A Personal Account: The Metropolitan Council Gets Down To Business

Author: Mark Stokoe
Date Published: 02/25/2009

To understand what took place at the recent business sessions of the Metropolitan Council, held February19-20, as opposed to an outline of the decisions that can be published at this time, it is necessary to reflect for a moment on what the purpose of a Metropolitan Council, a Diocesan Council or even a Parish Council is. There are certainly statutes and by-laws which define duties, and as theoretical statements, they are more or less adequate. After 30 years of practical experience of serving on all three, however, I would say the theoretical statements fail to capture a rarely-spoken, but often fundamental assumption held by many Orthodox Christians about the purposes of such bodies. As it was put to me years ago in its most blunt form: ”Your job is not to discuss or decide – your only job is to make possible what (His Beatitude, Vladyka, Father) wants.”

Much depends on how one reacts to the above statement. If one agrees, the recent Metropolitan Council was not a great success.

If one believes conciliar structures have different roles to play than simply to enable personalities or offices, one would have to be pleased with the amount of honest, open, often profound, discussion that took place; the real, civil and respectful debate that ensued, and the real and often difficult, decisions that were taken. Since almost half of the members (12 of 29, including myself) were ”newbies”, I took this as a real sign of hope for the future.

Day Two

The business portions of the Council meeting began on Thursday morning, February 19th, following the Divine Liturgy. As OCA.org described it: ” …Upon the recommendation of Metropolitan Jonah, the Council decided that each of its committees will include as non-voting liaisons one representative from the Lesser Synod and one from the Chancery administration.” True, but more significantly, the Council did not passively agree with the Metropolitan’s recommendations about who should serve on what Committees. Rather, the Council agreed that existing Committees and chairmanships would continue, and that all members should, as in the past, choose to serve on that Committee(s) that best reflected their own understanding of their talents and interests. Not surprisingly, Finance/Investments and Strategic Planning became the largest; while Charities and Legal, as they required special qualifications, were changed to ”Special Committees” requiring fewer actual Council members as participants. Chairs will be elected by the committee members – a process which is still ongoing. A full list of all the Committees and their Chairpersons, members, consultants, etc., as well as the reports from each Committee, will no doubt be published as part of the Minutes of the Council, which should be forthcoming.

Suffice it to say that the Council, now bearing the burden of legal actions stemming from poor decisions by the prior administration, has agreed to many changes in how some matters will now be handled. This included a review of the OCA’s investments in these troubled times, the adoption of an official ”Crisis Management” plan so that when a crisis erupts it can be dealt with in a timely, professional, and appropriate manner, and other proactive measures any responsible ”Board of Trustees” would undertake. Like requiring officers and employees dealing with money to be bonded, now and forevermore…

The Council also exercised a new responsibility stemming from a decision of the recent All-American Council. As OCA.org reported: ”Previously, the OCA Statute directed that appointments to this (Audit) Committee be made by the All-American Council. However, at the 15th All-American Council in November 2008, a Statue amendment was passed that authorized the Metropolitan Council to make appointments to this committee.The Metropolitan Council is now engaged in a search for members of the OCA