Thursday, June 15. 2006
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Blah Blah Blah....we're not going to tell you anything we don't want to share. I am not going to resign or retire... Sounds like the captain of the Titanic to me.
This group actually thinks it is "Holier than Thou", and that in itself is funny, seeing how they all were in the cookie jar, raping and pillaging the OCA accounts....Now they are going to kiss the boo-boo.
More of the same...did you expect any different?
#1 Bob H. on 2006-06-15 07:22
The last post to the topic "Council in the Crosshairs" makes a critical point that intersects with one of the Metropolitan's statements in his report to MC, and that is despite the "hierarchical nature" of the OCA, the fact is that its members live in a society where accountability is presumed in all other aspects of their lives. Where accountability does not exist, where a 20-yr. loan is needed to restore funds to a laundry list of designated funds for special appeals (that were improperly diverted), then you must expect reactions such as "today and until full integrity is restored, I'm sticking with...organizations where full disclosure is required." His Beatitude can talk (into the wind, it would seem) about "competing ecclesiologies and visions," but this is the reality of 2006: people give money voluntarily to those organizations they trust to spend the money with integrity and accountability, and they will support and attend a church where the values they want their children to emulate are preached and lived. In addition, this is not the Old World: in many communities, there are Orthodox alternatives to the OCA and in every locality, there are responsible alternatives for people's charitable contributions. In no way is that a threat; it's a simple statement of reality. If the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council ignore this, they will find themselves mitered Ceauscescus, preaching to people's backs.
#2 Robert Allen on 2006-06-15 07:59
#3 Anonymous on 2006-06-15 09:19
I appreciate the Metropolitan's forthright discussion of the series of events that has led us here today. I'm a bit troubled that it seems the threat of deposition had more influence than a desire for Truth.
How far we have come. In Acts 5 we see St. Peter telling Ananias and Sapphira that they are not deceiving anyone by keeping secrets. In Acts 15 we see published the minutes of the Synod of Jerusalem. Interestingly, we don't just have the decision, but the discussion and process used by the synod in reaching their decision. In addition, we have the confirmation of the full church, and the sending of representatives of the laity to validate the decision (and presumably the discussion as well).
Personally, I never wish to inhibit the authority of the Episcopacy. The only issue is one of disclosure and transparency. It is not a threat to the ecclesiology of the church for us to have the same level of information made available to the Christians recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.
"But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land? While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart? thou has not lied unto men, but unto God."
Similarly, my opinion, offered humbly and with due respect for the Metropolitan and the episcopacy, is that they retain the authority to do as they wish, and are accountable only to God. The funds we give become theirs to use as they see fit. My question is: why do you feel the need to keep your decisions secret, like Ananias? Why do you tell us that the funds were spent here and there, when they were not? Why is it appropriate for the heirarchy to lie to the faithful?
Why is it that we, the faithful, have to rely on sites such as this to obtain accurate information? Frankly, it is because we have not been able to trust what was told us. I hope and pray that God will grant Metropolitan Herman and the Holy Synod the grace and wisdom to implement the best practices document, and to review the Donor Rights statement put out by the ECFA (available at http://www.ecfa.org). Note that, like St. Peter's comment, the donor bill of rights does not in any way inhibit how decisions are made. It only requires disclosure of what those decisions are, in a truthful and forthright manner. We have the mechanism in the Synod and Metropolitan Council to follow the example set by the Apostles.
I fail to see how this standard of disclosure would threaten the decisionmaking ability of the Holy Synod, much less threaten our very ecclesiology. The scriptures themselves, in two different places, show us that God Himself demands no less than a full and public accounting for the decisions made. God does not keep secrets. Why should our Bishops?
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#4 Marty Watt on 2006-06-15 09:45
I echo your sentiments. I, too, read the words of Metropolitan Herman and I don't mean to be disparaging but I'm not sure he gets it. His remarks about how the church is different from other not-for-profits is entirely wrong. The Church is accountable to the government. Sorry if that shocks some people but it is the truth. In the United States if you wish to play by the rules and "render unto Ceasar" you need to abide by its rules. If you don't like them, fine don't ask for the protection of being a not-for-profit corporation. A church, even the OCA, is not outside of the laws of the United States.
As someone who very much respects the ecclesiology of our church and knows full well that the church is not a democracy, perhaps it's time that it start to act like one. As an interesting comparison for all readers, compare and contrast the pictures of the meetings between the board of trustees of the Antiochian Archdiocese and those of the Metropolitan Council of the OCA. Yes, the difference is rather shocking. At the board of trustees of the Antiochian Archdiocese there are almost no clerics present. And as painful as it is to read and I don't mean this as a snub to the OCA but look at the debt of the Antiochian Archdiocese. There is none! Quite honestly the Board of Trustees of the Antiochian Archdiocese have an immense say in the Church. They are truly actively engaged in its oversight. They are given a voice that is heard. Sadly I just didn't see anything in Metropolitan Herman's speech or that of Fr. Paul's to indicate that they really cared at all what the non-priests may think.
I guess I have come along way in my life and come to realize that the church needs qualified people, not just pseudo-qualified clerics. Over the last 15 years I have come to understand what Metropolitan Philip has been trying to do. He has personally tried to bring Orthodoxy to America by in a sense meeting it half way. There are many who would criticize his approach as being too modern or not in keeping with Orthodox ecclesiology. And if this is so, then why is the Antiochian Archdiocese budget almost double that of the OCA? Why are their parishes growing and those in the OCA (some, not all) declining?
I'm sure some will say that all of this has nothing do with the issues at hand but again I would have to disagree. We all want a voice. We want to know that we can make a difference in our churches whether or not we wear a cassock or don't.
Over the past week I actually read the guidelines for the Metropolitan Council. My read of it says that they are to fulfill the tasks and responsibilities of the All-American Council. If you read it word for word I believe that it does not give express authority for running the affairs of the OCA. And for that matter it doesn't expressly give them to the Metropolitan either. There is tremendous ambiguity all around. It's no wonder that the Metropolitan thinks he has the authority to act and members of the Metropolitan Council feel that they have the right and authority.
I am not saying that everything in the Antiochian Archdiocese is perfect but it has been pretty successful over the past 50 years. I know this must sound scandalous, but has anyone ever thought about trying to simply copy the model?
It just seems to boil down to this: the fact that several clerics took it upon themselves to borrow money from various funds without a clue as to how to get the money back into the funds; several clerics got upset when the non-clerics found out about it and started to ask questions; some *clerics" began to threaten other clerics, and one cleric took it upon himself to clean up the mess; oh yes and all of the NON-CLERICS have to pay for it. (Here's an idea, why don't we ask each of the bishops to turn over all of their assets -- retirement plans, personal stocks and bonds, sell a few panagias and gold crosses -- as partial repayment for this disaster, then maybe they, too, would feel the pain of this sin)
It seems to me that maybe its the clerics that are causing the problem and the non-clerics need to step up. I'm not asking for another protestant revolution but a little common sense. Maybe my summary of all this is a bit too simplistic. Frankly this is beyond are the allegations true or false; there are more fundamental questions such as, "Who should really govern the church and how should it be governed?"
Time will tell who is right and who is wrong but I will say this, if Metropolitan Herman thinks that he can simply give a speech, tell everyone that the matter has been taken care of (with, of course, this simple matter of a $1.7 mil loan that needs to be repaid), and then expect people to just go quitely back to their churches as if the matter never happened, I do believe he is tragically mistaken.
I look forward to reading other people's opinions.
#5 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2006-06-15 17:39
I hope that one day the "hierarchs" will stop invoking hierarchical privilege in a defensive manner and start becoming advocates for a proper balance between hierarchy and conciliarity. "We are a hierarchical church" is only HALF the story. Conciliarity is the other half - the reflection in the Church of the life of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps hierarchy is first among equals, but there is another component. I believe our hierarchs, clergy and enabling laity ignore this truth of Trinitarian theology to their and our continued detriment.
Request to our hierarchs: please stop using "hierarchy" as an instrument of power and start using it as a responsibility of love. Think of democracy as simply showing mutual respect for the thoughts, opinions and lives of others... that starts to sound like a very Christian idea, doesn't it?
#6 Name withheld on 2006-06-15 17:53
I'm the author quoted above by Mr. Allen. I do not see Metropolitan Herman's commentary on 'competing ecclesiologies' in competition with my harsh language. I also do not see Metropolitan Herman's commentary that the church will not be run like a corporation this way either. In my prior postings, I have pointed out how secular, corporate America has managed (through failure) to create successful governance structures. The OCA governance structures clearly failed. I never meant to suggest that the OCA be run like a corporation, but I did suggest its governance failed. This must be fixed. Metropolitan Herman has said he takes responsibility for it. He has made one change and I am expecting more change. The personnel change is not a governance change. Other people discussed other ecclesiologies and this is a deep subject in Orthodoxy that doesn't even require money to argue about.
Fr. Kucynda and Metropolitan Herman should be very proud of the postings on the OCA website. I want to thank them for beginning a return down the right path, and for beginning to alleviate my concerns about trusting the OCA, and giving me the comfort that I may not need to check this site each day to decide whether I can give to the OCA in the future. I do believe that waiting to put audit information on the OCA website is insufficient and I would ask that given the fact that trust must be restored, and alms giving must be restored, the OCA go beyond simple reporting of audits and include reporting charitable collection goals, actuals, and distributions, and consider quarterly financial reporting versus budget on the website, especially so people know whether the OCA needs support today, not next year. Since the OCA has failed in this miserably, it seems a prudent measure. Meeting Best Practices is a step in the right direction, but exceeding them after failing so badly will speed the healing.
I remain concerned that members of the MC are not suited for the positions as outlined by Fr. Kucynda, and I pray they all act with humility if this is true. I truly hope that Metropolitan Herman's letter foreshadows this and that members ask themselves if they are the best for the role and resign if so. If the statute affords their termination, that may also be appropriate. I think it is a real travesty that any of them have been reelected after the problems the church encountered, which brings me to the next point.
As an accountant, I would not excuse a failure to detail in the notes disclosure unpaid restricted fund balances from 4 years prior. Although I have not seen the compilation report, I'm very concerned this wasn't done or required by the preparer of the compilation. I may consider passing judgement on them if I find in Wiley (GAAP for non-profits) that notes details were not required in 2004/2005, but if they were, but weren't done, the compilation preparer owes Metropolitan Herman and the MC a letter of apology bigtime. I would NEVER have done a compilation report without full disclosure about 9/11 funds in my note.
Other problems with the 2005 AAC include not increasing the assessments. It is clear the OCA has either overspent or underearned [sic]; if the latter is true, another financial statement failure may be assessments that are too low that should be addressed by some church body. Along with this, the OCA should adopt a non-paying member status, so that churches can all stop lying about the old folks and impoverished and youth that love the church but can't afford to pay. Let's cut the bull on membership and meet one thing Fr. Hopko talked about that is imperitive.
Restoring trust by meeting the guidelines draft by Fr. Paul will result in a Great Mission Appeal someday to pay off the loan. I urge everyone to help Fr. Paul by meeting his requirements, and especially not doing the wrong thing for website gossip.
One final note, the discretionary funds issue must be addressed. It is still inexcusable and creates all sorts of uncertainty when there are no caps. A major food corporation was involved in price fixing, and in the absence of understanding what happened to ADM contributions, all of us assume Russian mafia payments or graft, and this is simply unfair uncertainty to place on the laity. Place a cap on what is considered discretionary and repeal or amend the prior loose language previously adopted by the Synod.
Thanks Mark for making a difference and adjusting the course of the OCA.
#7 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-06-15 22:32
I am certainly not learned enough in "ecclesiologies" to comment on the subject. Personally, I see no conflict between the hierarchial nature of the Church and democratic processes. The Church by its very nature is hierarchial in that it is the Body of Christ. However, based on my limited knowledge of church history, its affairs here on earth have, since the beginning, been conducted in a democratoc manner. Isn't that what the councils were about, including the first one in Jerusalem?
I believe today we have a basic misunderstanding about how democratic bodies operate. The word "consensus" is much bantered about. It has never made much sense to me, as I have rarely observed "consensus" between two people, let alone bodies of tens, hundreds or thousands or more. How often have each of us discussed topics long into the night with companions with whom we basically agree? If we agree, that is, have consensus, what is the discussion about? The truth is that given that each of us has a completely unique perspective and, due to that these differing perspectives, true communication is very rare indeed, making true concensus virtually impossible.
How then is an organization to determine for what it stands and what actions it is to take? It is either done by dictate from someone who holds power over the others or by a democratic process. One holds power over another always by force and force always decrees the powerful one as better than those subject to the force. Hardly the model for an organization made up of individuals all of whom where created in the image of God and are thus all equal, owing subservience to no one but God.
No, the only proper way such an organization can conduct its business is in a democratic fashion. What does that mean? One need look no further than Robert's Rules of Order to find out how a deliberative body should conduct itself. (I am sure that most people are familiar with the existance of these rules but how many know their content? From my many years of attending church meetings in three different denominations, my observation is few in leadership positions of churches, be they at the parish level, diocesan level or national level.)
In the democratic model implemented by these rules, an organization determines for what it stands and what actions it should take by taking a specific proposal under consideration, allows all voices to be heard on the merits of the proposal to be heard in an orderly manner without allow personal attacks by one member on another, and, in due course when the body decides that enough discussion has taken place, votes on the proposal. Once the votes are counted, all members agree to offer their whole hearted support for the decision determined by the vote. It is the last step that is missing so frequently in our society today but it is to what all members aign up by becoming a member of the organization. The only other honorable recourse is resignation from the organization. It is the acceptance of the will of the organization as expressed by the vote that is the only meaniful definition of consensus that I can find.
#8 Thomas Hamrick on 2006-06-15 23:58
Met. Herman's report is very troubling to me. I don't believe he "gets it" yet.
First, he still blames the messanger and/or the internet. Should people be disclosing confidential communications between 2 bihsops on the internet? The answer is no, but considered in the context of the current situation, and the refusal of the National Church to act on the allegations until they were made public on the "devil inspired" internet and then national newspapers, it is understandable and even maybe necessary.
Second, he doesn't seem to understand that people are not going to give money to ANY appeals until they are sure the funds are going where they are meant to go. Good grief. We just had to borrow money to replace money given in good faith that went God knows where. The National Church BROUGHT THIS ON THEMSELVES. Don't blame the "powerless, democracracy seeking" laity for not "building up Christ's Holy Church".
Third, speaking of democracy, the Church is not in fact a democracy. But Her only High Priest and Head is Jesus Christ. Our bishops would do well to remember this. For they will have to answer to Him for their stewardship of His Church.
The laity are the People of God, a Royal Priesthood. Priests and bishops are also part of the laity. They have been "set aside" for special functions in the Church. For one thing, they should manifest Christ to the Church. I chringe for them when I think of this. If we are angry, can you imagine how Christ feels? Money was taken from alms given for "widows and orphans" and diverted to God knows where.
I fear we may learn the truth on the evening news when Fr. Kondratick is arrested. And others with him. But I don't believe for a minute that Met. Herman did not know what was going on. He and the current acting Treasurer were both treasurers after the now famous resignation. They are either stupid or lying. I honestly don't know which bodes worst for the wellfare of the OCA.
And Fr. Kondratick hiring an attorney who has defended big mob figures? Please. For one thing, where is the money coming from? I am beginning to wonder if he has ties to the mob.
Did anyone notice that refunding money to Fr. Kondratick was not included in the treasurers report? This whole thing reeks. For one thing, I don't believe anyone could have spent that amount of money on what is discribed as a "modest" house. For another thing, does anyone have on paper that he would be paid back with interest and at what interest rate? After all, Fr. Kondratick had the use and enjoyment of the improvements all these years.
I have come to fear that this scandal is worse than most of us have suspected. "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Maybe I should sign up for Arabic lessons.
#9 please withhold name on 2006-06-16 08:45
I was amazed to read the section captioned 'A Reflection On Competing Ecclesiologies' in Metropolitan Herman's address to the Metropolitan Council on June 13. his constant references to democracy in quotes " " is quite revealing and derisive by implication and tone. Further, Herman says:
"...we must uphold the hierarchical principle upon which our ecclesiology is based, even to the point of defending it in the face of those who would replace it with a "by the people and for the people" model."
What ghastly words to read at this time for the OCA!
Some may want an Old World peasant mentality to go along with their Orthodoxy, but I would think that the days are long past for that form of polity for the majority in the OCA. I think the metropolitan is risking a lot of capital by making such a statement at this time. 'Hierarchical' is not to be confused with 'monarchical'. However the monarchical is exactly what Herman defends and promotes in his reflection. It is also exactly that type of monarchical thinking which has gotten the OCA into such moral and financial hot water.
Americans of whatever religious persuasion expect participatory democracy for their government and for their institutions. In the case of the OCA, there is no reason why such democratic principles cannot be used in the government of the church. In fact, democratic and participatory councils already exist within the OCA, and they are incorporated to a measure within its governance. The problem is that such forms as do exist have been subverted by the metropolitan's 'hierarchical principle'. The answer to that is not more unquestioned, top heavy authority on the monarchical or benevolent dictatorship as models of governance.
Unfortunately for the metropolitan, 'by the people and for the people' is exactly what is expected at this time, and it is in fact the theology of the church, the Mystical Body of Christ. The people who are the church, not the clergy as such. The governance is by the people and clergy together.
Were I a member of the OCA and in its councils, I would call for the metropolitan's resignation on the spot because of his words and his attitude concerning church government. Crazy Bp. Tikhon may have expressed a very valid point about all this in his mad ramblings.
- Robert Zacher
#10 Robert Zacher on 2006-06-16 08:55
Today, after submitting a posting calling for people to be humble and stand aside if they can't lead the church or haven't, I stopped to read the reflection by Fr. Reeves. I found it very interesting that my post so closely reflected his 'reflection'. I'd like everyone to know my statements were independent of even reading his message.
I'm wondering how many others are thinking the same. It isn't fun to think that some people need to leave the church administration or hierarchy for that matter, but it is becoming apparent as a need.
#11 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-06-16 13:03
Met Herman's speech and Fr Kucynda's financial explanations have been read and digested. They pledged transparency, but the gaps, omissions and distortions of information are an insult to the intelligence of the laity.
They show no evidence of remorse for financial irresponsibility. As discussed in Fr nehrebecki's reflection, it's "business as usual."
Folks, you are being manipulated.
#12 Disgusted on 2006-06-16 17:30
Did I read into the Metropolitan's address correctly? To paraphrase, the alleged 'crime' of the misappropiation of millions of OCA dollars would have remained hidden forever (or on the hush-hush back-burners with the 'elite') if Orthodox web sites and major NE United States newspapers did not expose the scandal. Hidden forever from every Orthodox Church in America member (1.5 million according to 'baptismal records'/ 30-40 thousand 'active'), except those within or tied to the inner circles of the Administration.
The longevity of the scandal, which seems to be in direct proportion to the damage being done to the OCA and possibly other SCOBA Churches, is only waxing the guilt (not to mention the implied guilt) of the alleged participants. The alleged guilty members could be grateful that they are bearing the consequences of their wrongdoings in this life instead of the next where there is no repentance.
Let us pray that our Lord may have mercy upon their souls.
#13 An active member of the Orthodox Church on 2006-06-16 19:16
The posts on this thread have been outstanding and very interesting to read. The tension between hierarchal and democratic functioning of the Church is fascinating. I really believe this is what makes the Orthodox Church dynamic and not static. I have always felt a tendency in the OCA to exalt the hierarchy and a corresponding separation between the clergy and faithful. This is disturbing. There is an element of control and authority that goes beyond what is necessary.
How many church functions have I attended where the clergy act like the privileged class, always sitting at the head tables, conversing among themselves and never mingling with the faithful. I sometimes wonder if they are instructed by their Bishop to maintain a distance from the flock in order to maintain control.
Where is the humility of our leaders? I have observed a lot of pride over the years coming from the highest levels of the OCA and now it seems to be coming home to roost. The proud and arrogant will have to humble themselves and admit wrong doing if this scandal is ever to be straightened out and mutual trust restored. Why are the very shepherds entrusted with the care of the faithful hiding information from us? We are not children - we can handle the truth. One thing is for certain, the ugly truth will eventually surface - until then, the OCA better pray that its members won’t completely pull the plug on their giving.
#14 Rich on 2006-06-16 20:29
As a general response:
As Orthodox Christians we should pray for the forgiveness of our leaders and take their sins upon us and pray for forgiveness. If we do this we will be truly be acting as Christians, and perhaps our leaders will follow suit and ask for forgiveness.
We are all called to wittness for Jesus Christ. Let us do this! May God forgive us all, and may we come out of this trouble with a stronger Church and enlightened leaders.
#15 Anonymous on 2006-06-17 08:50
You state, "how they all had their hands in the cookie jar."
Please enlighten me and everyone else what you know with regard to what "they" means?
ONE PERSON HAD THEIR HAND in the cookie jar, got caught and was dismissed.
Now this group of people is left with cleaning up the mess that ONE person made due to bad decisions and the unfortunate amount of total control and power that one person had over EVERYTHING.
So please, let's not start blaming everybody for the Church's financial mess.
#16 Anonymous on 2006-06-17 09:27
Forgive what? In order to sincerely forgive someone you 1) have to know that indeed a sin has been committed and, 2) specifically what is it that your forgiving that person(s) for. During the Sacrament of Confession a good priest or bishop will inquire the confessor to elaborate on the sins, especially the 'major' ones, he/she is requesting forgiveness for.
Allegations are all we have at this time! "Are the allegations true or false?" If the allegations are true, then where did the misappropiated monies go to, how much, and why?
Once the truth is revealed, accountability resolved, and it is established that any wrongdoing has occurred, then the members of the Church can wholeheartedly begin the process of forgiveness.
#17 Anonymous II on 2006-06-17 12:05
Dear Michael Geeza,
You state, "one person had their hand in the cookie jar, got caught and was dismissed."
Who is the "one person?" And Why did you use the plural pronoun "their?" Freudian?
#18 Harry Holowach on 2006-06-17 14:48
I never said "one person" got caught. ....
However, I also think Kondratick is the sacrificial lamb as well. The Metropolitan figured he'd sacrifice Bob and he'd be on the road to recovery. I think this scandal originated during Theodosius rule and maybe...just maybe had something to do with is demise as well.
Michael...they all have to go! They're dirty and have blood on thier hands. There needs to be a major shake up at the top, a new leader elected and the toilet flushed of all of these folks who were in on the scandal for the chirch to heal. Anything short will continue to cost the OCA membership and charitable contributions.
Either way...the Metropolitan is a gonner. Whether he do himself or gets done...he's a short timer. Once the OCA cannot provide for the loan payments, they are going to be forced to look at the organization intraspectively and make big changes to get the flocks pockets open again.
If they cannot make payroll, how can they make the existing expenses....AND A $14000+ loan payment every month. It's fiscally irresponsible, and if I were an account holder at Honesale Bank...I'd be thinking about pulling my accounts.
This whole thing is a train wreck!
#19 Bob H. on 2006-06-18 19:18
Money was diverted from charity for.... what? They've listed all of the accounts from where money was diverted, and need to take out a large loan to pay this money back. Where did the money go in the first place?
We still want to know: are the allegations true or false? Money was obviously misused. My question is: where is the apology? Is anyone sorry about anything? Christians are ready to forgive if we hear "I'm sorry, I was wrong, I'll fix it, please forgive me"
I've written to the Diocese of the Midwest Metropolitan Council member about this but have received no response.
#20 Janet on 2006-06-24 09:22
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