Wednesday, March 26. 2008
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From what I read in the OCA Statutes, MC members are elected at Diocesan Assemblies, not at gatherings of clergy. While the good people of Alaska are entitled to representation on the MC, it is to no one's benefit that the rules are treated in such a cavalier manner. It only gives the Nikolais & BTs more to rant and rave about, while showing the OCA up as a minor league operation. But then again, the Statutes were ignored in the past, why not now? Maybe the second order of business at the Pittsburgh AAC (after accepting +MH's resignation) should be to write new bylaws.
#1 David Wargo on 2008-03-26 18:38
The MC members chosen for Alaska are temporary, non voting members chosen simply to provide filling for the void casued by the other member's resignations. They will be replaced or confirmed by a vote at the next regularly scheduled diocese assembly. This was made very clear and is understood by everyone, including the new members.
#1.1 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 09:00
Dear David: Read the statute more closely: "Vacancies occurring among diocesan representatives are filled by the respective dioceses." [Article V, Sec. 1] It does not say vacancies are filled by the diocesan assembly. So, IMHO, the vacancies were not filled in some "cavalier" manner.
#1.2 Michael Strelka on 2008-03-27 09:10
Thank you, Mr. Nescott. Thank you, Mark.
Holy Annunciation, Maynard, MA
#2 Karen Summers on 2008-03-27 00:22
Everyone should be praying today!
Pray to our most compassionate and sweetest Lord Jesus Christ for His mercy and aid to our Synod and Church,
And to His most blessed Mother the Theotokos, asking for her protection and intercession,
and to the Holy Apostles & St. Nicholas of Myra - (the Thursday commemoration, never more appropriate);
and to St. Herman, Saint Innocent, Saint Jacob, Saint Peter, Saint Tikhon, Saint Raphael, Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, St. John of Shanghai, and the new hieromartyr of Russia Seraphim of Uglich, (whom I believe served in Alaska before the revolution), St. John of Kronstadt (who as a youth dreamt of being a missionary in America).
Pray for the repose of the ever memorable:
Metropolitan Leonty and Matushka Olga of AK,
Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, Protopresbyter John Meyendorff;
Archpriest Peter Kreta, Father Andrew Kashevarof, who labored in AK;
and Archpriest Vladimir Borichevsky & Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), (blessed men and authors of services to St. Herman),
That all these may be given grace to intercede for us, if it pleases God.
At last brothers and sisters, we must pray and believe,
& love one another and confess our faith in God.
Deacon Yousuf Rassam
HVM cathedral, OCA- DOW Los Angeles, CA.
#3 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 02:38
Gregg Nescott, THANK YOU, your response was long overdue!
Hopefully, this will make James Silvers, think, before he writes again.
St. James - Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO
P - 816-942-4671
C - 816-853-8685
E - firstname.lastname@example.org
F - 816-942-4671
I too commend Mr. Gregg Nescott for his comment towards monk James Silver.
On another note Mark, there was a comment posted yesterday, I believe, that stated very emphatically that Metropolitan Herman was asked to leave the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Jordanville and that Metropolitan Juvanaly of MP refused to serve with him. I found that extremely hard to believe so I made an inquiry and NO such thing occured.
Do people hate our Metropolitan so much to just blatantly make up a lie like that? That is pathetic.
I find it interesting that whoever posted this comment signed it anonymously. Very telling isn't it?
Perhaps you could follow-up with that one as well because false information like this just adds fuel to the fire.
#4.1 Michael Geeza on 2008-03-27 11:08
We can only hope that today, March 27th, will be the end of the long "Alaskan Night(mare)" for the saints of Alaska. These wonderful people have been victimized too long by the bad decisions of the old administration in Syosset - along with the rest of the OCA. A new beginning is upon us; the light of Christ is shinning and the darkness is overcome!
#5 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 05:14
Yes, I was present for the first part of the clergy meeting that took place on Tuesday, March 25, at St. Innocent Cathedral. Members of the St. Innocent Sisterhood decided that despite the painful nature of the meeting it was important to provide hospitality to the visiting clergy and we prepared an array of baked goods for this gathering.
From the very beginning, as priests gathered from throughout the Diocese in the Church Hall, I was enveloped by sorrow. I know many of these priests personally and continue to feel a deep affection for them despite any disappointment. I greeted each of those I know personally asking for their blessing, meanwhile recalling more joyous times when we had gathered together during retreats and assemblies. Some of the younger ones I knew from their days at St. Herman Seminary when I traveled there for Trustee meetings or to work in the Archives.
I couldn’t help but be reminded that many had received their training and education at St. Herman Seminary thanks to a bold policy established by His Grace Bishop Nikolai early in his administration. He recognized that these men who would later serve in rural Alaska could not manage the financial burden of paying off a student loan. Consequently, he decided that those committed to staying and serving in Alaska would graduate debt-free. To accomplish this, fundraising was a constant effort. Bishop Nikolai often called on the generosity of his personal friends who responded willingly.
My love for these priests is not diminished. I am only deeply disappointed in the manner in which all this has unfolded. I am emotionally exhausted, but not spiritually. The Church, particularly during this Lenten season, provides us with spiritual nourishment.
Fr. Alexander Garklavs kindly acknowledged my desire to speak at the meeting and I kept my remarks brief. Again, I recalled Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew (18:15). “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you an him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’”
In light of this Scriptural passage, I suggested that Bishop Nikolai be invited to the assembly to hear their concerns. I also noted that our Lord lifts up the peacemakers—“Blessed are the Peacemakers for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” But, my suggestion was rebuffed, I believe by Fr. Michael Oleksa who commented something to the effect that we had passed beyond that stage. Christ provides no exemptions in this clearly stated passage. He does not suggest that this only pertains to simple scenarios, to facile infractions or that it is ever “too late.” With the greater part of the clergy in attendance, they had strength in number. What could they fear, and how much could have been gained? Bishop Nikolai could have listened to them, could have offered explanations, sought forgiveness had they conceded to this request. They could have all reached that noble peace that only forgiveness provides. I am certain that healing, growth and commitment could have occurred. Unfortunately, these ‘could haves’ lack merit in reality.
When Bishop Nikolai learned several weeks ago that there were letters from clergy dissatisfied with him, he immediately arranged for a two-day meeting in Anchorage to address the concerns. Sadly, only about half the Diocese’s clergy attended. He invited an experienced consultant to listen to and mediate the concerns. Bishop Nikolai did not attend the first day session as he recognized that the clergy needed an opportunity to speak forthrightly in his absence. The second day they met with Bishop Nikolai. I was not present at these meetings, but understand that healing and forgiveness occurred. The meeting had focus and direction—it was based on Scriptural accountability.
Had the meeting on Tuesday followed a similar format, I firmly believe progress would have occurred. Christ provides the formula in Matthew 18:15 without any embellishment or exemptions, but it was ignored.
I recognize that there are those who have complaints about Bishop Nikolai’s administrative style or his personality. But he has been lopsidedly characterized on this site and elsewhere. Speaking with a friend today, she noted that those of us who know and work with Bishop Nikolai daily are fortunate to experience the gentle, caring, and humorous side of his personality. Those who meet him exclusively in his official capacity often fail to capture this. He is a complex person, but to my mind, there has never been a doubt that he has been deeply devoted to his clergy, their families and this Diocese.
I have served as Bishop Nikolai’s assistant and director of the Russian Orthodox Museum—a volunteer position—for three years. I have done this out of love for the Church, combined with respect and devotion to Bishop Nikolai’s vision for this Diocese. The Diocese purchased our building, centrally located across the street from the city’s major cultural center, the Anchorage Museum, in 2002. In the beginning, a portion of it served as the temporary home of St. Tikhon mission church ministering to the needs of Anchorage’s growing Russian population. It was Bishop Nikolai who envisioned this need and found a Russian-speaking priest to serve this parish. Encouraged by Bishop Nikolai, this parish has since built a church of their own. In the spring of 2005, we opened the Russian Orthodox Museum, which enjoys annual visits of thousands—locals and tourists. The museum has a gift and coffee shop. My staff consists of part-time employees—Fr. Yakov, a monastic originally from Kweethluk, Fr. Daniel Askoak from Russian Mission, my capable assistant, Anastasia Dushkin from Atka, Lea Merritt, a University of Alaska college student and Stephan Nicolai. It has become a wonderful gathering place for visitors from the villages who enjoy conversation, perhaps a game of chess and a cup of coffee. HYPERLINK "http://www.russianorthodoxmuseum.org" www.russianorthodoxmuseum.org. Our displays exhibit the rich history of Orthodoxy in Alaska. This was just one of Bishop Nikolai’s “brainchilds.” Last year, he established St. Nicholas Skete, a monastery in Eklutna. Before all these recent distractions, he was working with community leaders to establish senior housing next to St. Innocent Cathedral for our elders. These elders faithfully attend the services but lack transportation, requiring them to come in taxis. Through friendships within the community, he initiated an annual fundraising event, which gathers funds to redesign the entrance to St. Innocent Cathedral so that it will be handicap accessible. A well-known chef, Felix Zollinger, volunteered his culinary services to make this gala event successful. Bishop Nikolai has established other mission parishes, St. Yakov Center for Orthodox Christian Learning (Soldotna), and so much more. If he has failed a “personality test” by some, I firmly believe this could have been ameliorated by addressing the problem directly—Scripturally, as I suggested in the meeting.
All great leaders seem to possess flaws in addition to their positive attributes. Ironically, these “flaws” often function simultaneously as their strengths. His Grace is sometimes impatient, sometimes intractable or uncompromising. But, that impatience has translated itself into tremendous accomplishments within this Diocese during his brief seven-year tenure. He is continually in motion, attempting to develop and improve the Diocese’s institutions. His Grace’s character is many layered. Some have focused on his strictness and have characterized him as being cold and unfeeling. I have witnessed the opposite in his pastoral care and his interaction with Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike. I can say without reservation that his whole being is consumed with love for Christ’s Holy Church. On a daily basis he does what he perceives is right for Her, and for those whose souls he has been entrusted as our hierarch.
Some have asked why I resigned from the Metropolitan Council. His Grace articulated one reason—the work that I have chosen to do for this Diocese is very time consuming. In addition to serving as his assistant and director of the Russian Orthodox Museum, I have many other responsibilities at the diocesan and parish level. My other reason is I have aging and frail parents who live in England and whose care I must oversee.
I do not know what the future holds, but this has all been a lesson to me to accept, “Thy Will be done.” I do not feel animosity toward those who have brought what I believe to be the bright vision of a dedicated servant of God, Bishop Nikolai, to a standstill, but I admit that I am deeply disappointed. It seems to me that there has been a profound lack of communication, love and forgiveness. Bishop Nikolai, despite any human flaws, has given of himself in all the ways he found possible to build this Diocese through the episcopacy bestowed on him.
Of course I have no actual way of measuring, but I would assert that there are hundreds who deeply love His Grace compared to every one who has spoken against him. I conclude this from personal conversations, e-mail messages and phone calls, which I have received from concerned clergy, Orthodox faithful and non-Orthodox from across the Diocese and the Nation.
I regret that I was not as eloquent or impassioned in my plea for peacemaking at the Tuesday meeting as those in opposition. I am tired and saddened, but finally acquiesce to the difficult lesson—“Thy Will be done.”
May God have mercy on us all.
With love in Christ,
Assistant to the Bishop
Director, Russian Orthodox Museum
605 A St.
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
Tel. 907-276-7257 Fax. 907-274-7257
#6 Ms. Mina Jacobs on 2008-03-27 07:49
You are a loyal and faithful retainer, but the bottom line is to be found in the Gospels when they speak of the "fruit" of one's work and efforts. Most of Bishop Nikolai's "fruits" are bitter and poisoned, as has been born witness to by so many in Alaska.
#6.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-27 08:10
To put it none to bluntly, you could have just described Jim Jones as well. He also had a "caring and compassionate" side, he also accomplished great things, he also organized people and institutions. I am very certain that not everything BN has done while he has been bishop of Alaska has been bad or evil. I'm sure he has done very good things as well. But do those good things outweigh his humiliation of his clerics, the disregard for the canons of the church in ordaining someone unsuitable, and his blatant disregard for his Synod? No, no, no.
Should complaints be brought personally? Yes, but it hard to follow the letter of this biblical command when the person about whom you have a complaint is in a position of authority over you. This Bible passage only speaks in terms of complaints between co-equals. Hence, I struggle to see how you want to apply it to this situation. The people have made their complaint known to BN, numerous times, yet BN is still telling the evening news that these complaints are little more than figments of their imagination. Obviously, telling him their complaints still isn't working, so why ask them to continue to do so?
#6.2 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 08:23
It is clear from your posting that you are very sincere, and a loving person. We can all recognize and appreciate this.
What you and so many others do not understand, though, is that this crisis in NOT about his building beautiful edifices. It is about his alleged lack of love and understanding of the people, his lack understanding and appreciation of the Alaska Native culture(s).
A bishop is, foremost, responsible for the souls of the people of his diocese. He is to love them and protect them, not destroy them. It matters not at all whether he builds glorious edifices. If he has failed in love, understanding, and protection, he has utterly failed as a bishop.
Pray that the Holy Synod will do God's will in this matter.
#6.3 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2008-03-27 09:04
All well and good and a fine post. ....Whatever good he may have done is all over-shadowed by the hundreds of complaints from clergy & laity in Alaska. Compounding this sexuality issues and bad decisions, + Nicolai's episcopacy had to be examined more closely. The harm & chaos occurring in Alaska could not be allowed to continue.
#6.4 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 09:08
Bravo Mina!! You speak with great insight and eloquence for what I, too, deeply feel about Bishop Nikolai. As a Catholic I realize that all my volunteer efforts for the seminary, and Orthodox Church in Kodiak, through media coverage of the seminary and annual pilgrimage, are just that--volunteer and that I am not a member of your church. I pray that the voices of those who do see the goodness of your bishop be heard also, even in their silent prayers!! May the Lord's will be done. Peace be with all of you!!
#6.5 Judy T. Fulp on 2008-03-27 09:37
The mental health professional who has been tasked with the podvig of being my wife tells me that one of the most useful tools in the Complete Narcissist's Tool Kit is the ability to draw smart, competent and decent people into the net. The narcissist needs such people to reflect back his glory to him and also to ensure that nothing sticks to him. (Think of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the numerous smart, competent and decent people who willingly took one for the team.) The narcissist, who has a savage mean side, knows how to turn on the charm in order to manipulate the unfortunates caught in the net, and said unfortunates continue to defend the narcissist against all foes and despite all evidence. The savage mean side will be revealed to any of the narcissist's entourage who fails to reflect back glory or to deflect incoming rounds. (Think of Governor Richardson of New Mexico, who has now been officially demoted to "Judas" for daring to cross the Entitled One.) A clever narcissist can deceive many people over a long time. Those who are caught in the net need our prayers.
#6.6 Scott Walker on 2008-03-27 09:43
I am SO unconvinced by all that has been said about Bishop Nikolai, pro and con. I simply don't know and won't judge. I feel others who want to deflect attention from more serious issues in the OCA are using his unpopularity as a ruse in the continuing cover-up. And more than that, I suspect Bishop Nikolai himself may be part of the ruse (as long as he maintains his status-quo that is.) And that suspicious nature is my sin, I guess.
I was reading about Christ's love last night and the author stated it is not the sentimental love we often think it is and seek to emulate. Rather it is a love that is also full of wrath, a love that could say to Peter Get thee behind me Satan, a love that could overturn tables in the temple, a love that could call the Pharisees full of dead men's bones, etc., a love that could say Let the dead bury their dead, a love that had no thought for culture and its many niceties and rules, but only for the salvation of men's souls. I think Christ was loving and humble in a way we cannot understand except by the Spirit. Common nicety and good manners, etc. were not of concern to him. He was Truth and his fight was to destroy the lies of the devil. His love was impassioned by his wrath
I am not saying Bp. Nikolai's love is like Christ's however, but
with the continuing cover-up in the OCA, I wonder if we are not all just witnessing a game being played out in which a person's rudeness and dictatorial behavior is pointed out so that the more serious issue is not addressed. This is the whole point of scapegoating, I guess, but in this case, perhaps Bishop Nikolai is playing along, knowing he will not really end up scapegoated by the secretive brotherhood of bishops when the game ends.
I certainly am confused by all this bantering re: canons etc., but this I know: let us be circumspect lest we create victims while overlooking the real sickness in the OCA, and by that I mean hypocrisy and all its outworking in theft, lies and cover-up.
May the Lord continue to bring it all to light and heal us.
#6.7 Karen Jermyn on 2008-03-27 11:25
Normally, you are spot on, but this time with regard to Bishop Nikolai you have it backwards. Nikolai is actually the most extreme manifestation of all our current problems, not some misunderstood tyrant filled with righteous wrath or a posturing dupe for the Synod!! I, and many others, agree that it is easy for him to be a distraction and cover for others. But make no mistake, by his public words and actions he is, without any doubt, a disaster as a bishop and a public relations nightmare (for the OCA) of epic proportions.
Now, to their everlasting shame and disgrace, our Synod has either succumb to blackmail, or in a display of hierarchical solidarity forever, let this ravaging prelate loose to terrorize his already abused flock once again. It is hard to fathom otherwise, though it will be cloaked in cloying piety that mouths words extorting everyone to come together and work everything out. Yeah, right.
This is yet another botched opportunity to bring reform to the OCA by a Synod composed of men who can not lead, and would not be allowed to lead, in any other endeavor of life. They really all do need to retire to a monastery, as unfamiliar as those surroundings would be to them.
#6.7.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-27 12:32
Don't assume if you are from another state. Just pray harder for the better. Just a waste of time when you have some people sin. Understand SIN. If you have caused people to sin you can ask for forgiveness.
#22.214.171.124 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 19:23
Well, with the statement of the Synod out right now, the Diocese of Alaska has now been left to die.
St. Herman must be crying.
There is a God, we all know, but he doesn't guide this Synod.
#7 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 10:30
Let there be no mistaking that the Synod made a deal with the devil and the devil won.
When a Synod, now so obviously void of any guidance of the Holy Spirit, bends to the desires and threats of a person of Nikolai's character and spirit, there truly is no hope. No hope.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the faithful and clergy of Alaska as they have to suffer through the death of the origin of Orthodoxy in America. May God have mercy on the souls of this Synod, for great in magnitude will be their reward in Heaven.
#8 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 10:34
The news has just arrived that Nikolai has been restored by the Synod. The mind boggles, but then again it really isn't such a big surprise. It simply confirms the utter futility of expecting anything positive from our totally incompetent and out of touch hierarchy.
Resistance is futile (at least in this BORG universe we call the OCA)!
#9 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-27 10:40
I agree with you wholeheartedly! It looked like the Synod
might FINALLY do something right, and then they trip all
over themselves backsliding to let this horrible person
continue to stay in the very place he has wreaked so much
I'm especially disappointed in Job, Benjamin, Nathaniel and Seraphim - I thought they had "the right stuff" to stand up
to this kind of evil. So sad.....
#9.1 Pauline Costianes on 2008-03-27 13:18
"Right stuff"??? They have self-interests, they have political agendas, they have dirty secrets to hide -- none of this is right. They go after him and he exposes them, that's how it would work. And do not think that Nikolai didn't threaten them in this way.
Most of these bishops operate on one principle and one principle only -- protect the "institution" at all costs. Never go against another bishop because it may be "you" next. Who cares about the people, about the Church, about the Faith? SELF PRESERVATION is at the heart of their actions.
#9.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-03-28 00:16
It is obvious that morally and ethically challenged bishops do not have the moral authority, conviction, character, guts, and courage to do the right thing! They are weak and compromised. An unloving, power-mad, and unrepentant tyrant and abuser like -Nikolai can sense this and easily challenge and intimidate them.
We are witnessing the end days of the OCA. What a tragedy!
The time has come for me to say, with a very broken heart, good bye OCA.
#11 Theophan on 2008-03-27 11:41
It is very hard to know exactly what is going on behind the scenes here, especially instantaneously. I don't pretend to.
One easy, quick way to read it is that the Synod miscalculated, or has been cowed into confusion, submission or retreat, or never really intended to do anything in the first place, and in the end no charges will be brought or followed to a conclusion.
Another is that they want to go forward to removal carefully, without the distraction of the procedural quibbles (over enforced leave of absence, etc.) that His Grace and his supporters were raising, to say nothing of all the ambiguities and difficulties for poor Fr. Alexander Garclavs who seemingly had two more-than-full-time (if not impossible) jobs on opposite sides of a vast continent!
I can see possible hybrid interpretations of these two views across a whole middle range of opinions, too, with members of the Synod, even those with leanings for or against, unwilling to truly decide until evidence is truly in from all sides. The latter sure sounds like a pretty defensible idea since, as all admit here, no formal charges have been brought, let alone formally tried to a conclusion. This is not to say that I have changed my tentative belief (based on the "internet evidence" against and little by way of defense)that he should not continue in office, but rather that we should want removal, if it proves justified, to be done "decently and in order" as the KJV phrased it. Delay seems on the surface to offer Bishop Nikolai more than it does others, but time will probably tell. In the meantime he will doubtless be on best behavior, while those in Alaska who have criticized him will feel most uncomfortable.
I suspect that all sorts of people will want to make quick pronouncements, and those will tend to fall in line with what they already thought. The virtues of patience and silence usually elude me, and I expect some to blame me for trying to use this situation to acquire both. But I still hope to try.
#12 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-03-27 12:28
As has been suggested, we need the resignations of the entire SOB. Start over with men who care about people and the church. The decision regarding + Nicolai and Alaska only proves we have a SOB which has no clue. Now, a continued spiral downward for the people and clergy in Alaska; more despair, more darkness, more hopelessness.
#13 Anonymous on 2008-03-27 13:16
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