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Fr. Ted Bobosh,

St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church, Dayton OH on January 25, 2006 (reposted with permission)
 

The scandal that is currently plaguing the OCA has caused some polarization within the church.  Some do not believe the allegations hold any merit, some are more disturbed by the fact that the allegations have become public than they are by the allegations themselves, and some think the allegations are of some substance and should be straightforwardly and as openly as is possible  dealt with by the proper authorities in the church.    I count myself in this last group, and I would like to offer an apology for why I think we need to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission within the OCA to deal with this scandal.
 
I served on Metropolitan Council several different times over the past 25 years and also worked in the OCA's Department of Religious Education for a number of years.
 
In my time of involvement in these organizations I witnessed a constant cry that the OCA was in one financial crisis or another and always the solution offered was "send more money” either by  increasing the assessment and/or  by encouraging more voluntary giving through agencies such as FOS.   The clear message coming from the central administration always seemed to be that the solution to all the OCA’s problems was for them to have more money.
 
When discussion was held through the years that maybe we needed to scale back the central administration to fit into the monies we had, such ideas were always rejected out of hand.  Publicly we were telling people we are the million member OCA, internally our support base was 30,000 give or take 5000.   So we had to play the game of being this immensely large and important church which didn't have the financial basis to sustain that image.  Of course some would argue that  the central administration wasn't lavish, but part of our problem was we were so determined to create an image and to offer the world an illusion rather than deal with the reality of a financially struggling mission church.
 
Often at the Metropolitan Council (MC) meetings, practical solutions were put forward - maintaining the Syosset property was draining us financially, so let's sell it and move to a more affordable and practical property.  Such ideas were always killed, sometimes by the divine fiat of a "hierarchical principle."  But the MC was always left with "deal with the financial problems" but don't propose any solutions "we" don't like.   We often went home without solving anything only like Brigadoon to reassemble 6 months later and realize we are in the same situation we were in when we last miraculously appeared and disappeared.
 
There were events that kept occurring that made no sense to me.  One time we were told St. Herman's in Alaska was in a financial crisis and (I forget the exact numbers so forgive me, but the numbers aren't the main point here) needed $150,000 immediately.  Ever the responder to crises the MC agreed to take up a special collection throughout the OCA to funnel money to the beleaguered seminary.   When asked how much money we might hope to raise in such a special collection we were told $70,000.   When in private conversation the chancellor was asked how a $70K solution solved a $150K problem the questioner was told not to raise that question publicly for "things were happening that we didn't know about."   Indeed they were.
 
But being good team players we went along with these games, allowing the general population of the OCA to be freed of rational concerns.  What they don't know, won't hurt them, I guess.  But there was an air that somehow less than forthright answers and some financially fuzzy thinking were acceptable.  And certainly there was an attitude that the general population did not really need to know the details of OCA finances.  These were well kept secrets.
 
In our diocese in those days we had to host the Patriarch of Moscow on a visit, the bill for the 2-3 day visit was something like $58,000.   The bishop was horrified since we were always claiming poverty.  He told me we must never let the laity know these numbers because "they will be angry."   Probably rightfully so since we were constantly telling them to send more money because we couldn't meet budget but then found all kinds of events to spend tens of thousands of dollars we didn't have.  And then as if by magic those bills were suddenly paid, not by the diocese but by the national church who also was still telling the membership  that they too had no money.
 
I and a group of people were once flown to NY for a DRE meeting to be told right at the beginning that the Department had no money to spend for the year as it had been diverted elsewhere.  How was there money for flying us to NY?   No answer to these questions.  Why did they bother to fly us at all?   Just so we could have some time in the Big Apple?  Again I could not make sense of what we were doing as church and how we could spend money we supposedly didn’t have.
 
At one  spring MC meeting, the then Treasurer stood before the august MC and told us that things now would be different than in the past.  No more extravagant spending.  No more game playing.   We were going to practice fiscal responsibility.   When a budget item had exhausted its funds, no more could be done in that department or for that item and THIS INCLUDES TRAVEL.   And he pointed out the travel budget was already nearly exhausted.   It was all to make us understand how dire the financial situation was and how serious the chancery was at being fiscally responsible. However, travel continued throughout that year uninterrupted.  How it was paid for was never revealed.   Life went on in the OCA.
 
I openly questioned how all this travel around the globe and especially to Russia was continuing since we supposedly had no money, and I questioned the validity of all of these trips.  My questions did get a response.   Metropolitan Theodosius called me and told me to apologize to the chancellor because my questions were demoralizing the chancery staff.  But of course in the face of the allegations by the former treasurer and former secretary of the OCA, it seems that instead of apologizing, perhaps I should have persisted.
 
Other events that didn’t seem quite right to me were the special collections that were taken.  There was the great damaging Mississippi River floods.   And the OCA in all Christian charity sent forth a call for donations -  an  emergency appeal to help the victims of the floods.   I don't remember the amount collected, but it was significant.  
 
Eighteen months after the collection, the OCA had not yet disbursed the funds.   The emergency was long over but we were holding on to the monies.  When the chancellor was asked to explain why we had not released the monies he responded that we don't actually collect and give the money at the time of the emergency, we give the money later to replenish the Red Cross Relief funds.
 
In my opinion it was fraudulent to tell our membership that we were taking an “emergency” collection for the relief of flood victims.   The monies flowed in quickly as if we were going to immediately respond.     That is not how the monies were used.   The monies for 18 months or so were mixed in OCA funds apparently being used for other purposes.   We had told the membership we were doing emergency collections but with the apparent knowledge that the monies were really only a Red Cross resupply collection which would be given at some much later date.   We all engaged in an open act of the deception of our members.
 
 To be honest I don't even know that the money ever went to what we collected it for.  And that was true of other special collections we conducted.    The parishes responded immediately to each real "emergency",    but some of the collected funds  according to the allegations were clearly diverted to other places.  More recently I understand that funds collected for 9/11 are also suspiciously unaccounted for.
 
At the 2005 AAC we were informed that the OCA had internally borrowed money (was it $750,000?)  to pay back other funds whose money had been used for purposes other than intended.    Now wait one second!  The OCA which constantly claimed it had no money and needed to rake in more cash from its members had undisclosed bank accounts from which it could borrow $3/4 million dollars?
 
You see for me there is an issue here that we are not being forthright with anyone - not with our priests, not with our laity about what our financial condition really is.  We expect the MC to make informed decisions but without being informed as to what the whole and truthful picture is.   We are willing to deceive the rest of the church by conveniently neglecting to tell them what our finances really are but are quite willing to keep asking that more money be sent and then increasingly failing to give account for how those monies were used.
 
Apparently I am more bothered by this than some others.  My apologies for having a weak conscience.
 
I would like Syosset to show me that in fact when I voted for increased funding, and when I voted for special collections and when I encouraged people to give to the OCA, monies went where we told people they were going and that the need was real, that everything was on the up and up.    Please become totally transparent and prove to me that in fact Dn Wheeler and Mr. Hunchak and all of the auditors who have been raising questions, fear, concerns were wrong.    This isn't merely a matter of discretionary funds.   Money was taken from OCA members for  specific purposes and reasons.  Was it used timely and appropriately?
 
Over the last 15 years or so various people (mostly volunteers, but a few paid) pointed out some possible serious problems with OCA accounting procedures and general accountability.   These letters or reports occurred almost annually seeming to suggest that in fact the problems being described were not being corrected or addressed.  In some cases there were even administrative meetings in which these issues were discussed, but the problems described went on unabated.     There are of course questions as to whether any of the changes were implemented, and if not, why not?       How was it possible that year after year auditors and others involved in church finances kept raising red flags and sounding alarms and yet things went on "as usual"?     That is an institutional problem which should be addressed.    Why has the central administration ignored the warnings and recommendations that people (auditors, etc) were bringing to their attention to improve the accounting and accountability of the OCA?     Again these are reasonable questions which need to be addressed in the OCA.
 
Personally I'm thankful for those who have cared enough to raise these issues and recently  reminded us that they have been pointing out these same issues for the last 15 years - and have been mostly ignored.
 
It seems possible to me that if we had begun implementing the recommended changes in accounting practices and in accountability, we might not be in the situation we are in today - one in which terrible suspicions have arisen, in which we are now paying principle and interest payments on a $2 million debt, in which our financial problems have to be discussed on the Internet before we take notice that there is a problem.
 
Some say that the issues of chancery accounting and accountability aren't their concern.  I would only remind everyone that you and the rest of us are paying for this lack of accountability.  We keep raising the assessment, and the reality is now that a lot of assessment money is going to go simply to pay principle and interest on the debt.   It is not going to be used for mission, ministry, youth, education, charity.   That I think should concern all of us.
 
We are paying a hefty price for not having paid sufficient attention to those who kept issuing warnings that something is wrong with the financial practices and procedures of the OCA.   Dn. Eric is only one voice in a long line of those who have been raising red flags.  We have ignored these warnings at our own risk, and at our own expense.   
 
Biblically speaking the evidence of two witnesses carries a lot of weight in court.  We have had two honorable men who worked for the OCA come forward with serious concerns about the financial goings on of the central administration.   These concerns are not limited to discretionary funds, but are about how all the funds of the OCA were handled.  
 
On the other side, so far no evidence is offered to show these men might be wrong in their understanding of events.  No one seems to be disputing their allegation let alone refuting them.  The old administration line of "we don't respond to anonymous complaints" has now become "we don't respond to former employees who by definition are malcontents" and even further to "we don't respond to senior bishops and we don't directly answer their questions."
 
Our Synod of Bishops has agreed that we need the "Best Practices for Non-profit Organizations"  to govern how our church finances are to be administered.   If those practices are in fact good and right, let us use them.   Instead of sweeping problems under the rug and saying "this is all embarrassing, let's not let our members know what has been alleged", we can put things to rest by treating the allegations seriously as is befitting a Church that claims to have something to do with truth.  This is simply the way all non-profits in 21st Century America operate.
 
What I see as A (not THE) problem in the OCA today is how much  secrecy,  keeping information and knowledge away from others, cover up, "need to know" basis, larger and larger sums of money not only controlled by but only known about by a smaller and smaller group of people, deception, lying, misinformation.   Darkness, secrecy, hiding things, all have become "normal" in the administration of the OCA.
 
A normal institution cannot be based on secrecy, darkness, hiding, cover up, deception, and lying.   But the Church is totally incapacitated when it tries to build itself upon such a basis.  
 
Dysfunction in families is aided by secrecy, cover up, lying, deception.   So too in the church.
 
The desire for secrecy and hiding information and keeping groups apart is in all levels of church administration.   Audits don't happen.  Reports aren't issued.  Lots of people have no idea how decisions are made, who makes them, how one can input into the decision making process because so totally often the decisions always seem to be made by someone else, some time else, some place else.   And as I know from personal experience, if one asks legitimate questions he will be accused of not being a team player, of not being humble, of causing problems, of not being obedient.  
 
Just look at the many huge scandals that American industry has been facing in the past few years.  It's not what each person knows, but perhaps what each person doesn't know and when he didn't know it!  The scandals that have rocked America's industry are being mirrored in our own church.  Everything becomes based in secrecy, in cover up, in deception, in protecting knowledge, in need to know thinking, in smaller and smaller groups controlling larger and larger amounts of capital.  
 
And the Church has another answer for these same old problems - openness, transparency, consensus, conciliarity, sobornost, accountability, audits.
 
To deal with this financial scandal, we  might in fact be able to borrow from the procedures we have set up in the case of a clergyman being accused of sexual misconduct.   There are procedures to follow, an investigation is done, the rights of the accused and the rights of the accusers are respected and taken seriously.  Since the Lesser Synod has agreed that the OCA is now following "best practices"  we can look in those documents for guidelines as to how to do an investigation in case of serious allegations and how the "whistleblowers" are to be treated and how their allegations are to be investigated.  This will be our test case to see whether or not the OCA is serious about following "best practices."
 
Not so long ago I heard a man on the radio talking about the Flu Epidemic of 1918 and how the government endeavored to handle the situation.   As the flu epidemic spread in 1918, and hundreds of thousands died or were dying, the government began to fear that the people wouldn't be able to handle the truth of what was happening.  The leadership became afraid that panic would sweep the nation.    So the U.S. government and many local governments in the U.S. began issuing statements that were half truths or even out right lies in order to prevent panic from setting in.  They issued misleading statements that the flu was no different than any other flu that spread across the country. They advised people to do what they always did during flu outbreaks, and not to panic or seek out new or better ways of dealing with the illness.   They encouraged the people not to worry, not to overly react.   They did this with the good intention of controlling the people's fears.   The government didn't want chaos to break out in the nation.
 
But, as the man who was talking noted, what happened in the populace was that people weren't totally stupid and they could see with their own eyes that something unusual was happening and recognizing the half truths and lies they were being fed, they began to panic.  They panicked because they realized the leadership was not telling the truth, and they realized there was no longer anyone in authority that they could trust.   They realized that even for the leadership things were out of control.    The nation's leadership in fact induced a panic based in the leadership's panic that people couldn't bear the truth.   A panic created by trying to control people's fears.
 
Of course, I am making an analogy here.   Some don't want the membership of the OCA to know what has taken place or is taking place in the OCA.  Some seem to think the way to assure credibility and trust in authority is in fact to cover up, deny, pretend.  It didn't work in 1918 and I don't think it will work today.
 
After the Apollo 13 space craft disaster, one of the spokesmen for NASA said that the lesson learned was "When things are going well, tell the people everything they want to know.  When things are going badly, tell them even more."
 
 
Fr. Ted Bobosh

 

(2) OTCHE M ( Special to OCANews.org)


For those who know Fr Nicolas Afanasiev's great ecclesiological study, The Church of the Holy Spirit, its relevance to our situation is great. (This would be an understatement)
 
As serious as the financial mismanagement has been, the actual changes to the conciliar nature of the OCA over the past decade or more are equally profound and destructive. When St Tikhon of Moscow was the archbishop in north America in the early years of the 20th c., he implemented sobors to which in addition to the hierarchs, the clergy and lay members were invited & participated. Later this was the model for ecclesiastical reform promulgated at the Moscow Council of 1917-18 but never actually implemented there in Russia. It was, however, implemented in the former Metropolia here, as well as in the Exarchate of Paris and in the UK diocese of Sourozh.
 
 In the last years of the former diocese of NY/NJ,the conciliar shape of the OCA was regularly attacked by the then ruling hierarch of that diocese, at its yearly assemblies. He said on one occasion he needed neither the assembly nor the diocesan council. When pressed, he said the so called "conciliar" shape, through Statute, of the OCA was "uncanonical," and the cause for the OCA's rejection by international Orthodoxy. (But what of churches such as that of Finland, the exarchate of Paris, the diocese of Sourozh, the American Antiochian Archdocese even the GOA all of whom have or have had assemblies of the hierarchs, clergy and laity?) His sometime chancellor referred, despite protests, to the "synodal administration" of the OCA, even quoting an ancient canon that claims the hierarch owned & controlled everything in his church including olive trees, domestic animals, etc.
 
While they should not be regarded as informed ecclesiological opinion, several recent posts on other lists appear to support a virtually absolute authority of the hierarchs in the OCA, with no mention of the AAC, the metropolitan council, the diocesan assemblies and councils. Or Christ. Recently Bp Kallistos Ware published a formidable series of essays on authority in the church in historical perspective, arguing that (as Afanasiev also does) the bishops of the apostolic and patristic eras never acted independently of...I think St Cyprian of Carthage is cited.."my presbyters, deacons, and the people."
 
The quotation below, from the very forceful concluding chapter of The Church of the Holy Spirit by Fr Afanasiev is worth pondering:
 
             Authority is part of the life of the Church which has this ministry of administration. But the ecclesial authority ought to conform to the nature of the Church and not be in conflict with her. If such authority claims to be superior to the Church then it must also be superior to Christ. This is why the Church can never be founded, nor her authority based upon a juridical principle, for the law is external to, outside of Love. Such authority cannot belong to the vicars of Christ on earth, since God has not delegated his power to anyone, but has put all people in submission to Christ, "put all things under his feet." In the Church, which is Love, there is only the power of love. God gives the pastors not the charism of power but that of love and, by his mediation, the power of love. The bishops who exercise the ministry of administration are the representatives of the power of love. The submission of all to the bishop takes place in love, and it is by love that the bishop submits to the faithful. Every submission of one to another is realized through the mediation of the love we have for Christ. The submission of all to the bishop is actualized by the love he has for all and by the reciprocal love of the faithful for him. There can be no other foundation of power in the Church, for Christ is the only foundation of power in her. The pastors are able to have only that which Christ gives to the Church. Law cannot be the foundation of power in the Church because Christ has not given it as a charismatic gift but rather he has rejected it. "Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." (Matt. 11, 29) The power of Christ in the Church is the power of Love, acquired by the love which he has for us. 
            - Nicolas Afanasiev, The Church of the Holy Spirit, chapter 8, "The Authority/Power of Love." [Vlast lyubvi]

(3) Fr. Alexy Karlgut (1.31.06)
 
Remember--the issue is: "Are the allegations true or are they false?"   Let's get the answer to that question and act on itin an appropriate  manner.

Let me (simple, humble, village, poor, Russian priest) try.

Allegations:

1.    There were/are/is a discretionary funds in  OCA.
2.    Those discretionary funds were/are/is under sole  discretion of the Primate of OCA.
3.    Those discretionary funds were/are/is not a part  of regular funds of OCA.
4.    Those discretionary funds are confidential as  long as donors (those giving money) approve.
5.    Those discretionary funds are not audited by the  church or reported to the church, which is a nature of confidential  discretionary funds, as long as donors approve.
6.    Those funds (regardless of the amounts) are  to be used by sole discretion of the Primate of the OCA, as long as donors  approve.
7.    Some (including 2 former employees) do not  approve the way which those discretionary funds were/are/is used by the Primate  of the church. (not by
some dark entity - administration)
8.    Those in #7  call upon the Holy Synod  to inquire into the matter and come with a definitive answer, so that we all  (peoples;-) can put it behind us.

Definitive Answers to Allegations

(please read  carefully)

Resolution of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox  Church in America concerning
the Primate's Discretionary Funds

The  HOLY SYNOD
of the ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA

We, the Holy Synod of  Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, convened in extraordinary session  on Monday afternoon, July 26, 1999

An issue has come before us. The  issue in question is the Primate's discretionary funds. We, the Holy Synod  of Bishops, have reviewed this matter and we
find that the Primate, and his  predecessors, havealways had and maintains full authority over such funds.  The Primate has the canonical right to maintain those funds in privacy and  confidentiality; not only the privacy of the Primate but also the  confidentiality of the donors and the anonymity of the beneficiaries of  these funds. The Primate's discretionary funds are used in accord with the  wishes and directives of the donors and to promote and advance the Holy Orthodox Church.

It has also come to the attention of the Holy Synod  of Bishops that demands have been made upon the Primate to violate the  privacy and confidentiality
of the discretionary funds in his care. We  unanimously exhort the Primate to deny any form of audit, or any other  intrusion into the confidential nature of the
funds in the care of the  Primate and/or the privacy of the Office of the Primate. The confidence of  the Holy Synod of Bishops in the Primate of this Church
to lead and govern is held without question.

Executed by His Grace, the Secretary of the  Holy Synod of Bishops in behalf
of all.

/s/

+ SERAPHIM
30  July 1999

Now for some (a former employee whose typed letters without any proof  were recently 'verified' by another former employee in a telephone interview  with a
'website without a personal agenda') this statement by the Holy Synod  might be confusing, but I read slow so here is what I see:

1.    There were/are/is a discretionary funds in  OCA.
2.    Those discretionary funds were/are/is under sole discretion of the Primate of OCA.
3.    Those discretionary funds were/are/is not a part  of regular funds of OCA.
4.    Those discretionary funds are confidential as  long as donors (those giving money) approve.
5.    Those discretionary funds are not audited by the  church or reported to the church, which is a nature of confidential  discretionary funds, as long as donors approve.
6.    Those funds (regardless of the amounts) are  to be used by sole discretion of the Primate of the OCA, as long as donors  approve.
7.    Some (including 2 former employees) do not  approve the way which those discretionary funds were/are/is used by the Primate  of the church. (not by
some dark entity - administration)
8.    Holy Synod had inquired into the matter and came  with a definitive answer (posted above), so that we all (peoples;-) can put it  behind us.

I also tried to type slow,

Alexey Karlgut


 


  

 
 

 

Other Reflections:

Fr. Paul Harrilchak
in a public letter to his parishoners at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Reston VA on 12 December 2005: