Wednesday, December 20. 2006
Suddenly there is silence. Shouldn't everybody be signing? Your comments are welcome.
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Further evidence that we have a serious, substantive disagreement on governance and administration within a hierarchial environment.
Met. Herman, and a significant number of bishops, seem to believe the Metropolitan, and bishops in their diocese, are accountable to no one, save Christ. In fact, some seem to believe they are Christ, they are the Scriptures.
Others, including myself, believe the Scriptures that the things of God are not of private interpretation. We are not like the Latter-day Saints, whose 12 most senior officers are allowed to interpret their Scriptures as they wish.
By their actions, the Metropolitan and certain hierarchs have shown their contempt for accountability, transparency, and external standards. Best Practices, regardless of how expertly crafted will not be effective unless there is a commitment to them from the hierarchs.
I still maintain we have a serious differences in our understanding of orthodox ecclesiology. This is where we need our seminaries to step up, and our sister churches to step up. This is where we need our monastic communities to step up. We need our church historians to step up. We need for these knowledgeable, prayerful people to participate in this discussion.
I feel badly for those who devoted so much time and effort to developing the Best Practices document. If we are honest, though, even in the private sector, best practices and ethical statements do not offer any protection without the teeth of the regulators. At the end of the day, it is the government who is the oversight of the corporate world, and best practices are designed to ensure compliance with governmental rules and regulations.
Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Healthsouth -- all had conflict of interest statements and ethics policies. It was transgression of federal law, not the presence of statements and policies, that caused behavioral change in those organizations.
At this point it appears we have two regulatory bodies that might have an interest in our situation. We know the FBI is involved. Perhaps the IRS would be a better choice, given that the individual's who benefited from any ill-gotten gain would be subject to those laws.
I still maintain the Church's hierarchs have throughout history been subject to governmental oversight. The Emperor called the ecumenical councils. The monarchs sent Patriarchs, both saints and sinners, from their thrones into exile.
Yes, I believe we have a serious disagreement in our understanding of Orthodox ecclesiology. To attempt to move forward without resolving this issue is futile.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#1 Marty Watt on 2006-12-20 08:34
Like many others I was pleased to read that the latest round of meetings went well and a lot of information was brought to light; however, there is still a considerable amount of work to be completed. Just because you have diagnosed an illness doesn't mean that you are cured.
Dn. Peter's comments about Best Practices are very important. These guidelines will help to shape the future course of the OCA. Most Orthodox Christians choose to belong to the Orthodox Church because of its structure. This structure defines who we are, what we believe and how we are to live our lives. These Best Practices are trying to do the exact same thing: provide guidance and structure to what should be believed and adhered to on an administrative level. As Orthodox Christians would we ever feel that we could alter the Nicene Creed for example? Yet in Syosset there is currently no creed, no managing document to work from. It's shoot from the hip and make it up as you go. Is it no wonder that financially things went completely out of control?
I'm sure that some readers here will disagree with my analogy. That's fine. I would say though that I have worked with many for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, and those that have very clear mission statements backed up by clear and effective policies and procedures tend to fare much better than those that don't.
#2 Fr. Michael on 2006-12-20 08:37
Well! Well! Well!
It seems that there may be a rather high mercury content in the water supply at the Syosset headquaters.
Let me see if I have this right. We can spent $300,000 to investigate approximately 8 years of the past, but the folks in Syosset are reluctant to pay $6000 to help protect decades of our future. How reassuring, that we Orthodox have such great veneration for things gone by while we refuse to hop on the bandwagon of the contemporary world!
Maybe the problem in Syosset is not too much mercury in the water supply, but rather the problem is an acting out of the Peter (and Paul) principle.
#3 Sophia Orrthi on 2006-12-20 09:32
In my experience probably even better -- in the $3,000-5,000 range. (Could be less, but you get what you pay for.) But -- hey! -- maybe if the price goes up to, say $25,000, $50,000, $100,000 or $300K, they will be more interested. You know the old saying: "Why shop anywhere else when you can pay 100x as much here?".... Or they can continue to live in a delusional world in which its cool to perform self-surgery (why not? They're practicing the time honored art of auto-hagiography.)
#3.1 Vicki Vyekoff on 2006-12-20 14:25
At a time when corruption and financial misdeeds have stood to the forefront, would not wisdom, morality and common sense dictate going to the extreme to show that such behaviors are no longer tolerated? Yet the misrepresentations, dare we say falsehoods continue. We can spend $300,000 to investigate, but not $6000 to correct. Have things really changed? ..or have all these efforts been simply a misdirect to keep the focus off the fact the Metropolitan and his inner circle have no intent to change. Was this a mere smokescreen to deflate +Archbishop Job's demand for honesty?
What also worries me is the fact that the one person who "knows where all the bodies are buried", Fr. Kondratick, when dismissed for gross errors, was transferred to the Diocese of the South, the one diocese that was not to be represented at the December meeting and hence he, Fr. Kondratick, could neither be be called forth nor disciplined. The "bodies" were allowed to remain buried in their secret graves.
Was this just an accident that he was placed in a diocese whose bishop, most knew, would be too ill to be present? I worry that there is an "Orthodox" Watergate, emerging wherein those who knew will be allowed to remain silent and untouched and many of those being tapped to investigate are close enough to the +Metropolitan's robes to touch them. We must now honestly ask, "Does the +Metropolitan really want change?" Or as with former President Nixon, will he delay and stonewall until the very last?
#4 Charles Swensen on 2006-12-20 10:10
Dropping Best Practices will result in a longer time for a return of credibility for the OCA. That is the choice of the administration and that choice will be reflected in givings.
Why get angry about it?
Thanks for letting us know this effort has failed. Does this mean Abp. Job will be withholding assessments next spring?
#5 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-12-20 10:22
The answer to your question is it has nothing directly to do with Best Practices. Here is the resolution adopted by the Assembly of MW Diocese in October:
“We acknowledge the current financial scandal and leadership crisis within the OCA is intolerable to the Faithful members of this diocese. It is the mind of the Diocesan Assembly of the Diocese of the Midwest, meeting in Palatine, IL, this 11th day of October 2006, that we have no confidence in the manner in which the administration in Syosset, NY, has handled this crisis and scandal.
We call upon the Metropolitan, the Synod of Bishops, and the Metropolitan Council of the OCA to adhere to the Statutes of the OCA in their entirety including accepting the competencies of all bodies within the OCA.
In an effort to provide administrative accountability and fiscal transparency, the recommendations of the auditors for full financial disclosure and generally accepted accounting principles need to be fully implemented (e.g., quarterly budgetary reporting).
If by the Spring Session of the Synod of Bishops, March, 2007, any aspects of the Statutes are being violated, the Diocese of the Midwest will begin putting its assessment in escrow.
His Eminence, Archbishop Job, with the Diocesan Council, will make the determination on this matter."
But it would be a very good idea if the MC adopted Best Practices, for sure.
#5.1 Michael Strelka on 2006-12-21 07:34
It would seem that Abp. Job was assigned this task precisely to thwart any move to withhold assessments.
Looking at the budget for 2007, at least they are realisticly expecting a dramatic decrease in giving, relying mainly on what they can squeeze out of the assessments, the majority of which come from the Diocese of the Midwest.
This may be a hot potatoe, but it seems to me that someone should revisit the arrangement wherein some dioceses (including Canada) give little or nothing. All should at least tithe, which is one thing I commend Bp. Nikolai of Alaska for doing.
#5.2 Name withheld on 2006-12-21 14:04
Did you not know? Clerics don't need "Best Practices." While they may be forced to give it lipservice, they (in their minds) do not need to operate according to such "secular standards." To many believe that they are exempt from such mundane and profane treatments of ecclesiastical activity. They prefer the "... it is in God's hands" school of management and administration.
This attitude, I believe, is reinforced in seminary. Dear seminary professors, please enter this dialogue.
#6 Anon. on 2006-12-20 13:53
The attitude underlying the " '... it is in God's hands' school of management and administration" was not taught at seminary when I graduated a decade ago. I had a solidly respectable education by men of deservedly good repute who put their heart into the Church because of their love for God and neighbor. Nor have I ever heard a graduate of an OCA seminary (or Holy Cross, for that matter) place the blame for their own, or their classmates', personal failings on their seminary for teaching such things.
Personal character failings are . . . personal , even though they may be publicly visible and impact the whole world.
Fr. Bartholomew Wojcik
(The least of "the Fathers Wojcik")
#6.1 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2006-12-20 16:56
Dear Fr. Wojcik (The Lesser?):
Why then do so many clergy of various jurisdictions give themselves permission to be so gloriously incompetent about what they perjoratively label "secular business techniques"? Is it simply a vocabulary problem or is it a deeper philosophical problem?
#6.1.1 Anon. on 2006-12-21 16:34
I can confirm Fr. Bartholomew's statement on the teaching of St. Vladimir's Seminary. You are speculating, and unfairly. St. Vladimir's faculty instilled the importance of learning the standards of civil institutions and businesses so that clergy can effectively manage parish business as overseers.
Why in the world would you assume that all seminary graduates faithfully follow and apply every detail of the education they received? I have had to explain to many people - in confidence, not as an accusation against another cleric - that some clerics' ideas and practices diverge from seminary content. The theological diversity of the clergy who post here and elsewhere clearly confirms this.
This should not surprise anyone. I would guess that you could identify this kind of diverse thinking and practice in every profession. I just want to make it clear that St. Vladimir's does not encourage an unhealthy dualism. I can't speak for the other seminaries, but I assume that the same is true for them.
#184.108.40.206 Dn. Nicholas Denysenko on 2006-12-22 06:35
Dear Dn. Nicholas,
While, of course, taking you at your word with respect to St. Valdimir's, I do wonder about the other seminaries, especially St. Tikhon's and St. Herman's too, if the influence of the current bishop takes hold. I also perceive, without any hard evidence, that St. Valdimir's has lost some of its fomer standing, at least in certain quarters, and that its influence is therefore greatly diminished. Please tell me I am mistaken.
In closing, just let me say, that I always finds your comments extremely instructive and learned, not to mention articulate. You are truly one of the "lights" of the OCA.
#220.127.116.11.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-12-22 17:03
Dear Good Deacon,
What you are saying is encouraging. However, would you disagree with the observation that this diversity of opinion and outlook has not translated (up till now) into a healthy dialogue and accountability among clergy and laity over the last decade or more? Something seems to have broken down somewhere in a healthy give and take. Is not something out of synch with regard to moral fortitude?
#18.104.22.168.2 Anon. on 2006-12-22 20:13
I have been in the federal and state government positions for about 40 years. I have learned two things:
1) Change is very hard.
2) Standards, best practices, tweaking of organizational structure, quality assurance/control/continious quality imrovement programs, etc.--they are all based on fundamental power relationships in any given organization. That is why, see (1) above.
It does not surprise me that Mark reported "The attorney’s objections to the “Best Practices” - as written by the Metropolitan’s hand-picked committee headed by Protodeacon Danilchik - were substantive. Among the objections were that the current “Best Practices” proposals, while a good start, were incomplete, lacking in teeth, and failed to take into account the special needs of a hierarchical
church in which a hierarch himself is accused of violating the standards set forth."
Even if the Metropolitan Herman was not implicated to any degree, the lawyer's review would have been a real huge "horse pill" for anybody to swallow. Folks, our church structure has been set in stone for centuries--it will take a few more years to turn this ship to just another heading.
That being said, I would think that the modern church, particularly in the West, is (or should be) more like the church of the pre-Imperial period than the church of the illiterate clergy and laity that characterized the Orthodox for too many years, in too many countries. Let me give you three examples of what I mean by the Imperial period: (1) I was told that the secret prayers in the Liturgy were secret because they were too holy to be shared with the laity; (2) history tells us that it was during the imperial church that the bishops could no longer come from married priesthood because of the problems experienced with the bishop's wives and family; and (3) as recently as the 1950's, some local churches ordained priests whose main qualification was their ability to chant. By the way, during the Imperial period, the vast majority of laity was indeed the great unwashed: illiterate, burdened with crushing work and living conditions, and fairly uncivilized by our standards.
I don't know when the status of both the laithy and clergy greatly improved, but I do remember I was startled when informed of the "priesthood of the believers." Well, if we are all priests, the fundamental power relationships between the laity and the "real" priesthood must be altered. It is as if we are now part of one big family, not the two (or three that are implied in Bishop Nikolai's treatment of Father Kucynda). It is just not clear that even a majoty of our clergy and laity have seen and accepted this major shift.
We have a long way to go and many travails and disappointments will befall us; we can bear them all with our Lord's help. Just like the saying, we should continue to "praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." The laithy must push, the clergy must pull and we all must pray. "Push, Pull, and Pray" or "PP&P" could be our slogan. By the way, in some states, "PP&P" stands for Probation, Pardon and Parole, which sometimes is evocative of our relationships with each other, the Church and the Lord, doesn't it?
#7 Carl on 2006-12-20 15:31
RE: COMMENTS BY THE ATTORNEY
According to the ocanews.org website, some of the objections voiced by the attorney were that the Best Practices and Policies document is "incomplete, lacking in teeth, and failed to take into account the special needs of a hierarchical
church in which a hierarch himself is accused of violating the standards set forth". My recollection of the MC resolution in September was that the Best Practices were approved with one final step -- to be submitted to an attorney versed in New York State law to see if there were anything in them that was objectionable from a legal viewpoint. In other words, it was to be a last minute check to see if there was anything LEGALLY wrong with the text. The substance (i.e., the "meat") of the Best Practices was agreed to by the MC.
It would be helpful if ocanews.org could see whether the attorney found anything LEGALLY objectionable under NY STATE law or not. With regard to NON-LEGAL aspects of the text and with all due respect to the above-mentioned attorney, I am confident that I could submit the text to a dozen attorneys and receive 12 different proposals for changes to the substance (not the legality) of the text. Every attorney has different experiences and backgrounds and it is normal that they would seek to share the benefit with their clients. Of course, the attorney could have some wonderful suggestions that were overlooked by the drafters of the Best practices and I am sure that the Metropolitan Council would be very happy to hear of them. But my recollection of the MC resolution was that the MC was not looking for re-drafting suggestions but rather the confirmation of the legality of the text according to NY state law.
The major question that the MC has to answer is -- do they think that further delays are warranted to review/ modify/ decide upon the improvements suggested by the attorney (or another one), or do they want to go with what works right now --assuming it is legal under NY state law -- (considering that this document represents a significant improvement over the current situation) and re-visit after a year's experience of implementation? MC members -- any reaction?
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#8 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2006-12-20 19:46
Nothing like trying to get by with minimal effort, I guess. Why bother pedaling when we can coast (except, of course, when the inevitable hill is faced).
Its all so very -- um, what's the word? Oh, yeah -- average. And not a little presumptuous ("... go with what works right now.")
#8.1 Anne A. Thema on 2006-12-21 16:05
Dear Ms Anne A Thema,
I find it extraordinary that anyone who actually read the Best Practices and Policies (see the link below)
would think that they are "average" and represent "minimal effort." I think that the MC would welcome your specific "above-average" improvement suggestions -- stemming from your "maximal" effort of course. I think all of us on this website would like to hear them as well.
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#8.1.1 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2006-12-21 21:46
Fr Dn, Only someone qualified should comment on those. Anyway its not the policies I was saying are average but the attitude that keeps coming out of Syosset, which is also presumptuous. Just when we think theres light at the end of the tunnel, or when you think things have to start getting better, BAM!, something so odd you couldnt make it up it hits you in between the eyes. So here we are again it looks like there's no desire for order in the organization or humility in the leadership (not in all of the people there for sure, but in enough to make a differnce. And Im sure some of the people who arent part of the solution as they say are still good at heart. But some arent. ). Anyway, if the OCA wants to do things right, why not get experts. Its like hiring a bishop to be treasurer ... we wouldn't do that, would we. Oooops. Forget about that one. But the point is still there. We're tired of the arrogance and the obstinence, and we're sick of being scammed. When we see resistence to doing things the way any other group of normal healthy people would do it we dont get it. We just dont understand. And its frustrating us to no end.
#22.214.171.124 Anne A. Thema on 2006-12-22 17:06
I appreciate your efforts in drafting the Best Practices statement and pushing for its adoption. This type of work is not very fun or rewarding, though it is necessary. Thank you for posting the link. I just read the document from start to finish.
As a lawyer, I read the document with three questions in mind: (1) What standards does this Best Practices Policy establish? and (2) What are the consequences if someone fails to comply with the standards? and (3) Who is supposed to enforce those consequences?
I think that the standards you have drafted are high aspirational standards. If there is a flaw in the document, the flaw is that the document does not clearly answer questions (2) and (3).
The reason I think so many people are skeptical of Best Practices is that the Central Administration currently does not bother to follow the OCA Statute, which is supposed to be a legally binding document that governs church administration. If the Administration refuses to follow its charter document, why would anyone have any confidence that they will follow a purely "aspirational" document that does not have a built-in enforcement mechanism with teeth?
I think that you have done a good job addressing the first of the three questions, but to do the job right I think the document needs to address the seocnd and third questions too. But I have a sense that the Central Administration has no intention of ever allowing this more than an aspirational document.
That is probably why some feel it is better to focus on first things first. First start following the legal documents the Church already has -- and then think about how those might be improved or supplemented.
#126.96.36.199 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2006-12-23 02:59
You stated that the following two questions are not clearly answered in the Best Practices and Policies document: “A. What are the consequences if someone fails to comply with the standards? B. Who is supposed to enforce those consequences?” Further, you wanted to see “a built-in enforcement mechanism with teeth.” Please allow me to give a bit more background and offer some observations on enforcement.
Firstly, some background to Question A is contained in the Violations section of the Ethics Policy and in the Whistleblower Policy as follows:
Ethics Policy -- VII. Violations
If the Council has reasonable cause to believe a person subject to this Ethics Policy has violated one or more provisions, it shall inform that person of the basis for such belief and afford that person an opportunity to respond to the allegation. If, after hearing that person's response and after making further investigation as warranted by the circumstances, the Council determines that person has in fact violated this Ethics Policy, it shall take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action. All violations or suspected violations of the Ethics Policy shall be handled in accordance with the Whistleblower Policy.
Whistleblower Policy – III. Metropolitan Council Audit Committee
The Chair of the Metropolitan Council Audit Committee is responsible for investigating and resolving all reported complaints and allegations concerning violations of the Ethics Policy and shall advise the Chair of the Metropolitan Council and work with the Audit Committee until the matter is resolved. The Chair of the Metropolitan Council Audit Committee is required to report to the Metropolitan Council at least annually on compliance activity. The Audit Committee shall address all reported concerns or complaints regarding corporate accounting practices, internal controls or auditing.
Thus, the role of the Audit Committee is to serve as the investigator of possible violations of the Ethics Policy and the Best Practice standards of financial governance. The Metropolitan Council as a corporate body then has the responsibility for taking “appropriate disciplinary and corrective action” -- that is, the “consequences of failing to comply with the standards”. Some have suggested that an a priori Table of Offenses and Penalties should be constructed. Indeed one can observe that the canons of various Church Councils sometimes contain long lists of penalties for various offenses. What might these be in the case of the Council? Perhaps these could involve private or public statement of reprimand or censure or even expulsion from the Council (although in this event the OCA Statute would have to be modified to allow for this). Who would determine the particular “appropriate disciplinary and corrective action”? Answer: the entire Council by majority vote. This is their responsibility as elected representatives of their Dioceses and the all-American Council. Who would enforce it? Same answer. Only one exception – when a Bishop is involved – see more below. Should there be developed such a Table of Offences and Penalties? I think that the Council needs to make up its own mind on that. However, I would recommend that their first priority needs to be taking up their financial governance responsibilities, getting people to be highly sensitive to the need for ethical compliance, and not worry right now about penalties to exact from offenders.
My hope is that the existence of the new standards, the enthusiasm and intimate involvement of the Audit Committee, and the commitment of the entire Metropolitan Council to set things aright, will stave off such offenses for some time. And if they do occur in the future, each one can be treated individually in a manner befitting the Church. In any event, were a governmental law or regulation be determined to be violated, then there would necessarily have to be reporting by the Council to the appropriate authorities for further action.
At least one person has questioned: “what happens if the offender is the Metropolitan or other Bishop?” The responsibility of the Metropolitan Council is the same regardless of the ecclesiastical status or position of anyone under investigation. It must investigate and determine if there is a violation of the Ethics Policy. According to the Ethics policy, there are no exceptions. Then -- if indeed the Council determines that the Metropolitan or a Bishop has violated the Ethics Policy, then according to the OCA Statute Article 2, Section 7j, that finding must be referred to the Holy Synod of Bishops for action. Again, if there were violation of governmental law or regulation, that would have to be reported separately to the authorities.
Finally, a non-profit Governing Board such as the Metropolitan Council is normally charged with its own self-enforcement. To fulfill this responsibility effectively, it must first know what the standards are (e.g., the Ethics Policy), be personally committed to those standards (e.g., sign the Policy), ask the hard questions and demand the full answers, without fear of any man, having only the fear of offending the Most High God.
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#188.8.131.52.1 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2006-12-27 15:15
Thank you for your well-thought out response. I am not sure whether a Table of Offenses and Penalties is the answer, but I believe Section VII of the Ethics Policy does not go far enough. It only codifies the status quo. The Metropolitan Council already has the theoretical authority to do all the things in Section VII, but from a practical standpoint it has no authority at all because it does not have all the information it needs on a regular basis.
The Whistleblower Policy gives the Chair of the audit committee certain authority and responsibility, but what happens when the Chair of the audit committee is summarily dismissed for asking too many questions?
Finally, one more suggestion would be to beef up the annual statment that everyone is supposed to sign. In addition to the clauses that say "I have received the policy and I understand it" I would suggest adding a certification that "I have fully complied with the policy."
#184.108.40.206.1.1 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2007-01-04 17:33
You may be interested in the Independent Sector report on "Obedience to the Unenforceable" (see link below) which deals with your concerns (and mine).
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#220.127.116.11.2 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2007-01-02 14:35
That link should be:
otherwise you get a file not found error on the download.
#18.104.22.168.2.1 Dan Stark on 2007-01-02 20:56
Failure to establish a "Best Practices" policy and adhere to it fully is not in the best interest of the OCA. It strongly suggests that some in Syosset want to continue conducting business as usual. A review of the policy by an appropriate New York attorney before its adoption dose not seems unreasonable. Rather, it seems prudent. But with or without the review, a strong policy needs to be put in place. The time to establish the policy is now.
#9 Samuel Osman on 2006-12-21 11:11
>>with or without the review, a strong policy needs to be put in place.
#9.1 Irene Ipassi on 2006-12-22 08:22
>>with or without the review, a strong policy needs to be put in place
#9.2 Irene Ipassi on 2006-12-22 15:44
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the accountable to no one thing not work well in the last organizational design??
Ok so the pitch is we'll say we're changing things, but we'll all still not be accountable to anyone and it can be a free for all again.
Someone once said here that this would take years to solve, i'm starting to beleive that now. We may have to wait until Met. Herman takes ill and is "forced" to step down for health reasons (wink wink), for a new metropolitan to actually do something for the good of the church, and not the good of the heirarchy.
Let us pray.
#10 John Bardasian on 2006-12-21 11:46
Clearly a good administrative organization and plan is needed and we see this emerging in the plan put forward by the committee assigned this task by the OCA. However, all this focus on best practices and the corporate world is confusing. Have the best practices prevented abuse in business, industry and the like? Clearly not as witnessed by so much that goes on in the world of business. This is not to say that all are corrupte who are in business, but we do see a lot of corruption and practices that harm the public. Saying that the best practices can be found in Christ and the Gospel is not to dismiss the need for good organization, but to recognize our priority as Orthodox Christians. There is a reason why we sing at each Liturgy not to put our trust in earthly princes; and there is a reason why the Church has been on this earth longer than any business, or other earthly institution. Yes, persons can make mistakes in the Church, but she will right herself also through our dedicated struggle to follow Christ and His Gospel; struggling to get up when we stumble. I for one will put my trust in the Holy Synod of Bishops before I do in any corporate board or entity. And as a Church it is still the Holy Synod to which we turn for guidance, direction and pastoral care.
#11 Very Rev. William DuBovik on 2006-12-22 16:50
Putting your trust in bishops for matters concerning the faith "once for all delivered to the saints" is wise, Father; putting your trust in bishops merely because they are bishops for matters of compliance with the civil law, with accounting principles, with financial decisions, with real estate matters, with choosing which software will best facilitates administration, for human resources decisions, for insurance coverage, for benefits, and for so many other matters is plain foolishness. It is particularly foolish---even obtuse---when this particular Synod of Bishops has shown itself to be, at best, a vortex of incompetence; and, at worst, a harbor for thieves.
A mitre and a Panagia medallion doth not an expert make. We may as well practice faith healing to the exclusion of medical doctors. Just because we are not of the world does not mean we have to reject that which is in the world that has practical value with respect to the day-to-day exercise of the mundance necessities incident to our mission (so long as it does not require us to deny that which is essential to the Faith once for all delivered to the saints, of course). We are not magicians; we are Christians. And we are, therefore, called to grow up and recognize the line that demarcates the province within which we, as the Church, are necessarily called to operate---that of the Spirit---and that which is not of necessity within our charismatic bailiwick; we are called to be wise, not merely innocent ... which means we are called to grow up and stop being so full of ourselves just because we bear the moniker of Christian (or, especially, of bishop or priest). So long as we demand the benefits the civil law permits us, we are morraly corrupt when we look down our nose at the world's expertise offered to us in order to comply with the civil law in matters not essentially spiritual. We can't have it both ways ... not so long as we don't want to be disclosed as the hypocrites that such would make us.
The Call here is, of course, to identify that which is Essential, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, that which is temporal, aesthetically pleasing, culturally familiar, not more than lower-case-t-tradition, or, especially, that which is self-serving.
Next, I must ask before going further that you do forgive me for being blunt, but I believe you to be quite inaccurate in what you have both expressed and implied, and also that this inaccuracy is quite dangerous to the welfare of the community of belivers who unite under the umbrella called the OCA, and so I must comment forthrightly. THUS: as to your reasoning regarding best practices, your logic is fallacious in at least three respects.
FIRST, you presume that where there are corporate governance misdeeds, there are also necessarily "best practices" in place; or, alternatively, that where there are best practices in place there have inevitably followed misdeeds; but, you have no way of knowing this outside of a very precisely executed empirical study with a sample pool broad enough to be without statistically significant error. You are being, plainly, speculatitve, and it is unfair to do so when, as a pastor, you would know that there are penty of people who would will blindly accept what you've stated merely because you are a priest. That's wrong. Moreover, I can tell you, from my own experience, that its just not so that where there are best practices implemented that misdeeds necessarily follow.
SECOND, your reasoning fails because it presumes that because some thing is not perfect in its implementation, then it is therefore of no value. That rationale should show itself essentially unhelpful without further comment. You may as well conclude that since the hierarhcs of our Church and the MC have shown themselve incompetent, negligent or criminal (as the case may be), that we should cease to be a herarchical body, or that we should do away with the MC; but we DON'T conclude that because the abuse of some thing does not invalidate its proper use, just as ....
THIRD, the limited value of some thing does not invalidate is implementation for the value we ARE able to enjoy from it. In other words, your reasoning tends to imply that where some thing is unable to deliver 100% of a desired goal, then that thing is of negligible value. That's also, I should think, self-evidently silly. Still, I will note why (in part): A problem to which the solution is multi-faceted does not benefit from rejecting one of the facets needed to bring about the solution merely because all the other facets are not yet in place. But note, that just because failures occur where best practices (or some other matter of corporate governance -- we definitely do not need to limit ourselves to this new concept of BP) are in place does not mean that they are not helpful; the question is still always open whether the problems would have been worse without the adoption of this, or some other, secular business practice. More often than not, this can be shown to be so, happily.
Finally, I'd like to point out what is the most (screamingly) obvious fallacy in your implied proposal: prior to the OCA's consideration of this particular secular "business" practice, we had major, major trouble. This embarrassing, crimincal, sinful, diabolical scandal (which includes, as I am sure you know, much more than financial issues ...) occured not only under the watch of the Synod of Bishops (princes and sons of men, all) in which you claim to place your trust, but at least two of them were actual malefactors in the entire conspiracy. Financial and otherwise.
So, you place your trust in them; as for me, I will place my trust in a process that demonstrably helps in part to facilitate the verification of the trustworthiness of those whom we elect to govern us. As they said in the 80's: Trust, but verify.
At the end of the day, a people who places its trust in matters over which they have been ordained as stewards to third-party representatives or leaders who have no demonstrated expertise (and, worse, and demonstrated incomptence or indiffernce) deserves the hierarchy they get.
What do we want to deserve, as the OCA? That is the question that presents itself to us today. And its less about best practices than it is about attitude. For those with ears to hear, let them hear.
#11.1 Anne A. Nemos on 2006-12-25 02:00
You have chosen to read into what I said as you desire and then build a strawman for your own attack. First of all I think we can show courtesy to each other and avoid personal attacks in all regards. It also would be good not to try and lecture each other, if there is to be any dialogue. Remember that healing comes with forgiveness. And we all as sinners need both.
That said, I spoke of Christ and His Gospel being the best practice that we can follow and I put my trust in Him and His Church, and in our Orthodox Church that includes the governance and guidance of bishops, over corporations or other earthly institutions. By their fruits we can know them.
If a scenario presents itself in which something like best practices works for a corporate entity that is fine. I don't think though that such a document gurantees compliance with it and certainly have seen corporations gauge the public with their pricing and other practices. Not all, but certainly some.
Third, I stated that we do need a good administrative structure. I did not suggest that a Bishop needs to decide what light bulb to buy. We who are Orthodox know this. Just because someone places a best practices document upon a structure is again no panacea for what is wrong or may have gone wrong.
And finally, you note that the limited value of something does not invalidate its implementation--Certainly, and I would add that the fact that mistakes are made does not invalidate an entire organization either, which you may or may not have made reference to.
Finally, we are in the glow of the Nativity of Christ--He changed the world...it is in Him that we put our trust and not earthly princes as we sing each week at Liturgy.
May God bless you in the year ahead and may you know the joy of His peace and salvific acts.
In Christ's love,
#11.1.1 Very Rev. William DuBovik on 2007-01-02 09:11
I just read a story about whistleblowers within the Shriners that has an eerily familiar set of circumstances. Here is the link:
If what the story suggests is true, it would behoove the OCA to adopt AND adhere to legitimate Best Practices asap.
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