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Reflection

Greg Nescott, former Member, OCA Metropolitan Council, posted on the Orthodox Forum, November 3, 2005 (Reprinted with permission)

It was with enormous sadness that I read the letters of ProtodeaconEric Wheeler to Metropolitan Herman, as transmitted to the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council of the OCA. As someone born into and raised in churches of the OCA, and a long-time supporter of the OCA at all levels, it grieves me to think that this type of financial misconduct may have gone on for so many years under the purview of the central administration of the national church at
Syosset.

A careful and dispassionate reading of Deacon Wheeler's documents inevitably leads to these conclusions:

If what Deacon Wheeler---a protodeacon of the Church, a former national treasurer and secretary to retired Metropolitan Theodosius, and a long-time insider at Syosset--- asserts is false, he has deeply harmed the Church, and must answer for that.

If, however, what he says is true---if even 10% of it is true!--- the conduct of those who have participated in these actions is simply unthinkable! (Or, choose your own adjective: shocking? stunning? immoral? criminal? reprehensible?) And it is the individuals who perpetrated these actions who must answer for what they did. For it is they who have deeply harmed the Church.

If what he says is true, the Holy Synod is now fully aware of the allegations and should be expected to act on them, quickly and decisively. Make no mistake about it: if the Holy Synod has in fact now opened an investigation into this, fact-finding and conclusions should not, and cannot, take months or years. The length and breadth of the alleged improprieties are such that the parties who may be responsible could be called in and questioned, records expeditiously
reviewed, and judgements rendered in days, or weeks.

If what he says is true, the Holy Synod must deal with this---what other word can possibly apply?--- scandal, and must deal with it now. If anyone has learned anything over the past decade about the wisdom of attempting to cover up problems and deny accountability "for the good of the Church," one need look no farther than the terrible harm
done to the Roman Catholic Church, when our brothers there attempted to hide the pedophile problem, presumably "for the good of the Church." We can only pray that the Holy Synod will act as they must.

If what he says is true, Deacon Wheeler's attempt to prod theMetropolitan Council into acting on this problem is well-intended, but laughable. The Metropolitan Council that just a few decades ago was a reliable and respected body that offered professional and intelligent advice to the Church in financial and related matters is no more. Where sessions of the Metropolitan Council were once filled with spirited discussion and honest disagreements borne out of a love
of the Church, the creation of an Administrative Committee about two decades ago ---consisting of the Chancellor, Treasurer, Secretary, and two appointed lay and two clergy from the Metropolitan Council--- has sadly reduced the Metropolitan Council to merely signing off on the decisions of the Administrative Committee, with precious few
questions and little discussion. And, critically, with the demise of the role of the Metropolitan Council came the end of any substantial oversight of the finances and accounts of the Church.

If what he says is true, there are two steps that must be taken immediately.

First, the Holy Synod must acknowledge that problems have existed, and then outline what steps are being taken to correct those irregularities, i.e., all steps that need to be taken vis a vis complete audits of all accounts, and transparency in all matters of finance, as outlined so clearly in Deacon Wheeler's documents.

Secondly, the Holy Synod must hold accountable all those individuals - --without exception--- who participated in or condoned the financial mismanagement of Church accounts. If, as Deacon Wheeler's documents demonstrate, those individuals include the Chancellor and Treasurer
of the Church, other members of the Administrative Committee representing the Metropolitan Council, or anyone else in the central administration, then so be it. The Church, and her people, deserve nothing less.

In business or in government, persons who are involved in outrageous wrongdoing, such as that alleged here, are punished with the loss of their jobs or, in extreme cases, with criminal sanctions. If what Deacon Wheeler says is true, is there any reason why those responsible should not be punished, and removed from their duties and
any control they have over Church funds?

Until this matter is dealt with decisively by the Holy Synod, I
intend to continue to financially support my parish and diocese, but I will not offer any financial support to the national church, other than through my assessment ("fair share") collected by my parish, and forwarded to Syosset.

While I began this missive merely saddened at the possibility that Deacon Wheeler's incredibly serious allegations might be true, I stopped now to reread all of his documents. As a result,I now find myself angry at the stain that may have been commited against the Church, a church that my grandparents and parents fought to establish on this soil as an American Orthodox church.

I believe that, after reading the documents, others may feel
similarly violated. - "oneuschurch"

Part 2: November 4, 2005

My apologies. The identity of "oneuschurch" is no mystery. My name is Gregg Nescott. I joined the Orthodox Forum about six months ago, and have enjoyed reading the discussions without posting any messages myself. I felt compelled to respond to Deacon Eric Wheeler's letters, and so posted my first message yesterday(11/3). I neglected to actually sign the post, since I thought tabbing on my screen name, "oneuschurch", would show my identity. Such is not the case. I thank Bill Samsonoff for bringing it to my attention.

I am a member and vice president of St. Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral (OCA) in Pittsburgh (Allison Park). That should suffice for identifying myself, but for this.

I received a flurry of e-mails since I posted my response yesterday to the Deacon Wheeler letters. Several writers wanted to know why I seemed so sure that the Metropolitan Council was unlikely to take action on these extremely serious allegations of financial misconduct. One other writer wondered whether I had a bias against clergy, and asked why I felt so strongly that there may have been
wrongdoing here.

The answers are simple.

I served as a member of Metropolitan Council for parts of the past nearly-forty years. I was elected three times by All-American Councils as the lay alternate to the Metropolitan Council (the first, I think, in 1977), and attended and participated in meetings in that capacity. I also was elected several times by my diocesan assembly as
the diocesan lay representative on Metropolitan Council.
Additionally, I served one term on the Statute Commission of the national church.

I resigned from the Metropolitan Council this past July.

In my resignation letter to Archbishop Kyrill and Metropolitan
Herman, I pointed out a number of reasons for my resignation, and my disenchantment with the continued lack of openness in the OCA's chancery and central administration. But I advised my bishops then that the last straw had been the written request last June by the Archbishop of the OCA's largest diocese (Archbishop Job, Diocese of the Midwest), sent on behalf of his diocesan council, asking for a broader explanation of church finances and accounts at the upcoming All-American Council in Toronto.

The disingenuous response sent to Archbishop Job and his diocese by the Chancellor of the OCA in a letter dated June 30, 2005, maintained that it would be "inappropriate" to release additional financial information to the All-American Council "without the prior approval of the Metropolitan Council and the blessing of the Holy Synod",
while claiming that the Metropolitan Council "is provided with all pertinent information" concerning finances. In light of my knowledge and experience in the workings of the national church, and especially in light of Deacon Wheeler's recently posted letters, which exhaustively debunk the Chancellor's position, it should be evident why I suggested in yesterday's posting that Metropolitan Council would/could do nothing to investigate Deacon Wheeler's allegations. (Copies of both Archbishop Job's letter and the response from Syosset were published, I believe, on the Orthodox Forum in June
and July.) (Editor's note: They are available as Documents (30) and (31) on this website.)

Apart from my service to the national church, I also served as treasurer of my diocese for nine years, and have been a member of my diocesan council for most of the past 25 years.

As to the query as to whether or not my posting hinted at a bias against clergy, and why I felt so strongly that there might be wrongdoing here, I can only respond that I am the grandson of an Orthodox (Metropolia) priest and the son-in-law of an OCA priest, and my Godfather was an OCA bishop.

As for my instincts for identifying wrongdoing, I have been a
prosecutor for 27 years, first in the District Attorney's Office,
and, for the past 17 years, as an Assistant United States Attorney.

And I am genuinely saddened that I felt compelled to post on
this issue. There simply was no other choice.

 

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Other Reflections:

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

Cyril,
reposted from the Orthodox Forum on December 12, 2005 (reposted with permission)

Greg Nescott,
former Member, OCA Metropolitan Council, posted on the Orthodox Forum, November 3, 2005 (Reprinted with permission)