News From Around Orthodox America
• Ottawa, Canada
Bishop Alexander of Ottawa: “The information posted about me is erroneous”
In a May 28th email to clergy of the Diocese of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate New York, Bishop Alexander (Mufarrij) denied recent internet reports that “In the meeting with His Beatitude, Bishop Alexander expressed his loyalty, obedience and complete acceptance of the February 24 decision.” The Bishop writes: “I have returned safely by the grace of God and was just made aware of a posting on some website called theantiochian....the information posted about me is erroneous.” (Ellipsis in original.)
Bishop Alexander was one of three Bishops of the Local Synod who did not sign the April 24th Letter submitting to the February 24th decision of the Synod of Antioch that attempted to reduce the diocesan Bishops of the AOCA to auxiliary status. Instead, Bishop Alexander penned a personal statement on the Letter which read: “ “This decision is already in effect and does not need my signature.” (Read that story here.)
In addition to correcting the record, the Bishop revealed that: “i (sic) did meet with His Beatitude ahead of my brother bishops since i was already there. i did not want to prolong my absence as i was tired and anxious to come back. my meeting with the patriarch was private and very positive.”
The Bishop also acknowledged that the current crisis has caused concern in Antioch. He writes: “His Beatitude was keen on finding a solution to the current situation in our beloved archdiocese of NA (North America).” The other four members of the Local Synod, with the exception of Metropolitan Philip, are meeting with the Patriarch in Damascus today and Wednesday.
In related news theantiochian.com has itself issued a retraction of its earlier story that ran with the headline “Metropolitan PHILIP, plays the “Trump” of the Archdiocese: “You are fired” to the Chancellors of the Archdiocese!” The website explains “This story has been retracted based on our interview with the Archdiocese Board of Trustees Member.” In that interview, an anonymous member of the Board of Trustees confirms that no vote was taken, that neither Chancellor was “fired” and that another closed door session of the Board will be held in July during the Convention. (Read the full interview here)
• Syosset, NY
In Sign of Change, New OCA Internal Audit Committee Begins Work
Based on the statutory authority provided by the 15th All-American Council, held in Pittsburgh, PA in November 2008, the new Internal Audit Committee had its first meeting over the Memorial Day weekend at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Dayton, OH. The committee, nominated by the Metropolitan Council, is composed of four volunteer CPA’s: The Rev. Deacon Martin D. Watt, CPA, Chair (Dayton, OH); Mr. Michael S. Strelka, CPA, CVA ( Palatine, IL); and Ms. Karen L. Simons-Durkish, CPA, of Mechanicsburg, PA and Ms. Vera Bozko-Summer, of Columbia, SC, who participated in the meeting via conference call.
In its initial press release (read that here) the new Internal Audit Committee set forth a bold and thorough plan of its work that included:
• visits with both the Chancery staff and the various stavropegial institutions they will audit;
• discussions of policies and procedures regarding financial controls and disclosure of financial information as they are currently in operation with the Chancery and each institution;
• recommendations for changes to current policies and procedures, and when appropriate, assist with writing the policy and procedure manuals, if one or more organizations has not thus far memorialized their policies and procedures in written format;
• developing methods to evaluate the reasonableness of the related financial statements, controls, and disclosure of information;
• systematically auditing the major accounting cycles of each organization to benchmark expectations for internal controls and to evaluate the reasonableness of the related financial statements such that the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council, the clergy and the laity of the OCA, the external financial auditors, and all other stakeholders will find the underlying financial information reliable; and
• and providing detailed progress reports to the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Chancery staff, and the Metropolitan Council.
The committee recognizes “...that the expectations of the work to be undertaken are high, but they committed themselves to pursue the task in a professional manner and to not force a timeline to dictate the work or reports completed...... Since the underlying framework has not yet been built, it is anticipated that the actual audits may not commence until 2010.”
Finally, the new committee “...is committed to ensuring that the Metropolitan, the Holy Synod of Bishops, and the Metropolitan Council have complete and accurate information with which to base their decisions, as well as confidence that the organizations and resources under their stewardship are being efficiently and effectively managed.”
Unlike previous internal audit committees who rarely met, were not allowed to audit very much, and when they were, failed to discover anything amiss (although millions were disappearing), the new Internal Audit Committee, composed entirely of professionals, has assumed enough responsibility to ensure monies are being used as intended. As regards the finances of the OCA, it seems the new day that dawned with Fr. Tassos in the Central Administration now stands poised to spread transparency and accountability throughout all the stravropegial institutions of the OCA. That will indeed be a wonderful, welcome change.
• Quebec, Canada
Romanian Unity Proposal Continues to Raise Concerns, Questions
On April 10, 2009, a newspaper article appeared in the Canadian- Romanian newspaper Zig- Zag, published in Quebec, which stated that the Unity Proposal will be presented at the next Church Congresses of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate (ROEA-OCA) and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americans ( ROAA-Patriarchal) for debate - and ratification. The article continued to say that it will be “thereafter presented to the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which would then approve the new Metropolitanate.”
The fact the newspaper presented the Unity proposal as a “done deal”, in which the process, timeline and outcome all seem pre-determined has raised questions throughout Romanian America & Canada, as the information came from a unity meeting held in an Episcopate parish, led by a priest of the Episcopate and a Bishop of the Patriarchal jurisdiction. Writing on ROEANews.info, the administrator asks:
“If this is not the correct “Plan”, then why did the clerics present, not intervene?
“....While these grandiose plans are being made about our future, what about the rights of our Parishes and members? Are they to be ignored? Of course, all this would be in violation of the Rule of Law and Church Canons, as well as in contradiction with the Vatra’s own Constitution and By-Laws. The article claims that opposition is limited to 13 parishes and that public actions, including via the Internet, may only delay, but not hinder, the actual unity! We must follow this one closely.
...What is interesting in all this is that the official March 28, 2009 joint “press release” and the April 10, 2009 newspaper article do not mention that full and accurate “Due Diligence”, as required by ROEA Episcopate Council and Congress, must first be approved by ROEA’s Due Diligence legal committee and then finalized, before going any further.
-Nothing is said about legal time limitations and allotted time for delegates to take any proposals for unity back to their respective parishes for discussion.
-Nothing is said about individual parish/ mission members and their possible rights to vote on the unity issue. Nothing is said about the required OCA canonical release process.
-Nothing is said about opt-out clauses regarding monasteries, parishes/ missions who prefer to stay with the OCA.
But no matter. The Unity train is about to leave the station. Hurry on. Sorry....
This unfair “process” must stop!”
In conclusion he asks:
“...The ROEA JDC (Joint Dialogue Commission) is accused of not revealing its actual dealings with BOR (Biserca Ortodox Roman- the Romanian Orthodox Church) and the ROAA to the ROEA Council and Church membership. Full and accurate information is required, and yet no written reports and detailed minutes or just notes of those meetings are being produced for even our Council to see. It seems that the JDC have become simply a “pro-unity under Bucharest” support group. It seems that they have again overstepped their mandate. It seems that something should done with the JDC. What say you?”
- Mark Stokoe