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Edmonton-born archbishop takes leave amid sex abuse allegations

Winnipeg police launch investigation


EDMONTON — An Orthodox archbishop born and raised in Edmonton is the subject of an ongoing Winnipeg police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse dating back nearly three decades.

Archbishop Seraphim Storheim -- who has worked in churches in the Edmonton area -- requested a leave of absence from his position as the Canadian head of the Orthodox Church in America after Winnipeg police launched their investigation.

His sister, Dianne Storheim-Hill, who lives in Edmonton, says the allegations are totally out of character and she has faith her brother's name will be cleared. "We stand by him 100 per cent," she said. "His life has been totally for other people, not to hurt them but to help them."

Storheim-Hill said she last saw her brother in Victoria in July at a meeting of the Orthodox Church in America's archdiocese and council.

"People love him so much they lined up in a very long lineup to receive a goodbye hug from him,"

She said she won't believe the allegations unless they're proven "beyond a shadow of a doubt."

A statement posted Sunday on the website for the Orthodox Church in America — which has an estimated 700 parishes and other institutions in North America — confirmed Storheim’s three-month leave.

While he was an Anglican priest, Storheim spent two years at Christ Church in Edmonton and four years at St. Mary's in Ponoka. He later converted to the Orthodox Church and became a monk.

Bishop Jane Alexander of the Anglican Church in Edmonton confirmed Storheim was a member of the diocese from 1973 to 1978, but said no one has raised any concerns about his time with the church.

"As far as we're concerned, in all of our files and records, there's absolutely no accusation, no complaint, not even a whisper of anything untoward during his time with us," Alexander said. "He was seen as a good and faithful parish priest and there's nothing in the records to even hint at anything inappropriate."

Storheim-Hill said her brother is respected among the church community in Edmonton, adding she has received e-mails and phone calls of support since news of the allegations broke.

An American advocacy group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests Orthodox, says the claims involve two men who allege the abuse happened in the early 1980s, when the pair visited Winnipeg as 10-year-old boys. Storheim -- born Kenneth Storheim -- served as rector of Holy Trinity Sobor in Winnipeg between December 1984 and June 1987, says an online biography.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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