There were seven members from our parish yesterday evening at the Town Hall Meeting in Indianapolis (St. John the Forerunner Church). In all there were around sixty or seventy members of our Columbus Deanery parishes present. Archbishop Job was there, of course, and Michelle Jannakos, a member of the pre-conciliar council, as facilitator. At best, I am offering something of a sketch here. A detailed account of the meeting, together with many of the comments made, will soon be available at ocanews.org.
In some closing comments, Archbishop Job let us know that he felt this Town Hall meeting was the "best" of the three held in our Midwest Diocese. Perhaps because there was a great deal of energy, passion and deep concern for the well-being and future of Orthodoxy in North America expressed throughout the evening. And real love of Christ and His Church. Perhaps also because there was a clear unanimity of mind and heart - expressed through anger, frustration, disappointment, and impassioned pleas for repentance, reconciliation and purification - that the scandal that has plagued us for three years, and which remains unresolved, undermines the integrity of our local church's witness to Christ and the Gospel. I will return to the affect of the scandal in a moment, but for now I emphasize that it was a very positive experience to be in a room full of Orthodox Christians who were passionate and committed to their Faith, and who were willing to make this trip and speak about their concerns openly in a free atmosphere of mutual respect. The comments and concerns touched on the following points with some regularity:
- A profound disappointment with the current Synod of Bishops, which for some present amounted to disgust, over its incompetence and failure to act decisively to resolve our scandal/crisis. Something is "rotten in Denmark," and the stench is being covered up.
- An absolute conviction that the OCA cannot move forward unless and until this scandal/crisis is resolved.
- What had to be a unanimous consensus that Metropolitan Herman must resign - or "be resigned" by the Synod - either before, but no later than the conclusion of the AAC in November. Archbishop Job reaffirmed his commitment to this position. Yet combined with a weary resignation that that is not likely to happen.
- A passionate public commitment on the part of those present to continue to support Archbishop Job's leadership and determination that the entire truth of the scandal, however sordid and revealing, be brought to light. Presvytera Deborah made some warm comments to this effect that I will eventually share with the parish. Archbishop Job is isolated on the Holy Synod.
- An almost impatient demand that the Special Investigative Committee (SIC) report be presented to the entire body of the OCA upon its release without any "editing" or omissions. It is scheduled for release in "early September."
- Surprise that criminal charges or indictments have not come down yet over the embezzlement of so much church money. The FBI continues to investigate according to Mark Stokoe.
- Exploration of what the "autocephaly" of the OCA actually means. Is it still a viable vision?
- A few radical solutions offered as "plan B or C," such as Archbishop Job transferring the diocese to another jurisdiction. He openly stated that he disagrees with this.
As stated above, this is something of a mere sketch of what was discussed and transpired at yesterday evening's Town Hall meeting. The actual comments of the various participants will eventually be recorded at ocanews.org. Only by reading these comments can you have any sense of the strong emotion and passion behind some of them. I repeat, though much of what was said could be judged as being negative or highly critical, it was all said by people who love Christ and His Church, and who are deeply wounded by our weaknesses. Everyone's goal is to restore the integrity of the OCA and its initial vision of a vibrant Orthodox Faith here in North America. We have an intelligent and well-informed laity that will not be deceived by "smoke and mirrors." That is true of our parish. I will eventually forward to everyone some of the comments and questions that I received from some of you prior to yesterday's meeting. I will also make sure that you have access to my prepared comments, even though I could only share various fragments of them at the meeting.
My commitment, as your parish priest, is to keep you as informed as possible about these events. Many Orthodox faithful complain that they hear nothing from their parish priests, but must go solely to ocanews.org or hear something from friends. That will not happen in our parish. You are free to determine your own interest level, but as I continue to proclaim the Good News, I must also not hide any "bad news" that threatens our spiritual well-being as Christians - even if it comes from within: "For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God." (I PET. 5:17)
I have also appended the "Mission Statement" of the OCA for you to read and reflect upon. "How am I contributing or being faithful to this vision" is perhaps a question we must all ask of ourselves.
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The Mission of the Orthodox Church in America, the local autocephalous Orthodox Church, is to be faithful in fulfilling the commandment of Christ to “Go into all the world and make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all [things that He has] commanded” so that all people may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth:
- To preach, in accordance with God’s will, the fullness of the gospel of the Kingdom to the peoples of North America and to invite them to become members of the Orthodox Church.
- To utilize for her mission the various languages of the peoples of this continent.
- To be the body of Christ in North America and to be faithful to the tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church.
- To witness to the truth, and by God’s grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to reveal Christ’s way of sanctification and eternal salvation to all.