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Author Topic: Bishop Nikolai and the "Russian" Orthodox church of Alaska?  (Read 49105 times) Average Rating: 0
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Bono Vox
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« on: February 25, 2008, 04:26:44 PM »

I am utterly dumbfounded that action has not been taken against Bishop Nikolai of Alaska by the synod of bishops. I believe this just shows the state of the OCA. I guess the Orthodox church in Alaska is now the "Russian" Orthodox church?

The article by Fr. Michael Oleksa best summarizes what is going on


Alaska Today

by Fr. Michael Oleksa

I have loved Alaska since the day I arrived on Kodiak Island nearly 40 years ago. I don’t think that is a secret within the Orthodox Church in America. I was recruited here by the Alutiiq village of Old Harbor, the oldest Orthodox community in the New World, and have researched the history, and studied the missiological principles that have guided the Church here for more than three decades. By now, I am the senior active parish priest in the diocese. So in such times of confusion or crisis, I feel obliged to offer my perspective for the Church’s consideration, hoping to achieve some consensus and formulate a common vision we can all affirm and embrace.

The Identity of the Alaskan Mission

When Gregory Shelikov recruited monastics to come to Kodiak in 1793, he had no idea what the long range ramifications of this mission would be. It is immediately clear, however, from the very first communications the Valaam monks sent back to him and to their igumen, they understood their focus to be “the Americans.” This was the exclusive term they used when discussing their flock. They were here to bring the fullness of the Gospel, the Orthodox Faith, to the people of America. On the Centennial of their arrival, Valaam published a book entitled “The Orthodox Spiritual Mission to America.” They did not at the beginning, nor a hundred years later, identify their task as transplanting “Russian” Orthodoxy, or language, or culture, to Alaska.

In fact, in the 1890’s, challenged by American Protestant invasion that was militantly assimilationist, a federally supported program to enculturate Alaska Natives, forcing them to speak English exclusively and convert to Protestant Christianity, Orthodox clergy here specifically renounced all association with cultural, social or political goals. They correctly noted that “European civilization is not nearly so Christian as many fancy.” They insisted that their focus was exclusively spiritual, and there was nothing “Russian” about their mission, except that Russia had been the birthplace of many of their leaders.

Alaskan Orthodox celebrate with pride services in a variety of languages. Church Slavonic may be included, but there has never been, until the last five years, any attempt to impose a “Russian” identity on the Church here. In fact, there is sufficient archival evidence to indicate that the clergy here have always refrained from identifying as “Russian,” even when they themselves were. This was necessary in the face of the American Protestant attacks on Orthodoxy as, precisely, a foreign, a “Russian” religion, to which they offered an “American” alternative. Our missionaries correctly insisted that the choice was between the True Faith and heretical sects, but this had nothing to do with national or ethnic labels.

St. Innocent’s recommendations to the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod state emphatically his vision that the transfer of Alaska to American rule represented a great missionary opportunity for bringing Orthodoxy to America, by appointing an English-speaking Bishop and clergy, translating liturgical books into English and ordaining American converts. The Church has always been, in the minds of her saints, in America for Americans, and needs to adjust her procedures and mentality, her style and her structures to accommodate this society, this culture, in this land, as She successfully did in Alaska. St. Innocent and St. Jacob’s success in Alaska offers a paradigm for the progress of the Mission across the continent.

This requires a deep knowledge, appreciation and love for the people and culture into which the Mission is sent. One cannot teach, sanctify or save what one does not love. We must embrace the place, the land, the people, the culture and present Orthodoxy as the fulfillment of what was already here, as the “rest of the story,” the completion of whatever has gone before. The Alaskan Mission studied and built upon the pre-Christian cultural attitudes, customs and foundations, so that Orthodoxy here was enculturated, became indigenous, within two or three generations. All that is being denied and renounced today as we are forced to rename ourselves “Russian Orthodox.” We are not. We are Alaskan Orthodox.

For the last five years, Alaskans have been repeatedly lectured on the correctness of all current Russian liturgical practices. Having defined us as “Russian Orthodox,” it is our destiny to replicate here whatever customs, practices, gestures, rules, disciplinary procedures, or attitudes prevail there, in “holy” Russia. The customs, traditions and practices that have organically evolved here, among the Native people, have no value or validity. We have been told that there is “no Alaskan style.” But our usages and practices have been developing for more than two centuries. Why should the Gospel be read twice, in Slavonic and then in English, as if our parishes had recently received a large influx of refugee Russians? Why should we sing the Lord’s Prayer twice, also in Slavonic, or repeat the prayer before Communion, as if there were so many newly arrived Russians in our midst. There aren’t any. The imposition of Russian practices and Slavonic language is purely artificial, an attempt to create a Russian identity in the one diocese where this is completely out of place. Alaska probably has the lowest number of Slavic Orthodox of any diocese in the OCA!

The Methodology

Certainly the way the new Russian Identity has been imposed presents another set of issues. None of us were consulted, no consensus was ever reached, our opinions were never solicited. If they had been, we would have, I believe, nearly unanimously rejected the move to identify Alaskan with Russian Orthodoxy. We do not believe for an instant that all things Russians are ipso facto “right” and all usages and practices Alaskan were in themselves “wrong.” Some of the “Russian” norms now required of us are not, in fact, truly Russian, but the personal preferences and whims of the bishop. But that is another matter.

St. Patriarch Tikhon was pressured during his tenure in America to create and impose a uniform ustav, but refused. He insisted, I believe correctly, that in America
many various national styles would need to flourish side by side, and that a wide variety of musical and liturgical styles would and should evolve here, until at some distant time American Orthodoxy would create a new synthesis, embodying the best from all of them.
That is the vision we have been forced to abandon against our will, in the name of obedience.

Obedience is the chief concern and the most often preached topic in Alaska, for it is in obedience that we are being asked, no forced, to accept the “corrections” and “guidelines” as well a the decrees periodically issued by the bishop and chancellor. Obedience in itself is, first of all, not a spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit brings love, joy, peace, self-control, but not obedience. Obedience is a means to an end, and a very useful, even essential means, provided one has found a loving spiritual father whose guidance one freely accepts in full confidence that all that whatever the elder commands is not for the elder’s benefit or satisfaction, but for the one’s own salvation. A monk entrusts himself to a “master” who so totally loves him that he can accept every request and order as if from God, knowing that the spiritual father would die for him, would sacrifice himself for him, and would never act in any way to hurt or harm him, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

Obedience in itself, however is neutral. Blindly obey and conform to every wish of an evil person and you will become evil. Faithfully obey and conform to every dictate of a saint, and you will become saintly. Obedience in itself can be dangerous. Every Nazi war criminal used “obedience” to some higher authority as the excuse for his demonic behavior. Blind obedience to hierarchial leadership would have led Orthodox Christians into Arianism, Nestorianism, Monotheletism, Iconoclasm and Uniatism. The Church has never demanded that the clergy and laity abandon their own God-given intelligence, suspend all judgment, and blindly obey any human leader or leaders. Freedom, St. Gregory of Nyssa writes, is the very image of God in human beings. Our ability to think, reason and choose is the very essence of our humanity.

True Christian obedience is freely given because of the bond of total love and trust between the novice and his spiritual guide. It can never be demanded, enforced or imposed. Using anger or the threat of anger to control others is neither traditional monasticism nor even Christianity. The Devil seeks domination and control. The Evil one demands total submission. Christ grants us full freedom.

As Father Alexander Schmemann once said, “If God were interested in imposing His Authority on us, He never would have come to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.”

Yet the whole diocese, the clergy and many of the laity, have cowered before the bishop in fear of arousing his ire. We are bullied and threatened, verbally abused and insulted, suspended and deposed into obedience. The seminarians at Kodiak are lectured on the necessity of total and unquestioned obedience to the Bishop as if to Christ Himself.
The identification of anyone or anything with God is the very definition of idolatry. To equate any human person’s word or will, priest or patriarch with God’s, is a dangerous confusion. I would call it “episcopolatry,” the worship of bishops, the confusion of the bishop’s word and will with God’s Word and God’s Will. It is a heresy that needs to be further analyzed. It is perhaps more widespread in Russia than any other country I have visited.

It is precisely the Russian tendency toward authoritarianism that disturbs us most as the Russian Church is held before us as an ideal we need to emulate. It was, rather, the Russian Church that rediscovered the principle of sobornost, of conciliarity, in the Orthodox Tradition and reaffirmed it. It was on this basis that the Orthodox Church in America drafted and approved her constitution, affirming and implementing the decisions of the Moscow Council of 1917, even when in Russia itself these decisions were never fully implemented, in the face of the bloodiest persecution the Church has ever endured.

Certainly the abuse of Episcopal authority, the temptation for the hierarchy to behave in dictatorial and abusive ways, created the environment in which Bolshevik propagandists could agitate successfully for the murder of all clergy, whether personally guilty of such inappropriate and unchristian behavior or not.

How else can one explain that, for the first time in history, the clergy who were murdered, tortured and exiled in Russia were the victims of baptized, chrismated Orthodox laity? The Russian Church is reluctant to consider how her own shortcomings and sins may have provoked much of the violence against her, the world’s most fearsome persecution of any Church, not perpetrated by “pagans” or “infidels” but by her own sons and daughters. Certainly there was something deeply wrong, within the Church and not just outside Her, to produce the ferocity of hatred and violence from which the Church suffered at the hands of her own children. Why should we today, a century later, in another land, living in very different social, political, economic and spiritual conditions, seek to emulate, to restore that mentality and that system here?

We are already producing laity who dislike, reject and even hate the new identity, the new authoritarian mentality, the entire system which has been imported and imposed in the name of the “correct” the “right” and the “true Russian Orthodox” way. And some of the requirements, such as the demand that clergy wear their cassocks everywhere in public at all times, are rather inconvenient and impractical in villages without paved roads or sidewalks and no indoor plumbing for doing laundry. Everyone who has visited Russia knows that priests there almost never appear in public in their cassocks, but we are told we are being molded to fit their patterns and practices, which is simply untrue.

Has anyone, any clergy or laity, in public or private, raised any objections? Perhaps they have, but we have not been informed of it. They were rebuked, punished, silenced. There is a revealing story about Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s response to an American journalist who submitted a question at a news conference, when Khrushchev was touring the USA in 1959, asking if Nikita was so opposed to Stalin’s policies, why hadn’t he denounced them much sooner. Khrushchev angrily pounded the lecturn and demanded that the reporter who had had the gall to raise such a question stand and identify himself. When no one dared rise, Khrushchev calmly noted “That’s what I was doing!”

The clergy and the laity here are like that cowering newsman. We have not dared stand, for fear of being rebuked, humiliated, jailed, “executed.” There is not much use losing one’s place, one’s dignity, one’s ministry for nothing. If we are going to be punished for daring to disagree with the new Russian identity that has been imposed, the new Russian style autocracy that has been imposed, the new police-state terror that has been imposed, we will have to do so together.

Some are reluctant to disagree or oppose the Master in any way, falsely assuming that “Vladyka” indicates total control, as a slave master appointed by God. But our “master” is supposed to indicate a maestro, as the conductor of a symphony orchestra, who brings us into harmony with each other, as we produce beauty, joy, peace, love, kindness, gentleness, the Gifts of the Spirit. We do not know with any certainty how our brothers feel, because we need to be careful to whom we express our real thoughts or feelings. We have the sense that some clergy are spies, reporting, tattling to the bishop. If they catch wind of any criticism, any “plots” against the Throne, any subversive Disobedience, there will be negative repercussions..

We know that some closely attached to the bishop totally believe in his policies, and fully support, in obedience, his every directive and dictate. They claim to love him, and seek to fulfill his will as if it were Christ’s. But we see him attack, abuse, insult, harm, wound, hurt others each day. Any one can be grumpy, speak with irritation or anger, at one time or another. Here, this behavior is not a matter of mood, but of orientation and deliberate policy. Anger in Alaska is a means of control, the way in which we have been silenced, coerced, manipulated and emasculated. We are certain that even those close to the bishop are not blind to this, cannot have missed the many painful, unkind encounters, the shaming and cruel treatment so many have received from Our Leader.

We have priests who have been abruptly transferred or dismissed from their parishes because they upset the bishop, even unintentionally. We have priests who have been denied permission to leave their parishes to attend funerals for their immediate family members. We have priests who regret ever having been ordained, and we have matushki who fear for their husbands, resent the way they themselves are coerced and bullied, and who dread any contact with the bishop.

He has an incredible capacity for unkindness, but kindness should be the easiest of all the virtues to fake, if one had to. Love and patience, humility, or self-control are probably hard to falsify, but kindness should be one attribute one might, at least, pretend to have. We are fearful of his unkindness.

Our People have a history of patience and longsuffering. Our priests love their flocks and their communities. When it was only they who knew and suffered, they were willing to endure. But these attitudes, procedures, behaviors and rules by now have filtered down to effect many laity. We find fewer at services. We receive fewer donations. We hear of entire families refusing to participate or support the parish or the diocese. When the bishop comes, attendance drops. The priests are not the only ones who are afraid.

We are micro-managed more than any clergy at any time in any diocese anywhere. We feel distrusted, that we cannot make normal pastoral decisions ourselves. Only the Bishop Himself can make what, in any other diocese, are routine pastoral decisions, even though the local priest knows the situation and the individuals involved and the bishop has no direct knowledge. We are forbidden to move about our diocese, and our wives are told that they cannot leave their parishes without securing the bishop’s permission. I have received memos insisting that I have no right to move about within the city in which I live, except to go to church and back, the equivalent of house arrest.

The bishop has forbidden us to baptize children who have not been given Orthodox Christian names. We have parishioners going to the Catholic Church to have their children Christened. Some of the directions we receive make little or no pastoral sense, but we are afraid to disregard them, for fear of being “reported” and incurring the ire of the hierarch. We live in fear more oppressive than what I knew under Soviet occupation during the Cold War in Czechoslovakia. For most of my brothers, this is a new and terrifying condition. For me it is too reminiscent to accept.

The Chancellor and newly appointed Rector of St. Herman’s Seminary had his meltdown last May. None of us blame him. We do not know how he could tolerate living under the bishop’s direct control day in and day out for years. We would have had a breakdown long ago. During his hours of intoxication, several reliable witnesses heard him speak of how intolerable his life had become, how he could no longer endure the abuse, how he wanted to escape. All this he denies now that he has completed rehab, but none of us believe he has always been alcoholic. We believe his position and proximity to the bishop has “driven him to drink,” because we know it would us! We empathize with Fr. Isidore, but his return has confirmed that he will obey and conform to the bishop’s agenda and ideology, and in this he has isolated himself from the rest of us who sought to support and befriend him. This is a tragedy for him and for us all.

We would implore the Holy Synod to conduct a sincere and thorough investigation of that incident, not because it has serious legal repercussions, though it does, but because it allows a window into the deeper and more tragic reality that is the Diocese of Alaska today. We feel imprisoned in our own country, incarcerated by rather than liberated by our priesthood.

We simply ask to be heard. We beg you to give us a voice once again. We have no where else to turn. If you will not invite us to testify, to speak of our own lives, and the spiritual, moral and one might add theological health of our diocese and seminary, we will be forced to retire into that silence once more and endure the retribution that will follow for our daring to speak at all.

May God have mercy on us all.

The unworthy archpriest
Michael J. Oleksa

Feast of Orthodox Theology
Three Hierarchs 2008
Anchorage, Alaska

http://ocanews.org/news/Oleksa-AlaskaToday2.22.08.html

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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2008, 05:15:55 PM »

That is simply the most astonishing and shocking letter I have read in, I can't remember when.  I think Fr. Michael Oleksa has had a lot of respect and is well known and this letter must be a desperate, last chance statement.  He certainly can't expect this won't have repurcussions.  I wonder if he's close to retirement age and is at a point where he can just speak plainly.
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2008, 05:46:23 PM »

I am utterly dumbfounded that action has not been taken against Bishop Nikolai of Alaska by the synod of bishops. I believe this just shows the state of the OCA. I guess the Orthodox church in Alaska is now the "Russian" Orthodox church?

The article by Fr. Michael Oleksa best summarizes what is going on



I think that the OCA Diocese of Alaska has ALWAYS been called the "Russian Orthodox Church" in its name - it's not a new thing.  Other than that, I'm in agreeance w/ Fr. Michael (who, btw, is the former rector of my parish).  +NIKOLAI is out of control.
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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2008, 05:48:53 PM »

That is simply the most astonishing and shocking letter I have read in, I can't remember when.  I think Fr. Michael Oleksa has had a lot of respect and is well known and this letter must be a desperate, last chance statement.  He certainly can't expect this won't have repurcussions.  I wonder if he's close to retirement age and is at a point where he can just speak plainly.

No, he's not that old - only about 60 if I were to guess.
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2008, 10:58:27 PM »

From the times I've heard Fr. Michael speak at various retreats, I have nothing but the deepest respect for the man.

From the time Bishop Nikolai was the chancellor of my diocese (as an archimandrite), I can say only that I could see this coming.

Lord have mercy.
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2008, 11:37:07 PM »

Here is another one


2.22.08
Alaska Reps Resign

From Metropolitan Council,

As Clergy Protest Grows

In a letter to OCA Chancellor Fr. Alexander Garklavs, Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) and Ms. Mina Jacobs have resigned from the Metropolitan Council. More Alaskan native clergy published letters asking the Synod of Bishops for assistance, including Fr. Phillip Alexie, of the Presentation of the Theotokos parish in Nunapichuk, a village in the Kuskokwim River region of western Alaska.

Fr. Alexie's Letter

Following the usual opening, Fr. Alexie writes:

"To begin this letter I want to introduce myself, I am Archpriest Phillip Alexie, I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by His Eminence Archbishop Gregory (Afonsky) on August 1977. I am also given the task of Dean for the Bethel Deanery on the Kuskokwim river which consists of six Priests. This month we Orthodox Christians all over the country received the Issue 'The Orthodox Church', I want to thank and commend Father Vladimir Berzonsky for his article: "Attributes of Priesthood". He writes: 'The attributes are: courage, power, love and sound mind; St. Paul reminds us everyday as he did his spiritual son Timothy, reminding him of 'who he is by Ordination and the gifts imparted to him when he had been set apart for the ministry of Christ.'

When I was a child, I remember very much how the whole village greeted the Bishop throwing flowers on his path to the church singing church hymns. I remember the whole village in church all of them singing, most of them by heart. My mother would take my hands showing me the proper way to receive a blessing from the Bishop. "Jesus is blessing you", she would whisper in my ear.

I remember in my days in seminary wondering and confused what my calling is. My mother instructed me to always listen and obey the leaders of the church, Bishops and Priests not questioning them, She would say, "God speaks to us through his leaders in church, trust them to lead us to the Kingdom of God" so being taught this way it was very hard to begin this letter.

When his Grace Bishop Nikolai first came to Alaska we were joyous and it seemed we were united but it is not so now, as it is getting worse. I am always grateful for the good things he has helped us with. And I always thank from my heart the teachers personally who came from the lower 48 to teach at the Seminary which is very very important to all of us.

During the past year there have been many Orthodox Faithful who have come forward with their concerns for our church in Alaska. And it will get worse if we just sit and watch. The Priests and Faithful are discouraged and hurt of how Bishop Nikolai treats the people, the leaders of the church, the elders and the children. Many of our faithful have computers. Just recently, I was told, which is very saddening to hear, that people of other faiths and even our own people talk about what they read on Internet. Like a soap opera exciting to hear, what will develop tomorrow.

In November at our Annual Diocesan Assembly we were discouraged to hear the reports of both Bishop Nikolai and Archimandrite Isidore/Chancellor, of the situations that happened this past summer. Many of us knew that they both did not tell the truth.

As we enter the season of Preparation to Great Lent, the church in its Great Wisdom calls each one of us to ask ourselves where we are in life. Teaching us how we will enter the Kingdom of God, when we hear the Gospel for the Sunday of the Last Judgement. We just heard the story of the Publican and Pharisee, where we are taught the difference between the two people, Humility and Arrogance. But aren't we also taught to learn also what they had in common?

Finally, I write this letter not in hatred but with Love. Hoping you understand my poor English, but I do not want it as an excuse.

I come before you humbly, unworthy as I am, and ask for your Forgiveness. You who are called to be Shepherds and Guardians of the 'One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church'. Asking for your Holy Prayers and Archpastoral blessings, I remain,

Your humble Servant,
Archpriest Phillip Alexie

Clarification Offered

Interestingly, it was Fr. Alexie who was cited by name by Ms. Jacobs in her letter to the Metropolitan Council earlier this week (read that letter here) as praising the Bishop; a point which Fr. Alexie disputes. In a letter to the Metropolitan Council sent in response to Ms. Jacob's claims, Fr. Alexie clarifies his comments:

"You have received a recent letter from Mina Jacobs supporting Bishop Nikolai. She quoted me in her letter of which I did not know she did. I want to make it very clear of what I spoke at the Board of Trustees meeting in June. As usual I always take a moment to say 'Thank you to the teachers and Supporters of the seminary' and this is what I did. Thanks to all those who support the seminary."

The Uprising Explained

This uprising of the Alaskan clergy is not confined to the Yupik regions of the Yukon and Kuskokwim. According to Fr. Michael Oleksa of Anchorage, in an email sent to OCANews.org: "The clergy of our diocese seem to have reached their breaking point. They recognize that the bishop's policies, and not just his difficult and overbearing personality, are harming, even destroying the Church we love. They are writing appeals to the Holy Synod. By my count 18 have committed either to write their own letter or have strongly agreed with my statement."

(Read Fr. Oleksa's statement here)

In self-defense, I am certain that if the Holy Synod does not intervene, some priests will leave the priesthood, others will be suspended or deposed, and laity will leave the Church. We will witness a schism here between those who accept blind obedience to the hierarch as the norm, and those who reject it as unacceptable."

Fr. Oleksa continued: "Alaska has no significant funds to withhold. We are certainly the poorest as well as oldest diocese.... We are virtually helpless. But this can also be our strength. As the Grandmother, so to speak, can the rest of the Church stand by and watch Alaska be beaten and abused? If our Faithful believers have been quiet or indifferent to the financial scandals, will they remain apathetic to Alaska's plight as well?"

Support From Clergy in the Lower 48

Priests across the lower 48, however, have begun speaking out for Alaska. One open letter, from a family of priests, sums up the current frustration:

"Glory to Jesus Christ!

In the Church 'if one member suffers all suffer together' (1 Cor. 12:26) whether the afflicted one is the perpetrator or the victim because in the Church we are family. We are brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers in Christ. We are God's family, His gathering, His royal priesthood even though we are unworthy -

we are one in Christ.

To hear our Alaskan brethren cry out in such agony suddenly brings focus to our common life. We are jarred into sobriety, called to attention, as we are shaken with near disbelief that our Northern brothers and sisters could possibly be victimized in such cruel ways.

Can such assertions be real? Can a bishop disrupt the hearts, mind, and souls of his flock in such a manner as the Alaskan priests describe - for the 'good of the Church?' Alas, family life is not always a sane life and we do suffer when one or more of us crosses over into the dark side of life. When the father of the family becomes an abuser the whole family becomes unstable and suffering is legion.

It is said that God allows us to suffer so He can crown us with His glory. Like St. Anthony, the Lord stands by and watches our struggles as we learn to carry our cross, but He is there and He cares for us, and His will is done.

A few decades ago, we witnessed another diocese shepherded by an out-of-control bishop who arbitrarily transferred priests from parish to parish. He even transferred lay husbands and wives to separate parishes 'for the good of the Church'. We still have a copy of a letter transferring a priest's dog to a parish and then the priest was retransferred again, but not the dog. The dog died. Capricious, myopic, weird, peculiar, wacky, strange, odd, and bizarre, without "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control"(Gal. 5:22).

That bishop had his supporters. A hand full of women who spent weekends in his monastery for married females idolized him and some business men who printed the diocesan newspaper on the same printing press that allegedly produced commercial pornography catering to the unique tastes of the gay S&M crowd came to his defense when the Holy Synod finally fulfilled their duty and stepped in, freeing that diocese from its turmoil. Everyone needs friends, but "bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33).

We were once told by Someone holier than any of us to "...shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Pt. 5).

It seems to us that our Alaskan brothers are truly humble and truly suffering. We don't know the rest of the story with all of its detail, but we know family life and we are called to weep and to pray with and for our Northern family. And we know that in this fallen world, 'offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!' (Mat. 18:7)

Enough!

"Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

"...Thy will be done."

Archpriest Thaddeus Wojcik,

Holy Assumption Church, Lublin, WI
Priest Christopher Wojcik,

Holy Trinity Church, Clayton, WI
Priest Bartholomew Wojcik,

St. Nicholas Church, Pella, IA

Syosset has not, as yet, offered any public comment.

- Mark Stokoe

http://ocanews.org/news/AlexieLetter2.22.08.html
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2008, 11:42:08 PM »

I have a very high respect for Fr. Michael Oleksa and I am in agreement with his concerns. The most disturbing thing is:

 I have received memos insisting that I have no right to move about within the city in which I live, except to go to church and back, the equivalent of house arrest.



I always been thinking it is a free country.
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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2008, 11:46:31 PM »

A few decades ago, we witnessed another diocese shepherded by an out-of-control bishop who arbitrarily transferred priests from parish to parish. He even transferred lay husbands and wives to separate parishes 'for the good of the Church'. We still have a copy of a letter transferring a priest's dog to a parish and then the priest was retransferred again, but not the dog. The dog died. Capricious, myopic, weird, peculiar, wacky, strange, odd, and bizarre, without "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control"(Gal. 5:22).


Does anyone know which hierarch has been mentioned here? Thank you.
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2008, 09:44:40 AM »

No, he's not that old - only about 60 if I were to guess.

60 is still an age when job change, job loss are very bad for future retirement plans.  I'm even more impressed then that he would make such a bold (some would say rash) statement at this juncture in his career.  I've got a huge amount of respect and admiration for someone who would stand on their principals to this extent.  I am ashamed to admit that I don't know if I could find this much courage and trust in God.
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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2008, 10:51:49 AM »

I didn't see this coming the way Peter the Aleut did, but I can say that I knew Bishop Nikolai when he was chancellor of the OCAs Diocese of the West as well. He can take himself too seriously at times, which can cause problems in talks with the Faithful. I once teased him one on one that, were he not a priest, he could act the role of Rasputin based on his appearance. He reacted by getting all huffy, and saying, "Do you know who Rasputin was ?!" You can tell how far our discussion went after that, even though I meant no disrespect. A different reaction on his part might have been to smile, and say something more humble and life-affirming like, " I hope that I am a good servant of the Lord", while continuing to smile. I also suppose that, had I known Bishop Nikolai better myself, I would not have tried what I thought was an ice-breaker to get conversation going with him. I might have been better off not bothering to talk to him at all, I figure in retrospect, which just underscores the difficulties now surfacing elsewhere.
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« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2008, 10:59:34 AM »

From the times I've heard Fr. Michael speak at various retreats, I have nothing but the deepest respect for the man.

From the time Bishop Nikolai was the chancellor of my diocese (as an archimandrite), I can say only that I could see this coming.

Lord have mercy.
To clarify my earlier words, both Fr. Michael and (then Archimandrite) Nikolai have visited my church in the past.
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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2008, 01:37:57 AM »

Reply to Reply #7-  My guess is that he is referring to Bishop Tikhon of the West, now retired.  It's just a guess.
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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2008, 01:42:50 AM »

Reply to Reply #7-  My guess is that he is referring to Bishop Tikhon of the West, now retired.  It's just a guess.

I would doubt it.  While he was getting crankier and crankier in the last few years, he did nothing of the sort - transferring people all over the place.  He was particular and sometimes cranky, but nothing compared to what +NIKOLAI appears to be doing.
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« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2008, 09:41:37 PM »

BTRAKAS and Elisha,
Thank you very much for your response.
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« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2008, 10:37:37 PM »

Orthodox priests seek ouster of bishop

Nikolai Soraich says he's surprised at allegations of abuse, intimidation

By LISA DEMER
ldemer@adn.com | ldemer@adn.com

Published: February 29th, 2008 12:27 AM
Last Modified: February 29th, 2008 01:01 PM

The Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska is in turmoil. Priests from around the state are seeking removal of the top official here, Bishop Nikolai Soraich. They say he is hurting the church and ruling by intimidation.

"The clergy and probably a large percentage of the laity in the church have reached the point where they believe they can no longer serve with or under Bishop Nikolai Soraich," said the Rev. Michael Oleksa, archpriest at St. Alexis in Anchorage and the best-known Orthodox pastor in Alaska.

"It's the accumulation of years now of what the clergy regretfully but sincerely believe is a matter of personal and collective abuse," he said.

In one example, priests say that the bishop's edicts prevent children without Orthodox Christian names from baptism in the church. They say he's made hurtful comments about Native culture, church buildings and ceremony. His second in command told one group of priests not to speak Yup'ik in front of the bishop. They say they are afraid of him.

Bishop Nikolai, who has served in Alaska nearly seven years and is one of just nine diocesan bishops in North America, said Thursday he is dumbfounded by the criticism and has called a meeting next week in Anchorage to air the concerns. Some priests said they won't go.

"There are people out there who obviously have an issue with everything that I do," the bishop said Thursday. He never told people not to speak Yup'ik, he said.

"I even sent out letters telling them I wanted them to use their Native language," the bishop said.

Calls to the Orthodox Church in America headquarters in Syosset, N.Y., weren't returned Thursday. But there's no doubt the issues are on the radar of national church officials.

"The OCA Chancery is receiving mail and e-mail from clergy of the Diocese of Alaska. There are indications that serious issues exist that may need to be addressed," the Orthodox Church in America said in a release posted Saturday night on the church Web site.

The church's top official in the United States, Metropolitan Herman, has been in touch with Nikolai and the Holy Synod of Bishops, the church's governing body, the release said.

Nikolai said he has no intention of stepping down voluntarily.

"Absolutely not," he said. He said he doesn't know why the priests are speaking out against him but said he has tried to restore order in a diocese where things had been loosely run.

Much of the controversy is playing out on Web sites run by church watchdogs, including one called Orthodox Christians for Accountability.

Discord has been building for years, Alaska priests said.

"In a nutshell, we were so ... free to express ourselves until I'd say about six years ago when Nikolai came in, then pastoral theological teaching just kind of went down the drain," said archpriest Peter Askoar, of Elevation of the Cross of our Lord Church in Russian Mission and a priest for 28 years.

In one of the bishop's early visits to Russian Mission, where just about everyone is Orthodox, he criticized their new church building, made with love by local crews but quirky, with visible supports holding up a sagging roof, Askoar said. The bishop said it wasn't fit for worship, according to Askoar.

The priest was too shocked to respond. He said he understands they need to give whatever they have to the Lord "but this was the best we had to offer."

Priests are especially troubled by an edict Bishop Nikolai gave at a diocesan assembly last year that says babies cannot be baptized unless their legal, given name is Orthodox.

In the past, children had two names, their street name and their church name, Oleksa and Askoar said.

But the bishop told the assembly "if the parents do not give the child an Orthodox Christian name, do not baptist them. Period," Askoar said.

Now, Askoar said, children in his village are waiting to be baptized while their parents work on getting their birth certificates changed by the state.

Bishop Nikolai said the name requirement for baptisms is not a new rule.

In Juneau, the Rev. Michael Spainhoward of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church said that Bishop Nikolai has always treated him well, with kindness and generosity but he has seen the other side, too. Spainhoward has a closer connection to Bishop Nikolai than most because he worked under him as a church deacon in Las Vegas years ago.

"I served with him, and I personally have never been chastised or belittled or humiliated. I have not experienced any of the things they have, but I know it to be possible because I have witnessed it with others," Spainhoward said. He wouldn't go into specifics.

The bishop should resign, he said.

"To come and impose upon and to dismiss all criticism, to dismiss culture, to dismiss all of this, hurts the people, hurts the message of the gospel," Spainhoward said.

Some of the discord arises from a May 2007 situation in Kodiak involving allegations against the second-ranking church official in Alaska, Chancellor Archimandrite Isidore, of drunken sexual misconduct. The accuser, Paul Sidebottom, a teacher at St. Herman's seminary, has filed a sexual harassment complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to The Associated Press, the complaint alleges he was fired by the chancellor and bishop after complaining to Metropolitan Herman.

Bishop Nikolai said an investigation by the church's New York headquarters has already found the allegations unsubstantiated.

Sidebottom's position on Kodiak Island was slated for elimination for budget reasons and his release had nothing to do with the sexual harassment allegation, Bishop Nikolai said. He refused to release the investigative report, saying it was a personnel matter and the diocesan lawyer advised him not to make it public.

There's also the matter of a registered sex offender who was a reader within the church. Bishop Nikolai said he suspended the man after a news story revealed his role with the church. The man now is working at the Russian Orthodox Museum downtown.

Among the bishop's critics are a group of six priests and a deacon from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, who signed a letter to the Holy Synod published on ocanews.org.

"As it is now, we are concerned for the future of the church, the diocese and her faithful in Alaska," they said. "What will become of us if this does not end soon?"

http://www.adn.com/front/story/330186.html
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« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2008, 10:40:43 PM »

3.1.08

BETWEEN DESPAIR & DIGNITY:
ALASKA TURMOIL DEEPENS, SPREADS

• +Nikolai 'Dumbfounded' By Criticism,

    Dismisses Fr. Oleksa After ADN article
•  Chancellor of St. Vladimir's Joins Outcry

   Against +Nikolai
•  Fr. Vasily Fisher's Letter to Synod

The uprising of clergy and laity against the oppressive policies and actions of Bishop Nikolai continues to spread throughout Alaska, in numbers of participants, depth of feeling and power of expression. It has even begun attracting attention beyond the OCA, with the appearance of a front page story yesterday in the state's largest paper, the Anchorage Daily News.


In the Daily News article Bishop Nikolai states he was "dumbfounded by the criticism" and said he has "no intention of stepping down voluntarily." The Bishop is quoted as saying " ...he doesn't know why priests are speaking out against him" but later confessed "he has tried to restore order in a diocese where things had been loosely run." "There are people out there who obviously have an issue with everything that I do," he complained.

Fr. Oleksa "Terminated"

The Bishop was clearly referring to Fr. Michael Oleksa, whose essay 'Alaska Today' helped draw attention to the clergy protest. (Read that essay here) Fr. Oleksa, who in addition to his parish duties in Anchorage is also one of the two visiting instructors brought in by Bishop Nikolai to keep St. Herman's open in the aftermath of the Paul Sidebottom dismissal. In an email late last night to fellow Alaska clergy and to supporters in the lower 48, Fr. Michael wrote:

"Tonight, after I completed my final lecture for my spring semester Native History class I returned home to find an ominous note: 'Fr. Isidore called and wants you to call him on his cell phone. He'll be up till 11 PM.'
Before I had a chance to call, my son John telephoned from Kodiak and we chatted about the press coverage I unavoidably received today, on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News. The data came from the website, and the reporter called just to verify that I had, in fact, written and submitted 'Alaska Today'. But they had my photo in the lower left corner of the half-page article, and the bishop's in the upper right, he claiming 'shock and dismay' at the clergy call for his 'ouster' as the headline read.

I checked my e.mail and there was a message from Bishop NIKOLAI, which I opened with some trepidation. It read 'My Dear Michael,' and stated that I am 'immediately terminated' from my teaching position at St. Herman's Seminary....

I am also banished from the campus of the seminary unless I have the bishop's blessing to enter it. And the note, as if I were being executed, ended with 'May God have mercy on your soul.'....."

Chancellor Hatfield Speaks Out

As news spread of Fr. Oleksa's termination Fr. Chad Hatfield, the former Dean of St. Herman's and current Chancellor of St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York spoke out for the first time publicly about his five years in Alaska under +Nikolai. Fr. Hatfield wrote:

"Dear Archpriest and Father Michael,

I am sorry to hear that you were terminated at SHS (St. Herman's Seminary). As always it will be the Seminarians who will be short-changed. You now join the ranks of the wrongfully terminated at SHS . Maybe you would like to join Paul Sidebottom's EEOC lawsuit?

All of this is just one more sign of life under a totalitarian dictatorship. I recognized the signs well having lived in South Africa for five years during the apartheid era AND five years in Alaska. The head of a Native Corporation one told me that with +N it was 'his way or the highway'.

Can anyone verify that ROSSIA (Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska) has been dismantled because the board members could not work with +N?

The list of recent SHS Board of Trustees members who have been terminated or resigned in the last year is amazing: Ben Ardinger, Betty Slanta, Elena Silk and Cliff Argue. I would guess that Fr. Philip Alexie and Marge Pysarchuk are waiting termination notices too. That says plenty.

Forgiveness is part of a process and that process starts with confession of sins and true repentance. So far, all that we are seeing from Anchorage is denial and plots of revenge.

The Mother Diocese of American Orthodoxy is once again teaching her children. This is a time of great grace and an answer to prayer.

Your brother and con-celebrant,


Fr. Chad"

Hatfield's message suggests that not only the clergy and parishes of the diocese are in turmoil from Bishop Nikolai; but that the Seminary and Seminary Board, as well as associated bodies such as the ROSSIA charity, with whom the Church cooperates.

Fr. Vasily Fisher's Letter

But it is the continuing outpouring of letters from native clergy that reveals the depths of the problems in Alaska today. "Much is being sacrificed for our Faith in our homeland, the home of our spiritual fathers," wrote Fr. Vasily Fisher of Napaskiak, Alaska. "What little I have I commit to this letter," he pleads in his February 26th letter to the Synod of Bishops, "humbly asking that you hear with all haste."

Fr. Fisher's letter begins:

"I am a Yupik, native of the village of Kwethluk, on the Kuskokwim river. I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on the 15th of February, 2007. I just recently celebrated my first year anniversary as a priest quietly with my family. So please forgive me for having the audacity to speak up to my spiritual Shepherds as, I too, see no other way to express this.

I grew up seeing the piety of my elders and relatives. I remember the days when Sunday school was full, and the Church and God was the main heartbeat of the villages. I recall the Kuskokwim Conferences that drew people from all over the State to this gathering. People would come from all over, wanting to be where the Church was, remembering the Orthodox Church teaching that: 'Wherever the Bishop is, there the church is.' And it was so, at those wonderful times when I was growing up. People from all over, coming, not caring about the cost or the struggle to get there, just the thought that they would see the Bishop drove them to make that Pilgrimage. And it was a Pilgrimage, of Faith. Because,.. God had made them worthy to see the Bishop as an Icon of Christ.

These conferences now are just generic versions of what they used to be. Meaningless, spiritless, and graceless.

The highlight being the Bishop's arrival, and this arrival is not in the same Heavenly Joy it was before. The Bishop's arrival is not well attended, and the ones who are there, are the ones who have to be there, or are told to be there. And the people who are in those conferences, would rather not attend the service the day that the Bishop serves, because of past experiences of anger and emotional and spiritual abuse to either the elders of the native community, the children of that community, or themselves. Most of this occurring everywhere, as my brother priests have cited. This is unheard of in our culture, and in our Diocese..."

He continues:

"The Glory of Christ is,.. to speak the truth, and Pilate did not see that Truth was standing right in front of him, as did the Pharisees did not see who was in front of them, when they tried and convicted Christ to His death. But Christ was the glorious example, and we are taking that step in humility and unworthiness, not just for our own salvation, but for the salvation of all who come in contact with Bishop Nikolai and his entourage. It is evident with the suspension of Protodeacon George Nelson, who to me has served blamelessly and piously, that the Bishop will quiet all who serve him, especially those closest to him, to control those around him so that they say and do what he tells them to do, even if it is not the truth. I support the action of Protodeacon George, for speaking the truth, and witnessing to it, so that everyone who is of the truth hears Christ's voice. Let it not be that this is unnoticed and action not done.

"How good and wonderful it is when brothers dwell in unity."

This is how it is supposed to be. But, the Diocese of Alaska is not healthy by any means. And the cause of this is our ruling Bishop himself, +Nicolai. And we, as clergy, are supposed to be working for the salvation and eternal life of all members of Christ's Holy Church. This is the reason for the actions being taken by these wonderful priests of whom I am unworthy to imitate, and the clergy as a whole are split apart because of the poison Bishop Nikolai has injected in a few priests so that there is fear in which priests you confide in, because of the fear,.. in which that particular priest will tell the Bishop on them.

We are taught that God has given us freedom to practice our faith, not to have the freedom taken away from us. But enough is enough, and if the price for the Truth is the office that we hold, we choose the Love and Mercy of Christ, in whom is our salvation and eternal life, Christ before whom we will stand before in judgment if we do not speak out (we will not be standing before Bishop Nikolai) , the very Christ in whom the wonderful people of the Diocese of Alaska have faith in, the very people that the Bishop himself has driven out.

Bishop Nikolai has driven out many of these people, but they return when pious priests show the Love and Mercy of God, NOT the love of long, robotic, spiritless, graceless, services; bishop rug placement; and many colorful glittering vestments.

As you may have read this counsel from an Elder monastic father, one of the Elders of Greece, Elder Amphilochius writes: 'The egotistic person doesn't attract anyone. And if someone is attracted, that person will soon distance himself. The spiritual bond becomes indissoluble only when it meets a child-like spirit of innocence and holiness.'

+Nicolai does not have these qualities but his ego is before him with everyone he meets. And these priests who have suffered and served the people tirelessly, they have become my example of Christ, and through them the people of the Diocese of Alaska will find salvation for they have someone who will stand up, and sacrifice for them. I weep about the suffering situation of this Diocese in which, Saints Herman, St. Innocent, St. Yakov, St. Juvenaly and his Companion, and St. Peter the Aleut who died not denying his faith, have worked so hard to manifest Christ to the people of Alaska. And the faith, which inspires Martyrs to go to their death, has been blotted out because of the self-centeredness of Bishop Nikolai, who calls all to serve and bow down to him."

The Sidebottom Affair

Fr. Fisher continues:

"Yes, I was a witness to the actions of the Chancellor of this Diocese on that dark day in which Paul Sidebottom so enduringly wants to make manifest. I saw Archimandrite Isidore getting more and more drunk in Holy Resurrection Church, the same church where St. Herman's Holy relics reside. I saw him stooped over the analoy stand for all the parishioners and seminary students to see, I saw him come back the following liturgy because he was not allowed on the plane the night before because he was too drunk, and saw him drink more from the sacramental wine in the ALTAR! That morning. Only to have my humble fellow classmate take the wine away from him, and send him home.

All this, and he did not receive even a suspension? While other priest have done less, have (they) been suspended, or even deposed? This is the example of the priesthood that I so take on? This is the example of Christ-like behavior? And to top it off I know that Paul S. was looking after him all through that night and morning, so that I do believe the allegations he has against Archimandrite Isidore. I do not want this in my conscience, I know I have seen and been quiet, because it is blind obedience that Bishop Nikolai calls for in his serving priests, but there is no teaching about Blind Faith in Christ,.. because He has said, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear, and he who has eyes to see let him see.' And these are the eyes to see the truth that which so darkly stands before us. I have forgiven Bishop Nikolai and Archimandrite Isidore, but the Truth must be revealed, and not a cover-up with lies. And it is Christ whom I will stand before in judgment, and not Bishop Nikolai.

And so, the great mystery of Baptism is upon me, Calling that Christ who is put on us be revealed as the Truth, for the sake of Salvation! For the salvation and aid of all who have faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

On The Situation at St. Herman's Past and Present

I have forgiven Bishop Nikolai for the harsh treatment I received from him in seminary, but I speak of this in the hope that the future seminarians will not endure the same treatment from him. Many a time have I wanted to quit seminary because of the spiritual, emotional, and verbal abuse from Bishop Nikolai, but if it had not been for my Spiritual Father I would not be the priest I am today, able to speak the truth for them. He advocated for me and endured worse and harsh treatment for me before Bishop Nikolai. I have also seen with my own eyes, my fellow seminarian brought to tears because of Bishop NikolaiÕs spiritual, emotional, and verbal abuse. He was brought into subjection through the Iron Fist of +Nikolai. I do not wish to see this again, and I do not wish to subject future seminarians to him, for fear that they would lose faith in God Himself.

On the Future

I can see that the future of the faithful here not having faith in the Bishop, or the clergy anymore because they do not speak up for them, and ultimately having no more faith in God, becoming atheists. Which is where we are headed now! Which was the outcome of the Church in communist Russia.

I am a young priest, and have no tenure as a priest, but as a brother clergy member has said to me, 'You are still a priest.' And having put on the priesthood of Christ, not the priesthood of +Nikolai I was encouraged more to practice my faith, and my faith is practiced as St. James the Apostle the patron Saint of my parish so writes, 'Faith, without works is dead.' And the work that needs to be done for the Glory of God to be shown here in Alaska, is the Truth coming out and being told, because that will be for the Salvation of Bishop Nikolai, Chancellor Archimandrite Isidore, and all those who are in support of him through either blindness of truth or the deforming of it through deceit, which is the work of the devil. And for the Light of Christ to become manifest to the people, so that they can come and see, and find salvation in Him who is our Savior."

Syosset Remains Silent - For Now

Fisher's letter now joins the many asking the question that concluded the letter of the Kuskokwim Deanery.
(Read that letter here) In the deanery letter the clergy wrote: "As it is now, we are concerned for the future of the church, the diocese and her faithful in Alaska. What will become of us if this does not end soon?"

According to the Anchorage Daily News: "Calls to the Orthodox Church in America headquarters in Syosset, N.Y., weren't returned Thursday. But there's no doubt the issues are on the radar of national church officials."

No doubt.

-Mark Stokoe
-----------------------------------------
Monday:
More clergy letters from Alaska,

and a moment of grace in Juneau.

 
http://ocanews.org/news/BetweenDignityDespair3.1.08.html

 
   Fixed spacing issue - arimethea
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« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2008, 01:08:48 AM »

Truly a deplorable situation unfolding in Alaska.  To paraphrase + Nikolai "May god have mercy on his soul."
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« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2008, 01:51:35 AM »

Is this bishop clueless?  Some of the people mentioned in that list of names are very honorable. Even if he is innocent of any wrongdoing, he should be reaching out to these people instead of throwing a fit. Right or wrong, in 2008, people don't deal well with, "I'm the bishop! I answer to NO ONE! RAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"
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« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2008, 02:12:03 AM »

Is this bishop clueless?  Some of the people mentioned in that list of names are very honorable. Even if he is innocent of any wrongdoing, he should be reaching out to these people instead of throwing a fit. Right or wrong, in 2008, people don't deal well with, "I'm the bishop! I answer to NO ONE! RAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"


It seems like he is behaving like a little pope.
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« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2008, 03:00:09 AM »

I cannot think of another situation like this in America since I became Orthodox in 1992, but this certainly can't be the first time.  How have other problems like this been resolved?  Quick retirement of the Archbishop?  Removal from office?  My opinion only, but I can't help think that if Syosset blows this one, it will be the final straw for many people who have had it with the financial scandal.
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« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2008, 09:49:57 AM »

I know that the GOA had difficulties with +Spyridon which finally resulted in his being replaced, but I don't recall whether he had the ego problem that +Nikolai appears to have. There are some who support authoritarian leadership in the Church, but in the U.S. it usually just doesn't work.
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« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2008, 11:52:05 AM »

Authoritarian rule has never been the way of the early Church. Who washed the Apostles feet?
These pseudo traditionalists with their call for a return to 19th century Russian rubrics and customs
are killing Orthodoxy in Alaska. According to some reports from Alaskan Orthodox residents on another site,
many of their most supportive families have left Orthodoxy and have joined Roman Catholic or Episcopalian parishes
because there are no other options in the parts of Alaska they live in. They reported that only those who live in the Anchorage area have a choice to join Greek or Antiochian parishes.





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« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2008, 12:55:42 PM »

Well, here's some hubub in the Diocese of the West over a year ago when +TIKHON was retiring.  All the clergy and delegates nominated +BENJAMIN to be diocesan bishop (as opposed to just auxiliary) unanimously.  +TIKHON thought +NIKOLAI should be the diocesan bishop and even invited him down to the diocesan meeting when +TIKHON was retiring.  Well, supposedly a number of veteran clergy in the DoW had told +TIKHON that they would transfer out of the diocese if +NIKOLAI as elected.  Since the Synod approved the nomination, it is all moot, but obviously those DoW clergy knew something.

And Tamara, I doubt it is as far as you say about wanting to return to "19th century Russian rubrics".  I think that is only part of it and not even close to as you imply.  I think it has much more to do with a) his authoritarian and uncompassionate rule and 2) utter cluelessness and disrespect for the customs of the native Alaskan peoples.  If it was all about rubrics, then that argument could be turned back toward past incidents in the AOA.  A lot can be said about proper rubrics, as they are frequently abused (in every jurisdiction).  Our Church is one of order, but also one of compassion and healing.
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« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2008, 06:05:44 PM »

Well, here's some hubub in the Diocese of the West over a year ago when +TIKHON was retiring.  All the clergy and delegates nominated +BENJAMIN to be diocesan bishop (as opposed to just auxiliary) unanimously.  +TIKHON thought +NIKOLAI should be the diocesan bishop and even invited him down to the diocesan meeting when +TIKHON was retiring.  Well, supposedly a number of veteran clergy in the DoW had told +TIKHON that they would transfer out of the diocese if +NIKOLAI as elected.  Since the Synod approved the nomination, it is all moot, but obviously those DoW clergy knew something.

And Tamara, I doubt it is as far as you say about wanting to return to "19th century Russian rubrics".  I think that is only part of it and not even close to as you imply.  I think it has much more to do with a) his authoritarian and uncompassionate rule and 2) utter cluelessness and disrespect for the customs of the native Alaskan peoples.  If it was all about rubrics, then that argument could be turned back toward past incidents in the AOA.  A lot can be said about proper rubrics, as they are frequently abused (in every jurisdiction).  Our Church is one of order, but also one of compassion and healing.

I didn't mean to imply it was all about rubrics. Alaskans of native American origin wrote on another forum that he has forced them to use rubrics from 19th century Russia and to adopt Russian customs. He has a disdain for anything of Alaskan native American heritage. It is all a part of the authoritarian rule which he has imposed on his flock. He even instructed some of his clergy and their wives they were not to leave their homes or parishes to go on outings. I can pm you with the address for the forum where the native Alaskans are sharing this information if you would like to read it for yourself. I think the bishop has some serious mental disorder to behave as he has. The man needs to see a doctor. Perhaps he is a sociopath.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2008, 07:12:50 PM by Tamara » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: March 02, 2008, 09:07:36 PM »

Well, here's some hubub in the Diocese of the West over a year ago when +TIKHON was retiring.  All the clergy and delegates nominated +BENJAMIN to be diocesan bishop (as opposed to just auxiliary) unanimously.  +TIKHON thought +NIKOLAI should be the diocesan bishop and even invited him down to the diocesan meeting when +TIKHON was retiring.  Well, supposedly a number of veteran clergy in the DoW had told +TIKHON that they would transfer out of the diocese if +NIKOLAI as elected.  Since the Synod approved the nomination, it is all moot, but obviously those DoW clergy knew something.
I also remember friends in my OCA-DOW parish who talked of leaving the parish and the diocese if Bishop Nikolai was elected.  Let's just say we had a lot of happy parishioners when news was announced of Bishop Benjamin's unanimous election.
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« Reply #25 on: March 02, 2008, 10:47:15 PM »

I think a good start would be to dump the majority of the hierarchy in the OCA and get good leaders; such as the leadership found in the Antiochian Archdiocese as an example. I mean, it's like night and day when comparing the leadership and general health of the OCA compared to that of the AOA. If the perversion and corruption of the secretive and exclusive 'men's' club at the very top of the OCA is continue in it's current form; it could quite possibly be the undoing of the whole Archdiocese.
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« Reply #26 on: March 02, 2008, 11:05:48 PM »

I think a good start would be to dump the majority of the hierarchy in the OCA and get good leaders; such as the leadership found in the Antiochian Archdiocese as an example. I mean, it's like night and day when comparing the leadership and general health of the OCA compared to that of the AOA. If the perversion and corruption of the secretive and exclusive 'men's' club at the very top of the OCA is continue in it's current form; it could quite possibly be the undoing of the whole Archdiocese.

Nacho,

You are still single. I think you should stay single, go to seminary, become a priest and finally a bishop in the OCA. You would clean house!
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« Reply #27 on: March 02, 2008, 11:44:20 PM »

^LOL! Yo son, they couldn't handle a guy like me. I would be like a wrecking ball coming through. I have too much circulating testosterone and it would get me into trouble if you know what I mean.. Wink
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« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2008, 01:32:25 PM »

Mmm...

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Abps. +JOB and +DMITRI have the obvious and enthusiastic support of the priests under them.  Abps. +TIKHON and +NIKOLAI, to one degree or another, have considerably less, relatively speaking, if the reports from those on this thread are to be believed.

Abp. +DMITRI hasn't been vocal as has Abp. +JOB about this, but it's clear on the faces of his clergy and faithful how he's "taken care of his own."  I could speculate all day as to "which side Vladyka's on" or whatnot, or as to which approach -- his silence or Abp. +JOB's confrontation -- is better and more effective, but my role now is to pray (and, in so doing, encourage others to pray in an acknowledgment that we NEED to pray) for this situation, all the while being thankful for the wonderful hierarch w/which we've been blessed.  I can only imagine how someone must be struggling when the visible focus of unity, the bishop, is not living as the clear icon of Christ that he should be.  We should all be icons of Christ, of course, but bishops are judged more strictly because they, as an icon, are meant to be the example.  And when the shepherd's beating the sheep, the impetus to remain in the fold is pretty much nil, as it's nearly impossible in such a situation to remember that the Lord of the Church really is the Good Shepherd.

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« Reply #29 on: March 03, 2008, 01:41:17 PM »

I didn't mean to imply it was all about rubrics. Alaskans of native American origin wrote on another forum that he has forced them to use rubrics from 19th century Russia and to adopt Russian customs. He has a disdain for anything of Alaskan native American heritage. It is all a part of the authoritarian rule which he has imposed on his flock. He even instructed some of his clergy and their wives they were not to leave their homes or parishes to go on outings. I can pm you with the address for the forum where the native Alaskans are sharing this information if you would like to read it for yourself. I think the bishop has some serious mental disorder to behave as he has. The man needs to see a doctor. Perhaps he is a sociopath.

I have wondered if it is mental health issues regarding +NIKOLAI or morality issues. Either way, I am curious as to why the synod of bishops doesn't do anything about it.

.................I guess it is just one more reason for Nacho to become a bishop  Cheesy
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« Reply #30 on: March 03, 2008, 01:53:53 PM »

I have wondered if it is mental health issues regarding +NIKOLAI or morality issues. Either way, I am curious as to why the synod of bishops doesn't do anything about it.

.................I guess it is just one more reason for Nacho to become a bishop  Cheesy

I think it might just be that +NIKOLAI is just not that....uhhh...he's "pastorally challenged" to put it tactfully.

About +TIKHON (the recently retired), I will say, that despite his grumpiness (showing due to his mental state much more recently), he is held in MUCH higher regard in his episcopacy than +NIKOLAI.
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« Reply #31 on: March 03, 2008, 02:33:40 PM »

Only the bishop should put a cross before his own name, when he signs something. We should not imitate that practice.
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« Reply #32 on: March 03, 2008, 03:34:33 PM »

Only the bishop should put a cross before his own name, when he signs something. We should not imitate that practice.

I don't get what you are referring to here (or whose post).
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« Reply #33 on: March 03, 2008, 04:27:07 PM »

Only the bishop should put a cross before his own name, when he signs something. We should not imitate that practice.

Ah!  Thanks.  Was unaware of that.

Elisha, he's referring to how you and I just put plus signs in front of our archbishops' names (hey, Anastasios: does that apply to putting their names in all caps, too?).

I thought it was a sign of respect for their office.  I sit corrected. Smiley
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« Reply #34 on: March 03, 2008, 04:55:17 PM »

Ah!  Thanks.  Was unaware of that.

Elisha, he's referring to how you and I just put plus signs in front of our archbishops' names (hey, Anastasios: does that apply to putting their names in all caps, too?).

I thought it was a sign of respect for their office.  I sit corrected. Smiley

OK, I think I get it.  I thought it was a legitimate shorthand we could use instead of having to type (A)Bp/Met/etc. and name.
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« Reply #35 on: March 03, 2008, 09:21:10 PM »

Only the bishop should put a cross before his own name, when he signs something. We should not imitate that practice.

I've done this so many times and never gave one thought to it as being a wrong practice.  I suppose it's right up there with telling a priest, "God bless you"? 

Just curious, Anastasios, where did you come across this information?
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« Reply #36 on: March 04, 2008, 12:27:24 AM »

I think the bishop has some serious mental disorder to behave as he has. The man needs to see a doctor. Perhaps he is a sociopath.

I have wondered if it is mental health issues regarding +NIKOLAI or morality issues. Either way, I am curious as to why the synod of bishops doesn't do anything about it.

I don't know for certain, but I don't think speculation about a bishop's possible mental health issues in a public forum is a path we should be walking.
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« Reply #37 on: March 04, 2008, 12:40:25 AM »

I've done this so many times and never gave one thought to it as being a wrong practice.  I suppose it's right up there with telling a priest, "God bless you"? 

Just curious, Anastasios, where did you come across this information?

Bishop Tikhon (OCA retired) used to post it on the lists every once and awhile.
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« Reply #38 on: March 04, 2008, 01:02:39 AM »

Many years ago, I read in "Orthodox Tradition," a publication of the Center For Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, in Etna, California, that layman should not use the cross next to their signatures. This is a custom for priests and bishops to use because it is a symbol of their blessing.  However, I've seen some of the finest of priests use it to abbreviate a reference to a hierarch on these computer forums, not that that makes it right.
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« Reply #39 on: March 04, 2008, 03:09:30 AM »

Many years ago, I read in "Orthodox Tradition," a publication of the Center For Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, in Etna, California, that layman should not use the cross next to their signatures. This is a custom for priests and bishops to use because it is a symbol of their blessing.  However, I've seen some of the finest of priests use it to abbreviate a reference to a hierarch on these computer forums, not that that makes it right.

Is this true I foolishly put an orthodox cross in my signiture!!! Is this considered sinful?
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« Reply #40 on: March 04, 2008, 03:16:58 AM »

We don't need to get all worked up. It's not a matter of sinfulness; just protocol.
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« Reply #41 on: March 04, 2008, 03:17:34 AM »

Ah!  Thanks.  Was unaware of that.

Elisha, he's referring to how you and I just put plus signs in front of our archbishops' names (hey, Anastasios: does that apply to putting their names in all caps, too?).

I thought it was a sign of respect for their office.  I sit corrected. Smiley

All caps is fine.
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« Reply #42 on: March 04, 2008, 03:20:16 AM »

OK, I think I get it.  I thought it was a legitimate shorthand we could use instead of having to type (A)Bp/Met/etc. and name.

I'm seeing it more and more online so it's no surprise you thought it was a legitimate shorthand, and perhaps one day the abuse will become the norm, although I would hope not; I think that some think it's cool or whatever. It's especially common on orthodoxnews.com.  I think it's tacky the way they do it.  I generally agree with orthodoxnews.com reporting on the scandals but I don't like the sensational hype and I think things like doing the shorthand in screaming headlines is annoying.  But I am floating to another issue now.
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« Reply #43 on: March 07, 2008, 10:01:30 AM »

Here is a great reflection from OCAnews. I agree with his assessment 100%. I highlighted the part of his reflection I thought was most significant.

3.5.08 From the Orthodox Forum:
 
Off My Chest...

by Bruce Little
 
I am a former Lutheran Pastor who converted to Orthodoxy while servingon Kodiak Island 2002-2004.

I spent an evening with +Bishop Nikoli before I converted and it almost stopped me dead in my tracks. First I was struck by the Priests and parishioners apparent fear of him before he arrived. When he did arrived the spiritual, emotional and collegial temperature in the room dropped below zero. The Bishop was snide, sarcastic, arrogant and down right mean to both his priests and the people who came to honor him.

A small native boy approached him and the bishop berated him mother because the boy failed in some courtesy he apparently expected. He on everyone in the
room with disgust. I was introduced to him and kissed his ring, an action that I would like very much to take back.
 
Shortly thereafter my son (who was with me) and I hurriedly left the room. We were both shaken by the experience and dismayed for the priests and people who were left to spend the evening with a man who clearly was an absolute tyrant. I have never in my life seen a professed Christian behave in such arrogant,  high handed, hateful and ruthless manner.
 
Since that time I have heard him critisized and excused by many people and that is mysterious to me. Often, when the subject of +Bishop Nikoli comes up in a conversation his behavior is admitted and then there occurs what I have come to call, "the Orthodox leap."  For all of a sudden the conversation shifts into Orthodox code language to the effect that everything (even a wretched bishop) comes from God for a
reason...the orthodox version of fatalism. Or, his behavior is excused because we are all sinners and in criticizing someone else we are failing to identify ourselves as the chief of sinners.
 
That "leap" seems driven by a fear and reluctance to call behavior what it truly is. Orthodox have a wonderful respect for the office of the ministry but when someone is pathologically inhuman and destructive to the faith of hundreds of people then it is what it is; it isn 't something else.  And you can't make it something else by appealing to dogma or spiritualizing with magic Orthodox words.

 
All of us fail to live up to the faith we profess. All of us will finally come before God in the last judgment. Until then however we have the responsibility to protect those who are suffering under the yoke of tyranny especially those who are most vulnerable. And we have a responsibility to call wretched and abominable behavior by its proper name, even when it is committed by a Bishop.  To fail in that is a trip into irrationality. The Orthodox Church is responsible for every Orthodox Christian but every Orthodox Christian is responsible for the Orthodox Church. ..

Courage brothers and sisters...courage.


Bruce Little

http://ocanews.org/news/LittleOffMyChest3.6.08.html
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« Reply #44 on: March 07, 2008, 10:07:56 AM »

Here's another update

    

3.7.08 From the Kodiak Daily MIrror

Russian Orthodox church leaders mum on bishop removal
By RALPH GIBBS
Mirror Writer


For nearly every member of the Alaskan chapter of the Orthodox Church in America, the last 24 hours have been nail biting. On Wednesday, bishops met with the church’s leader by telephone, in a special session to discuss the rising tide of open rebellion by clergy within the Diocese of Alaska.


The OCA headquarters is in Syosset, N.Y.


At issue is the growing war between the Alaskan clergy and Archbishop Nikolai Soraich, the leader of the Alaska diocese. It’s a multi-sided war whose battlefield has become the Internet and people are surfing in to view the results.


Although the meeting was concluded by early afternoon, no decision was made public as of press time.


Alaskan clergy and parishioners had hoped to see a quick decision. Archpriest Alexander Garklavs said after the meeting a response would be forthcoming.Mark Stokoe said that his Web site, ocanews.org, where much of this war is playing out, had 40,000 readers on Tuesday and 42,000, Wednesday. “That’s individual computers,” Stokoe said. “For a church of 28,000 paying members — everybody is reading it. That’s the most I’ve ever had.”

The battlefield


Is Stokoe, creator of the Web site, a hero or villain?
The answer depends on who you ask in the Orthodox Church, the subject of his nearly daily posts.
If you’re the target, then the answer is probably villain.
Bishop Nikolai, leader of the Orthodox Church in Alaska, has described the Web site as the National Enquirer of the Internet, but the archbishop is squarely in Stokoes’ sights and has been for more than a year.
However, if you are one of the people who say they are too terrified to come forward for fear of retaliation, he is a hero.


Stokoe said he created his Web site two years ago amid an embezzlement scandal involving a member of the OCA clergy. He said the OCA was aware of what was going on and tried to cover it up. “Most of the bishops hold that position, and it’s not because they are Orthodox bishops. Catholic Bishops handled it the same way during the recent priest scandal. That generation (of clergy) feel the best way to handle a scandal is to hide it,” Stokoe said. “Unfortunately, that’s not possible these days and it’s really unacceptable when you don’t deal with the scandal, you just pass it along.”


Now he’s using his site to give voice to the growing number of clergy beginning to speak out against Bishop Nikolai, accusing him of abuse.The clergy members say the abuse has been happening ever since the Archbishop took over the Alaska diocese seven years ago.


However, what seems to have galvanized many clergy to finally speak out against Bishop Nikolai is a letter sent to Orthodox leaders by seven Yup’ik priests and published on the ocanews Web site.


There are now some clergy who are afraid to voice their concerns and true feelings to one another and are not united in mind and heart,” the letter reads in part. “Most of us are like Fr. Yakov, who, during his presentation at the Assembly in November, was shaking in fear and nervousness. As it is now, we are concerned for the future of the Church, the diocese and her faithful in Alaska. Unchanged, it will continue to be an unhealed wound.”


The letter, which calls on the archbishop to resign, prompted many Alaskan Orthodox clergy to write their own letters and speak out publicly.
In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News on Feb. 29 the Rev. Michael Oleksa, archpriest at St. Alexis Church in Anchorage, said a large number of church clergy have reached the point where they can no longer serve with Bishop Nikolai.
“It’s the accumulation of years now of what the clergy regretfully but sincerely believe is a matter of personal and collective abuse,” he said.


Kodiak resident Raisa Baldwin has joined the fight against the Archbishop.
“We have not lived under the terrible tyrannical menace that (Bishop) Nikolai has imposed on the seminary students or the priests ... they have lived under such terrible conditions,” she said to Garklavs in a letter. “Some have even been physically struck. I feel safe in saying that almost to a man, we support the priests in what they say and do, and will back them up in whatever it takes to get this nightmare out of our lives, and restore peace to this land.”


It is not just the Alaskan laity that is speaking out.


On March 1, the Minneapolis, Minn., deanery, in the Chicago diocese, which is under the leadership of Archbishop Job, passed a resolution without dissent expressing concern with the growing outcry of Alaskan clergy.


“These issues are having a detrimental impact on all the faithful, not only in Alaska, but throughout the Orthodox Church in America,” the resolution reads. “We also unanimously call on our Synod of Bishops to act promptly … in protecting the victims of abuse, and in moving to bring a new beginning to this distressed diocese.”  Bishop Job was not present when the resolution was adopted.

The risk


Part of the reason many have not spoken out in the past comes from the underlying risk of excommunication.
“(Bishop) Nikolai is not a very subtle guy,” Stokoe said. “The reason I have the Web site and the reason I put my name on it is I’m in (Bishop) Job’s diocese. If I was in any other diocese, I would have been at risk of being excommunicated.”


Others haven’t been so lucky.


After speaking out against Bishop Nikolai in the Anchorage Daily News, Fr. Aleksa was removed from his teaching position at St. Herman Theological Seminary.


Other changes may be forthcoming.


In an interview earlier this week, Bishop Nikolai likened the uprising to an adolescent acting out.
“Yes, I’m tough,” the archbishop said. “No question about that. There’s an order in the church that needs to be followed and I do impose those rules how the church is set up and the clergy are compelled to follow those things.”


He may be about to enact some tough love in order to restore that order.


An open letter on the archbishop’s Web site foreshadowed possible things to come. The letter references the instructions of St. Paul concerning listening to allegations against an Elder unless witnessed by more than two people.


“I hasten to add that the Diocese of Alaska and I in particular have followed these four principles imperfectly,” Bishop Nikolai wrote. “I have not sufficiently inspired all of the clergy to lead according to these four principles and I have not always responded quickly enough when members of this diocese have engaged in gossip, indirect and unsubstantiated accusations, and slander.”
He also issues a legal warning.


“We again obey the instructions of St. Paul by not taking matters of the church into secular courts for resolution,” he said. “We will, per Canon Law, engage the secular courts when we have truly and factually wronged and when the issue is not addressed by normal Church discipline as described above.”


Stokoe said that he wasn’t worried about a possible lawsuit. “I would not be afraid to get him in a courtroom where he would have to answer questions,” he said.

http://ocanews.org/news/Kodiak-Waiting3708.html
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Troparion - Tone 1:
O Sebastian, spurning the assemblies of the wicked,You gathered the wise martyrs Who with you cast down the enemy; And standing worthily before the throne of God, You gladden those who cry to you:Glory to him who has strengthened you! Glory to him who has granted you a crown!
Tags: Bishop Nikolai OCA Diocese of Alaska 
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