+NIKOLAI SUMMONED TO SYOSSET
Syosset has confirmed that the Synod has taken the first step in a canonical process that could eventually lead to the suspension and/or deposition of +Nikolai, the former Bishop of Alaska. In a press release issued yesterday, Syosset stated that Metropolitan Jonah has sent an "admonitory letter" to the Bishop, containing a summons for +Nikolai to appear before the Synod to answer for his recent actions. (Read that press release here.) The summons follows a $41 million lawsuit initiated by the Bishop against Syosset earlier this month. (Read that story here.)
According to the OCA Statute, the Bishop, now in Australia, must be summoned three times to appear before the Synod, prior to any Church court proceedings and possible deposition. If he fails to appear after the third summons, he may be tried in absentia by the Synod.
At least two grounds for the Metropolitan's "admonitory letter" and summons are clear. By suing the OCA the Bishop is in de facto violation of Canon 14 of the Council of Carthage, which specifically prohibits secular lawsuits by clergy over matters that could be settled in Church court. The Canon calls for the deposition of any cleric who violates this rule.
The Bishop also appears to have violated Apostolic Canon 61, which reads: "If any accusation be brought against a believer of fornication or adultery, or any forbidden action, and he be convicted, let him not be promoted to the clergy." As reported in the Anchorage Daily News in January 2008: "A registered sex offender who served more than a year in prison for sexually abusing minors is wearing robes that signal he has taken a first step toward priesthood in the Russian Orthodox Church. Terenty Dushkin, 26, was installed as a lay reader of the liturgy last month by Bishop Nikolai, the church's highest-ranking official in Alaska. Church officials say they did so knowingly....Alaska church officials knew about Dushkin's past when they 'tonsured' him as a reader for St. Innocent Cathedral at a ceremony in early December." (Read that story here.)
The Bishop may also be questioned about other actions - including ordaining other convicted felons to the priesthood, and more recently, serving with suspended OCA clerics while in Australia.
History Repeating Itself
The summoning of a Bishop is a rare occurence, although Bishop Nikolai's predecessor in Alaska, Bishop Innocent (Gula), met the same fate, for the same reason. In January 2002 +Innocent filed a lawsuit against Metropolitan Theodosius, then-Archbishop (now Metropolitan) Herman, Bishop Nikolai and Fr. Robert Kondratick, among others. +Innocent's complaint charged wrongful termination, defamation, interference with a contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Ironically, many of the charges levied against +Nikolai and the others then, are the same charges (including "allegations of wrongful termination and infliction of emotional distress") that +Nikolai is now asserting against Syosset. +Innocent's lawsuit was dismissed shortly after his sudden death in May 2002.
In other OCA news, Syosset has confirmed to OCANews.org that Archbishop Seraphim has resigned as Secretary of the Synod after 19 years in that post. No reasons were given. Bishop Tikhon has taken over as Secretary of the Synod.
- Mark Stokoe