Monthly Archives: August 2008

OCA “Town Hall” Meeting Notes: Boston, MA, August 21, 2008

The meeting followed Vespers service at the Cathedral. His Grace Bishop Nikon and Fr. Alexander Garklavs (the OCA Chancellor) were present. Participants included 8 clergy and 33 laity, with about equal number of men and women present. The meeting began with singing of the festal Troparion.

Introductory remarks by Bishop Nikon:

The Church has suffered a crisis, and it is our responsibility to prepare for the AAC. We hope that this council will be different from all other councils, be more of a retreat & reconciliation. Restitution is necessary for the church. Members of Preconciliar Commission felt they needed help; they have included at some of their meetings a conflict resolution consultant. We had a special meeting – in Syosset, with Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, Mark Stokoe, and others – which was very successful. That motivated us to go ahead with the church-wide town hall meetings to get input from church members.

There is a perception throughout the church that the bishops don’t hear and don’t understand. Ideally we would like to have all the bishops at every meeting, but it is not possible due to financial and time constraints. The town hall meeting minutes are posted on the OCA-AAC blog site. Purpose of these meeting is not Q&A; purpose is for the people to state what’s on their mind, and for the bishops to sit and hear what people have to say. At the AAC there will be Q&A including a session with the whole Synod. At the town hall meetings, all church has a chance to participate in the AAC.

Introduction by Fr. Alexander Garklavs:

As His Grace, Bishop Nikon has stated, the Preconciliar understood that in planning for the All-American Council, we needed to address an important concern of the faithful.  That is that people are frustrated that they are not being heard and cannot get their message across. And so we have planned for these town hall meetings in different regions to give our faithful people an opportunity to air their opinion.  As they are structured, they are your forum for speaking, and we are not to respond.  That inability to dialogue makes this a less then perfect kind of encounter, but these are nevertheless important occasions. At this meeting, time constraints will be respected, but there will be some time allowed for responses from His Grace and myself. People should be considerate of time but will be allowed to stand up and speak more than once.

Father then noted the ground rules for the meeting:

  1. Dignity and respect
  2. No judgment of ideas
  3. No attribution
  4. Considerate of TIME

Questions:

I. How did the events of the church affect you? How do you feel about what happened in the OCA?

What do we mean as the scandal? I see it as two-fold – financial scandal which led us, since it was not taken care of in a timely manner, into what we understand about the attitude of the central administration. We live by apparent truth; what I saw was how Dn. Wheeler was handled – very poorly; put down, fired, etc. Bishop Job, – same way, and he is a very good and honest person. Actions of the other bishops – that’s the scandal.

I feel lack of trust, had to go and conduct re-destribution of an estate a large portion of which used to go to the Orthodox charities. How the bishops acted between themselves – very poor towards people they are supposed to be shepherds of; incompetence; lack of credibility and trust; style of expression on the Internet – Bishops of the West and North especially. Personal story – I had a run-in with a funeral home about mistreating a widow. Funeral home director returned part of the money to the widow, apologized for his rudeness toward me; the manager apologized to the bishop and said that I concealed the fact that I was a deacon at the church. Administrator yelled at me at the Diocesan meeting, said I had a wrong attitude. I drove for two hours later to confront the administrator; he put me down and told me to “get over it”. From reading subsequent stories on the Internet I learned that these actions were condoned and endorsed by the bishops. Bishops lack their teaching ability.

==

The stories make us feel sick. Shame for the church. Our honor has been besmirched, the goal should be to restore that honor. There is more to restoring honor than following “best practices”. Leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ has not been enough to ensure that that honor be upheld; perhaps the flag of our country at the Chancery would be a reminder of our civil laws. (Written statement was submitted and follows the minutes.)

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The question is fascinating. People are denying that there is a crisis. Most information is on the web; the clergy & the leadership are not adequately explaining what is going on. Need someone from Syosset to define the crisis precisely. Credibility is shot. We’ve blown post-Cold War opportunities to reach out into Russia. Our influence to talk as a church is terribly affected; people are always looking at America, and there is not much inspiration here right now. What is church? Are we like any other tax-exempt corporation?

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I feel helpless, and feel serious doubts about whether or not this council will be different. We lost the language of the church. Why are we calling this a town meeting? Is this a campaign or a public event? It is not what I want to see in the church. It should be a dialogue, even as a Q&A. The language that is constantly being used is the language of the lawyers, businessmen, teachers, not the language of the church. We don’t know what it is, and why would the AAC be any different?

==

I am not a cradle Orthodox, I converted to Orthodoxy in Russia when I was 18. Had a hard time there with the church where no questions were allowed to be asked, where everyone had to follow stale protocol. Came to America and thought I found a real Orthodox church in the OCA – the church founded on the patristic tradition, with openness and communication. Saw other parishes that did not feel as good as the Cathedral parish, but still had rose-colored glasses on. When I first learned about the crisis I thought, big deal, so money was mishandled, surely THIS church will be able to deal with it in a jiffy. Now, several years later, I am very depressed by how it was handled but even more by what has emerged as a lack of coherent ecclesiology, lack of communion inside the church. I do not feel in communion with many members of the OCA. I don’t feel in communion with the people who denigrate the bishops on the Internet or with bishops who see us as the great unwashed. Are we even a church? During the Alaskan crisis I wrote the Synod, like many other people, and saw the Synod acting only from public pressure in this, after exposure, after dozens of letters, after the Chancellor put his head on the chopping block, and that is not right…

==

Deep, deep disappointment. I agree with the two previous speakers. Back after the issuance of the Tomos of Autocephaly there was life, excitement, vision about what OCA was going to become. It pains my heart to see where we are today. We are not a messenger to this country, we have not reached out to the community, we keep to ourselves. Retain parochialism; have not done anything with our autocephaly. Bishops are distant. Yet to see anything to come out of Syosset that is a unified statement. Need not an administrative but a spiritual solution. “Why are we here in this world?” We don’t get this from our bishops, they do not “rightly divide the word of Your truth”. We need to bring what the vision was 35 years back, bring back the light, otherwise in another 35 years the OCA will cease to exist. Changes in other jurisdictions will overwhelm us. Need to get deep spiritual guidance from our bishops, chancellor, deans, clergy, so that people can reach out to the rest of the community.

Where is the soul of our church today? Where are we going and where are we being lead? We don’t need administration, we need to have truth, confidence, and most of all, we need love. We do not feel love.

==

I feel angry, grief-stricken, confused, a lot of personal outrage. We are so small, we all know each other, we are all related. Nothing that’s going on in the church doesn’t affect us personally. It is a scandal of identity. If we were clear on who we were, if we were clear of our identity, so much of this could be avoided – money, hurt. Ultimately the answer is that we are the body of Christ, but we don’t know what this means. We lost the language of the church, and the language should be dynamic. We are a ship without a rudder.

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I am a very recent convert, I became Orthodox in April. I don’t know many details about the crisis, but know that people are very angry, and people are very nervous about the financial affairs in the church, and it does make me nervous. In spite of what has happened I am hopeful. The church is dealing with it itself, the world is not cracking up on the church, unlike with the Roman Catholic church which was assaulted by everybody. Nobody is bashing anyone else except inside the church. There is hope because it is contained.

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(Comment by Fr. Alexander): At all meetings at some point, a new convert speaks who says I am new but I am not bailing out. This is reassuring, because it means that in spite of all of the mess that we’re in, the Holy Spirit is leading good people to the Orthodox Church.

II. Solutions?

I am encouraged by hearing that the bishops had the meetings with the facilitator. The bishops should be brothers to each other because otherwise they cannot be fathers to us. Because they are not brothers, the church is in disorder. For the AAC, there are three things the bishops should do: say sorry to each other, admit that it was their fault, and tell the truth ALL THE TIME (to quote the recently departed Randy Pausch). Then you can spread your actions to your deaneries and to all the people who have been wounded – expelled, punished, silenced. It starts with the truth, otherwise you can leave the AAC after the first four hours.

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We are going through the solution right now. If we didn’t have this crisis we wouldn’t have been here today. I have been a priest for 35 years and have been watching all this for 35 years – bishops out of touch with the people. The church has to be a homogeneous structure, and the homogeneity comes from being united in Christ. Synod, seminaries, administration, parishes are operating independently, there is tremendous disintegration, everyone has their own “rule book”. Bishops are leaders in the world, but Christ is the head of the church. They are like absentee parents – they are not around and when they get involved they make things worse. Now is the good time. Everything is out, and everything is in the open and needs to be dealt with. It used to be that no one talked, no one could talk to each other, all was dark. If we remember that Christ is the head of the church we will not need more money or better administration, we will have a different church. We don’t need central administration as the answer to the crisis at the church. Administration is not the answer, the answer is the Gospel. Administrators are frustrated businessmen. The church is the church. We have to speak its language, we have to walk its walk. It is a time to be positive, people have to forgive, life has to go on.

==

People cannot forgive until there is truth and transparency. The loss of the good that resulted from misappropriation of so much money. The silence around what happened is disturbing. Human condition is we are all corruptible, we are all subject to sin, but to not have an example at the top tier on how to confess, how to accept responsibility, is discouraging. We are ready to forgive but we cannot do it until the truth is out. The Metropolitan and the Synod have to tell everything that happened. Nothing will happen at the AAC if this doesn’t happen. Real crisis of leadership.

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I have been a student of church history of the 2nd through the 5th century. Comparing this crisis to the true theological crises of the first centuries, this crisis is relatively minor. The loss of money is bad, but the issue is not as black as it could be. Sometimes I think it would have been exciting to live in the first centuries when the theology was being hammered out, but it is better to live with what we have to deal with now. We need from the hierarchy the admission of complicity, asking of forgiveness from people who have been betrayed. In Dante’s Inferno, the bottom circle of hell is reserved for betrayers, this is where Judas is. The hierarchy has betrayed us and they have to admit it and ask for forgiveness. I work at Beth Israel-Deaconness Hospital and the CEO of the hospital started a blog which reports on the Internet about everything that is going on at the hospital, including all the mistakes. Transparency before the community – all the truth, and the community supports the hospital because it is so honest. It is critically important to build up trust and confidence. That is what we need in our church, the hierarchy to come out and admit everything that is going on. If we do not do this action we will wither on the wine and that will be very unfortunate. We cannot further the Orthodoxy in this country if we have all this dirty laundry in the closet. We need truth and transparency.

==

I am also a convert to Orthodoxy and I was very confused at first about the crisis. There are plenty of theological, Christological controversies in this country. There is a world of need for a strong, unified Orthodox witness in this country. Need to focus on what the need is and where we are going, use our autocephaly to lead the others. I raised money for Beslan among the Lutherans and other non-Orthodox, through the OCA, and then found out about the financial shenanigans and felt profoundly betrayed.

==

I lived in many places in the country and saw the same things. Bishops move about so much, they come to meetings and agree to things and then go back to where they live and just follow whatever they please. There is no oversight. If clergy and bishops are not trained as administrators, let other people who are trained to do administrative jobs.

==

I wanted to share my solution privately with His Grace but decided to share it with the group. What is the role of the bishops, their relationships with each other, their interpersonal relations with each other. The operating suggestions for this bond of brotherhood: since the Synod is so small, they may go back to early church practice and open their deliberations with an open confession to each other so that they are imbued with the function of what they are there for. In the early church people reconciled to each other before partaking communion. Instead of meeting as a board of directors there was a sense that they were there to witness to the truth.

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I agree with everything that has been said, but have a slightly different perspective. My background is a historian; I study history, and when I read Leskov’s “Cathedral Folk” I thought that nobody could think that OCA was in a lot of trouble after reading this book. The leadership betrayed us but we betrayed them also. The kinds of things we see are not just individuals misbehaving – it is the church which lost, drifted away from its center in Christ. We as parishioners drifted away from the light of Christ. If the church members were stronger the events would not have such impact. It had such impact because the structure has been weakened.

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HUMILITY!

III. Ideas for the All-American Council

Any Metropolitan should live close by to the headquarters. At the AAC, implement the recommendation by Fr. Thomas Hopko in his letter to the Pre-Counciliar Commission. Metropolitan should resign. In Metropolitan Herman’s answer to questions in the interview by Protodeacon Peter Danilchik, he indicated that he was aware of problems before. Then, why did he allow the then-Fr. Kondratick to be in charge of the church.

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Question: Has the PCC come up with a theme? – Answer from Fr. Garklavs: The theme is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians “Members of one another in Christ.” The theme is on the OCA-AAC website, it comes from a longer passage in Ephesians (4.25-30). The common theme is emerging from the church meetings, a lot of people have spoken.

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Question: Has the PCC set the ground rules for how resolutions will be handled? – Answer from Fr. Garklavs: The information on he resolutions protocol is on the OCA website. Resolutions from the floor will also be accepted.

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Question: Has the agenda been set? – Answer from Bp. Nikon: The agenda is being formed. I would like to emphasize again that there will be a Q&A session with the bishops.

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The agenda should include the discussion on what episcopal and pastoral leadership means. There is evident lack of pastoral care and leadership shown, among other things, by the way people communicate about the crisis.

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Need discussion of how bishops are elected. We keep saying that the bishops are not transparent, not competent – so who will succeed the Metropolitan? The pool for candidates is extremely small, it’s more of a puddle, there are so few candidates for the episcopacy. Unfortunately, it has fallen to those who are celibate but because of lack of the monastic training in this country this pool is very small. Because of the state of our autocephaly we may not be able to discuss married episcopacy, but some discussion is necessary. Bishops should come from their respective dioceses. The discussion should include the voices of the clergy and the laity, not just the Synod.

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It will be edifying if the bishops and the Metropolitan make a statement at the AAC on the “State of the OCA” right after the opening liturgy. It will set a tone.

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Discussion on the strengthening of the monastic community.

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A discussion of the forgiveness session, maybe around the country. – Fr. Garklavs: It is on the agenda.

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I want to see bishops respond to the questions. We have unreasonable expectations of our bishops. We don’t give them a chance to make a mistake because we perceive them as being very high up, and so they cannot admit to mistakes. They can do a good job with administrative duties, but they need help, they need a team, they need help to be human. What is the selection process not just for the bishops but also for chancery staff? What is the selection process for church leadership? – Bp. Nikon: Anybody who is there now and who has accepted the responsibility to be there under such adverse condition must feel something for the OCA…

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If we are a church that receives sinners whom Christ can forgive and renew, then why can’t we “recycle” the bishops if they take the time to gather together and pray for the Holy Spirit and see where that leads them. Maybe we don’t necessarily need “fresh blood”. What we need is spiritual renewal.

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Education of young people. What do we expect from young people? – Fr. Alexander: Encourage the young people to think of priesthood as a vocation. It is thought of as a leftover career…

IV. Why the OCA is important?

(Fr. Alexander Garklavs) This Holy Trinity Cathedral parish is important, it is alive, it has great pastoral leadership, it has a lot to contribute to the church. It is a great example of what is good about the OCA. The town hall meetings are a good thing, although they are rather painful at times for the church leadership. There is a lot of good in the OCA.

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One of the missions is to evangelize America. There are so many parishes that are small, have had people die, leave. We have to think of the re-evangelizing the people whom we lost. Be more conciliatory, revitalize existing parishes instead of establishing new missions because of some disagreements and issues. We should try to work out our problems better than we have, missions should not be formed by conflict in a church. We should not have a church and a mission within half an hour drive of each other, both struggling. We need to solve our conflicts, and the parish priest needs to understand that we have problems.

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The OCA needs to be taking a stronger position in America. Orthodox churches tend to be associated with the ethnic groups. We need to be more present to everyone as the Orthodox Church in America, our Metropolitan needs to become president of the SCOBA. We are part of the Orthodox Church in the whole world and need to assert our presence in the world.

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The OCA should serve as a nucleus to help bring together other Orthodox churches into a truly autocephalous church with a patriarch, not be something of itself alone. Work with the Greeks, Serbs, Antiochians, etc. We cannot tell how many Orthodox there are because there are so many people who rarely show up for church – need to evangelize.

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The OCA is embedded in the American culture. It needs to respond to concerns that are raised by this American culture, such as same-sex marriages, to stop avoiding these issues, to open the dialogue, not leave people to deal with them on their own. There needs to be communication, needs to be dialogue.

==

To complement the previous speaker – we need to deal with the issues of America. We can, as a church, give much to the culture, but because we are in the culture, we have to know the culture. How are we going to deal with these issues if we are not comfortable with what we are? Trust the Holy Spirit in acquiring the identity that is authentic. We don’t have what the ethnic churches have, the solidarity of their ethnicity. They have a certain comfort and confidence that we don’t have. The new calendar and the pews don’t make us an American church, something else has to make us an American church.

==

My dogmatic professor at the seminary says that the OCA is a Russian church in translation. The break has occurred in our understanding of our relationship to the hierarchy. The hierarchal principle cannot endure without relationship to the laity. The bishop cannot be a bishop without that relationship. Thinking of the laity as stupid sheep does not help the relationship. The ethnic churches are holding on to ethnicity and it is rather sad because the center to hold on to should be Christ. There is nothing to hold on to until we repent and go back to Christ. There must be a serious underlying problem in the OCA that hasn’t been addressed that is so much more important that the financial crisis.

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(Fr. Garklavs) Ethnicity and Orthodoxy are deeply entrenched. Being patriotic is good, but we also now see two Orthodox countries at war. We in the OCA feel the vacuum of the American dream. We don’t come to church enough, and so priests don’t have enough services, cut sermons. We are not praying enough. Someone told me the former chancellor brought the OCA out of the back yard and into the mainstream of American culture.  At the time that made all of us happy. We wanted to be on the map and were very proud of it. We bought into that because being on the front page meant being accepted into the “American dream”. With acceptance come money, with money comes corruption. The church has to respond to lawsuits, to internal strife. This is the crisis – we want to be church in America but we haven’t figured out what that means. The matter of identity is a communal thing. Just as the late Aleksander Solzhenitsyn said about Russia after the fall of communism, the whole OCA has to repent.  And after all, we are talking about the basics of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian, we should do it every day anyhow.

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If you want to see a challenge of what we have to react to, see the op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by Matthew Kaminski and what he has to say about the Orthodox. We must respond.

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The OCA has to be what happened at the Pentecost, that Christ speaks to people in their own language. We must preach to American civilization and bring Christ to them.

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OCA is important because we are the church of the new age, a canonically established church, regardless of what the Ecumenical Patriarch may think. We have the legacy of the best theological thinking of the 20th century from St. Sergius and then St. Vladimir’s, the thinking that went back to the roots of Orthodox theology, to the Patristic tradition, clearing away layers of ethnic baggage, of imperialism, centuries of baggage. We are based on the canonical geographical principle, not on ethnicity, and we are also not associated with any government, unlike other Orthodox churches. This is all very valuable, it is worth fighting for.

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We have to change our name to American Orthodox Church, because we sound like something that is foreign to America, brought into America.

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The ethnicity is such a stereotype. We should not make a mistake as other ethnic churches, by becoming another ethnic “American” church. We are in this world but not of this world. Our problems are not American, they are universal. We need to look at the Orthodox church which is somewhat independent of culture.

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When my children were growing up I prayed, Lord, if they do something wrong, let them be caught. I am glad that the scandal came to light because I see it as a hand of God. God has outed us, and it is a good thing. We have to reveal Christ. We have to be what Christ is to other people.

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As persons, individuals, as a body of Church we do not come from nowhere. We cannot shed cultural roots and just jump into this amorphous “American identity”. It is not an issue of chucking ethnic ties, it leads to nowhere. It is an issue of Christ being primary, first, at the head of everything. If Christ is at the head then it doesn’t matter if we are a Russian church in translation because then we are reaching out.

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In some Orthodox churches there is an American flag somewhere in the building, in some there are not. Is there a policy? I feel that a visitor going into the church seeing the American flag sees that it is the American church. It is a way to show that we are American. Does a priest have a right to rule on it? – Answer from Fr. Garklavs – Talk to the priest, bring this up in the parish the meeting.
Closing remarks by Bishop Nikon:

When I was appointed to chair the Preconciliar Commission I felt I was being set up to fail, but I have no intention of failing. We are going to Pittsburgh to repair, going there for repentance, for forgiveness, and to take care of the business of the church. We are taking the input of the church in all these meetings. The meetings were being set up so the bishops would be made to hear.

The agenda will look at how the money are actually generating good deeds, missions, etc.

After the formall meeting concluded, His Grace, Bishop Nikon took questions from participants.

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

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.

==

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.

==

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!

==

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.

==

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.

==

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

OCA “Town Hall” Meeting Notes: Carnegie, PA, July 31, 2008

The Town Hall Meeting opened with “O Heavenly King” at 6:59 PM

His Grace, Bishop Tikhon opened with some remarks: he was here not only as Locum tenens but as a member of the Holy Synod. He said that it was a joy to meet in Christ – even in bad times. He stated that we are here to find Christ Himself, and to move in that direction as we struggle to find the truth. He stated that the bishops want to discern the way – they need the people to do this. He reminded everyone that there is no flock without the bishop and there is no bishop without the flock and that we are to guard ourselves with the sign of Cross. He implored everyone to share their comments openly and lovingly.

Fr. Alexander Garklavs, Chancellor of the OCA, who represented the Preconciliar Commission and acted as facilitator, offered some comments:  He was here in Pittsburgh at the Hilton the past few days concerning more details about the upcoming AAC. He reported that the hotel is not in danger of imminent closure and is not in bankruptcy – things look fine for the AAC. He said that joining him for this Town Hall meeting was Fr. Eric Tosi, the new OCA Secretary. Notes, not minutes, will be taken at this meeting to provide highlights of the remarks.  He talked about why we are here; that the Church is going through difficult times and grappling with the complexity that challenges us in planning the AAC; there is no substitute for face-to-face encounters to hear as many opinions as possible; everyone’s voice is important. He stated that people feel in general that there has been a disconnect between the Holy Synod and the clergy/laity.  The Town Hall notes will be presented to the Holy Synod for reflection.  He reminded that this is really a forum, not a dialogue. The Chancellor stated that not everything presented can be implemented at the AAC by the Preconciliar Commission but that all voices should be heard. He listed four ground rules for the meeting:

  1. No Attribution
  2. Respect for each other
  3. No judgment
  4. Balanced Time

Also – written statements can be submitted (name is optional).

The remainder of the meeting focused on the four questions listed by Fr. Garklavs to frame the meeting’s comments. Each question and the personal responses from meeting speakers follow in these notes.

Q1: How have the events of the past several years in the OCA affected you personally?

Fr. John Reeves read a written statement (see comments section below).

==

Besides crying, I feel like my soul has been ripped out.  I don’t think I’m ready to go to the AAC even though I know people have been working hard.  Get rid of the decay –we are mired in the muck.  To pretend that we are ready to sit in a room holding hands and sing “Kum-by-ya” is unfair.  There is a big white, smelly elephant in the room.  We come to the AAC tarred.  We are not ready to make plans for stewardship, etc. while this sore festers.  We are ALL the church.  This problem cannot become our AAC, we deserve better, Christ deserves better.  Find a way to get together and end our suffering – perhaps a negotiating committee between the different levels of the Church. (Also see written statement in comments section below.)

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Sense of betrayal – by the Central Administration and by the bishops because they failed to do anything about the problem.  We looked at them as pillars of truth and we found them to be giving us smoke instead of real actions.

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Four things:
1. Disillusionment.  IS there somebody “in charge” of the church?
2. A lack of trust.  We’ve reached a point where anything we hear is met with skepticism from the central church.  There have been improvements.
3. Resentful.  I feel let down by people at the highest levels.
4. A lack of confidence. I do not believe that senior leadership can lead us out of this crisis and back onto solid ground.

==

I am ashamed of the Church, the so-called OCA.  I am ashamed of the bishops, ashamed of the Metropolitan – he is a liar.  +Archbishop Kyrill said that he was sorry he put him in as Metropolitan.  We will not go ahead with the kind of leadership that we have now.

==

I cannot trust the Church anymore.  It took ROCOR 80 years to overcome their trust issue.  Now bishops have come from being card carrying members of Communist party to card carrying members of Discover Card — how did this happen?  This isn’t going to go away overnight.  This Diocese should meet outside this meeting with the Metropolitan Council reps.  It is good we are blessed with town hall meeting opportunities, but why not sooner?

==

This meeting has only a 2 hour time slot, others had 3 hours. (Fr. Garklavs responded that we will be flexible regarding time.)  We cannot pretend that the scandal has touched everybody.  Some have no idea.  Some don’t care.  It’s all politics to some people – particularly in the South and West.  Personally, I have friends of 30 years that I no longer speak to.  Priests aren’t speaking to each other.  Laity attacked clergy, and vice versa.  Some priests have silenced their parishes.  Some priests have been silenced.  Parishes that withheld assessments long ago were reprimanded.  People have picked sides – the Metropolitan’s side, the Kondratick side, the Kucynda side, etc.  We’re all on Christ’s side.  We’ve lost people from the OCA and Orthodoxy.  We’ve lost people who were interested in coming into the faith. Why? Because leaders have failed to deal with the problems.  For a long time everything was “fine.”  Fr. Melchizedek (Pleska) mentioned in his recent visit to the Archdiocese about the recent problems with scandals in the Church of Greece. “In six months, it was dealt with and over.”  Now in November it will be three years for us – no end?

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Discouraged at what has happened and even more so in how it has been dealt with.  As a priest, I am asked “why aren’t you doing something?”  We need to do something to appease the people who are affected and to relieve their pain.

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I am not personally affected, but corporately we are all affected.  It was God’s money that has been abused.  If God’s money was used and stolen, there must be an effort to repay it quickly.  Syosset must be sold so interest can be repaid.  The “no one will know” mentality is not right.  I am truly, truly concerned about this money.  May God continue to bless us.

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At the Orlando AAC, the bishop’s overruled the will of the people concerning the new Metropolitan.  Now we are hearing rumors that the decision was set in stone prior to the AAC. Now I have to question everything that is coming from our primate and our bishops.

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It is difficult to speak because I am standing on a precipice.  I find myself fighting everyday saying “Why Lord, have you placed another stigma on my cross?” Shame on all of us (as clergy.)  When I think of Christ crucified on the Cross, we have done the same thing to our Church by taking a spear (this crisis) and piercing Her — and we’re not healing the wound.  We’re letting it fester for years and years and years.  What good is going to come of this?  We need to clean the wound, sew it up, and go on with the will of God.  We’ve let pride and greed come into play.

Q2: Comments/thoughts/reflections on how to improve situation. How do we change? Where do we go from here? What is the best possible outcome?

No one has the answer other than God, and we must open our hearts to His will and to receive His message. A written statement was read by Fr. A. Matychak (see comments section below).

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I don’t have an answer.  But we thought we had a situation that was a best case scenario.  But they were forced to resign.  I’m waiting for the SIC report to be released.

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The best outcome is that there be complete and total disclosure.  Whatever it may be, theft, sexual perversion, substance abuse, whatever, the truth must come out.  The SIC results MUST be released as a whole to the body of the Church.  Not sure what happens from there.  Who is driving the train at this point?  Even if truth comes to light, who has the authority to say what will be done?

==

For us collectively to recover the vision that was the OCA which has been lost.  This is not simply about money, but about vision.  This vision is gone because it is difficult to hold up the OCA in the midst of this crisis.  Let the vision be recovered and let it be understood that God’s work is most important.

==

I don’t know completely but I know what part of the solution is.  Far fewer people showed up for our episcopal candidates’ visits than are here tonight.  We’re talking about the past tonight, when are you going to talk about the future?  We don’t need to hear about our brother’s sins, I have my own to worry about.  We need to move forward.

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This is the OCA. America is a land of laws, and we must be law abiding.  Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.  Everything needs to be examined and conclusions must be made. If they are guilty, we must take care of it.  Yes, we have compassion, however, what does it say to the future if we say you can do what you want?

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We need to restore accountability, financially and administratively; no cronyism.

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That we never have to hear the SIC report, and the main people come forward themselves and say what’s happened.  This is a cancer and it must be healed.  It can be healed by divine healing.  If not, then it will have to be removed by other means that we prefer not to use.

==

We’ve been frustrated for a long time.  A lot of this is coming from a cultural background.  We haven’t acknowledged that the people in the pews are smart and are well spoken.  Best case scenario: the Church be the Church in America in the 21st century.  We just can’t take the model of the church of 100 years ago and expect it to work.  The Church has changed (technology, etc.)  The whole Church has to shift.

Q3: Suggestions for the AAC?  Specifics/recommendations/what would you say to the AAC?

The OCA does have a Statute, and it needs to be reinforced at the AAC.  If it is out of date, we need to change it, and follow it. We need to do a better job at understanding what aspects of church life are governed by canon law and which by secular law.  We need the appropriate division of labor.

==

Fr. John Reeves read a second written statement (see comments section below).

==

I am a convert from Catholicism.  Any reports on the scandal should come out well in advance of the AAC or else the AAC is useless.  I am equating this current situation with a building that has a cracked foundation and all that has been done is spackling with bricks continued to be put on it, and that will not work, the foundation will give out.  Money limited going into central administration.  Trust and respect aren’t awarded, they are earned.  Once they are earned God’s blessing will once again flourish the OCA.

==

What I would like to tell the AAC, depends on 3 things happening before the council.  What are we as an autocephalous church?  We are the only Orthodox Church in this country that is autocephalous.  Other jurisdictions would be very happy if the OCA would die.  Just this week, Archbishop Lazar wrote that the OCA should disappear by this fall.  We’ve hardly talked about evangelization tonight, and we’re all missing that boat. The SIC report is due to be release on Sept. 3, 4, 5, and if truthful and complete and points out what went wrong, and why, and — like it or not — who was responsible and why they should not be in these positions again.  This report needs to be released without deletions by this date. Metropolitan Herman is a native son of this diocese but it must be clear that he has lost the trust of the people.  It has been shattered and his leadership has vanished. The Metropolitan Council last spring went into a private meeting and afterwards there was a motion asking him to retire, but was tabled by a priest.  If it had gone to a vote, it would have passed.  It seems that he can no longer lead and the people will no longer follow him. Bishop Tikhon is here tonight, yet its clear there are problems with the Synod being our Synod, specifically, problems with hiding things and silencing people and saying everything is fine.  The Synod needs an Aqua Velva moment.  Somehow they need to wake up.  The Synod needs to stand up like men at this point.  After Archbishop Job had left the Synod meeting the Synod voted a vote of confidence for the Metropolitan.  The Synod needs to wake up!  Randy Pausch died last week at the age of 47.  He made the news because he gave his “final lecture.”  “If I could only give 3 words of advice, they  would be ‘tell the truth’ –  3 more would be-  ‘all the time.’”  It seems that some of leaders do not know how to tell the truth.  If we don’t begin telling the truth, our problems will not be solved.

==

Something a little greater than the AAC, such as ordinations (in this area) are on hold because we don’t have a bishop.  I’ve never heard of this rule before.  Our Locum tenens are not able to focus as our Locum tenens for whatever reason.  We are the Church – we need to be the Church. The AAC must focus on the message of Jesus Christ.  It starts with our hierarchs.  We need to get over our paralysis.  This scandal has cost souls.  We need to put the focus back on the Gospel and be the Orthodox Church of North America.  Right now we are failing because we are too wrapped up in garbage.  Put the garbage back in the dumpster where it belongs.

==

Two things I learned from Archbishop Kyrill: 1. Who cares about your opinion?  2. Talk is cheap.  Words, words, words.  I am disappointed in the OCA.  As long as we believe it is God who handles things, and not us, it will be done.  We are assembled together as a Church because of God.  Fr. Schmemann’s saying, 2 no’s, and 1 yes.  Changing of whole culture.  Culture of mediocrity.  Mediocre attitude.  Priests not implementing Synod directives.  Nothing has happened since 2003. Why no new encyclicals from the Synod?  Right now, in this Diocese, all liturgies are invalid since they bear the name of a deceased hierarch.  I don’t believe that at this point the AAC is really able to accomplish what it needs to.

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I’m not sure that what needs to be done before the AAC will be held.  So it needs to be asked – should there even BE an AAC in November? If it must occur, there needs to be a sense that the AAC cannot follow the thinking of other Councils – i.e. a whole schedule of workshops.  First thing should be a “plenary workshop” – a chance to respond, and think as a Church.

==

If we do an AAC, we need to be passionate about feeding the hungry.  Let’s do something.  That’s why I want the money back. I don’t hate Long Island, but I hate long debt.  Let’s talk and evangelize.  Let’s be the one who does it.  Let’s do the work of the Church.

==

There is a saying “the path to hell is paved with the skulls of priests and bishops.”  There has been talk at other town halls about forgiveness.  We need to talk of condemnation.  Those who are fault, we must condemn their actions.  At the AAC, we must condemn those who were involved and throw them out.  Let them reap their just rewards then they may repent and ask us for our forgiveness.

==

I’ve been a parish priest for 35 years and a chaplain in healthcare for over 17.  If we don’t make a change in the AAC right now, I see the church as a person on the operating table connected to life support on its deathbed.  When the plug is pulled the body dies.  We are the body and Christ is the church.  What are we going to do at the AAC that will be a reviving shot in the arm for our Church?  We’re not fixing the problem. We’re not bringing people into the Church.  I’m afraid it’s going to be like all the other ones.  Everything was pushed through at the end and nothing was accomplished.  I look to the hierarchs of the Church to guide us with the Holy Spirit to guide us through this and keep the Church alive or else we will die.

==

I believe the AAC will be in session for 72 hours, and will be used wisely.  Make every hour worth it. There shouldn’t be a banquet, or, at least, some of the dinner ticket price should be put towards a charity – perhaps feeding the homeless.

==

Fr. Garklavs reminded us that we are bound by our statute to hold an AAC.  Some have trepidations about it and hope that it won’t happen, but it will happen.  The SIC report will be presented at the joint meeting in early September, and once it is presented it will be presented to the entire Church (likely via the website.)  No question about it being delayed. Many tonight did not speak, but are present.  We all love God and love the church.  We have different opinions, and it’s always been this way.  We are the Church that was founded on Pentecost.  In spite of our best efforts to mess things up the Church goes on.  We believe in the Church.  Those of us who work in Syosset believe in the Church.  Syosset is anything but luxurious.  It’s never black and white, we bear each others burdens.  We all believe in the hereafter.

Q4: Why is the OCA important?  Why is it important to you? Why is it important that it not die?

Mother Alexandra (Holy Transfiguration Monastery) wanted her monastery to be in the OCA and wanted it in English.  It is important to our monastery.  We are under Archbishop Nathaniel.  The Romanian Diocese is a great diocese, are we going to let it leave?  I think the OCA better make a counter offer.  Will you just let us leave?  Is anyone going to invite us to stay?

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As a convert, we are the Orthodox Church in America and we are the best thing going.  We are the church Jesus Christ put in America.  We must be an American church for all ethnicities.  The Church should be welcoming.  Our departed bishops left a legacy.  If we are the Church, we need to be the Church.

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I am not committed to the institutional survival of the OCA.  I belong to Christ’s jurisdiction.  OCA triumphalism needs to go away.  We have spent 40 years being anything but an autocephalous church.  We have not proved ourselves worthy of being autocephalous.  The Greeks laugh at us.  The Antiochians laugh at us.  Had we spent the last 40 years being autocephalous, we might have had scandals, but we would have handled them properly.  We haven’t been worthy.  Maybe we will be, but it has to be for the right reasons.  Were we baptized into a jurisdiction or a church?  Institutionalism will kill us.  We need to see it as a body of Christ and not a bureaucracy.  Stop treating yourself as a corporate expression.  The church is not committees.  The church is local.

(Fr. Garklavs’ response: we were not founded merely as an institution.  In my eyes, we are not an institution, but a Church, a Church with a history, it has structure, it was built up by real people, and today it exists because of visionary people who preceded us.  There has never been a church like the OCA in this country, or in history.)

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I disagree with what has just been said.  We are an institution. Without it we would have no seminaries, we would have nothing.  We are not Protestant.  We function as a great big organism.  Not as separate churches.  Terrible sins have been committed but they will be forgiven not by you, not by me, but by God.

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I love this Church – it saved my life. The only way I got better was when I was willing to be honest.  I love this church, born and raised in it.  We are trusted servants, we don’t govern.  Honesty, being open-minded and willing to change – this is how you are healed.  Each and everyday I pray that I can do God’s will.  We will recover.  We need to pray and put Christ at the center.  It has to be ‘we” not “me.”

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It comes from within.  We have to look at who are becoming our priests.  We need more men who are self-sacrificing.  We need to get away from this attitude of entitlement and handouts.  We need to get back to handing this Church down from generation to generation.  It starts with the family unit, and we are the family.  People in parishes need to know that they are being prayed for and are loved. The small parishes, even with only 10 people, need to be attended to by dedicated priests like many we have now in our deanery who give up much.

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I’m a recent convert from the Methodists.  I see the OCA as the only effective organization in Orthodoxy in America.  The young people of America don’t want to be evangelized by Russians or priests who don’t speak English.  They don’t understand Slavonic or Russian or Greek.  They understand English.

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The scandal has caused us to forget about what the OCA provides us.  You want to go to seminary?  The three major seminaries are all OCA.  They are funded as OCA.  Other jurisdictions use ours.  You take away the OCA, what happens to our seminaries?  Our monasteries?  St. Tikhon’s is the mother monastery in America. The Church in our land was brought here by Russian missionaries with their effort and love.  We are worried about the wrong stuff.  We need to focus.

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Closing comments by His Grace, Bishop TIKHON:  First, what a blessing it was for us to be here.  We should be thankful to God for this remarkable event.  I think this it is what’s good in our Church.  Our meeting tonight reminds me of life in the monastery.  To go back to the roots of our faith is a good thing!  We need to be willing to enter into the crucible that is the monastery. Life in a monastery is like rocks bumping up against each other; they smooth out the rough edges as they touch.  We need to reaffirm our desire to enter this Town Hall meeting and talk with each other, and even if we beat each other up we still love each other in the end. We in the Church are not like a forest – we’re one tree.  Christ will give us direction in our Church.  Tonight I offer repentance.  In order to get to Christ we need to become humble and sometimes we need to be  humiliated to become humble.  If you’re going through hell, keep going.  Why? Because we are going to Christ and the Resurrection.  We need to preserve hope in our hearts through prayer and love and repentance.  Through God’s wisdom and grace we will persevere.  We should bear each other’s burdens.  Let us pray and work together so that the Lord will remove our burdens.   I am hopeful for our Church.  I am a bishop of the Church and I am involved.  I take seriously the responsibility I have as an Orthodox bishop and as an Orthodox Christian.  Christ is with us.

Closing prayer – “It is Truly Meet”- at 11 PM.

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Lessons from the Council of 1917: A response to Professor Meyendorff’s proposal…

I decided to write this letter as a response to some suggestions that were recently made as to how our Orthodox Church in America should handle the recent scandal that engulfed us.  We all know that many faithful of our Church are concerned with the current state of affairs in the OCA and would like to see resolution to the ongoing scandal in the way that is in the best correspondence with the Gospel.  Yet, considering the very young age of our Church, influence from pluralistic society and non-Orthodox Christian movements that our faithful find themselves under (whether they realize it or not) and general confusion that resulted from obvious lack of clear understanding of Orthodox Ecclesiology, I am afraid that the ongoing discussion can lead our Church to the path of self-destruction.  The only way our Church in America can be preserved as an Orthodox Church is if we follow the traditional way of governing our Church, the same way that we find in all other local Autocephalous Churches.  To look for a unique “American way” of understanding the hierarchical nature of the Church at this time of total chaos of opinions would simply mean a dissolution of our Church which will be torn apart by different fractions that believe that their “solution” is better than the “solutions” suggested by others.

To put it simply, we don’t have a luxury of trying to reinvent a more efficient wheel.  I think what is the most important for us is to have firm trust in that not only the doctrinal statements of the Orthodox Church, her liturgical worship, but also the Canons and the established tradition of governing the Church by a Sobor of Bishops, is  all part of what makes our Church Orthodox.  By departing from a TRADITIONAL understanding of the relationship between bishops, priests and laity we are in danger of damaging the Orthodoxy of our Church, even though it will look like we serve the same services and proclaim the same Creed.

I think it is in this light that we should look at the proposal made by Dr. Paul Meyendorff and which seems to be getting endorsement even from some of the Hierarchs.  The relevant question is: do we really have a precedent in the Church history when ALL the bishops of a local Church made a decision to step down and to be replaced with those elected by the people?

Dr. Meyendorff, refers to the precedent that took place before (not during) the All-Russian Sobor of 1917.  As with everything, any event has to be understood in its proper context and then it has to be considered whether the solution for that context can be applied to our situation right now.

To begin with, it is important for us to remember that when we refer to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church it cannot be properly compared to the Holy Synod of the OCA.  While in the OCA every ruling hierarch of a diocese is automatically a member of the Holy Synod, in the Russian Church the Holy Synod represents only a small fraction of the total number of bishops.  While there are over two hundred bishops in the whole of the Russian Church, the Synod consists of less than 20 hierarchs.  They are presided by a Patriarch and are charged with overseeing the life of the Church between the gatherings of All-Russian Sobor of Bishops.

Here I have to correct Dr. Meyendorff’s statement that the Russian Sobor of 1917 adopted a process in which “each diocese was given the right to elect its own bishop, and sitting bishops had to stand for re-election.” In reality there were no definitions of the Sobor itself that specified this as a way of how the Sobor should begin.  There were cases of reelection of bishops in many dioceses throughout the Russian Church, but it was all done prior to the Sobor and after the results of each election became known it was still up to the Holy Synod of Bishops, that was current at the time, to decide whether or not a particular bishop stays as a ruling hierarch of his diocese.  The very fact that the final decision was resting with the Holy Synod of Bishops is crucial since the integrity of the local Church always rests on the integrity of the local Synod of Bishops and in that case this integrity was preserved.

It is also important for us to remember that the year 1917, when the Sobor started its work, was a time of great disturbance of political and social life of Russian people.  There were many cases of direct or indirect influence of the political upheaval in Russia on the Synod of the Russian Church at that time.  For some of the examples one just have to read in more detail about what transpired in Russia during the year 1917 and how all this was affecting the Orthodox Church there.  Can we consider the decisions of the Synod that was acting in those circumstances as a precedent for us?  I believe that the age, size and the position of our Orthodox Church in America in relation to other Orthodox Churches in this land make it unreasonable for us to use this as a precedent for guiding us out of our current problems.

So what can be done?  Can all the members of the Synod resign and be replaced with new ones or be reelected?  I would say theoretically it is possible, but only in one case: if our Church is not Autocephalous.  If we depended on our Mother-Church for our hierarchs then we could request that the hierarchs be replaced with new ones that will be taught, consecrated and supervised by a Mother – Church where the tradition of hierarchical governance of the Church has been preserved in the unbroken succession from the apostolic times.  But if we consider ourselves an Autocephalous Church, we cannot do it.  At the very moment when all our bishops resign, our Church will proclaim to the whole Orthodox world that we could not hold to the gift of Autocephaly that was given to us in 1970.  We will admit to ourselves and everyone else that we could not govern our Church in America through traditional Orthodox way of hierarchical leadership.  And we will lose the apostolic succession and the right to be called a Canonical Church.

So the solution to our current problem, I believe, is not in re-electing all the ruling bishops fast enough before other Churches could realize what has happened.  Like everything in the Church, the Episcopal governance can only be properly maintained when the previous generation of bishops teaches a new generation of bishops how to “rightly divide the word of truth”.  It is impossible to learn how to be an Orthodox Christian or how to serve services by just reading a book.  I am sure that the same applies to the episcopate: it is impossible to learn how to be a bishop unless you see how previous generation of bishops fulfills their work in the Church, even though they might have many shortcomings.

Ultimately the question that lies before us: do we trust the Tradition of the Church?  Do we trust that the Church is a living organism that is nourished by the Holy Spirit and lives by laws different from the laws of the world?  Do we have faith that the Holy Spirit will be able to lead us out of this crisis without changing the Traditional way of Church governance?  And lastly, do we want our will to be done, or do we want the will of our Lord who is the Head of the Church to be done in His Body?

I hope that our Church will consider the implications of what will happen if we will go down the path that was suggested in Dr. Meyendorff’s proposal.  I also hope that the members of our Orthodox Church in America will be able to clearly see what ways of dealing with the current problems are acceptable in the context of Orthodox Tradition.  I pray that we will be able to have a real and honest discussion on the questions of Church life that are so urgent this day, but most importantly, that our Holy Synod of Bishops will be able to effectively lead us from the current time of great turmoil to the time of peace in our Orthodox Church in America.

– Fr. Victor Gorodenchuk, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA

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Lessons from the Council of 1917: A proposal from Professor Paul Meyendorff…

As a member of the last six pre-conciliar commissions, I sympathize with your current dilemma – you face the nearly impossible task of restoring peace and order within the Church. Trust on all levels has broken down, and restoring trust must be at the top of the church’s agenda at the present time.

I have been following the OCA situation for some time, keeping in touch with large numbers of concerned clergy and laity on all sides. I have up until now avoided making any public statements or internet postings. But I have come to believe strongly in the following solution which, although it may sound radical, has clear historical precedent, and may now be the only way to restore integrity and trust.

The Metropolitan and the entire Synod of Bishops need to submit their resignation, in humility acknowledging their individual and corporate responsibility and guilt for what has happened on their watch. These resignations are to be effective at the AAC, at which each bishop will stand for (re-)election by the clergy and lay representatives of his diocese. If the bishop is not re-elected in a straight up-or-down vote by secret ballot, he will immediately retire. If elected, he will immediately assume his post and a new Synod will be constituted. The senior bishop will assume the presidency of the Synod, and the election of a new Metropolitan will follow immediately. These steps will give us the opportunity to start with a clean slate.

Such was the process adopted by the 1917 Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in its effort to restore trust in the Church at a critical juncture in its history. Each diocese was given the right to elect its own bishop, and sitting bishops had to stand for re-election. A number of bishops, including, for example, Metropolitan Antonii Khrapovitskii of Petrograd (modern-day St Petersburg), were voted out.

The second task of the AAC will be to begin discussion of a new statute for the OCA, one that will contain appropriate checks and balances and restore true conciliarity to the Church. There is not sufficient time to do much before November 2008, and the atmosphere is currently too polluted for significant progress to be made. But the AAC could certainly elect a representative body of bishops, clergy, and laity to address this task over the next few years.

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OCA “Town Hall” Meeting Notes: Indianapolis, IN, July 31, 2008

The Indianapolis Town Hall Meeting was held at St. John the Forerunner Orthodox Church on July 31, 2008. Approximately 85 people were in attendance, mostly from the Indianapolis area, but also representing Kokomo and Crawfordsville, IN and Dayton, Lima and Cincinnati, OH. Eight members of the clergy were present.

Archbishop Job presided over the meeting and Michelle Jannakos, representing the Preconciliar Commission, was the facilitator for the session.

The meeting was started at 6:50 pm with a welcome and prayer led by Fr. Joseph Gibson, Rector of St John’s. Michelle described the purpose of the town hall and reviewed the ground rules which have been used at all of the Town Hall Meetings (no attribution, no judging, sharing of air time).

She indicated that comments will be posted on http://www.oca.org under the AAC blog and will be reviewed by the Preconciliar Commission and the Holy Synod in preparation for the November Council. Additional comments can also be sent to her by email following the meeting at MichelleJannakos@aol.com. Since Archbishop JOB had previously agreed to answer questions at this Town Hall meeting, 30 minutes at the end of the meeting would be allocated to such questions.

Question 1: What is working well in the OCA?

Parish life

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The dioceses – especially the Midwest

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The Midwest diocese’s new ‘Parish Health Initiative’

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Archbishop Job

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The use of English, and the growing diversity in our parishes

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The fact that the OCA has been humbled by the scandal, so that it is no longer as prideful or judgmental of others as was often the case in the past

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Diocesan communications

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The wonderful latitude of practices in the Diocese. A very pastoral approach dominates.

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We have become a lot more “on the ball” about things, not letting things slide as we did in the past.

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After three different OCA parish experiences, we appreciate a consistency in the OCA, regardless of where we have had to move.  Refreshing to find the centrality of Christ is there in each parish.  Despite the problems no other place we would rather be

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OCA parishes are very welcoming

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The Chancellor of OCA is making an effort – such as these Town Hall meetings – to deal with our problems. This is unique in Orthodoxy

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Too often problems are expected to be kept in the parish. Openness does exist in other jurisdictions, just in a different way.

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Despite what are serious failures in the national Church and Synod of Bishops, people really care about the OCA. OCANews.org is devoting a lot of time for the good of the Church

Question 2: What are your concerns about the OCA?

A woman began by quoting two passages from Scripture. The first was from 1 Kings in which Solomon is asked to decide between two women claiming to be the mother of a baby. The speaker stated that Syosset is not acting like a true mother, but is willing to sacrifice its child for itself. Syosset must repent and cleanse the Church with the truth. The second passage quoted concerned the Russian lay theologian Khomiakov who “named the heresy that Syosset is presently suffering from.” According to Khomiakov, apostolic tradition is not an inheritance of words, but an inner spiritual life.   We are coming to the next ANAC to rejoin the parishes in “sobornost”, and no ecclesiastical authority is authentic without “sobornost”. Truth and unity have been severed.

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We need to keep the scandal in perspective

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We are disappointed that it has not been resolved more quickly

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“If you want forgiveness, you have to tell the truth”

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We focus on resolution of short-term issues, and neglect to deal with long-term issues, such as the building up of monasticism

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Perhaps having married bishops would help

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Ecclesiology: we should be emphasizing and focusing more monetary resources at diocesan level rather than church central administration. The central church should act as a support of the dioceses.

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We expect – transparency, not colluding with lying, not tolerating slanderous comments such as those which were raised against Protodeacon Eric Wheeler and Archbishop JOB

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There is an enabling culture which allows this lying and slander to occur.

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Lack of compelling vision and there are competing visions between the geographic and ethnic dioceses.

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There are gatekeepers which do not allow certain issues to be addressed

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It is dangerous that there is not much interest by the Synod for full disclosure to all.

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There needs to be a system and/or policy to protect whistle blowers

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Those who have committed crimes should face criminal prosecution

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Most of the bishops are not accepting responsibility nor asking for forgiveness.

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Secular corporations seem able to deal with similar issues more quickly and seem to demand more accountability.

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There are persistent rumors that our autocephaly is in a precarious danger

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The geographic dioceses need to recognize and address the impact of the Romanian diocese decision to return to the jurisdiction of the Romanian church

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Are there any legal actions being undertaken by the FBI, IRS, etc??

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There have been allegations of sexual sin, homosexuality, and blackmail

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We are ashamed that we have been unable to deal with the scandal effectively within the church, and are forced to involve the government in addressing it.

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We have been letting lawyers tell us what to do rather than relying on Christian principles

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Clergy and synod do not trust the laity. Laity needs to push in order to get any action to take place.

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We are angry over our church’s inability to act. More integrity and ethics can be seen in the business world than in the church.

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We need better criteria and processes to select committee memberships, leaders, those in every role in the church. Best practices are fine, but their future implementation must be assured.

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Long-term negative effect on relationships of laity w/ bishops. Currently there is mistrust and it will take time to reestablish trust.

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It is sad that we feel we must ‘endure’ our Holy Synod

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Scandal is hindering our ability to focus on the real work of Christ

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The Church will prevail and survive, but only with integrity, honesty and courage

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We are all sinners and we all need Christ

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We have begun to assume that the bishops will participate in cover-ups and will fail to take the Gospel seriously. We have become immune to these reactions.

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We need public repentance before there can be reconciliation. We often use worship as a “cover” to our real problems. We are sick of being expected to allow the ‘mask’ to remain in place.

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Basic issue is Integrity. We are passive, hoping that the evil will “go away” rather than seeking to confront it.

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We may be mislead to think that our basic problem is size, and that uniting or evangelizing will remove the problem.

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This affects everyone. We are all responsible. What do we each need to do?

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We don’t want the inheritance we leave to the next generations to be a legacy of lies.

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People’s experience of the central church and of the Synod is not to see Christ there. The Synod seems afraid. They seem to value their own self-interest more than they value the truth. Wolves vs. shepherds.

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Bishops seem to want to be kings rather than fathers or shepherds. Many members of the Holy Synod should be removed.

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Do the bishops value the OCA Statutes as guiding their roles, especially in regard to power and authority?

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People confuse forgiveness and reconciliation. We need to forgive for our own spiritual health. But before there can be reconciliation we need to know that the other party acknowledges what they have done, admits to the wrong, and repents.

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Bishops should be blameless and above reproach, avoiding even the appearance of any impropriety, but we would settle for honesty and lack of cover-up

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The SIC report needs to be complete and be made public. Metropolitan HERMAN needs to step aside. We have ceased to make any progress in dealing with unity across jurisdictions or even with our own ethnic dioceses. There is no vision of a future North American church.

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Converts feel that they cannot leave this church (have been there/done that before) but that we need to uphold the True Faith now that we have found it. Need to clean house.

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We have faith in Archbishop JOB and trust him. He seems to be the only one in the Synod for which we feel this sense of trust. Laity are standing firm with Archbishop Job

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Lack of evangelism. Our energies are misdirected. We are inhibited from building new temple. There is the question of giving money because of misappropriation. All of this will have a negative impact on the next generation. There is no ombudsman to whom to turn.

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Some are living in fear and this fear does not come from God.

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We need to speak the truth

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We need to pray for Metropolitan Herman and for all the bishops. We must pray for our enemies.

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We do feel connected to our diocese but not to the central administration. Is this a structural (organizational) problem?

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Alaska: what happened there? What is being done to help them heal?

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Added via email: I would like to see jurisdictional unity so that there would be ONE voice of Orthodoxy in America.  I would like to see calendar unity among the jurisdictions.  I hope for transparency, integrity, accountability regarding the Syosset scandal among the clergy….and at the All American Council….clergy being willing to step down who have been irresponsible…for true courage, humility, and repentance before their brethren.

Question 3. What do you want to say to the A(N)AC ?

Why do observers need to pay $250 ?

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People should come even if they are not observers or delegates. There may be protests outside of the hotel

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All should be allowed to speak

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Metropolitan Herman needs to step aside

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There needs to be confession, repentance, asking for forgiveness

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Reveal the truth

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We are all children of God, regardless of rank or role

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Need healing. Confession must happen first and then forgiveness. There must be enough time for open discussion.

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Hearts are broken. We need time to heal. We need a forum for open discussion at the ANAC

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Clergy need to trust and be open to input from the laity

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We want the OCA to survive the Council

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What is the justification for an autocephalous OCA? What does this mean to us? We really don’t have these answers. We need a leader with vision and the ability to inspire us to answer these questions.

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Converts are the fruit of autocephaly. But how do we “live” it?

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What is the process, criteria for selecting bishops? Why is there secrecy about this?

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Romanian Episcopate’s proposal to leave needs to be addressed at the ANAC

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If the OCA fails to address the truth, it is not worthy of its autocephaly and deserved to fail.

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Need to iron this out now because it is continuing to distract us from our real mission. This should be the ONLY thing on the agenda.

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Scandal is a deterrent from effective evangelization

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It is not only about money. We have lost our corporate soul. We need specifically to discuss what should an American Church look like in 100 years, regarding evangelism, etc.  This is not a failure, but an opportunity of the Spirit to get us back to what we should be doing. The Council then becomes an opening step to really being the Church in North America.

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Timetable for disclosure & resolution

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Why are the OCA Statutes being ignored (e.g. election of reps to Met Council)? We cannot pick and choose what to follow.

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Because the SIC report has been delayed, the timetable for resolution submission must be altered.

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Need to be prepared for an honest fight. Know the agenda and prepare for it, keeping Christ at its center.

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No more simple “lists” of Best Practices

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The bishops need to be engaged and interact with people at the ANAC, not just sit apart and observe.

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Clergy need to ‘come with all your parts and be prepared to use them’

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Laity can speak freely without worrying about losing their jobs, but there is still a culture of fear among clergy.

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The church can’t move forward until Metropolitan Herman steps down

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IOCC and OCMC should have come from autocephalous OCA

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Need full and complete revelation of truth

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If Metropolitan Herman won’t step down. What will we do if he doesn’t?

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It is a time of spiritual warfare

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Intentional disruption may be needed. Many are willing to talk big, but are people willing to actually follow through?

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This needs to come to a head now. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by.

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Reports should be distributed as pre-reads rather than spending precious time giving reports during the ANAC, to allow more time for discussion of these important topics

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The Midwest Diocese needs to stand together

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Should discuss budget earlier rather than at the very end of the session. Allow time for discussion and not simply “rubber stamp” it.

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God’s money has been misused.

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October Diocesan Assembly should be used to prepare a strategy. The priests need to be united and need to stand together.

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How can we celebrate the Eucharist together if there isn’t repentance and reconciliation? It would be a sham.

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Protests don’t mean that we don’t love those we are protesting against

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Holiness of the church doesn’t depend on having perfect bishops

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In discussing imperfect church leaders, Jesus did not say to ‘throw the bums out’ but rather to strive to live up to what they teach instead of what they do.

At the end of the Town Hall session, His Eminence, Archbishop Job made a few comments:

He felt energized by the comments from the participants this evening

He would not take the diocese to another jurisdiction because there isn’t any other that is autocephalous. He illustrated this in remembering how various ethnic churches needed to go back to their patriarchates after Ligonier meeting for approval, permission.

Doesn’t like people saying that they are ‘only a layman’

Held a Town Hall at summer camp for the youth. Our youth are not only the future of our church, but also our “present.” They articulated very good and thought provoking questions and comments.

There is a place for appropriate “protest.” At the AAC in Montreal in 1977, the Liturgy was in Slavonic until a group of clergy organized to use English for the Creed. That was a revolution of sorts.

Following his remarks, Archbishop Job answered a number of questions from gathered clergy and faithful.

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