Reflections On The Scandal
Back to Square One
A priest of the OCA
For at least 20 years, the fledgling OCA has failed to take care of its first priorities while it frittered away its resources on non-priorities. Lack of funding has always been the excuse for inaction. In reality, there has been plenty of funding, but it has been misspent on non-productive exercises in futility.
After two years of tumult and feigned self-examination, we have returned to square one with the recent announcement that we can only afford grants for two missions, making necessary the premature "graduation" of another.
Observe square one: Leaders misspend the Church’s money, then blame the resulting poverty on anyone but themselves. Such was the case with the recent announcement regarding mission grants: Fr. Eric Tosi blaming the situation on "financial constraints." This, of course, was intended to place all the blame on the beleaguered Archbishop JOB and all the "demons" who have joined him in the mortal sin of withholding assessments. But no mention was made of the real reason for the financial constraints: the premature re-establishment, in a 24,000 member Church, of a top-heavy, ridiculously expensive and thoroughly unnecessary (at this time) bureaucracy at Syosset. Is this a difficult choice to make: funds for plenty of missionizing, or funds for "executives" with little to do?
Square one is familiar territory: In the past, the OCA squandered its treasure on building for itself a facade--a lie--of numeric and financial success, instead of constructing a firm foundation or gathering the tools or nurturing the leaders needed for future growth in America. We must love square one. Our restocking of the Syosset bureaucracy at the emptiest of times was a breath-taking lurch toward the building of yet another costly facade--the deep delusion that the Church is reorganized and now prepared to move on.
The view grows darker when we realize that we could have been in square five or six by now, had we not frittered away two golden opportunities in the past two years. Keeping the OCA lean at the top was a golden opportunity. Even after withholding and loan payments, there were enough funds to move forward had our leaders not insisted on dead-end thinking—spending for show, not for real life. Had we hired a part-time Chancellor, a full-time Treasurer and a receptionist, we could have announced today that $300,000 a year ($25,000/month) were now available to let America know we're here and to support its missionization. Had we sold Syosset and payed-off the monster loan; had our leaders taken an appropriate pay cut motivated by extraordinary circumstances; had we not hired and fired an executive, thereby saving a $60,000 buy-out; and, had we revamped our thinking on first priorities on the way forward, today would have brought much better news for our missions and for those seekers who would find the Church therein.
Just imagine the mission support that was squandered with hundreds of thousands in foreign travel in 2005. But then as now, when it came to first priorities, we had “financial constraints.”
Another golden opportunity for the OCA was the chance to thoroughly reevaluate every inch of its operation. This exam would have included this fundamental question: "What is truly needed and affordable at Syosset to bring vision, enthusiasm and unity of purpose to a 24,000-member national Church that is rapidly becoming a white-washed tomb?" Had anyone asked the question, one answer might have been to stop the whitewashing, clean out the tomb and turn elsewhere for hope: to reduce the bureaucracy at Syosset in order to provide more resources for diocesan and parish health, visibility, viability and growth so that the OCA could become a beacon for Americans. We had lived through two decades of the excesses and wrong-headed priorities issuing from Syosset. Before even a half-step forward was taken by a properly-guided Church, a broad-based study and open discussion of what was systemically wrong at the top and throughout was an imperative. But this discussion, which would have shed light in protected places, did not take place!
So we receive more bad news that could have been better news, and blame pointed in the wrong direction. We search for the scraps of a present and future stolen from us and squandered. We return to square one with opportunity lost, lessons unlearned, resources misspent, lies floating and first priorities still languishing behind a new, paper-thin facade.
The only constants are the boring environs of square one, and the unfortunate leadership that stubbornly keeps us there.