Three Differing Views:
Reflections While We Wait
Today the Metropolitan Council and Synod of Bishops meet in joint session for the first time in more than a decade. OCANews.org has been asked not to report on the discussions underway and the decisions being taken until the meeting is concluded. We will honor that request.
That being said, the national dialogue continues. In the past two weeks OCANews.org has received several very different reflections or long comments that time, opportunity or space have not yet allowed to be posted. As we wait, we have all three. We now offer them for your consideration as our community shares its thoughts on the crisis.
REFLECTION by (Name Withdrawn by Author's Request on 6.29.10)
For some time, I've ruminated on an issue raised on this website, the nature of the 'hierarchical principle' and its relationship to the O.C.A.'s present malaise. I'm led to wonder whether an important problem with the O.C.A. is that the hierarchical principle is not in abeyance but rather present in excess (in a strange incarnation), resulting in what can be referred to as culture of clericalism. As a 'culture', this mentality of clericalism would inform not only many clergy but perhaps laity as well. The recent publication on this site of the Brum memorandum confirms that a tangible connection to Roman Catholic canon law has recently informed the ecclesiology of the O.C.A.'s administration. The revelation of Fr. Brum's ideas suggests a tangible reason why the response of the primate and top administrators has been so reminiscent of the American Catholic hierarchy's response (or non-response) to its recent scandals. But what about the way the laity have responded to certain of their clerics in whom they have seen unrighteousness? Turning to history can not only provide some insight into what excess clericalism looks like when misplaced in Orthodox environments, but also offer an example for more concrete lay action based on how Orthodox faithful in the past have played a part in correcting such imbalances.
Whether as a result of Greek Catholic influence imbedded in some parish communities from the earlier period of mass defections to the then-Metropolia from Unitatism, or as a result of other factors, the laity who wish to respond to the present problems might be operating from within the parameters of an unconscious 'clericalist' inheritance potentially still floating within regions of the O.C.A.'s collective mentality.
If true, this site's recent focus on the important issue of ecclesiology itself would not only have provided insight into clergy behavior but potentially into the dynamics of the laity's response (in the sense of not moving beyond asking hierarch-zebras to change their very stripes). If the people's only response is offering excellent reasoned arguments to the hierarchy even as both sides tacitly accept the idea that only the hierarchy, or a bureaucracy, have the authority to effect change then it is reasonable to expect that no change will occur, no matter how many requests are offered. And if by some chance, certain change does occur on this basis, it will only be surface change. The clericalism will remain.
While talking about the problem is a necessary part of the process of change (and many of the arguments and suggestions offered by various people on this site have indeed been superb), that might not be the end of the laity's role. Perhaps the people of God, who bear the 'royal priesthood' ought to ask themselves whether a way out of the culture of clericalism -for everyone-- would be for them to stop acting in a way that is both based on, and promotes this clericalism. More direct (albeit loving and peaceful) action is called for. For direction in this matter, the people of today's O.C.A. should consider what Orthodox people have done throughout the history of the Church when faced with similar moral catastrophes. If the witness of the Church has blessed righteous mass responses, than should not people ask, "why aren't we responding in this way?"
In light of these considerations, I would like to draw attention to the following few historical notes related to Metropolitan Herman (Swaiko) himself, vis a vis the people of God and the nature of hierarchical principles.
I am moved to offer these comments at this time in light of the interview of Archbishop Job (Osacky), whose frustration with the level of inaction and resistance he has come up against is therein evident. Among other things, his interview serves to place into stark relief the reality that Metropolitan Herman is still in the position to preside over whatever response to the crisis actually occurs, or doesn't occur. It must be admitted that, while evidently deeply involved in the O.C.A.'s present problems, Metropolitan Theodosius and Father Rodion Kondratick have been either retired or dismissed for some time, and so can wield no further influence, at least formally. The lone remaining member of the triumvirate at the center of the controversy, +Herman, however, remains, inexplicably left to oversee the investigation into that controversy. Can sane observers anywhere, who may yet disagree in interpreting elements of the overall situation, really believe in the legitimacy of his continued control of an investigation which includes he himself as a prime subject?
Several people whose words have appeared on this site have urged the removal of +Herman from the office of metropolitanÉ on various bases. And yet, one should consider all angles before calling for someone's removal. I therefore propose to consider for a few moments whether it is warranted on the basis of his own history whether his history tells us anything about what he conceives the 'hierarchical principle' to be. It might help reveal whether removing his primatial burden is really called for and whether, it is, there is a practical way to do get this done in a way that doesn't require commissions or lawsuits, or anything else.
It would not be outside the bounds of reason to say that the hierarch Herman has been a dubious fixture on the O.C.A. Holy Synod ever since his consecration as an auxiliary bishop in 1973; this has been especially true since his becoming a diocesan prelate. For example, when he assumed control of the Eastern Pennsylvania diocese in 1981, he quickly instigated a reign of vitriol that rent asunder the peace of many church communities and, more concretely, cost the O.C.A. nearly a million dollars in court fees by suing parishes, in civil courts, that wished to separate themselves from his unchristian and baleful influence. Read, if you will, the ecclesiological vision (and understanding of Orthodox church history) then-Bishop Herman evinced in his court testimony during the period of his litigations. The testimony is documented in court transcripts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. What is not well-documented - other than in oral tradition-- is the fact that at certain points on the eve of his litigations, he arrived at targeted parishes unannounced in order to hastily serve liturgies in lieu of priests who would question his commands.
At one such liturgy in a parish near St. Tikhon's monastery, he manifested the following unbalanced and dark behavior: He blatantly turned away all who stood in line to receive Holy Communion, including small children. It soon became obvious that he did this so that he could hurriedly get to the end of the service, at which point he might storm at the entire congregation from the soleas, waving the hand cross furiously to and fro as he verbally abused the people, repeatedly shouting about the requirement to obey him. I am aware that this incident must difficult for many to believe; it is nonetheless true.
From this early point as a diocesan bishop, +Herman thus revealed two characteristic traits: a very Western view of what it is to be a hierarch-a view that centered almost exclusively on obedience to a bishop's will-- as well as a problematic lack of basic Christian kindness. Tragically, the adults at the receiving end of these shocking behaviors never filed formal canonical charges against him. This might have subsequently stood as silent testimony when he was later considered for the primatial throne. Indeed, the millstone he wears, and wields now, could have been foreseen if only this one act of 'not suffering the little ones' to approach Christ in the chalice was taken into account.
Let it suffice in place of further incidents that could be enumerated here simply to say that throughout his time as diocesan hierarch, +Herman consistently cultivated relationships that were based almost exclusively on an acquiescence to his iron will. Those who questioned that will were threatened with pain of excommunication. Almost all of them, accepting this view of their 'role', simply acquiesced to this intimidation. He schooled them very well. And yet, one wonders, from what position did he 'school' them?
The careful wording of the O.C.A. website upon his subsequent election as metropolitan should be commented on here as well, because it also arguably relates to his overall view of the role of a hierarch. The fact that the writer on the website said that Metropolitan-elect Herman holds 'a degree' from Robert Morris College elides that fact that Metropolitan Herman has no bachelor's degree (and yet he hold the title of full "Professor" at St. Tikhon's seminary, perhaps on the basis of honorary doctorates given him).
According to the faculty listing in several St. Tikhon's Seminary yearbooks, or Tikhonaires, from the early 1970s, his highest academic degree is an associate's in 'secretarial science'. Without a four-year degree, one that might have provided him with a basis for broader critical thought, his acceptance of the blatantly-Roman Catholic 'Brum doctrine' is unsurprising. In other words, the outline of the primatial prerogatives in that document seem to reinforce not only the metropolitan's own personal inclinations and temperament but also his unique conception of obedience vis a vis the episcopate itself.
It should be noted that Metropolitan Herman received his only theological training at St. Tikhon's seminary in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time when it produced graduates who have repeatedly demonstrated, in both speech and writing, an extremely Western and legalistic view of Orthodox ecclesiology.
The comments of Archbishop Job testify to of the continuing hubris and clericalism evinced by Metropolitan Herman. But the Archbishop's comments only add to the many other examples already given on this site, such as by Fr. Christopher Wojick, Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, Monk James Silver, and others, revealing Metropolitan Herman behaving in exactly the same way.
Beyond a formal concern with matters of ecclesiology, one shudders when reading Archbishop Job's interview because of what it reveals about the present primate's lordliness in wielding his personal will. Especially shocking (but not surprising), are his comments revealing that Metropolitan Herman had the bareheaded presumption to order him - a brother diocesan hierarch-- to 'good behavior' and an acceptance that all matters being questioned were 'closed' for the purposes of the then-upcoming All-American Council in 2002 (a council that the Archbishop describes as 'disgusting' because of the disingenuous silence prevailing there).
It is clear that the courageous Archbishop's citations, in his interview, of various statements indicating the cancer at work in the O.C.A. often anonymously refer to comments made Metropolitan Herman himself, such as the phrase 'for the good of the church', which the latter used as a blockade while insisting that uncomfortable questions be quashed. The archbishop says that this 'tired' phrase has been used to "turn it all into what it is not' [so that all focus is on] bank loans and falsifications of facts and figures and lawyers."
Could the Archbishop's sentence not refer precisely to the Honesdale bank loan (from a small bank right near St. Tikhon's Monastery) which hierarch Herman procured on the basis of his own iron will? And to the lie about O.C.A. membership to secure said loan made by hierarch-Herman's hand-selected appointee Fr. Paul Kucynda? And to the legal and accounting firms retained by hierarch Herman with no consultation from the conciliar structure of the O.C.A.? Does not also the Archbishop's disgust with repeated replies to HIS inquiries that 'the investigation is ongoing, refer to a cliched phrase endlessly uttered by Metropolitan Herman to shut people's mouths and minds?
This all indicates the height of clericalism, as well as a 'hierarchical principle' basically premised upon the whims of a primate bishop.
In other words, it demonstrates that Metropolitan Herman, and those who abet him, fail to discern the crucial difference between hierarchy and dictatorship. One doesn't have to be an expert in church history to recognize that the fruits of this kind of hierarchical principle have been as foreign to Orthodoxy as the notion itself. But again, what to do? Returning to a point I made at the beginning, I think that some in the O.C.A. would benefit from knowing what are the historical precedents for laypeople responding to hierarchical disarray; I will just point in a few directions where people might see for themselves.
It might help some to study, for example, what Orthodox laypeople did with the successor of the late Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople when he returned to them having signed the act of union at the Council of Ferrara-Florence in the fifteenth century. Or what the laity did with the deceitful Patriarch Meletios (Metaxakis) in the early twentieth century when it was the people, not a synod or bureaucracy, who simply and righteously removed him. In the latter case, some might have been moved by righteous zeal to go a bit too far, but the point is that they faced their bishop, as a group, and in person. One and all, they simply removed their assent.
The precise way the people in these events did things may not be a direct blueprint for the present, but the general idea is there. These two examples could be supplemented by many, many others. The point is that the bishop is of and from the people, and therefore it is the people, the flock, who recognize whether the voice of the bishop is really the voice of the true Shepherd. In the Gospel parable, not only does the Shepherd know his sheep, but the reverse is obviously true; the sheep know whether the voice crying out to them is that of the true Shepherd.
The continued witness of so many of the O.C.A. flock on this site have made it clear that they recognize who is their True Shepherd, and who is not a true shepherd. Orthodox canonical and patristic tradition, in fact, forbids obedience to a bishop who himself deviates from basic Orthodoxy. See, for example, the powerful chapter seven of St. Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Ephesians on this matter (the same St. Ignatius whose words - from another point in that same document-- are often used to wrongly defend Episcopal absolutism).
In short, may God grant Metropolitan Herman many years, but one wonders whether, if 'for the good of the Church,', Metropolitan Herman's remaining years should not be spent as something other than O.C.A. primate. Those who have insisted that change will come with him at the helm should consider the Orthodox attitude toward miracles. One must always have faith that God can cause that which seems impossible to come about, but to demand Him to do so is to tempt the Lord's generosity. In the words of a wise man I once knew, "When lost at sea, pray that God send you to shore -but keep rowing."
In Archbishop Job's painful but seemingly apt analogy, cancer cannot oversee its own removal. Furthermore, one should ask if the removal of Metropolitan Herman's primatial burden would not be in the best interests of +Herman himself. In other words, one would do well to re-read the comments from his sole interview offered on the O.C.A.'s official webpage some months ago. He said there that he was not guilty of anything other than excessive kindness. When compared with the confessional statements of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler about his own personal sin and guilt, as well as those of Archbishop Job, on this site, one has little choice but to acknowledge the true nature of the primate's internal disorientation. This interview should also serve as a warning to all of us that when the 'lyrical liar' at the heart of all human suffering and conflict is permitted influence, no one, whatever position he or she might hold, can hope to see clearly. Is it not then the duty of the people of God to come to the aid of a suffering family member, lovingly removing a load from him who can no longer carry it?
TWO COMMENTS by Youssef Rassam
1. I believe that Abp. Job is correct: we must listen to each other. That includes listening to Fr. David Brum, Bp. Nicholai, Met. Herman. I do not see how we can listen to each other in an environment where we assume the worst; lose all sense of the Church and its structure. There is much talk of competing ecclesiologies etc. here, but I am perceiving a breakdown in ecclesiology itself both in loss of the sense of the basic structures as well as any mutual charity and compassion.
As to this liturgical question-
Bottom line: if the hierarch(s) is (are) not to decide when we are to allow changes in the Liturgical life, then why do we have bishops at all? A bishop cannot order the presbyters in their charge to follow the service books and established liturgical traditions? Would anyone like to describe a theory of the authority of bishops, which is so limited that they do not have this basic liturgical authority? Does that leave them with any authority or purpose in the church at all??
It seems almost too obvious to me that Bp Nicholai has exercised a part of his episcopal authority, which (lacking any binding Synodal decision contrary) is *unquestionably* his. The decision may or may not have been wise, good, or pastoral, but it was his to make.
To Mark in Poulsbo WA. I am sorry, but your understanding of the history of the Roman Liturgy is quite faulty. Both the Roman Rite and the Constantinople Rite had adopted the silent anaphora well prior to the schism. The Roman Canon (Anaphora) was not altered after the schism until the 20th C reforms. The last alteration in it was said to be in the time of St. Gregory the Great, several centuries before the schism. There is no evidence that the Roman Canon ever had an epiclesis as explicit as ours. St. Nicholas Kabasilas saw a sufficient implicit epiclesis in the Roman Canon, and it remained unaltered.
There is no evidence that the 'Amen's in question (which centuries of usage have assigned to 1 (one) deacon) were ever congregational. The oldest manuscript of the Constantinople Liturgy is the Barberini Manuscript, which was written in a period when the Anaphora was silent, and which does not yet have all the 'amen's' we currently use at that point. On the other hand, our oldest extant Anaphoras (which we might, for the sake of discussion assume were aloud in the absence of definite evidence) such as that ascribed to St. Hippolytus of Rome in the early 3rd C have no interruptions, congregational, diaconal, choral or otherwise, not even the singing of the Thrice Holy Angelic Hymn from Isaiah. The Amen of the clergy people together is at the *end* of the prayer. That corresponds, in our service, to the Amen after the Exclamation, "And grant us with one mouth". No bishop of The OCA has ordered the people to not take part in the Amen that seals and ends the whole Anaphora. Bishop Tikhon on the other hand, had ordered that certain of the paragraphs of the Anaphora, (but not the epiclesis) be read aloud. His practice is not the same as Bishop Nikolai's.
Fr. Philip: Father bless! It would be my understanding that a) the Novella of Justinian in question refers to 'prayers at the Liturgy and Baptism' but does not specifically mention the anaphora. Fr. Louis Bouyer who thinks that it does include the anaphora in its meaning goes in to several pages to justify that interpretation (that is my memory at least). b) The novella was from the Emperor, and was not a condemnation of the silent anaphora by the Church. Therefore, with deepest respect for you and your Igumenate, which may the Lord God remember in His Kingdom, I believe you are very wrong to say the silent anaphora is 'condemned' c) certainly we do not want to say that the secular government has authority over the Church's Liturgical life. Would that not be the height or rather depth, of Byzantine Caesero-papism? d) Since that time, and despite the secular civil ruler's order, the custom of the silent anaphora was well established by the Church in Constantinople, in Syria, in Rome and the West, in Palestine indeed, almost everywhere. The custom of reading it out loud is the new thing here. St. Innocent, St. Tikhon, St. Alexis, St. Seraphim, Met. Leonty never served this way. St. Herman never gave an out loud 'amen' with the deacon to our knowledge.
Deacon Nicholas, I believe you are correct that we cannot (not should not, but can not) simply copy Russia or Byzantium. However, we must exercise care in guarding the deposit. Autocephaly has never been cart blanche to recreate Orthodoxy all over again. And moreover, who if not the bishop(s), is to decide when we will allow a change in the rubrics? It also means hearing the voice of our past. 1500 (at least) years of silent Anaphora out of 2000 years of Church history is something that we ought to 'hear' as well. *If* one expects toleration to try out a change, one ought to also be willing to tolerate the other side. Can you say you *know* that Bp. Nicholai, for instance, is full of childish nostalgia?
It should be noted that throughout the 90'Õs at least, exactly when this whole scandal was starting, Met. Theodosius was usually serving the Anaphora out loud, usually inviting everyone to 'Amen' with the deacon, usually inviting all to say the pre-communion prayer with the clergy.
I am rather sadly bemused. Fr. Louis Bouyer, that most excellent mid 20th C French Roman Catholic Biblical, Patristic, and Liturgical scholar had such a marked and obvious influence on our Fr. Alexander Schmemann. This is not bad; Fr. Bouyer is well worth reading even when he is wrong. I enjoy reading him very much. He favored the out loud anaphora, (though he insisted in identifying the Anaphora as the 'Prex Sacerdotalis', the Priestly Prayer), and Fr. Alexander introduced it to our Church. Now a bishop has exercised his authority to limit this innovation, and is attacked for Roman Catholic influence!!! I think one of the worst things in 20th C Roman Catholicism was that innovations (some of which might have been theoretically good) were enforced everywhere at once by authority, and yesterday's tradition became today's abuse. The voice of tradition could only be heard if filtered by the experts who talked much of 'collegiality' but replaced the magisterium of the Roman Church with a magisterium of critical scholarship just as rigid and authoritarian. I fear something like that is happening in our Church now.
May God Keep us all.
2. *Caveat Lector*
That is a much better Latin epigram on this thread than 'habemus Papam'!
Archbishop Job is correct when he says we must listen to each other, even if some among us are to say something stupid. But to listen then, we must be able to hear those with whom we don't agree.
you do not seem to be able or willing to distinguish between reporting and editorializing. You can not or will not distinguish between facts and your opinions about the facts. And you have assumed a position of leadership. With that comes a responsibility.
Regarding Fr. David Brum:
Having read and re-read his papers, I do not think there is any such thing as a 'Brum doctrine'. Contextually, Fr. David is speaking in these articles always and only about the Central Church Administration. Though at times he uses the words'the Church', which is a mistake, I don't think he is saying any more than that the central administration is the Metropolitan's. The Central Church Administration is simply not the Church. We sometimes speak that was. An example of such a language is how the actions of the president are used of the whole country: e.g. 'Why did we decide to go into Iraq?' or 'Why won't the US talk to Syria?' We didn't decide, the President did. Most of us didn't go to Iraq, our soldiers did. We can't all 'talk to Syria'. Likewise, we can speak of 'The OCA' or the 'the Church' and clearly mean the central administration. With this elementary bit of understanding your contention of the very existence of a 'Brum doctrine' disappears.
Without a further clarification from Fr. David Brum, I don't think there is any such thing as a Brum doctrine at all. You have given us no reason, other than your supposition that the current Metropolitan has even read these memos, or that he is basing his course on them. I think it quite possible that the Metropolitan believes he is acting according to the statute.
It seems to me that the Church is structurally the people gathered with the clergy celebrating the Eucharist with the bishop, who is the focus of unity both within the diocese and through the bishop to the universal Church. That is essential. Metropolitan districts, patriarchates, autocephalies are all later practicalities, non-essential. Practically, we have Metropolitans to 'chair' regional synods. No central administration is required in the canons, or is essential to the Church. Nor is any diocesan administration so required, other than an economos or steward. (BTW, whoever thinks that the Canon requiring a steward means the bishop should have nothing to do with the financial administration has clearly missed the point: the canon requires that nothing be secretly done by only one person: the steward is there so the bishop doesn't spend money alone, not so that the steward can spend money alone!) Any further diocesan administration is clearly by delegation from the bishop, who is taking counsel from his presbytery etc. So why is it so shocking that the central administration exists by delegation from the Metropolitan?
It seems to me that any such administration in the church exists by the hierarch seeking aide and delegating authority. Someone quoted something about the Curial offices in Rome in the Roman Church. Clearly the key here is what authority the hierarch has to delegate, not that the hierarch's administration is (gasp!) his administration. The Roman Pontiff has, in the teaching of that body, power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, over other bishops. Therefore, his administration, (the Roman Curia), by delegation from him, likewise has such authority. Orthodoxy does not admit the concept of a bishop of the bishops.
The Metropolitan of The OCA, as an Orthodox hierarch, has immediate jurisdiction only over his diocese. The Central Church Administration only has authority in as much as the Metropolitan is the chairman and coordinator. The Metropolitan acts in concert with the Synod. The Pope is always entitled to act on his own.
I fail to see how the Central Church Administration being essentially under the jurisdiction of the primate is in any way controversial. Without the Synod, it cannot order any diocese to do anything. How else could the diocese of the Mid- West have the power to withhold funds?
Your question "Is Fr. David correct? Is this the future of the OCA? Are the bishops, clergy and laity of the Church simply 'consultative?'" is therefore a gross misrepresentation.
Your misreading of Fr. David Brum is compounded by the way you present his CV. You have connected dots so that people can conclude that Fr. David is a closet papist. How do you *know* that Fr. David is a protege of Bp. Tikhon or Nicholai? Do you think that every priest who has been in the diocese of the West or served (for a whole year!) in Las Vegas will always automatically agree with them?
More fundamentally, I object most strongly to you drawing battle lines within the body of the Church. It seems to me that once you label someone a "restorationist" or a holder of the 'Brum Doctrine' and 'what can only be called (sic) the 'Met. Herman Corrolary', he can readily be dismissed, pilloried, insulted, speculated about and hated at will. (BTW there's one thing about which the retired Bp. of San Francisco was certainly right! Please, please stop using the sign of the Holy Cross in that crass manner! Is it so hard to write Bp., Abp., and Met.?? You are clearly not giving us their blessings.)
Fr. David is a person, each of our bishops are persons, you and I are persons. If we are going to listen to each other in any sort of conciliar way, it simply will not do to label each other in advance 'restorationists' or 'stokoeists', etc. We do not need partisanship in the Church. But because Abp. Dmitri doesn't fit your partisan divide, you seem unable to comprehend what he says. It is you, Mark, who have publicly dismissed that fine Christian gentleman and elder hierarch of our Church, not the other way around. His position seems to me quite consistent, I am sorry that you cannot see that. Because Dianne dared question this website even on little, you have presided over a savaging. Thank God we cannot tar and feather people through the internet! How can we, on the basis of one email dare to say another Orthodox Christian has faith only as 'opiate'? At your prompting, it seems to me, someone here has said that Met. has a 'heterodox ecclesiogy', does that person, or you Mark really want to accuse the Met. of being a formal heretic? And can you back it up?
I fear that you are 'poisening the well', so to speak. How many of those gory details of which Abp. Job spoke need be trumpeted, and how many heads have to be presented on a platter before you are happy?
Of course, you can dig around and discover that I went to St. Tikhon's seminary, and where I served as choir director (HVM Cathedral in LA) and speculate as to who's side I'm on, whose protege I am. I am sure you will be widely off mark. Dismiss me if you like, surely someone who directed the choir must be a restorationist, or at any rate, ought be excluded from the grand consensus building Orthodoxy of the future.
We do not need partisanship, as I said. We need the love of God in our hearts. We need to weep over sins, when we see them in others, let us weep even more for none of us is sinless. We must pray more and attend to peril of our own souls. All of this is true, even if it has been misused by someone to continue in sins. If we do not have these priorities straight no autocephaly, no competing ecclesiogy will be worth the time it takes to say those words. If our future as a Church is to exclude prayer, forgiveness, and attention firstly each to our own peril of salvation, then let's just forget it. We would do better to sleep in on Sundays or go to brunch. Then at least we wouldn't mock God by pretending that the Gospel still has meaning to us.
REFLECTION by Dr. Alexander Leon
I had promised myself that I would stay out of this but I think that a reflection of a forme "insider" now an "outsider" might shed some additional light.
I won't give any personal detailed background on myself. That isn't important here. I can, however, write from a historical background. Suffice it to say that I was the 7th priest in our family to serve the Church here in America. There were still other family members after me. We graduated from seminaries located in Tenafly, South Canaan, New York City, and Crestwood. My mother and father worked hard to found a parish in southern New Jersey. That parish was founded on the concept of being open to all and committed to the use of English as the liturgical language. I know, or am known to most of the 'principals' in this unfolding drama, having worked together with them, socialized with them, etc. That's enough about me.
The OCA is in quite a mess and yet there is a lot of good thinking of how to get out of this mess. It seems as if there are those who are citing the need to return to the statutes, adherence to the practice of Best Principals, establishing a more assertive role for the Metropolitan Council, and re-defining roles and relationships for the administration of the national church.
I would submit that while all of these are good what they amount to is further legislation or clarifications of legislation. They are the rules that we should go by, and they do admittedly, need to be revised and revisited as circumstances change. They are, however, not guarantees. Individuals will take on the roles in these administrative positions and as such they can from time to time lose sight of the common objective.
Now, that has happened and there are some who appear to be wringing their hands and lamenting that we are unable to 'prove' any wrongdoing. At least not prove it in the American civil concept of 'beyond a reasonable doubt'. There are those who want to know the details, as if in knowing where things went wrong we will be able to prevent it in the future. That is not the point though.It is better to look into the failure of leadership and the betrayal of a trust relationship because I think that these are interrelated here.
There is no greater example of the principal of leadership - the relationship between the leader and the followers - than when Moses received God's commandments. He goes to his people only to find that they have already broken the 1st and probably most of the rest. He returns to God and begs "if they have sinned then blot me out of your Book of Life". Now, that's leadership! That is a willingness to accept accountability, not just for the things that you did but the things that others did when you were the leader and they were the followers. I don't think that we are seeing that at the highest level of our Church.
In fact, (and her I'm referring to the interview with the Metropolitan) it does not seem to be a consideration. That will probably lead to the drafting of 'new' legislation on how to remove a metropolitan that chooses not to resign. Each piece of 'legislation' removes us further and alienates us from trusting relationships. Yes, we trusted individuals to do the right thing and they failed us. Should the Holy Synod have been more watchful? Absolutely, but they weren't elected bishops because of their administrative "know how" (in fact for a while it looked like the initial qualifier for the position was whether or not they could write icons).
Would financial openness have helped? Absolutely, but this shuffling of money and the use of credit cards has been going on for a long time. I remember Metropolitan Theodosius, when he was still Bishop of Pittsburgh, telling me how the central administration used credit cards for entertaining dignitaries and getting needed things. I must have registered a look of shock because the conversation quickly shifted. The potential for abuse was there; we as a whole were only astounded when the magnitude of the diversions came to light.
Some have raised the question as to whether we really need a Syosset as the visible 'location' of the Central Administration. This has been raised with the idea that if the place can be mortgaged it should then be able to be sold. It too is an interesting thought and might be part of an ultimate solution. Actually the advance of communication has made it possible for us to meet 'in the air'. It is quite possible that we can look into de-centralization and a return to the placing of more emphasis on the diocese.
None of this will rebuild trust. People delude themselves into thinking that 'time will heal' or the punishment of a few wrongdoers will turn it around. It won't. Let me first give you the view of an outsider. I would guess that the central administration had long been used to juggling funds to meet expenses. The justification usually falls into the phrases of "we have to meet payroll" and "its only temporary". Now, at some point they have come across an individual, and older gentleman who has made a lot of money and is desirous of seeing some of it put to good use. It would be rather easy for someone to begin talking about the situation in Russia and how after all these years of persecution the Church was now free to operate but was now competing with all those groups now rushing in to re-convert Russia. That person directing the conversation could then lament, "if only we could find a way to help our Mother Church". How easily the seed is planted and the initiator could now sit back and as someone from the administration "grudgingly compile wish lists" the donor only too happily fulfilled.
Can you get a "feel" for how a group used to spending, juggling funds, and maybe feeling that they were under compensated might now want "a piece?" That is how monies get diverted, how millions disappear, and how a "mess" is created. That is how a scandal rises until someone is willing to set the record straight. You try to get to the bottom, you try to put safeguards into place, but none of that goes to the rebuilding of trust.
Leaders are only leaders if they have those that are willing to follow. There has been the attempt to secure a loan to repay the missing funds but there is one glaring thing that will be in the minds of those who might follow. Money was taken, and a covenant was made with ADM that a convention center was to be built in Russia. Now, administrative types might say that ADM didn't really expect it, that it wasn't really needed, that it was a "cover" for undisclosed acts of good will.
Our concern is not for "putting the past behind us" so that we can "move on" (the euphemisms of the day for let's just not talk about it anymore). We need to show that we are going to make good on our end of any covenantal relationships. That is what took place between the OCA and ADM. Not merely a contractual relationship but a covenental relationship was established. The money was supplied for a purpose and the OCA was supposed to do what it promised. So if you want to be a leader then lay aside your vestments, pull on a pair of jeans, pick up a shovel and go to Russia and stay there until that convention center is built, until that commitment has been met. Do that and I won't remain an outsider but I will follow you there and to the ends of the earth if that's where you lead. I would do that because once again there would be trust. Trust that we were all going in the same direction. Trust that we were being led not by any particular person but rather by a vision of what is the right thing to do. Trusts that concepts such as "Thou shall not steal" were written not to be placed in books or on walls but were written on our hearts.
Dr. Alexander Leon
(Dr. Alexander Leon is a clinical psychologist in Mingo Junction, Ohio)