Author Topic: Antiochian Financial Scandal  (Read 2557 times)

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Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Antiochian Financial Scandal
« on: August 22, 2009, 09:11:06 AM »
Mr. Stookie (Mark Stokoe)has posted the following bombshell:

"08-21-09
Amid Plea for Audit, Accusations of Financial Misconduct Hit Archdiocesan Cathedral in Troy

It was the kind of email no Bishop or parishioner wants to get: a parish treasurer breaking his silence amid allegations of checks cashed in the name of dead parishioners, details of forced resignations from the parish board of those who dared to ask questions, death threats, and ultimately, of excommunication of the whistle blower by a parish priest. In a midnight email on August 20th, sent to over a hundred Archdiocesan leaders as well as local parishioners, Mr. George Samra, treasurer of St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Troy MI, tells an incredible story about one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese."

For the rest, please go to http://www.ocanews.org/news/SamraLetterTroyMI8.21.09.html

Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2009, 09:24:21 AM »
Since the fish starts rotting from the head, I would think that the situation calls for, to start:

1. Stopping all money flow to Englewood until after an independent audit is performed AND appropriate disciplinary actions (if any) are taken.

2. Demanding that the Holy Synod in Antioch removes Metropolitan Philip from his post (depose/retire/whatever).

3. The Diocesan Bishop (Bishop Mark) suspending Father Antypas pending an investigation. It would also help if gangsters are excommunicated.


Offline SDMPNS

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2009, 09:26:50 AM »
I agree...ANAXIOS!  I pray Bishop Mark will stand up and do the right thing...
It is always money isn't it..the OCA scandals also involved sexual immorality but it was money which tipped the deck..
Lord have mercy!

Offline Fr. George

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2009, 10:01:30 AM »
If Bishop +MARK does the right thing, but isn't backed up from above, will it matter?
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Offline Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2009, 10:13:25 AM »
If Bishop +MARK does the right thing, but isn't backed up from above, will it matter?

I would look at it from the perspective of Bishop Mark: If he does not discharge his duties as the diocesan bishop then he will be complicit, at least morally.

Offline ialmisry

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2009, 10:39:59 AM »
Mr. Stookie (Mark Stokoe)has posted the following bombshell:

"08-21-09
Amid Plea for Audit, Accusations of Financial Misconduct Hit Archdiocesan Cathedral in Troy

It was the kind of email no Bishop or parishioner wants to get: a parish treasurer breaking his silence amid allegations of checks cashed in the name of dead parishioners, details of forced resignations from the parish board of those who dared to ask questions, death threats, and ultimately, of excommunication of the whistle blower by a parish priest. In a midnight email on August 20th, sent to over a hundred Archdiocesan leaders as well as local parishioners, Mr. George Samra, treasurer of St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Troy MI, tells an incredible story about one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese."

For the rest, please go to http://www.ocanews.org/news/SamraLetterTroyMI8.21.09.html

As I've said, it is far from over....
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
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if you spit on it, it will be put out;
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Offline ialmisry

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2009, 10:41:57 AM »
Since the fish starts rotting from the head, I would think that the situation calls for, to start:

1. Stopping all money flow to Englewood until after an independent audit is performed AND appropriate disciplinary actions (if any) are taken.

2. Demanding that the Holy Synod in Antioch removes Metropolitan Philip from his post (depose/retire/whatever).

3. The Diocesan Bishop (Bishop Mark) suspending Father Antypas pending an investigation. It would also help if gangsters are excommunicated.



I agree with 1 and 3.  They will force the issue of 2, without having to engage in personal politics.
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth

Offline scamandrius

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2009, 12:21:51 PM »
Between the February 24th announcement, the threats to Bishop MARK at the Midwest Diocesan Parish Life Conference, the Archdiocesan convention and this revelation, one name has been in the midst of all of it...Walid Khalife.  This man, who is nothing more than a thug--a rich thug, I grant--has persistently made threats against hierarchs, fellow Orthodox and has been under indictment.  How could this man with such a horrible reputation be on the Archdiocese Board of Trustees?  What priest would nominate him?  At the Archdiocese convention, Bishop ANTOUN remarked that the fault and improprieties of who was on the board was not with the individuals but with the priests nominating them.  Regardless, the man is a danger and I suspect that there are a lot of financial "arrangements" between him and Metropolitan PHILIP.  Nevertheless, Walid Khalife is a problem and he must be dealt with.  Fr. Antypas will probably never discipline him so it is up to Bishop MARK.  As has already been remarked, what good will that do when he has no support from PHILIP?  I hope MARK does anyway, and as MARK acts as a traditional bishop, such would be discretion.  Unfortunately, that would probably be all the action necessary to move MARK somewhere else and put in DEMETRI instead. 

I also foresee that other large Antiochian parishes will start announcing similar problems.
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Offline FatherGiryus

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2009, 01:03:00 PM »
I would not want anyone to immediately believe any accusations against me, which is why I prefer the American system of presumed innocence.  So far, there are questions and withheld information, which do not yet constitute criminal conduct.  While the situation is not looking promising at this stage, we all need to give it time before jumping to conclusions.

Clearly, due to the history of Fr. Antypas and Bishop Mark, if I was the latter, I would immediately refer the matter to the Local Synod, then transfer the parish to the Metropolitan (in other words, stavropegial) and make Fr. Antypas a clergyman of the Metropolitan's diocese.  This way, Bishop Mark cannot be accused of anything, which will likely happen if he retains control of the investigation and any negative consequences for Fr. Antypas.  Let Metropolitan Philip sort out this problem.  He can pick any number of ways, some of which could be beneficial for himself and the Archdiocese.

I don't think Bishop Mark would necessarily be able to do much, given the involvement of Mr. Khalife & Co., other than potentially escalate the situation.  Remember, these cases take years to develop and do not go away overnight.  As one with experience in several parishes with dysfunctional clergy (again, I am speaking hypothetically and not accusing Fr. Antypas of anything), if this situation is as it appears it could explode and bring down the community with lots of innocent victims.  When I was assisting at a parish after seminary, the priest there taught me a valuable lesson: think of the children first, and act accordingly.  He meant, if you play 'hard ball' and drive out the spiritually sick and the spiritually dead, and they take their kids out of the Church, you will answer to God.  In the case of which he was speaking, there was a 'senior member' of the parish who was rather nasty to the priest and others he did not like, but he was a clan leader with lots of grandchildren/nieces/nephews/cousin... it seemed like half the community was related to him.  By cultural standards, they would all leave if he left.  However, a few years later, he left in his casket and the parish kept the families with all their kids.  Patience was rewarded.

Do what you can to make sure the kids stay around the Church, and even show them that the Church is trying to help their parents and them, and they will believe.

Please, please, please understand I am not making excuses for anyone's sin.  There is definitely a need for discipline in the Church, which is the basis for much of the New Testament.  However, it must be done with patience and diligence.  I'm sure there are lots of good people who love Fr. Antypas, and they will be driven out if they think he is being persecuted.  This is why there must be an orderly process, not only in the interest of justice for the accused, but also those who love and respect the accused.  We also ought counsel people that just because we love someone that we must also excuse their sins.  I think that if we truly love someone, we would want them disciplined unto salvation.  The problem is, not everyone subscribes to that magazine.

I feel sorry for Fr. Antypas, because if charges are brought, it will be very hard for him to receive what would be universally perceived as a fair and impartial trial in a Spiritual Court.  This is the disadvantage of being such a public figure as he is.  Some may perceive a conviction as an attempt to get back at Metropolitan Philip, while an acquittal would be seen as an attempt to appease him.  That's because the identities of the two are inseparable in so many people's minds, and the hatred for one means hatred for the other.  While Metropolitan Philip and Fr. Antypas are indeed close, they are not the same.  I hope people will remember the differences.

My prayer is that God will pour out his love upon the community of St. George and heal them.  Our God is a God of justice, and what human justice fails to address, we know God's justice is sure and true.

I also pray for Metropolitan Philip, Bishop Mark, Fr. Antypas and all those who will be involved in resolving this tragic affair.  Lord, have mercy!


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Offline Sirach

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2012, 04:21:59 PM »
Were the financial improprieties at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Troy, MI ever resolved?

If yes, what was the resolution?

If no, why do you think this has been allowed to go unresolved?  And what has been the result of the inaction on the people at St. George?

I read somewhere that the man who broke the scandal continues to attend there.  He is a courageous individual, to be sure. 


Offline Sirach

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2013, 04:39:12 PM »
Following up on this from last year.

Were the financial improprieties at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Troy, MI ever resolved?

If yes, what was the resolution?

If no, why do you think this has been allowed to go unresolved?  And what has been the result of the inaction on the people at St. George?

I read somewhere that the man who broke the scandal continues to attend there.  He is a courageous individual, to be sure.

Offline Punch

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2013, 08:10:28 PM »
Following up on this from last year.

Were the financial improprieties at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Troy, MI ever resolved?

If yes, what was the resolution?

If no, why do you think this has been allowed to go unresolved?  And what has been the result of the inaction on the people at St. George?

I read somewhere that the man who broke the scandal continues to attend there.  He is a courageous individual, to be sure.

Beats me.  On the other hand, my wife tells me that her priest cannot retire because someone in the Archdioces spent all of the retirement money for the priests.  That came as a blow to the congregation.
I would be happy to agree with you, but then both of us would be wrong.

Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2013, 08:14:27 PM »

I have to say that we have two Antiochian churches where I live.  One is St. George, and the other St. Mary's Basilica.

The priest from St. Mary's is very visible and attends all manner of lectures, services, etc.  However, the priest from St. George is seldom visible at a pan-Orthodox event....although I do sometimes see him at the local grocery store.  :)

....I don't have the guts to go up and ask him, though. 
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Offline Ruprecht

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2013, 08:49:01 PM »
Liza, no one has the guts to ask..... Everyone involved got promoted or canned, nothing is fixed, no one says a thing.  The transparency vanished along with Mark Stokoe, as no one "in the know" wants to start a blog.  Unless you are in the proper clique, you will never know what happens to your donations.  I think there is a big carpet down in Englewood with a large lump under it, where all the debris was swept...

Offline FatherGiryus

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2013, 09:13:55 PM »
The Antiochian Archdiocese never, ever had a pension plan.  There is a Retired Clergy Housing Stipend that is disbursed at the discretion of Metropolitan Philip based on years of service and good standing.  However, this stipend cannot be confused with an actual pension plan.  This January marked the beginning of a new, vested pension plan that all clergy have the opportunity to enroll in.  This was adopted largely because the stipend fund is under-funded and with the exponential growth of the Archdiocese over the last 20 years, a new plan was necessary to ensure that clergy would be taken care of after retirement.  The old system assumed that clergy were expected to provide for their own IRAs, but recent experiences indicate that this was not happening as it was supposed to.  This new program mandates that parishes make contributions to their clergy's retirement plan.

Beats me.  On the other hand, my wife tells me that her priest cannot retire because someone in the Archdioces spent all of the retirement money for the priests.  That came as a blow to the congregation.
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Offline Punch

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2013, 09:41:58 PM »
The Antiochian Archdiocese never, ever had a pension plan.  There is a Retired Clergy Housing Stipend that is disbursed at the discretion of Metropolitan Philip based on years of service and good standing.  However, this stipend cannot be confused with an actual pension plan.  This January marked the beginning of a new, vested pension plan that all clergy have the opportunity to enroll in.  This was adopted largely because the stipend fund is under-funded and with the exponential growth of the Archdiocese over the last 20 years, a new plan was necessary to ensure that clergy would be taken care of after retirement.  The old system assumed that clergy were expected to provide for their own IRAs, but recent experiences indicate that this was not happening as it was supposed to.  This new program mandates that parishes make contributions to their clergy's retirement plan.

Beats me.  On the other hand, my wife tells me that her priest cannot retire because someone in the Archdioces spent all of the retirement money for the priests.  That came as a blow to the congregation.

Thanks for clearing that up.  Please PM me whatever you can because this seems to be quite a scandal here.  It would be good to know the truth since I still have contact with that parish.
I would be happy to agree with you, but then both of us would be wrong.

Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2013, 10:22:45 PM »
The Antiochian Archdiocese never, ever had a pension plan.  There is a Retired Clergy Housing Stipend that is disbursed at the discretion of Metropolitan Philip based on years of service and good standing.  However, this stipend cannot be confused with an actual pension plan.  This January marked the beginning of a new, vested pension plan that all clergy have the opportunity to enroll in.  This was adopted largely because the stipend fund is under-funded and with the exponential growth of the Archdiocese over the last 20 years, a new plan was necessary to ensure that clergy would be taken care of after retirement.  The old system assumed that clergy were expected to provide for their own IRAs, but recent experiences indicate that this was not happening as it was supposed to.  This new program mandates that parishes make contributions to their clergy's retirement plan.

Beats me.  On the other hand, my wife tells me that her priest cannot retire because someone in the Archdioces spent all of the retirement money for the priests.  That came as a blow to the congregation.

FatherGiryus.....why do you use such a small font size?  I'm getting old....and it's hard to read.  ;)
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Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Antiochian Financial Scandal
« Reply #17 on: April 08, 2013, 10:49:53 PM »
The Antiochian Archdiocese never, ever had a pension plan.  There is a Retired Clergy Housing Stipend that is disbursed at the discretion of Metropolitan Philip based on years of service and good standing.  However, this stipend cannot be confused with an actual pension plan.  This January marked the beginning of a new, vested pension plan that all clergy have the opportunity to enroll in.  This was adopted largely because the stipend fund is under-funded and with the exponential growth of the Archdiocese over the last 20 years, a new plan was necessary to ensure that clergy would be taken care of after retirement.  The old system assumed that clergy were expected to provide for their own IRAs, but recent experiences indicate that this was not happening as it was supposed to.  This new program mandates that parishes make contributions to their clergy's retirement plan.

Beats me.  On the other hand, my wife tells me that her priest cannot retire because someone in the Archdioces spent all of the retirement money for the priests.  That came as a blow to the congregation.

Thanks for clearing that up.  Please PM me whatever you can because this seems to be quite a scandal here.  It would be good to know the truth since I still have contact with that parish.

I suspect that the former fund was casually called the "priests' pension plan" for many years even though it was never legally constituted as such for ERISA purposes. ACROD had/has the same underfunding issue and a similar plan. These plans, both created in the early 1970's, were not intended to "vest" as the term is commonly understood but rather to "be there" when a priest reached retirement age and not "be there" should the priest transfer jurisdictions or leave the priesthood prior to retirement. Our fund was managed by a third party investment group but like many plans it suffered considerable losses in the 2007/2008 market crash. I suspect the Antiochian's fund suffered similar losses as well. This information was presented at great length by our auditors at our last "sobor"/diocesan council. I can understand how rumors of thievery and conspiracy can travel and be believed as they are often easier to process than reality. But truth ultimately is more powerful - even when it is boring as a narrative.