Bethesda Parish Calls
On Metropolitan to Resign
• St. Mark's Adopts Three Resolutions
• "No Confidence in +Herman's Leadership"
• "Call for +Herman to Resign" passes 42-33
• "Conscientious Objectors" Given Freedom
to Withhold 50-16
by Wayne and Cathryn Tatusko
This past summer, a group of St. Mark parishioners began talking at various parish gatherings, openly expressing their increasing frustration with the scandal in the OCA central administration and the failure of St. Mark, as a parish, to take any decisive action in response to it. Although the parish had had several opportunities to formally discuss the situation in the OCA, and had even invited Metropolitan Herman to address its members' questions regarding the scandal, many parishioners were dissatisfied with the Metropolitan's answers. They wanted to see the parish take steps to convey that dissatisfaction publicly.
In August 2007, several parishioners attended a parish council meeting to announce the formation of the St. Mark Discussion/Action Group. The group began to hold meetings to discuss potential responses to the crisis in the national church by the parish as a whole, by smaller groups of parishioners, and/or by individual members. One underlying principle for the group was to conduct its activities and discussions openlyin contrast to the perceived desire of the central administration to hide information and/or to control access to it.
The group established an e-mail list for any members of the parish to join. Meetings were held openly in the church, with our priest, Father Gregory Safchuk,Êin attendance. The first effort of the group was to launch the national on-line petition requesting the resignation of Metropolitan Herman. To date, the petition has garnered nearly 1200 signatures. (Read that story here)
The next effort of the group was the presentation of three Resolutions at the November 18, 2007 Annual Meeting of the parish. Attempting to bring together the many thoughts and proposals expressed by participants, a set of three Resolutions was drafted and circulated by e-mail to the entire parish several days before the meeting.
The primary purposes of the Annual Meeting were to elect new council members and to adopt an annual budget for 2008. These are potentially time-consuming issues. Also, because the meeting was held the Sunday before Thanksgiving, there were food baskets to be stuffed and delivered to poor families by parishioners later that afternoon. Despite these and other commitments, a significant number of members stayed through the almost three-hour meeting to vote on the Resolutions, which were the last item on the meeting's Agenda.
The discussion of the Resolutions was introduced by Wayne Tatusko, who briefly summarized the formation of the Discussion/Action Group and outlined a few of the circumstances within the central administration that caused the group to take action. These included:
• the millions of dollars of ADM and Andreas Foundation funds, none of which has ever been accounted for;
• the withdrawal of over $1 million in checks to cash by the former Chancellor during 2001-2005, for which no accounting has ever been made;
• the public acknowledgement by Metropolitan Herman (at an open meeting at St. Mark) of his complete abdication of responsibility as Treasurer of the OCA, in that he took the position 'in name only' after the dismissal of Deacon Eric Wheeler (having been advised of financial irregularities). By his own admission he did nothing as Treasurer wrote no checks, reviewed no books, etc.;
• the desire by Metropolitan Herman, as late as March 2007, to do nothing, a desire that was overcome at the last minute by Archbishop Job's walking out of the meeting and Gregg Nescott's impassioned 'For the good of the church' address; and
• the admitted theft by the central administration of the 9-11 funds and the Bibles for Russia funds, with the 9-11 funds having now, in significant part, been taken twice. Mr. Tatusko (himself a lawyer) compared the theft/misappropriation of these funds to an attorney using trust funds for office expenses an action that would get him or her immediately disbarred or suspended for a significant time.
Parishioner Jerry Marti, MD then spoke, reading aloud portions of Gregg Nescott's address, as well as portions of the OCANews.org article on the recent Washington and New York Diocesan Assembly. (Read that story here)Ê The portion read aloud included the remarks by Diocesan Treasurer Larry Tosi (another attorney), who stated that the summary report of the Proskauer Rose investigation could never be released, as "it would kill the church."
Following these introductory remarks, Parishioner Mary Mytryshyn moved that the first Resolution be adopted. There was prolonged discussion of the Resolution. It is interesting to note that none of those who opposed the passage of the Resolution spoke in support of Metropolitan Herman. Those speaking in opposition did so on predominantly technical groundsfor example, asking what "No Confidence" really meant, or whether the Resolution would have any practical impact. The final Resolution, after some minor amendments, read as follows:
"Resolution 1: No Confidence.
Whereas, the Orthodox Church in America has been embroiled in a financial and ecclesial crisis since at least October 2005; and,
Whereas the Metropolitan has acted in ways that have exacerbated the crisis;
Be it resolved that: the parish of St. Mark Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland, while continuing to affirm Metropolitan Herman as our canonical bishop, has no confidence in Metropolitan Herman's leadership."
Voting on the Resolution was by secret ballot. A total of 90 parishioners of the 190 qualified to vote at the meeting had signed in when the meeting was called to order. The Resolution passed 59 in favor, 28 against.
By way of comparison to participation in other parish meetings, when St. Mark held a special meeting in October 2003 to vote on proceeding with its $2,000,000 construction renovation project a decision that would require the parish to take out a $1,500,000 loana total of 92 votes was cast. Therefore, the 87 votes cast on the "No Confidence" resolution demonstrates a high level of participation, on a par with the most significant parish decisions.
Parishioner Bob Barber moved the adoption of the second Resolution. Again, those speaking against the Resolution did so on essentially technical grounds for example, asking how it differed from the first Resolution. One member stated that the Metropolitan had already made it clear that he would not resign, so what was the point of voting on this Resolution? The discussion did not become heated, but remained civil and respectful. The final Resolution after amendments from the floor read:
"Resolution 2: Unity and Integrity in the OCA
(Call for Metropolitan Herman's Resignation).
Whereas the members of St. Mark Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland have an abiding desire to maintain the unity of the Orthodox Church in America while promoting the integrity and holiness of our Church, we the members of St. Mark parish no longer believe Metropolitan Herman is acting in the best interest of the OCA. He has failed openly and fully to resolve the ongoing scandal in the OCA, most recently expressed in his refusal to release to all members of the OCA the preliminary report of the Special Commission. The good of the Church requires Metropolitan Herman to step down immediately as first Hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, and to announce that a new Metropolitan will be elected at the forthcoming 2008 All-American Council."
The results of the secret ballot were 42 in favor, and 33 against.
Parishioner John Bilyeu moved the adoption of the third Resolution. The Discussion/Action Group had intentionally tried to find a middle ground between withholding all St. Mark funds from the Diocese or paying on behalf of everyone, even those who remained outraged at the situation in Syosset. The concept, described in a letter by Parish Council President Michael Thompson in his annual report to the parish, was that we take actions that "are inclusive of everyone's opinions and feelings and do not force anyone to be part of any action they do not feel in their own conscience they can support." The discussion remained productive and respectful. Issues regarding St. Mark potentially being banned from the All American Council were raised.
The final Resolution, after amendment from the floor, read:
Withholding by Conscientious Objectors
Whereas, we the members of St. Mark endorse the words of our Parish Council President that we take actions that 'are inclusive of everyone's opinions and feelings and do not force anyone to be part of any action they do not feel in their own conscience they can support.'
Whereas, certain members of St. Mark cannot in good conscience continue to fund the OCA administration due to a lack of confidence in controls, oversight, accountability and transparency,
Therefore, be it resolved that those members of St. Mark:
1) Who submit written statements of objection to being counted for purposes of the OCA central assessment; and
2) Provide a check in the full amount of the assessment (currently $145.00) to the parish treasurer no later than November 1, 2008,
Will have their attributable portion ($145.00) of the 2008 assessment held in escrow prorated on a monthly basis as a specific financial statement line item until December 1, 2008 unless such member confirms in writing their desire to have those funds released sooner. A member's conscientious objection under this Resolution will not disqualify such member from holding office or voting at parish meetings. This resolution will expire on December 1, 2008."
This third Resolution, supported by our parish priest, passed with 50 in favor and 16 against.
Metropolitan Herman was informed of the results of the St. Mark Annual Parish Meeting through a letter from Parish Council President Michael Thompson dated November 23rd, 2007. The three Resolutions were attached to the letter.