Friday, August 18. 2006
Fr. Tom offers a very personal solution to the problem in "What We Can Do"; and a very public one in his "Letter to the Synod of Bishops" of last March. Your comments on either are welcome.
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The best thing about Fr. Hopko's letter/reflection is the opening statement. The rest is most disappointing. It is a sermon and is so general that if an alien happened to read it, he would not have the slightest idea that that CRIMINAL ACTIVITY is involved.
Fr. Hopko speaks of "problems" and "disappointments". He fails to mention personal integrity and moral conduct. Admittedly, this is a difficult business, but Fr. Hopko is pussy-footing around the scandal.
Nina Tkachuk Dimas
#1 Nina Tkachuk Dimas on 2006-08-18 15:22
Fr. Hopko's letter is too little to late by about 10 years Ė when his suggestion would have had a chance to work. But now, people have to go to Jail.
#2 Fr. Basil Slimak on 2006-08-18 16:14
Dear Father Thomas,
Thank you for your many years of faithful service to our Church and for your thoughtful letter.
In your analysis of the stages of Orthodox development, I'm afraid you left out the last stage, the stage we occupy today. It's the stage beyond the diaspora, the stage foreseen, if I remember my Church history accurately, by St. Tikhon himself almost one hundred years ago. It's the stage when the Church, while retaining its historic ethnic mix, steps beyond its ethnicity to a broader national, even continental in our case, population.
We can see the process unfold today in our own parishes and missions and by sifting through the OCA Website for the parishes and missions developing throughout North America. As examples we might look at Seattle, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and their surrounding communities and we will see exactly the same process at work in each area.
By your teaching and writing, you've helped educate the people who, guided by the Holy Spirit and Holy Tradition, are making this possible. Once again, thank you for your service.
In line with this and with your letter, let's all remember that the Orthodox Church in America has not failed. Far from it. Our Church is succeeding, and it is succeeding right where it
matters, in the local community and the local congregation.
#3 Mark Warns on 2006-08-18 17:07
First, Fr. Hopko was completely out of line requesting an August AAC. August would have been too soon for any gathering of the people without some documentation and understanding of the situation by the administration, Synod, and MC. Sorting out accounting messes doesn't take a couple of months and a prayerful gathering doesn't serve much purpose at this juncture. A response would have been, "No, its too early". It really wasn't right for him to make the request in my opinion.
My read of Fr. Hopko is that he is saying we have all we need, but do we? He is saying we shouldn't worry about the Synod, administration, or MC, but should we? He also said something I like. He said we should all try to make individual efforts, and that is what I have done.
If the OCA can't publish a 2006 ordinary operating budget, the administration should quietly bow out. They are 8 months+ behind to date. If the MC and the Synod and clergy can't work together to manage a known and acceptable deficit, they should quietly bow out. If the OCA can't publish a 2007 normal operating budget by the end of first quarter 2007, they should bow out. These are all underreaching requests that are controllable.
I will keep them in my prayers for now. Thanks Fr. Hopko for the rhetoric.
I encourage everyone attending diocesan assemblies to make simple, reasonable requests of the administration and to work in a solution and looking forward, not problem oriented and looking back fashion. Those requests should also be something within the control of the administration.
#4 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-08-18 19:35
Thank God for Father Tom.
He guided me to Orthodoxy several years ago, though he probably doesn't recall this. He's written a good prescription for curing our ailments, but will be critiqued by those who want to criminalize every suspicion they imagine. (God, is this the legacy of Watergate and Monica-gate all at once?) Father Tom asks us to exercise charity. Please do. It'll really help.
About the only thing I struggle with in his well-written piece is "We can obey our leaders who disagree with us, and refuse to meet with us and speak with us, to the extent that they do not lead us into heresy or immorality, whatever they are doing, or not doing, in their personal lives and pastoral actions."
This is hard for me, when many of our leaders, including a particular bishop driving a red Honda Element, seem to lack the same charity that we are challenged to reflect. Gosh! How can they not see this? How can they put on their gold crosses everyday and not gasp at the contradictions in their existence? I glance at the contradictions in my life and gasp, yet I haven't lost millions or misspent money entrusted to me for victims of terrorist attacks. Is humility currently out of fashion?
But Father Tom leads when others fail to.
He promotes healing when others promote prosecution, or worse, stonewalling.
Father Tom challenges me to be the Orthodox Christian of our times that I should be.
I'll try harder.
#5 Marty Brown on 2006-08-18 20:00
It seems to me that what you point out as the accomplishments of the Orthodox Church in America today - i.e. the growth of missions, converts etc in local diocese and parishes - is exactly what Father Thomas Hopko is urging us to do. To stick to our Christian life on a parish level, to support our local church and to let the central administration go its own way and let God (to whom they will most certainly have to answer, as we all shall) be their judge.
#6 Eugenie Osmun on 2006-08-18 23:01
Fr. Tom's assessment of the historical periods with regard to notions of ecclesiology and church life is most helpful. This would help explain why one encounters so many fantasy worlds within our churches; the temptation is strong to pick a favorite historical period and plop oneself in it philosophically and theologically. While this may be a human thing to do; one is struck with the thought that it is the wrong thing to do since we, as Orthodox Christians, are called by Christ to incarnate the Gospel within the culture in which we live.
Fr. Tom, I have wondered why you have been relatively silent. Now we know. Thank you for helping put a rudder on this ship. Also, thank you for bringing the need and contribution of ocanews.org into focus. As one who has watched you remain silent in the past while others were vilified, it is a breath of fresh air to read your words IN PUBLIC. Please keep going. When will your other colleagues at St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's and St. Herman's start weighing in?
#7 Name withheld on 2006-08-19 06:31
In my opinion, I think that Father Hopko is speaking from a point of view where he has resigned himself to the fact that our present group of leaders, with only few exceptions, WILL NOT act in a manner worthy of the Body of Christ.
Thus he is saying that we the faithful must look to act outside of whatever Syosset chooses to do, supporting them when they act in ways worthy of the Body of Christ and working around them when they do not.
Essentially I feel that Father Hopko is saying that Syosset has made itself IRRELEVANT to the Body of Christ to which we all belong and that the resolution that we seek--a full accounting of financial and spiritual misdeeds and the seeking of forgiveness followed by repentance--WILL NOT be forthcoming.
Thus, we must look to those people and institutions within our OCA who are worthy of our trust and support and focus our efforts there. If one only had this website as a database, can we begin to see which Bishops, Priests and laypeople are worthy of support?
Father Hopko has shown patience and levelheadedness and speaks out of love. If only he were a Bishop!
Barry A. Sabol
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
#8 Barry A. Sabol on 2006-08-19 08:08
Fr. Thomas writes: "According to Orthodox Christian teaching, believers may give their opinion on things and offer advice only under two conditions: when it is their duty to do so because of their position, or when people ask them."
Is this correct? Only under those two conditions? Or is the first condition in reality very very broad?
It seems to me that the laity has a duty to express its opinions when it elects members to an AAC or a diosesan assembly. Members of the laity have duty to make sure the delegates are well informed -- whether the delegates solicit opinions or not.
One problem over the last ten years is that key people on the Metropolitan Council failed to express healthy skeptical opinions forcefully enough -- in part because the people who elected them did not express enough unsolicited opinions and did not give Council members their full support.
I believe that the only way out of this is through a revitalized Metropolitan Council, a Metropolitan Council that will seize the initiative and fulfill its duties under the OCA Statute, a Metropolitan Council that will embrace healthy discussion and debate, a Metropolitan Council that will demand access to the information it needs to do its job, a Metropolitan Council that will not cower when the Metropolitan rules out of order someone who is asking legitimate questions that the Metrpolitan Council need to know about.
The Metropolitan Council is in a position to effect real change. Council members need to know the laity's opinion if they are to fulfill their duties. They need to know that they will have our support and our prayers when they stick their necks out and speak their convictions with conviction. It will not be easy.
#9 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2006-08-19 10:01
It is inarguable that Fr. Thomas Hopko is one of our Church's most respected teachers and theologians. On April 12, OCANews printed a letter Fr. Tom had written [on March 19] to Metropolitan Herman and the Metropolitan Council, in which he outlined at least 27 critical problems facing the OCA --- including the present financial scandal --- and pleaded for immediate action.
Fr. Tom's letter was so powerful that Bishop Tikhon of the West termed it "an unconscionable and mob-inciting RANT" which, for me, gave the letter the Good Housekeeping Seal of Appproval.
That March 19 letter, written honestly and courageously, served as a clarion call for those wrestling with the many ills facing our Church, with the financial woes being only a manifestation of the underlying sickness. That letter, following a plea for action by 70 senior clergy of the Church, was especially significant because it was the first public comment on the scandal from someone who was closely linked to our seminaries. Since at least 1999, when OCA Auditor John Kozey first blew the whistle on financial problems, and continuing to this date, the silence from our seminaries on these problems has been deafening, with the leaders and faculty remaining conspicuously absent from the debate. (But I digress.)
Yesterday, OCANews posted a new open letter and Reflection from Fr. Tom, which he asked to be published along with another letter he had sent to the Holy Synod on March 12. I have read each of these documents at least three times, and I must admit that I can't comprehend what Fr. Tom is now saying, especially when his powerful "27 point" March 19 letter is reread in conjunction with his new writings.
On March 19, Fr. Tom wrote this to our Metropolitan:
"Given the present condition in our Orthodox Church in America, the hour has clearly come for Your Beatitude and the Metropolitan Council to insist upon a carefully organized and in-depth analysis and discussion of what happened to our beloved church that has resulted in:
*the financial scandal we are suffering
*the financial crisis we are now facing
*the divisions in the Holy Synod and the church we are now witnessing
*the lack of communion and communication we are now enduring
*the anger, frustration, depression and outright cynicism among the clergy and informed lay people we are now experiencing
*the disagreements that exist among us about the nature of the episcopacy, authority and decision-making in the church (including our disagreement about the relationship between bishops, priests and lay people, the function of Orthodoxy in a pluralistic democratic society and the significance for our church of the 1917-1918 All Russian Church Council
*a synod of Bishops that refuses to respond to questions and requests of the faithful, including a formal appeal of 70 highly respected senior priests
*a synod of Bishops that appears to have no need for the counsel of others in the church, including the church's priests, monastics, scholars and thinkers
*the reluctance and often outright refusal of some bishops to speak face to face with their priests and people about church doctrine, liturgical practices and parochial, pastoral and personal problems
*the failure of our bishops to meet together, and the priests to meet with each other, for the purpose of giving an account of their ministry, receiving and answering questions, and fostering unity of teaching and practice"
Listing 17 other problems facing the Church (which I do not repeat here), Fr. Tom closed with this plaintive plea:
"These are just some of the most obvious issues and conditions in our church that require detailed study, analysis and debate. Why are things the way they now are? Why do our bishops, clergy, and lay people think and act as they do? What has happened? How did it happen? Why has it happened? And what should we do about it?
"An in-depth study and debate on such questions as these will hardly be pleasant or easy. But it must be done. And it must be long, serious, free, candid, patient and charitable. The life of our church, and indeed, our eternal lives with God, depend on it.
"Your Beatitude and respected members of the Metropolitan Council: Please do whatever it takes to see that such a study and debate take place. Do it for the clergy and lay people who elected you. Do it for our whole church, especially our children and grandchildren. Do it for the people desiring to join the Orthodox church. And do it for all Orthodox Christians and, indeed, for all Christians and all people who are suffering in their own ways as we are now suffering in our dear Orthodox Church in America."
But in the new open letter from Fr. Tom, the fire of March 19 is gone, the clarion call muted. The insistence on "a carefully organized and in-depth analysis and discussion of what happened to our beloved church" and for "detailed study, analysis and debate" and a debate that is "long, serious, free, candid" has vanished.
Instead, Fr. Tom now cousels in "What Can We Do?" that we:
---patiently and charitably work together on our problems, whether or not our hierarchs "choose to lead us and participate with us"
(And does that mean that we are to move ahead without the participation of the Holy Synod? And how exactly are we to accomplish that in a conciliar and hierarchal church?)
---make our views known and offer our suggestions
---meet regularly with those whom we believe are building up the Church, even if those people "are not always supported by the ecclesiastical hierarchy"
---"obey our leaders who disagree with us, and refuse to meet with us and speak with us, to the extent that they do not lead us into heresy or immorality"
(And if there has indeed been immorality and loss of integrity and squandered trust, through lies and cover-ups and misspent monies and subtle and not-so-subtle threats and silencings from our leadership, what then?)
---give our time, money, and energy to the churches and institutions within the Church "that we believe in," so as to inspire and educate new church leaders
(But Fr. Tom, the problems you outlined among your 27 ills a few months ago have taken root over the past two decades or more, affecting and infecting the entire Church. Many individuals who have ignored these problems are today in leadership roles throughout the Church. If we don't seek, in study and open discussion and debate, answers to the vital questions you posed in your letter of March 19 --- "Why are things the way they now are? Why do our bishops, clergy, and lay people think and act as they do? What has happened? How did it happen? Why has it happened? And what should we do about it?" --- how can we possibly even begin to inspire, encourage, and educate the new church leaders who you say are "the Church's only hope for survival and growth"?)
Fr. Tom concludes his Reflection by claiming, "We cannot keep trying to force or cajole or shame our leaders and our people into doing things that they don't want to do... Let us all start by doing what we can as individual believers, families, monasteries and local communities. Let's leave all the rest for now."
So that's it, then? We are to retreat into our local communities and ignore the rest of the Church until a new generation of leaders is trained? With all due respect, Fr. Tom, I disagree.
And by appending your letter of March 12 to your writings released yesterday, are you suggesting that we then "solve" the immediate fiscal crisis and loss of trust as you propose in that letter? That we forget about the need for all the study and discussion and debate among all the people of the Church that you recently embraced, and instead---
1. Call a one-day extraordinary All-American Council this year, with no reports, speeches, or events of any kind.
2. Have that AAC hear a single report, to be presented by the Metropolitan or his designee, making "as candid a presentation as possible about the financial matters now in question, especially the contributions of ADM and the US Military Chaplains and contributions made for designated philanthropic, missionary and educational purposes. Actions involving church finances that were considered justifiable and necessary 'for the good of the church' would be explained. Actions now seen as misguided and mistaken would be acknowledged...Nothing would be said to accuse or incrimminate any persons, or groups of people."
3. "There would be no questions, comments or discussions about the report. It would be recorded as given. It would not be made available in writing to the delegates or to the media..."
4. With no discussion, the delegates would vote by a show of hands to accept or reject the Metropolitan's report, with those voting to reject deciding "how, in conscience, they would further conduct themselves in relation to the Holy Synod and the central church administration."
5. If a majority vote to accept the report, everyone would ask for forgiveness, the Canon of Repentance would be read, a meal would be eaten in silence, and the delegates would depart in silence.
6. A new central church administration would be appointed, "excluding no one from consideration, including those now in office and those who served in the past," and the OCA would move on.
Given a choice between the power of Fr. Tom's March 19 letter outling the 27 ills facing the OCA and the need to fully and openly study, discuss, and debate those problems, and his latest Reflection calling for a retreat into the cocoons of our local church communities, with few questions about our present problems ever being answered, I readily choose the former.
Gregg Nescott, Pittsburgh
#10 Gregg Nescott on 2006-08-19 10:59
While I have the utmost respect for Fr. Hopko and am incredibly indebted to him for all of the wisdom that he has imparted to me over the years, I genuinely disagree with this paragraph of his reflection:
"We can obey our leaders who disagree with us, and refuse to meet with us and speak with us, to the extent that they do not lead us into heresy or immorality, whatever they are doing, or not doing, in their personal lives and pastoral actions. "
I personally do not accept that we should obey leaders under these terms. I think it is clear that we are not talking about leaders who decide upon relatively inconsequential matters. This scandal and this forum are not here because a bishop or metropolitan or synod decided upon a few small matters and refused to meet with anyone.
Maybe I am reading more into Fr. Hopko's words here but it appears that what he is implying is that we should "obey our leaders ..." Since he wrote these words in the context of the current scandal he certainly appears to imply that we should "obey our leaders in the current crisis." I have not disagreed with Fr. Hopko much over the years but on this particular point he is dead wrong!!
He has outlined many useful points and one of the most important is that we are living in very different times from those of the Ottoman Empire and the former communist regimes. I think it is about time that the voice and will of the people also be heard, loudly.
Here are a few of my own suggestions:
(1) Parishioners and clergy contact their MC representatives and inform them that you would like a meeting called to address the current financial crisis. If they choose not to call such a meeting, begin the process of forming a new Orthodox Church in America without them.
(2) Parishioners and clergy begin to meet in their respective diocese to draft a budget of what they can give to the archdiocese
(3) Prepare a short list of possible candidates for all positions in Syosset
(4) Meet and begin the process of dissolving the OCA and forming a new archdiocese
(5) Invite the bishops of the church to participate as ex-officio members.
(6) Meet and begin the process of forming a new synod of bishops.
Folks, it can't be business as usual anymore. The current episcopacal system has failed. Think about electing married priests as bishops (ask yourself, "Does it in any way fundamentally alter the priest as the icon of Christ?" I am not suggesting anything futher. There is a reality, however that we should all think about. We do not have a large pool of people to choose from and that has been part of the problem). Think outside the box, how would you set up the OCA if you had it all to do over again? I personally would not let the current leadership back in the door as leaders. You know it is possible to ask to be laicized? Again just a thought, why not respectfully ask the metropolitan and his brother bishops to step aside and go back to either being monks or laypersons?
Most Holy Theotokos save us!
#11 Priest Michael on 2006-08-19 13:42
I'v met priests who smuggled money into Russia, I've seen priests get away with unethical behavior both financial and personal, priests and deacons, starosa's who shamelessly carried their sexual pecadillos into God's house who gossiped lied and blackmailed their way into power. Father Hopko knows these people also; lots of people do. They continue to decieve in God's name. I'm sick of these shameless blackrobes but especially of the people who day in and day out give them cart-blanche in the name of some morbid passive self-deluded version of faith and mercy that they call Orthodoxy!
#12 Anonymous on 2006-08-19 13:50
Mark Warns, you are fortunate to have a parish that is succeeding. Unfortunately, many are failing because of questionable practices particularly where finances are concerned. It's filtering from the top down. We have the present administration to thank for setting a sterling example.
#13 Withheld upon request on 2006-08-19 17:17
Dear Fathe Tom,
Your broad and sweeping historic look at the environments within which the Church has lived through the centuries brings forth a very insightful and interesting perspective towards coming to an understanding of why things may be the way they are in our contemporary Orthodox Churches in America.
I would add another to your historic list.
It is my belief that the Church is encountering for the first time in its life and is in the midst of working out harmonizing the Gospel of our Lord within the cultural American framework of a free and open democratic society in which the people are the creators of their government. Never before in history has our American type of democratic government existed as a model for people to live under.
I believe within its framework of personal liberty and freedom, acknowleging God as the bestower of this freedom to each individual created as equals, is the great potential for Orthodoxy to implant the known traditions of our faith in our society. Rather than clash with what we as Americans have been taught about our positions within our framework of Government , as the Church leaders are sometimes inclined to do, based on the variety of historic models you yourself have outlined, we should be in the midst of a new synthesis of the Truth of the Church with the truths of our social institutions in America.
While we recognize that our Church is not properly called to be a democratic institution or organization, it nevertheless believes strongly in conciliatory relationships between clergy and laity. Our challenge is to discover a way to practice this that is compatible with both our historic Church and American civic beliefs. I believe that when we arrive at this type of harmony, the Church in America will be able to fulfill its destiny to bring the Gospel to all peoples.
Our calling is to seek His help in accomplishing our task, recognizing that we carry a lot of historic baggage that is out of step with the democratic culture that we are a part of in Ameica. I pray that we find the strength to work our way through to achievement of this goal.
Dn. John Zarras
#14 Deacon John Zarras on 2006-08-19 19:09
Most articulate comment, I have read to date. Father Hopko, whom, in the past, has had an apperance, to me, of being dogmatic...is in fact..... being a unifying force. Look at this closely, this is not a man of ltttle wisdom, but a professor of truth (actullay a Very Reverend). More so, a Priest of unity.... The small response to his commentary only indicates to me, the inability to disregard our divergent histories. Remember, our faith is not in history, but in our living witness to GOD. Please do not take this as some lite conversionsationilism..............Dave
#15 David Yeosock on 2006-08-19 21:25
While I admire Fr. Hopko (indeed I said he was ideal material for a bishop many posts ago) and agree with most of his reflection, I too was somewhat disappointed by his continuing deference to authority that has failed so miserably. In contrast, Archbishop Jobís affirmation of freedom was a breath of fresh air and I believe a beacon of hope for those of us seeking an American ethos for Orthodoxy in the 21st Century and beyond.
Cultural, ethnic and even religious traditions can become idols if they impede the spread of the Lordís word and lead to a Christian ghetto inhabited only by Pharisees. I say this as a conservative and traditionalist in most of my philosophical and religious beliefs.
Now I will immodestly take a stab at what I would like to have seen Fr. Hopko say:
Since I have seen fit to question and criticize Metropolitan Hermanís leadership with regard to the ongoing crisis in the OCA, perhaps a few constructive suggestions are in order to rehabilitate and, even enhance, our chief hierarchsí authority:
First and foremost, get the whole story as best you can, and then report to the entire Church the relevant (not just the politically and personally convenient) findings. Half measures will only fan the flames of unrest and distrust. Do this sooner rather than later!
Once this is done, apologies and restitution, where appropriate, are in order from all concerned, not just you.
Restore lay participation and authority to the Church by calling the All-American Council into session, as soon as possible, to reestablish the authority and membership of the Metropolitan Council. Clerical and lay voting membership on the MC should always be equally balanced.
Appoint a lay Treasurer immediately.
Encourage members of the Holy Synod who cannot enthusiastically support this agenda to resign forthwith.
Cancel the loan request, which will be unnecessary, once confidence is restored. The people of God are very forgiving as long as they do not believe they are being hoodwinked and appropriate financial contributions will be forthcoming.
Advise the Holy Synod that its chief function is to guard the faith and order of the Church, while it is the laityís primary responsibility to provide for and administer its material needs.
As a final gesture of sincerity and good will, ban all episcopal travel outside North America for at least one year.
This list is hardly exhaustive, but it would be a good start.
#16 Ken Tobin on 2006-08-20 06:08
Great suggestions Ken! Lets get on with it.
#17 Rich on 2006-08-20 17:00
Re: "Cultural, ethnic and even religious traditions can become idols if they impede the spread of the Lordís word and lead to a Christian ghetto inhabited only by Pharisees."
Boy, this line of discussion make it abundantly clear that driven by "American ethos for Orthodoxy in the 21st Century and beyond" will lead to an "orthodox" ghetto inhabited by Sadducees.
"Sadduwhat?" You might ask?
Here you go, courtesy of JewishEncyclopedia.com:
"Representing the nobility, power, and wealth , they had centered their interests in political life, of which they were the chief rulers. Instead of sharing the 'Messianic hopes of the Pharisees, who committed the future into the hand of God, they took the people's destiny into their own hands, fighting or negotiating with the heathen nations just as they thought best, while having as their aim their own temporary welfare and worldly success. This is the meaning of what Josephus chooses to term their disbelief in fate and divine providence."
#18 Joe on 2006-08-20 17:06
The current situation ceased to be about accounting irregularities in early spring, after the meeting of the Holy Synod. It is now the much more siginificant issue of how the dioceses relate to Syosset, how the Metropolitan relates to the Synod, and how the Bishops relate to one another.
It perhaps began with allegations of accounting and financial irregularities, but even those were allegations of abuse of power and fraud.
As such, the call for an AAC is not only appropriate, it is exactly the medicine our church needs. It is, in effect, the Metropolitan's confession for the sins of all of us. Those who accept the report of the Metropolitan (a confession) remain, others must decide their course.
Fr. Hopko has created a brilliant plan. If only we were humble enough to accept and implement it. Only selfishness and pride keep us in this mess.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#19 Marty Watt on 2006-08-20 18:11
I have something so say about Fr. Hopko's comments but I am not sure yet what it is.
I will say this. I think it is a radically Christian response. I wish I was half the Christian that Fr. Tom is.
I believe Fr. Tom has tried everything in his power to do and now he is withdrawing into the "desert".
I agree with the person who said that he was suggesting that we consider Syosett as "irrelevant". Which for a teacher of doctrine and a theologian is a huge statement.
I do wonder why an option, for us in this country, is not to go to another canonical jurisdiction? In Russia this would not be possible and we would have to withdraw spiritually as he suggests.
I am still digesting his comments. I GREATLY admire Fr. Hopko and anything he says is worthy of close reflection. And when I first read his open letter I was in dispair. For Fr. Hopko to have given up....I thought, "we have emploded. Things are even worse than I had imagined."
As for me, a sinner, I still want to throw the bums out.....
#20 Linda Weir on 2006-08-20 18:43
Thank God you exist. I follow your comments every evening. Please keep on with your mission. We are all with you but uncomfortable to be known.
#21 unfortunately unknown and uncomfortable to be known on 2006-08-20 20:04
Electing married presbyters as bishops, and allowing them to remain married, would put us at odds with the holy canons of the Church and the Church at large.
Since the sixth century, the Church has limited bishoprics to unmarried men for three reasons:
(1) As nominal and lukewarm conversions increased as the Roman Empire became progressively Christian, the most serious and committed Christians retreated into monastic life, where the vows of obedience, chastity and poverty of their ascetic way of life made them the best candidates for bishoprics, detached as they were from worldly pursuits.
(2) In some quarters of the Church, bishoprics began to be treated as hereditary positions kept in one family and passed from father to son.
(3) As dioceses became larger and parishes increased in them, the bishop had more traveling to do to visit the parishes in his diocese, which kept him away from home and on the road much more. With travel was more time-consuming, dangerous and risky in ancient times, this put more of a hardship and peril on a married bishop and his family than an unmarried one.
Limiting bishoprics to unmarried men addressed these three concerns and did away with these problems.
Today, many presbyters, presbyteras and their children complain of the stress and strain of balancing church ministry, making a livelihood and raising a family while serving just one parish. Nobody who calls for the restoration of married bishops ever seems to take into account the much greater stress and strain a married bishop, his episcopissa and their children would have to bear with him overseeing many parishes in a diocese -- especially here in America, where our dioceses tend to be large and unwieldy, and travel is still expensive and time-consuming.
Anyways, short of an Ecumenical Council to rescind what a previous Ecumenical Council has set in place as holy canons, as a decision of the universal Church, unilaterally restoring married bishops would only create more confusion and trouble with our communion with other autocephalous and autonomous churches within the worldwide Orthodox Church.
We can't find solutions to our problems by overthrowing or circumventing the Sacred Tradition of the Church, but only by applying it to our national, diocesan and parish lives.
#22 Gregory Orloff on 2006-08-20 20:31
The notion that the chief function of bishops and clergy is to guard the faith and order of the Church, but the laity's primary responsibility is to provide for and administer her material needs, doesn't square with the Sacred Tradition of the Church. The holy canons make it clear that the bishop (literally "overseer," from Greek "episkopos") has oversight of all aspects of the Church's life, spiritual and material:
"Let the bishop have the care of all the goods of the Church, and let him administer them as under the inspection of God. But he must not alienate any of them or give the things which belong to God to his own relations. If they be poor, let him relieve them as poor; but do not let him, under that pretense, sell the goods of the Church." (Apostolic Canon 38)
"We ordain that the bishop have authority over the goods of the Church: for if he is to be entrusted with the precious souls of men, much more are temporal possessions to be entrusted to him. He is therefore to administer them all of his own authority, and supply those who need, through the presbyters and deacons, in the fear of God, and with all reverence. He may also, if need be, take what is required for his own necessary wants, and for the brethren to whom he has to show hospitality, so that he may not be in any want. For the law of God has ordained, that they who wait at the altar should be nourished of the altar. Neither does any soldier bear arms against an enemy at his own cost." (Apostolic Canon 41)
Of course, the holy canons also say:
"If a bishop, presbyter or deacon be found guilty of fornication, perjury or theft, let him be deposed, but let him not be excommunicated; for the Scripture says, "you shall not punish a man twice for the same offense." (Apostolic Canon 25)
We can't go back to the false dichotomy that clergy = spiritual and laity = material, which, under the influence of Protestant congregationalism and the unsettled history of Orthodox Christianity in North America, infected the Church here and still has a baleful impact on some jurisdictions and parishes, stunting their spiritual effectiveness. Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann fought this damaging and distorting theological, and ecclesiological error in his writings: see http://www.schmemann.org/byhim/churchhierarchal.html. Furthermore, we can't solve our problems in the Church by ignoring the holy canons, but only by applying them. Unorthodox solutions won't work for the Orthodox Church.
#23 Gregory Orloff on 2006-08-20 20:57
I think Marty has put his finger on something that bedevils us all, whether in marriage, at work or in Church affairs at every level: how to deal with those whose behavior scandalizes us (in the tradition of the Greek root word slandalon, an obstacle over which one trips) by falling somewhere along the very broad continuum from mild annoyance to criminal wrongs. I believe Fr. Tom is trying to recommend to us a way of dealing with some fairly serious offenses without making either ourselves or the overall situation worse.
And make no mistake: the example we are constantly being fed by the crazy world around us, whether we are talking about Sunni v. Shi'a, the latest idiotic revenge-motif offering by Hollywood, or our crazy criminal "justice" system, involves, whether on the surface or laid between the lines, a greater or lesser helping of "let's punish the offenders." With that theme playing in the background as we ostensibly seek to make any given bad situation "better" we cast blame, drive from office, send to prison, make suffer as outcasts, etc. etc. No wonder the accused temporizes, scuttles for cover, clams up, obstructs, flees the jurisdiction,
By contrast I think I see in Fr. Tom's letter a subtle theme that does not get stated in so many words but is absolutely crucial to an Orthodox Christian resolution of this mess. The goal of what we do must be healing of the Body of Christ.
By contrast we can see in operation a number of other seemingly less worthy and even damaging agendas on both sides of No Man's Land: punishment of offenders, prevention of recurrences, uncovering of every last fact, preservation of the institutions, bringing down the malefactors, etc. etc. To the extent that there is any merit in any of these other agendas, I believe, unless in our minds they are firmly and candidly subsumed under the agenda of healing the Body, they are liable to cause rather than alleviate, minimize or prevent harm.
Marty, please contact me through the St. John, Orinda office.
Fr. George Washburn
#24 Fr. George Washburn on 2006-08-21 07:35
In this difficult time for our Orthodox Church in America, one area that needs special attention is what we as individuals can do. Fr. Thomas in his article offers some good insight into this area. I would like to dwell a bit more on our "work" today as Orthodox Christians.
Regardless of what situation we may find ourselves in, it is most important for each of us to struggle in building our relationship with Christ. This includes our worship of Him, our participation in the liturgical life of His Church, and most importantly in our love for Him and through Him for all of our sisters and brothers in the world.
We are called to be His followers, and no difficult, mistakes, crisis, problems, should be allowed to interfere with that goal. It is our Lord Who calls us to love, to forgive, to care, and to continue in our relationship with Him. That is then what we must do.
As Christians, when we find problems, we can contribute to correcting them; when we find sin, we can seek to root it out of our hearts and teach others; yet in none of this is it left for us to hate, to judge, to seek revenge, etc.
That is not our way.
Let us then dedicate ourselves to more fully following the Lord. To look at each challenge, each problem, each difficulty, as inspirations to draw closer to Jesus Christ and to be found always loving Him and each other.
May it be so.
#25 Archpriest William DuBovik on 2006-08-21 08:55
I concur completely!
Together with your recent reflection, this post fully outlines the nature of our problems and even suggests or implies possible solutions. All members of the OCA need to reflect on this and demand a course of action now. In an earlier post on this thread I put in my two cents worth.
The laity are beginning to respond and even some of the clergy, however tenatively. But many more voices will need to be heard if significant progress is to be made.
#26 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-08-21 09:08
As another admirer and friend of Fr. Hopko, I am confused by his suggestion to ignore the hierarchy...as long as they don't lead us into immorality or heresy.
If the hierarchy is the head and the head is sick, how can we think any of their thoughts and decisions will not be infected? And how can any body operate if it doesn't listen to its *head*, but instead ignores it? It's my head that tells my arms and legs to move, my heart to beat, my blood to circulate, etc. etc. etc. Physically a sick head will affect the body (we know how stress in the mind causes ill health): just so will a sick spiritual head affect the spiritual body.
We need the head to be healed, not ignored.
Christ did not tell us to ignore the leaven of the Pharisees i.e. hypocrisy) but to beware for a little leaven leavens the whole lump If we ignore Syosset, are we not really also ignoring the problem?
A body operating as though it had no head is a body without eyes to see and without ears to hear and without a mouth to speak. It means, therefore, a spastic body which is not a good solution.
Syosset, rather, needs attention and exhortation unto repentance unto what needs to be done.
It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance, and repentance leads to the soul's salvation. And paradoxical as it may seem, the goodness of God may just be the protesting, questioning voice of the people in this case.
I don't think the goodness of God is ever turning away from problems as though they didn't exist. We'd all be in big trouble if He turned away and ignored our own *personal problems*! No, God wants something better for us, that we become Holy as He is Holy.
Please forgive me, Fr. Tom, if I have misinterpreted you.
#27 Karen Jermyn on 2006-08-21 11:37
It takes very little courage to follow the company line, and that is what Fr. Thomas Hopko has done in this case.
He advocates more of what landed us in this scandal in the first place; that deadly advice that is injected into priests from the first day -- "Just take care of your parish and don't worry about what anyone else is doing. And don't rock the boat!" This isn't radical love. This is radical ambivalence. This is how perpetrators get to do what they do to the Church, and why our Church languishes, meanders and flounders in its hapless attempts to bring Orthodoxy to America. "Just look the other way, boys, while we take care of things." They sure "took care of things," didn't they?
But this is the company line, and it is being repeated in many places by influential people who have sold their souls for position and profit. "The Church is a mess; the scandal is horrible; but there's nothing we can do, so let's just move on." Is this how we love a very sick, beaten body laying in pain at the side of the road, by passing by on the other side? Is this how we care for the Ark whose integrity will be the only hope of our children and grandchildren? is this love? is this healing? No, friends, this is decay and death!
Had the Holy Fathers sold out to this kind of thinking, Christ would be unknown today and His Church would be confined to a phone booth on an Aegean island. Just a generation ago, before ambivalence and fear took over, the OCA would have been thoroughly decontaminated months ago by priesta and laymen who loved Her too much to let Her continue to suffer.
Fr. Hopko's reasoning reiterates that of those "at the top" who for many years watched this cancer take hold of this body and said nothing. Now he suggests that those same high thinkers be allowed to teach the new breed of leaders for the future. I vote "no confidence."
#28 Baba Lou on 2006-08-21 14:24
In your statement: "I am confused by his suggestion to ignore the hierarchy ...", you seem to be misinterpreting Fr. Hopko's reflection. Indeed, what he said is quite the contrary to your interpretation:
"We can obey our leaders who disagree with us, and refuse to meet with us and speak with us, to the extent that they do not lead us into heresy or immorality, whatever they are doing, or not doing, in their personal lives and pastoral actions."
I do not believe that this can be read to be saying to "ignore the hierarchy". Quite the opisite, I read that he is saying that we should obey the hierarchy as long as doing so will not lead us into heresy or immorality.
#29 Thomas Hamrick on 2006-08-21 15:35
All three reasons are completely outdated and irrelevant today. Bishops could be selected from married clergy whose children were grown and not in need of support to alay that rather tenuous concern. Of course, proper procedure to make such a change should be followed.
I think the real reason has to do with the notion that celebacy is a higher moral state--which is heretical nonsense!
#30 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-08-21 16:23
Marty, you can't be serious. To hold an AAC without a financial statement or a report from an attorney after needing to get a loan for 1.7M dollars to pay the balance on the last AAC is quite simply, gross financial misconduct. I'm surprised it didn't happen based on the track record, but that's another story.
I dont' believe a 2007 AAC would be unreasonable, but in light of the fact this administration hasn't produced a 2006 budget, it sounds like a worthless venture.
We need to allow a limited amount of patience and make reasonable, attainable demands. An immediate AAC in the absence of any information would be ridiculous.
People would demand answers and be given none and this would be the basis for ousting the administration?
No way. The next AAC must be held no later than the 3 year schedule, and no sooner than facts are known and attorneys are no longer engaged by the administration. And most importantly, the administration will be judged for competancy at the next gathering. Today they fail.
No great water would spring from an immediate AAC. A delayed AAC past 2008 statutes should result in leadership change.
You have been a voice of reason on this site, what would you expect from an AAC held today? The last one was practically invalid because people voted on the body of the MC without as much as a financial report. How would that be any different if done today?
#31 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-08-21 16:56
Indeed, attempting to restore the possibility of a married man being elected a bishop (as opposed to a 'married episcopate,' which would eliminate all the unmarried) has in the past and would today, unfortunately, provide justification for further division, separation, and schism.
However, unless we are all hagiographers and prefer to write, speak, and interpret Church Tradition strictly through the lenses of piety alone, we must be open to the possibility of discussing married men as bishops. Have all of our bishops resided in monasteries? Have they all travelled extensively throughout their dioceses? Do all married men - and women - stay at home for the good estate of their families? This line of reasoning is preposterous. Perhaps the members of the Metropolitan Council should just stay home all the time. Mr. Orloff has just put forward an argument in favor of a celibate presbyterate, since the presbyters of today have essentially assumed the offices of the ancient episcopate!
Those who prefer to take the pre-Vatican II Roman-papist stance of defending everything they're comfortable with through jurisprudence cannot ignore the fact that the current crisis in the OCA is, in many ways, a result of a deep and tragic division between the episcopacy and the rest of the Church. The old, pre-revolutionary divisions between "black and white" clergy are alive and well, though one could argue that in our case, one side is not better educated than the other, even if it is more privileged.
The chief function of an overseer is stewardship, and the current crisis is marked by a glaring lack of the same. Many of the historical justifications Mr. Orloff has proposed in favor of retaining a married episcopate (and they are only a summary, not exhaustive) could very well be used as an argument to put an end to a celibate episcopacy, given the mess we see today.
Two things are needed: first, God must become the center of ecclesiology again (not hierarchical peersonality cults), and second, we absolutely must begin a working dialogue in which all the bishops - not just one - work within the Church and are accountable to the Church within which they were consecrated. Once the episcopacy is actually in dialogue with the rest of the Church, on a Trinitarian paradigm (see Staniloae et al), and not hidden, or placed on a false pedestal, then Orthodox ecclesiology will be operative again, and God restored to the center of our lives.
Our tradition is broad and rich - we absolutely cannot become reductionists as we fight the good fight and attempt to practice Orthodox Christianity in God's Church.
#32 M. Denysenko on 2006-08-21 18:42
It seems to me that the Seven Things we can do (as listed in Fr. Tom's piece) are a short road to some form of high church congregationalism.
We have been in America since its founding and in more than 200 years we haven't even made the first steps (so it seems to me) toward incarnating an image of the heavenly in a pluralistic society.
(In a society that values egalitarianism and individula initiative how do we structure our governance, what should monasticism look like, how should laity interact with it and be supported by it, how should we educate our children in secular knowledge, how should we train them in divine things, what professional paths are compatible with the One True Faith, how do we interact with ecumenical efforts, how do we use scripture to convince other Christians of the ancient faith, how should we prophetically support elected leaders (photo ops at funerals and occasional platitudinous statements about peace and the enivornment, a Life march here and there when we know they are watching?), how do we live in community in American rural urban and suburban contexts, how do we evangelize our society?)
In a society that asks us (Constitutionally speaking) to be 'free men' we don't even know how to think about the challenge it seems.
Kudos to Fr. Tom for highlighting the fact that this current set of financial problems is only the tip of the iceberg. For my part, the financial 'scandal' is no scandal because if I can't hear the sound of wisdom in all these other areas, money is the least of my concerns.
#33 Symeon Jekel on 2006-08-22 08:03
RE: Apostolic Canons
With due respect, while I understand the intent and the purpose of the canons, they seem to be at odds with our own statute, which clearly gives administrative authority to the All American Council and by delegation, the Metropolitan Council. Not the Synod.
One of the themes I contemplated earlier, and was addressed by another poster here, is that the North American experience of the Church is the first occasion for Orthodoxy to operate in an environment free of governmental oversight.
Neither the traditions nor the statutes and canons of the Church address that issue.
I submit that in our society, in a government of, by and for the people, it is appropriate for the people (laity) to oversee the administration of the Church.
Personally, I believe the opportunity for confession, forgiveness and reconciliation have passed, and it is now the realm of the secular authorities and justice system to decide how to deal with this mess.
Do the canons address how to deal with a bishop imprisoned for fraud or tax evasion?
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (inactive)
#34 Marty Watt on 2006-08-22 08:13
I echo your gratitude to this wonderful, open website and the courage of all the folks involved. The OCA, which brought me into the Fullness of the Faith and the everlasting love of our sweet Saviour Jesus Christ, seems to be teetering on the brink of collapse...almost in "limbo". What comes next? This is an aside to Fr. Tom's reflection, what has become of Fr. Erickson at St. Vlad's? Why was he let go? I so admire him.
#35 Rebecca Wilson on 2006-08-22 08:30
Non-profit organizations are not free of government oversight in America. In fact, it is activity such as this which has increased the reporting requirements necessary for all non-profits, including churches.
#36 Paula Brkich on 2006-08-22 11:49
Yes, what Fr. Tom said was to ignore whatever they do or don't do in their personal lives and pastoral actions. I still believe the hierarch is not only a ruler and guardian of doctrine, but he is a shepherd, a leader, who presents an example by his actions, be they good or bad, to his flock.
#37 Karen Jermyn on 2006-08-22 12:37
"They are the Church who are a people united to the Priest, and the flock which adheres to its Pastor. From this you ought to know that the Bishop is in the Church, and the Church is in the Bishop; and if anyone is not with the Bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those who flatter themselves and creep in, and commune secretly with some, do so in vain, not having peace with God's Priests; while the Church, which is universal and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the bond of Priests who unite with one another."
-St. Cyprian, martyr and Bishop of Carthage.
#38 Joe on 2006-08-22 13:13
Well, the interesting thing in Fr. Tom's March 12 letter is that he assumes that without any further investigation it would be a readily doable thing for the Metropolitan to stand up and explain what had happened in the past. Being before the dismissal of Fr. Bob, perhaps his cooperation in this was assumed.
Anyway, what Fr. Tom suggested back then was a radical act of repentance based on the inspiring thought that as Christians we could all, laity, clergy and hierarchs together, tackle the issue with love, contrition, and honesty and then move on. Some have described this as naive, rather I see it as admirably idealistic. Are we really Christians or are we just another club or organizaiton, this on happening to be organized around paying lip-service to Christian ideas and playing dress-up in a particular liturgical tradition?
If our Synod had been able to do as that letter suggested, things would be different.
#39 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-08-22 13:27
I probably should not be the one to respond to this post, but unfortunately I can not resist.
If the chief function of the bishops is not to guard the faith and order of the Church, what is it? Junkets abroad, stealing from widows and orphans, usurping the authority of other duly constituted organs of the Church? The list goes on, but I think you get the point.
More seriously, you posited a false dichotomy between clerical and lay resposibilities that is not contained in my suggestion. Of course bishops will have administrative concerns and authority, just as the laity will continue to play its part in guarding the faith and order of the Church, or we would all now be bending our knees to Rome. But do we really expect the clergy to preform administrative tasks that an intelligent and well educated laity can more competently do? Even many lawyers and doctors hire other professionals to handle the business side of their practices.
When I first became an Orthodox Christian close to twenty years ago, I was shocked by the anti-clerical attitudes exhibited by many of my "cradle Orthodox" parishioners. Now I have a better understanding of the root causes of this unfortunate attitude. To blame the "influence of Protestant congregationalism" for an insistance on lay participation and responsibility in the life of the Church is rubbish and beside the point. As I, and many others on this site have said, a new American ethos for Orthodoxy is emerging from the ashes of this scandal which can breath life and light into our Church once again.
Now that is Orthodox indeed!
#40 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-08-22 13:50
The Church is not a non-profit organization- it is an institution that was and should be beyond the grasp of the federal government. One of the great tragedies in America was the unconstitutional power grab of the government over the Church under Lydon Johnson when it extended IRS authority over certain areas of the Church. Re-read the 1st Amendment of the Constitution - for 150 years it was hands off for the federal government to touch the Church.
#41 Rich on 2006-08-22 16:24
Whether we think it SHOULD be the way you state doesn't matter. The fact is, when churches incorporate as non-profit organizations for tax-exempt status, they place themselves under non-negotiable rules of financial reporting. The Unification Church lost their tax-exempt status years ago for failure to do this and for engaging in for-profit behaviors, also governed by statute. The only way to not be beholden to government regulated financial reporting requirements is to voluntarily forego non-profit status and pay taxes.
Jesus said "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesars, and render unto God the things which are God's". The best thing we can do now is re-organize our business affairs as quickly as possible following generally accepted models for non-profit governance so that we can get on with the task of spiritual and emotional healing within our church family. Accounting best practices and non-profit governance is not a secret and is not difficult to adopt. Let's just do it and get it over with.
This isn't the first financial scandal to hit our 2,000 year old church. It won't be the last. Let's ratchet down the hyperbole so we can address what needs to be addressed and fold up the media circus tents.
#42 Paula Brkich on 2006-08-23 12:07
Dear Mary Watt,
"RE: Apostolic Canons
With due respect, while I understand the intent and the purpose of the canons, they seem to be at odds with our own statute, which clearly gives administrative authority to the All American Council and by delegation, the Metropolitan Council. Not the Synod."
The All American Council is in line with the canons and does give administrative authority to the bishops even within the All American Council. They have veto power over all resolutions passed at an All American Council in that "no resolution shall be valid unless approved by a vote of at least a majority of the bishops attending the Council" and "an appropriate period prior to the final adjournment [of the Council is mandated by the Statute so] that the bishops have an opportunity to act on the resolutions adopted by the Council." (Quotes taken from Statute III:12 titled Approval by the Hierarchy)
Thanks for your comment, and I agree with you.
We have a duty to help clean up the mess in Syosset, but that should not interfere with our duty to our local churches. I am reminded of my favorite quote from President Teddy Roosevelt, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
The best-case resolution of the Syosset mess will be the full disclosure of the facts and effective steps taken to make sure they can't happen again. The worst-case result will be a professional quality snow-job with the facts lost in the snow.
But, whatever happens, our primary duty will be to our local churches, and we can thank God who provided us guides like Father Thomas to show the way.
#44 Mark Warns on 2006-08-23 20:12
To return to the topic of these posts in this location, I believe what Fr. Hopko has stated about the the make-up of the 24-hour All-American emergency conference is a strongly suggested scenario. However, I don't think it's etched in stone. I think it's a starting point to formulate a unique, timely meeting to face and deal with issues that compromise the OCA, whether they be financial or otherwise.
As to the timing of "August", perhaps Fr. Tom means August of 2007, or perhaps August could just as well be September or October of 2006. Fr. Tom knows full well how difficult it is to call any type of emergency meeting and that travel and accomdation arrangements for the hundreds of people that would hopefully attend cannot be made by everyone overnight. (To save money, couldn't people go to campgrounds or erect tents at St. Tikhon's?).
Regarding the reluctance of Metroplitan Herman et al to speak out truthfully and plainly about their individual roles in the financial mess, denial is a very strong internal emotion. In addition, fear leads to justification of one's actions, whether they be right or wrong. Let us not also forget that the devil is working very hard to destroy the OCA by whatever means possible and through whichever weak persons it can be done.
I believe it is time to confront Metropolitan Herman and every person that had any connection to Syosset over the last 15 to 20 years (including all employees, bishops, and Metropolitan Council members,) and ask the following: "Did you at anytime during this period do anything that was illegal, unethical, and/or immoral within your position?" It is time for them to openly confess their wrongdoing and accept responsibility for their actions (and any consequences) so healing and forgiveness can begin. They each need to do this "for the good of the Church" and "for the salvation of their souls."
However, if, as I expect, they persist in their denial and coverup, we must pray fervently for the them. Intercessory prayer is very powerful and may be the "one thing needful" to bring them to repentance before it is too late for them. So let us love them as persons made in God's image even though we detest and chastise their behavior and rightfully expect healthy change. As a result of our prayers, may God have mercy on their souls.
#45 Matushka Pearl Homiak on 2006-08-23 22:57
Dear Fellow Orthodox Christian,
You bring up a good point, but I would be surprised if the scandal is causing local financial problems now. That's a definite possibility, but it's further down the road.
You're right that plenty of our OCA parishes are in trouble. The majority of our OCA dioceses have lost members over the last ten years, and some of them have lost more than twenty percent.
Why? Was it the result of the scandal? No. The scandal has only been public knowledge for the last six months, but church growth and retention has been a problem for more than a decade.
Will the scandal result in more direct financial burdens for local churches? Possibly. If the shortfall is cured by borrowing, and if the OCA maintains the same level of service - don't snicker, the per-capita assessment will have to go up significantly. If the shortfall is cured by the sale of selected, non-essential assets, an increase in the assessment can probably be avoided.
Will there be additional indirect financial burdens for the local churches that results from the scandal? We might be able to avoid them, but we have to start now. Syosset, in my opinion, has given each our local churches and missions a very public black-eye. And, if we let this process run its natural course, we can expect the result of that black-eye to be reduced growth and retention of members, exactly where we didn't need more problems.
Can we do anything now to avoid this situation? You bet. I was a lay delegate to the last All American Council, and my primary interest is church growth and evangelism. At the AAC, Syosset was very up-front in stating that there was no church-wide evangelism program then and that there wouldn't be one later. Evangelism was recognized as a significant concern - Metropolitan Herman went so far as to say that evangelism is our job, but the methods were left to the local churches. The most worthwhile hour of the whole week was an informal gathering of local delegates who just batted around ideas for growth and retention. It was terrific, and the great ideas came from all over the country, not just the high-growth dioceses. Although Syosset didn't follow up by sending out the notes of the get-together as they said they would, we can have the same sort of church-wide meeting by e-mail on this site, and we can start it now.
So, we got sucker-punched, and we're wearing the result. Let's get past it and come up with the ideas that will help all of us grow our way out of our problems. The Lord told us to "Go forth and make disciples...", so lets do it.
#46 Mark Warns on 2006-08-24 11:52
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