Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
The position of Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), an Assembly of Bishops Agency that focuses on the needs of Orthodox Christian College students, has been eliminated which terminates the work of the present director. Why? A copy of the director’s letter to the Board dated June 13 indicates a disagreement with the accounting principles employed by the Board of Directors. OCF has issued a statement regarding the departure of the Executive Director. The Agency does not have the funds to do its job. It could not meet payroll. The Board wanted to use funds donated for a specific program, Real Break, and transfer them to meet payroll. The Executive Director objected, because the funds were donated and designated for the specific purpose of Real Break and not for operating expenses.
During the last fifteen years, OCF has had four different locations. It has had at least four different executive directors. The dedicated staff has helped it stay together. Finally, a trained and competent individual with a vision, with management skills, with fundraising skills, who had specific training in nonprofit management, was hired but then let go, because that individual was trying to make the program work.
Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) has been involved with campus ministry for some 15 years. Father Peter Gillquist of blessed memory, who served on the OCL Advisory Board, brought this ministry to our attention. The OCL Board has funded scholarships to the Real Break program, provided a $15,000 grant to OCF St John College, Maryland to coordinate OCF at Annapolis, St John’s and the University of Maryland. It hosted two workshops to help establish OCF on college campuses. One such program was held at Drexel University which included students from the area. The good practices of Real Break at Rutgers University were highlighted. The then chairman of the OCF board wrote an e mail to students in the area not to attend, because he said OCL is not an authorized agency.
The most successful OCF program is in the Cleveland area. Two OCL board members were the driving force in establishing and funding this program which coordinates programs on four campuses with a hired staff. Now area churches provide funding for the program. It is a model of good practices for the national OCF Program.
The present difficulties are an opportunity for all of us who are concerned about the future of the Orthodox Church and the retention of our children to raise some questions. Who has accounting oversight responsibilities with the work of the Assembly Agencies? Why are not the various youth committees within the different Orthodox jurisdictions consolidated to avoid duplication and to more economically utilize the stewardship resources donated by the laity? What do the various jurisdictions contribute to the work of the youth ministries? Should there be a more open process in selecting board members who serve on the agency boards? What can we as parents of college students, OCF alumni, concerned Orthodox Christians, do to assist OCF be a more transparent and accountable agency? How does the work of the Assembly of Bishops overcome ethnic concerns to make the agencies truly Pan-Orthodox, meeting the spiritual needs of the faithful they are organized to serve?
OCL Executive Director
Dear friends at OCL,
This is heartbreaking. By eliminating the leadership of OCF, the Orthodox heads are in effect saying to Orthodox college youth: “Go to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meetings, or Campus Crusade for Christ meetings, or to Navigators meetngs, or else just stop attending Christian gatherings near campus.” This is a good way to drive our youth away from the Orthodox Church!
Sincerely in Christ,
Dr. Robert D. Hosken
It sounds as if the OCF Board of Directors — and the Assembly of Bishops — have learned nothing from the travails of the OCA over financial mismanagement and improprieties. The Board of Directors, individually and corporately, have a fiduciary responsibility to use funds only as they were intended by the donors. Money in a restricted account is not fungible; it cannot, and should not, be used for any purpose other than that for which it was donated without the express permission of the donor(s). What the OCF Board of Directors should have done was (a) publish an appeal through all of the jurisdictions for funds to cover the payroll expenses, and (b) publish all of the OCF financial data in normal set of financial statements, i.e., the current budget, balance sheets, etc. These actions are what good stewards would do; what the OCF Board of Directors proposed doing is wrong, it is a sin.
I am one of the individuals referred to in the base article who started the OCF program in Cleveland in 2005. My friend, George Kappos, and I were shocked when we read the statistic that over 60% of our youth leave the Orthodox Church after they enter college and we felt that we had to do something about it. Today we have chapters at the four major universities in Cleveland with 170 Orthodox youth participating and enjoying the support of our local clergy and parishes. We have a paid staff and a Board of prominent local Orthodox lay as well as clergy. Financial support is provided primarily by donations from the local Orthodox churches.
We did all this without the assistance of the national office of the OCF, not because we didn’t ask, but because they had very little support to offer in terms of financial or staff. When Jennifer Nahas appeared on the scene as the Director things began to happen. She visited us here in Cleveland and spoke about hiring area directors in the various parts of the country to support local chapters and expand the almost defunct national program. When she told me of her paltry $250,000 budget I winced and told her she needed to ask for $1 million in order to make any meaningful stride. Jennifer had the drive and the vision to make the program a success if she was given the right resources. She wasn’t and her refusal to use funds restricted for other uses resulted in her being let go. What a shame to lose someone of Jenifer’s stature.
It is a disgrace for our bishops to be claiming to have an OCF program when in fact they do not have anything that works. How does an annual budget of $250,000 compare to Hillel’s $94 Million and the Catholic Church’s $100 Million?
andy,you are so correct.bishops would rather spend money on ethnic”doings’ than on maintaining orthodoxy.
Hmmmm…… I predict in the future that you will see an announcement that due to “organizational” restructuring all OCF activities will be placed under the supervision of the GOA youth ministry office. This will be the end of any type of united American Campus ministry.