3.5.08 Breaking News
Synod Debates +Nikolai
While Alaskan Priests Boycott
• +Nikolai Responds In Web Letter
• Decision Expected This Afternoon
The Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting in Syosset yesterday, debated the situation in Alaska and how best to resolve it, while clergy in Alaska boycotted a meeting in Anchorage called by Bishop Nikolai to decide the same thing. According to reports more than 90% of the diocesan clergy did not attend yesterday's special deanery meetings, called by the Bishop, but at which a facilitator was to preside. Following these meetings the Bishop was to have met with the clergy face-to-face today. Those meetings are now in doubt, given the clergy boycott and events in Syosset.
In Syosset, most of the Lesser Synod met, reaching out to all other members of the Synod by telephone to discuss the crisis. Archbishop Job, a member of the Lesser Synod, was not present, due to prior commitments in Iowa. Following the meeting and telephone exchanges the Synod issued the following statement at 4:30 PM yesterday:
"On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America met in a special session at the OCA Chancery in Oyster Bay Cove, NY. The meeting was called to address the current situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The matter was discussed at length, and in telephonic consultation with all the members of the Holy Synod. An announcement on their decision will be forthcoming."
Sources close to Syosset have informed OCANews.org that the Bishops have requested Bishop Nikolai to take a voluntary 'Leave of Absence' and physically quit the diocese while an investigation into the situation is conducted. The Bishop was given to 12 Noon today to respond. The Lesser Synod meeting ends today.
Around the OCA
The Bishops are responding to outcries from Alaskan clergy, cries that are resonating with the entire OCA.
On March 1, 2008 the Minneapolis Deanery, in a meeting with Archbishop Job, adopted the following unanimous resolution:
"We, the clergy of the Minneapolis Deanery, are deeply concerned about the disturbing and heart-breaking situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The scandals and accusations of pastoral abuse have become very public, both in church and secular arenas. These issues are having a detrimental impact on all the faithful, not only in Alaska, but throughout the Orthodox Church in America, including the faithful of our own parishes. They are also a cause of scorn of non-believers toward our Savior Jesus Christ and His Church.
Our prayers, love, and support are with the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska as they bear this cross that has been placed on them. We also unanimously call on our Synod of Bishops to act promptly and decisively in addressing this situation, in protecting the victims of abuse, and in moving to bring a new beginning to this distressed diocese as quickly as possible.
Through the intercessions of our all-holy Mother of God and of our beloved elder Saint Herman, may our Savior Jesus Christ have mercy on us all."
And in a posting to OCANews.org, Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky, a former member of the Metropolitan Council, former member of the Special Commission, and noted columnist for 'The Orthodox Church' writes:
"This week African-Americans will celebrate their victory over a nation that had ignored them, treated them as second class citizens, and deprived them of their voting rights. In protest 600 civil rights advocates marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, culminating on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. The present Obama drama would never have come to pass without that triumph over tyranny 43 years ago.
We are all of us waiting, praying for and honoring the brave clergy and laity of our beloved Orthodox Church in Alaska as they join in a common effort to expel the tyrannical bishop Nicolai from his throne and end his domination of their parishes and spiritual lives.
Our brave Alaskan brothers and sisters are not marching, but standing in unity behind that "Cross planted firmly in America", knowing that although a moribund Holy Synod has yet to act effectively in dealing with that crisis, it doesn't matter. Reluctantly and prayerfully they were forced to take the matter into their own hands.
They are fortified with the Holy Trinity. The Father is blessing their good deeds, Christ Jesus is with them and the Holy Spirit is filling their souls with the grace to conquer their fears and inspire them to stand tall yet humble, firm and yet remain peaceful. They and we shall look back to this moment in their history when they had taken ownership of Christ's holy Church, returning it to the Lord and restoring dignity, integrity and glory to their heritage and their precious faith. They shall find new meaning in the cry: "God is with us. Who can stand against us?" May the good and loving Lord bless them and grant them the resolve to pursue this vindication of their convictions to its conclusion. This will be their finest hour."
In Alaska yesterday, Bishop Nikolai remained defiant. Responding to recent criticism the Bishop posted a letter on the diocesan website entitled: "Remarks by His Grace Bishop NIKOLAI concerning recent events affecting the Diocese of Alaska". (You can read that letter here.) He also published a "Timeline" to accompany the letter. (You can read that Timeline here.)
Also in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News has been closely covering events. (You can read the latest story here.)
- Mark Stokoe