5.14.08 From the Kodiak daily MIrror
Calif. bishop brings message of healing to Kodiak
By RALPH GIBBS
Now that Bishop Nikolai Soraich has left Alaska, many Orthodox Alaska Diocese members are wondering how the rift between the bishop’s supporters and detractors will be healed, especially in light of some recent comments by Bishop Nikolai’s aide Archimandrite Isadore.
Early last week, Bishop Benjamin and Archpriest Alexander Garklavs visited Alaska to answer that question. The two Orthodox Church in America clerics traveled to Anchorage to consecrate the new St. Tikon church, and took the opportunity afterwards to travel to Kodiak to meet with clerics and parishioners.
Bishop Benjamin tried to start the healing process once Bishop Nikolai agreed to step down by posting a letter to OCA members on the Alaska Diocese Web site.
“There is pain, hurt and perhaps even fear among you,” he wrote. “I can assure you all, the situation will not stay the same. All of who have taken part in the recent drama needs to forgive each other. There are not, nor can there ever be ‘sides’ in the church. There are only those who are with Christ and those who are not.”
While in Kodiak, Bishop Benjamin tried to expand on that message of healing with a series of meeting.
“Each one of us carries around stones,” he said. “We can use those stones to build walls between each other or we can build bridges, and we need to build a lot of bridges.”
Building those bridges was being made difficult by some recent comments by Archimandrite Isadore.
In a recent interview with the Tundra Drums magazine, Fr. Isadore said many of the priests are fearful because they are battling alcoholism.
Using warfare as an analogy, Fr. Alexander said that when a conflict is over, it’s not as abrupt as turning on and off a light switch.
“There’s still some residual feelings,” he said. “They dissipate and disappear very soon. In fact, I can sense already there is a different environment here (in Alaska).”
Bishop Benjamin called the comments made by Fr. Isadore, unfortunate.
“There are some really good clergy out there who are struggling to do what’s right,” he said. “It’s not easy being in a remote village.”
Archpriest Alexander said Monday that Fr. Isadore left Alaska with Bishop Nikolai and probably will not return.
Metropolitan Herman, the OCA’s leading cleric, has administered the Alaska Diocese since Bishop Nikolai agreed to step down.
He appointed Bishop Benjamin, who runs his own diocese in California, to help with day-to-day operations.
Fr. Alexander said Bishop Benjamin may have even more responsibilities in Alaska in the future, but probably would not become the next official Alaska Diocese leader.
Instead, he would function as a locum tenens, or “someone who functions in the place of the absent one,” Fr. Alexander said.
Therefore, he would probably act as the official administrator of the diocese, but not the diocese bishop, until a permanent replacement is found for Bishop Nikolai.
Fr. Alexander said a replacement has not been identified and may not be for a while.