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Fr. John Shimchick's Statement

"The reality of Christianity is this: the taste of truth, the eating and drinking of truth." (St. Macarius)

All around the country, Orthodox people attending Town Halls are asking for the same thing: the taste of truth, the experience of truthfulness within the life of the Orthodox Church in America.

Probably most of us, especially those who are married, have children, are pastors or allow themselves in any way to be held accountable to someone else have been told when what we say contradicts the way we act. But what can be said when a Church, or at least its leaders, act in such a way that contracts the very nature of what the Church represents?

When thinking of an All-American Council in Pittsburgh, I am reminded of the last one held there in 1999. I was both extremely proud and then, in retrospection, overwhelmingly saddened by the events that took place there. It was, as I remember, a reflection and celebration of what could be called the 'vision' of the OCA: the possibility of preaching the Kingdom of God, of bringing all people to Jesus Christ, no matter what their background. Metropolitan Theodosius delivered a very upbeat and dynamic talk that was interrupted a dozen or so times by standing ovations. I left the Council thinking that the OCA might not have all the resources of other Orthodox or Christian jurisdictions, but it did understand its mission to America. And its leaders had integrity.

Shortly later I learned that despite what seemed to be taking place, in fact chaos, bitter infighting, and self-destruction were growing more and more out of control behind the scenes within our Administration. As financial mismanagement and irregularities were being revealed, the Church's watchdogs were being discredited and humiliated. This would lead to the firing of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, the prime whistleblower, and to the continual re-appointing of the very individuals (like Bob Kondratick) who were involved in the mismanagement and irregularities.

It became quickly apparent that the OCA neither had significant resources, nor leaders with integrity. While it possessed a certain vision for the possibilities of Orthodoxy within America, there was a terrible disconnect between the words offered by its leadership and their actions, a disconnect which continues to this day.

How do we as a Church recover the taste of truth as long as there remains this disconnect between our vision, our words, and our deeds? This is how the crisis within the OCA has disturbed me and it is the question which I raise to our Metropolitan and to the Holy Synod of Bishops.

I hope it will in some way be addressed by the gathering of the All American Council.


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