3.7.08 "mandatory Leave of Absence"
+NIKOLAI PLACED ON LEAVE, ORDERED TO QUIT DIOCESE
• Investigation to be conducted
• Fr. Vansuch appointed Administrator
In an announcement posted early this evening the Synod of Bishops of the OCA revealed that Bishop Nikolai of Alaska had been placed on mandatory "Leave of Absence" after the Bishop refused to step aside voluntarily. The Bishop was also ordered to physically quit the diocese, under threat of suspension, while an investigation is carried out into the accusations leveled against him by Alaskan clergy and laity. Fr. Eugene Vansuch, the former Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards (FOS) Director, was appointed administrator of the diocese in the Bishop's absence "effective immediately".
The full text of Syosset's announcement reads:
" On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America met to address the current situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The remaining members of the Holy Synod also took part in the meeting by telephone. Subsequently, the Secretary of the Holy Synod, His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim issued a letter to His Grace, Bishop Nikolai, informing him that:
'(the members of the Holy Synod ) received many letters of serious complaint from deaneries, clergy, and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska... Not relying on hear-say, yet acknowledging the seriousness of these letters, at your suggestion, all your brother bishops were contacted; and they unanimously agreed that the best course of action for you is that you be placed on a temporary Leave-of-absence (OCA Statute, Article II.1; II.7.a,f,I,j; Apostolic Canon 74, and 34).'
The letter instructed Bishop Nikolai that, while on Leave-of-absence, 'you will, according to the direction of Metropolitan HERMAN, absent yourself from the territory of the Diocese of Alaska.' During this time the day-to-day affairs of the Diocese will be conducted by an Administrator appointed by His Beatitude and 'a Committee will be appointed to investigate the complaints, and accusations'.
The full text of Archbishop Seraphim's letter may be read here.
On March 5, 2008, His Grace, Bishop Nikolai issued a letter to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman responding to the March 4 letter. Bishop Nikolai wrote:
'As a diocesan bishop of the Orthodox Church in America, I formally request that if charges are be ing brought against me, then canonical standards be followed.'
His Grace concluded his letter by stating that, 'I have no intention of taking such a leave of absence and permitting an examination by committee which is neither specified by canon nor permitted to my conscience as an Orthodox bishop.'
The full text of Bishop Nikolai's letter may be read here.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman responded to His Grace, Bishop Nikolai in a letter dated March 7, 2008. 'I read with sadness your letter of March 5," His Beatitude wrote, assuring His Grace that the members of the Holy Synod "are not (your) adversaries, we are brothers and it is with that spirit that you have asked for our help and we have given our guidance.'
Metropolitan Herman continued by stating that:
'I think you know very well that the complaints about your conduct within the diocese are not about your leadership style, bad press or anything that may be published on the internet. The letters of complaint have been brought by reputable priests and laity alike.'
His Beatitude pointed out that:
'There are no formal charges and our preliminary investigation into the character of the complaints should not be viewed as taking place of any statutory or canonical procedures, should they even be required.'
His Beatitude also stated that the composition of the Committee investigating the accusations and complaints brought against Bishop Nikolai will be members of the Holy Synod.
In the letter Metropolitan Herman reaffirmed that Bishop Nikolai's leave-of-absence 'is mandatory.' He cautioned Bishop Nikolai that:
'Your failure to comply with the Holy Synod's directive will be considered disobedience and will immediately be dealt with by the Holy Synod in an appropriate and canonical manner."
The full text of Metropolitan Herman's letter may be read here.
Also on March 7, 2008, His Beatitude issued a letter to the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska, stating that:
'Effective March 4, 2008, His Grace Bishop NIKOLAI was placed on a mandatory Leave of Absence and required to leave the Diocese during which time there will be a preliminary investigation into the complaints that were made.'
His Beatitude continued by saying that, 'Archpriest Eugene Vansuch has been appointed the Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska who is directly responsible to the Primate and the Holy Synod of Bishops.'
His Beatitude then called upon the faithful of the Diocese to 'continue to join us in prayer that very quickly we can restore peace and order into the Diocese of Alaska.'
The full text of Metropolitan Herman's letter to the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska can be read here.
The text of Metropolitan Herman's letter appointing Archpriest Eugene Vansuch Administrator of the Diocese of Alaska can be read here."
- Mark Stokoe