One year ago this past week OCANews.org went
on-line. Our goal then,as now, has remained constant:
to be a source for news concerning the ongoing financial scandal
in the OCA,
to enable Orthodox Christians to share their thoughts about it,
and to encourage Orthodox Christians to take action to resolve
this scandal which threatens the financial and moral integrity of
By any empirical standard, this task has been well-served.
OCANews.org has published 96 news articles concerning multiple
facets of scandal, 8 editorials, 4 open letters, 3 interviews and 3
special investigative series, each three parts in length. We have
published 47 reflections from 32 different authors, most written specifically for
OCANews.org. These have been read by more than 250,000 visitors (on
average 4,750 a night), producing 15 million page hits. Our
reporting has helped engender important articles in the print media:
in the Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune,
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and scores of local newspapers across
More importantly, our coverage brought forth your comments - 3,498
of them at last count on 96 discussion threads. Whether anonymous or
signed most were informative and many thought-provoking. Some were
irenic, others less so. Even more than the news articles, the
comments have given us an honest snapshot of the mood, concerns,
hopes and fears of the OCA in the past year.
Most importantly, despite the attempts to ignore, to overlook, to
dismiss, to silence, to scare, to deny, to obfuscate, to belittle,
to smear, to challenge, to thwart, to divert, to cover-up and even
to justify the scandal, action to resolve it has begun to take
place. The financial misdeeds stopped. With one notable exception at
the very top, the major figures of the old regime, under whose
leadership - or lack of same - misdeeds took place, were removed, or
are being removed, from power. The Metropolitan Council, long
moribund, has found new leaders, new life and a renewed purpose.
Even the Synod has moved beyond its customary stasis in agreeing to
the reorganization of the administration of Syosset, as well as the
need for the Special Commission to investigate it all.
Does this mean there is light at the end of our long tunnel?
Perhaps, but as Kyra Nikoleavna, an elderly Russian emigre in the
parish of my youth told me: "Dahling boy, don't forget that if you
see light at the end of a tunnel, it means you are still in the
And so we are. Just when it seemed steps are being taken to change,
the old ways reassert themselves. Take, for example, the recent
letter of the Metropolitan, in his capacity as Locum Tenens to the
parishes of the Diocese of West, informing them that each parish is
to be allowed one clerical and one lay delegate to the forthcoming
Diocesan Assembly to elect a new diocesan bishop. (Read that letter
here) Unfortunately, the Metropolitan's notice flatly contradicts
the OCA's own Statute in this regard which states in Article 7,
"The Diocesan Assembly shall be composed of:
c. The priests and deacons of each parish, ex officio, and an equal
number of lay delegates elected as provided for in Sections 6 and 7
of this Article;"
or again in Section 6 of the same Article:
"Every parish in the Diocese which has remitted all established
assessments determined by previous All-American Councils for the
support of the Church's central organization and all assessments
determined by previous Diocesan Assemblies is entitled to elect lay
delegates equal in number to the priests and deacons maintained by
the parish. Parishes not having a priest are entitled to one lay
delegate. The parish will cover the expenses connected with the
participation of its priests and elected lay delegates in the
Is it really too difficult to follow our own Statute in these
The culture of decline (spiritual, theological, financial, moral,
numerical, pick your poison...) that has beset the OCA for the past
15 years will not be fully halted by adherence to the Statute. But
it will certainly not be solved by blatantly ignoring the same. If
we have learned nothing in the past year, we have learned what those
costs of ignoring the Statute have been. Dancing in our own Potemkin
Village called Syosset, we watched passively as metropolitans,
bishops, officers, auditors, Council members, staff, etc, created
their own rules as they floated by. In so doing we lost:
$4.75 million in donations from the ADM Foundations, which remain
$1.7 million in misdirected charitable and adminstrative funds,
which remain unaccounted for;
$500,000 in investigative and accounting fees to learn that we
lost the $1.7 million above;
and those are just the most obvious costs.Missing bequests, lost
donations (down 75% this past year according to the 2006 budget),
Alaskan mortgages - we haven't even begun to deal with these
In short, a Potemkin Village may be just a facade, but it isn't
In the end, though, money is just money. The heart of this crisis,
what we really have lost, is our integrity and good name. Some
continue to blame this website for that. The truth is we lost both a
long while ago. And for that loss, we all bear the blame for
remaining silent, complicit, complacent, frightened, passive, self-
satisified, self-absorbed, prudent, cynical, uncaring, (pick your
own justification for continuing to dance) while evil worked among
us. Unless we can admit that, and then begin to do something about
it in our parishes, deaneries, dioceses and church-wide
institutions, we are still dancing in the Potemkin village of our
delusion; rather than admitting that we are still deep in the
tunnel. Really, really deep.
In time our good name may return, once we have restored our
integrity. On a corporate level that will depend a great deal on the
new Special Commission and its report; and how that report is shared
with the Church as a whole. We have only one chance in this regard.
If this report is not done openly, honestly, fully and thoroughly -
and seen to be so - it will fail in its task. And we shall become
the man of which Lord speaks in Luke 11:24ff: "the last state of
that man becomes worse than the first".
Most important though, is the question of integrity on the personal
level. One would have hoped from one's spiritual leaders that those
involved would have come forward freely at some point in the past
year to explain the actions, or lack of same: metropolitans, past
and present; bishops, past and present; officers of the Church,
current and former, auditors, staff, etc. Sadly, that has not
happened. We have heard from lawyers, reporters, accountants - but
not a word from those leading us in the last 15 years of decline.
Having lost the opportunity to speak freely, and thus help restore
their reputations (let alone their personal integrity) they now face
the Special Commission's questioning.
What they say now (if anything) is proffered by compulsion, and thus
tainted; rather than offered freely, and so covered by the balm of
repentance. And so, yet another opportunity for those who lead the
OCA to actually do so, is being lost....
In the end, tunnels, like life, can be understood in many ways,
often contradictory. Tunnels are long but they also enable one to
get through seemingly impassable obstacles. A tunnel is dark - but
the light is never so bright as at the end. After a year we can all
welcome the light at the end of this tunnel - even though, as Kyra
Nikoleavna warned, it means we are still very much in it.
--- End forwarded message ---
Looking for earth-friendly autos?
Browse Top Cars by "Green Rating" at Yahoo! Autos' Green Center.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
This past week I received an unexpected phone call from a priest in the shadows. Although somewhat sympathetic to the goals of Orthodox Christians for Accountability, he called us all fools if we thought we could effect real change in the OCA. He began a litany of defeats:
the dismissal of Gregg Nescott from the Special Commission for bogus reasons,
the continuing hesitation to even suspend (let alone defrock) Fr. Kondratick despite incontrovertible evidence of his plundering of Church funds for years,
the failure to release the report of the Special Commission despite the unanimous vote of the Metropolitan Council to do so,
the new revelations of an additional missing million dollars in 2002.
And that, he pointed out, were just the events of the last week of Great Lent...
How does one begin to respond? Everything he said was true.
"Only a fool would attempt to change the world with a message of love and peace.
So we can agree that Jesus was a fool, too.
Only fools would agree to follow such a man, and then continue his mission even when he had been killed.
So we can agree that the Apostles were fools, too.
Only fools would take seriously the message that a bunch of fools were preaching, and accept that message.
So we can agree that all of us are fools, indeed.
The above is hardly surprising.
God did not choose a philosopher to proclaim the Gospel, but a carpenter.And for His Apostles He chose fishermen and tax collectors.
Can we claim to be any better witnesses?
Of course not.
Even those among us who have been educated know that in relation to the Gospel our education is worthless.
We happily admit we are, indeed, fools. And so, we happily commit ourselves to trying to change the world, as did the Apostles.
Yet werent those Apostles cowardly and timid?
Arent we afraid?
Doesnt Christs crucifixion give us ample reason to be frightened?
Yes. But His Resurrection gives us divine courage."
St. John Chrysostom wrote the above 1600 years ago when he faced wickedness in high places. No one remembers the Metropolitans, Archbishops, Bishops, Emperor or their advisors that disparaged him, worked against him, exiled him and ultimately arranged for his death. It is St. Johns words* that inspires us today, not their faded power.
Those in fading power today are still seeking to deny, to divert, to cover-up, to distract, to delay and subvert the truth in the hope that all this foolishness can be brought to an end. Re-read the opening paragraph to see their latest efforts. Like their predecessors, they have accomplished nothing more than demonstrating their own fear of the truth and callow vindictiveness.
No matter. Our "foolishness" continues.
His Resurrection continues to give us divine courage.
Coming Tuesday: Latest Developments in the OCA
* On Living Simply: The Golden Voice of John Chrysostom, compiled by Robert Van De Weyer, Ligouri/Triumph Publications, pg.52
Ahhh...imagining that irresistible "new car" smell?
Check outnew cars at Yahoo! Autos.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
As OCANews.org is often criticized (unfairly, it seems to us) for "leaping" on bad news, we hope no one will take offense if we "leap" on the good news of the elections announced by the Synod yesterday, and their meaning for the Orthodox Church in America.
The Bishop-Elect of Pittsburgh
The canonical election of Fr. Melchisedek (Pleska) following his nomination by the Extraordinary Archdiocesan Assembly in November is clear and welcome evidence that the conciliar system put forth in the OCA Statute works as its framers intended. After a long and thorough search process (Read that story here), the Diocese nominated Fr. Melchisedek on the first ballot, with two-thirds of the vote (Read that story here). The Bishops, having conducted final background and pyschological tests, as well as interviews, have now confirmed the overwhelming choice of the Diocese, while adding theological and monastic depth to the Synod.
Fr. Melchisedek will return to the United States from his monastery in Greece, and after a few days in Syosset, take up his new residence in Pittsburgh during Holy Week. No word has been given as to the details of his consecration and subsequent installation.
The Bishop-Elect of Quebec City
The canonical election of Fr. Irenee (Rochon) is equally clear evidence that conciliarity works. After a long search process involving all parts of the Archdiocese some years ago, the Canadians identified three men whom they would like to see as a Vicar Bishop to help the Archbishop deal with their continent-wide See. Unfortunately, the first candidate was blocked by +Tikhon of the West and +Nikolai of Alaska for the dubious reason that this Rhodes Scholar and later Professor of Orthodox Theology had not graduated from an accredited Orthodox seminary. (Of course, neither had either of those two - but those were the bad old days, sigh, and the old Synod overlooked the irony of that objection.)
Earlier this year, +Tikhon and +Nikolai being gone, Archbishop +Seraphim asked the first candidate if he would agree to his name being forward again. The answer was a firm "no". So +Seraphim, then went to the Archdiocesan Council with the name of the second candidate of the search process - Fr. Irenee (Rochon). A monk, Fr. Irenee is the current pastor of St. Benoit de Nursie Church, in Montreal, Quebec, and a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville. The Diocesan Council approved his nomination. And so the Archbishop, according to Statute, presented the new candidate to the Synod - which promptly elected him. Canada has its long-delayed Vicar at last. Details of his consecration have yet to be announced as well.
The Retired Bishop of Sendai, Japan
Of all the day's news, the reception of Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist) as the "retired Bishop of Sendai" was the least expected. An American convert to Orthodoxy, Bishop Seraphim is a graduate of St. Vladimir's who, upon completing his studies, went to Japan to teach English. He ended up becoming a monk, a priest, and then a Bishop in the Orthodox Church in Japan. Returning to the USA some twenty years later, the Bishop was eventually released by the Church of Japan, but was never accepted into the OCA. (Once again, it was the bad old days, sigh.) He has spent the last decade or more working in the library of Pace University, as a "supply priest" for the New York deanery, and as the spiritual father of the "Hosanna" community in Moscow. (As a former Bishop of the Church of Japan, +Seraphim was technically a retired hierarch of the Russian Church as well.)
Once again the Metropolitan and the Synod have acted with manifest care for the OCA. As an Orthodox reviewer wrote of one of +Seraphim's books :
" 'Theology of Wonder' is a collection of essays from a man who is both deeply learned and wholly free....Rabbis, Norse myths, Majorcan geniuses, Hindu Upanishads, Simone Weil, Christian apologists and modern Roman Catholics (C.S. Lewis, Chesterton), early church fathers (Basil, Irenaeus, Dionysius), Dante, Pascal, the gospels .... and all this only in the first two short chapters, a total of twelve pages .... held together in the wonder of human life as it intersects with the divine." The Bishop is an interesting and thoughtful man.
One doubts +Seraphim of Sendai will remain "retired" very long. Now that he is "officially" in the Church that he has considered his home for many years, should the Diocesan Council of Washington - New York agree, expect to see +Seraphim assisting the Metropolitan in his large diocese in the foreseeable future.
The Meaning for the OCA
The OCA added three Bishops to its roster today. All three have graduate degrees from Orthodox seminaries. Two are real monastics - yet have deep parish experience as well. The third has decades of experience as a Bishop, author, and missionary. They speak Russian, Greek, French and Japanese. Most importantly, they are all known quantities, with the two active candidates chosen or recommended in a conciliar fashion by their new Archdioceses or Archdiocesan Councils. They bring new life and fresh perspectives to the OCA, to their Archdioceses, and to the Synod.
This is good news for everyone.
--- End forwarded message ---
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]