Saturday, May 20. 2006
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My name is Stanley Kopichak and I have 2 close and dear friends on the Metropolitan Council. At this time my friends asked me to keep there identities undisclosed. They both confirmed that Metropolitan Herman and Fr. Paul Kucynda are running things with NO transparency whatsoever, they confirmed that in reality no one on the Metropolitan Council knows whats going on. There are no details being given about anything and the loan was "pushed through" without anyone explaining anything. They both agree that it didn't make any sense to take on all this debt without plan of action going forward, there was no discussion of the fact that donations, dues, etc. were at a 15 year lows. In there opinion Metropolitan Herman is clearly acting on HIS own!
#1 Stanley Kopichak on 2006-05-20 08:30
This loan looks like a bad idea for the OCA. This means there are few donors willing to step up to the plate to help.
A couple of questions: $111,500 to Fr. Kondratick for 'remodelling?' Come on! That's $5575 a year if he lived there 20 years. How many of us non-millionaires have spent that kind of money on refurbishing, especially on a 'rental' (that's what a rectory is). That also means he came up with that amount 'out of pocket.' Whose pocket, I wonder?
#2 <name withheld> on 2006-05-20 08:46
***This raises some serious questions, what the heck was the money (*TAKEN*) from these restericted accounts used for? Was any individual within the church the cause for (*ANY*) of these funds having to be (*TAKEN*) from (*RESTRICTED*) accounts and used for undisclosed purposes. Inquiring minds want to know!
A few questions:
1) What other practical options were there?
2) What does the willingness of the bank to offer such a loan say about their perception of the OCA's viability, and how realistic is that perception likely to be?
3) Why did the Diocese of New England and the Albanian Diocese object? Specifically do they agree with the West and Alaska or do they have their own separate reasons?
#4 Sine Nomine on 2006-05-20 16:01
Well -- there's the what and then there's the how and the when ...
For the WHAT ... well, no it's not a bad idea. If the calculator I used is correct, this will cost $14,219/month, or a bit more than $170K a year. That's a lot, but it's not crippling in the context of an overall budget that's presumably around $2.5million/year. To take out such a loan, put everything right, and start from zero going forward makes a fair amount of sense.
But the HOW and WHEN don't seem so great at all ... doing this before or without making the results of the investigation public, without a public discussion of the impact on the future, without some public announcement (or better discussion) of what the budget will look like and how things will be prioritized to make sure that the most important needs are met in spite of the limits of actually living within our income and repaying this loan ... well, without any of that, it doesn't strike me as such a good idea.
Furthermore, this is without any clear sense of what will change to make sure abuses don't continue in the future. So what could be a way to create a clean slate and move forward, instead feels like a "get out of jail free" card to allow the status quo to continue and everyone to avoid the consequences of their own actions and inactions.
Since the total interest on this loan, if it runs its full term, would be in excess of $1.7 million [$1,712,675, if I calculated it correctly], I see lots of appeals to retire the debt in our future. I don't expect that those appeals will be well received unless there is real, substantial, and visible change moving forward.
#5 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-05-20 17:24
I think it is commendable that a loan was taken out refunding restricted accounts from which money was withdrawn and used obviously not for which it was ear-marked.
However, to take out a loan to repay someone for remodeling, I don't think that was a good idea. They spent it on their own. They can wait till things get settled. Especially since that person knows the OCA problems intimately.
I find it fascinating that the 2 Metropolitan Council members state +HERMAN is not operating under transparency. That, IMHO, is not good. This is a time when he should be very transparent.
I also find it surprising that legal counsel didn't advise this loan not be taken. Though they may have, and we just don't know.
No surprise that donors aren't willing to give. Why should they? Does the hiearchy realize how difficult it will be to rebuild trust with their donors? What takes years to build, takes seconds to tear down.
God help us all!
#6 Philippa Alan on 2006-05-20 20:18
I am no financier, but what it seems to have happened by taking out this loan is an effort to "save" the OCA from folding altogether. With what appears to be a lack of transparency, it feels as if the few in power wanted this pushed through before the Holy Synod could possibly make any large objections to it when the meet 5/23.
Now that it is approved, my personal hope would be that the auditors and investigators help get the OCA in the best legal and sound financial shape as it can. Their advice might mean the dark days ahead, i.e. get rid of clerics doing the book work. I would think this would mean the hiring of a few professional auditors within the OCA to maintain the bookwork.
While there will be monies continuing to come into the OCA, I can't see any large windfall to even try to pay this loan off early. I am wondering, as I have wondered several months back, if we cannot just sell some property off, if not our entire operations in Syosset ,and move where it is less expensive. However inconvenient a drive or a move may be, the implementation of working out of modest and cost effective portables on St. Tikhon's farm land should save us alot. Cost effective housing for OCA staff could be built, too, so that they do not have to pay the prices on Long Island but what the OCA could more practically afford on their own land at St. Tikhon's (where there is room to build).
#7 Anonymous on 2006-05-20 21:07
Fathers and Mothers, Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord
I never ever advocate taking out a loan. Not for travel. Not for education. Not for rent. Not for anything. There has got to be some other way to deal with this problem. Cut back on expenses. Ask for help. I have a radical idea on who to ask for help but I am not ready to put it out in public yet.
I would recommend that everyone check out the teachings of Jim Forest at the Orthodox Peace Fellowship on living with as little as possible. Or else talk to the monastics. I think the OCA needs an influx of monastic principles and it needs them now.
#8 Olympiada on 2006-05-20 21:48
I agree with all of the above and can't understand the rationale in a two hour phone conference to expedite a loan of this magnitude. Why the rush before the final verdict?
If in fact the funds have been embezzeled, or diverted for private use, that would be criminal and deserve more than just admonition and forgiveness.
Also, Fr. Kondratick was suddenly released by the Met. and now is to be re-imbursed a large sum for antecedent expenses on home improvement? This is not a Monopoly game being played with toy money.
#9 Anonymous on 2006-05-20 22:49
Why the rush? To reduce the liability of certain officers. Restricted funds had to be replenished in order to avoid liability by the officers responsible for allowing these improper transfers; illegal transfers that have both civil and criminal penalties potentially associated with them. This would explain why Fr. Paul Kuncynda and Met. Herman are being so proactive right now! They are reducing their personal liability.
#10 Name withheld on 2006-05-21 08:44
I am a convert to the Orthodox church and a member of the OCA. I studied about the history of Christianity to come to the conclusion that our Church is the historical church of Christ. My girlfriend resisted entry for many years, despite the obvious beauty and dignity of worship in our Church. She resisted the veneration of icons and saints and the kissing of a Bishop's hand. I spent YEARS praying that we could really become a family and both belong to the Church. That she would see holiness in the Church. That she would see that apostolic succession was more than just a lineage on paper. That HERE in the Orthodox Church, there is something special, maybe holiness, maybe mysticism, maybe truth that seperates it from all the other "Christianities" competing for her allegiance. Now she is converted.....and all this! Bishops ranting about other bishops! Severe money mis-management (at best). And all of this on display for anyone to read.
All of it is shameful. I do not know who is to blame. I don't know if Metropolitan Herman is covering up or just trying to quickly right a severely damaged Church. But I do know that we must right this Church now. ALL OF THE BISHOPS SHOULD MEET AND TALK TOGETHER LIKE "BROTHERS IN CHRIST" NOT JUST SIGN THEIR LETTERS THAT WAY. These fancy words at the end of their letters to each other mean nothing if the entire previous text is filled with vile, hatred and mistrust.
God help me, because I am a sinner too, but I have not been chosen to lead thousands of souls. ALL of the Bishops should remember that it is not THEIR Church. It is CHRIST'S Church. HIS BODY. That should handle it that way..
#11 Anonymous on 2006-05-21 13:18
Will someone give me one good reason why my money should be used to perpetuate the OCA? I cannot find any good in this organization from the standpoint of religion.
#12 Unknown on 2006-05-21 14:37
does the Honesdale National Bank know of the situation of the oca? what was the collaterall used for the loan, St. Tikhon's?? Met. Herman"s home?
#13 annonymous on 2006-05-21 17:19
A debt is a debt is a debt. Taking out a loan to repay other debts doesn't enlarge or diminish that liability.
At the risk of shocking my friend Olympiada, I agree with her (!) that the best course is to never borrow in the first place. (Please don't anyone report this comment to my credit union.) But we can't all live monastic lives and there may be times when borrowing is smart. This might be one of them.
Let's see, if we could allocate this debt among all 1,064,000 OCA members, that would work out to just $1.60 per member. What's the problem? ; = )
#14 Marty Brown on 2006-05-21 17:34
I wonder if maybe some of that "church" land in the Aleutian Islands - far west, say Atka.... could be used to house the OCA Administration?
These are, after all, Bishops that have taken on monasticism and monastic humility as their life?
I can not imagine a more perfect place for them to contemplate prayer and humility whilst working to survive.
No hotels, restaurants, limos, stores - nothing but God's beautiful creation and solitude.
A place where it may be months before the next airplane arrives if at all!
Even if they had all the cash from special accounts or anywhere else.... they couldnt spend it if they wanted too...
Lemmings and seagulls dont need it!
#15 Anonymous in Alaska on 2006-05-21 17:40
To be fair, the loan is mostly a consolidation effort. Nearly 1/3 of it replaces an existing line of credit (according to OCA News, $500k), and $328,360 is to replace funds taken from the various appeals. The $111k for Fr Kondratick's home renovation is suspicious, but it's possible that, as with the $287k owed to vendors, it's the result of a prior commitment to make changes to the home. (Perhaps Fr Kondratick borrowed the money, with the agreement that Syosset would make the payments?)
I also take issue with Stokoe's branding deprecating this "extraordinary meeting" on the basis of it being done via conference call. If the OCA is is being conducting its financial affairs responsibly, then conference calls should become more the norm, not less. Airfare and hotel are expensive. There's a reason the conference call is becoming ubiquitous in the business world. It saves loads of cash.
Finally, for those calling for transparency, at some point, an accounting must be made. In the mean time, the bishops do have a responsibility to minimize the damage to Christ's Church. This would include not spreading rumors or otherwise promoting this information in such a way that it causes people to lose faith in the Church. It's one thing for the faithful to lose faith in individual sinners, but another thing entirely for them to lose faith in the Church. Just as your parents didn't tell you everything when you were a child, it is only responsible for the hierarchs to get their facts together and to figure out how to convey the information to the faithful.
Having said that, if the faithful think their money is being squandered, then it is not to their credit to give it. (If I know the money is being spent on topless bars and cocaine, is there any spiritual benefit to giving the money?) If that's how you feel, then by all means escrow the money. But watch out that you don't end up harming your parish or diocese in the process. And consider whether anyone would REALLY benefit were the OCA to suffer a total financial collapse.
#16 Priest Basil on 2006-05-21 21:07
Dear Anonymous Convert:
You have not made a mistake in converting to the Orthodox Church. There have always been problems in the Church because human beings are involved. However, if there is sin in the house, one can be certain that it will be revealed. Judgement begins in the house of the Lord. Thank God for Orthodoxy and the means available to clean up the mess. Since all Bishops are co-equals in spiritual authority, it creates a system of checks and balances. Thank God we do not have a supreme pontiff who would be able to conceal everything and not be called into question.
#17 Rich on 2006-05-21 21:08
It is a shame that over $200,000 had been "borrowed" from charitable accounts. This represents $200,000 diverted from feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty and other Christ mandated kindnesses to the least among us. And to accomplish what?
Hopefully, the replaced funds will be now used for their originally intended purposes.
#18 Saddened on 2006-05-21 21:46
I forgot to mention, there is a village in Atka - its been there for thousands of years, alive and well.
There is a humble church there with ancient icons and books since the time of Fr John Veniaminof (aka St Innocent) built by the Unangan people who've always inhabited the island.
Hmmm.... Fr John Veniaminof.... when was that? the early 1800's?
He was NOT out to plunder - he learned the language of Unagan and translated the Gospels into their language! Yes he built clocks and supervised some of the building.... he worked alongside his fellow humans just like anyone else.
Come to think of it.... so did St Herman...
Thats why he left the Russian settlement of Kodiak for humbler holdings - he didnt call the Alutiiq dumb or tell them his way was better.... he learned from them how to survive and shared his knowledge with them.
Just like the rest of the Alaskan lands - none of anything on any of it was built by the OCA or its ancestry the Russian Church.
It was all built by the local native people - the same who kept Orthodoxy alive without priests, bishops and educated readers... today we're told that all of this is wrong, that we dont "do it the Orthodox way"
No, I guess we dont..... we do it the way of our ancestors and of the true and old church fathers - selfless giving and love of fellow man, no strings attatched. This is why we've survived and prospered all these centuries in the harshest of climates on earth, we dont own the land... no one does! How can you own something that outlives you and gives life to you? silly, fallible humans!
AS far as I know the OCA has never given, built or presented a candlestick or icon to any church in Alaska - but they'v'e taken ancient books and icons (against our will) no one knows where.
#19 Anonymous in Alaska on 2006-05-21 22:29
Dear Anonymous in Alaska,
You have given the most brilliant, positive and what should be the most obvious solution to this crisis. Pay back the accounts by selling off Syosset, move all the OCA administration to America's Orthodox beginnings in Alaska, and set up that administration in a truly monastic setting far removed from wealth, temptation, and secular power.
The truly holy will stay, more holy will come, and the not so holy will just leave. Problem solved.
#20 Stu Harris on 2006-05-21 23:39
The Honesdale National Bank appears to be a very small institution: 7 branch offices in Pennsylvania. Their web site includes a photo of a nifty, truck-mounted ATM for special events...
So, why this bank and not a larger East-coast institution (like Bank of America or Chase or National City)? What other institutions, if any, were approached about this loan? What was the response... If I were a loan officer, I know what mine would be: Show us that our money will not be lost. Convince us that you will REPAY this loan.
Is the loan officer at HNB Orthodox?
#21 A former parishioner on 2006-05-22 06:25
I believe the author of this article betrays bias in the opening lines by saying the OCA called it an "extraordinary meeting" in quotes, and then claiming that in reality (as opposed to what the OCA said) it was a conference telephone call. As an attorney with about 27 years experience I know that many state corporation laws and many governing documents of corporations have express provisions allowing for meetings to be held and actinos taken by teleconference. I practice entirely on the left coast, but I would be extremely surprised if a modern and progressive jurisdiction like NY, where the OCA's HQ is, did not have a telecpnferencing law. I would also be extrenmely surprised if a heavweight law firm like the one advising the OCA these days would allow such a meeting to take place if there was not legal authority for it.
So I think this website ought not to contrast what the OCA says was an extraordinary meeting with "reality" until and unless the author finds out for us, and cites chapter and verse, that the law of the OCA's corporate domicile does not allow extraordinary meetings to take place by teleconference. I realize that holding the meeting by teleconference deprived this site of one more little chance to criticize the OCA (for the cost of all those air tickets and cab rides it would have taken to get everyone to Syosset), but the "reality" is that it is an economy that corporations of all types commonly employ, and given the state of relations between some of the participants might have had other wise underlying reasons besides sheer economics. The "reality" is that there are quite enough serious questions here, both answered and unanswered, and one would have thought this site should have retained more of an appearance of objectivity and refrained from such a biased lead in. We will see if stricter editorial standards are applied to this critique than to the original story.
love, Fr. George Washburn, (AOCANA, Ben Lomond, Ca.)
#22 Fr. George Washburn on 2006-05-22 06:31
I have a problem with your sentence: "And all of this on display for anyone to read". Who is it you don't want to read it?
Would you prefer you or your girlfriend didn't learn about "all of this"? Would you prefer there were no OCANews Website and that you and your girlfriend as well as the rest of us had no access to the information it provides?
I believe that if there can be anything positive in this present tragic reality within the OCA, it is it that the veil of secrecy about its disorded and dysfunctional governance system is being torn aside and that on this website "All of this is on display for anyone to read".
There is a saying: "The truth shall make you free but first it will make you miserable". It may be "miserable" to learn that the OCA isn't only what you thought it to be. That there are "tares among the wheat". But it was an illusion for you or your girlfriend to think otherwise.
I hope you both will read Father Robert M. Arida's Reflection titled: "Liturgy, Beauty, Deceit and Hope" on this website. And that, along with everything else available on the website, will become an opportunity for you and your girlfriend to reflect upon and recommit to all that you embraced in your conversion to Orthodoxy as members of the OCA.
#23 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-05-22 06:40
ok, unknown, what's the alternative? ROCOR, Antiochians, Greek Archdiocese (hey, we might finally be recognized by the EP as canonical!)? And think very hard on your answer.
#24 Michael Strelka on 2006-05-22 08:13
Christ is Risen ! Indeed He is Risen!
As I follow this very sad, sad reporting of events that have occured, I am sickened by the thought that monies were even intercepted before they reached CHILDREN in need. Orphans, victims of disasters, CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS ! How can people of integrity allow this to happen? To pay for what....expensive hotel rooms, parties in other countries as well as parties in hotels here in the USA, travel, travel, travel to Russia with entourages......If we don't take throngs of people with us, it will look like our visits are not important.....and important we are now.....
Is anyone sleeping at night ....those who are holding parishoners to a higher standard than they themselves subscribe to.....is there no shame....disgust.....?
Look at the OCA website......is there a hint of what's going on.....Let's keep this quiet.....Bishops, priests....no discussion allowed.....please don't mention this in our parish...it will cause a stir. A stir? It should cause an absolute revolt. Monies collected from widows, families, trusting parishoners responding to pleas for help ......squandered. ALL of it. And at least now a 9/11 fund does exist......minus more than $90,000.
Questions....the $500,000 line of credit used for what purpose, outstanding operating bills of $287,800 owed to vendors....which vendors....?.....for what purposes? Who approved the repairs for the property on Martin Drive? Are there receipts? Were bids submitted and approved? Who has actual knowledge of these "repairs" or were they just "upgrades". ? Who would buy a house that required over $100,000 worth of repairs?
In my parish, I spear headed collections for every appeal, project and fund. It will never happen again. I have sent monies directly to parishes, priests, and individuals. I will not organize a collection to be sent to Syosset until full disclosure is made and the proper punishments, if required are made transparent and reported by the OCA themselves.
And now, I must ask for anonymity since I run the risk of being chastised by my Bishop and Priest.
#25 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-05-22 08:26
I have noticed that the clergy have been relatively silent on this forum. I, for one, can keep silent no longer. If we clergy are supposed to be fathers and leaders, then we should not expect the laity to do all the speaking on our behalf while we hide.
I know some can't speak out for fear of retribution by heavy-handed bishops. But as for me, I cannot remain silent in the face of this most recent and heinous admission by the OCA administration.
If more "dark and stormy clouds" are on their way, and the OCA administration has already admitted to stealing from orphans, widows, missions, the sick, and terrorist and hurricane victims, then what could possibly be still to come?
Is anyone else scandalized by this:
$36,640 taken from the Beslan Childrens Fund
$10,000 taken from the Alaska Medical Fund
$3,000 taken from the Alaska Parishes Fund
$87,560 taken from the Mission Appeal
$41,750 taken from the Charity Appeal
$16,600 taken from the Annual Christmas Stocking Appeal
$90,590 taken from the 9/11 Fund
$3,300 taken from the IOCC Fund
$13,920 taken from Florida Hurricane Relief Fund
$25,000 from the Russian Orphan's Fund
I have one word for this: Evil.
Were such things as an OCA entourage attending Patriarch Alexi's 75th birthday party really worth pillaging from orphans and terrorist victims?
If Deacon Eric and Mark Stokoe did not bring this to light, don't think for a moment these funds would have ever been repaid. The OCA administration admitted as much last fall.
May God have mercy on those who perpetuated such sin.
Priest Christopher Wojcik
#26 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2006-05-22 09:22
Dear Fr. Wojcik:
Thank you for your courage in speaking up. There are so many self-righteous voices attacking the messengers of the facts. If a conference call to agree upon an emergency 1.7 million loan to reimburse missing dollars from a restricted fund isnt extraordinary, then what is????
For those who defend the veil of secrecy over recent actions, it amazes me. And comparing the faithful to little children waiting submissively for our leaders to pass along their arbritrary decisions, enough already!
We are adults wanting to know the truth, nothing but the truth and the whole truth. We will honor bishops and leaders who regard the truth and live the truth.
#27 Rich on 2006-05-22 13:13
IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF BEING CHASTISED BY YOUR BISHOP OR PRIEST THEY ARE NOT WORTHY TO HEAR YOUR CONFESSION.
Dear Priest Basil,
Your analogy is flawed in that I am not a child and the hierarchs are not my parents. I do not need their protection from the immediate transmission of all the facts of the situation.
#29 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-05-22 14:20
I think we are saying two different things. I agree, debt is debt from a bookkeeping standpoint.
However, from a use of funds perspective, using retricted funds for purposes other than those intended is illegal. Replenishing them before one gets caught gives the perpetrators a better chance of avoiding prosecution under the doctrine of "no harm, no foul." The defense would argue, "Where are the damages since the fund in question was replenished?" By the same token, taking out a loan legitimately (with Metropolitan Council approval) is legal even if it smacks of self-dealing.
#30 Name withheld on 2006-05-22 14:28
I guess what most of you don't know is that the chancery in Syosset is not owned by the OCA- it was left to them with terms and conditions- if the offices are to move then it goes back to the family who left it to the OCA!!!!! So, the OCA will get NO money for leaving Syosset!
#31 Sarah on 2006-05-22 14:34
Near the beginning of their ministry, in 1949, Billy Graham sat down with Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea and Grady Wilson and they identified four areas which they considered core values for their ministry; principles that could help them avoid the pitfalls of public ministry. They agreed on four that would guide their ministry together for the next fifty years:*
1. Integrity - be men of their word;
2. Accountability - be accountable to God, to those who invited them to minister, to each other, and to their wives and families; never exaggerate ministry results;
3. Purity - purity of life in their dealings with the opposite sex; and
4. Humility - humble themselves in the fear of God, asking God to honor the other and to lift each other up and to walk humbly before God.
To fulfill item 2, Accountabilty, Billy Graham helped found the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
Lastly, Rev. Graham has said in recent years that in retrospect that he would have a fifth rule; to avoid any semblence of involvement in partisan politics.
Perhaps in addition to the wealth of lessons from the Church Fathers, we can learn from the experiences of these contemporaries.
#32 Name withheld on 2006-05-22 16:47
Dear Fr. Basil,
With all due respect, do you pay for your Master Card bill using your Visa ? Do you not wonder why hundreds of thousands of dollars were used for anything but for the purpose they were intended when collected ? Why should they have to be replaced ? Not replenished....REPLACED...Now where will they go? Not to mention the fact these hard earned funds so generously donated by OCA members throughout the country are now part of a loan payback.....with 8% interest yet.....are you not scandalized ? Money for orphans, widows, victims of disaster and terrorist attacks? How much interest at 8% over a twenty year period does that add up to? Have we become so immune to monies being used inappropriately in our society that we just chalk it up to "everyone does it."
Just a question....when you have repairs done in your rectory....do you makes deals ahead of time or get bids that have to be approved if over a certain amount? I don't think many parishes could afford over $111,000 worth of repairs with or without approval. With your line of credit, could you borrow $111,000 expecting your parish to make the payments?
And I think it more like everyone involved is getting their stories straight rather than not telling the "children" everything.These "children" support our church and now learn that their donations over more than a decade have been mismanaged...using the new math. We are still supporting our church.We just may not send money to the " middle men" any longer.We thought Syosset knew how to disperse funds.....evidently not.
When the audits are completed, more than any of us know now will be revealed. The OCA will indeed survive. The leadership may be another story.
An anonymous OCA member in the Midwest
#33 Name withheld on 2006-05-22 18:09
Fr Christopher, I am scandalized by the amounts "redirected" from the appeals funds. I, too, question the propriety of raiding those funds to pay for travel to Russia, and so on. I am thankful this problem has been brought to light.
The question seems to be, however: how to proceed from here? Simply being scandalized and calling for heads to roll seems counterproductive. What is needed is a combination of housecleaning (the removal of those who have violated the trust of the faithful of the OCA) and the development of in-house controls to prevent it in the future. There may very well be cases that call for deposition of clergy and even criminal proceedings.
None of that will be accomplished correctly, however, until these audits are completed and their results analyzed. I still trust that we will find out these results in due time. The Church has endured millenia, and she will endure until Christ's return, when she is glorified. Patience.
#34 Priest Basil on 2006-05-22 18:22
Why the Bank of Honesdale? Well where exactly is Honesdale, PA? It is approx., 14 miles East of South Cannan and St. Tikhons Seminary, also the residency of Met. Herman. Coincidence? The big NY Banks wouldn't think of taking a risk on such a loan, but perhaps a local bank with a friendly connection to the OCA was willing to take the risk.
#35 Shawn Karney on 2006-05-22 20:24
Fr. Christopher, you didn't do all the math. For example, the OCA announced that $285,000 was collected from the special 9/11 appeal. Of this, $25,000 was announced as being given to the Pentagon.
This leaves $265,000 diverted elsewhere. The numbers from Mark's article say that $90,000 was taken. BUT, this leaves $175,000 simply vanished!
The reality is that around a million dollars have been looted from the OCA (or diverted, or borrowd, or misplaced, or whatever verb you like).
Not only is this wrong, requiring both explanation and repentance, but the system and personnel who allowed it to happen remain the same.
Repaying disappeared money with some loan isn't going to fix a broken system -- that's going to require a wholesale housecleaning. And it had better be soon, before the corrosion of distrust eats away the OCA.
#36 Fr. Anonymous on 2006-05-22 23:55
Father Bless me a sinner, as I read your post I think about how I have been a member of this jurisdiction because it is through the proper decree of the Moscow Patriarchy an Autocephalous Church. I have always felt that it is damaging and harmful to the faithful orthodox that there are so many competing jurisdictions on one land, it is contrary to the Orthodox way. But how can we ask the other jurisdictions to submit to the Omophorion of a Metropolitan that allowed the robbing of the Children of Beslan?
There should and must be an American Orthodox Church, but how can we lead the way? I have never seen the OCA as being perfect, but I have always felt that with growth and maturity she could lead the way, but now I find myself asking where are we going?
I very much desire an Autocephalous American Orthodox Church, but I wonder now if the OCA in it's current form can be anything but a blight on the Orthodox Sacerdotium. We need a Primate with greater maturity and the weight of history behind him, I fear that the only way to ever create an American Orthodox Church encompassing all ethnicity's living here is for the current OCA to submit to the Omophorion of an older and wiser brother. I do not pretend that such a suggestion is beautiful or even practical. Shall it be the Patriarchy of Moscow? Of Antioch? Of Constantinople? I do not know, but I know that in the coming decade no wise shepherd of his flock will submit to the Omophorion of the Primate who allowed the Children of Beslan and the Survivors of September eleventh to be robbed. How can there be any movement forward in reconciling the ethnic jurisdictions in America now for at least a decade?
I fear the dream of great men who fought for an Autocephalous Church for the Americas is crashing down around us and that the OCA is quickly becoming an impediment to a united Orthodox Church of America, and not the catalyst. Forgive me for saying this, but how can I even trust my donations being used for the good of the church anymore? Humbly, Ivan S.
#37 Anonymous on 2006-05-23 00:27
I am more than shocked when I read of the various amounts taken from the various funds e.g.Christmas Appeal, Christmas Stocking Appeal, etc. I was lead to believe it was from one fund namely, the discretionary fund.
How is it expected that this loan will be paid back?
I, personally, will not give until I hear where the missing money was spent. This is truly devastating. Rosalie Bagenski
#38 Rosalie Bagenski on 2006-05-23 05:57
I do believe Fr. Christopher's general point holds whether he has the math correct or not--we have taken money from the very people we are biblically mandated to give it to.
Are clergy quiet on this front? On the website's front, perhaps, but I think there's a lot of praying and some discussions going on. Reality is, we don't all know all the details. We don't even know how the OCA (or IF the OCA) will pull through this. There are too many unknowns to most all of us right now.
Also, I think we are all loathe to forment panic and many of us are concerned that's exactly what saying too much on a site like this could do. We do care. We're just trying to handle this parish by parish, parishioner by parishioner, and prayer by prayer.
#39 Fr. Oliver Herbel on 2006-05-23 06:46
I'm posting this as a top-level item in order to respond to a couple of folks taking issue with my points.
I am as scandalized, and concerned as anyone over the raiding of the appeals funds. I'm not happy about the loan, but the fact of the matter is that it makes it possible for the funds to be put to their intended use while everything else is sorted out. If transferring a balance, to use the credit card analogy, buys time to deal with this in an appropriate amount of time, then that doesn't seem like a bad course of action. This is a hugely complicated financial mess from all reports. An immediate resolution is anything but clear.
I am not condoning what has happened. Those who have betrayed the trust of those who have given money should be fired and, in the serious clergy cases, deposed. It is not fair to characterize what I have said as making excuses or saying that "everyone does it." Far from it. Additionally, I have gone on record with clergy in my diocese to say that a full analysis of what happened, along with an accounting for as much of the money is possible, is the only thing that will begin to restore trust in Syosset.
As Fr Oliver has mentioned, just because the clergy aren't talking publicly, or in this forum, doesn't mean they are not concerned about it. No one is suggesting that the faithful are children intellectually. However, the Church is hierarchical. I am my bishop's child, spiritually. If that's a problem for any here, then I recommend St Paul's words: Galatians 4:18-20, 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8, 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12, 2 Corinthians 6:13. St Ignatius has much to say about it as well.
None of this means that clergy involved in these acts are free of blame. For them, I recommend the words of Christ in Matthew 18:6, along with the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:13-15. The road to hell is indeed paved with the skulls of priests, to use Chrysostom's phrase.
Give the bishops a chance to lead. Most of them appear to be uninvolved in the scandal. Let them learn what has happened and begin to solve the problem. Pray for them, by name. Pray for those it appears have wronged the faithful of the OCA, by name. Pray for God's will to be done here.
#40 Priest Basil on 2006-05-23 08:33
The OCA website states the meeting was an
"extraordinary session" but adds that it was a
"teleconference" so it seems the nature of the
meeting is made clear.
Our debts have to be repaid. Does anyone considerthat not paying them is a viable choice? And I'd rather be paying a bank for some years, than pay the recipients of those special collections at some time in the
future. So this seems like a sensible move.
Someone pointed out that if the $1.7 million weredivided among our membership of 1,060,000, it would come to only $1.60 per member. But even if you use
the figure of dues-paying members (I'm assuming 35,000dues-paying members, I can't recall the currentfigure) it still is less than $50 per member ($48.57 to be exact)
Double that $50 to allow for interest (which in
thiscase roughly equals the principle) and we get
$100;then divide by 20 years, and each dues-paying memberwill have to pay $5 per year to retire this debt.
I think we can swing it.
Such methodology is apparently how Met. Hermanmanaged to enlarge the facilities at St. Tikhon's enormously over the years, to his credit.
Now regarding the monies that were taken from the other funds, I don't think most of us know at this point why it was done. But how do we know that it wasn't done (a) with the intention of giving back all the funds as soon as possible, and (b) for the purpose of keeping the whole ship from sinking, so that it
would be around in the future to help orphans,
disaster victims, and save souls, etc.
#41 Samuel on 2006-05-23 08:34
Sarah: It would be helpful to many of us if you could elaborate on how you know this. Do you have access to the..."terms and conditions" that you mention?
#42 nicholas skovran on 2006-05-23 10:35
Rosalie, you will not like the first part of my answer. It will be repaid either through increased assessments, or through donations.
However, I would propose the following: a trust fund, with attorneys and cpa's who are members of the OCA as trustees, would collect all the donations and extraordinary assessments. The trust fund would directly pay down the loan, if and when an independent commission determines that the OCA administration has made a clean breast of everything that has gone on for the past 15 years, and has instituted proper accounting and internal control procedures. A further requirement will be that the AAC will institutionalize certain structural changes in the Statute of the OCA with regard to finances. Nothing less than this is going to satisfy the faithful.
By the way, $1.7 million divided by 25,000 members comes out to $68 per person (less, if some assets of the OCA are liquidated first). I would be willing to pony up more than my share, IF I were personally satisfied that REAL changes had been made.
#43 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-05-23 10:45
Mark: Another missing sum: $67,000 in Bibles for Russia.
Also, I fail to understand why you state that $90,590 was taken from the 9/11 fund. In an article, "New Questions About OCA Finances: 9/11 Funds", I cited OCA documents showing that $285,201 was collected $285,201 was collected through the 9/11 Appeal (Reports to 13th AAC, p. 49).
Photos and documents evidence a donation of $25,000 to ASYMCA. I found no evidence that the remaining $260,201 was disbursed. Did you?
#44 Nina Tkachuk Dimas on 2006-05-23 11:56
Thank you, Fr. Christopher, for having the courage to speak out. I too am horrified and saddened by what is being revealed.
I do not wish to rush to judgement, but it does seem as if the loan was taken out to cover up the financial misappropriations before the IRS or the US government moved in on them. The payment to Fr. Robert Kondratick for "repairs" to the rectory smacks of bribery - he must know a lot!
What kind of Metropolitan Council do we have? One who approved this loan before the audits and legal investigations were completed? Not knowing what was really going on, according to one comment on this website?
One thing to keep in mind: the OCA is merely a tiny speck in the sea of Orthodoxy.
Lord, have mercy on us all.
#45 Eugenie Osmun on 2006-05-23 15:26
Even if the membership is only 40,000, it comes to about 43 dollars per person. If all the other t's get crossed, it would be an affordable way to move forward, rather than pay so much interest on a huge debt.
#46 Jane on 2006-05-23 16:26
I was hoping that someone would remember that and bring it up
#47 tina rhodes on 2006-05-23 17:56
Management of fund accounting isn't easy. Especially when there are budget shortfalls. However, the only way to deal with this is through full financial transparency. In a budget crisis, the leaders should have come to laity with a full accounting. This appears to be happening now.
The church must get the loan, thank God there is someone willing to give.
We must demand the Metropolitan meet full disclosure and annual financial audits. Please give him time, a full financial accounting is not easy if things have been done wrong for a long time.
I am appalled by those of you that decide now you will no longer give. Forgive my rebelious soul, but following Bishop Tikhon is wrong.
Imagine things a bit differently. A group of rowers are on a ship and the ship is losing ground in a storm. If they stop rowing, the ship is likely to capsize or be dashed upon the rocks, if they continue to row, there is a chance they may ride out the storm, but not get to their destination, or even perhaps still be destroyed on the rocks. The captain mistakenly turns the vessel sideways taking the full brunt of the weather. Do they stop rowing?
If you ask me, those that stop rowing should get thrown off the ship, regardless of the captain's mistake. In fact, the rowers should row harder.
Rowing harder means two things to me, demanding transparency is one, to help the captain steer properly. The other is giving to the OCA, even in a time of uncertainty.
It is secular, for sure, but Dale Carnegie training suggests we take it upon ourselves to be leaders when we see a leadership vacuum. It would be quite difficult for the Metropolitan to ask us all to give to the OCA at this time, so who will stand up and say it is time to give? In light of all the uncertainty, it is a most difficult thing to do, but we must. I haven't written this without merit in case anyone wonders.
All our letters only serve to help the captain steer the ship, but none of our words, and certainly none of our withholding of contributions helps keep the OCA going.
The clergy of the Midwest took a strong position regarding steering the ship, but what about rowing harder? Is our church simply a political battleground, where clergy now sway between the popularity of administration or laity, or are we together in a storm?
Today, I'm disappointed that no one has shown us the ship is losing ground. This would be monthly financial statements from the OCA, reported against budget.
I'm also disappointed the clergy hasn't been concerned about the rowing.
#48 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-05-23 18:21
Sarah is correct. Syosset is not the OCA's to sell......it was "given" to the OCA under special circumstances......perhaps others can comment on this.....
Anonymous in the Midwest formerly of the East
#49 Anonymous on 2006-05-23 18:57
Reading all the comments and remarks, I am reminded why Christ came into the world, to make it possible for a human body to be once again a temple of the Living God and share life in Heaven.
The "CRISIS" we are in the middle of is coming to the forefront. It is a time of judgement, however the judgement is not ours to make. The judgement is already made in what we say, what we do and our repentance. If we live in Our Father's house, the Church, then we must be about Our Father's business, His will and not our own, even if our claim is for the civil good of the Church. No good for the Church ever comes from the kind of disparity of serving God and Mammon, the fruit of secularism. I don't presume to have the solution to the problem, but I do have the common sense to know when something is radically wrong. In my opinion if we don't name the demon(s). how can we effectively do battle against them.? Did not Jesus name the enemy Legion before healing the man possessed by the evil one?
Procuring a sizable loan to return money from where it was taken,
and pay outstanding debts is only the tip of the iceberg and the easiest of accomplishments. Those teachers of the faith, the bishops, those physicians of the faith, the priests and those loving servants of the faith, the deacons. be living examples of following God's call, "for you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you". In all humility and from the depths of my heart. I beg you to lead by good example and not by power from duress. Surely all of you are familiar with these words, "Tend the flock of God that is your charge. Not by constraint but willingly as God would have you, not for shameful gain but eagerly. Not as domineering over those in your charge. but being examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory".
Some are chosen to be bishops, priest, deacons, servants of lesser orders and simple members of the Church. but all of us are Royal Priests by virtue of Baptism, Christmation, Reconcilation and Thanksgiving. All of us are responsible, some over much and some over little. but the same Holy Spirit descends on us all and the gifts we offer. God's will be done!
#50 John Lickwar on 2006-05-23 19:20
***It is very understandable why you would post with a request to withhold your name. However, understand that your priest and your bishop are human and that they cannot do anything to you for expressing your opinion and indignation. Expressing your opinion freely and openly is NOT an excommunication offense.
Misappropriating money given for relief and charity is beneath contempt and a despicable act.
I'll join you Michael in donating to such an effort! We must step up with money not just words. Money safeguarded by a committee of persons who can be trusted.
#52 Subdeacon Robert Aaron on 2006-05-23 19:53
Should one row harder if the captain has the ship directed towards the rocks?
That was in truth the concern of most clergy of the Midwest. Just rowing harder without a Godly hand at the rudder, will just ensure we the OCA crash with greater speed and sink that much more quickly. So first in a storm we pray, and orient ourselves to God our Savior, then we must make sure that a steady hand is directing the ship , then we will row.
Don't be disappointed with your priest, their hand is not given to the rudder. He may recognize the storm and the rocks, so I am sure He is praying, and orienting Himself and parish toward God and all the hope that our great God gives us in the midst of such storms. When, Daniel, it is time to row hard, your priest and the Bishop will tell you. He who came to us in the midst of wind and wave has the Bishop and other clergy for this very reason. We must trust God now to put a hand to the rudder that will take this Orthodox Church in a more Godly direction.
I am not advocating witholding funds but neither should we give more til there is clearly a different direction. Lest we rush into the rocks in our frenzied rowing...
We may find out in all this that we are quite a little skif (the OCA) and not a great big ship at all. We have been asking everyone to get on board but seeing that it was very small and full of holes and leaking badly they have all hesitated and remained aboard their own craft. If we are to sink we may find a more capable vessel coming to our rescue which may accomodate all the Orthodox of America. That is a very pleasent thought from He who is the Savior of the bestormed.
Christ is Risen,
the Priest Andrew
#53 Anonymous on 2006-05-23 20:08
From my understanding in the Philadelphia area, priests are asking parisheners to pay $400.00 dues.
#54 NAME WITHHELD on 2006-05-24 06:28
***While I know that your remarks, Father, are aimed at those members of the laity who, with righteous indignation, post their comments herein, I could not help but get the strong feeling that your remarks would bear better fruit if read and taken seriously by some of the hierarchs who purport to have the OCA's best interest at heart!
It seems to me that the old corporate adage that "the new broom sweeps clean" is good advice for Holy Synods, and in particular, the OCA's.
I remember reading in Lee Iacocca's autobiography,
titled "Iacocca," in the part where he is trying to
save Chrysler Corp. from bankruptcy. And (summarizing)
he wrote something like this:
"Everyone knew that Chrysler was hemorrhaging money,
but no one knew exactly how much or how bad it was,
because of imprecise management and bookkeeping."
Maybe a similar situation existed in the OCA. If some
funds were being pilfered by some, and records not
kept, maybe they really had no idea of the true
But evidently they felt they had to, yes, maintain
excellent relations with Patriarch Alexey and so
forth. We cannot judge any of that.
#56 Samuel on 2006-05-24 18:40
Any bank that wants to stay in business is not going to give an unsecured loan of this size to a financially insolvent institution like the OCA. This is a high risk loan. Management of the Bank most probably will insist on some type of collateral, i.e. real property to secure the loan. So if the title to any and all church properties is held by the OCA, a security interest will be attached to these properties. If there is a default, the secured property will be foreclosed and sold.
Second, is the loan fixed or variable? My guess is that the loan is tied to prime plus a margin and the rate is variable. As rates go up, the loan will reprice; how often will it reprice? Monthly, Quarterly, Semi Annually or Annually? As it reprices, the payment amount will most likely increase.
Based on what I have read, I can reasonably conclude that the OCA was engaged in money laundering, i.e. circumventing Bank Secrecy Act reporting requirements. Thus a "high risk" borrower (OCA) will expose the bank to additional regulatory scrutiny so the terms, collateral agreements, i.e. the risk premium charged has to be significantly high and very, very favorable to the bank.
The bank is probably a smaller institution (actual asset size, financial ratios etc can be obtained thru the Federal Agency that insures the deposits, i.e. OTS, FDIC ... )
A bank that effectively manages reputation risk would probably not engage in this type of loan. How do you foreclose on a church(s) and deal with the public outcry? What does this say about Management at the bank?
The Apostolic Canons prohibit clergy from charging interest on loans; the clergy are held to a higher standard. Would it not make sense then that clergy would not engage themselves and the OCA in an interest bearing loan? Hmm...
#57 C. William Voytan on 2006-05-24 19:08
Respectfully, Fr. Andrew, the loudest voices regarding contributing have been those telling us to stop, Bishops even, but why?
Two Bishops told us to stop rowing because we wanted to look at our course, not for heading to the rock. Now, others want to stop rowing because this ship was heading in the wrong direction, mismanaging temporarily restricted funds. If you believe mismanagement of funds, or even graft means we are headed to be dashed on the rock, then give up and plan on imminent death; sanction stopping through nonaction.
You say the clergy was concerned about smashing into the rocks, yet does any member of the OCA clergy know how the OCA stands versus budget for 2006 fiscal year by the end of this May, or do we wait until the completion of the 2006 audits sometime in May/June, 2007 to decide its time to row? Do you see the quagmire? Now in addition to the past problems, you are telling us to wait another 18 month to start giving. We can't wait until audits come in 2007 to govern budget shortfalls, or to ask how budgets have been blown to bits by travel to birthday parties 3 or 4 years after the fact. Not only is it unfair, it isn't prudent.
I've said this before and I'll repeat it, our church needs new financial governance. Audit alone is not enough.
In governance, the first thing to do is to understand to whom you are accountable. Since the contributors are the greatest stakeholders in our great church and its lifeblood, it is us to whom the central authority is accountable. We can only make our demands through the chain of command, and this is clergy. I'm sure Mark Stokoe recognized quickly that talking to his Priest about ways to improve the national church wasn't going to help.
Here's the thought and a new way to govern the church:
The clergy of the Midwest demanded expensive forensic audits dating way back, yet we don't even know where we stand for this year for the last 5 months. I understand the reasons for the letter, but now in hindsight, I'm here to tell you if we do what I'm saying here, many of these problems begin to disappear.
The clergy must demand the Statement of Activities versus Budget for 2006, reported quarterly at a minimum, with full notes disclosure on sources of income versus expectations, and explanations for budget overages.
Otherwise, the argument that clergy is concerned about the rowing holds no water, and the Bishops of the West and Alaska must be deposed for telling us not to look. In fact, without meeting this demand to govern budget shortfalls immediately against reasonable budgets by sharing with stakeholders, I'd safely and courageously say that not one person cares about the financial state of the OCA, and that the central administration should be bumped out if they don't comply. I'm dead serious about this, if the Metropolitan doesn't want the clergy to see results versus budgets, he must resign. It is the primary financial control missing here, and it is still missing today, and it could be done for each month of this year at little cost.
In the absence of these things, we can all simply sit here and talk about how bad the church was managed and how it might be headed to the rocks; its a lot easier than accepting any blame of our own, and a lot easier than asking the Metropolitan to tell us the financial state of our church for this year versus budget. We can all say we will stop giving, its easier, too.
I know it must seem quite awful that I'm asking so much, but really, Fr. Andrew can you tell me if we need to row harder against this year's budget? Forgetting about everything else, all past errors, we dont' know where we are today for this years P&L, this is wrong, its unfair, and it suggests we don't give a hoot, because none of us are asking.
I want to know whether the church is okay, not for the prior years, for this year. Is that so much to ask?
By the way, financial reports versus budgets are internal management reports, and have nothing to do with audits, but the existence of budgets and reporting against budgets may reduce audit risk and thus, audit cost. For the OCA, the benefit, away from any parables is clear, the clergy and laity and central administration (MET COUNCIL) would see problems far in advance and be able to discuss/evaluate/contribute additional funds when the church had reasonable needs.
#58 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-05-24 21:25
EXPLAIN, WHY WE NEED TO MAINTAIN THIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PATRIARCH?
WHEN THE OCA RETURNED THE TIKHVIN ICON TO RUSSIA, WE INVITED RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS TO SEE THE MOVIE (THE RETURN OF THE ICON). WHEN THE PART WAS SHOWN IN MOSCOW, THE PATRIARCH AND THE MAYOR WERE TOGETHER, THE IMMIGRANTS BLURTED OUT TOGETHER, "THE TWO BIGGEST CROOKS IN RUSSIA".
SO, I HAVE A PROBLEM HERE.
Are you for real, Samuel? "maybe they had no idea of the real financial situation."
However the monies were used or diverted is irrelevant. They didn't belong to whomever used them. They belonged to the church and were intended for specific purposes. To me, that in a sense is STEALING.
Let's stop defending and making excuses already. This is precisely the cavalier attitude which has gotten the Church into such a financial mess over the years.
If anyone else had done that in their own employment, they would not only have been fired, but would also have been arrested and would currently be awaiting prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
I'm sorry. I AM willing to financially help the church get out of the hole. However, I am NOT willing to make excuses or condone such despicable behavior, whomever the culprit(s) were.
The supporters of our Church have been financially deceived for too long, so please, let's stop with the ridiculous excuses already.
#60 Michael Geeza on 2006-05-25 06:35
If this is true, the restriction should be in the land deed, which is part of the public record.
By way of an aside, if anyone would be inclined to leave real estate to the church on the condition that the property always be used for church purposes and not sold off, there are ways to do that.
#61 Robert Wachter on 2006-05-25 07:10
You said you believe that expressing your opinion is not an excommunicatable offense in the OCA. Think again.
My real experience and that of my family differs. These are not nice people with whom we are dealing, I assure you. I will leave it to God to judge if they are even Christians, sadly.
#62 Name withheld on 2006-05-25 11:16
Do not underestimate who is reading!
#63 Anonymous on 2006-05-25 19:19
AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!!!
#64 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-05-26 04:47
Has anyone seen the minutes from the Holy Synod meeting posted on the OCA website??? It is OUTRAGEOUS that audit results were read and not made public!!! Metropolitan Herman and his yes man (Fr. Paul Kucynda) should be removed from office immediately!!!! According to the minutes, all the Metropolitan did during the 3 day meeting was thank everyone, over and over again. Was any business conducted??? What happend to transparency?? When will the lies stop????
#65 Natasha Trubitskow on 2006-05-26 13:44
You could be describing me and my wife.
Listen, you will find holiness maybe in a few others. Don't give up the faith. This is the foretold time when there are weeds growing with the wheat, possibly choking some of the wheat. The Lord told us in a parable that it must be so, and the wheat and the weeds will not be separated until the end.
Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved, to quote St. Seraphim.
Perhaps the only holiness you will see at times is that which by God's grace is found in you.
#66 Anonymous on 2006-05-28 08:09
yes, i would pay 1000 dollars. But first we have to get those thieves with sticky fingers and put them in jail. Also any clergy involved should be defrocked and never serve in a orthodox church again. ray zawertany
#67 ray zawertany on 2006-05-30 17:35
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