The Orthodox Diocese of
Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska
On October 21-23, seventy five clergy and lay delegates and dozens of observers from across Alaska gathered at St. Innocent Orthodox Cathedral on Turpin Road (Anchorage) to celebrate the renewal of the Alaskan Diocese under the leadership of Bishop Benjamin (Peterson) the activing administrator. Services were conducted in English, Greek, Slavonic, Yupíik Eskimo, Unangan Aleut, and Tlingit. The atmosphere was serious but relaxed and joyful.
His Grace, Bishop Benjamin compared healthy Christian leadership to a Middle Eastern Shepherd who walks ahead of his flock, making a unique sound which the sheep recognize as his own. In trust and confidence they follow him. This contrasts, he noted with sheep herders in his ancestral Scotland, where the shepherd walks behind the flock and specially trained dogs maintain order by nipping and biting the sheep who begin to stray. One leads by example, the other maintains control by fear and intimidation. Alaska has moved from the latter to the former, and the Church is rejoicing.
Among the decisions announced at the assembly was the appointment of Archpriest Michael Oleksa as Acting Chancellor of the Diocese. Father Michael has already resumed teaching at St. Hermanís Seminary in Kodiak, a position from which he had been dismissed earlier this year by Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) now living in retirement.
Father Oleksa was also elected by the Assembly to serve as the Alaskan clergy delegate to the Metropolitan Council, the national church executive board, along with Matushka Cheryl Anna Andrew of Unalaska.
Eight regional deans were elected by the clergy: Father Elia Larson for Southeast, Father David Askoak for Bristol Bay, Father Phillip Alexie for the Kuskokwim, Fr. Stephen Heckman for the Yukon, Fr. Innocent Dresdow for Kodiak, Father Maxim Isaac for the Aleutians, Fr. John Zabinko for Anchorage, Fr. Sergei Active for Kenai. The diocese decided to sell several residences purchased by the former bishop to provide funds for more essential projects.
Several Alaskan delegates will journey to Pittsburgh, PA, in November to participate in the National ìAll-American Councilî which this year will elect a new Metropolitan (Archbishop) following the retirement of Metropolitan HERMAN earlier this year.