Thursday, February 21. 2008
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Any comment here is a waste of breath. These horrific-testimonials are all the comment necessary.
We in the lower 48 need as individuals and groups, to explore all avenues of litigation, civil and criminal. Charges must be brought and brought now.
All these bishops need to be brought down, and now. I was a victim of abuse, here in the lower 48 at the hands of 2 priests and 2 bishops. It is still something I have hidden for years afraid afraid and afraid.
I will continue not to sign my name here, but I will call a lawyer I know today. I call on everyone out there to do the same if you have grounds against the OCA. For the sake of the suffering Alaskan clergy and our dear lay forefathers and mothers in the faith in NA, the native peoples of Alaska.
We love you Alaska!
#1 no name today on 2008-02-21 06:51
If Pokrov can be of any assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Melanie Jula Sakoda
"O Holy Father Herman help us and save us!"
How terribly sad it is to read these accounts from Alaskan clergy. How much more can these people endure? How much more destruction can our own hierarchs do to the Alaskan people? Gula and now this - WHY? Don't these people deserve a good and upright bishop? And then we ask, "Why are all the Orthodox Alaskan people leaving for the Protestant churches?" If our own SOB's operates in such a vaccuum that it can't control, discipline or remove it's own, then the OCA statutes must be changed. WE NEED TO SAVE OUR CHURCH FROM OUR HIERARCHS! How sad, how very, very sad!
#2 Anonymous on 2008-02-21 06:55
As tragic as these letters are and more importantly the countless other real life episodes of cruelty that Bishop Nikolai has inflicted on others, this episode must be music to the ears of Herman who can now deflect attention away from his sorry state and that of the entire OCA and once again "skate by" while he will now pit the Holy Synod against Nikolai.
How much of this sad affair in Alaska has to do with Herman's inability to be a figure of unity and respect in the Holy Synod? How much of this sad affair in Alaska has to do with a total lack of respect Nikolai has for Herman and Herman for Nikolai and thus a breakdown in episcopal brotherly respect.
Herman has always let people sink in their own sin until he will use it against them. And, all in an effort to save his own skin and have the upper hand.
Nikolai is wrong to use his office as a weapon of intimidation. There is no need for any bishop to rule by intimidation, just like there is no need for a priest or a parent to use the same tactic.
My prayer for the people of Alaska is deep. I don't know how helpful my sinful prayers will be, but I am praying for everyone in Alaska and for the members of the Holy Synod - including Herman and Nikolai. As a body, they have not been loving enough with each other nor have they taken their collective job as Holy Synod seriously enough. Too concerned with their own dioceses, they have abdicated their collective responsibility as Synod. After years of neglect we are now seeing the bitter fruits of this.
We can and must survive as the Orthodox Church in America. That legacy is too great to abandon, but to do so, we must expect more of ourselves and thus of those who are called to lead us.
May God give us the strength to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.
#3 Anonymous on 2008-02-21 07:05
It is my experience that rememberance of my own sins and failings must always be the consciousness out of which I must operate, otherwise any genuine inspirations that may mercifully lie in wait from the Holy Spirit would end up just there--lying in wait; Waiting for me to move out of the way of myself. May we each continue to do so as these times continue on. I can't help but wonder if God isn't allowing the proverbial OCA closet door to open and open until one by one skeleton fall out until ,alas ,the closet is ready for a good sweep both physically and spiritually. I had a fruitful conversation with a clergyman recently in which I was reminded that timing matters. All things in God's good time. I see the Alaskan affair as another skeleton thats falling out of the closet with all its bones rattling. I don't see how the Syosset affair could possibly become lost in the schuffle, not even if it was our administration's dream that it does. They're born from the same substance, it seems to me. My hope is that I continue in faith and that the OCA continue in hope that God is taking care of His business. That those of us who have taken the risk of active interest aren't forever labled among those who love money more than the church or who are more devoted to self than to the Church, or who are betrayers of the Church for engaging in forums such as these. I pray that , as my mother would retort about such goings on on, "It will all come out in the wash" May we continue in a spirit of mindfullness and humility regarding our own personal skeletons, begging mercy and forgiveness for ourselves and our enemies.
Make no mistake about it. Nikolai is the dark ugly fruit of two decades of corruption at the highest levels of our church. He is, so far (for fear of worse), the crown jewel of a Synod that has, in the past twenty years, utterly failed in its responsibility to lead and serve God’s people in truth and love.
Will the Synod act to save Alaska? Will it resolve and take responsibility for the ongoing financial crisis? Will the Synod reform itself of the moral rot that so consumes it? Don’t get your hopes up. We know our Synod well, all too well. The answer is NO. They don’t want, even for a moment, to give the appearance that they can be moved to action by the cries of God’s people and His priests. They are unwilling to acknowledge their sins (or even the fact that they CAN sin!), let alone repent of them. They are utterly terrified of appearing the least bit responsive to anyone but themselves, thinking that compassion and integrity might compromise their authority. They fear conciliarity and act to suffocate it, for they don’t want to look weak.
But the veil is gone. We see them now for what they are, incompetent self-serving....
O Lord, save the Alaskan Church and her people! O Lord, save us all from our bishops!
A disgusted, ashamed and embarrassed presbyter of the Orthodox Church in America
#4 A disgusted, ashamed and embarrassed presbyter of the Orthodox Church in America on 2008-02-21 07:07
Isn't it funny that when we had old Russian bishops like Metropolitan Ireney,Archbishop Kiprian, and the two Archbishop Johns,among others,such scandals were unknown?
(Editor's note: The key word is "unknown". It did not mean such things did not happen. It was a different time with much less communication and much more decisive actors.)
#4.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 18:39
Dearest to Christ His lambs in Alaska,
By the grace of God you have been given to see that the shepherd who was sent by God to protect you, is actually a wolf who only dresses as a shepherd. Yet, it is the rest of the Episcopacy that is more dangerous. Your Bishop is seen for what he is as described in your heart breaking letters and cries for help. The rest of the Episcopacy remans silent but are considered pious by most What they have been doing is not piety.
There are no actions of the Synod, no fruit, no Words, that support the opinion that they are concerned for any thing that does not directly effect them. They stood by and watched as the only Bishop who said anything was threatened with disposition three times. They have remain silent for years, and by their do nothing attitudes shone themselves to be self lovers in the extreme. They have set by and contented themselves with an "I know nothing attitude" while orphans and victims were stolen from. They have covered over the several perversions that exist in their midst. They have let the lawyers become the shepherds of the Holy Church! They lead like abused women and not like men. They cower, they are meek, and speak of being intimidated by the likes of Nick and Herman. Where is the fearlessness of being righteous?
Is it any wonder that many of the faithful are fleeing to Eagle River and on Omophorian that is concerned with their souls. Faithful people of Alaska until God deals with Nick make your pilgrimages to Eagle River. Go to where Nick cannot hurt you but where you can have communion with God without fear that the shepherd will make you his next mutton meal.
You good shepherds of Alaska must keep the souls of your faithful as your first love. What you have in Alaska is a Pharaoh and not Christ in the person of Nick. May God in his Wisdom quickly deliver you from this impostor. Pray for us in the lower forty- eight for our Shepherds are very busy sleeping. They have forgotten the sheep and defend them no more. They are concerned with their own petty little secrets and their income streams. You are in our prayers, please pray for us maybe the Synod will wake up from their long self induced sleep.
#5 fr Andrew on 2008-02-21 08:18
I want Fr. Peter and the other faithful in Alaska to know that there are many who stand in solidarity with them and support them in brotherly love. Why is this craziness allowed to continue? If we are unable or unwilling to discipline ourselves as a local autocephalous church then we do not deserve the right of self-government! When will our Synod stand up for what is right? When will we see the actions of shepherds protecting and caring for their flock? Despite everything, Fr. Peter's letter gives me hope that at least there are some who take their faith seriously. Now if only our bishops would learn from his example!
#6 Andrew A. Lukashonak on 2008-02-21 09:37
Well, as expected the phone calls, offers and the like are starting to come at us from Isidor. One would have had Fr.Leonty and I be divided from one another he being offer my parish here at Russian Mission,and Fr.Phillip Alexie supposedly "temporarily suspended" just before their Deanery meeting over there on otherside of the Yukon River, but the wise older Priest didn't fall for that. And this morning the dean of the Russian Mission deanery called and " make sure you call everyone in your deanery about the meeting",of course the both Fr.Victor and I told him we had nothing at mement to say or speak of to BN or Isidor.
I wish all this weren't true about their calling around but, alas they are starting to try to divide us, shouldn't BN be dividing the Word of Truth,rather than seperate?
Holy Father Yakov pray unto God for us.
#6.1 Archpriest Peter Askoar on 2008-02-25 16:11
I could only weep as I read these letters. For these humble native clergy to speak out is extraordinary to the extreme. This is just unheard of in their culture. But, these letters tell us a great deal about both their love of Christ, His Church, and their parishioners, and also just how horrible Nicholai has treated everyone in Alaska. He is very quickly destroying the whole diocese, but more, he is destroying the very souls of so many of the people he is supposed to love and serve.
For Fr. Oleksa to speak out in defense of these clergy and to stand with them means everything. Fr. Oleksa is the senior priest in Alaska, an historian of the Alaskan church, and a former professor at the University of Alaska, etc. He is highly respected by all.
May God have mercy on and protection for the hurting people of Alaska.
May the Holy Synod be moved to actually do something.
Fr. Daniel Swires
A former Alaskan
#7 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2008-02-21 09:54
Note to Synod from Alaska:
Either +Nikolai goes or the OCA goes. What's it gonna be?
#8 Dear One on 2008-02-21 10:14
Thank you Fr. Peter for your courage! I would counsel all lower 48 readers with this footnote: Not all Alaska Native cultures are "non-confrontational", mine has a very long and distinguished warrior tradition that in a healthier state of existence would not tolerate this kind of disrespect. Alaska is still very much a colony, and the neo-colonial attitudes you hear about in these letters are the norm, both in the secular and religious contexts. These problems are much deeper than the current crisis, and will take a very long time to root out, both in the indigenous and settler populations. The little man in the big hat is just a symptom of larger sickness.
Moses the Tlingit
#9 Moses on 2008-02-21 10:38
I was only refering to my native people ,not all as whole .
My sincerely apologies if i have mislead you to believe i meant everyone.
God Bless you and your family,
And thank you for speaking out.
#9.1 Archpriest Peter Askoar on 2008-02-22 09:56
No worries Father and no offense taken! I love you and all of the suffering Clergy here in our sacred homeland! I join hands with you Father and all of our brothers and sisters in the villages, we will come out of these tribulations together!
Saint Nilus of Sora pray for us!
#9.1.1 Moses on 2008-02-22 11:10
Was Moscow's recent reconciliation with ROCOR truly a reconciliation or an investment for the future? Under the current OCA synod, the OCA is a failed experiment and will not last much longer. Then it's time for Moscow to say "Oh, we were wrong, the autocephaly was a mistake. They could never run themselves." Then the OCA goes back under Moscow and all 3 Russian jurisdiction unite under Moscow. Great job SOB's!
Nikolai and every bishop who allows him to remain in office must go! Stop "defending the institution at all costs" and start defending the Church!
Thank God for these courageous priests, but we must pray for them and defend them too! We must all understand that they will be destroyed by that devil up there for their actions. If the bishop beats his own domestic partner, what does it matter to him what he does to some "worthless" (in his opinion) priests? Write or call your bishops and ask them to support these priests.
#10 Anonymous on 2008-02-21 10:56
You paint a very dark & dismal outlook for the OCA - I don't think so. NOT A FAILED EXPERIMENT. Two main issues are clear: 1) the financial issues and 2) replacing bad or incompetent hierarchs. The financial issues are being addressed and new people are in control of this area. The guilty will be prosecuted in the courts. The incompetent hierarchs need to be replaced. Please note, + Nicolai's Orthodox theological education is really no better than Sunday School. Why was he chosen by RSK? Why are we always looking for ANY celibate to run a diocese? Why aren't we picking the best of the best instead of unstable nuts? Aren't married clerics over-all more stable? Aren't married bishops part of the Orthodox Tradition?
As far as turning to the MP or ROCOR - they have nothing to offer a real American, autocephalous church. America is not "little Russia" nor should it ever be considered such. Not a failed experiment, but growing pains which are slowly working their way out.
#10.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 07:38
Dear Anonymous Poster:
If you do not consider the OCA a failure at this point, you must have very low expectations. This doesn’t mean it has to continue to be one, but I wonder if we need to go back and do some groundwork that wasn’t sufficiently done before in order to rebuild on a stable footing. Actually, though, there is much I otherwise agree with that you wrote.
Fr. Oleksa’s writes movingly of Alaska, and for the first time I understand how the failures in Alaska are related to the failures in the OCA as a whole. The suffering Alaskan clergy has finally given tongue to the OCA’s real problem.
If you leave aside the fact that their bishop is reported to be a martinet at best, the common denominator seems to be a failure to consider the differences in Russian and American (in the broadest sense) culture. Consider the posts one reads here suggesting we follow ROCOR back to Moscow. Aren’t they really saying “You big spoiled Russian mama’s boy, go back home because you’re not ready to be on your own.”
What is the convincing answer to that?
To put the question another way, was the grant of autocephaly the abandonment of an infant or the recognition that a grown-up was ready to take his own place in the world?
Knowing what we know now, what is the answer? Well, I think it is no, we weren’t ready to be cut from mama’s apron strings, but ready or not, we were, and it is too late to go back. We need to grow up.
I wonder if the failures of the Metropolitan, the SOB, the MC, and the silence of many of our thinkers and writers are not merely personal, but stem from a fundamental reluctance to figure out just what a real American Orthodox church should look like. There seems to be an assumption that it would look a lot like its mother, and that is perhaps natural. And as long as Orthodoxy was largely an expression of ethnic identity, the question remained latent.
But as Orthodoxy is blessed with (or infested by, depending on your perspective) more converts, that question is going to come up more often. Converts aside, the grandchildren of the immigrant parish founders are going to be in a very different place culturally, intellectually, and socially, and are not going to be satisfied with a museum.
Fr. Oleksa’s letter should be an historic document. I don’t think its enough to say “Russia” or “canon” as the one-word answer to every question. I don’t think fear should be the primary emotion associated with the church. Fear of your bishop. Fear of change. Fear of discussion. And apparently our leaders are fearful too. Fearful of secrets. Of each other. Of the internet.
Perhaps through so many woes of different kinds we are being called to reflect on whether the OCA has buried its talents underground. Is the church showing a big return on the investment of our faith-bearing ancestors? Who could answer yes with a straight face? No, not only have we failed to invest, we have disgracefully squandered our inheritance. Worse, we have thrown away God’s own resources entrusted to us in a historic way. We were to be the American Orthodox jurisdiction, evangelizing whole new continents, fortified with the prayers of saints.
I say we have failed. Let us confess this: the OCA as an institution is a failure, and “youth and inexperience” is no more an excuse for it than it was when the same words were offered to explain another failure in Alaska. “Growing pains?” Don’t you have to be growing to have growing pains?
But it doesn’t have to remain a failure. It will not remain a failure unless we each and all of us choose to contribute to that failure.
We can learn. We can learn not to fear. (That is why I encourage people to sign their names, in solidarity with our brave Alaskan clergy, if nothing else.) We can learn the limits of blind obedience. There is something left. We can gather it up, family by family, parish by parish, and do something very risky. Something we’ve been reluctant to do before because we know our Master is a hard one who reaps where he has not sown and we were afraid. We can invest our talents, even though they are not many now. If we succeed God will give us greater responsibilities.
Think about it: at the very time God seems to be shaking the OCA from the Aleutian Islands to the Jersey coast to get our attention, technology has made evangelization easier than at any time in history. It has also made discussion within the church instantaneous. We may have to change. Orthodoxy does not mean “never changing” as some people seem to think. It means “right worship.”
I don’t know what I can do to help in Alaska. It is terrible to read of. But I think if we really fix the problems in the OCA -- which will require fearless discussion among our Orthodox professional thinking class -- the problems in Alaska will take care of themselves.
And I believe there are several very practical and effective things we can do to help our church get healthier, whether our official leadership wishes to assist, stand in the way or ignore us.
With all due respect, dismissing catastrophic institutional failure as “growing pains” when our numbers are shrinking by the day is not one of them.
#10.1.1 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2008-02-22 11:57
Prior to the OCA becoming the OCA it was the Metropolia since the fall of Russia. When the county of Russia fell to the communists, the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States with its bishops continue independently to function. Under its care was all the Orthodox faithful, whether Greek, Serbs, Albanians etc and if you will recall your history "nationalism" was taking root around the globe including the Orthodox in the US. This was the beginning of Orthodox communities spliting apart based on "national lines" and those communities started to seek priests from the old country for the new Greek parishes, etc. The OCA autocephaley in 1970 was actually confirming the reality of the Metropolia since the fall of Russia. The OCA is not a "failed experiment" it is the reality that has "sin" that must be dealt with. Bishops, clergy and laity have sin. Only Christ is without sin. Yes the OCA has serious problems that must be corrected. The Church is concilliar and with Christ as the Head of the Church, the Church and Christ will not fail us. Connie
#10.1.1.1 cshinn on 2008-02-22 19:44
One correction -- not all nationalities were under the Russians. The Romanian churches in North America were directly under bishops in Romania since they were founded beginning in 1902, lasting until various events in the middle of the century. They were never and are not under the Russian Church here. I do not know but perhaps other nationalities were similar.
I am sure you came across this wrong fact honestly, in that there are those who wish to make their own versions of history to fit their visions of "Orthodox unity" and you must have heard/read it from one of those such people. I would advise all to be very careful of such people and misleading statements.
#10.1.1.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-23 16:37
Add the Albanians to that as well...
#10.1.1.1.1.1 Anon on 2008-02-24 22:19
What do you men,add the Albanians to that as well? Don't you know that it was the Russian mission that ordained Metropolitan Fan Noli to the priesthood?He served the Liturgy in the Albanian language for the first time ever anywhere in the WORLD.It's true that after the sad events of the Russian Revolution,all the other ethnic groups then sought ties with the Mother Churches and it's true that the Romanians(and some of the Greeks) were not under the Russian mission pre-revolution.Metropolitan Fan Noli returned to the US IN THE 20'S or 30's and headed the Albanian parishes until he reposed in 1965.During the cold war years,a few Albanian parishes united under a Bishop Mark Lipa subject to Constantiople.By the way,I think it's sad that in Bishop Nikon's former parish in the Detroit area that there ISN'T much effort to minister to the newly arrived Albanians,considering that the Detroit area now has the largest Albanian-speaking community in North America.In Albania right now,the Orthodox Church is being reborn, and here it seems that the Muslims and Roman Catholics will win over some of the people because they CAN minister to them in their own language.What gives?
#10.1.1.1.1.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-29 16:08
Boy are you long-winded! A lawyer I guess.
The OCA's issues do not indicate "failure" or "not ready for autocephaly" or any other of these unreasonable conclusions. What we have is theft of funds or mismanagement of funds at the central church level and a few bad hierarchs. THIS IS NOT UNCOMMON STUFF! In any corporation or church you have theft by those who can do it - they are fired, prosecuted and checks and balances put in place with better people. This has been done! In any corporation you have some bad General Managers running operations. They are fired and new and better ones are appointed. WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? This stuff happens all the time. The OCA is no more a "failed experiment" than General Moters, ATT, Exxon, etc. is. The Greeks have had a myriad of scandals over the last 20 years, but you haven't heard openly about them. + Iakavos dealt with a $20 million real estate scandal before he retired. The Antiochians had their wild bishop and archimandrate - normal happenings where "SINFUL PEOPLE" are involved. So, put your trust in God, not men. "Trust but verify" and find leaders who aren't bottom of the barrel candidates!
#10.1.1.2 Anonymous on 2008-02-23 11:39
Let's look at it from another angle.
When Orthodoxy is showing anywhere near the growth of Islam in this country I'll be willing to condede we have only the usual institutional foul-ups to worry about. With 60% of Moslem congregations showing 10% or more growth between 1995-2000 compared to 29 % of Catholic and Orthodox combined the chances of seeing a new minaret in your neighborhood are much better than of seeing a new onion dome.
And if you say that is only the zeal of new immigrants, you should know that 83% of evangelical megachurches showed growth in the same period. (That's how they get to be mega.)
In fact, I was just reading about the large minaret being erected in St. Louis. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. This is America, land of religious freedom. Some groups do a particularly good job of using that opportunity. My great-grandchildren, should they attend law school, will probably be studying sharia law rather than Anglo-American jurisprudence.)
Are you satisfied with this? Are you curious why other religions, incluidng Islam, are doing better in America than Orthodoxy? If we got leaders who didn't steal, who didn't fool around nor tolerate those who did, and yet continued to decline in numbers and infuence, would this be okay?
America badly needs Orthodoxy, not just to keep open what churches we still have for aging parishoners, but to start making a cultural impact through evangelism. (However unrealistic that may sound, Ancient Faith Radio has the right idea for a start, and unless I miss my guess there is probably more Antiochian than OCA supplied content.)
However, is it likely that we'll see much intelligent discussion about change, much less actual change? Nope. We don't need to change. We're just having a run of unlucky decades.
And, of course, since I sign my posts, it is not difficult to notice that I am a laywer. I do agree that I tend to be long-winded, though.
#10.1.1.2.1 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2008-02-23 23:18
You know there is a way to fix this. I know there is a way to fix this. But unfortunatley, most of the SOB's don't get it! They are actually apalled that the people are upset and, even worse, daring to say something (I have personally heard and have been told of such statements from hierarchs). They take it as an attack on their right to total-rule. We have a synod comprised of many members who actually resent the faithful and openly work in spite of them.
The Holy Spirit is not there. It is merely the Herman Spirit, the Dmitri Spirit, the Nathaniel Spirit and so on. The only hope for the OCA is if the clergy and faithful accept the work of the Holy Spirit and do what we can to fix this immoral, broken-down SOB. We must work to remove the elder bishops who were there for the Kondratik wrong-doings (Nikolai on up -- they all knew what he was doing at the time) and elevate worthy candidates. We know who these worthy men are. The selection of bishops should be shared also by the people, as it is supposed to be, not just forced on them by the SOB as in the recent past. What kind of sham election is it when the SOB elects an auxiliary bishop, sends him to a diocese on behalf of the metropolitan, then after a few months says "elect him"? What a joke! As long as the SOB's have women, children and especially other men groveling before them, they are self-satisfied. This speaks volumes.
Limiting investigations and attacking those who seek truth is just the edge of the iceberg. Most of these "men" (I use the word loosely here), for the most part, are not entirely unlike the evil Nikolai. They're just better at putting on a different face. As Fr. Oleksa said, kindness is the easiest thing to fake. We can no longer be fooled. We must look at them to see in them at least some sense of holiness, not kindness, not pretty words in public, and definitely not empty rituals and monarch-type rule. That is not the Church -- that is a failed experiment.
As for MP and ROCOR, they "offer" salvation to those who seek to find it in their parishes. That is a good thing regardless of what language they use or what canonical synod they belong to. As a member of an OCA parish, I am troubled anytime I hear or read statements from our priests or people against any other Orthodox because of ethnic traditions or ties. Why must we constantly criticize others for doing what they do in working for the good of the people who choose to belong to those churches? Many of the world's most respected theologians will tell you there is no such thing as "American Orthodox" -- a Church representing American culture separate from other cultures. America is a melting pot of cultures and must accept a "blending" of its members. This is how the OCA was started by including the Bulgarians, Romanians and Albanians along with the Russians -- and also the invitations to all other jurisdictions to join them. Now how did we get to rejecting ethnicity and various traditions as having "nothing to offer a real American, autocephalous Church"??? Maybe we need to stop looking at ourselves as above all others, and then we can begin to fix the problems within.
But my point was not that I am saying we should join with MP or ROCOR, but that it may eventually not be a choice. Many of us know the elephant in the room is the fact that if Moscow decides to "withdraw" or "stop recognizing" the OCA's autocephaly, then nobody else will. The only ones recognizing it now are Moscow and the "Russian satellites". Then what are we? What ROCOR used to be? We must fix the SOB's before they drag us all down with them!
#10.1.2 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 12:07
Nikolai was chosen by RSK and the synod. They all share in the blame.
#10.1.3 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 12:10
Dear Anonymous Friend,
It was not my intention to denigrate any other jurisdiction. My attention is fully occupied by the problems in my own, thank you very much.
You and I may just have a disagreement about the scope of the problem, although we seem to agree with each other more than disagree. Some seem to see it as a problem of current personalities. I see it as an institutional failure. Some might believe everything would be solved if we just got better people in the jobs. I question whether there is even the ability to get a mechanism into place for promoting those better people.
I do believe there are huge, fundamental differences in cultures. I do believe that, for instance, secrecy and submission has a longer and deeper history in Russia than in America. Call me crazy, but that's what I think. I also think we might have residual cultural assumptions and attitudes impacting the current situation. I am not making this about "better or worse," because there is no lack of web pages accounting for every one of America's failures. I do believe that to succeed in the mission of the OCA we need to do more than wave our hands airily and say "we're a melting pot of all sorts of eastern European peoples!"
Am I mis-reading Fr. Oleksa's letter that part of the problem in Alaska is the imposition of Russian-type practices there? All I'm saying is that if you are not wanting some good ol' American-style non-Byzantine / Imperial Russian institutional openness and lay involvement what difference does it make to even come here, other than to gossip about personalities. God bless 'em, but I don't think I would have wanted to live in either Imperial Rome or Imperial Russia.
Is this beyond the scope of "throw the bums out?" Yes. Is it controversial? Undoubtedly. Do I know what I'm talking about? Not as much as I would like.
But is the OCA growing? No, it is shrinking. Are our demographics favorable for survival, let alone growth? (In other words, are our parishes full of young families with lots of babies or old people?) Once we get a new Metropolitan will we magically recover the numbers we had in the '50s? I don't see how. Are we planting new missions, growing them, getting a toehold of Orthodoxy into our culture? You tell me.
I just think there's a lot more work to be done than regime change, although I understand that that would be vindication enough for many people. There might be two camps, I dunno. One camp = OCA is sound and all we need is to get rid of the bosses; other = OCA has fundamental issues that need to be resolved or we will never be as successful as we should and could be regardless of who our metropolitan is. I guess the second camp would be heretical or something, so, being the sole occupant of that camp I will be disappointed if I am not roundly abused
#10.1.3.1 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2008-02-22 13:23
Of course, you are not the sole occupant of the second group--Heaven forbid! Indeed you are only saying, albeit with greater elaboration and eloquence, what many of us have been saying all these many months.
Hopefully, our numbers are growing, and I take heart from the likes of Fr. Plekon et al, otherwise the OCA is certainly doomed to utter failure in the not too distant future.
Again, bravo and kudos for your posts.
#10.1.3.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 14:06
I do agree, it is more than just getting rid of the "bad seeds" on the synod. But they will never make the necessary changes themselves. They must go first, and then the changes can be made by good, honest, un-tainted bishops with the involvement and support of the clergy and laity (we hope).
As for the decline in numbers of the OCA, interestingly the Romanian Archdiocese appears to be the only one that is steadily growing. I am told it is because they have a good, very pastoral and humble auxiliary bishop who people, especially the immigrants, respect. Now contrast that to the likes of Herman and Nikolai who think they're 19th century Russian emperors. Maybe we have something we can learn from them.
#10.1.3.1.2 Anonymous on 2008-02-24 18:35
Re; "As far as turning to the MP or ROCOR - they have nothing to offer a real American, autocephalous church."
So where does any OCA-er get off by saying that the MP or ROCOR has nothing to offer?
Sadly, the reverse is more true than this statement.
What do the Russian Orthodox have to offer to an "American autocephalolus church?" How about the prayers of over 30,000 newly glorified New Martyr Saints (out of the millions martyred under Communism).
What does the OCA have to offer to the Orthodox Church (not just in Russia)? A bunch of foolish hierarchs and their self-righteous, spoiled and whinging flock who are all "crucifying" themselves over mammon.
Not exactly a red martyrdom, or even a white one. Let's just call it a green martryrdom.
#10.1.4 Anonymous on 2008-02-23 09:51
Surely one with such a superior outlook could summon the courage to post under one's own name.
#10.1.4.1 Scott Walker on 2008-02-24 12:22
"Thank God for these courageous priests, but we must pray for them and defend them too!"
Dear Anonymous: At some point, to defend someone you have to be in front of them, not hiding behind them (i.e. anonymity).
#10.2 Michael Strelka on 2008-02-22 10:12
The veil has been lifted and we have seen that the entire Synod has no spiritual clothes!
Folks, the entire Synod is out to lunch! All of the bishops (except +Job) have forsaken many of their sacramental duties and are contributing to the disaster and worsening crisis we're seeing. They are not capable to lead or stand for truth, integrity, ethics, or righteousness. They lack to moral conviction and faith in Truth and Christ to do the Right Thing! They are utter failures at being true ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN shepherds, fathers, clergy, and mirrors of Christ. THAT is THE main problem we're facing in the OCA!
The tragic reality is that the OCA Synod lacks the character, courage, conviction and Christian faith (yes, Christian faith) necessary to lead anyone or anything, let alone the Holy Orthodox Church in America. The consequences and “fruits” of their “ministries” is evident throughout: chaos, despair, attacking and silencing the messengers, hiding the corruption and abuses of the leadership, indifference to the tears and suffering of the flock, failure to challenge and remove evil and demented hierarchs (+Nikolai now, and +Tikhon of the West – retired- previously), financial and spiritual abuses, failures to repent, failure to lay down their lives for the sheep, failure to seek and speak the Truth, failure to repent, failure to act ethically and lovingly, etc. etc. etc…
Any true leader, even one who was not Orthodox or even Christian, would have honestly, forcefully and justly dealt with this crisis in a much more pro-active, constructive, and meaningful manner then our current Synod. Real leaders would not have let this nightmare continue for so many years and sat there silently while so many people suffered, the plundering of Church funds continued, and the destruction of the Church accelerated. Their conscience, common sense, and decency would not have allowed such travesty to continue, even if their theology was not Orthodox.
According to C.S. Lewis many of our hierarchs do not really believe in Christianity and do not operate and conduct themselves as if they believe in a Universal Moral Law of God. If they did, we would not be witnessing the un-repentant, cold-hearted and self-centered attitudes of most of hierarchy and their complete failure to deal with the evil and abuses that ran for so many years. They are incapable to act morally and deal with reality, period!
“Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced the sort of facts I have been describing. Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realised that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power--it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.
When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor. When you have realised that our position is nearly desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talking about. They offer an explanation of how we got into our present state of both hating goodness and loving it. They offer an explanation of how God can be this impersonal mind at the back of the Moral Law and yet also a Person. They tell you how the demands of this law, which you and I cannot meet, have been met on our behalf, how God Himself becomes a man to save man from the disapproval of God. It is an old story and if you want to go into it you will no doubt consult people who have more authority to talk about it than I have.
All I am doing is to ask people to face the facts--to understand the questions which Christianity claims to answer. And they are very terrifying facts. I wish it was possible to say something more agreeable. But I must say what I think true. Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth--only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Come on Chris. + Job is as much to blame as the rest of them. How long did he know of the "secret" video tape from St. Catherine's in Moscow before he brought it to the attention of the SOB?
He's also to blame for prematurely "leaking" information to this web site on numerous occassions, so let's not put him on some kind of pedestal, totally exhonerated from the rest of the bishops.
When did he never take on +Tikhon of the West or +Nikolai while they were bullying the Metropolitan during their previous synod meetings?
Asking a question, "are the allegations true or false", although good, does not in my opinion exhonerate him one bit.
Why did he excuse himself on being the original accussor during the church court against Robert Kondratick?
Why doesn't he come down on his former deacon, now Archimandrite Z. of St. Catherine's in Moscow for whatever was going on between he and Kondratick?
No Chris, he's as much to blame as the rest of them.
(Editor's note: Mr. Geeza raises several questions which deserve answers. It is public knowledge the Moscow tape was made at the end of December 2004; and the Archbishop shared it with the Metropolitan before the next meeting of the Synod in March 2005. The Archbishop has not said when he actually received it; but assuming it was January 2005 earliest, and delivered to the Metropolitan at their next meeting, a two month delay to hand over something as explosive as the tape in person to the Metropolitan does not seem a dereliction of duty. I wish things moved faster with the Bishops - but given their usual speed, Archbishop Job could be said to have moved precipitiously. Not that it did any good: the Metropolitan ignored the tape anyway and reappointed RSK to his old job.
Secondly, Mr. Geeza has no knowledge of who, what, where, when or why people " leak" things to this website. He cannot - for I am the only one who knows where all my information comes from - and I do not share these sources. For him to speculate as to who has done what is rank speculation, born of guessing, not based on any knowledge.
All the Bishops are guilty of being bullied by the dark "Lords"; to use the new translation of the OCA Liturgy's term for Bishops. To blame +job for not standing up, even while exonerating +herman, the Metropolitan, for not doing so despite his primacy, is absurd.
As for excusing himself from being the Accuser in the trial of RSK, that too, is a matter of simply common sense. He could not serve as a judge and accuser. He preferred the former rather than the latter role, as was his right. One can disagree with his decision, but one cannot gainsay his right to make it.
As for "not coming down" on Archimandrite Zacchaeus for his role in RSK's crimes, I was not aware there were any official against the Archimandrite for the Archbishop to "come down on him" for. When, or if, that happens, one can criticize the Archbishop fairly for his response. Until then, it seems a bit premature. There is much to "blame" on many in this scandal. It is not really helpful to do so. It is much better to focus on "responsibility", and demand those who were to assume ownership for their misdeeds, inaction, etc. The Archbishop has publicly apologized and announced his retirement in three years. Sadly, the rest of our episcopate has yet to do anything besides blame others, excuse themselves, and seek to avoid the issues altogether. )
#11.1 Michael Geeza on 2008-02-22 12:52
You make some good points Mark. However, he was and still is a member of the Synod which so tragically continues to lie asleep at the wheel.
(Editor's note: On that, Mike, like so much else, we are in total agreement. What is the line from St. Paul that Bach wrote such beautiful music for: Sleepers Awake!? )
#11.1.1 Michael Geeza on 2008-02-22 18:35
Nothing could have been more gut-wrenching than what those two priests, and others who are writing letters now, had to say what needs to be said, and tell what needs to be told.
This is a prime example of what good men are forced into when they have had enough. The native clergy are long-suffering and patient to the extreem. When they have had enough, the end is not near -- it is here.
God protect them and all those who are now writing and are willing to speak out.
Bishop NIKOLAI, for God's sake, listen and learn!!!
#12 Anonymous Alaskan, NOT a Native on 2008-02-21 12:41
The thing that worries me (and many other people, apparently) is -- if +Nikolai goes, if +Herman goes, who will take their place?
I'm almost ready to find a new bishop the way God found a guardian for our Lord and a spouse for his Mother: round up all the unmarried Orthodox men in North America, whether they're clergy or lay, old or young, educated or ignorant. Give them each a staff, and have them lay the staff on the altar. Then pray that God will cause a staff to bud, and so reveal to us a bishop worthy of the calling.
If, collectively, we don't have enough faith for that, we could simply put the names of all the unmarried Orthodox men in a large bin, and have a young child draw out the name of the next bishop.
I don't think we'd do any worse that way, than the way we're doing it now.
#13 josephine on 2008-02-21 12:44
I HAVE PUT FORTH IN CONVERSATIONS ON-GOING THAT WE DONT NEED A BISHOP UP HERE IN ALASKA. WE HAVE SO MANY GOOD, STRONG AND HONEST PRIESTS, AS YOU ALL ARE FINDING OUT, THAT THEY CAN BE OUR SHEPHERDS, UNIFIED. WITH PHONES AND THE INTERNET, THEY HAVE INSTANT COMMUNICATIONS AND I AM SO PROUD TO SAY THAT IN ALL MY LIFE, I CAN TRULY SAY OUR ALASKA PRIESTS/MEN AND THEIR MATUSHKI KNOW AND LOVE THE CHURCH; THEY ARE GENTLE AND GOD FEARING AND THAT THEY WOULD BE THE BETTER GUARDIANS RATHER THAN ONES WHO COME UP HERE AND HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA OF THE CULTURES, CUSTOMS, AND LIFESTYLES. IT WASN'T MEANT TO BE SO, BUT ALASKA IS DIFFERENT. IT'S A HARD LIFE. NO FANCY GARMENTS FOR EVERY SERVICE FOR OUR PRIESTS...OFTEN THEY WEAR THEIR GARMENTS UNTIL THEY FALL OFF. TRAVELING IS DIFFICULT, YET THEY BRAVE THE WEATHER TO GO WHERE AND WHEN NEEDED, AND DON'T HUNKER DOWN IN A WELL APPOINTED CATHEDRAL. iN MANY INSTANCES, THEY RECEIVE NO PAY, BUT SUBSIST ON WHAT IS DONATED TO THEM. THESE ARE THE HEROS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN ALASKA.
I HAVE OVER 50 YEARS OF 'HANDS ON' SERVICE TO THE ORTHODOX CHURCH HERE AND IN THE LOWER '48, FOLLOWING MY GRANDMOTHER AND MOTHER, AND HAVE SERVED OVER 25 YEARS HERE AS CHOIR MEMBER,SECRETARY, STAROSTA, OFTEN TIMES BOTH OFFICES TOGETHER. I WORKED IN THE SEMINARY OFFICE FOR ONE YEAR UNDER BOTH BISHOPS INNOCENT (GULA) AND NIKOLAI. I SAW THINGS HAPPEN. I WOULD HOPE TO LIVE TO SEE PEACE RESTORED TO OUR SUFFERING CHURCH WHERE MY PARENTS WERE MARRIED ALMOST 80 YEARS AGO, AND WHERE I WAS BAPTIZED, AND WHO MANY FEEL, WHEN THEY COME IN, THE TIMELESSNESS OF THE CHURCH BEFORE NIKOLAI REMOVED ALL THE TREASURES. NOW IT IS JUST A COPY OF SOMETHING OUT OF NIKOLAI'S MIND. THE PEACE THAT WAS HERE IS GONE. ONLY HARSHNESS AND BITTERNESS REMAIN. IT HANGS IN THE AIR.
I HAVE NOT RECEIVED HOLY COMMUNION FOR OVER A YEAR BECAUSE OF THE FOULNESS OF THE CONFESSIONAL, AND LONG FOR THE DAY I MAY BE ABLE TO APPROACH THE CHALICE AGAIN. IT IS VERY LONELY PLACE TO BE. SOMEONE TOLD ME I SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHING MYSELF BECAUSE OF SOMEONE ELSE, BUT I DON'T KNOW HOW TO CIRCUMVENT THE SITUATION. I WILL JUST WAIT FOR GOD'S GOOD TIME, AND WHEN IT'S RIGHT, I HOPE I WILL KNOW IT, AND BE WORTHY.
PLEASE CONTINUE YOUR PRAYERS FOR OUR HERO PRIESTS AND THEIR MATUSHKI, WHO ARE LONG SUFFERING, AND ASK GOD TO BLESS THEIR EFFORTS.
#13.1 Raisa on 2008-02-23 20:56
Raisa has given voice to the nearly complete lack of trust by many Alaskan Orthodox in any bishop after our sojourns with +Innocent and +Nikolai.
The faithful are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; we need time to heal. We need time to learn to trust again. We don't want to go for Strike Three.
#13.1.1 Dear One on 2008-02-24 16:15
I am too horrified and touched to say anything. May God have mercy on the suffering clergy and people in Alaska. If the synod fails to act and act quickly I am going to learn Arabic.
This mess is the fruit of the evil tree that is the "leadership" of the OCA.
I wish I could DO something.
#14 Linda Weir on 2008-02-21 13:06
"Learn Arabic?" Wow, at least there is one person in the OCA who is seeing that there is some advantage in so-called "ethnic" Orthodoxy over this OCA-brand "American" (little "o") orthodoxy!
#14.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-24 14:44
My ethnicity is American. Why should I have to become something else to worship Christ?
#14.1.1 Scott Walker on 2008-02-25 12:49
Sad. Ugly Americanism raises its head in the OCA as a new "little t" tradition! How does learning another language, in this case Arabic, make anyone "become" another ethnicity?
#188.8.131.52 Anonymous on 2008-02-25 22:14
I'm not quite clear about why declaring my American identity is "ugly", but whatever. One does not need to learn another language or culture in order to worship Christ. Apparently some find that controversial. Whatever, again.
#184.108.40.206.1 Scott Walker on 2008-02-26 10:05
I was struck by the passage in Mina Jacob's letter to the Metropolitan Council where a number of questions are asked by her (Bishop Nikolai?). These questions indicate two things:
1. If the insinuations are true, the writer is extremely bright to have figured out all of the plots against the poor Bishop Nikolai (Sherlock Holmes comes to mind). If the insinuations are not true, the writer is quite paranoid. Period.
2. If the insinuations are true, then we have a situation where a cabal of +Herman, +Job, and their minions are doing everything they can to weaken +Nikolai's hold on his Diocese and take over the church properties. If the insinuations are not true, the writer must be projecting her/his own lust for power and the Church properties.
It is very hard to believe anything that +Nikolai or his minions say because the evidence is much against them. I must conclude that Bishop Nikolai may be afflicted by more than behavioral disorders. This sick individual desperately needs our prayers; I certainly am praying for his deliverance from these afflictions. I also pray that the Holy Synod will relieve +Nikolai of his duties and arrange for proper treatment--there is not any reason to allow +Nikolia to continue to torment the faithful of Alaska.
#15 Carl on 2008-02-21 15:39
This is the letter I wrote to the Holy Synod, Please post
Archpriest Phillip Alexie
Presentation of the Theotokos Orthodox Church
Nunapichuk, AK 99641
February 16, 2008
To the Holy Hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in America
Your Beatitude, Your Eminence, Your Grace Master Bless!
As we enter the period of the Triodion in preparation for the most Holy season of Great lent, I humbly ask for your Holy Blessings and Forgiveness.
To begin this letter I want to introduce myself, I am Archpriest Phillip Alexie, I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by His Eminence Archbishop Gregory (Afonsky) on August 1977. I am also given the task of Dean for the Bethel Deanery on the Kuskokwim river which consists of six Priests. This month we Orthodox Christians all over the country received the Issue “The Orthodox Church.” I want to thank and commend Father Victor Berzonsky for his article: “Attributes of Priesthood” he writes “The attributes are: courage, power, love and sound mind; St. Paul reminds us everyday as he did his spiritual son Timothy, reminding him of “who he is by Ordination and the gifts imparted to him when he had been set apart for the ministry of Christ.”
When I was a child, I remember very much how the whole village greeted the Bishop throwing flowers on his path to the church singing church hymns. I remember the whole village in church all of them singing, most of them by heart. My mother would take my hands showing me the proper way to receive a blessing from the Bishop, “Jesus is blessing you” She would whisper in my ear. I remember in my days in seminary wondering and confused what my calling is. My mother instructed me to always listen and obey the leaders of the church, Bishops and Priests not questioning them, She would say, “God speaks to us through his leaders in church, trust them to lead us to the Kingdom of God.” so being taught this way it was very hard to begin this letter.
When his Grace Bishop Nikolai first cam to Alaska we were joyous and it seemed we were united but it is not so now, as it is getting worse. I am always grateful for the good things he has helped us with. And I always Thank from my heart the teachers personally who came from the lower 48 to teachat the Seminary which is very very important to all of us.
During the past year there have been many Orthodox Faithful who have come forward with their concerns for our church in Alaska. And it will get worse if we just sit and watch. The Priests hand Faithful are discouraged and hurt of how Bishop Nikolai treats the people, the leaders of the church, the elders and the children. Many of out faithful have computers. Just recently, I was told, which is very saddening to hear, that people of other faiths and even our own people talk about what they read on Internet. Like a soap opera exciting to hear, what will develop tomorrow.
In November at our Annual Diocesan Assembly we were discouraged to hear the reports of both Bishop Nikolai and Archimandrite Isidore/Chancellor, of the situations that happened this past summer. Many of us knew that they both did not tell the truth.
As we enter the season of Preparation to Great Lent, the church in its Great Wisdom calls each one of us to ask ourselves where we are in life. Teaching us how we will enter the Kingdom of God, when we hear the Gospel for the Sunday of the Last Judgement. We just heard the story of the Publican and Pharisee, where we are taught the difference between the two people, Humility and Arrogance. But aren’t we also taught to learn also what they had in common?
Finally, I write this letter not in hatred bit with Love. Hoping you understand my poor English, but I do not want it as an excuse.
I come before you humbly, unworthy as I am, and ask for your Forgiveness. You who are called to be Shepherds and Guardians of the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” Asking for your Holy Prayers and Archpastoral blessings, I remain,
Your humble Servant,
Archpriest Phillip Alexie
#16 Archpriest Phillip Alexie on 2008-02-21 16:12
My dear Brother in Christ;
I would like to thank you for standing up for our people, and I like to say that YOU ARE OUR ELDER NOW, as being the first ordained clergy from St. Herman Seminary and being the eldest Yupik clergy, along side Fr. Michael Oleksa, who understands our Yupik way of life and who could very well be considered Yupik,because of the fact that he (FR. Michael) can speak our Yupik tongue among other things. You have stated in your letter that we respect our elders and listened to their words out of love for them, and now we are listening to your words of inspiriation and stand beside you in asking for help to get us out of this turmoil, which we DID NOT CREATE, but were forced into.Again thank you very much, on behalf of our people.Remember, your humbleness and love for our people make you stand out as a true leader for our people and the CHURCH.
#16.1 Pauk on 2008-02-26 09:55
Archpriest Phillip Alexie
Presentation of the Theotokos Orthodox Church
P.O. Box 122
Nunapichuk, AK 99641
P.O. Box 675
Syosset, NY 11791
To the Metropolitan Council,
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
You have received a recent letter from Mina Jacobs supporting Bishop Nikolai. She quoted me in her letter of which I did not know she did. I want to make it very clear of what I spoke at the Board of Trustees meeting in June. As usual I always take a moment to say Thank you to the teachers and Supporters of the seminary and this is what I did. Thanks to all those who support the seminary.
Love in Christ,
Unworthy Archpriest Phillip Alexie
#17 Archpirst Phillip Alexie to met. Council on 2008-02-21 16:13
When I received Mina Jacobs' letter to the Metropolitan Council, I read what I thought would be a PR statement from the Diocese of Alaska. As I began the last page, I was shocked and upset to see the name of Archpriest Phillip Alexie who had been quoted in a supposed attempt to present Bishop Nikolai in a positive light.
As a member of St. Herman Seminary Board of Trustees, I was present at the meeting when Father Phillip spoke to the board and was deeply touched by what he said. His words of gratitude truly came from his heart. Unfortunately, the quote attributed to him was taken out of context, AND he was not even asked permission to use it.
On page three in the minutes of the Board of Trustees of St. Herman Seminary, June 2, 2007, the following is written:
"Remarks by Archpriest Philip Alexie. Fr. Philip Alexie, the first graduate of St. Herman Seminary and president of the Alumni Association, eleoquently expressed his assessment on the outstanding qualities he observed in this year's graduates. In particular, he mentioned Priest Vasily Fisher who spoke the preceding evening at the graduation banquet. He thanked His Grace and Fr. Chad on behalf of the Yupik people for all that St. Herman Seminary has provided, including spiritual development and an opportunity to serve the Church. He also thanked those Board members from the lower 48 who traveled here to attend the meeting. Fr. Philip is a graduate of St. Herman Pastoral School. " (My note: Father Phillip also personally thanks faculty and staff for all of their efforts.)
As one can see from the minutes written by Mina Jacobs herself, Father Phillip expressed his gratitude to a number of people, not just Bishop Nikolai. He went on to share the many accomplishments of the Yupik people and expressed the hope that some would soon have the opportunity to serve the seminary in greater capacities. I, for one, believe that time is long overdue.
I am grateful to serve with Father Phillip Alexie for the betterment of St. Herman Seminary and humbly offer my support and prayers for him and all of the clergy and faithful in Alaska.
With love in Christ,
#17.1 Margaret Pysarchyk on 2008-02-21 23:52
First of all I commend our spiritual fathers for stepping up for us lay people who need constant help from them. Alaska is the first fruit of Orthodoxy in America. Our forefathers respected our language and culture! Our forefathers whom Fr. Nick mentioned loved Alaska it's people, culture, and traditions. I agree with Fr. Peter and Fr. Nick for all their comments about our bishop. Our elders have always been our mentors and help and we dearly respect them. Right now, I feel for our spiritual fathers and their families. Why should they live in fear for a person who is not God? We are taught to fear God above all else. I know our Yup'ik fathers are very humble, the bishop right now is taking advantage of their humbleness. He is using them because they don't speak up for themselves. It is against our tradition and culture to speak up. Fr. Nick is right. The previous bishops had passion towards everyone especially elders and kids. Our spiritual fathers and their families were treated with respected by the bishops. They were living not fearing the bishop. Bishop Nikolai right now, the way I see it is ruining our culture and traditions. Many of the lay people like me feel the stress when he is going to arrive to our parish. I remember when bishop Gregory arrived to our parishes, we use to be very excited to see him. Not feeling any stress. Right now I am witnessing many awful things bishop Nikolai does to our parish. He embarrassed and fled away young parents and especially our elders. Our elders know their health and know when to sit and when to stand. He is ruining our conferences. I remember conferences were the biggest church gatherings. Our elders had voice and they had opportunities to teach us about how our ancestors respected and loved God and yuuyaraput (our Yup'ik way of life).
I as a lay person, unworthy servant want bishop Nikolai out of Alaska. He has brought us shame and does not respect us! He has given bad name to Alaska! Instead of being fruitful like our ancestors, he has fled away many.
I am in support of our priests here at the heart of YK delta Yup'ik dominant culture. God forgive me and my fathers pray for me for forgiveness.
#18 Cikigaq on 2008-02-21 16:46
Is there a Saint who's name is Cikigaq. So I can pray for this writer.
#18.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 02:16
It doesn't matter whether there is already a saint named thus; there always has to be a first time.
#18.1.1 Terry C. Peet on 2008-02-22 08:39
God knows his or her name. He also knows your prayers. No-one needs a saint's name to be prayed for. You're just trying (unsuccessfully) to demean and bully Cikigaq. If you are truly trying to become holy, you wouldn't do this, for it is not of Christ..
If you're trying to be a bigot, then you've succeeded. Not many of those in heaven, I daresay!
Since no-one knows the day or hour of his/her death, I suggest that you begin to do what the Triodion is telling us to: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!
#18.1.2 Larissa on 2008-02-22 09:24
Dear Larissa,How do you KNOW the writer was being a bigot and not merely asking an honest question?Speaking of names, that's another problem with so-called American Orthodoxy.We're supposed to have a Patron Saint given to us at Baptism.People should recieve the Mysteries,whether it be Holy Communion or Matrimony or Holy Orders with the name of their Heavenly Patron. So what's up with names like,"Fr. Bob" or "Fr.Eric"? Yes,no doubt I'm a bigot in some eyes.Let's remember bigotry has occurred with all religions and cultures.I grew up during the Cold War period and got beat up at school for being Russian,even though my mother's people were of Scottish background and had been in the US for 200 years.Then I go to Seminary, get ordained,switch to ROCOR and suddenly I'm not Russian enough!I've had OCA converts who never even met me berate me on the phone for not doing missionary work by serving more in English and then I've had ex-OCA folks blubbering for my even using English at all,even though they DON't speak or understand Russian!
#220.127.116.11 Anonymous on 2008-02-23 11:51
As my spiritual father once said to me a long time ago, "If we don't baptize or chrismate [at that time] a 'Brian' how will there ever be a Saint Brian?" Have a care, friend, saints didn't get names like Achilles or Dionysius from the Christian Church.
FWIW, "Bob" is derived from Robert or Rupert, the patron saint of the city of Salzburg who died in A.D. 710. His feast day is March 27.
There is a Saint Brian. Good Celtic saint from long ago. I also don't understand the affection for picking up a book of Russian (or Greek) saints and picking a strange chrismation name if the name you have is perfectly fine. Even a "strange" Insular name like Ian is little more than the Scottish version of John.
God knows his own, and its not as limited as most people think.
#18.104.22.168.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-24 10:17
You sound sarcastic and insulting. I hope not. You can pray for anyone and everyone in Alaska. Try praying to the Theotokos, or perhaps even to God.
#18.1.3 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 09:35
I do not know how to start off with this letter but I will get right to the point, it’s true about this man Bishop Nikolai and his right hand man Isadore have no respect to our people in Y/K delta Orthodox Christians. I am proud to belong to the “True Faith” religion, and there should be no man say to me in the Holy Church that we are acting like wild animals, and that it should be HIS WAY or no way at all.
Afraid I get when he is visiting, wondering how they (Nikolai/Isadore) will belittle us during the service, I am tired of hearing horror stories from other villages too, I am tired of our elders, children, and all attendee’s being referred to as distractions.
But I respect and support our clergy for putting up with all verbal abuse…etc.. all these past times from Nikolai and Isadore. All these clergy around here work hard for their parish and most of all they respect our people. Its hard for me to speak out, so all you readers please keep us in your holy prayers that we may live in peace and for God to give our clergy strength.
I also ask for forgiveness if I have offended anyone with this letter.
#18.1.4 anonymous on 2008-02-22 13:36
I believe that, far from intending any disrepect to Cikigaq, "Anonymous" was making an ironic reference to +N's refusing Holy Baptism to infants whose names he deemed "non-Christian."
#18.1.5 Anna Strelka on 2008-02-23 13:49
Thank you Cikigaq! The whole world needs to hear and see what you have written. I commend your bravery, I know who you are and I will pray for your strength, Gods mercy and forgiveness. Your spoke of truth and what you have witnessed in our Alaskan soils and attest to the truth. We need more people to write on this website and hopefully get the message across. Keep in mind that these are no exaggerations, but first hand accounts of abuse, belittling of thier own beloved priests, and respected elders, and especially parents who were asked to leave the church because of thier children who distracted the bishop and especially the brave parents who dare to bring their sons and daughters who have a special condition and we asked toleave the church for so he or she will not distract the bishop. Also to the people who prepared a special visit only to be left with no spiritual blessing but emptiness. "what did we do that for?'why even bother next time?"This is what has been happening in the remote Alaskan parishes. I am Cikigaq's good friend, and friend encourage and respect each other, I will pray for her and the rest of the Orthodox Christians who were not feed, but denied the spiritual food needed to keep their strength and courage to fight for what they we born to do, WALK TO THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM. My Love pours to you, your suffering will be turned into joy in the TRUTH, THE WAY,AND THE LIFE.-St John.
My Love pours to all the suffering and the oppressors, I too stand in solidarity with my brother priests.
unworthy priest- may God have mercy on us all.
#18.2 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 14:04
I must say my heart weighs so heavy for the Alaskan faithful..It's time for all of us to support the Alaskan clergy ,& faithful in whatever means is possible... How ST HERMAN must be weeping now for the faithful...
When I hear how so many elders are being mistreated by Bishop N. I get sick to my stomach...He should be the one bowing down to these elders that helped maintain the faith which was passed down to them from their ancestors, regardless if the customs were not to HIS liking... To mock their humble ways, their remote churches, their icons, the food served, artifical flowers , the list goes on & on is just to much for one to swallow!! These poor native Alaskan souls live under extreme hard economic pressures in these remote villages & do not deserve such treatment from a bishop that is suppose to represent CHRIST..
I also was disturbed by Mina Jacob's letter...To me it appeared like she was just a puppet on a string...
I love ST HERMAN with all my heart, love reading about his holy life, his miracles that contiune in our own day..To my dear brothers & sisters in Alaska ,please keep the faith that you have preserved, as well as passed down to us...ST Herman & all the Alaskan saints will not forsake you...I'm sure they are pleading at the throne of GOD on your behalf ,as well as for the whole OCA...
A friend from Ohio-
#19 Anoymous on 2008-02-21 21:22
These letters, including that of Fr. Phillip Alexie, are simply heartbreaking. That this can happen in the Church is beyond words. For Orthodox Christians to be treated so shamefully, with such utter callousness, by *their own archpastor*, is outrageous. It should make all of us very angry today that this is allowed to continue for even one more minute. I know I am.
My prayer is that our suffering brothers and sisters, the Orthodox Christians of Alaska, are delivered, somehow, from their pain. It is mind boggling that +Herman and the rest of the Synod can read letters like this and do absolutely nothing. It's more than mind boggling, actually. It's profoundly disgusting.
O Lord... save and deliver Thy people!
#20 David Maliniak on 2008-02-21 21:37
With tears streaming down my face I ask,
How long oh Lord, How Long must your children endure this suffering?
Holy Saints of Alaska, pray to God for us!
#21 Subdeacon Robert Aaron on 2008-02-21 22:36
Wonderful comments Cikigak!
Read the letter from Fr. Phillip, they should be posted on the front page too!! Please Mark, He talks about retracting his statement that Mina quoted him on. Fr. Phillip sais to me personally that he was speaking to the teachers and staff from the Lower 48 in thankfulness. Remember this too, Mina did not ask permission from Fr. Phillip if she could quote him, Fr. Phillip was asking forgiveness from his fellow priest because of this. Me heart is amazed at these who dare to speak out. With all courage from God himself.
In the meantime, there are more priest that are going to write for this cause, even within the next few days and week. Please everyone, especially the Holy Synod, keep your eyes open to this Holy Land of St. Herman. The Priests are speaking out.
Fr. Isidore is doing damage control, calling around to see which priest is on which side. Bishop Nikolai who is supposed to be the Father to the clergy, is not even calling around, not concerned at all. What does that say to us? we are not good enough for him to call?? Mina please wake up, and see the truth where Christ stands!! Not as Pilate saying, "What is Truth?"
#22 Anonymous priest in alaska on 2008-02-22 06:27
Archpriest Phillip pleaded to me in his own language, (as if he needed to plead to me, I should be pleading to him to support me through this he is my senior) when he explained to me that his being quoted needed to changed to that of " standing with his brother priests". As if he needed to repeat to me not two, not three but four times (in our own language) that he needed help to get this to the world.
Fr.Phillip would thank you and praise you highly for cleaning off the snow from his boots - and be embarrassed at the same time and amazed as to why you would waste time on him, rather than helping others.
Thank you, Father for your kind ears and loving heart, when i need to be comforted.
#22.1 Archpriest Peter Askoar on 2008-02-22 22:32
As the first post says, these moving testimonials speak for themselves. It was only last August that this website was filled with "testimonials" for Bishop Nikolai (mostly from non-Alaskans) and arguments supporting his rightful exercise of episcopal authority. Times have indeed changed and more information is in the public arena--but where are the retractions? Where are the reconsidered endorsements of a horrific exercise of power that makes a mockery of the Gospels?
I'm still holding my breath.
#23 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-02-22 09:34
Reading through many of the comments we have some people who are professing the OCA to be dead; a failed experiment; a dying church; etc. Their solution is to join either ROCOR or the MP. Others believe we need to import 5-6 bishops from the MP.
My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents didn't come from Russia to America to bring Russia with them. They came here for a new beginning, a new life and of course, brought their faith with them. However, they were always proud of being Americans and insisting that our church is an "American Church." Sure, remnants of the old country were there, but the reality of a separate and distinct church from the old country prevailed.
Those who wish to join ROCOR, the MP or import foreign bishops are just moving our church backwards. The Metropolia fought since the Revolution to be free and independent and God blessed this struggle in 1970. THERE IS NO GOING BACK. The answers do not lie in the old country, but in a UNITED ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA. The OCA was always meant to be a church of ALL the Orthodox nationalities working together. The Greeks and Antiochians bowed out after 1970. The Greeks can do nothing since their emasculation after Ligonier, but what about the Antiochians? Why can't their American bishops lead the OCA? Why hasn't this merger taken place? Bishop Basil Essey is surely a leader who can deal with the Antiochians, Greeks and Russians. Just what is the OCA waiting for? What are the Antiochians waiting for? The timing is right for both and this merger is way over due!
#24 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 11:31
"What are the Antiochians waiting for?" Really, I would ask the question, why would the Antiochians want to merge with such a mess as the OCA? The Antiochians are financially solvent, administratively efficient (relatively), and basically free of scandal. The OCA is a hornet's nest of problems: financial, legal, ethical, moral, spiritual, canonical. There would be zero benefit to the Antiochians to become one unit with the OCA. On the contrary, it would only serve to further spread the OCA's chaos to an otherwise-healthy Archdiocese.
#24.1 An Antiochian layman on 2008-02-23 13:48
Having made the journey to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in an OCA parish and now belonging to an Antiochian parish, I have a different view than this brother. I believe that there are very significant reasons why a union of the Antiochian and OCA jurisdictions could enhance the Orthodox Christian mission here in North America. With the prayers of St. Raphael, the first Orthodox bishop consecrated on North American soil, we could rediscover our shared heritage and be greatly blessed in the process. The monastic communities and seminaries of the OCA, with the administratively sound synod of the Antiochian Archdiocese, and the increased number of faithful clergy and laity all working together could bring healing, while significantly strengthening our Orthodox Christian witness on this Continent.
#24.1.1 Marc Trolinger on 2008-02-23 20:52
The Antiochians are NOT an "autocephalous" church. They can call themselves "self-ruling" all they want, they are still under Damascus and the rule of FOREIGN BISHOPS. In 1961 when SCOBA was created and Met. Antony (of thrice blessed memory) and later Met. Philip, it was decided that all the churches in America would strive toward a unified Orthodox church in America called, the Orthodox Church in America. (Read the minutes - call Schneirla) When Frs. Schmemann & Meyendorff made this a reality, an autocephalous church in 1970, both the Greeks and Antiochians reneged. Now, 38 years later, the Orthodox faithful are still waiting! The present situation with the OCA and the Antiochians lends itself to a merger, NOW. Bishop Basil Essey becomes the Metropolitan of the OCA with Englewood Cliffs as the headquarters. This would FINALLY put Orthodoxy in America back on track. Met. Antony; Frs. Schmemann & Meyendorff; Archbp. Iakavos; etc. can stop spinning in their graves and we can be assured that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church in oneness of "Unity and Faith!"
#24.1.2 Anonymous on 2008-02-24 11:57
Praise the Lord! Someone else with a deal no one should refuse--assuming Bishop Basil is in the same mold as Met. Philip.
Several months ago, in response to the innumerable comments that end with--"but what do we do if Herman goes, who replaces him?"--I suggested Met. Philip be selected to replace Herman after reading his comments at last year's commencement at St. Tikhon's. Since none of our bishops are sufficently worthy or willing to replace Herman, why not use this opportunity to unify the two jurisdictions. Unfortunately, only one person responded to my suggestion--more in concern than support.
Are we serious about a unified Church in North America? This could truly be an opportunity to make a silk purse out of a cow's ear!
#22.214.171.124 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-02-25 15:18
Occasionally, my memory fails me--the phrase , of course, should be "a silk purse out of a sow's ear!
#126.96.36.199.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-02-26 08:07
As an Antiochian I just like to say we have never claimed to be autocephlas, but the agreement with the Holy Synod of Antioch clearly stipulates that the only final authority they have is over the the selection of a new Metropolitan. There is an will continue to be a connection but to characterize it as "being ruled by foreign bishops" is not correct.
+Basil is a wonderful man but he will not solve the problem, he is not our savior. Neither did I see any horses at the Chancery the last time I was there, let alone any white ones.
An OCA/Antiochian merger was under discussion at the time the OCA mess began to be public. Such a merger makes a lot of sense. Ultimately, until the fate of the Patriarchate of Constantiople is decided, there will be no unification with the Greeks.
Without love for all even "foreign bishops" such unity would be a farce in any case.
#188.8.131.52 Michael B on 2008-02-26 15:55
You raise some important points that need to be addressed.
It is the bishops, in all jurisdictions, who are the main impediment to a unified Orthodoxy in North America, primarily for petty reasons of power and control. In the past, some of the emigre laity was, no doubt, more comfortable with an ethnic Church that used the language and customs of their birth, but as their children began to be assimilated into American culture, and started drifting away from the Church, this changed. The future, both for future generations and spiritually healthy converts, lay with an American Orthodox Church.
The bishops have had more than enough time to "regularize" a situation which is actually heretical. Yes, heretical! Multiple jurisdictions and hierarchies, where one is called for by the Canons of all things, is heretical. Of course some bishops, like Met. Philip, have worked hard for unity, but have been frustrated by the responses from others. As for the Greeks, it is only the Patriarch of Constantinople who stands in the way of their obvious desire (the laity that is) for unity--once again, to justify his increasing "irrelevance" in the modern world.
So the time has come for the laity to force change, just as they stopped union with Rome centuries ago. How this is accomplished is course a subject too complicated for this post. But it starts by refusing to "leave all this to the bishops" and passively allowing the status quo to continue indefinitely. Who knows--maybe a little reverse "excommunication" is in order. How long would Constantinople survive without American political and financial support? How long would any of our various jurisdictions survive without support from the laity? If we don't bring change pro-actively, in the long run Orthodoxy in America will expire de facto.
The OCA has been humbled by this crisis--and rightly so. But pride goeth before the fall, so I say to our brethren in other jurisdictions a word to the wise--be careful you too aren't soon, or even now, in a similar situation. There are institutional issues and problems that transcend jurisdictions. Join us in unifying, revitalizing and rescuing Orthodoxy from those who would make it a museum set piece.
#184.108.40.206.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-02-27 07:59
>There would be zero benefit to the Antiochians
>to become one unit with the OCA.
Except that ONE Orthodox Church is God's will, as revealed through nearly 2000 years of church history.
I do believe that imperative trumps everything you outlined in your "benefit analysis".
"God wants it. Are your arms long enough to box with Him?"
#24.1.3 Kevin Nikolai Payne on 2008-02-25 16:35
I understand and appreciate the desire for administrative unity. However, to insist that the Antiochians should simply unite with the OCA is to ignore numerous practical problems. The OCA is currently facing multiple lawsuits and investigations. Its finances are in disarray. The effectiveness of its hierarchy is legitimately open to question. And so forth. Would an arbitrary, right-now unification of the OCA with the Antiochian Archdiocese accomplish anything concrete with regard to Orthodox unity in America? I don't think so. It would not include the Greeks, the Serbs, the Ukrainians, or ROCOR. And unless the OCA wants to join the Patriarchate of Antioch, action by Antiochian bishops to become autocephalous would almost certainly be an act of schism with their own Patriarchate. Can you imagine the Patriarch of Antioch blessing his American Archdiocese to depart to the OCA? This, only a few years after a major battle just to get "self-ruled" status? Thus the Antiochians would be forced to enter into schism with their own Patriarchate, something which would likely isolate them from most of the rest of the Orthodox world. And all this because some want unity now, regardless of the consequences.
And furthermore, would the OCA bishops even be open to such an idea? I can't imagine that they would. The Antiochians certainly can't be expected to carry out a hostile takeover of another jurisdiction. I could see the day, a few years from now, when some OCA parishes might join the Antiochian Archdiocese. I could also see the day when the two jurisdictions might unite under the Patriarchate of Antioch. But an autocephalous Church in America really must involve all of the Orthodox in America, most especially the Greeks. Otherwise, it will be an "American Orthodox Church" in name only, while representing less than half of Orthodox American believers and being recognized as legitimate by only a handful of old world Churches.
#220.127.116.11 An Antiochian layman on 2008-02-26 13:51
Good afternoon, Mr. Stokoe:
I think it would be only fair to post a link to a response to Fr. Michael's accusations.
Yours is in Christ,
And when you do, you might want to scroll down to read Fr. George Washburn's excellent comments.
#25.1 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2008-02-22 22:05
If Nick is an impostor, and he is, then do not wait for the Synod to act. We have all grown tired of waiting for the Synod to act.
Obedience to a Bishop is never absolute. All of you in Alaska must learn to just say NO! Saying NO to that which is not of God is what working out our salvation with fear and trembling is all about. This is called discernment. This will be a time of great trembling and what I suggest will be for some the most difficult thing they have ever done.
Go out of your house you priest wives on whatever pious errand you have. Act as free men for that is the life that Christ has given us. You priests go to the funerals of your loved ones. For Christ was at the funeral of his dear friend Lazarus. Speak and preach openly about what concerns the sheep and do not be afraid of spies. We are called to speak the truth in love. Shepherd your sheep without the input of this wolf and make your pastoral decisions with out the pseudo-bishop. For it is God who made you an overseer.
As you are carried about by the Holy Spirit, doing the work of Christ, do not allow yourselves to be impeded by the devil even if he wears a mitre. When he says go here or go there, stand where you are. When he insists that you act as if you are Russian insist on being who you are, whether Native American or some other kind of Alaskan transplant. When you get the Episcopal Epistle that you are deposed throw it away (but look at the really cool wax seal first it's kind of neat)). When the Bishop arrives at the Church, you faithful don't stay home but fill the Church and come in Mass. Have the Church adorned with as many plastic flowers as you can find. Do nothing liturgically that is not customary in your midst. If the Bishop tries to stop the service do what you would do with any one being disruptive to the services of God's house. Have some of the larger men of the parish kindly, gently, and with respect remove him from the Church and escort him to his car. Tell him that Christ is Bishop here and that he reminds us not of Him. When he tries to move you refuse to leave. When he yells at you ignore him and say "God rebuke you". Talk to him as infrequently as you would the devil.
In every way possible, make him realize how little authority he really has, unless men of free will by their "axios" give it to him. Be the "godlings" that the Holy Trinity has made you and formed you to be, and be not persuaded towards obedience to that which is manifestly evil. Be obedient to Christ, for this man has squandered his right to exercise authority.
The mountain that is Orthodoxy in Alaska cannot be bent by this blowhard from Montana. Stand together and say to this Bishop you have no place here, we do not know you. Nick has clearly made himself irrelevant to authentic Orthodox mission and work. Do not be afraid for God is with you!!
#26 fr Andrew on 2008-02-22 11:57
Before becoming Orthodox, I was a member of a church that taught that wives owed their husbands absolute obedience, as if to God, no matter what. Even if what your husband commanded you to do was wrong, you had to do it. Sarah, who agreed to lie by saying that she Abraham's sister, was held up as the supreme example of a Christian wife.
Unfortunately, my husband was not a holy man, and the power I allowed him to have over me, as a result of that teaching, resulted in his becoming more and more abusive. The thing about abuse is that it is, in a way, addictive for the abuser. Over time, it becomes more frequent and more extreme.
Once we became Orthodox, and my priest began to understand what was going on in my home, he began to instruct me not to obey my husband, not to submit to abuse. He told me that I did not need my husband's permission to do things that were good and appropriate for me to do. He also told me that, for the sake of my husband, and for his salvation, I must not willingly submit to abuse. Doing so was not only harmful to me, but it was putting him at risk of damnation. Out of Christian love, I must not do that.
Learning to disobey my husband was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was done in fear and trembling. As I took my first tentative steps, he reacted as I expected, with more harshness and more abuse. But over time, even in the face of the abuse, I became less frightened, and I became more whole. All the things in me that had been broken by the years of abuse began to be healed.
Eventually, as you might expect, that marriage ended. It had to end. I expect that the relationship between +Nikolai and his diocese may also have to end. In the mean time, please heed the wise and terrifying words of Father Andrew. Christ has made you free. Do not let anyone take that freedom away from you.
#26.1 anonymous on 2008-02-22 12:58
Oh, come on people, let's not lose our sense of humor and appreciation for sublety.
"Deameaning" Bully" and "bigot"? Please! In Alaska, good-natured teasing, plays on words, and humor have been part of our traditional communication long before radio, television and iPods.
#27 K. Carlsen on 2008-02-22 12:20
A member of the OCA, I have always supported the desire of the American faithful to have the American Orthodox Church. I support wishes to cultivate an American form of Orthodox spirituality. Despite all the turmoil of the last two years, I have not considered leaving the OCA. I hope it is not a “failed experiment”. Several times on this website I expressed my frustration over the suffering of the Alaskan faithful tormented by a deranged tyrant.
But as someone who was born and raised in Russia I was insulted by Fr. Oleksa’s letter. He himself describes how Russian (!) missionaries struggled to establish an Alaskan form of Orthodoxy. He himself refers to St. Tikhon, St. Herman, St. Innocent, Fr. Schmemann, and then goes on to indiscriminately attack the Russian Church. This is disingenuous.
Then he proceeds to attack the Russian “authoritarian” mentality. This is bigotry. Authoritarian mentality occurs on both sides: the oppressor’s and the oppressed. If it is true about Russia, then how is it different in Alaska? And if Alaskan mentality was characterized as “cowardly” given their long history of oppression, wouldn’t Fr. Oleksa rightly feel hurt? He himself goes on to criticize a perverse understanding of obedience. Is he talking about Russia or Alaska?
Fr. Oleksa himself states that some rules imposed by +Nikolai are not truly Russian, but his personal preferences and whims. Bishop Nikolai is not even Russian, and neither is a single member of our current dysfunctional Synod. Maybe our problem is not the Russian Church but the American-made bishops?
The OCA’s failure would in fact be an embarrassment to Moscow, whose decision to grant autocephaly has been criticized and snubbed by other jurisdictions. Specifically how is the Russian Church meddling in the business of Alaska or the OCA at large? I asked this question several months ago on this website in connection with Mr. Kondratick’s alleged trip to Moscow. I never got an answer.
#28 Karina Ross on 2008-02-22 16:38
As someone who is also offended quite often by the OCA's looking down its nose at those of "ethnic" backgrounds, I believe that Fr. Oleksa's statements were meant as a critical comparison between Nikolai and the strict old-world, sometimes medievil stucture found in the Russian Church, and not an insult toward "Russians" in general. It is true that there does exist a very severe authoritarian mentality in the Russian Orthodox tradition as relates to the hierarchy (hence "...our Lord and bishop..." in the liturgy). I have even seen on video where a bishop struck a deacon on the head because he did not incense him enough times. And this is how Nikolai operates in Alaska. The "authoritarian" mentality is not what it meant to be, but rather it is a perversion of what should be.
We understand that there are those people who do good just as there are those who do evil, even if they do it out of ignorance with the best of intentions. But Fr. Oleksa's commentary is still true -- we do not need nor want that type of "authoritarian" rule in our Church (as I am sure you would agree). I'd be so bold as to say that we probably wouldn't want to see it in any other Church either, but the people of those Churches must make their own decisions just as we must stand up for what we believe is right in our Church.
As for the bishops, I don't see it as Russian vs. American bishops. I am simply reminded of the old saying "Absolute power corrupts absolutely". There are bishops throughout the world who do good most of the time, and there are others who do bad things most of the time.
Would a return of the OCA to Moscow be an embarassment to Moscow? Look at the state of the OCA and consider which is worse -- taking blame for the existence of a morally corrupt, financially irresponsible synod or simply saying that it was a politically-motivated decision to grant the autocephaly and the time has come to re-unite "for the good of the Church". Don't forget, it was the Russian government that put significant pressure on the Church to negotiate with and accept ROCOR in order to unite the Russians throughout the world -- that's quite an interesting fact.
So please, let's not crucify Fr. Oleksa for an honest criticism. I believe he is quite right and has suffered in Alaska for many years (how long has Nikolai been there now?) to be knowledgable on the subject.
#28.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 22:17
Your post compelled me to go back and carefully read Fr. Oleksa's letter, which I confess I had not done. I respectfully suggest that you are mistaken in the conclusions you drew from it.
His learned and eloquent comments are most certainly not anti-Russian, but rather are a devastating critique of the Nikolai autocracy, which itself is only some kind of bastardized version of what Nikolai "thinks" is Russian. In a most positive way, Fr. Oleksa references the many contributions persons of Russian descent have made in establishing Orthodoxy in Alaska. Furthermore, and to their everlasting credit, these Russian founders established it in a way that was appropriate to the times and people it was there to save and bring more fully to God.
And here is the most critical point in all this squabbling over Russian v. American v. Greek v. whatever--we are supposed to be "One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church!" Do we know what that means? It certainly does not mean primarily or exclusively identifying our universal religion with any nationality or ethnic group. That is a heresy!
As a convert, I embrace enthusiastically the contributions to Orthodoxy that come from Russia--most of them. I was blessed with a parish, when I converted from the Episcopal Church of C.S. Lewis, that contained converts from virtually every religious tradition in North America and a cross section of Orthodoxy that was primarily of Slavonic descent. We utilized liturgical material from all the various traditions, including from Western Christianity.
That is America and the way Orthodoxy in America should be practiced. Not as some third or forth Roman/Russian reinvention and reestablishment, but as a universal Church that embraces the cultures and traditions of whole world.
#28.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-02-23 07:09
very good comment! americans love to trumpet about their freedom and accuse other countries especially russia of authoritarianism.america is not a democracy but a ploutocracy,a government for and by the rich.in corporate america workers tremble before their big bosses in fear of loosing their jobs and livelyhood.capitalist society is as brutal as any other regime that ever existed.how about the millions who have no health insurance or the homeless in the big cities,while the rich live in unimaginable luxury,many spending millions for jewelry and clothing.in fact the oca has been a mirror of this very society,a couple of "upperclass clergy"spending millions while many poor priests and matushki with kids struggle to make ends meet.please,i do not advocate communism-marxism,a systeme that has miserably failed,because it takes people's incentive away,but i do object to americans idealizing the usa and criticising and condemning russia without knowing or understanding anything about our longsuffering russian people,who endured 200 years of brutal mongol yoke and many invasions from the west,but always triumphed with the MOTHER OF GODS help and the saints.
#28.3 Anonymous on 2008-02-26 14:20
One wonders, anonymous, why you continue to live in the nightmare America you describe. One of the freedoms we trumpet is the freedom to freely express our thoughts. Some of us even use our names when we do so.
#28.3.1 Scott Walker on 2008-02-26 22:30
Any person who knows anything about victimology or works with victims of crime would quickly identify the actions - or lack of actions - by the Alaska clergy and Mr. Paul Sidebottom as a normal reaction to abuse victimization.
As to the Alaska clergy: the descriptions of them not wanting to be in the presence of the bishop, staying away from church, or not greeting him when he visits makes a statement that these people have indeed suffered from great emotional - if not physical - abuse. This combined with the nature of these Alaska people, only enhances the fear of being in the presence of their abuser. It is most common for any person who has been abused - physical, emotional, sexual, etc. - to do everything possible to avoid the feelings that the abuser may reabuse. Stay away and I am safe from my feelings and from this person -who, by the way, is most often someone known to the victim. These people are also being victimized by the insistence of replacing their heritage with another - denying who they are as people. I commend the Alaska clergy for speaking up and announcing to the Orthodox of America that they are being treated in this abusive manner. This also veryfies their identification as the victim. Often a victim will speak out in the hope that exposing their victimization will bring awareness to their pain and therefore prevent future offenses to them and others.
As for Mr. Sidebottom: Ms. Jacobs questions why Mr. Sidebottom has not confronted Fr. Isidore on the alleged sexual assault. For a victim of sexual assault to confront their abuser would be one of the most painful things that a victim could be expected to do as a result of the abuse. Even though she sees Fr. Isidore as the victim, the fact that Mr. Sidebottom has acted in a way that avoids contact with Fr. Isidore, verifies that he may actually be a victim of the alleged abuse. She quotes our Lord in Matthew 18 as the way she would expect Mr. Sidebottom to approach his alleged abuser. This would not be the way a victim of abuse would be handled and Mr. Sidebottom's actions are in line with victims of abuse. It seems to me that for Fr. Isidore to actually be working his recovery, his alleged abuse of Paul Sidebottom should be addressed by him - not Paul Sidebottom. How can Fr. Isidore be so sure of what took place since he was in such an intoxicated state? The 12 Steps or recovery includes #8 Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all; # 9 Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Number 9 does not make injury to the recovering person a reason to not make amends to another. Therefore, just the feeling that Fr. Isidore has left on Paul Sidebottom would indicate he should approach the alleged victim. Again - Paul Sidebottom would not be in any emotional state to approach his abuser to discuss the alleged abuse or any of the situations surrounding the events that would have led up to the abuse. Ms. Jacobs has used this passage from Matthew before and indicated that Fr. Isidore is the victim. This kind of retoric is a constant revictimization of the victim - Paul Sidebottom. Until an official document resulting from an invsestigation that exonerates Fr. Isidore from the charges is presented to Paul Sidebottom - the alleged victim - the true victim in this situation will be Mr. Paul Sidebottom. In the question posed regarding the charges - this again is a perfect example of a victim trying to be heard and taking whatever action to protect others from the abuse that the victim has suffered.
In reading this site, being a victimologist, I finally felt that these issues needed to be addressed from the side of these victims. The people of the Alaska Diocese and the missionary who serverd them are a hurting people. They are only acting as would be expected from their painful victimization and need our prayers.
Anonymous for Alaska
#29 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 17:08
Father Michael Oleksa's treatise is right on the money. Read it for what it is saying about our current situation. The demand for blind and unquestioning obedience; the elevation of the episcopate to an almost unapproachable status; the attitude that HIS vision and HIS will for the diocese is what is right, good, and holy only because it is HIS (the bishop's nor Christ's); this is part of what, I believe, Fr Michael is saying. A bishop who is only concerned about the minutia of serving according to the Russian style and with imposing that upon a diocese is a bishop who will see his diocese either wither under his hand, or will find that hand bitten in revolt. Right now the growl is loud and clear, the bitting is not close behind.
#30 Anonymous Alaskan, NOT a Native on 2008-02-22 18:19
Does anyone else find it strange that amid all the problems of the OCA, especially the newest events in Alaska, all we see posted in the OCA website it yet another article "cheerleading" for the new chancery team.
No words of support for the Alaskan people -- not even something from Herman at least saying "we understand you/they are frustrated and we assure everyone of our attantion", or "we care about you/them and we will work to do something", or even "go jump off a bridge". NOTHING. Rome burns and they are still patting themselves on the back. Enough already!
I trust the new team to do their jobs well, but again, it's the head of the fish that still stinks.
#31 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 22:22
Please Sign the Petition, The Petition of 1200 names should be in the Thousands! Where is Everyone? If not for the Sake of having a say in this situation but for at least the sake of Our brothers and sisters, and clergy that are afraid, you don't have to sign your name, write anonymous.
But please sign it for your own inner self to at least feel as though you Can and Will Make A Difference! Every Vote counts! Reach out on Sunday and Ask others to provide a vote if they can't do it, ask permission from them so that you can sign it for them, Every vote counts, and when they see thousands react to the petition then we may just begin a new chapter. Sign the Petition.... No fear.... I see it on bumper stickers and I see it on tee shirts on our Young Youth... I want to see it on this Web Site.... God will not allow you to have fear if you have total trust in him..... No Fear! Sign the Petition.... You can do it! No Fear!
#32 Anonymous on 2008-02-22 22:53
"No Fear!" and "anonymous". Such a dichotomy.
What name did you use to sign the petition?
#32.1 Michael Strelka on 2008-02-23 11:53
Dearest Michael, I did sign the Petition in my own name. Also I have been abused recently in my own church as a result of this web site... So yes I still feel a fear inside of me... I'm sorry but tonight I don't have the courage to sign my name again, please forgive me, this is why I'm asking for a hint of anonymous... so that you and God knows your heart and your concerns.... I have had too much trembling and sorrow... but please know that I have felt the abuse too...... too much...
#32.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-23 23:35
Please forgive me.
#18.104.22.168 Michael Strelka on 2008-02-25 10:26
I forgive you, Please forgive me. God forgives. But at this time I can not disclose my full identity. I also signed the save the OCA. and contributed a worth while amount to begin anew.
I can assure you that your in my prayers and all who contribute to this web site with knowledge of the Truth and Honesty are on the top of my prayer list as well.
#22.214.171.124.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-25 16:13
How can you go on and on about...where is everyone...no fear...sign the petition...and so on, and then just sign your posting as "Anonymous"? That is mind-boggling. We have agonized for months about signing the petition, hoping and praying that moral sense would awaken at the top, that confession and repentance would occur at the top. But this total silence at the top in response to the suffering of the faithful in Alaska has been the final push. We have signed the petition. In our own names.
#32.2 Michael & Lois Gregory on 2008-02-23 13:42
I sign my posts anonymous but I signed on the petition with my full name. And further I left a hefty donation on savetheoca site as well with my full name.
#32.2.1 Anon here for now on 2008-02-24 16:28
What petition? And where? First I've heard of it. What is it for?
Enlighten us and I'm sure you'll get names.
(Editor's note: The links to the petition(s) are on the right hand column of the homepage.)
#32.3 Raisa on 2008-02-25 16:31
well it seems that it is time to defrock nicholai, not retire him but defrock him so that he can feel the pain felt by those he has hurt -- we also need to send a message - swift justice -- the wound in the oca has been festering too long - we all know the who, what, when, why, and how - it just has not been admitted -- lent is approaching its time to confess your sins guys and to retire ( or go to jail) either or --- but if you love the church as Jesus does, and believe in what the Gospel teaches -- then it is time to be the examples -- Jesus died for us and our sins -- its time you ponied up to the bar and took it like adults.
#33 rjklancko on 2008-02-23 06:04
Let me just say people as concerns the incident with Sidebottom and Fr. Isidor we are dealing with "adult" males; lets get a grip and grow up!
#34 anonymous on 2008-02-23 07:57
So was Judas. Should we just "grow up" and ignore his sin?
#34.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-23 20:02
The priests of Alaska are true shepherds and brave men. May God protect them. Now it is time for the rest of us to be brave, too. I apologize to any I may offend. What, for heavens's sake, is the point of calling on others to be brave and sign the petition, even repeating "No fear", and then remaining anonymous? What is the point of praising the Alaskan priests for their courage, and then remaining anonymous? Folks, it's time for the rubber to hit the road. Forgive me, but it seems obvious to me that if the OCA is ever going to find a way out of this mess, those of us who feel strongly about the wrongs being done to the Body of Christ have got to risk hurting some feelings and making some people angry. I come to this as a convert, and am not qualified to make judgements about alleged cultural and social characteristics of Russians or anybody else, but isn't it obvious yet that the way corrupt hierarchs and administrators maintain their power is by making everybody else afraid? It happens all over the world, not just among Russians. Stop letting these men make you afraid. Be the change you want to see. Nobody else can do it for you. A good way to start is to post your name when praising somebody else's courage. That is the beginning of growing some courage of our own. Forgive me for being blunt. Holy Fathers Herman and Seraphim pray to God for us!
#35 Scott Walker on 2008-02-23 09:28
The Yupik people and most all others, if not all Alaskan natives, have suffered at all levels of government/church authority and have taken the abuses from these evil minded folks,BUT when the natives have had enough they stood up at stated "ENOUGH" and fought back. We in the orthodox churches are doing exactly what is our God given right to do, stand up and speak,
Not to be arguementive, but to point out that we have had enough from BN, who has treated our people as though they did not exist. I can even remember when he (BN) told someone outright to leave the premises of a general meeting concerning the church, just because he was upset about a legitimate question the individual ask, BN got frustated and said " who does he think he is to ask such a question to me". At another meeting a clergyman was making a suggestion to correct a situation, and politely ask if the situation can be resolved the way the clergy suggested, BN replies "who's way yours or mine" the clergy got intimitated and said your way. We know our own people because we live with them 24/7/365, and they do the best that they can with the best that they have, and still it was not good enough for Bn, all things had to be too his perfection.
The previous clergy, some in blessed memory now, heeded to the needs of their flock to the best of their ability, because they understood the situations that we live in and how hard it was just to meet the basic living conditions of our people in the very remote parts of Alaska. BN knows of these conditions, and still would not accept them, wherever he (BN) went, all living conditions had to be perfect otherwise he would leave the towns. Can we help it if we don"t meet his expectations? We try hard to give the best that we have, BUT NO DICE. WE only fight back when we have been backed into the furthertest corner that we can be put into and now that is where our alaskan native people are at and want to come out and live free once again, without feeling fear, intimidated and guilty. What else can we do when we didn't have a chance to speak, but to sit back and take it in, now we have a voice, one united voice amongst our people and we are all crying out "ENOUGH, SHUT UP OR PUT UP" plain and simply as that. I mean a person can only take so much, no matter who you are, eventually you have to stand up and defend yourself, isn't that what we do in our daily lives anyway, not to do harm but to remedy the situation and to restore our selves back to reality. We are speaking from our hearts and not from our minds, because our hearts are aching and telling our minds to do something about the current situation that we are in. PLEASE for the sake of our PEOPLE and our BELOVED CHURCH, NOT BN CHURCH, BUT GOD"S HOUSE OF WORSHIP, help us, pray for us and maybe fight with us
QUYANA CAKNEQ, Thank you very Much
#36 Pauk on 2008-02-23 10:39
There was a story recently about a Protestant youth minister in Texas who confessed that at the age of 16 he had murdered a convenience store clerk during a robbery. The man is going to prison. He confessed his crime out of his love for God. If he maintains that love in prison, the man will be justified.
The OCA and indeed the entire Orthodox Church in the United States is in the shape it is in simply because we love the created thing more than the Creator. It will not change unless we do. Simply changing bishops will not solve the problem.
Obviously Nikolai has not acted out of love for God, in response to his actions we must be careful not to commit the same mistake. It is heartening to see that action is finally occuring. Fr. Andrew above is quite right. Stand up in love and truth. Do not repay evil with evil but do not submit to evil either.
I pray daily that righteousness prevail and that God succor His people.
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, especially St. Herman, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us and save us.
#37 Michael B on 2008-02-23 10:47
As with your sermons, which with blessed ears I was privileged to hear, so your printed words stand as testimonies to your love of our Orthodox motherland, Alaska, and most of all, of your love for our Faith. I grieve for your plight, this tyranny that you now face. This is all amazing and all so sad. What a betrayal of the Faith! I guess if only St Photios had instructed Sts. Cyril and Methodius to make the Slavs learn the Greek Liturgy none of this would have happened. We in the OCA, the Alaskans included, would all be good little Helleniacs, and not have to worry about Russian and Church Slavonic. Therefore, it must be the fault of the Sts. (I mean no disrespect to the Greeks–I have learned it quite apart from being Orthodox.)
But wait, for a good reason St. Photios ordered our Holy Fathers among the Sts, Cyril and Methodius, equal to the Apostles, to translate the liturgy into the native language of the Moravians. As St. Cyril pointed out to those who thought the liturgy could only be in Latin, Greek or Hebrew, and echoing St. Paul, there is no language without significance, and as at the birth of the Church, God gave to all men to hear in their own language the wonderful works of God. Now, I guess, St. Cyril could add a fourth language. That this denial of the basic teaching which gave us Slavonic in the first instance has been allowed, and that this continues is only testimony to how far we have strayed. We are without shepherds, without direction, without purpose, and without relevance. It would seem we have nothing to say to the lost masses of America other than come try our pierogies, come here our liturgy, come see our bishops in their nice cars with their handsome retinues and nice vestments. Is this what Sts. Cyril and Methodius faced prison and persecution for, so that we could become cultural artifacts, and not even good ones at that? Is this what has happened to the Church of the humble monk Herman, to all our American fathers among the Sts? Is there anyone with a vision beyond this ghetto?
To (mis)quote (and misapply) two non-Russians: Syosset delenda est, et Ecrasez l'infame.
Through all of your prayers,
#38 Cyril on 2008-02-23 11:19
On the last line of my first paragraph, I should note that I mean no disrespect to the Greeks, for I learned to love Greek (and Greece) even before I became Orthodox. One of my minor fields for my graduate work was Byzantine history.
#38.1 Cyril on 2008-02-23 18:47
A quick note:
Fr. Michael Oleksa's letter is worthy of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Careful, Father, since you're under "house arrest," and will probably be punished for your writings -- you're lining yourself up for a Nobel Peace Prize. Thank you for having the courage to "speak-up" on behalf of the faithful in the great 49th State.
As for "Russia" or "Not Russia," I for one did not see the letter as an example of "bigotry," as mentioned by other. But, as a relative new-comer to the the OCA, I have at times been confused, given such entities as ROCOR, and so forth, why the OCA diocese is called the "Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska." It certainly makes it sound like a part of ROCOR or something, and must be quite confusing to outsiders (potential converts).
As for me, I wear a "Russian" cross of St. Andrew around my neck, in the hope that if I keel over dead somewhere, at least maybe someone would recognize the cross as "Orthodox," and find a suitable, Orthodox priest to give me a proper Orthodox burial. At that point, I won't be too concerned about the jurisdiction or the ethnicity of the available priest!
So, Ms. Jacobs and Fr. Isidore have resigned from the Metropolitan Council? That's interesting. I'm not quite sure what kind of strategy that supports, but very interesting development. Why would they not want to have the platform and voting power of MC membership through which to voice their views? Of course, it almost goes without saying that +Nikolai told them to submit their resignations; I don't know what he or his cause gains by it, however; unless he's planning a break-away; seems rather odd to resign from the MC at this point, however, unless he's intent on severing all ties with the OCA and its governing bodies. Hmmmm ... I don't know if anyone's minding the store back in Syosset, but if so, you might want to get a court-order for an injunction against +Nikolai or any other authority, perceived authority, or pseudo-authority in Alaska, to prevent them from selling any OCA-owned Alaska Lands. Given what's going-on there, I'm sure you'd be able to find a sympathetic State Court judge to keep +Nikolai and his operatives from trying to walk-out with all the Titles in his pocket, as though they were Bearer-Bonds. Someone else like ROCOR or M.P. might not welcome him so readily if he doesn't come in-tow with all the Church property in his kit-bag.
Also, if you're the Synod, you might note that, I once had a conversation with one of +Nikolai's lieutenants who told me a pretty detailed story about their plans to get access to some significant money from the "oil spill settlement" fund.
#39 Stephen Morgan on 2008-02-23 11:42
Good on you Stephen for mentioning the possibility of Nikolai making off with Alaska Lands. He's already made of with quite a few $$ in mortgaging several in years past. It's already been discussed up here what he might do with taking the lands with him...as we already know his mindset. As for getting any of the Exxon monies, if anyone gets any, we're hoping he and his 'family' will be long gone. His days are numbered. And he knows it.
We here in Kodiak thank you all, for your prayers, concern, advise, discussion, and support. We just want to be able to be walking into our church in peace and prayer, dedication and faith.
May God Bless us all, even Nikola et al.....and that's a very difficult thing for me to say, but I must forgive before I can be forgiven.
#39.1 Raisa on 2008-02-24 13:37
It is no wonder that we the clergy and Alaskan natives have been suggested to have our laity who getting the funds,(EXXON OIL SPILL MONIES) donate to the church, this goes to say that we aren't supposed to give to the church, by all means give what you have, remember the story of the widow who gave only two pence, all of what she had. Not be intimidated to give all that you have, isn't it 10% that we are to give or rather our first offering, give out of the goodness of our heart, NOT BE TOLD WE MUST GIVE OR ELSE! These are some of the issues that we contend with in Alaska. Not to change the subject, but we (CLERGY) have been asked to going into Anchoage, where BN resides to have a "MEETING" about the whole situaton, HMMM, I wonder what is up now? more intimidation and guilt feeling. REMEMBER THIS WE DIDN'T START ANTHING WE JUST TOOK IT!!
#39.2 Pauk on 2008-02-24 15:02
Will wonders ever cease, posted on a Saturday night about something that happened over a month ago, and now we hear about it. It appears that there must be some communication problems in the OCA, or is the old system back again? I would think that the information posted now, if correct would have been posted a while ago, and not on a Saturday night. I wonder if any notification tonight would have occurred if the situation had not come forward on the net. The OCA Chancery must be burning candles way past the Vigil to finally post it in the middle of the night darkness than in the light of day when one would expect such a posting. Perhaps we need more dates and times to confirm what is now happening.
It does appear that the coverup continues until we the Church bring
forth what is going on. Does our mistrust continue? Is the problem
in Alaska, Syosset, or both?
Perhaps we need to:
"Have faith in the action of the Holy Spirit!
"The People have recourse and it is this... When Met. Isadore returned to Russia following the (Pseudo) Council of Florence, bringing with him the Roman re-union formula, he was set upon BY THE PEOPLE and imprisoned. He eventually escaped and fled back to Rome. St Mark of Ephesus returned east and he AND THE PEOPLE rejected the false union. The People can rise up and displace the errant Hierarchs with men who will follow the call of the Holy Spirit and TOGETHER WITH THE PEOPLE administer the Church."
"How do you think we ended up with 100's of tiny Old Calendarist
groups? ( I am chuckling as I write this) You get 2 or 3 legitimate
Bishops who agree with the line/tach that your group wants to follow
and they will consecrate your candidates to the Episcopacy. There
ARE good Bishops out there and you simply need to find them and ask their help."
"Orthodox Bishops are not Monarchs, or princes of the Church. Could
it be that this monarchical line of thought came into Orthodoxy from
Russia's contact with the West? Certainly there are adequate examples of ideas the Russian Church "borrowed" from Roman Catholics, maybe this is one of them? Bishops are monks and as such are not to live a lavish life style such as were given to Roman Bishops in medieval Europe. Bishops ought be ordinary people with an extraordinary calling."
Written on the Orthodox Forum earlier under the Subject: The Rudder/Pedalion Message #75007 by Eli Stamos.
If this act had not happened, would we even have an Orthodox Church today?
Chaplain (MAJ) Nicholas Czaruk
US Army Retired
--- In Orthodox-Forum@yahoogroups.com, Bill Samsonoff wrote:
> OCA Chancellor issues statement regarding Diocese of Alaska
> Article posted: 2/23/2008 9:20 PM
> SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] -- Archpriest Alexander Garklavs,
> Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, has released the
> following comment regarding the Diocese of Alaska.
> "The OCA Chancery is receiving mail and e-mail from clergy of the
> Diocese of Alaska. There are indications that serious issues exist
> that may need to be addressed. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman is
> aware of the situation and has been in touch with His Grace, Bishop
> Nikolai and members of the Holy Synod. We would also like to correct
> a news item which appeared on the internet. The resignation of the
> two Metropolitan Council Representatives from the Diocese of Alaska
> was in fact communicated in a letter from His Grace, Bishop Nikolai
> to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman. In January, Archimandrite
> Isidore and Minadora Jacobs had submitted their resignations to
> Bishop Nikolai, who blessed their requests and subsequently notified
> Metropolitan Herman about this last week."
#40 Chaplain (MAJ) Nicholas A. Czaruk, US Army Retired on 2008-02-23 21:55
Dear Frs Alexander, Andrew and Michael,
Thank you for your recent posting on the OCA website concerning the Alaska concerns. It is a small statement, a simple gesture, but I would say that it speaks volumes about the good character of those who are now running our chancery.
I am going out on a limb here, although with some degree of confidence, but one might assume that this was done in response to an earlier posting on this site wondering if such a statement would be made. If this is the case, I am comforted that our new chancery leadership actually listens to the people and cares enough to do something about it.
Isn't it sad that this is how things must operate because the so-called metropolitan doesn't seem to care enough to do anything pro-active. Shouldn't it have been Herman to be the one as soon as the issues came up to call his staff (from PA or wherever he is these days) and ask them to make such a statement on his behalf because he cares that much about the people involved. His silence speaks volumes.
Fathers, you give us encouragement, but the bishops still give us shame.
#40.1 Anonymous on 2008-02-24 18:58
A Prayer on Behalf of our Priests
O Lord, let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; let them always remember the greatness of their calling; let them not be entangled in the snares of the world and the devil; let them be saved from the cares of the world, the delight in riches, and the desire for other things entering into their hearts.
St. John of Kronstadt
#41 Ambrose on 2008-02-24 02:01
My prayers go out to the people of Alaska, in particular, as well as the people of the OCA in general.
To those who share my Russian ancestry, but feel that Slavonic has a place in Alaskan life, I would ask, "If the language of the founders is so important, then why is Greek not used in a similar manner in the Russian Church?" This "faux Rus" behavior by +Nikolai is so similar to the behavior of +Tikhon, former Bishop of Los Angeles, Nikolai's mentor, benefactor and advocate. It is an affectation that persists, no matter how often either proclaimed or heard the Gospel lesson of the Publican and the Pharisee.
This "faux Rus" logic has been twisted so that rather than understanding that at times we must accept the suffering that results from a fallen mankind, these bishops seek to cause the suffering themselves. They have heard and proclaimed the Gospel of the Last Judgment all their lives, yet cannot live it.
It is "faux Rus", because these men, and their most avid followers are not Rus, have never lived in the Rus lands, and have never dwelled in a truly Rus society. They simply try to impose their own distorted, second and third hand ideas of being Rus upon those whom they can victimize.
And because it is "faux", it is, at its very heart, a lie. And the Church cannot thrive if it is build upon a falsehood, for falsehood is not fertile soil.
While the OCA may not be a "failed experimant", from afar, it truly appears to be failing. Your numbers are dwindling. Freewill offerings given to benefit the needy have been squandered to feed the desires of your leadership. All too often, bishops willfully cause spiritual suffering and pain in the exercise of despotic power. Benign neglect appears to be the modus operandi of your Synod.
My prayers are lifted for you. In my most humble opinion, this is not what Christ had in mind for his people.
#42 Overseas Observer on 2008-02-24 02:05
Growing up in rural Alaska as the child of a priest was not easy, but as I got older I started to understand and appreciate the hardships we had. There were times that I got rebelious and did not come to church but NEVER did I ever feel unwelcome, like I did the last time I went to church.
Growing up, I remember being so excited especially when it was going to be conference time because Bishop Gregory was going to be in the village. The whole village (and visitors from near and far) would be at the runway waiting for his arrival. I remember thinking how lucky those who lived in his home parish were to have the Bishop there, but not today- not with Bishop Nickolai, it is stressful to say the least. I have, regretfully, stopped attending services because I do NOT like feeling that I am there to please Vladyka, I want to return to going to church to worship our Heavenly Father and pray.
I pray for the day that we can return to wearing dresses (even if they look like Kuspuks) without feeling like we did something wrong--yet there are those who wear dresses that barely cover anything and that is okay, where is the logic? But that is not my point, this is just one example of the many things that I have witnessed that does not make sense since Bishop Nicholai came to be the ruling Bishop of Alaska.
I am so proud of Fathers Phillip, Peter and Victor for courageously speaking up, my prayers are with you all and your parishes. Thanks to Father Oleksa for feeling as they and not staying quiet. I ask for forgiveness if I have offended anyone, especially my dad. I pray that I can return to church real soon without feeling stressed and confused instead of fulfilled like I did before Bishop Nicholai came to Alaska.
I pray for forgiveness for not being brave enough to post my name and saying anything at all.
#43 child of native priest on 2008-02-24 04:01
Dear Child of Native Priest,
You are also very brave and courageous, the Good Lord will hear your prayers and relieve us of our suffering. I know you are not the only one to feel all of this is your fault but it IS NOT. Many wonderful things are happening in this Diocese so that people like "native priests sons daughters" will not feel like that anymore. No one should ever be under a man like them.
I for one support in solidarity with my brother priests to have BN and Isidor removed from this precious God Protected Diocese.
May Our Blessed Father Herman, Holy Father Yakov Enlightener and Baptiser of the Native People of Alaska and all new marytrs and confessors of Russia and Alaska continue to protect us through their prayers,
#43.1 Archpriest Peter Askoar on 2008-02-25 15:50
I'm not sure what is going on with all this. Sometiems I can't believe my ears.....
Which is more important?...the Nicholai and Alaska situation or the missing money from contributions? They both seem to be big stories.
Now I see that a delegation of ROCOR bishops goes to the representation Church of the OCA in Moscow and sings Many Years to Herman. Don't they have a clue about whats going on. ? Unbelievable.
#44 Scott on 2008-02-24 04:43
Scott, have no fears, ROCOR knows exactly what is going on in the OCA. You must take into consideration that it is proper for many years to be sung. However, you must look into it further, I am sure that the majority of the delegation were grinding their teeth when many years was intoned. Besides, in all reality even thougth St. Catherines is the representation Church, do you really believe that they are OCA. They have nothing at all in common with the OCA here in the States (except they have to mention herman). I do believe it is a matter of time before the OCA is completly on the outside looking in.
#44.1 Joseph on 2008-02-24 22:03
People mistrust, are supicious of and some just down right hate Russia, yet they want the Russians (ROCOR, MP or otherwise) to give a flip about what happens to the OCA. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. They sing the metropolitan many years and we get all worked up.....would you have them sing "Few Years" instead? Would like to see his days shortened? I don't particularly like him, but I don't wish him dead. I'm confused.
#44.2 Bautista Cabrera on 2008-02-25 11:00
In a word--YES! But maybe they really didn't. (see other posts).
#44.2.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-02-25 15:29
Scott, On behalf of Met. Laurus and the delegation who visited St. Catherines's Oca church in Moscow, please view the photo-report and see, who sang Many Years for Herman. It was the Oca priest; who served the Molieben, and whom were vested, not the ROCOR delegation.They know what is going on.
#44.3 annonymous on 2008-02-25 12:04
---Here's the answer!---
Married Bishops in the Orthodox Church
If a man desire the office of a Bishop, he desires a good work. A Bishop
then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ...ruling well his own
house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.
[1 Timothy 3:1-4]
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the
things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city as I had
appointed you; If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having
faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.
Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother
lying sick with a fever.
But Simon's wife's mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about
her at once.
Now He arose from the Synagogue and entered Simon's house. But Simon's
wife's mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him
First, we must establish the Biblical and thus traditional position of
the Orthodox Church regarding the issue of married clergy. Secondly, we
must be against the allegations made by (some) Orthodox that the
consecration of married men to the office of bishop is supposedly
"uncanonical", somehow "unorthodox", or even worse, "heretical".
St Peter the Apostle
Undoubtedly, St. Peter and virtually all Apostles were married. Their
marriage clearly did not nullify being chosen as Apostles by Christ.
There is no reference to any children of the marriage, before or after
the call as an Apostle. There is a clear Orthodox tradition that St
Peter dedicated himself completely (lived celibate from that time on) to
Christ from the time of his call. This can be seen in the following
words of St Clement of Alexandria:They say, accordingly, that the
blessed Peter, on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of
her call and conveyance home, and called very encouragingly and
comfortingly, addressing her by name, 'Remember the Lord'. Such was the
marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition towards those
dearest to them. Thus also the Apostle says, 'That he who marries should
be as though he married not', and deem his marriage free of inordinate
affection, and inseparable from love to the Lord; to which the true
husband exhorted his wife to cling on her departure out of this life to
the Lord. [p.541, Book 7, The Stromata, Clement of Alexandria, Ante
Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2]
Evidence of Married Bishops in the early Church
The father of the Cappodacian Saints was a Married Bishop. The elder
Gregory was converted by the influence of his wife, Nonna; and soon
after his conversion was consecrated to the bishopric of Nazianzus
[p.187, Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7]
(Note: This is Gregory the elder, not his son St Gregory Nazianzus).
Note that, There are two lines in his poem of St Gregory Nazienzan on
his own life which seem to indicate clearly that his birth took place
after his father's elevation to the Episcopate... [p.188, Prolegomena,
Sect. 1, Vol 7].
Basil left before him and returned to Cappadocia; and as soon as he
could follow he went to Constantinople, where he met his brother, who
had just come there to practice and return with his brother to
Nazianzus. They found their parents still living and their father
occupying the Episcopal Throne. From this time onward Gregory divided
his time between his parents and his friend; living partly at Arianzus,
and partly with Basil in Pontus, in monastic seclusion. [p.191,
Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Vol. 7].
Gregory,...felt very strongly drawn to the monastic life; but as
retirement from the world did not seem to him to be his vocation, he
resolved to continue to live in the world, and to be a help and support
to his now aged parents, and especially to his father in the duties of
his Episcopate, but at the same time to live under the strictest ascetic
In 374, Gregory the elder died, and his wife also, and thus our saint
was set free from the charge of the diocese. [p.195, ibid.]
Early Tradition on the marriage of St Gregory of Nyssa
Here it is usual to place the marriage of Gregory with Theosebeia, said
to have been a sister of Gregory Nazianzus. Certainly the tradition of
Gregory's (Nyssa) marriage received such credit as to be made in after
times a proof of the non-celibacy of the Bishops of his age. [p.3, A
Sketch of the Life of St Gregory of Nyssa, Second Series, Vol. 5]
St John Chrysostom on married Hierarchs
'A Bishop then,' he says, 'must be blameless the husband of one wife.'
This he does not lay down as a rule, as if he must not be without one,
but as prohibiting his having more than one. [p.438, First Series, Vol.
13, St John Chrysostom, Homily X, Homilies on Timothy]
If then 'he who is married cares for the things of the world' (1 Cor.
7:33), and a bishop ought not to care for the things of the world, why
does he say 'the husband of one wife'? Some indeed think that he says
this with reference to one who remains free from a wife. But if
otherwise, he that has a wife may be as though he had none (1 Cor.
7:29). For that liberty was then properly granted, as suited to the
nature of the circumstances then existing. And it is very possible, if a
man will, to regulate his conduct. [p. 438, ibid.]
'Having his children in subjection with all gravity.' This is necessary,
that an example might be exhibited in his own house. [p.439. ibid.]
Verse 6: 'If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful
children, not accused of riot, or unruly.' Why does he bring forward
such a one? To stop the mouths of those heretics who condemned marriage,
showing that it is not an unholy thing in itself, but so far honorable,
that a married man might ascend the holy throne; and at the same
reproving the wanton, and not permitting their admission into this high
office who contracted a second marriage. For he who retains no kind
regard for her who is departed, how shall he be a good presider? [p.524,
Works of St John Chrysostomos, Homily on Titus, Homily 2, First Series,
'Having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.' We should
observe what care he bestows upon children. For he who cannot be the
instructor of his own children, how should he be the Teacher of
others?...But, if occupied in the pursuit of wealth, he has made his
children a secondary concern, and not bestowed much care upon them, even
so he is unworthy. For if when nature prompted, he was so void of
affection or so senseless, that he thought more of his wealth than of
his children, how should he be raised to the episcopal throne, and so
great a rule? [pp. 524/5, ibid.]
St Athanasius the Apostolic:But I have also thought it necessary to
inform you of the fact, that Bishops have succeeded those who have
fallen asleep. In Tanis, in the stead of Elias, is Theodorus. In
Arsenoitis, Silvanus instead of Nonnus. In Bucolia is Heraclius. In
Tentyra, Andronicus is instead of Saprion, his father. In Thebes, Philon
instead of Philon, etc. [pp.538/9, Letter 12, Sect. 2, Letters of St
Athanasius, Second Series, Vol. IV, Athanasius]
For we know both bishops who fast, and monks who eat. We know bishops
that drink no wine, as well as monks who do. We know bishops who work
wonders, as well as monks who do not. Many also of the bishops have not
even married, while monks have been fathers of children; just as
conversely we know bishops who are fathers of children and monks 'of the
completest kind'. [p.560, Letter 49, Sect. 9, ibid.]
St Ambrose of Milan
And so the Apostle have given a pattern, saying that a bishop 'must be
blameless', and in another place: 'A bishop must be without offence, as
a steward of God, not proud, not soon angry, not given to wine, not a
striker, not greedy of filthy lucre.' For how can the compassion of a
dispenser of alms and the avarice of a covetous man agree together? I
have set down these things which I have been told are to be avoided, but
the apostle is the master of virtues, and he teaches that gainsayers are
to be convicted with patience, who lays down that one should be the
husband of a single wife, not in order to exclude him from the right of
marriage (for this is beyond the force of the precept), but that by
conjugal chastity he may preserve the grace of his baptismal washing;
nor again that he may be induced by the Apostle's authority to beget
children in the priesthood; for he speaks of having children, not of
begetting them, or marrying again. [p.465, Chapters 61 & 62, Letter 63,
St Ambrose, Second Series,Vol. 10]
The Marriage of Church Dignitaries: But, while dealing with the passage,
I would say that we will be able perhaps now to understand and clearly
set forth a question which is hard to grasp and see into, with regard to
the legislation of the Apostle concerning ecclesiastical matters; for
Paul wishes no one of those of the church, who has attained to any
eminence beyond the many, as is attained in the administration of the
sacraments, to make trial of a second marriage. For laying down the law
in regard to bishops in the first Epistle to Timothy, he says, 'If a man
seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop,
therefore, must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate,
sober-minded,' etc.; and, in regard to deacons, 'Let the deacons,' he
says, 'be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own
houses well,' etc. ... And, in the Epistle to Titus, 'For this cause,'
he says, 'I left thee in Crete that thou shouldest set in order the
things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city as I gave
thee charge. If any one is blameless, the husband of one wife, having
children, that believe'. Now, when we saw that some who have been
married twice may be much better than those who have been married once,
we were perplexed why Paul does not at all permit those who have been
twice married to be appointed to ecclesiastical dignities; for also it
seemed to me that such a thing was worthy of examination, as it was
possible that a man, who had been unfortunate in two marriages, and had
lost his second wife while he was yet young, might have lived for the
rest of his years up to old age in the greatest self-control and
chastity. Who, then, would not naturally be perplexed why at all, when a
ruler of the church is being sought for, we do not appoint such a man,
though he has been twice married, because of the expressions about
marriage, but lay hold of the man who has been once married as our
ruler, even if he chance to have lived to old age with his wife, and
sometimes may not have been disciplined in chastity and temperance? But,
from what is said in the law about the bill of divorcement, I reflect
whether, seeing that the bishop and the presbyter and the deacon are a
symbol of things that truly exist in accordance with these names, he
wished to appoint those who were figuratively once married. [pp.509/10,
Book XIV, Origen's Commentary on Matthew, Vol. X, Ante Nicene Fathers]
Councils of the Church
Canon V of the Canons of the Twelve Apostles (Apostolic Canons):Let not
a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of
religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he
persists, let him be deposed.
Canon LI of the Apostolic Canons:If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or
any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or
wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them,
forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male
and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected,
or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman.
In conclusion, the Apostolic Canons represent the very early Canon Law
of the Church, that the Canons which make up the collection are of
various dates, but that most of them are earlier than the year 300, and
that while it is not possible to say exactly when the collection, as we
now have it, was made, there is good reason for assigning it a date not
later than the middle of the fourth century.... There can be no question
that in the East the Apostolic Canons were very generally looked upon as
a genuine work prepared by the Holy Apostles. [p. 592, Vol.XIV, The
Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church
Quinisext Council (Fifth-Sixth)
[sometimes called the "Trullon Synod"]
Canon XII:Moreover, this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa
and Libya, and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those
parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration,
thereby giving scandal and offence to the people. Since, therefore, it
is our particular care that all things tend to the good of the flock
placed in our hands and committed to us - it has seemed good that
henceforth nothing of the kind shall in any way occur. And we say this,
not to abolish and overthrow what things were established of old by
Apostolic authority, but as caring for the health of the people and
their advance to better things, and lest the ecclesiastical state should
suffer any reproach...But if any shall have been observed to do such a
thing, let him be deposed.
Commentary by Aristenus:The fifth Apostolic canon allows neither bishop,
presbyter, nor deacons to cast forth his wife under pretext of piety;
and assigns penalties for any that shall do so, and if he will not amend
he is to be deposed. But this canon on the other hand does not permit a
bishop even to live with his wife after his consecration. But by this
change no contempt is meant to be poured out upon what had been
established by Apostolic authority, but it was made through care for the
people's health and for leading on to better things, and for fear that
the sacerdotal estate might suffer some wrong.
Van Espen:In the time of this Canon (of the Apostles) not only
presbyters and deacons, but bishops also, it is clear, were allowed by
Eastern custom to have their wives; and Zonaras and Balsamon note that
even until the Sixth Council, commonly called in Trullo, bishops were
allowed to have their wives.
Canon XLVII:The wife of him who is advanced to hierarchical dignity,
shall be seperated from her husband by their mutual consent, and after
his ordination and consecration to the episcopate she shall enter a
monastery situated at a distance from the abode of the bishop, and there
let her enjoy the bishop's provision. And if she is deemed worthy she
may be advanced to the dignity of a deaconess.
On the Marriage of the Clergy
The doctrine and practice of the ancient Church in the East can be
fittingly quoted in the words of the Rev. John Fulton in the
introduction to the Third Edition of his Index Canonum [p.29, NY, 1892].
He says, Marriage was no impediment to ordination even as a Bishop; and
bishops, Priests and Deacons, equally with other men, were forbidden to
put away their wives under pretext of religion. The case was different
when a man was unmarried at the time of his ordination. Then he was held
to have given himself wholly to God in the office of the Holy Ministry,
and he was forbidden to take back from his offering that measure of his
cares and his affections which must necessarily be given to the
maintenance and nurture of his family. [p.365, Vol. XIV, The Seven
Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church.
St. Demetrius the Vine Dresser (Egyptian Patriarch)
The Coptic Orthodox Synaxarian records one of the early Patriarchs of
the Church of Alexandria as being a married man. The record states he
had lived a celibate life since the beginning of marriage and it is not
known whether this is a later redaction to cover the obvious conflict
that would ensue otherwise. In any case, the fact of his enthronement
again confirms that the tradition of the Church at that time did not
consider marriage to be a bar to even hold the highest office of the
The Byzantine Church
In 1990, an article from The Orthodox Observer, a Greek Orthodox
Archdiocese of North and South America publication, states, At the 1992
meeting of the clergy-laity conference of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
of North and South America (Archbishop Iacovos), held in New Orleans, a
formal resolution was sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
Constantinople 'to consider returning to the practice of ordaining
married priests as bishops as was done in the early church.' ... Earlier
in December 1991, the Greek Archdiocese stated that it was the original
practice of the Church for a married Episcopate. Please also note that
Archbishop Iakovos promoted the return of married bishops to worldwide
Orthodoxy and agreed that individual jurisdictions could retain the
Apostolic tradition of the Early Church.
Various Practices Regarding the Episcopacy
 Celibate/Monastics Only: The majority position amongst the Eastern
Orthodox which has a large well of monastics to draw from. Also the
position amongst the Oriental Orthodox, who, like their Eastern
brethren, have a vibrant monastic community. Many of these Churches,
having had married bishops in the early Church, did however draw from
their monastics for over one thousnad years (Armenians seemingly being
the exception). However, it is noted that even amongst the Eastern
Orthodox it is not unusual to elect a Priest to the Episcopacy whose
wife has reposed first. Evidence is overwhelming that in the Orthodox
Tradition marriage is not a bar to consecration. Economia and the will
of the Orthodox Christians in the traditional homelands do not lend
themselves to changing this current practice, which has served their
churches very well for centuries.
 Married but dedicated Celibacy: The traditional position regarding
the Apostles (St Peter, for example) and many of the married men that
have been elevated in times past (St Demetrius the Vinedresser amongst
the Coptic Orthodox, for instance) is supported by the Canonical
authority of the Fifth-Sixth Council (Canons 12 and 47-see above).
However, if the dedicated celibacy was due to the heretical view that
marital relations were not honorable (sinful) then a clear rejection of
the fifth and fifty-first canons of the Apostolic Canons would apply
placing the rejector under anathema. This is an acceptable position when
the Church is in a missionary situation as it was in the days of the
Apostles and early centuries (and currently amongst the Western
hemispherre), but is not as needed when a large pool of spiritual
monastics is granted to the Church by God. The practice is that the
married couple live celibate from the time of dedication or
consecration, usually with the wife also entering into monastic
lifestyle or a community and frequently being received as a dedicated
 Married but not dedicated Celibacy: Perhaps the least controversial
position due to the fact that the Bishop has not lived or promised to
live a celibate life from consecration. Those who reject this position
outright often bring the following verse to bear: "He who is married is
concerned for his wife and the affairs of the world", alongside St
Paul's words that it is 'better' to remain as he was, i.e. celibate.
There are also references (see above) of married bishopes that bore
children in lawful Christian marriage after their consecration (although
far less frequently and often alongside later attempts by writers to
re-write the facts of the matter). The Biblical references relating to
the bishop being married and having in submission his children does not
imply that the children came after the elevation to the Episcopate.
However, the lawful Christian state of marriage itself determines that
the married but not celibate Episcopate has not committed any sin that
would prevent him from consecration. Of course not all things that are
'lawful are also expedient' and thus, this third position causes much
confusion and consternation amongst some Orthodox. The Canons of the
Fifth-Sixth Council direct all married bishopes to seperate from their
wives and live a dedicated life and these are often quoted by those who
deny the correctness of this position. However, the earlier Apostolic
Canons direct the exact opposite that one was not allowed to put away
ones wife. Obviously this matter falls well within the oiconomia of the
bishops in a particular Synod to determine the married epicopate for
Various Objections Raised Regarding a Married Episcopacy
The Church decided in later centuries to change to monastic bishops only.
At a number of question forums where the laity have a chance to ask
various Bishops for their response to why the Church no longer has
married Bishops (as Holy Scriptures allow and the Church Fathers attest
to) we found that the common answer is often:The whole church decided to
change the practice in the third century. The response from the blessed
bishops is somewhat ill-informed and assumed to be the case, rather than
defacto is the case:
[a] The Universal Church made no such declaration in the 3rd
century nor the centuries immediately following that time.
[b] The exact opposite actually occurred. At the 1st Ecumenical
Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the Western (Roman) legates attempted force
Canons requiring celibacy of all clergy. These attempted amendments
however failed, and a large part of their failure were the words of St
Paphnutius of the Church of Alexandria, a Saint and miracle worker who
was famed and respected across the empire, even receiving admiration
from the Emperor himself. What made St Paphnutius' words even more
immpressive is that he himself had been a celibate monastic since
entering the life as a teenager. Here a strictly ascetic monastic argued
against the enforced celibacy of any rank of the Church's offices (cf.
Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, Volume 14, The Seven Ecumenical
Councils:"Proposed Action on Celibacy"):
that too heavy a yoke ought not to be laid upon the clergy; that
marriage and married intercourse are of themselves honorable and
undefiled; that the Church ought not to be injured by an extreme
severity, for all could not live in absolute continency. In this way (by
not prohibiting marrital relations) the virtue of the wife would be much
more certainly preserved (viz. the wife of a clergyman, because she
might find injury elsewhere, if her husband withdrew from the marriage).
The intercourse of a man with his lawful wife may also be a chaste
intercourse. It would therefore be sufficient, according to the ancient
tradition of the Church, if those who had taken holy orders without
being married were prohibited from marrying afterwards; but those
clergymen who had been married only once as laymen, were not to be
separated from their wives.
This discourse of St. Paphnutius made so much more of an
impression, since he had never lived in matrimony himself, and had had
no conjugal intercourse. St. Paphnutius had been brought up in a
monastery, and his great purity of manners had rendered him especially
celebrated. Therefore the Council took the serious words of the Egyptian
bishop into consideration, stopped all discussion upon the law, and left
to each cleric the responsibility of deciding the point as he would. We
must conclude that a law was proposed at the Council of Nicaea in the
same way as the one which had been carried twenty years previously at
Elvira, Spain. This coincidence would lead us to believe that it was the
Spaniard Hosius who proposed the law respecting celibacy at Nicaea. The
discourse ascribed to St. Paphnutius, and the consequent decision of the
Synod, agree very well with the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, and
with the whole practice of the Greek Church in respect to celibacy.
Both, the Greek Church as well as the Latin one accepted this principle,
that whoever had taken holy orders before marriage, ought not to be
married afterwards. In the Latin Church, bishops, priests, deacons. and
even subdeacons, were considered to be subject to this law, because the
latter were at a very early period reckoned among the higher servants of
the Church, which was not the case in the Greek Church. The Greek Church
went so far as to allow deacons to marry after their ordination, if they
had obtained permission from their bishop to do so. The Council of
Ancyra affirms this (Canon 10). We see that the Greek Church wishes to
leave the bishop free to decide the matter; but, in reference to
priests, it also prohibited them from marrying after their ordination.
While the Latin Church exacted of those presenting themselves for
ordination, even as subdeacons, that they should not continue to live
with their wives (if they were married), the Greek Church gave no such
prohibition; but if the wife of an ordained clergyman died, the Greek
Church allowed no second marriage. The Apostolic Constitutions decided
this point in the same way. To leave their wives from a pretext of piety
was also forbidden to Greek priests; and the Synod of Gangra (Canon 4)
took up the defence of married priests against the Eustathians.
Eustathius, however, was not alone among the Greeks opposing the
marriage of all clerics, and in desiring to introduce into the Greek
Church the Latin discipline regarding this matter. St. Epiphanius also
inclined towards this side. The Greek Church did not, however, adopt
this rigour in reference to priests, deacons, and subdeacons, but by
degrees it came to be required of bishops and of the higher order of
clergy in general, that they should live in celibacy. Yet this was not
until after the compilation of the Apostolic Canons (Canon 5) and of the
Constitutions; for in those documents mention is made of bishops living
in wedlock, and Church history shows that there were married bishops
(for instance, Bishop Synesius in the fifth century). But it is fair to
remark, even as to Synesius, that he made it an express condition of his
election to the episcopate, that he might continue to live the married
life. Thomassin believes that Synesius did not seriously require this
condition, and only spoke thus for the sake of escaping the episcopal
office; which would seem to imply that in his time Greek bishops had
already begun to live in celibacy. At the Trullan Synod (Canon 13) the
Greek Church finally settled the question of the marriage of priests
(First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, Proposed Action on Clerical
Celibacy, Second Series, Vol. XIV, pp. 51/2)
 The Church enforced celibate Bishops to stop Nepotism: This
explanation perhaps gives us the clearest reason why the Church moved
away from married bishops. Nepotism is where the ecclesiastical dignity
is passed down from father to son and becomes a sort of family empire,
something that the Church can never be. This phenomen can be seen today,
for instance in the Billy Graham and Pat Robertson enterprises and other
ministries where the sons are effectively taking over as the inheritors
to their fathers. While this may not always be a bad thing or
necessarily against the will of God, it does lead to the confusion of
the laity who would begin to see an element of family empire building in
the making. In order to end the passing of ecclesiastical properties as
inheritance to sons, the Church began to choose men who were never
married, and thus no claims for inheritance could be levelled. This
perhaps was valid during the days when the bishops held all property and
legal deeds, and incorpartions did not exist. Nowadays, at an age of
public disclosure of banking and financial accounts, with lay treasurers
and financial committees etc, there is little to no chance of such to occur.
 The need of an Ecumenical Council to change back: This is
seemingly a valid statement made by those who reject the married
Episcopate. They assert that since an Ecumenical council declared the
matter closed, then it requires another Ecumenical Council to change
that. This argument is flawed in a number of points: First, an
ecumenical council did NOT declare the matter closed. On the contrary,
The Council of Nicea refused to implement this discipline. Secondly, the
Fifth-sixth Council did NOT ban married bishops, but implemented a set
discipline upon them. Thirdly, there has not been an Ecumenical Council
since the schism of the Church and there is not likely to be one in any
foreseeable future. We no longer have Christian Emperors who can call an
Ecumenical Council, let alone the fact that the whole Roman Church would
obviously fail to attend any Council called by the East. Amusingly, the
answer (of needing another Ecumenical Council to settle the matter)
really does not deal with the issue but 'passes the buck' to some
indefinite, improbable future event. Such would not be acceptable from a
theological or cannonically viewpoint, since oiconomia has always
allowed the bishops to determine how to enforce or interpret the Canons
in their particular circumstances. Recently allowances in matters of
ecclesiastical discipline have been observed in a number of
jurisdictions, including priest's being able to remarry, bishops being
transferred to other dioceses, "Coadjutor" type bishops in dioceses that
are not under their authority, monks leaving their vows being allowed to
marry, more than one bishop in one city, etc. - Yet none of these recent
matters were left to a futuristic Ecumenical Council.
We believe the above information and the facts of history stand for
themselves and do not need a defence. It is rather the other side in
need of defence, from a Scriptural, Patristic and canonical point of
view. Additionally, the western hemnisphere is not like the homelands of
Eastern or Oriental Orthodoxy which had two thousand years of resources
to draw from suitable monastics availble for consecration. Though the
earlier Canons are believed by Orthodox tradition to come directly via
Apostolic authority, the later ones by an assumed one-size-fits-all
decision by the Fifth-sixth Council. Canonical commentators have not
been able to resolve the obvious differences other than simply to note
them. Oiconomia is the only way this issue should be resolved in the
Orthodox faith, as it always has. For one jurisdiction to use one set of
Canons against another jurisdiction's interpretation or oikonomia is
neither appropriate nor Orthodox!
[Source: Very Rev. James Scully, Australia]
#45 Here's the answer! on 2008-02-24 11:41
Thank you, "Here's the answer!"
Our pool of qualified candidates from the monastic ranks is just so few that it is scary.
I truly believe in the efficacy of a married episcopate. It would widen the pool of qualified candidates and do a lot for the morale of the church. I would hope this could be on the agenda of an ecumenical council before I pass on.
#45.1 Patty Schellbach on 2008-02-26 17:57
I stand in faith and love with Fr. Peter (Askoar), Fr. Victor (Nick), Fr. Phillip (Alexie), Fr. Michael (Oleksa), and all their suffering brother clergy and their families in Alaska, as well as the suffering faithful. I pray that the Holy Synod will act to protect God’s flock, planted firmly in America by St. Herman.
Lord have mercy on us!
I have heard for a couple years now a rumor that Nikolai was considering taking the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska under Moscow or ROCOR. I never thought it was possible legally, but does anyone know that for sure? Could he as bishop do that (assuming they'd take him)? The fact that they're withdrawing representation from the Metropolitan Council may be an indication of such an action -- like a country withdrawing ambassadors from the UN.
#47 Anonymous on 2008-02-24 20:53
TO THE LONG LINE OF BELOVED ALASKAN CLERGY: Glory be to Jesus Christ. Glory Forever. We STAND with you as ONE in this terrible time for Orthodoxy in Alaska and for all OCA members across the country who seek accountability. We have seen the same disrespectful and hurtful treatment by Bishop Nikolai toward the Kodiak parishioners, toward St. Herman's Seminary staff, professors and students, as you describe occurring in the villages and cities throughout the Alaskan Diocese. It is the same unacceptable treatment, though our cathedral priest Fr. Innocent Dresdow will deny this and defend the bishop. It is intolerable. Our newer converts and some seminarians active in our parish defend Bishop Nikolai, but the parish elders, the wrongly excommunicated, the abused, are suffering. Sadly we have stopped attending services at Holy Resurrection Cathedral, as injustices continue to be denied and unresolved, and discussion is not allowed. All is NOT well. You are probably already aware that Kodiak parishioners have been denied the sacrament of Holy Communion for such things as: not apologizing to the bishop after he ordered a woman out of the cathedral, in front of all present, for trying to explain the bishop's words to her hard of hearing companion; another for supposedly ignoring him by not attending the annual Pilgrimage to Spruce Island, another for having been married in the local (Bulgarian) St. Innocent's Academy chapel after being refused the sacrament of marriage at Holy Resurrection -- her Kodiak home parish. In Cordova, a parishioner (through the bishop) was refused the sacrament of marriage in her home parish, therefore got married in a protestant service. It is still an unexplained mystery why funeral services for the loved Orthodox and famed anthropologist Dr. Lydia Black of Blessed Memory had to be conducted in a Lutheran Church here by a Bulgarian Orthodox priest instead of at Holy Resurrection. A St. Herman's Seminary student was expelled becausde he refused to apologize for "looking" at +Nikolai while serving with him at the altar. We have been told that the Bishop has demeaned his altar servers by calling them despicable names while serving. We believe Ben Ardinger, one of the most faithful and long serving members of St. Herman's Board of Trustees, was fired most likely for questioning the wisdom and propriety over the "elimination" of Associate Dean of Students Paul Sidebottom's position at the Seminary, whom we now know has filed a federal complaint against +Nikolai with the EEOC after waiting in vain 9 months for a just internal investigation. We believe in Paul Sidebottom's truthfulness and strong commitment to the Seminary. What could be more revealing than allowing Fr. Isidore, the accused/abused offender, to be 1 of 3 voting on the executive committee to eliminate Paul's position, notwithstanding the "reasons" given, as well as retaining Fr. Isidore as chancellor while in alcohol rehab? We endorse Professor/Father John Dunlop's appeal for intervention re the above, submitted with great courage, and deeply regret as well the loss of so dedicated and credentialed an administrator/teacher as former St. Herman's Dean Fr. Chad Hatfield. Then there is the Protodeacon in Anchorage who was given the "choice" of resigning or being deposed, then threatened with a spiritual court when stating he could not in good conscience serve with a tonsured reader convicted of statutory rape/child molestation. We are well aware of the role and honor bestowed on a Reader in the Alaskan Diocese, especially where there is not a resident priest. Since the 1970's when St. Herman's Seminary relocated from Wildwood near Kenai to Kodiak we have watched you come from the remote villages: young, old, single and/or maried with families, to learn to protect the Orthodox Faith you hold precious. You went about learning of Christ's Church, usually in your second language, not first. We prayed, sang, ate, laughed and cried together, and later we said goodbye to you as you left Kodiak to assume your full life serving God and protecting His People, a life of more sacrifice than we know. We have never stopped loving you, and you have never stopped inspiring us, by your faith, commitment, sacrifices and generosity. We thank you for your fine examples of courage and perseverance. We are grateful for your love and prayers, and we miss you, each one of you, over these many years. May God forever watch over and protect you. In the Othodox Study Bible, I Timothy 3, verse 2 on the Qualification of Bishops it says "...a bishop then must be blameless...." with footnote 3.2 quoting St. John Chrysostom on blameless: "Every virtue is implied in this word. [The bishop's] life should be unspotted so that all should look up to him and make his life the model of their own." Quoted by us as sinners, please forgive us. We do not believe the above are the actions of a person Orthodox Christians should look up to as their Bishop as in I Timothy, and model their lives after. After searching the internet and all other sources available for a definition of "Abuse" as which might relate to clergy, the only source found (!) was under http://mormonalliance.org/definitionshtm, which addressed "Ecclesiastical and Spiritual Abuse: Definitions". This article is a perfect portrayal of what is taking place in our Alaskan Diocese when it describes a person such as a bishop or priest who uses his official capacity to coerce compiiance with his wishes by parishioners, who by imposing his own personal opinions as church doctrine and policy resorts to such power plays as threats, intimidation and punishment, to insure that his views prevail in a conflict of opinions. The articles goes on to address the treatment of members who become alienated because of conduct of this nature and who are labeled as in our particular situation, troublemakers, agitators, even "enemies". We are among many in Kodiak who pray for "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)" as stated in I Timothy 3:4-5. Again, thank you, beloved Alaskan Clergy, for your courage, and may all American Orthodox Faithful truly STAND BEHIND YOU AND TOGETHER AS ONE. Holding all of us in our prayers through Jesus Christ. Roy and Linda Madsen
#48 Roy and Linda Madsen on 2008-02-26 02:52
I am surprised yet gratified by all the positive comments posted on this thread.
Seems to me that our Alaskan priests have communicated something to the masses that the rest of us were not able to share?
I am grateful too, that the regular naysayers have finally kept their venom unto themselves... its about time!
I have always respected our priests - those who are real priests that is... the true clerics who put their priestly duties and vows ahead of the personal, family and self needs, too bad our bishops dont pay attention to how its done.
At the same time I am deeply vexed and saddened to note that the rest of us who have posted on this forum and others for the better part of the last two years have not been taken seriously or with the better part of credibility... did it appear that we were merely joking or had nothing better to do than to "take our bishop down?"
To the contrary...
I know that every one of us who have participated on this forum love our church and our clergy.. that we sought only to better our church and its clergy.. we seek righteousness and spiritual guidance - not retribution or demoralization at the hands of strange man who is lost in the stress of his personal turmoil.
We are a very dynamic diocese, one that is humbled by our own experience and know little of other faiths or variances... you have read how most of us have looked upon our bishops... even nicholai... before he destroyed this in us.. not the other way around.
He alone sought to harness this spiritual obedience for his personal use and gain and our Good Lord put him asunder...
Fr Phillip spoke words that I too know as God's Truth.. the belief of our elders and ancestors... it took more than torture to break this near sacred belief... everything has its limitations!
Please God; give us a humble bishop, a monastic who is worthy of thy Grace.
#49 Ted Panamarioff on 2008-02-26 05:04
First of all I ask forgiveness for not speaking up earlier than i did, of course your posting and all the rest count in this matter, but it was meant to be like this i guess by The Love of God so that we would all be spoken for and defended and not let the tyrant rule over us, as he (BN) and Isidor would have it.
How awful it is to use Seminarians to fight his (BN) dirty battle, just before all this was to come out in the open one of the Seminarians called and asked about my negative stand against (BN) that he'd only wanted to hear it from me, he could hardly speak (sounded like fear), because he, the Seminarian, knew that i too get teaching from "gram" that this kind of intimidation,forced to obey, should never be done toward anyone, and fortunately or more so unfortunately for the Seminarian's sake i spoke too harshly at him, so MY sincerely apologies to that Seminarian and ask for your forgiveness.Please Seminarians this is NOT what Seminary is about, wake up and refuse to be taught division and concentrate on doing what its about. The Truth, and learning of how to be Loving as Jesus Christ.
And, Ted, you're too kind and loving to be,a bishop, like (BN).
And remember all your comments were important, God reveals things when "fulness of time " comes.
#49.1 Archpriest Peter Askoar on 2008-02-26 12:28
May God continue to Bless you Father... and your works to His Glory!
I went to church Sunday, first time in a long while... I felt at home there too... something I have not felt for a long while.
I feel a sense of change in the air, I am hopeful for the first time in a long while.
Father Peter, thanks to you and our other priests we now have leaders who herald the lessons we Orthodox have always believed, those which we were taught by our grandmothers for generations.
I look back to the time when we only ever had a reader in our church - no priest except for funerals and annual baptisms etc.
We kept our faith, actually it flourished, grew, tremendously... it was based on our elders and faith... in direct lineage from Father Herman himself.
We embraced our church like a gift from God Himself... it wasnt forced upon us through abuse, berating, maltreatment or insults.
It [our church] grew for over two centuries without choir directors and yet the tunes and tones that were sung from memory were scarcely different from those I hear from professional choirs today. Were we wrong? Did we deserve this abusive and divisive treatment by an outsider who never sought to be a part of, but rather to be a ruler of.
I deeply respect the kind and forgiving words of our Y-K priests when they say to our Bishop that we'll keep and remember with good thoughts his good works and let rest the other things that should be consigned to oblivion... and move on...
In that same spirit of forgiveness I too look forward to closing this chapter of our church's history and look forward to our next Bishop of Alaska.
#49.1.1 Ted Panamarioff on 2008-02-27 00:22
Fr. Oleksa's reflection descibes a church in pain, persecuted and in peril of loosing its soul. The Church in other times and other places has been able to replace hierarchy by various means and we pray that the Holy Synod takes action, and that action should be sooner than latter. The endangerment to the faithful of the Alaskan Diocese is immenent, and the loss of these faithful to other churches is great, or worse they may choose not to attend any church.
One option would be to petition the Hierarchy of another Jurisdiction who may save our souls and not russify our souls!
#50 Corrado on 2008-02-26 12:05
We are talking ourselves to death. I can't quote the canons nor can I agree or disagree with all that has been said. I can suggest that every OCA parish adopt an Alaskan parish to love and support financially. Adopt a seminarian so he is encouraged in his calling, to be an Orthodox priest. When you want to know what to do in a given situation just ask, What Would Jesus Do?
I think he would ask Father Oleksa to share the names and addresses of those who need our help. I think he would quote the Beatitudes.....".I was hungry and you fed me, I was sick and you visited me."........Endless words will not take the place of sharing our love for our Alaskan brothers and sisters. Action will speak louder than words. Love in Christ Lubov
#51 Lubov Blome on 2008-02-26 16:22
For those of you who are thinking about jumping ship to the Antiochians, learning Arabic is not necessary! Even at a heavily ethnic local Antiochian parish (with lots of immigrants), services are in about half English, plus the priest appears to use more English when non-Arabic speakers are present.
I recently left the Antiochians for the OCA (I wasn't a member of the ethnic parish). Call me crazy or delusional, whatever you like, but I've got a strong stomach. Why did I leave? That's private, but there were a variety of reasons, it wasn't sudden, and it was amicable. The OCA church I joined (in Archbishop JOB's diocese) is a lovely parish, full of solid people (I had gotten to know them over a year). Yes, we talk about the mess, and we keep up with the news, but we don't seem to be obsessed. I even emailed Archbishop JOB, communicating my support and my prayers, telling him I had chosen to make the change from the Antiochians.
And, yes, I signed the petition soon after I had transferred in.
My Antiochian friends who are aware of the OCA soap opera think I'm not working on all thrusters for transferring.
#52 Michele Hagerman on 2008-02-26 20:24
If we in Alaska had a choice to elect our Bishop, it most likely would come from one of our senior married priests.
#53 Anonymous on 2008-02-27 03:24
Can somebody answer a lingering question I've had?
Is it just a rumor, or is it true that parish priests in the Antiochian Archdiosese are prohibited from having monastic spiritual fathers?
Thanks, I'll take your answer off the air.
#54 Bautista Cabrera on 2008-02-27 07:11
There is no such restriction. I can't imagine that sort of thing even being enforced.
#54.1 An Antiochian layman on 2008-02-27 22:28
When Christ lived amongst us, he mingled with the lowly, and the poor, and sinners. In relflection to Christ's early ministry, material wealth, prestige, rank, and supremacy was not part of his way to influence people, nor did he set up an authoritarian order. Sadly, our Bishop NIKOLAI is practicing a stalinist-like regime and his purging all those who dare to speak-up and challenge his authority as our Orthodox Bishop of all of Alaska.
Being of Yup'ik Eskimo and Russian decent from the Lower Yukon River region, I am proud of who I am and thank God to have been born inot this beautiful and great religion.
As other Native cultures practice, we value and respect our Elders, for they are our teachers and guides. A major part of my culture included Elder men and women talking, counseling, and passing valuable life skills to children and even adults. At church, the passing of life-skills came in form of sermons by elder men knowledgable in the Holy Bible fused with invaluable advice on how to live as "Real Genuine People" which the word Yup'ik
transulates as. When our Bishop NIKOLAI came, he put a stop to it. Thus, this broke one of the vital links on the chain that kept the bond on our culture. His predecessor Bishop GREGORY, on the other hand embraced us for who we were, and was tolerant, loving, understanding, patient, he was a true christian Christ-like man.
Another issue in our area is our Church structures, yes we are the poorest if the poor in the State of Alaska. Many of our villages struggle to find the funds to build much-needed new churches. Many are over 40 years old and are in disrepair. We just cannot build and afford elaborate churches, we lack the population base of urban areas for adequate church stewardship. It is apparent that our Bishop lacks cross-socio-economic and cultural understanding of Alaska.
As a lowly sinner unworthy of God's love and mercy, I too am asking the OCA hierachy for Bishop NIKOLAI's removal for the sake of our church. I ask for Bishop NIKOLAI's forgiveness for my boldness, I also pray that GOD himself will forgive me for my actions. Mother Mary pray onto GOD for my soul!
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