Friday, November 7. 2008
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FR John Dresko, with a reputation of being a highly respected and capable parish priest, goes six months without a parish assignment? Is forced to seek secular employment? All while parishes in my Diocese (in my own small Deanery!) are told there are no available clergy? Count me as one who definitely had the wool pulled over his eyes! I''m sorry for what you went through, Fr John - it was totally undeserved.
#1 Fr Stephen Mack on 2008-11-07 07:03
Fr. Dresko's comment is informative. The positions of OCA chancellor and communications director should be re-organized out of existence and the quarter-million dollars used for their salries and beneifts given to the departments to fund the projects that would be helpful for the parishes. Or let the dioceses develop programs and leave the Central Committee with little to do. It makes no sense to keep doing the same self-destructive thing over and over again: why should we expect any different results?
#2 Priest Thaddeus on 2008-11-07 07:44
I will only be commenting to Fr. Dresko's reflection.
I think it truly speaks to the entire heart of the matter. This type of information was missing from the SIC report, but it seemed very relevant to me.
I believe things went awry when the Synod and MC broke from the 9th AAC plans, or it could be said that the 9th AAC plans were destined to fail.
Proportional giving is the only thing that makes sense to me at all. How we get there will be the challenge.
I would suggest that a couple things have changed since the failure of the 9th AACs recommendations. The advent of the computer for one.
It should be quite simple for each church to submit their 2008 budgets, or their 2007 results to their respective diocese and for that diocesan Bishop to compare those amounts received in prior years to proportional giving.
It would work as follows, all numbers are examples only and I'd rather the numbers not get the scrutiny, but the methodology is open for shots:
Current giving to Diocese from all Diocesan parishes under head tax method.... 800,000. Supposing this is from 4,000 parishoners and 50 parishes of 80 members each at 200 bucks per person.
All parish financial budgets. Supposing all 50 of the parishes have average budgets of 100k annual. Tithing to the central church on a straight 10% amounts would result in contributions of 500,000. This is what happened I believe with the 9th AAC. To counter this problem, the Diocesan Bishop and staff would need to adjust the 10% amounts accordingly in the first year(s) to stay at par. And, the Bishop would have to plan for the next 4-5 years so that everyone, from parish to cca, had an idea about what was going to happen. There are great opportunities for this method. A well established parish may have the opportunity to give say all the way to 15% and a new parish with a mortgage down to 5% (examples only).
The idea that a parish with a mortgage would be encumbered by the same amount as an established parish is bizarre. Just as bizarre is the idea that a small rural parish in Alaska can come up with 200 bucks per person when a parish in New York can easily afford 300.
Another point to not be missed by the Dresko timeline is the growth of the head tax. It blew doors on inflation.
And, still further, I find it extremely shameful that Fr. Dresko wouldn't even be able to collect unemployment when he gets terminated for his honesty. Most of the time, nonprofits self fund unemployment and in the case of the OCA, it would seem appropriate. If we plan on creating financial turmoil for those people, we really need to offer some type of safety net.
Why can't the Fr. Dreskos of the OCA appeal to an ethics committee for a minimal compensation until he secures employment?
Someone, somewhere in the leadership of the church needs to right this wrong or we have learned nothing for the millions spent.
How can this wrong be made right?
#3 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-11-07 08:40
I must say there is a lot to be learned from the account of Father Jillions, an account, without any first hand knowledge on my part, which strikes me as balanced and fair. First and most important, to quote Lord Acton yet again, "all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." To use a more contemporary reference, this is the clear message, the overriding lesson, of Lord of the Rings. Even a saint, or maybe even especially a saint, can never be turned into a cult leader immune from criticism or reproach if circumstances warrant. Beware of absolute and unaccountable authority of any stripe!
I am also struck by the importance cultural differences make in the success or failure of otherwise qualified and talented individuals. A sensitivity to the cultural environment one is operating in is key to how any leader is received and how they can function in a constructive way.
All this merely reinforces my belief that Bishop Hilarion made the right decision in withdrawing his name for consideration by the AAC. He, himself, has made clear that his first loyalty is to Moscow--a declaration that is honest and clear, yet disqualifying, for any leadership position in the OCA at this time. This in no way diminishes him as an outstanding figure on the world Orthodoxy scene, who will be heard from for many years to come.
#4 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-11-07 10:13
Interesting to know this about the NY diocese, Fr. Stephen. I myself sought a parish assingment there sometime back, which came to naught; and was part of a nightmare similar to (but not as intense as) Fr. Dreshko's. It is not only previously 'favored' priests with ties to Syosset who have suffered. Priests looking for new assignments, for whatever reason, are completely on their own. (the OCA maintains no 'list of vacancies') They must continually remind bishops of their needs, that they are doing a "job search". Otherwise, they are forgotten, and apparently, the bishops then tell the dioceses that there is a shortage of priests.
#5 AnonPriest on 2008-11-07 11:07
This precisely why several of us on the MC tried to get an alternative process adopted.
We suggested that a realistic way of understanding the head tax/budget question is to:
- agree on a head tax which the AAC delegates believe to be fair and appropriate;
- subtract the ""unavoidable expenses" we must meet, those for upkeep of the Syosset property, legal costs, governance (the HS and MC), the annual financial audit, repayment of the Honesdale Bank loan and the costs associated with the strategic planning process; these total $773,670
- subtract the "unavoidable expenses" from the income derived from the head tax;
* prioritize those functions we want performed by the central church as guidelines to the MC as it prepares the budget.
This process allows us to steer clear of the budget "scenarios" given to us by the Finance Committee and Administration for us to choose from (sound familiar? sound like the old days?).
Dr. Dmitri Solodow
#6 dr dmitri solodow on 2008-11-07 12:34
I suppose that most of the people who will be attending the AAC are readers of this website.
So, I would like to ask that for the sake of unity, they please consider voting for Archbishop +JOB for Metropolitan.
Archbishop +JOB has agreed to retire in 2 years. So, that would give the OCA 2 years to cultivate a Metropolitan for the longer term.
Even if you don't agree with him, or even like him, Archbishop +JOB is the only hierarch with the widespread respect of the people.
His 2 short years as Metropolitan would hold the OCA together, and allow it to time to get it's act together financially, morally, and spiritually.
#7 Mark Giesh on 2008-11-07 12:37
re: Bishops' biographies-- there are more details about Abp. Seraphim on the Archdiocese of Canada's home page, perhaps it's the same for the other bishops:
#8 Mat. Donna Farley on 2008-11-07 13:01
Open parishes? Where? Where? And they have enough money to pay a salary? Please send us in this direction.
From a Matushka, whose husband priest has been on the "job hunt" for 6 months now, with no resolution in sight!
#9 AnonMatushka on 2008-11-07 15:15
Fr. Jillions' account completely misses the point. Bishop Hilarion came to London to destroy the diocese of Sourozh and to reestablish the autorority of the DERC. Metropolitan Anthony, whatever were his shortcomings as a human being, could not agree with that.
Just listen to Bishop Hilarion:
"The supreme role of the bishop is due to the fact that he occupies the place of Christ in the Eucharistic gathering."
Is this sound orthodox doctrine?
Have we learned nothing from Fr. Schmemann, Fr. Meyendorff or Metropolitan Anthony during all these years?
Thank you, Fr. Dresko for a most informative and illuminating reflection. You have given us much to consider, but one big thing that stands out is that as our membership has decreased, our central administration has increased.
A particularly telling section:
The 9th All-American Council adopted a resolution "On
Financial Management", which called for a gradual
phase-out of the per capita assessment and a gradual
implementation of a proportional system. Studies later
showed that this resolutionwould have jeopardized the
financial stability of the Church. Financial information
necessary in order to propose a true proportional system
was requested from each parish. The study showed
that the portion given from each parish's budget would
need to be double that of the resolution passed at the
All-American Council just to meet the current assessment
income. Consequently, the Holy Synod and Metropolitan
Council affirmed that the Resolution "On Financial Manage-
ment" as passed would destabilize the financial structure
of the Church and simply raised the per capita.
Note the highlighted sentence -- essentially this is saying that the Administration budget had become disproportionate to the financial base out in the parishes.
Why has the administration become so disproportionate? Fr. Dresko provides insight on this point also:
It was noted that the responsibility of being the only
autocephalous (self-governing) Church in North America
put additional and extraordinary strains on the budget,
involving the maintenance of relations with other Orthodox
Churches in the world.
In other words, we've been paying more and more for Syosset to put on an increasingly expensive show of what some group believes it means to be an autocephalous church. So the parishes have been taxed more and more to put on a big show.
Worse yet, this show has come to be what some mean by “The Church.” Today on the Yahoo Orthodox Forum a senior priest suggested that reducing the assessment was tantamount to turning away from doing the work of Christ in the world. Where does our work actually take place -- in the parishes, or in Syosset?
In fact, the entire discussion starts in the wrong place. The discussion of the assessment is framed entirely as, "How much money do we need to support the work of the administration?" How about asking, "How much administration is needed to support the work of the Church?"
The administration we have is disproportionate and poorly aligned with the needs of the OCA as it actually exists. The biographies posted now on OCA.org make it clear that growth happens as a result of bishops working in their dioceses [and bad as they've been at monitoring the administration, many of our current bishops have done good work at home].
We have to start with the rationale and needs, and then build a new structure to meet that. The current reorganization was an exercising in fixing a house that should never have been built in the first place. In none of the RTF materials is there a clear articulation of the 'why' of the administration. But in Fr. Dresko's words and in piles of back issues of TOC, we find the 'why' -- because we need to put on a show worthy of our autocephaly!!!
Time to end the Potemkin Village mentality.
And we need to start by making sure that the AAC runs as a real council, not as a show staged by and on behalf of the central administration. The new guys may be good and sincere, but they've been placed in a structure that makes no sense. They may be trying to do their jobs as defined, but the definition of the job is the problem.
#11 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-11-07 16:12
The MC Ethics committee has no jurisdiction over any matters in a diocese. They are there, questionably, to oversee their own behavior. And in fact, the MC has no leadership role in the Church. None. Rather they are given oversight responsibilities for a couple of areas as set forth by the Statute.
There is a big difference between leadership and oversight as the are set forth in the OCA Statute. To confuse the two is lethal. The Bishop in a diocese and the Holy Synod, for the Church, have the ultimate responsibility for matters of Church life. To the degree that the MC has oversight in a couple of areas does not make them co-equal. We do not have a bicameral leadership structure in the Church.
Decisions of the MC are subject to final approval by the Synod, which should tell us very clearly their role in relation to the Church.
If a priest cannot find an assignment, it might be best to ask why? Just because a man is ordained does not give him a right to serve a parish. I know of clergy who do not have parish assignments for good reasons. A priest serves at the pleasure of the bishop and with the support of the community he is assigned to by the bishop.
#12 Anonymous on 2008-11-08 07:05
Dr. Solodow and other members of the Metropolitan Council:
Why is the repayment and disbursement of the 9/11 funds not included as one of the "unavoidable expenses"? Doesn't the Holy Synod, the Metropolitan Council, and the Central Church Administration have a moral. as well as legal, obligation to restore the balance of the 9/11 funds with interest and to disburse them as quickly as possible? The proposed 2009 budget based on the US$105 assessment includes $299,029.71 reserve -- $12.03 of the $105 assessment or 11.45% of the total proposed budget -- that could be used to completely restore the remaining 9/11 funds and still have approximately $100,000 in reserve. You are willing to honor a loan improperly executed by Metropolitan Herman with the Honesdale bank, but you are unwilling to honor the charitable appeal for the 9/11 victims?
(editor's note: This topic has been discussed, and it is most likely a vote will be taken at the Metropolitan Council meeting to be held on Monday, November 10th. )
#13 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-11-08 07:24
It's nice that Fr. Jillions can give more of a historical perspective of what happened in England. This is certainly appreciated. Now that + Hilarion is no longer a candidate for the OCA Metropolitanate, this discussion is moot. Eventually, + Hilarion will surface as a candidate for Pat. of the ROC - hopefully. This would be an excellent role for him understanding how Orthodox churches work around the world along with their personalities. In any event, the next Met of the OCA will be home grown and needs to establish stability and credibility.
#14 Anonymous on 2008-11-08 08:12
Thank you Fr. John Jillions for your balanced and informative presentation. You have enlightened me on facts that I was unaware of despite being in the Diocese of Sourozh and a Spiritual Son of Vladyka Anthony. I am indebted to you. May God continue to bless your ministry.
#15 Archpriest Ian P. Hammett(retired) - Port Charlotte,FL on 2008-11-08 09:07
Very confused letter, in my view (Fr. Jillions). He is shocked by the Sourozh clergy's criticism against Bishop Hilarion, yet he himself in a very similar manner and using very similar methods criticizes Bishop Basil. He is trying to compliment the personality of Bishop Hilarion before the OCA flock, pretending to act as a representative of the latter, while the latter mostly supported Bishop Basil (indirectly, Bishop Hilarion confirms that when he says that he invisions the opposition being formed against him even before his arrival).
#16 Louis Merton on 2008-11-08 09:12
May I suggest that parishes in need of clergy and clergy seeking positions begin to make use of OrthodoxJobs.com?
#17 A little bird on 2008-11-08 10:26
Thanks for your comments! You and others who are writing above are seeing that we need to have a much greater effective administration that lives and works for the church and is not a showpiece or image for vanity's sake.
We need to extend that thinking and get a worthy and honest committee to work toward the ends of building the church rather than the central administration.
How is a priest such as Fr. John Dresko, out of a parish for 6 months? He said he received little to no help from the central administration. Who is the Central Administration serving?
I have brought forth, even when I wrote the Metropolitan Council some 4 years ago, that we need greaer parish supports and interventions and if such programs are done designed by each diocese, then the MC can help those diocese in developing problem solving models to secure the return of the faithful let alone converts.
I have also recently brought up on this blog a while back how the secular world in education is now using the Response to Intervention (RTI) problem solving model that tries to help children remain in regular education longer rather than placing them with special education supports.
This problem-solving model can easily be adapted by the OCA at all levels to help those "problem" missions, churches, and structures become better functioning to support, in the end, the parishoner, rather than the central church as Rebecca and others have so aplty noted.
The central church needs to be functioning for the very parishoner that appears to be leaving the OCA in droves... how many of this dwindling population do we have now?
The discussions continue, and there ARE EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS out there! REsponse to Intervention would allow the central church and all the diocese each involve themselves into all those effective interventions that bring support and good will to any struggling parishoner, church, priest, or system. It never has to fall on a few people's shoulders. RTI does not expect the teacher to do it alone. We do not expect the Metropolitan to do this alone.
To me, we are only as strong as we allow conciliarity to work along with hierarchy. RTI is a problem solving model that has much to offer our church. Just google it; I am sure our creative people in our OCA could see how such a model could help; If we so choose to implement those conciliar supports that are right in front of us.
#18 Patty Schellbach on 2008-11-08 11:33
My compliments on your most insightful post. I agree entirely, but am especially moved by your observations that many of our bishops have been doing good work at home and that the central administration is trying to fix something that shouldn't have been built in the first place. I too am grateful to Fr Dresko for speaking out here. He's a man of integrity.
Milos Konjevich, Treasurer
Diocese of the South
#19 Milos Konjevich on 2008-11-08 13:26
St. Elia's in Jamestown, New York has not had a priest for years. The priest from Youngstown, Ohio serves every other Saturday.
#20 Jane Cap on 2008-11-08 18:42
I was very moved by Fr. John Dresko's remarks, his humility and honesty. I must confess that he was our Dean for many years in New England and I didnt find him to be a humble man. I guess I was wrong. This is the type of person we need in the "new" OCA administration following the AAC. I do not recall anyone publicly confessing his mistakes and ignorance as Fr. John has done. Only Bishop Job has shown such humility in the face of this disaster. Fr. John, forgive me if I was wrong about you. I am very encouraged and inspired by your courage in confronting the wrongs when they became clear to you. You paid a price for standing for truth. I am thankful that you have found another parish and hope that you will recover all that you lost when you had no work. God's speed!
#21 Rich Kendall on 2008-11-09 12:39
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