church punishments (removal from administrative or clerical office, penance, letters of confession seeking forgiveness, prostrations if nothing else!). We can show the entire membership of the OCA that we can deal with our problems and not be dependent on the state. We can show the membership of the OCA that we will not sweep problems under the rug. We will not engage in denial or cover-up. We will own up to our responsibilities for our stewardship and for one another and for the Church. We will own up to and face up to the ways in which we have failed as Church leaders.
#17 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-10-14 09:40
With all due respect, the kind of inquiry your talking about requires a investigative body with subpoena power. There is, after all, little in the way of existing internal documentation that would allow a Church commission to come to any conclusion. We have already spent thousands of dollars on accountants and lawyers who have so far determined what we already know: the money's gone, and we don't know where or why.
I would hope that those responsible would come to their senses and repent, but instead we see people retaining high profile criminal defense attornies and filing lawsuits against the Church. I hate to say it, but the only way to the truth at this point is for a criminal justice agency to supoena the bank records of those most closely associated with this scandal. The reason this has been allowed to fester in the first place was that it was kept "in house".
#18 Anonymous on 2006-10-14 14:48
I in no way am suggesting that the civil/criminal angle is a worthless pursuit. I think we should cooperate with the civil authorities and if some are found guilty of criminal offense, so be it. And as you say, what I proposed may be impractical because subpoenas would be needed to get people to testify and to access documents. On the other hand, it is possible that with so much evidence apparently missing, it might not be possible to prove criminal guilt in a court of law. And the civil authorities may ultimately see our scandal as not really all that big or worthy bothering about - an internal matter for the OCA. I think it would be disastrous for our church to come to the conclusion that " the bad news is a million dollars is missing, but the good news is as far as we can tell, nobody did it." My idea is not for a criminal level investigation, but much simpler. If the OCA Treasurer is responsible for signing checks, let's simply look at what checks he signed, to who, for how much, who authorized the checks, who knew about them. Then determine if that person exceeded their charge, failed their charge, abused their charge. We can look at the various employees of Syosset in this way, our OCA auditors, etc. Our internal investigation can make use of whatever materials/evidence Proskaur-Rose and the independent audits have come up with. If it is the case that over $1million was taken in cash withdrawals, let us confront the people involved in these activities. They may plead innocence or ignorance, but we will hold them accountable for violating our trust and perhaps for violating what practices were supposed to be in effect or what practices are actually just reasonable. But what we will do is confront each of the persons involved in the decision making and activities of the OCA. If authority/duty was exceeded, neglected, abused, we can at a minimum (even if no "criminal" act was committed) discover the gross neglect and dereliction of duty and incompetence of those involved in our administration. This is an internal thing. It can help us determine who should lose their jobs, who should be repenting and apologizing, what positions we need to eliminate, and what positions or policies we need to create, and what systemic changes we need to make in the system. It might help uncover the systematic and systemic problems and who was responsible for these. This I think is part of our own responsibility in administration and stewardship. What the state does beyond this - if laws were broken and criminal justice is called for - is up to the state. Our work would purely be our effort to clean up our act and in a Christian way to deal with the failures in our system and with the people who were responsible for those failures. We would give these people a chance to repent. They may reject that opportunity, but then we would know how to treat them.
#18.1 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-10-15 10:34
I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comments on this website.
Several years ago I attended a law enforcement conference at which Frank Abagnale spoke about white collar crime. (Frank Abagnale is a brilliant former con who was paroled from prison in exchange for agreeing to work for the FBI. The movie "Catch Me if You Can" was made about him.)
Mr. Abagnale acknowledged that it is often difficult for victims of white collar justice to find justice since law enforcement resources are often focused elsewhere (like homeland security). This is particularly the case for small businesses, where embezzled amounts may be considered "low" by prosecutors but are actually high enough to kill the business.
However, Mr. Abagnale was pleased to report such victims are not powerless even when abandoned by the law enforcement system. They can issue 1099s for the missing funds as miscellaneous unreported income. Or, they can present the embezzler with the option of signing a repayment agreement on the condition that, should the embezzler default on the agreement at any time, a 1099 for the balance owed will be issued.
My point is, money withdrawn without any kinds of records regarding how it was spent should be considered income to the person receiving it, particularly if that person was also responsible for keeping the records. In addition to the usual taxes, penalties and interest, additional penalties may be owed by officers of a not-for-profit corporation who have earned unreasonable compensation. Flagging the IRS to a potentially lucrative audit may garner a swifter response from the government than bringing a case to a prosecutor that lacks an evidence trail.
I have not signed my postings with my CPA credential before because it wasn't relevant to my comments. From 2002 through 2004 I performed Federal compliance audits of State agencies for the State of Indiana, before being hired as an internal auditor by one of the agencies. These compliance audits include a review of internal controls according to the Committe of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO) guidelines. COSO evaluations were adopted by the private sector in the wake of the Enron scandal as part of the Sarbannes-Oxley (SOX) legislation.
The difference between Federal compliance audits of subrecipients of Federal funding and private sector audits of SEC registrants is that in the private sector the auditor gives an opinion on a report prepared by management on the company's controls. In a Federal audit, the auditor reviews the controls and prepares an opinion.
Many people have correctly noted on this site that Best Practices may be nice, but are potentially meaningless unless placed in the hands of trustworthy people. This concept is called the "tone at the top" in COSO literature and is the single most important determinant in an organization's control environment. Without an independent evaluation by an outside auditor, whether in the form of a Federal compliance audit, a SOX-level financial statement audit, or agreed-upon procedures modelled on either one of the above alternatives, there is no way of ensuring that Best Practices have been employed in a meaningful context.
Therefore, I think it is imperative to perform a forensic audit to determine who withdrew the missing funds, to issue 1099s for the funds as income where records do not exist, and to require an indepedent, outside review of management's performance of Best Practices that is made publicly available to the whole church. Additional penalties (such as may be brought by an ecclesiastical court), I leave to those of you who have been called by God to perform such unhappy duties for the good of the whole church. May the Holy Spirit strengthen each of us for the tasks that may be at hand in the days to come. I can only imagine the weight that you must feel on your heart as a priest who cares deeply for the church in times such as these.
#18.1.1 Nancy Shepherd, CPA on 2006-10-15 20:01
I would not normally comment on what a Diocese other than my own does or does not do; however in the case of the Midwest Diocese and this site, there is commentary that impacts on OUR entire Church. First, I would say that the decision not to withhold funds is a good one. Trying to "cripple" the Church, freeze someone out or whatever terms are used by some, or seeing our OCA administration as "they" or "them" is not in keeping with the Oneness that Christ spoke about. Further, what lesson would withholding teach? That when a diocese disagrees with the national Church one should just quit or withhold funds. What about then the parish that disagrees with their diocese or Bishop, should it withhold funds from the diocese? And then will we teach that it is correct for a parishioner to withhold funds from a parish when he may not life the priest or Church Council or whatever. And before we dismiss this, one can be sure if one has been in an Orthodox for any length of time that sooner or later there will be opposition to a Council, a priest, a bishop, regardless of how favorable one may feel about them over one issue. How many would be so favorable if they disagreed with a decision? Our Metropolitan deserves the respect of the faithful in his determination to correct any problems that exist. He has apologized for mistakes, and has set in motion action to address the problems he has identified. We may not agree with all the actions that he has taken--and this includes persons on different "sides" of different issues. Yet we can recognize the many years that he has faithfully served the Church. I am astonished at how quick persons can turn against those who have served the Church, and have helped so many, be they the Metropolitan, our former chancellor, and others, again on different "sides" of different issues. I don't question the sincerity of many who are troubled by problems as they see them. I do not have inside information to offer them I would only hope that we can still remember Christ's words to love, forgive, care for each other, regardless of our mistakes and sins, which we all make. Let us unite to see our Church as whole as she can be, refreshed, and moving forward with Christ's message. Let us set an example in our deeds and not our words to a world in which too often cruelty, indifference, anger and hatred abound. Let us focus on areas that can be corrected and ways that we can move forward without seeking to redress past grievances some may have against the Church, which judging by some comments, seem to extend beyond the current financial problems.
I think we are better than this. I listen to local, national and world news and read of the killings, the abuse, the mistreatment in so many quarters, and I am glad that I can still come to a Church for Liturgy which offers something so much different than all of that. That I can still turn to God Who is good, and in His love and goodness created each of us and gave us the Church. It is still possible to see the Church in this light if we remember who we are and all that we can continue to be as Orthodox Christians. I would hope that in no Church the problems that are focused upon interfere with our worship of God. Finally, I apologize if I have offended anyone with my words, or caused anyone distress.
#19 Archpriest William DuBovik on 2006-10-15 14:30
Are you implying that Best Practices is something of the "fallen world"?
#19.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-16 21:26
What I find the most disheartening in this whole mess is that not a single person involved, be they the Metropolitan, the former Metropolitan, the former Chancellor, former acting Treasurers, etc., has confessed to anything, or expressed any repentance, or asked for forgiveness from anyone. All are simply stone-walling, and one is even suing the OCA, thinking only of himself!
Why are none of them seeking to serve God, rather than themselves? Why is no one repenting and asking forgiveness? Why are they not trying to set things right with those who have been sinned against, rather than covering up? I, for one, could forgive any of them who would actually do what Christ tells us to do.
The silence is deafening!
#20 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2006-10-15 16:22
Shame, contrition, admission of guilt, etc. are not part of the American legal system until the accused is convicted and is trying to convince the judge that he is truly repentant and should receive a light sentence. The current stonewalling is a basic premise of criminal defense work. Simply put, in the absence of eyewitnesses or physical evidence, "If nobody talks, then everybody walks." It's a conspiracy of silence by more than just Father Bob. Syosset has the authority to obtain many of the missing records from its banks and credit card companies. Some are no longer available, but many are. This is something that the present administration really doesn't want to do. It doesn't play well in Peoria if you divert money from widows and orphans to pay for travel and entertainment. That's not to say it's criminal, but Christ would have a problem with it. How these people can sleep at night is beyond me.
#20.1 Jim Fisher on 2006-10-17 14:17
I want to express my full support for the resolution passed by my Diocesan Assembly (Midwest) and the leadership of Archbishop Job. I pray that it will have a positive effect on the rest of the OCA and lead to a final resolution. I do want to offer a few thoughts. First, having suffered through a similar type of scandal at the university I teach at, I can attest to the need to investigate and to put all the facts out as soon as possible. The resulting federal sanctions imposed on the university affected all of us, even though only a few faculty and administrators were found at fault. Morale was quite low and some did leave. However, once corrective action was taken and an administration dedicated to accountability and participatory decision-making installed. The university became a much stronger and better organization. I bring this example up, to point out that if strong and participatory leadership is asserted and decisive action is taken, with time, the OCA should, with the help of the Holy Spirit, come out of the present morass stronger and better. Second, while many in the church are opposed to the incorporation of regular evaluations of the processes we use and the people that have been chosen to implement them, I firmly believe it is very important that such methods be implemented. Annual evaluations of the administration staff, as well as the governing bodies, is healthy and allows both the strengths and weaknesses to be identified. Opening up to this possibility is not easy and requires a willingness to take praise, as well as criticism. The knowledge gained, however, can lead to identifying and addressing problems sooner rather than tragically later. Third, as has been shown by this web site, when used properly the existence of rapid communications to the laity can be a powerful tool to engage the laity and clergy with the central church. This type public engagement should be embraced by the church and used to help build stronger communications across the church. While I do believe we need to adhere to best practices with regard to financial issues, what about best practices for evangelization, strengthening families, Christian education, and missions work? Fourth, an open dialog needs to be established about the future of Orthodoxy in America in general and the OCA in particular. Many, myself included, yearn for a united American Orthodox Church that is a beacon of Christ’s presence in the world we live. In many respects one could view the present crisis as a time of travail that is necessary before the birth of something wonderful. Let us pray that as we proceed, God fills our emptiness with his presence, so that that we may do his will.
Carston (Rick) Wagner
St. Mary's OCA
#21 Carston R. Wagner on 2006-10-15 22:06
What we all need to do is follow the Gospel of Christ. We do not need to adopt practices of the fallen world. We should all be joyful that the Church has survived all--and that there is no earthly institution that has outlived the Church, be it a company, business, university, club, whatever. There is a reason for this. It is because Christ established the Church and it is Him Who we must struggle to follow. May we all be up to the challenge of waging that struggle.
#22 Archpriest William DuBovik on 2006-10-16 08:52
We are in the midst of a paradox. It's not an unusual position for Christians, at least not in my experience.
Why were there no petitions offered for the leadership of the Church? Well, while I was not there, I'm quite sure there were petitions. I believe Archbishop JOB continues to intone a commemoration for his brother heirarchs, to which we offer our assent. I believe most litinies include our prayers for the Church and it's leadership as well:
"For the good estate of the Holy Churches of God ..."
"For our metropolitan ___, our (arch)bishop ___, for the honorable presbytery, the diaconate in Christ, and for all the clergy and the people, ..."
This ecclesiology does offer another paradox in which we find ourselves. Where is the "fullness of the Church"? That fullness exists in the diocese. When we pray for the Church, we are, at our essense, praying for our diocese and our heirarch. Metropolitan Herman may be a bishop, but Archbishop JOB is my bishop (because I am not in the diocese of New York and Washington).
The diocese, identified in the bishop, is the "unit" (if you will) of the Church. That bishop is under authority, in matters of faith, to the Synod. I read no such authority of the synod in administrative matters. Perhaps I've missed it.
To paraphrase the resolution: We believe you have done wrong. We ask you to stop doing wrong. If you choose to continue to do wrong, we choose not continue to support your behavior. We do, however, continue to promise our love and prayers. Perhaps the last statement was implied and not explicit.
It is the same message I give my children. And it breaks my heart if I have to deny them something they desire which is harmful. But I do it anyway. Not to do so abrogates my responsibility to love them.
We are certainly called to forgive. Perhaps we're even called to continue to suffer abuse (turning the cheek). Most of us, if not all of us, are fully prepared to forgive our heirarchs, as we have witnessed with Archbishop JOB.
In reading Fr. Butler's reflection, I found myself agreeing with most everything he said. We should forgive, we should reconcile, we should heal.
The only existing path seems to require an absolute unquestioned submission. A holy "Trust me". This of itself is a paradox, of a sort. Are we slaves to our episcopal authority? Realizing that only God can judge a persons heart, are we entitled to judge their actions?
In other Orthodox societies, the Church was accountable, on administrative levels, to the state. How does the church operate in an environment where church and state are seperated?
How would we respond to an abused spouse? Is our advice to forgive and continue to accept abuse? Or forgive and remove oneself from the relationship? What about abused children who cannot remove themselves from a relationship?
I'm not attempting to draw an analogy. Just asking some very difficult questions that have no hard and fast rules in our rulebook.
I think the answer in this instance is that God does not offer us a rulebook for dealing with such delimmas. He only offers us the Holy Spirit, found in conciliarity. The answers for those questions without rules always begin "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us ..." (Acts 15:28)
It seems to this very biased observer that the model offered by the Diocese of the Midwest embodies that ethos of pastoral leadership, prayer and common sense, put forward in a spirit of conciliarity and love for our fellow believers.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#23 Marty Watt on 2006-10-16 14:28
Why has ArchBishop Job's Report Disappeared from all places? It was one of the most meaningful reports I have ever seen from any bishop, especially if you are from the Midwest diocese.
I believe the Archbishop's report is linked within the minutes.
#24.1 Juli on 2006-10-18 20:21
All the records of the Assembly, including Abp. JOB's report, are included in the official Assembly Minutes posted on the Diocesan website here http://midwestdiocese.org/files/Minutes.pdf
An exemplary case of reporting, by the way. I wish the central administration took it as a guide... They still seem to struggle with finding their footing in the domain of public disclosure.
#24.2 Inga Leonova on 2006-10-19 07:04
The Address of His Eminence is again available through a dedicated link at midwestdiocese.org
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