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OCANews: 4 Views of the DC Town Hall Meeting

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  • Nina_Dimas_42
    http://www.ocanews.org/news/DCTownHall6.30.08.html 6.30.08 FOUR VIEWS OF THE DC TOWN HALL MEETING A three hour OCA Town Hall meeting, held at St. Nicholas
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2008




      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
      Committee. ....

      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"Â… +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 actionsÂ…"

      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
      the meeting.

      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"

      More Details

      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
      letter here)

      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
      South Africa.

      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. "

      She continued:

      "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
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