+ Nikolai Orders Clergy
to Disobey Metropolitan
In an "Open Letter to the Clergy and Faithful of the God-Protected Diocese of Alaska", Bishop Nikolai has ordered his clergy to disobey the Metropolitan's directive of March 8th, posted on the internet on March 10th, to cease commemorating +Nikolai as the Bishop of Alaska. "Let me be clear," the Bishop writes, "all clergy of the Diocese should continue the current practice, maintain the commemoration of their Diocesan Bishop in the celebration of the Divine Services of our Church, and not accept as canonical or biblical recent innovations announced by Metropolitan Herman." In the two page letter, the Bishop tells his clergy that "If you comply with the innovations presented to you by Metropolitan Herman, you will severely wound the very Church which you so highly prize."
The Bishop, who on March 5th was placed on mandatory leave and ordered to physically quit the diocese while an investigation into his actions in Alaska is conducted continues to resist. "Have no illusions about this ... (it) is an ecclesiastical punishment without trialÉ and that is nothing less than the rejection of Church discipline for some cause other than the integrity of our Lord's Church." the Bishop claims. "I have not vacated my office and I will, by our Lord's grace, continue to persevere" the Bishop concludes in his latest message, posted on the diocesan website. (Read the full text of +Nikolai's letter here.)
Interestingly, the OCA website has dropped its links to the the Alaskan website - and while +Nikolai is still listed as the Bishop, the words "On Leave of Absence" are conspicious next to his photo. As per the Metropolitan's directive Fr. Garklavs is now listed as the 'Diocesan Administrator' on the OCA's information page regarding Alaska.
Council Resignations Explained
Other changes to that page are in the offering. As reported by OCANews.org on February 22nd, both Alaskan representatives to the Metropolitan Council have resigned. In a recent posting on the diocesan website under "Ask Vladyka', Bishop Nikolai offered an explanation. He writes:
"A number of people have asked why my two Metropolitan Council Representatives resigned. Some conjecture if I ;told them to; or compelled them to do so in one way or another when, in reality, I even tried to talk them both out of it.
Both Fr. Isidore and Mina Jacobs sent me letters in late January asking to resign and both of them had very different reasons for doing so. Fr. Isidore expressed a general dissatisfaction with the tone of the Metropolitan Council and questioned its right to exist canonically. He was also disgusted in the vindictive approach some members of the Metropolitan Council have taken with regard to the Protopresbyter Kondratick in internal Metropolitan Council correspondence. Mina Jacobs cited a need to devote her valuable time to something more positive and conducive to building up the Body of Christ, the Church. Both Fr. Isidore and Mina Jacobs clearly indicated that their time was better spent in Alaska."
Given that the Metropolitan Council has led the way in reforming the financial practices, ethical guidelines and charitable distribution of the OCA in the past two years after a decade of corruption, one would love to be able to ask Ms. Jacobs how she envisions spending her time more "positively". Moreover, one has to wonder if the "vindictive approach" of which Fr. Isidore complains might include no longer referring to Robert Kondratick by the title of Protopresbyter, since he was deposed from all priestly ranks eight months ago. This fact seems to have escaped the Bishop as well....
The Bishop's attempt to reduce the issues in Alaska to procedural issues is gaining little traction. It is, however, producing some interesting writing among those most affected. In a recent email to fellow priests Fr. Michael Oleksa muses;
"I've been reflecting on what we are learning in a positive way about the very nature of the Church as we struggle to resolve the issues in Alaska.
We are re-affirming the conciliar nature of the Church. No one alone can deal with or even raise the issues, but together, at first a few and then the majority of clergy and then hundreds of laity have begun speaking 'with one mouth and one heart.' This was not a plot, organized or devised by some secret revolutionarly cell. It was unified and determined without being self-serving or angry. The Church spoke to its leadership.
And those leaders responded, taking action in order to strengthen and heal. Presupposed in the intervention of the Holy Synod was a principle perhaps never explicitly articulated at any earlier time. Canons are precisely the expression of what is normal, expected, taken for granted, until the obvious is challenged. Then the Church finds it necessary to clarify Herself. In this sense, canons are not new, nor are they invented, nor do they develop as secular legal precedents do. The canon, so to speak, was always there, as the norm, the way the Church IS, but until a certain conflict or dispute arose, it did not require an explicit formulation.
And what is the 'canon' that we have discovered, a principle that was always there, but for which the Church had no previous need to state emphatically, publicly, clearly? What is the First Alaskan Canon? It seems we have already discovered it:
'A bishop shall love his diocese as a husband is admonished to love his wife, to offer himself, to suffer and to die for her if necessary. The people of each diocese shall respond in love and respect for their bishop. If the bishop abuses, wounds, harms or scattersÊthe flock entrusted to him, let him be removed from his seat of authority and let the Holy Synod investigate the situation. If he persists in his abuse, let him be suspended. If he defies the authority of his Synod, let him be deposed.'
Perhaps this sort of procedure was assumed, taken for granted in times past. Perhaps it was never necessary for the Church to affirm such an obvious principle. But today, in Alaska, this is the norm, the canon, whether it was ever explicitly formulated before, that has arisen, has appeared as obvious from within our situation. We have learned something new, that was always there, about the Church, and about ourselves."
Clearly, the lessons will continue.