7.31.08 Statement to the INDY Town Hall
What Concerns Me About the OCA
by Mark Stokoe
At the Hartford Town Hall one week ago, a priest began the meeting by lamenting that "Things have snow-balled and it is hard to know what the issue really is." From the beginning of this scandal in
September 1999 to today, in July 2008 the issue has always remained the same, although the crises have been many. The issue is integrity - or rather, the lack of same.
The issue of integrity goes beyond who did what, when, where and with whom, for whatever reasons important as they are. The sad fact is that we have lacked integrity in our administrative structures, in the gulf between our stated goals and our actual practices. Our leaders have acted without integrity; too often confusing self-interest for principle. And more often than not we have followed without integrity, turning our heads the other way, rather than our cheeks, passively waiting for evil to move on rather than confronting it. Lacking integrity, neither our administration, our leaders, or we ourselves have been able to right the OCA, no matter what changes the administration has tried to make, or more accurately, our leaders have tried to avoid.
The report of the Special Investigative Commission will not give us integrity; at best it can only give us more facts. And the All American Council threatens to disintegrate into a welter of pointless attempts to restore integrity - as if shrinking the size of Central Church Administration will expand its integrity; or reducing our church life to dioceses and parishes will somehow reduce our problems. No matter how small we make ourselves, the lack of integrity will be noticed. Others advocate evangelizing our problems away - others uniting them away in ever larger Orthodox groupings. Friends, just as size is not our problem, offering solutions to the problems of others while continuing to fail to address our own only makes our problems worse; and thinking we can find our path again through others only makes us more lost than we already appear.
The issue is integrity, which cannot be inherited, bought, re-organized, hidden, ignored, protected by lawyers, enacted by Statute, or declared to exist - nor matter how great the hierarch. It is a simple matter of choice. St. John Chrysostom wrote: "There is a gift which surpasses all others - the gift of knowing right from wrong, and the courage to choose what is right. This gift is not something which is given at birth, for with some people possess and others do not. It is like a seed sown in every human heart, and it grows only if it is nurtured through education, prayer and practice."
We are educated enough in this scandal - through admissions of embezzlement, evidence of fraud and a public trail of misdirection and cover-up -to know what integrity now demands. The SIC Report will only confirm it. We have prayed for three years, but the fact is that this cup will not pass from us. If we are to re-gain our integrity, our wholeness, our authenticity, the gift of knowing right from wrong and the courage to do what is right, the next joint Synod and Metropolitan Council meeting at the beginning of September must put what little integrity remains into practice. That begins with the Metropolitan's voluntary resignation, or failing that, his immediate involuntary retirement.
Many more difficult decisions face us following that one.
I am hopeful that the OCA can face the uncertain future with integrity. But of this I am certain: without integrity we have no future no matter what the Synod, or even the All American Council decides.
Bigger, smaller, richer, poorer, united, alone, focusing on the glorious past or moving on towards the future, lacking integrity we will have lost the gift which surpasses all others, and without which we shall fail, even were we accomplish all else.
St. Paul Orthodox Parish, Dayton OH