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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