In the first Diocesan Assembly since the release of the OCA’s Special Investigative Committee and the retirement of Metropolitan Herman, delegates from the Midwest gathered in Chicago to set the diocesan house in order before the November All North American Council of the OCA.
Of concern – the auditors’ report showed a lot of messy record keeping and accounting practices. Though nothing unseemly was charged, nevertheless considering the OCA’s long running bout with financial scandal it is unconscionable that the Diocesan financial records should be in the shape that they are in. The diocese needs to get its records and house in order. Additionally, the hint of a deficit budget in the current U.S. financial crisis is also not acceptable. The diocese does need to live within its budget, even when harsh economic times and a declining membership impose unfavorable restrictions on the budget.
Of hope – the Assembly did direct the Diocesan Council to actively begin a search for candidates for the episcopacy. With Archbishop Job announcing his retirement two years from now and with the possibility that he could be elected metropolitan this year, the diocese took a proactive step in ordering a the Diocesan Council to take a serious look at candidates and qualifications.
Challenge – the Diocesan Assembly did throw its voice support to backing the Western Pennsylvania Diocese’s Resolution to reduce the assessment paid to the central church from $105 to $50/member/year. This certainly is a challenge to the central church to justify the assessment it collects from every parish. It means the Diocese wants its delegates to the ANAC to take up the fight for a smaller central church administration. One thing that seemed misunderstood – much of the discussion made it sound like reducing the Assessment involved having the OCA rebate monies back to the parishes. The reality is the money will not be sent in the first place – it remains in the parish, and so parishes and diocese will not be getting money back – they won’t be sending it in the first place. Thus if parishes continue to raise that money, it will give them additional funding it their own budgets for home mission and ministry. Some may simply be able to scale back their parish budgets as they will need less funds to send to the diocesan and central church administrations.
A demand – The assembly asks the Metropolitan Council to order an audit of the lands and leases in the Diocese of Alaska. In so doing the Midwest Diocese pushes for continued transparency and accountability throughout the OCA. This time around the Assembly takes upon itself the role of the Good Samaritan and refuses to walk by the injured body of a fellow diocese.
A Call for Vision – several delegates articulated the need for the OCA to have a clear vision, and then to direct its resources toward fulfilling that vision. There is a hope among some that the OCA will start being the Church in America rather than playing at it. The OCA has wasted much time creating its persona (the ancient Greek mask of its drama) rather than building up its body/person/hypostasis. Orthodoxy argued theologically that Christ is a person/hypostasis of the Trinity, not a mode or a mask. The Church as the Body of Christ must also be in the same way real, foundational, and not just mask/mode which has no substance.