Letter to the Inquiring Bishops
Your Eminence; Your Grace
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Qualifications for Bishops
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a Bishop, he desires a good work. 2.A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice. Lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Tim 3; 1-7)
This would supersede the Holy Canons that the Apostles themselves wrote for the normal operation of Christ's Holy Church, indeed it (The Scriptures) would be the basis of coming up with the Canons (norms, that which is normal in the Church) for now in this age for us to follow, and yes especially the Episcopate. For you, Vladykas, are given a awesome, awesome, responsibility of being, above everything else, an image of Jesus Christ Our Lord who spoke "I came not for the righteous for that sinner may repent,"(Mark 2;17).
Blameless; for no one should speak that you, the Bishop, should have something to be blamed for.
Good behavior; for no one should accuse you of having bad behavior to your flock.
Not violent; for no one should accuse you for violently speaking or doing something like throwing a book at you in the Church.
Be gentle; this is what Jesus chose as the Savior of the world to do, and because the Episcopacy is to be Christ-like then this should always be the case for ruling the house (diocese).
As in marriage the husband and wife are to live a life that is without quarrels, is that complete possibility? No. But they (the married couple) must be able to speak and work things out with one another without resistance; without the fear of retaliation or a fight in which only the husband will win. Thus is our state here in the Diocese of Alaska there is no way that I, nor my fellow clergy, could have spoken with the Bishop with the fear of retaliation or abuse, we're speaking of the time before the appeal to the Holy Synod was posted to the internet. It was always his way or no way. We (the wife) have picked up a frying pan, and said "This is enough." What do we have in return? "Come back to me," says the husband (Bishop Nikolai) "and I will fix things up between you (the wife) and me (Bishop Nikolai). I even have a better idea, let your children (the parishioners) come and work things out with me and you." This is what we're asked to do at this particular time.
His (Bishop Nikolai's) children cannot help in the healing process, the professionals of the world will NEVER allow this, neither should you (The Synod), they (the parishioners) have no way of knowing how to begin, the healing process. Just as in real life children of the abuser are not allowed.
But since the Bishop is married to the Diocese (the wife), then the Bishop should act and be like the spouse (husband):
"Husbands (Bishops), love your wives (the Diocese) , just as Christ, also loved the Church and gave Himself for her." (Eph.5;25)
Then is this love, when the hierarch causes such despair in a young man that he seeks to end his life? I have an incident that I could relate; words were said to a young man that were so hurtful that this young man was to a point that he was beginning to be obsessed with holy water and icons, not that it is bad, but that he had no hope for his own salvation because Bishop Nikolai (Soriach) said to this young man: "If your dad ever returned to the priesthood you (the young man) and your whole family will surely go to hell." Speaking of one he (Bishop Nikolai) had deposed. From what I understand this happened at a conference over here in the Kuskokwim, more specifically in Kasigluk, and there were witnesses to this happening. Now my question is; "Is this LOVE?" I think not. So, "nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Eph.5;33)
"and let the wife (The Diocese) see that she respects her husband ( The Bishop) Eph 5;33. Absolutely, but if respect is given to the wife ( The Diocese ) from the husband (Bishop), it shall not be one sided affair. Why? Because we are wedded and the "two shall become one flesh" (Eph 5: 31).
We have to realize that respect works both ways. When a Bishop speaks unkind words such as he (Bishop Nikolai) did to the young man mentioned above, it shows that he does not respect the person or others who are around him (Bishop Nikolai), so how does he expect to be respected himself? Abuse (verbal or physical) should not be in language of Orthodox Christians, but unfortunately it is, and especially in the Episcopacy, because he (the Bishop) is the image of Jesus Christ.
We belong to each other as Martyrs for one another, equals and we are called to treat each other accordingly. The husband (Bishop) is to nourish and cherish her (the wife, Diocese) as Jesus does the Church.
Then, is it nourishing and cherishing when, at the coming of the Bishop, most of the parishioners find excuses to go (frankly run) away from his presence?
"A good testimony from without, lest he (the Bishop) fall into reproach and the snare of the devil," (1 Tim 3; 7). Having, written and said all this, has it happened now at this time? I mean that if these minimum qualifications of a Bishop had been adhered to, would all of this have happened, the appeal, the testimonies and cries for intervention? Isn't it why the Apostles set these rules for themselves that we now would live a blameless life? Or is just according to each and every Diocesan Bishop to 'divide the Word of Thy Truth,' individually, without involving the laity, clergy and all brother Bishops?
So, then we must understand we should "see then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph.5; 15)
I must remind all my brothers and sisters, I have not a knowledge of any solid theological training with a piece of paper tells me that I am qualified to testify on behalf of anyone - only that Jesus Christ our Lord has taught his Holy Apostles and Disciples that we must Love God above all else and that our neighbor is to be treated as our own self, and by this I find that it is my duty to protect, love, treat fairly, and teach the people in that Love and be able to give my life for them. Because of this I must request that the Synod of Bishops hear our cry and remove Bishop Nikolai (Soriach) from the Diocese of Alaska. Amen.
Asking your Archpastoral Blessing and Holy Prayers,
Your Humble and unworthy servant and Archpriest,
March 31, 2008
(Archpriest Peter Askoar is the pastor of Elevation of the Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Russian Mission, Alaska.)