Metropolitan Council concludes spring session

The spring session of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America opened at Christ the Savior Church, Chicago, IL on Wednesday, May 4, 2011 with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, presided.

His Grace, Bishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania chaired the meeting, while Igumen Alexander [Pihach] served as vice-chair.

After approving the agenda and the minutes of the previous meeting, Metropolitan Council members heard the opening remarks of Metropolitan Jonah. An extensive discussion ensued, during which the Holy Synod announced the four resolutions it had adopted concerning OCA governance going forward. The resolutions—found in the public minutes of the Holy Synod of Bishops posted HERE on the OCA web site, deal with Locum Tenency, the Officers of the Church, the Permanent Lesser Synod, and the Chancellor.

In his report, Bishop Melchisedek, Interim Chancellor, spoke of the work that was done during his two months, including specific issues dealing with the leave of absence of Metrpolitan Jonah. He informed the Metropolitan Council that he will continue as Interim Chancellor for the foreseeable future. He also outlined major concerns going forward.

Archpriest Eric Tosi, OCA Secretary, reported on his activities. He spoke in length about the difficult work in the chancery and introduced the new communications team and spoke about their recent work and the process of communications in the Church. He also reviewed a variety of administrative issues, including human resources, insurance, estate management, pastoral and legal issues.

In an executive session, the members of the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee [SMPAC] discussed their work, focusing primarily on the methodology used in compiling its confidential report, which was presented at the Holy Synod session preceding the joint meeting.

After a long and intense discussion, the Metropolitan Council resolved to recommend strongly the cessation of any activity of Priest Gregory Jensen in matters pertaining to sexual misconduct, and that any candidates to fill a position in the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations must be vetted by the SMPAC. The MC also resolved to commend the SMPAC for its extraordinary work.

Also in executive session, the Metropolitan Council received the report of the Ethics Committee and reviewed various ethics complaints that had been raised. The ethics committee was blessed by the Holy Synod to conduct an investigation into those ethics complaints and to present a full report.

Priest John Vitko presented the latest revised version of the OCA Strategic Plan. The Metropolitan Council resolved to recommend that the revised Strategic Plan be posted on the OCA website for continued feedback from the Church and that it be incorporated into the agenda of the upcoming 16th All-American Council. The formation of a Post-Concillar subcommittee of the Metropolitan Council to oversee implementation of the Strategic Plan after the Council was recommended.

On its second day, Thursday, May 5, the Metropolitan Council heard the report of the Charity Committee; the Council Development Committee, which presented its report and an updated version of the Council Handbook; and the Crisis Management Committee, which presented its report in executive session. An extensive discussion on failures in the Church to adequately respond to critical issues was held.

Following the Human Resources Committee report, the Metropolitan Council resolved to recommend that Archpriest Alexander Garklavs remain as consultant to the Interim Chancellor for his institutional knowledge and continuity of the work of the Chancery; that his compensation and benefits continue until he receives another appropriate appointment; and that his severance package of four months’ salary be deferred compensation.

The Internal Governance Committee presented a report in executive session on various critical issues in Church government. Out of executive session, the Internal Audit Committee, represented by Michael Strelka, presented their findings and outlined the reporting procedures leading up to the All-American Council. The Metropolitan Council thanked the Internal Audit Committee for its professional work. To date, all stavropegial institutions have been examined or have had their external audits examined, with the exception of one institution slated to be audited during the summer.

The Legal Committee presented its report, which covered a variety of current and potential legal issues, in executive session. A lengthy discussion ensued on instances of potential liability of the Church and involved an in depth discussion.

Melanie Ringa presented her extensive Treasurer’s report, after which it was resolved to make some minor adjustments to the 2011 budget. Among the adjustments are funds for further OCA web site development for the Feasts and Saints section; translations into Spanish; funding for psychological evaluation of all ordination candidates; and funding to cover costs realized by the change in the Metropolitan Council meeting venue. She also presented a budget for the 16th All-American Council.

The Financial Development Committee reported on investment strategy and the need for a professional financial advisor.

The Pension Board presented two amendments to the OCA Pension Plan, both of which were adopted. The amendments include housing allowance calculation for non-clergy Church employees and a clarification on disability retirement benefits.

Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations, reported on the external relations of the Orthodox Church in America. The report included an account of the relations, contacts, and correspondence with Orthodox Churches after the Holy Synod retreat at the end of February 2011 and the announcement of the leave of absence of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah.

Father Eric presented an extensive overview of the 16th All-American Council, highlighting work accomplished and items that still need attention. He outlined the timeline for the months leading to the Council and reviewed the registration process. The draft agenda was adopted.

Father Eric unveiled the new OCA website and reviewed the process and work that has gone into its redesign. He explained various features on the site, which is due to make its debut in June.

Father Alexander Garklavs addressed the Council, offering words of gratitude. A motion was made to acknowledge with profound gratitude Father Alexander’s service as Chancellor, which was accompanied by a standing ovation.

The Human Resources Committee was mandated to organize the search for a new Chancellor by the next meeting of the Metropolitan Council in September 2011. Council members authorized funding to conduct the search.

The Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council offered their gratitude to the Diocese of the Midwest and Christ the Savior Church for hosting the gathering.

After the Metropolitan Council meeting closed on Friday morning, members of the Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss the changes and release of the Strategic Plan, plans for the All-American Council, and other issues.

Complete Metropolitan Council minutes and documents will be made available in the near future.