Monday, September 11. 2006
What can you do? What can we do? What do you think of these suggestions in the four letters?
Your comments are welcome.
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Again the first thing we should do is to seek to strengthen our ties to the Lord, participating fully in His Church as communicants, worshipping Him in our Churches, praising Him and praying to Him. We can turn to Him for the solutions to problems and any ills that may have beset the administration of the Church. It is only in Him and through Him that any resolution to problems can be attained.
The Churches we are participating in on Sundays and other days are the same Churches that we were participating in before any problems in funds or whatever were cited. We need to remember this for our eternal life is what is paramount, and we are saved in and through His Church. Our time is best spent in moving forward spiritually and to do so is to seek to emulate Christ who showed love, forgiveness, caring for others. Who among us has not made mistakes? Who among us has not sinned? If we want correction to any problems that may exist then we should be supportive of efforts to correct those problems. There need not be name calling; there need not be harsh condemnations; there needs to be common action for the good of all. I know when I am at the altar it is not administrative pluses or minues that occupy my mind, it is Christ and all that He offers; and all the love and mercy He has shown me. The Church has been important in my life; she has been a loving mother; she has been there for support, encouragement, correction; and growth. It is that upon which are focus needs to come. Then we can move forward and see that any problems are corrected, and to the best of our ability see that mistakes are not repeated, although as persons who sin we know that mistakes will always be with us on this earth. May God strengthen and forgive all of us.
#1 Archpriest William DuBovi on 2006-09-11 07:59
A few quick questions incited by your "latest news":
1) Will the "infamous" videotape in the possession of Archbishop Job be viewed at the coming MC meeting or Midwest Diocesan Assembly?
2) According to the OCA Statute, who can call for an "extraordinary" All-American Council and, lacking OCA "employees," who is actually competent to legistically plan it?
3) If resolutions to withhold assessments are passed by dioceses, who will pay which people to execute the needed changes? Does some new organizational flow-chart exist somewhere to pick up the pieces? Is Dcn Danilcheck now on the OCA payroll?
#2 Inquiring Mind on 2006-09-11 08:31
The church seems to be on a track working towards better financial future health.
The Metropolitan has taken responsibility for the failures and is working to correct them.
The administration is working to rightfully pay charities that were subordinated for things like payroll, travel, taxes, rents, maintenance.
The biggest problem facing us isn't Fr. Peter's claim of 2 million faithful. The biggest problem is only having 27,000 dues paying members.
The church administration, Holy Synod, and MC need to look inward on the OCA as much as we are asked to do in Confession.
The bequest line is not a floating line that balances the budget. The bequest line should be based on prior year amounts. When the OCA develops the budget, it should tell us what things must be sacrificed if we have too few members, or what new things have been added.
I have been an objective observer and given even Fr. Kondratick a pass to this point. Alice Woog's angst towards Dn. Peter and any forum between the national church and laity is astounding and indicative of why secrecy and near financial collapse happened. I believe her stay violates Statute and if anyone were to resign next, it would rightly be her. The Holy Synod should remove her if they can govern a violation of the statutes. I cannot express my dissatisfaction enough. I believe the failure to disclose things like the OCA budget and reporting against it is the biggest reason the church has spun downward for five years. Anyone that gets in the way of operating in a healthy fashion should resign. I encourage all of you to consider your positions on this issue.
Dr. Skordinski's letter after a judge's decision is mute, and foolhardy. I understand and empathize with her tremendously. To make a decision about a loan without so much as a financial statement is foolish. The entire MC should have threatened resignation. The priests would have stayed and the church would have been entirely in the hands of the clergy, Bishops, and administration to give everything away. However, the Metropolitan is taking the right steps to repair the financial shortfalls, so I see both sides. Why no financials blows me away. Maybe I'm missing something, not sure. Shouldn't Faith be addressing us instead of a previous judges decision? She got a lot of salutes from everyone here, but I found her move comical to be honest.
The OCA should rethink its treatment of members and parishes. I believe Fair Share has failed.
Let's say that churches are tithing to the OCA and their respective Diocese and the split is 50/50, or for simplicity $100 each. On a Fair Share amount of 2.7M, this would imply 5.4M split, and tithing would imply 54 million in church revenues. Split between 700 parishes is an average budget of $77,142 for each church. Does this seem right? Who knows?
I would like to see churches fully report members, even if they are non dues paying. By changing the membership contribution amounts and reporting membership status, the church would be able to better work towards growth. For example, if a geographical area had a lot of wealth, it may support another church. If there were a lot of child members, it might require another church in the future.
27,000 paying members is a much sadder number than the one reported by Fr. Peter ....
Further, if there are 27,000 paying members in 700 churches, this means an average of only 38 dues paying members per church. Also, pretty sad. Also, if the dues paying members are responsible for the contributions, each member would be contributing, $2,000 annually, or 10% of only $20,000 personal income. I'd rather not hear too much more complaining about Fair Share.
Someone needs to figure out priorities and balance trying to grow our depressing membership with money spent. To me, this would be clergy and Synod.
The bigger question to me at this point isn't about the financial mismanagement, but about the churches apparent failure to grow. Being forthcoming and reporting fully members, paying, non-paying, children, etc. seems like it would be needed and valuable.
These are my recent thoughts.
1) Woog NO, please GO
2) Skordinski (to what end?)
3) 27,000 paying members
4) 2,000,000 faithful (overly hopeful for sure)
5) Damning the leader for a trip to Russia (right, but sad)
6) Church that tries to grow. How?
7) The loan (required).
Balanced budget (what gives and takes were made and was the bequest line just the float offsetting the moat)
A bit scattered, but there you have it.
#3 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-09-11 10:26
1) There are no announced plans to view the videotape at the Diocesan Assembly.
2) According to the OCA Statute:
"The All-American Council shall be convened periodically at intervals of three years. Each All-American Council shall decide the time and place of the next regular or extraordinary session. The time and place of the meeting may, for urgent reasons, be changed by action of the Metropolitan Council with the approval of the Holy Synod."
The next AAC regularily scheduled AAC should be in 2008; it has been delayed till 2010.
3) The council materials have been written in large part by free-lancers employeed for the job, rather than employees of Syosset. The Councils have been organized and run by people designated for those task - such as the council managers. The actual work is done by scores of local committee volunteers. In short, as valuable as their contributions have been, the Church is not dependent exclusively on "employees" of Syosset to organize, manage or run a Council.
4) Protodeacon Danilchick states he is not an employee of Syosset, rather a volunteer, as are all 3 persons on his Best Practices sub-committee. These are the only "changes" that are currently in the offing, and they cost nothing, besides time and effort.
#4 Editor on 2006-09-11 10:43
As usual, thank you for a great, insightful post.
I couldn't agree with you more. Anyone who keeps getting in the way of working toward a solution to our problem should simply walk away already and find another hobby.
Here's a thought, instead of people complaining and constantly moaning about every single move the Metropolitan or Fr. Kucynda makes, how about they come up with a solution of their own to the problem?
I really believe the Honesdale National Bank and the NY State Attorney General's Office could care less whether the OCA has 2,000,000 or 27,000 members. The only thing they are interested in is do we have any collateral to utilize against the loan, in case payment isn't made.
I think the answer is a resounding YES.
People, do any of you realize just how bad a financial position our Church is in? What other recourse do we have than to go the route of the loan?
It's easy for each of us, myself included, to complain, say why don't they do this or that, etc., but the fact of the matter remains, the OCA is in a real financial pickle and there is no other way out. Would it be better to close up shop and let it go down the drain?
Witholding assessments is not the answer either.
I have said on numerous occassions before, that one person had complete and absolute control over the entire finances of the Church for a very long time.
That person is no longer employed and things are finally changing for the good.
Problems indeed exist and monies are still owed to their proper places. The loan will enable the Church to justly return what rightfully belongs to others.
If anyone out there has a better solution and/or fast access to cash, then by all means, stop complaining already and step up to the plate and come up with a solution!
Why don't Faith and Alice spend some time creatively campaigning to raise money for the Church if they won't endorse the loan or support Best Practices? I'm sure many people will follow their lead.
#5 Michael Geeza on 2006-09-11 12:54
I am seeing much courage in trying to change the status quo. The faithful are trying to move the church to higher moral, ethical, and legal ground. We need the positive energy of the laity and clergy alike who are now trying to righteously claim back the noble mission of the OCA. The OCA fulfill its Godly mission of being a beacon to the world. After the whole mess is over, we will have more courage and be much stronger to never let this whole mess happen again.
#6 Patty Schellbach on 2006-09-11 15:56
Protodeacon Danilchick wrote on the OCA's web page: "The reason for the investigation is to determine whether financial improprieties occurred and, if so, what remedies might be available, what legal step might be taken, and what changes might be made to protect the Church (including the faithful) in the future. The Church is working to do just."
It seems to me that all of the justification for the PR investigation falls under the competency of the Metropolitan Council according to the Statutes. Therefore the report should be released to the MC so that they can undertake the appropriate actions and responses.
And since he says the changes are being made "to protect the Church (including the faithhful)" then we the faithful should be fully informed from what or whom we are being protected, and to know what is being done for our protection and how we can support and participate in this protection. Otherwise, it will only be that the faithful are being protected from knowing what and who are threatening them.
It would appear that the real threat to us is coming from within the OCA – not from an external source.
#7 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-09-11 16:39
To set the record straight: I'm one of Fr. Daniel assistants who did not sign the resolution of the Columbus Deanery clergy. I was not able to attend the deanery meeting at which it was discussed--I seldom am, having a full-time secular job. As for myself, I did not feel comfortable with the idea of withholding assessments. That was the only thing I had any question about--certainly none of the other provisions. I agree with all of those. As far as I know, from conversations, the same holds for the other two clergy who did not sign. Fr. Daniel has great love and respect for his son, but I do not believe that he was in any way motivated by 'protecting' him--his son can hold his own.
In no way do I feel any need to 'protect' Syosset. I have not contributed to the special appeals for years, after hearing from Metropolitan Council members that funds so collected were possibly being used improperly to pay operating expenses (or worse). I have heard enough of the antics (from someone with first hand knowledge) of Fr. Bob to wonder why he has not been deposed, at the least.
I have no ambitions in the Church. I am an assistant, and that's what I shall remain. As such, I have no right to attend assemblies. I may not speak to the bishop without permission. I try, but my preaching is mediocre. I was told not to sing in the choir while in seminary, my voice is so bad. I've never been an "insider" in the deanery: I'm a liberal Democrat amongst most priests who think that anyone who doesn't vote far right Republican should be excommunicated. I've been a supply priest for the deanery, but given the reaction to my not signing, I doubt that I will ever be asked to do so again. And I've probably lost friends because of not signing.
My point: I didn't abstain from signing because I think that everything is just fine with Syosset. I didn't abstain from signing out of obedience to my rector--he did not tell me what to do, and, indeed, we have not always agreed on this whole matter. I didn't abstain from signing because it might get me into trouble--I'm at the bottom of the ecclesiastical food chain. Indeed, not signing seems to have pushed me deeper into the mud. I just didn't think that that tactic of withholding assessments would work, and would only cause more problems, more division.
I think that civil intervention is necessary for there to be any real change--that will finally make the powers that be sit up and take notice.
#8 Name withheld on 2006-09-11 18:25
Daniel - you quote Fr. Peter as the source of the 2 million members. (Twice)
I believe it was actually Fr. Paul, in the loan document.
A case of robbing Peter to pay Paul?
#9 Marty Brown on 2006-09-11 19:12
Thank you so much for writing and clarifying your position as well as those of your fellow Columbus clergy. I have often said on this site that reasonable people can reasonably disagree about difficult topics; clearly this will be one of them as the possibility gains momentum.
In the interests of accuracy, though, it must be pointed out that a) your voice is not terrible - I have heard you chant liturgy beautifully; and b) your preaching is hardly mediocre - I have heard you preach very good sermons on more than one ocassion. And I look forward to hearing them in the future, as do all your friends in Ohio.
With great respect,
#10 Editor on 2006-09-11 19:17
I am a conservative Republican who does not think you should be excommunicated! Indeed I commend you for your forthright statement. While I would have signed the letter and agree with withholding the assessment, your position is certainly defensible and in no way shoud be held against you.
#11 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-09-12 04:27
I guess the State of New York will have to take control of this situation, since the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council has not. The Metropolitan has been in office for more than four years and yet he has never moved into his diocese (breaking Canon Law). The Acting Treasurer, the highest ranking financial officer of the church does not even have an accounting degree (perhaps he has an acting degree). It appears that no one really cares. As one person said on this site, the faithful will begin speaking with their wallets and then with their feet. It's just so sad.
#12 Anonymous on 2006-09-12 04:55
I am the "other" associate priest in Fr. Daniel's parish and while I disagree with my brother's self-assessment in regard to his gifts and abilities, I affirm and share his sense of frustration and, I dare say disappointment, accompanying the debate around the resolution to withhold assessments.
Speaking only for myself, there were several reasons for which I refrained from commenting during the e-mail exchanges within the Columbus Deanery regarding the proposed resolution. When mentioned by name in an e-mail as one of those not yet committted to signing the resolution, I replied (publicly), expressing my personal concerns and indicating why, in conscience, I could not sign.
My e-mail was then responded to by one individual (publicly), who compared my concerns about signing the resolution to the failure of many Germans to voice their objections to the Nazis. And on another point: "Do you mean to say we have no responsibility, accountability or culpability for what our leaders do?" I responded to the individual (privately). The individual did respond to my private e-mail, apologizing if there was any offense taken on my part and explaining that his comments came from a sincere concern for the good of the Church, which I understand and acept. Even so, I decided at that point that I would comment no further in any public forum... even if asked by name.
I take exception to that decision today to support my brother associate and to offer one reflection. History indicates that challenges and crises come and go. Though it may be difficult and perhaps lengthy, the current financial scandal will be resolved. When it is, there is no reason to believe that the OCA will not come out of it a stronger more vibrant organism... administratively, at least.
Perhaps the bigger (and far more deadly) scandal is the way individuals are being treated in the handling of the current crisis and the debate surrounding the means to address it.
While the high level of disrespect shown by some national church leaders and administrators toward the Faithful cannot be denied, it can never justify a similar lack of respect shown toward those who do not agree with a certain course of action... whatever that action may be.
No matter how well-intentioned our words or actions may be, no matter how noble the desired end... from either side of this issue... there are reputations being damaged and spirits harmed.
May God keep all of us mindful of this fact as we choose our words and plan our deeds.
#13 the "other" priest on 2006-09-12 12:36
Good catch. Lot on my mind with that email. Sure was Fr. Paul that said 2 million faithful. God willing, he's right, if not today, then someday.
#14 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-09-12 18:09
The biggest problem here is that the Metroplitan is continuing to deceive his flock. The second biggest problem is he continues to think he's untouchable, rather than acting like a man who knows its time to step aside for the good of YOUR church and allow the healing to begin.
When, not if, but when, the Metroplitan and others are indicted, will you then see that there is actually a problem?
#15 Bob H. on 2006-09-13 16:10
Withholding Fair Share is wrong unless the doors are closed and you can't see and aren't allowed inside the church.
A great response from the "other" priest.
Unfortunately, reputations and spirits of the people responsible for the financial failures can't replace losses of 1.7M over 5 years. Even the best intent can result in overspending. We've all done it, and it is surely easy for a church who shares the goal to give.
I thought long and hard about my comments about our representative Alice Woog before I made them. I have only made conditional comments about people in the past, so I wasn't too glad about the decision I had come to..
I believe there are a number of people in the administrative ranks that don't believe any dialogue with laity is important, or that the laity need to step through a 'chain of command', but that thinking is flawed after the financial failures of late.
The OCA does not get a free pass because it is God's institution. The Catholic Church thought that and children were harmed.
The decision I have come to over this matter of dialogue with laity is based on a view of how the world operates and what extra steps the OCA must now take to operate in the world contribution market now after these problems.
If I donate to the Red Cross, I am a customer of the Red Cross and they are accountable to me and dialogue is required between me and them. If the Red Cross wants additional contributors, they must earn that privilege by reporting how they spend their contributions. If they wish to exist without any scrutiny on spending, their existence shrinks unless they prove it out in other ways.
If the OCA only wants Fair Share and nothing more, then, and only then, would I agree that the OCA shouldn't engage dialogue with laity. This means budget appeals, seminary appeals, charity appeals, bequests, and other forms of contribution would be outside consideration. This means the MC and Synod should approve the administration's budget and take remedial action when budgets fail. This also hasn't happened under the current MC/Synod.
If the concern is that the image of the OCA would be damaged by discussion of the problems in an open forum; we are far beyond that concern today.
How can anyone have it both ways? Discontinue dialogue with the laity for image, or because of the 'chain of command', when the church has failed so miserably for 5 years or more and still expect contributions, even turnaround? Or get Dn. Peter out of it so the Communications Dept can do it even though they are non-financial managers? Silly. All of it, just silly stuff.
No apologies from me, just disappointment. A small church administration budget like 4.2M dollars and you don't want to report it and results against it so that the people who support it can see if it thrives or just survives? To what end? Full collapse? The ends desired by Alice Woog are surely to keep people out of decisions, like Fr. Wojcik in Clayton from complaining about travel budgets, for example, and all the bickering that may bring.
Unfortunately, after the administration, Synod, and Metropolican Council come up 1.7M short after 5 years, the scrutiny is required, and those that don't want it need be fired.
The Metropolitan Council members are elected persons, subject to the same scrutiny of any elected official. The Midwest truly needs to think long and hard about who it nominates for this important role.
A secular organization I worked for had a worker advisory board that met each month. The administration took all questions, published them, and responded to them. Many questions resulted in "this will be checked". All questions were answered. They didn't owe anyone any answer. The administration did it for their own benefit. To have problems brought to their attention, even if it was old sandwiches in a vending machine. They didn't want to lose people because a vending machine wasn't tended properly. Or problems with too much warped material.. The administration could go an confront a purchasing manager who had been trying to cover up the problems and seek remedies to the issue.
This simple dialogue is invaluable and can result in many solutions. It doesn't come without costs.
I'll finish by saying I'm more than disappointed in our elected representative for wanting to quash this important dialogue and for letting the church administration slip us 1.7M into the red. Unless I'm mistaken, she has also been against "Best Practices". This stuff is stacking up and I can't get to a good reason.
For these reasons, I ask her leave.
No AAC in 2008 will be very bad for the church.
#16 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-09-13 16:46
Daniel, (and Patty and Mark and KRT)
One issue that grips me is the notion that we should withhold funds from Syosset.... that somehow, this will fix things.
Back during Lent, when BT of the West stopped paying my dues to Syosset, I was furious (!) and said so. I didn't want my axe grinding bishop withholding it as part of his defiance of the Met. I sent money directly to New York to make up, in a small way, for this.
But now, here we are, almost six months later, with the same odor emanating from Long Island. I honestly believe that many - including several in Syosset are trying to right the ship and move forward.
1) we're still seeing Watergate-like responses to questions,
2) we're still trying to understand how membership figures can be construed to some multiple of reality, and
3) it seems like the light at the end of the tunnel has been extinguished because someone misspent electric bill money.
I've tried to be a moderate in my statements on this site, in contrast to some who seem to call for daily reenactment of the French revolution. I've tried to remember the honey-vinegar balance in catching flies, I guess.
But is it now time to withhold money from our national church, as the parish in Wisconsin believes? Will that force the issue and get the dudes that haven't apparently taken us seriously to wake up? Or will it exacerbate a bad situation and hurt people that are innocent bystanders?
What do you folks think? I respect your opinions.
#17 Marty Brown on 2006-09-13 17:02
Dear Mr. Brown,
A fair question and one on which reasonable people can disagree.
I keep waiting and hoping for some constructive action by "the powers that be." So far I see nothing but obstruction and attempts to silence dissent, at least as far as the clergy are concerned. Everything else, and there is not much else, is window dressing designed to pacify the credulous.
Under these circumstances, withholding the assessment makes sense to me. Of course some innocents may suffer in the short run, but it will be nothing compared to the suffering that will occur if the underlying problems are not addressed. The laity will not, and should not, support church institutions that have been corrupted.
There are of course many other things that can be done to force change and reform. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit will be manifest in many different ways.
#18 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-09-13 19:21
I believe Marty is onto something. Perhaps there has already been a reduction in receipts that has gotten their attention. A further reduction may well result in simple, shorter, declarative sentences being the rule for answers to questions from the people funding the OCA.
I've tried (probably without much success) to be moderate in my own responses as well. I believe the fundamental difficulty is that the Metropolitan believes those who are making criticisms are merely the 21st century equivalent of the renovationists, or the "Living Church" adherents from the years following after the Bolshevik Revolution. His Beatitude seems to think that if he just hangs on long enough, the critics will blow away in the wind like Fr. Kedrovsky.
His Beatitude does not understand that (myself excluded) those making the criticisms are faithful, decent people who need to be encouraged rather than to be shunned.
It is also possible that life in "higher" Orthodox circles, as it actually exists, is not only more twisted and complicated than we imagine, but is more twisted and complicated than we can imagine.
#19 Ed Unneland on 2006-09-13 19:33
The Feast of the Elevation of the Cross/ Sept.14th
With respect to this web site and all the comments, documents and opinions posted, it's really time to move on. The problems have been brought to light and investigations are taking place. There are a number of people who will make sure the truth comes out and all issues are handled properly. The faithful will be made aware of everything, however, let's move on!
All of this is fascination is what Fr. Alexander Schmemann use to refer to as those preferring the scandals and darkness of the humanity in the Church rather than the "JOY" which Christ came to proclaim. There have always been scandals and improprieties in the Church from the beginning. Christ's death on the cross was the biggest scandal for all mankind yet, we are called to see "what is really important" not caught up in the scandals and evil of men.
Let the accountants and lawyers do their jobs and let's move on.
I suggest that to ensure future strength in the OCA, a decentralization of church authority be considered. A weaker central church administration and stronger diocesan authority with strong lay leadership.
Whatever the outcome, let's remember that we are followers of "Christ crucified" which is folly to the world. We are called to a higher standard of forgiveness and "taking up our cross" and following Christ. Let's move on choosing to build up the Body of Christ and spreading the Good News that "Christ is Risen" and last enemy has been destroyed.
"O Lord, save thy people, and bless thine inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries and by the virtue of thy Cross preserve thy habitation."
#20 Nicholas Kobbs on 2006-09-14 07:36
Dream on! Read Mark's response to this "head in the sand" approach to Mr. Geeza.
#21 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-09-14 09:36
I would love to agree with you, but the OCA just released the 2006 budget this September.
We have no way of knowing if the OCA is on target for bequest and other contributions, which make up 13% of its income sources, and are likely the float that has sank the boat over the last 5 years.
They have not met best practices (although working toward) and it is the laities dollars that will end up paying for this mess.
There is notable weakness across all of management, admin, Synod, and MC. An AAC is now supposedly not going to happen in 2008.
The first dialogue has just been opened between administration and laity and even MC members are against it.
All is not well.
#22 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-09-14 12:37
"The problems have been brought to light and investigations are taking place. There are a number of people who will make sure the truth comes out and all issues are handled properly. The faithful will be made aware of everything, however, let's move on!"
#23 Linda Weir on 2006-09-14 14:50
I am encouraged by the growing number of Orthodox who have come to the realization that withholding funds is the only way that we will get the administration's attention.....
#24 Sergei on 2006-09-19 18:11
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