Reflections On The Scandal
Best Practices: The Path Forward
By Protodeacon Peter Danilchick
Why Best Practices?
Last November, I was asked by a member of the Metropolitan Council (MC) to develop a set of “Best Practices for Financial Accountability”. He said that this subject had arisen during the recent MC meeting, that the OCA Administration needed some help and that he knew I had some background in this area. I accepted his request to develop “Best Practices”.
Why did I do so? Firstly, because I love the Church. Secondly, my executive experience at ExxonMobil (33 years of service) had instilled in me the absolute requirement for, and provided me with the essential knowledge of, financial accountability and business ethics. As well, I have served on several boards of non-profit institutions, including as a Trustee of St Vladimir’s Seminary and as Chairman of the International School of Hamburg, Germany, and have been a deacon for 31 years. Through all these experiences, I have been made acutely aware of the need for disciplined and rigorous administrative processes to ensure that the goals of the organization’s mission are properly and ethically fulfilled, be they profit or non-profit. But, in the end, I did so because I love the Church.
I developed these Best Practices taking into account my own knowledge and experience as well as extensive research into published practices by various national / state coordinating centers for non-profit boards, the New York State Attorney General’s office, American Institute of CPAs, et al. I sent a draft of these consolidated practices (as applicable to the OCA) to Metropolitan Herman, the Chancellor, the Acting Treasurer and the All-American Council-elected members of the Metropolitan Council.
In due course, these “Best Practices for Financial Accountability” (together with draft Policies on Ethics, Conflict of Interest, Whistleblower, Audit Committee, and Document Retention) were accepted as working documents by the MC and were published on the OCA website (CLICK HERE FOR THE DOCUMENT). The “Best Practices’ are to be further developed and implemented (with eventual review and endorsement by the Metropolitan Council) by a volunteer team consisting of Matushka Mary Breton, Mr Robert Kornafel and myself.
The Path Forward
There have been some thoughtful theological reflections made on this website by my friend Fr Alexis Vinogradov on the subject of “Best Practices”. He regrets that we do not find the Gospel of Christ’s love sufficient to govern our conduct in the Church and have turned to “Best Practices”. He is concerned that “Best Practices” represents an ideology which will supplant responsibility and courage. I fully agree with Fr Alexis’ regret but hasten to assure him that the Best Practices are meant to be a guide only, assisting us as we strive to realize the Gospel in our church life. The Best Practices are thus by their very nature incomplete and should be either added to or modified or subtracted from according to the needs of the Church. Thus, the Best Practices document represents only a starting point to guide the present and future administration of the church.
As this website shows, there are many people who are concerned with the financial issues confronting the OCA. The Best Practices document and the processes therein are intended to positively address these financial issues, as far as the present and future is concerned. However, there have been very few constructive comments or specific questions received from individuals on the content of this particular document. On the other hand, we have read misleading statements, accusing innuendos, and inappropriate and degrading remarks made by a few readers about the volunteers who are helping in this effort. This is a shame and can result in decreased motivation and even questioning “why did I become involved?” (Of course, the answer to this question is “love of the Church” and nothing else.) To remedy this shameful situation, I feel that it would be appropriate for the readers of this website to express support for the work of the volunteers.
Further, the people who will be involved in implementing these new processes, the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council, the Administration, the Best Practices team, need to know what you think about these processes. We all need to take some serious time to read the documents and to specifically state our approval of, or take exception to, any or all of the recommendations. This website would be one way of expressing your input; direct e-mail communication is another.
I understand from many priests that there is a crisis of confidence in the Orthodox Church in America. However, I am heartened by the fact that there have been so many people who have upheld, and continue to uphold, the OCA in so many ways – fund-raisers, writers for the Orthodox Church newspaper, volunteer workers in the many OCA departments of ministries and outreach, and so on.
We have many professional people in our church. We have accountants, managers, bookkeepers, secretaries, administrative assistants, lawyers, analysts, etc – who could all contribute to whatever changes are necessary to ensure that there will always be a competent and financially accountable administration. If you have experience and competence, perhaps now is the time to come forward, to volunteer and to become part of the solution.
To sum up, we request three things of the readers of this website:
(1) your specific input and support on the Best Practices document which is designed to guide the financial administration of the OCA presently and in the future,
(2) your support of the current volunteer team which is helping to implement the necessary changes, and
(3) additional volunteers to help carry this effort forward.
(Ed. Note: You can reach Protodeacon Peter Danilchick privately at firstname.lastname@example.org -
or publicly by posting a comment on this website. )