News From Around the OCA
Fr. John Dunlop has been appointed the new Dean of St. Herman’s Seminary by Bishop Benjamin, Acting Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska. Fr. Dunlop has served at St. Herman’s as the Instructor in Liturgics & Old Testament Scripture for more than decade, and was formerly the Prefect of the school.
Bishop Benjamin was the speaker at the Seminary’s graduation ceremonies, held Sunday, June 1, in Kodiak. One student graduated. Two received certificates in drug and alcohol counseling. According to sources attempts are also underway to reconstitute the Seminary’s Board of Trustees which suffered many resignations during the turmoil of the past year. Mr. Ben Ardinger has agreed to come back for one year, and Ms. Marge Pysarchyk was also asked to return.
Ms. Erica Carl, who recently completed her Master’s degree under Fr. John Behr at St. Vladimir’s has agreed to teach at St. Herman’s for a year, after which she will return to St. Vladimir’s for doctoral studies.
It has been confirmed that both Fr. Isidore (Brittain), the former Rector of St. Herman’s and former Chancellor of the Diocese of Alaska, and Hieromonk Panteleimon (Erickson), former assistant to Bishop Nikolai, have been suspended by the Synod of Bishops. The two were suspended for leaving the Diocese without the permission of the Administrator or Acting Administrator of the Diocese.
Bishop Nikolai, in one of his last acts as Diocesan Bishop, attempted to transfer both men to the jurisdiction of the Serbian Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. This action explicitly contradicts the Guidelines adopted by the Synod of Bishops in 1993 regarding transfers. It was explicitly voided by the Synod at its last meeting. Those guidelines state:
“GUIDELINES FOR THE ORDINATION, APPOINTMENT AND TRANSFER OF CLERGY
VI. Release of Clergy to Other Orthodox Churches
1. The release of clergy to other Orthodox Churches is the prerogative of the Metropolitan.
2. Clergy petitioning to be released to other Orthodox Churches shall be referred to the Metropolitan by their diocesan bishop. Any such reference shall be accompanied by a letter from the diocesan bishop with his recommendation for appropriate action on the petition.
3. The exact mechanism of release may vary from case to case due to the vagaries of the administration of Orthodoxy on the North American continent and elsewhere.
4. Nevertheless, the Metropolitan must receive a letter informing him of the willingness of the receiving bishop to accept the cleric in question upon canonical release.
Approved for distribution by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America
October 21, 1993 Oyster Bay Cove, New York”
By then, however, both men had left the Diocese. Fr. Isidore was last reported in Montana. Fr. Panteliemon is at the monastery of St. Sava in Canberra, Australia.
The Episcopate Council of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate in America (ROEA) met on Saturday, May 31st, 2008. The “proposal for unity”, that is, the proposal to leave the OCA and join the Church of Romania as a “self-governing Metropolia” was officially presented to the Council. Members of the Council then participated in a long discussion that lasted until late afternoon. The Council voted that the proposal be presented to the ROEA Congress next month (July 3-5) for consideration. A vote on “unity” will not be taken at that time, but a decision will be taken as to how to proceed.
The following evening, Sunday June 1st, a "Town Hall" meeting was held in Cleveland’s historic St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Cathedral, attended by the Episcopate Dialogue Commission, made up of Frs. Laurence Lazar (Southfield, MI), Romey Rosco (Dearborn Hts., MI), Ian Pac-Urar (Akron) and Remus Grama, pastor of St. Mary’s. This was an open meeting, for informational purposes only, during which, after brief presentation, a question and answer period was held. According to Fr. Grama, the purpose of the meeting was “to help us all to understand, first hand, the nature of the issues at hand.” Fr. Grama went on to explain that “This meeting is also held with our Hierarch’s (Archbishop Nathaniel) blessing and knowledge.”
Syosset, New York
The Pre-Conciliar Commission (PCC) has announced the schedule for the “Town Hall” meetings that are to be “living study papers” for the forthcoming 15th All-American Council to be held in Pittsburgh in November, 2008. In the words of the PCC the meetings will be opportunities for ”... the faithful to speak to the hierarchs and express their feelings in an atmosphere of openness and candor.” At the meetings, “Our hierarchs have been asked simply to hear the voice, pain, ideas and concerns of the faithful.”
Since the idea was originally developed at the Commission meeting in April and announced the following day, much has changed.
• Given “time restrictions”, only nine “Town Halls” are to held. The original plan envisioned many more. As a result those areas with the largest concentrations of OCA parishes - New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Western Pennsylvania - will not be hosting “Town Halls”.
• Of the nine scheduled, four (Ottawa, Chicago, Washington DC and San Franscisco ) will be held in the diocesan Sees. It is difficult to see how any of these will accomplish any of the above goals, since the Bishops, presumably, have already heard what their cathedral clergy and nearby parishoners have to say about the situation of the OCA. Rather than attempting to reach out to hear the concerns of the people, fully half the meetings appear to have been set for the convenience of the Bishops.
• A fifth meeting (in Dallas) will also be held in the diocesan cathedral, but in this case it will be a 90 minute session scheduled in the middle of the afternoon, during arrival day for Diocesan Assembly, whose meetings begin the following day. Such scheduling is hardly conducive to full participation or serious discussion.
• The sixth meeting, the Orlando “Town Hall”, on the other hand, is scheduled for Labor Day, Monday, September 1st, on the final day of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America (FOCA) annual convention. Such scheduling is hardly conducive to full participation or serious discussion.
The three remaining “Town Halls” are scheduled for Thursday, July 3rd in Edmonton, Canada; Saturday, July 19th in Bethlehem PA, and Wednesday July 23rd in Hartford, CT at as yet unspecifed times. It is not known if Bishop Tikhon will be present at the Bethlehem meeting as the schedule still has his participation listed as tentative; as is Bishop Job’s presence at his own diocesan Town Hall in Chicago. One wonders what could possibly be more important to the Bishops at this crucial time than hearing the “pain, ideas and concerns of their faithful”?
If the meetings have been pared down, so, too, have the questions that will be asked. The press release announcing the Town Halls in April suggested:
“Participants would be asked to offer their responses centered around three themes:
“1. What is working well in the OCA?
“2. What are your concerns and suggestions for the future of our Church?
“3. What would you want to say to the All-American Council?”
According to an earlier press release though: “Those present agreed that the healing of hearts broken by the recent crises within the OCA is a most important priority for the Church.” In short, the meetings as originally discussed, were to focus on the past, present and future. Clergy and laity were to have the opportunity to discuss the scandal and how the continuing failure to resolve it in all its dimensions was affecting their faith, their lives and parishes, past, present and future. As presented above, though, the questions are now to focus only on the present and the future. The past now appears to be unmentioned, unmentionable. And discussion of the present seems predicated on “what is working well”; not the trauma that continues to infect our corporate life.
In the latest press release from the OCA describing the Town Halls, the three questions have been reduced to two:
“•What would success at the All-American Council and in the Church in general look like to you?
•What would you want to see the OCA do in the next decade?”
One can only conclude that Syosset felt even first question is best not asked at this time. And if the past has been discarded, so, too, has our present. Attention is now focused at the ”Town Halls” on the near future (the next AAC) and the distant future (10 years from now). Rather than confront the realities of our past and present (as was the intent of these meetings) we are being carefully herded into the ever more manageable, and less difficult, discussions of dreams of the future...
Unfortunately, taken as a whole, the number of meetings, the scheduling difficulties and the clear reduction in suggested content, etc., only highlight the fundamental problem for which the Town Halls were envisioned as a practical solution in the first place. One can listen to the clergy and laity of the OCA before the Council, or at the Council. The former would allow time for healing and constructive solutions to be discussed; the latter looks more and more likely to become Hobbesian: nasty, brutish and short.
The first “Town Hall” meeting is scheduled for this week at Ottawa’s Annunciation Cathedral from 3:00 until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 7, 2008.
- Mark Stokoe