The Shame and the Sham:
Why I Resigned from the Special Commission
by Archpriest John M. Reeves
State College, PA
Individuals may opine as to the collective wisdom of the recent resignations from the Special Commission
by several of its members. I cannot speak for the others who did. However, I can speak for myself. And at last, I feel the freedom to do so.
My resignation was not some hasty decision. However, it grew into one of maintaining personal integrity, a possibility from early on in the Special Commission’s life. The Special Commission was originally constituted as an investigatory group by Metropolitan Herman at the December 2006 meeting of the Metropolitan Council. But just as it was difficult from the very beginning to know what to call ourselves—committee or commission-- it was just as difficult to attempt to understand what our purpose actually was. Our only task was to work with Proskauer-Rose to bring this investigation to an end in an appropriate manner. (Link)
The official charge as recorded in the minutes of that Metropolitan Council meeting was rather broad. Also recorded in the minutes, discussion was made of the need we look at the basic questions for any investigation of this type:
Who knew what?
When did they know it?
What did they do once they knew?
This basic template of “Who? /When? /What?” governed our first working session. It determined our priorities for beginning what we thought was our responsibility to do. Were we ever wrong! Once members of the legal profession got wind of our intentions, we began to encounter one road block after another. The template of “Who?/When?/What?” was thus dismissed on a “technicality” that is was not adopted by the Metropolitan Council in the form of a motion.
Promptly—not that thirty days after inception is prompt, except in the OCA—our charge was narrowed by the Metropolitan on January 12. (Link.) All the more important to realize is that we only had 90 days in which to do our initial work and report back to the Metropolitan Council. A third of our allotted time had already expired.
Whatever effort had been expended and whatever work had been attempted would soon be counted for naught. It would become quickly apparent that in spite of agreements of confidentiality, there was none. Legal minds seemed unconcerned that the working protocols we were attempting to establish would be jettisoned or that confidentiality would be breached. Persons who had no business even contacting members of the commission about its work began to do so. Trust began to erode as ends were quickly used to justify means.
For sure, meetings would still be held under the guise of furthering the investigation. Discussions would nevertheless take place about the form of report, and its subsequent content, to be given to the Church. But these meetings and these discussions were virtually dead-on-arrival. In fact, at times we might have believed that we had taken a decision to do thus and so, and that we had all—or mostly all-- agreed. But telephones would ring and minds would ponder and attempts to step one foot forward would be met with counter-forces pushing us several feet backwards.
As the time approached for the March meeting of the Metropolitan Council, less than a week prior to be more exact, a written report was given the commission, fait accompli, to edit. It only then became evident that this had been substantially agreed to in private conversations between hierarchs and attorneys at the beginning of February. This was not communicated to the committee until the ninth, if not the eleventh, hour. Only then would the virtually completed report be entrusted us as the committee: to look for consistency, typographical errors, and such like.
We had been attempting to proceed. We had believed that we were involved in this process in a determinative fashion. We had attempted courses of action. But we were not in control of the process at all. It was at this point that I wished not to be a part of the smokescreen. It was my sense that the committee was being used only as a pawn, as a façade, as a degree of protection for those ultimately writing the report. My resignation was sent to the chairman of our Special Commission-committee, Archbishop Job.
Two individuals called me to make the case that I should not resign. One strongly urged my reconsideration because the evidence in the report seemed so particularly damning. It was averred that my resignation could cast a cloud over that determination. The other caller was Archbishop Job. He understood my frustration. And I listed, once more, my concerns about the process involved with “our” work. However, he refused to accept my resignation. That was on the Friday evening before the Council would meet the following Tuesday.
In a preparatory meeting of the Commission the next Monday, I stated for the record that I was there under protest and that I objected to what I believed was the work of a committee beyond the committee. I also noted that I would not endorse the report, neither would I block it. I stated my case that I opposed the manner in which the report had been produced. It should be underscored, however, that I did not question its factuality.
A day later, the report was delivered to the Metropolitan Council, ultimately endorsed, and recommended to the Holy Synod. What should be noted is that the continued work of the Commission was subsequently re-constituted independently of the Metropolitan’s control, a position again affirmed at the June meeting of the Council. The public details of much of what has transpired since are easily reviewable online. (Link.)
In mid-August, Archbishop Job finally attempted to continue the work of the Commission, calling for a conference call and informing the Metropolitan of his intention to do so. It was too little, too late. The Metropolitan’s intransigence was obvious. For me, the time had long since passed to fish or to cut bait. I was tired of the games. I was tired of the deceit. I was tired of the duplicity. I was tired of the vacuity of leadership. I informed His Eminence that my previously submitted resignation was effective immediately. This time, thankfully, it was accepted.
No one need agree with my actions. Neither should anyone attempt to read too much into them. Should it ever see the light of day, I do think the Special Report accurate. Yet, I would qualify that. It is accurate in so far as it is complete. By its own title it is preliminary, not final. None should think it conclusive, by any means.
The report was good enough for an indictment. And in the final analysis, that was ultimately our task, no matter what we were called, no matter what we attempted to do. An indictment was delivered against one individual. Too bad, that no one had the honesty simply to tell us from the beginning that we were to write an indictment rather than conduct an investigation.
So, let the games play again, if they be played. But let others play them. I’ve little stomach for games, and even less for those in which the rules are constantly in a state of flux. One thing I know: this is no way to run a parish. And I suspect in the final chapters of the OCA’s history it will be written that this was no way to run the Church.
Fr. John M. Reeves, who recently resigned from the Special Commission, is pastor of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, State College, Pennsylvania. An Orthodox priest for the past twenty five years, he served as the Director of the Office of Church Growth and Evangelism for the Orthodox Church in America from 1997-2002. He is currently a member of the Metropolitan Council of the OCA, representing the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania.