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Author Topic: Bishop Nikolai and the "Russian" Orthodox church of Alaska?  (Read 49554 times) Average Rating: 0
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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.
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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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