Monthly Archives: June 2008

Town Hall Meeting Schedule updated June 23, 2008

The OCA Town Hall meeting schedule has been updated. To view the new schedule, click here.

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Three Town Hall meetings scheduled June 24 – 28, 2008

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] – The next three in a series of Town Hall meetings in preparation for the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America will take place in Dallas, TX, on June 24; San Francisco, CA, June 26; and Washington, DC, on June 28.

The June 24 Dallas meeting will take place in conjunction with the annual assembly of the Diocese of the South at Saint Seraphim Cathedral, at 3:00 p.m. His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South, will attend the meeting, which will be facilitated by Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, OCA chancellor.

San Francisco’s meeting on June 26 will take place in conjunction with the Diocese of the West’s annual assembly at Holy Trinity Cathedral at 7:00 p.m. It will be attended by His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West. Facilitating the meeting will be Preconciliar Commission member Michelle Jannakos.

On June 28, the Washington, DC meeting will be held at Saint Nicholas Cathedral from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, will attend, while Father Alexander Garklavs will will facilitate.

On June 23, the Preconciliar Commission announced that the time and date of the Orlando Town Hall meeting have been confirmed. The Orlando meeting will take place on Saturday, August 30, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the site of the 2008 national FOCA convention, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL. The FOCA national executive board has offered convention space to hold the meeting outside of the convention’s scheduled sessions. The meeting will be open to the general public.

The Preconciliar Commission also announced that there will not be a meeting scheduled on July 12 in Montreal, QC, Canada. It further announced that a meeting will be scheduled for the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania; further details on this meeting will be announced when finalized.

In other Town Hall meeting news, during the July 16, 2008, Preconciliar Commission meeting, one of the topics that emerged at the first Town Hall meeting in Ottawa, ON, June 7, 2008 — the request of some participants to read written statements — was discussed.

“Commission members acknowledged that some individuals best express their thoughts by writing them down, and this must be honored at the meetings,” said the Very Rev. Andrew Jarmus, OCA director of ministries and communications. “They also considered that a lengthy statement can break the flow of dialogue in a meeting. In the interest of allowing all participants to express their thoughts in as an effective way that they can, while at the same time keeping the meeting dynamic as open and interactive as possible, the Preconciliar Commission has decided to limit written statements to a maximum of 500 words in length.”

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Preconciliar Commission confirms Boston Town Hall Meeting date

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] — Earlier today, the Preconciliar Commission of the Orthodox Church in America, charged with planning the Church’s 15th All-American Council, confirmed that a Town Hall Meeting has been schedule for Boston, MA, on Thursday, August 21, 2008. The meeting will be held at Holy Trinity Cathedral from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

With the Boston date, the Town Hall meeting schedule is as follows.


Date

City

Location

Time

Hierarch/PCC Rep

June 7

Saturday

Ottawa, Canada

Annunciation Cathedral

3-6 pm

Archbishop Seraphim, Bishop Nikon, Fr. A. Jarmus

June 24

Tuesday

Dallas, TX

St. Seraphim Cathedral

3-5 pm

Archbishop Dmitri, Fr. A. Garklavs

June 26

Thursday

San Francisco, CA

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Start time 7 pm

Bishop Benjamin, M. Jannakos

June 28

Saturday

Washington, DC

St. Nicholas Cathedral

TBA

Metropolitan Herman, Fr. A. Garklavs,
L. Morris

July 3

Thursday

Edmonton, Canada

St. Herman of Alaska Sobor

TBA

Archbishop Seraphim, Bishop Nikon, Fr. M. Tassos

July 12

Saturday

Montreal, Canada

St. Peter & Paul’s Church

TBA

Archbishop Seraphim, PCC Member TBA

July 12

Saturday

Crestwood (New York Metro Area)

St. Vladimir’s Seminary

3-6 pm

Bishop Nikon, PCC Member TBA

July 17

Thursday

Cleveland

St. Theodosius Cathedral

6-9 pm

Archbishop Job, M. Jannakos s

July 19

Saturday

Bethlehem, PA

St. Nicholas Church

TBA

Bishop Tikhon, Fr. A. Jarmus, E. Skuby

July 23

Wednesday

Hartford, CT

All Saints Church

TBA

Bishop Nikon, Fr A. Jarmus

July 24

Thursday

Chicago, IL/Burr Ridge

Sts. Peter & Paul Church

7-10pm

Archbishop Job, Fr. A Garklavs

July 31

Thursday

Indianapolis, IN

St. John the Forerunner Church

6-9pm

Archbishop Job, M. Jannakos

August 21

Thursday

Boston, MA

Holy Trinity Cathedral

6-9 pm

Bishop Nikon, PCC Member TBA

August 29/30

Fri/Sat[TBA]

Orlando, FL

TBA

TBA

Metropolitan Herman, Fr A. Jarmus

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Preconciliar Commission expands schedule of Town Hall meetings

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] – On Monday, June 16, 2008, the Preconciliar Commission charged with making preparations for the Orthodox Church in America’s 15th All-American Council met at the OCA Chancery here.

“A main topic of the meeting was the Town Hall meetings now under way throughout the Church in preparation for the All-American Council,” said the Archpriest Andrew Jarmus, OCA director of ministries and communications. “The first Town Hall meeting, which was very positively received by participants, took place Saturday, June 8, 2008, at Annunciation Cathedral in Ottawa, Canada. This meeting was the first of an initial nine planned in locations in the US and Canada.”

“Preconciliar Commission members discussed other locations which had been listed previously but had not yet been scheduled, among them the New York City area,” Father Andrew added. “They also reviewed new locations that have been suggested since the first Town Hall schedule was posted on the internet.”

The expanded Town Hall meeting schedule is found below.

Commission members also reviewed the latest submissions to the 15th All-American Council email address. These submissions may be downloaded in PDF format here.

The 15th All-American Council will open on Monday, November 10, 2008 and run through Thursday, November 13, at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA.

TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULE

Amended June 18, 2008

Date

City

Location

Time

Hierarch / PCC Rep.

June 7

Saturday

Ottawa, Canada

Annunciation Cathedral

[TBA]

Archbishop Seraphim, Bishop Nikon, Fr. A. Jarmus

June 24

Tuesday

Dallas, TX

Scheduled during Diocesan Assembly

[TBA]

Archbishop Dmitri, Fr. A. Garklavs

June 26

Thursday

San Francisco, CA

Scheduled during Diocesan Assembly

[TBA]

Bishop Benjamin, M. Jannakos

June 28

Saturday

Washington, DC

St. Nicholas Cathedral

[TBA]

Metropolitan Herman, Fr. A. Garklavs, L. Morris

July 3

Thursday

Edmonton, Canada

St. Herman of Alaska Sobor

[TBA]

Archbishop Seraphim, Bp Nikon, Fr. M. Tassos

July 12

Saturday

Montreal, Canada

St. Peter & Paul’s Church

[TBA]

Archbishop Seraphim, [PCC member TBA]

July 12

Crestwood (New York Metro Area)

St. Vladimir’s Seminary

3-6 pm

Bishop Nikon, [PCC member TBA]

July 17

Thursday

Cleveland/Parma

Holy Trinity Church

6-9 pm

Archbishop Job, M. Jannakos

July 19

Saturday

Bethlehem, PA

St. Nicholas Church

[TBA]

Bishop Tikhon, Fr. A. Jarmus, E. Skuby

July 23

Wednesday

Hartford, CT

All Saints Church

[TBA]

Bishop. Nikon, Fr A. Jarmus

July 24

Thursday

Chicago, IL/Burr Ridge

Sts. Peter & Paul Church

7-10pm

Archbishop Job, Fr. A Garklavs

July 31

Thursday

Indianapolis, IN

St. John the Forerunner

6-9pm

Archbishop Job, M. Jannakos

August 29/30

Fri/Sat[TBA]

Orlando, FL

[TBA]

[TBA]

Metropolitan Herman, Fr A. Jarmus

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OCA “Town Hall” Meeting Notes: Ottawa, ON, June 7, 2008

This Town Hall meeting was the first of an initial nine being convened by the Preconciliar Commission as part of the preparation for the 15th All- American Council. It took place at Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral in Ottawa on June 7, 2008, in the presence of His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada and His Grace, Bishop Nikon, head of the Pre-Conciliar Commission. The meeting was facilitated by Archpriest Andrew Jarmus, Communications Director of the Orthodox Church in America, and Preconciliar Commission member. Archpriest John Jillions, Dean of the Cathedral, and also a member of the Commission served as one of the recorders. Participants’ comments and ideas were recorded on a flip chart, and a local volunteer was enlisted to take written notes and prepare a summary of the discussion.

Twenty-seven people were in attendance, including faithful from Ottawa, New York State, Montreal and Wisconsin.

Introduction

Fr. Andrew began by putting the meeting into a scriptural context, reading the passage chosen by the Commission as the theme of the council – “Members of one another in Christ.”

“Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbour, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole, steal no longer, rather labour working with his hands, for this is good that he have something to give to him who has need. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good and for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Eph. 4:25-32)

Fr. Andrew explained that the Commission hoped these meetings would be part of speaking the truth, of thinking about how we should behave toward one another in the wake of the events of the last few years, and what it means to “put away” malice and hurt, anger and frustration. Because we are united, if one of us is hurt, or angry it affects us all in some way. “Putting away” pain, hurt, anger is not something magical, but a process that includes speaking truthfully. These town hall meetings are an opportunity for the people to speak with candour, and an opportunity for the leaders of our Church to listen. He hoped that they might thereby play a part in the process of healing and rebuilding communion.

The comments would be reported in summary form on the AAC blog so that these local voices would be heard by the larger church, and by the other bishops. Those who prepared comments in advance would be welcome to add them as an addendum to the record, anonymously or otherwise. The hope was that this would begin a dialogue that would contribute to the process of reconciliation and rebuilding of trust in preparation for the All American Council in November and thereafter. Fr. Andrew also welcomed feedback on the format so that subsequent meetings might build on what happened here.

Ground Rules

The “ground rules” were simply four:

  • Maintain dignity and respect in how we address each other
  • No judgment of ideas
  • Share air time
  • No attribution of comments in the record, unless requested by the commentator

With the permission of the body, the meeting was audiotaped as an aide memoire for the notetaker, tapes to be subsequently erased. Prepared statements were given by four of the participants and it was agreed that these would be appended to the summary report and attributed if requested.

Otherwise, there was no structure to the meeting. The role of the bishops was to listen. Generally, the questions that the Commission hoped would be addressed included– the impact of the financial and administrative crisis on you personally – spiritually – your relationship to the church, how the AAC can address your concerns, what outcome is hoped for, what are the important issues you see for the future?

What has been the impact of the crisis on you personally?

Just speaking personally as a 29 year old man, had this not happened I probably would have gone to seminary – I can’t tell my wife I would leave a great job in the secular world for a job in an organization that might not be there. I feel I have this calling, but I don’t think the OCA is the place for us to be. That’s how it’s affected me. I don’t know if there is going to be an OCA – is there a future? We don’t know what’s going to happen in November.

I don’t see the pride people once had in the OCA – we’ve almost turned the church into a bank – there’s so much squabbling over money. I’m not giving money. I won’t give you money – unless I can actually give it to the people who need the money. I don’t know where the money’s going to end up – smuggled under someone’s cassock? People have broken the law. It’s tough for me as a civil authority to keep my mouth shut knowing that people I respected, served with, broke the law. What do we say to people – the children in the parish – when people who break the laws get away with it? Nobody’s been punished yet.

The crisis has broken my trust, broken my heart, broken everything. Unless I can see the money will actually fix the leak that needs to be fixed, or it’s going to go the people who need to be fed, or going to go to the people who need to be clothed, I will not give a dime. That’s just how I feel. When we see the appeals come for the iconostasis or other stuff, it’s with great fear that I give any money. Because I don’t think the leadership of this church is using the money where it needs to be used. I’ve heard the OCA had champagne taste on a beer budget. If that’s the mindset — I don’t see any of the leadership has changed – same people are still there, there still going to have the same taste. What’s changed? If there’s someone who needs it, I’ll write the check and hand it to them, but until that day comes, the OCA can go broke for all I care. That’s just my opinion, that’s how it’s affected me.

==

Well, that really brings it home. In Canada it seems outside of our life, we’ve been too smug about it, it doesn’t affect us in the same way — your comment certainly brought it home for me in a powerful way. The effect for me has been a spiritual one – questioning – I have a deeper question than the financial issues or issues of scandal. It’s a profound ecclesiological question – what is the nature of the church? This is not confined to OCA, it’s a crisis in the Orthodox Church in general. We know that the church is hierarchical, but what does this mean? What’s the nature of authority in the church? It has come to a head in the OCA, but it’s throughout the Orthodox world and it’s been developing for quite a long time, manifested in quite a few ways. There’s need for reconciliation – There’s acrimony on both sides, the truth is not spoken in love, there are accusations that have been made wrongly. By the same token, good points are raised as well. What does it mean to be a bishop – do you have a carte blanche to do whatever you want?

==

I heard about this incident a while ago, since that time, nobody ever mentioned or discussed anything about it. So I don’t think it really affected us in our parish where people are very responsive and trust each other. I don’t see why there is a crisis – I don’t see any, at least in Canada – maybe it is a question of detachment, too far away – I don’t see that it affected us. It’s a management problem – these things happen everywhere –– it could happen with any other organization. I don’t regard it as a crisis. I don’t see any impact on me or on our church. Nobody in my presence discussed it in the last two years.

==

I think that is part of the crisis – no one in the parish or this archdiocese has really addressed this question, only very superficially I don’t think it’s a matter of an administrative glitch – I think it is as much about administration as Watergate was about a break-in. It’s not the actual act, it’s the way it’s been covered up. There were corrupted people around it and the ethos of leadership is not very Christian. I am a new member of the Orthodox church and believe it is Christ’s church founded on truth and love. But I have been really been struggling with whether the OCA is committed to love, to truth, to following Christ. We have had leaders, most notably Metropolitan Herman wo have lied, who have stalled, who have obfuscated. We have others who have just swept things under the rug. We have ourselves not stood up and taken up our responsibility. We have also failed. There is a huge spiritual crisis – apart from anyfinancial and administrative crisis, and if the financial crisis had been dealt with differently we might not be in as much of a spiritual crisis.

About ecclesiology, from my reading before I became Orthodox I understood we were not like the Catholics — we are not ordered by someone on high, expected to just obey, never ask questions. I thought we were a collegial church where people acted together to do the will of God. There’s a huge disconnect between the church you read about and the church you experienced. Having said that, for me and others, for the most part, rather than having been destroyed by that the parishes in the OCA really are full of good people striving to do the will of God. But when you have a leadership that seems to be doing the exact opposite there are some real problems.

There is a culture among some of the leadership that they don’t owe us anything, don’t need to be truthful, don’t need to be open …sheep in pain do not matter to their shepherds. You hear tales of places where there has been sexual abuse of minors, abuse of the confessional – these may not all be true, but they should at least be listened to, paid attention to, not ignored.

The spiritual crisis at the other end is how do I act myself? Do I follow along blindly? Will I not have to account for not doing anything if I know there is wrong done? It’s hard to know what is the right thing to do.

==

I’m very disheartened that this is being a distraction from the work of the church. If we could put as much energy into converting souls to Christ as strengthening Orthodox unity as we have put into this crisis….that’s not to say it’s not an issue that we shouldn’t deal with and must deal with. Secondly, I am genuinely upset with how due process has been criticized and in some cases neglected – the judge, the jury, all at the same time – throughout church history, bishops come and go, priests come and go – things sort themselves out. There is this instinct to make a quick judgement, without seeing where things fall, or having a pastoral approach. It’s not always black and white. Due process does happen, maybe not as fast as we want it to, but there is a process. People want things to be fixed, and retribution, justice, yesterday. That’s who we are as fallen creatures, but we have to have patience, and I’ve not seen enough of this. – people have been blasting back and forth and eventually you forget what you’re talking about – it’s just a lot of rhetoric.

==

Laurie Rodger read her prepared statement (posted in the comments section below).

==

What makes abuse most horrible is that abusers are in positions of trust. Negligence is also a form of abuse.

==

I don’t despair that these things happen – it’s the nature of the world we live in, and I don’t despair of the ability of the church to be a witness of Christ and the truth even when these things happen. I think part of being a witness is showing to the world how we deal with this. This even is a point of hope –we are being asked for our responses. I think that the world will not dismiss the Orthodox Church if they see poor management of money, corruption in leadership – rather if the vulnerable are not protected. I continue to hold my breath on a certain level and hope that it can be resolved with as much care, and honesty and integrity as possible. How we deal with this – can also be an act of witness.

==

My parish is in Metropolitan Herman’s diocese (NY-NJ-DC), and I can say that those parishes closer to the action have really been affected. People in my parish are very involved. For most, parochial life is holy and uplifting – but at the same time overall for the majority- there’s a sense of demoralization, frustration, a sense of loss. While we have a desire not to combative or aggressive, our patience is exhausted. The frustration: how to respond with Christian spirit to the silence. People have wanted to hold back their funds, I have fervently asked my own parish not to withhold anything until the whole church gathers. There is the desire not to be connected any longer with the center –the fragmentation and bankruptcy of the central life of the church is deeply, deeply felt. I speak largely for our diocese, a sense of loss that we can’t be connected with each other for greater unity through our Synod. Corporately, together, things can be done but we’re missing that glue that holds us together regionally.

==

Before the assembly there should be statements acknowledging responsibility — hierarchs, central administration and Metropolitan Council – asking forgiveness. Some statement about the sequence of events, what happened, how it happened, what’s been done to try to resolve it. We have our own responsibility among the laity – for example who we elect to the metropolitan council – we must support them in their work, and be aware of that work, so we are all involved and need to ask forgiveness from one another. And continue to pray for our hierarchs.

==

As I said before, there have always been corrupt people in the church –even among the apostles there was a corrupt person and the church survived. It’s not a crisis in my mind. So I think the situation has to be corrected and communicated properly to all the parish. There is collapsed communication between the center and the parishes. It’s a management crisis, not a church crisis. Because someone is corrupt doesn’t mean the whole church is corrupt.

==

We all know how that story of corruption ended. The church survived minus the person who did the corruption. My question is to the hierarchs when they are sitting across each other at the table and call each other brother bishops. I know with my own brother — I have the courage to pull him aside and say, “you know what, you did wrong and what you’re doing is wrong. You might not like it,” — sometimes my brother doesn’t want to talk to me for a long time. I can’t imagine how a group of men who claim to be brothers – how not one of them have the courage to say, “enough is enough already…release the reports, go for transparency.” Is there nobody who has the kind of fortitude to say, look enough is enough? Or, if someone needs to step down, step down.

What would be the best case scenario for resolving the OCA’s crisis?

An apology – from whoever is guilty – no blood, just a straight up apology. If there’s punishment that comes from that –so be it, but just saying ‘I did this’ – that’s the case for forgiveness.

Completing an apology needs to ask: what can I do to make amends?

==

Bishop Nikon: How could communication be improved? Hard to know what is too much information, too little information…is a statement on the OCA webpage enough for communication, or does it have to go to every house? Financial statements are up there. About apologies, I can’t make someone confess – that has to come from him – we are all hoping for that. I can’t stand in the church and confess someone else’s sins.

==

Until you say, I am sorry…this will not be over. You can publish reports from the beginning of the OCA but until someone asks for forgiveness it won’t make any difference. Financial information is no substitute for an apology. An apology acknowledges something was wrong – it means that something actually happened, instead of living in this delirium that something might have happened, that might have happened, this might have been said. At least it finally lets us know in our minds and our hearts — OK something happened – and move on from that – you can’t move on from that until somebody acknowledges that it happened. It gives clarity.

Accounting for missing funds still missing – details out in the open, ideally all.

There may have been things that were done – like taking money to the Soviet Union under cover – that had to be done that way, not because of sneakiness or deceit but because we live in a sinful world. When there is usually good communication you are more likely to accept that there are some things you can’t know as it is between parents and kids where there is good communication. As far as this crisis goes, I needed to ask to find out. This is not just the fault of the leaders – we have been quite content to sit around in our ignorance. It’s right that we get stirred up, and begin to pray for them and support them. These town hall meetings are a start.

==

As a pastor this is a dilemma — is discussion of this crisis what you want to stir up in people, or is it preaching the gospel, the liturgical life, the parish life? There’s a quote from Philo of Alexandria that says, ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.’ if someone asks me about it, I’ll talk about it. I’m not sure I want to put it front and center. Does that mean I’m robbing people of their opportunity to get engaged? Am I being paternalistic? But on the whole I would err on the side of candour.

We don’t have to know all the details, but now we know that you are going to meetings and why they are important.

==

Bishop Nikon: we now know there are more people that want these town meetings, and we’re trying to find a way to expand these, even if a hierarch can’t be present at all of them, this is something I’ll be presenting at our meeting next week.

==

Some suggestions for better communication: a section for OCA news in the Canadian Messenger; an update on the Archdiocesan website with a link to the Orthodox Church Magazine which is available online.

==

For a long time I’ve been quite happy in my ignorance. Glad I’ve been able to hear this – I appreciate those who spoke bravely about how it had affected them. It shows it is a crisis – just because I don’t know about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening, and we have to do something to rectify the situation. Just being happy in your ignorance won’t cut it.

==

Dr. John Hadjinicolaou read a prepared statement (posted in the comments section below.

==

I feel that laity really has not been part of that discernment process in this crisis– it hasn’t been welcomed into that discernment. Difficult to understand how you can get access to that process without feeling that you’re a troublemaker, or that you’re just stirring things, or just making it more difficult for the bishops. It seems to me that there really is not a culture of consultation that is encouraged. It is more a kind of paternalistic, just leave it up to us, we’re muddling through, we’ll get there in the end and trust us. I think that that can only go so far in a culture where you have an educated laity, you have professionals, you have people who are used to having opinions in their political life, in their jobs, in their family life – there is a lot of consultation in civilian life. And we do it somehow better outside the church than we do inside of the church. And I have actually been quite scandalized at time to hear words like ‘the bishops are the church’ – that kind of rhetoric. That’s not why I’m a member of the Orthodox Church. I remember when I was growing up in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral where I didn’t understand Greek at all, but there were many ordinations and consecrations of bishops, and I remember when I first heard the word ‘Axios’ and asked my father what that meant. He told me, it means ‘he is worthy’. The people have to say ‘he is worthy’ — they can’t do anything without the people saying Amen, or Axios. And I remember even as a 12 year old being so impressed that I could be part of a church where my voice counted. I don’t think it’s very easy if you’re just in a parish trying to do the best you can, it’s not easy to see where you can put your voice – where can I speak? Where will it be heard? Do I have to go on a website so that maybe somebody will hear what I have to say? Or if I talk to my bishop will it get passed on somehow or is it through the Metropolitan Council or through my priest? How does my voice get heard so that I feel that somehow maybe the Holy Spirit can even work through me — maybe I’m part of that discernment process.

==

What authority will you have on actioning any of this? Where will it go – will you table results, be a report, is something going to be done? Otherwise it’s a waste of time. All these issues are about leadership, symptomatic of a wider, deeper leadership problem. Lead from the front and you lead by example. So if there’s not leadership happening there, you’re going to have sort it out very quickly or else, as the scriptures says, ‘without a vision the people perish.’ Leadership is required for vision, without a vision there will be no church.

==

I always try to find an irenic more peaceful way, so it is very painful for me to speak here. I have an excellent relationship with Vladyka [Seraphim], we speak and email often on these issues. I’ve spoken openly to Metropolitan Herman. But all of these cumulatively has led me to the understanding that even after all the discussions, results get lost in the woodwork. We need to address this concretely. How does transformation happen? ‘Only through enlightened leadership’. That’s been my conclusion about church life. Even though we have best practices in church life, it is really about enlightened leadership. It’s not that we have to have solutions – we have to hear each other in love and respect. This kind of meeting should be a regular feature of church life. But we have spoken largely in generalities. The distillation of all of that comes down to a question of leadership, specifically the leadership of Metropolitan Herman. I cam to this by thinking about myself as a shepherd – how I would react if I were to learn if there were a lack of trust in my leadership, I would gather my flock and ask them to tell me if they wanted me to remain as their pastor. If 20% of my leadership said, ‘Father, it might be time to go’ I would really have to think about that? I would really have to think about that. Would I want to stay as a father to people who said, father we love you, we don’t want to hurt you, but it’s time consider another course….I’m bringing to you the heartfelt feelings of my parish who are intelligent, involved, loving people, fellow priests and so on. I don’t know of any other direction to go.

===

A proposal was read (posted in the comments section below) asking the assembly to entertain a yes or no confidence vote in the Metropolitan’s leadership by secret ballot.

There was considerable discussion about whether or not this was the right way to proceed even if people agreed. While there was the option to abstain, because no consensus was reached on whether to take a vote, the proposer withdrew the proposal to vote. The main points made in the discussion about the voting process are given below.

==

The church was always built on the hierarchy. I can vote for my priest – I know if he is a good leader or not a good leader. I know about my bishop, I know whether he is a good leader or not a good leader. But I do not know much about the Metropolitan. I cannot judge his leadership – the people who are close to him, they can vote. I don’t think it is fair to address us with this question.

==

We are the church, we have a right to say.

==

Bishop Nikon: I support the opinions of the town meeting – whether that would be a vote or not is another question.

==

The only thing that bothers me about it is that it is such a closed question: I have confidence or no confidence. I think there is a large middle. I would be concerned that such a vote could overshadow some of the more nuanced responses, and some of the more human and hopeful thoughts we may have as a group. It does really reduce it, but I do appreciate that it’s a question that needs to be asked – especially bringing it down to the Metropolitan’s leadership – but the two answer together seem to me to be very stark.

==

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. We have under 40 people here, and yes, although we are the church, this group is going to determine if they have confidence and it’s going to put out for the world to see– I would feel more comfortable if this was an assembly, or a regional assembly –this is very dangerous, only because we are such a small group.

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I wonder about bringing the ballot process into the process and how valid that would be.

I think one of the reasons we felt uncomfortable with this idea of voting is because there is an undercurrent about this idea of democracy—that the church is not a democracy. I think we would all agree, but because we are so restricted about how we can speak about these things, it’s like a child learning to walk – it’s quite awkward. We don’t have the right mechanisms to make this quite gracious and elegant – I fault the leadership for not providing more opportunities for knowing each other’s minds and coming to a better places in better ways to move ahead with the life of the church. And I think this just shows us how difficult it is going to be to get us to where we want to get to.…

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The participant that proposed the vote, seeing that there was no consensus on the matter, withdrew the suggestion; the discussion then continued.

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Fr Symeon Rodger read a prepared statement (posted in the comments section below).

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I share the concerns but not the same passion. In my experience this is quite an amazing process going on. I feel saddened by what happened in the OCA. But there’s corruption everywhere. We don’t expect corruption in the church but we are all human beings. We get what we deserve. If the church doesn’t have the holy people to draw from for its leaders then it is our problem. As far as what might come out of the AAC, we are already beginning by making sure with these meetings that everything is out in the open and no one can hide. It is up to us to make it meaningful. Our human nature is to go around the rules if there is an opportunity, so if we don’t have the right lay people in the right positions, people will find a way to get around the rules. We need to read the reports, talk about these things openly and discern what is going on, bear witness to it as the church. I actually am very optimistic because of this process. I’ve seen worse scandals in the church. And I don’t feel I have lost my faith – quite the opposite – our faith and our church is above and beyond the quality or the character what each one of us individually and even collectively as a Synod show at any particular moment. And don’t forget that the people who were elected and appointed to the Synod came from our ranks, they were part of our parishes and our organizations.

What single thing would you like to see come out of the AAC?

An action plan for the future of the church.

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Strict financial control mechanisms.

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What’s needed are tools for dialogue.

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We need to grow in maturity – this crisis and this process will help us mature.

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Mechanisms of accountability that are built in. We can’t be inventing them when there’s a crisis.

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A new Metropolitan would allow us to move forward.

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Fr Andrew invited Bishop Nikon and Bishop Seraphim to make any closing comments

Bishop Nikon

I’m very pleased with the candor that has been expressed here. We know the anger, frustration and betrayal that is felt by the faithful. I once mentioned to my brother bishops before a meeting – ‘this month I survived bishop-hunting season.’ Don’t think that the members of the Holy Synod are not as frustrated, as angry, as betrayed, as cheated as the rest of the church. And yes, it was our responsibility to keep watch, so to speak, and it is our responsibility to try to rebuild that trust. And we knew when we set up these Town Hall Meetings that comments both ways would be hurtful in some instances but they would be honest. I thank you for your honesty, I thank you for your openness, I thank you as facilitators of this town meeting, because I didn’t want to go to Pittsburgh and have everyone throughout the church still not having had the opportunity to express their feelings. Your feelings you’ve expressed here will be passed on to the members of the Holy Synod – they have to know the feelings out there of the faithful. For the most part, from my point of view, when you look around the table of the Holy Synod, I don’t see men that don’t care about their flocks, don’t care about their clergy, don’t care about their faithful. It just seems that from the point of view of the clergy and laity on the outside we don’t seem able to function when we’re together, separately we’re fine. This is not always so, this is not always true. Sometimes we have to look into many aspects before we make a decision that is right and true. But our responsibility before the All American Council is to come together, and I thank you for helping me and the members of the Pre-conciliar Commission help guide the All American Council, help guide the Synod in these things.

Archbishop Seraphim

Simply to say, thanks for your candour, and for those who are concerned about revelations of details, we have the report of Bishop Benjamin and the Special Investigation Committee coming in late August that will be a full disclosure of everything. We are expecting it will be given to the Holy Synod and Metropolitan council at the same time.

Fr Andrew Jarmus: I hope this has been a worthwhile process for you. Please give us feedback, this is our pilot town meeting, so your input as far as the process is very important to us.

[This ended the Town Hall meeting, which was followed by Great Vespers then supper together].

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