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Author Topic: OCA Financial Scandal  (Read 18988 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #90 on: March 02, 2006, 11:24:41 PM »

Quote from Arystarcus: " I wonder how many people will leave the OCA because of this, not that I blame them."
     
  Hmmm.... I know that OCA bashing is somewhat popular on this forum, but I pray that your comments are not a thinly veiled attack .
I mean this both jokingly and seriously - actually, GOA and AOA bashing are much more popular - it's just this financial scandal that has put OCA bashing in Vogue.  And guess what?!?  Most of us doing the bashing.....ARE IN THE OCA!!!!


  When one`s house has suffered structural decay and is in need of repare ,do you move out or call a carpenter?
  When someone in your family is suffering from dysfunctions , do you disassociate yourself from that person or try to help that family member in need?
   To those that feel the need to leave the OCA over this issue........" The Church of Christ is guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot err" .....but those (people) in the church can(err) and almost always will.It doesn`t matter which Orthodox Church you go to ...there are always problems , big and small.
  It is unfortunate that Americans are applying their instant gratification needs to this situation and possibly considering leaving the OCA rather than making the hard decisions that are necessary and many shy away from these days. I have no respect for those that want to run away from this issue in our jurisdiction...I consider you weak and you probably run away from your personal issues as well.
  For once , stop your running , and deal with the problem and let`s get our house in order.
 
             Moses

Who said that anyone actually WAS leaving?  Some are just SPECULATING that some people MIGHT leave because of the scandal.  No one is "running" from anything.  Have you been reading?  ARCHBISHOP Job and many priests in his diocese have been the most vocal and have advocated the audit.  How is this running?  If the majority of the Bishops in the Synod plus the Metropolitan refuse to address the years in question, then what can we do?  Please enlighten us if you have a solution.  Praying is obvious.  Maybe it really is the solution and we need just do it (ala Nike).
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« Reply #91 on: March 02, 2006, 11:40:26 PM »

I'm going to get a petition going for the IRS to investigate the OCA.  If enough people sign, perhaps we can force the government to intervene and take care of the criminals who were involved in this scam.

Scripture exhorts Christians to settle disputes privately among themselves instead of going to Caesar.
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« Reply #92 on: March 02, 2006, 11:54:52 PM »

Scripture exhorts Christians to settle disputes privately among themselves instead of going to Caesar.

The problem is, that it appears laws may have been broken.

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« Reply #93 on: March 02, 2006, 11:56:14 PM »

The problem is, that it appears laws may have been broken.

Nonetheless.
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« Reply #94 on: March 03, 2006, 12:15:44 AM »

Elisha:
 I personally know more than one person who has fled the OCA because of this and I am perhaps a bit over reactive because of this.
 So in answer to your question ,yes I know people who are running.
 
 Does not my intial post show that I support the house cleaning that Archbishop Job has called for ?
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« Reply #95 on: March 03, 2006, 12:56:26 AM »

Hmmm.... I know that OCA bashing is somewhat popular on this forum, but I pray that your comments are not a thinly veiled attack .

I am inclined to think that you may be overreacting. If I was to "attack" the OCA, I would come right out and say it, as I believe that mincing words is frivolous.

Also, I was chrismated into the Church via the OCA and I hold a lot of respect towards Archbishop Job.

" The Church of Christ is guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot err" .....but those (people) in the church can(err) and almost always will.It doesn`t matter which Orthodox Church you go to ...there are always problems , big and small.

I agree wholeheartedly.

.....possibly considering leaving the OCA rather than making the hard decisions that are necessary and many shy away from these days.

When I was chrismated into the Church, I was received into the Holy Orthodox Church, via the OCA. I am not a member of the OCA - I am an Orthdox Christian first and foremost.

I have no respect for those that want to run away from this issue in our jurisdiction...I consider you weak and you probably run away from your personal issues as well.

I don't believe it is the lay people of the OCA that are running away from this issue, I think it is the upper echelons of the church that appear to be hoping that that this will all quietly fade from the memory of the people who have been funneling money into these appeals.

Case in point: how many of the people in the OCA will hear about this situation from their parish priest? Is this being announced from the pulpit, because the people should know and in fact, have a right to know what is going on in the church. There needs to be an admission of the goings-on, and this needs to be addressed to the laity on the parish level. I know that the OCA church I was going to has been "hush hush" about it and the only way anyone knows about it is via the web.

The question remains - "are the allegations true or are they false?"

For once , stop your running , and deal with the problem and let`s get our house in order.

The house needs to get in order starting from the top down.
   
It's just as Carpatho Russian said:

However, this just confirms my belief that respect is something that is earned and not something that is due to one because of a title.  Also, it will be a very long time before I even consider contributing to an appeal sponsored by the OCA.
 

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« Reply #96 on: March 03, 2006, 01:43:40 AM »

I agree with everything you have to say. It was you , however, that stated you would not blame people for leaving the OCA, hence my responce.
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« Reply #97 on: March 03, 2006, 03:44:55 AM »

Elisha:
 I personally know more than one person who has fled the OCA because of this and I am perhaps a bit over reactive because of this.
 So in answer to your question ,yes I know people who are running.
 
 Does not my intial post show that I support the house cleaning that Archbishop Job has called for ?

Well, I'm sorry that they did and that is their issue.  I am perfectly happy in my parish and plan to stay for the foreseeable future....regardless of the commotion in Syosset.
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« Reply #98 on: March 03, 2006, 11:32:44 AM »

Orthodox Leaders Reject Call for Audit
Bishops Vow to Improve Accounting After Accusations of Fund Mismanagement

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 3, 2006; A05



Leaders of the Orthodox Church in America, facing allegations that they mismanaged millions of dollars, rejected calls for an immediate investigation but promised to follow better accounting procedures in the future.

The 400,000-member denomination has been reeling since October from accusations by its former treasurer, Deacon Eric A. Wheeler. He says that during the late 1990s, its top officials diverted donations from agribusiness magnate Dwayne Andreas, U.S. military chaplains and ordinary parishioners, using some of the money to cover credit card debts and pay sexual blackmail.

After an all-day, closed-door meeting Wednesday in Syosset, N.Y., the church's Holy Synod, a governing body of 10 bishops, announced that it will adopt a set of "best practices" for financial management. The synod also promised to seek outside audits for 2004 and 2005, and to review all its fundraising appeals since 2001.

But the bishops postponed a decision on whether to look into Wheeler's allegations of sloppy bookkeeping as well as misappropriation of funds in the late 1990s. They indicated they might reconsider the matter when they meet again in the spring.

"On the threshold of the Great Fast [of Lent], we exhort the faithful to remember the Holy Gospel, to conform to the example of Christ, and to live as Christians in mutual repentance and forgiveness," the synod's statement concluded.

The delay drew criticism from some lay leaders of the denomination, which is informally known as the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States but has been independent of Moscow since 1970.

"It's bitterly disappointing, because we'll have to wait another three months to see if any investigation will be initiated involving the years in dispute," said Gregory Nescott, a lifelong member of the church who is a federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh. "The bishops had the chance to instantly begin to restore trust. . . . They chose instead to attack with a toothpick the python that threatens to swallow the church."

The church's highest prelate, who has the title of metropolitan and goes by the single name of Herman, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Neither did its top administrative officer, Chancellor Robert S. Kondratick.

The most senior official who could be reached yesterday was the Rev. Paul Kucynda, who has served as acting treasurer since July. He said the synod "left the door open" for an investigation, depending on the outcome of the audits for 2004 and 2005.

"Doing the independent audits will give them a sense of direction without being judgmental prematurely," he said. "It really isn't some kind of stonewalling."

On top of the allegations of misconduct, the church faces mounting debts. Its comptroller, the Rev. Stavros Strikis, said it is considering a bank loan of about $1.5 million, equivalent to about 40 percent of its $3.9 million annual operating budget.

Orthodox Christians for Accountability, a lay group pushing for greater transparency in the church's finances, suggested that the only reason the synod asked for the 2004 and 2005 audits is that they are necessary to obtain the loan. Kucynda said that was "simply not true."

"I am not interested, nor is he [the metropolitan], to cover anything up. But we have to methodically start somewhere," he said.

Financial experts said the Orthodox Church's problems show how easy it is for churches to avoid financial scrutiny. Other tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations must file annual financial statements, known as Form 990s, to the IRS. But churches do not have to make any public disclosure of how much they receive in donations, from whom, or how the money is spent.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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« Reply #99 on: March 05, 2006, 02:28:41 PM »

Nonetheless.

I'm sorry, I don't think St Paul's injunction applies here.  He is talking about people suing each other in court for church property and the like. This is a different animal; the people in charge may have broken the law and their behavior may spell financial ruin for the Orthodox Church in America.  Calling for the State to intervene in the case of a law being broken is much different than say suing your bishop for the church property.

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« Reply #100 on: March 07, 2006, 05:43:49 PM »

In a sense, it's hard to blame anyone for wanting to leave, but it would depend on one's closeness to his or her local parish and priest.  My view is that laity and clergy need to continue applying the pressure, which would include keeping the discussions alive online.  Furthermore, hold back on donating to all national appeals, which as far as I'm concerned make absolutely no sense except to waste money on a middleman (who, in this case, may be helping himself to the biggest share).  Give directly to the seminaries and missions, your parish, your local charities, or IOCC.  We need to make it clear that the regular membership dues go into the general operating fund and this account has been properly audited.  The questions are swirling around the donations on the side, as apparently the folks in Syosset think that's all discretionary and no one's business what they do with it.  They're not going to say anything more on the subject given that the FBI has already touched base with Dcn. Wheeler and anything said within Syosset publicly can be used against them later in the event charges are filed.
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« Reply #101 on: March 08, 2006, 11:12:35 AM »

Quote
Case in point: how many of the people in the OCA will hear about this situation from their parish priest? Is this being announced from the pulpit, because the people should know and in fact, have a right to know what is going on in the church. There needs to be an admission of the goings-on, and this needs to be addressed to the laity on the parish level. I know that the OCA church I was going to has been "hush hush" about it and the only way anyone knows about it is via the web.

The question remains - "are the allegations true or are they false?"

I'm glad my priest has been at the forefront of all this, he was one of the six priest who wrote that 'accountability" letter that was sent to the Metropolitan. He has made some comments publicly in the church about the situation and has gently prepared us for the situation at hand. It all really makes me sick, also seeing that that the Metropolitan and some of the other so called Bishops would love to depose of Archbishop Job, who has been practically the only one behind the scenes urging for accountability & change. When I think of some of our Hierarchs in the OCA,  they sadly remind me how the religious jewish leaders were portrayed in the Passion of the Christ with nothing but snarls on their face and ruthlessness in their hearts. Lord have mercy on us all!
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« Reply #102 on: March 10, 2006, 04:17:57 PM »

http://www.ocanews.org/

3.10.06

Major Diversion of Funds Confirmed By Internal OCA Financial Statement

The accompanying notes to the most recent financial statement of the OCA, compiled by the accounting firm of Konsen & Hostelley LLP of Independence (Cleveland) Ohio, confirms that major diversions of charitable and appeal funds took place as recently as 2001, 2002 and 2003.

These explanatory notes, dated May 2004 and addressed to the Metropolitan Council, were apparently never distributed to the Council. Sent only to the Bishops, and then only in November 2005, the notes reveal that monies collected from the three annual charitable appeals (Mission, Seminary and Charities), as well as 4 other project funds, (The Military Chaplains Fund, The Clergy Care Endowment (which provides support to retired clergy needing health care coverage beyond Medicare), The Publications Fund and The Archives Project) were not used for their intended purposes, but diverted to pay administrative and operating costs. The whole report, obtained by OCANews, confirms Syosset’s misuse of these “temporarily restricted” funds was not a singular event, but a pattern that has extended over years.

The Notes

In the five-page document entitled “Notes to the Financial Statements” that accompanies the Church’s statement of financial position as of December 31, 2003, Konsen & Hostelley reveal that:

“As directed by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, the Chancery transferred $62,997 of temporarily restricted funds in 2003, $469,017 in 2002 and $98,461 in 2001 to meet current obligations of the Chancery.”

Recognizing the problem created by the diversion of the funds from their intended purposes, the report states:
“These funds will be transferred back to temporarily restricted funds as soon as practical”. However, the report itself makes clear that this will not be anytime soon given the growing debt of the OCA. In the same report under “Notes Payable”, Konsen & Hostelley write:

“As directed by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, the Chancery obtained a line of credit commercial loan (sic) from Commerce Bank for $600,000 of which only $500,000 has been utilized to date, to meet the current obligations of the Chancery.”

Although the firm of Konsen & Hostelley does not specifically indicate when the loan was taken out, it is clear that this money was not used to repay the funds diverted above - but again, taken “to meet the current obligations of the Chancery”. Moreover, as “Funding the Vision”, a paper presented to the 2005 All American Council in Toronto made clear, the operating deficit of the OCA for the year 2004 alone was over $430,000. It is unlikely the diverted funds, totaling more than $630,000 by 2003, have even begun to be repaid.

There are, as yet, no figures detailing how much money was diverted from these charitable and other temporarily restricted funds for 2004 & 2005, if any. According to the recent press release of the Synod of Bishops, an audit of OCA finances for 2004 is expected no later than March 31, 2006 and may shed light on this question and practice.

The Missing 9/11 Funds

If what is stated in the report raises troubling administrative and ethical questions, what is not in the report raises even more.

Missing totally from this report is any mention of an additional $285,000 in funds raised in a special OCA appeal in September-October 2001 for the victims of 9/11. Nowhere in this statement of the OCA’s financial position as of December 31, 2002, or in 2003, is any mention made of a balance of funds for the 9/11 Appeal.  This can only mean the monies were either fully distributed by December 31, 2001 (since no opening balance was shown in the 2002 report) — or they have “vanished” from the OCA books entirely.


OCANews has reported earlier that the Committee created to disburse the 9/11 Funds met for the first time in December 2001. It was only at their second meeting, in February 2002, though, that the Committee agreed on how to disburse the Appeal monies. It is possible that all the Appeal Funds were distributed six weeks before the Committee that was to disburse them met to decide on how to do so? The only other explanation is that the money has indeed “vanished”.

Either option raises disturbing questions.

The Bishops’ New “Review”

The mystery of the 9/11 Funds may shed some light on the Bishop’s recent decision to “review the disposition of all monies collected through all OCA appeals from 2001.” On February 28, 2006 the Synod announced:

“Our objective is to have a report from the external CPA firm of Lambrides, Lamos, Moulthrop, LLP for presentation to the Holy Synod by the time of the Spring 2006 meeting.”

But critics ask why another “report” and not a full audit? The distinction between the two is important. As Konsen and Hostelley state in the opening remarks to this report: “A compilation is limited to presenting in the form of financial statements, information that is the representation of management. We have not audited or reviewed these statements and accordingly do not express an opinion or any other form of assurance on them.”

In other words, a “report” offers only those numbers that management, or in this case, Syosset, reveals. An audit, on the other hand, is the highest level of financial reporting. Only an audit requires full financial statement presentation, footnote disclosures, includes testing transactions, invoices, confirmations to third parties and other procedures to provide the highest level of assurance available.  A "report" does not.

A “report” from one external CPA firm - Konsen and Hostelley- for the years in question (2002-2003) already indicates where the monies are, and where they are not. If it is accurate, critics ask, what is the point of wasting time and money on a new "report"?

Or, are the Bishops implying that the 2004 Konsen and Hostelley report is not accurate? If that is the case, and as Konsen and Hostelley have been providing counsel and reports to the OCA since 1998, then perhaps everything needs to be revisited, not in yet another “report”, but in a full audit.

The Ongoing Problem

There can be no dispute that obvious ethical lapses — lapses bordering on outright fraud — have continued year after year, in the form of Appeal funds that are diverted from their intended purposes. Syosset’s own documentation now fully confirms this practice and pattern. But all the Appeal and project monies are still not accounted for - and only an audit can do this. Until this is done, and until those responsible are held accountable for the evident financial misconduct, questions regarding the integrity of the OCA and its leadership will continue to multiply...

- Mark Stokoe
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« Reply #103 on: March 10, 2006, 05:06:10 PM »

Already a thread on this topic.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=7534.0
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« Reply #104 on: March 10, 2006, 05:11:00 PM »

Wow.  Another one bites the dust.
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« Reply #105 on: March 10, 2006, 05:17:42 PM »

Already a thread on this topic.

So here's ya another one.  Shocked
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« Reply #106 on: March 10, 2006, 05:56:00 PM »

I just merged them mainly because I wanted to see if that function really works Smiley
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« Reply #107 on: March 10, 2006, 06:09:03 PM »

Have you ever tried seeing if the unmerge function works?  Grin
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« Reply #108 on: March 10, 2006, 08:42:05 PM »

If this scandal really exists, why hasn't it appeared in more mainstream news sources?
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« Reply #109 on: March 10, 2006, 09:18:41 PM »

If this scandal really exists, why hasn't it appeared in more mainstream news sources?
The first newspaper to report this story was The Bergen Record, a local newspaper in northern New Jersey, on 2/20/06.  On 3/3/06, an article on this "scandal" was published in The Washington Post and other newspapers associated with The Washington Post in major cities across the US.  Since the Orthodox Church is so insignificant in this country, I'm sure it didn't make front page news in the major papers.
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« Reply #110 on: March 11, 2006, 12:19:36 AM »

It's also been reported in the Chicago Tribune and Associated Press.  I heard Fox News ran a brief segment as well.
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« Reply #111 on: March 11, 2006, 12:56:32 AM »

While I want people to be aware of the problem, I don't like the mainstream media getting a hold of it only because of their lack of moral standing, their distaste for church in general, and for their perception of Orthodoxy as a strange thing...
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« Reply #112 on: March 11, 2006, 03:27:39 AM »

While I want people to be aware of the problem, I don't like the mainstream media getting a hold of it only because of their lack of moral standing, their distaste for church in general, and for their perception of Orthodoxy as a strange thing...

Indeed, this is the reason why the OCA should take greater steps toward resolving the situation. Better perform the audits and owe more money to a bank than owe an account to God Shocked
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« Reply #113 on: March 11, 2006, 03:30:24 AM »

I have read pretty thoroughly much of the news information provided at www.ocanews.org, and I must say as a member of the OCA that this saddens me very deeply.  However, I don't think anger or a judgmental attitude such as I've seen in some posts on this thread is the right response.

Who of us here has never sinned?  Not a one of us, I would venture to say.  We are all sinners, so none of us has the right to condemn another for his/her sins.  We are called instead to love, to forgive, and to pray for the salvation of others, especially of our hierarchs and clergy.

Don't get me wrong, though.  I do believe in accountability.  Those who have sinned need to be called to account.  One of the things I love about Confession is the structured accountability that this provides for me.  I have a loving father who hears me confess even my most shameful sins and helps and counsels me in my life of repentance--sometimes he's even had to take the initiative to scold me and call me to confess certain more eggregious sins that I committed while in states of delusion.  Even our hierarchs and clergy need to be called to account from time to time so that they, too, can repent of their sins.  Ultimately, the goal of accountability and repentance is restoration and salvation.

I've also seen in this thread a lot of talk of jurisdiction jumping.  Some see this as a viable way to escape the scandal for a "more perfect" church, whereas others believe that we have a responsibility to right our own ship.  To me, jurisdiction jumping is not an option.

I am Orthodox.  In my city, I just happen to feel most at home in an OCA parish--no offense meant toward any other jurisdiction, with whom I am rather active via pan-Orthodox social groups and liturgical activities--and I have a wonderful relationship with my priest, the delegated celebrant of the Holy Mysteries that are my life.  I detest the current situation in America where we have more Orthodox jurisdictions in my city than I can count on one hand, where I can escape a problem in one jurisdiction by just transfering my membership to another.  This is an uncanonical monstrosity that must come to an end!  GOA, Antiochian Church, OCA, ROCOR, ...  We're all Orthodox.  We all confess the same faith.  We're in sacramental communion with each other.  Why are we accused of phyletism because our jurisdictional situation in America does not bear witness to our unity of faith?

Yes, I long for the day when all Orthodox jurisdictions in America will be united administratively into one American church, and I choose to live as if this is reality today.  When this administrative unity does become reality, than jurisdiction jumping will not be an option for any of us.  Our only options then will be to right our ship or leave the Church altogether.
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« Reply #114 on: March 11, 2006, 06:37:31 PM »

I talked via email with a friend who is now serving as a priest in Archbishop Job's diocese, and he confirmed that much of what is published in www.ocanews.org is accurate.  He did say that the site is somewhat alarmist and that it therefore doesn't have all of its facts straight (maybe some exaggeration), but that he does support what the creators of the site intend to accomplish.

All I can say for now is that we should all (whether you are OCA or not) pray fervently for the hierarchs of the OCA that they will make the right decisions regarding how to address this scandal.  Pray that they can clean up this scandal in-house (and not by continuing to sweep it under the rug and hoping nobody looks under the rug) and give their clergy and faithful the transparency we need, because if the civil authorities have to get involved, this will turn into an even bigger and more publicized mess.
 Sad Sad Sad
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« Reply #115 on: March 11, 2006, 07:38:57 PM »

It's important to pray.

Protodeacon Eric Wheeler is a family friend and has been for decades. In the opinion of my family, knowing his character, he is beyond reproach.

As it stands, from here, we need to open the closet doors, clean up whatever mess there is, repent, pray extra hard, and move on in a better way. This is what all of our lives are about, and this only reminds us of our own sinfulness, our own planks. God's will be done.
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« Reply #116 on: March 12, 2006, 12:42:05 AM »

It's important to pray.

Protodeacon Eric Wheeler is a family friend and has been for decades. In the opinion of my family, knowing his character, he is beyond reproach.

As it stands, from here, we need to open the closet doors, clean up whatever mess there is, repent, pray extra hard, and move on in a better way. This is what all of our lives are about, and this only reminds us of our own sinfulness, our own planks. God's will be done.

AMEN!
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« Reply #117 on: March 12, 2006, 05:35:51 PM »

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06071/669024.stm
------------------------------------------------------

Accusations swirl around leaders of Orthodox Church in America
Did church mismanage funds?


Sunday, March 12, 2006
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For 400,000 members of the Orthodox Church in America, this first Sunday of Lent is troubled by staggering claims of financial mismanagement against two of their most respected leaders.

The accusations, squelched for six years as church financial officials and even a bishop sought an investigation, now are shouted to the world on the Internet.

Former insiders from church headquarters in Syosset, N.Y., say that, from 1996 to 2002, millions of dollars in grants and charitable gifts were siphoned into two unaudited accounts. One was controlled by former Metropolitan Theodosius, the now-retired primate; and the other by the Rev. Robert Kondratick, the church's chancellor.

A past treasurer says some of the money was used to pay personal credit card bills and even blackmail. He says that no full, certified, independent audit has been done on church accounts since 1996.

Father Kondratick said Metropolitan Herman, the current primate, has told him not to address the accusations for now.

"I hope, at some point in the future, to be permitted to express my own point of view," he said. "However, what I can say is that the church administration is working closely with our Holy Synod [of bishops] and with our CPA firm, which is currently conducting audits and reviews. ... Obviously, we look forward to their recommendations."

The acting treasurer, the Rev. Paul Kucynda, a Charleroi native who became treasurer in July, said every cent given for charity or special projects "is all sequestered and used only for that purpose. There will not be any invasion, for any reason, of any designated funds from here forward.''

But questions linger. Metropolitan Theodosius retired in 2002 to his native Canonsburg, where efforts to reach him were unsuccessful. Metropolitan Herman has promised an outside audit for 2004-05. Critics say that evades the key years, 1996 to 2002.

"What happened to the intervening years, and will the audits they have promised be audits of all the accounts?" asked Greg Nescott, a member of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in McCandless. He resigned from the OCA's Metropolitan Council, an executive body, citing a six-year failure to investigate.

Mr. Nescott, a federal prosecutor, said Archbishop Kyrill, of Western Pennsylvania, and his own priest, the Rev. Paul Suda, who heads the audit committee, barred him from becoming parish council president because of his call for an investigation. Father Suda did not return calls from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Archbishop Kyrill was reported to be out of town.

Those raising the alarm have not called for legal action but for certified public accountants.

"My only call has been to bring in an independent auditor," said Deacon Eric Wheeler, the former treasurer whose account of irregularities in Syosset caused long-simmering questions to boil over publicly last year. A Web site devoted to the issue went online Jan. 7 at www.ocanews.org.

Nearly 60 clergy from the Diocese of the Midwest and 70 of the most senior priests nationwide have petitioned for a thorough investigation.

A few priests who called for audits, including the 86-year-old former dean of the national cathedral, reported that Metropolitan Herman had silenced them.

"Good people who have raised honest questions have been vilified or silenced," said the petition from the senior priests.

The OCA is a daughter of the Russian Orthodox Church. About 40 of its 600 parishes are in Western Pennsylvania.

For 10 years, beginning in 1990, both inside and outside auditors warned of poorly kept expense records and chided church leaders for allowing the same person to handle deposits, disbursements and record-keeping, according to documents now on the Web.

Deacon Wheeler, 51, finance manager for a Long Island museum, had an accounting background before becoming secretary to Metropolitan Theodosius in 1988. He soon noticed that money constantly moved outside normal channels, he wrote in his 2005 "Call to Accountability," distributed to members of the church's governing council and now posted on the Internet.

The attitude was that "funds were needed to safeguard the church from scandal, cover embarrassing credit cards debts ... provide family members who leached off their relatives with a steady stream of assistance, pay blackmail requests," he wrote.

Father Kondratick's monthly American Express bills ran between $5,000 and $12,000, explained only by notations such as "Help for Russia," Deacon Wheeler wrote. He estimated that half of unrestricted bequests in the early 1990s went into unaudited accounts, as did some gifts for missions special appeals.

The treasurer then, as now, was Father Kucynda, who, Deacon Wheeler said, made a valiant but futile effort to enforce financial discipline.

"The weekly tirades and outbursts when he would discover the American Express bills being paid with little or no back-up ... fed a great deal of internal tension," he wrote.

From 1995 to 1999, he said, the church received $3 million to $5 million from the Archer Daniel Midlands Foundation and the Dwayne Andreas Foundation. It was to renovate St. Catherine's Orthodox Church in Moscow and build a religious conference center there, named for Mr. Andreas, the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland.

A spokesman for the Archer Daniels Midland Foundation didn't respond to an interview request. IRS records the Post-Gazette obtained from 1998 show that $400,000 from Archer Daniels Midland went to the church that year alone.

When the first $250,000 ADM grant arrived in 1995, Father Kucynda tried to put it into a segregated, audited account, Deacon Wheeler said. A month later, Father Kucynda and Deacon Wheeler were told to switch jobs.

"I had Father Kondratick affirm and reaffirm and reaffirm that the current financial practices would stop," Deacon Wheeler wrote.

Two years later, after he found that a $250,000 grant check was not in any audited account, he stopped signing financial reports.

Deacon Wheeler does not say that all the money was misused. Substantial work was done on the Moscow church, though there was once a plan to disguise a law office as the proposed Andreas Conference Center should Mr. Andreas attempt to visit, he wrote.

"As a ballpark, one-third of the money went for good purposes, one-third went into gray areas [that claimed to be charitable] and one-third was used for who knows what because there was no record-keeping," he said last week.

In June 1999, Deacon Wheeler confided in John Kozey, head of the church audit committee, and Robert Taylor, an outside auditor. Mr. Kozey, a financial analyst living in Syosset, said he was nominated for his elected position because of a friendship with Father Kondratick. He hoped a meeting with Father Kondratick, the church's attorney and other key officials would put things right.

"Father Bob acted very surprised, as if he had never heard of the irregularities before. He said, 'We have to address this. We have to fix this,' " Mr. Kozey said.

Minutes from that July 8, 1999, meeting describe a plan to hire a special outside accountant to determine whether the metropolitan's discretionary account was "used for purposes consistent with state and federal law."

But three weeks later, the Holy Synod of bishops suddenly declared that the metropolitan had a right to an unaudited, discretionary fund.

"We unanimously exhort the primate to deny any form of audit," the bishops said. Archbishop Job, of Chicago, later wrote that no one had told him that a large sum of money was involved.

According to lawyer Richard Hammar, of Springfield, Mo., an authority on church financial law, discretionary funds are common but can lead to tax problems.

"Any discretionary funds that could be accessed by a pastor and used for personal purposes can amount to taxable income, even if the funds are not ever used for personal purposes," he said. To avoid that, the church must limit the amount in the fund, prohibit the pastor from using it for personal benefit and have some church official review it.

Whether a church faces trouble for diverting designated gifts toward other ministry depends on the circumstances, he said.

In September 1999, Deacon Wheeler was removed as treasurer. About the same time, the outside auditor wrote that he could not complete the 1998 audit because of incomplete data and poor records.

Mr. Kozey promptly wrote to every member of the Metropolitan Council, asking to address its November meeting. Its administrative committee refused, but his letter moved the issue into some parishes.

After reading the letter, Mr. Nescott, the Pittsburgh prosecutor and an alternate to the meeting, decided to sit in on the council, as alternates had done before. He was shocked when the metropolitan's secretary called to tell him he couldn't attend.

That refusal "gave enormous credence to the concerns being raised by John Kozey," Mr. Nescott later wrote.

"Surely they didn't fear a few honest questions. Did they not have enough chairs at Syosset to seat me at the meeting? Or could the fact that I was a federal prosecutor have anything to do with it?" He later became a delegate.

At that November 1999 council meeting, the dormant plan for a special outside auditor to perform a "summary review" of the discretionary fund was resurrected. Mr. Kozey and a few others protested that a "summary review" was not an audit.

On Jan. 14, 2000, an attorney for Metropolitan Theodosius wrote that an outside firm had found the discretionary account statements of 1996-1998 "in conformity with generally accepted accounting procedures."

That satisfied most members of the Metropolitan Council. That April, Mr. Kozey said, chancery officials maneuvered him out of his role as head of the audit committee by scheduling meetings he couldn't attend. Father Suda replaced him.

Metropolitan Theodosius retired in July 2002. Archbishop Job, who had met with Deacon Wheeler, hoped Metropolitan Herman would bring reform. But, according to minutes of a talk the archbishop gave to Ohio priests, he was disappointed.

In June, Archbishop Job wrote to Metropolitan Herman, asking for a complete report on finances at the All-American Council in July. Father Kondratick replied that the metropolitan considered such a report "inappropriate."

Learning of that, Mr. Nescott resigned from the council.

"The Metropolitan Council that just a few decades ago was a reliable and respected body that offered professional and intelligent advice to the church in financial and related matters is no more," he wrote on an Orthodox Web forum.

Deacon Wheeler sent his summary of concerns to all council members. At their November meeting, Metropolitan Herman promised "to order independent audits by an outside CPA firm."

But, as echoed at two succeeding meetings of bishops, the audit would cover only 2004 and 2005.

On Nov. 28, Archbishop Job wrote to Metropolitan Herman, saying that "an independent audit of the finances of the church for only the last two years will not provide the necessary answers." He complained that church leaders had attacked Deacon Wheeler's character "while the issues were essentially ignored."

"What continues to perplex me is that the simple and most appropriate question was not asked. ... Are any of the allegations true, or are they false?" he wrote.

"Obviously there must be investigation."

But Father Kucynda, the acting treasurer, believes that the 2004-05 audit can lead to further audits.

"The accountants are going backward, wherever that takes them," he said. "Audits are expensive. We are a modest church. We are trying to do what we can to clarify all the accusations and, at the same time, limit the amount of auditing in the older records to whatever is really necessary to get to the heart of the matter."
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« Reply #118 on: March 16, 2006, 07:38:14 PM »

http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=960&SID=19

Administrative Committee meets
Article posted: 3/16/2006 5:57 PM
 
SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] — In response to questions regarding financial accountability, the Administrative Committee of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America met today in Extraordinary Session at the church headquarters in Syosset, New York.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman announced that as the Primate of the Church, he has retained the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP to undertake an internal investigation of allegations relating to the finances of the Church.

He also announced that the accounting firm of Lambrides, Lamos, Moulthrop, LLP, presently engaged to conduct an Independent Audit of all Church financial accounts for the years 2004 and 2005, has been engaged further to examine the disposition of monies collected through OCA appeals from 2001 through 2005.

Metropolitan Herman also announced that he will authorize any additional engagements with the accounting firm as requested by the attorneys conducting the internal investigation.

He also announced that Protopresbyter Robert S.Kondratick has been relieved of his service as Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America.

Further administrative announcements will be forthcoming.
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« Reply #119 on: March 16, 2006, 09:18:29 PM »

GOOD.
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« Reply #120 on: March 16, 2006, 10:41:11 PM »

GOOD.

And I will be the first ditto.
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« Reply #121 on: March 16, 2006, 11:51:00 PM »

While I want people to be aware of the problem, I don't like the mainstream media getting a hold of it only because of their lack of moral standing, their distaste for church in general, and for their perception of Orthodoxy as a strange thing...

The reason they may look at us as strange just might be . . . as I said in response to another post . . . we need to get out more.  I don't mean that in a 'fellowship' way, but we need more exposure to the rest of the United States.  Anytime there is 'mainstream' news coverage of a Christian story, you never see an Orthodox priest or heirarch being interviewed.  We, as Orthodox need to market ourselves a little better than what we do now, if we do at all.
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« Reply #122 on: March 17, 2006, 08:32:07 AM »

you're completely right - the Orthodox do need to be better at getting out there with our presence and our message.... of course, the key to this movement will have to be the same as it was in the first 4 centuries: we have to live the life we preach, especially publicly, so that people will see our good examples and praise God in heaven.  This goes for financial management as well, I suppose...
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« Reply #123 on: March 17, 2006, 08:55:40 PM »

you're completely right - the Orthodox do need to be better at getting out there with our presence and our message.... of course, the key to this movement will have to be the same as it was in the first 4 centuries: we have to live the life we preach, especially publicly, so that people will see our good examples and praise God in heaven.  This goes for financial management as well, I suppose...

Very well said!
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« Reply #124 on: April 04, 2006, 10:09:58 AM »

http://ocanews.org/news/TikhontoHerman.html

Quote
4.4.06 Latest News

+Tikhon to +Herman:

Resign, Retire or Be Deposed

In the concluding paragraphs of his letter dated March 24 to Metropolitan Herman, Bishop +Tikhon offers the Primate of the OCA three stark choices: resign, retire or face deposition. +Tikhon writes:

"Please consider these alternatives which I consider to be ones which hold out substantial basis to hope of an early amelioration or even termination of the provocations afflicting the Body of the Church and which will end this putting of God to the test:

1. Resign and ask the senior member of the Holy Synod, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and the Bulgarian Diocese, to assume the post of locum tenens (and temporary administrator). Your Beatitude's last official act should be to revoke any and all actions taken since the last session of the Holy Synod.

2. Retire, after immediate consultation and the most thorough possible physical and psychological evaluation. No one would question any expenses in excess of what the insurance plan allows. At the same time taking the actions in paragraph a) especially, 'the last official act should be to revoke any and all actions taken since the last session of the Holy Synod.'

3. Consider the canonical implications of remaining as First Hierarch and continuing on Your Beatitude's present erratic course over the sea of life, which might possibly result in discrediting of so much of what Your Beatitude had accomplished that was decent and orderly. The alarm voiced by prominent representatives of other Local Churches indicates to me that there would be no shortage of available Hierarchs to make up the required twelve.... Think of all those who have trusted you, rightfully! Do you care for their fate? Do you want to provide them an example of stubbornness, rather than firmness? An example of non-repentance and blaming others?

With love in Christ, Your Beatitude's most unworthy intercessor, +TIKHON"


Read more at the link above.
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« Reply #125 on: April 04, 2006, 11:20:31 AM »


Wow.  My Bishop really has gone off the deep end.  Maybe he can retire as well and have +Benjamin officially manage the diocese.
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« Reply #126 on: April 04, 2006, 11:26:27 AM »

Quote
Wow.  My Bishop really has gone off the deep end.  Maybe he can retire as well and have +Benjamin officially manage the diocese.

Not at all -- Bp. Tikhon's been one of the few voices of reason in this mess. The conduct by the OCA leadership has been inexcusable, but equally inexcusable has been the antics of those who make public accusations and disrupt the good order of the Church.
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« Reply #127 on: April 04, 2006, 11:32:01 AM »

I think Bishop Tikhon and Metropolitan Herman should both resign.  Bishop Tikhon seems hypocritical to me: mad at some for calling for direct donations to charities and appeals until accountability is restored, then calling on his own diocese to withhold funds.  His comments against Archbishop Job are nonsensical to me: Archbishop Job being one of the most missionary-minded, "real-deal" bishops around, a commended and well-respected hierarch, etc.  Archbishop Job understands how it works in America and is trying to save the Church from the embarassment of audits by forcing it to do it itself, I think.

Metropolitan Herman on the other hand, while personally a nice guy I've thought when I've met him, has started to act unilaterally and that really can't be countenanced, and on the other hand, he must have known about at least some of this before and as such probably should just step down.

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« Reply #128 on: April 04, 2006, 11:34:08 AM »

Quote
Metropolitan Herman on the other hand, while personally a nice guy I've thought when I've met him, has started to act unilaterally and that really can't be countenanced, and on the other hand, he must have known about at least some of this before and as such probably should just step down.

I've heard things from sources I trust about things he's done, and while I won't repeat it here as I have no evidence, and besides this isn't the proper place for it, it *will* come out eventually, and he would save everybody a *lot* of embarassment if he would step down now.
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« Reply #129 on: April 04, 2006, 11:40:57 AM »

This kind of scandals are common place in the old countries. The difference is that nobody resigns or is even asked to resign there.
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« Reply #130 on: April 04, 2006, 11:43:09 AM »

This kind of scandals are common place in the old countries. The difference is that nobody resigns or is even asked to resign there.

Which is part of the reason that Church attendence in those countries still keeps declining: hardly anyone trusts priests anymore in the Old countries, from my experience.

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« Reply #131 on: April 04, 2006, 11:53:36 AM »

This kind of scandals are common place in the old countries. The difference is that nobody resigns or is even asked to resign there.

augustin,
You haven't filled out your profile - are you Romanian or an ex-Patriate living in Romania?  Just curious.  Thanks.
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« Reply #132 on: April 04, 2006, 11:54:55 AM »

Quite surprisingly, despite all scandals,  church attendance has kept raising in the former communist countries
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« Reply #133 on: April 04, 2006, 11:56:51 AM »

Quote
augustin,
You haven't filled out your profile - are you Romanian or an ex-Patriate living in Romania?  Just curious.  
.
A Romanian living in the US.
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« Reply #134 on: April 04, 2006, 11:59:11 AM »

Quite surprisingly, despite all scandals,  church attendance has kept raising in the former communist countries

In Greece though it is not, nor is it in the Middle East.  In the Roman Catholic countries where there are all these scandals, church attendence is dropping, too.  Maybe it's growing in the Slavic countries and Romania because post-communism, people are happy to have a chance to go freely to Church. Or maybe they aren't as affected by scandals as others. I don't know.

Anastasios
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