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Jonah In His Own Words -

The Opening Talk to the Synod Meeting in Santa Fe

“This is a critical time of judgement for us as the OCA. Do we want a church that is led by the bishops, with advice from the clergy and lay [sic]. Or do we want a church controlled by the Metropolitan Council, its committees and officers, criticizing and marginalizing the bishops?

Do we want an all powerful chancellor who controls the Metropolitan, Synod, MC? Or do we want the Metropolitan to determine the policy with the Synod, advised by the Synod and his staff? Do we want a church controlled by a consistory, or by a Synod?

Even more so, are we going to permit the Church to continue to be torn apart by endless controversies, endless investigations and reports which destroy mutual trust? Are going to cede episcopal responsibility to self-appointed watchdogs, wolves without even a shred of sheep’s clothing, that have their own personal power as their sole agenda? Stirring up endless controversies where they can become the great saviours of the Church? Only Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the Church, and He did not operate this way. The entire Orthodox world is watching. The rest of the Church in North America is watching.

Our task is to take back the leadership of this Church. We are ordained for that. It is the task given to us by God. It is our responsibility before Him, and how we handle it will be the criterion of our judgement. For that to happen, we need a united Synod. We need to come together in real love, as true disciples of Jesus Christ, and freely debate one another, freely disagree and argue, until we come to a consensus we can all live with.

We must unite together under my leadership as the Metropolitan. Whether I like it or not, I am not going anywhere. You put me in this position, and it is your responsibility to support me in it. You are free to disagree, free to oppose me to my face. But it is unconciousable, for the sake of the Church for us to undermine our episcopal leadership by gossip or tearing one another down to anyone. It is self-destructive, and leads to the paralysis we now see. Our disagreements must stay among ourselves, and we must present to the entire Church, and everyone in it, a basic image of unity. Because it is the unity of the Church that is at stake.

I am not in any way saying that I am without fault, or in anyway have not made numerous mistakes. I see my mistakes and misjudgments, my inaction regarding certain things, and my unadvised deliberate actions, and I try to learn from them.

It is not me, as an individual that is demanding this respect, but the office of the Metropolitan. And it is not only me, and my office that are being definitively challenged; it is the episcopacy itself. And with it, the Orthodoxy, never mind the autocephaly, of the OCA. We must stand together, and we must understand the calling God has given us as a Church and as bishops. We each have a unique responsibility within the life of the Church, mainly our dioceses. Only I as Metropolitan have the responsibility for this Church as a whole, in the face of God. And is my responsibility to bring about and foster the unity between us, as my office is the icon of that unity. “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. I alone here have the responsibility to intervene in other dioceses where there is disorder. Yet, we all bear together the responsibility to work with one another, to listen to one another, and to be respectful of one another. We need to protect each other’s backs, as well as their faces. Otherwise, what are we doing? What kind of bishops are we? What kind of Christians are we?

When I took office just over two years ago, three months out of the monastery, this Church was in shambles. Angry, hurt, disunited, distrustful. Over the past two years there has been a tremendous amount of healing. Now we are at a critical crossroads: the last major piece of business from the past two decades. We’ve gotten through the Kondratick lawsuits, the +Nikolai lawsuit, and the SIC, the STIC and other crises.

There is one thing left: a small group of people in and around the MC are determined to undermine the Metropolitan; and the very nature of the episcopal authority. There is a conspiracy of several people who believes the MC should control the Church, and the bishops: that brags that they unseated two metropolitans, and they plan to get a third. They believe the officers of the Church work for them, and in this case, it is true. In the canon law of the Church, conspiracy against a bishop is a deposable offence (4th ecumenical council, canon 18). Some of these people were involved in the SIC report, others in various committees of the MC. They are bullies, asserting their own will , motivated by their passions, and tearing down and destroying everyone who opposes them. They have to be stopped dead in their tracks, and removed from any position of influence in the OCA.

Chancellor Alexander Garklavs

First among them is the Chancellor, Alexander Garklavs. For a year and a half he has been working to undermine my episcopacy, through deceit, slander, bullying employees, lies and misrepresentations. He has used the committees of the MC as his sounding board to undermine me with the members of the MC, telling the Strategic Planning Committee that I am “destroying the OCA”, slandering me at the Board of Trustees Meeting of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, among a very few cases; and to top it all off, is this SMPAC Memorandum. This document is not about how I handled cases of sexual misconduct, but rather, about him, and his power. It is about how I did or did not consult him,. And where I did, he takes it and twists it, making me sound incompetent.

I am not in any way incompetent. I resent the allegation.

You could say it is about how we disagree about management style. He does not like my management style. But I am the bishop and he is not. If he does not want to conform to my style, and accept the level of responsibility that was delegated to him, he should resign as the only honorable thing to do. There have been multiple instances in which I should have simply fired him. That is my great regret. I hope reconciliation would change things. Instead, he used it to buy time against me to complete this slanderous document against me.

The Sexual Misconduct Committee [sic] was under my episcopal authority. I blessed their work, and in fact, encouraged it. It was the duty of the chancellor, as the chair of the committee, to keep me informed of every action of the committee. Instead, this was done entirely behind my back, as a way of discrediting me; not once did he let me know something like this was brewing. Loyalty? Trust? No: betrayal and absolute insubordination. He has destroyed every last shred of trust. Would you demand anything but loyalty in a relationship of mutual trust from your chancellors? Would you even imagine they would do anything like this to you? Ian McKinnon, or John Kowalczyk, or John Kreta, or Alexander Pichach? No, it is unthinkable.

This constant undermining, slander and deceit is what created a tremendously toxic atmosphere at the chancery. It is a scandal known world wide, and the great question is: Why have I not simply fired these people? How can I continue to tolerate their presence, working against me in my own chancery? What is wrong with the OCA that you tolerate such insubordination? Because the reality is, that he and some other members of the staff have gossiped and complained to anyone they spoke with, including bishops and staff of other churches and jurisdictions, not to mention members of the MC. Whether it is deserved or not, personally, it is entirely unprofessional and supremely destructive. But there is an underlying temptation that is the core of this whole demonic prelest: lust for power and beneath that, rejection of authority.

What is the authority of the Metropolitan in regards to his Chancery Staff? The OCA Statute is very unclear. But, the Human Resources guide to Policies and Procedures is very clear: The Metropolitan has complete authority over his staff, and can fire them “at will” and without any stated cause. This document is signed by every hire in the OCA Chancery, was submitted by the MC, and approved by the Holy Synod. There is not a single word, in the Statute or the Policy Manual, about appeal to the Synod. I only granted it {Garklav’s scheduled appearance before the Synod the following day} for the sake of the unity of the Synod, no other reason. The officers are my stavropegial priests under the episcopal authority of the Metropolitan. They are my priests in my diocese, who owe me respect and obedience of any priest to his bishop. It is true their ministries have a broader scope, affecting the whole; thus they bear far greater responsibility than most to maintain a professional and Christian attitude. In this we have massive failure, insubordination and betrayal that has been going on for a year and half and now is bringing the Church to the brink of another scandal, based on lies and innuendo - for the sake of Garklavs remaining in power. This must end by tomorrow.

You must support me in demanding Garklav’s resignation, for the sake of the good of the Church, and for the sake of maintaining some shred of the authority of the episcopacy in this church. It is the authority of the Metropolitan that he is challenging, by his appeal. But it also the authority of a bishop over a priest for whom he is responsible that is challenged. I should call him in and accept his resignation, without explanations, as a matter of supporting hierarchical authority. I do not want vengeance: I will give him a severance package and assign him to a nice parish, with a somewhat comparable salary ( though that will be difficult), if he resigns. If we do not demand his resignation, we are committing ecclesiastical suicide.

There is the further question of the authority of the Metropolitan vis-a-vis the Synod, in relation to the officers of the Church. While the Statute is vague, it only says that the Synod appoints the officers, after recommendation by the MC. The whole question of the officers is vague in the Statute. Whom do they work for? At least in the Policies guide, it is absolutely clear: they work for the Metropolitan, as his staff. Not for the Synod; and not for the MC; though they interface with both. By Synodal approval, those policies have the same effect as the Statute.

This issue is not just about me. This is about you, because you are next, if we not stop this whole process in its tracks.

SMPAC Memorandum

The SMPAC Memorandum is a monument to the dysfunctional relationship between the Metropolitan and the Chancellor, and little else. It is a purely political document, aimed at discrediting me. It is all about the power and authority of the chancellor, and how the Metropolitan has not submitted to the chancellor. And most of it is a twisted subversion of the truth. It begins by flattery of the Synod, and then becomes an essay of disrespect of the authority of the Metropolitan. In tearing down the Metropolitan, it also undermines the authority of the Episcopacy. Using false information and twisted facts, it disseminates mistrust in the Metropolitan, his office and the bishops. There is not one instance of actual violation of policies or the Sexual Misconduct guidelines cited. Nor is there even one violation of the canons cited. Rather, it is impressions and opinions, but no actual facts. There is no evidence brought forth. I supply the evidence and most of the letters quoted in my response, and they do not support the Memo’s allegations. There are disagreements evidence, but they are about management style. Is the Metropolitan supposed to conform to the chancellor and submit to him, or is it the other way around. The canons specify the latter.

As to the impressions and opinions, I have had little personal contact with most the Sexual Misconduct Committee members that signed this letter. Where would they get such information about personal reactions that they could form such opinions? It was almost entirely through Garklavs. Every piece of information came through him, and my reaction or response was conveyed through him, and interpreted to them.

I did not want to interfere in their work: I thought they were competent professionals, and I did not interfere when their mission morphed from revising guidelines to an investigative oversight committee. I was also advised to keep investigations at arms length. My administrative style is to leave what requires professional knowledge and experience to the professionally competent. I certainly misjudged this one.

This Committee was under my authority, and this report was compiled secretly, behind my back. That is insubordination. Transparency? Accountability? Absolutely none. It was the responsibility of the Chancellor to not only let me know how my actions were being interpreted, but to inform me of the necessary steps to explain my actions. Would you demand anything less of your chancellors? He failed in that, and in fact, nurtured these misperceptions for his own reasons, and to his own perceived benefit. This is complete betrayal of trust, and of his basic responsibility to support the Metropolitan, rather than tear him down.

As Metropolitan, I definitively reject this report, and seeking the support of the Holy Synod, demand its retraction and consign it to permanent confidentiality.

The Metropolitan Council and the Cabal

The Metropolitan Council is a body that has as its primary statutory responsibility to care and provide for the financial support of the central church administration, but also to create and support charitable institutions.   It needs to be confined to these essential tasks, and stop trying to run the Church. I have had several members tell me that the Synod needs to take back the leadership of the Church. The MC is to carry out the decisions of the AAC, and assist the Synod and Metropolitan in doing so; but it is not and does not have the authority of the AAC.

There is a small group that has been around a long time, which has a congregationalist idea of the Church; that it should be controlled by the MC and its committees, and all other functionaries including bishops are subordinate to it. It is a false idea of conciliarity. This came as a result of the abrogation of the responsibility by the previous Metropolitan and the Synod, where the MC stepped in to fill the power vacuum. My assertion of episcopal and canonical authority within the church is creating great opposition within this group. It is for this reason, I think, that they are mustering their forces against me, to try to force me to resign and take a leave. I will not. They want someone they can manipulate, who will submit to them, and like Theodosius, be so weak every word is scripted and every appearance stage managed, with the chancellor running the real show. At least they made Theodosius look good; me, they have trashed. But in the end, especially if he has some kind of will, they would throw him out as well.

There is the idea being put forth that the officers and the MC members are equal with the bishops and should have equal authority. After all, the officers make more money than the Metropolitan ( and can cut his salary without even the courtesy of informing him, much less his consultation), so they are his superiors, to whom he must submit.

The MC works so hard, and the bishops must be compelled to obey these committees and their reports. The Metropolitan must be accountable to the Chancellor and the MC, not they to him. The bishops must submit. This is an old demon, the spirit of congregationalism, which has afflicted this church for a century. We have to exorcise this demon. Otherwise, it will destroy the OCA.

In short, we have a conspiracy with an agenda that will destroy the Church. We cannot live through another scandal. If their agenda goes forward, the OCA will become more a isolated and marginalized in the Orthodox world until everyone leaves. We cannot live outside the Orthodox Church. Underlying this is a very bitter subtext, the gay agenda, which demands one type of moral code for clergy, another for the laity accepting that agenda. I will not stand for this.

This group is a bunch of bullies, who are willing to use any means to advance their agenda and rip apart their enemies. First among these means is the internet, and Mr. Stokoe’s Through intimidation and the threat of exposure, of, for example, this supposedly confidential document -- they try to manipulate the bishops and Metropolitan. How often do we hold back on a decision wondering how it will be spun on And what would be the reaction of the general parishoners, as they find another metropolitan being dragged through the mud?

How many of us have been bullied by this threat of exposure? How many of us have been manipulated by fear of the media? Several of us have been bullied and abused by bishops.We need to put this kind of abuse of the Church behind us. It destroys our self-confidence. But it also puts us in a state of fear, and being subject to intimidation. Somehow, this must be exposed, and the people dismissed from service.

All this is really a distraction from the real work to which we are called. We are not dealing with evil people, but people in prelest from the demons.

We must give the MC a charter as to what to do, and reign them in on the things which they are off base on. God knows we need development work.

We must redefine the office of chancellor, as the old models do not work. We need an auxiliary bishop to have that position of support to the Met.

Much more than all this, we need to focus on the future, on the AAC, and what message we want to put out, how to rally the faithful, and convey the fact that the real life of the Church, the parishes and dioceses, are doing very well, and that there is great hope for the future.”



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