OCANews: 4 Views of the DC Town Hall Meeting
FOUR VIEWS OF THE
DC TOWN HALL MEETING
A three hour OCA Town Hall meeting, held at St. Nicholas Cathedral in
Washington DC, on Saturday June 28th, revealed that the FBI
investigation into the OCA continues, the report of the Special
Investigative Committee will be given to a joint meeting of the Synod
and Metropolitan Council on August 27th, and that Metropolitan Herman
feels at ease with his actions in the scandal. These revelations
apart, the Town Hall, which gathered some 60 participants (clergy and
lay) from several local parishes, together with Metropolitan Herman,
OCA Chancellor Fr. Alexander Garklavs, and Ms. Lisa Morris, a member
of the Pre-Conciliar Commission (PCC) from St. Nicholas Cathedral,
received decidedly mixed reviews from participants.
One, a layman, described the meeting in an email to OCANews.org this
"....I was surprised by the relatively large size of the turnout.
The number of clergy (12+) attending was impressive, although a third
or more were assigned or attached to St. Nicholas Cathedral. Thirty
to forty lay members attended with 16 from St. Mark's (in Bethesda)
alone; the next largest contingent was from the cathedral.
Among the lay members were at least 4 self-identified attorneys, who
all criticized the Metropolitan and the Synod for withholding the
report and the compiled evidence of the 1st Special Investigative
Overall, I found the town hall meeting the most excruciating ordeal I
have had to endure in memory. The lack of visible response from His
Beatitude to the calls for his resignation and the multiple reports
of disappointment and betrayal, especially from the laity called the
purpose of these meetings into question. While I was heartened to
see and hear in Fr. Alexander Garklavs a priest dedicated to bringing
these scandals to a proper end in due time, I was left with the
further impression that His Beatitude is incapable of seeing any
errors in his behavior regarding these scandals...."
A Second View
A second clerical participant was much more critical:
"In a few words; it was an absolute farce. Basically what was said
was, we are here to listen to you, but when substantive things were
said, people were told to "sit down and shut up" +Herman said
nothing till the end and Lisa Morris was ... useless. Garklavs made
several .... comments, which only agitated people more. At the end
+Herman basically said he didn't care if we judged him, it only
matters what God thinks of his actions "
He then elaborated:
"In his introductory remarks, Fr Garklavs stated that they (the OCA
representatives) were "here to listen" and that the meeting is meant
to be "one-way," not a dialogue, but an opportunity for all present
to speak about the current situation in the OCA. Fr. Garklavs, then
stated that the meeting would focus on four questions:
How have the events (i.e., the scandal) affected you personally?
What solutions would you offer to make things right?
What would you like to see happen at the All-American Council?
How would envision the OCA in the future?
He then posited the first question and asked for responses. The one
aspect of the meeting that went well was keeping with Fr Garklavs'
agenda. In order to ensure compliance and keep the attendees focused,
at the appropriate times, in other words, when they were ready to
move on to the next question, Fr Garklavs and Lisa Morris militantly
cut off participation in order to, as they stated, keep comments
relevant to the question that they imposed on the participants. It
was clear that they had an agenda to get through and they were going
to make darn sure that it was adhered to.
The "one-way" format, or listening session, did not last long. At the
outset of the meeting, when a comment was made alleging that former
Metropolitan Theodosius is a homosexual, Fr Garklavs felt "compelled
to comment." In fact, it turned out that Fr Garklavs found it
necessary to comment on several of the participants' statements....
It is clear that there is a lot of anger, mistrust, irritation,
confusion, cynicism, and grief among the faithful in the Diocese of
Washington and New York, as evidenced by the impassioned statements
by many, including clergy. Several participants submitted prepared
statements for the minutes and for distribution to the other
attendees. The "dialogue" which eventually became the norm for a
large part of the meeting, or more accurately, the back and forth of
a sincere comment, observation or impassioned plea by a member of the
faithful and immediate rebuttal or "clarification" by Fr Garklavs
obviously heightened the emotions of many present for the duration of
Throughout the meeting Metropolitan Herman remained quiet, stoic and
aloof to his surroundings. All notions of his dispassionate demeanor
dissipated, however, when he gave his closing remarks. After a very
brief comment thanking participants for their devotion to God and the
Church, he proceeded to berate his critics and detractors,
essentially stating that no one is in a position to judge him but Our
Lord Himself, which he gladly awaits. He also intimated that all in
the OCA bear some responsibility for the current state of affairs.
Even a casual observer would summarize his commentary as extremely
defensive, bombastic and self-serving..."
A Third View
A third participant, another layman, described it this way:
"In attendance ... were Fr. Alexander Garklavs, Metropolitan Herman
and LIsa Morris, who was a member of the Preconciliar commission.
She repeatedly said that it was not a question and answer
session....we were only to be able to express out opinions based on
the three questions that Fr. Garklavs put forward (see below). Their
job was just to listen. Whenever anyone addressed too many questions
to Fr. Garklavs (Metropolitan Herman was silent until the very end)
or one question that they didn't want to address..they stopped the
discussion and reminded us of the rules. It was more often just a
series of personal statements than a flowing discussion where one
comment lead to another. Lisa wrote down a few words on a pad on an
easel (things like "reestablish trust", "unity", "music", etc.) to be
the minutes of the meeting.
The questions were:
1. How has the scandal affected you personally?
2. What issues would you like to see addressed at the AAC?
3. What is your vision of the OCA in ten years?
The rules were:
1. No attribution (Although curiously, Martin Paluch took photos of
most everyone who spoke..)
2. Dignity and respect...
3. No judgment
4. Balance-- no monopolizing of conversation"
A fourth participant, a woman, offered the following, much more
detailed version of what was discussed:
"Fr. Garklavs gave an intro, set down the ground rules and emphasized
that it was not a dialog, that it was an opportunity for people to
speak and them to listen. He read a prayer from St. Isaac of Syria
and then he read the questions the PCC submitted.
There were probably about 60+ people. I didn't get a count but there
were two people up front taking notes for the PCC so they probably
got a count.
A number of lawyers, at least three, maybe more, spoke and all of
them said that in order to respore trust there must be an openness
and "let the bright light shine".
Many people asked for honesty.
One person compared it to a divorce and said that she wants
autocephaly to work, she wants to trust again, but she can't until
she feels that there is honesty. Others mentioned how it has
affected them physically, how even getting into the car to come to
the meeting made them feel sick to their stomach.
There were a number of calls for transparency and stating that they
didn't feel things were yet transparent. Several people mentioned we
should be addressing the real issues and that answeing the questions
about the future were premature until we cleaned up the present mess.
There was a question about why the full report of the first Special
Commission had not been released and Fr. Alexander explained that
there were a number of reasons, including legal ones, but that the
report that appears on the OCA website is really pretty complete.
Several people spoke about unity and a few spoke in support of the
Metropolitan and the Synod, saying they were doing all that they
One person read from the recent Tatusko letter (Read that letter
here) and one person read from the Grigorieff reflection (Read that
There were a number of people who spoke about the bishops stepping
down. One priest countered that that is not possible, that if all
the bishops step down we cease to be a church.
One person said we should give back the Tomos, but several people
spoke about how important autocephaly is and that we should try to be
worthy of it.
Fr. Garklavs said that the report of the second Special Investigative
Committee would be givein to the Metropolitan Council and Synod on
August 27th and that he believed it should then be released to
One man spoke about how there seems to be a conflation of what needs
to be done for the protection of the church and for the protection of
One person said there are questions about Metropolitan
Theodosius ...and someone else said that there are rumors about
homosexuality in the Synod. This person said that it should be
clarified. If there is, those Bishops should step down; if there is
not, that should be stated.
One person recounted how the Antiochians had turned a case of illegal
activity at Antiochian Village over to the state prosecutor and it
was dealt with swiftly, while we are continuing to languish about.
Fr. Garklavs explained that the FBI investigation continues, but that
it is at their pace, not ours.
One person suggested that there should be opportunities for dialog,
rather than just one group speaking and the other listening.
There was suggestion that there be a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, as was so successful after apartheid was abolished in
One man said that we need to purge our sense of arrogance and instill
genuine checks and balances.
One attorney said that we need to operate in a spirit of forgiveness
and contrition, providing information and exposing the truth.
Several people asked that the hierarchs stand for reelection. Some
historical examples were given where one or more hierarchs have
stepped down or been forced out after a scandal.
When asked about what people see as positive things that could happen
in the future most people pointed to unity with other Orthodox in
North America, evangelization, music, photos of people other than
hierarchs on the website, correct grammar in press releases, engaging
young people, translations, liturgical language, and that every
priest should refer to parishioners as "brothers and sisters in
One priest said that in a crisis of credibility the administration
must allow themselves to be vulnerable and to risk themselves. He
said that the All-American Council (AAC) should be a place where
young and old can dialog, less of a convention atmosphere.
One person said there should be no limits on the number of observers
at the AAC and in fact more people should be encouraged to come.
A priest said that counseling should be available to those who are
burdened by this and that we should have an atmosphere of prayer,
repentance, forgivenenss and healing. Our society is dynamic and
energetic and we must embrace that.
One priest commented that the present situation gives us an
opportunity to start all over again.
One priest (not a member of the administration) asked forgiveness. "
One man suggested that autocephaly means that we have a more direct
accountability and duty to Christ as the head of the Chruch.
There was concern about present day spending and Fr. Garklavs assured
the group that every penny sent in goes to the designated expense.
A lot of people spoke. "
"There were a number of calls for transparency and people stating
that they didn't feel things were yet transparent. Several people
mentioned we should be addressing the real issues - and that
answering the questions about the future were premature until we
cleaned up the present mess."
Questioned as to whether the meeting was tense or confrontational,
the correspondent replied:
"Well, there were two or three confrontational moments (Lisa Morris
raised her voice to counter some subjects that were supposedly "off
topic") but I wouldn't describe it as a real mess. .....Perhaps I'm
numb to it. I actually thought that Garklavs did a masterful job -
he could have done much worse. He was calm, careful."
The Metropolitan Speaks
As the meeting drew to a close, all four correspondents agreed that
Fr. Garklavs urged the Metropolitan, who had been present but silent,
to speak. According to most accounts, the Metropolitan, who suffers
from acute sciatica, had not looked engaged during in the statements,
although others reported he was seen taking occasional notes by those
who sat up front.
The Metropolitan said, in a clear and distinct voice, that there "may
have been mistakes made", but that "he has asked forgiveness" in a
letter to the OCA last year. Our fourth correspondent continued:
" He said we should bear in mind that this involves all of us, that
we should forgive 70 times 70 times 70. He said that he would have
liked to have that report out the first day it was received, but that
it couldn't be. He knows that he is insulted - but is confident
about his own actions. He is confident that he will be able to
stand before our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is concerned
about the Last Judgement, but he is confident in his actions. We
should consider our own trespasses and assist the Synod of Bishops,
Metropolitan Council and Chancery to bring this to an end..."
And on this note, the DC Town Hall meeting ended.
The Metropolitan's Sciatica
Following Saturday's Town Hall, the Metropolitan attended Vespers at
the Cathedral, but left the Vigil because of his sciatica. Walking
only with difficulty, he did not serve Liturgy on Sunday at the
Cathedral, but sat in the altar. He left as quickly as possible after
the Liturgy. According to witnesses, this is the second time the
Metropolitan's sciatica has altered services at the Cathedral. At
Pascha the Metropolitan delayed the Paschal Divine Liturgy some 90
minutes after the Midnight Resurrectional Matins due to his back
The next two Town Halls will be held on July 3rd in Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada with Archbishop Seraphim, and on Saturday, July 12th,
at St. Vladimir's Seminary near New York City, with Bishop Nikon
- Mark Stokoe