Reflections On The Scandal
Harry G. Coin
I'm a member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, one of the many who believe that there is a future for Orthodox Christianity in the USA only by uniting the various ethnic Orthodox churches into one Archdiocese-- while always serving the aging members with ethnic needs, after all they brought the Orthodox faith to the USA.
In my heart I feel sure that God's hand is encouraging those who understand putting our house in order in truth, not merely hiding problems by increased secrecy, is essential to survival in this era in America. And as such those who are risking their careers in the desire to aid the church to be in truth what it would seem -- such people are worthy of our support. Those of us too far from any OCA parish can only cheer and pray from the sidelines as best we might.
I believe that a united Orthodox church can only thrive in the USA if enlarges upon the model shown now by what the OCA could be if it rightly improves as a result of this present challenge. The future united Orthodox church, like the Orthodox churches in every other country where it is has survived the test of time, must be free of the political distractions imposed by foreign policy issues and foreign ecclesiastical administrative or money handling decision making in local affairs.
Therefore: the only manner of Orthodox church that has a future in the USA must, after temporary transitional structures, be lead by an Archbishop elected by the synod of bishops who serve in the USA. And in turn those bishops who serve in the USA must be chosen by the clergy and the seasoned parish lay leadership of the diocese they are to serve. This church must take her place among the other national Orthodox churches in the world. We cannot be a 'me-too' church looking to survive in the USA as an appendage of foreign institutions after so many years. It just isn't part of our Orthodox heritage to do that.
As such, I urge those wrestling with the
serious problems now facing the Orthodox Church in America
to avoid the mistakes made by myself and others who engaged
similar issues in the Greek Archdiocese in the recent past.
Do not rest if the only changes are staff member's faces – while
allowing the entrenchment of a growth-harming culture. The
culture that made it possible is more harmful than any person
now in it.
Learn the lesson from the past mistakes of Orthodoxy in the USA: Continue to work until the wrongful policies that led to the present predicament are amended; Do not rest until the errors in institutional culture that presented overwhelming temptations to even the most promising of young men no longer are so arrayed.
Do not disband your energy to establish Orthodox propriety until the failures that led to even the appearances of impropriety are corrected. The path that allows fragmentation and further financial secrecy and infantilization of adult senior parish clergy and laity is the easy path to a quick demise.
The solution to this is maximum openness in all matters regarding the flow of money, donations and appointment decision-making; a structure where those who are given to explain to the people in the parishes how their money was collected and spent are in no way beholden to those who have the rightful authority to make spending decisions.
Money given to a church that will survive can be no man's personal piggybank.
Be more vigilant than we in the past in your efforts to not be perverted by those who have foreign ethnic agendas, or those who would move our Orthodox church toward Vaticanism or Congregationalism -- usually by complaining about the faults of one so as to in fact push toward the other. Those who want either one in the USA already have those choices.
The OCA appears to have one essential ingredient that gives the rest of us great hope: The OCA has within her at least a few people, such as Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, who by their actions demonstrate they hold what the church is for to be more important that their own desire for increased rank or personal career objectives.
Should God inspire our American countrymen
in the press and other institutions to help those in the OCA
to get to the answer to the essential question: "Are the allegations true or are they false?" --
use that answer to inspire the rest of us by your open example
of how a faithful house can put itself in order.
Only such an institution will be able to be its essential part of the Orthodox unity in America necessary to our survival, and so sought after by our Antiochian bretheren and many too in the Greek Archdiocese-- and that right soon while we yet have the numbers to make a success with what our parents brought with them from overseas to the USA.
Living in Hope!
Harry G. Coin