OCA “Town Hall” Meeting Notes: South River, NJ, August 2, 2008

Fr. Andrew Jarmus welcomed the participants to the South River, NJ, and discussed the “Ground Rules” of the Town Hall Meeting.  He mentioned that these meetings are to hear the thoughts and concerns of the faithful before the All American Council.

Fr. David Garretson, Rector of the host parish welcomed the participants and spoke briefly about the rich history of the parish.

QUESTION #1: How have the events of the last several years affected you?

Matushka Mariam Vernak read a statement (see comments section below).

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I converted to Orthodoxy in 1984.  The scandal has not affected her faith one bit, but she feels we need to “be the Church.”  We, as the True Church, can not allow what has happened over the past 15 years destroy us.  If we truly believe that we are the true faith, that we have been given a great gift from God, it is imperative that this situation is resolved as soon as possible!  Legal action must be taken, and there is nothing our Lord said that prevents justice from being taken.  What has happened in recent years and months is a microcosm of what has been taking place in the secular world: people look the other way or turn their heads.  We must clean the slate so that we do not dissuade prospective converts to the Orthodox Faith.  We all have a unique role in this, and our very lives are example and we must strive to live more like Christ and don’t loose focus!  Something significant must be done at the AAC.

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For the past few years, we’ve been receiving correspondence about what has and has not been happening.  I am disturbed by the comments of our faithful, bishops and priests.  Are we Christians or are we Bolsheviks?  People are piling on and it has become a mob scene…just as when the Jews cried “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  The time has come for us to move ahead and to be constructive…helping to heal our Church, not tear it down even further.  We forget the teachings of St. Cyprian of Carthage: Where the bishop is, there is the Church.  We must forgive the mistakes of the past and move forward.  If we cast the first stone, we don’t see our own sins.  We will always have problems in the Church, but we must proceed with faith, hope and love.  I hope for an honest report in September and that all can forgive each other for our misdeeds.

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Sometimes there are issues that are complex, but we avoid them and how to solve them out of fear.  I hope there is a fair and honest report from the SIC.  Have we as Orthodox Christians lost the concept of justice?  I mean, after what is found in the report is disclosed, will there be consequences for their actions?  There are investigations, accusations, trials and acquittals and/or sentences given.  Are we afraid?

The only way to resolve things like this scandal is through forensic investigations, like fraud.  If the allegations are true, the OCA can loose is tax exempt status.  I am a layman with no special legal knowledge, but we can avoid tragedy of this magnitude by having a true, honest investigation and submit this to the civil authorities.  Basically, we need to be proactive in this, rather than the civil authorities.  We must turn to the civil authorities, confess and accept our just punishments.  This crisis is not about the Orthodox Faith, but about individuals.

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Getting involved with civil law and with the government is what we are trying to avoid, and in fact, we should respectfully avoid dealings with the state regarding Church matters.  If the Church solves its own problems, then we don’t need to be involved with the state.  The Church has its own rules/canons regarding how to deal with these things and to deal with them in the right way.  Think positive!

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I sing in the choir, come to Church, and that’s about it.  I go to the sacraments, put money in the basket, go to rehearsal, etc…and it doesn’t bother me very much.  The most disappointing thing is that there was no real oversight to help prevent this from happening.  There needs to be a “watch dog” organization, etc…and if it’s the Metropolitan Council, then fine.  If this is it, then they have failed and must be revisited.  It is a shame and I ask people to be patient and let the process work itself out.

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Archpriest John Shimchick, rector of Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Medford, NJ, made the following 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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When I visited my bishop, I had a resignation letter in my pocket.  I cannot be a part of an organization that is corrupt.  This was embezzlement, and that is a crime!  What is more disturbing is that this embezzlement and this crime is a symptom of the disease that we as Church do not provide a safe place for bishops, clergy and laity.  My biggest disappointment is the lack of brotherhood with the priests…we gossip, complain and click our tongues when they get into trouble.  We complain that the bishops only contact us when we’re in trouble, but never call the bishop.  Our laity talk about each other, talk about the priest, the council, etc.  The council has to do this, the Church school has to do that, blah, blah.  The money will be dealt with by the civil authorities and that’s okay.  But WE need to recover the vision of 1970, because our Church is not the same today.  The Church is the body of Christ, but the Church is everywhere!  We make excuses about why our children don’t come to Church, but the bottom line is that that the see that we don’t trust each other as Christians.  How can we expect the bishops to be transparent with us if we cannot be transparent with each other?  Would we be safe to ask our neighbor for help?  To Vladyka….feel safe with us and honestly tell us what happened.  All of us must recover the vision Christ has given us.

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I look at the event of the Church of Greece a few years back, but dealt with it in six months.  We’re going on 6 years! The participants read a prepared statement (see comments section below).

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Concerning children, I’ve been blessed with 4 boys who are college age.  We’ve have had the honor of attending three AAC’s.  The programs dealing with the youth have been squashed because of the scandal and now the youth have been left behind.  They’ve developed friendships, exchanged emails, etc. and have been looking forward to another AAC to meet their friends, but now that is not going to happen.  If they’re not told the truth the first time, how do the children know what to believe later?  They, as well as all of us, remember the messages of the clergy of the Church and people are very perceptive.  We have a very important responsibility as the OCA, and we must always be the example to not only other jurisdictions, but to the entire world.  When we look to ourselves, we must remember to change our ways, repent and pray to see that throughout the entire Church and throughout the world.  Once we do this as a Church, we can truly move forward.  The Church has faced much worse than this scandal and God will give us the strength to endure!  We all have certain strengths and gifts.

Question #2: What do you feel is a “best case” scenario for the OCA at this time?

Be the Church and spread the gospel locally.  We must focus on the local mission primarily.  We must use media to teach and help people.  We must reestablish ‘sobornost’ in our Church.   We must take financial stewardship seriously.  Put the financial report towards the front end of the meeting to send a message that this is important and that we are completely transparent.  Focus on the parish as the “workplace” of the Gospel.  The national Church exists for the parish, not the other way around.  Bishops must work with priests and parishes to help the parishes grow and flourish.  We are looking for loving and caring characteristics in our bishops, and everyone.  We must strengthen deanery life throughout the OCA in order to do the work of the Church.  We need a Church that inspired the clergy to sharpen their skills and renew themselves whether through further education and/or spiritual retreats, etc.  We need a Church that inspires vocations to the priesthood, especially young men who grow-up in the Faith.  We need a Church which inspires its members to live a life according to the Gospel…at every level, because we fail as individuals and it is evident in many facets of Church life.  We need a Church that cares for its entire membership.  We need a Church to support missions that are failing.   We need to encourage parishes to work in the community and encourage them to help out with those that are already in place.  Most of all, I would like to see these things accomplished in love and obedience.  Let us recover the vision of the OCA which is firmly rooted in the Gospels, and need to rediscover the sacrificial love of Christ which we need to acquire if we’re going to the Church.

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Hearing the above list reminds me of how we need to move deeper into it.  We need a resolution from the AAC that we will speak the truth.  We are to stop saying that we are a large Church…but we are indeed very small.  Our deeds must follow our words that we are a missionary Church and are to bring people to the life in Christ.  If we want to grow, we need to put the money behind what we need to do, and we haven’t been doing that.

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As a pastor, I truly appreciate everything that is said today.  It helps to give us perspective and to evaluate the situation that much better.  We need to build our diocese and strengthen it, and we need people to help volunteer because if we want to build, we need to volunteer and help.

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A participant read a prepared Statement-dealing with reevaluating the use of assessments to fund central Church activities (see comments section below).

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Let us think beyond what we are and have an idea of who we are and what we should do.  We need to deal with the problems we have now and have existed, not ignore them.  Fr. Schmemann spoke about such errors 40 years ago, and we still are doing them…sometimes afraid to talk about them.  We must deal with them specifically…how do we deal with it, this is what we think.  If not, we will always have the same problems we’ve had for over 40 years, never mind the problems we don’t talk about them.  Young people need to see the glory, but it’s only the glory if it’s alive.  If people don’t come to the Church, then like Fr. Florovsky said, this temple becomes simply a nice relic piece.  Talk about education more and how to have colleges, high schools, etc, and we have nothing.  If we want to keep people connected, then need to see that the Church sees and has worth in them.  If we don’t deal with problems, we can pack it up because Christ calls for us to do them work and deal with problems.  Why can I go to a Church in Passaic right across from a tenement complex, but our Church is empty cause we don’t want to send a Spanish speaking priest.  We’re all at fault and I want my Church to battle with it as well.  as a young person, and am looking for open discussion…to be able to look my hierarch in the eye and be honest about anything.

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I’m so very moved by the eloquence of the speakers today.  I feel that we need to think about education… equipping the saints with the armor of the faith.  The money that has evaporated could have been used for such better things.  We can invest money in professionals what can come to help us.  Protestants can organize things and I’ve been hooked into a Church like them and was utilized.  We need to copy people who do these things well.  Their faith may not be correct, but they support each other and get things done.  Perhaps people from the outside can help us?  Maybe some can be affected by us and by our Orthodox Faith.  We simply need to learn leadership and management.  The Lord concentrated on 12 men…and look what happened!  Our young people at a certain point the faith becomes irrelevant.  Why can’t we invest our money in professionals who can help us in all these areas?  We need to equip the clergy and come up with stipends and/or salaries for deacons.  When I hear what other Churches and paying there priests I am in awe of what they can accomplish with much less.  We need to give and invest and set-up the Church and do the great commission.  Our Churches are empty every day but Sunday.  Let’s schedule a retreat at Antiochian Village, mandatory for clergy!  We have the resources….LET’S DO IT!

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When we try to get people to educate our children, it’s up to the parents of the young people in the parish.  I’d like to see more educational materials from the OCA.  I’d like to see forgiveness and move on, putting the focus on our youth for they are our future.  They must be with other kids and events.  Doing things for our youth is the most important thing we can do.

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If we’re looking at the Church in the years ahead, I would like to see a mechanism set up for groups of people to get together and think outside of the box.  The bishops are monastics.  Can the married priest be elevated to the rank of bishop?  We need fresh, innovative thinking at the next AAC.  The Holy Synod is not at all holier than anyone else and must make commitments in making their presence known regularly in the parishes.  Sit at the table with us and let’s get to know each other.

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We rearrange the way we do Church.  We’ve been doing the same thing as OCA the same way again, again and again, and it doesn’t work.  We must rearrange the relationship of bishop, priest, and parishes.  Let’s eliminate head-tables at banquets — lets rearrange the dog and pony show of the Church.  Let the bishop stay at the rectory, have a meeting at the council meeting without me and make the priests more accountable.  Our rhetoric is way beyond our reality and we are the size of 20-25 Roman Catholic parishes.  We have a culture where the priest is at fault all the time.  I’m expected to do all of the education, visitations, bereavement, etc…I can’t do it all!

One of the most frustrating things through this scandal is that very talented people in the Church have raised there hands to help, but we’ve chosen the incompetent.  We put people in positions for which they are not trained.  I can refute a heresy that was destroyed 1500- years ago and never looked at a financial statement.

We have an overemphasis on liturgy: the expectations of what a good priest is wrong.  If I show up and celebrate a liturgy and return my phone calls in 3 days, I’m doing pretty good.  We’ve been trying to deal with this, and it’s taken this long to get to this point.  The only ways all of these dreams will happen is when we can trust each other, but there is no trust.  I have less than 10 people here and I have one of the largest parishes in the diocese.  The greatest tragedy of this is that it’s shown our people how irrelevant the nat. Church and diocese is to the parish.

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Listening to the priests in particular, I’m well aware of what priests face and they are not trained in seminary to be missionary priests.  They obviously are looking to seminaries for guidance on how to do this.  Could you imaging what it would be like to have this training?

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The Best Practices document was the start of the change in the central Church administration.  Volunteers on the Organizational Task Force have worked very had in putting these into place and making them more modern and business-like.  I would like the record to show that we need to follow-up on things and especially see that all things are transparent.  I’m a convert from the Episcopal Church and I feel that music is vital in the life of our Church.  We have vacancies of choir directors in the diocese and this is because of lack of training and failure to compensate directors.  Perhaps congregational singing is a solution?  It is something to think about.

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We talked a lot about the vision of the OCA, but I’m not sure what that is.  If we have a vision, I’d sure like to hear what that is.  I’ve always had a disconnect with the clergy, but maybe that’s just me.  Clergy and laity must come together and feel comfortable with each other.  I should not feel uncomfortable or unwelcome with the clergy.

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I’ve been Orthodox my whole life, and when I was young, the services were all in Church Slavonic.  I had an older man who would translate the services for me, and I’ve been involved in the Church ever since.  When I learned about what happened at the OCA Chancery, I got angry.  Now, though, there are things being done at the Chancery! Today we have very four very excellent people in position in the Chancery who KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING!  It’s the first time in over 20 years that this is the case.  We’ve implemented Best Practices, and had the first audit in the Church for 20 years! It’s the first time in 20 years that we have a balanced budget.  It was a world of fantasy, but not any more.  We have wonderful people in the Chancery, and they are doing a wonderful job.  There were 39 people in Syosset at one point and we were very top-heavy… now there are only 16.  There are things being said that are so out of proportion, but we have audits, best practices, etc…we are getting better.  We need to have a vision because it wasn’t there before.  If you go into the Chancery today and speak with any of the officers, you will see that there is a vision.

I’ve heard that the bishops are not accessible, but it is a two way street.  Vladyka Herman has bee extremely cooperative.  Any time we’ve come into a problem and needed advice, he would offer that advice to move on.  Whenever we’ve asked for a meeting or help, he was there!  There is a vision and positive movements within the Church!  I hope the SIC tell people what they want to know.  I my mind, I will confirm what I already know: that right now we are healing and are better.  For 20 years the Metropolitan Council sat there and were basically yes men…but now it is not like this.

QUESTION #3: What would you like to see happen at the AAC?

Let’s not reinvent the wheel. We should implement what was identified in Toronto as three areas critical to the life of the Church: evangelization, religious education, and Orthodox administrative unity in North America.

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Reestablish trust.  Eliminate the assessment method for it sends the message that we’re a country club with nice icons.  By doing so, it tells the Church that the bishop and Syosset trust the Church.  Every priest trusts his parish to support him financially, and Syosset needs to do the same.  By eliminating assessments, it eliminates this dues paying members nonsense…it shows the people that the bishops and the nat. Church trust us or not, and this is a walk of faith.  Our parish spends almost 25% of its operating budget on assessments.  Go to a tithe to the diocese rather than assessments.  Until people do a dramatic action of trust, anything else is moot.
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I love the Church and I’m a CFO of a practice.  Our problems stem from something that has been here for a long time.  C-A-L: Leadership must COMMUNICATE.  I hear the changes in Syosset, etc…these are wonderful.  Leadership must take ACTION.  To speak of it and to do it are two different things, and it is by doing it that change happens.  LEADERSHIP is very important.  If you can’t be a leader, then you’ve abdicated a responsibility.  The Church calls for all of these things.

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Maybe we can take 3-4 things on which we can take action during the AAC.  How can we free up the bishops schedule to visit more with his priests.  It’s important to do things TODAY.

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Fr. Eric Tosi spoke about the planning stages of the AAC.  In one way, it is a no win situation: if we do too much, the PCC is being excessive; if too little is done, the PCC is incompetent.  There is a true understanding that we have to do something and have people reconciled and to move forward.  If not, then we have failed.  The town halls have been invaluable in our planning of the AAC because we want specifics.  One challenge is that as the AAC’c grew over the years components were added that became institutionalized and it becomes difficult now to alter or remove them.  One of the best points we’ve heard is that we won’t accomplish everything, but make it the catalyst for change…at least a 3 year change.

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Fr. Andrew Jarmus: one of the difficulties is that we have a much shorter Council this time, really only two and a half days for sessions. I’d like us to address what has happened over the past years, and build from there.  I look forward to the SIC report next month and hope that by November we will already have in place a plan of what to do based on the report.  I’ve heard the word vision coming up again and again, and we really need to, in a concrete way, recapture and implement that vision.  Clearly a psychology developed at the OCA Chancery over the years that the Church was here for Syosset.  We do not believe that: the Chancery exists to serve the Church.

The meeting closed with words from His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman:  We express our thanks to His Grace, Bishop Nikon and the Preconciliar Commission and for establishing these town hall meetings.  It shows that people are concerned about the Church and that we must continue to build up the Church.  In the face of troubles, people immediately want to point out the errors of other people.  Do we really exercise the spirit of love and humility in these situations? I commend you for the good manner in which you’ve participated in this meeting today.

The meeting concluded with “It is truly meet.”

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Filed under Orthodox Church in America 15th AAC, Town Hall Meeting Notes, Town Hall Meetings

3 responses to “OCA “Town Hall” Meeting Notes: South River, NJ, August 2, 2008

  1. Written statement to the South River, NJ, Town Hall Meeting prepared and read by Matushka Mariam Vernak, Christ the Savior Orthodox Church, Paramus, NJ:

    How has the OCA affected me personally…

    As many of you know I am the daughter of a priest, a wife of a priest, a mother and grandmother. I am not a public speaker. I am distraught about what has happened and is happening in the OCA, and utterly confused about why it is taking so long to get us out of this morass.

    Like many, I am disappointed in the bishops. I don’t trust “Syosset”….. I fear the Metropolitan will do something to my husband, to my son, and/or my son-in-law….. Fear prevents most of the priests and their families from saying anything. They wait for others to say something and to see what happens.

    Archbishop Job, Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, and a few others put their heads on the line. My husband and I have talked about this extensively. The bottom line is that everyone, beginning with the bishops, has to do what’s right. No more lies. No more cover-ups. It wasn’t only one person who was responsible for all of our problems.

    Speak the truth in love about all who were responsible, and act as though we believe in the One, Holy, Apostolic Church and Jesus Christ.

    Because I also want to have faith in the OCA, here are some thoughts on…
    the best case scenario for resolving the problems besetting the OCA:

    * We need new leadership: a real bishop, a father who treats his children with Christ-like love. A bishop who is always there (not hiding in “constant motion”).

    * Priests/Laymen who take their responsibilities seriously and are not “yes men”.

    * Confession and True repentance by ALL for their sins of commission and/or omission.

    * Transparency: Have all the books open…Syosset, St. Tikhon’s Seminary, Monastery and Orphanage — St. Vladimir’s, etc.

    * When abuse happens… deal with it — immediately. Got an immoral priest or bishop? Deal with him. Don’t cover-up or sweep things under the rug. Former Diocese of NY/NJ is a perfect example….. “You will never find out where the money went, there’ll be no audits and no more questions, just get back to the business of the Church”.

    * Our diocese should represent the diocese-at-large, not just one parish — as is the case now– with its inherent risk of single-mindedness and bias.

    The upcoming AAC will be able to address my concerns…
    only if all is disclosed so that we can start afresh. The Special Investigative Commission report and how it is handled will be a sign.

    Here’s what the Church needs: Election of each diocesan bishop by each diocesan assembly and of the metropolitan by the entire All-American Council. Our choice of metropolitan will, unfortunately, be limited to the bishops we have, most of whom were not elected.

    We need new leadership: a real bishop, a father who treats his children with Christ-like love. A bishop who is always there (not hiding in “constant motion”).

  2. Written statement to the South River, NJ, Town Hall Meeting prepared and read by Priest Jonathan Ivanoff, St. John the Theologian Orthodox Church, Shirley, NY:

    “We Can No Longer Assume”

    Three years ago, the Orthodox Church in America gathered in Toronto for the 14th All-American Council. I had been looking forward to this Council for many reasons, not the least of which had to do with themes I feel very strongly about, church growth and parish health among them. The Council was disappointing on many levels, but that is not why I am writing this Reflection today.

    Now, I should begin by pointing out that I worked in the national Chancery ofthe Orthodox Church in America from May of 2002 until September of 2007, so I might have a rather different perspective on a lot of issues than others. Not better, not smarter, just different. While I was there, until the day I left, I considered it an honor to work for the national church. I had hoped that in some way, no matter how small, perhaps my contributions would or could make a difference. But again, this is not why I am writing this Reflection.

    I am rather motivated to write this because of a particular event and its aftermath that transpired on the last day of the Council. It was Friday, and, to me and to many other priests and delegates, a rather curious thing had transpired over the course of the preceding five days. Literally or figuratively, the entire Holy Synod had seemed completely mute during the entire time the Council was in session. They hardly spoke, they hardly joined in the discussions and (what few real) debates there were. I heard many, many people ask the question, “Are they paying attention?”

    So, I decided to ask that question on the last day of the Council. I got up at one of the microphones and expressed the concern that we had not heard from the Synod during the week, that we missed hearing them speak and participate, give direction and opinion, and I expressed the wish that they should have done so, or at least done much more than they did.

    Metropolitan Herman then stood up and said, in so many words that I will now never forget, “We may not have said much but you can assume that we have been paying attention.”

    Not thirty minutes after that plenary session concluded, (then Protopresbyter) Robert Kondratick approached me and told me that Metropolitan Herman was “very displeased with (your) remarks.” Very displeased!

    So, the Synod can sit there during an entire week of an All-American Council, a time when — supposedly — so much of the strategic direction of the Orthodox Church in America is charted (not that it’s ever really followed, but I digress…), and we are to assume they are listening, that they are paying attention. How dare I question that! Really?

    Are we to assume they were paying attention when Protodeacon Eric Wheeler first tried-to point out fmancial irregularities with national church finances?

    Are we to assume they were paying attention when Lambrides Lamos & Moulthrop first brought these irregularities to light even earlier?

    Are we to assume that, the claims of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler having been found true, and further having not one of his claims disproved or proven even exaggerated, the Holy Synod, and Metropolitan Herman in particular, will issue both an apology clearing his good name and a commendation for boldly and bravely bringing the truth to light?

    Are we to assume that, as members of the original Special Investigation Commission claim, the work of that commission went and functioned as freely and unhindered as promised by the Holy Synod, and in particular by Metropolitan Herman.

    Are we to assume the Holy Synod will listen to their senior clergy when they are tasked and sent out to accomplish an investigative task, and then report back, only to be refused by the Holy Synod the dignity of giving the very investigative report he was sent out to accomplish, such as the trip by Archpriest Alexander Garklavs to Alaska earlier this year?

    Are we to assume that the Holy Synod, former Chancery officials, and members of the Metropolitan Council back in the ’90’s and later cared absolutely nothing for the growth of the Church in North America by funding ecumenical and external affairs to the tune of over a half million dollars, while funding programs of growth and evangelism by less than one-fourth of that?

    And, finally, are we to assume that we have bishops and even a Metropolitan who, claiming to now hear the voice of the people, a voice collectively calling for the Metropolitan’s resignation, for the good of the Church, will heed that call?

    I am reminded of the parable of the man who had two sons telling both of them to go work in the fields. One said he wouldn’t, but then did, the other son said he would but didn’t. The Lord then asked those listening who did the will of the Father. The answer was, of course, the son who actually followed through with what he was told to do. No one assumed that mere words were an assent to the Father’s wishes; it was, rather, the evidence of actual deeds that affirmed the obedience of the one son to the will ofthe Father versus the laziness or ineptitude of the other son.

    For far too long now, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America — unfortunately, very unfortunately and sadly — reminds me of the second son. The Father did not assume any son was going to do his will until he actually saw the proof of that in his deeds, out in the field, doing the hard work, doing what was necessary even if that was the last place in the world he wanted to be right then and there. But he was there because the Father asked him to be there, and obedience to the Father’s will won out over any other concern or issue or sense of self-preservation.

    I’m sorry to have to say this, but I don’t assume — any more — that our Synod knows what the right thing is to do, let alone have the courage to do it. Individual members of it may, but collectively there is something terribly wrong with the way in which our Synod operates and functions. I will no longer take for granted that they have the best interests of the OCA at heart, or that they have thought through correct and brave courses of action for our faithful.

    No, Your Beatitude, I no longer can assume what you want me to. And I am deeply saddened to have come to that point.

  3. Written statement presented to the South River, NJ, Town Hall Meeting:

    Your Beatitude

    Many statements that were made, I wholeheartedly agree with.

    Rather than repeat what others have said I wish to offer my long held view.

    I do not believe in the assessment method for funding the diocesan and the national church or dues for the local parish. I believe that the preaching and teaching of tithing and/or proportional giving is the method that the parishes should encourage. A percentage of parish income should be used for funding the diocese and the national church. Presently, I would not hesitate to say that many OCA’ s parish’s pay from 15 to 28 percent of their income to said sources, this is an unfair method of funding the diocese or the national church. I sincerely believe assessments limit our evangelization to certain groups of people.

    This should be reexamined, since it is in the parish where the teaching of Our Savior is primarily sought and taught.

    I see no objection of using envelopes or pledging as used in many of our parishes. And every effort should be made to encourage the tithing and/or encourage higher proportional giving through such methods

    In our parishes, for those in poverty we collect money, distribute food, establish food kitchen’s, and we must do much more. It is highly
    commendable that we do these things and yet, what is most important, we do not give them living water or spiritual food, we do not bring them into the church because they may not contribute to our expectations. How many people live in poverty that we have as members? Certainly there are cradle Orthodox and perhaps other individuals that do not come into the church because the choice of where their money must go, as for medicine, utilities, food or to the local parish. For some it is a difficult decision to make.

    Most certainly, within our parishes there are lukewarm financial contributors; however, it is our responsibility to accept, enlighten and encourage Christian stewardship.

    And, in conclusion, to repeat: Funding for the diocese and the national church should be done on a percentage of the parish income eliminating the discriminatory assessments.

    I wish to thank you for the privilege of publicly speaking my mind.

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