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National On-Line "No Confidence" Petition Launched From St. Mark's, Bethesda, MD

The "St. Mark's Discussion/Action Group" composed of parishioners from St. Mark's (OCA) parish in Bethesda, Maryland, has launched a national on-line petition expressing no-confidence in Metropolitan Herman and urging him to resign.

The text of the petition reads:

"We the undersigned, having no confidence in the OCA leadership of Metropolitan Herman,

strongly urge him to resign."

The petition may be signed here.

According to the facilitators of the parish group, Cathy and Wayne Tatusko, those wishing to sign the petition will be required to give their full name, the name of their OCA parish, and the location (city/state) of their parish. (Visitors to the site may see a pop-up ad asking for a donation to the site, but there is no requirement to donate or give a credit card number in order to sign the petition.) Though the web site hosting the petition mandates that signatories be allowed to opt out of having their names published on-line, the petition sponsors hope that those signing it will not take this option.

On-line Petitions

With filters to minimize fraud and duplicate names, an online petition allows people to collect thousands of signatures from around the country. Whereas individuals may be feel isolated or afraid to speak out in their parish, an on-line petition allows everyone's voice to be heard. Given the Action Group's efforts, every member of the OCA can now let their voice be heard. And as Cathy Tatusko explains: "My hope is that volunteers will step forward in all parishes to post signatures for individuals in their parish who want to be counted, but who do not have internet access. Those willing to serve in this way may simply print the petition, gather signatures from those who don't have on-line access, and then go on-line to individually add those names to the petition themselves. If anybody can help fellow parishioners without internet access in this way, please do so."

The Discussion/Action Group

The Action Group was formed in mid-August this year by concerned parishioners of the suburban Washington DC parish, whose priest, Fr. Gregory Safchuk, is a long-time member of the Metropolitan Council. Dr. Faith Skordinski, another Metropolitan Council member, and one of two remaining members of the Special Commission, is also a member of the parish. A motion to withhold funds from the national church had been made at the parish’s semi-annual meeting in May, but as there was no effort made to discuss the issue before the meeting, the motion was defeated.

Over the next several months, more and more parishioners began to discuss national church issues openly. It became apparent, says Tatusko, that many wanted either to see the parish take some action as a group, or to be given options for expressing their dissatisfaction with the OCA as individuals. On August 14th  a letter was sent to the priest and parish council stating:

“Several St. Mark parishioners who have been following developments in Syosset and elsewhere in the OCA have decided to form a discussion group to explore our options for responding to the scandals still impacting our national church. Those of us who are able to make it will plan to attend the Council meeting on Tuesday, August 21 to announce the formation of this group to the Council at large, and to invite any who are interested (whether Council members or not) to participate.

“We want all that we do to be done in order and in love, and we want to assure you that we will proceed with caution on this topic. It is not our desire to see St. Mark become divided over these issues—on the contrary, most of us have invested many years, volunteer hours, and considerable financial resources in building and maintaining this parish. Our desire is to see it remain and flourish as a true branch of the vine of Christ. Nonetheless, many of us are becoming quite frustrated with the lack of response to the national church crisis on the part of our parish, and we seek a forum for discussing these issues openly and candidly with like-minded fellow parishioners.

“The group would like to consider ways in which we can respond as a united parish, and, barring that, ways in which we can respond as a smaller group or as individuals. We would like to begin with a brainstorming session to get ideas from all present. One suggestion that has already been put forward is that St. Mark adopt the guidelines the Midwest is now following. For some of us, the weakness in the Midwest’s response is that it does not speak to the need for the Metropolitan to resign.”

Concerned parishioners then attended the Parish Council’s August 21st meeting. Attendees were careful to note that they were not seeking “permission” from the Council to form the group (as no such permission was required). Rather, they wanted to make it clear that the group’s desire was to conduct itself as openly and transparently as possible.

Twenty-seven parishioners attended the first meeting on August 26th, and the brainstorming session produced a list of “goals” the group wanted to work toward. At the top of the list was the resignation of Metropolitan Herman. A straw poll taken later at the same meeting showed unanimous support for this goal, and an on-line petition was suggested as one avenue for accomplishing it. Other ideas generated at the first meeting included:

• extending the investigation to include former Metropolitan Theodosius,

• getting the Special Commission report released,

• and allowing the Special Commission to continue its investigation.

A recommendation was made that the group attempt to get a “No Confidence [in the Metropolitan]” resolution introduced at the next Diocesan Assembly for the Diocese of Washington and New York, scheduled to be held on November 5th.

By the group's September 8th meeting, interest had swelled to some 60 concerned parishioners.  It was agreed at that time that an attempt to introduce a resolution at the WA-NY Diocesan Assembly would not be successful due to the Metropolitan’s control over the Assembly’s agenda. The on-line petition was then drafted and set into motion.  The St. Mark's petition now joins an earlier effort at SavetheOCA.org which has $42,000 in pledges to the OCA predicated on the fulfillment of several conditions, including Metropolitan Herman's resignation/retirement.

The Special Commission

A second petition addressed to the Synod of Bishops, advocating "an unhindered investigation by the Special Commission", planned by the Action Group, was not posted because of the recent collapse of the Special Commission. Many members of the St. Mark Discussion/Action Group, says Tatusko, are still hoping that the Synodal petition (or perhaps one to the Metropolitan Council) can still be redrafted. Discussions on that topic are continuing.

It has been reported to OCANews.org that Dr. Faith Skordinski has indicated that she and Bishop Benjamin, the only other person not to resign from the Commission, are working on nominating new members of the Commission to start it afresh. It is hard to imagine, though, that a 'new' Special Commission, once again approved and controlled by Metropolitan Herman, will have any credibility - or any more success than did the previous one that resigned in protest due to his interference...

The four other members of the Special Commission have kept silent since their resignation letter was posted last Saturday, September 15th. It is expected, however, that both Archbishop Job the former chairman, and Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky, a former member, will speak about the Commission at the forthcoming Midwest Diocesan Assembly to be held in two weeks in Cleveland.

- Mark Stokoe


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