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Author Topic: Bishop Nikolai and the "Russian" Orthodox church of Alaska?  (Read 52627 times) Average Rating: 0
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ethelrod
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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
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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.

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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/ )

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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..."
.
  • "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..."
.
  • 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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