Cries of Anger, Denial, Confusion, Resolve
The news from Syosset that swept over the OCA on Friday March 23rd has left clergy and laity struggling to understand what these latest developments mean- and more than one Bishop fielding phone calls right and left. But it was clear to all that the Metropolitan's dismissal of Gregg Nescott from the Special Commission and Metropolitan Council, Archbishop Dmitri's apparent refusal to honor the agreed-upon rescinding of the transfer of Fr. Robert Kondratick to the Diocese of the South in order to face disciplinary measures, and the failure of the Synod to release the preliminary report of the Special Commissionas recommended by the Metropolitan Council, would mean no end in sight of the turmoil that has wracked the OCA for the past 18 months.
Judging from the internet postings over the weekend, (and reports from parish coffee hour discussions across the nation on Sunday) the dominant mood among clergy and laity was shock, anger and disappointment. Shock that the 'oneness of mind' that seemed to be expressed by the Synod in their Archpastoral Statement was revealed as little more than a "negotiated settlement"; anger, that Nescott, one of the more outspoken voices on the Council had been dismissed unfairly; frustration, that two weeks after the Metropolitan Council unanimously voted to release the 13-page report of the Special Commission, the Synod has failed to do so; and disappointment as the 'triple blow' came directly after the hopes of so many had been raised so high - by the Synod itself - in its Archpastoral Statement posted last Thursday.
(Read that statement here)
The Metropolitan justified his actions by stating that Nescott violated 'confidentiality' in posting to OCANews.org - although Nescott did not cite a single example of confidential information. The Archbishop of Dallas offered no public reasons for his actions. A posting on his diocesan website yesterday, March 26th, promising 'important news' was quickly pulled down.
In response to the Archbishop's rebellion against the Synod, the Metropolitan's supporter's began an active email campaign telling angry clergy that Fr. Kondratick would indeed be suspended as had been suggested in the Archpastoral Statement. According to Syosset supporters, Archbishop Dmitri had agreed to rescinding of the transfer on Thursday March 22nd, so it could be concluded Fr. Kondratick 'was already' under Metropolitan Herman's omophor from that point onwards. As such, it was suggested, he would indeed be suspended in the coming days. No formal word on any suspension has been issued as of today.
The major trouble with Syosset's theory is that it is contradicted by reality. In reality, it does not matter what Syosset says, but what Dallas does. By insisting on a suspension he is powerless to enforce, the Metropolitan risks looking more impotent that he already does after having been duped by Archbishop Dmitri. At this point only a fair and timely ecclesiastical court that would result in Fr. Kondratick's deposition from the priesthood if he is found guilty, can bolster Syosset's case that it has truly taken steps against the accused former Chancellor. Anything less and one will be hard pressed to say anything but that Fr. Kondratick has simply 'retired' to Florida, where he is still serving Liturgy....
So the situation remains confused and confusing. No one seriously believes the Metropolitan is willing to pick a fight with the elderly Archbishop of Dallas to enforce the suspension. The Metropolitan already has one with the Bishop of Alaska concerning the Alaskan Lands question, and may have a larger one looming with the Archbishop of Chicago. First, Alaska.
OCANews.org has received the following note from Ms. Mina Jacobs, a member of the Metropolitan Council and assistant to the Bishop of Alaska. Ms. Jacobs writes:
"Some readers may expend a lot of effort speculating on why His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI was not in attendance at the recent Synod of Bishop's meeting. I would like to save them this effort and offer some factual information.
As His Grace's assistant, I can assure your readers that His Grace based his decision on principles of Tradition and Canon Law. Those who work closely with His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI know that he puts our Holy Church before all other considerations, either personal or for convenience.
To put it simply, he was following the Canon Law of our Holy Church. I am not a Canon Law scholar but understand that the Apostolic Canon 37 states that the spring session of the Holy Synod of Bishops' meeting should take place during the fourth week of Pentecost, meaning the fourth week after Pascha.
The Twentieth Canon of Antioch states that the Synod of Bishops' meeting should be held twice a year with the spring session after the third week of Holy Pascha.
To be fair, there are other interpretations of the Canons although they suggest that the spring meeting should occur BEFORE the Great Fast, none, to my knowledge, suggest the meeting should be scheduled DURING Lent. This meeting was scheduled precisely in the middle of Lent. Respecting the Canons and following the Typikon for that week when the Great Canon of St. Andrew is read in full and the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste are venerated, Bishop NIKOLAI chose to do what was right. He remained in his Diocese. This meeting should have been scheduled after the Great Fast. It is my understanding that he expressed this preference at the 2006 spring Holy Synod meeting." (Read her whole statement here)
The Bishop's adherence to the canons is rather new-found. In 2003, 2004, and 2005 he attended Lenten Synodal meetings. (See the photos here.) In any event, the Bishops' absence only adds to the OCA's confusion. The OCA will now not be able to produce a 2006 audit, since no official audits can be certified until the question of who owns the Alaska lands is. The next Synodal meeting is scheduled for the Fall of 2007.
In the midst of the confusion more than a few voices are expressing resolve. One of the fiercest and most eloquent was Jay Holman who posted the following on the OCANews.org website on Sunday, March 25th. Holman writes:
"....Jesus cares for us and the church, what else would He have us do but ACT? Today's OCA is a pilgrim beaten by robbers and left for dead at the side of the road. We can either cross the street or see to its care.
The least among us must rise to action. Those who consider themselves great among us have demonstrated they are unworthy servants of God. They do evil and justify their corrupt actions by saying they are good and acting in the name of our Lord. We must acknowledge our own weakness and unworthiness but remove the deliberate workers of iniquity from leadership rolls in God's church.
Our path will require bravery and steadfast effort. Metropolitan Herman has threatened all of us. He has warned us to return to 'good order' knowing that disturbing the 'good order' of the church is grounds for excommunicating a lay person; a card he may yet play because in his mind, and that of most of the members of the synod, 'good order' equates to sycophancy and blind obedience.
We can be optimistic because the path of opposition is so much clearer today then it was three days ago and the likelihood that the rank and file of the church will stand up and root out the evil core is far greater. These evil times grow shorter. (Read his entire comment here)
Holman and others are suggesting witholding money from Syosset. Some suggest individuals do so. Others, parishes. Others, deaneries and dioceses as a whole. In most instances witholding is expressed not just as a statement of disaffection, but as a moral imperative.
The most specific call at this point is from the Minneapolis Deanery, in letters to Archbishop Job, copies of which he began receiving on Monday, March 26th. The agreed letter, composed by the deanery clergy reads:
With the conclusion of the most recent meeting of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council, we have noted that the Metropolitan and certain leaders in the Orthodox Church in America continue publicly to ignore the severity of the financial and moral scandal that erodes the life and mission of our church, seemingly oblivious to the serious legal ramifications already in motion. Moreover, we have yet to receive any report regarding the planned distribution of the last three church-wide appeals, or the repayment of charitable funds that were to be covered by the OCA's recent ($1.7 mil) loan.
Meanwhile, letters of genuine concern go unanswered, leaving the appearance of a detached and arrogant leadership. In the absence of clear, transparent and accountable management, the faithful are left to believe that nothing has changed or is likely to change in how the church operates, or in how its funds are managed, used and disbursed.
Effective immediately, the undersigned faithful of the Minneapolis Deanery, (Name of parish here) call upon Your Eminence, and the Diocesan Council, to cut off all funding to the Orthodox Church in America.
This was the overwhelming consensus of the 45th Diocesan Assembly, which demanded the implementation of quarterly reporting on the budget and total adherence to the Statute of the OCA, among other things. These were given as conditions for our continued financial support of the national church. Neither of these is happening. We cannot wait any longer. The more we delay action, the more we demoralize and disillusion those whom we were called to serve.
Your Eminence, your tireless efforts to seek the truth, to correct the problems and to restore the trust of the faithful have only increased our gratitude to God for your ministry. Please be assured that you have our unwavering support. Seeking your prayers and asking God to uphold your ministry, we call upon you to act now, for the sake of the weaker brethren.
Many years, Master!"
OCANews will attempt to learn how many of these letters have been received by the Archbishop, and which parishes sent them. Given the tenor in the Midwest, these will not be the first, or last such letters.
- Mark Stokoe