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.)


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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?


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


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.


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?


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.


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.)


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.



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

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

  1. Written statement to the Carnegie, PA, Town Hall Meeting prepared and read by Archpriest John Reeves, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, State College, PA:

    A history of corruption over most of the past 20 years has been documented. The wrongful use of time, treasure and talent within the OCA at the highest levels of governance has been exposed. It might have been appropriate at one time to attempt to explain some of these matters as occasioned by a lack of administrative sophistication or the absence of professional management; in other words, actions of well meaning but at times under qualified or even incompetent individuals. The scandal has confirmed, however, that in spite of less-malignant appearances, prevarication and theft were the main order of business for many years, at the highest levels of administration.

    You ask how has the scandal affected me?

    Any number of adjectives might describe the emotions that I have felt. Among them are sadness and nausea, frustration and anger, outrage and disgust. Yet, for me the cause of my greatest outrage and disgust is not the theft or “misapplication” of several millions of dollars as reprehensible as that is. The real scandal is how the OCA has responded to the allegations in the first place. The culture of stonewalling and dissimulation, of intimidation and fear, of patronage and largesse, the same culture by which the corruption of the past two decades was protected, has continued in good measure unabated. This is what has affected me the most. It has filled me not only with revulsion and lingering distrust of anyone involved in administration over the past two decades. Thus, what revolts me most is not what has transpired over the past twenty years but what has happened during the past three.

    After the refusal of the former chancellor to accede to a request from Archbishop Job to provide financial reports in 2005, there began an orchestrated attempt to intimidate him and to smear his reputation. It included the calls from “brother” bishops that he step down. This became more strident as he pressed the issue about the allegations of Deacon Eric Wheeler: Were they true or were they false?

    Questions of no merit should not have warranted such an obfuscade. Questions of no merit should have been very easily disproved. Questions of no merit should not have triggered pressure from the inside against Archbishop Job.

    Instead, we were told by late that year that there was no issue. It did not exist. The issue, like certain bank accounts, was declared off the books, closed to inquiry; in short, denial. By early 2006, though no specifics were given, we were told that mistakes had been made, namely “error, lack of good judgment and sin”. No further course of remediation was offered. Things continued as usual. No central players were removed.
    Then, in a matter of weeks the OCA chancellor seemed precipitously dismissed. His only offense stated at the time was a “threat” purportedly made against the Metropolitan and by the logic of central administration against the whole OCA. This time there was no mention of error, lack of good judgment, much less sin. Attorneys were hired and our long ecclesiastical nightmare began slowly to unfold.

    A full year later in 2007, after a high-priced, selective investigation, a preliminary report had been produced but immediately squelched. The Special Commission, which had been charged to write the report and recommend further action to conclude the investigation, had been stymied and interfered with virtually from its inception. Ultimately, two-thirds of the commission would resign over the refusal of administration to allow the investigation to go forward as demanded more than once the Metropolitan Council.

    Now some three years after Archbishop Job’s initial request, we still await an official report detailing what happened, why it happened, who was involved, what was known, by whom and when was it known. The allegations, are they true or are they false? We still do not have a definitive answer.

    Simultaneously, administration at the highest level has continued to promulgate the refrain, the myth that this was caused by “mismanagement” and that with new management, a reorganized administration would put things to right so that this would never happen again.

    1. If this scandal was occasioned mainly by mismanagement, why have we spent $400,000 in attorneys’ fees building what some have termed a “firewall around the Metropolitan”? This expenditure alone seems to be evidence of considerable mismanagement since the dismissal of the former chancellor, not to mention obstruction and dishonesty. This is not something that can be blamed on the former chancellor. This falls squarely on the shoulders of current administration.

    2. If reorganization is the answer to our problems, why has it not brought about a change in institutional behavior?

    As a case in point, following the hiring and dismissal of the original nominee for the position of new OCA Secretary, an internal ethics probe was launched into the attendant circumstances.

    What did it find? In short, it concluded that the old thinking has remained: Do what you want to do until you are caught, then deny it as long as you can, then pay your pay out of it.

    The same culture of denial, of cover up, still exists. The only difference is that now there is an ethics committee on the Metropolitan Council though its presence was not enough to prevent this later series of events, however, only to reach a determination after the fact.

    Indeed, only recently the mantra has been reiterated that this was a case basically of mismanagement and, after all, merely about money.

    I take strong issue with this position and with this logic.

    First, absent a definitive and final report, how can one be so sure that this only was merely about money and occasioned by mismanagement? Or, is this the predetermined, the foreordained interpretation of the yet to be issued Special Report?

    Mismanagement implies incompetence, not necessarily willful misdeeds. Certainly one would be hard pressed to draw the conclusion that mismanagement alone should warrant deposition from the priesthood. By deposing one from the priesthood the Holy Synod has, whether knowingly or unknowingly, said that this was not merely about mismanagement and money. This is certainly a matter of record. Does the Holy Synod not realize what it has done?

    Second, to minimize a situation is to rationalize it which is to deny it! Any psychologist can identify this behavior. A dismissive attitude about a series of events over almost twenty years that have crippled us, wounded us, demoralized us is less than patronizing. It is downright insulting!
    Does this mean that violations of some commandments are less heinous than violations of others?

    Does the assumption that this is mostly about money relieve us of moral responsibility?

    Does it mean that we need to find a body in the library to become alarmed?

    Do we need photographs of debauches to warrant greater concern or opprobrium?

    Here we get to the heart of the OCA culture that has dominated the thinking of administration both past and present. There has been no concept of sin, no sense of right and wrong.

    I am reminded of Dostoyevsky’s observation that if there is no God, then everything is permitted. Is that ultimately the elephant in the room? Do we have a culture of practical atheism at the highest levels?

    Shame on those who think this way! Shame on those who dissimulate in this fashion! Shame on those who have the appearance of godliness but deny the power thereof!

    This is the same culture of sin and deception that has controlled the OCA for nigh on twenty years. It is underhanded. It is depraved. It is warped. It is twisted. It calls evil “good” –or at the most “mismanagement”. Until it is expunged from our midst we shall have accomplished nothing.

    Archbishop Job’s question remains unanswered. If the charges are true, this is not merely about money: this is theft, and if theft, it is both a sin and a crime. Souls are at stake, the souls of those who are guilty as well as the souls of those who have covered the sin, and our souls as well.

    Stop whistling past this graveyard. We must change the basic culture that has allowed such egregious and nefarious behavior to take place and which has attempted to silence any and all efforts to address this issue. Can anyone seriously believe that this has only been about money, considering the time, energy and effort which has transpired in systemic resistance to reporting out the truth, to answering the allegations:

    Are they true or are they false?

  2. Written statement presented to the Carnegie, PA, Town Hall Meeting:

    This is a little parable about how the “scandal”, “crisis”, “money mismanagement”, “moral crisis” or those of any other name makes us unready to enter into an AAC at this point.

    My history began in Ambridge, PA

    I lived on Beaver Road bordering the hillside of what is known as Borough Park. This area of Beaver Road was led by the Babas of the Little Ukraine, Little Poland, and Little Russia.

    Each year on a day when the snows had ended and the spring was not yet here-you could take a sniff on your way home from school and smell fire and its aftermath in the air.

    They had done it again. They set the hillside on fire. But the Babas were masters of the controlled burn. No harm ever came.

    Each year you couldn’t wait to see how many fire trucks remained and each year the babas were scolded and told they “risked a catastrophe by burning the hillside.” To which they answered “To not burn the hillside is risking a bigger catastrophe.” By doing this they would say with their pieced-together English, “we get rid of the dacay, the rot, the dead that keeps us from being able to grow.” They burned away the old so that from the ashes there was fertile ground for their new growth. In this case it was vegetables.

    But this is so like our present day situation. To pretend that we are ready to sit in a room, hold hands and sing Kumbaya is to insult us. To think that struggling little churches should send a contingent to this affair and to be witness to a fight is unfair. No matter how many times you call us out of order, people will be heard. There is a groundswell calling for pickets and protesting. How embarrassing for Christ’s church-not only in Pittsburgh, or North America, but in the world. There is a big, white elephant in the room.

    We come to the AAC all mired in tar. We can move a little to the sides, a little to the back, and a little forward. But we really can’t move freely. We can’t really make plans for greater evangelism, stewardship, charitable giving, education, and greater service to the Lord wile a sore festers. And many will say our parish is doing great-this doesn’t affect our parish. We are all the church- the clergy, the royal priesthood of the laity (St. Peter) and the parishes. There is a line from the movie “The Usual Suspects”- “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.” But he does exist and his tugging at each of us does affect you.

    While the AAC is the highest authoritative and legislative body of the church by Article III of the statues- this problem CANNOT become our AAC. We deserve better and Christ deserves better. I have no wish for another’s pain or insult or trial or deposition-Christ expects more of me and of us but…

    I implore our Hierarchs, Metropolitan Council, and esteemed elders of the church to find a way to get together and end our suffering. Have the courage of the babas and burn the hillside before the AAC-rid the church (and we are all the church- clergy, the laity, the royal priesthood of St. Peter, and parishes) of the dead, decaying and the dying so we can grow in fertile ground.

    I suggest a negotiating committee to negotiate an end that would be agreeable.

  3. Written statement to the Carnegie, PA, Town Hall Meeting prepared and read by Archpriest Andrew Matychak, Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, Altoona, PA:

    So much written! Perhaps too much written! So many theories! Perhaps too many theories! One thing is for sure…this is…WHO WE ARE! We are the Church of Almighty God. The God we must all fear. Priests, bishops, deacons, laity all in charge of preserving the Truth and growing the Kingdom on earth!

    No one is sinless except God. We all sin but it is the recognition of our sins and the repentance thereof, in which lays our salvation. Repentance is a wonderful and priceless gift from God. He affords us the opportunity to come before Him and like a child to a parent simply say, “I’m sorry!” God not only accepts our apology he welcomes it. The most simple and yet greatest gift we can ever receive is to be FORGIVEN! The greatest tragedy in this whole “scandal” is that those at the very root of it have never asked for “forgiveness.” This sacred Sacrament has been totally disregarded and simply ignored. It would have been so easy for those at the very core of the problem to simply have said, “We did a terrible thing…we allowed the love of money and the sinfulness of the pride of power to cause us to sin. We beg your forgiveness and we propose the following changes in personnel and the system…!”

    Sure we would have all been angry. We would have all known we were betrayed but yet like the Prodigal’s father we too would have rejoiced in their total repentance. The act of contrition would have revealed to all that every one sins…save God and if the sacrament of Repentance works for those in charge, it most certainly will work for me. Through the very sin of pride they have destroyed their own credibility and have allowed their sins to cause such damage to God’s earthly kingdom!

    What do we do now? This seems to be the question…the only question that has been addressed. Can we follow those who have not repented or worse never even asked for forgiveness? Can we move forward? Can we preserve and extend the Kingdom of God in this world? I say of course we can, WITH, AND ONLY WITH NEW LEADERSHIP!

    The Holy Synod must and I say MUST select a new “Figure Head as Metropolitan.” Reveal the truth. Ask for forgiveness and allow the rest of us the ability to move God’s earthly kingdom forward.

    I would much rather “kill the fatted calf and make merry with my friends” than stand by and watch as some try to extinguish the life of the Church! I beg the Hierarchy to be examples of the sermons they preach on repentance and truly repent! Let us all move forward together to fulfill the vision that our founders of the OCA had in their minds and hearts.

    Remember…“if you shall conceal anything you shall have the greater sin, lest having come to the physician you go away unhealed!”

  4. Written statement to the Carnegie, PA, Town Hall Meeting prepared and read by Archpriest John Reeves, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, State College, PA:

    Let me warn the Preconciliar Commission pointedly, unless you are willing to use the AAC to expose this scandal to the light of the Gospel, do not bother. You will frustrate yourselves and you will more than anger the delegates. Do not bother to have another AAC. You will only have shown yourselves to be but “useful idiots”—to borrow Lenin’s phrase—another act in the OCA’s triennial dog and pony show.

    1. The first outcome from this AAC must be dissemination of the full report of the Special Committee to the Church at large.

    2. The AAC must unequivocally re-affirm the proper role of clergy and laity in the governance of the OCA.

    It has only been by means of clergy and laity united that the scandal has seen the light of day. Any attempt to rein in or eliminate either the AAC or the Metropolitan Council must be viewed as continuation by this insidious culture to keep the “old boys’ network” in place.

    Those who continue to speak against the roles and responsibilities of clergy and laity in the governance of the Church are evidence of this residue. Such marginalize both the people and the truth in the work of the Church. With respect, we must disagree and we must resist. To do otherwise is to abdicate the responsibility that both God and the civil law devolve on the clergy and laity together.

    3. The AAC must elect at-large delegates willing to pursue their fiduciary responsibilities without concern for repercussion.

    Currently, five of the six at-large delegates are now resident within the expanded Diocese of Washington-New York. Wider geographic and diocesan distribution is desirable.

    The AAC must provide a forum for scrutiny of candidates, their records heretofore if they are standing for re-election, and their understandings of the role and responsibility of the Metropolitan Council.

    At a future AAC, proposed revisions of the Statute need to assure that no diocese can end up with such lop-sided representation.

    4. The AAC must address the rightful role of a central administration, its canonical limitations and its necessary prerogatives.

    Our form of governance must be dictated by its function. After almost forty years of painful attempts in self-government the OCA must face the facts that competing visions of the role of the central administration, evidencing a clear lack of consensus, militate against its proper working.

    5. The AAC must drastically reduce the assessment on local parishes. The so-called “Fair Share” scheme of the previous and now discredited administration must be officially abolished.

    Fully 80% of funds collected in the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania go to central administration, while our own diocese cloys and continues to decline. Our Archdiocese does not exist to support a central administration but to do the work on Christ here, locally, in this diocese, which is where the Church is.

    Stop strangling us!

    6. Finally, this AAC must be responsible for beginning development of a different mindset in the OCA as to the proper oversight and prudent exercise of fiduciary responsibility by its bishops, its clergy and its people.

    Those who have failed in their duties heretofore and who refuse to retire, resign, or even admit their failures, must be seen as decrepit remnants of the old culture and as obstacles to the renewal of the Church.

    While maintaining respect for their offices, their opinions and their “advice” must be discounted accordingly as we chart our course forward, for the good of the Church. They have failed us heretofore. We should not be so naïve to believe that they would not fail us again.

    In summation: Tell the truth! And be willing to deal with the demands of truth, wherever the truth leads.

  5. Jon Marc Teusink

    “At the Orlando AAC, the bishop’s overruled the will of the people concerning the new Metropolitan.” Why do we as Orthodox Christians care about the “will of the people”? We are not revolutionary France! Our first hierarch, the Metropolitan of All the Americas, should be chosen by God, not by a Church-wide popularity contest!

    Our Holy Synod and All-American Council should follow the example of the All-Russian Council of Moscow held during the Revolution and chose our first hierarch through a drawing of lots held after the nominations have been finalized and a supplication/moleben to God for His mercy has been held. Surely this would be better (and more trusting in God’s provision) than all these reproaches and bitterness…

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