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Author Topic: Bishop Nikolai and the "Russian" Orthodox church of Alaska?  (Read 52671 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.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2008, 12:21:06 AM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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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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« Reply #45 on: March 08, 2008, 02:17:29 AM »

From the official web site of the Orthodox Church in America:

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America met to address the current situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The remaining members of the Holy Synod also took part in the meeting by telephone. Subsequently, the Secretary of the Holy Synod, His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim issued a letter to His Grace, Bishop Nikolai, informing him that:

"(the members of the Holy Synod ) received many letters of serious complaint from deaneries, clergy, and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska... Not relying on hear-say, yet acknowledging the seriousness of these letters, at your suggestion, all your brother bishops were contacted; and they unanimously agreed that the best course of action for you is that you be placed on a temporary Leave-of-absence (OCA Statute, Article II.1; II.7.a,f,I,j; Apostolic Canon 74, and 34)."

The letter instructed Bishop Nikolai that, while on Leave-of-absence, "you will, according to the direction of Metropolitan HERMAN, absent yourself from the territory of the Diocese of Alaska." During this time the day-to-day affairs of the Diocese will be conducted by an Administrator appointed by His Beatitude and "a Committee will be appointed to investigate the complaints, and accusations".


The full text of the article may be read here:  http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1485&SID=19
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« Reply #46 on: March 08, 2008, 09:56:56 AM »

From the official web site of the Orthodox Church in America:

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America met to address the current situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The remaining members of the Holy Synod also took part in the meeting by telephone. Subsequently, the Secretary of the Holy Synod, His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim issued a letter to His Grace, Bishop Nikolai, informing him that:

"(the members of the Holy Synod ) received many letters of serious complaint from deaneries, clergy, and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska... Not relying on hear-say, yet acknowledging the seriousness of these letters, at your suggestion, all your brother bishops were contacted; and they unanimously agreed that the best course of action for you is that you be placed on a temporary Leave-of-absence (OCA Statute, Article II.1; II.7.a,f,I,j; Apostolic Canon 74, and 34)."

The letter instructed Bishop Nikolai that, while on Leave-of-absence, "you will, according to the direction of Metropolitan HERMAN, absent yourself from the territory of the Diocese of Alaska." During this time the day-to-day affairs of the Diocese will be conducted by an Administrator appointed by His Beatitude and "a Committee will be appointed to investigate the complaints, and accusations".


The full text of the article may be read here:  http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1485&SID=19

I'm glad to see that Metropolitan HERMAN and the Synod are moving quickly on this one.  Of course, the cynic in me wonders if he isn't moving quickly to act on this case in order to divert attention from other problems.  In any event, I pray that this works to the benefit of the Diocese of Alaska.
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« Reply #47 on: March 08, 2008, 10:06:59 AM »

From the official web site of the Orthodox Church in America:

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America met to address the current situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The remaining members of the Holy Synod also took part in the meeting by telephone. Subsequently, the Secretary of the Holy Synod, His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim issued a letter to His Grace, Bishop Nikolai, informing him that:

"(the members of the Holy Synod ) received many letters of serious complaint from deaneries, clergy, and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska... Not relying on hear-say, yet acknowledging the seriousness of these letters, at your suggestion, all your brother bishops were contacted; and they unanimously agreed that the best course of action for you is that you be placed on a temporary Leave-of-absence (OCA Statute, Article II.1; II.7.a,f,I,j; Apostolic Canon 74, and 34)."

The letter instructed Bishop Nikolai that, while on Leave-of-absence, "you will, according to the direction of Metropolitan HERMAN, absent yourself from the territory of the Diocese of Alaska." During this time the day-to-day affairs of the Diocese will be conducted by an Administrator appointed by His Beatitude and "a Committee will be appointed to investigate the complaints, and accusations".


The full text of the article may be read here:  http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1485&SID=19

Thank God.
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« Reply #48 on: March 08, 2008, 10:32:27 AM »

I for one am greatly relieved that the Holy Synod chose to act definitively after Bishop Nikolai declined a voluntary leave of absence. I also suspect the Faithful in Alaska are even more relieved! Now everyone's concerns, including Bishop Nikolai's, can be addressed by outside help, hopefully with dispassionate discernment.
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« Reply #49 on: March 09, 2008, 03:34:45 AM »

Back to the real subject of this topic...

 Orthodox Christians For Accountability News posted the narrative of the NBC affiliate in Anchorage which reported that Nikolai is refusing to accept the suspension and is not leaving Alaska; that Fr. Eugene has declined the appointment as temporary administrator; and that another administrator has been selected, but has not yet been announced.  Nickolai is on a pastoral visit within the diocese tonight.  Can't wait to hear his sermon for tomorrow; the first Sunday of his suspension.
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« Reply #50 on: March 09, 2008, 07:20:01 PM »

Yes, Heracleides, Reply #79, such a significant development in the Orthodox Church in America without too much commentary.  I'm amazed, but, this isn't the first time I've been amazed.
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« Reply #51 on: March 09, 2008, 07:59:10 PM »

What can I say other than that I am disappointed, not to mention disgusted, with the whole OCA debacle.  I sit back and watch things develop and simply ask myself, 'what next?' I imagine this might be the reaction of many, which may explain the relative lack of commentary.
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« Reply #52 on: March 09, 2008, 08:20:04 PM »

I can understand the issue you raise because it's considered intertwined with the financial abuse problems in the OCA's Central Administration.  I closely follow the OCA matters, and I sincerely believe someday the problems will be resolved due to Orthodoxy's purity.

Yet, this development is significant, in my opinion, not because of the abuse of the hierarch who is at issue, but, since the raising of the faithful, including the priests, the OCA Synod has acted correctly.  Consistent, with their past practice of the past decade, Nikolai could have intimidated the bishops by threatening to disclose other liabilities or he could have scared them with the threat of a law suit, or another form of intimidation, which he probably will do anyway.  However, it is a sign of progress and hope, that they acted as they did last week.  That shouldn't be minimized.  I have no knowedge of what I am about to suggest, but I'd guess that some of the newly appointed in the central administration are championing the appropriate behavior which the Synod has taken so far.
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« Reply #53 on: March 09, 2008, 09:40:57 PM »

The side discussion on cross-posting whole articles from ocanews.org has been split off this thread and moved to Non-Religious Topics.

Is It Necessary to Cross-Post Whole Articles from ocanews.org (and other web sites)?

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« Reply #54 on: March 11, 2008, 12:19:04 PM »

I can understand the issue you raise because it's considered intertwined with the financial abuse problems in the OCA's Central Administration.  I closely follow the OCA matters, and I sincerely believe someday the problems will be resolved due to Orthodoxy's purity.

Yet, this development is significant, in my opinion, not because of the abuse of the hierarch who is at issue, but, since the raising of the faithful, including the priests, the OCA Synod has acted correctly.  Consistent, with their past practice of the past decade, Nikolai could have intimidated the bishops by threatening to disclose other liabilities or he could have scared them with the threat of a law suit, or another form of intimidation, which he probably will do anyway.  However, it is a sign of progress and hope, that they acted as they did last week.  That shouldn't be minimized.  I have no knowedge of what I am about to suggest, but I'd guess that some of the newly appointed in the central administration are championing the appropriate behavior which the Synod has taken so far.

To be honest, I've never been a big fan of the OCA as a whole (despite the fact that I worship at an OCA mission parish and our priest & his family are wonderful).  I've often felt that the OCA expects all other jurisdictions in America to be rolled into itself, rather than merging with all the other jurisdictions to form a new entity (I take huge issue with the Bishop here not allowing Akathists to be served in our parish because 'it's not our practice').  Undecided  But perhaps my perceptions are wrong, and I will certainly admit they most likely are.

In any event, your words above were something that had not occurred to me and I thank you for the fresh perspective.  Perhaps rather than a coronation, the OCA's trials will serve to purify it and serve as an example for all jurisdictions as we each seek individually and corporately to build a truly American Orthodox Church in our nation.  May the prayers and intersession of St. Juvenaly serve to guide and guard the faithful of Alaska and all America.
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« Reply #55 on: March 11, 2008, 01:48:37 PM »

What can I say other than that I am disappointed, not to mention disgusted, with the whole OCA debacle.  I sit back and watch things develop and simply ask myself, 'what next?' I imagine this might be the reaction of many, which may explain the relative lack of commentary.
*
Allow me to hazard a guess about "what next?" 

The Serbs have a word for the very old and ever-new expression of their strength in pride and defiance, their tenacity and refusal to be beaten - inat.

It is both a blessing and a curse for them.  Inat is a blessing because it gives the Serbs the strength to endure the centuries of Muslim occupation and the 3 months of American bombing.  Inat is a curse because it can lead to the wilful destruction of one's self and the destruction of all around rather than bow to the inevitable.

The OCA Synod seems about to learn of this Serbian "virtue" at first hand.
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« Reply #56 on: March 11, 2008, 04:02:55 PM »

See the Orthodox Church in America's website and Orthodox Christians for Accountability News' website. 

OCA Chancellor Fr. Alexander was appointed Administrator for the Alaskan Diocese under Metropolitan Herman and the Holy Synod's authority; and Nikolai served at the Cathedral on Sun., March 9th.



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« Reply #57 on: March 11, 2008, 09:39:57 PM »

It would seem that the Dioceses of Alaska website no longer works. I wonder if this has anything to do Bishop Nikolia posting a letter on their telling his clergy to ignore the Metropolitan.
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« Reply #58 on: March 11, 2008, 09:59:42 PM »

It would seem that the Dioceses of Alaska website no longer works. I wonder if this has anything to do Bishop Nikolia posting a letter on their telling his clergy to ignore the Metropolitan.

Stokoe's website has a working link to it on the Diocese of Alaska website.  I wonder if maybe the main diocesan page was disabled, but the others left intact.

EDIT:  I just checked the Diocese of Alaska website and found it to be working.  Perhaps it was just a temporary outage.
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« Reply #59 on: March 11, 2008, 10:06:12 PM »

It seems the site is now working.

Where did Bishop Nikolia go to seminary? He really has a very unusual interpretation of Canon Law.
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« Reply #60 on: March 11, 2008, 10:09:39 PM »

It seems the site is now working.

Where did Bishop Nikolia go to seminary? He really has a very unusual interpretation of Canon Law.

Christ the Saviour Seminary in PA, per his biography on the OCA website.
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« Reply #61 on: March 11, 2008, 11:30:23 PM »

From the little I've read about the OCA situation (not my jurisdiction), it sounds very sad. I pray despite all these trials, the Holy Spirit will intervene and provide comfort and healing to all parties involved. Especially I pray for Fr. Isidore, that  God will draw him to Himself- restoring  peace and Christian joy to this young man's soul! May  God send righteous, humble leaders  to the aid of the church in Alaska! Forgive me if I've said anything inappropriate-I realize this  is a very sensitive situation and felt a desire to let you all know I'm praying!
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« Reply #62 on: March 12, 2008, 12:51:16 AM »

It seems the site is now working.

Where did Bishop Nikolia go to seminary? He really has a very unusual interpretation of Canon Law.


Note:  The fact that Bishop Nikolai went to seminary in Johnstown has nothing to do with your assumption of his interpretation of Canon Law.  I can assure you the faith is taught in a proper manner in Johnstown/Christ the Saviour Seminary. 
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« Reply #63 on: March 12, 2008, 11:06:43 AM »

At the time Bishop Nikolai would have attended Christ the Savior Seminary in Johnstown, PA it was not an accredited college in PA. This is the same seminary that Fr. Thomas Hopko refused to go to, that got him kicked out of ACROD. However as as been said, the teaching of the Faith may be impeccable--I'm not as sure about Canon Law.

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« Reply #64 on: March 12, 2008, 01:04:20 PM »

I hope we can get off of the implication (intended or not) that Nikolai's disfunctionality, including his pride, arrogance, personal anomalous characteristics, and interpretation of canons, has anything whatsoever to do with the seminary he attended.  This is what he is doing to hang on; changing the subject.
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« Reply #65 on: March 12, 2008, 01:08:56 PM »

I would be willing to guess his seminary education is not what is at issue here.

I read the letter posted on the home page of the Alaska diocese.  I don't know enough about canon law to say whether or not Bishop Nikolai is correct in his statements, but his arguments certainly seem worthy of consideration.  I also notice he directed is diocese to basically ignore the actions of the Metropolitan.  Assuming some do continue to commemorate him and not follow the wishes of the Metropolitan, will be there be a schism in the OCA?
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« Reply #66 on: March 12, 2008, 01:22:56 PM »

I doubt there will be a schism in the OCA. Most of the bishop's clergy and laity want him to be removed. My guess is they will follow the rulings of the OCA Holy Synod. Which is what they should do since their bishop is disobeying the synod's ruling.
We are a concilliar church. If the laity, clergy and bishops want him removed, he has no choice whether he likes it or not.
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« Reply #67 on: March 12, 2008, 01:35:18 PM »

If he isn't guilty of anything (let alone charged with anything), how can he be removed?  I think that's what he's saying, and I think he has a point.  I agree the church is conciliar, but it is also hierarchal.  Again, I think he has a point in that regard.

If people continue to commemorate him, I think you have a de facto schism at the very least.
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« Reply #68 on: March 12, 2008, 02:01:38 PM »

If he isn't guilty of anything (let alone charged with anything), how can he be removed?  I think that's what he's saying, and I think he has a point.  I agree the church is conciliar, but it is also hierarchal.  Again, I think he has a point in that regard.

If people continue to commemorate him, I think you have a de facto schism at the very least.

Dear AMM,

Below is a portion of letter by an OCA subdeacon who was responding to another poster on this subject. He wanted to explain that the bishop's knack for hanging on to technicalities within the Canons is not Orthodox. In regard to schism. I doubt it. The Bishop has very few friends in Alaska. sincerely, Tamara

[in the first part of the letter he mentions all the various sects which broke off of the church over narrow interpretations of the canons or scripture such as the Montanists, Donatists, or Novatians. Their sects did not survive because they did not follow the Holy Spirit. They were too narrow and harsh.]

The Orthodox Church is katholiki - that is she embraces the "whole" not in some
Protestant denominatinalist, syncretistic sense, but in the sense of St Vincent
of Lerin's axiom of that which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. In practical
history, this has always meant AVOIDING narrow interpretations that do not encompass the whole
reality at hand- the fullness of Truth. The very word for catholicity is Slavonic is "sobornost"
which also happens to be the word for "conciliarity." The Truth is always apprehended in the
fullness (pleroma) of the Church, not in narrow interpretations held by a few. The truth has been
elucidated in Ecumenical Councils. True, it is possible for a large mass to fall into heresy.
it is possible for a heretical council to meet. That is a necessary part of the mystery of being
Orthodox: realising that there are no institutional means that, by themselves, guarantee truth.
It in is the fullness of everything, taken as a whole (katholiki) that the Truth is known and made known.
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« Reply #69 on: March 12, 2008, 02:21:59 PM »

If he isn't guilty of anything (let alone charged with anything), how can he be removed?  I think that's what he's saying, and I think he has a point.  I agree the church is conciliar, but it is also hierarchal.  Again, I think he has a point in that regard. 

If the synod removes him, that's how.  Every bishop can be removed by their synod (assuming a few other factors); the Archbishop of Cyprus was removed because he was suffering Alzheimer's, not for a canonical impediment.  However, he has the right to appeal - to the Synod of the OCA, and if need be, Russia (I don't know if that's in their procedures).  If no satisfaction there, then to Constantinople.
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« Reply #70 on: March 12, 2008, 03:40:16 PM »

Tamara and cleveland, I understand what you're saying (that he is unpopular and may not have a large following and can be removed by a synod), but I still don't know who ultimately is right in this situation.  Bishop Nikolai said this in his letter

Quote
You have received instructions (albeit through Internet postings and newspaper reports) from His Beatitude Metropolitan Herman to cease the commemoration of your Bishop in the Divine Liturgy. All of this has been done without a meeting of the synod, with no formal charges addressed to me, and without the canons of the Church being observed. Nevertheless, I have been ordered to take a “mandatory leave of absence” and to summarily vacate the Diocese. This – have no illusions about this – is an ecclesiastical punishment without trial… and that is nothing less than the rejection of Church discipline for some cause other than the integrity of our Lord’s Church.

and

Quote
At the core of this controversy is whether methods invented by the Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America within recent days will decide issues of Church discipline or if the methods spelled out in
Church Canons established in the 4th century during the First Ecumenical Council will decide those issues.
A “mandatory leave of absence” is an innovation that is foreign to Orthodox Canon law. The use of such a
compulsory innovation is not canonical or acceptable, whether applied to a Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon, or Reader. Therefore, because I am submissive to the Holy Canons and because that has not been, and is not, the criterion by which this issue is being appraised, I have not vacated my office… and I will, by our Lord’s grace, continue to persevere.

Is he correct?  Is the Metropolitan acting unilaterally and therefore incorrectly?

The chain of appeal is another interesting question, and I could see that getting quite messy.  I think a big part of the problem here may also be a lack of credibility on either side of this confrontation.

Tamara,

Quote
He wanted to explain that the bishop's knack for hanging on to technicalities within the Canons is not Orthodox.

I think this is a problematic statement.  What recourse do we have to understanding what is Orthodox beyond the canons?  I agree that hiding behind technicalities or sticking 100% to canons in all situations is probably not pastorally wise, but not Orthodox?  I have some trouble with that.
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« Reply #71 on: March 12, 2008, 03:49:50 PM »

Theoretically, it is of good order to provide a charge for removing a bishop, which is why the Synod's request for him to vacate temporarily while the charges were being investigated is a funny thing.  On the one hand, he needs to know what he's charged with, so he can mount a defense, and for this reason the synod should be more forthright than they are with him (if what we've seen is the extent of the communication).  On the other hand, it is clear from the writings of the fathers that a bishop must be obedient to his synod or appeal; in addition, I can't recall anything in the canons that says a bishop cannot be deposed without a charge - so while it may be a bad precedent, it may not be "against the rules" per se to ask him to step aside during the investigation.

Either way, he doesn't need to wait for a charge to be leveled to appeal - the letter asking him to step aside during the investigation is a directive from the synod that can be appealed.  The question is, where should his appeal go?  Theoretically, to the full synod of the OCA.  Then where?  Constantinople is the final step canonically, but what are the provisions of the OCA's autocephaly re: appeals to Moscow - is that in the mix, or not?  If not (which it probably isn't), then his only recourse after the OCA's synod is Constantinople.  Normally, when dealing with such appeals from other Churches, Constantinople convenes a Residing Synod (i.e. not just the Synod of the Patriarchate, but also with representatives of the other Patriarchates and/or Autocephalous Churches).  The tricky thing is that Constantinople may direct the appeal to Moscow because in their eyes (and in the eyes of other Autocephalous Churches) the OCA isn't Autocephalous.  Big mess, it is indeed.
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« Reply #72 on: March 12, 2008, 04:08:19 PM »

I would be willing to guess his seminary education is not what is at issue here.

I read the letter posted on the home page of the Alaska diocese.  I don't know enough about canon law to say whether or not Bishop Nikolai is correct in his statements, but his arguments certainly seem worthy of consideration.  I also notice he directed is diocese to basically ignore the actions of the Metropolitan.  Assuming some do continue to commemorate him and not follow the wishes of the Metropolitan, will be there be a schism in the OCA?

I think Bp. Nikolai will remain obstinate in this despite the "obedience" argument until there is a proper Synod ruling.  This looks like another case of Met. Herman doing something premature without going through due process.  Someone like GiC/Cleveland/etc. needs to chime in on this.  The Metropolitan cannot remove a bishop from his diocese without a proper canonical trial and investigation, which has yet to happen - this is still just a "request" which can be ignored (and is) which just furthers confusion and chaos.  The situation with the Antiochian bishop a few years ago was much different - it was a moral issue, he readily admitted to and he may not have been a diocesan bishop at the time - only an auxiliary.  Basically, you can't tell a diocesan bishop to leave just because people say he's mean w/o a proper investigation and spiritual court ruling by the Synod (being judged by his brother bishops).  While he never came across as super friendly to me, rules do have to be followed.

(edited to add that 5 replies came since I typed this but I'm not going to bother rewriting the above)
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« Reply #73 on: March 12, 2008, 04:13:58 PM »

Theoretically, it is of good order to provide a charge for removing a bishop, which is why the Synod's request for him to vacate temporarily while the charges were being investigated is a funny thing.  On the one hand, he needs to know what he's charged with, so he can mount a defense, and for this reason the synod should be more forthright than they are with him (if what we've seen is the extent of the communication).  On the other hand, it is clear from the writings of the fathers that a bishop must be obedient to his synod or appeal; in addition, I can't recall anything in the canons that says a bishop cannot be deposed without a charge - so while it may be a bad precedent, it may not be "against the rules" per se to ask him to step aside during the investigation.

Either way, he doesn't need to wait for a charge to be leveled to appeal - the letter asking him to step aside during the investigation is a directive from the synod that can be appealed.  The question is, where should his appeal go?  Theoretically, to the full synod of the OCA.  Then where?  Constantinople is the final step canonically, but what are the provisions of the OCA's autocephaly re: appeals to Moscow - is that in the mix, or not?  If not (which it probably isn't), then his only recourse after the OCA's synod is Constantinople.  Normally, when dealing with such appeals from other Churches, Constantinople convenes a Residing Synod (i.e. not just the Synod of the Patriarchate, but also with representatives of the other Patriarchates and/or Autocephalous Churches).  The tricky thing is that Constantinople may direct the appeal to Moscow because in their eyes (and in the eyes of other Autocephalous Churches) the OCA isn't Autocephalous.  Big mess, it is indeed.

Is it really a deposition, canonically speaking, if he's being asked to temporarily step aside for the purposes of conducting an investigation?  It seems to rely on circular logic to have to formally charge and depose a bishop in order to allow for an unobstructed investigation of charges which might be used to depose that bishop.  I'm certainly no expert in the canons, but in civil society, this seems to be quite similar to when a public official is investigated; they are asked to temporarily step aside, not as punishment, but so that the allegations can be investigated to determine their merit before actually bringing charges.  Is there nothing analagous in the canons or are we supposed to allow the accused to obstruct and interfere with an investigation of charges against him?
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« Reply #74 on: March 12, 2008, 04:47:53 PM »

If he would have just stepped aside, the Synod could have investigated and kept this matter quiet and eventually returned him to his Diocese. While not everyone would be happy with this outcome, I think this was the goal of the Synod. By refusing a request of the Synod, he has now forced the hand of the Synod and they must deal with him.

Where as before he was asked to leave the Diocese, he was not suspended from episcopal function, meaning he could still serve and preach in which ever diocese would play host to him. There is no choice now but for the Synod to meet in emergency session and suspend him from all episcopal functions for his actions.
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« Reply #75 on: March 12, 2008, 05:13:45 PM »

Is it really a deposition, canonically speaking, if he's being asked to temporarily step aside for the purposes of conducting an investigation?  It seems to rely on circular logic to have to formally charge and depose a bishop in order to allow for an unobstructed investigation of charges which might be used to depose that bishop.  I'm certainly no expert in the canons, but in civil society, this seems to be quite similar to when a public official is investigated; they are asked to temporarily step aside, not as punishment, but so that the allegations can be investigated to determine their merit before actually bringing charges.  Is there nothing analagous in the canons or are we supposed to allow the accused to obstruct and interfere with an investigation of charges against him? 

Except public officials are not asked to temporarily step aside when investigated; can you imagine the chaos if every President, Senator, etc. were asked to step aside?  The only groups that I can think of that are indeed asked to step aside temporarily are Prosecutors/Judges and Military officials.

Anyway, a temporary leave (demanded by the synod) is still a leave against one's will nonetheless, and he's got the right to appeal it.

By refusing a request of the Synod, he has now forced the hand of the Synod and they must deal with him.

Exactly.
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« Reply #76 on: March 12, 2008, 05:17:02 PM »


Tamara,

I think this is a problematic statement.  What recourse do we have to understanding what is Orthodox beyond the canons?  I agree that hiding behind technicalities or sticking 100% to canons in all situations is probably not pastorally wise, but not Orthodox?  I have some trouble with that.

The Canons are not legalistic rules within the Church. They have always been used as reliable guides when issues arise in a conciliar setting.
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« Reply #77 on: March 12, 2008, 05:21:40 PM »

Nikolai is using cannons that deal with disposition or some kind of canonical sanction to act as disobediently as he is acting.  The Synod is not charging him with anything.  He is quite aware of the allegations of improper behavior that the clergy and faithful brought to Metropolitan Herman and the balance of the Holy Synod's attention.  I'm aware of them because they've been generally circulated by a flock crying for help to its superior ecclesiastical authority.  The Synod has rightly, for a change, decided to investigate the allegations before determining if they have enough credibility to be brought before a Spiritual Court of the Holy Synod and has suspended Nikolai so that he cannot influence or otherwise intimidate those who will participate in the investigation.  Herman has not acted unilaterally in this matter.  The Synodal actions were arrived at through a regular meeting of the Lesser Synod, last week, at which, they included the balance of the Synod, except for Archbishop Job, I believe, due to a schedule conflict, via teleconference.

After the investigation, the Synod will set up a canonical procedure consistent with the OCA's Statute to determin whether Nikolai's behavior and actions violated his episcopal responsibilities under the canons.
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« Reply #78 on: March 12, 2008, 05:28:40 PM »

The Canons are not legalistic rules within the Church. They have always been used as reliable guides when issues arise in a conciliar setting.

I'm not so sure of that.  How can we be a Church of order and hierarchy if we just feel the Canons are rough guides?  It sounds more like you want to be very liberal in your economy, which by definition is supposed to be the exception rather than the norm.  A household is managed with rules, not "reliable guides" for the children to follow as they please or are convenient to them.
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« Reply #79 on: March 12, 2008, 07:36:40 PM »

I'm not so sure of that.  How can we be a Church of order and hierarchy if we just feel the Canons are rough guides?  It sounds more like you want to be very liberal in your economy, which by definition is supposed to be the exception rather than the norm.  A household is managed with rules, not "reliable guides" for the children to follow as they please or are convenient to them.

Canon is from the Greek which means 'measuring stick' or rule. So "Canon" didn't mean "rule," in the sense of a regulation but rather in the sense of a straightedge, a "ruler," or standard for straightness or measurement. In other words, canons were used to determine correctness of an action or belief.

Proclamations on faith and doctrine are absolute and timeless. Canon Law, on the other hand, are usually a reaction to a particular problem that arose in a particular place, at a particular time, within a particular social context, etc.

Based on this, one can say that dogmatic issues cannot ever be revised, changed or re-interpreted, but Canon Law can wherever the situation to which it was a reaction has changed or disappeared.

From the goarch website (THE CANONICAL TRADITION OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH Lewis Patsavos, Ph.D.):

"Finally, it must not be forgotten that the Church is not to be identified with her rules. The Church indeed has rules, but she has much else besides. She has within her treasures of another order and another value besides her canons. She has her theology, her spirituality, her mysticism, her liturgy, her morality. And it is most important not to confuse the Gospel and the Pedalion (collection of canons), theology and legislation, morality and jurisprudence. Each is on a different level and to identify them completely would be to fall into a kind of heresy. The canons are at the service of the Church; their function is to guide her members on the way to salvation and to make following that way easier."

http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7071.asp

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« Reply #80 on: March 12, 2008, 09:04:58 PM »

But Tamara, while that is true, the other part of the equation is that the canons, being reflections of the Canon, are themselves authoritative, and while they must be interpreted, they are presumed to be in effect, and they can't really be reversed so easily or reintepreted, or ignored.  They can be outdated but the teaching behind them stands.
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« Reply #81 on: March 12, 2008, 11:25:03 PM »


Note:  The fact that Bishop Nikolai went to seminary in Johnstown has nothing to do with your assumption of his interpretation of Canon Law.  I can assure you the faith is taught in a proper manner in Johnstown/Christ the Saviour Seminary. 


I disagree with you on this fact, but this is neither the time nor place for that discussion.
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« Reply #82 on: March 12, 2008, 11:52:24 PM »

Constantinople is the final step canonically, but what are the provisions of the OCA's autocephaly re: appeals to Moscow - is that in the mix, or not?  If not (which it probably isn't), then his only recourse after the OCA's synod is Constantinople.  Normally, when dealing with such appeals from other Churches, Constantinople convenes a Residing Synod (i.e. not just the Synod of the Patriarchate, but also with representatives of the other Patriarchates and/or Autocephalous Churches).  The tricky thing is that Constantinople may direct the appeal to Moscow because in their eyes (and in the eyes of other Autocephalous Churches) the OCA isn't Autocephalous.  Big mess, it is indeed.

The variant with Moscow is not in the mix. And yes, Constantinople may direct to Moscow. So complicated!
Nikolai is using cannons that deal with disposition or some kind of canonical sanction to act as disobediently as he is acting. The Synod is not charging him with anything. He is quite aware of the allegations of improper behavior that the clergy and faithful brought to Metropolitan Herman and the balance of the Holy Synod's attention. I'm aware of them because they've been generally circulated by a flock crying for help to its superior ecclesiastical authority. The Synod has rightly, for a change, decided to investigate the allegations before determining if they have enough credibility to be brought before a Spiritual Court of the Holy Synod and has suspended Nikolai so that he cannot influence or otherwise intimidate those who will participate in the investigation. Herman has not acted unilaterally in this matter. The Synodal actions were arrived at through a regular meeting of the Lesser Synod, last week, at which, they included the balance of the Synod, except for Archbishop Job, I believe, due to a schedule conflict, via teleconference.

After the investigation, the Synod will set up a canonical procedure consistent with the OCA's Statute to determin whether Nikolai's behavior and actions violated his episcopal responsibilities under the canons.

Exactly correct!

In terms of new canons and new precedents, those situations occur. Just take a look at the new status of ROCOR within MP, just for the sake of an example. Officially, it is neither an Exarchate, nor an Autonomous Church. In reality, in my opinion, at least for now, somewhere between those two variants.

And the Patriarchate of Constantinople views OCA as a canonical enitity, an Exarchate within MP.
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« Reply #83 on: March 13, 2008, 12:39:00 AM »

Letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Alaska from Archpriest Alexander Garklavs

Article posted: 3/12/2008 3:02 PM   
   
SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- On March 11, 2008, Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska, issued a letter to Alaska diocesan clergy.

The text of Fr. Alexander's letter is as follows.
To: The Clergy of the Diocese of Alaska

From: Archpriest Alexander Garklavs

Dear Reverend Fathers,

By the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, on March 4, 2008, His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI has been placed on an indefinite Leave of Absence. After serious consideration, the Holy Synod has decided that a Committee be appointed to investigate many received complaints from the Diocese of Alaska. In order for this to proceed, His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI has been instructed to leave the territory of the Diocese of Alaska.

In the meantime, His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN will be overseeing the Diocese of Alaska. His name alone should be elevated during the appropriate moments in the Divine Services. His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN has appointed me as the Administrator of the Diocese until further notice. I hope to be in Alaska soon. Should pastoral or other ecclesiastical issues arise, we ask that you address them to our office, until further notice. This can be done through e-mail, telephone or by regular mail.

His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI is refusing to accept the decision of the Holy Synod and has stated that he does not intend to leave the Diocese of Alaska. He has also written that you should continue to acknowledge him as the Diocesan Hierarch. These uncanonical actions are extremely harmful, for the clergy and people of the Diocese of Alaska as well as for the entire Orthodox Church in America. The decision of the Holy Synod was done with much care and pastoral concern. A Committee is in the process of being formed, from the members of the Holy Synod, which will thoroughly investigate the situation in Alaska. This method is entirely Scriptural and canonical. Neither guilt nor innocence is prejudged, and ascertaining the truth is the only objective. Unfortunately, Bishop NIKOLAI is openly defying the Holy Synod and thus placing himself into a critical situation which may have serious canonical repercussions.

We want to assure you that His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, the Holy Synod of Bishops, and the entire Orthodox Church in America, are thinking of you at this most difficult time. We know that the Orthodox clergy and people of Alaska have great faith and exemplary piety, and we know that your heavenly intercessors, Saints Innocent, Herman and Jacob of Alaska will not abandon you during this time. Brothers, let us not forget the words of the Holy Apostle Paul: "Aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith, take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim. 6.12). We hope to be able to convene the clergy of the Diocese of Alaska in the nearest future, and will be communicating this to you.

Your brother in Christ,
Archpriest Alexander Garklavs
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« Reply #84 on: March 13, 2008, 01:03:15 AM »

But Tamara, while that is true, the other part of the equation is that the canons, being reflections of the Canon, are themselves authoritative, and while they must be interpreted, they are presumed to be in effect, and they can't really be reversed so easily or reintepreted, or ignored.  They can be outdated but the teaching behind them stands.

But Anastasios, is what you write true in reality? Aren't there canons which forbid:

Being friendly and associating with non-Christians,

Using the medical services of a Jewish doctor,

Marrying a non-Orthodox,

Playing cards or even hunting,

Painting artistic works or gazing at the same,

Clergymen using female housekeepers,

Attending banquets where females are present.

One distinguished Orthodox theologian remarked: “THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IS GOOD AND HOLY; HOWEVER, ITS FLOCK IS PRACTICALLY UNDER EX­COMMUNICATION.”

Not to mention the canonical jurisdictional chaos in the western world sanctioned by all the mother patriarchates.
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« Reply #85 on: March 13, 2008, 02:13:01 AM »

But Anastasios, is what you write true in reality? Aren't there canons which forbid:

Being friendly and associating with non-Christians,

Using the medical services of a Jewish doctor,

Marrying a non-Orthodox,

Playing cards or even hunting,

Painting artistic works or gazing at the same,

Clergymen using female housekeepers,

Attending banquets where females are present.

One distinguished Orthodox theologian remarked: “THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IS GOOD AND HOLY; HOWEVER, ITS FLOCK IS PRACTICALLY UNDER EX­COMMUNICATION.”

Not to mention the canonical jurisdictional chaos in the western world sanctioned by all the mother patriarchates.


I think you missed my point, but maybe we are talking past each other. While some of the above is outdated, there are reasons behind those canons, and that reasoning is still valid.
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« Reply #86 on: March 13, 2008, 02:15:59 AM »

You basically totally missed my point.

Then please elucidate it for me...I tend to be myopic and thick-headed at times.  Wink
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« Reply #87 on: March 13, 2008, 02:18:10 AM »

Then please elucidate it for me...I tend to be myopic and thick-headed at times.  Wink

My initial response was too curt so I tried to modify it. I could go through each of those cases and explain the reasoning behind them (I think some of those canons are still valid btw) but that is not the point. I perceive--and could be wrong--that you are following the line that canons are just guides.  I am saying that they are rules, authoritative, but they must be applied. They are not just suggestions in that if a bishop applies them in an inappropriate way, he has to answer to God for it. Ugh I am tired and probably not making a lot of sense right now.
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« Reply #88 on: March 13, 2008, 04:06:22 AM »

Think of canon law as a medical reference book. Everything in there is there for a reason but at the same time it doesn't give you all the answers for every situation. It take a trained professional, one who has studied all the canons and the historical context behind them, in order to properly apply them. Canon Law is more akin to the practice of medicine then law since it is for the healing of the soul, not its destruction. See Canon 102 of Trullo to see how the fathers look at canon law.

There are maybe 20 or so people in the United States and Canada who are really qualified to give canonical interpretations with any expertise and non of them are bishops in the OCA. The only OCA Bishop who was ever qualified use to say in French accent "Everyone else asks my opinion on matters of canon law except my own synod." There was a reason behind me asking where he went to seminary, and those who have gone to seminary would understand it. What is taught in seminary is really only a basic survey that is presented in a way to make you understand that you can't understand all of canon law. Those who actually enjoy the class then take further studies in it and only Holy Cross and St. Vladimir's have ever offered more then just the survey course. The question about the seminary is not a slight towards any seminary but rather trying to understand why he has a crazy interpretation of canon law and yes his going to that academy in Johnstown, PA factors into his understanding. The classes that are taught there are surveys of surveys so there is no way he has any true training in interpretation of canon law.
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« Reply #89 on: March 13, 2008, 07:41:34 AM »

If recourse can't be made to canon law, then there should be a statute or rule to spell out what to do in a situation like this.  If there is no stated policy about what to do, there's a problem.
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« Reply #90 on: March 13, 2008, 08:52:50 AM »

The canons also have not addressed the issues that currently face the OCA and to which the current by-laws are a product of those  issues.  The local synod (OCA) has established an expansion of the canons that address issues not covered by the canons.  In the past you were generally called before a synod and kept or fired, the current model allows for a defusion of the tension by allowing a quiet and steady investigation of the matter, rather than the  very legnthy  and turmoiled filled experiences iin the past that the canons are based upon (often done long distance with  years involved with travel, death of witnesses by natural cause translation issues, and political agendas of the empire) and then if there are grounds a court can be called. Otherwise it is a moot point and the Bishop  knows the charges are ungrounded and returns from his leave able to direct his diocese. 

It seems to me unusual that with all the calls for accountability that are being leveled at orthodox Churches in the US, that once a jurisdiction actually starts being accountable that onjections are  raised and the canons called into question, I thought we are to be a house of order---by-laws either have the stregnth of  local council authority or they are useless.

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« Reply #91 on: March 13, 2008, 10:12:17 AM »

If recourse can't be made to canon law, then there should be a statute or rule to spell out what to do in a situation like this.  If there is no stated policy about what to do, there's a problem.
Isn't that one of the reasons why the Holy Spirit came to guide us?
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« Reply #92 on: March 13, 2008, 11:11:32 AM »

My initial response was too curt so I tried to modify it. I could go through each of those cases and explain the reasoning behind them (I think some of those canons are still valid btw) but that is not the point. I perceive--and could be wrong--that you are following the line that canons are just guides.  I am saying that they are rules, authoritative, but they must be applied. They are not just suggestions in that if a bishop applies them in an inappropriate way, he has to answer to God for it. Ugh I am tired and probably not making a lot of sense right now.

I know very little about canon law except from my observations of how canon laws are applied by Orthodox bishops in all the patriarchates. It seems most all have ignored or modified them to fit the needs or desires depending on the situation so they appear to me to be very flexible.
However, Arimethea brought up an interesting point that the canons should be viewed as a medical reference book and need a canonical expert to intrepret them. I am wondering where he heard of that analogy? Guess I will try to look up the canon of Trullo he mentions in his message.
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« Reply #93 on: March 13, 2008, 11:18:37 AM »

...
There are maybe 20 or so people in the United States and Canada who are really qualified to give canonical interpretations with any expertise and non of them are bishops in the OCA. The only OCA Bishop who was ever qualified use to say in French accent "Everyone else asks my opinion on matters of canon law except my own synod."
...

Care to name them...and that OCA bishop who was qualified? Wink
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« Reply #94 on: March 13, 2008, 11:24:44 AM »

I know very little about canon law except from my observations of how canon laws are applied by Orthodox bishops in all the patriarchates. It seems most all have ignored or modified them to fit the needs or desires depending on the situation so they appear to me to be very flexible.
...

Me thinks that they have been ignored or modifed both too liberally and followed too strictly in North America over the years, unfortunately.
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« Reply #95 on: March 13, 2008, 12:49:25 PM »

Isn't that one of the reasons why the Holy Spirit came to guide us?

Problems arise whether we like it or not, and we should have plans to deal with them.  Whether that's somebody hiding behind the intricicies of the canons, irregularity with money, or the fact that we have to deal with the reality of sexual impropriety and God forbid abuse.  The Holy Spirit should move us to put in place what needs to be done when these things happen so that there is no confusion and hesitation.
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« Reply #96 on: March 13, 2008, 04:22:51 PM »

There are interesting documents posted online now including a canonical commentary:

http://www.dioceseofalaska.org/pdf/docs/docs.html

There's also a comment section:

http://www.dioceseofalaska.org/askvladyka/

I also noticed in his reply that Bishop Nikolai copied Constantinople and Moscow.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 04:29:46 PM by AMM » Logged
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« Reply #97 on: March 17, 2008, 01:09:47 AM »

The Reverend Innocent Dresdow
Rector Dean
Holy Resurrection Cathedral
Kodiak, Alaska


My Dear Flock:

I love you and I write this letter as an expression of that love. My full intent is to serve you by offering my perspective and facts regarding the dilemma in which we find ourselves. I do not know the short term outcome of these issues. I do know the ultimate outcome: God will build His Church and He will be glorified.

I want to address the following items in this letter:

1. The commemoration of His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI

2. My participation in the investigation of Father Isidore

3. What action should we take now?

The Commemoration of His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI

I am commemorating His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI because I have been offered no canonical or biblical reason for doing otherwise. Now let me be more specific.
Priests and laity alike have been placed on the horns of a dilemma: either obey our Bishop or obey the Holy Synod of Bishops.

I believe that our Bishop and the Holy Synod of Bishops are truly concerned for the well-being of the clergy and faithful of Alaska.
I believe all true clergy want to do what will most benefit the faithful of Christ’s Church.
All clergy in the OCA have taken an oath to obey the Holy Synod of Bishops… and this synod now asks us not to commemorate His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI .
All clergy have taken an oath to obey our diocesan Bishop… and our Bishop asks us to proceed per normal Church practice unless there is a canonical reason to do otherwise… and no such canonical process has begun, let alone been concluded.
Although it is true that various communiqués have been posted on various websites, including the OCA website, I have received no official instructions from The Holy Synod with regard to the commemoration of His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI. This is an important distinction: all of the official directives of the OCA as it impacts this parish have come to me in the mail and in hard copy, for example, Pastoral Letters, assignments, etc. No such communiqué has come to me through an Internet posting. Therefore I assume that something so significant as ceasing to commemorate a bishop would be afforded at least the same level of orderliness and decorum. Put simply, it would be irresponsible and imprudent for me to conduct the business of the church without official notice.

In the absence of agreement between our Bishop and The Holy Synod, I must rely on the canons, the history of The Church, and on the oath I took when I became a priest. Nowhere in the history of the Ecumenical Councils do we see a Synod first remove a bishop from his diocese without any formal charges so that they can conduct an “impartial investigation.” I will not, therefore, be even a passive party to a breech in the decent and orderly affairs of The Church.  Let me be very clear: I am not saying Bishop NIKOLAI is without fault any more than I am saying that The Holy Synod is without fault. I am saying that the way to determine those faults is to implement Church law. I beg the Holy Synod to take the time to pursue this issue in a calm and disciplined way and according to the oath taken by every bishop. If, having done that, there is a canonical trial called for and if Bishop NIKOLAI is found to be guilty, then I will support the actions of The Holy Synod.  I am deadly serious about this. I have been willing and am willing to suffer slander, insinuation, false accusation, and potentially the loss of my priesthood in order to defend the integrity of the Church. And beyond this, I have been willing and continue to be willing for my dear wife and two beautiful children to suffer ostracism and unkind whispers as a result of the stand I have taken.
What is at stake here is not a war between personalities or bishops. What is at stake here is whether or not The Church will function as it has functioned for two thousand years… or whether it will decline into the ordinary and ungodly. For The Church to continue in the tradition of The Fathers, some must have the courage and humility to admit to having mismanaged the process and to correct that mistake.

My Participation in The Investigation of Father Isidore

Many are asking, “Who told the truth? Paul Sidebottom or Father Innocent?”
Paul Sidebottom is the only person who can speak to the veracity of what he has said. I tell you clearly and plainly, I told the truth:

Father Isidore was intoxicated the night in question.
I saw no occurrence of any behavior on the part of Father Isidore that even suggested sexual harassment or “inappropriate touching.”
But even if you don’t believe me, then consider this: Archpriest Alexei Karlgut, the OCA investigator assured Bishop NIKOLAI as far back as November 2, 2007, that none of the allegations made against Father Isidore were substantiated and that Farther Isidore could return to service immediately.
Although the Office of The Diocese of Alaska has released these findings, the findings of the OCA investigator have not been released to the public by the OCA, despite repeated appeals by Bishop NIKOLAI. The failure of the OCA office to exonerate a fellow priest who has been accused and investigated and cleared by that office seems to lack any sense of mercy. This is tragic, if not worse, inasmuch as a great deal of the discontent in our diocese is a result of the assumption that Father Isidore is guilty of sexual misconduct and/or that there is a cover-up led by Bishop NIKOLAI. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I did not corroborate Paul Sidebottom’s allegation of sexual misconduct attributed to Father Isidore. Rather, it was my sin –the sin of letting myself participate in gossip and unsubstantiated allegations—that gave Paul Sidebottom the opportunity to assume I could corroborate his allegations.

What Action Should We Take Now

We must fervently pray for those in authority over us.
We must appeal to The Holy Synod to energetically and precisely apply the rules of the Canons of The Church and let the consequences fall where they will.
We must be hopeful and dwell on that which is holy, pure and peaceable, asking for and seeking the discernment of the Holy Spirit
We must put into practice the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian asking for the grace to not condemn our brothers and sisters, but to be given the grace to confess our own sins
We must continue the good work that has begone here at Holy Resurrection Cathedral. Continue to encourage one another to be involved and to grow in our faith. To involve ourselves in the many classess and ministries offered each week by the church.
Finally, to not lose sight of the fact that the church is a spiritual hospital, that means we are all ill with the sickness of sin, and we must come with the expectation of healing, even if the medicine is not what we want to take.

Concluding Comments
“I came here to die…” With those words I opened my first homily of instruction to you upon my arrival in Kodiak on the Feast of The Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You are witnessing that death. I pray, this is a God-pleasing sacrifice.
As your parish priest, I’ve labored over the last three years to be a living example of a sinful man struggling to lay down the whole of his life for the sake of Jesus Christ. I’ve made a multitude of errors, and caused a multitude of offenses.
Today I am a different person than I was the day I arrived in Kodiak… I have done a lot of dieing. God has blessed me to endure sufferings that humanly I don’t want to endure, but that He deems necessary for my salvation. The only way I can be an effective pastor to you is by dying. There is no other way.

My accountability before God is this:

I promise to uphold the teachings of truth and other pastoral instructions
according to the teachings of the Holy Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic
Church and the Holy Fathers; to endeavor with my mind, heart and soul to
protect the souls of the faithful entrusted to my care, against every heresy
and schism, and to labor with every means available to return the True
Flock of Christ those who may have strayed from His path;…”
(Oath of Allegiance to the Holy Priesthood)

At the dread judgment seat I will be held accountable for that oath… the very thought of it terrifies me. It is, in part, for that reason that I am giving all that I have in service to you in reliance on God to give me the grace to make up that which is lacking in me.
I do not possess an adequate human capacity to love when insulted, to communicate directly when confronted, to keep my lips from speaking evil of another person, to adequately comfort the afflicted and visit the oppressed. I can do these only if I allow Christ to work through me… that is to say, I can do this only if I die to myself.

I have striven to be a living example of forgiveness and healing. It is with great sadness of heart that I am witnessing the current upheaval in our beloved Church and the lack of love and forgiveness. The evil one alone is to blame for this.

Therefore, glory be to God!

Glory be to God because greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world!

The unworthy Priest Innocent

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« Reply #98 on: March 17, 2008, 01:51:12 AM »

I have no desire to comment on the tragic situation in Alaska for which I am not qualified to give an opinion.  However, this letter should be an example to all of us of the amazing and Godly men that serve the Church as priests.  I don't know Fr. Innocent, but reading this letter is such a poignant and moving example of the kind of burden and responsibility that weighs on every priest that is giving their lives every day for each of us and the Holy Church.  I think we often take our priests for granted and don't stop and consider what the priesthood actually means.   We should be praying every day for our priests.  If you haven't done so in a while, tell your priest you appreciate the hard work he's called to do and offer to help more around the parish.  And, if you don't like your priest (his serving style, his administrative skills, his sermons, his whatever) stop * bellyaching * and start praying even harder.  Thank God that at least you have a priest, when so many of his Alaska servants are discouraged and threatened with losing their own vocations.


EDIT:  Inappropriate language cleaned up a bit.  - PtA
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« Reply #99 on: March 17, 2008, 09:49:42 AM »

It seems like a very reasonable, pastoral, open, and mature letter.  Good for him!  I hope everyone in that diocese is able to maturely discuss their stand on this issue and inform their parish about it, as he did.
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« Reply #100 on: March 17, 2008, 12:05:05 PM »

I don't know anything about this priest but according to former members of his parish, he may soon have very few members left to pastor. Because of the bishop's behavior, so many refuse to attend out of fear.

According to OCAnews only the two cathedrals are commemorating the bishop. All other parishes in Alaska are commemorating Met. Herman. You can read it here:
http://www.ocanews.org/news/WarofWOrds-Alaska3.17.08.html

3.17.0

INVESTIGATIVE MEMO CONTRADICTS +NIKOLAI

"Reports indicate that with the exceptions of the cathedrals in Kodiak and
Anchorage, Metropolitan Herman, not Bishop Nikolai, is being commemorated during
services, as per the Metropolitan's instructions. It appears the Bishop's writ
extends no further than his presence."

Here is a letter from one of the parishioners of this particular cathedral written to the Holy Synod.


My letter to the Metropolitan and Holy Synod:

March 2, 2008

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman
and to the Holy Synod of Bishops
Orthodox Church in America

I have just returned from liturgy at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in
Kodiak where the mood was joyous for the first time in many years.
This joyousness stems from the knowledge that the Alaskan priests
have strongly spoken out and the belief that you and our Holy Synod
will act to remove Bishop Nikolai from this diocese immediately.
Further, Bishop Nikolai's lieutenant, Fr. Innocent Dresdow, was out
of town, enabling people to relax and speak freely. Our people have
reached the breaking point; we must be free from Bishop Nikolai one
way or the other.

I stand in full support of the priests and laity who have spoken out
again Bishop Nikolai, and pray that you act honorably and remove
Bishop Nikolai from this diocese immediately.

Asking your blessings, In Christ,

Kathleen Carlsen
Holy Resurrection Cathedral
Kodiak, Alaska



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« Reply #101 on: March 17, 2008, 12:26:07 PM »

EDIT:  Inappropriate language cleaned up a bit.  - PtA

My sincere apologies to the Board and the Moderator. 
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« Reply #102 on: March 17, 2008, 08:46:05 PM »


The Moscow Patriarchate is following the Alaska situation - "OCA
Chancellor warns Alaskan bishop of 'serious canonical
consequences...'"
http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/380676.html   (this site is in Russian)
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« Reply #103 on: March 17, 2008, 11:05:21 PM »

I have been told that the Moscow Patriarchate has been following alot of what has been going on in the OCA and is not happy about it.
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« Reply #104 on: March 17, 2008, 11:23:46 PM »

^  I will have to say that I find Bishop Nikolai's interpretation of the canons against undue removal of hierarchs rather interesting and tenuous at best.  First off, he has not been suspended nor deposed from his episcopal office, so he can't say that he's been removed--he's simply been instructed by the chair of the Holy Synod to step aside and let others handle the affairs of the Diocese of Alaska until after a formal investigation is complete.  If he is not indicted by the OCA authorities, or he is and is later acquitted of all charges, then he will be allowed to return to his see.  The Synod also needs to recognize that anyone alleged to have abused his authority over the course of many years will very likely continue to abuse his authority to obstruct an impartial investigation and threaten reprisal against subordinate clergy who cooperate with investigators.  Even if there is no canonical precedent for such a move as a mandatory leave of absence, the practical concerns of a formal inquiry into his hierarchical actions require that Bishop Nikolai be ordered to step aside for the duration of the inquest.
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« Reply #105 on: March 17, 2008, 11:42:34 PM »

PeterTheAleut,
I completely agree.
Even if there is no canonical precedent for such a move as a mandatory leave of absence, the practical concerns of a formal inquiry into his hierarchical actions require that Bishop Nikolai be ordered to step aside for the duration of the inquest.

Exactly. Most, if not all canons, were developed as a reaction of the Church to some particular situation(s).
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« Reply #106 on: March 17, 2008, 11:44:41 PM »

PeterTheAleut,
I completely agree.
Exactly. Most, if not all canons, were developed as a reaction of the Church to some particular situation(s).
And I'd be willing to wager that many of them had no precedent in earlier canons, either.
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« Reply #107 on: March 17, 2008, 11:54:14 PM »

 
And I'd be willing to wager that many of them had no precedent in earlier canons, either.

Yes, you are right with this description as well.
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« Reply #108 on: March 18, 2008, 12:04:17 AM »

And I'd be willing to wager that many of them had no precedent in earlier canons, either.

The concept of precedent does not exist in the Orthodox Canonical Tradition.
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« Reply #109 on: March 18, 2008, 01:02:07 PM »

From an Antiochian Orthodox priest:


I do agree this matter requires a great deal of prayer by all of us, out of love
and compassion for all those struck by recent events.

Lord, have mercy!

From the various documents I have read:

- The OCA Holy Synod established a practice regarding sex offenders and their
status within the jurisdiction.  There is a common opinion (a ‘local canon’ if
you dare) that registered/convicted sex offenders are not to be tonsured to
minor offices or ordained to Holy Orders.
- Bishop Nikolai tonsured a sex offender as Reader against the policies of the
Holy Synod.
- When he refused to take action, Metropolitan Herman suspended the Reader
(c.f. http://www.oca.org/news.asp?ID=1451&SID=19)
- Bishop Nikolai publicly served Theophany with the Reader and posted photos
on his website to confirm the event (c.f.
http://www.dioceseofalaska.org/images/theophany08/IMG_0103.gif)
- The bishops of the Holy Synod were contacted regarding accusations and
complaints from long-serving clergy at the request of Bishop Nikolai (c.f. 4
March 2008 letter from the Holy Synod).
- They *unanimously* agreed that Bishop Nikolai take a voluntary Leave-of-
absence in keeping with the Statutes of the OCA (c.f. ibid.).
- Bishop Nikolai then violated his consecration oath by refusing to obey his
Synod (c.f. Third Consecration Oath of a Bishop versus his 5 March 2008
letter).

Therefore, even if the actions were not in keeping with the letter of the
canons, Bishop Nikolai’s obstinate behavior is highly problematic from a
canonical perspective.  He should have obeyed and appealed the action
through the normal channels rather than refusing a rightful instruction of the
Holy Synod.

His Grace, Bishop Tikhon, knows full well that two wrongs do not make a right,
and that returning evil with evil is not godly to say the least.  The Holy Synod
has hardly slipped into heresy or done some such thing that would require
such drastic actions as Bishop Nikolai has taken in disobeying the Holy Synod
over a procedural problem.  Despite what Bishop Nikolai said in his press
conference, the Holy Synod is not slipping into heresy.  Many Synods practice
far wilder matters of hierarchical discipline: Moscow and Constantinople, to
whom he has appealed, normally shuffle bishops without concern.  Why does
he think that they would handle this matter any different?

Perhaps His Grace has forgotten that, should such behavior as Bishop Nikolai
be held us as a model, then presbyters could then disobey their bishop should
they, on their own, determine that the bishop is behaving in an uncanonical
manner.  Instead, we clergy obey and hope for God’s vindication through the
normal canonical process, even when strict adherence to the canons is not
what is shown to us.

Bishop Nikolai stated that the clergy should have come to him first.  I then
think of his own words:

“I liken this to a family where there’s an adolescent acting out,” Bishop Nikolai
said. “I think when you were an adolescent, like I was, we at one point
decided our parents are stupid, they didn’t know anything, we knew much
more and we could do it better. And there’s a rebellious part of that too, I
suppose.”  (http://kodiakdailymirror.com/?pid=19&id=5899)

"I beg you, confront me with my sin and I will repent. But confront me
with 'bad press' or an abrasive 'leadership style,' and the most I can do is
become a slick politician or politically correct bureaucrat ... and that I refuse
to do," the bishop wrote. (http://www.adn.com/life/religion/story/338612.html)

Bishop Nikolai's statements here indicate he is not open to discussion
regarding his behavior.  He has contempt for those to criticize his harshness,
which is what brought the groundswell against him.  However, the popular
opinion against him is only one part of this complicated matter.

Obedience is one’s disposition towards admonishment prior to receiving the
instructions.  Should Bishop Nikolai pick and choose when he will follow
instruction and when he will not, then he is hardly being obedient.  He
certainly would not tolerate such selective obedience shown to him, would he?

Bishop Nikolai was placed on leave according the OCA Statutes which he was
fully aware of when he was consecrated.  If he had a problem with them, he
should have registered his apprehension prior to consecration.  You don’t get
to change the rules in the middle of the game.  The statute permits the Holy
Synod to take the course of action as it did to prepare charges against Bishop
Nikolai if the investigation finds grounds.

A suspension is hardly a deposition, but merely a necessary step in preparing a
fair investigation.  Had the Holy Synod have issued charges against Bishop
Nikolai at this time, he would have complained of (and been right to do so) of
the haste.  The Holy Synod took a merciful step in allowing him to go quietly
into a leave that may have resulted in his being pardoned.  Now, he has
violated the canons apart from whatever the Holy Synod’s investigation would
have otherwise uncovered.

We must remember that the canons and the consecration oath proclaim
obedience to the Holy Synod as being primary.  Without obedience, the entire
Church slips into the very disorder Bishop Nikolai decries.

The fact that Bishop Nikolai cites his conscience has no canonical standing
apart from his brethren, which he is called to be of one mind with.  The fact
that he is so far removed from the common thinking of all his brethren appears
to me to indication that there is a serious problem.

If Bishop Nikolai were to follow the example given to us by such great saints
at St. Nektarios and countless martyrs who suffered after the manner of our
Lord, he would have quietly obeyed.  Instead, he has chosen to go to war
against the unanimous decision of his long-suffering brethren.

Given Bishop Nikolai’s break in obedience with the Holy Synod, I do not think
that it is irregular for the clergy of Alaska, being, after all, under the
jurisdiction of the OCA, to cease commemoration of a hierarch who has stated
his unwillingness to be of one mind with the Synod.  Again, this is akin to
permitting a presbyter to continue to serve at the altar after he refuses to
acknowledge his bishop’s right to call him to obedience.  I am certain Bishop
Tikhon would not expect Orthodox priests to follow after a bishop who has
broken from his Synod?

I think we can agree that the Holy Synod has indeed been longsuffering,
knowing of Bishop Nikolai’s break with them yet still refusing to give up on him
entirely.  The Holy Synod could have declared the obvious and announced
Bishop Nikolai’s break with them.  In a way, instructing the clergy not to
commemorate Bishop Nikolai is in keeping with common sense: how can the
clergy commemorate Metropolitan Herman and Bishop Nikolai at the same time,
when Bishop Nikolai has, effectively, broken with his Synod?

If he will not obey the Synod, he undoes himself.  One could go as far as to
say that, by renouncing obedience, he is effectively no longer a bishop at all,
as a bishop is not a bishop merely by being consecrated, but through his
membership in a Synod.  He can’t be a member of a Synod unless he submits
himself to it, even when he disagrees and could even have very valid points.

The big question, then, is whether a bishop can be a bishop without
obedience to his Synod.  Perhaps His Grace can enlighten us on how that
works, canonically speaking of course.  From my reading of the canons, the
episcopate is fundamentally and ontologically bound to the concept of
obedience to a Synod.

This is what Bishop Nikolai swore to, and what he now violates.  I say this
with sorrow, bearing him no hatred or ill-will.  My sorrow is for everyone
involved.  Don’t think that I do not pray for Bishop Nikolai, and the clergy and
people of Alaska, because they are my brethren in the Lord.

It is so sad that all of this must be trammeled out on the internet.

Bishop Tikhon’s letter, while sad, is very illuminating.  It is also problematic in
its own right.
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« Reply #110 on: March 18, 2008, 01:16:40 PM »

Which letter of Bishop Tikhon?  I'm confused.

Has Fr. Garklavs gone to Alaska yet?
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« Reply #111 on: March 18, 2008, 01:23:58 PM »

Hi AMM,

I PM'ed the link to his letter.

Tamara
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« Reply #112 on: March 19, 2008, 10:46:00 AM »

Mark Stokoe refuses to post Fr. Innocent's letter on his website.  That web site is too one-sided.

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« Reply #113 on: March 19, 2008, 11:03:02 AM »

Mark Stokoe refuses to post Fr. Innocent's letter on his website.  That web site is too one-sided.



And what website can you honestly say is not to some degree one-sided?

-Nick
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« Reply #114 on: March 19, 2008, 01:32:50 PM »

This one seems to have a generally good balance.

At least it's not edited for content like that other web site.
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« Reply #115 on: March 19, 2008, 01:46:19 PM »

SYNOD CALLS EXTRAORDINARY MEETING

The Synod of Bishops of the OCA will hold an extraordinary meeting on March 27th to address the crisis in Alaska. It is the second special session of the Synod to be held within four months. The previous special meeting, held December 12-13, 2007, confirmed the deposition from the priesthood of former OCA Chancellor Robert Kondratick. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Synod is in May.

Bishop Nikolai has been invited to attend this meeting, although he is officially on a mandatory leave of absence. At this time it is not known if Bishop Nikolai of Alaska will attend this meeting. +Nikolai refused to attend the last synodal meeting held in Lent, citing canonical reasons.

Rest of the article here: http://www.ocanews.org/news/Extraordinarymeeting3.19.08.html
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« Reply #116 on: March 19, 2008, 02:33:45 PM »

This one seems to have a generally good balance.

At least it's not edited for content like that other web site.

This isn't a news oriented website, it's a web-board, we're interested in discussion and opinion, not representing facts or truth.

-Nick
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« Reply #117 on: March 19, 2008, 02:45:59 PM »

whether news oriented or not, I'd expect the discussion and opinion to be truthful.
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« Reply #118 on: March 19, 2008, 04:13:37 PM »

whether news oriented or not, I'd expect the discussion and opinion to be truthful.

I hope you find it here.  Welcome!
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« Reply #119 on: March 19, 2008, 04:44:38 PM »

whether news oriented or not, I'd expect the discussion and opinion to be truthful.

The truth of the matter is that Fr. Dresdow seems to be one of Bishop Nikolai's underlings and willing to follow him to the end like a good underling. Why does OCAnews.org or this web-board even, need more propoganda?

-Nick

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« Reply #120 on: March 19, 2008, 04:51:14 PM »

The truth of the matter is that Fr. Dresdow seems to be one of Bishop Nikolai's underlings and willing to follow him to the end like a good underling. 

If that's the case then people will see it for what it is.  Reporting both sides isn't a bad idea - we've had more posts (by far) with information from those who are supporting the Metropolitan's actions than from those who are supporting Bishop Nikolai's actions.  And if you really disagree with the Bishop's actions, then you need to know exactly what is being said by those who support him - information is key to diffusing the situation and ensuring justice.
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« Reply #121 on: March 19, 2008, 05:09:57 PM »

If that's the case then people will see it for what it is.  Reporting both sides isn't a bad idea - we've had more posts (by far) with information from those who are supporting the Metropolitan's actions than from those who are supporting Bishop Nikolai's actions.  And if you really disagree with the Bishop's actions, then you need to know exactly what is being said by those who support him - information is key to diffusing the situation and ensuring justice.

I agree with you Cleveland, but at the same time, I don't think that news reporting (like the type that OCAnews.org does) is ever intended to be balanced. Journalism is always wrought with the opinions of the journalist.

-Nick
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« Reply #122 on: March 19, 2008, 05:23:49 PM »

Fr. Innocent is obviously one of Bishop Nikolai's supporters.  (They finally posted his letter on that other site.)  His letter helped me.  I'm torn as well, not knowing who to believe...Metropolitan or Bishop?

As far as I'm concerned, the Bishop has the stronger case. 

Since there are no charges against Bishop Nikolai, he shouldn't leave and abandon the diocese.  He's supposed to be protecting us.  All of those involved need to play by the rules or this is going to get even more confusing.  I suspect if Bishop Nikolai can hold on, he will make amends to all those concerned; he expressed that very view to us in church a couple of weeks ago. I heard it with my own ears.  I hope so.

Most of the issues seem like big misunderstandings, like accommodating priests and their subsistence lifestyle; being sensitive to native culture; etc.  Nothing that can't be fixed.  But there are some definite hot heads (Ted P. and Moses the T. on that other website for sure) who seem too far gone...

Actions really do speak alot too.  Funny that +BN hasn't retaliated against any of these priests who are speaking out against him.  He did boot Fr. Oleksa out of the seminary teacing job but I suspect that was because he was continuing to speak out against the Bishop to the students there and stirring up trouble.  It's also funny (speaking of actions) that Fr. Oleksa apparently chose to speak out against +BN in public on the internet instead of dealing with the Bishop directly.  I wonder what his motives are?  I find it hard to believe that all of these priest were too scared to make comments directly to their Bishop.  Who knows?

It goes on and on...what a mess.
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« Reply #123 on: March 19, 2008, 05:39:25 PM »

Read very carefully, the diocese is not being abandoned. There is an administrator there to take Bishop Nikolai's place. The fact of the matter now is that Bishop Nikolai is treading on thin ice by refusing to acknowledge his piers as has been pointed out in numerous places. At any rate, I believe that OCAnews.org is reporting the events accurately and certain people don't want to face the music.

-nick
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« Reply #124 on: March 19, 2008, 05:47:57 PM »

True. 

The diocese existence does not depend on whether Bishop Nikolai stays or goes.

It's just a shame that they can't work this out without being so drastic.

That's all.
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« Reply #125 on: March 20, 2008, 12:22:22 AM »

Our bishop died (may his memory be eternal).
We are not abandoned, just in transition.

Look, the Orthodox mission in Alaska and its sensitivity to native culture is one of the halmark achievements of Orthodoxy in America.

I read Tony Horowitz's (author of Confederates in the Attic) book, the Blue Latitiudes about the voyages of Captain Cook and the protestant missionaries in the south sea islands get excoriated. But the Othodox mission to Alaska gets praised, especially by native Alaskans. To undo this great history in a few years by a culturally insensitive bishop IS a BIG DEAL and that alone is grounds for dismissal or re-assignment.

Sins committed by the Church against whole cultures can become unforgiveable, from a human standpoint. The Church never is then able to gain a foothold in that culture. This is not a small matter and the damage done can become irrevocable in less than a generation.

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« Reply #126 on: March 20, 2008, 01:34:51 AM »

Fr. Innocent is obviously one of Bishop Nikolai's supporters.  (They finally posted his letter on that other site.)  His letter helped me.  I'm torn as well, not knowing who to believe...Metropolitan or Bishop?

As far as I'm concerned, the Bishop has the stronger case. 

Since there are no charges against Bishop Nikolai, he shouldn't leave and abandon the diocese.  He's supposed to be protecting us.  All of those involved need to play by the rules or this is going to get even more confusing.  I suspect if Bishop Nikolai can hold on, he will make amends to all those concerned; he expressed that very view to us in church a couple of weeks ago. I heard it with my own ears.  I hope so.
What really bothers me is that, even though Bishop Nikolai may have a good canonical reason for refusing to take a leave of absence--as I've explained earlier, I really don't think he does--his alleged actions show a rather obvious double standard.  He reportedly demands complete, even blind, obedience from his subordinates, yet he will offer no obedience whatsoever to the Holy Synod to whom he has sworn to subordinate himself.  Maybe the Synod's actions are uncanonical, but for the sake of peace in the Church, shouldn't Bishop Nikolai just submit humbly to being wronged and step aside anyway?  What does he have to prove or hide by raising such a stink?  Does he not realize that the Holy Synod probably has the canonical authority to suspend/depose him now for no other reason than disobedience to their synodal authority?
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« Reply #127 on: March 20, 2008, 05:42:26 AM »

I am praying  angel for both Bishop Nikolai and the Synod during this season of Lent.  That is all I can say about this.  Who am I as a lay person to comment about the world of bishops--only the holiest of all saints and righteous ascetics dared to call hierarchs to repentance in the past--I am only a sinner and can only speak of my sins, that is all I will do.  Lord have mercy!

Alexis, Greatest Sinner
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« Reply #128 on: March 20, 2008, 08:25:59 PM »

http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com/?pid=19&id=5977

Alaska diocese official visits Kodiak as worshippers continue to commemorate
bishop put on leave

Article published on Thursday, March 20th, 2008
By RALPH GIBBS
Mirror Writer

Orthodox Church in America officials confirmed Wednesday that Archpriest
Alexander Garklavs is now in Alaska and one of his first stops was Kodiak.

Church leader Metropolitan Herman appointed Fr. Garklavs administrator of the
Alaska diocese on March 8, after Bishop Nikolai Soraich was put on mandatory
leave for refusing to depart Alaska during an investigation into alleged charges
of abuse.

The bishop, who still refuses to leave, said on Wednesday that he would be happy
to meet with Fr. Garklavs, but hasn’t as of Wednesday.

Garklavs likely stopped in Kodiak first because the island is one of the few
Orthodox parishes in Alaska that defied Metropolitan Herman’s order to stop
commemorating Bishop Nikolai in services.

In a recent letter addressed to his congregation, Rev. Innocent Dresdow said he
would continue to commemorate Bishop Nikolai because he has been offered no
canonical reason or official notification to do otherwise.

“Although it is true that various communiqués have been posted on various Web
sites, including the OCA Web site, I have received no official instructions from
The Holy Synod,” Innocent wrote in the letter. “All of the official directives
of the OCA, as it impacts this parish, have come to me in the mail and in hard
copy. Therefore, I assume that something so significant as ceasing to
commemorate a bishop would be afforded at least the same level of orderliness
and decorum.”

Fr. Innocent said he would defend his stance even at the cost of his priesthood.
“I have been willing and am willing to suffer slander, insinuation, false
accusation and potentially the loss of my priesthood in order to defend the
integrity of the church,” he wrote. “What is at stake here is not a war between
personalities or bishops. What is at stake here is whether or not the church
will function as it has functioned for 2,000 years or whether it will decline
into the ordinary and ungodly.”

It is unknown if Fr. Garklavs delivered written orders to Fr. Innocent. Fr.
Innocent didn’t return phone calls and Fr. Garklavs could not be reached
Wednesday.

In other developments, The Holy Synod of Bishops will hold a special session on
March 27 in New York to address the situation in Alaska. Bishop Nikolai, who
feels angry and betrayed by the actions of his fellow bishops, said he welcomes
the meeting and confirmed he will attend.

“I sent a letter asking for the bishops’ help (regarding the situation in
Alaska) and their response was to tell me to get out of town,” the bishop said.
“I think (the meeting is) important and things need to be discussed in my
presence to talk about all of these things.”

Bishop Nikolai reiterated that he has no plans to step down and that the church
has no grounds to remove him.

“You have to follow the rules with how they’re written,” Bishop Nikolai said.
“If I was to comply with something that was not right, then I’m accepting the
fact that we’re breaking the rules and that every other rule can be broken,
too.”

He said there is a process and he’s happy to follow the process “in every
detail.”

Mirror writer Ralph Gibbs can be reached via e-mail at
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« Reply #129 on: March 21, 2008, 01:01:26 PM »

What really bothers me is that, even though Bishop Nikolai may have a good canonical reason for refusing to take a leave of absence--as I've explained earlier, I really don't think he does--his alleged actions show a rather obvious double standard.  He reportedly demands complete, even blind, obedience from his subordinates, yet he will offer no obedience whatsoever to the Holy Synod to whom he has sworn to subordinate himself.  Maybe the Synod's actions are uncanonical, but for the sake of peace in the Church, shouldn't Bishop Nikolai just submit humbly to being wronged and step aside anyway?  What does he have to prove or hide by raising such a stink?  Does he not realize that the Holy Synod probably has the canonical authority to suspend/depose him now for no other reason than disobedience to their synodal authority?


On another site someone wrote that in the ROCOR, if there are accusations against a member of the clergy, there is an investigation. Should there be sufficient grounds for canonical charges to be brought against a clergyman, formal charges are made and the clergyman is suspended from serving so that he can have time to prepare his defense against the stated charges and to prepare for a canonical trial.

It does make more sense to conduct an investigation first before the synod makes any charges. From what I understand the Bishop is demanding that the Holy Synod charge him now before they investigate. But how can they charge him without first conducting an investigation? That would seem to be putting the cart before the horse.
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« Reply #130 on: March 25, 2008, 12:51:25 AM »

Perhaps if people have been severely wounded in spirit, psyche and otherwise and feel intimidated, his immediate removal from the dioceses is warranted, for their healing and restoration.

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« Reply #131 on: March 25, 2008, 07:31:30 PM »

An interesting report from Kodiak to Fr. Alexander Garklavs and The Holy Synod of the OCA

http://www.dioceseofalaska.org/pdf/docs/docs2.html
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« Reply #132 on: March 25, 2008, 08:23:47 PM »

An interesting report from Kodiak to Fr. Alexander Garklavs and The Holy Synod of the OCA

http://www.dioceseofalaska.org/pdf/docs/docs2.html


It was pointed out on another forum the author of this letter is an appointed parish Council member in Kodiak, not elected by the parish. He is a newcomer to Kodiak, and a recent convert.

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« Reply #133 on: March 25, 2008, 11:30:06 PM »

whether appointed or elected I think the report makes some very good points.
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« Reply #134 on: March 25, 2008, 11:53:09 PM »

whether appointed or elected I think the report makes some very good points.

We have know way of corroborating the accuracy of his report.
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« Reply #135 on: March 26, 2008, 12:03:01 AM »

True.

And we have no way of corroborating the veracity of any of the other negative reports with regard to this whole mess.

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« Reply #136 on: March 26, 2008, 12:11:59 AM »

True.

And we have no way of corroborating the veracity of any of the other negative reports with regard to this whole mess.



I think that is why the Holy Synod sent Fr. Alexander Garklavs in the first place. The outcry from so many priests and laymen in Alaska could not be ignored. An investigation needed to take place in order to see if the accusations are true. Fr. Alexander then must give the information he has gathered to the Holy Synod to decide IF charges should be brought forth. Only then will there be a spiritual court to weigh the evidence.
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« Reply #137 on: March 27, 2008, 02:33:14 PM »

Glory to Jesus Christ!

It appears the Synod has restored Vladyka:

Statement of the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops regarding the Diocese of Alaska

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] – On March 27, 2008, the Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, issued the following statement: 

“The Holy Synod of Bishops is aware of the concerns of clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska. It recognizes the expressed desire of their diocesan hierarch to address these concerns, and to take whatever action is necessary to restore peace. 

“Therefore, the Holy Synod has designated His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel, and His Grace, Bishop Tikhon to travel to Alaska, to inquire into these concerns in the week of March 31, 2008, and to report to the next Regular Meeting of the Holy Synod in May 2008. 

“The Holy Synod of Bishops, accepting the assurances of His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of full cooperation with the bishops being sent, withdraws the leave of absence previously imposed.” 

Source: http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1510&SID=19

I am glad that the hype is over and people can go back to focusing in Lent.  Hopefully, with the full cooperation of Vladyka Nikolai and collaboration with the hierarchs, things will work out for the Church in Alaska and we can get busy with the work of the Kingdom.  Hopefully. Grin

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« Reply #138 on: March 27, 2008, 05:13:26 PM »

Here's an unusual letter from that other website that actually has a positive perspective:


Mr. Stokoe,

Yes, I was present for the first part of the clergy meeting that took place on Tuesday, March 25, at St. Innocent Cathedral. Members of the St. Innocent Sisterhood decided that despite the painful nature of the meeting it was important to provide hospitality to the visiting clergy and we prepared an array of baked goods for this gathering.

From the very beginning, as priests gathered from throughout the Diocese in the Church Hall, I was enveloped by sorrow. I know many of these priests personally and continue to feel a deep affection for them despite any disappointment. I greeted each of those I know personally asking for their blessing, meanwhile recalling more joyous times when we had gathered together during retreats and assemblies. Some of the younger ones I knew from their days at St. Herman Seminary when I traveled there for Trustee meetings or to work in the Archives.

I couldn’t help but be reminded that many had received their training and education at St. Herman Seminary thanks to a bold policy established by His Grace Bishop Nikolai early in his administration. He recognized that these men who would later serve in rural Alaska could not manage the financial burden of paying off a student loan. Consequently, he decided that those committed to staying and serving in Alaska would graduate debt-free. To accomplish this, fundraising was a constant effort. Bishop Nikolai often called on the generosity of his personal friends who responded willingly.

My love for these priests is not diminished. I am only deeply disappointed in the manner in which all this has unfolded. I am emotionally exhausted, but not spiritually. The Church, particularly during this Lenten season, provides us with spiritual nourishment.

Fr. Alexander Garklavs kindly acknowledged my desire to speak at the meeting and I kept my remarks brief. Again, I recalled Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew (18:15). “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you an him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’”

In light of this Scriptural passage, I suggested that Bishop Nikolai be invited to the assembly to hear their concerns. I also noted that our Lord lifts up the peacemakers—“Blessed are the Peacemakers for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” But, my suggestion was rebuffed, I believe by Fr. Michael Oleksa who commented something to the effect that we had passed beyond that stage. Christ provides no exemptions in this clearly stated passage. He does not suggest that this only pertains to simple scenarios, to facile infractions or that it is ever “too late.” With the greater part of the clergy in attendance, they had strength in number. What could they fear, and how much could have been gained? Bishop Nikolai could have listened to them, could have offered explanations, sought forgiveness had they conceded to this request. They could have all reached that noble peace that only forgiveness provides. I am certain that healing, growth and commitment could have occurred. Unfortunately, these ‘could haves’ lack merit in reality.

When Bishop Nikolai learned several weeks ago that there were letters from clergy dissatisfied with him, he immediately arranged for a two-day meeting in Anchorage to address the concerns. Sadly, only about half the Diocese’s clergy attended. He invited an experienced consultant to listen to and mediate the concerns. Bishop Nikolai did not attend the first day session as he recognized that the clergy needed an opportunity to speak forthrightly in his absence. The second day they met with Bishop Nikolai. I was not present at these meetings, but understand that healing and forgiveness occurred. The meeting had focus and direction—it was based on Scriptural accountability.

Had the meeting on Tuesday followed a similar format, I firmly believe progress would have occurred. Christ provides the formula in Matthew 18:15 without any embellishment or exemptions, but it was ignored.

I recognize that there are those who have complaints about Bishop Nikolai’s administrative style or his personality. But he has been lopsidedly characterized on this site and elsewhere. Speaking with a friend today, she noted that those of us who know and work with Bishop Nikolai daily are fortunate to experience the gentle, caring, and humorous side of his personality. Those who meet him exclusively in his official capacity often fail to capture this. He is a complex person, but to my mind, there has never been a doubt that he has been deeply devoted to his clergy, their families and this Diocese.

I have served as Bishop Nikolai’s assistant and director of the Russian Orthodox Museum—a volunteer position—for three years. I have done this out of love for the Church, combined with respect and devotion to Bishop Nikolai’s vision for this Diocese. The Diocese purchased our building, centrally located across the street from the city’s major cultural center, the Anchorage Museum, in 2002. In the beginning, a portion of it served as the temporary home of St. Tikhon mission church ministering to the needs of Anchorage’s growing Russian population. It was Bishop Nikolai who envisioned this need and found a Russian-speaking priest to serve this parish. Encouraged by Bishop Nikolai, this parish has since built a church of their own. In the spring of 2005, we opened the Russian Orthodox Museum, which enjoys annual visits of thousands—locals and tourists. The museum has a gift and coffee shop. My staff consists of part-time employees—Fr. Yakov, a monastic originally from Kweethluk, Fr. Daniel Askoak from Russian Mission, my capable assistant, Anastasia Dushkin from Atka, Lea Merritt, a University of Alaska college student and Stephan Nicolai. It has become a wonderful gathering place for visitors from the villages who enjoy conversation, perhaps a game of chess and a cup of coffee. HYPERLINK "http://www.russianorthodoxmuseum.org" www.russianorthodoxmuseum.org. Our displays exhibit the rich history of Orthodoxy in Alaska. This was just one of Bishop Nikolai’s “brainchilds.” Last year, he established St. Nicholas Skete, a monastery in Eklutna. Before all these recent distractions, he was working with community leaders to establish senior housing next to St. Innocent Cathedral for our elders. These elders faithfully attend the services but lack transportation, requiring them to come in taxis. Through friendships within the community, he initiated an annual fundraising event, which gathers funds to redesign the entrance to St. Innocent Cathedral so that it will be handicap accessible. A well-known chef, Felix Zollinger, volunteered his culinary services to make this gala event successful. Bishop Nikolai has established other mission parishes, St. Yakov Center for Orthodox Christian Learning (Soldotna), and so much more. If he has failed a “personality test” by some, I firmly believe this could have been ameliorated by addressing the problem directly—Scripturally, as I suggested in the meeting.

All great leaders seem to possess flaws in addition to their positive attributes. Ironically, these “flaws” often function simultaneously as their strengths. His Grace is sometimes impatient, sometimes intractable or uncompromising. But, that impatience has translated itself into tremendous accomplishments within this Diocese during his brief seven-year tenure. He is continually in motion, attempting to develop and improve the Diocese’s institutions. His Grace’s character is many layered. Some have focused on his strictness and have characterized him as being cold and unfeeling. I have witnessed the opposite in his pastoral care and his interaction with Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike. I can say without reservation that his whole being is consumed with love for Christ’s Holy Church. On a daily basis he does what he perceives is right for Her, and for those whose souls he has been entrusted as our hierarch.

Some have asked why I resigned from the Metropolitan Council. His Grace articulated one reason—the work that I have chosen to do for this Diocese is very time consuming. In addition to serving as his assistant and director of the Russian Orthodox Museum, I have many other responsibilities at the diocesan and parish level. My other reason is I have aging and frail parents who live in England and whose care I must oversee.

I do not know what the future holds, but this has all been a lesson to me to accept, “Thy Will be done.” I do not feel animosity toward those who have brought what I believe to be the bright vision of a dedicated servant of God, Bishop Nikolai, to a standstill, but I admit that I am deeply disappointed. It seems to me that there has been a profound lack of communication, love and forgiveness. Bishop Nikolai, despite any human flaws, has given of himself in all the ways he found possible to build this Diocese through the episcopacy bestowed on him.

Of course I have no actual way of measuring, but I would assert that there are hundreds who deeply love His Grace compared to every one who has spoken against him. I conclude this from personal conversations, e-mail messages and phone calls, which I have received from concerned clergy, Orthodox faithful and non-Orthodox from across the Diocese and the Nation.

I regret that I was not as eloquent or impassioned in my plea for peacemaking at the Tuesday meeting as those in opposition. I am tired and saddened, but finally acquiesce to the difficult lesson—“Thy Will be done.”

May God have mercy on us all.

With love in Christ,
Mina Jacobs
Assistant to the Bishop
Director, Russian Orthodox Museum
605 A St.
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
Tel. 907-276-7257 Fax. 907-274-7257
www.dioceseofalaska.org
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« Reply #139 on: March 27, 2008, 06:05:54 PM »

Sounds like Father Michael Oleksa wants to be hierarch. Wink  But we don't allow married bishops do we angel

I liked her letter--showed a different side from a person who actually has worked with Vladyka for a long time--I definately consider her character reference as valid.  But, what puzzles me is the majority of clergy showed up at the meeting with the Administrator.  I don't get it--something is wrong--either they have a vendetta for Vladyka or what they are experiencing is real. Vladyka used to be a probation officer--he probably is firm, but only when he sees people trying to slip through the cracks or BS him. This is not my job to figure out. Grin  Hopefully, the Episcopal visitors will get this story straight and either we have a lot of corrupt clergy in Alaska or a bishop who has gone too far--I hope not both Undecided.  It is hard to be 'fair and balanced' with this story, sheesh.

Alexis
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« Reply #140 on: March 27, 2008, 06:23:23 PM »

Sounds like Father Michael Oleksa wants to be hierarch. Wink  But we don't allow married bishops do we angel
You make some excellent points outside of this, but is this snide stab at Fr. Michael's character really necessary?
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« Reply #141 on: March 27, 2008, 06:38:42 PM »

Slava

No! Grin  I would like him to be bishop  angel  That is what I meant.  I don't know why we can't make an exception for him in the OCA.  He lives and breathes Alaska and knows its people--a perfect choice.  The humor was meant in his favor not the otherway around. Cheesy

I have met Father Oleksa several times in Sitka.  I liked his sense of humor and approachableness.  I went to Job Corps with his son when I was younger.

Alexis 
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« Reply #142 on: March 27, 2008, 06:41:07 PM »

Slava

No! Grin  I would like him to be bishop  angel  That is what I meant.  I don't know why we can't make an exception for him in the OCA.  He lives and breathes Alaska and knows its people--a perfect choice.  The humor was meant in his favor not the otherway around. Cheesy

I have met Father Oleksa several times in Sitka.  I liked his sense of humor and approachableness.  I went to Job Corps with his son when I was younger.

Alexis 
Please forgive my misunderstanding then. Embarrassed  Sometimes it's hard for me to pick up such humor in this text-only medium.
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« Reply #143 on: March 27, 2008, 07:22:13 PM »

Slava!

God forgives.  I have to say I really like this forum.  The information here is so helpful--I wish it could be made into a book so I can have it ready when I have a question.  Thank you for your many kindnesses. 

Father Michael is probably distressed that Vladyka is back in charge--I wish there is some way that this could work out.  On the one hand Mina is correct about the wonderful things Vladyka has done for the diocese, but on the other too many people are displeased with his administration.  I like Vladyka's liturgical style personally, but the villages have their own usages of the liturgy that have developed over hundreds of years--mostly local hymns in the Native language--however, most villages kept the Old Church Slavonic.  But, I don't think the villages have the same problem that Patriarch Nikon had to deal with in regard to the old believers.  In fact, I would say the Native Alaskan faithful preserved more of the traditional practices than many other modern Orthodox in the states and Canada--they have always had long services, all-night vigils, etc, and communities centered around the Church seasons and the important feasts.  And since Native Alaskans have a gentle spirit they have always been more profoundly affected by the Tradition of the Church.  So, it perplexes me that some are complaining about the Russian typikon mandated by Vladyka--many of the villages have already been very devout and had lengthy services.  And I know Vladyka has nothing against local languages in the liturgy since the diocese has hymns and akathists published in traditional native language. 

None of this ecclesio-political subject matter pertains to our deification in Christ, of that I am sure.  Unfortunately, when Orthodoxy lost the Emperor it lost the only thing that can help us truly settle disputes.  Orthodoxy's head is Christ, but our earthly Head was the Byzantine Emperor--without him we have just fragmented into Jurisdictional groups that cannot settle issues--even an Ecumenical Council is not possible because so many groups, i.e. Old Calendar Churches, would not recognize it as having Grace.  The Byzantine Emperor was God on Earth and was ikon of Christ Pantokrator.  I like how Constantine refered to himself as "universal bishop"--the bishops tolerated him theologizing on that point, but it was not taken seriously in the dogmatic tradition--having lay bishop-administrators of royal distinction.  We need an Emperor to put the bishops in check...in today's context where does one come up with a Byzantine Emperor?  Maybe the papacy idea is not so bad after all Grin  Just kidding Wink  Been there done that, Gotta love the Catholics--and I do laugh

Alexis
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« Reply #144 on: March 28, 2008, 11:49:13 AM »

I find this all rather confusing.  Why would Bishop Nikolai be put on a leave of absence, a temporary administrator appointed, and then he be re-instated again?  I only say that because one would assume that during the leave of absence any charges/issues issues would be investigated and a decision made as to what was going to happen based on the results of the investigation.  I don’t get what is going on.

I also ran across a couple of things I found rather strange.  One is this
Quote
We must stand firm for Orthodoxy. Our lives in America are too easy and we have been taught that we don’t have to do anything unless we want to. Our faith is not a buffet table where we choose what we want and put aside what we don’t want or like. We must struggle to meet the standard.
I truly believe my clergy want this kind of Orthodoxy.

A bishop friend from another Church last week said there was no practical reason for the OCA to exist now that ROCOR and MP have united. Have you read that the Romanians are planning to unite? That is another major body leaving the OCA and I am sure the Bulgarian Church will demand their parishes be returned, too.
Love and blessings,
+Bishop NIKOLAI

http://www.dioceseofalaska.org/askvladyka/

I believe this is written by Bishop Nikolai.  He seems to be stating that the Romanian diocese of the OCA is leaving that body and re-joining its mother Patrarichate.  Is that actually happening?

Lastly I ran across this
Link disabled
Which states the GOA bishop of New England is forbidding concelebrations with OCA clergy.  Is that for real?

Links to other discussion forums are not permitted on OC.net.

+Fr Chris
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« Reply #145 on: March 28, 2008, 12:48:42 PM »

NIKOLAI RESTORED BY SYNOD

At 1 PM this afternoon the OCA posted the following:

"SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] – On March 27, 2008, the Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, issued the following statement:  

“The Holy Synod of Bishops is aware of the concerns of clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska. It recognizes the expressed desire of their diocesan hierarch to address these concerns, and to take whatever action is necessary to restore peace.  

“Therefore, the Holy Synod has designated His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel, and His Grace, Bishop Tikhon to travel to Alaska, to inquire into these concerns in the week of March 31, 2008, and to report to the next Regular Meeting of the Holy Synod in May 2008.  

“The Holy Synod of Bishops, accepting the assurances of His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of full cooperation with the bishops being sent, withdraws the leave of absence previously imposed.”  

(Source: http://www.ocanews.org/ )

***

I'm sorry, but given the financial scandal and it's aftermath, is anyone surprised at the spineless decision/reversal above?  And yet I am.  Sad
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« Reply #146 on: March 28, 2008, 12:53:45 PM »

I believe this is written by Bishop Nikolai.  He seems to be stating that the Romanian diocese of the OCA is leaving that body and re-joining its mother Patrarichate.  Is that actually happening?


From what I have heard from my sources, there is no plan for Archbishop Nathaniel to leave the OCA and form a united Romanian Church. He is committed to Orthodox unity and he believes in the autocephaly of the OCA regardless of all of the problem bishops within it.
The Romanian issue has more to do with reestablishing ties with the mother church. The communist era wrecked havoc on relations between the churches.

But from this letter written by Bishop Nikolai, it is obvious he would like to see the OCA perish. His words betray his disdain for it.
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« Reply #147 on: March 28, 2008, 12:59:14 PM »

I'm sorry, but given the financial scandal and it's aftermath, is anyone surprised at the spineless decision/reversal above?  And yet I am.  Sad

Given that there were questions of the canonicity of a mandatory leave of absence, the Synod may have decided that they would be on stronger canonical footing if they left Bishop Nikolai in place while the investigation was conducted.
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« Reply #148 on: March 28, 2008, 01:46:23 PM »

Quote
Unfortunately, when Orthodoxy lost the Emperor it lost the only thing that can help us truly settle disputes.  Orthodoxy's head is Christ, but our earthly Head was the Byzantine Emperor--without him we have just fragmented into Jurisdictional groups that cannot settle issues--even an Ecumenical Council is not possible because so many groups, i.e. Old Calendar Churches, would not recognize it as having Grace.  The Byzantine Emperor was God on Earth and was ikon of Christ Pantokrator.  I like how Constantine refered to himself as "universal bishop"--the bishops tolerated him theologizing on that point, but it was not taken seriously in the dogmatic tradition--having lay bishop-administrators of royal distinction.  We need an Emperor to put the bishops in check...in today's context where does one come up with a Byzantine Emperor?

The Emperor is not needed to keep the bishops in check, and often bishops have gotten in to trouble when they have strayed in to imperial territory, i.e. concerning themselves with temporal and worldly matters.  Although the Byzantines recognized the idea of symphonia, it is my understanding they also recognized that spiritual authority always trumped secular, and that Emperors got their validity from service to and defense of the church.  It is clear from history that Emperors themselves could turn against the church as was the case with iconoclasm.  What happened in Muscovy after the fall of Constantinople was as you described, namely the church subordinated to the state; but Fr. Georges Florovsky in his Ways of Russian theology points out that the triumph of Josephite party in Russia was an overturning of the Byzantine tradition.

What is needed is leadership and cooperation amongst the bishops themselves.  Theologically speaking, it is they who are the icons of Christ (or should be) and it is they who carry the charism of apostolic authority - i.e. the power granted to the church by Christ to bind and loose.

Forget the Emperor.

But from this letter written by Bishop Nikolai, it is obvious he would like to see the OCA perish. His words betray his disdain for it.

Which simply adds to my utter inability to comprehend what is going on.
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« Reply #149 on: March 28, 2008, 03:43:49 PM »

I guess Bishop Nikolai now thinks that having other bishops investigate within his own diocese is not a breach of his authority or an attempt to meddle in his diocese' affairs. Time was when he was angry over his diocese being discussed by other heirarchs, and demanded apologies, etc. So, it really looks like a compromise by everyone, to me, both the synod and the bishop.
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« Reply #150 on: March 28, 2008, 04:04:55 PM »

Quote
I guess Bishop Nikolai now thinks that having other bishops investigate within his own diocese is not a breach of his authority or an attempt to meddle in his diocese' affairs. Time was when he was angry over his diocese being discussed by other heirarchs, and demanded apologies, etc.

I think the issue was having other bishops interfere in the diocese without permission; it's very encouraging that they are working together now.
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« Reply #151 on: March 29, 2008, 02:13:43 PM »

Based on what I read this morning there won't be an investigation, but a more informal inquiry of some sort later on.  Fr. Garklavs is no longer the diocesan administrator and his report will not be received by the Synod, again based on what I read.

I really don't understand.
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« Reply #152 on: March 29, 2008, 02:40:25 PM »

Based on what I read this morning there won't be an investigation, but a more informal inquiry of some sort later on.  Fr. Garklavs is no longer the diocesan administrator and his report will not be received by the Synod, again based on what I read.

I really don't understand.

As I said previously - a spineless decision by the OCA Synod - makes me wonder what dirt Nikolai has on them to achieve such an outcome.
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« Reply #153 on: March 29, 2008, 03:29:40 PM »

Based on what I read this morning there won't be an investigation, but a more informal inquiry of some sort later on.  Fr. Garklavs is no longer the diocesan administrator and his report will not be received by the Synod, again based on what I read.
Where did you read this?

Okay, I see a possible source:  http://ocanews.org/news/TheMorningAfter3.28.08.html

The article also confirms something my priest reported, evidently from direct contact with our bishop, Bishop Benjamin, that Vladyka was fuming mad at the Synod's decision to reinstate Bishop Nikolai.
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« Reply #154 on: March 29, 2008, 05:39:49 PM »

Yes, that is what I read.  I don't understand what the bishops are thinking.  I will also say I don't understand the attitude of the people who are threatening to leave the church over this.
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« Reply #155 on: March 31, 2008, 12:49:49 AM »

It appears the OCA is crumbling. I must say I am extremely disappointed in the hierarchy of the OCA (even more than I already was). They made a terrible decision to reinstate Bishop Nikolai. What is with these folks?
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« Reply #156 on: March 31, 2008, 01:22:42 AM »

I too am disappointed, especially because the Synod so openly disrespected their new Chancellor, who, by many accounts, is rather credible. However, l have hope.  Keep in mind how intimidating Nikolai must have been.  Look at how he presented himself to the media from the video he had on the Alaskan Diocesan website.  If you don't know the history and the whole story, he came across as somewhat credible.  Many devout and rational people bought the canonical arguments he was making.  Let's suspect that at the Synod meeting, he: acted humbled by the cries from the clergy and promised to reach an accord with them; cited the canons on how the suspension was in violation of them; cited the canons that require only bishops to investigate; threw out, rationally, what he knows about the financial scandle and other pending, unresolved matters, just to let them know he could go public.  He may have, thus, scared them into a compromise, letting the two bishops investigate, even though they don't use that term.  I don't agree with their actions, but given their quite apparent administrative weaknesses, you can see how he could have intimidated them.  I hold out hope that the informed clergy and laity may yet brief their bishops on how to react to the findings that will come out of the bishops investigation and the information that
Fr. Alexander will be providing them, whether they want it or not.  Justice may yet prevail.
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« Reply #157 on: March 31, 2008, 03:24:45 AM »

It appears the OCA is crumbling. I must say I am extremely disappointed in the hierarchy of the OCA (even more than I already was). They made a terrible decision to reinstate Bishop Nikolai. What is with these folks?

Yes sir, mr. armchair omnipotent authority, sir.   Roll Eyes
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« Reply #158 on: March 31, 2008, 09:20:53 AM »

Yes sir, mr. armchair omnipotent authority, sir.   Roll Eyes


Now, now, let's be nice elisha.
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« Reply #159 on: March 31, 2008, 09:42:10 AM »

Now, now, let's be nice elisha.

I thought it was very nice... I've always wanted to be an omnipotent authority who never has to leave his home!  Wink
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« Reply #160 on: March 31, 2008, 09:43:38 AM »

I thought it was very nice... I've always wanted to be an omnipotent authority who never has to leave his home!  Wink

What, planning a coup against GiC? Tongue
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« Reply #161 on: March 31, 2008, 09:46:29 AM »

As I said previously - a spineless decision by the OCA Synod - makes me wonder what dirt Nikolai has on them to achieve such an outcome.

And as I said previously, it could very well have been one the Synod took because they felt it would place them on stronger canonical footing.  The fact of the matter is, however, that in the absence of any explanation for why the Synod took that action, we're only speculating. 
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« Reply #162 on: March 31, 2008, 02:20:27 PM »

And as I said previously, it could very well have been one the Synod took because they felt it would place them on stronger canonical footing.  The fact of the matter is, however, that in the absence of any explanation for why the Synod took that action, we're only speculating. 

As I suspected, the Synod's action was based on canonical considerations, according to this letter from Archbishop DMITRI.

Quote from: Abp. DMITRI
STATEMENT OF HIS EMINENCE, ARCHBISHOP DMITRI
ON THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE HOLY SYNOD


To the Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the South:

On Thursday, March 27, the Holy Synod of Bishops withdrew its previous recommendations that Bishop Nikolai take a leave of absence and agree to leave his diocese. If that action would have stood, it would have amounted to a “de-facto suspension” of Bishop Nikolai without due process as set forth by the Statute of The Orthodox Church in America and proper Canonical order.

Being fully aware that the bonds of trust and love in the Diocese of Alaska are being sorely tested, the Holy Synod has set in motion a process to address the issues in the Diocese of Alaska as requested by His Grace Bishop Nikolai. Archbishop Nathaniel and Bishop Tikhon have been charged by the Holy Synod to go to Alaska next week and listen to the concerns of the clergy and laity of the diocese. They will report back to the Holy Synod at its regular May meeting. Bishop Nikolai will fully cooperate with Archbishop Nathaniel and Bishop Tikhon and will do what is necessary to restore peace, trust and love amongst his flock.

I ask that you continue to pray for the Bishop of Alaska, his clergy and the faithful so that with the coming Feast of Feasts, we all may incarnate the words we sing on Pascha night:


“Let us embrace each other! Let us call ‘brothers’ even those
that hate us and forgive all by the Resurrection.”


With love in Christ,

+DMITRI

Archbishop of Dallas and the South
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« Reply #163 on: March 31, 2008, 02:57:31 PM »

I thought it was very nice... I've always wanted to be an omnipotent authority who never has to leave his home!  Wink

I'm omnipotent and omnipresent!  Cheesy
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« Reply #164 on: March 31, 2008, 03:09:01 PM »

As I suspected, the Synod's action was based on canonical considerations, according to this letter from Archbishop DMITRI.

I guess that begs the question of how big a crisis this really is.  Going by what you read on ocanews, you would think this is a major crisis and canonical considerations should go out the window.  I would have assumed that's why Fr. Garklavs was put in place, they thought the situation was pretty dire.  If it really isn't so bad, then you have to wonder what the people on ocanews are going on about; and why the synod took such dramatic action and then immediately reversed course.  Are they really mostly concerned about the canons?
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« Reply #165 on: March 31, 2008, 03:16:51 PM »

I guess that begs the question of how big a crisis this really is.  Going by what you read on ocanews, you would think this is a major crisis and canonical considerations should go out the window.  I would have assumed that's why Fr. Garklavs was put in place, they thought the situation was pretty dire.  If it really isn't so bad, then you have to wonder what the people on ocanews are going on about; and why the synod took such dramatic action and then immediately reversed course.  Are they really mostly concerned about the canons?

Actually, my read of it is that they think the situation is pretty dire and could potentially result in an appeal to Constantinople.  Should it come to that event, the Synod won't want its ruling overturned based on improperly conducted investigations, etc.  As a rule of thumb, it seems that the bigger an issue is, the more meticulous you want to be in ensuring that everything is done properly.
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« Reply #166 on: March 31, 2008, 03:28:03 PM »

That's true.  It will be pretty weird if that appeal actually does happen.
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« Reply #167 on: March 31, 2008, 04:46:38 PM »

Given that its an OCA affair and the EP doesn't officially recognize the Autocephalacy of the OCA, I wouldn't be surprised if the appeal to Constantinople was denied.


-Nick
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« Reply #168 on: March 31, 2008, 04:52:13 PM »

Given that its an OCA affair and the EP doesn't officially recognize the Autocephalacy of the OCA, I wouldn't be surprised if the appeal to Constantinople was denied.

Initially, I'll agree, Constantinople would probably refuse the appeal on the grounds that Bishop NIKOLAI must first appeal to his Patriarchal Synod.  If I understand correctly, were that to happen, he could then appeal Moscow's decision to Constantinople.  I suspect Bishop NIKOLAI believes that is what would happen, as he copied both Constantinople and Moscow on his correspondence to the OCA's Synod. 
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« Reply #169 on: March 31, 2008, 04:58:23 PM »

Initially, I'll agree, Constantinople would probably refuse the appeal on the grounds that Bishop NIKOLAI must first appeal to his Patriarchal Synod.  If I understand correctly, were that to happen, he could then appeal Moscow's decision to Constantinople.  I suspect Bishop NIKOLAI believes that is what would happen, as he copied both Constantinople and Moscow on his correspondence to the OCA's Synod. 

I'll agree with that, but Constantinople can refuse that appeal as well. I don't think that the EP wants to step into an MP affair, as you and I both know they haven't been on the best of terms for a while. We unfortunately can only sit back and see what happens.

-Nick
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« Reply #170 on: March 31, 2008, 07:46:39 PM »

Bishop Nikolai was on KTUU channel 2 news last night.

Here's the link:  http://www.ktuu.com/global/story.asp?s=8091620

He seems to have been blind-sided by all this.  I wonder why they didn't try to work things out before it got be such a problem?

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« Reply #171 on: March 31, 2008, 07:58:48 PM »

Bishop Nikolai was on KTUU channel 2 news last night.

Here's the link:  http://www.ktuu.com/global/story.asp?s=8091620

He seems to have been blind-sided by all this.  I wonder why they didn't try to work things out before it got be such a problem?

Are you serious?  Roll Eyes

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« Reply #172 on: March 31, 2008, 08:32:56 PM »



Here is a photo from the article. It was his first Sunday back at the cathedral.

Attendance sure looks sparse. We have more people attending our parish on a regular Sunday and there are 90 families in our parish. Attendance tells you alot about the health of a parish.

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« Reply #173 on: April 02, 2008, 09:22:49 PM »



Here is a photo from the article. It was his first Sunday back at the cathedral.

Attendance sure looks sparse. We have more people attending our parish on a regular Sunday and there are 90 families in our parish. Attendance tells you alot about the health of a parish.



A picture is worth a thousand words.
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« Reply #174 on: April 03, 2008, 01:35:12 AM »

Wow - lots of developments today...  ( Sources: http://www.ocanews.org/ )

  • At the Metropolitan Council yesterday, Metropolitan Herman refused to allow the new clergy delegate from Alaska, Fr. Michael Oleksa, to be seated at the meeting, or to speak to the Council, thereby repudiating the choice of the Alaskan clergy and the decision of the interim Diocesan Administrator he himself appointed....
.
  • "We, the faculty of St Vladimir’s Seminary, have been troubled by the problems that have plagued the Orthodox Church in America over recent years. Until now we have not spoken out, hoping that the regular ecclesial structures of the Church would be able to restore peace and stability. The continued suffering of our Church, however, and now the plight of the Alaskan faithful, our brothers and sisters in Christ, have both alarmed us and deeply pained us, to the point where we feel compelled to speak..."
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  • "Taking account of the anxieties, fears and pain of the Orthodox faithful of Alaska, and the deep concern expressed by all the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America, the Metropolitan Council is profoundly disappointed by the Holy Synod's decision to lift the leave of absence of His Grace, Bishop Nikolai before a proper solution has been determined, and respectfully asks our hierarchs - in faith, hope and love - to immediately reverse this decision..."
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  • A report on the Council's decisions - including a motion asking the Metropolitan to resign that was eventually tabled...

Why wait - reintroduce the motion now.



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« Reply #175 on: April 15, 2008, 12:32:12 AM »

Another logical letter from Vic Downing...


Date: April 14, 2008
To: His Eminence, Archbishop NATHANIEL and His Grace, Bishop TIKHON
From: Vic Downing, Orthodox Christian, Member of Holy Resurrection Cathedral Parish Council
Re: Discontent in The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and in Alaska
CC: The Holy Synod of The OCA, Father Innocent Dresdow, et al.

Thank you for coming to Alaska and for inviting the comments of The Faithful, including comments from me.

My comments are offered with the highest level of respect and with the intention of contributing to the advancement of Orthodoxy in Alaska, beginning with your instruction to, and admonishment of, me.

Summary

All of us have contributed to the current acrimony and malaise in the OCA in general and in Alaska in particular. This amounts to nothing less than sin. Therefore, the solution is clear: all of us must confess, seek forgiveness, make restitution, and forgive.

I beg The Holy Synod to lead the way. Show us how to redeem the problems we have caused and the problems we suffer. Lead the way: be the first to confess and seek the forgiveness of each other one-on-one and privately and, if appropriate, seek our forgiveness too. Then inspire your priests to do the same and to call us to do the same. (Please do not accept the resignation of one or more members of The Holy Synod.)

Show us how God causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28)!

Here is a synopsis of the following pages:

His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI, has been a significant contributor to the problem in The OCA and Alaska … he is not the most significant contributor to the problem.

The principal symptom of the problem is publicly expressed discontent…and that is not the problem. The problem is the inability of clergy and laity throughout North America to submit cultural preferences to Orthodox standards.

Dramatic improvements in the Kodiak parish demonstrate that effective parish leadership can surmount OCA problems and problems in The Diocese of Alaska.

The solution to the problem in The OCA and Alaska has three parts:

Actions by The Holy Synod
Actions by parish priests.
Actions by lay persons.
His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI, has been a Significant Contributor to the Problem in The OCA and Alaska … He is Not the Most Significant Contributor to the Problem.



It is critically important to point out that His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI, has not even been accused of heresy or of any illegal activity. Nevertheless, His Grace has been a significant contributor to the discontent in The OCA and Alaska. Although not acceptable, this is understandable, when the following is considered:

Some of the actions of His Grace have been culturally insensitive, if not offensive, to various native Alaskans. This is (in retrospect) understandable: the various native cultures maintain an unspoken taboo on directly confronting or contradicting those in authority, while at the same time placing an unspoken premium on preserving practices of the past. As a result, the following has occurred:

Native Alaskans have been extremely reluctant and subtle in voicing the ways in which His Grace has offended them. When those offenses were voiced, they were voiced when those offended “couldn’t take it any more” and after it was too late to prevent deep resentments.

Because Orthodox practices are not identical with native Alaskan cultures, and because His Grace is determined to establish Orthodox practices, some of the decisions of His Grace have threatened the practices and artifacts of native Alaskan history.

The management style of His Grace is more characterized by “tell” rather than “sell,” “by-the-book” rather than “whatever-works,” and quick and decisive decisions rather than patient, consensus decisions. This style directly contradicts native Alaskan cultural preferences (as well as inclusive, democratic, Anglo-Saxon, 21st Century cultural preferences held by most in The Lower Forty-Eight).

His Grace is a tall man with a severe bearing who occupies a position of great authority and who is quick-witted and verbally adept. Those characteristics make him appear to be (or to be) an intimidating figure.

His Grace is not the most significant contributor to the problem in The OCA and Alaska. The following: taken as a whole, is the most significant contributor:

Because most native Alaskans maintain a virtual taboo on directly confronting those in authority, it has been the non-natives in Alaska and in The Lower Forty-Eight (e.g., Father Michael Oleksa, Mark Stokoe, Father Chad Hatfield, Father Alexander Garklavs, Father Paisius of Saint Innocent’s Academy, Paul Sidebottom, et al.) who have given a voice and political “muscle” to OCA and Alaskan discontents. Being products of their late 20th Century, Anglo-Saxon, cultures (i.e., democratic rather than hierarchical, evolutionary decision making rather than Tradition-based decision making, et cetera), these non-native organizers and spokespersons designed and executed the campaign against Bishop NIKOLAI (and now against The Holy Synod) in various public forums rather than according to historical, Orthodox practice. Those “solidarity” rallies, boycotts, and 21st Century editions of 1970’s Liberation Theology1 --no doubt, unintentionally—spread animosity throughout the OCA and fostered the chaos in which we now find ourselves.

Parishioners have a habit of gossiping and are extremely reluctant to forgive offenses that are years or decades old (despite biblical mandates to the contrary).

The investigation of Father Isidore, et al., failed to protect the privacy of witnesses and their statements, and failed to conclude its work expeditiously or definitively. Consequently, parishioners assumed Father Isidore was guilty but was serving nevertheless; this resulted in the collapse of confidence in The Holy Synod.

The Holy Synod failed to explain the reversal of its decision regarding the forced leave of absence imposed on Bishop NIKOLAI; this bewildered clergy and laity alike and further undermined confidence in The Holy Synod. The reversal of the decision was not the main reason for bewilderment …rather it was that no biblical or canonical reason was given.

Father Michael Oleksa’s subordination of The Holy Canons to his “New Alaskan Canon”2 and the failure of The Holy Synod to admonish him sent a strong message that The Holy Synod no longer served as the protector of our Orthodox Tradition and was no longer in control of priests who threatened that Tradition.

When the Chancellor of The Holy Synod (Father Alexander Garklavs) publicly (on the Internet) presumed to speak for most of the clergy in North America, publicly indicted the decisions of The Holy Synod as “tragic,” and appealed to the clergy of Alaska to oppose the actions of The Holy Synod, and when The Holy Synod did not admonish him for doing so, it became virtually impossible to believe The Holy Synod was in control of The OCA.

When seminary professors (e.g., Father Chad Hatfield, et al.) publicly presented themselves as the directors of, rather than the servants of, The Holy Synod, and The Holy Synod failed to admonish those academicians, it became difficult for members of The OCA to believe The Holy Synod was in control of The OCA.
The Principal Symptom of the Problem is Publicly Expressed Discontent…and That is Not the Problem. The Problem is the Inability of Clergy and Laity to Submit Cultural Preferences to Orthodox Standards.


If publicly expressed discontent is the problem in The OCA and The Diocese of Alaska, then it would follow that the solution is the elimination of discontent… and that would argue for a church guided by public opinion and the lowest common denominator rather than by The Holy Scriptures and The Holy Canons. Rather than publicly expressed discontent, the problem is the unwillingness or inability of clergy and laity to submit their cultural preferences to Orthodox standards. The powerful difference between the cultural preferences of laity and clergy in the OCA and Orthodox standards is illustrated here:

Cultural Preferences Orthodox “Cultural” Mandates

Bishop NIKOLAI prefers to be unilateral in his decisions, directly confrontational, and quick in making decisions. This may be reflective of his ethnic, cultural background guided by his historical rather than regional view of Orthodoxy.
The “culture” of the Bible calls for “the first to be last,” “to serve rather than to be served,” and the fruit of the Spirit (e.g., patience, kindness, long-suffering, etc.).
Various native Alaskan cultures are deeply offended by confrontation, prize the preservation of harmony, and are dedicated to perpetuating cultural history. Further, these cultures correct offenses by temporary or permanent shunning of the offender. The “culture” of the Bible demands that we directly confront each other with offenses and that we persist in doing so, that we (like Saint Paul) become all things to all men for the sake of The Gospel, that we count our honorable history as “filthy rags” when compared with The Gospel, and that we forgive “seventy times seven times.”

Mainstream, North American culture calls for inclusiveness, democracy, public protest, suspicion of authority, self-determination, innovation over tradition, and short-term satisfaction over long-term honor. This has been indicative of recent protests and campaigns waged on The Internet and elsewhere in Alaska and The Lower Forty-Eight. Some are concerned that the silence of The Holy Synod with regard to these protests and campaigns signals The Holy Synod’s adoption of this culture. Although the Bible is inclusive relative to sin and salvation (e.g., all fall short of the glory of God, and God loves the world), equally inclusive of women as well as men (e.g., we are neither male nor female), and inclusive of all ethnicities (e.g., we are neither Jew nor Gentile), the Christian “culture” is decidedly exclusive (e.g., Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life). Likewise, the Orthodox “culture” is exclusive and hierarchical (e.g., The Eucharist is only for the Orthodox, only men are priests, and church leadership is espiscopal as opposed to congregational in its polity).
Dramatic Improvements in the Kodiak Parish Demonstrate that Effective Parish Leadership Can Surmount OCA Problems and Problems in The Diocese of Alaska.


Kodiak is “Ground Zero” for recent discontent in The OCA and Alaska:

On the evening of April 5, 2008, in the balcony of Holy Resurrection Cathedral, during services, a very large, Orthodox man who frequently advocates the expulsion of Bishop NIKOLAI hit a small, pre-teenage, Orthodox boy from a family which refuses to boycott Holy Resurrection Cathedral… and hit him so forcefully that one lens was forced out of the boy’s glasses frame and the frame was bent. There was no provocation and there was no apology.

Kodiak in general and Holy Resurrection Cathedral in particular are a mix of several native Alaskan cultures as well as Anglo-Saxon cultures like those found in The Lower Forty-Eight.

Clergy associated with the seminary were split on whether or not to commemorate Bishop NIKOLAI during the Holy Synod’s call for a forced leave of absence.

Father Innocent continues to be accused of kowtowing to Bishop NIKOLAI.

Prominent persons who left (some would say, “are boycotting”) Holy Resurrection Cathedral from several months to several years ago, continue to post provocative messages on websites.

The Holy Synod’s “administrator” investigated Kodiak first and most extensively.

Nevertheless, consider the following factual evidence of the ways in which the parish in Kodiak has thrived during the most recent 12 months:

There has been a steady stream of Catechumens
The first purely Orthodox “12-Step” program in Alaska was launched
The youth group has grown dramatically
Two Bible study groups have operated weekly
A weekly “Fireside Chat” with Father Innocent has been well attended
There have been many Cathedral-Seminary social events that have been very well attended
Post-Liturgy meals are now standing-room-only
The Sisterhood has expanded
The rectory has been renovated
The parish hosted the pilgrimage
The bookstore has been revitalized
And the parish has gone from several thousand dollars in debt to several thousand dollars “in the black.”

What did the parish in Kodiak do to grow and thrive in the midst of unintentional and intentional assaults and an incessant diet of bad press?

The priest of the parish refused to gossip or speculate on controversial events… even when he was the object of accusation and slander. Furthermore, in the strongest possible terms he admonished us to refuse slander, to directly confront (per Matthew 18:15 ff.) those who have offended us, and to forgive endlessly.

The priest of the parish took personal responsibility for his shortcomings and, where appropriate, did so publicly.

The priest of the parish personally led the parishioners in specially scheduled and very prolonged vigils and chanting in front of the relics of Saint Herman.

The priest of the parish gave us the biblical mandates and precedents for tithing.

The priest of the parish never failed to teach the parishioners that difficulties in life are used by God for our salvation, that we should thank God for them, and that we should take personal responsibility for our reactions to them… principal among which are prayer, confession, and participation in The Holy Eucharist.

The priest of the parish confronted Bishop NIKOLAI directly, respectfully, and successfully to discuss issues of disagreement and offense. (I personally witnessed this.)

On multiple occasions at least one lay person from the parish (namely, me) confronted Bishop NIKOLAI directly, respectfully, and successfully to discuss issues of disagreement and offense.

Bishop NIKOLAI has on several occasions encouraged and admonished me in ways that were direct and sometimes painful and always pastoral and biblical… and largely because of that investment he made in me, I continue to be an enthusiastic Orthodox Christian.


Since it is clearly true that the Kodiak parish has thrived in the midst of the difficulties of the past several months and has done so despite the strong connection between Father Innocent and Bishop NIKOLAI which was built by the critics of Bishop NIKOLAI, we can have confidence that every parish in The OCA can thrive… even under today’s circumstances.
The Solution to the Problem in The OCA and Alaska Has Three Parts


Actions by The Holy Synod
Actions by parish priests.
Actions by lay persons.

Actions by The Holy Synod

Please lead the way by showing how to seek forgiveness, make restitution, and forgive:

Please seek the forgiveness of each other in a series of private, one-on-one meetings. (Although you are godly men, certainly there must have been regrettable encounters between each of you over the past months that are worthy of this.)

Please, as a whole Holy Synod, consider how you may have fallen short in your management of the myriad of issues that have befallen The OCA during the past year or so. Please consider seeking the forgiveness of your clergy and the rest of us, even though those shortcomings were not intentional.

(In my opinion, the resignation of any member or all of The Holy Synod would be a disastrous decision of the highest order. (1) It is not canonical: there is provision for deposition for heresy and illegal behavior, but not for imperfect management; (2), such a resignation sends the message that humility and forgiveness are less preferable than re-organization; and (3), you would have taught us that The Church is a corporation and not the miraculous, redemptive Body of Christ.)

Please inspire your priests to follow your example (see # 1).

Please don’t lump all your observations of current problems into one category. Instead, please segment your observations into the following categories:

Allegations of heresy or illegality against any clergyman, especially any bishop

Examples of cultural insensitivity or offense experienced directly by any person at the hands of any clergyman, especially any bishop

Examples of allegations of cultural insensitivity or offense experienced indirectly by any person at the hands of any clergyman, especially any bishop

Examples of harsh or ineffective management/leadership “style” or performance associated with any clergyman, especially any bishop

Examples of the ways in which the intended and unintended actions of lay persons have contributed to the current discontent

Based on an assessment of all of the above, please take action that is explicitly aligned with The Holy Scriptures and The Holy Canons.

Actions by Parish Priests

Follow the example of seeking forgiveness, restitution, and forgiveness demonstrated by The Holy Synod.

Call your parishioners to the same actions (see # 1).

Seek and submit to all direction from the bishop of each diocese and The Holy Synod that is explicitly in alignment with The Holy Scriptures and The Holy Canons

Actions by Parishioners

Follow the examples of seeking forgiveness, restitution, and forgiveness demonstrated by The Holy Synod and the parish priest.

Seek and submit to all direction from the bishop of each diocese and the parish priest and The Holy Synod that is explicitly in alignment with The Holy Scriptures and The Holy Canons
Final Comments




I am an older man (nearly 60 years of age) who has spent more than 30 years advising senior leaders of major corporations in North America, throughout Asia and in Western Europe. I am not given to hyperbole or to rash statements.

If the current discontent in Alaska and throughout The OCA is handled as it would have been handled in the first 500 to 1000 years of the Church, the following will occur:

There will be strident public outcry from many who will view such actions as regressive, undemocratic, legalistic, culturally insensitive, and impractical; i.e., neither “modern” nor “enlightened.”

The integrity and the viability of The Orthodox Church will, once again, have been saved from compromise, convenience, cultural relativity, and ultimately from heresy.

And if The Holy Synod leads the way by demonstrating how to seek forgiveness, make restitution, and forgive, then the strident, public outcry will quickly cease and be replaced by tears of repentance and gratitude, and the integrity and the viability of The Orthodox Church will have, once again, been saved.

I beg The Holy Synod to continue the godly tradition of its predecessors. Pay the price now to secure the future of Orthodoxy in Alaska and North America by showing us how to seek forgiveness and how to forgive and by proceeding in explicit alignment with The Holy Scriptures, The Canons, and the wisdom of The Fathers… and I beg you to make that alignment clear and understandable to all of us.

Finally, I am eager and I welcome the admonishment and instruction of any member of The Holy Synod as well as that of my priest. My salvation depends very much on clear, direct, criticism, instruction, prayer, and encouragement by godly men who are immersed in The Holy Scriptures and The Tradition of The Church.

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« Reply #176 on: April 15, 2008, 12:55:58 AM »

This Vic Downing is sure verbose.
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« Reply #177 on: April 15, 2008, 01:01:33 AM »

This Vic Downing is sure verbose.
I can think of a few other word to substitute for "verbose" that would better describe his views and writing style.  Wink
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« Reply #178 on: April 17, 2008, 08:22:36 PM »

http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1529&SID=19

Metropolitan Herman issues letter to Alaskan clergy

Article posted: 4/17/2008 5:16 PM   

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- On April 17, 2008, His Beatitude Metropolitan Herman issued a letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Alaska.

The text of Metropolitan Herman's is as follows.

"The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, on April 17, 2008, has issued the following statement.

'His Grace, NIKOLAI, Bishop of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska, after having heard the report of His Eminence, Archbishop NATHANIEL, and His Grace, Bishop TIKHON; and after the deliberations of the Holy Synod of Bishops, has agreed to take a voluntary leave-of-absence, to be reviewed at the May 2008 Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops.'

"I have, in my capacity as Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska, appointed His Grace, the Right Reverend BENJAMIN, Bishop of San Francisco and the West, to assist me in the administration of the Diocese of Alaska, effective April 17, 2008. I encourage your prayers for His Grace, Bishop BENJAMIN as he assumes the responsibilities that have now been entrusted to him. In accordance with canonical order and accepted liturgical practice, Bishop BENJAMIN is to be commemorated during the Divine Services only when he is present. On such occasions, his name is to be commemorated as 'The Right Reverend BENJAMIN, Bishop of San Francisco and the West.' His name will be commemorated following the usual commemoration of His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska. In circumstances on which other hierarchs are present, his name is to be elevated according to rank. In light of the fact that he is assisting me in administering the Diocese of Alaska, I also bless his name to be elevated at all Divine Services in the Diocesan Cathedrals of St. Michael the Archangel, Sitka, AK and St. Innocent Cathedral, Anchorage, AK."

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« Reply #179 on: April 18, 2008, 10:55:17 PM »

http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com/?pid=19&id=6093

Bishop Nikolai put on leave
Article published on Friday, April 18th, 2008
By RALPH GIBBS
Mirror Writer
A day after memorial services were held in Sitka to honor former Alaska diocese leader Archbishop Gregory Afonsky, Bishop Nikolai Soraich, the current diocese leader, agreed to a leave of absence.

In an official statement posted on the Orthodox Church in America Web site following a special meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops, church leader Metropolitan Herman said Bishop Nikolai agreed to the voluntary leave of absence after hearing testimony from the Right Rev. Tikhon Mollard, bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, and the Most Rev. Nathanial Popp, archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.

During the bishop’s absence, the metropolitan was placed in charge of the diocese administration and the Right Rev. Benjamin Peterson, Bishop of San Francisco and the West, will assist the church leader.

“(Bishop Benjamin) will probably be coming up shortly after (Orthodox) Easter,” said OCA chancellor Archpriest Alexander Garklavs. “The diocese administration issues will be shifting slowly but surely, if not already, from Bishop Nikolai and his immediate staff.

Orthodox Easter is Sunday.

In the official statement, the metropolitan instructed Alaskan clergy to continue to commemorate Bishop Nikolai at Divine Services and to only commemorate Bishop Benjamin if he is present at services and only after Bishop Nikolai.

In March, when Bishop Nikolai was placed on a mandatory leave of absence, the metropolitan ordered clergy not to commemorate the bishop, an order several clergy refused to follow.

Bishop Nikolai defied the order, which was later rescinded.

Reactions around Kodiak have been cautious and subdued.

“We trust the Synod of Bishops in Syosset (N.Y.) not to back down,” Rosabel Baldwin, a member of the church said. “It would be the greatest betrayal to the Alaska faithful and to all the other Orthodox faithful across the land who have to look to them for leadership.”

Church member Kathleen Carlson said with the passing of Bishop Gregory, it has been an emotional week.

“The feeling I have is cautious relief,” Carlson said. “We will be able to have a joyous Holy Week and (Easter). We hope the leave of absence becomes permanent at the synod meeting next month, so the healing and rebuilding of the Alaska Diocese may commence.”

On the Web site ocanews.org, where much of this battle of words between the bishop and his detractors has played out, there was little reaction to the news.

Comments are guarded because many are not sure what the latest development means.

Church analyst Mark Stokoe predicted this is the end of Bishop Nikolai’s service and that the leave of absence is akin to a CEO being forced to resign or being fired.

Fr. Alexander agreed with the analysis.

Bishop Nikolai’s status will be reviewed again at the regular synod meeting May 13-15, and it is expected the leave will become permanent.

Bishop Nikolai could not be reached for comment.

Mirror writer Ralph Gibbs can be reached via e-mail at rgibbs@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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« Reply #180 on: April 18, 2008, 11:14:47 PM »

Mr. Gibbs, like so many westerners, misstated the date of Pascha for Orthodox Christians.

If Mark Stokoe surmises this is a progressive action for change in episcopal leadership for the Diocese of Alaska, it probably will be so.  God Save the Diocese of Alaska.  Kali Evthomatha; May the faithful of this God-kept diocese have a good week.
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« Reply #181 on: May 02, 2008, 05:04:32 PM »

http://www.ktuu.com/Global/story.asp?s=8258269

Russian Orthodox bishop leaving Alaska

Bishop Nikolai Soraich (KTUU-TV)
 
by Sean Doogan
Thursday, May 1, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The leader of the Alaska Russian Orthodox Church said he is stepping down, and will leave the state within a week.

For months, Bishop Nikolai Soraich has been at the center of a growing divide within the Alaska church.

After seven years in the state, some parishioners asked church officials for his removal.

Thursday, Bishop Nikolai said he is leaving, so the Alaska church may heal, and move forward.

"I'm going to be leaving Alaska and taking some time to visit family and friends whom I've neglected for the last seven years since I've been in Alaska," Nikolai said.

When he first arrived in Alaska, he was welcomed by local church members.

But a growing divide within the church forced some to ask for the bishop's removal earlier this year.

"When I came here the diocese was divided and that was because of the bishop prior to me," Nikolai said. "And to divide or to continue to allow that division to be here, I just don't think it's the right thing to do, and sometimes you need to go where you can be appreciated for your talents and your efforts."

Since his arrival, the bishop says he has increased by half the number of clergy in Alaska.

"We put St. Innocent of Irkusk here because of the historical value of the museum," Nikolai said.   

At the Downtown Anchorage Museum he helped build, the bishop says, despite his departure he still cares about the Alaska church.

"And that I will still pray for them and ask for their prayers for me too in these difficult times," Nikolai said.

He said he will take a leave of absence from the church - and travel the west coast to visit family and friends before deciding where he will go next.

Nikolai said he does not know who will replace him.

He said the head of the Western Diocese, Bishop Benjamin will come to Anchorage either Thursday or Friday to assess the situation.

Perhaps a sign of the divide within the church here: Bishop Nikolai said he wasn't told the travel itinerary of Bishop Benjamin - even though the two leaders will be in Anchorage at the same time, before Nikolai leaves the state, perhaps for good.

Contact Sean Doogan at sdoogan@ktuu.com
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« Reply #182 on: May 13, 2008, 06:49:09 PM »

OCA Holy Synod issues statements on Diocese of Alaska at 2008 Spring Meeting

Article posted: 5/13/2008 5:36 PM   
   
SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, May 13 to 15, 2008, has issued the following statements concerning the Diocese of Alaska.

"The Holy Synod of Bishops, meeting at its full, regular Spring Session, reviewed the Leave-of-absence of His Grace, NIKOLAI, Bishop of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska, in accordance with the request of Bishop NIKOLAI that this be reviewed at the May Session, rather than at the October Session. The Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, New York, effective May 13, 2008, retired His Grace Bishop NIKOLAI (Soraich) from the Diocese of Alaska, with the title 'Former Bishop of Sitka.' He remains, in retirement, a Bishop of the Orthodox Church in America."

"The Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America, meeting at its regular Spring Session on May 13, 2008, heard the correspondence from His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI, on April 14, 2008, to His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, regarding the transfer of Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) and Hierodeacon Panteleimon (Erickson) to His Grace, IRINEJ, Bishop of Australia, and New Zealand, of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Holy Synod of Bishops declared these transfers of no effect, since a diocesan bishop cannot release a cleric beyond The Orthodox Church in America, without involving the Metropolitan directly, in accordance with the Statute of The Orthodox Church in America, Article VI, Section 4e. They remain clerics of The Orthodox Church in America, and of the Diocese of Alaska."

"The Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America declared on May 13, 2008, that the Diocese of Alaska is vacant."

"The Holy Synod of Bishops named His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, Locum Tenens of the Diocese of Alaska."

"The Holy Synod of Bishops named His Grace, Bishop BENJAMIN, Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska."

"The Holy Synod of Bishops, recognizing the pressing need of the Diocese of Alaska, and at the same time the canonical limitations on the administration of a 'widowed' diocese, nevertheless acknowledged that His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, and His Grace, Bishop BENJAMIN, may exercise economia for the purpose of developing the needed good order."

http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1538&SID=19
« Last Edit: May 13, 2008, 06:54:20 PM by Tamara » Logged
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« Reply #183 on: May 13, 2008, 11:34:47 PM »

^ Thanks for the news blurb, Tamara.
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« Reply #184 on: May 13, 2008, 11:54:17 PM »

^ Thanks for the news blurb, Tamara.

You are welcome. I heard rumors it would end this way but I wanted to wait until it was official. St. Andrew's House offered $10,000 matching funds so that the same Alaskan priests could travel and give their report to the two bishops while they were collecting information. Those priests will be reimbursed for their travel expenses. The bishops didn't want to leave without enough evidence to force him into retirement. Have faith OCA laity...there are some bishops who are trying to make things right.
It may take some time, but I believe the tide is beginning to turn...
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« Reply #185 on: May 14, 2008, 01:38:48 AM »

Thanks.  Can't believe I didn't notice this yesterday.  Wow.

Not that I was ever too fond of Bp. Nikolai, but this is really tragic however you put it.  Lord Have Mercy.
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« Reply #186 on: May 15, 2008, 02:11:00 AM »

Thanks for the report, Tamara. It indeed brings comfort to me to know that this issue, at least, has been addressed. Lord have mercy on us all.
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« Reply #187 on: May 20, 2008, 10:30:45 PM »

A source in Alaska Diocese of OCA has described Rev. Hieromonk Yakov (Nicolai) as a very spiritual and friendly person with a great potential, as someone, who would succeed as a great Hierarch.
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« Reply #188 on: May 20, 2008, 10:32:01 PM »

Father Yakov currently serves in the Diocese, in Anchorage, AK.
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« Reply #189 on: May 25, 2008, 05:55:06 AM »

OCA Holy Synod issues statements on Diocese of Alaska at 2008 Spring Meeting

Article posted: 5/13/2008 5:36 PM   
   
SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, May 13 to 15, 2008, has issued the following statements concerning the Diocese of Alaska.

"The Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America, meeting at its regular Spring Session on May 13, 2008, heard the correspondence from His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI, on April 14, 2008, to His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, regarding the transfer of Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) and Hierodeacon Panteleimon (Erickson) to His Grace, IRINEJ, Bishop of Australia, and New Zealand, of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Holy Synod of Bishops declared these transfers of no effect, since a diocesan bishop cannot release a cleric beyond The Orthodox Church in America, without involving the Metropolitan directly, in accordance with the Statute of The Orthodox Church in America, Article VI, Section 4e. They remain clerics of The Orthodox Church in America, and of the Diocese of Alaska."

http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1538&SID=19

*
Last Wednesday 21st May hierodeacon Panteleimon took up residence at Saint Sava's Serbian Orthodox monastery in Australia and Archimandrite Isidore is expected to arrive there soon.

Ref:
https://listserv.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/wa-iub.exe?A2=ind0805D&L=orthodox&T=0&F=&S=&P=1100
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« Reply #190 on: May 30, 2008, 05:39:39 PM »

From what I have heard from my sources, there is no plan for Archbishop Nathaniel to leave the OCA and form a united Romanian Church. He is committed to Orthodox unity and he believes in the autocephaly of the OCA regardless of all of the problem bishops within it.

Is this still the case?
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« Reply #191 on: May 30, 2008, 07:00:37 PM »

Is this still the case?

From what I here he wants to remain in the OCA but there are immigrants in his diocese who want to leave. It still isn't clear what will happen yet.
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« Reply #192 on: May 30, 2008, 09:45:57 PM »

http://www.ktuu.com/Global/story.asp?s=8258269

Russian Orthodox bishop leaving Alaska

Bishop Nikolai Soraich (KTUU-TV)
 
by Sean Doogan
Thursday, May 1, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The leader of the Alaska Russian Orthodox Church said he is stepping down, and will leave the state within a week.

For months, Bishop Nikolai Soraich has been at the center of a growing divide within the Alaska church.

After seven years in the state, some parishioners asked church officials for his removal.

Thursday, Bishop Nikolai said he is leaving, so the Alaska church may heal, and move forward.

"I'm going to be leaving Alaska and taking some time to visit family and friends whom I've neglected for the last seven years since I've been in Alaska," Nikolai said.

When he first arrived in Alaska, he was welcomed by local church members.

But a growing divide within the church forced some to ask for the bishop's removal earlier this year.

"When I came here the diocese was divided and that was because of the bishop prior to me," Nikolai said. "And to divide or to continue to allow that division to be here, I just don't think it's the right thing to do, and sometimes you need to go where you can be appreciated for your talents and your efforts."

Since his arrival, the bishop says he has increased by half the number of clergy in Alaska.

"We put St. Innocent of Irkusk here because of the historical value of the museum," Nikolai said.   

At the Downtown Anchorage Museum he helped build, the bishop says, despite his departure he still cares about the Alaska church.

"And that I will still pray for them and ask for their prayers for me too in these difficult times," Nikolai said.

He said he will take a leave of absence from the church - and travel the west coast to visit family and friends before deciding where he will go next.

Nikolai said he does not know who will replace him.

He said the head of the Western Diocese, Bishop Benjamin will come to Anchorage either Thursday or Friday to assess the situation.

Perhaps a sign of the divide within the church here: Bishop Nikolai said he wasn't told the travel itinerary of Bishop Benjamin - even though the two leaders will be in Anchorage at the same time, before Nikolai leaves the state, perhaps for good.

Contact Sean Doogan at sdoogan@ktuu.com


I hope this brings about healing to the Alaskan Orthodox.
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« Reply #193 on: April 13, 2011, 09:31:55 PM »

Action has been taken. Bishop Nikolai has been retired, and the others who were involved were removed
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« Reply #194 on: April 15, 2011, 03:30:24 PM »

Action has been taken. Bishop Nikolai has been retired, and the others who were involved were removed
Is another bishop going to be elected for Alaska soon?
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« Reply #195 on: April 15, 2011, 10:49:31 PM »

Probably. I believe the Synod might also use a released bishop
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« Reply #196 on: April 18, 2011, 12:16:48 PM »

Probably. I believe the Synod might also use a released bishop
Sorry, I don't understand what you mean by a "released" bishop: do you mean a retied bishop who will come in temporarily until a new bishop is elected?
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« Reply #197 on: April 18, 2011, 12:29:22 PM »

A Hieromonk was released from a Serbian (I think) monastery in California several years ago and the monastery announced he was being released to the OCA to become their next Bishop of Alaska.  He had to enroll in studies at St. Vladimir Seminary where he is now matriculating.  The speculation is that he is a friend of Metropolitan Jonah's and will be imposed on Alaska.  Critics are disturbed that the due process for episcopal selection under the OCA's statute will be impeded by the plans of the OCA's Central Administration.  I've never seen anything negative about this bishop in waiting.
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« Reply #198 on: April 18, 2011, 12:30:58 PM »

It was discussed there: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,25450.0.html
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« Reply #199 on: April 20, 2011, 10:12:00 PM »

Probably. I believe the Synod might also use a released bishop
Sorry, I don't understand what you mean by a "released" bishop: do you mean a retied bishop who will come in temporarily until a new bishop is elected?
Released is one who has been transferred from another jurisdiction, like ACROD. Bishop Mark of Baltimore was released from the Antiochian Archdiocese in the US.
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« Reply #200 on: April 21, 2011, 08:30:53 AM »

Probably. I believe the Synod might also use a released bishop
Sorry, I don't understand what you mean by a "released" bishop: do you mean a retied bishop who will come in temporarily until a new bishop is elected?
Released is one who has been transferred from another jurisdiction, like ACROD. Bishop Mark of Baltimore was released from the Antiochian Archdiocese in the US.

For example, both Bishop Michael of NY/NJ and Bishop-elect Matthias of Chicago - OCA - were priests in good standing within ACROD. While a priest, Bishop Michael obtained a canonical release from his Bishop to assume the position of Dean of St. Tikhon's and Bishop-elect Matthias' name was presented for consideration as Bishop of Chicago only upon his obtaining a canonical release from his Bishop. Many years ago, the late Bishop Peter (Shymansky) was released by the Metropolia to become a Bishop for ACROD.  I suppose that the same would hold true for the 'transfer' of a Bishop in good standing from one jurisdiction to another, but I would think that is quite rare, if unprecedented.
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« Reply #201 on: May 05, 2014, 01:48:42 AM »

Fr. Isidore (Brittain) was arrested on Holy Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Albany, Oregon for child porn found on his computer. He was associated with the sordid mess in Alaska that resulted in the forced retirement of Bishop Nikolai.

http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2014/04/albany_priest_arrested_accused.html

http://koin.com/2014/04/18/oregon-priest-arrested-child-porn/
Fr. Stephen Soot of the OCA, Pastor of St. Anne's in Corvallis, said that Fr. Isidore was a recovering alcoholic.
Quote
Father Stephen Soot said he [Stanley Brittain] was removed from the clergy about a week ago and was not an employee of the church.

Lord have mercy. Please pray for my mom as this criminal case could discourage any inquiry into Orthodoxy.  I have attended Fr. Stephen Soot's parish in Corvallis. I am devastated. The people in that parish don't deserve this.  Lord have mercy. Embarrassed  Cry
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« Reply #202 on: May 05, 2014, 01:53:04 AM »

Where's the connection to Bishop Nikolai?   Huh
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« Reply #203 on: May 05, 2014, 01:54:10 AM »

Where's the connection to Bishop Nikolai?   Huh

Fr. Isidore was under Bishop Nikolai, who was trying to help Archimandrite Isidore overcome his alcoholic addiction way back then. The blog of Mark Stokoe detailed some serious psychological problems that Fr. Isidore had.
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« Reply #204 on: May 05, 2014, 01:56:37 AM »

Where's the connection to Bishop Nikolai?   Huh

Fr. Isidore was under Bishop Nikolai, who was trying to help Archimandrite Isidore overcome his alcoholic addiction.

How do you know?
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« Reply #205 on: May 05, 2014, 01:58:31 AM »

Where's the connection to Bishop Nikolai?   Huh

Fr. Isidore was under Bishop Nikolai, who was trying to help Archimandrite Isidore overcome his alcoholic addiction.

How do you know?

We knew Bishop Nikolai as he used to come to our parish. Bishop Nikolai was not the monster; Fr. Isidore was very dysfunctional and caused the downfall of many. One bad apple.

I am dropping out of this conversation.
Please pray for the people in Corvallis and in Albany.
This is very stressful.

Why wasn't Fr. Isidore sent to St. Luke's? Perhaps he was.
Why was he allowed to continue with all these problems?
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« Reply #206 on: May 05, 2014, 02:07:45 AM »

Where's the connection to Bishop Nikolai?   Huh

Fr. Isidore was under Bishop Nikolai, who was trying to help Archimandrite Isidore overcome his alcoholic addiction.

How do you know?

We knew Bishop Nikolai as he used to come to our parish.

In Alaska?  Now I'm confused....

Bishop Nikolai was not the monster;

Didn't he have problems with alcoholism as well?

Fr. Isidore was very dysfunctional and caused the downfall of many. One bad apple.

More damage from the Kondratick era - who vetted Fr. Isidore for the priesthood?

I am dropping out of this conversation.
Please pray for the people in Corvallis and in Albany.
This is very stressful.

Why wasn't Fr. Isidore sent to St. Luke's? Perhaps he was.
Why was he allowed to continue with all these problems?

Lord have mercy.
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