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OCANews: An Open Letter to the Metropolitan Council

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  • Nina_Dimas_42
    11.03.06 An Open Letter to the Metropolitan Council Dear Council Members: On November 1, 2006 there appeared on OCA.org a letter of Metropolitan Herman for the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2006
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      11.03.06


      An Open Letter to the Metropolitan Council

      Dear Council Members:

      On November 1, 2006 there appeared on OCA.org

      a letter of Metropolitan Herman for the OCA Charity Appeal. There
      was a link to "learn more about the appeal" which showed the
      financial details of the 2005 Charity Appeal. While the OCA is to be
      commended for finally (though belatedly) showing some transparency
      regarding its finances, the numbers given for the 2005 Charity
      Appeal should raise serious concerns for the Metropolitan Council.

      The OCA web page says the OCA took in $78,873

      for the 2005 Charity appeal.

      • It says at no time since November of 2005 have funds been "used
      for purposes other than that for which they were designated." This
      is good news, and we can hope it is true.

      • It listed $18,989 in appeal expenses.

      This is a hefty 24% - a cost which far exceeds acceptable limits for
      charities.

      • It says only $13,284 was actually distributed.

      A mere 16%!

      • It also notes: "Most of the money received for the 2005 Charity
      Appeal has not been distributed."

      One has to wonder why? If they collected the money for such pressing
      needs as were claimed in the appeal materials, why didn't they give
      them to these needy?

      It would seem there really weren't any such pressing needs to which
      the OCA was committed - or the OCA ignored the needs. (Or, perhaps,
      like the servant who received only the one talent, those overseeing
      the charity collection knew the membership of the OCA would now be
      very demanding and so they buried the talent?)

      Read what the webpage claims:

      "Individuals in need of financial assistance to offset medical
      expenses, loss of medical benefits, ongoing unemployment, and
      numerous other crises great and small have been touched, not only by
      the tangible assistance your donations provide, but by the simple
      fact that someone remembered them - and cared enough to reach out
      with the love of Christ in their time of need."

      Someone remembered that there were people out there that needed
      help, so they collected money. They just forgot to send it to the
      needy.

      This year's materials make an equal appeal to distressing and
      immediate needs. The webpage states:

      "With an increase in the number of requests that are received by the
      Orthodox Church in America every week, reaching the goals mandated
      by the All-American Councils makes your participation through a free-
      will offering crucial."

      Why should this be believed? Money given last year has, for the most
      part, not been given to any pressing need, but sits in OCA bank
      accounts. ( On the other hand, this seems to be an improvement over
      what happened to funds in past years.) If we aren't sure what to do
      with the money, or how to distribute it in a way that would meet
      membership approval, let us not collect it in the first place.


      The web page then says Syosset hopes to re-establish a Charity
      Committee to manage the funds. Will the restoration of this
      Committee then increase administrative expenses for its meetings?
      Will then even a bigger chunk of the raised monies go to "appeal
      expenses" rather than to the needy? I am not against people planning
      what to do with charity funds, but it appears there was no agreed
      upon plan for the disbursement of funds collected in 2005 or 2006,
      despite the claims of the appeal materials. So is the appeal
      for "pressing and immediate needs" just not true? Or is the fact
      that the money was not delivered to such "pressing needs" more
      indicative of administrative failure? Or is no one even thinking
      about this? Is the OCA is so addicted to fund raising that such
      collections go on automatically with no thought?

      It says the goal set (By whom? There is no committee) for 2006 is
      $100,000. Are they kidding? Syosset only distributed 16% of what
      they collected in 2005. They spent more in administrative costs
      (24%) than in charity giving – and that is without the cost of a
      Committee to meet to discuss the disbursement of fund. I will be
      suprised if they are going to get half of what they received last
      year. And if this is true, this charity appeal is a waste of money.
      What makes it most disturbing is that if the "administrative costs"
      are the same this year, as last year, those costs will be closer to
      75% of what they take in this year.

      I respectfully make the following recommendations to the
      Metropolitan Council which is supposed to oversee all OCA
      fundraising and spending:

      1) Suspend all special collections for 2007 and for the future until
      such a time that integrity and administrative order is restored in
      the OCA. Until the Chancery is functioning normatively (as
      established by the Metropolitan Council and in the context of the
      reorganization it is supposed to be undergoing), do not make any
      more special appeals. These only serve to embarrass the OCA and
      expose its ongoing dysfunction.

      No more fund raising until Best Practices are firmly in effect,
      until real budget priorities are established by the Metropolitan
      Council, until audits can confirm how money is being spent, until
      the real needs of the our small Church are established by legitimate
      authority. If one looks at the current structure of the OCA and the
      various people it currently employees one would have to conclude
      that the main business of the OCA is fundraising and finances. If we
      want people to believe things have changed, let's make sure they
      have really changed.

      Special appeals can be restored in the future if it is determined
      they are needed and can be done with integrity and transparency.
      Until then, tell our membership to give their money to the IOCC, the
      OCMC and directly to the seminary of their choice.

      2) In fact, outside of the assessment, the OCA should get out of the
      fundraising business. If the OCA has real and true financial
      commitments to charity (widows, those without medical benefits,
      etc.), seminaries and mission, make these commitments part of the
      2007 Budget, rather than relying on yearly special collections. Have
      the OCA designate 5% (or 10%) of its annual budget for mission,
      charity and seminary education. This will entail making real and
      massive changes in the OCA budget and seriously cutting other
      expenses and positions. But it will also show an absolute commitment
      to change. The 2007 Budget which the MC adopts should include these
      categories as line items. Show the membership that there are real
      and new priorities.

      This will entail a total rethinking of the budget. Let us not assume
      that what we have done in the past is 'sacred' and that we have to
      continue those same projects and policies.Let us put everything on
      the chopping block of budget cuts and reorganization.

      A reordering of priorities and reorganization of the priorities and
      projects of the chancery should be determined by the Metropolitan
      Council - not by the chancery staff who have the natural tendency to
      defend their positions and pet projects.

      Such changes would be a statement to the entire OCA that we are
      committed to change and not to business as usual. They require total
      rethinking of priorities by the Metropolitan Council, a total
      restructuring of the chancery staff and expenses, and a total
      commitment to a new OCA. It would mean not accepting anything that
      we are currently doing as untouchable, but reordering our priorities
      based upon the expressed concerns and needs of the membership and
      parishes of the OCA.

      Finally, these changes would help us begin asking the more important
      questions such as: What support do our parishes and priests need
      from the Chancery? What should the Chancery be doing to support the
      active ministry of our parishes? Such changes would give us an
      opportunity to build the OCA from the 'bottom up' rather than being
      seen as a expense imposed upon the membership. I believe the OCA
      membership would respond to these clear needs if the needs of the
      parishes and members were determined before any other expenses.

      We should be setting the 2007 budget so that we live within our
      means. This would result in a budget based upon the projected
      assessment of the OCA. This would be a great corrective to the way
      we have been doing budgets. If we first live within our means, and
      then parishes begin asking for more from the central administration,
      then the Chancery can legitimately say, "We need more financial
      support to do what you need from us." This is creating the central
      administration from the grass roots and ground level up, rather than
      having Syosset tell parishes how much the Chancery hopes to spend.

      In turn this would also help the OCA get out of the schizophrenic
      dilemma Syosset is currently trapped in - trying to convince
      everyone that the scandal is but a small distraction while the
      Church is going about her business as usual ("See - the special
      collections are going on just as they always have because nothing
      has happened that necessitates real change") while simultaneously
      insisting that things really have changed and it is not 'business as
      usual' in Syosset.

      Fr. Ted Bobosh
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