Editors Note: In Part I we noted that the OCA’s administrative model is based on an outmoded, eparchial mode of ecclesial administration –this despite the fact that the OCA has been autocephalous since 1970. Dissatisfaction with the present way of doing things is manifested in many ways, particularly in the method of funding the central church admnistration. Presently, the Diosese of New York/New Jersey is proposing a decrease in the per capita assessment from $105 to fifty dollars. In this part, we will discuss the finances of the central administration, which is headquartered in Syosset and the real-world implications that the siphoning of money at the present rate has for Dioceses.
Part II. Syosset: A Trajectory of Failure
The New York Plan
Melanie Ringa, the Treasurer for the OCA has released a report (.pdf) in anticipation of the upcoming All-American Council. Although it is concerned with the costs of the central church administration, it must be viewed in the broader context of what it means for the OCA as a whole. The picture is not a pretty.
Interestingly, the report presents a way out of the morass albeit unwittingly: buried in the final paragraphs of this report is mention of the dissatisfaction from several of the Dioceses with the present way of funding operations. One Diocese in particular (New York/New Jersey), has proposed a resolution of funding the central administration which has become known as The New York Plan. As noted in Part I, this resolution aims to cut assessments to Syosset by over 50 percent. To be sure, this alternative budget is shocking to the central administration but in reality, it actually provides a life-jacket to the Dioceses (to be dicussed later), allowing them to grow by focusing on the needs of each Diocese as they see fit.
That this is alarming to the present regime is obvious. When discussing the alternative budget Ms. Ringa writes in foreboding tones about what this will mean for the Church as a whole. To her credit, she sees the urgency of the questions that were put to her by some of the Dioceses earlier in the year and why some would view the alternative budget as preferable.
Nevertheless, their concerns are dismissed seemingly out of hand because there is no time to give them due consideration. As Ringa writes, “These are questions that need to be addressed PRIOR [sic] to determing the level of assessment required.” In any event, the Treasurer’s Report for the AAC that she provides only mentions the New York Plan but not the actual numbers on how a budget of this size would actually look, thus making it difficult for the delegates to make an informed decision one way or the other.
Accounting of Present Finances
So where are we as far as the finances of the central administration are concerned? According to the latest budget for the OCA, the costs of funding the Central Chancery (CC) in Syosset for the year 2010 are as follows:
|Programs & Ministries:||$131,472|
To be fair, these numbers (like all numbers) mean nothing unless they are viewed in a larger context. Specifically how many members the OCA has, whether these numbers are a realistic representation of the actual members that attend church regularly, whether they reflect growth, and how much each diocese must submit as a percentage of its budget in order to fund the CC.
Questions that Need to be Asked
Once answered, then other questions need to be asked, especially:
1. Are all of the CC’s functions mandatory?
2. Can any of them be devolved to the dioceses?
3. Could the dioceses make better use of the savings?
Unfortunately none of them are asked by Ms. Ringa. Instead we are given ominous warnings about the “elimination of personnel and ability to function and to fulfill our duties” without any clear indication what these duties are. We are instead given anodyne assurances that at “the end of this Council” answers to other questions such as “Who Are We?”, “Where Are We Going?”, and “How Do We Get There?” which will be “…hopefully provided by the Strategic Planning Committee.”
Interestingly, since 2006, all categories within the OCA’s budget have shown a decline, both on the credit side of the ledger as well as the expense. This should not be surprising as the population of the OCA has declined as well. Shockingly, the present budget submitted for the AAC’s consideration is based on the subset of 22,000 actual givers.
A Dire Picture
This of course is an appalling statistic. If true, then the OCA for all intents and purposes is far smaller than even the “second tier” of Orthodox jurisdictions and should no longer be considered part of the so-called Big Three (the other two being the GOA and AOCNA). There are actually dozens of mega-churches throughout the United States which have congregations larger than this. How dire is the picture? According to Ringa’s report:
1. Diocesan assessments have decline steadily during this time period.
2. The Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards contributions have gone from $146,000 in 2006 to only $7,971 as of June 30, 2011.
3. The sum of Charities, Ministries, Seminaries, Theological Education and General Contributions has gone from $344,895 to $9,399 as of June 30, 2011.
4. Total revenues have fallen from $3.3 million to $2.6 million (2006-2010).
More importantly for purposes of this essay (which proposes switching the majority of Syosset’s functions to the Dioceses), Program and Ministry funding has been reduced from a high of $670,000 in 2008 to $130,000 in 2010.
What Does Syosset Provide?
The question that the Dioceses seem to be asking is “what are we getting for our giving?” Syosset is unable to provide a satisfactory answer. Regardless, this question will continue to be asked and eventually will be answered one way or the other.
For example, the most recent Chancellor for the OCA continued to receive a compensation of $140,000 even though he was fired from this position by the Holy Synod in late February. Based on the numbers provided, the average administrative salary is a little over $90,000. It remains the case that the former Chancellor continues to receive the same benefits package which at the very least calls into question the integrity of the present administrative model. Athough this may seem harsh, what other description can be given to such a tin-eared assessment which seems unaware of the severe economic pressures that currently afflict our nation (to say nothing of our Church).
How is this funded? Monomakhos has been told by reliable sources that the Diocese of the West gives 41% of its operating budget to Syosset while the South gives 40%. According to this same source, the Diocese of New England gives 56%. Shockingly, the Diocese of New York/New Jersey gives almost 90% percent!
These are staggering numbers. In real-world terms, this translates into tens of thousands of dollars that are not being used to build missions, endow ministries such as soup kitchens, or help augment the salaries of priests, who compared to priests in other jurisdictions have meager salaries. Evangelism –and thus growth–is moribund under this scenario. It cannot be otherwise.
Real World Implications
What are the real world implications of these numbers? Let us look directly at the Diocese of New York/New Jersey, which gives the most (percentage-wise). According to that Diocese’s Treasurer’s Report for 2010 (.pdf), the assessment to Syosset from NY/NJ was $452,780. Total income however was $511,787. This means that a staggering 88.7% of all monies collected by that Diocese went to support Syosset.
That means that barely 12 percent is left to fund the Diocese itself. Out of that remaining 12 percent, $48,402 was left to pay the total compensation package for the Bishop, $18,800 was left to pay for missions, and $27,000 for the total chancery staff. This is unconscionable. Based on these figures alone, the Diocese of New York’s long-term future is questionable.
Some critics of course could counter that this astonishing number is the driving force behind the New York Plan. In any event, this is neither here nor there because if this particular Diocese were given some exemption from paying this staggering sum (which would have to happen in order to remain viable), then other Dioceses would seek redress as well. If that is the case, then the $105 per capita assessment would then be a nullity regardless of whether it remains on the books or not.
Part III. Syosset: Ends, Means, Wants and Necessities (coming soon)
Part IV. Back to the Future? A History of the Diocese of the South (coming soon)
View entire essay (coming soon)