Monday, December 18. 2006
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Re: Best Practices and Processes and the MC
The Metropolitan Council at its September 28, 2006 meeting resolved that the Best Practices and Processes would be reviewed by an Attorney versed in New York State law and presented for final adoption at the next MC meeting. The announcement of the results of the most recent MC meeting did not mention any action taken on this item. Further the ocanews.org report also suggested that there was no action taken. If this were indeed correct, then this would represent very disappointing behavior on the part of the MC. To be disciplined and deliver what one promises is the bedrock of proper governance and accountability.
I think that we are owed a statement and explanation on this by the MC. Have the MC members committed to sign the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policies? Have they committed to the Financial Oversight and Governance principles in the Best Practices? Have they committed to be measured by the detailed audit, financial, transparency and other governance yardsticks in the Best Practices and Policies?
The Best Practices and Policies were designed to be followed and stewarded against. To be blunt, these Practices and Policies need to be officially committed to, both collectively by the MC and individually via signature by each MC member. Nothing less should be expected of them.
Perhasp this was done at the meeting -- but I an concerned that we didn't hear anything about it.
#1 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2006-12-18 10:00
My comment is not necessarily directed to this particular article, but to this situation in general. As a convert to Orthodoxy (1998), I was gladdened by the fact that the OCA was free from the same shameful pattern of bad behavior and cover-ups that have tainted other religious and secular bodies in the past. Having stumbled across this site only within the past month, I have been greatly troubled by what I have read, as it appears I was ignorant in my belief.
As one who already struggles with my level of participation in the Church, what am I to make of all this? I always wondered how Roman Catholics could continue to support their Church in the face of some very shameful and public scandals. Now I find myself wondering what I am supposed to do. I want to discuss this with my parish priest, but how do I even broach the subject? I am seriously considering simply leaving the OCA for another jurisdiction, but I don't want to do so without discussion first. And what if he tells me it's not my concern, or that it's not a big deal? I am afraid of what I would do then.
I feel incredibly let down by the actions of the OCA. A part of me wants to simply sweep things under the rug and just "move on", as I know that the actions of the parties involved in this scandal do not detract from the spirit and truth of Orthodoxy itself. But unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps) I am too cynical for that. So I await the developments of the next 90 days; and of the next All-American Council. But by the time a new path is articulated, I may already be gone.
#2 Chris Holmes on 2006-12-18 10:27
My optimistic expression following the press release of last week remains unchanged. As has been demonstrated in recent months, the number of clergy and laity in the OCA who are truly serving God’s Church remains far greater than those clergy and laity who are not. That this much needed correcting and healing is a process that will take some time, should be evident to everyone. Patience and continued vigilance are clearly called for in the weeks and months ahead.
For those who have in the past, or continue to this day, to abused their authority through selfishness or neglect, repentance and or resignation should be expected and even requested for the true “good of the Church.” Those who not only “take responsibility” for past errors but humbly repent of them, may be able to continue to serve the Church in some capacity. However those who refuse to humbly repent, should be fired or deposed as soon as legally and canonically possible.
#3 Marc Trolinger on 2006-12-18 10:43
I am concerned that the MC did not place some immediacy on the establishment of the balance sheets. I believe this goes along with Best Practices mentioned by Dn. Peter above. If the Alaska lands issue is holding up the process, put them all in a room until it is resolved. In my humble, but outspoken opinion, the OCA (in Syosset) has no business controlling or attempting to control these lands. As much as I am beginning to question Bishop Nikolai's leadership style, I believe that he will behave in the best interest overall of the D of A / OCA, and tithing any sales of land is certainly reasonable enough, but that's opinion, not fact, and certainly not land deeds.
Bishop Nikolai sent me a letter the other day as well. It was a defensive letter. He failed to defend himself on the archive issue, the canes issue, and the natural flowers in 30 below issue, which is funny because those were the only problems I had with him. I'm on his side on the land issues. I don't understand his reasons for getting into it with Fr. Kucynda. Perhaps its the land issue. It was really in poor taste for the Bishop to behave the way he did toward Fr. Paul. If there is an issue to resolve, you surely wouldn't do it in that fashion and the entire problem of the OCA is about power, so hardly the place for a power trip at this session.
Finally, I'd like to mention one other thing. I'm concerned the resolution passed by the Diocese of the Midwest is not objective enough for Bishop Job to make a wise decision regarding the withholding of assessments. I am expecting less than an unqualified opinion from the 2006 audit and I think it is important for Bishop Job to have an objective establshed on this issue. Was the language clear enough on this issue? I don't believe it was. Also, now that Abp. Job is on the Investigative Committee, doesn't that make it impossible for him to act on the Resolution?
I guess the bottom line for me is the joint session was a bit disappointing for me because it focused on the past more than the future, but maybe that was the immediate need.
#4 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-12-18 12:23
Mr. Holmes, I completely understand your total sense of betrayal and letdown. I am a convert too, and I'm pretty much in the same place myself as a result of this and other scandals in the Orthodox Church (e.g., Greece). There is no Christian reality in any of this, and it really does cause one to question the "Ignatian" view of the hierarchy, to wit, that it is only the "office" of the bishop that is iconic of Christ. I believe that's too minimalist and not in keeping with the Gospel. St. Paul tells us that personal holiness is a requirement for pastoral office. How can we respect bishops who systematically behave no better than unbelievers? How are we to submit to ecclesiastical authority when that authority clearly does not submit to Christ?
But I'm going to try to hang in there with the Orthodox Church, even though other Catholic traditions look very appealing to me. I found this article by Sam Torode helpful. I hope you will too: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-01-027-v
#5 Christopher Little on 2006-12-18 13:39
Having read the press releases and this most recent editorial by Mark Stokoe, I think he very much has the right of things. There's much that was miraculous in the joint meeting, but there are many serious questions that remain, and they must not be overlooked.
I'm very disappointed that Fr Vladimir Berzonsky's motion to thank the whistleblowers never even came to a vote. I fully understand his reason for withdrawing the motion, and it was probably a wise decision, but if that is the case, it's a sorrowful truth. It says that the spirit of malice and deceit that has held the OCA captive for all these years has not been totally driven out. A victory has been won, but the war remains undecided (well, that's true all the time). I for one DO thank Protodeacon Eric and all others who at least tried to take action; even if this action was taken as a correction of their own consciences, at least their choices to take action show that their consciences are not 'seared' as the Apostle puts it.
It's also ironic, in a very unsettling way, that one bishop – in the same meeting even – had both pressed the point that only the culprit's own bishop could hold a spiritual court, and then threaten a priest outside of his diocese with the very sanction that he himself said was not his right to carry out. What is the common ingredient? One can only suspect that somewhere in his mind, both his protest and his threat meet in a single mindset. It would probably take the likes of Sigmund Freud to fully sort out what that 'mindset' is, but issues of megalomania and control come to mind. This behaviour, seems to be consistent with the reports of others, including people from his own diocese, all of which point to a pattern.
A great work has been accomplished, but there's clearly lots to be done.
#6 Watching from the Shadows on 2006-12-18 14:06
Chris and All,
Seems as though you joined the church under a delusion, and all delusions, eventually, must be brought to light. I was blessed to have a parish priest during my catechumenate that refused to allow us to have false impressions of the church. We were either converted to the Faith or not. And the Faith is our guide to Christ who leads us to the Father. If you have become Orthodox, then you cannot easily and simply be a jurisdiction-jumper, in my opinion. Isn't that what we criticize about Protestantism? The Church remains the Church -- and the OCA the local church of which you are apart (remember the oath you took at your Chrismation).
While it's tempting to make these typ eof issues our personal problems, as Christians we are called to a life of humility, prayer and repentance. What are you (and what am I) to do now? We are to fast, prepare for the Nativity Feast, and entrust ourselves in repentance to the Mercy and Grace of God in Christ.
Rdr. John Edson
#7 Rdr. John on 2006-12-18 15:16
I hope you will hold on and not "throw in your hand" prematurely.
As Fr. Ted Bobosh has pointed out in his most recent posting on this website, we are all the church. Not just those among us who are have so manifestly disappointed the rest of us. The OCA needs all of us now if it is to come through this crisis positioned to fulfill in future the role in Orthodox life in America that it uniquely could.
Those of us who are converts came to Orthodoxy looking for something we couldn't find where we were. I suspect none of us expected to find something just as much "tainted", as you put it, as has been revealed to exist in so many other churches whose misdeeds are daily being exposed in the media.
But, as Fr. Ted Bobosh points out in his posting, there is a difference. What has been wrong in the OCA's recent past has a very good chance now of being openly confronted and corrected. And, as an outcome of this struggle to accomplish renewal, becoming more fully what the OCA has always had the potential to be.
The coming three months and the next All-American Council will "tell the tale".
Join those of us, Chris, who are praying, closely reading the available sources of information in print, other media and the internet, and actively discussing what we learn with other parish members who are also not willing to "stick their heads in the sand" and just wish it would "all just go away".
I don't know your parish priest so I can't say if it would be a good idea to "broach the subject with him". If he hasn't himself broached the subject with the parish members before now, I must wonder why.
But, whether you decide to confer with him or not, you certainly can "broach the subject" right here on this website. Those of us who are trying to contribute to the exchange here are not standing next to you in your parish church on Sunday, but we are your "community" in a wider sense.
And, I believe that as that "commuity" we care about each other and do not want any member of the OCA "simply sweep things under the rug and move on".
#8 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-12-18 15:42
Your comment is right on target! It is Bishop Nikolai who needs to be facing a Spiritual Court. How much more vile abuse needs to erupt from this fount of corruption before something is done?
#9 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-12-18 16:14
What years was Herman the treasurer??
If he was treasurer during the "anomalies", he should face defrocking with the others for his participation and knowledge as the scandal went on.
Anyone associatied in any way with the wrongdoing or support of the wrongdoing should be defrocked and a hold harmless agreement executed between the parties and the former officers signing away litigation rights and "forgiving" them of thier debts in an effort to expedite the healing.
Still in shock, and disappointed in the leadership and those priests who try and evade this with thier flocks, or who will not take ownership of the issue on a local parish level.
#10 Very interested party on 2006-12-18 16:27
Not very helpful advice Mr. Edson. It is the head in the sand/clouds/prayer book (take your choice) approach that has failed and created legitimate crises of faith and allegiance.
#11 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-12-18 16:28
I would not hesitate to speak of your concerns in this regard with your parish priest. The crisis has been addressed a number of times in the Sunday Bulletins and at Question & Answer Periods held at your parish church. Your parish rector gives an up-date at every parish council meeting as part of his report. All of our parish council meetings are posted and open to parishioners. Both the OCA website and the OCAnews sites have been referenced to time and again.
Plenty of communications on this side of the fence.
Fr. James Parsells
#12 Fr. James Parsells on 2006-12-18 16:50
Does anyone else find it fascinating that Mark Stokoe is now outlining the timetable for the “Next 90 Days” of this saga as if it is HIS to define and direct? But wait, maybe Mark has given us an inside glimpse into the Special Committee created by Herman and the MC. Please, Mark, let us all know, – is your article code for what has already been decided by Job, Nescott and you? If so, you will again look like a prophet.
The whole attempt by Herman and Kucynda to “get out in front” of this saga and THIS website (and kudos to you Mark and Dn. Wheeler for understanding “the power of the Internet”) is unraveling. Herman and Kucynda cannot get out of their own way in compounding the havoc they have unleashed on the Church by their defensive and reactive missteps. First, they fire Kondratick, and then they hire Proskaur Rose to start protecting Herman. Then Kucynda brings in amateur hacks to dismantle the church and create a new structure. Now, the latest insult to injury is the most un-Christian firing of Fr. Strikis. Can you imagine that Fr. Strikis heard of his dismissal NOT from Herman or Kucynda, but from someone who called him to offer their condolences after THEY read it on the Internet. Shameful.
Herman’s long-standing leadership style of USE, ABUSE, and LOSE is alive and well. The list of names and the litany of woes of the many who have suffered at the hand of this man could fill several volumes and might just be a good idea for a companion website to this one. What do you think, Mark? And, to add one more name to this list, how about Deacon Peter Danilchick. It seems he too is feeling the Herman and Kucynda effects of USE, ABUSE, and LOSE. He provided the name of the Proskaur Rose law firm to Herman but now has certainly dropped out of sight. How dare he press for transparency and information so that he could answer the financial questions that were to be posted to the OCA website! Remember that ill-fated stunt by Herman and Kucynda to prove their sincerity for the truth! How sad that Dn. Peter has to write a pleading post for Best Practices here. But it goes to show how far out of the loop he now is. I wonder how long before Herman and Kucynda will patch together a hastily written press release to cover their bumbling tracks on this one.
One can only wonder how Fr. Strikis will react to being the latest Herman victim, especially after he dutifully played along with the Proskauer Rose “investigation.” Let us not forget that Strikis has ALL the inside information on OCA finances since way back in the 1980’s. Looks like Fr. Strikis and a former OCA treasurer who suffered the same Herman ax can compare battle stories and scars and, of course, at some point, blame Fr. Kondratick for everything!
#13 Anonymous on 2006-12-18 16:52
Thank you whistle blowers and thank you Mark,
All of your actions to try to take us to a better place could not have been easy and personal suffering, insults, and humiliation have seemed to have abounded, just as in the witness of our historic fools for Christ.
We can only hope that the recent meeting was part of a larger beginning and not a plateau yet.
Let us hope that this is only a beginning. Maybe like a huge steam engine that huffs and puffs before being able to be smoothly on its way, we have just had a joint meeting that is a good start...
#14 Patty Schellbach on 2006-12-18 17:37
Someone earlier posted that this should be thought of as the "end of the beginning". I believe that individual is wise.
Many post on this site as if the issue is concluded, which is not true. We're not even close. I suspect even after an AAC the issues will not be wrapped up and finalized. If all parties resigned or were deposed and we started fresh, there would still be strife and division, because the battle lines are being drawn.
In a sense the current conflicts were inevitible. Our earliest and most consistent demand of the Synod and central administration has been transparency. We are getting transparency in spades, and while the pictures we see aren't at all pretty, they are necessary.
The next step, in my view, is to build a framework for resolving the issues. My guess is that the investigative committee will end up acting as some sort of "truth and reconciliation commission", much more than a Nuremburg. Given the composition of the committee, I have very high hopes and the utmost confidence in their ability to represent the needs of the faithful, episcopacy, and clergy of the Church.
Proskauer Rose has perhaps been miscast in the current dealings. Their role seems to be to protect the Church (and any leader in the Church) from prosecution. That may be the best use of their skills; it may provide a way to allow the Church to deal with the issues internally.
Personally, I'd put much more emphasis on the accountant's "management letter" which outlines deficiencies in the control environment within the central administration. It states factually and unambiguously what occurred, and can provide enough information to infer what occurred if the data is ambiguous. It is clear to me that the release of that report, by an unbiased, independent third party would support the statement that the issues centered around the "one individual". Does this mean that the individual alone is responsible? No, not at all.
To use the Valdez analogy, Fr. Kondractick was the captain hired by the "owners" -- the Holy Synod/Metropolitan (depending on who you talk to). Those under the Chancellor/Captain's direction included individuals that should have been operating independently (the Treasurer, the Audit Committee, the Controller).
Perhaps there was too little oversight of the captain. Perhaps the captain was himself corrupt (or perhaps not!!) I daresay God alone deserves the judgement of men's hearts.
We are entering a critical time, as Mark aptly points out. I think our objectives must be carefully and clearly crafted. Personally, I'd start with Fr. Ted Bobosh's reflection on a path forward, and also think about what Fr. Thomas Hopko wrote on the same subject.
I'd make it a bit more concrete, however. I see a need for a mechanism other than a spiritual court to remove a bishop from diocesean ministry (notice I am NOT calling for them, or anyone, to be defrocked!)
Having agreement from 12 bishops (the current requirement) seems a bit overwhelming, since we'd have to "borrow" bishops from other jurisdictions to comprise a court.
My suggestion would be to have each bishop stand for a no confidence vote in their own diocese. We need a very, very high bar here -- on the order of 75 to 80% to remove a bishop from diocesean ministry. We're not simply talking about a divided diocese, but rather one in harmony of opposition for their given bishop.
If the bishop fails to garner more than 20-25% of the support of his people, he should see the handwriting on the wall and step aside.
Should any bishop care to retire, we should accomodate them by continuing their pension and allowing them to live in the monestary of their choice -- regardless of age. If they are too young to draw a pension, the church should continue their salary until they reach the age. Any bishop removed from diocesean ministry should have the same dignified retirement offered to them as well.
Secondly, and perhaps most important, we must establish the relations within the Holy Synod -- is our Metropolitan Primate a "first among equals" or does he retain authority not provided by the other bishops? What is the scope and limits to the authority of a Metropolitan Primate?
Finally, I'd suggest that Metropolitan not be required to be the Bishop of the Diocese of Washington and NY/NJ, but instead could come from any diocese and remain in diocesean ministry. He, too, under these circumstances, should be subject to a vote of no confidence by the faithful of the OCA, with a similar overwhelming margin required for removal.
In my heart I know that much of the work is still in front of us. Our challenge, to discover how to be Orthodox in a democratic society, is monumental.
At all costs, we must prevent the "Fire, Ready, Aim" approach that many (most?) seem to be advocating. The "Throw the bums out" mentality, without appropriate and well-thought-out systemic reforms, will simply allow a new group of bums.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#15 Marty Watt on 2006-12-18 17:49
I am appalled that one man (bishop) can control a meeting of this magnitude, by his threats to Father Kucynda,with the Metropolitan running the meeting. I don't know Father Kucynda, but he was not intimidated by the bishop from Alaska. The OCA should ship this bishop back to where he came from. Also in reading his letter to all OCA members, he still must have cramps in his arms from patting himself on the back. What a Braggart!
I can't understand why Fr. Berzonsky with drew his motion to thank the whistle blowers for being couragous in exposing the wrong doing of our Church leaders. Again it was because of the outburst from the guy from Alaska.
Remember we are in the USA of AMERICA, and nobody should intimidate any one of us.
St. James-- Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO
Is it possible this website will be in a law suit, for all the false propaganda? Alot of untruths.
Really? Please name one error of fact you have read on this site in an article I have published. If you can, I will correct it immediately. If not, your charge is untrue - and therefore it is you who are spreading propaganda, not I. You cannot be held libel for the truth; and in a lawsuit, please remember both sides get to depose the other. Hmmmmm.
That being said, I take no responsbility for the comments of others on the comments page; although I do not publish comments I know for a fact contain errors of fact. People's opinions are their own, however, and those I print without comment. I believe it is important we hear from many sides in this tale, even those, such as yourself, with whom I do not agree.
There is many a slip between the cup and the lip. We have seen brief glimpses of reform before, only to see early optimism vanquished by debilitating hidden agendas. For example, why does it appear that our semininary professors are silent? Have they been muzzled? Or, are they participating in other forums? If so, would someone kindly point those forums out? It would be helpful to hear what the good professors think. The solutions we seek require much ongoing dialogue from all corners of our Church. Frankly, I am concerned that the clericism so evident by such actions as Bp. Nicholai's as described herein rules the day in the hearts and minds of our seminarians and their teachers.
#18 Name withheld on 2006-12-18 19:31
The scarriest thing about +Bishop NIKOLAI is how he blurrs the distinction between the office of the episcopacy and his own self.
At my ordination many years ago, the OFFICE of the presbyter was bestowed upon me as a gift from my Lord. Part of my stewardship with this gift means to never use it as a means of advancing my own ego, self-agendas, etc. Yet +Bishop NIKOLAI's writings and letters are very revealing because they show, from HIS OWN PEN, how "the good of the Church" must always be synonymous with "the good of the [present] Bishop." Hence the great blur.
History teaches us that the most dangerous politicians in the history of our country have done the same thing by blurring their ego with their office. Does anyone remember the debacle of Huey Long's populist governership in Louisianna?
#19 A Hopeful OCA Priest on 2006-12-18 19:41
Please forgive me, but your postings via this website expose the lack of whatever education on Orthodoxy you had before you were received into the Church. What total nonsense to impose a "democratic" interpretation of Christ's Body from this scandal. A "no confidence vote" for a bishop? Isn't that what the mob did to Christ when they said "crucify Him."? And the mob mentality of this website is not lost on the total illogical conclusions you have reached.
To interpret a bishop protecting the Church by saying he is intimidating a priest, who in this case has embarrassed, not only himself, but the Church that he was sworn to protect on the day of his ordination, is so weak that I pray you really must go back to your catechism class. The sin is not yours but whoever prepared you to be accepted into the Orthodox Church. He should be sent back to seminary, if he ever went to an Orthodox seminary in the first place. And, by chance, if you were "born" Orthodox, then the outrage is even more pronounced.
Please stop getting all your "news" which you seem to accept as fact, from this website.
#20 Anonymous on 2006-12-18 19:45
I do not wish to address the many points of misinformation in your posting -- including the ones concerning me. However, I cannot refrain from reacting to your totally false, baseless and un-Christian characterization of the reorganization task force as "amateur hacks." These are highly professional people who have extensive and applicable experience in the corporate and government worlds and who have given unselfishly of their talents to the Church. You should really be ashamed of yourself and ask their forgiveness -- whoever you are.
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#21 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2006-12-18 20:04
Congratulations on taking the cowards way out and remaining anonymous. Congratulations also on making Metropolitan Herman look good by comparison with your ranting defense of Fr. Kondratick, the real evil genius of this epic tragedy. Too bad you are so upset that the whole corrupt mess is finally being exposed and that the perpetrators and handmaidens are beginning to pay a price! Sorry it's not the Middle Ages and the evil internet is making a conspiracy of silence impossible.
Give my regards to Bishop Tikhon (blessedly retired).
#22 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-12-18 20:10
Unless Fr. James knows what parish Chris attends, the discussion of OCANEWS.ORG website is not universal.
Last March after reading 'the letter', +MH's tip of the iceberg, our priest told us that the ONLY website we should be using us the official OCA site. Over and over. This 'only' was emphasised with a strength of voice and determination that was never apparent from this same priest proclaiming "Christ is risen!". Which is more important?
The anger and tone of 'only website' had me typing into Google as soon as I got home -- still in my overcoat, jacket and tie. YIKES!? Considering that our priest is a member of the MC, and has had his particular program gutted by nefarious practices, subsequenty abstaining in votes .... no I have not been back. Myself and our two sons are the only blonde haired congregants in the nearby Antiochian Parish.
The attempt to stifle information last March was the only thing I needed to know. Reading OCA News ever since is entertainment.
#23 list as anonymous please on 2006-12-19 07:16
Thank you for your response. I am glad to hear that the issue has been addressed, and regret that I was simply inattentive. I look forward to discussing this in person.
#24 Chris Holmes on 2006-12-19 07:48
The simple fact is that no opinion from an attorney was received by the MC, as required by the previous meeting, in order for us to act at this meeting.
Fr John Reeves
#25 Fr John M. Reeves on 2006-12-19 08:05
I am mystified as to what principle Bishop Nikolai follows when sending letters to clergy and faithful not in his own diocese. Did he not forbid the dissemination of Metropolitan Herman's Lenten letter on the grounds that +Herman had no authority to address the faithful of +Nikolai's own diocese?
In any event, between +Nikolai's most recent mass-mailing and his diatribe that opened the last issue of The North Star , I think the Library of Congress will have to come up with an all-new category of literature: the autohagiography.
Asking forgiveness in advance,
Priest Christopher Wojcik,
#26 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2006-12-19 08:47
Ken - You've missed Mr. Edson's point. He did not say that we should put our head in the sand. His point is that the Church is the Church; it is infallible, it is Holy. Over the past 2000 years there have been plenty of bad bishops. And yet the "gates of hell will not prevail against Her."
#27 Michael Strelka on 2006-12-19 09:03
Dear VIP: As posted previously on this web site, Met Herman approved the taking of appeals money to cover operating deficits. To answer your question, I believe he was the acting treasurer after Dn Wheeler was let go in 1999, until he became Metropolitan in 2002.
As was also posted on this site, if Syosset had asked for $2.50 per person per year in additional assessments, we would not have had operating deficits, and they would not have had to "borrow" appeals.
Not what I would call great fiscal stewardship.
#28 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-12-19 09:15
Two issues have caught my attention here:
1) Chris Little and other converts seem to be losing faith in the institution of the Orthodox Church:
Gentlemen, you will never find the perfect church. In fact, the very concept of the church as the body of the saints, as opposed to sinners, the perfect, was what drove the Novatian schism. The Novatians were also called 'cathari" from the Greek word for 'pure.' They would not allow anyone who had lapsed under persecution to be part of the Church at all. This view was categorically condemned, and it had to be because it is fantasy.
The Church will always be the Body of those members of Christ who are working out their salvation - the imperfect, the sinful. Only the Head of this Body, Christ Himself, is perfect. The rest are sinners. The Orthodox Church will not be the perfect Church until the End of Time. Until then, she will be filled with sinners, and her earthly institutions will reflect that fact.
This is much different from being the True Church. Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. St Paul confessed, 'one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. When I became Orthodox it was based on these convictions (among other things), not on the expectation that people, including bishops, would all be perfect Christians. Bishop NIKOLAI, whatever may be said of him, including what I said before, is still the canonical bishop of Alaska. Whatever the likes of Freud would discern in thinking patterns does not change this fact. Until he is canonically removed, he is the true, orthodox (I use the term as a general adjective here) Bishop of Alaska. He hasn't preached heresy. Even IF his attitudes point to a questionable understanding of the monarchical episcopate, he has not outright defended heresy. No matter flawed he is, he is the canonical bishop - until such time that competent canonical authority, namely the synod of bishops, removes him.
My point here, if it's not been clear, is that the Truth of Orthodoxy, which (Who) is 'the Church's One Foundation' (even a Protestant like Wesley can get it right sometimes) remains, in spite of the Church's human imperfection in this world.
This imperfection should not throw us off balance. The point that one person made that delusions must be cast off is correct. We can't expect perfection from the Church's individual members or institutions - only Orthdoxy. If you're seeking the perfect church, you're doomed to jump from one place to another remaining disappointed. If you came to Orthodoxy from the West on that basis alone, you made a mistake. The reason to come is the True Faith of Christ - the preaching of the True Gospel, not perfect Christian behaviour. The latter will remain always a mirage on the horizon.
2) One person suggested that Mark Stokoe is orchestrating the next 90 days. That is hardly a plausible hypothesis. Far more plausible is that Mark is a very keen and discerning observer. He reads between the lines, and understands human behaviour. He knows a spade from a club and calls each by its proper name. He considers the implications of personal actions and of events. This is not orchestrating, it is discernment. That's a significant difference.
Perhaps NOW is the time to pause for a little while from debating, etc. The truth of this matter is finally coming out. Perhaps now we step out of this loop temporarily and focus on the whole meaning of being Christian - that meaning being the Person of Christ. I've been listening a lot to hymns like O Come, O Come Emmanuel. an excellent meditation on Christ He was revealed in the Old Testament - kind of like an Akathist in some ways, this hymn in particular points to what Israel longed for in the Messiah, and what we all long for when we find ourselves caught in the troubles of this world, which include the sins of our fellow Orthodox, bishops and all. PERHAPS now we can take the time to pause and focus on the Incarnation of the Word, and come back with some discernment of our own.
A blessed Nativity to all!
#29 Watching from the Shadows on 2006-12-19 09:45
Dear Fr John,
Thanks for the information. While explainable, that remains disappointing. I continue to believe that the timely adoption of the Best Practices and Policies in a final resolution of the MC is the responsibility of the MC, both collectively and individually, not just the attorney whose advice was solicited. I hope that individual members of the MC were concerned enough that they followed up immediately after and during the two-month period since the last MC to ensure that the attorney's advice was appropriately provided -- so that a final resolution could have been made at the last meeting. It's too bad that it still wasn't able to be provided despite these members' best efforts.
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#30 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2006-12-19 09:55
Dear he/she who would remain anonymous,
I believe the ideas you criticized Mr. Babish for were mine, not his.
Perhaps my ideas are indeed garbage. So far, only the ideas of Fr. Ted Bobosh and Fr. Thomas Hopko have been offered (and apparently similarly rejected). We have to start somewhere. If you have a better idea, be assured the members of Christ will listen.
Please note I do not ask for bishops to be defrocked, or any ecclesiastical sanctions to be imposed on anyone. Only that a Bishop must have followers to lead. If 80% of a diocese does not support a bishop, there is no flock. The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd.
There is a huge difference between Christ and our Bishops. Christ was God incarnate. Bishops are human. And unlike our Bishops, Christ did not have his hand in the money purse -- only Judas Iscariot.
Our betrayers have been disclosed -- hopefully we can offer them a better way than that of Judas.
Ultimately, the Church has never operated without oversight from some source -- be it Monarchs or Caliphs, Christians or Communists. Why would the Church in America be different? St. Innocent answered to the Synod and, by extention, to the Czar. To whom will our Synod and Metropolitan Primate be accountable? I say, to the faithful.
It wasn't Christ's followers shouting "Crucify Him!"
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#31 Marty Watt on 2006-12-19 10:25
Sadly, I agree. For years I have been a supporter of St. Herman's Seminary and always recommended it to others. But, after receiving his self-serving letter, and reading and hearing how un-Christian he treats others, including his own flock, I will no longer support until the Alaska Diocese has a Christian as a bishop.
#32 Anonymous on 2006-12-19 10:56
I do not think the OCA learned anything from the Roman Catholic scandal of recent years. Nevertheless, the faithful need to remember that, although there is much work yet to be done in the OCA crisis to clean up the awful mess, Orthodox Christians do not worship bishops or councils. They are capable of letting us down. It is difficult, to be sure, but faithfulness must be directed to Christ, who does not let us down. If you are thinking of leaving, don't. If you have left, return. The people need one another, and earthly leadership will change.
#33 name withheld on 2006-12-19 12:22
Dear Dn Peter,
Time will tell if the reorganization of the chancery will be for good or not. I am convinced it will be a disaster.
The use of the term "amateur hacks" is one I will stand by for the following reason - please share with us the extensive experience these people had with Church reorganization? They have extensive experience in business reorganization, but not the church.
I apologize if my term offended you because, in fact, their selfless dedication to their task is not in question. What is still in question are the motives of those who gave them their marching orders. It is clear that they were told to dismantle the old structure, emasculate the position of chancellor, and dress him up in a new job description of "priest of priests." What exactly does that mean? It has no basis in Orthodoxy because a diocesan bishop is the priest of his priests.
The hack job that was done is like killing a fly with a shotgun. Fr. Kucynda told them to blow the structure up, to “de-Kondratick the OCA.” How sad and insecure can a man be to go to such lengths to obliterate a church organization because of his hatred for one man? But, in fact, Fr. Kucynda's boss has an even greater hatred for Fr. Kondratick and THAT is the hack job.
We all have our opinion of Fr. Kondratick, good, bad or indifferent - but in the new OCA according to Kucynda and Herman with the structure they have put in place in Syosset, with your help, dear Fr. Deacon Peter - we will not encourage people with the courage of their convictions to rise up to positions of leadership. No, we will find people to fill these newly defined jobs who will just fit in. No one with a presence and a personality like a Kondratick will be chancellor, or treasurer, secretary, or department coordinator. No, just faceless people reflecting the personality of their boss.
Look very carefully at how the jobs are defined and how the chancellor, treasurer, secretary and department coordinator are positioned. In the new OCA, these positions will have to be filled by people who will stay in their little worlds - all vying for the affections of Herman. That is how he has always operated. No team, no cooperation between co-workers, just him playing one person against another. He is the master of divide and conquer, and sadly, you played right into his hands.
#34 Anonymous on 2006-12-19 14:12
Having been a manager in the federal government for 33 years and experienced several major reorganizations (all at the Library of Congress) by participating in strategy, proposal writing, preparation of organizational charts and updating position descriptions, I was favorably impressed by the entire Task Force report. It was a first class job; of course, any reorganization will have to be tweaked as it is implemented and PDs can be updated at any time as necessary. This is a work in progress and represents a good beginning. The members of the Task Force are to be commended for their contribution.
As for Fr. Kondratick being the center of the misdeeds, he was by virtue of his position and responsibilities at the center. I am not a fan of Fr. Kondratick, but I certainly do not hate him. What happened to the ex-chancellor could have happened to a lot of us. Too much power built up over several years, the need to put out fires some of which were started by bishops, and the temptation to put those fires out before they were out of control or became public. At first, I suspect, the ex-chancellor managed a short-cut here with funds and finances, then another short-cut, then wholesale cutting of corners and the culture of corruption grew insidiously without quite realizing what was happening. And there were no checks and balances structurally, which is why the Task Force report is such good news. The report with its organizational charts creates a balance of the various responsibilities in the central administration; the new structure is akin to a firewall against the creep of shortcuts that can lead to the mess we have today. It will not be perfect, but it makes a repetition of today’s mess unlikely.
As for Fr. Kondratick personally, despite the misdeeds, we should all offer him our unconditional forgiveness, if not for him, but for ourselves. He is like so many of us – he got lost in what he understood as service to his Church and we need to cease the billingsgate against him now and move on.
Billingsgate, for those of us less erudite, is a term denoting "foul or offensive" language.
However, I am not aware of any patently foul language being used on the site, so I am assuming the author is referring to those who are criticising Fr. Kondratick. People are free to criticize Fr. Kondratick based on their understanding of the facts; as is the author free to set forth his interpretation of Fr. Kondraticks' actions as a "slippery slope", even as others on this site seek to exonerate him totally. The only fact in evidence is that Proskauer Rose made it clear that in their opinion to the joint meeting that Fr. Kondratick's actions were neither accidental, unintentional, or unplanned. I suggest, therefore, we all wait until the Commission issues its report for a final public verdict. )
#35 Terry C. Peet on 2006-12-19 15:44
Of all the comments I have read on this web site, this comment from Bishop Nikolai of Alaska has probably been one of the most unproductive and dysfunctionally symptomatic comments of why the OCA is in the mess it is in: Mark stated in his recent comments: "The Bishop of Alaska then announced that "...if Wheeler had been in my diocese, he would have been suspended a long time ago." "
This sense of clericalism and the sense that a bishop would even want to respond to a crisis this way puts forth a VERY LONG AND TEDIOUS road for the healing and health of the OCA. Comments such as these remain a TOTAL trajedy in the healing process for the OCA.
Dn. Eric Wheeler, while perhaps having been compliant in the beginning, has gone to suffering lengths, has stuck his neck out, literally and figuratively, to be one of those whistleblowers to try to help correct the abuses of the OCA.
It is these whistleblowers and Mark who are taking great risks to their own egos and safety to try to help the OCA GET IT RIGHT. WE DESERVE NO LESS.
I really don't have a good grasp of all that has occured in Alaska under Bishop Nikolai. But I do have a good grasp of leaders abusing their power and position.
I don't know when I will really have confidence in the OCA when I hear bishops making such outrageous statements about whistleblowers that indicates that they would abuse their power and authority in a heartbeat.
The evidence so far is overwhelming that there have been SERIOUS problems in the OCA.
I will not rest with the mess the OCA has created for itself until I see more of the abuses taken care of.
Mark, be ready to have this web site up and running for a LONG time. It is you and our whistleblowers that are helping reasonable, caring, and sensible people make the OCA a better place.
I do not care for drama queens or kings who do not add to the constructive, healing solution in this serious time of trying to re-establish the proper power and controls, proper checks and balances, to a church that seems WAY FAR of what Christ would want to see His church behave.
Dn. Eric, "If Dn. Eric had been HEARD a long time ago, we may have avoided a huge collosal mess that is slowly, slowly, turning itself around." My personal apologies for such a grievous attack on all your good intentions, Dn. Eric. I am sure the OCA, in time, will be able to thank ALL the whistleblowers and Mark Stokoe for all of your valiant attempts in helping the OCA correct the abuses of power that have dragged it down to that proverbial pig pen that the Prodigal finally realized he was in. It took a little insight to see it however, and if there was hope for him, there is hope for the OCA.
#36 Patty Schellbach on 2006-12-19 16:18
dear mark.......you are duly forgiven for missing a posting, as you were mightily engaged in a collateral issue.........is our discussion of Bp. Nikolai's defense of our Alaskan patrimony (sic....Kucynda) deflecting our attention from the very real shameful $1,700,000 debt the Syosset has placed upon us?.....appears we are about to shed assets with a velocity equal to the Roman Catholics.......may we assume that this "loan" is a one-time-only event, never to be repeated in the future?........can we assume safeguards will be in place to prevent hierarchial malfeasance in the future?.......it will require a changing of the guard, so to speak, done in as forgiving a manner as is humanly possible, for none of us are divine
#37 luke on 2006-12-19 16:52
In response to all of the folks giving people a hard time about not disclosing names on posts, you need to remember that there are priests that are still aligned with the heirarchy.
By posting on here with their identities, they risk being given a hard time by thier spiritual fathers in home parishes. As we have heard on this site time and time again there are parishes that have gone through like-situations.
Speaking with members of other parishes that have spoken out against the scandal, folks have been asked not to come to church if they post on this site, or speak out in the parish (even at coffee hour), around these situations.
I personally have told my spiritual father that this is between me and the central church, not my priest. He still disagrees, but I told him that if I allowed him to steer me on this issue, that I would next expect him to tell me how to vote in general elections, and how to spend my money. I am appalled, disgusted, disappointed and fed up with the OCA and the ensuing coverup of this scandal. But I caution you folks, we are all attached in some ways (even our priests who cannot admit it due to the fact that they are tied to the current administration reporting-wise or maybe they hold a larger diocesan role), that we want to see this resolved. We also agreed that we wanted it quickly.
We are starving for the truth to be told, but our spiritual heirarchy is not generaous enough to share the truth, they just keep giving us appetizers of excuses and smokescreens, they just refuse staunchly to deliver the truth that will come out.
If the OCA falls due to an investigation by the FBI or any other government agency, we have no one to blame but the liars and soothsayers in Syosett.
But folks, please do not fight amongst ourselves. I believe in my heart that they read this on a daily basis, and would love to see us fighting about semantics while they continue to spin this scandal like the Clinton administration.
I am Joseph Weekid, and I'm furious at the OCA Administration for lying and covering this up.
#38 Joseph Weekid on 2006-12-19 17:00
Fr. Chris, since Bp. Nikolai won't address this body, speaking to you as a leader in the church, what should we make of Bp. Nikolai's efforts to solicit funds and then defend himself regarding the restoration and management of property in Alaska? I believe the same people that got the solicitation got the defensive letter. I think it right he defend himself. I'm not sure on the balance and would like to hear from you either personally or otherwise.
Should we reward his callousness, even malice, towards the other Bishops in kind? Or should we turn a blind eye towards his lack of candor towards the other Bishops and accept his letter as evidence of noble causes and do what we can to help restore properties in Alaska and build up the D of A?
Our church is desperate for humility from its leaders. Bp Nikolai needs a dunk tank, but dunking him isn't guidance.
Should we be contributing? Should we even get asked outside our own Diocese?
If you don't want to go on record with your opinion, I'll see you on Christmas Eve in Clayton. ... Dan
#39 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-12-19 17:33
Dear Mr Peet,
I appreciate your reply to my post and you make some very good points. I would refer you to my follow up post and my less than optimistic view of the reorganization plan due to the duo of Met. Herman and Fr. Kucynda. But, to each his own.
However what I found most amusing was the need of the Editor of this site to jump in and put his two cents in. Let's not wander down any another path, let’s not attempt to offer a bit more of the picture. Oh, and you used that F word..... forgiveness. Not PC around these parts. Kondratick and all his cronies must see the inside of a cell, as more than one on this site has demanded.
I guess we have been reminded again, for our own good, to put our trust in the PR report that was so good and convincing but not good enough to be written down and shared with the rest of us. So we will all be good boys and girls and put our faith in the PR report and wait for the Task Force report.
I am curious, would any MC member like to share with the rest of us what ground rules were agreed upon for this Task Force? What exactly are they going to do? Were they given carte blanche like PR to interview anyone and everyone they needed to....all seven of them, or was it eight to get to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Please forgive my sarcasm but I am not buying it. Not until Fr. Kondratick can tell what he knows and answer the allegations that have been confirmed but not proven.
#40 Anonymous on 2006-12-19 17:40
No I didn't. Read the last paragraph and tell me that isn't advice to ignore what is happening and just get on with prayer, fasting and repentence.
For the upteenth time--that admonition to the faithful is wrong if divorced from an active concern for and involvement in the affairs of the Church at large. That is one of the clear lessons from this debacle, and one I needed to learn myself.
#41 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-12-19 18:48
Let’s look at this: first you wrote no attorney advice was sought. Yet now, even though Fr. Reeves' reply said only that no advice was received by the MC, your counter-reply indicates advice was actually solicited . Elsewhere you seem clearly to have concluded that legal advice was sought and received. Is that true? How do you know?
You also seem pretty sure that the (definite article in your original) Best Practices and Policies ought to be adopted, and pronto. How do you square that rigid position w/ the first notion of yours that no expert advice was sought?
But maybe this is putting the cart before the horse: who wrote these enigmatic policies you want so badly to see adopted? (One assumes they actually exist since you used the word “the;” but maybe they don’t exist yet.) If by a lawyer, why do they need to be approved by another lawyer? If not by a lawyer, why o why the heck not?? Wouldn’t that be practicing law without a license? (Just what Syosset needs — another investigation …) And also if not, doesn’t the OCA both deserve and need some (read: a great deal of) expert guidance in this area, not just another mountain-grown remedy? Shouldn’t we have best practices that are actually best?
You seem awfully anxious that the MC and each member formally commit to these (“the”) policies ... but you also wag your keyboard at them for not approving them. Why would they commit to something not yet approved? And why would they approve them if not either done by a lawyer or given 2 thumbs up by a lawyer?
So, was there any legal advice about best practices given to anyone at Syosset or not? (In other words, are the allegations true, or false?) Are these polices actually “best,” or something less than that?
#42 Anne A. Thema on 2006-12-19 20:02
The question of who actually owns the property of the Alaskan Diocese - the Alaskan Diocese or the OCa is not a small issue. That question could very become the next major crisis of our Church.
#43 anonymous on 2006-12-19 20:41
Met. Herman took over as Treasurer when Dn. Wheeler was removed, and remained in the position as acting OCA Treasurer until Jan of 2001, when Fr. Dimitri Oselinsky was appointed acting Treasurer. Fr. Oselinsky was elected at the 2002 AAC, and remained as OCA Treasurer until June 30, 2005. Cate
#44 Cate Shea on 2006-12-19 20:54
While it is an admirable sentiment to not wish to support the current bishop of Alaska's behavior, think about who would really be hurt by failing to support the seminary. The bishop? Perhaps eventually, indirectly, but only perhaps. The ones who will suffer instead are the faculty, staff and *students*, who no doubt already face difficult circumstances. They deserve better, not worse. Far more effective would be supporting specific needs at the seminary; that is, restrict the use of the funds you send. Find out from the seminary what needs particular attention. While the bishop may have a miserable reputation these days, the dean of the seminary has an excellent reputation.
#45 Sine Nomine on 2006-12-19 23:28
"It is these whistleblowers and Mark who are taking great risks to their own egos and safety to try to help the OCA GET IT RIGHT. WE DESERVE NO LESS."
Patty, please enlighten me of the risks Mark Stokoe and other whistleblowers have taken? Their egos? Their safety? Are you serious?
I'll give you the fact that Dn Wheeler lost his job. That's it!
Mark Stokoe has lost nothing IMHO and if he has, he can only blame himself. He lives in his perfect little world in Ohio. I highly doubt anyone would come to Ohio to harm him in any way. Furthermore, he is reaping what he has sown when folks on this website criticize his ethics/intent or ego as you call it.
He and the other whistleblowers, at some point in time, had opportunities to fix/change what was going on. They opted not to.
I do not believe they're entitled to or even worthy of a "hero" parade. They should've handled their business when they had a chance.
#46 Mark on 2006-12-20 07:29
Subject: Pittsburgh Post Gazette dated 12/14/06.
Being an engineer I am very conscious of numbers and how they are used. For instance, if something goes from 50 % to 55 % , that is not a 5% increase but a 10% increase . (55-50/50=.10=10%).
Looking at two of the numbers in the article leads to some interesting conclusions. If we are a 400,000 denomination and 600 parishes, it means each parish has approximately 667 members per parish. There must be a lot of parishes with 1000+ to make up for those parishes I'm familiar with.
Secondly, I don't quite know how this fair share system works, but the last assessment I remember was approximately $120.00 per member. Doing the Math, again with 400,000 members this comes to $48,000,000. ---Forty eight Million!! Who needs a measly 1.7 Million dollar loan. If only half of the members contributed we're still talking 24 millions dollars. Did no one look at the numbers and do the Math? Has anyone including the Auditors and the accountants looked at the real numbers? Or are we still l blowing smoke?
I would more believe the 600 Parishes than 400,000 members. As the OCA prepares a budget, hopefully they are using real numbers or we'll be looking for yet another loan.
In the Lord, Nicholas and Diane Gloumakoff
#47 Nicholas and Diane Gloumakoff on 2006-12-20 08:36
Dear Mr. Weekid,
Good points. As one who has selectively criticized those making anonymous posts, I agree that this is a difficult issue and "one size does not fit all."
However, I do believe that anonymity devalues a post, especially if the post contains strong personal references. In those cases, one must be willing to come forth from the shadows!
As for your point about clerical interference in the search for answers and truth--outrageous and reprehensible. These are "spiritual advisors" who should be rejected and reproached--publicly, if necessary.
#48 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-12-20 08:49
I would rate the risk of excommunication to be among the top risks, and given the behavior of some of our bishops, that was and remains a very real possibility.
Some, like Dn. Wheeler, lost their livelihood. They resigned or were released rather than continuing to be ignored.
The whistleblowers did not have the authority to fix/change anything. All they could do, which they did, was refuse to participate further.
Dn. Wheeler, in particular, refused to participate in the continuing activities he believed to be inappropriate. The entire audit committee resigned rather than be forced to endorse a process they didn't support and believed to be inappropriate. When they saw misdeeds occur, they reacted entirely appropriately -- they refused to participate, told their bosses the behavior was wrong, and accepted the consequences of their actions. In Dn. Wheeler's case, he continued to press the case up the chain, finally reaching the Metropolitan Council in late 2005.
Were it not for Abp. JOB's request of the chancellor in preparation for the last AAC, we would likely not have any hierarchial support.
The simple fact is that we allowed these people to resign and be fired without asking why. It was us who saw the smoke and didn't investigate the origin.
The simple fact is those who neglected to heed the call of the "whistleblowers" were the ones neglectful of their "business". And now, there is a strong possibility of governmental sanction on those individuals.
I doubt any of the whistleblowers in this case want a parade, or any recognition at all. What they want is to facilitate change in how the Church is administered. I daresay none would accept the title "hero", or any other title. They did what they believed to be the correct thing in pursuit of the Truth.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#49 Marty Watt on 2006-12-20 08:56
Watching from the Shadows, I've read your reasonable and heartfelt comments and taken them to heart. This is what I come up with.
Jesus Christ's actions retain the power to speak the truth. Why? First, because the certainty of His word is not self-confirmed but rather confirmed by the Holy Spirit and the voice of His Father calling Him Beloved Son. What He gives He too has inherited. But when giving His gift, He does not impose it upon anyone nor anything, especially against one's will. He is not random in response to his creation but He loves it and longs to save it. When called to task He refered His challengers to witnesses and even more compelling is His silence when condemmed.
I don't think there is a more suitable image for a bishop or us to emmulate.
I was surprised to receive a self-defense letter from Bishop Nikolai. It sounded like he had to convince himself more than me. It is conduct one chooses when his message is being rejected. It saddened me and I felt imposed upon, almost violated. This is the kind of nonsense I wish would stop but I know the evil one is everywhere and attacks the Church. I just keep remembering that the gates of hell do not prevail over the Church.
#50 Believer and Optimist on 2006-12-20 09:45
So what is the role of the Metropolitan in personnel decisions in Syosset? Is the so-called "Brum Doctrine" correct? Does the Metropolitan have carte blanche to hire and fire those who are considered "extensions of himself"?
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#51 Marty Watt on 2006-12-20 11:41
I am hestitant to write much on this site as I see little in the way of dialogue, but rather the stating and re-stating of the same positions. Nevertheless, I love my Church, which has cared for me for my 58 years, and I am sure that others love the Church too. Often we allow emotions to overcome us. We may feel like seeking revenge, striking out in anger, and the result is that we ourselves are damaged and frequently we hurt others knowingly or unknowingly as we confess. I wish that I had words that could make everything go away and right again. Yet I don't. What I do offer in any commentaries is offered sincerely and in a belief in what I am saying, despite the few who react to words with which they disagree with some dismissive expression.
I think all can agree that we want mistakes fixed to the best of human capabilities. Does anyone think that this is not being done? Search oneself in answering that question. Do you honestly feel that all in our Church hierarchy and administration are corrupt? I have seen persons who have done much good for the Church lost to her service, or seemingly so.
Yet even if we concede that mistakes were made, do some need to describe their Bishops as bums; to describe persons from the laity to the hierarchy as crooks, thugs, criminals and so many more ugly phrases? I have seen many things in my years as an Orthodox and witnessed much bad behavior at many an annual meeting; some of this commentary even exceeds what I have witnessed. Now I read that personal safety was at risk? Who was threatening anyone's safety? Perhaps this was hyperbole. Let us though be careful with our words. What we present here and on other Orthodox sites may be the first exposure someone has to the Orthodox Church, and given the tone of some comments, could very well be their last. Would we want to deprive someone of the fullness of the relationship of Christ found in His Church through our actions or deeds? When someone speaks of praying, fasting, worshipping, it need not be interpreted as a cover-up. It is rather the essence of the Church. Certainly while we pray, fast, worship we can seek to redress wrongs and the like. But our priority as Church is still to worship, pray, fast, and seek to become more like God and draw closer to Him. Some of us if not most or all of us still believe that--let us not dismiss them as seeking a whitewash, because that simply is not the fruit of prayer and worship and fasting--drawing closer to Christ is and that is paramount in our lives. When I stand at the altar table, I am not focused on administrative problems somewhere in the Church; when I proclaim the words let us put aside all earthly cares, I believe them, and believe that that is just what God wants me to do and the Church expreses that in her Liturgy.
We also hear of best practices--the best practice is to follow Christ and His Gospel--no amount of man made rules is going to be superior--and yet we fail at times for we are all sinners. Is some document from a corporate world, that is replete with its own problems, going to somehow deliver us from possible mistakes. I doubt it. This is not to dismiss a need for good administrative structure. Let us though not look for some panacea were none may exist. We should establish good order and base such an establishment on what we know is right--what Christ taught. Don't we all know this in our hearts? There is a reason why we pray with the psalmist, don't put your trust in earthly princes...and there is a reason why the Church has survived longer than any earthly institution...
So let us find again the good in each other--yet there is good in each person as they are created in the image of Christ, even when they sin...Let us find a way to say something possitive about each other, even when we are angry, or disappointed, or depressed, remembering that the hands we use to type our messages into our computers are the same hands with which we bless ourselves.
Think of the Church as that beautiful Bride of Christ, remember her as such, focus on her in that way, and then we can attend to her blemishes, which we create as persons, with the soft hand of caring. It is worth the effort...love always is...May God bless you.
#52 Very Rev. William DuBovik on 2006-12-20 12:14
The only hack job done was the one done to the Church by Fr. Kondratick. Hundreds of cash withdrawals in $9,500 increments! The sad part is, he had other's go to the bank for him to carry back the cash.
The man needs to be suspended immediately (I hope Archbishop Dimitri is reading), and even deposed if the commission's findings are justified.
I won't even get into the possibility of him serving jail time should the Feds wish to go that route.
Finally, if you are going to be so fiercly defensive, why don't you post your name?
#53 Michael Geeza on 2006-12-20 12:36
on this last point, it's clear in Dcn. Eric's account of what preceded his publication of his accusations was a years' long effort to get these issues addressed by the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities, privately and in good order. Those authorities either disbelieved the accusations (which, given what is now know, must have involved a massive selective ignorance of matters that they were ostensibly responsible for) or they knew them to be true but decided that the "good of the church" dictated that the issues not be addressed at all.
So they trid to "handle their business" and found that the only way to get any traction was, with great hesitation and regret, to appeal for public pressure.
It would be more accurate to say that those in the current administration had ample opportunity to handle this before whistleblowing ever became an issue.
#54 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-12-20 13:29
Thank-you, Father, for this message which allowed me a moment of prayer.
Blessed preparation to you all,
Rdr. John (Tracey) Edson
#55 Rdr. John (Tracey) on 2006-12-20 15:17
I appreciate the tone of your posting, and the great bulk of its substance. Let me point out 3 very important issues which seem to me to have escaped your calculus ... or perhaps not your calculus, but certainly that of others who have been less compelling or heartfelt than you in stating similar thoughts.
FIRST: with respect to the use of the words "crooks" and "criminals," there are, most definitely, people within the OCA's central administration who have broken laws by committing what very likely amounts to, among other crimes, federal mail fraud, federal wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, embezzlement and even extortion. I think, then, that the use of such words is certainly accurate; and given the heartbreak, anger and indignation in many of us, the catharsis in using such colorful colloquialisms is as human and understandable as it is therapeutic and even illuminating in its avoidance of euphemisms. It is even possible that the pattern and practice of these crimes in the context of an organization rise to the level of a violation of certain federal and state laws aimed at racketeering (which would, perhaps, tend to justify the use of the colloquialism, "thug"). Do note, that the FBI does not cavalierly allocate its resources to investigating poor religious organizations without good reason (and perhaps we are poor for a very good reason).
SECOND: with respect to "best practices," although one could hardly argue with your statement regarding following Christ as one's best practice in life, such a play on words (not to be irreverent), in the context of this scandal, at this time, in this society, amounts to no more than a well meaning (if unintentional) pun. I do note your acknowledgment that sound administrative structure is needed; but, be aware that, while some may be tempted at the level of emotion and hope to see in these mysterious “best practices” a panacea, these practices do not, from a corporate governance perspective, purport to be a panacea. "Best practices" – now so frequent a term on the lips and fingertips of speakers and bloggers – are part and parcel with compliance with various laws applicable to institutions (the OCA is a man-made institution; it is not “the Church”). That such practices are not a cure-all does not make them unimportant.
THIRD (actually, this is just an extension of the second): again, the OCA is not the Church. And the Church is not an institution; it is a community of persons each trying, some more well than others, to grow in a relationship with God as an actual knowable Person. The Church does, however, in the exercise of its mission in the world, happen to have and to utilize institutions. In this country, at this time in history, those institutions often take the form of corporations – the OCA is one. Corporations are nothing more than legal fictions; they are treated as persons under the law, given certain rights and responsibilities, and given privileges that make certain beneficial actions more probable and more pregnant than they would be otherwise. Corporate entities are nothing more than, quite literally, a piece of paper on file in a state's capital city. But, that legal fiction and all the benefits that flow from it require, in return, mandatory compliance with certain laws; and compliance with certain customary, even if not mandatory, practices is extremely helpful to that end. Failure to adhere to the former breaks the contract that the institution – the OCA, in this case – previously made (and continuously makes) with the state at its formation and on the basis of its continued existence and use of the benefits that flow therefrom. While it is a stretch to say that these "best practices" customs, which are the newest hallmark of sound not-for-profit governance, will help you or me grow in our relationship with Jesus, it nonetheless must be understood that failure to adhere to customs designed by people with legal and financial expertise to help institutions abide by the law will almost certainly lead to a breach of the mandatory contract between state and institution. This sort of breach by those who run the institution would seem (at least to me) to be a failure of a moral type, and therefore would implicate, at the end of the day, the personal relationship between God and man. This THIRD point, then, has twin goals: to remind us that the OCA is not the Church; and that the Church (a community of human beings trying against all odds to unite fully with our God) can be injured if we sophistically appeal to a higher law to the denial of certain man-made laws that are designed for the protection of the Church’s own institutions.
Finally, may I also note that your expressed reticence to post to this site only adversely affects the dialectic. If you think there is a dearth of thought contrary to what you've found here (and not liked), then at least 2 possibilities may be at play: too many, like yourself, do not contribute and thereby fail to add to the synergy; or, there are just plain few who feel as warm as you. In either case, you, perhaps, should consider posting here more frequently, not less, with further additions as prayerfully thought-through as this one to which I felt compelled to respond, and which calmed a bit of my own spiritual agita.
But, all this is just my opinion: take what works and leave the rest.
#56 Anne A. Nemos on 2006-12-20 23:11
Dear Fr. William:
Your sentiments are really beautiful and reflect what I feel and believe about the Church. On the other hand, much of the cynicism about the Church is based upon the perceived arrogance and unrepentant behavior of OCA leaders. When bishops openly display dictatorial attitudes, selfish ambition, and a lack of true humility, the result is what we are looking at. Actually, I am refreshed by all of this. The malignant tumor has been exposed - let the healing begin. Only in America would we witness everything on display - all its ugliness, corruption and sin. However, therein lies the great virtue of our open society - only through this exposure can the OCA be healed. Restoration will accelerate when our hierarchy demonstrates repentance and humility before the faithful. No, no one expects our leaders to be perfect, but to all you recent converts, think again - you are chasing a pipe dream if you think you will find perfect people in the Orthodox Church. The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, as evidenced by the cleansing and rectification of wrongs taking place before our very eyes. Thank God for this website and light of TRUTH that emanates forth from its pages!
#57 Rich on 2006-12-21 09:35
Please allow me a couple of observations:
First, if you haven't read the Best Practices prepared by Protodeacon Peter and his group of volunteers, you should. The document is remarkably well-organized and well-written; and, in my opinion, had those Best Practices been the working principles within the OCA for the past ten years, this scandal would not have happened.
Second, attorney reviews of this sort of thing are typically simple, quick, and relatively cheap. I'd be surprised if it would take a lawyer who specialized in corporate law with non-profits more than a day to do the job. In fact, given the number of lawyers who read this site, I'd be surprised if PDN Peter's workmanship hasn't been informally reviewed by a dozen New York-licensed lawyers already, and none of them has whined about it here so far.
Therefore, I've reached a couple of interim conclusions, and I'd ask you to give them some thought.
1. If the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council were being told that the Best Practices couldn't be adopted because two months wasn't enough time to get an attorney review, they were being phonied.
2. If they are knowingly passing that nonsense off on us, then we are being phonied.
3. There was always the danger that the central powers in the OCA would abuse PDN Peter and his volunteers by publicly trumpeting their work while privately cutting their legs off. We would all be the victims of that, and we need to watch this issue closely.
#58 Mark Warns, Poulsbo, WA on 2006-12-22 09:27
Nicholas and Diane,
The 400,000 figure may not have been entirely 'dreamt up'. This could very well be the number of members for the OCA if you go by 'baptismal records'. However, this figure begins to significantly deflate as you consider how many of these "members" attend services at least once ... three times ...12 times ... and 52 times a year. Then there's the question as to how many of these "members" give at least one ... two ... five ... and 10 percent of their gross income to the Church.
Membership ... blame ... agendas ... policy ... restructuring ... anonymity ... yada, yada, yada .... Ideally, simply, hopefully, the WHOLE TRUTH of the scandal will be disclosed in the next 90 days!
#59 John D. Sheposh on 2006-12-23 11:10
I've read these documents, and I've concluded entirely other than have you, no disrespect intended at all, sir, to you or to the authors. If one of my associates had drafted these for a client, I'd write off the time and start from scratch myself. Yes, it'd take less than a day to review these current drafts. A few hours, max. But, no such review in my firm (or any of the very many firms with whom I've worked over the years) would come to the generous conclusion to which you have arrived, nor would any such review be without a significant mark-up. To draft them from scratch, an associate, taking his time and having them reviewed by a partner, after including a couple client conference calls and being proactive enough to confirm current practice, would take, from blank page to finished product under normal firms quality control standards, about a dozen hours, more or less, for the half dozen or so documents (depending on the documents requested, I suppose). (However, some of the larger firms, desirous of doing every possible thing to produce a product of absolute substantice and optical perfection, would certainly (if unnecessarily) bill upwards of 20 hours or more.)
Having said that, these particular samples are not necessarily bad. They are just not, as Mr. Stokoe reported was advised, incomplete and without "teeth" -- not an altogether inaccurate summary. There's nothing affirmatively wrong with them (though the style is not as clean to me as you find it), but they really don't offer any "ooomph." Its akin to the toothless judiciary provided for in the Articles of Confederation, where what we need is something more like the structure set forth in the Constitution: there's got to be something there beyond an aspiratonal statement of ideals.
Perhaps reasonable minds can differ on this in an academic setting, but I think here, where we are dealing with an organization that is not in any position to rationally do other than demand excellence of itself and to outsource those matters that touch on the integrity of the organization and its staff, we musn't give this particular "work product " (or even any of the well meaning and even quite intelligent people who prodcued it) the benefit of the doubt, lest there be an appearance (even if totally unfair) of the inmates running the asylum. Pride of authorship here may toll (at least to the extent of one "clang") the death knell of what little trust exists in the poeple whom the administration serves.
But, these're just my thoughts. Take what works and leave the rest.
#60 Anonymous on 2006-12-26 23:53
Thank you for your comments. Clearly you have a great deal to offer the OCA with your insight into the issues of financial governance and accountability. I am sure that the Metropolitan Council and the readers of this website would welcome the receipt of your efforts. Would it be possible for you to accomplish this in the next few weeks? As you say, it would take only a relatively short period of time (“about a dozen hours, more or less”) to create them from scratch. This would be a significant contribution to the Church and to others in the greater non-profit world. Perhaps you could include your name in your submission so that we might express proper gratitude?
You may also wish to send your documents to Independent Sector and the National Council of Non-Profit Associations (see links below). Independent Sector was founded in 1980 and is a coalition of 550 charities, foundations and corporate giving programs. NCNA is a network of state and regional non-profit organizations serving over 22,000 members in 45 states. These sources (among others) were consulted and drawn upon in preparing the proposed OCA Best Practices. However, based upon your comments, I am sure that you can do better than them.
I look forward to seeing the results of your efforts. Thank you in advance.
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#61 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2007-01-02 14:58
Ouch! It must be hard to have your work publicly vetted, but such sarcasm is neither helpful nor edifying.
#62 Christopher Eager on 2007-01-02 20:44
No sarcasm intended. I am taking Anonymous at his/her word. If someone says clearly that they have a better solution, then it seems only reasonable that it should be offered up in detail. I recited the web links to indicate to Anonymous (if he/she were not familiar with them) further examples of potential assistance that he/she could offer to others.
Edification and help is indeed what is needed (from whatever avanue) and I am assuming that that is what Anonymous wishes to offer by his/her comments. I am encouraging him/her to come forth with that.
In Christ, Deacon Peter
#63 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2007-01-03 06:16
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