Reflections On The Scandal
The Metropolitan Council Should Act
Fr. Ted Bobosh, Dayton OH
I would like to follow up on Fr. John Reeve’s Reflection, “Two Questions for the Metropolitan Council.”
I agree with his reflection and think his questions are important and appropriate. I would however like to suggest it is time for the Metropolitan Council to actually take action and reclaim what is their rightful competency in the Orthodox Church in America. The Metropolitan Council does not need to seek anyone’s approval to do its job. They simply need to reassert their proper authority which had been circumvented over the past decades.
If the members of the MC are going to wait for someone to give them approval to do something, nothing will ever get done.
The Statutes of the OCA clearly define the competency of the Metropolitan Council. The members of that Council now need only do the duty which they swore to do when installed on the Metropolitan Council at the end of the All American Council.
According to the Statutes, the Metropolitan Council “Establishes the budget for the operations of the Church and examines all financial reports of the Church.” The members of the Metropolitan Council don’t have to argue whether they have a right to see the audits and financial reports of the OCA, they have a duty to have them. They should not be waiting to see if someone is going to give them the reports nor should they have to ask for these reports. These reports are theirs to have and deal with. It is the responsibility of the Treasurer and the Metropolitan and the Synod of Bishops to insist and insure that they have ALL financial reports. It is the right time for this to happen! Too long has our chancery ignored the rightful duties of the Metropolitan Council members! Too long has the membership of the OCA accepted the Statute-ignoring “lawlessness” of OCA administration.
The Metropolitan Council is given the prerogative to establish the budget and it is the MC which “determines the allocation of such funds” as are collected by the OCA. The MC members need to step up to the plate right now and take a look at the budget and decide where monies should be spent considering the current condition of the OCA. No member of the MC should be assuming that what was done in the past in terms of budget applies now, and no member of the OCA should be assuming that the Treasurer or “someone else” should be readjusting the budget so that the OCA lives within its means and reduces costs. Furthermore, the Statutes claim it is the MC’s competency to provide “for the maintenance of the central administrative bodies of the Church and for the allocation of the general Church funds.” The MC needs to determine what it is the central church administration should be doing at this point in our history and the MC then is responsible for deciding how all church monies are spent. The MC doesn’t answer to the Treasurer, the Treasurer answers to the Metropolitan Council. For the MC members to do the job which they swore before God that they would do, they need to know all of the financial facts about the OCA – what monies were collected in the past, how the monies were spent, why decisions were made to ignore the adopted budget and redirect monies, They need to know these facts so that they can make sound decisions for all future budgets of the OCA.
It is the MC’s competency to determine “the forms and books necessary for the keeping of records and statistical data by the dioceses, requiring all statistics necessary for reports.” The MC is not supposed to let “someone else” determine what is needed in terms of record keeping. The MC needs to take the lead in telling the chancery staff and the dioceses what records, statistics and reports they need to do their job. The Metropolitan Council is not to be a passive rubber stamp organization to whom others dictate what best policies will govern OCA finances. Rather the MC itself has the authority to determine what accounting policies and standards the OCA Treasurer and chancery staff will adhere to. It is the members of the MC who should be setting the policies and standards for OCA accountability – the MC is not meant to be the passive bystanders watching others determine what standards of accounting the OCA will follow.
The Metropolitan Council according to the Statutes, “Initiates, prosecutes, and defends all legal matters affecting the interest of the Church.” Again, it is not they who must wait to see what will be the results of legal investigations, but it is they who have authority in legal matters. The Metropolitan and Synod of Bishops have a responsibility to assure that the MC has the legal reports to do their job. It is not the MC who needs to wait to see what legal matters the Metropolitan will reveal to them, it is their duty and competency to deal with these matters and for the Metropolitan to assure that this happens. The Metropolitan too has a responsibility to ensure that the Metropolitan Council can do its job. Even if the Metropolitan or Synod of Bishops attempts to abrogate the competency of the MC, the membership of the MC needs to defend and uphold the Church and Church order. Members have telephones, email and computers and therefore can write letters, post information on the Internet to assure that the Church is functioning appropriately.
It is also clear in the Statutes that any committee such as an Administrative Committee reports to the MC rather than the MC reporting to or informing that Committee as to what the MC is doing. “The Metropolitan Council may, between meetings, delegate a committee consisting of the Chancellor, Secretary, Treasurer, and two other members to meet in conjunction with the Lesser Synod of Bishops upon their invitation, to discuss normal church administrative procedures. This committee shall report back to the Metropolitan Council concerning all actions and decisions.” The Metropolitan Council needs to reassert its authority over the Administrative Committee and to insure that this committee meets with the Lesser Synod of Bishops and in conjunction with the Lesser Synod reports back to the MC. It is the lack of open communications between the different levels of administration that has enabled our problems to become crisis.
Members of the MC can today begin taking their rightful actions in all of these areas. The members can initiate discussion by the Internet, mail or phone in all of their areas of competency. MC members do not need any further approval to communicate with one another as they have been blessed by the Church to fulfill their responsibilities. Right now the members need to address:
Necessary financial/budgetary changes in the OCA to establish a balanced budget. Every aspect of the budget must be re-evaluated to determine how revenues are spent so that the mission of the Church is being realized;
Take charge of the spending habits and patterns of the central church administration. The MC can no longer afford to ignore financial reports or to hope that “someone” is making good decisions regarding spending. Spending must be brought into line with revenue and also with the pre-determined priorities and mission of the OCA;
Take charge of the personnel who are on the OCA payroll and make the necessary cuts in personnel to assure the OCA lives within its means and that the OCA pays all its debts. At this point in our history do we really need and can we truly afford a comptroller, treasurer, director of FOS, and Director of Development and Stewardship? (how many financial officers do we need in a time of fiscal constraint?) We need to take a hard look at the financial offices as versus how much we are devoting to mission, education and parish support;
Take charge of the debt in all of its aspects. This means evaluating what exactly do we owe to financial institutions and vendors and setting up the plan to pay these debts. This means to take a hard look at how we might take care of the $700,000 owed to internal accounts and see if instead of borrowing from a bank to pay this money back, we can’t simply begin putting money back into the appropriate accounts by making this a budget item. If we can afford $14,000/month loan payments, certainly we can afford to cut other aspects of the budget and make internal repayment a line item in the budget. The MC also needs to be given all financial records to show what money exactly was re-directed and to be given an explanation of where that money went. We may not need to borrow all of the $1.7 million, there may be other ways to deal with what we owe ourselves in the internal accounts;
The MC is charged with forming the financial plan to service the debt and get the OCA back on the right financial track. Such an action does not need the approval of anyone, the MC has authority to do this from the Statutes which still are the legally binding governance of the OCA. MC members should never be forced into making financial decisions without having appropriate time to consider the ramifications of their decisions and alternatives to the suggested course of action. MC members must be able to request a delay in decision making regarding finances if they need to consult with others or if they don’t have all the facts to make an informed decision;
The MC needs to be given the full set of figures showing exactly what the past All American Councils have cost, where the money was spent from the time the council was conceived until the completion of paying all bills. An exact accounting is needed if the MC is going to deal with holding the next AAC whether it be a regularly scheduled council or an extraordinary council to deal with our current crisis or an election of a metropolitan. The Council can not make good plans or decisions unless it has an exact accounting of what money was spent in the past, and has an idea as to how AAC expenses might be reduced or contained in the case of an extraordinary council being needed...
The Metropolitan Council members have all the authority they need to begin discussing and acting on all of these issues in order to help restore order to the OCA. They are in fact charged BY THE CHURCH with dealing with these issues and all of these issues are within their competency.
The Metropolitan Council members obviously must work with the Metropolitan, Synod of Bishops and the chancery staff, but the MC does have its own areas of competency which it is charged to deal with. The MC needs no extra approval to deal with its areas of competency; the members simply have to assert their prerogatives. Our bishops need to encourage the MC representatives to undertake the tasks to which they have been elected for the good of the Church, and which they promised by oath before the bishops and before God to do.
Metropolitan Council members need to come out of their passive stance of waiting for “someone else” to do what is needed, and to do that which is in their competency to do – legally and by decision of the Orthodox Church in America.
Some want to argue that the Statutes of the OCA are flawed. This may be true, but there is a rightful way within the church and within the laws of the state of New York for us to make changes to the statutes. Right now we need the members of the OCA and of the Metropolitan Council to take there responsibilities seriously in order for us to function as the Body of Christ.