Friday, March 28. 2008
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I hope, in the love of our Heavenly Father, that those that remain sceptical of Fr. Garklavs love and loyalty to the Church, and not to any man(+MH) will now be moved to support him and pray for him and the leaders in our church like him, not these power hungry, greedy and out of touch hierarcy in the synod and +MH- we are still in the early years of our church- lets not waste anymore time allowing our "bishops" to continue to steal not only our money, but our hope-
#1 john- chancery worker on 2008-03-28 14:25
I've known Fr Alexander Garklavs nearly forty years, and he's a good man. It hurts me deeply to see him placed in such an impossible position.
May the Lord have mercy on him and on our OCA as we go through these terrible trials.
#1.1 Monk James on 2008-03-28 16:23
It was YOU who was harping that this was non canonical. You should be elated rather than sympathizing with the good men of this Church who do not want to see it brought down by the rigidity and lack of common sense of its own rules!
#1.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-03-29 17:46
Come to think of it, what's your response to Gregg Nescott? Are you going to put up with the Video? Are you going to admit to what Gregg said?
Also, we never got the Kondratick spin on the documents from the lawsuit that were put on the OCA site.
#1.1.2 Anonymous on 2008-03-30 17:22
Can we really be surprised that Archbishop Dimitri and Arch Nathaniel side with BN? Archbishop Dimitri is a Kondratic supporter and Kondratic's buddy, Father Joseph Fester is running the DOS.
#1.2 anonymous on 2008-03-29 19:28
The only positive development since the Great Reversal is the reaction and letter of Father Garklavs to this sorry affair. As with St. Thomas, though in an infinitely more negative context, "seeing" the handiwork of the bishops "is believing" in their stunning incompetence and duplicity.
#2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-28 14:31
Glory to be Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
In hopes of Archbishop Nathaniel and Bishop Tikhon to see the cries of the Orthodox people of Alaska, may God guide you both to see what our church has become. NO ATTENDANCE in services first of all with the Cathedral in Anchorage and contagiously in the rural places of Alaska. The people's wound would not stop until one is stopped who is causing our suffering. I hope to see all the Orthodox christians speak out when these two bishops arrive in their communities. We need to stay strong as one married to the church. May God guide them and bless them with strength in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
#3 Annonymous on 2008-03-28 15:17
You are so truely right. We used to have a full church before BN arrived to Alaska. Now hardly anyone shows up which is sad. I have noticed though when people got hope that BN was not commemorated in our church people showed up with love as if one was lost but now found. It was a wonderful exerience too see all our people return home to the church. Please Holy Synod of Bishops if you do read these comments understand our cries in our Diocese of Alaska. Our leader punishes our faith and continues to put us down as slaves. Hope God guide all of you on your decisions. In faith and in love.
#3.1 Olga on 2008-03-28 23:14
Bishop Nicholai has much to learn of humility. The Orthodox Church does not exist for him - he exists for the church. His best choice would be to retire to a monastery and spend his remaining days in prayer. His arrogance and abuse have finally caught up with him. The Synod should be ashamed of also being intimidated as well - certainly a group of tired and scared old men! Shame on all!
#4 Anonymous on 2008-03-28 16:24
Not only did Garklavs speak out against his bishop, but the entire Synod! Bold move!
#5 Peter Pappas on 2008-03-28 16:33
Glory to IC XC!
This Pascha, if all goes according to plan, I will have the privilege and joy to Chrismate a beautiful family of five. They are some of the nicest, most pious, dedicated, sincerely loving people you could ever meet. It has been a humbling and inspiring blessing for me to catechize them, to mentor them in the Faith and to see them grow in wisdom and understanding, to see them acquire the peace of God in their hearts. They are the kind of people who make being a parish priest fun. But, of course, being a pastor is not about my feelings, nor about theirs. It’s not about what I like, nor what they like. It’s about the desire and effort to glorify God in our life.
As we typically phrase it, “Glory to Jesus Christ.” That’s what it's really all about. Isn’t it? Shouldn’t it be? Then why does it seem so contrary to what we see, what we hear, what we endure from our Synod?
To be honest, though, I’m a bit surprised that people were shocked by this decision. Being who they are, how could the Synod have acted differently? It’s not about them having to finally learn their lesson. Learning has nothing to do with it. What they learn is irrelevant. All that counts is who they are: it’s about character.
The same collective character that allowed:
• misappropriation of church funds for widows, orphans, chaplains’ evangelism, etc.;
• firing of whistle-blowers;
• Protoswindler Rodion to be reappointed after they knew the facts;
• a bishop to have violently shoved a subdeacon in the altar, and to ordain a criminal sex offender;
• a bishop to anathematize two dioceses;
• (you may fill in more bullet points on your own. I’m becoming nauseous.);
will allow anybody to be stepped on or abused in any way, “so long as it doesn’t hurt me.”
We see this in the attempt to keep things hush-hush; to keep Protoswindler Rodion onboard and then throw him under the bus when he became a threat; even to allow Abp. JOB to object publicly (because his objections are ineffectual as long as they are not endorsed by this dysfunctional Synod— he's not yet a threat); to change the employees in Syosset and then, for Fr. Garklav’s first major act as charge-d’affaires, to pull the rug out from under him.
No, my dear friend, it’s not about money, never was. It’s not about transparency, best practices, sex (as oddly as it may be defined), never was. It’s not about any of these things. Never was.
It’s about character: integrity, decency, honesty, love of neighbor. Really, it’s about brining glory to our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He died for us— for all of us. Just think of it: the Lord God, the Father Almighty sent His Son to die for us, abandoned Him on the cross, gave up His life for me! The Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life left the Christ of God on the cross so that He could give life more abundantly to me! Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ freely accepted to do the will of the Father, to give up the Spirit, to trade His life for mine! Our loving and merciful God considered it a good trade— placing more value on me and my life than on His own! We are given the Resurrection!!! This is mind-blowingly good news, a joy that is beyond my capacity even to grasp it. He did this for each and every one of us, personally, calling us by name into His heavenly banquet, to enter into the joy of our Lord!
And the really tragic part is that our Synod doesn’t even seem to care.
Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik
St. Nicholas Orthodox Mission Church
P.S. Mark, perhaps you misspelled the article’s title: mourning has a “U” in it.
#6 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2008-03-28 16:56
Dear Fr. Bartholomew,
First of all, glory to Jesus Christ that your parish is evangelizing and has enrolled a family into the catechumenate this Great Lent. Despite all the problematics in the OCA, and they are considerable, you are to be commended for this evidence that you are keeping correct and proper priorities in your life as a presbyter. May the Lord our God remember you in your presbyterate.
You are completely correct in your analysis that the problem is not money per se, and that the problem is not sex per se. These are but symptoms of a deeper problem. You have suggested that the problem is integrity. I wonder whether it is still deeper than this.
One wonders whether the people standing on the eagle rugs have utter contempt for the clergy and the people who do not constitute the "in crowd." The actions are such that one could think the "in crowd" laughs at the clergy and the people who believe and try every day to live that belief. One is hesitant to write this, because it is such a grave charge and probably deeply unfair; however, the actions are such that this conclusion passes from the realm of utter paranoia and delusion to the realm of being an understandable reaction.
When His Beatitude, the Most Blessed Lord Metropolitan Herman of All America and Canada was interviewed by Protodeacon Peter Danilchick in September, 2006, his Beatitude was asked:
"Will apologies be made and a public show of repentance given to former whistleblowers, specifically Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, Gregg Nescott and John Kozey?”
MH: “We regret that issues brought to light by these gentlemen were not addressed immediately. However, the best apology will be the results of the investigations as well as the implementation of practices to ensure that such financial problems as we have had never happen again.”
This carefully phrased statement limits the difficulties of the OCA to "financial problems." His Beatitude does not see the real issues, or does not care. Either one is a terrible problem.
But what then do we do. First of all, we simply live our own lives the way we are meant to live them, in the place where we have ended up. Perhaps today has been full of despair, or some other negative feeling. Tomorrow, we chip away at it and hope for the best. Another (similar) thing is that we should view this as a disease of the skin; we should do our best to not allow the offenses done by others affect our interior life. Again, today may not have worked so well, tomorrow is another day.
I think it is a good thing that parish delegates to the upcoming All-American Council are starting to organize themselves on-line: becoming familiar with parliamentary procedure, becoming familiar with the Statute of the OCA and our canonical heritage, and trying to identify potential candidates for the Metropolitan Council, the Audit Committee and the Pension Board (this last, though, has actually has worked very well through all of the present unpleasantness). This process, one hopes, will change the self-understanding of the AAC from an audience to a legislative body.
The question from Protodeacon Peter to His Beatitude makes me wonder who should constitute the Audit Committee for the next triennium. While Gregg Nescott is probably needed on the Metropolitan Council, it might be a good thing if Protodeacon Eric Wheeler and John Kozey were included among the auditors. (I am hesitant to make this public. Like John Adams, I am perhaps obnoxious and disliked, and thus a nomination from me would be to their detriment.)
Others would probably have more to say as to how parish delegates should prepare for the AAC. I think this should be the focus; finding a voice so as to make the deliberations focused, productive and independent of the administration.
#6.1 Edmund Unneland on 2008-03-30 10:34
Since this is the "Morning After," if we all take the Morning After Pill will + Nicolai just go away? How about the SOB? How about this entire OCA nightmare for the last so many years?
#7 Anonymous on 2008-03-28 18:58
I can just see BN swell up with pride about being restored. It is just like him, we know that, because we have seen how he reacts when he gets praised. I'm wondering what exactly was said to the Holy Synod that made them change their minds, I can only guess that it was a scare tactic of some type, knowing BN and how he uses this power.Well, we are not giving up, we will continue to gather information from our people and be prepared to meet with the two bishops that are coming to gather more testimonies from our faithful and clergy. PLEASE, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NOT WRITTEN YOUR LETTERS, DO SO NOW, HELP SUPPORT OUR CLERGY, AND ESPECIALLY HELP YOURSELVES GET RID OF THIS EVIL. THIS IS ONLY FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH, DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET ALL INVOLVED!!! We must not give up,there's a saying "where there's a will,there's a way" keep this mind as you prepare your letters of support. When we get no further help from the Holy Synod, we must insist that they tell us what BN has been scaring them with, what words or actions that he(BN) has done to make them change their minds. This way we, the faithful will have a stronger voice to confront them all if/when we need too. Continue praying for our freedom and release from this tyrant.
Forgive me if this is too bold at this time of the year, but I'm tired of hurting and want to be free.
#8 Pauk on 2008-03-28 20:47
Hi Mark.......of course it is impossible to imagine synod as being party to a witch hunt, therefore, could one surmise that Fr. Garklav's fact-finding mission might be prelude to a visit by suitable hierarchs in an effort to find a native Alaskan candidate that can be considered upon +Nicholai's elevation....
#9 Guileless on 2008-03-28 22:02
Knowing the SOB, how can you possibly think they are capable of something so forward looking and creative ? I have no faith in any of them to resolve this crisis or do anything positive, including, I'm afraid, my own bishop, who says nothing to us about this whole crisis. If my statement is cynical and faithless, I can only cite the frustration and near despair expressed by Fr. Garklavs. If he feels 'betrayed' how can the rest of us possibly not feel the same?
#9.1 Priest(Canada) on 2008-03-29 10:39
After all that has transpired people are looking to the complicit and the guilty to do the right thing for Alaska how incredabily perverse !!!!
The only thing that will solve the OCA's problems is a FEDERAL INVESTIGATION.
#10 anonymous on 2008-03-29 06:02
Here we see the church looking to the state for help when there is trouble at the top -- looking for imperial or state leadership intervention when the bishops get their robes in a twist is something the Orthodox Church has done often through the centuries.
But here in the USA the state is not disposed to involve itself with internal church doings. Christian leaders with really impressive titles are here seen to be free utterly to choose what they deem to be important and to act. To display openly to all who they are and why folk should stay, join, and bring their children to the Orthodox Church.
But, every day, fewer and fewer appear. What can be said other than putting the spiritual lives of the people before career interests is evidently not among the things counted important by the high modern Orthodox Christian leadership. But it was in yesteryear. What has changed? Not the rules, not the faith, but the way the present leadership chooses to ignore the inconvenient rules. What is different about the leadership then and now? Then they had previously married bishops chosen, as the gospel says ought to be done -- from among the people. Not chosen from only the 'ordained young and never married' among the people as the present preponderance reflects.
Now, married parish clergy try to explain to married parishioners why their own preaching has meaning when they themsevles are seen to submit to, well, what we see here, and not only in the OCA. The grass is not greener elsewhere, it just has better paint covering it up.
Adding enough senior married priests as full members of the synod to make a difference and police their own ranks without needing to whine for help from the FBI and civil courts is the only way to restore confidence by and in the parish clergy, the only way leading to survival and even growth.
Those who really love the Christian Orthodox church and want it to survive must rise above their personal histories and do the right thing.
#10.1 Harry Coin on 2008-03-29 13:11
Maybe it is worth pointing out that from a legal point of view Fr. Garklav's report became "inadmissible" as evidence. The meeting was called due largely to BN concerns about the canonicity of the investigation. BN was successful in getting the Synod to agree that the investigation of a bishop can only be done by other bishops. Since Fr. Garklav's is not a bishop, his report could not be heard because it was deemed to have been conducted in an uncanonical way. If the Synod had decided otherwise, that an investigation of a bishop can be done by whomever the Metropolitan sends to investigate, regardless of clerical rank, then the next order of business would likely have been to read Fr. Garklav's report.
This is all a rather unfortunate turn of events, yes. But BN has insisted on a certain process to be followed in his investigation, and other bishops agreed to that process. This will likely set precedent for future investigations, which makes me a tad nervous. But while I disagree strenuously with BN interpretation of the canons which made his insist on this process, I have yet to see anything wrong with the process itself, per se.
I simply wish that they had picked two bishops with stronger spines to conduct the investigation. +Tikhon is a lovely person and a lovely monk, but he has yet to prove that he is actually a bishop. I suppose they picked the two who were considered the most "objective" because they have not been involved in very much of the situation. As we continue Lent, let us fast and pray also for these two bishops, as well as all the faithful of Alaska, that they may be strong and full of the Holy Spirit.
(Editor's note: You have the cart before the horse. Fr. Garklav's report was complete. Moreover, the Metropolitan chose not to allow the report even before the meeting was held. Therefore, any decision of the Bishops to agree that Bishops should investigate Bishops was ex-post -facto. )
#11 Anonymous on 2008-03-29 07:36
Let the church see the report!
#11.1 Staupitz on 2008-03-29 09:41
Mark, one of the major questions at stake in the meeting was whether Fr. Garklav's had a right to conduct the investigation in the first place. MH apparently initially assumed that he did, but given other bishop's agreement with BN that he did not (since he is not a bishop) word probably came to Syosset earlier in the week that the report could be deemed uncanonical, therefore it would be worthless to release it since it would have no value. Asking the Synod to read the report before its mere existence was justified would have been putting the cart before the horse.
I realize that this is a technicality, and an unfortunate one. But the fact remains that the majority of the Synod decided that an investigation conducted by a non-bishop would be inadmissible as evidence. I would love to know what's contained in Fr. Garklav's report as much as anyone, but whatever it contains has no canonical value and can not be used in the Spiritual Court. While this is disappointing, it does go to show the MH's word is not law in the Synod, for better or for worse.
I know for a fact a number of high-ranking officials at OCA organizations and seminaries are also very p.o.'ed at how things went down this week and they will be watching closely how all this turns out. I too wish things were done differently, but we can't just "hang the crook" without due process. If the shoe was on the other foot, and it was BJ being investigated we would all be sticking on every little bit of due process to be followed now wouldn't we? We need to be consistent. Even if this means throwing out reports just because it is decided that how they were made was uncanonical.
(Editor's note: Your analysis presupposes Bishop Niolai's reading of the canons, which many do not. Just to scream something is uncanonical, does not make it so. Moreover, the truth is not canonical. It is. To disregard the truth because it does not fit into ones' pre-existent system is, I beleive, the mistake the Pharisee's made regarding our Lord himself. A dangerous precedent for an Orthodox Christian, wouldn't you agree? )
#11.2 Anonymous on 2008-03-29 10:15
I do not agree with BN interpretation of the canons. And from what I can tell this disagreement is shared with our bishop. For once, I actually agreed to what MH was trying to do. But unfortunately other members of the Synod did agree with BN. They do, in fact, have a right to have an interpretation which differs from mine. And since this is a matter of interpretation, it is difficult to say that one is more "right" than another. I believe that given the pastoral situation my interpretation is better, but that is rather subjective. But regardless, the Synod made a decision (over-ruling MH in the process), and now they are trying to carry it out.
What this does show is that members of the Synod believe that MH has so far made a fiasco of the investigation (i.e. by "uncanonically" putting BN on a leave of absence and "uncanonically" sending a non-bishop to conduct the investigation) and they turned everything MH has done so far into a moot point (including Fr. Garklav's report). While we are all angry at BN being allowed to return to Alaska, it is worth noting that in so doing the Synod has humiliated MH. By extension this also humiliates Fr. Garklav's, which is sad, and I would be angry too if I were him. But the fact remains that the Synod decided that his report should never have been begun in the first place.
I hope what when +Tikhon and +Nathaniel go to Alaska they learn a lot. Learn what happens when bishops decide to favor the letter of the canons over their pastoral responsibilities. Learn what happens when bishops fail to integrate themselves into the local culture of their people. Learn what happens when a bishop does not care for the souls of his people. +Tikhon could come away from this with an understanding of how to be an awesome bishop. Let us hope and pray.
(editor's note: They do not need to go to Alaska to learn the truth. They could read it in Fr. Garklav's report. The truth is not made or unmade because a Bishop decides so: we only pray that he divides or discerns it, given your translation. But what is (poorly) done is done, and one can only hope, that the truth, however delayed, is allowed to be heard. )
#11.2.1 Anonymous on 2008-03-30 11:21
In a hypothetical legal case if the prosecuting attorney gathers evidence through illegal channels the judge must and should throw this evidence out of court, no matter how relevant the evidence is to the case. In all civilized legal systems it is understood that the defendant has the right to demand that all evidence brought against him was gathered legally.
The Synod here has followed the same procedure, and they determined that Fr. Garklavs report was obtained "illegally" and hence it was thrown out of "court". Its pertinence to the investigation notwithstanding, it has absolutely no legal power. If +Nathaniel and +Tikhon base their investigation on the report it will make their own report illegal. The status of the report was rejected on procedural grounds, not because of what it contains (since the bishops did not read it).
Sure, I would love to know what is in the report, but what would be the point? Any information based off the report is inadmissible as evidence, so knowing it would only color our own credibility. I feel like I am repeating myself, but I do not know how to make myself more clear. And I do not understand why you continue to cling to the idea that the report still has authority. Unless we manage to change the minds of half the Synod, the report is little better than a figment of our imagination in this investigation.
(Editor's note; Such is the foolishness that is destroying the OCA. It is not the acts of bad men, evil as they are, that condemns us, but the folly (in the biblical sense) of those who are failing to oppose them, for all the right reasons.
Like the man who insisted crossing the road in a crosswalk, but failed to look both ways before do so, you will may be dead right. But the operative word is dead. To argue Garklavs report is invalid because a priest assembled the evidence, not a bishop, is absurd legalisms in an ecclesial context. In that is puts form over substance, procedure over content it is the attitude and style and workings of the Potemkin Village still dominant in the OCA. Unless we are willing to deal with the truth of things, and not the vestments of them, we are still hastening down the road of the long defeat. Wake up!)
#220.127.116.11 Anonymous on 2008-03-30 15:24
I am a little stunned that anyone is taking this argument seriously. I do think that the enforced leave of absence was uncanonical, and I think that proceedings against bishops must be conducted by other bishops. But since when is it impossible for a bishop to voluntarily delegate one of his functions? Will +Nikon and +Benjamin be forbidden to employ translators, unless the translators happen to be bishops? (After all, it has to be bishops asking the questions, right?)
The bishops chose Fr. Garklavs to investigate alleged abuse. They also chose him to serve as +Herman's agent in divesting +Nikolai of his authority before trial. Evidently they as a group are now uncertain about the wisdom of the latter decision. But there is no reason why that should invalidate Fr. Garklav's findings -- which are the fruit of episcopal authority they actually do have, to carry out an investigation.
I suppose that in an analogous situation in the American criminal justice system, inasmuch as I'm capable of imagining one, such evidence would be regarded as inadmissible. But this is not the American criminal justice system. Our priorities are different, and for good reason. For example, I don't know about you, but I would not prefer to let ten guilty bishops go on ravaging their flocks than convict one innocent bishop.
Are you suggesting that if Fr. Garklavs had found a closet full of dead bodies in the chancery, the Synod would be obliged to ignore this fact? As far as I know, there's no such thing as Law and Order: Ancient Canons Unit .
#18.104.22.168.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-03-31 11:57
You, whoever you are, have absolutely no idea what this Church is all about. Absolutely none. High minded talk about canons and questions of the legitimacy of the faithful’s problems with Nikolai proves that nothing that is written in the Gospels has been absorbed. That’s sad and it cuts to the core of the problem. You have reduced the Church to set of rigid legalisms concerning behavior that is so ungodly so as to protect the person(s) exhibiting that behavior. Its interesting in how you completely set aside any of the commandments given by God and Christ Himself in order to resort to the canons and the “legality” of comments received from an aggrieved group of people, namely the faithful of Alaska. Its beyond me to fathom questioning the “legality” and admissibility of the pain that the faithful in Alaska is enduring. Why not just call this a fraternal organization like the Elks? For all that we center our behaviors on the Gospels it might as well be some secular fraternity! Mark is partly right, such is the foolishness that is destroying this Church. The real truth is the complete lack of belief in Christ is what is killing this Church. The “me” before “we”, the “I” before “Christ”. This is clearly exhibited by the hierarchy of this Church.
For all those that want to question the validity of whatever report Fr. Garklav’s had prepared, you can call it whatever you want, you can demean it whatever you want, the facts contained there are as a true as you’re ever going to see heard in the Church in Alaska. The Synod, in its usual unconscionable thinking, doesn’t want to be confused with the facts in anyway that might bring light to their ungodly behavior. Why do you want the report to be discarded so badly? Because its damning? It tells of a man who’s done all he can in direct opposition to all the Gospel teaches and to what end? And then he wants people to think he’s great. All great men make others cower and bow down on their knees begging for mercy because they made a mistake, or spoke the truth as they know it, or tried to do some other good that was seen as contrary to the ideas of this great man! How demeaning, utterly DEMEANING, it is for whoever has to bow down to another man begging for forgiveness. Christ taught us to GIVE forgiveness, not make people BEG us for it! It should be given freely and as happily as you are when you take a donation! I ask again, HOW MANY OF YOU could subject yourself to such abject humiliation? And to whom? Where in the GOSPELS DID JESUS subject anyone to this? WHERE!? This single act, reportedly repeatedly, rocks me to my very core. And its done by a Bishop in our Church who uses the canons to prevent accountability. How sad, how very sad.
What’s so damn annoying with this is that some people have reduced the Truth to a bunch of legalisms that have absolutely nothing to do with the word of the Gospel. None. Period. Now, some like the legal canonical eagle Tikhon, will come back and say that its necessary for the good order of the Church and point to a million reasons we should have them, but, people, if people just followed the commandments given to us from above the canons would be made redundant. Do you understand that? The canons are a fallback, yes, a fallback. A fallback in case people can’t live up to the commandments. For there is nothing in the canons that extends the commandments. There is a feeling among a certain lot that any behavior no matter how despicable, secularly illegal, immoral, can be dismissed and ignored and not dealt with just because some canon was not followed! If its not written in the canons as being wrong then its not wrong is the mentality that some follow. Where is the common sense? The canons here, and they have been beaten like a dead horse, have been contorted to preserve BAD ORDER in the Church. How? Because they have been used as a shield to protect the guilty and destroy the innocent who are so pained over all the malcontents running the Church.
Mark does have one point wrong, this isn’t foolishness on the part of those perpetuating crime against the Church. This is a well planned and thought out attack against the Church which reminds one of what’s going on in our secular world where a group determined to see our downfall are using our own freedoms against us in order to defeat us. This is what is going on here, we have a group of severely demented malcontents filling the ranks of our clergy from Priest to Metropolitan, who, for their own selfish, twisted reasons, need to maintain power at all costs lest the façade of their sacrilegious ministries be brought to light! That is IT! The whole thing in a nutshell. They are a group of bad people. They use the canons against us and people feel, like people in the secular world do too, that if only we follow a procedure never conceived with the foresight of what we are now facing and play nice, that we will prevail over the evil. BS!
What the Synod did last Thursday was the equivalent of the Jews calling for Barabas rather than Jesus. Plain and simple. And true to form, the Synod, like Pilate, set Barabas on his way and condemned Christ, in the form of the Church, the Alaskans, and the faithful in general, to more persecution, and maybe a diocese to crucifixion, lest they be concretely exposed for the Godless bunch they are. Unfortunately they weren’t listening to the faithful, who again and again, fall down to cry for Jesus to be heard in HIS Church.
We know they’re Godless, last week’s actions confirmed it. What CAN they be hiding, what CAN they be so afraid of as to cower and fall down to any threat that Nikolai would dare to give them. How does hiding it make them look any better or maybe not as bad? We know they’re bad, every last one of them. They have lost the last bit of shame, not even making it seem like there was discussion, they just cut to the chase. Thousands of dollars, more than on any Church program, was spent for them to be dressed down and lower this organization more than we could have imagined possible. How can they allow bad to triumph over good and then walk through the airport with people looking at the holy man going to his plane back home? If only those people who saw these bishops at the airport and on the plane knew that what they were seeing was merely an act. Nothing but a mirage, because they had just sentenced people to more persecution, a diocese tossed the wolves, and, they say, all in the name of God and being guided by the Holy Spirit. Brothers and sisters, that is the definition of blasphemy! I’m sick and tired of people calling their bishops good men and how they like them. They’re complete failures. They’ve abandoned their faith, they abandoned their God, they’ve done all they could to keep the pain going. And people call these men GOOD?! ENOUGH!
Some people live all their lives and never come face to face with evil as we have in this Church. Fortunate are those who do not have to be part of an organization run by supposedly good and righteous men who exhibit nothing but the lowest level of human behavior that can be found anywhere. They may not have killed, but they’ve crucified the Lord again and again with their treachery against His Church. Do not think that they are taking a long time to debate within themselves and in prayer as to what to do. We know that what belies their thought processes are the basest of human instincts that being survival. And they will try to survive no matter what. No matter that gnashing of teeth of those that try to cleanse this mess.
If Nikolai or ANY of his supporters want to talk canons, statutes, fairness, and whatever else to water down his ungodly behavior, then let’s revisit the defrocking of priests under Nikolai that were not afforded the same! Bringing up two lackey priests from Syosset to do the dirty work of defrocking a priest that Nikolai wanted out hell or high water, but no priest in his own diocese would have done conscionably is an example of what Nikolai REALLY thinks. Don’t believe the repentance baloney. Actions speak, and the man who lives by the canons and the statutes wouldn’t allow anyone he didn’t like their protection. The canons be damned when its in his way, but the mountain they are if you need comfort! He doesn’t want fairness, he wants what needs to be done so that he may be kept in power in Alaska and to what end? He’s destroyed a Church, people are leaving in droves, clergy thinking of jumping jurisdictions and we’re playing legal games with the canons so that he can continue indefinitely! Where does that make sense? What do we not understand about what this religion is and this Church that was built? Where did Jesus resort to legalisms to shut out people. Where did he cast out people PERIOD!? Where did Jesus use legalisms to keep out those that opposed him? Where did Jesus make people bow down and prostrate before Him? Nowhere, and Nikolai and his malcontents, the REAL dissidents in the Church, and the Synod who has so much to hide they can do nothing but bow down in obedience to his threats have to perform canonical contortions to prolong this agony in the hope that Nikolai can do a dictatorial purge of those that have created this so then when the time comes he can say their accusations are baseless because they are no longer in good standing in the Church. And there, friends, is how one uses the rules to run amok and preserve unchristian behavior all to preserve a power which he needs to feel good at night.
In an earlier comment Mina says what good Nikolai has done. The incredible feats of beautification, a museum, and the like she uses as proof of what a good man Nikolai is. BS! Look at history, Mina! All dictators throughout history have built monuments to themselves to proclaim their greatness because no one else does! They have created works that they hope to use as arguments, as you have done, that they are great people and have done much for their people, hoping that this overshadows the persecution those people receive. Why do they do this? Because you’re not going to hear of any people under them speak under penalty of brutality, but only see the tremendous monumental works. How can a man who makes a museum, commissions the greatest iconography, schools his seminarians for free, be as bad as every one says? Hog wash! He’s a great man! Break out the fatted calf in his name! Wine for all! Truth is held hostage under dictators and only they let known what they want to be known. What has been Nikolai’s great failure in his eyes? That he wasn’t able to do more to contain and beat down those that spoke! I don’t want to hear about monuments to his greatness, I want to see people, the faithful, tell me of his greatness. I want to hear about Churches that are packed, and not when people are led to believe that Nikolai is under leave of absence and a knight in shining armour is sent from Syosset to investigate the problems. The fact is, no matter how much the Nikolai faction wants to spin this, that the Church in Alaska is dying and what the Synod did to protect their own immoral behaviors is to put a knife in its back and turn it.
Leaders that mouth the words of St. Ephraim but don’t believe it. Leaders that created a fraternity where anything goes and everyone covers up and the people are paying the bills because these leaders blaspheme the Lord in order to play on our emotions that we need to fund the Church because its doing God’s work. This is not God’s work. The truth is that the emotions are played upon to send in money to promulgate a behavior that you wouldn’t want your children to know existed. People, the ground shook in Kodiak on Thursday, a tremor was felt, maybe it was the Alaskan Saints spinning in their coffins unable to take any longer the tragedy that has become of what they worked so diligently and selfishly for. They rightly did it in the name of God.
No, I do not have any faith that Nathaniel or Tikhon will do anything of any use. If they haven’t done any good to this point, there’s no reason to believe they’re going to get enlightened now!
#22.214.171.124.2 Stonewall on 2008-03-31 14:33
Thank you for taking the time to say what I'm sure many of us are feeling and thinking at this point in time.
While I still hold out some hope that the Bishops in Alaska are taking the necessary steps to put an end to the rogue rule of +Nicolai, the events of this past week have been bitterly disappointing, to say the least.
I wish also to express my gratitude to Fr. Garklavs for his support of the Alaskan clergy, and for his willingness to sacrifice his own status within Syosset in order to do what was right. Truly he has demonstrated Christ likeness in this.
Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Alaska. Yes, we do support you--and all who come to your aid in this time of trial. It simply cannot be that you would be expected to return to living out your Orthodox Christian lives under the false shepherd who was sent to you. I dare say that most of us understand that, and we await your liberation.
Please know that you don't suffer alone, as these events have deeply affected those of us watching them in the lower 48. You are not the only ones biding your time to see if anything good can ever come out of Syosset. If nothing is done to deal with +Nikolai, I think that many of us will see it as an indication that nothing will ever change with these men in power in the OCA, and we will be forced to leave them to self-destruct. There is no virtue in allowing ourselves to be destroyed with them. We have sounded every alarm; we have “taken it to the Church.” There is nothing more that we can do. The members of the Synod may choose the path of self-delusion for the remainder of their days, but God does not require us to walk it with them. Walk toward the light, as the saying goes! And the light is Christ.
And of those who incessantly quote Chrysostom saying “Where the Bishop is, there is the Church” I can only ask—where IS the bishop? Surely you are not speaking of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that we are dealing with in the OCA. The true bishop is the one willing to lay down his life for his flock, not the one willing to do anything to save his own hide. There is a difference, and I’m sure Chrysostom would note it.
#126.96.36.199.2.1 Cathryn M. Tatusko on 2008-04-01 07:15
Stonewall and Cathy,
Thank you for expressing yet again what so many of us see and understand to be the devastating spiritual corruption, lack of Christ-like action of the bishops, failure of love for Christ's flock, and failure to defend truth and innocence that is darkening the soul of the OCA. It's a blessing to know that in our collective suffering and tribulations there are so many Orthodox Christians who can still discern the fierce spiritual battle that is raging and know that we are not alone in the desert created by our very own bishops.
To the Faithful and Priests in Alaska,
Know that you are constantly in our hearts and prayers! The rest of us support you and will not stop speaking out to help free you from suffering and oppression you're enduring. Do not give up, do not lose hope, and do not compromise with evil! Stand for Christ, for truth, and righteousness. May the Holy Spirit bring you peace, resolve, and comfort. May the Holy Trinity support you, strengthen you, and defend you against the wolves in our midst who are abusing, devouring, and scattering the sheep and continuing to crucify Christ.
- Chris Banescu
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Perhaps the saddest thing I've felt during this entire scandal has been the conversion of the OCA from a place of healing to a place of justice, due process, and legalisms.
#11.3 Marty Watt on 2008-03-29 10:36
Are you saying that before Pope Herman took over and slew the mighty dragon called Kondratick, we were a place of healing?
When was that time and place of healing? Seems to me it was when Theodosius and Kondratick in Syosset.
You are right, what we have now is legalism which has sprung up in the face of illegalism being imposed on our beloved OCA.
God help us.
#11.3.1 DT on 2008-03-31 08:41
Right on, Mark! Also, it is surely well known that many (well at least a couple that I know of for sure) do little of their own work; pastoral letters, etc, often are done by (more articulate, more theologically oriented) priests. So even if the bishops "conduct" the investigation, they woudl no doubt be relying on the work of others.
#11.4 Priest(Canada) on 2008-03-29 10:44
I could be wrong, but it seems to me there is a way in which the report from Fr. Alexander could have been used. Before the Holy Synod takes up an accusation against a bishop, the Metropolitan or three bishops must determine whether the accusations have substance (Statute, Art XI, §7). Perhaps the report could have been used for the purpose of determining whether there is sufficient warrant for charges to proceed to the next step. Anyone may make an accusation, the only requirement is to establish the "accuser's good character, irreproachable standing in the Church, and motivation."
#11.5 Edmund Unneland on 2008-03-30 16:15
Do you want to know how we Alaskan clergy feel? We feel betrayed. Period. We hoped that the HS would act and give us some relief, but that relief did not come. Instead the wolf was given the key to the sheep fold. And we are all genuinely afraid of what is coming over the next few weeks.
The bishop has characterized us as disedents, as adolescents just acting out. Naughty school children that do not want to do as teacher says. Then when the whisper became a shout, he deflected the whole thing away from himself by calling it a plot hatched in Syosset to get control of the Alaskan lands.
Isidore himself, on TV, said that those priests who spoke out have problems in their villages, including alcohol abuse. And the intimation was that it was the clergy who are abusing the alcohol and that is the root of the problem.
The village clergy are whining, complaining, naughty, drunks.
I am sick to my stomach and I must say that I don't know how much longer I can hold out.
But thank you Fr Alexander G., for your efforts on our behalf. It is not your fault that things turned out the way they did.
This is my next to last post. The next time I write it will be to announce to world my stepping down from this jurisdiction; from this diocese; from this parish; and very possibly from the Orthodox Church altogether.
The only love here is for the rubrics, the typicon, the canons, and for a church that never existed in the first place. Even those who tow the line, who bow and scrape are not loved. Even they are dismissed as those who had better keep it up and watch out.
Enough. Good bye. For now.
Anon Ak Priest (for now)
#12 Anonymous Alaska Priest on 2008-03-29 11:26
In reading the recent comments it appears that +Nikolai played hard ball with the canons and the Synod caved in. But I don't think a MEAN bishop, such as +Nikolai, will win the day. You have a whole bunch of upset clergy and faithful in Alaska and these are the last people you want to alienate. They bear enough alienation just due to the fact of the large geographical expanses of that state that separates one from another and with its severe climate patterns, including the snows, the ice and thaws, and the sun (and lack thereof) imposed upon them much of the year.
My hope is now that two bishops are supposed to go there, that they will hear and observe what Fr. Alexander Garclavs heard and observed, and will report back to they HS in May the accuracy of what he, too heard and observed. FR. Alexander wrote a very bold, courageous, and pastoral letter. He knows a lot of stuff now and is giving them much moral and courageous support.
If +Nikloai becomes retaliatory, more mean, or revengeful over Graclavs' or the two bishops' investigation, then I think he will not have a diocese to administer to anymore. As suggested, the clergy will either leave or find another jurisdiction. Some of their options may be "uncanonical," but I don't think the clergy up there will tolerate more abuse. If +Nikolai can become a concerned, caring person (and I am not sure how he will do this), he may stand a chance. Modeling his actions after someone such as Garclavs may be a good start. Love, care, concern, and humility. But personality patterns can be hard to break. Don't know the end of the story here. Through the grace of God, and with love, care, concern, and good will on the part of all parties, the OCA will hopefully maintain its Alaskan diocese. Bishops must rise above MEAN and vindictive. They must rise to that place they were consecrated to be, of washing the feet of their brethren as did Jesus. There is hope that a MEAN bishop may become the lowly, but grace-filled and light-filled presence of love and humility that he was called to be.
#13 Patty Schellbach on 2008-03-29 19:19
Dear Mark, I send this comment 2 days ago, maybe it was lost, or you decide not to add it. If it's not the latter, here it is again.
It was very comforting to read Fr. Alexander's letter.
Let's for a moment accept the idea that the Synod wants to humor b. Nikolai and do things "canonically" (bishops as inquirers etc.). The irony though is that according to the Russian tradition, as of the 19th cent (so beloved to b. Nokolai), the regular synodalian procedure during an investigation was to issue a temporary leave of absence. The OCA Synod didn't create anything new in this regard.
Anyway, that's already behind. But why May?! The bishops will be here the first week of April, there is still the 5th and 6th week of Lent to have a Synod Council. Then hopefully we could have a real Bright Celebration after that. But to have Passion Week, Pasha and Bright Week in this turmoil is very painful.
(Editor's note: I rarely do not post things: with the possible exceptions of the endless virulent and petty rants from Bishop Tikhon. (If he has no respect for the dignity for his former office, I still do. As he has pointed out, only about a quarter of his comments are posted. In an excellent reply to the Bishop today, Chris Bansecu points out why.....) But it often happens that comments are lost, amid the spammers, especially when there are 30-40 to post at a time. If one does not include a real email address, I have no way of contacting anybody to let it be known that has happened. So I apologize for losing yours, and repost it here as it should have been.)
#14 Anonymous on 2008-03-29 23:02
Fr. Garklavs is a courageous man, and an inspiration to us all. It is absurd to the point of it being a joke that nothing he wrote down shall be read, but I hope we shan't betray his courage by backing down ourselves.
When there is injustice and cruelty in the world, it is up to us to stop it, not anyone else.
#15 Michael on 2008-03-30 04:29
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ . Keep the faith and don't back down. You are fighting the Pharisee and Sadducees in the modern world. Follow Jesus and turn over the tables to let the light of truth into his church. +Nikolai will use the teachings of Jesus to manipulate his power against all who oppose him. Not that he believes the teachings but it is a way to control the faithful and priests. God be with you.
#16 Anonymous on 2008-03-30 19:45
What's that fishy smell? Perhaps it should be called the Diocese of Lutefisk.....
(Editor's note: As a Norwegian-American who spent years in Finland, let me just say that lutefisk (which is white fish steeped in lye) may smell, but remains tasty to many. If you make it the Finnish way, and leave it too long, it turns to soap - saippuakala. All in all, we could use a good cleaning out, methinks. )
#17 Robert Allen on 2008-03-31 12:08
Hi Mark.......much prefer rokelaks and fiskeboller to lutefisk and rakefisk........perhaps a more wizened +Nicholai has returned to Alaska........if the ADN articles are true representations of attitude, as mishandling of church funds appears not to be an issue
#17.1 Guileless on 2008-03-31 18:26
I think DT had a great point talking about legalisms versus illegalisms, but at some point, people need to be given a notice, and the Bishop of the North got one.
I think good fruit can spring forth from the Alaska situation, but so far it hasn't. Good fruit would be a means to address these bad behaviors from chief priests and pharisees.
Why is it that a Bishop can be downright mean and it is tolerated? I have seen a mean bishop, but he will remain nameless lest I offend his family. A mean Bishop might sometimes be right to be mean/stern, other times not so. His meanness is usually rewarded with people becoming disinterested in following their faith closely. I'm convinced this strict behavior creates the Christmas and Easter Christians.
Our Synod, in going to canonical legalisms, has blessed the action of kicking a lady out of her home. They fail to recognize this fact and the fact that mean Bishops and mean clergy reinforce the C&E approach.
Bishops and clergy are human and capable of all the same sins as the rest of us. We've seen that far too well lately in the OCA, or worse, men with power sinning even more.
What we haven't seen is an appropriate response. It took years and a public relations campaign to end the Kondratick graft. It has taken years and a public relations campaign to awaken the Synod and put BN on notice.
Why does the OCA allow things to get to a boiling point before responding?
Ethics hotline? They need one real bad.
I will include Bishop Nikolai in my prayers tonight. I would ask the clergy and people of Alaska to do so as well. Pray for his humility, patience and love.
Next time he is cruel or mean, immediately call the Metropolitan and send a letter to Mark Stokoe. In the absence of an ethics hotline and timely responses from the Synod, those are the only apparent options.
And if prayers and letters fail, perhaps the trunk of your car might help. (hope the message isn't lost in the humor)
#18 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-03-31 13:20
I am only a humble person, not known by many but my heart could not bear reading much more of these comments in silence. I am asking not that anyone remain silent, nor that we do nothing, rather that we deal with our situation with respect and peace. Nothing comes easily, it never did in the past, it never will in the future when dealing with personal "temptations" of power. Even Moses, whom God Himself spoke to personally, had a hard time in freeing his people from Egypt. The trail one must travel is never smooth, and filled with many temptations. When we as a people support each other and promote peaceful means of resolving problems, we will finish our journey all the stronger for it. Our elders always told us returning hate for hate never solves anything, spite for spite does nothing but fuels the animosity that provides joy to evildoers. Let us not fall at the first sign of turmoil!
I am in support of my spiritual father, I will stand with him because since childhood he has taught me, along with my other uncles and family that love and patience even in the face of animosity, and faith in our Heavenly Father allows our true faith to shine across the land. We do not live for money, power or any other "God."
My simple life in Rural Alaska is not much, but I know that sometimes when we wait in silence after saying what needs to be said, the other side provides the evidence more openly. The truth always comes out in the end. Didn't we see some of it already when a response was of money instead of another's feelings? What one ultimately has in his heart comes out naturally - love of money or love of others? Sometimes in our anger and frustration we do not allow others to witness it because everyone is too busy responding to the insult. Say what needs to be said at the appropriate time, trust in God to see us through this and reflect in prayer before responding so that our anger and hurt does not hinder our progress.
May Love for one another and Peace be with us all,
#19 Nastasia Vaska on 2008-03-31 19:02
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