I used to belong to a prominent OCA church. Shamefully watching this scandal unfold has been much like "watching a train wreck" for me. I like so many people have known for a long time ( for me nearly 20 years) the rumors of financial scandal, sexual scandal ect.. I have known participants and victims and the people who covered things up. Many people acted like they were in the know having had this knowledge.
I found the general participation in this total lack of accountability by the clergy to be one of abject hypocrisy and it still is. There are people who have written as concerned orthodox and I am sure they are but, many of these same people have empowered the general air of dishonesty over the years that has brought the OCA to where it is today.
I really feel that despite the fact that I left the OCA this is a blot on all Orthodox Christians in America and the depth of it's consequences should make us all humble and really assess what it means to be Orthodox. What does it mean?
It may be picking at nits, but I would be remiss without taking issue with the following observation:
"Since 1998 the only financial information available has been financial compilations; and even then the most recent six-month compilation (2006) by Lambrides includes the caveat that “Management (Syosset) has elected to omit substantially all of the disclosures required by generally accepted accounting principles. If the omitted disclosures were included with the statement of budgeted income and expenses, they might influence the user’s conclusions about the church’s result of operations.” In short, we still only know what Syosset wants us to know."
This statement, on its own, is very innocuous. It is standard language required of all compilation reports produced by members of the AICPA (of which I am one).
Without getting into the technicalities of the differences between a compilation, review and audit, the language basically means the notes to financial statements, an integral part of an audit and a requirement of financial statements that purport to be in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, were not included in this document. Perhaps other portions of the financial statements were also not prepared -- a statement of cash flows, or of net assets.
Having said that, the writer's conclusion in the final sentance is true. In a compilation, the independent accountant performs no testing or analysis of the financial statements. It is tantamount to taking a dictation.
I think we need to have a professional, independent internal audit function that is hired by the Metropolitan Council, reporting directly to the Metropolitan Council. The fact that untrained individuals are elected to the post is more than a bit troubling. I think it appropriate to examine the Institute of Internal Auditors guidelines and codes of ethics to determine if indeed the OCA is implementing best practices in the area of internal audit. I would submit they are not.
There are plenty of organizations that provide internal audit services on a contract basis if it is determined (by the Metropolitan Council) a full-time professional would not be prudent.
As for the remainder of the article, I don't really see where much if any progress has been made in the past year. Some will say we must wait on the investigation to conclude before acting. I disagree. At a minimum, we need to begin a process of defining the objectives of the reform that is necessary in our Church. We don't need an investigation to tell us how things should be.
We need a discussion with Fr. Rentel (canon law), the Synod (practical ecclesiology), Pdn. Danilchik (best practices), and others. The All-American Council should hear and receive the reports and set out the objectives of a revision of the Statutes.
Of particular concern is the role of the Bishop and Metropolitan Archbishop in our church. Certainly they, with the consent of the laity, help define our faith, and establish consistency of faith. But what is their accountability in administrative affairs?
Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory wrote in the introduction to "Introduction to Liturgical Theology", by holding an incorrect understanding of the essence of the Church, we compartmentalize the activities of the episcopacy to only those liturgical functions dictated by the Typicon. He emphasizes to do so is to misunderstand the actualization of the Church in the world, which is the essence of Church.
I don't know what Fr. Schmemann would say about the current situation. My guess is that he would look at history and understand the Church has never before operated in a democracy, and the traditional oversight of the administrative aspects of the Church by the state is absent.
We will inevitably break new ground here. The Church cannot manifest itself the same way in a democracy than in a monarchy.
What was the role of the monarch in Church affairs? In my opinion, it was as a guardian of the people. A good monarch rules with the best interest of the people at heart. In a democracy, the monarch is replaced with the body politic, the people themselves.
It seems to me appropriate that the people hold some oversight even of the bishops, much in the manner demonstrated by Abp. JOB at the most recent assembly of the Diocese of the Midwest.
As Fr. Schmemann points out further, the laity is not the "object" to "observe" liturgy. We are the Church. We are the manifestation, the continuing incarnation of Christ, in the world. In the grand scheme of things, Christ did not come to redeem Bishops who then judiciously dole out mercy and grace to the laity. Rather, the bishops should guide us in the way. Both by word and example, they should eschew materialism and possessiveness. They should not be attached to the things of the world.
Much like Bishop Demitri of the Antiochian Archdiocese who manifested an attachment to the world, the retirement and reassignment from daily oversight is imperative. In that instance the Metropolitan (PHILIP) acted swiftly and with compassion for both the man and the Church. If the Synod will not act, who will? If the Synod is so corrupt as to damage the Church, our option (as I see it) is to stop supporting malfeasance until the malfeasance is justified (to our satisfaction) or ceases.
In looking at material on the internet, I ran across the following quote (www.cultnews.com/?p=1677): "CultNews does not pretend to be expert on Christian theology. But isn’t it elemental that Christians sincerely interested in dealing with their personal sins first admit them?"
I think the author of the statement is wise. I think the first step is evident to all of us with eyes to see.
Praying for our mutual salvation,
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
Thank you, Editor, for your patience and perseverance. Please do not lose heart. We are learning something here about the nature of human intrasigence clothed with religious garb... it looks surprisingly similar to non-religious intransigence... in fact, it seems to have nothing to do with religion, even if it uses the words and labels to sustain itself. Let is learn and grow from this and may our future policies and procedures do better at checks and balances to protect us from the destructive foibles of human nature.
must be obvious to all by now that the legal advice of defense attorneys is being strictly adhered to by all in Syosset.......of what are they afraid ? Yes, fear it is, and of what ? even as Proskauer, Rose becomes a keystone in the stonewall surrounding Syosset.......to defy the church (ourselves) itself Joshua 6:20 "So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets, and it came to pass,............
Very much in agreement with your brief and concise evaluation of our OCA crisis.
However, as I have indicated numerous times, without federal governmental investigation, by those who have subpoena powers to delve into the entire obfuscation, malfeasance, use of past discretionary funds received, nothing will happen.
Stonewalling in extremis is so apparent to those of us who hope against hope, for some resolution.
To add more sadness to this Sad Anniversary, Bishop Tikhon once again manages to insult and belittle anyone who dares speak out or offer advice on the current OCA crisis. Thank goodness this ....man is finally retiring... He has done enough damage to our Church already...
From a post by Bishop Tikhon on the Indiana Listserv, Thursday, 11/2/2006:
Commending all to Christ's love,
(for another twelve days) The Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West.
"Hadn't we got all the fools in town on our side? and ain't that a big enough majority in any town?" (from Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" ch. 23)
PS I was thinking (but I didn't mention it there) at our Diocesan Assembly, when, as always, past achievements and failures were considered, and the growth of the Diocese both in terms of parishes and misssions (doubled) and in financial solidity, never disturbed, of how some wiseacres had once been so quick to predict evil days for the Bishop, the Diocese and the See Cathedral!
I wonder if all those people in the OCA (NOT the Bishops) who almost every day do not fail to point out that they have the answers for EVERYTHING (a retired Seminary Dean had the "Only" solution, namely an All-American Council), such as the "Seven First-in-Their-Class-at-Top-Notch-Law-Schools" lawyers, and the "Seventy Advanced-in-all-Spirituality High Priests", Monsieur Mark Stokoe, Protodeacon Eros Wheeler, the Very Most Reverend and Eminent Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest, KRT, Jeff, "anonymous", "name-withheld", "recent convert", Nina D-T, Michael G., the founder
of the "Patristically Inspired Boot Camp Cure-All", all of whom were able to accurately diagnosis contemporary ecclesiastical and corporate illness and prescribe the proper restorative regimen, have any idea of anything outside their own experience as possibly contradicting their creative doctrines?
Now, of course, I will be leaving that group of men who are so awful, so egregious examples of leadership that they dare to say that they don't have answers yet and do not care to pretend they do. Now that I won't be a member of the Holy Synod (it's only ruling, Bishops who are members of it), perhaps I, too, can pronounce that I have the right answers and criticize the Synod for being do-nothings; and know-nothings!
I was prepared to let Bishop Tikhon "go quietly into that sweet night" of retirement, awaiting his day of judgment, until I saw Mr. Banescu's latest posting. Perhaps we should not let him go so easily?
It remains a mystery to me how such a man ever got to be a bishop.
In some ways I will miss Bishop Tikhon of the West and his antics ....but then I remember the damage done to the Church, not to mention individuals, both lay and clerical.
The "good" Bishop likes to brag that he was elected by a diocesan assembly. I must admit this sticks in my craw. Whatever possessed the Diocese of the West to elect such a man?
What is clear, however, is that the Synod confirmed and then continued to tolerate Bishop Tikhon after it was crystal clear how "unworthy" (that is really not a strong enough word) he was , is and ever shall be. (They) turned a blind eye to the damage he was doing. It is a perfect example of the lack of accountability of our Episcopate, and makes clear the pressing need for reform.
I certainly hope when, and if, the Diocese of the West selects its next bishop the prevailing mantra will be--Never Again!
If it had not been for Bishop Tikhon I would not be Orthodox today. I do not understand everything he says, but I can only thank God for him for the decisions he made and the priests he appointed that let me and my family find the Church and follow Jesus more perfectly.
Matt Karnes of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco