Thursday, February 28. 2008
The letters continue to pour out of Alaska. You comments and thoughts are welcome.
Your comments on Fr. Garvey's reflection are welcome as well.
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The OCA in ALaska has BETRAYED us, and I for one, will never forget that...never. We've endured enough betrayal for over 200 years, enough is enough, anything else is dysfunctional...
#1 Moses on 2008-02-28 17:09
"Why O Lord, Why?"
Why O Lord have have you given us this bishop to rule over us? Was it because of our vast sins? Was it because we are a meek people who are poor fishermen? Was it because we have believed in you so and have tried to follow the faith given to us by Father Herman? Was it because we haven't given enough gold to the church? Why? Why? Why?
#2 Anonymous on 2008-02-28 17:27
I very much appreciate and agree with totality of Fr. Garvey's reflection; it brings balance and perspective to the mess we're in. Getting the Synod of Bishops to act is all important. I predict that +Nikolai will be gone by Pascha.
#3 Terry C. Peet on 2008-02-28 19:12
I believe that all of the talk about the death of the OCA or about other jurisdictions coming in to save us are just desperate cries by desperate people. Right now there is a lot to be desparate about. Whenever we travel we visit and commune at Orthodox Churches and it has never been important who the hierarchs are, we have always been welcomed. No priest has ever asked me if I was Greek or Russian. By the time I approach the chalice I must appear as non-threatening because I have never been turned away. It would seem to me at this point that if someone can conveniently attend another church that would be OK because the level of stress in the OCA right now is too high. But that does not mean to say that the OCA is finished. If my wife and I were to attend the church in Eagle River it would cost us more than $1200 per service unless we decide to move(we have lived in the same home now for 27 years). Because our bishop has all the checkbooks for all the church accounts we cannot pay our own bills. I worry that he will call a locksmith to change all of the locks on the doors and we will be locked out. If you think this can't happen please reread a few of the latest posts and tell me it is not possible. I also have some concern about the plan proposed by Mr. Meyendorf. The Alaska delegation will consist of only those who support the bishop(all three) and he will be voted right back in. Remember that we did not unanimously ask for him to come here as has been stated other places. I had never heard of him, although I am not a voting member of any thing and would not have had a preference anyway. I am happy with my priest, my parish, and the fact that attendance has improved during the last year. I happen to live among the Tlingits which may explain why they still come to church. I was in attendance at the funeral of Matushka Anna and it was embarassing and a very sad turn of events. Everyone was confused about what was happening, but the bishop was new then and I thought maybe he didn't take the time to understand what was going on but as days and weeks and years have gone by it now seems clear that sharing the stage with someone else was just too much to endure so he had to bail out. In conclusion I want to state what caused me to finally post something. The less I here about other jurisdictions or who takes over if the synod goes the better. There are things that are just much more important to discuss right now. If we didn't have any bishops for a short period of time, what would change, as long as the doors stayed open and the family of church goers communicated and helped support each other.
#4 Alaskan, looking for humility on 2008-02-28 19:13
Bravo to Fr John Garvey.
How about calling a “cease-fire” to the summary execution of the OCA. It does expose a potential immaturity of us in the OCA.
These days are our first “dark days” as the OCA. The Greeks (Sypridon), Antiochians (the Joe Allen and Ben Lomand fiasco), the Serbians with decades of hatred and schism, how about ROCOR and the MP for how many decades? Well, guess what, we are now passing through our “passion week” after 38 short years.
So what are we to do? Throw in the towel? Give up? Merge with someone? It’s possible but only if it brings us closer to Orthodox unity in North America. You see, the OCA has always been willing to do this, but not as a summary execution, but to bring the Church to unity in this land and to dismember the heresy of multiple Orthodox churches in one land.
Mark Stokoe has this website because he believes in the OCA. He believes in the vision of the OCA. So does Eric Wheeler, and as strange as it may sound, so does Bob Kondratick. Mistakes by all, you bet. Hindsight, perfect 20/20 vision. Real-time decisions that worked as well as real-time decisions that were dead wrong? Yep.
There may be one point we can all agree on, except for the most cynical here - WE ALL LOVE THE OCA, not as an “institution” but as the idea, the vision, what it is STILL called to be. Who of us is a completed project as unique persons made in the Image and according to the Likeness of God? We all fall short and thus we, as OCA, and its present incarnation are still a work in progress in this land. The Church Militant is not perfect but the Church Triumphant is.
So, Bravo Fr John Garvey.
And I take it as a sign of painful but necessary spiritual growth as the OCA, the Church in this land that we are raising these issues, even if our bishops are a step behind. How can we be surprised. Bishops, by almost definition are a step behind, who see themselves as the final line of protectors of the Church that they, as bishops are to turn over to the next generation of “overseers.” They are conservative, slow, prodding and “measure 7 times and cut once.”
But having said this, some bishops will get it wrong, (roll tape of heretic bishops throughout the history of the Church) as well as simply incompetent ones like Herman and wrong-headed and WRONG one’s like Nikolai. Nothing new under the sun here folks. There will always be bad bishops, clerics and even more laity. But for whatever reason, our Lord in His perfection sought to build His Church upon imperfect people, of whom I am first!
Let me say again, I love the OCA for what it was and still is called to be here in North America and I soon won’t hand it over to those who define Orthodoxy by ethnic monikers. I don’t say this with any disrespect, rather in the sure hope that Orthodoxy in North America will grow and mature into its unique place amongst other Orthodox Churches worldwide.
I say all of this in the sure knowledge that this coming Sunday is the Sunday of the Judgment and I pray to keep all of this in perspective.
#5 Anonymous on 2008-02-28 19:45
I liked a part of the Garvey reflection because he recognizes that we must not revil in the failures of our Bishops. In fact, we must support them.
Perhaps instead of an onslaught of letters coming from clergy when a Bishop is deemed awful; if the Holy Synod taught the Bishops not as kings, but as men who needed mentoring, the Bishops would in fact be instructed on how to be a good Bishop and what not to do lest ye be considered a bad one. I like to give everyone the fairest shake ever, and people make mistakes. Why then can a Bishop not err or be too strict? How easily could a Bishop head down that road and think he was right for years only to be told he was wrong by the clergy years later.? Somehow our Bishops tend to fail in admission. Perhaps this is because they aren't given the chance to learn and correct mistakes they have made, or perhaps the bar and the mechanisms they operate within are that they are EXPECTED to be right all the time, so they MUST be right all the time.
For the Bishop of Alaska, I've not seen a spec of humility in the man, but perhaps I've missed it. We've seen this in Metropolitan Herman as well. Sadly, humility would go so far with Orthodox folk, it is hard to understand why they display so little, other than the EXPECTATIONS set for them by brother Bishops, clergy, and laity are simply that high, or perceived so..
One part of the Garvey reflection I disagree with.... I disagree with the 'perhaps' on the Meyendorf letter because it is simply too far fetched.. While all of them resigning would be the ultimate display of humility, the humility they have shown thus far, save for Job and a bit from Herman has been nearly zip. Probably going back to expectations.
Why would they go to this extreme collectively now when all along we've expected perfection from them?
What must happen is we must reevaluate the mechanisms by which the MC and the Synod operate. We need ways for Bishops to be reprimanded for small errors like the ones Nicolai has made before they become major problems slapping him in the face repeatedly. We need effective councils that serve the people that elected them. We need to empower the Metropolitan Council in some way that is meaningful. The MC should have the power to remove a member of the administration [for cause] without the Metropolitan. We need to empower clergy and laity to remove bad councilpersons.. no councilperson should be unable to be removed from office, which means none should be without a body they represent (at large).
While Metropolitan Herman changed the org chart to prevent future problems. He did not prevent future problems with bad Bishops and bad future Metropolitans. The only way that can happen is with a governance that is effective and empowers the clergy and the people and affords a Bishop a reprimand without the threat of deposition.
Bishop Nikolai, it would seem, has deserved reprimands for several years. How many has he gotten? What mechanism is in place to give him one? Giving Nikolai a reprimand years ago for booting an old lady out of church might have changed his behavior drastically..
I think we really need to examine how Bishops and clergy are reprimanded for errors. The Catholic church used to move them to a new town, but this only caused havoc in the new town. A good reprimand for booting a lady out of church? Going back to that church and asking the community and her for forgiveness might be wise. If a Bishop can't get this kind of recommendation, why do we wonder when they behave badly?
#6 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-02-28 21:29
Fear not, Alaskan faithful, the old Russian proverb, "You get the bishop you deserve," does not apply to you. It's not your fault. Rather the Holy Synod got the bishop they deserved and unfortunately you had to pay the price for their incompetence and spinelessness.
Someone on that Synod needs to grow a pair and stand up to that bully masquerading as an icon of Christ and put him in his place by removing him and deposing him! Then pray for the poor souls in Las Vegas that will have to put up with him in his ignominious exile.
#7 Dr. Herbert Elfers, DDS on 2008-02-28 22:20
The Significance of Yup'ik Eskimo Clergy Speaking Out
"We call ourselves Yup'ik people or Yupiit [Real People]. In our language yuk means "person" or "human being." Then we add pik ["real or genuine"]. We are the real people." --(Yup'ik Elder) Paul John November 1991.
Anthropologist Ann Fienup-Riordan, has spent years documenting and publishing Yup'ik Eskimo knowledge and recently published Yuungnaqpiallertput THE WAY WE GENUINELY LIVE which summarizes the teachings we Yupik are taught by our Elders.
To truly understand the immense significance of the Yupik clergy speaking out about the situation in Alaska is to consider the following teachings of our Yupik Elders in terms of what is proper protocol and behavior. This is by no means a criticism of our Elder Priests and Yupik clergy but an effort to put their "outspokenness" into context.
First, Yupik leaders and community leaders seek to enhance our culture after centuries of federal policies that first enacted physical genocide of Native Americans but in more recent decades enacted cultural genocide of us: our grandparents were forbidden to speak our Native languages to each other and my generation has almost lost the invaluable treasure of our Yupik language. After all this, it is of great significance that many of our clergy can still speak to each other in Yupik.
We have even non-Yup'ik clergy such as Dr. Very Reverend Michael Oleksa whose prodigious analytical and linguistic capabilities have afforded him the opportunity to learn our Yup'ik language sufficient to communicate with our revered Elders in our own language! Even early Orthodox missionaires are known to have translated sacred texts into indigenous languages to "“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)
Given the centuries of physical and cultural genocide suffered by Native American peoples, it is significant when in this day and age, Yupik clerge are forbidden to speak to each other in their Native language.
As Riordan recorded, the Yupik Elders teach us that a person's mind is powerful. Theresa Moses of Toksook Bay reminds us, "Umyugaa-gguq tukniluni [They said that one's mind is powerful]. They told us that a person's gratefulness is powerful, and that their hurtful feelings are also powerful. If we cause that poor person to have hurtful feelings, they can shove us into negative consequences. But if that person is grateful, it is like they are pushing us toward our own happiness." In our sentient world, Ellam Yua [The Person of the Universe] is always watching and will reprimand those who do as they please.
Riordan comments that us Yupiit externalize and condify constraint instead of reason, relying on guidance from our ancestral qanrayutet or teachings. The foremost admonition is to act with compassion, sharing and helping those in need. Second, we are taught to control our own thoughts and feelings, avoiding private conflicts and public confrontation.
As Riordan comments, these two admonishments advocate neither selfless altruism nor passive acquiescence. Rather both are our Yup'ik understanding of the minds positive and negative powers. To act with compassion elicits the gratitude of those that one helps, and brings the power of their minds to bear on one's future success. To act selfishly or in anger, on the other hand, injures the minds of one's fellows and produces dangerous negative effects. This immediate and tangible reciprocity is at the core of Yup'ik social and emotional life.
When our revered Yup'ik Elder the Archpriest V. Rev. Peter Askoar, spoke out, it is very significant given the ancient Yup'ik teachings we are given a lifetime to learn. Many of us who know Father Askoar know him to be a typical Yup'ik Elder, quiet, soft-spoken, humble, kind, compassionate--the last person we would expect to speak on behalf of the Alaska Diocese.
Likewise, the Kuskokwim priests and the eloquent Yup'ik priest Fr. Thomas Andrew speaking out are speaking despite our ancient teachings to avoid confrontation if at all possible. This is by no means an effort to criticize their bravery but an effort for the dominant European-American society to glean miniscule comprehension of the great signficance of their acts
My wife and I were born and raised Roman Catholics and met in a Jesuit Boarding High School; my father a retired Roman Catholic Deacon. After my years of indoctrination from Fr. Stephan Heckman and with His Grace Bishop NIKOLAI's blessing we were able to baptize our children into Holy Orthodoxy and after becoming chrismated; we were able to receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony from, then Archimandrite, His Grace Bishop BENJAMIN.
We are sad and hurt that our idealism, fervor and love for Our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Orthodoxy has come to this state of affairs, yet we remain ORTHODOX. Poor sinner that I am, God-willing, we will forgive our brothers who have hurt us seventy times seven.
It seems God sends us people for a reason, He sent us Saul--who became St. Paul; he sent us Judas Iscariat; He sent us St. Mary of Egypt; He sent us St. Herman; in His infinite Wisdom, He sends us people.
Please keep our Orthodox Church in America, our Holy Synod, our Bishop NIKOLAI, our Chancellor Isidore, our Archpriests, our Priests, our Proto-Deacons, our Deacons, our Sub-deacons, our Readers, our Altar Servers, our Matushki, our families and our Laity in our prayers. We love you, keep the Holy Orthodox Faith unto Ages of Ages!
Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Thy Grace.
Your unworthy servant,
Altar Server Herman
George Owletuck, M.A.
Assistant Professor of Alaska Native Studies
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska 99775
907 750-2256 cell
907 474-5495 Direct
#8 George Owletuck on 2008-02-29 02:43
Dearest to Christ,
Of course Eagle River is not the answer to your problems. At best it might help a few of the Christians who have been marginalized and falsely excommunicated in and around Anchorage by this false bishop. The hope for rural Alaska is to keep doing that which she for a long time has done.
I am glad of the love you have for your priest and local parish. It is in the local parish that most of us are seeing the fullness and the healing of the Holy Church (also here in the lower 48). As the people gather around their local priest, who in the first centuries of the Church was commonly the Bishop, our hearts are still lifted up, and we are still given to lay aside our earthly cares and still have the joy of oneness with God. Glory to Him and Joy to us!!
It is only during the liturgy and the gathering of the people in prayer that We can forget these difficult times and have any joy right now. We have as our difficult road to carry the reality of the Liturgy into our whole life. Apart from the Holy Liturgy, and the prayers of the Church, much of the other mention or contact (apart from the local parish) regarding our Church right now seems to just make us either mad, sad or scared. Overcoming the fear, anger and sadness with the reality of the Liturgy is the hard part for all of us. When the Bishop is proven false you must draw even closer to your local priest as your community already is doing! Stay close to the local priest/bishop as you would Christ!!
May God bless you and keep you in this time of uncertainty. We will continue to pray for the faithfulness of your priests and those entrusted to them. Please pray for us. Alaska, God will not leave you nor forsake you.
#9 fr Andrew on 2008-02-29 03:58
Thirty years ago in Chicago the cry was, “The whole world is watching!” Today, in the midst of the terrible almost unbelievable abuse that has occurred in Alaska, we the Church turn toward our bishops, looking for any sign of life, crying out, “The whole Church is watching!”
#10 Staupitz on 2008-02-29 07:20
It is nice to see some profound understatement here for a change. Fr. Garvey's reflection is the most soothing piece I've read aboutf this mess.
He says "There has been a lot of talk in recent days about the death of the OCA, the wholesale departure of former members of the OCA for ROCOR, the Moscow Patriarchate, or other jurisdictions." Then he goes on to talk about "disappointing bishops" and "ineffective hierarchy" and seems to suggest there's probably not much we can do about it, but it might not matter that much. He counsels that it should not distract us from our vocation and is worried that while this website is necessary, some posters exhibit an unholy glee in the whole thing which is a "spiritual sickness."
It is hard to judge the level of a person's anguish, and everyone expresses himself or herself in a unique style and vocabulary. Some are more pessimistic or outraged or hurt or frightened than others, each according to their personality and local conditions. It cannot be easy to discern among the heartfelt cries of suffering souls and spiritual immaturity and mere unholy glee. (At least there was no talk of devils.)
As for spiritual sickness, the church is supposed to be a hospital for souls. What is the church doing to heal those who have been so sickened? There is medicine, sure, but until the infection is gotten rid of how are we supposed to truly get better? This is beyond "disappointment" and an "ineffective hierarchy."
"We excuse the institution and its representatives too easily."
That's what Fr. Garvey wrote in Commonweal Magazine in April of last year. Also (excerpting):
"My point is that it is too easy for some of us who stick with the church to say, “Where else have we to go?” That was said of Jesus Christ, not of the institution."
"When you see corruption at that level, and a way of living that simply contradicts the gospel, both its letter and its spirit, it is easy to see why someone might reasonably say, “No thanks; I’ll look elsewhere.”"
"The church, and those of us who are supposed to represent it, shouldn’t be let off the hook so easily."
I like Fr. Garvey's writing a lot, and I am not saying the two articles are opposed. They do seem to have different emphases, however, and perhaps purposes. Even with all sobriety and distance, I wonder if he still sees why it would be easy for people to indulge in "talk in recent days about the death of the OCA, the wholesale departure of former members of the OCA for ROCOR, the Moscow Patriarchate, or other jurisdictions." I wonder if he thinks things are better since last April, and that kind of talk is now less easy to understand.
One thing I do agree with. This will have to be addressed at the AAC, and after that we'll all have a pretty good idea of what shall become of the OCA.
the entire article is online at http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1896
#11 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2008-02-29 07:41
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity
The question in my mind is why for Yeats did the best lack all conviction? Was it not the subjugation brought upon them by the worst that caused their apathy? Were the best for Yeats not those being cleverly manipulated by the rich and powerful into social slavery and made part of the war machine of WWI so that the worst, the power mongers, could continue their passionate intensity of ruling and subjugating?
Somehow I feel Yeats' words have been twisted in this Reflection by Fr. John Garvey, and I think of Christ who in his passionate intensity cast the money changers out of the temple, who exposed in a violent death on the cross man's true spiritual sickness (which is not anger against God, but fear of Him), a spiritual sickness so skillfully hidden by lies and manipulation of the religious power mongers and their sycophants.
Christ, alone, who could never be lied to or manipulated by them was the best who
never lost his conviction for defeating the father of lies, the devil, the source of the *worst*.
There are those today, who in their outrage, speak for a total cleansing, but please, let's not assume they do so without weeping, without inward tumult and struggle. Christ Himself, sweat great drops of blood at Gethsemane, and perhaps we will never know the depth of His day to day anguish in the presence of those who exhibited fear, instead of faith, who found it easier to believe lies rather than the truth, who wanted to retreat into their spiritual sickness of fear and denial, like dogs who refuse to eat because the dish is new.
Yes, let's live out our baptism, let's remember the robe of light we were given and preserve it pure and undefiled, not only in our parishes, but with a pure and undefiled conscience in our struggle for the whole truth to come out, soldiering courageously on in the Spirit, not retreating, not lacking conviction to expose the true spiritual sickness that hides so successfully in our celebration of the past and its heroes and above all in hypocrisy.
Let us celebrate The Lord's present struggle for truth and cleansing and the brillliant future we know He alone is bringing. Let our righteous indignation against the spiritual sickness that the Lord is exposing not be quelled either by the worst of a angry mob mentality, or the best of a
retreat to save that to which we are accustomed, that proud and exalted history to which we cling.
Let the robe of light suffer no further hidden defilement!
#12 Karen Jermyn on 2008-02-29 08:51
Regretfully, I don't agree.
While Fr. Garvey's historical survey and analysis is right on target, his prescription for dealing with the current crisis, and his criticism of the critics of that crisis, is wrongheaded to say the least. How can he say ignore the bishops and get on with parish life when we have the Alaskan debacle, to use just one of the most egregious examples at hand? Who the bishops are does indeed matter a great deal even if our primary concern is not with clothing and feeding them, which will come as news no doubt to some of them.
In Fr. Garvey's words, "the Orthodox who fear and hate all this (i.e. the OCA legacy he so eloquently describes)," are in fact running the Church. Their perfidious influence is rampant in the hierarchy, seminaries, and yes even parishes. It is only the voices of protest on this site, however strident at times, that have brought us to point where we can confront, challenge and hopefully defeat this mindset.
Otherwise, Fr. Garvey to the contrary, Orthodoxy in its OCA form is doomed to failure.
#13 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-02-29 09:48
Thank you, so much, for your explanations. As one who was raised in Fairbanks, I do understand much of what you write, although I could never put it into words in a way that others can understand. You have succeeded, wonderfully!
Probably the greatest tragedy with Nicolai being sent to the Alaskan diocese is that he has absolutely no understanding of the people and culture he is supposed to love and lead to salvation. Apparently, he went to Alaska with a very warped idea of the diocese being a "Russian" church, not realizing that the people in Alaska are no more "Russian" - they are a very different culture.
This all makes me so sad. I love the Alaskan native people. You deserve a truly loving bishop, as Abp. Gregory was. That is far more important than anything else, more important than properly "Russian" edifices, or rubrics, or rules, etc.
The one thing that keeps running through my mind is the eternal damage that Nicolai is doing to the people of Alaska. Who cares about whether the icons are proper in his eyes, or if plastic flowers are used? These are all expressions of love by the *people*, and for him to just ridicule them, and to ridicule the elders, is just beyond all comprehension. The man is spiritually destroying the *people*. He must be removed for the sake of the eternal life of the *people*.
I stand in complete solidarity with the people and clergy of Alaska. Nicolai must be removed, by whatever means is necessary.
Fr. Daniel Swires
#14 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2008-02-29 11:16
"Why O Lord have have you given us this bishop to rule over us? Was it because of our vast sins? Was it because we are a meek people who are poor fishermen? Was it because we have believed in you so and have tried to follow the faith given to us by Father Herman? Was it because we haven't given enough gold to the church? Why? Why? Why?"
#2 Anonymous on 2008-02-28 17:27 (Reply)
Dear Alaskan brothers and sisters in Christ, please know how much the cry of your heart touches the rest of us in the OCA.
There was a man born blind (John 9) who also must have wondered, why why why? The usual response to such pain from the Pharisees in those days was to say "sin"-- either the man's own sin, or his parents'. But the Lord's disciples had already begun to wonder about such thinking, and when they asked Him, "Why was this man born blind? Who sinned, this man or his parents?", Jesus said to them, "Neither. It is so the works of God may be made manifest in him." And Jesus healed the man.
Let us all hope and pray that our Lord will heal the poor suffering Alaskan diocese, that their suffering may not be in vain, that God's work may now be made manifest in the repentance of our hierarchs to take up their shepherds' staffs and expel this wolvish bishop from their midst. If they will at last heed the pained cries of the faithful in Alaska, it could be the beginning of the healing of the entire OCA. God grant it, and soon!
#15 Valentine on 2008-02-29 11:33
To those of you who don't know that there is a petition on the right hand side of this website to ask Metropolitian Herman to resign, please take a serious look at that link.
You can sign this anonymous if you wish, but please consider voiceing your opinion to cleaning the house in Sysosset.
Also there is another site that if you wish you can contribute to the Save the OCA., that link is directly underneath the Bethesda Petition.
Thank you for your consideration, and May God Bless. Sincerely In Christ, Marjorie
#16 Anonymous on 2008-02-29 15:24
Bishop Nikolai is an Equal Opportunity Abuser; everyone who crosses him, regardless of ethnicity, is subject to his wrath.
#17 Dear One on 2008-02-29 20:14
My heart goes out to our Brothers and Sisters in Alaska.
However, do the Bishops have the canonical evidence to depose him? It's obvious he wouldn't accept retirement, but wouldn't a deposing have to be based on Nikolai doing something theologically incorrect or teaching something theologically incorrect. Perhaps though the other Bishops are fed up as much as us, they do not have the ability to carry out an action.
I was wondering if Mark could put together a brief article (or some knowledgeable person could step forward) if any of the letters provide canonical grounds for removal.
#18 Rd. Michael on 2008-02-29 22:37
In one of the older threads Bautista Cabrera recently asked if there is a blanket prohibition in the Antiochian Archdiocese on going to monastics for confession. The answer to that question as phrased is "No." That is not the whole or only answer, however.
Back in the days of the Ben Lomond troubles - just before the storm broke, but well after the first clouds formed and thunder could be heard - a letter came out from headquarters written for that particular time and set of circumstances which forbade Antiochian clergy to just go free-lancing around to whatever monastic elder they might happen to fancy. In fact they were told to select their confessors as a matter of course from among Anrtiochian clergy.
Why? I am not a bishop, and wasn't one then either, so I can't say with any real authority. But as a 33 year resident of the Ben Lomond area (1973-2006) and founding member of the parish I have some pretty good guesses.
We in Ben Lomond had come to live out and encourage a view of the Orthodox faith that overemphasized and even romanticized monasticism to the eclipsing of proper obedience to bishops. If I may say so it was an awfully protestantized approach to monasticism too, in which monastic contacts and semi-monastic obediences were touted as just the ticket for all and sundry parochial members of the church. We believed and practiced the view that the individual or the local priest, free of episcopal oversight, were perfectly competent to shop around among the available options for whatever monastic counsel they might choose.
That kind of outlook contributed mightily to the spiritual pride and parish-wide spirit of judging toward bishops which went before our fall. Although I quickly chose to remain with Antioch when the chips were down in 1998, in the years before that I was also one of the guilty contributors to the gradual crafting of our unbalanced views and practices on monasticism. Without asking episcopal approval, for example, I organized the first visit of BL clergy to Mount Athos in the early 90s, and later, once again without the knowledge or approval of our hierarchs, I sought out and brought to BL a well-known monastic elder to give counsel.
It is my very firm conviction that the directive sent out by the bishops just before our split was intended to curb the practice of free-lance resorting to monks or non-Antiochian clergy for spiritual direction. I myself asked and received permission from Bishop Joseph to return to Mount Athos after the split and long after that letter of caution was written by the bishops. I was specifically given the OK to seek advice and give my confession to a particular monk who lived there. In the years since, I know of at least one situation where the bishop has instructed our clergy not to invite one particular monk to speak or give counsel in our parishes, but we have no problem going to other monastic houses with the bishop's support (sometimes financial) and encouragement.
Just three weeks ago for example all the clergy in Bishop Joseph's Diocese of LA and the West were summoned to the annual four + day clergy retreat. The speaker: Archimandrite Zacharias, a Greek monk from Essex, England and long-time disciple of the Elder Sophrony. Fr. Z's topic can be summarized as"the Hidden Man of the Heart." This same man has once or twice been the featured speaker for the clergy retreat's in Bishop Basil's diocese. Last year the speaker in the Diocese of LA and the West seminar was an OCA monastic priest. Another year an abbess from another jurisdiction was a featured speaker. About 8 months ago I took a group of laypersons to pray and work at a monastic house of another jurisdiction with full disclosure to our bishop and his tacit approval. That is not to say all our bishops or clergy have exactly the same attitude, beause they don't, but rather to say that those who paint Antioch with a broad brush on the issue of monasticism are probably no more or less accurate than broad brush artists usually are.
I hope this has not been too windy an answer to Bautista's actual question or what may have been implied in it.
We here in Orinda have added the faithful OCA clergy and laity of Alaska to the litanies for the indefinite future. Twice I had pretty direct and very negative experience with the outworking of the "leadership" activities of Bishop Nikolai when he was still in the lower 48. The reports coming from his diocese now are completely consistent with what we outsiders from another jurisdiction encountered a decade or so ago, and suggest that with the increase of power and decrease of accountability in his present office some of the negtive tendencies have accelerated. May God bless all within his power and have mercy on the bishop and me as chief of sinners.
Fr. George Washburn
St. John the Evangelist AOC, Orinda
#19 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-02-29 23:15
I suggest that someone summarize concisely, the violations of episcopal authority outlined in the written complaints, along with summarizing instances of the lack of pastoral care exhibited by the Alaskan Hierarch. I have hope, with the OCA Chancellor's intervention, that the Synod could take action against Nickolai. However, as we have seen with his unwarranted aggressive behavior toward Archbishop Job, Nickolai will aggressively obfuscate the allegations. The fact that Archbishop Job even had to respond to the wrong allegations of Nikolai, tells us, the predisposed attitude of the members of the Synod. Nikolai will argue, if the Synod were to rule in favor of the faithful, priests and deacons, against the Bishop, it would set precedent for disciplinary action against any bishop, while exercising episcopal authority, including the Metropolitan. He's intelligent, arrogant and aggressively argumentative; he cannot be underestimated, in the fight of his life. The summary I've suggested above, should be transmitted to all the bishops, to assist them during the meeting of the Synod when the matter of the Alaskan Diocese will be taken up.
What a breath of fresh air is Fr. Garvey's brief and substantial reflection. A challenge to me personally, just in time for the Great Lent.
#21 Rdr. John Edson on 2008-02-29 23:34
I am most assuredly not a "knowlegdable person," but these might warrant consideration (cut and pasted from the on-line Rudder):
It behooves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval: but, instead, each of them should do only whatever is necessitated by his own parish and by the territories under him. But let not even such a one do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus will there be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in Holy Spirit -- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
If any Bishop or Presbyter neglects the Clergy or the laity, and fails to instruct them in piety, let him be excommunicated: but if he persists in his negligence and indolence, let him be deposed from office.
If any Bishop or Presbyter fails to supply necessities when any of the clergy is in want, let him be excommunicated. If he persists, let him be deposed, as having murdered his brother.
When a Bishop has been accused of something by trustworthy men, he must be summoned by Bishops; and if he answers and confesses, or is found guilty, let the penalty be fixed. But if when summoned he refuses to obey, let him be summoned a second time by sending two Bishops to him. If even then he refuses to obey, let him be summoned a third time, two Bishops again being sent to him; but if even then he shows contempt and fails to answer, let the synod decide the matter against him in whatever way seems best, so that it may not seem that he is getting the benefit by evading a trial.
As a witness against a bishop no heretic shall be accepted, but neither shall one faithful alone: for "every charge shall be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses" (Deut. 17:6; Matt.. 18:16).
As regards those who have been denied communion, whether they be members of the clergy or belong to a lay order, by the bishops in each particular province, let the opinion prevail which expressed in the canon prescribing that those rejected by some are not to be received by others. But let an investigation be made as to whether or not they have been unchurched on account of small-mindedness or quarrelsomeness or any other such disgustfulness of the Bishop.
In order, therefore, that a proper investigation may be made, it has seemed well that synods be held every year twice a year in each province and in a common discussion held by all the Bishops of the province assembled together for this purpose let such questions be thrashed out. And thus those who have admittedly clashed with the Bishop would seem to be reasonably excluded from communion until such time as by common consent of the bishops it may seem better to let a more philanthropic vote be given in their behalf. As for these synods, let one of them be held before Lent, in order that, with the elimination of all small-mindedness, the gift may be offered to God in all its purity; and let the second one be held sometime in autumn.
If some persons have been promoted to Presbyters without due examination, or when given a hearing confessed their sins to them, and after they confessed the men, acting contrary to the Canon, laid hand upon such persons, the Canon will not admit them. For the catholic Church insists upon irreproachability.
Because many men, in a spirit of enmity and for purposes of slander being desirous to confound and subvert ecclesiastical discipline, connive to fabricate certain charges against Orthodox Bishops managing the churches, in an attempt designing nothing else but to sully the reputation of the priests and to raise disturbances among peoples who are at peace, on this account it has pleased the holy Council of the Bishops who have convened in Constantinople to decree that informers are not to be admitted without examination, nor are all men to be allowed to bring accusations against those managing the churches, nor yet are all to be excluded. But if anyone lay a personal grievance, that is, a private complaint, against a Bishop, on the ground that he has been a victim of the BishopТs greed or other unjust treatment, in the case of such accusations neither the personality nor the religion of the accuser is to be inquired into. For then the conscience of the Bishop must be clear in every respect, and the man who claims to have been wronged should receive justice whatever be his religion. But if the indictment brought against the Bishop be of an ecclesiastical nature, then the personality of the informers must be considered, in order, first of all, not to allow heretics to make charges against Orthodox Bishops in regard to ecclesiastical matters. We call heretics those who have of old been proscribed from the Church, and those who have thereafter been anathematized by us; and in addition to these those who, though pretending to confess the sound faith, have schismatically separated and have gathered congregations in opposition to our canonical Bishops. Further, as regarding those who have previously been condemned by the Church on certain charges and have been ousted therefrom or excluded from communion, whether they belong to the clergy or to the ranks of laymen, neither shall these persons be allowed to accuse a Bishop until they have first cleared themselves of their own indictment. Likewise as regarding those who are themselves being accused from before, they are not to be permitted to accuse a Bishop, or other clergymen, until they have first proved themselves innocent of the charges placed against them. If, however, certain persons are neither heretics nor excluded from communion, nor condemned, nor previously charged with any offenses, should declare that they have an accusation of an ecclesiastical nature against a Bishop, the holy Council bids these persons to lodge their accusations before all the Bishops of the province and before them to prove the charges against the Bishop involved in the case. But if it so happen that the provincial Bishops are unable to or incompetent to decide the case against the Bishop and make the correction due, then they are to go to a greater synod of the Bishops of this diocese summoned to try this case. And they are not to lodge the accusation until they themselves have in writing agreed to incur the same penalty if in the course of the trial it be proved that they have been slandering the accused Bishop."
My question is: what about intervention based on Biblical grounds? Don't the commandments and teachings of JESUS CHRIST (he deserves all caps, too!) supersede Canon Law? "Love your Neighbor as yourself" - you know...the Christian part of Orthodoxy.
#22 Usually not anonymous on 2008-03-01 00:25
Well, this is no surprise, it would have to happen. Just got an email from our most respected and loved Senior Priest (active) in this Holy land of St. Herman's one who planted the Love of Jesus Christ to the native peoples and protectors of the same.
All the whole world knows of our suffering by now and to take a blow at the Seminarians deprive them of a scholar is beyond me, Our Beloved eldest Brother is no longer allowed to teach in the seminary, all this taking place after the story with ADN, if he (BN) cared for you Seminarians this would not have happened, now is because all the Native Clergy were hallucinating about the action in the villages about this man Nikolai? I guess then we too who received the email are all writing inuendos and the like, Innocent and those who are in charge of the Seminary plead with BN to return their professor to complete their course for the last semester, at LEAST TELL THE STUDENTS THE TRUTH that what is happening is NOT just a "few dissents" the whole world is crying out to help out of the hands of an evil man.
On top of all of this we must still have love for this man and to forgive him for using us to do bad things to others, how is this? By keeping silent we allow injustice to happen to others and even our ownself, Seminarians speak out to your defenders. Father Innocent, Fr. John and anyone connected to the Seminary. Please!!!
Holy Father Herman Pray unto God for us.
#23 Archpriest Peter Askoar on 2008-03-01 00:46
Since Herman became first hierarch of the OCA there has been nothing but destruction. Paul Meyendorff was right, it's time to start anew. If the synod of bishops are re-elected, then so be it.
You talk about Bishop Nikolai being gone by Pascha, I'm certain that if all OCA members were polled, Herman would be gone sooner. The only way we can get help from another church is if the bishops ask. They probably think that they are doing a good job, all considered.
Until there are new people in place, I mean all new people, not just some changing positions and who ever is pulling Herman's strings from the background is gone, the OCA will continue to decline. No financial support will be given while the destruction continues. There is more going on that is reported on any website. The spiritual murder, the general neglect of the faithful and the lust for power and control is unbelievable and in the hands of sick minds and unstable personalities.
These men have failed and before too long the churches will be sparsley attended. So Herman remains, at whose expense? If he were a christian, this would never be happening.
#24 MP on 2008-03-01 04:13
I don’t agree that we’re in disagreement (with one exception explained below). We may be speaking past one another, but your reading of Fr. Garvey’s reflection supplements, not contradicts my words. While the bishop can set the tone either by proactive work, inactivity, his personality, etc., ultimately what saves us is our life in the parish. I concluded that many years ago, when I dumped all diocesan activity (Washington) after years of frustration. We have many fine priests and lay people, whose dedication to others and to Christ, fills in the gaps.
While I cannot speak for Fr. Garvey, I don’t believe his reflection excluded any form of protest against the current scandals (both Syosset and Alaska), but he rightly decried the Sturm und Drang, i.e. expressions of outrage, sans constructive comments, especially by anonymous posters. And I know there are people out there who are gleefully watching all this – not many, but they’re there.
The one point where I believe we disagree chiefly is in reading Fr. Garvey’s words differently. I prefer to interpret Fr. Garvey’s words “There are some Orthodox who fear and hate all of this, and I’m sorry for them.” as referencing those who ignore or reject the great legacies of Schmemann and Meyendorff inter alia that are in large part left on the editing floor; those who have been at the heart of the scandal are not disciples, by action, of these great men – certainly not +Nikolai, nor +Herman, nor Kondratick. Lip service may be given to Schmemann and Meyendorff, but I don’t see much building upon their legacies. If there were, I don’t believe the scandals would have occurred.
‘nuff said. Thank you for the prompt to explain myself further.
#25 Terry C. Peet on 2008-03-01 06:35
What I find so telling in this whole mess is that Herman will be QUICK to "deal" with another, priest, Kondratick, bishop, Nikolai, even to the point of interfering in another diocese and put a bishop on a LOA, but what about Herman? Calls for his retirement, resignation, ouster, all go unheard.
Herman LOVES this situation with Nikolai. He has his entire staff working overtime to "get what we need to get him out." The situation in Alaska is serious, no doubt, but while the OCA suffers, Herman fiddles.
I am almost tempted to say that Nikolai should go on an LOA so that this website and other efforts can be refocused on getting Herman out. And if Herman decides he can hold on, (like Nikolai) then let there be an AAC which stands up and says to Herman, like the Alaskan clergy are saying to Nikolai.....
YOU HAVE NO MORAL AUTHORITY TO LEAD US. WE DO NOT KNOW YOU!
#26 Anonymous on 2008-03-01 08:14
This is a humilating event concerning the death of poor Matushka Anna. Image her body being sent to the mortuary and then the bishop reopening the closed church and asking for it back. We have many such humiliating events in the Diocese of the South OCA and other Orthodox jursidictions in Florida. We have churches that open and close serving ethnic popuations and others like this body going back and forth. These humilitating events in my opinion are to keep people home, depressed with church administration and away from church. When this happens, the wide spread abuse and sexual adventures and exploitation and the funds for these immoral acts have less verbal and on site confrontees.
Offend those in the first pews, remove the pews, remove the ikons, act out at funerals, etc. are all there to abuse power and
create a congreation that is passive, drugged or in support of these shinanigins that have nothing to do with the reason why we are a worshipping community.
Take a stand on on abuse, and stay firm, and the rest of these
things will clear themselves. If you do stay home to say "NO" or not go to pilgrimages etc., and such similar actions withdrawing support, do not confuse these actions with something you need to justify for yourself.
These are mad men abusing power. Period.
Again Father Innocent Frynytzko, a priest who I believe was a blessing to Alaska in Juneau, and the Aleutian chain of churches who was a confessor by phone to me. Father Innocent told me, "Matushka Carol pray Psalm 37(38)". Father Innocent recognized my "buttons" were being pushed by those bishops who would endorse the abuse I was in crisis and feeling shattered.
1 Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.
2 Like grass they wither quickly; like green plants they wilt away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good that you may dwell in the land and live secure.
4 Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart's desire.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust that God will act
6 And make your integrity shine like the dawn, your vindication like noonday.
7 Be still before the LORD; wait for God. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers.
8 Give up your anger, abandon your wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
9 Those who do evil will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD will possess the land.
10 Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there.
But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity.
The wicked plot against the just and grind their teeth at them;
But the LORD laughs at them, knowing their day is coming.
(and more ...)
American Bible translation
Matushka Carol Klipa Bacha
P.O. Box 381
Christmas, Florida 32709
St. Vladimir's Press and the work of the theologians in the 50's, 60's, 70's laid the foundation for the Orthodox spirituality that is present in the United States today. Today we have OCA churches using 100% English in its services of the church which was not the case when I was a teenager in the late 60's and early 70's and freguent communion on the part of the laity. There are numerous monasteries (male and female) that weren't not present in the United States in the 50's and 60's. The converts who are in our parishes are here because they were able to learn the history of the church, traditions and hear the liturgical services in English. We were happy to have funds being raised by the central church administration to be given to worthy charitable causes. Stewardship programs to help the church offer programs to the faithful. And what did the overseerers of these programs used the funds for--not what they were earmarked for. The synod of bishops isn't being forthcoming about what happen to these funds. The funds were stolen and the people should be quiet and not be outraged. That is the real issue here. Money was stolen. No one is being charged with this crime. I don't want the OCA to be absorbed into another jurisdiction. I want the OCA leadership (the bishops and central administration) to set the record straight, be forthcoming about the truth and then true healing can begin. If there has been or is sexual misconduct, then that too should be made public and then dealt with appropriately. The laity, clergy and bishops are the complete church under the headship of Christ. One can't be the church without the other. Yes the parish is the church, but it can't operate without the authority of its bishop. The bishop is suppose to lay down his life for his flock. I don't see this happeninng in most of the dioceses. I don't see the bishops being remorseful as a unit (the synod), just silence and reacting as if the laity are the ones hurting the church. The withholding of assessments seems to be the only thing that got the attention of the bishops.
#28 cshinn on 2008-03-01 09:13
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I will light several candles in Church on Sunday for those who are signing the Petition, whether you are anonymous or names given, you are all offered up in prayer. Please continue to spread the word of the petition to your members as we continue to fight the good fight.
Thank You, With Love Marjorie
#29 Anonymous on 2008-03-01 12:35
In response to Fr. Garvey's excellent post I only wish to say that while I agree that "the people now at work in Syosset are not the problem," it is also true that these people cannot be the solution. We had a visit at our parish (St. Mark in Bethesda, Maryland) from Fr. Jarmus. At one point, Fr. Jarmus intimated that he sees part of his job to be "rebuilding trust." I personally strongly disagree that this job falls to Fr. Jarmus or to Fr. Tassos. The fact of the matter (as Fr. Garvey so aptly points out) is that only the Met. and the Synod can do this. The other sad fact of the matter is that neither Met. Herman nor the Synod is trustworthy. So where does that leave us? We are not going to trust people who are not trustworthy, and I fail to understand why this concept has been so difficult for them to grasp.
#30 Cathryn M. Tatusko on 2008-03-01 18:01
You and I don't disagree at all. Fr. Garvey is another matter, but perhaps I have misunderstood him.
Just to underscore our agreement, I am in complete accord with you concerning the OCA legacy being left on the floor, or in the garbage heap, by the individuals you mention in your comments, as well as many others. For me this is the great disappointment and scam of my conversion--namely to find that this legacy doesn't represent mainstream Orthodoxy, especially as practiced and preached by the OCA.
"Give me THAT old time religion, it's good enough for me!"
#31 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-02 05:37
Maybe it would be better for everyone if we simply switched jurisdictions here in Alaska, I was told once that the Churchs in Alaska Belonged to the OCA , well we are the Church in Alaska & I believe we decide who the churchs belong to here.
The priests have the Authority, we have the power.
#32 Sava on 2008-03-02 10:08
"We need to keep a number of thinks in mind.The OCA brought the ragged Metropolia....back into canonical, World Orthodoxy".What does this mean? canoncial orthodox church online : at www.balamand.edu.lb/theology/links.htm ,has a note: stating that Autocephaly granted in 1970 by Church of Russia,but officially recognized only by the Russian Orthodox Church.WHO IS CORRECT? The Web site or Fr. John Garvey? The World is much lager than Russia, isn"t it ? PLEASE, I just want an answer. thank you. anonymous
#33 Anonymous on 2008-03-02 23:28
Maybe the OCA brought the Metropolia back in to canonical world Orthodoxy - I'm not quit sure I agree with that, but perhaps its time for Alaska to have its own autocephelous Church instead of having to accept authority from a culture that is so different from that of most Alaskan Orthodox.
This is how these things start, as my patron saint did for serbia perhaps thats what we need to do for the Orthodox in Alaska.
That at least would eliminate any further issues of jurisdiction here between the OCA, Antiochians, Serbs on spruce island, and the rest of us who just consider ourselves Orthodox and Alaskan.
I hear all this talk of whats canonical and whats not, who is and who isn't, well the reality is my brothers and sisters if you have no love for your siblings in Orthodoxy than ultimately you have no love for Christ , as he is the one you should see when them.
#34 Sava McMahon on 2008-03-04 07:13
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