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News From Orthodox America

• Washington DC

At their Diocesan Assembly meeting held last Friday, September 11th, the OCA’s Diocese of Washington elected Fr. Raymond Velencia as the clergy delegate to the Metropolitan Council. The pastor of St. Matthew’s parish in Columbia, MD, Fr. Velencia attracted national attention two years ago when he sent a letter to the Synod, Metropolitan Council and (read that story here) concerning a former parishoner, Ms. Kristine Koumentakos.  While the OCA has been dismissed from the subsequent lawsuit brought by Ms. Koumentakos,  litigation involving Fr. Velencia continues.

Ms. Rosalle Luster, a member of the Diocesan Council, was elected as the lay delegate. 

• Crestwood NY

On Tuesday, September 15th,  the “International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations” (IFUOCN), a foundation sponsored by the Russian Patriarchate, announced in Moscow that St. Vladimir’s Seminary had been recognized with an award “For Outstanding Activity in Strengthening Unity of Orthodox Nations and for Confirming and Advancing Christian Values in the Life of the Society”.  An awards ceremony will be held in Moscow in January, 2010. 

That same day, the top three officers of the Crestwood school met with Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese to discuss “matters of common concern” in a “constructive exchange.” The Seminary’s subsequent press release  praised the Metropolitan’s “eloquence”, agreeing that  “priests... must learn a respectful mode of discourse” and agreeing that “ those involved in their instruction must model such discourse”  as well. SVS then also announced that it will create a new internet forum  that will indeed “model respectful online discourse that Metropolitan PHILIP expects his seminarians to learn.” You can read the entire press release here.

Finally, an emergency meeting of the SVS Board of Trustees last Friday, September 11th, did not result in the dismissal of up to two additional faculty members, as had been feared. The Seminary, which like all non-profits that rely on investment income, has seen its portfolio shrink during the recession, while its expenses remain constant.  In an effort to deal with these setbacks, several staff members have been let go at the Seminary this past year, some departing faculty members have not been replaced this coming year, and everyone has taken a pay cut.  

• Platina CA

Abbot Gerasim (Gordon Eliel), the former head of St Herman’s Monastery in Platina, was officially received into the OCA on Sept 1.  He has enrolled at St. Vladimir’s Seminary to undergo a year-long course of studies, prior to what many say will be his nomination as the next bishop of Alaska. The former Abbot, a former classmate of Metropolitan Jonah, has spent years in Alaska building up two sketes near Kodiak, during the Monastery’s sojourn in the Serbian Diocese of the West. 

• Dallas TX

Members of the Episcopal Search Committee, composed of the deans and the Chancellor of the Diocese of the South, began their latest round of work with a conference call on September 4th. According to a press release on the diocesan website “Committee members discussed what experience and qualities an “ideal” candidate would possess. The Committee is looking to involve a representative number of DOS laity as its work progresses. The exact method for such exchanges is still being considered in light of the vast geographic expanse of the diocese.”  It is unclear why a “representative” number of DOS laity could not just join the Committee’s next conference call - leading some  critics to suggest that “vast geographic expanse” is not the problem.  The Committee announced it will meet again in October after the fall session of the Holy Synod that is expected to offer further “direction”  to “focus” the process.  

• Bosnia-Herzegovina

The retired former Bishop of Alaska, Nikolai (Soraich) has once again left the United States, this time for a Serbian monastery in Herzegovina. The controversial Bishop, who announced his diagnosis of serious prostrate cancer in an email to associates two months ago, completed therapy in the United States before leaving for Europe. His lawsuit against the OCA, fall-out from the Sidebottom Case and Soraich’s subsequent forced retirement, (read that story here and here) is still of record though. Of the other three major figures from the +Nikolai saga, Paul Sidebottom now works for a non-profit and lives in Kansas,  Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) serves at a small parish in Oregon, while Deacon Panteleimon (Erickson) serves with Bishop Nikolai, despite both being still officially “suspended” by the OCA.  

(Clarification/Update 9/18/09:

The conditions of Archimandrite Isidore's suspension have been further clarified to The Archimandrite is not allowed to liturgize, but is allowed to stand in the altar in cassock and receive communion as a priest. We apologize for any confusion.)


• Syosset, NY

The Metropolitan Council of the OCA and the Synod of Bishops will meet Tuesday - Friday of next week in Syosset in seperate and joint sessions. Among the major topics on the agenda of one or the other, and ocassionally both, are the Strategic Planning Process, legal affairs, the selection of a new Treasurer, the election of the new Bishop of New York and the adoption of a new budget. 

- Mark Stokoe





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