CHICAGO, IL [MW Communications] -- His Eminence, Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest, chaired a meeting of the diocesan council and diocesan deans here on Tuesday, June 26, 2007.
The meeting was a continuation of the regular council meeting on May 9, 2007, at which council members were unable to achieve a consensus on implementation of the "Palatine Resolution," passed at the October 2006
diocesan assembly held in Palatine, IL, that called for the diocese to escrow assessments to the Orthodox Church in America until such time as progress was made in addressing the crisis facing the Church administration.
"At the May meeting, council members clearly languished over the most appropriate manner in which to address the Palatine Resolution," said Archbishop Job. "Many genuine, heartfelt questions and concerns were raised by council members and the diocesan deans. Ultimately -- and frankly -- we literally ran out of time, and rather than make hasty decisions, it was the consensus that the meeting should be continued on June 26."
Archbishop Job opened the meeting by stating that he sees merit in opinions on both sides of the escrow issue. He added that, while he was in favor of escrowing funds until clear progress is made, he fully understood the valid concerns -- and potential problems -- expressed by many council members and
deans. He assured the council members and deans that he would abide by whatever decision they arrived at.
During the meeting, Archbishop Job asked the deans to report on a poll of their respective deanery clergy with regard to the "Palatine Resolution." [Prior to the meeting, each dean was asked to contact his clergy.] Based on
the deans' reports, it was clear that the deanery clergy, while unanimous in
feeling that "something must be done," were almost evenly divided on the matter of withholding assessments to the Central Church administration.
The deans reported widely diverse concerns and questions, all of which Archbishop Job agreed were valid. Among them:
1. If assessments are withheld, would parishes be refused seating at the 2008 All-American Council, thereby precluding their participation in the very gathering that is destined to chart the future course of the Church?
2. Since "some progress" has been made, is it not the case that the situation since October 2006 has changed somewhat?
3. What would be the impact on diocesan assessments, especially in light of the fact that some parishes have not remitted their diocesan assessments in a timely matter -- or at all?
4. Should parishes escrow funds, or should they continue to forward them to the diocesan office, with the diocese placing them in escrow?
5. Would the fact that some parishes had already decided to withhold assessment payments have a negative impact on those parishes that continue to remit their payments in a timely manner, and would the parishes that currently are withholding remit full "back payments" in the future?
6. Might not withholding on the part of individual parishes send a signal that any parish dissatisfied with other issues in the future, especially with regard to the Midwest Diocese, feel free to withhold assessments as an expression of displeasure? Since being seated at a diocesan assembly requires that parishes are current in remitting assessment payments to the diocesan office, would withholding parishes be seated at future diocesan assemblies?
7. Since one of the concerns expressed at the October 2006 assembly involved the desire to see the OCA faithfully follow the Statute of the Church, and since by Statute the dioceses are required to remit assessment payments in a timely manner, might not withholding in itself be a violation
of the very Statute to which assembly delegates demanded faithfulness?
8. Might the withholding of assessments generate insufficient funding for the convocation of an All-American Council in 2008, thereby precluding the very gathering that virtually everyone agrees must be held?
"I agree with all of these concerns, on both ends of the spectrum," Archbishop Job stated in response. "This is why today's meeting is crucial, and why we must attempt to reach a consensus in response to the Palatine Resolution."
In addition to hearing the reports of the deans and the various concerns and problems they shared, each diocesan council member and dean was asked to state his or her personal views.
"While it was clear that there was no consensus on the Palatine Resolution,
it was clear that everyone agreed that a response must be made," said Archbishop Job. "The sincerity of every member of the diocesan council and every dean could hardly be questioned. And it is evident to me that
everyone was experiencing pain with regard to a positive resolution."
It was decided that a resolution "in the spirit of the Palatine Resolution" yet recognizing that the current situation is somewhat different than it was at the time of that resolution needed to be made. To accomplish this, council members and the deans were divided into two groups for the purpose of
drafting an appropriate resolution.
The following resolution was passed by council members -- the deans do not vote -- by a 13-1 margin.
"In the spirit of the resolution passed at the October 2006 Diocesan Assembly in Palatine, IL, and in recognition of the fact that circumstances have changed since that time, we move that the Diocese of the Midwest will
place Central Church assessment payments it receives in escrow, effective 1 September 2007. All diocesan parishes are to remit their Central Church and diocesan assessments to the diocesan treasurer in the usual manner.
Assessment payments will be forwarded to the Central Church as noted below.
"1. The July 2007 assessment payments to the Central Church will be remitted at a special meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops called in accordance with the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America.
"2. The August 2007 assessment payments to the Central Church will be remitted after the release to all Church members of all reports of the special investigation commission and when the commission renews its unhindered investigation, as directed by the Metropolitan Council.
"3. The October 2007 assessment payments to the Central Church will be remitted when a clear plan for convening an All-American Council in 2008 is announced.
"If one or any of the aforementioned points are not fulfilled the diocese will place all assessment payments to the Central Church is escrow until the requested actions are fulfilled."
Addressing the many concerns with regard to parishes that are already withholding assessments, Archbishop Job stated that he would contact these parishes and inform them that funds placed in escrow must be sent to the diocesan treasurer, who will escrow them. Archbishop Job also stated that parishes that fail to remit assessment payments will not be seated at the October 2007 diocesan assembly.
"The final resolution, I am convinced, addresses the issues at hand in a firm, yet practical, manner," Archbishop Job said. "And while 'extreme times require extreme measures,' this resolution -- and the 'benchmarks' for progress it includes -- is fair, balanced, and clearly in the spirit of the
A number of other matters, including a one-time $10.00 increase in diocesan
assessments for 2008 to ensure sufficient funding for the ongoing work of the parish health ministry program conducted by Mr. Joseph Kormos, were discussed and acted on before the meeting closed at precisely 4:00 p.m.
"I think that the resolution passed today will have a major, positive impact," said Archbishop Job. "I am confident that the concerns of the Midwest faithful will be heard and acted upon, and that perhaps our decisions today will mark a 'turning point' after over a year of confusion and intense concern."
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