Monday, March 3. 2008
So much on one day, it is probably best to just comment on each story on the same thread.
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God Willing tomorrow will come, and we will be blessed with peace. Peace in the heart that speaks to our Creator. Peace that will bring back warmth to the heart that has been beating with fear of "what if he does this, and that, and will he depose, suspend?". Peace and love that our departed Fathers have planted in our Alaskan soil. And the same peace that will water our thirsty soil to grow closer to God in a Loving Church that we knew before and are longing for. The word we are waiting-that we are "safe" in Alaska.
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy! on us all.
#1 Wiinga on 2008-03-04 01:28
Please, someone fire the entire OCA synod of bishops for crimes against Christ.
This is too much to bear.
#2 no name on 2008-03-04 04:33
Why did none of the hierarchs who received copies of the "25-Page Report" -- Metropolitan +HERMAN, Archbishop +SERAPHIM, or Bishop +NIKON -- defend Archbishop +JOB against the scurrilous charge of Bishop +NIKOLAI? These three have shown themselves unworthy of their positions as successors to the Apostles; their cowardice or gross incompetence has stripped them of whatever moral authority bestowed on them at their consecrations.
O Lord save thy people!
#3 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-03-04 05:57
Good post. I agree and I'm sure we're not alone!
#3.1 Anon on 2008-03-04 10:02
Mr. Phinney asks, perhaps rhetorically (but nevertheless dangerously with literalists about) why his fellow bishops did not defend Abp. Job from the Bishop Nikolai charges. I was not there and did not tune in the play-by-play of that meeting, but some perfectly good answers to the question occur to me nevertheless:
1. It wasn't their job to defend him
2. They were taken by surprise
3. They were not familiar enough with the claims to mount a defense
4. Bishop Job did not ask for their defense
5. Bishop Job was capable of defending himself or getting someone to do it for him
6. The time was not ripe for a defense - the charges came up by surprise more or less on a single occasion as I understand, and official procedures had not been followed
7. The metropolitans and bishops are supposed to act as judges of the dispute, and it would have looked pretty fishy for any one or more of the judges to jump in to defend a case he must ultimately help decide.
For me at least #7 trumps all the others.
#3.2 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-03-04 21:20
Finally... maybe the Synod will at least acknowledge that something is dreaffully wrong!
They've not really accepted any responsibility for the financial scandal... although its been made clear that Kondratic alone was at least culpable...
I await their stance on nikolai...
This one oughta been good huh?
I have come to the place in my life where I sit and wait to watch those persons who always seem to suck up the heirarchy (sometimes I wonder if they really think its going to assign themselves a seat on a magic carpet to heaven!)
I see that many of us are now becoming honest with ourselves and not only praying, but taking the actions necessary to effect positive change in our church...
I have heard it said before...
I can pray all day long for God to mow my lawn...
at then end of the day .... I have will have to go out and do it myself...
God does what God does...
I need to do what is mine alone to do...
Surely God isnt standing in wait to hear a plea from me to "fix" our church or the humans "running" it!
Thank you all who have suppported us and our clergy here in Alaska... Your thoughts, words of encouragement and prayers have not gone unnoticed.
I cant help but believe that God has given this opportunity to see what we really have (and what we dont) in our church.
We have each other... and as the gospel last sunday proclaimed;
its what we do for another person in need that is noticed by God..
When I was thirsty did you give me drink?...
#4 Ted Panamarioff - Kodiak Alaska on 2008-03-04 06:07
Brother, they need to do a lot more than "acknowledge that something is wrong." We are way beyond the need for "acknowledgement," don't you think?
But our Synod take strong action? Well, like Mike Huckabee said, "I believe in miracles." I noticed he's lost the race for the nomination tonight; I wonder if he still believes in miracles. Maybe he does. It's late, and I'm not sure about the verse, but somewhere in Proverbs (I think) there is a verse about the Lord helping those who help themselves. I'm not sure that the Synod is going to be of much help to us, but then, they've already met; maybe some meaningful action was taken and we just don't know of it yet.
At least tomorrow is Wednesday; the day to pray for Alaska.
#4.1 Stephen Morgan on 2008-03-04 22:37
Sorry, Stephen, but there is no such verse anywhere in Scripture. "The Lord helps those who help themselves," is popular wisdom, nothing more. Given our radical reliance on the grace and mercy of God to accomplish anything, it's also popular wisdom that is counter to Scripture.
#4.1.1 Scott Walker on 2008-03-05 11:45
This quote is from Benjamin Franklin.
#18.104.22.168 anonymous on 2008-03-05 21:25
Okay, okay. I'm going to take some time to re-read through Proverbs, and for that matter Job, and possibly elsewhere, to see if what I can find on this matter. You could be right, but in any case, it won't hurt me to read through these parts of Scripture again. (I notice that a lot of Proverbs concern not being a "hot-head," so I could probably benefit from the remedial instruction ...)
#22.214.171.124 Stephen Morgan on 2008-03-06 08:21
What has happened in Alaska is a direct result of what happens when candidates for the episcopate are not well screened. First off, + Nicolai doesn't have a solid Orthodox theological education. Second, he was rejected by his own Serbs - was this really investigated? Third, in his secular job in Las Vegas there were all sorts of serious people issues - was this investigated? Before he was ordained or consecrated was a full psychological assessment conducted?
#5 Anonymous on 2008-03-04 07:10
I would assert that these are the very reasons why Nikolai was made a bishop -- CONTROL. Control from an OCA administration at the time who used "questionable" backgrounds as a motivation not to go against the administration, or else you'd be exposed. The same is true for those who may have been promoted to such positions of chancellor, archimandrite & rector. As has been stated before, it truly is time to see some episcopal (and even priestly) resignations.
#5.1 Anonymous on 2008-03-04 12:48
I am not a psychologist, and I'm sure it would be unethical for any psychologists who might read this site to make a diagnosis from the articles and letters, but it has occurred to me that Bp. Nicholai might be diagnosed as "borderline" (a serious personality disorder, for those not versed in psych. terms). Would anyone much better versed in psychology or psychiatry have any opinions on this?
Many years ago, I had the misfortune of having a roommate for whom everything was to be done according to his rules, rules which could and did change from moment to moment, without notice. Everyone else was wrong. The most insignificant thing (at least insignificant to most people) could cause a major outburst in him. When I described this person to a psychologist some time later, he felt that the person was 'borderline'. Sure sounds like a lot of the same characteristics coming through in Alaska!
I was able to get out of that situation in a few months--I can't imagine having to endure it for years.
I know it does nothing to change the situation, but at least if a name were given to it, it might help those who have suffered at his hands to better understand what they are up against: a serious mental illness.
It seems that we are much too lax in accepting candidates for ordination--one would think that a psychological examination would be a given, early on. Perhaps even a requirement for admission to seminary. And then definitely a new examination should be a requirement for consecration to the episcopate. At least that's my opinion...
#5.2 Mark on 2008-03-04 17:57
Old School vetting process seems to have been:
1. Does he OWE Us something?
If "YES" Good. If "NO" see #2
2.Are their skeletons in his closet?
If "NO" then forget it. Next candidate.
If "YES" Good. See #3
3.Can we use these secrets to control and manipulate him?
If "NO" Next candidate.
If "YES" axios axios axios
#5.3 Guy & Christine Kogut on 2008-03-05 18:48
What exactly are the "19th century Russian rubrics" that are being imposed by Bishop Nikolai? And, apart from anything obvious, can anyone say what is offensive or alienating about them? (Not defending 19th century Russian practice, just trying to understand the problem.)
#6 BB on 2008-03-04 07:34
Many of us who came up in the Diocese of the West under His Grace TIKHON know that he has both spoken and written about the proper, "Russian" way of serving the services and offices of the Church. One only has to go the Holy Trinity Cathedral (San Francisco) website to see some of those writings. We used to call him Bishop TYPICON. No offense intended Your Grace. But while he, Bp TIKHON would have liked for his diocese to follow his lead, it appears that Bp NIKOLAI mandates the observance of the same. Indeed, and this is the rub, without reference to the pastoral needs or climate of the particular parish.
The All-Night Vigil is the "Russian" way. Evening vespers and morning matins is the Greek or Antiochian way. In the OCA of the lower 48, most have the option of choosing which they will follow. In Alaska we don't have a choice. In Juneau, I served vespers with a homily at the end and afterward heard confessions while the psalter was read. It was practical...it worked. However, I was reminded that vigil is mandated. So we now serve the vigil. With hardly anyone except the clergy and their families in church. But if I say this too many more times it is going to sound like I am whining.
Also, the use of the curtain, the Royal Doors, the mandated silent prayers of the anaphora, the color matrix of the feasts, not recognizing birthdays, anniversaries, or even name days if they do not fall on the exact day of the liturgy being served.
What is happening is a growing disconnect between the daily lives of the people and the church.
No one is proposing chaos, or liturgical "free-wheeling", nor even the adoption of the New Skete ustav. God bless New Skete. We only want the freedom to make pastoral decisions regarding the services that will best allow our people to be properly fed and nurtured. "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."
Forgive my unsatisfactory and weak attempt to address your question BB. I am a simple and practical man. The simple and practical thing to do is allow the clergy to be the clergy.
#6.1 Fr Michael Spainhoward on 2008-03-04 13:08
Dear Fr. Michael,Is it not ironic that in many OCA parishes in the "Lower 48",Matins is not served at all,while the Bishop of Alaska mandates the Vigil?Personaly,I prefer Matins in the morning before Liturgy,but maybe that's because I'm a morning person,plus I often work Saturdays and Vigils can be tiring,often after Vigil,I overeat, not a good thing when preparing for the Eucharist the next day.Anyways, back to Alaska,my heart goes out to you because of what you and your brother priests endure there.What is truly sad is that the abuse of authority by SOME bishops has led some layman on this form to question ANY Episcopal authority.Bishops and Priests should USE,but not ABUSE their authority,there is a differance.It's like the difference between an AUTHORITARIAN political regime like Spain under Franco and a TOTALITARIAN regime like Hitler's Germany or the USSR AND EVERY OTHER Communist state.Dear Father,I've been a priest for over 30 years,and so I can understand when you and others speak of troubles with the hierarchy.For years,I complained about weak bishops who let Parisn Councils run roughshod over them.Your poor hierarch(and I truly pity him,because often I misused my priestly authority over the years and have lived to regret it)deserves our prayers so that he may wake up,just as I'm sure over the years people prayed for me for the same reason.Perhaps,I'll call you so that we may chat offline.May God strengthen you and the flocked entrusted to you.Forgive me, the least of your brother priests.
#6.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-03-05 08:43
The statement below was adopted unanimously at the Minneapolis Deanery Meeting on Saturday. It was forwarded to the OCA Chancery.
March 1, 2008
We, the clergy of the Minneapolis Deanery, are deeply concerned about the disturbing and heart-breaking situation in the Diocese of Alaska. The scandals and accusations of pastoral abuse have become very public, both in church and secular arenas. These issues are having a detrimental impact on all the faithful, not only in Alaska, but throughout the Orthodox Church in America, including the faithful of our own parishes. They are also a cause of scorn of non-believers toward our Savior Jesus Christ and His Church.
Our prayers, love, and support are with the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska as they bear this cross that has been placed on them. We also call on our Synod of Bishops to act promptly and decisively in addressing this situation, in protecting the victims of abuse, and in moving to bring a new beginning to this distressed diocese as quickly as possible.
Through the intercessions of our all-holy Mother of God and of our beloved elder Saint Herman, may our Savior Jesus Christ have mercy on us all.
#7 The Minneapolis Deanery on 2008-03-04 07:36
Bishop Nikolai --
Perhaps people reading this website and the newspapers would take you more seriously if you said something like,
"I am very concerned about the way I am viewed in my diocese and that obvious pain my flock are in. As a leader, a role model and a teacher, when there is turmoil or dysfunction of any sort, it compels me to ask first, is there anything I have done to cause this or is there anything I could be doing differently to alleviate this situation? and then I should conference with my brothers on the Synod and ask the same questions, with the motivation being the welfare of my flock and of the church, before my own comfort and ego"
....and then, Bishop Nikolai, you listen....and when you have your honest answer, you must take appropriate and life-affirming, Christ-like action.
Honestly, for God's sake, its way past time for you, the entire Synod, the MC and Herman to do the same....please....in the example of Archbishop Job....do the right thing
Note -- my husband keeps telling me to stop expecting, to stop hoping for sane, Christ-like behavior....to stop being shocked by the continued unraveling of the OCA...I can't seem to stop...I wish I could, it would hurt a lot less
#8 anonymous - but not for long on 2008-03-04 08:50
One thought about “suck-up” clergy. I was told of an oral accusation made by an OCA clergyman from the Diocese of the West against Father John Anderson (who, by the way, I know personally and who has an excellent reputation among local Orthodox believers and who has a loving-and-obviously-well-loved wife and children). Because the accusation concerned events to which I was personally a witness, I knew the accusation to be false. If the cowardly accuser were forced to make his accusation in court, others and I could testify against him and it would be a slam-dunk in a defamation action.
It makes me wonder. Is Bishop Benjamin pressuring his clergy to “payback” Father John Anderson for his role in exposing the misdeeds of Benjamin’s friend Nikolai? If not, why hasn’t Benjamin come to Father John’s defense and thanked him publicly for doing his duty as an Orthodox Priest and United States Army Chaplain?
As for “collaborationist” priests who defame their brother priests: after Nuremberg, they should know that it is no defense to say “I vast only following orders”. That defense didn’t work for Eichmann, and it does not work in the Orthodox Church.
#9 Michael Alan Brooks, near Olympia, Washington, at the rim of the galaxy on 2008-03-04 09:38
this Fr. John Anderson is not to be confused with Fr. John Anderson of St. Seraphim's in Dallas, or the Fr. John Anderson of St. Michael's skete in Canones, NM.
#9.1 Anonymous on 2008-03-04 15:45
An Open Letter to Bishop Nikolai,
If there were just one or two or three priests dissenting and speaking out, I would be willing to assume your assessment that they are like "teenagers acting out".
But Your Grace, when you have a sizable number of priests all making THE SAME complaint about your behavior--it's not a case of a few troublemakers. It points to an institutional dysfunction that I'm sorry to say can be traced directly back to autocratic, rigid, and impervious leadership.
Im afraid that would be you, Your Grace.
I'm sorry to see it too, because I'm given to understand that your people had high hopes that you would be a hierarch they could love, respect and obey without hesitation.
Instead you've turned out to be less than open, unwilling to listen to honest criticism or to even review your own actions in the unlikely possibility that perhaps you HAVE made some errors in dealing with your clergy and your people.
I am the chiefest of sinners myself, and am unworthy in the extreme because of my continual sin against God and man, yet still I feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to plead with you, Bishop Nikolai, consider. Consider what your unswerving unforgiving rigidity is doing to your people.
This is not an issue of right belief and practice, or even of tough love. It is an issue of simple compassion and striving NOT to destroy the faith of those who look to you for Christian leadership.
I fear that each and every person you drive from the church will become a millstone around your own neck on that day when we all stand before Jesus Christ.
No one should face such a fate, not even you.
Please, as we head into Great Lent, consider humbling yourself to your people and begging their forgiveness--even if you've truly done nothing wrong!--and trying to find the balance between proper discipline and compassionate treatment for those whom you are exactly like, that is, fellow sinners over whom you have been set as a shepherd, guide, and friend.
I am blessed to have such a bishop.
I fully believe you could be such a bishop AND teach right practice AND build up proper church discipline AND celebrate the place of Orthodoxy in the native culture, permeating and consecrating it as Orthodoxy is supposed to do in ALL cultures.
And I believe that at the end of your tenure, you could hand on a diocese vibrant, alive in the Holy Spirit, and once again the shining northern light of Orthodoxy in America.
But that cannot happen if you continue to pursue the course which you are steering now. You are headed for rocks which will tear the keel out of the ship of Alaskan Orthodoxy, and when they do, many will perish.
May the Lord have mercy upon you and upon us all.
Please, even we who are not of your diocese beg you to reassess how you are "dividing the word of truth".
The sinner Kevin Nikolai
#10 Kevin Nikolai Payne on 2008-03-04 10:12
While I applaud the recent positive movements by clergy and laity (especially here in Alaska) towards the resolution of these scandals, I think it is a bit disingenious for everyone to be patting themselves on the back; it wasn't that long ago (only several months, really) that many of the priests and laity now speaking out against the Bishop of Alaska were defending him (to me at least) even during some of his worst abuses. I was told that I am a "sinner" for not attending church which was surprising to say the least, after all, if I am a "sinner" what does that make abusive hierarchs and clergy making excuses for them and referring to the now widely embraced horror stories as "anecdotal"? The bad taste in my mouth still lingers, but what do I know? What I would like to know is: what were you guys waiting for?!?! The herd mentality has already enabled the spiritual destruction of many people...shame.
#11 Moses on 2008-03-04 10:42
I really don't know how Herman can justify anything that he does to even suggest that someone take a leave of absence when many have made accusations against him. How many have signed a petition for him to resign? How many feel that he has caused destruction to the church and many who have served the church for years?
I just don't know how anyone can have any confidence in ANYTHING the synod of bishops does because they certainly are NOT holy.
The only thing to do is LEAVE the OCA! Believe me you will find comfort and spiritual renewal when you no longer have to endure the reign of terror!
#11.1 MP on 2008-03-04 13:30
Now that Mr Harrison has demonstrated Godwin's Law (""As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."), perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the language and tactics in the difficulties facing the Orthodox Church in America.
Comparing Bishop Nikolai with Hitler is a bit much. The making of such a comparison does nothing but give +Nikolai's supporters more support for saying "Look, his detractors are all deranged."
#12 Fr Basil Biberdorf on 2008-03-04 11:29
Too bad your reading comprehension is so poor Father. Try again, and just maybe you will see Mark is making a point about "appeasement," not directly comparing Nikolai to Hitler, although I wouldn't hesitate to make that analogy in many instances concerning his actions and personality. That, by the way, doesn't make him Hitler.
How anyone at this point can defend or excuse Bishop Nikolai is beyond me. Even if the Synod acts (in an effective way) at this point, which would be a minor miracle in and of itself, they have waited too long and allowed this disgrace and embarrassment of a bishop to besmirch the whole OCA, and Orthodox bishops in particular.
Fundamentalist Orthodoxy (Nikolai, Tikhon, Kondratick, etc.), to coin a phrase, is taking on the trappings of all the other fundamentalist religions--intolerance, hatred, preoccupation with religious minutia, all combined with a great big dose of authoritarianism to keep everyone in line. No wonder we look so ridiculous to any sane person.
#12.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-04 15:59
Father, Nicolai's supporters are going to think what they want to think and nothing is going to change that. I think Mr. Harrison accurately points out Nicolai's lack of interest in changing his approach, despite those who would give him the benefit of the doubt. That's what I get from Mr. Harrison's last comment. In applying your logic, it appears to me, that you feel Harrison is calling Nicholi another Hitler. My understanding of Harrison's last comment simply suggests if the shoe fits, wear it.
#12.2 anonymous on 2008-03-04 16:53
Dear Fr. Basil,
Mr. Harrison's did not say that +Bishop Nikolai was like Hitler in his reflection. What he said was that *IF*the Holy Synod merely slaps BN on the wrist, it would be LIKE Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. That's very different, in my opinion.
St. Elizabeth Orthodox Mission
#12.3 Eugenie Osmun on 2008-03-05 10:14
In the past week there have been two occasions which have been very telling of the motivations of the bishops and the “new” OCA central administration. The first was the release of the affidavits for the Kondratick suit. Look at all they knew, look at all they thought, look at what they didn’t do to bring it to light and to provide answers earlier. Why is this so? Because before it was only God that was motivating them and guiding them, but when they had to put their hand on a bible and swear an oath to tell the secular authorities the truth, they sang like birds. Does it matter that every liturgy they not only put their hands on the Gospel, read from it, and hold the body and blood of our Lord in their hands? It took not God, it took Uncle Sam to compel these men to come clean. How can they preach to us about truth, how can they have any moral authority as clergy when it takes Uncle Sam and the fear of perjury to tell the truth? Godless, spineless men to the end.
Strikis KNEW that skirting IRS rules was WRONG, but he did nothing. He KNEW what they were doing cashing checks was WRONG, but he did nothing. A couple months back I wrote about how saying that one person cannot be responsible for this entire mess was a wrong idea. Strikis is a glaring example. He KNEW it was wrong, but he let it go. He can be counted as singularly responsible for putting us in the financial hole we are in. Let alone letting Kondratick rob us blind. But, it doesn’t matter if the eyes of God are upon these men day and night. It doesn’t matter if they don the best vestments. It doesn’t matter they act out the piety they want us to believe they have when they are in the vicinity of sacred objects. The only thing that scares these men to their senses is the secular authorities, perhaps a man, in, yes, black robes judging over their actions. In the presence of the body and blood of Christ, in the presence of relics of the saints, the affidavits show us a group that couldn’t have cared less about all that. It was all about what they could profit materially from this themselves and the audacious manner in which it was done. And after them it was, for the new group, how can we keep this from seeing the light of day! Spineless, Godless men, to the end.
The second occasion goes to the heart of what motivates the Metropolitan. In his letter to Nikolai he says “As you now know, this story has caused quite a stir in the media in a number of widely circulated newspapers.” This was listed first as his reasons for writing the letter to Nikolai. Because it made the media, made it to papers that are widely circulated. So what if every liturgy we hold the body of Christ in our hands, when the MEDIA gets ahold of something then we need to act because its going to make us look like shams in the eyes of men. Hey, buddies, what about the eyes of GOD!? Godless, spineless men, to the end. Then the next sentence “This incident has ALSO scandalized many of our Orthodox faithful who have written to us with expressions of disbelief and anger.” The emphasis is mine to point out that, well, as a side note there’s some people making noise about it and probably because they read about it in the media. Lastly he points out that the canons were disregarded and the policies and standards (that’s enough to make you laugh) were contradicted. Never, no where, did the Metropolitan say it was just plain wrong. He danced around calling these actions wrong, he just wanted to say that they’ve been caught and NOW hell has to be paid. The more the Metropolitan and his new administration want to tell us things have changed for the better the more they stay the same.
Let’s not digress, though, from who, in some circles, has been said to be the locus of this entire scandal, Nikolai. A man who’s self destruction is as spectacular as any ever seen. A man who’s going to go down in a blaze of glory! A man with no shame, a man with no regard for God’s creatures, a man who’s insecurities and their soothing are what his service in the church is all about. It has been said that this man drives around, or did, with “VLDYKA” on his license plate. This is so that when you go driving around Anchorage let there be no doubt where the VLADYKA is and let there be no doubt that this man is a VLADYKA! A man who was a “monk” well before his consecration, driving around proudly displaying and letting no one miss that he is the VLADYKA. He never took this bishop thing seriously, it was a way to soothe his need for power. Nikolai, the man who liked to disparage his predecessor in Alaska, Innocent, saying that he (Innocent) took down the seminary to nearly nothing. What do we have now? A seminary taken down to nearly nothing. He liked to remind us that Innocent disregarded the actions of the church when it came to his disciplining. What do we have now? We have a bishop who ignores the orders of suspension of the reader from the Metropolitan. More and more it looks like the man who felt himself the savior of Alaska after Innocent has become a stain so bad on Alaska that it makes Innocent look like a boy scout. While we can compare Innocent and Nikolai, mainly to show us how Nikolai not only went down the same path he disparaged of Innocent, but that he did it with gusto, he did it so no one doubted he was blazing a trail that will forever have only his name on it. While we can compare Nikolai and Innocent closely, there is one thing that differentiates the two men: some people actually liked Innocent.
It’s chilling to read a previous news item on this site, putting “Nikolai” where it says “Innocent”, read Nikolai’s homily at Innocent’s Panikhida (http://www.ocanews.org/news/Innocent72807.html) and see how everything Nikolai said about Innocent is being played out now with him in the lead role. Specifically when it comes to ignoring Duskin’s suspension and the resignations of the MC members from Alaska: “we almost forget that have come here to pray for the soul of a man who chose to separate himself from the Church…”. Later, “As a Hierarch myself, I constantly pray that I don't ever become a disappointment to my clergy or my flock. It is a hard thing to understand how human beings can and do become disappointments to each other.” That is an understatement for him, because he truly cannot understand because he has accomplished being a complete disappointment. In Mark’s commentary in the piece: “+Nikolai and Fr. Isidore paint a vivid picture of a diocese teetering on the verge of ruin upon their arrival in 2001. According to them they inherited a diocese in which "disorganization, factionalism and low moral" reigned; the Seminary had lost its accreditation, legal battles were brewing,” What goes around comes around.
We are coming to the flashpoint now of the Nikolai episode. A gift from Bob Kondratick and his gang that just keeps giving, never failing to surprise. How can man from Montana, Butte to be exact, not call English his native language? What language DO they speak in Butte? Maybe the language is called bull and that’s Nikolai’s real native language! A lot of people have had homes where English is not their first spoken language with parents from the old country, but they nonetheless say that English is the native tongue. But, no, this man, who has to think of ways to fight back and give justifications for his actions is trying to say that he’s suffering too with his rule of English only because English isn’t his native language. There’s a lot of something in Montana that you can call THAT! Why is it that he even said that if he’s never ordered people to avoid speaking their native tongues? Because its true and he just wants to say that he’s suffering too to lessen the pain. Baloney so thick you need a chain saw to cut it.
Nikolai never understood the job. Sure, he loved the vestments (how many times does he wear the same set), he loved the double handed blessings, he liked to walk with a stick to give that façade of being a holy man, he liked being called “vladyka” but there was no substance. He was given an Episcopal rank for a job well done for the administration. People claimed he was a good administrator, but good administrators are rarely good leaders because they deal in the handling of faceless tasks devoid of any emotional or human contact. A bishop, a leader, gets a good administrator for his chancellor to do the paperwork, not his housemate. Fr. Oleksa did nothing wrong other than he was smart, faithful, loved by the people, and did his best for them both directly and in how we see Alaska. He eclipsed Nikolai and so Fr. Michael had to pay. Its another example of why Nikolai was not suited to being a bishop because a bishop is a leader, not a paper pusher. Nikolai’s handling of Alaska can be compared to a sports team in which the coach or manager will not allow any player to be more than himself. A pitcher cannot be more successful or liked than the coach. A quarterback must keep out of view so as not to take attention away from the coach. That team is going to be miserable, the morale low, and its going to lose and lose badly. This is coach Nikolai. On other hand, take a coach who works in the shadows nurturing his players, never taking away from the accomplishments of the field. What happens there? The team wins, people play to their potential, there is morale, there is teamwork, there is a cohesive whole working to reach a shared goal. Compare Fr. Oleksa and Nikolai and you can see the friction, the resentment by Nikolai. Fr. Oleksa took the Alaskan culture, he championed it. A man from Allentown embracing the Alaskan way and helping us to see it. A man who is that coach that nurtures his players. Look at Nikolai, bringing in the arcane rubrics he did, bringing his team from the lower 48 to do the jobs he wanted filled when he went to Alaska. Refusing native tongues. Nikolai doesn’t know how to be a bishop. Nikolai wants to model himself upon St. Innocent, but St. Innocent didn’t teach the Alaskans how to speak Russian, he translated to their language. That’s doing missionary work to bring God and Orthodoxy to a culture, not a culture to your conception of what Orthodoxy is about – arcane rubrics from a time past being foisted upon a culture who cares more about the soul than the dress and movements. Alaska wasn’t out of control, they’re not a bunch of adolescents. That’s coming from a man who didn’t know the mission, who didn’t want to embrace a culture, a man who couldn’t care less about the people as long as his mental state was caressed. A man who didn’t understand and didn’t make any attempt to understand, to be a bridge, to be… a bishop. For him, it was just about the power, nothing more. Because of this we are very much in danger of losing what St. Herman brought and all that others have worked to keep his legacy because of this one misplaced man sent to Anchorage who wasn’t suited for the job.
When this mess is over, the time has come, as we have seen repeatedly when we haven’t done it, that Alaska needs a bishop of their own, not one sent up there to keep an eye on the precious land resources. Souls, not land, is what should be the guiding light when we have to get a successor to clean up Nikolai’s mess. A mess that is going to take a man of rare character and faith to clean up.
#13 Stonewall on 2008-03-04 12:20
Thank you for yet another of your comprehensive and searing indictments of the evil doers and incompetents in our midst. Assuming, as I do, its complete accuracy, it serves as a dress rehearsal for the Last Judgment.
#13.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-05 07:05
Dear Mr. Brooks:
Perhaps you should get your information correct before making a statement. ANYBODY who know Bishop Benjamin knows there is no love lost between him and Bishop Nikolai (and Bishop Tikhon for that matter). In fact they rarely see eye to eye on anything and he stands up to him often.
As far as Fr. John...next time he wants to start a mission perhaps he should talk to the bishop in whose diocese he is going in and ask permission. Not just form a mission where there are no Albanians and doesn't speak Albanian and won't support the local priest whether he likes him or not. And I witnessed what he said and he is lucky he was not brought up on charges. So think before you speak!
My Dear Anonymous:
You are correct that I have no personal knowledge regarding the relationship between Bishops Benjamin and Nikolai. I was speculating, based upon the behavior of Benjamin’s clergy and his lack of speaking forthrightly in defense of Fr. John Anderson (of course, he is not alone in this). If you re-read my second paragraph, I hope you see that I was not claiming personal knowledge of Bishop Benjamin’s motives.
As for your comments about Father John Anderson, I will explain the matter more fully. It was reported to me that an OCA priest alleged to another priest that Father John had operated a mission in disobedience to his bishop. I know this to be false. Upon retirement from the Army, Father John transferred to Bishop Nikon of the Albanian diocese, who gave him permission to do mission work. Later, Bishop Nikon, reportedly under pressure from another bishop, revoked permission for the mission. From that point on, Father John did not celebrate another liturgy with the mission group at the group’s rented facility (or anywhere else). I know. I was there at every liturgical gathering of the mission group. Some of us attended his liturgy at Fort Lewis on one occasion afterward, but he has always had permission to celebrate the liturgy there. So, you see, he has NOT operated a mission without his bishop’s blessing.
You seem to have a problem with the OCA’s non-territorial dioceses. Certainly an argument could be made against such a structure, but they in fact do exist whether you like them or not. Father John operated in the Albanian diocese with the blessing of the Bishop of that diocese, his Grace Nikon. It would be inappropriate for him to ask Bishop Benjamin for permission. Anyway, you can see why I object to the charge that Father John defied his bishop in regards to the mission. I personally know the charge to be false.
You also seem to have a problem with the mission group (who approached Father John for help, not the other way around) not supporting “the local priest”. That sad tale is not my own, so I do not think I will address it further. I am a new Orthodox Christian, baptized by Father John last November in the Nisqually River. When I desired to join the Church, I sought him out based upon his good reputation among pious friends of mine. In addition, my intuition told me that like Nathanael of old he was a man in whom there was no guile.
As far as you witnessing what Father John said to you (or someone) that deserves charges, that is another matter entirely. I was not referring to whatever incident you are citing against him. You will have to describe those details openly if you wish to sully a good priest’s reputation. I have laid out my facts plainly and have signed my name. You should do the same, my neighbor Anonymous.
1. Father John Anderson did not operate a mission without his bishop’s blessing. I and others could testify to it.
2. Bishop Benjamin and all other OCA Bishops should openly and vigorously praise him for doing his duty in reporting allegations of abuse.
3. If you want to attack Father John, state specifically what you witnessed and SIGN YOUR NAME.
4. If you are a man, SIGN YOUR NAME....
#14.1 Michael Alan Brooks, near Olympia, Washington, at the rim of the galaxy on 2008-03-05 00:33
to Mina Jacobs and everyone,
This is my first and last post.
I wish to offer an account of some interactions i had with +Nikolai, all of which took place on a single day.
I was serving in the altar during a Divine Liturgy and i had a mild sore throat. Afraid i might arouse his Grace's ire by getting a drink of water from the sacristy without asking his blessing, i walked over to him and asked quietly for his blessing. He said, "whats the matter, are you sick? Have you been singing in the choir so your throat is sore?"I said no. He leaned in so we were virtually nose-to-nose and said very sternly, "SUFFER". I froze for a moment while he waited for me to realize he wasn't kidding and i backed away slowly to my place.
Later, outside the church and in front of many others, including my wife and small children he mocked me, saying, "awww, poor baby. Are you still thirsty?" and shook his head as if to indicate how pathetic I was.
At lunch, he was speaking and a yup'ik man leaned over to whisper something to someone next to him. Impolite perhaps, but hardly deserving of what happened next. +Nikolai told the man to stand up and suggested that perhaps he had something to say that was more important than what the bishop was saying. The man quietly apologized, and +Nikolai ordered him out of the building and to his room. The man walked past all of us seated at the table with a painfully humiliated look on his face. The room was frozen and +Nikolai continued speaking.
Later, an elderly native woman asked his blessing, addressing him as 'bishop'. He turned to the person next to him, pointed at the woman and said, "can you believe this?" He then turned to the woman, leaned in and said in a raised voice, "it's VLADIKA".
This was just one day.
My question to Mina Jacobs and the woman who said we are intimidated by his "intelligence" is: if we have come to expect this level of intimidation for such simple things as asking for water, whispering, or addressing him improperly, what makes you think we would ever approach him with the far weightier matter of disapproving of him?
And are you implying - no, in fact you are explicitly stating - that it is the fault of the likes of myself, the yup'ik man, or the elderly woman on that day and the countless others that we are in this mess? If we had only read Matthew 18? Please do not use scripture to re-victimize those of us who have seen more than just +Nikolai's "firm side".
We will all get through this if we are honest with ourselves and others and have some humanity.
#15 anonymous on 2008-03-04 17:35
Thank you Mark,
For posting Fr. John (Ned) Anderson's remarks about the events in Alaska. We have known Fr. John (Ned) Anderson, with my husband, Fr. Paul being also being a military chaplain, albeit in the National Guard, and I just read his remarks that Mark posted.
It appears that Alaska has been a "circus" for some time now. I do think this is all providential. But now everything is coming out in the open.
There was just a special meeting of the lesser Synod today, as well as telephone conference with the rest of the HS, to discuss the situation in Alaska and information from this is supposed to be forthcoming.
I think I want to wait to say much more until I hear what comes from that special meeting.
#16 Patty Schellbach on 2008-03-04 17:37
Subdeacon Mark Harrison says:
"Each of these priests is proving that, in spite of Bishop Nikolai's deadening policies, genuinely personal and invincible Faith is alive in them and among them, and actively at work. God willing, with their care, the Orthodox Faith will keep burning in the hearts and souls of the faithful; but this will happen because of their martyr-like examples, and in spite of the bishop's insistence on some arbitrary, supposedly Russian model of 'true' Orthodoxy; a model whose very authenticity is dubious, to say the least.....
"Bishop Nikolai may call these priests 'dissidents' but they are only dissidents in terms of his tyranny. They are more aptly described as proponents of a vibrant, healthy, joy-filled, Orthodox Faith and Life."
These, at last, are words of health!
Why? Because, with them, Subdeacon Mark restores joy as one of the core criteria of Orthodoxy. For the past few years, it has seemed that pointing to the existence of any obscure Russian rubric was sufficient to settle the question of whether a particular practice was Orthodox or not. This dark attitude, that has tried to envelop the OCA, says: "How dare consider the wholeness, the health, indeed, the joy of parishioners as a factor in deciding whether our practices are right!" How far we have fallen from the vision of Fr. Schmemann, who said: “Joy is not one of the 'components' of Christianity, it’s the tonality of Christianity that penetrates everything – faith and vision. Where there is no joy, Christianity becomes fear and therefore torture" (The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann," pg. 137).
#17 Fr. Isaac Skidmore on 2008-03-04 21:50
"Bishop Nikolai denied a charge that said he told Alaskan Natives to only speak English. 'English is not my native language either,' he said. 'I’ve encouraged (them to speak their Native languages) in the services.'"
Has anyone else noticed the legalistic inclusion in Nikolai's statement to the KDM? "...in the services."
The point that I got from the accounts from the Alaskan priests is not that Nikolai put out an edict against their native languages "in the services," but in their casual conversations with one another. This is yet another time Nikolai offers his own "variation of the truth" intended to mislead the reader away from the truth.
He is a very paranoid individual who must be in a dominant position above other men. A very telling scenario to those of us who have studied psychology.
#18 Anonymous on 2008-03-04 21:52
Has anyone seen the items on the Alaskan diocesan site concerning his letter to the diocese and the timeline? What a joke! He thinks the problem is just the Isidore incident! But of course, but he’s trying to hang JOB on that one. Nikolai, where’s the Dushkin timeline? What did you get to sell your soul and your church out on that tonsuring? This thing REALLY blew up when he tonsured Dushkin!
Anyways, the timeline, which he says is based on IMPEACHABLE sources is mainly memo’s he’s written AFTER the fact (in his love for Russian rubrics, he’s now taken to the Soviet scheme of rewriting history) AND entries made on his calendar! THAT’S IMPEACHABLE?
He’s got to go...
#19 Anonymous on 2008-03-05 06:27
I think you meant to say, "... unimpeachable" sources; he (+N) is saying that his calendar and memos are "unimpeachable" sources; probably just a typo on your part. But, it is interesting to read the letter and the associated timeline, which I think were dated only in the last day or two, DURING the period that the Lesser Synod was/is meeting. There are a lot of gaps in that timeline, as well. Basically, he's saying, "Nothing happened. How could it have happened? I spoke to Paul S. in the meantime, and he didn't seem angry. So, how could anything have happened?" That's a pretty weak argument in any case, and it's all hearsay. What counts is the formal filing (not to say deposition) with the EEOC. That's the "official" version of what happened, according to Paul S. That's his "story," not whether or not he was rude to +N in the meantime. And Paul S. is only part of the issue. What about the mass resignation of Board members from SHS? Is everyone working on Alaska-issues a lying idiot except +N? Somehow, I doubt it.
#19.1 Stephen Morgan on 2008-03-06 08:31
I think it is time the parishes organized and throw out the entire so called leadership of oca. They are the laughing stock of the entire non-orthodox world.
I am very happy that the newspapers are finally starting to print the truth and the terrible behavior of the so called bishops of the church.
The parishes must send a direct order to Syossett and tell them they are all fired. Legal or not they must go and very fast.
If not the entire church will suffer.
Just stop paying your assessments.
I just cant believe no one has taken Nicoli to task for his harsh words to the wonderfull pious people of Alaska.
I should love to meet him. If he talked to me that way I would give him a good what for. He would never speak to another person again---if he did it would be with respect only.
And yes I am signing my name to my comments.
I do understand some people just cant sign their name due to the terrible problems they will have to endure.
Lord have mercy on the pious people of Alaska.
#20 John Macenka on 2008-03-06 13:02
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