News From Around the OCA
• Western Pennsylvania Election Postponed
• Paffhausen To Be Vicar for the South
• Fr. Isidore Says +Nikolai Victim of "Slander"
• Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
The Diocese of Western Pennsylvania's Extraordinary Assembly to nominate a candidate for the office of Ruling Bishop of the Archdiocese, scheduled for this Saturday, May 3rd, at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Allison Park outside of Pittsburgh, has been postponed until sometime after July 1.
The postponement was granted by Metropolitan Herman, as Locum Tenens, at the unanimous request of the Diocesan Council, meeting in emergency session on Monday night, April 28th, following the unexpected news last week that one of the two candidates proposed by the Diocesan Council, sitting as the nominating committee, had withdrawn his name. According to a short announcement posted on the Western PA diocesan website: "We have been advised that due to extraordinary circumstances, Igumen Jonah (Paffhausen) has withdrawn his name for consideration for the Episcopal See of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman has confirmed his withdrawal as a candidate."
Not So Extraordinary After All
The "extraordinary circumstances" that led to the withdrawal of Fr. Jonah (the Abbot of St. John of Shanghai Monastery in northern California) are hardly "extraordinary". In a letter dated April 21st and read to the Council Monday night by Chancellor, Fr. Paul Ziatyk, the Metropolitan revealed to the clergy and lay representatives that Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas had asked for an auxiliary bishop a year ago, but action by the Synod had been delayed. The Metropolitan further noted that Fr. Jonah had recently visited Dallas, and Archbishop Dmitri now wants Fr. Jonah as his auxiliary Bishop.
Even though a public six-month search process by Western Pennsylvania, which involved bringing in Fr. Jonah from California to speak to the Diocese in March, resulted in him and Fr. David Mahaffey, a widower from Pottstown, PA, being unanimously selected as the nominees of the Diocesan Council, the Metropolitan has decided to acquiesce to the elderly Archbishop's request. Although Art. 6, Sec 5 of the Statute states that any vicar be selected with the participation of the Diocesan Council, it is expected that Fr. Jonah will be nominated as Archbishop Dmitri's vicar bishop at the next Synod meeting in May.
Behind The Scenes
Upon learning during Holy Week that Fr. Jonah was now being removed as a candidate, some members of the Diocesan Council quietly sought a postponement, which the Metropolitan initially indicated would be denied. Rumors then spread through the Diocese of a possible boycott of the election. As Art. 7, Sec. 17 of the Statute requires a majority of the accredited delegates to participate, the entire process would have to be shut down. This prospect, in turn, led to Monday's emergency Council meeting, and to an official, unanimous request for a postponement, to which the Metropolitan quickly agreed. The Council requested that the new nominating assembly be scheduled without delay, but not before July 1, in order that the Diocesan Council, acting as the nominating committee, have time to identify additional candidates.
• Diocese of Alaska
In an interview with The Tundra Drums, a newspaper that serves the Yukon and Kuskowim Delta areas, published on Friday, April 25th, Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain), Chancellor of the Alaskan Diocese, stated that Bishop Nikolai "is now weighing whether he should stay in Alaska or leave and work in another diocese." "I think, ultimately, he'll probably be leaving," the Chancellor of the Diocese stated. "It's not set in stone yet."
Asked why he thought the bishop would step down, Isidore replied: "I would have a lot of trouble in his position being able to reconcile the hurt. Really horrid things have been said to him. Slanderous things."
According to the paper, "...Soraich and others have told him (Isidore) about some of the accusations." The paper then quoted Fr. Isidore as saying: "People are saying they thought the bishop had come to Alaska to take all the money and be reassigned somewhere else, which is of course a lie." He continued: "It's a difficult situation when people that you believe loved you very much and who you felt you loved very much turn on you in such a way that is irreparable."
Contrary to Fr. Isidore's inference, the confidential report by Fr. Alexander Garklavs on the situation in Alaska, recently obtained by OCANews.org, suggests that new, additional allegations of sexual impropriety-- not money -- had been raised. According to Garklavs' report:
"On Monday afternoon I had a lengthy conversation with a priest who shared some very disturbing information regarding immoral conduct by Fr. Isidore that took pace in the summer of 2004. This included incriminating information about +BN (Bishop Nikolai). The priest is willing to confirm these facts in writing if necessary. I found the priest to be completely credible."
These new allegations, rather than money, may more fully explain Fr. Isidore's comments that the situation is difficult for the bishop because "people you believed loved you very much and who you felt you loved very much turn on you in such a way that is irreparable...."
Fr. Isidore concluded by saying that the bishop will announce his final decision about leaving Alaska sometime after Pascha. Before then the Bishop refuses requests for interviews, the paper reports.
The OCA, which has clearly taken charge of the diocesan website, removing the Bishop's earlier postings defending his positions, as well as his comments, has posted nothing about the Bishop's departure.