Monday, May 14. 2007
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Silencing the opposition is a mark of a dictator, a tyrant, not of a leader.
#1 Name withheld on 2007-05-14 10:12
Just a small suggestion for an otherwise excellent and yet again sobering post.
Seeing as there are two +Tikhons in the OCA, I think it would be good to identify which one wrote that letter to Protodeacon Wheeler just in case the one who didn't write the letter decides to cry foul. Otherwise, I think you and Protodeacon Wheeler said it all. Thanks.
(Editor's note: The letter was written by the former Bishop of the West, not the current Bishop of Eastern Pennsylvania.)
#2 Stephen on 2007-05-14 10:31
Mark and Eric,
Thank you for the Truth, Wisdom, Love and Concern that flows from the words in this latest article. The heavy Dose of Reality and the Powerful Light it sheds on our current situation is immensly important and much needed. This article stands as a testament to the truth of this deep crisis and provides validation and comfort to the rest of us who see, hear and understand the serious problems and deriliction of sacramental duties of many in the hierarchy and clergy.
This site and so many of the contributors and the editor and commentators are doing the heavy lifting and are carrying the torch for all of us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Keep up the good fight and righteous work. We are begin you all the way! We support and pray that Truth and Righteousness will shine forth and resurrect the OCA.
Evil men and the enemies of Truth and Christ do not stand a chance. As we say at Pascha:
"Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee from before his face! As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish; as wax melts before the fire, So the sinners will perish before the face of God; but let the righteous be glad. This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!"
This is our Faith! This is Theology! This is Reality! This is the Truth! Beware evil men and principalities, your days are numbered.
We have Christ's promise "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome (comprehend) it." I rejoyce and continue to pray for all of us and our Church. The day of salvation will be at hand. Repent all you who still love darkness more and hide from the Light. We stand with Christ, we stand for Truth, we stand for righteousness.
Mark, I really think this article nails the central issue that has to be confronted and changed if real progress is to be made.
Steps here and there to improve this or that are necessary and difficult, but will all be for naught unless the culture of our leadership changes, unless we move away from fear and supression of information and self-protecting authoritarianism.
I do have a question, however about your concluding point --
>This only makes one ask the further question:
>Why? What is so terrible that even to ask questions
>is cause for destroying people’s careers (as in the
>case of Wheeler and Harrison)? What is so horrible
>that even to ask the question is cause for reprimanding
>clergy – or removing laymen from positions they
>are uniquely qualified for (as in the case of Nescott)?
>What is so frightening that Syosset is willing to
>threaten members of the the Special Investigative
>Commission and Metropolitan Council with dismissal
>if they continue to seek the truth?
Early on in this, the "what's so terrible that they have to hide it?" argument was very powerful to me, but over time it has become less so because so much is public or alluded to publicly enough to be effectively public -- misuse of money for personal purposes, blackmail to cover up sexual indiscretions, huge sums gone missing, etc. etc. etc. The depth and reach of some of this may still be obscured to some degree, and perhaps there are three old ladies in British Columbia who haven't heard it all yet, but at this point just about everyone in the OCA knows what's been going on and at least the broad outlines of the transgressions involved.
So is MH still hiding something worse? Or is it that he just really, profoundly, deeply doesn't get it that the horse bolted a long time ago and that time for barring the barn door is passed? (Or maybe they don't get that some of the nastiest things reputed to have gone on, that you tend to steer conversation away from on this site, are just as broadly understood as the financial stuff?)
In discussing this exact point with someone recently, I pointed out than an alternative to the "what they're hiding must be really horrible" theory is the "total cluelessness" theory, to wit: the possibility that MH is so out of touch, so naturally authoritarian, so instinctively disdainful of the laity and clergy, so indifferent to the opinion of others, possesses such a deeply engrained sense of entitlement to the perks of his office, has become so accustomed to viewing the church as "his", has so little instinct for fiduciary or pastoral responsibility, is so deeply accustomed to willy-nilly using funds for the benefit of himself and his friends (albeit seemingly on a smaller scale than the form chancellor did), and is so fundamentally clueless about how the world has changed in terms of information, empowerment, communications, etc. that he really thinks that he can just ride this out and go on with business as usual and that the 'complainers' can be suppressed. He may really not understand that he no longer has any effective leadership, that no one believes him and that he is taking the church down -- for him, he is the church and anything that benefits him is "for the good of the church."
If this is the case, it might actually be worse than if he's self-consciously and with foresight seeking to cover up specific, pervasive and truly horrendous misdeeds.
Of course, the two theories are not mutually exclusive.
#4 Rebecca Matovic on 2007-05-14 11:17
I realize the list of clergy who have been silenced is broad. But, there is another priest who is perhaps worth mentioning. He is a young priest in EPA. In December 2005, his Parish Council, genuinely concerned that the financial situation of the OCA needed to be addressed on the local level, voted unanimously to withhold their assessments. The young priest did not vote on that. Yet, within just a day or two, he received a call from the chancellor of EPA to appear in the Bishop's office to explain that motion or what the chancellor called "insubordination to his bishop". Much to the priest's surprise he was called to South Canaan not for a meeting with +Tikhon, his diocesan bishop, but for a private audience with +Herman. At the meeting with +Herman he was told in no uncertain terms that if the Council would implement that motion, he would be removed from serving the parish or any other.
Maybe it is just coincidental,but, I understand that the young priest happens to be a close relation to the Metropolitan's Archdeacon and knew intimately the details of many expenditures by the Archdeacon and had been privately questioning the relationship / perks the Archdeacon was afforded.
#5 Hopeful in EPA on 2007-05-14 11:22
The first Orthodox Church I was ever in was an OCA parish many years ago. I remember it so well and probably reading Fr Alexander 's "For the Life of the World" was probably a major factor in my conversion to Orthodoxy.
What happened?...I can't believe the extent of the things I'm reading on here and the extent of the trouble. It just gets worse and worse.
Thursday , the Russian Church will be reunited after 80 years .
The Moscow Patriarchate will in reality be opening over a hunderd parishes in this country. I don't think the autocephaly of the OCA will be respected. A chance for an American Orthodox Church has unfortunately been set back for perhaps another hundred years.
#6 Scott Desan on 2007-05-14 11:24
I must commend you again in your ongoing efforts to save the OCA. Clearly your efforts, along with those of Brothers Wheeler and Harrison and many other faithful clergy and laity, must be supported if the ultimate disaster is to be averted. Having already addressed the need for fervent prayer because of the spiritual warfare aspect of this crisis, I believe that the growing calls to starve the rogue bishops of financial resources has become an imperative to the survival of the OCA.
Your brother in Christ,
#7 Marc Trolinger on 2007-05-14 11:56
All Hail to Wheeler. Our Saviour. Why don't we just let the good deacon run the Church. He has all the answers. What need do we have all all the rest. We have no King but Caesar and our King is Wheeler.
Best bit of yellow journalism yet Mark. Can't wait for Part 3. Will it have the complete blueprint for the new OCA?
#8 Anonymous on 2007-05-14 12:42
It seems the only option remaining is for Archbishop JOB to follow through on his threat during the last Metropolitan Council meeting. I'm appalled that the diocesan council finds meaningful change. We keep hearing the same refrain - "things have changed" - but then no one is allowed to discuss the substantive aspects of change.
Besides, the resolution was clear -- compliance with the statute is the standard. Is the central church compliant with the statute? I daresay recent activities would say "No."
To answer Fr Kondractik's plea -- there is a way out. Truth. Admit everything and seek a plea bargain with the government. Accept whatever punishment the Church deems appropriate. We will forgive, of that I am confident.
As I have said before, Orthodoxy finds itself unable to find accountability in a democratic world.
Pretty soon the chief shepherds will find their flocks gone. The sheep, stupid though they be, know the voice of their shepherd, and they are not recognizing the voices out of Syosset/Washington, or Anchorage, and perhaps even Dallas and Pittsburgh.
I fear not for the Orthodox church. I do fear for what we know as the OCA. This week we witness the joyous reunification between the MP and ROCOR (and anytime division is put aside is an occasion for great joy). Why does the Holy Synod of the OCA seem intent on following the opposite path?
Where can we hear that voice of our true shepherd? How long before we begin to find that voice and follow it?
It's time for a "Truth and Reconciliation" commission. Clear out all the wrongdoing in a conciliar fashion and start over. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Are we insane? Are the Bishops?
Sdn. John Martin Watt
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#9 Marty Watt on 2007-05-14 12:44
In my (forced) letter of resignation, and again in person, I offered an apology to Bishop Nikolai for having questioned his actions publicly while in his employ, without taking up the matter with him first.I could see how some would now see my apology as insincere. I don't believe it was. On a strictly professional level, the proper thing would have been to take up the matter with the "boss" first. As a personal courtesy, I think I should have done the same. It was on that basis that I offered the apology and I still believe I owed it and I stand by it.
However, this does not change a very central fact that Protodeacon Eric expressed so clearly (one local person wrote to me about this article saying "hit the nail on the head - HARD"); that there is a serious problem when questioning leads to the consequences it has for so many people. My case is but small potatoes in the overall scheme of things, insofar as it deals with me personally. In my two reflections posted on this site, I have attempted to focus on issues, not personalities. I have taken the attitude of "if the shoe fits, wear it." If Bishop Nikolai, OR ANY OTHER bishop or priest, or even layman feels stung by anything I said, it can only be their own consciences that are bothering them because I didn't name anybody. Even when I questioned Bishop Nikolai's absence from the meeting of the Synod of Bishops, I had no idea about what the reason might be. I did not suggest a particular motive that would impugn his character. While it may not have been the most professional course of action, I must agree with Protodeacon Eric that an atmosphere in which quesitons are not tolerated, especially when there is so much evidence of malfeasance, is not acceptable – especially for Orthodox Christians, for whom Truth is not merely a concept, but the very Lord Whom we worship as King and God.
Yes, king. My actions were taken as "disloyal" to the diocese. Well, where does my loyalty lie, with the steward or with the King? Perhaps I have read too much Tolkien, but I should have to say that it lies with the King, and the last time I was at Liturgy, which was yesterday, the "King of all," the One Whom we ask to remember us in His Kingdom, was proclaimed to be Christ. The irony is that when I chose to use the pseudonym "Sine Nomine" I did so not to conceal my identity from those who already knew me (if that was my intent, I did a terrible job of it), but to obey the dean's directive to not bring the seminary into the fray. That is also why I chose to say where I was originally from, not where I live now. Fr Chad has been a superb dean and an excellent person to work for. He will be sorely missed at SHS. His instructions were reasonable and I went out of my way to adhere to them. It is sadly ironic that in doing so, my actions came off as "disloyal" to the bishop. However, ultimately, my duty was to the King, and only secondarily to His steward.
Protodeacon Eric asked the question of where our Christian responsibility ends when we are faced with situations like what we have in the OCA today. When our hierarchs are faithful, we do owe them filial obedience, as commended in Scripture and in the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Based on what I read here, I believe he and I are in agreement on this, and would both joyfully show all due respect and appropriate obedience to a bishop like Vladyka JOB. I know I would. But loyalty of that sort is never unqualified. Even obedience to superiors in the military is not unqualified. If our obedience to hierarchs were an unqualified obligation, we'd all be Roman Catholics now because the faithful in Constantinople in 1439 would have just gone along with the false reunion of Ferrara-Florence. Here the issue is not dogma, but administration, but it is still a matter of truth, and in such matters fidelity to the Truth, trumps every other allegiance. In the end, it goes back to what Christ said, "Render unto caesar what is caesear's and unto God, what is God's. If I have erred in this, may God forgive me, but that is what I strive to do.
If there is any piece of my own story as Mark has related it that I'd have done a little differently, it is that I don't feel that my career has been destroyed. I know what Mark is getting at, and yes, my career here has been killed a bit prematurely, not to be resurrected. At the same time, I was already planning to leave at the end of the school year. Bishop Nikolai gave me a job nearly five years ago, after my family and I arrived with a total of $2.00. I am grateful for that. I am not one to hold grudges. My life will go on. I am deeply involved in the Master of Library and Information Science program in Seattle and my family and I are moving to Seattle to allow me to focus more on my studies. My prospects are good at this point. I have no reason to harbour animosity against Bishop Nikolai or the diocesan administration. This doesn't change the fact that what is happening throughout the OCA is wrong and it needs to be questioned. If Christ is the Truth, if the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, suppression of the truth is blasphemous. This may seem like an odd jump to some, but if anybody wants to take a more detached, and entertaining look at our situation, go see the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when it comes out. Better yet, read the book. It's all about the abuse of power and the suppression of truth.
I am small potatoes, as the saying goes, but the issues of the suppression of truth and the abuse of power are not. Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, whom I only know from seeing him on occasion at SVS when I was the sacristan and he was the Metropolitan's protodeacon, has sacrificed much. I can only imagine that the strain on his family has been tremendous. To him I offer my heartfelt gratitude for his courage and long-suffering and vision. Bravo, I say, bravo!
#10 Mark Harrison (aka "Sine Nomine") on 2007-05-14 13:57
As the son of a priest, a brother of a priest, a seminary graduate and former staff member, and a life-long active communicant in the OCA - I am disgusted with the behavior of our bishops and administrative leadership. It’s bad enough that these abuses occurred in the first place but it’s totally inexcusable how those responsible have yet to be held accountable for their actions! It also amazes me how many people are willing to make excuses for these people. Anyone who knew anything about how Syosset operated, knew that Fr. Kondratick ruled Syosset with an iron hand. Cross him and he would and could destroy you. I agree Fr. Kondratick should not be made the sole scapegoat because there are many others including our current and former metropolitan who need to be held accountable to the Church for their misdeeds as well. If this is not done, many people including myself, will voice our outrage with our feet. The odd blessing of having parallel jurisdictions in this country is that the simple believer has other choices to live out their faith. Watching how far the OCA has fallen in the eyes of other Orthodox is truly disheartening! Only the resignation of Metropolitan Herman and full accountability of those involved will save the OCA.
#11 Andrew A. Lukashonak on 2007-05-14 14:36
Well, I have sat back and said nothing up to this point. The time for silence is past.
Let the Light shine into every corner and in every closet. Let nothing remain hidden. Let the truth be shouted from the housetops and let man's arrogance be crucified.
And let those who stand in the way of the Light be pushed aside and shown for what they are.
Mark, no one who reads your recent article should have any illusions about moderation, patience, or appeasement. The OCA is at stake. As a wise professor once began every class with this quote, I leave it with you now: "All men are liars!"
Let the chips (and egos) fall where they may!
#12 Barnabas on 2007-05-14 14:43
#13 Mark Harrison on 2007-05-14 16:44
Bravo Mark / Deacon Eric.
At some point we will need to reach back into the decades once we can begin a healing process. Some of us are so emotionally and/or spiritually drained by trying to fight these battles in previous decades that we don't dare step out yet. We've moved on and have some semblence of normalcy and peace in our lives back again. There are still too many skeletons to be exposed in these closets. The surface is scratched, but as the exposure of MH is revealing; the work is long and hard because the hubris and sins run deep. This current crowd must go. All of them. If some innocent people must leave in the process, so be it; we can bring them back later. The OCA needs a clean slate, otherwise, those bones will reorganize in new secret alliances. These alliances must be exposed, broken and buried.
#14 Name withheld on 2007-05-14 16:56
Do you have any evidence to support your claim that our good editor is engaging in yellow journalism? If so, please do present it. Set the record straight for us. In the meantime, know that your comment is the only extreme one I've seen today. Nobody suggested that Protodeacon Eric should be seen as the king, much less the saviour of the OCA. He has been true to his conscience and has spoken out on serious matters confronting the church. It is a huge leap from that to seeing him (or he seeing himself) as a king or saviour figure. It's a leap off the deep end, making your comment suspect, not Mark Stokoe's reporting.
I have to wonder why you would wish to remain anonymous. It sounds like you would be a hero with the Metropolitan and others for speaking out against this site. Are you simply afraid of the flack you would take here? Well, you're going to take it anyway. What earthly harm can we do you? On the other hand, by attaching your name you might even get some fringe benefits. The only problem is that you don't seem to have any evidence to support your allegation of yellow journalism. Can you show that Protodeacon Eric did not say what he is reported to have said, or that he did not receive the letters that he is reported to have received? Can you demonstrate that, even if he did, the facts are being presented in a way to deliberately mislead and foment scandal? I have every reason to believe, based on personal experience, that Mark has handled Protodeacon Eric's story in a responsible manner. Furthermore, given the sensitive position he is in, I strongly suspect that protodeacon would not entrust his story to someone who would twist it around and cause him unneeded trouble. In any case, the burden of proof is on you.
#15 Mark Harrison on 2007-05-14 17:11
P.S. I was referring to Bishop Tikhon formerly of the West.
#16 Mark Harrison on 2007-05-14 17:24
The letters written by both Metropolitan's Herman and Theodosius are evidence that both are , at the very least, aware of financials that weren't exactly "above board". It is astonishing that Metropolitan Theodosius left office in 2002, and nothing was ever done or said. Actually, both Herman and Theodosius accepted audits, and continued to reappoint Fr. Kondratick as Chancellor. Although my knowledge of the canons is from what I've picked up on this site, I would have to say if Fr. Kondratick's bishops knew and accepted what was going on, how could Father Kondratick be held responsible? Shouldn't it be Herman and Theodosius on trial? I smell a rat, and he's wearing a white hat!
#17 Lester Sokolov on 2007-05-14 17:31
Fr. Eric's words are a call to action. If there is anyone among us brave enough to get up from the spectator's seat in front of the computer, axios!
We need a grassroots movement for change, populated by those who have nothing to lose and are embolded by the sacrifice of those who did.
Whether that movement realizes itself through vocal presences at Church gatherings like the Memorial Day Pilgrimage at St. Tikhon's... or the accusation and initation of a Church trial of Met. Herman and former Met. Theodosius... let those who are ready to take on the ministry of cleansing have our support and prayers.
#18 NK on 2007-05-14 18:42
Good point, Scott. The re-unification and the complete disregard of the supposedly autocephalous American Church in the process should be an issue of an utmost concern to us. I am so tired of people who are still wearing blinders and insist that it is all about dirty accounting and once that is set straight (if, when, doesn't matter), we'll be as good as new. We are neither good nor new. Once the Russian Church sets in, what are we?..
#19 Inga Leonova on 2007-05-14 19:39
Thank you Mark,
For your ongoing communication with us OCA faithfull of all that has been occurring (in front of the scenes and behind the scenes) within this scandal. Your web site is a very important ingredient in keeping us informed and challenging the present abuse of authority within the OCA administration. Some how, some way, some one, has to challenge the existing autocracy of this present OCA administration. It is happening slowly but surely through the actions and efforts of several OCA faithful. Perhaps it is not happening as fast as some of us would like. But the present functioning of how the administration is handling things IS being challenged.
I actually (true story!) recently defended myself in a court of law against an abusive former employer who would not stop hounding me for what they thought I owed them from a "broken contract." The judge thought otherwise and sided with me! This took a lot for me, and a lot out of me, to stand up to a "bully" company and to fly there, then drive to the town and then court, then present my side of the story with saved documents, in a stange town and strange court room and that whole 9 yards of going through something like this. But I didn't let them bully me. I fought for my rights. All the time and inconvenience was worth it because the judge cut to the quick and saw that I had not broken a contract at all. He sided with me. One could tell that the company had NOT BEEN CHALLENGED BEFORE because the judge pointed out that the company was suing in the wrong court!! They didn't even know they were in the wrong jurisdiction due to the money amount! But the judge saw other aspects of the case too. There is hope for all of those in the OCA who have gotten bullied: It is like what I had do to: all that inconvenience of the defandant having to do go through the mill: fly there, drive to the town, and SHOW UP for court! But this is exactly what I did. Some one, some how, some way, in the OCA, will find the COURAGE, such as I found courage to do, to finally CHALLENGE the bullies. And they lost.
Some one, some how, some way, will break through and find that justice that can happen even in the OCA. It is happening.
#20 Patty Schellbach on 2007-05-14 19:56
The news of Mark Harrison's forced resignation is as disgusting, as it is in character, for the bishop responsible. A true clone of his mentor Tikhon, this heirarch couples harsh retribution with hypocritical protestations. That the OCA is now replete with this type of clerical leadership is by far the worst legacy of its former chancellor and the reason he is so strongly defended by many of his grateful beneficiaries.
In this poisonous atmosphere it is truly amazing that Deacon Eric continues to speak out with the unvarnished truth. While I felt he had a shade too many "mea culpas" when last we heard from him, his current characterizations of our sorry heirarchical situation are right on target and correspondingly courageous.
Increasingly, the OCA is a battleground between those who see its mission as building an ark for "God's elect" as opposed to those who view its universal mission as nothing less than the conversion and salvation of the world. One view looks inward, full of spiritual pride and contempt for the "fallen," the other outward with love and concern for those seeking God's truth no matter how imperfectly realized in their own lives.
Fear of change drives those so desperately building walls to protect the status quo that truth, honor, love and charity are sacrificed in the name of order and authority. It brings to mind our Lord confronting the Sanhedrin.
#21 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-05-14 20:03
Dear Anonymous: Your cynicism in palpable. Why are you so bitter? Is there room in your heart for a joy to replace your bitterness? If you have something to hide, or are protecting some of your cohorts with something to hide, then say no more. Your words are simply a smoke screen. You've got to know that the gig is up. We see through these tactics. However, if there is room in your heart for a change, then consider this. You don't seem to be understanding what Dcn. Eric and Mark are writing about. They are writing about restoring a spiritual vision to the OCA; a true vision that is hopefully pleasing to God, not this self-aggrandizing embarassment we have now. Your tactic of acusing others of the very behaviors you are supporting and perpetrating is obvious.
Dcn. Eric and Mark are not advocating anything close to the accusations you are making. We get it. Accuse your adversaries of your very same behavior so they spend time defending themselves against the false accusations, deflecting them from the real issues. Yawn. When will you realize that this tactic is not effective anymore? (It was more effective a decade ago. But as stated earlier, the gig is up. Finally... thanks to people like Mark and Dcn. Eric and many others who stepped in before the foundation collapsed completely from moral and spiritual bankruptcy.)
#22 Fellow Anon. on 2007-05-14 20:30
It is at least possible that Bishop Tikhon, consecrated for only 18 months at that point, delegated to the Metropolitan the distasteful task of correction. If, however, the Metropolitan took this task upon himself, he violated at least the intent and possibly the letter of Canon 2 of the Second Ecumenical Council and Canon 20 of the 6th Ecumenical Council. Both canons tell Bishops to mind the business of their own dioceses and not interfere in someone else's diocese unless asked to do so by that Bishop. Canon 20 of the Sixth decrees that a Bishop who violates the rule is to be deposed from the episcopate and serve only the functions of a Presbyter.
The problem, of course, is that nobody seems to know or care about what the Canons actually say. Indeed, most of our people, clergy and laity alike, do not understand and do not WANT to understand that a Canon is NOT a law. Laws are, to some extent, arbitrary and subject to change. But the word "canon" means "ruler, measuring stick," in the sense that a given Canon gives the Church's authoritative teaching on what the measure is of being and acting like an Orthodox Christian in a specific situation. Canons therefore carry far more weight than any law (a point both the Latins and our own Latin-minded seminaries miss when thery speak of "Canon Law").
Bottom line: because of our arrogant, deliberate and willful ignorance and rejection of the authority of the Sacred Canons and the rest of Holy Tradition, we are back in those days when "there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6, 21:25) and the result was political, moral and spiritual chaos.
#23 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-05-15 06:36
Yours is an increasingly valid concern. It is reported that NOT ONE Bishop or Priest of the Orthodox Church in America is invited to serve with the Patriarch and Metropolitan Laurus, either on Ascension Day or at any of the services thereafter. Indeed, one hears that the rector of our podvoriye and Fr. Leonid have received tickets for the Thursday event...but only to stand with the general public. IF (and given the amount of rumour-mongering going on, that is a big "if") that be true, it is a very deliberate slap in the face, not by ROCOR, but by Moscow. We are being written off as irrelevant, largely because both our problems and our handling of them confirm that diagnosis.
In a recent article in "Again," Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) suggests that a unified North American Orthodox Church could exist under the Ecumenical Patriarchate if the ecumenical throne were moved to North America, while an exarch served the Orthodox Christians remaining in Istanbul, the Holy Mountain, and the Dodecanese Islands. Maybe he's right. After all, if Moscow no longer takes us seriously, why should anyone else?
#24 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-05-15 06:48
Or, perhpas, absenting ourselves from such events would send the loudest message: We are not impressed with such shows of churchliness and piety, and we will not support such things any longer.
#25 Mark Harrison on 2007-05-15 08:50
A paraphrasing of Hermans letter to Eric...
Shhhhh! Don't tell the layity that I, along with my thieves int he night are raping and pillaging the finances of the OCA.
Will anyone be attending St. Tikons? Is there a plan for that day to protest or at least stage a silent protest???
#26 Anonymous on 2007-05-15 09:20
Inga - please enlighten this dullard as to why this should concern us.
#27 Michael Strelka on 2007-05-15 12:16
Christ is Risen!
If I were that young priest, I would hardly thank you for this post. The OCA is after all a small pond, and there is not a single unnamed individual in this post whom I can not definitely name, and I live on the west coast. (except of course, we can't tell the poster's identity.) In fact, I could have named this priest with half the info given. On the other hand, I do not know, and I doubt that "hopeful" knows for certain if any number of details here are true. If Fr X wishes to publicly question the archdeacon's position, I am sure he knows how.
It seems to me incumbant upon any who are unhappy to BE the change they want in the Church, rather than constantly living out the cliche "a cure worse than the disease".
In the meanwhile, we might consider:
"I won't tell you my name, but I **heard** that Fr. "You know who" (whose anonymoity I don't care to much hide) has questioned this and that; and by the way someone said . . . "
just how do posts like this contribute to the building of "sobornost' " and the vision of all members of the Church eucharistically and responsibly taking part in the life of the Church. And then there are anonymous posts of pure screed and sarcasm from "Metropolitan novelties" etc.
Dcn. Yousuf Rassam
#28 Anonymous on 2007-05-15 13:29
We can sign on to savetheoca.org. Every name shows that there are people who are concerned and want to do SOMETHING! If that list grows in number (money isn't even that important at this point, a $1 would work), can you imagine the impact that would make! At least it would be doing something more than just commenting on a situation that inidividually none of us can do anything about.
#29 (please sign me "concerned bystander" thank you) on 2007-05-15 14:40
You have a point, but based on my own experience, it's very easy to know just based on what was written.
#30 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-05-15 14:48
This, from "Clergy & Laity in the Orthodox Church" (Fr. A. Schmemman), seems an appropriate meditation:
"Some Errors to Be Rejected. * 2. A false idea of clericalism as absolute power for which the priest has no account to give. In fact, the priest in the Orthodox Church must be ready to explain his every opinion, decision or statement, to justify them not only "formally" by a reference to a canon or rule, but spiritually as true, saving and according to the will of God. For again, if all of us, laity and clergy, are obedient to God, this obedience is free and requires our free acceptance: "I call you not slaves, for a slave knows not what his Lord does; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard, I have made known to you" (John 15;15) and "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). In the Orthodox Church, the preservation of truth, the welfare of the Church, mission, philanthropy, etc.— are all a common concern of the whole Church, and all Christians are corporately responsible for the life of the Church. Neither blind obedience nor democracy, but a free and joyful acceptance of what is true, noble, constructive and conducive of the Divine love and salvation."
Since distinguishing clergy from the people is not from an Orthodox understanding, since the clergy are chosen from among the people to be servants of the Church, that petition in the service texts for "our [Bishop], for the honorable priesthood, the diaconate in Christ, and for all the clergy and the people, let us pray to the Lord" could be re-crafted for the OCA: "For the people of God, that they may be well and humbly served by an honorable diaconate, priesthood and episcopate chosen from among them, let us pray to the Lord."
#31 Anon on 2007-05-15 15:12
what do you make of the last suggestion below, in remark 12.1? How exactly does an accusation get made that would bring an accuser and accused before a spiritual court ( Fr Kondratick's seems so orchestrated)? Could someone really come forward and bring a charge against the Metroplitan with the information available now?
I have also been wondering who, canonically, could propose a special intercessory prayer to be said during the liturgy for the healing of our church and a godly resolution to the crisis? I believe I remember such a petition during the Kosovo war but I think that was written by the Metropolitan?
#32 Rachel Andreyev on 2007-05-15 16:43
I have come to the conclusion that the opposition will be successfully silenced as long as there is fear of any sort of retribution (the Nescott and Harrison cases give weight to this fear as intended) and as long as the key players in the central administration believe that those calling for transparency and truth are just malcontents and are not willing to come out of the shadows and give voice and name to what they believe. I know for a fact that some in Syosset believe that there are probably no more than 150 separate individuals who have posted on this website, nearly half with pseudonyms or as anonymous (I know the number of hits are in the scores of thousands or even more).
Many who are so scandalized by the mess (mostly elderly) don't want to hear the details and prefer not to even think about it. They wanted to finish working out their salvation.
I am also convinced that the reason why the wagons are circled in Syosset and that there will be a fight to the finish is that some of the missing funds can be traced to sexual indiscretions. Americans (and British) just go to town over sexual scandals and miscreants will do just about anything to keep sex under cover.
These are some of the human dynamics thwarting a sincere cleansing in the church and frankly I am at a loss at how to get around it other than public confession and acts of contrition.
And finally I am convinced, as I as said before, that the people would forgive if anyone publicly confessed and performed an act of contrition.
#33 Terry C. Peet on 2007-05-15 20:24
The OCA received its tomos of autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. The vision and hope for the OCA was that it will in time unite all Orthodox "jurisdictions" in North America into one whole, canonical local church. What have we done with our autocephaly? Much like the Prodigal, we have squandered our inheritance, and now even the MP which had, even if at times nominally, still continually been supporting us in the face of the rest of the Orthodox world stepped over the OCA as if we didn't exist. Doesn't this mean anything to you? Doesn't the potential creation of yet another ethnic, "colonial" jurisdiction signify our institutional failure?
I am sorry but I just don't think of the Orthodox world in terms of "who cares what the MP [Constantinople, Greeks, etc.] think of us." It is an attitude that goes against all I believe the Church (with the capital "C") should be in this world.
I hope I answered your question.
#34 Inga Leonova on 2007-05-15 21:10
Thank you, "Anon" for that excellent contribution from Fr. Alexander. I am sure many who visit this forum will agree that Fr. Alexander was wise, insightful, and realistic when it came to these matters (not that he was always right on everything).
Tragically, however, there are many within the OCA who dismiss "Schmemannite" ideas off hand. Why? Simply because they contradict those people's delusions. Such delusions include a perfect Orthodox world in which all people are "perfectly" pious according to some arbitrary or even self-congratulatory standard. Also included are delusions of grandeur such that if one of those people, were stopped by the police, they'd ask, "How dare you? Do you know who I am?!" Their behaviour toward the flock says, "I am the everything, and you are the nothing."
Am I going overboard here? Well, look at the current situation. As the Latin legal phrase goes, "res ipsa loquitur": let the thing speak for itself. What do we see? What are we experiencing? If Father Alexander Schmemann, let alone Fr. Georges Florovsky were alive, they'd be appalled. I figure they're appalled anyway.
I don't agree with everything Fr. John Erickson says in his book "The Challenge of our Past" but the title is very appropriate. All too often our hierarchs AND our laity, hold the mistaken notion that a certain kind of piety, and the rigid hierarchical model of church governance are THE Orthodox norms. History says otherwise. One of the greatest accomplishments of ROCOR in its rapprochement with Moscow, to be joyously consumated tomorrow, has been the willingness to face history. We all need to do that. Certainly bishops have been the locus and source of unity in the Church through history. Certainly they have held a position of monarchia (single headship, single origin of authority). We are instructed in Holy Tradition, by St Ignatius the God-bearer to show honour to the bishop as to God the Father. But how does God the Father relate to us? Does He say, I am everything and you are nothing? He, at least would be justified since we are but dust before Him, but He doesn't. Instead, He condescends to become incarnate and to be crucified. That message says, "Before me, though you are but clay, your are not nothing; you are everything."
His Grace, Bishop BASIL (Rodzianko) of blessed memory was truly a rule of faith, an image of humility, and a teacher of abstinence. When I would serve with him, he used to say, "You know, Mark, without a sub-deacon a bishop has no grace." Why? "Because without a sub-deacon a bishop cannot put on his own omophorion." In his very attitude, Vladyka BASIL taught me, and others, why the bishop is vested in the midst of the congregation. It isn't meant to be a matter of the subdeacons showing base servitude, rather to remind all - including the bishop - that he is the shepherd of a flock, and without that flock, he is no shepherd. Vesting Vladyka BASIL was a joy. Every moment with him was filled with peace, "not as world gives." From the moment I met him, when I was a nervous young American among older Russians, I found myself suddenly relaxed. At my last encounter, I was driving him to church when my car overheated and shut down. I was terribly embarrassed, but within moments, I was filled with that peace. He was a true shepherd, even if his administrative skills weren't the best.
Your quotation from Fr Alexander, and your own words remind me of Vladyka BASIL, and in contrast to what I am seeing around me today, that is a truly wonderful memory. Thank you.
#35 Mark Harrison on 2007-05-15 23:47
In all fairness, the "re-unification" is not without notable dissension. A significant number of current ROCOR members are formulating the "True Orthodox Church" apart from the Moscow See. These members are adverse to, among other things, abandoning the Old Calendar, the Patriarchate's membership in the World Council of Churchs, and the Moscow Patriarch's leanings toward ecumenism. May God bless their courage and discernment.
#36 John D. Sheposh on 2007-05-16 00:05
Thank you for yet another articulate and instructive post!
I too would occasionally see Bishop Basil in the Washington, D.C. area and was always struck by his gentle and holy demeanor, which stands in such contrast to what we see today. It shocks me to think that I once thought he was representative of most of our bishops. Ignorance is sometimes bliss!
With regard to ROCOR, do you see it as an acceptable alternative to the OCA or just another example of the piety and mindset you reference above?
#37 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-05-16 07:37
Your reply has helped me understand what is at stake in the MP's disregard for the OCA.
I recognized the significance of this kind of public snub and I am grateful to have your help in clarifying its implications.
#38 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2007-05-16 07:43
Your analysis is right on target.
The alleged "sexual indiscretions" are really the least important aspect of the scandal, yet seem to have created panic in Syosset. Why? Human beings, more often than not, give way to sexual desires as we all know from personal experience. Hardly a big surprise!
Yet the proudly pious amongest us shake and quiver at the thought that they too might succumb and fall from their pedestals. When they comprise an institution of moral authority they fear that any admission of "weaknesss," especially with regard to carnal temptations, will seriously damage this authority, which they must continue to protect at all costs. They lose all perspective as to how serious are their other failings by comparison.
Of course, there is also the continued fear of legal liability and the impact any "confession" might have. From my perspective, "too bad," but obviously the powers-that-be and their hirelings feel otherwise.
So we are at an impass with the fate of the OCA in the balance. For make no mistake, an institution that may (?) at one time had hundreds of thousands as members is now reduced to tens of thousands and faces further declines as the older generation passes on to glory, and is not replaced by the young or those seeking truth, holiness and rightousness.
#39 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-05-16 08:43
I really appreciate your contributions to this website Fr. Phillip. Your gifts of knowledge and understanding regarding so many important aspects of Church structure and life are very illuminating.
Regarding Metropolitan Phillip’s observations about the potential role of the Ecumenical Patriarch in bringing jurisdictional unity to the Church in North America, I find the idea to be very compelling. Not only would it bring us jurisdictional unity, but perhaps more importantly, it would make the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate truly ecumenical. This could greatly enhance our efforts to share the fullness of the Gospel not just in North America, but throughout the world. Then we would no longer be perceived as just the Eastern Orthodox Church, but would be seen by many more seekers of truth as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that we truly are.
Perhaps the current pains of the OCA are not from something dying, but rather from something more dynamic to the spreading of the Gospel being born. I would be very grateful if you would share your thoughts on this.
#40 Marc Trolinger on 2007-05-16 09:26
Yes, I know what you mean about it being obvious. I was correct as well when I guessed which +Tikhon had written the letter.
Please forgive me if I come across as too nit-picky. Perhaps I am. I just think that with all the attempts to stonewall and divert attention from where it is needed that we should avoid giving any such opportunities. I know what I pointed out is fairly obvious and very minor, but I am sure if someone is desperate enough they could make a fuss and blow it way out of proportion (ie charges of libel) to divert attention and that would just add to the general headache.
#41 Stephen on 2007-05-16 09:46
I agree, we need to absent ourselves from such thing - that means "boycott." The Metropolitant doesn't care about the "Save the OCA" Website. It can't hurt him. As I've said many times, only the MC can handle this; legally, it's the only entity with any legal standing, since the Holy Synod is not taking action. If I thought that any one individual could do anything, I would happily do it myself. But, only the MC can do it.
#42 Committed Convert on 2007-05-16 11:03
There is an excellent phrase my more bucolic neighbors like to use: "Throw a rock at a pack of dogs, the one that gets hit, holler." We need only pay attention to who in our hierarchy is doing all the yelping.
#43 Reader Nicholas on 2007-05-16 12:43
I think this is the root of our problem. I do not see a light at the end of the tunnel if things do not change fundementally in the OCA. In rummaging through this website I found that this term ,"American Orthodoxy", made me a little uneasy. American Orthodoxy, or "Orthodox Church by Americans, and for Americans" sounds a little to ....American. There was an article not too long ago in Christianity Today by a protestant pastor. His thesis was that american protestants have an "i-church" kind of mentality when it comes to church life. Is it possible that we to, in the OCA have had an "i-church" mentality when it comes to the canons and the Tradition of the Church in general? We pick and choose those canons that are convinient and quickly pull the "aeconomia" card for the rest.
Another thing that rubbs me the wrong way is an almost disdain for anything Russian in the pursuit for a purely American Orthodox Church. We are biting the hands that have fed us, it seems.
Met. Philip's suggestion sounds very interesting. I wonder how many of us American's could be willing to step down and come under the ecumenical patriarch? What do we want most? An american Orthodox Church? or a Unified Orthodox Church on the North American continent? I dare say we would prefer our own church, or way, just the way we like it: ichurch.
Don't get me wrong, I love the OCA. I grew up in it and am very blessed to be in a part of the states where at least the liturgical tradition is highly valued and priests sacrificially give of their time and energy to keep the doors open daily and encourage the faithful offer up a sacrifice of praise. I only worry about the future leadership of my little corner of the OCA.
#44 T.A. from GP on 2007-05-16 14:46
Terry and KRT,
I think both of your posts about allegged sexual indiscretion within Syosset was very insightful and why this whole financial mess has been so difficult to solve. It does sound as if there is more to it than this from what Mark and Dn. Eric have alluded to as well. Some 15 years ago or so(!), yes, that long ago (!) sources told my husband and I of rumors of sexual impropriety in the "high places" of the OCA hierarchy. We didn't know what to think but I didn't totally dismiss it because of fallen human nature in a variety of ways. When we heard this rumor, (from sources that seemed to know plenty) we were not totally shocked. But we kept our radar up, not to condemn, but not to necessarily expect alot out of OCA leadership. However, fallen human nature was why Christ came and he did not condemn the adulteress with sexual sin, but said, 'He who is without sin cast the first stone... go and sin no more.' But to break pride in any sin can be quite an effort; take for instance, ENRON and the cover ups there. But I feel Terry and KRT were insightful here. We must forgive '70 times 7' but we need accurate accountability when it comes to finances! It is our money!
#45 Patty Schellbach on 2007-05-16 14:49
Regarding what "Hopeful in EPA" shared, is there a papacy in the OCA? How can one bishop threaten the priest and laity of another diocese?
What is special or superior about a Metropolitan that he could do that?
#46 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-05-16 15:03
I greet all of you on this Feast of the Ascension. On this Feast, twenty years ago, 1987, the parish of St. Basils's of Simpson, Pa. (ROCOR) was returned to the group of people under ROCOR, by the high courts of the state of Pennsylvania, It was after five years in court, brought on by the Plaintiff, St. Basil's OCA and Bishop Herman, (the minority) in 1982. It is ironique, that twenty years later, with the Act of Canonical Communion, with the Church of Russia, that this momentous reconcilliation is taking place. Metropolitan Herman, wished to be there, but was not invited, nor was a delegation of the OCA. The removal of Greg Nescott, and what has been happening within the church is a pattern of Metropolitan Herman's character. How sad. How lucky for the churches of his N.E.PA diocese who left him, 20 yrs. ago and won their case. Go Bless all of you faithful Orthodox Christians.
#47 annonymous on 2007-05-16 15:31
Metropolitan Herman should not fear the savetheoca.org website. He should not fear the ocanews.org website. He should not fear you or I. It is obvious that he does not fear the MC (legal or not) taking things into his own hands by dismissing Nescott. He should only fear God. Father John Matusiak in his book “Our Faith” states that “the church is people - God’s people - who gather together in His name, thereby calling themselves Christian; share a common faith and hope based on the love of God; affirm the truth, or orthodoxy, of their faith, belief and experience; and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to all.” The Church is people. If the people are shaken in their faith and hope (but never on the love of God), the Church is shaken in its faith and hope. It is important for everyone to know how far reaching this lack of confidence exists and how badly the people (Church) are lacking in faith and hope for its recovery. That website only brings out this fact. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl 12:13-14) Maybe some of us can say when every deed is brought into judgment, we tried to keep all our people (Church) together by doing something. We tried in our own small way to right a wrong we were aware of.
#48 Hopefully on 2007-05-16 17:46
Here are a couple of other examples of Silencing the Opposition.
1. After over 20 years of working at the OCA, Mat. Gerry Glagolev was told she could now work two days a week IF she would not question her superiors, in this case, Herman, Kucynda and Zarras. Can you imagine such gall. They are even afraid of Mat. Gerry.
2. Fr Kondratick was informed today that he will be granted an extension on his trial but that he request to have all of the evidence against him before the trial is DENIED. Atty Perry, Ab Nathaniel, and all those on the spiritual court have already been privy to this data, but not Fr Kondratick.
Not only that, and hold on to your hat here, THERE HAVE BEEN NO CANONICAL CHARGES LEVELED AGAINST HIM.
A Spiritual Court is called if there is evidence that the person in question is accused of breaking a canon or canons of the Church.
So, to recap, Kondratick does not know the canonical charges against, which makes it difficult to mount a defense and he will not have access to the evidence against him prior to the trial.
Sounds like a Stalin Soviet Kangaroo Court.
Another example of Herman Silencing the Opposition.
We have sunk to a new low and if we don't see that Herman is driving this Church into the ditch, then we deserve to all be part of the thing called the OCA.
Wait till he comes after anyone else who has gotten in his way. It will not end with Fr Kondratick. You can bet on that.
A Senior Priest of the OCA
#49 Anonymous on 2007-05-16 18:14
To answer your most important question, I most certainly do NOT support the use of Spiritual Courts in the case of ANYBODY involved in our current mess: NOT in the case of the former Chancellor; NOT in the cases of the former or current Metropolitan; NOT in the cases of any Treasurer past, present, or future; NOT in the case of anybody involved in an archetypical Rube-Goldberg system which up until recently lacked clear parameters for anything. All the way along we were flying by the seat of our pants in matters of financial accountability and responsibility; now we've done one huge crash-and-burn; and our energies would be better spent learning from it than howling for anybody's blood. For example: how often over the past three decades were OCA-related expenses put on more than one staffer's personal credit card(s) and thereby mixed in with personal expenses, with the statements then left to somebody to sort out for reimbursement? That was a very bad practice, which needs to stop yesterday. But has it? Naive trust and "we're all family here" is not substitute for the sound fiscal management mandated by the Canons. But we have had to learn that the hard way.
That's not unusual. If I favour adherence to the Sacred Canons, to The Statute, and---above all else---to the Scriptures and the Fathers, it is because I had to learn from my own sins and sheer stupidities how foolish it is (and how self-destructive) to try to be wiser than the Church in her divinely-inspired wisdom and collective experience. (In that vein, I'd like to give public thanks to God that never again will I have to be in my twenties! I may have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, but it's better than being young...and arrogant...and stubborn...and stupid....and of which I was in spades.)
But again and again we need to reflect on Galatians 6:1, wherein the Apostle commands, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." Even more do we need to reflect on the Lord's absolute insistence in Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 that "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the LORD." One cannot lead a soul to repentance and conversion (or even simply arrive at the truth of a matter) by publicly proclaiming that one wants to clubb over the head with a baseball bat someone we presume to be (or, for that matter, even know to be) guilty of some wrong-doing. That does nothing to serve justice or charity.
Further, Canon 102 of the 6th Ecumenical Council explicitly tells us to exercise care in the disciplining unto healing of any soul, and to tailor one's approach to the needs of that soul, "lest by employing an immoderate judgment in one direction, or the other, they fail in compassing the salvation of the one ailing" (cf. also Canons 54 and 84 of St. Basil, Canon 4 of St. Gregory, and Canon 27 of St. Nicephorus the Confessor). The current rock-'em/sock'em/hit-'em-where-it-hurts approach strikes me as a refusal to be merciful, even as our heavenly Father is merciful; and I think it is a huge mistake.
#50 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-05-16 18:36
And the Old Calendar (any calendar under the sun!) is the issue worthy of a schism? Please... Of all the pharisaic issues!...
#51 Inga Leonova on 2007-05-16 22:15
I am reminded of the situation here in Milwaukee when the (then) Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee was implicated in a sexual transgression of many years before. The Archdiocese had quietly paid money to assist the young person involved. When the truth became known, Archbishop Weakland offered his resignation and participated in a public service of penance, then quietly retired. I have often disagreed with him, but I gained a great deal of respect for him for his willingness to acknowledge his fault in so public a way.
I too am sure that our people would be quick to forgive, if guilty people could bring themselves to public repentence. The issue, of course, is not the sin/sins, but the continued cover-up.
#52 Leaella Shirley on 2007-05-17 12:49
I appreciate the optimism of your "take" on our troubles. Who knows, but that this may indeed be the wreck of a bursting seed springing to new life. Romans 8:28 teaches us to trust that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (NKJV); and we may be seeing that promise actualised...
But not, I suspect, in my lifetime, at least not completely. The Canonical issues are too complex, the power rivalries too intense, the intertwining of Orthodoxy and Hellenism in the Greek Archdiocese too tangled, for any kind of "quick fix." Rather, it all makes for a Gordian knot that even Alexander couldn't sever in one blow. We must, by all means, pray...but also assume that God's timing will make the dream a reality well after my carcass has given worms severely high cholesterol.
#53 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-05-17 12:53
fr.philips and your comment are very good.thank you! we have to be very careful when using the word american in relation to the church.what is american?american can mean different things to different people.if you asked some clan member or someone sympathetic to their ideas(and unfortunately there are many)they'll tell you that only white protestants of northern european descent,preferably anglosaxons are american.if you asked some jewish,italian or russian american from brooklyn,they'll say that all ethnicities and creeds can be and ARE american and THEY are right!!! while english serves as the common language between the different ethnic groups,russian,italian,spanish,all languages and cultures of the world are AS american,because being american is a philosophical,political notion, it means many different ethnic groups living together under the same constitution and thus forming a nation.the country was named after an italian,a 15th century nobleman,amerigo vespucci.there seems to be an element in the OCA who are trying to make the church anglosaxon,because that's what they think american means. i forgot to mention our DEAR NATIVES,perhaps they are more american then all of us,they have been here for ten thousand years.the orthodox church in america has the task to be everything to everybody,when necessary,russian for the russians,spanish for the hispanics and of course,english for the english speaking majority.our most important task is to be faithfully orthodox and not to deviate from world orthodoxy.may the approaching feast of PENTECOST truly renew us in the HOLY SPIRIT.
#54 Anonymous on 2007-05-17 13:28
I will go one step further. Raising a disciplinary or houskeeping issue to doctrinal level is tantamount to heresy. As for various national Orthodox Churches' membership in the WCC, it is a matter of witness, not capitulation; ecumenism when understood rightly is not an option -- it is a mandate for our Lord said "that all may be one." There are many instances of different confessions talking at cross purposes in the past, when engaged in good faith efforts to understand one another, discover that they share more common ground than once thought.
#55 Terry C. Peet on 2007-05-17 14:38
Justice, justice shall you pursue.
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Let me make myself perfectly clear here. I think Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick is dirtier than last week's diapers.
However, natural justice, and a fortiori God's Word, demand that the accused has a right to know what is going on and why he is on trial. "Go and show him his fault." Canons should be used to promote justice and mercy, not subvert them.
#56 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2007-05-17 15:07
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
#57 Quiet Voice Of The Lord on 2007-05-17 16:54
I believe MH's continual attempts to dismiss people with anyone in his way is becoming his ultimate undoing.
#58 Patty Schellbach on 2007-05-17 16:55
The canons are only important when they back those that are trying to subvert the Church.
For instance, take the absence of Nikolai from the Synod meeting in March. Look at the reversal of Dmitri with respect to the rescinding of the transfer. When the canons serve the purpose of those that need them, they are adhered to. When they don't they're dismissed.
If they took the canons seriously, then Kondratick violated canon 17 of the first Ecumenical Council when he demanded that promisory note, 50% of which was interest on the original "loaned" money. That is enough to get him defrocked. Remember, they got Capone on tax evasion!
#59 Publius on 2007-05-17 19:06
savetheoca.org gives magnitude of the displeasure with the current crop in Syosset. Herman is dense, self centered, and not going to give up. What savetheoca.org does, though, is show each of us that we're not alone and gives a measure of how much others are with us.
The more people who voice their displeasure with what's going on by signing on to savetheoca.org the more they know that biding their time and hoping people develop OCA fatigue is a strategy that will fail.
savetheoca.org is just a great way to give numbers, numbers that they don't want people to see. They don't have to tell you how much donations are down or how many are returning solicitations with nice little notes, but with this they can't hide the magnitude of the displeasure.
#60 Stonewall on 2007-05-17 19:34
If you look at the oca.org site there is a picture of a nice large crowd with many clergy at liturgy at the Pilgrimage. Looks nice, no? Only problem is that that is from the 2005 Pilgrimage, before all this broke. If you look at the 2005 May pictures you'll see it's from that set. Last year there were a lot less people and many less clergy. A lot of people came after liturgy to eat and walk around. There were also just three buses where in previous years there was a line of busses.
#61 Stonewall on 2007-05-17 20:14
I appreciate your commitment to the canons, your passion for doing things the right way--the Orthodox way, your humility, and your confession in your last post about learning things the hard way. But I disagree on how you frame the bigger picture of this crisis. As I see it, this is not a pastoral issue. It is not a matter of refusing to be merciful. Those who are calling for change are not taking a "rock-'em/sock'em/hit-'em-where-it-hurts" approach.
This is actually a very simple issue. People in a position of authority broke the law. They tried to cover it up. They got caught. They are trying to avoid the consequences of their actions. They are not facing reality. They are not repenting. They are playing games with God and the whole Church. They have lost their credibility. Their denial and refusal to do the right thing is hurting the entire Church.
May God have mercy on their souls, and for that matter, may God have mercy on us all. Especially me.
But this situation cannot continue. It has to stop. They need to step down. We need to embrace them, and forgive them, pray for them, and restore them to a proper standing in the community. But they have lost the trust of the people.
They had a chance to come clean, In fact, they had many chances to come clean, even after November 2005. If they had come clean, if they had immediately taken steps to restore integrity and credibility, if they had asked for help, if they had shown the slightest humility, people would have helped, people would have trusted, people been eager to forgive, and we would have moved on as the Church.
Instead, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars -- money that the Church does not have -- on legal fees . . . and to what end? What was the purpose? Proskauer Rose did not even issue a written report! The findings were not comprehensive by any stretch. Was there a plan to take legal action based on the findings to try to recover some of the missing money? Only one person knows. After serious accusations of financial mismanagement and misappropriation, can anyone explain why the church squandered several hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees . . . for nothing? For nothing!
It is not as issue of forgiveness. It is not as issue of refusing to be merciful. It is a question of what is best for the Church.
#62 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2007-05-18 01:17
Dear Fr. Philip:
I wouldn't read too much into the OCA not being invited to serve at the services which accompany the reunification of the ROCOR and the MP. It was explained to me by a ROCOR priest that since this occasion was primarily about the reunification of these two churches that only clergy from these churches would serve. Others were "excluded" only because of this. (You might note that not even representatives from the Serbian Orthodox Church, which always recognized the ROCOR, were invited to serve.)
As for Orthodoxy being able to exist in a democratic environment, let's consider the past as a guide:
First of all, I am constantly apalled, in the OCA and even in our national Gov't, that, when something goes wrong, like the Hurricane Katrina debacle for example, that there are calls for "massive reorganization." In the case of the OCA, I hear, "We sought autocephaly too soon!" and "If only we were directly under Patriarch X, then we could get this solved." No, I think not. We have a fine system; the system doesn't need fixing -- it's just that we were visited with a number of unscrupulous individuals holding positions within the system, some of whom continue to hold leadership positions.
In "old" Imperial Byzantine times, the Emporer (i.e., the secular authority) kept watch over the Patriarch with respect to certain financial/administrative issues affecting the Church. In today's democratic environment, this is done in the context of the Church as a corporate entity, answerable in part to agencies such as the IRS. While our hierarchs continue to exercise ecclesiastical control over doctrine and so forth, the Church as an entity exists pursuant to its statute, and the "oversight" of church administration is supposed to be done by the MC. To the extent that the MC has fullfiled this oversight role or not is really a function of the individuals on it; if they have failed to do this, then it doesn't mean that the "system" is broken. If the Metropolitan was at one time the duly-appointed Treasurer of the OCA, and he exercised his responsibilities in that role "in name only" according to him, then that too is a failure of an individual to do his job properly -- it doesn't mean that a nationwide church such as the OCA doesn't need a treasurer!
None of this is rocket science -- it's basic organizational planning 101. To the extent that certain individuals formerly held positions in which they did not act properly, and now hold positions in which they can attempt to cover up their past errors and/or crimes, then again, THAT is a problem with the individuals, and not necessarily with the system or the structure.
For example, if the Statue of the OCA does not give the Metropolitan the right to dismiss an individual elected by a diocese to the MC, then MH's dismissal of Mr. Greg Nescott is not valid. If that is the case, then it is up to the MC to hire an attorney, and file a motion with a secular judge, who will rule on the basis of the Statute that this dismissal is not valid, and Mr. Nescott is entitled to continue to serve. But, the MC must take this action, because, like the days of old, the Primate of the Church is answerable in some way shape or form to the secular authority -- in this case, NOT the Imperial power, but the judicial power of the USA (or New York, as the case may be).
I frankly don't know what the MC is doing on a day-to-day basis. I can only offer them my own personal encouragement to step up to the plate, and represent us, the disaffected membership of the OCA (mostly laity and lower clergy), and have the Metropolitan reigned-in by the secular authorities to the extent possible; as far as deposition and so forth, I suppose that the Statutes leave such decisions to the Holy Synod.
As has been pointed out on this site, one way to get the message to the Synod is to withhold payments, individually or collectively, and to speak out. Another way would be to abstain from accepting Communion offered under the auspices of MH. I know that's extreme and it may seem un-Christian, but to continue on with "business as usual" strikes me as being akin to enabling the Metropolitan's dysfunctional behavior.
If, as some have said, the Metropolitan enjoys the adulation of the crowds, then perhaps the shut-off of funding combined with a lack of turn-out at ceremonial events will finally send the message. Frankly, given what appears to be going on in Alaska, MH may not be the only one of our hierarchs who needs to be told that we're not going to put up with any more financial irregularities.
We don't really need to restructure the OCA; we simply need to put into the Synod and the MC and other appointed positions people who can be trusted!
#64 Committed Convert on 2007-05-18 10:22
the moscow patriarchate is not at all disregarding the oca.the people of rocor want to belong to the russian church and preserve their russian heritage.should the moscow patriarchate have refused them.i think this is the beginning of a great time of love and unity among all orthodox in america and the world.the unity of the church is in the eucharistic chalice,when we commune together from the chalice,we are one church.for me the jurisdictional division is not such a big deal,in fact it is no division at all.now we finally can serve with rocor.i think we can influence each other very positively.we can learn from them to more pious and traditional and they can learn from us to be more open,broadminded and less scholastic.so everything is good,because GOD IS WITH US.
#65 Anonymous on 2007-05-18 10:35
Could it not be possible that Kondratick was such a master at controlling everyting, everyone and ALL INFORMATION given out that everyone was duped about facts, figures, amounts, etc.?
I'm in no way excusing the act of inaction on their parts but I believe with all my heart that Kondratick ruled and controlled everything.
Just look at the fact that there were only compilation reports and no audits. What does that tell you? There was information Kondratick didn't want anyone to see.
Remember the story of Paul Hunchak visually witnessing Kondratick shredding loads of paper during one particular summer?
#66 Michael Geeza on 2007-05-18 13:19
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments!
Fr. Philip has many thoughtful and insightful things to say on this site, but with respect to the points you raise, I find it hard to follow Fr. Philip's reasoning. Perhaps we are misunderstanding him or missing something?
#67 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-05-18 13:42
Your point about Canon 17 of the 1st is well-taken, not only in the individual instance you mention, but as a problem for the whole Church. On the face of it, the Canon applies only to clergy. But since every person employed by a modern bank and some accountants are directly or indirectly involved in the taking of interest on loans, does the Canon prohibit Orthodx clergy who need to engage in secular employment from working for a bank? Since Readers and Subdeacons are also "clergy" ("...persons covered by the Canon..." as Canon 17 says), are they also forbidden to work in a bank or to take on certain kinds of accounting jobs?
In the case of the promissory note: did the Kondraticks ask for interest or was it offered? If the latter, for what reason: as interest, pure and simple; or as compensation for the Church's apparent delay in reimbursing them? If the latter, strictly speaking it was not interest but compensation, and therefore not covered by the Canon.
My point is that, firstly, one needs to know what the Canons say. Most Orthodox Christians in North America, for example, do not realise that Canon 29 of St. Basil the Great (along with the Lord's own words in Matthew 5:33-37 and the Apostolic injunction in James 5:12) forbids Orthodox Christians to swear any oath, even in court (something for which courts in most jurisdictions DO make provision).
Secondly, Canons, like every other element in Holy Tradition (including the Scriptures, I might add) need to be interpreted, not only in light of their words, but also of their intent. Take this example: Canon 27 of the Holy Apostles deposes "A Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that strikes believers for sinning, or unbelievers for wrong-doing." Does that mean that a priest or deacon cannot spank his obstreperous two-year-old as needed? (And, no, getting Matushka to do it instead won't wash; cf. Canon 9 of the 1st-and-2nd.) Most sane interpreters would say that this is NOT what the Canon means. So Canons do need to be interpreted in light of their intent.
Thirdly, Canons are not handy-dandy clubs with which to beat people one doesn't like. Resorting to canonical charges against anyone, clergy or lay (and laity ARE subject to a host of Canons!), should always and only be an absolute last resort when everything else has failed.
In the current situation, therefore, one has to ask whether or not, before anyone even thought of canonical charges and Spiritual Courts, Fr. Kondratick was invited to sit down with anyone and go over the books line by line, query by query, and with as much access to all the records as possible, to explain the problems? I don't know the answer to that...and it bothers the daylights out of me. The Lord is very clear in Matthew 18:15ff about how things are supposed to work in HIS Church; and if we have been disobedient to the Lord, nothing good or healing will come of any of this.
Vale, O Publie!
(Editor's note. In answer to Fr. Philip's last question, as to whether Fr. Kondratick was asked to "sit down" with anyone to explain, the answer is yes. He met with the Synod on March 20, 2007. In a statement released by the Synod two days later they wrote:
"In a letter of March 18, 2007, Archbishop Dmitri forwarded a request by Protopresbyter Kondratick to appear before the Holy Synod to ‘... answer any questions we might have related to the current situation in The Orthodox Church In America.’ After a consultation among the bishops, we agreed to permit him to appear as requested. On March 20, 2007, Fr. Kondratick appeared before us, presented his statement, and answered questions relating to his time as Chancellor. After substantial deliberation in executive session, we concurred that the explanations provided were neither credible nor persuasive, and found ourselves in agreement with the recommendation of the Metropolitan Council.")
#68 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-05-18 14:47
Dear Committed Convert,
There is a major difference between the run-of-the-mill not for profit and the OCA. The OCA is a Church, and by that receives automatic and blanket tax exempt status. The FOS is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not for profit. The OCA is not -- we did not have to apply to the IRS, nor does the church file an annual tax return (as do typical not-for-profits).
As to AG oversight, again, we are a Church. The courts have continuously held that in issues of Church, the state will stay out. Something about separation of Church and State in the US Constitution or some such malarkey.
The state can prosecute individuals for criminal behavior. That's pretty much it. The courts will not compel anyone to adhere to the statutes of the OCA.
I still maintain that the Church has no overseers in the state. Perhaps an attorney might set me straight (I'm an accountant, not an attorney).
Sdn. John Martin Watt
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#69 Marty Watt on 2007-05-18 17:45
Actually, the OCA is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. I have a copy of the IRS document, as do (or did) other parishes whose tax-exempt status is tied to that of the OCA.
#70 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2007-05-19 07:37
Your comment misses my objection. The meeting with the Holy Synod was not at all the same as Fr. Kondratick sitting down with the Treasurer (with three sword-lengths between them, I fear), several others, AND ALL THE BOOKS AND RECORDS for a careful examination of each point at issue. I mean a point-by-point, searching page-by-page, file-by-file inquiry that goes on for as many days as it takes. Before anyone can legitimately accuse anyone else of wrong-doing there must be such a thorough and comprehensive search for the truth. If this indeed centres around one person, that person needs to be directly and personally involved, and methodically asked highly specific questions, and given full access to the records in order to provide highly specific answers in that search.
And mark you: Nothing else and nothing less is acceptable to me. If this be the court of public opinion, then I as a juror want facts; I want hard evidence; I want specifics. I refuse to be handled, massaged, spun or tumble-dried for that matter. If you ask me to believe in another's innocence, I will do it immediately. If you want me to believe in someone's guilt, you had better present me with overwhelming and concrete proof of wrong-doing: not of a lousy system, not of sloppy book-keeping, not of neglect of detail, not of incompetence or ignorance or bad decisions or rank stupidity; but of conscious and deliberate wrong-doing.
Do the Special Commission's report and/or PR's report contain those hard facts? If so, release those reports! If the evidence be so damning, why is it that---according to the post by "A Senior Priest of the OCA"---Fr. Kondratick has yet to be confronted with the specific canons he is charged with violating? And---IF "Senior Priest" is correct---why has the prosecution failed in its obligation under the virtue of justice to disclose all the evidence it intends to use? As Orthodox Christians we are obliged to a standard higher than that of secular courts, not lower; and in any secular court the prosecution has at the very least a duty to disclose not only its evidence against the defendant but also any exculpatory evidence in favour of the defendant. But our lot keep the defendant guessing as to what specifically he is charged with canonically AND refuse to hand over the evidence in a timely manner, so that the former Chancellor has adequate opportunity to mount a proper defense? Give me a bleedin' break, mate! What are they playing at?
I apologise for expressing my frustration...but NOT for being frustrated. I first felt a call and desire to be a priest when I was eight years old; serving God and His people as a priest is my greatest joy; and to lose that would be utterly devastating. So when I see some other priest in peril of being deposed; when so very much is at stake, I want things done with thorough fairness, complete exactness, based on real and concrete proof, and in the face of rock-hard impenitence and contumacy. Anything less is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance.
(Editor's note: I am told by reliable sources that the Special Commission's report does indeed do all you require of it, and more, in spades. It formed the basis of the questions asked Fr. Kondratick, for which his answers were not forthcoming, or insufficient according to all present. As to why it has not been made public, I share your same frustration.)
#71 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-05-19 12:00
Yes, there'd be forgiveness (probably already is) ... but the malefactors would still need to step down. Forgiveness does not subsume naivete.
#72 Anon on 2007-05-19 14:28
I stand corrected. However, according to IRS Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organization, a church does not need to apply for an exemption. From page 3 of the publication:
"Recognition of Tax-Exempt Status
Automatic Exemption for Churches
Churches that meet the requirements of IRC section
501(c)(3) are automatically considered tax exempt and
are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of
tax-exempt status from the IRS.
"Although there is no requirement to do so, many
churches seek recognition of tax-exempt status from the
IRS because such recognition assures church leaders,
members, and contributors that the church is recognized
as exempt and qualifies for related tax benefits.
For example, contributors to a church that has been
recognized as tax exempt would know that their contributions
generally are tax-deductible."
Further, on page 5, the publication states:
"All IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches
and religious organizations, must abide by certain rules:
■ their net earnings may not inure to any private
shareholder or individual,
■ they must not provide a substantial benefit to private
■ they must not devote a substantial part of their
activities to attempting to influence legislation,
■ they must not participate in, or intervene in, any
political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to)
any candidate for public office, and
■ the organization’s purposes and activities may not
be illegal or violate fundamental public policy."
The IRS cannot take away an exemption it need not approve to begin with. Therefore any enforcement, in my professional opinion (and I believe I'm backed up by tax court rulings on this), would be limited to excise taxes on illegal transactions (exactly what is alleged here), not loss of tax-exempt status.
Indeed, every parish would automatically be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The IRS would have to prove that the organization is not a Church in order to revoke a tax exemption, and I do not believe that would be possible in this case.
I do, however, believe the accused could be shown to have received a private inurement and be subject to taxes plus penalties and excise taxes on that amount. Additionally, a pattern of tax avoidance and transfer of funds, as is also alleged, is money laundering and could result in RICO criminal statutes. But that would be the US v individual, not the US v the Orthodox Church in America.
In my best judgment, and I think I've been consistent on this position since the beginning of this website 18 months ago, we need not concern ourselves with the loss of tax exemption from the IRS.
Sdn. John Martin Watt
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#73 Marty Watt on 2007-05-19 17:37
Inga, on that point, I wholeheartedly agree with you. However, membership in the WCC and entertaining ecumenism is becoming more and more detrimental instead of fruitful over the years.
#74 John D. Sheposh on 2007-05-19 21:15
It has other "benefits", as well, such as usually being required for exemption from local property taxes and sales taxes, etc. Of course, these will vary considerably from location to location. I suspect that would be a major factor, considering all the property that is involved.
#75 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2007-05-20 04:38
I have to say I left the OCA and was no fan of the total unaccountability I experienced in the 90's when I was a member . People must realize by now that the silence, hostility, stone walling; whatever you want to call it suggests that the scandal is probably bigger than anyone ever imagined. That said one has to take into account the fact that in our society all religion especially Christianity is maligned at every turn. Certainly this can turn into a circus of major porportions akin to what happened in the Catholic Church and no one wants this because it will destroy the OCA. If Orthodoxy's mission church fails in this country it will be a judjment on all of Orthodoxy ! Perhaps just perhaps beside all the personal motivation MH+ and his cronies have some feeling for the good of the church; they are not deamons just men just like all clergy and laity . If this is to be resolved for the good of the Holy Orthodox Church + we need leadership not opinions. In XC, John F. Morariu
#76 John F. Morariu on 2007-05-20 13:58
I am sure that many passages in the Scriptures bear on the current problems in the OCA but today's epistle (Acts 20:16-18, 28-36) struck as I listened to it being read as particularly appropriate. Paul has called his elders together and preached "take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers" and then speaking of his own condition he indicates that money meant nothing to him in the words of the Lord "it is more blessed to give than receive." And then "he knelt and prayed with them all."
#77 Joe Quinton on 2007-05-20 15:28
I believe, though, Marty, that the OCA can lose its tax exempt status if the IRS determines that it has engaged in for-profit behavior. The Unification Church (The Moonies) lost their tax exempt status this way. I don't believe the use of the ADM monies, however, has put the OCA in any danger of this, since it was not monies made, but misuse of a donation has serious consequences even for a church.
#78 Paula Brkich on 2007-05-20 17:38
The Russian Orthodox Church (MP) is still on the Old (Julian) Calendar. You can check days.pravoslavie.ru/en
#79 Anna Riazance on 2007-05-21 20:22
I wrote on Saturday and asked if you could please remove my comment.... Thank you.
(Editor's note: It has been removed.)
#80 Rachel Andreyev on 2007-05-22 12:21
I must respectfully dissent There are a variety of legal options available to force a course-correction of the leadership of a not-for-profit organization. They range from direct statutory intervention by the New York Attorney General (which would no doubt spin off a criminal investigation) to lawsuits brought either from individuals who have been wronged, an action in equity for an accounting (shudder) through a derivative lawsuit by church members themselves.
Maybe you are sitting on top of the bubble. Maybe you can look down from your high place on your bubble and see the little people below. But you should never forget you are on a bubble. All it takes is one sharp pin.
#81 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2007-05-22 14:41
Your right Anna .... I retract that as being one of the major issues.
#82 John D. Sheposh on 2007-05-22 22:26
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