Holy Synod of Bishops concludes March 20-22 spring session

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman addresses the Episcopate during the spring session of the Holy Synod of Bishops in Syosset, NY on March 20-22, 2007.

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] — His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, chaired the spring session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America at the Chancery here March 20-22, 2007.

After the opening address of Metropolitan Herman, the complete text of which is posted on the OCA web site, the hierarchs heard a report on the results of the recent special assembly of the Diocese of the West, at which His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of Berkeley was nominated to fill the diocesan see declared vacant after the retirement of His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West in the fall of 2006. Unanimously concurring with the assembly delegates’ nomination, the members of the Holy Synod conducted the canonical election of Bishop Benjamin to the vacant see.

In other episcopal matters, the members of the Holy Synod were unanimous in their decision to elevate His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada to the rank of archbishop.

A major portion of the meeting was devoted to the report of the special commission charged with conducting an investigation of allegations of financial impropriety. His Eminence, Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest, and Bishop Benjamin reviewed the commission’s report, its many attachments, and its end-notes and outlined the process and progress of the commission’s work. A summary of the investigative report presented one week earlier to members of the Metropolitan Council by Proskaur-Rose and Lambrides, Lamos, was offered. It was noted that the Metropolitan Council had approved further investigation.

Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, former OCA chancellor, was invited into the session to field a substantial number of questions and to provide answers with regard to issues raised by the commission’s report. Father Robert was questioned on 17 specific issues with regard to allegations brought forth.

In the context of discussion about facts presented in the commission’s report, His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South prepared a letter addressed to Metropolitan Herman, requesting that Metropolitan Herman “rescind the order of Father Kondratick’s transfer to the Diocese of the South.” After much discussion, it was agreed by the hierarchs that the suspension of Father Robert was appropriate, providing 30 days’ time for him to prepare his response before a spiritual court. The hierarchs issued a statement detailing their response to the commission’s initial findings, the complete text of which is posted on the OCA web site.

The members of the Holy Synod also considered a breach of confidentiality by Mr. Gregory Nescott, a member of the special commission, unanimously concluding that he should be removed from particiption in the commission’s ongoing efforts.

The members of the Holy Synod asked the special commission to continue its work until it is brought to a conclusion. They further affirmed that all financial records using the OCA’s name and/or charitable status, discretionary or other, past, present, or future, are subject to independent audits.

Deacon John Zarras, transition officer, reported on the work of the reorganization task force and search committee. He presented for appointment to the offices of chancellor, treasurer, and director of ministries and communications the names of the Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, Mr. Kevin Kovalycsik, and the Rev. Andrew Jarmus, respectively. One week earlier, members of the Metropolitan Council unanimously recommended the three candidates to fill the vacant positions. He added that the search for a candidate for the position of secretary had been reopened. The three candidates were approved by the Holy Synod of Bishops.

The acting treasurer’s report and reports associated with the pending 2006 audit was presented by the Very Rev. Paul Kucynda, acting treasurer. A lengthy discussion followed, focusing on the history involved in the appearance of compilation reports instead of full audits and problems associated with the development of the administrative committee. It was noted that, in this environment, the Martin Drive property had been purchased without the knowledge of the Metropolitan Council, which according to the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America is the only body responsible for the buying and selling of property.

The members of the Holy Synod concurred with the reported decision of the Metropolitan Council to sell the Martin Drive property.

Father Paul also reported that negotiations with the Diocese of Alaska regarding a number of properties throughout the diocese had been initiated. He noted that the intention is to establish ownership of the lands in question by the Orthodox Church in America, and then to transfer ownership legally to the Diocese of Alaska. The members of the Holy Synod affirmed that proper research about the documents and histories of the lands in question is crucial for the sake of the record, and they concurred with the process as presented.

Other matters considered by the members of the Holy Synod included the following.

  • The hierarchs heard a report on new accounting software for non-profit organizations that will be installed and fully useable by the end of April 2007.
  • A report on the diaconal vocations program noted that 32 individuals are enrolled in the program, with an additional 20 individuals who have expressed an interest in pursuing the program in the near future. The Holy Synod noted the importance of background and psychological checks on all candidates.
  • The hierarchs heard a report from the Very Rev. Eugene Vansuch concerning the ongoing efforts of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards and development. Father Eugene reported that income was slow, yet steady, and expressed his hope that FOS would meet its 2007 goal. He also spoke of his visits to parishes.
  • Reports on annual giving and special appeals and the work of the OCA’s ministries was offered by Mr. David Lucs.
  • The general fiscal health of the OCA pension plan was reported by His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese.
  • Initial considerations with regard to the convocation of the 15th All-American Council in 2008 were reviewed. It was noted that, while many individuals have expressed an interest in holding the council at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery for spiritual and historical reasons, limited facilites make it nearly impossible to consider this option. While a site has yet to be selected, the members of the Holy Synod agreed that the council will be limited to delegates, will be shorter than previous councils, and will not include the many auxiliary programs that had been featured in past councils. The hierarchs agreeds that the fundamental agenda of the 15th All-American Council should include the Metropolitan’s report, the financial report [including a comprehensive history of the financial crisis], audits, and implementation of the planned reorganization of the Chancery. In an effort to provide the maximum amount of time for questions and discussions, it further was agreed that only written reports will be offered, with ample opportunities to field questions. No oral reports will be given.
  • His Grace, Bishop Alejo of Mexico City, reported that, thanks to the OCA’s $10,000.00 donation to the Mexican Exarchate, a six-room auxiliary facility is being constructed next to the Mexico City cathedral. The building will also house a library and a dormitory in preparation for the opening of a primary school. He also reported that nearly the entire population of a 5,000 person village in the State of Veracruz has embraced Orthodox Christianity, and that other villages in this remote Aztec region were following suit.
  • The hierarchs heard a report from the Office of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations. In response to a request from His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Rus and His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, regarding the depositions of three deposed clergy, the members of the Holy Synod decided that action will be taken on a case-by-case basis upon receipt of a letter to the Holy Synod of Bishops by each cleric, expressing repentance and a petition for lifting each deposition. It was further dedicated, regarding suspended clergy, each may write to the bishop who had suspended him, or his successor. Should the bishops involved decide to reinstate suspended clergy, they should immediately send appropriate documentation to Metropolitan Herman.
  • The members of the Holy Synod decided to hold a discussion on the date of the spring session at their autumn 2007 session, slated to convene jointly with the meeting of the Metropolitan Council during the week of October 21, 2007.

In addition to Metropolitan Herman, Archbishop Dmitri, Archbishop Job, Archbishop Seraphim, Bishop Nikon, and Bishop Alejo, other members of the Holy Synod attending the session were His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, and the Bulgarian Diocese; His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate; is Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelpia and Eastern Pennsylvania; and His Grace, Bishop Irineu of Dearborn Heights, Auxiliary of the Romanian Episcopate. His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska was not present.