Beginning in October of 2016, and continuing through early 2017, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, and the officers of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council learned that the Archdiocese faced a severe and complex financial deficit that had been building for several years.
Concurrently, Archbishop Demetrios recommended a new leadership team, which was elected by the full Archdiocesan Council. George Tsandikos, managing director of Rockefeller & Company in New York, was named as Vice President. Michael Psaros, co-founder and managing director of KPS Capital Partners, was appointed Treasurer. Catherine Walsh, a long-serving member of the executive committee and chair of the Archdiocesan Council's legal committee, was named Secretary. In early September 2017, Archbishop Demetrios asked His Grace Bishop Andonios, the Chancellor, to assume key administrative oversight and responsibilities after the former Executive Director of Administration resigned.
"We were utterly surprised and saddened by the deficit, and by its unexpected nature," His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios said. "The painful and unavoidable steps we are taking to correct the situation will have significant impact on the operations of the Archdiocese, and we are moving decisively and with conviction to correct flaws in financial controls and operations revealed in the crisis and to rebuild our finances."
"The Holy Eparchial Synod, the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council and I want our clergy and faithful to be fully informed about what happened and what we are doing to overcome our problems," His Eminence said.
Through the generosity of Treasurer Michael Psaros, the new leadership team has engaged Grant Thornton, one of the world's largest independent accounting and consulting firms, to conduct a thorough operations review and provide a report that will include recommendations on proper internal controls and procedures on how to create a world-class ecclesiastical not for profit institution.
The final report will be received in October 2017 and the results will be shared with the Executive Committee, Archdiocesan Council, and the public. The Chancellor will implement its recommendations.
In the interim, the new leadership team has significantly changed Archdiocesan processes and begun implementing internal controls and procedures. These changes, implemented in a brief few months, should bring order, structure and integrity, to the operations of the Archdiocese. The following steps have been implemented:
A new Chair of the Archdiocesan Council's Finance Committee is going to be named.
The Director of Finance was relieved of his duties.
The Archdiocese will appoint members to an Independent Audit Committee. Members will be required to have a professional background as CPAs and auditors.
A search has begun to retain an accounting firm to perform an independent forensic audit of the Archdiocese finances for the past 3 years.
An independent forensic audit of St. Nicholas will be conducted and is in process. An Independent Committee is being formed for this purpose and the accounting firm Price Waterhouse Cooper has been retained.
Archbishop Demetrios appointed Fr. Soterios Baroody as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Archdiocese. Father Baroody holds a Bachelor in Business Administration and a Master of Accounting Degree. Prior to his appointment, the Archdiocese did not have the position of CFO.
Approximately a 25% across the board staff reduction at the Archdiocese has been implemented. If stewardship levels remain at last year's level, the Archdiocese may operate at near break-even levels next year.
Approximately a 25% reduction in operating cash costs have been implemented
General administrative costs, including staff cell phones, credit cards, travel and expense accounts, have been reduced and/or eliminated.
Personal Message from the Archbishop
My beloved, noble, and faithful people of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America,
I greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is The light of the world (John 8:12), The way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6). I am writing to share with you proper information about some serious events that have transpired over the past few months. Everything that we communicate herein is in conformity with St. Paul's directive to be truthful and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
We have been working together in our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America for over 18 years. During these 18 years, we have encountered—in executing our sacred work—joy, love, harmony, achievement, and unity, but also sadness, apathy, hardship, distancing, and enmity. As members of the Orthodox Church, which is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), we have worked with most sincere dedication to the cause of promoting in America the Orthodox Christian Faith, as well as the universal values of the Hellenic Tradition. Over the past 18 years, we have worked earnestly together to follow the saving way of the truth and life of the Gospel. During this same period of time, we gratefully ascertained the fact that, by the grace of God, significant and verifiable progress has been realized in all areas of our Archdiocese.
There have been, however, in our course of difficult and complicated tasks, unexpected socio-economic circumstances and organizational deficiencies for which we genuinely regret. As an Archdiocese, we consider even the last dollar given for the work of the Church to be sacred. Like the story in the Gospel of the widow giving her two copper coins (Mark 12:41-44), the image of an elderly woman, living on a limited income, giving generously to the Church whatever she can in order to promote the Gospel of Christ, is constantly in our minds.
Confronted by the recent realization of a number of financial difficulties and problems, we, as an Archdiocese, took appropriate measures for correction. As a result of these measures, we are already seeing positive outcomes, thus gaining better perspectives. A very important part of correcting these previous inadequacies and deficiencies is the much better arrangement and systemic enhancement of the administrative and financial management of the Archdiocese.
Many of you may be familiar with the fact that in the long life of the Church, even in the "golden age" of the Patristic period and the era of the 7 Ecumenical Councils, many theological, political, social and financial difficulties were constantly present, causing confusion, pain, and serious concern. Did these difficulties prevent the Holy Spirit from working through the Church? No. Did they stop the proliferation of the Gospel? No. Rather, these times were marked by amazing progress and dynamic development of the Church. Even so to this day, with the present difficulties which our Archdiocese is currently facing, there is absolutely no doubt that this is a limited time frame which does not prevent us in any way from fully working and responding to our established obligations and our calling to offer as Orthodox Christians the full, genuine and saving message of Christ's Gospel.
We are living in an age of post-truth, confusion and disorientation. We are urgently called to confront this challenge, and to fulfill our sacred apostolic mission of offering love and truth in the name of Christ. Now is the time to more fervently continue working together for the present and the future of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In light of all that has transpired, we must learn from the past and grow together stronger as a Church family. While the pain and the memory of our past insufficiencies and mistakes will always remain with us, we are aware that we are a Church that does not preach despair, but rather, hope. Having this hope as our sure and steadfast anchor (Heb. 6:19), we echo the inspiring words of St. Paul: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, we press on towards the goal (Phil. 3:13-14). This goal is for each and every one of us to wholeheartedly respond to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ, As the Father has sent me, even so I send you (John 20:21) ... I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide (John 15:16), constantly keeping in mind that we are the voice of Christ in this changing and wounded world. And may our Merciful and Almighty God be always with all of us, leading us in every good work.
With paternal love in Jesus Christ our Lord,
✝ Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America
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