NEWS FROM AROUND THE OCA
The second Pre-Conciliar “Town Hall” meeting was held Tuesday afternoon, June 24th, in Dallas TX, within the context of the Diocese of the South’s annual Diocesan Assembly. According to participants some 80 people attended, of whom more than 60 were clergy. The meeting, which lasted 2 hours, was opened by Archbishop Dmitri who repeated his long-held conviction that the dioceses are the “Church”, not the Central Church Administration. More importantly, the Archbishop stated that the OCA is unique among autocephalous churches in having parish representation at an All-American Council-type assembly. He argued that the representation should be diocesan, not parochial, and that the Statute is “wrong” on this point and should be “rewritten”.
In speaking of the scandal, the Archbishop raised the question: were it not for Protodeacon Wheeler’s whistle- blowing concerning the financial misdeeds would the OCA have ever known of the improprieties? “It was clear to all present,” writes an attendee, “that the answer was “no.”
Other speakers spoke of the need to change structures of the OCA and the need for the Diocese to follow the OCA Statute if the Diocese expected Syosset to do the same. (The Diocese currently has appointed Metropolitan Council delegates, not elected ones.) Others spoke of the scandal as “a betrayal”, which “continues to cause pain”. Some 90 minutes into the meeting a priest stood up and said “Metropolitan Herman has to go.” This led to many other clergy rising to speak, all of whom reiterated the conviction that the Metropolitan must retire now. Only four lay people spoke; and the most heart-rending comments were from women. One woman noted that of the three people most directly associated with the scandal (two Metropolitans and one former Protopresbyter), only one of them has suffered any punishment at all , and yet he too, still remains active in a parish. The other two appear to be getting off “scott free”.
The next “Town Hall” is scheduled for tomorrow, June 26th, in San Francisco, as part of the Diocese of the West’s Diocesan Assembly. The fourth “Town Hall” to be held on Saturday, June 28th, in Washington DC, will be the first with Metropolitan Herman in attendance.
The Montreal “Town Hall”, scheduled for July 12th has been cancelled. No explanation has been given. The Pre-Conciliar Commission also announced that a meeting will be scheduled for the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania - although no details were provided. Following that same meeting Fr. Andrew Jarmus, Communications Director of the OCA, announced that: “Commission members acknowledged that some individuals best express their thoughts by writing them down, and this must be honored at the meetings. They also considered that a lengthy statement can break the flow of dialogue in a meeting. In the interest of allowing all participants to express their thoughts in as an effective way that they can, while at the same time keeping the meeting dynamic as open and interactive as possible, the Pre-conciliar Commission has decided to limit written statements to a maximum of 500 words in length.”
The OCA has refused mediation related to charges of sexual harassment and retaliatory discharge in the EEOC investigation of now-retired Bishop Nikolai and his former Chancellor, Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain). According to sources close to the investigation, the EEOC findings are expected by the end of this month.
In an address to the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church entitled “ORTHODOX WITNESS AND ORTHODOX UNITY IN THE MODERN WORLD” given yesterday, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad , the President of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, made the following pregnant comments concerning the canonical situation in Western Europe and the United States. His remarks on "regional work" bears close attention given the Patriarchate's recent decision to join SCOBA. The Metropolitan stated:
“It is good that (our) two dioceses in Germany have a good relationship, but the fact of the parallel existence and presence in our Church of two archbishops having the same title cannot be considered canonically normal. I think that a council of Russian Orthodox bishops serving in Western Europe is overdue.
We should more actively pursue common work in other regions as well. I think that it is precisely that such regional work and experience of interaction on the ground will tell us solutions to existing problems - in particular, the existence of parallel church structures.
I remind you that in the course of our dialogue with the Russian Church Abroad, there was general understanding that we will, with appropriate pastoral care, strive to resolve such problems during the five-year transition period that followed the Act Of Canonical Communion going into force. A future Bishops’ Council will be held at the end of this five-year term. Hopefully, then we will be able to work out new ways beneficial to the Church.”
The Metropolitan made an interesting comment on transparency and the internet as well:
“In these circumstances the leaders of our Church took the only correct position, implying adherence to the principle of transparency in the Church, a daily willingness to “answer with meekness and awe” anyone who inquired (see 1 Pet.. 3 15). The practical adherence to this principle requires not only the concentration of intellectual efforts, acquisition of new skills and finding significant materiel, but above all - thinking about the role of our Church in changed historical circumstances. And because in the modern world media are the most universal means of dialogue within society and the most effective mechanism for exchanging ideas, this has set before us the task of finding and finding our own place in the world of information technology.
Thus, the use of the Internet has enabled the Church in its relations with the secular media to meet the dictates of the times. ...”
- Mark Stokoe