Responding to concerns about the financial crisis affecting St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has initiated a full investigation of all entities associated with the two institutions, led by His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania.
Financial investigations are being supervised by OCA Treasurer, Priest Michael Tassos. Additionally, a law firm was engaged to do a title search to clarify property and corporate boundaries and to discover the total amount of indebtedness of the various entities associated with the monastery and seminary.
Bishop Tikhon presented a preliminary report on the ongoing investigation to the Metropolitan Council at its recent meeting February 18 to 20, 2009. The Metropolitan Council and OCA General Counsel submitted recommendations to the Holy Synod of Bishops, which discussed both the report and the recommendations at its retreat February 24 to 27, 2009.
The investigation has thus far discovered that St. Tikhon’s Monastery is affected by the greatest portion of the debt load incurred. This situation has a negative impact beyond the monastic brotherhood, Bishop Tikhon asserts, since healthy monastic communities are crucial to the health of the Church at large. “I believe that one of the fundamental means by which the Orthodox Church in America can move forward in its healing from the past and its strategic planning for the future is to strengthen the monastic life on this continent,” His Grace said. “The key lies in the deepening of a life of asceticism, for which the monastics serve as an example for the whole Church.”
“Although the degree of indebtedness of the seminary is much lower than that of the monastery,” added His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, “as a result of recent events, including in part the downturn in the U.S. economy, St. Tikhon’s Seminary is facing major budget overruns and is in need of the support of the Church at large.” The seminary will be issuing a special appeal in the upcoming weeks. “I strongly encourage all OCA clergy and faithful to support St. Tikhon’s Seminary,” Metropolitan Jonah said.
“Evidence of financial mismanagement and possible wrongdoing discovered during the investigation has led to disciplinary actions against certain employees,” His Beatitude said. “We are also notifying law enforcement authorities in Pennsylvania, whose offices will be able to do a full investigation beyond our capabilities.”
Metropolitan Jonah emphasized that “the Holy Synod wants to continue the investigative process as transparently as possible. However, revelation of further details at this time could prejudice the investigation by state authorities.”
In related developments, St. Tikhon’s Monastery is now undergoing a major reorganization. Hieromonk Sergius [Bowyer] has been appointed Acting Superior of the monastery. In time, when the reorganization is complete, the monastic brotherhood will elect its own abbot. Plans are also under way to develop a business plan for the monastery bookstore, which is the main source of income for the monastery, to increase its profitability and further support the life of the brotherhood.
“Over the last century,” said Bishop Tikhon, “the close relationship between the monastery, the seminary and the Diocese [of Eastern Pennsylvania] has resulted in both a certain administrative complexity and a certain administrative centralization.” As His Grace continues to lead the Holy Synod’s investigation of the situation at St. Tikhon’s, also under review is the relationship of the seminary and monastery to the Orthodox Church in America as stavropegial institutions, as well as their relationship to the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah will be visiting St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, to take part in Lenten services there. At this time he will have an opportunity to meet with members of the monastic brotherhood, and the faculty, staff and students of the seminary, to discuss the situation there and to offer his Archpastoral support to the clergy and faithful of both institutions.