Wow! Lemming-like, huh? Never been compared to one before, at least not within my sight or hearing. Kudos for originality.
But not for reading comprehension or integrity of argument. In part two of his series, AOA has charged that Fr. George a) has advanced "a rationale for non-compliance" and b) "has postulated that we should accept governance irregularities..." Wrong.
At the risk of seeming impolite and shaming AOA for these straw man mischaracterizations, let me quote directly from my actual reply to his part one: if these limits do in fact still apply "then the Archdiocese will no doubt do well to promptly act to achieve compliance." Which part of "no doubt" "promptly," "act" and "achieve compliance" did I fail to make clear ... or did AOA fail to comprehend?
None. It was just that AOA did not like the other message that I was sending: the numerical discrepancy issue is a whole lot closer to a mole hill than a mountain. If part two of this series brought AOA's argument any closer to mountainhood, I missed it.
A question for the author, rather than a comment: under New York law, are the officers/governing body of an incorporated religious organisation (e.g., in the OCA's case, the Holy Synod and/or the Metropolitan Council) bound in law to strict adherence to the governing documents (e.g., The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America) of the organsation? If so, is failure to adhere strictly to the governing documents actionable? Further, does the state demand adherence to an organisation's self-imposed limitations (e.g., by virtue of The Statute and the consecration promises, bishops accept the authority of the Sacred Canons to impose limits on their power)? More basically, under the New York laws governing torts, does an organisation's governing documents form a contract between the organisation and its individual members?
I agree that that "lemming" comment was uncalled-for. And I agree that you're innocent of urging noncompliance — explicitly.
Now that an issue has been raised, you said, the Archdiocese will surely deal with it, as it ought to. But the rest of your commentary gives an apologia for not raising these issues. They aren't a big deal, the government doesn't care, and compliance in letter and spirit doesn't make us more Orthodox — indeed, it might well make us less Orthodox. In short, you say that the author is wasting everyone's time with what are at best trifles and at worst a Pandora's Box of heretical phronema.
With all this, I'd say you've postulated that we might do just as well, if not better, to accept rather than address irregularities. I'd even say that, by assigning so much risk to the latter, you've presented a pretty full rationale for not bothering. Not that you intended to, but who could accept everything you said and not think that it'd be a better use of time to, say, redesign our letterhead?
Let me make explicit what I left implicit: This is about power. Many laypeople (to say nothing of lower clergy and bishops) feel that Met. Philip has abused his legitimate power and seized other, illegitimate power. They believe, or suspect, that the governance of the Archdiocese has descended into an exceptional condition that demands the intervention of the people of God. (As to the possible existence of such, see my reply to your "Philip Blinks" comment.)
To exercise this right and duty, they will use whatever is to hand. How many cared about numbers of trustees six months ago? But now, mountain or molehill, the matter has been pressed into service. If Met. Philip cannot command each trustee, and if a good proportion of trustees are elected by the people — then power has shifted. If the total number is small enough to permit close study of the interests, background, and loyalties of those who would serve — then power has shifted. And if, in consequence of all this, Met. Philip cannot spend as he pleases — then power has shifted greatly .
Money, more than anything else in this base world, is power. And that is why whatever our attorney brother has to say about financial disclosure, however molehill-like it seems, could well be the tip of an iceberg for business-as-usual in Englewood and Detroit.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote several times about how foreign the notions of rights and of governance by power-balance, which are so fundamental to all Western institutions, are to the Christian ethos. And they must never — can never — be the foundation of our common life. But they can serve, as even mobs of defiant faithful have sometimes served, as a last resort in a fallen world.
May our time of need pass quickly.
A Fellow Orthodox Christian
With all the strange occurences in our Archdiocese and un-archpastoral behavior by the Metropolitan (truly, is he behaving like a shepherd?), one cannot be surprised at the deep level of distrust that has been engendered. Everything now is being looked at from a whole different angle. The AOA argument may or may not hold water (or be of ultimate significance), but this is to miss the point.
And where is our "illustrious" and "honorable" and blah-blah remaing Chancellor Ajalat? Who did not have the guts to resign as Bob Koory, evading TRUTH for his STATURE (self proclaimed) as Mr. North American Orthodoxy? Stature (and money $$$)speaks and you can be certain he will have Met. Philip APPROVE any statement of his next week and always.
Just stand behind your words (as did Mr. Koory) in your previous and now forgotten analysis. Stature and position above all! Give me ORTHODOX ATTORNEYS TIMELINE any TIME !
At the outset, Father, please note that I did not compare you to a lemming within or without your sight or hearing. You stated:
“I don't want to overstate my qualifications and experience in advising CA non-profits, but over the years I did represent more than a dozen churches, camps and other ministries on a limited but fairly regular basis. At any given time I think it is fair to say that most well-run non-profits are probably in technical non-compliance with at least one state law, and the more lax quite a few more than that. After all they are started and run by people who mean to do good and whose energies and experience are focused on their aims, not on legalities.
There are no state law limits on the number, types or membership of non-profit advisory boards. It is clear that any church may have as many as it sees fit, and that such boards will do most if not all the same things that the Board of Trustees has done. So I am not sure what is actually to be gained from our anonymous friend's labors.”
If your reputation for independence did not precede you, I would assume you were taking a page out of +Philip’s book by making a statement like the above and then, in a different place, claiming that you said nothing of the sort. You indeed advanced a rationale for non-compliance based on what others regularly do with illegally and with impunity and are claiming that my proper characterizations are straw men. You have yet to knock them over. Your seeming passive-aggressive accusation that I am being dishonest (“this anonymous author, if he were to be honest with us . . .”) while “interpreting” my words seems somehow likewise familiar.
Nonetheless, I realize that one may advance a rationale, of course, without buying into it. Although I can’t give you kudos for the integrity of these minor points, I can certainly offer them to you for putting your finger on this issue: “I believe the fundamental question is how our Church should realistically share power at this time in its history and development.” I beg to differ with you, though, Father, on whether a review of NY not-for-profit law is an excursus. Rather than focusing our collective calm and purposeful efforts on differences in views on semantics or whether an aberration in the legal landscape constitutes a mountain or a molehill, I would value an exchange with you on my advocacy in Part II for separating entirely from the law matters of an ecclesial nature (thus, preventing confusion of NY law with the tablets of Sinai and implementing a canonically and legally acceptable means of governing both the temporal and the ecclesial matters of this Archdiocese, which we obviously lack at this point in time).
One more item with respect to your comments re. molehills or mountains. Perhaps our "Trustees" will find them to be mountains, indeed, should someone discover that they have been acting ultra vires . . . affecting the income and assets of our Archdiocese without having any legal authority whatsoever to do so. If I was a purported "Trustee" with a nice fat pocket, I'd be making darn sure that I was either a real Trustee or nothing at all. Just some thoughts...
I wrote that while AOA had called to our attention a matter of technical non-compliance with the numerical limits for Orthodox trustee boards, an error that should be corrected promptly, it was not nearly of the magnitude he seemed to think it was. Where he seemed to want the readership to interpret this discrepancy as evidence of incompetence, high-handed contempt for the law, or some other bad, I tried to point out that in my experience even conscientious non-profits usually have at least area of unintentional non-compliance that needs to be called to their attention.
I was disappointed that rather than engage me on that real difference of opinion - the true magnitude of the problem, and the inferences that may legitimately be drawn from it - he chose to misrepresent me as advocating outright non-compliance and then argue against that misstatement, the classic straw man ploy. I replied strongly in the hope he would reflect and acknowledge the overstatement.
I am going to assume that you and your fellow delegates have a plan to accomplish these things. Because otherwise, I don't see this happening — I understand it’s a tightly scripted environment.
God strengthen you!
Second — and relatedly, in fact — let's not throw anyone off the forum unless they won't be civil. Personally, I'm a fan of the sentiment, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
(It's certainly preferable to the climate of trickle-down fear traditional in the Archdiocese: "I may agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death against your right to say it.")
A Fellow Orthodox Christian