What an interesting approach! I would have preferred another one (like Western Pennsylvania model) but I am not an Alaskan, let alone an Alaskan native. If this one-at-a-time approach to finding their spiritual leader is what they want, who are we we to second guess them? Let us pray instead to Saints Herman, Innocent, Tikhon, Jacob, John (Kochurov), Juvenaly, Peter, and Blessed Mother Olga to guide our Alaskan brothers and sisters to find a wonderful hierarch and spiritual father to them all.
This is a nice spin! The reality is that + Jonah told everyone that this guy is the next bishop of Alaska. Well, maybe, maybe not! After the last two disasters pushed down the throats of the Alaskan people by the admin, who wouldn't be skeptical? The current candidate is very lacking, but the Holy Spirit may fulfill that which is lacking - just like the last two!
I must concur with anonymous. After participating in a post-vespers parish discussion/meal with +Benjamin less than a month ago, at which time I repeatedly raised questions as to the situation in Alaska, I came away with the distinct impression that far from being an ‘arranged marriage’ the selection of Abbot Gerasim is rather a shotgun wedding. The good bishop was quite clear in stating that the matter was entirely in the hands of the Synod and anything else in the process was simple window dressing. I realize that most will simply view my words as hearsay – I can only say that I wish now that I had thought to bring a tape-recorder with me to the gathering.
It seems to me that Bp. Benjamin can babble and project his brusque impatience all he wants and flex his episcopal muscles with his usual inarticulate statements, however it does not change the fact that no other episcopal candidate has spent as much time as Fr. Gerasim in a sincere effort to get to know the peoples of Alaska and for them to get to know him.
Our Synod will listen to the voice of the Alaskan people because they have the responsibility to nominate or not nominate a candidate. It will then be up to the Synod to respond.
Anonymous wrote, "It seems to me that Bp. Benjamin can babble and project his brusque impatience all he wants and flex his episcopal muscles with his usual inarticulate statements, however it does not change the fact that no other episcopal candidate has spent as much time as Fr. Gerasim in a sincere effort to get to know the peoples of Alaska and for them to get to know him."
Wonder who finances all this traveling to and in Alaska?
Melanie Jula Sakoda
Melanie Jula Sakoda
In other words, you are saying that Fr. Oleksa is a liar.
It seems as if the Moscow Sobor of 1917-18 has built up in the minds of some as some grand government of lower clergy, laity and bishops together (as well as government and military representatives and voting members from other autocephalous churches), rather than the far more complex interaction between the bishops and all others at that Council that left all final decisions to the bishops alone. (Of course, the Council was never really implemented in either the MP, ROCOR or in Evlogy's Western Europe - not to mention anywhere else in the Orthodox world except the OCA and Sourozh, so one could make a strong argument that the Church Universal never 'received' the unique aspects of this Sobor and thus it cannot be taken as an unquestioned precedent anymore than can the view of Canon 28 of Chalcedon held more consistently by the EP and its satellites.)
However, if one is going to acknowledge a certain precedent in the 1917-18 Sobor for the OCA, in particular, a little more should be known about how that Council actually did what it did - rather than what proponents of the episcopal selection processes in the Dioceses of the Midwest and Western PA, for instance, assume an episcopal selection 'must' look like.
A good resource regarding the conciliar ecclesiology of the Moscow Sobor of 1917-18 is the paper presented at the SVS 2009 Summer Conference by Fr. Hyacinthe Destivelle. It touched on the structure of 'conciliarity', specifically that the bishops maintained final approval on just about everything in a specifically prescribed way. Especially pertinent is the way in which the lower clergy and laity at this Sobor were and were not involved in nominating, selecting and electing bishops, metropolitans and the patriarch. Fr. Hyacinthe's presentation is available as a podcast from AFR here:
Fr. Hyacinthe Destivelle is the author of Le Concile de Moscou (1917-1918): La Creation des Institutions Conciliares de l'Eglise Orthodoxe Russe (Les Editions du Cerf, 2006), which was described in the podcast as the definitive, magisterial study of the Moscow Sobor of 1917-18. Fr. Hyacinthe is a Dominican priest and a professor in the theological faculty at the Catholic Institute in Paris. Le Concile de Moscou (1917-1918) is in the process of being translated into English, but it is available in other languages, as well. See, too, the book review by Philip E. Yevics in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies 42:3:476(1), published by Thomson Gale on June 22, 2007.
Historically, has the Diocese of Alaska ever participated in the nomination and selection of their own bishop? I know the last two were chosen for them, but did they participate in the process prior to that? Is this a return to an older tradition?
(editor's note: I too heartily recommend Fr. Destille's book. That being said, older is not always better, despite our Orthodox prediliction for tradition. The fact is that the OCA has a Statute which speaks of how bishops are to be selected for Dicocese. Given the past two disasters in Alaska, perhaps following its spirit as well as its letter would be the start of a grand new tradition?
And, as for the Diocese of WPA and Midwest's selection process, neither said anyone "must" follow the patterns they established. Ever. We have stated that it only makes sense the clergy and laity be involved to the fullest degree possible in the process of selecting their future bishop, and both developed means of so doing. The result in WPA is a much more engaged diocese - and, we hope, a much more engaged Midwest diocese whose bishop can come out leading, rather than spending precious years while clergy and laity "get to know him".
As for the Russian Council of 1917 not being "received" - I think the martyrdom of most of its leaders, the wholesale destruction of the Russian Church, the descent into schism, and Soviet repression had something to do with it. And lest you forget, it was our first All American Sobor in 1907 which was a pattern for the 1917 Council. According to every account at the time, the North American Church joyfully "received" the 1917 Council's calling, work and decisions, because it reflected the pattern St. Tikhon had established here first. And that pattern of conciliarity saw us in good stead over the next decades of schism, oppression, poverty and turmoil until we came to a safe harbor in 1970 through autocephaly and reconciliation with the Russian Church. Now, in these perilous times, with foes more internal than external it seems, conciliarity is our best hope as well. Feel free to disagree. That's what conciliarity allows.)
This is a beautful story and one that should warm the hearts of any Orthodox, especially those who have been to Alaska and have experienced the special and unique culture that exists there. I pray for you Fr. Michael, and for the diocese of Alaska. Years ago I met and had numerous conversations with Bishop Gregory and he constantly impressed on me that Alaska was unique and that its experience of Orthodoxy was both traditional and problematic for much of the remainder of the OCA.
This past summer I had the opportunity to visit a couple prarishes in SE Alaska, and one of the things I asked about, and proposed as a theory, as a minor historian, was the totem poles did not exist in Alaska until after the Russians had arrived, bringing with them iron tools, and that totem poles were a iconographic reflection of culture taken from Russian icons and super-imposed on local familial culture. It was fascinating how well such a proposition, seemingly radical in suggestion, was received.
I've been to Alaska, stayed for weeks on end in Fr. Gerasim's cabin on Spruce Island, and what you suggest is beautiful and poingant. I am blessed by you and your thoughtfulness and story. Thank you. My prayers are with the churches and faithful of Alaska.
I think we all know that Fr. Michael is not to sort to lie as he has been accused. The OCA (not to mention the rest of the Orthodox in the US) has a real shortage of qualified candidates. Fr. Michael is commenting that the one who appears most qualified is actually making an effort to know the people and receive their support rather than acting like an entitlement-case.
Boy, you should all be suspicious of a bishop who cares about the people. Of course, the alternative would be to keep Bp. Benjamin...
After all, can anyone think of another candidate willing to hitch rides across the back woods to visit a few folks in tiny villages? Most bishops I know freak out if there isn't room service.
(editor's note: the alternative would be to let the clergy and laity of Alaska select and nominate a candidate of their own choosing, rather than have a suitor chosen for them in an arranged marriage. They have had two arranged marriages in the past twenty years, and neither was so successful, were they? )
I don't really know much about the issue of the bishop-finding process, but I don't think the process being followed, even as outlined by Fr. Michael Oleksa, is going to help anything.
However, I just want to say that I hope the people of Alaska do not disqualify Father Gerasim as a candidate for bishop simply because of the wheelings and dealings of others in trying to get him selected.
As far as I know, Fr. Gerasim is totally innocent in all of this. If consecrated and enthroned, I believe the Alaskan diocese would find him to be a kindly and faithful bishop.
All I can say, is that here at St. Vlad's, Abbot Gerasim is loved and respected by all.....faculty, staff and the student body. He prays for us and gives us a powerful example of love for God and his neighbor.
I think we know him better than so many of these internet loudmouths who are putting him down.
From an SVSer who also knows Father Gerasim... I agree!
If Alaska declines to accept him as their bishop, it will be their loss. It is obvious that he already loves the land and people, and cherishes their traditions and their souls. He makes friends everywhere he goes because of his kindness (and probably that big beard and smile, too).
He is much loved and respected in the SVS community. I can only think his critics on here have never met the man.
The majority of SVS students/alumni are eventually ordained and placed in parishes. The rest tend to be active in church life, such as the illustrious Mark Stokoe, master of this web site. So I think new episcopal candidates are very much their collective business.