Pastoral Letter from the Holy Synod of Bishops to the Clergy and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America

Feast of the Beheading of the Prophet and Forerunner John, 2008

Dearly Beloved in the Lord:

The Holy Synod of Bishops has prepared the following letter to the Clergy and the Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America, with regard to the controversy that has been the center of considerable attention during the recent years:

The Holy Synod of Bishops acknowledges that when initial reports began to appear about questionable financial practices of certain Chancery officials, the Bishops relied on the truthfulness of the administration personnel instead of beginning to investigate the veracity of what was being said. Later, when more concrete information began to appear to support the initial reports, the Holy Synod did not act as quickly as it should have, in part because it could not come to a consensus at that time on how to act. The Holy Synod has to, and does, take responsibility for the failure in responding to the evidence of financial accountability in a timelier manner. Unfortunately, we were not alone in being deceived about the nature and scope of the inappropriate conduct. The Metropolitan Council, the body primarily responsible for scrutinizing financial reports and presenting them to the Holy Synod for approval, also suffered from numerous problems with lack of information, access to real information, and from a variety of ‘smoke-screens’ erected by Chancery staff to cover up the problems. There were systemic problems, which made it possible for us all to fail in such a manner.

Nevertheless, the Holy Synod of Bishops recognizes with gratitude the seriousness with which the Metropolitan Council has been working to improve our organizational structure in order to help insure that this will not happen again. In the context of periodic Joint Meetings, we are attempting to improve communication by and between the Synod and the Council. Through the hard work of Chancery officers and Council members, we are making good progress in establishing a properly functioning Central Church Administration and in modernizing our financial reporting operations. It is also through their work that we are being enabled to receive, and therefore to provide to the whole Church, clear, honest, and accurate reports about all aspects of our Church’s life.

One of the lessons that we have learned from the past few years is that we have had an inadequate system in place for managing serious situations, and thus, when the gravity of the situation became fully obvious, it was not dealt with expeditiously. The Holy Synod of Bishops has established the practice of holding meetings telephonically in order to address more quickly any pressing matters rather than waiting until our regular semi-annual meetings. We have found such meetings an important part of improving open communications among the bishops.

Involved in all this complex situation is the very real suffering endured by all of us as a consequence of feeling betrayed by those in whom we have placed significant trust. This appears to be particularly acute in that some of the clergy and faithful feel betrayed by their bishops – ascribing to them responsibility for the actions of others. We are assuring all that although we have indeed failed in various ways, there has never been any systematic or deliberate intention to do so on the part of the bishops as a body, nor as persons.

Recognizing our weakness, and our failures, the Holy Synod of Bishops bows low before the clergy and the faithful of the Church, and we ask forgiveness from you all. We are truly sorry that this could come to pass in the Church, and that this has happened under our supervision.

The Holy Synod of Bishops understands that under these circumstances, it will take some time before full confidence in us and in our administration may return. Nevertheless, it remains our responsibility to try to lead by the proper example. In order to do this, we are resolving with God’s help to do what is necessary to correct what is wrong with, or lacking in, our way of leading the Church, of supervising the administration, of working with the Metropolitan Council, and of working together with the dioceses. We are determined to do so with openness, honesty, and clarity.

The Holy Synod of Bishops recognizes that the Lord is working among us in the correction of our Church’s life. We have a great responsibility in North America (at least), and we must have our house in order and our hearts and lives clean in order to meet this responsibility. In asking for your forgiveness, we are also asking for your prayers as we work on repentance for all our sakes.

We need, all together, to open our hearts to Christ’s will, following the direction of St. Herman, who said:

“From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will.”

With love in Christ,

Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Archbishop of Dallas and the South

Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate

Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest

Archbishop of Ottawa and Canada

Bishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese

Bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania

Bishop of San Francisco and the West