Saturday, March 1. 2008
The latest news from Alaska awaits comments, thoughts, solutions, prayers.
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I am in tears and my soul is grieving for the poor Orthodox in Alaska.
We pray for the suffering Orthodox Christians in Alaska that have through suffer through the tyranny and evil perpetrated by +Nikolai. This "bishop" has disgraced his office and soiled his position. He is behaving more like a delusional, power-mad, selfish, egotistical, and evil totalitarian dictator than the Christ-like shepherd he is supposed to be.
This is what the dark and Christ-less ethos of an individual does to an entire diocese. This is what happens when hierarchs worship religious rituals, place themselves on a pedestal, shun the sheep, and have forsaken Christ. This is what happens when unaccountable bishops do not practice what the Gospel preaches. These are the consequences of unethical, egotistical, and hard-hearted men are tolerated, enabled, and promoted into positions of authority.
C.S. Lewis said it best in "Mere Christianity" when he discussed the idea of Christian morality and presented it in its proper perspective. Rather than a "kind of bargain" that many believe God makes with mankind in which He will reward us if we follow all the rules and go to Hell if we don't, Lewis depicts it as a journey towards light or darkness that is driven by our decisions. Each choice we make turns the central part of us, that "part that chooses," into something "a little different from what it was before."
And taking our lives as a whole with the all of our "innumerable choices" we make, we are slowly turning that central part of us into a "heavenly creature" that is "in harmony with God and the other creatures", full of joy, peace, and wisdom, or "into a hellish creature" that is "in a state of war and hatred with God", with "other creatures", and with itself. "Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other." It is up to us to decide how we proceed and in which direction we are heading. There are no neutral acts in God's universe.
And still COMPLETE SILENCE and NO ACTION from the Synod. How much worse and how many more innocent priests, seminarians, elders, and faithful have to suffer and endure before the “mirrors of Christ” at the helm of the OCA do something? How much longer do we wait to see some real Compassion, Courage, Love, and REAL Christian Leadership and Guts from the “lions for Christ and Truth” in our Synod who claim to be Christ’s representatives and this earth? What will it take for the Synod to be moved to act and protect the innocence and remove the heretical and delusional monster spreading so much suffering and destruction?
The problem here isn't necessarily only on +N.
The priests have no forum by which to express discontent.
The internet has its problems. Instead of an ethics hotline, where ethical concerns are received and addressed without punishing the reporting person, the OCA has no forum other than this newfound public forum where discontent is aired before the entire body of the church.
Some of you will say that they should be able to speak with their Bishop. This is not true at all. I can enumerate several past, now deceased Bishops who were not amiable and approachable. Are these bad men? Hardly. They are just men, capable of wrongdoing, as am I. They are not imfallible, if they were, would they not be Popes? Ha!
The public forum should only be used as a matter of last resort. In this case, the Bishops would like to say the Orthodox was is to bring these matters personally first. Ha, again!
When a ruler is seen as insolent, noone brings issues to them. +N must learn this reality.
The Bishop of Alaska must recognize this problem and reinstate his clergyman if he is a fair man at all.
Anything short of this only adds to the discontent of the entire body of believers. Not just the Alaskans.
My first reaction upon hearing of Oleska's termination is to discontinue all givings to my church. While this is knee jerk, it isn't outside of consideration for their to be a reaction to the clear problems the OCA has in keeping its Bishops and archpriests in check, or simply, accountable.
The body of believers must respond to this problem responsibly.
Gauging an appropriate response is sometimes difficult.
Give the Bishops time to respond.
If they don't respond, take a reasonable action.
I'd recommend a service boycott. Not until +N is deposed. Just a service boycott until priest Oleska is reinstated and a forum is created where Oleska's concerns can be brought in a more responsible fashion than the press (or internet), same difference.
Just my thoughts while trying to be fair to +N and at the same time understanding of how Oleska ends up with nowhere to turn with concerns that the laity are leaving under the Bishop's approach.
#2 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-03-01 20:40
As news spread of Fr. Oleksa's termination Fr. Chad Hatfield, the former Dean of St. Herman's and current Chancellor of St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York spoke out for the first time publicly about his five years in Alaska under +Nikolai.
This is so very important. Fr. Chad has spoken candidly, confirming what we have been hearing from the priests and people of Alaska. Can the Holy Synod ignore this? I pray not. Of course, the Lesser Synod is slated to meet soon, but why in the world has +Herman not called an emergency meeting of the full Synod? Or perhaps he has but nothing has been announced?
Lord, have mercy on the people of Alaska, Your precious lambs.
Fr. Daniel Swires
#3 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2008-03-01 21:21
In vain one can read the Philokalia looking for the right word for this Nikolai situation, and then one turns to the Fathers.
There one finds nothing quite like the present situation, so into the Old Testament one goes, even further back.
There, there is a word which has survived to this day among the Jews for those who have done as Nikolai has done.
#4 Anonymous on 2008-03-01 21:37
I have prayed many an hour to find out how to deal with the problems I’ve witnessed in our parish church here in Kodiak. (Holy Resurrection Cathedral) After much contemplation, (and even postings on a website) discussions with over 10 priests and several monastics.
When Bishop Nikolai was sent to us we welcomed him with open arms and warm hearts, overjoyed that we would soon have a Diocesan Bishop again. He immediately began making sweeping changes many of which, while different, were accepted by us simply because he was our Bishop. He was quite bold in proclaiming that all of our practices and traditions were wrong, that he and he alone would direct what was to be done in “his” church. These changes drew gasps from my elderly mother and our church elders, another one of these was his directive that the laity not kneel three times before veneration of the Relics of Saint Herman (as has always been the custom since the time of the Saints repose.) during services during the pilgrimage or when he was present – his then deacon Isidore actually attempted to prevent my mother from doing so on one occasion to which she told him to keep his hands off of her or she would call the police on him. He stated that the bishops (Met. Herman and others) were tired and they needed the crowd to move through quickly, my mother told him that if the Metropolitan was tired maybe he should go to his bed and rest; that she was not there to venerate him or any other bishop, that she would never change the manner of respect she has practiced for her entire life for anyone. At the end of the service, during the veneration of the cross she received stern glances from Nikolai. To date my mother has never returned to Holy Resurrection except for funerals, she instead lights the lampada at home and cries on holidays. I was there, when Olivia Brisbane was told by Nikolai to shut up unless she wanted to preach the homily. [when she was explaining what the Bishop had said to hearing impaired brother] No one in the church that day was in any way disrupted or disturbed by her actions, no one ever thought anything was wrong – to the contrary she was acting in good faith to help share the Bishops message. Everyone in the church was shocked by the bishop’s actions that day – many have never returned since. I was near the bishop and Fr. John Dunlop on the day when he called him (Fr John) Father Nobody, and that one day maybe he’d be a Father Somebody. I have witnessed other instances as well....too numerous to mention… what is most noticeable today is the empty church… One only needs to be here on holidays and the Pilgrimage to St Herman; where one will see a semi full church, there are but 10 – 12 parishioners and the rest are from St Innocent’s Academy (Bulgarian Diocese) and visitors. In all prior years the church and indeed the porch and outdoor areas were filled beyond capacity.
I have just read that Fr. Michael Oleksa has been removed as teacher from St. Herman’s Seminary and has had his pastoral life limited due to the ego of our fallen leader… does this evoke any need to act on the part of our leaders there in New York, Oyster Bay or Syosset… or whatever is the proper moniker of the day?
I fear greatly for all of you who have accepted a higher calling to lead within our Church… should you continue to fail to at least meet your responsibilities I shudder to think of what fate awaits you all.
It appears to me that none of you men in power fear the wrath of God or eternity of Hades… it also would appear that at least some of you have lost your belief in God… have you? May you seek God to give you the strength to rise up and be counted?
Today, just the name of this man infuriates everyone, feelings of deep animosity and worse is aroused. How many of our elders attend services at the bare minimum so that can be buried in our church, some of us have even made arrangements to be buried in other jurisdictions, is this what Christ has died on the cross for? Is this the message that our church proclaims? Indeed everyone throughout Alaska and the nation know about this experience, what more does the Central Administration need to hear? Are you all fearful of this creature? Have you all got something worse than him to fear? All of my friends of all faiths are praying for us… everyone that is but our own bishops.
#5 Ted Panamarioff on 2008-03-01 23:59
Dear Fr. Garklavs,
As both the son of a priest and as a priest with a family, you MUST see and have a clear understanding of the devastation this nikolai is causing. Please urge MH and the bishops to stop this madness. They do not know how it is. They are detached and lack this experience. The people care FIRST about thier priest, not their bishop. We lose the priests, we lose the people. Then the bishops are completely useless.
We pray for your good work. Please help us.
#6 Anonymous on 2008-03-02 00:05
Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
Well, maybe I should say, I'm surprised and dumbfounded just like BN and Isidor then my youngest brother would believe me it isn't good to be on the side of BN, if he's trying to make a monk out of you he's really nuts!!! You have been seperated from your wife and children for now two years?I can only reason, you are a family man, you're still too young to even be thinking of becoming a monk, look at Isidor he entered too young and fell into chaos, to put it lightly. I know attacking your nephew and asking him what he,your brother Fr.Alexie, has against Nikolai is Isidor's doing their job is to divide and conquer, don't listen to them, Nikolai has NO moral authority in this God protected Diocese of Alaska.
Holy Father Herman pray unto God for us..
His ways are always prospering;
your judgements are far above,
out of his sight:
As for all his enemies, he sneers at them.
He has said in his heart, "I shall not be moved;I shall never be in adversity." His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression;Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.(Ps.10;5-7) For this stay away from them.
For God is with us who can be against us.
#7 Archpriest Peter Askoar on 2008-03-02 01:41
First of all, let me say, "Thank you for the fact that God has given you the talent of intelligence and discernment between right and wrong." Just as it is not easy for a child in an abused household to speak out against their father when a social worker comes in because there has been an allegation of abuse, so have you been oppressed to do so.
Having to speak the truth about one's family especially when we don't want anyone to know how bad things truly are is very difficult. Who ever wants to admit that there's an alcoholic in the family? Who ever wants to admit that there's a problem of sexual abuse in their family? Who walks around proudly saying, "yeah, my cousin over in New York was directly involved with stealing money from the church and it's been rumored that the money was spent on sexual deviancy," who would want to admit that? I know I wouldn't - even if all those statements were true.
Once again, I say, "Thank you."
Thank you to the senior priests who have spoken out and to the ones who have recently graduated from seminary. For the priests who are unwilling to admit the truth I guess that all we can do is, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do."
On a different note but still just as important, I want to say, "Thank you to Ansonia Parish for holding strong." My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I like the fact that Nikolai has tried to "restore order in a diocese where things have been loosely run." I guess it's hard to have order when the big boss's office isn't setting a very good example.
Now I wonder how many non orthodox are getting exposed to Orthodoxy because of, "Much of the controversy is playing out on Web sites run by church watchdogs, including one called Orthodox Christians for Accountability." If that's the case then we really need to send Nikolai a thank you note.
It was not easy for the fathers of the Kuskokwim Deanery to write and then sign their names to the letter they submitted. It brought tears to my eyes when I read the letter because of the compassion that came through with their words. Although this has no relevance to our current situation in the church of Alaska, I was reminded of the day when my ex-husband was handcuffed and escorted out the door by the police but this was after he had slammed me into my baby's crib told my older sons that nothing had happened and he'd screamed in my face for over two hours. But it's like I tell my sons today, "It's better that we love daddy from a distance and the farther away he is, the better."
I apologize for rambling but we in Alaska have had too much of abuse from too many various organizations with our best interests in mind. With that being said, I challenge all of the Orthodox priests and laity throughout the USA, to ask themselves, "Am I going to walk around in my holy bubble or am I ready to fight for the truth?" We all need the fullness of the church and right now maybe our home needs a thorough housecleaning.
Please keep us in your prayers.
#8 Tatiana Berestoff on 2008-03-02 02:22
Insanity rules and + Herman does NOTHING!
#9 Anonymous on 2008-03-02 05:26
To the Holy Synod: "The whole Church is watching you." To not act decisively is to completely remove the veil once and for all.
#10 Staupitz on 2008-03-02 05:41
Folks who enjoy a bit of satire might want to check out this month's Onion Dome: http://www.theoniondome.com/.
#11 josephine on 2008-03-02 14:32
Lord Jesus Christ son of God save and have mercy upon your beloved servant His Grace The Right Reverend Bishop NIKLOAI of the Russian Orthodox Dicoese of Alaska.
#12 Olympiada on 2008-03-02 16:13
O Heavenly King, the comforter, the Spirit of Truth who art everywhere and fillest all things. Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life: Come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory to all Orthodox Christians over their adversary and by virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation.
Uaspataq, anirturki yut'en cali atauwaqaasqiu paiciuten. Cikirki pinimek piciulriit agayumalriit, piunrirnaurai inglukilriit, Cali piniakun Elpet Kelistarpet nayurki uitaviiten.
Spasi, Ghospodi, lyudi Tvoya, i blaghoslovi dostoyaniye Tvoye; pobedi pravoslavnim khristianom na soprotivniya daruya, i Tvoye Sokhranyaya Krestom Tvoyim zhitelstvo.
#13 most unworthy servant on 2008-03-02 17:23
With everything I am hearing and reading, I believe it really appears that we just don't have a well-run administrative or episcopal system in the OCA. I don't know how long it will take to get there.
Can not +Herman fly up to Alaska and have some informal or formal or whatever type of meetings you want to call it, with the Alaskan clergy there? Would this not show pastoral care, concern, and comfort? So what about Nikolai, he is still the metropolitan. Can he not "meddle" in Alaska and make his presence known?
How do you deal with a bishop that just keeps firing the help?
But it just seems to me that we are going through a very critical time of suffering. In the history of the OCA, I doubt it will never be forgotten.
I guess I can only liken it to a patient in the hospital, suffering away, not knowing when he or she will get better. Everybody keeps "visiting" the sick patient, not knowing what to make of the illness. The doctors are ineffective and there is little bed-side manner. What a situation! But miracles happen in these situations, too.
I have no answers. But I believe in the power of prayer. Our time of Lent offers prayer and fasting as a worthy sacrifice. Perhaps just like that person suffering in that hospital bed, slowly but surely either sickness, or health, overtake that person.
There is greater administrative accountability with the new administration. But it is like a new medicine that was needed with the same old incompetent doctor(s). The patient is happy to get well and does not want to come back to the hospital. I am afraid the OCA may be getting better in some respects, but worse in other respects.
Only in the Church do we see such long suffering? In dysfuntional families, dysfuntional nations, dysfunctional systems, probably. In real life, probably. Can not the church rise above such mediocrity? What difficult times.
#14 Patty Schellbach on 2008-03-02 18:21
This morning at the Divine Liturgy we prayed "for the suffering clergy and people of Alaska," and we shall continue to do so until the end of this crisis. My brothers and sisters in Alaska, please be assured of our love and prayers for you in the lower 48, as well as our esteem for you who continue to persevere in the land where Orthodoxy first took root in America!
May God deliver you all by the prayers of our holy father Herman!
Dearest Alaskan Clergy and Faithful:
Please consider the following: when your dear bishop arrives for a parish visitation, be sure to great him by blocking the entrance to your holy temple and tell him to go elsewhere. When called upon to pay your diocesan assessments, send in nothing. If the Synod is incapable to decisive action (which should come as no surprise to anyone), then you must remove this tyrant before the Orthodox Church in Alaska is destroyed. This man is not a bishop, he is an imposter. Finally, call for a gathering of good and faithful Orthodox Christians across your great state and elect a temporary bishop until the Synod moves beyond its inertia to do something.
#16 Anonymous on 2008-03-02 18:51
Some have characterized my public support of Bishop Nikolai as being that of a ‘puppet’ or have alluded that perhaps I do not possess my own voice. But, they do not know me and I do not take offense. I assure you, all I have written is from my own mind and heart. I have worked closely with His Grace during the greater part of his tenure as Bishop of Alaska. Yes, I have witnessed his firm side. We have had our disagreements. Never have I felt constrained to keep my concerns to myself. When I have felt hurt or misunderstood, I have discussed this with him one-on-one. And each time, our working relationship has matured and been strengthened. No communication among mortals can ever be perfect. We can’t read one another’s minds. We can’t know another’s heart. We can’t comprehend the nuances of another’s background. All we can hope and pray for is that the Holy Spirit will guide us as we attempt to live according to words we see and hear in the Holy Scriptures.
What pains me so deeply about the approach some Clergy have taken is the apparent abrogation of explicit words our Lord provided us—words not uttered to be respected only in the First Century, but words for all ages.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:15-18
If the Clergy felt that His Grace had offended them, why not approach him privately with their concerns? If I understand this passage correctly, this should have been the very first thing to do. A proper response to a perceived injustice is to go privately to “your brother [who has] sinned against you.” How can public letters on the internet, replete with accusations and calling for your Hierarch’s resignation, equate with this clear admonition of our Lord?
I am stymied by Fr. Michael Oleksa’s approach to a grievance he has apparently suffered with for some time. He is a published author, a noted cross-cultural communicator and an archpriest. He has no doubt heard the broad spectrum of confessions and discerns human frailties better than most of us. Why in this circumstance was he unable to avail himself of his vast experience and knowledge to communicate his concerns with His Grace, privately? There is no language barrier. There is not even a generation gap. I have heard Fr. Michael speak many times and he is certainly blessed with the gift of eloquence. What prevented him from using this God-given talent to follow the clear instructions of our Lord in Matthew 18:15-18? Had he done so, perhaps this upheaval could have been avoided. Knowing many of the priests personally, I can only imagine how heart-wrenching it is to their souls to have reached such a precipitous impasse.
As all Orthodox Christians, I accept the Sacrament of Confession with fear and trembling. We remind ourselves that to be worthy to approach the Cup of the Holy Mysteries, we must forgive others. We must confess our sins, including the grave sin of resentment. It troubles me that this litany of resentment and anger, registered on the internet and directed toward His Grace, was allowed to fester for many years. Had the words Our Lord spoke in Matthew 18 been heeded, this painful moment in our history could have been avoided. We, the Clergy and Laity alike, partake of the Cup as often as we can, for our own spiritual fortification and most importantly to be One with Christ. To partake with residual anger or resentment must be wounding to Christ as it indicates we ignored the means—a clear formula—He provided in Matthew 18.
Some have noted that they “fear” His Grace. In 1 John 4:18, we are reminded that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
What has transpired with regard to Bishop Nikolai is not founded in love—not love of God, not love of a Hierarch, not love for him as a fellow Orthodox Christian. We all fall short, but the Apostle John, earlier in chapter 4 states: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” We must encourage one another in love. We must attempt to incorporate Holy Scripture as the core in our lives. We must faithfully ask God to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Of course this is a constant struggle and a process. But if we avail ourselves of the ability to communicate, discussing our hurt with those who have offended us, there is a Christ centered path forward. If we fail at this, we forfeit a peaceful life and perhaps our very salvation.
Had our Alaskan Clergy confronted His Grace about their concerns (either individually or collectively) beginning at point A [the grievance(s)] to point B (Matthew 15:18) rather than from point A to point Z (the internet), so much anguish on the part of all could have been avoided. But, all is not lost. There is time to heal this painful fissure in our Diocese. To embrace the path of mutual healing may take time, but the benefits far surpass the time and pain required to dismantle the good that exists. It is difficult, but beneficial to require ourselves to handle miscommunication and hurt in a Christ centered way.
His Grace has called a meeting for all the Clergy to discuss their concerns on March 4 & 5. Attendance is not mandatory. For those who chose to attend, may it be a time of sincere communication and healing through the Grace of the Holy Spirit. I pray that as we approach Forgiveness Sunday we will acquire the spiritual peace to journey together toward Holy Pascha here in Alaska.
I pray also that I have not offended with my assertions or rhetorical questions. One never sees oneself or one’s limitations as clearly as others. This has been an extremely painful episode in this beloved Diocese. May God have mercy on us all and restore us with His Healing Spirit.
With love in Christ,
Assistant to the Bishop
Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska
#17 Mina Jacobs on 2008-03-03 03:04
Stop with this Herman is doing nothing or the Synod of Bishops. Why do we think OUR TIME FRAME is the only time frame? Such arrogance.
Herman will act and so will the Synod. The question is will it be an action worthy of brotherly love? Is there brotherly love on the Synod of Bishops any longer?
Will Herman and the Synod act for what is best for the Church or what is in their best interest?
Will Herman and the Synod act or just react, like they have so often with terrible effects?
What if they don't do what WE want? What if they take more time? What if they act slowly?
How will WE react? Like Christians?
Just because Isidore and BN have lacked Christian viture, does that give us license to act likewise?
Courage to all in this matter, to do what Christ calls us to do and BE.
#18 Anonymous on 2008-03-03 05:58
Who is good enough for you ? All of this pointing of the finger is no good. We all voted and this is what we had. Blame yourself.
#19 Anonymous on 2008-03-03 07:34
How is it that Nikolai has not been removed at least temporarily from his position? I will allow that perhaps the HS needs a little time to deal with him, but with this outcry from Alaska, you would think they would say that at least for now, you are removed pending an investigation. I would also like to know what happened to the 90 year old woman who was told to pay or be put out of her home. On top of all the allegations, Nikolai continues to fire good people who speak out. This is too much for Alaska.
#20 Sad State of Affairs in Alaska on 2008-03-03 08:01
Dear Mina, where is your letter of resignation you wrote around 31 May 2007 after the last Trustees meeting in Kodiak? Did you delete it after being counseled by Priest Innocent at his rectory? If not, reread it. Try to remember your thoughts and feelings, how His Grace humiliated you that evening, then you will have an insight into the pain the faithful of Alaska are openly expressing.
#21 Anonymous on 2008-03-03 09:02
The problem is that "confrontation", especially of a bishop, runs counter to much of the Alaska native culture. After suffering for years, watching and experiencing his outright abuse and denigration of their culture, their history, their language, their elders, etc., the long festering boil has burst. Just what it took to bring it to this point, you probably have almost no comprehension.
Remember, you are not part of that culture. You are a part of the culture in Anchorage, which is a world apart. Most people in Anchorage have almost no understanding of the Alaska natives. I know - I was raised in Alaska and lived there for 33 years, in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Eagle River, Anchor Point, Delta Junction, Peters Creek. I am married to an Alaskan woman, and both of my sons were born there. I have a brother who still lives in Anchorage.
Bishop Nicolai demonstrates even less understanding of the Alaska native people than you.
Fr. Michael probably understands the culture better than any other non-native in the Orthodox Church. He has chosen to support the people in their despair and cries of pain, which is exactly what a true pastor should do - love and protect, even lay down his life for his flock.
It seems obvious that Bishop Nicolai never learned what it means to be a pastor, nor did he ever bother to learn anything about the people that had been entrusted to his care. This is a real tragedy.
It has now gotten to the point where probably the only thing that could possibly salvage things would be for him to reach the classic AA bottom point, repent, ask everyone for forgiveness, demonstrate his love, compassion, and mercy for the remaining years of his life, slowly rebuilding the love and trust of the people. Do you think this can happen? I pray that it is so, but I do not believe it will.
#22 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2008-03-03 09:12
Why did you resign from the MC? And who will be taking your place?
#23 Wondering on 2008-03-03 10:03
I like your comments, unpopular as they may be. I strongly suspect that +Herman and the synod are working to resolve the Alaskan problem. There’s a lot going on we don’t see or will hear of until some announcement of a concrete action is made. Removing a ruling bishop is not all that easy and bishops tend to be very conservative in making such moves. Something is going on, but just what, how and when, I wouldn’t venture to guess. Keep everyone in your prayers on this; the church in Alaska is desperate for relief.
#24 Terry C. Peet on 2008-03-03 10:26
Mina, Please stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Remember Fr. Deacon George Nelson? He talked to +Nikolai and look where it got him. And quit channel Bishop Nikolai, you are sounding like one of the Stepford Wives. Bishop Nikolai has long made it abundantly clear he will listen to no one and brook no opposition.
#25 K. Carlsen on 2008-03-03 11:11
But when your brother comes at you, "breathing threats of violence" the situation changes somewhat, doesn't it? The testimony, thus far, of those who harbor a grievance is consistent on this point: -Nikolai has a violent disposition and curries a climate of fear and intimidation among those around him.
In addition, where are all the faculty members of SHS? How about the board members of ROSSIA? Where are Ben Ardinger, Betty Slanta, Elena Silk and Cliff Argue? How is the income of ILASSI lately?
Only the dullest of sheep in the pasture would fail to notice the increasing absences of their peers in the presence of a wolf.
#26 Dr. Herbert Elfers, DDS on 2008-03-03 13:02
FEDERAL INVESTIGATION ! There is your answer and at this point it, is the only way the OCA will have any dignity left. There has been enough breast beating it's all becoming totally meaningless.
#27 ANONYMOYS on 2008-03-03 14:52
Putz is not an ancient Bible word.
It is Yiddish from German language.
#28 Anonymous on 2008-03-03 15:01
Thank you for your heartfelt words. From your perspective, it may well be as you say, but there are too many instances that others of us have witnessed that his grace may have kept from you. He is always more careful in his dealings with people when there is someone "useful" to him in the immediate area.
the role of the spiritual father is to guide his people in the love of Christ. it is the responsibility of the elder (Hierarch) to guide those he will answer for in love. the dealings with his flock this bishop has demonstrated to what now appears to be nearly everyone else in the diocese except you are not performed in love. rather most of what we have seen in manipulation and control. People who have spent time in close proximity to his grace know that nearly every one of the priests and deacons under him along with the people he comes in contact with have been made the butt of jokes or derogatory remarks between isadore and himself and those he happens to be with. The Love you speak of has been demonstrated far more by the long suffering clergy who spoke not a word in public for all these years but rather submitted to the evil coming from anchorage than has been seen coming from the chancery out to them.
Had this man simply loved the flock he was entrusted with from the start, he would today be gaining back their trust and love. Had he simply loved them they too would love him. It really is that simple. People are not stupid, they understand what nikolai was supposed to be. Glaring out from the amvon and stopping services because some poor soul was moving while he was looking or stopping the liturgy because the abused subdeacons could simply not get a orlitz in place fast enough to suit him shows his love for what it is. He does love, but he loves only himself.
It is good that you are loyal. It is admirable. But many of us think you are decieved. God knows.
#29 Anonymous on 2008-03-03 15:02
Dear Mina Jacobs,
You have written a very erudite and apparently heartfelt letter; I was certainly moved by it. I do appreciate your reference to the dictates of our Lord, as cited by Apostle Matthew. My take of what has actually happened is different from yours however.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone." This works with people who are willing to hear you, to listen to you, to understand you. I am sure you know the numerous instances when +Nikolai was in full "transmit" mode, not tolerating any objections of any kind. I am thinking of the turning away of the woman because she had been married in another Orthodox jurisdiction; the chewing out the woman who was explaining his sermon to a hard-of-hearing person; the eviction of the poor old lady; the outright dismissal of reports about his Chancellor; many punishment of priests, deacons, and lay folks for capricious reasons; banning of plastic flowers (wonder which Canon supports this?; etc...
Now, I am sure that +Nikolai felt amply justified in whatever he has done. I am sure he was surprised, indeed "dumbfounded," with the rebellion of his priests. By the way, this reaction merely proves my point: people could not and dared not to talk to him one-on-one because they could not see any possibility that he would actually listen and seriously consider that he may have sinned against them, his brothers and sisters. Incidentally, it is crystal clear that he did not regard himself the brother of anybody else in Alaska.
Bottom line: your sadness is misdirected. If I were you, I would be sad instead that +Nikolai has behaved in such a manner that his people could not approach him one-on-one. You could say that +Nikolai's behavior has prevented his flock to act contrary to the Lord's advice.
I could go on and expound on each of the remaining verses but I don't think that it is necessary because we are now at the last stage: "And if he refuses to hear them tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."
The Church has been told. The Holy Synod has been told. He (+Nikolai) seems to be refusing to hear the Church as he has reportedly refused to take a leave of absence and he has publicly denied all allegations. I think that it is time for +Nikolia to be to all Orthodox faithful "like a heathen and a tax collector." However, my opinion is just that; the decision to depose +Nikolai will have to come from the Holy Synod. We shall see if +Nikolai's fellow bishops are as ready to follow the Lord's admonishment in Matthew as you seem to be.
#30 Anonymous on 2008-03-03 15:34
I can not say that there is not wisdom in your words, at all. Indeed, all fall short, and all are called to repent. Only the priests of Alaska can know their own minds completely. Still, I am with them in their anguish. We can only discern that which we hear.
Since you have been so kind to respond in this forum, perhaps you will likewise be so kind, so that we may discern, to explain why you resigned from the Metropolitan Council.
#31 AnonyCat on 2008-03-03 18:24
If Herman acts tomorrow, which it appears he will, using the Lesser Synod as his club, we all have to aware of the fact that putting a bishop on a Leave of Absence, asking him to leave the diocese IS NOT AN ACTION THAT THE LESSER SYNOD SHOULD TAKE.
What is amazing is that all of this is being done with no bishop talking to Nikolai. Letters, emails, yes. But who has picked up the phone and called, EVEN AT 3 IN THE MORNING for God's sake.
Have we reached the point where bishops don't even talk to each other?
I am NOT saying Nikolai is right, but if bishops can't talk to each other, face each other, even FIGHT with each other. Lord please, give me the good ol days when Archbishop John of Chicago fought like hell with Archbishop Kiprian and worked their issues out.
It is just amazing how cowardly we have become. How easy it is for us to toss epithet's at each other via the internet and emails and letters. And, what SHAME that our leaders now do it.
#32 Anonymous on 2008-03-03 18:25
I have read the testimonies of Richard Dauenhauer, Mark Harrison, Ben Ardinger, Paul Sidebottom, Tatiana Berestoff, Chancellor Hatfield, Archbishop Job, and others. They paint a clear and consistent picture of how Bishop Nikolai sees himself and how he invokes his authority to intimidate others. Other than the Bishop's close associates, I have never heard anyone use the word "love" to characterize how the Bishop interacts with his flock. In light of the way Bishop Nikolai has treated those who have tried to resolve issues privately, I give the benefit of the doubt to the dozens of Alaska priests who have responded to the situation in humility in the best way they know how.
#33 Robert Wachter on 2008-03-03 19:39
Hard to not attack you, I'll do my best.
I would presume that Fr. Oleska had made a personal determination that the time for one on ones had passed. In light of many known facts about BN, it doesn't seem unreasonable to me.
As for you, it seems unusual that you would have left the MC. It would be interesting to better understand the causes of this VERY PUBLICIZED event. Why then? Simply to protest the protest of the appointment of Dushkin? Or perhaps to protest auditing financial records? Or maybe to protest handing priests tens of thousands in cash to do with what they choose?
I have been very open minded about the Alaska lands issue and in fact find it foolish that any Alaska lands would be on the books in NY, so don't think I'm against Alaska even one bit on that objective point.
Bishop Nikolai is clearly insolent, that is overbearing and harsh in times of ruling. If he isn't, let him show his Grace by bringing Oleska back and embracing him and addressing his grievances. Abraham Lincoln I list among the two greatest Americans. He appointed a cabinet of foes. Why? To make himself stronger and a better leader, able to understand challenging viewpoints. BN is on a course to end with 3 close friends and nothing more.
Furthermore, rather than being like minded with the archpriest in resigning from the MC, why wouldn't you walk to the beat of your own drum? Got one?
The picture that is getting painted by Bishop Nikolai is that Bishops are without fault and thus require no accountability. I have a suggestion for a religion for him where that is preached...western Catholicism..Popes are imfallible there. It is a significant difference in our theologies according to all I'm told. If he isn't all these things, tell him to start behaving like an Orthodox Bishop and leading with humility, rather than booting old ladies out of church for talking over him. And firing priests for making public his unapologetic errors. And firing whistleblowers. And attacking his brother bishops for addressing serious problems. And not reading a financial report for 6 years apparently. And all these things. And damning audits that would have prevented the theft of millions and would again.
I'll welcome your thoughts, if you have any independent ones. And sorry if I'm super brash here; it is just so hard to temper in light of all things.
A fired Oleska is a right Oleska.
#34 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-03-03 22:32
One point of disagreement with an otherwise eloquent post. Benedict XVI and John Paul II both are more truly iconic of Christ than the current bishop of Alaska, demonstrating both humility and love for their flock. I can imagine neither of them running rampant as has his lamentable Grace in suffering Alaska.
#35 Scott Walker on 2008-03-03 23:08
I am afraid none of you really know His Grace The Right Reverend Bishop NIKOLAI. Archimandrite Isidore does, but does anyone else? Unlikely. Nobody I have seen commenting here. Everyone is so uptight. People need to relax a little and get over themselves and get out a little more and live a little. You all have such a narrow definition of what a bishop can and can not be. Heck, if I had met any of you commenting here before I became a Christian, I doubt I would have made it over the great divide. Grow up!
As I mentioned before, His Grace is extremely intelligent, and maybe that's what "intimidates" you all. Maybe if you tried respecting His Grace a little bit more you'd "get a little bit farther" with His Grace.
#36 Olympiada on 2008-03-03 23:21
your posting carries little if any credibility in my eyes.
Yes, I do not know you, no I cant see what is in your mind...
Today, I count that as a blessing! for I believe your mind is clouded by the undue influence of your master.
I have read most if not all of your postings on this forum and elsewhere and I find your frivolous use of scripture to defend your friend nickolai bordering on heresy!
I take offense to your allegation that Fr Michael Oleksa didnt take the opportunity to speak privately with his bishop;
to the contrary...
Fr Michael provided excerpts of some of his private communication with the bishop - and some of the bishop's well practiced rehtorical comments in reply.
Stict is one thing.. and we can all come to some difference of opinion on that issue...
Disrespect by the hand of a bishop is quite another; this feeling is a deeply personal response... when I see this feeling being communicated nearly universally - I take note.
I witnessed first-hand a similar situation when Bishop GREGORY was presented with a meal in village he was visiting;
an accompanying monastic explained to the host that meat should not be served to the Bishop as he was fasting.
As the family immediately set about to prepare another meal Bishop GREGORY stopped them saying to his priest something to the effect that; it is not up to the family to do "our fasting" and that we should always accept that which is put in front of us with respect and honor...
The gospel reading I heard last Sunday said something to that same effect... we will be judged not for all the prostrations we do, the amount of times we attend church.. but rather what we do for our fellow man;
When I was thirsty did you give me drink?
When I was hungry did you feed me?
When I was naked did you clothe me?
I am not one to quote scripture and probably even less of a man to understand it.. however what I gathered from that passage seems to be pretty clear...
#37 Ted Panamarioff on 2008-03-04 04:25
What is needed are a group of men who form a society called, "The Men of Orthodoxy." This group could be comprised of former World Wrestling champions. In cases like + Nicolai, they would go to Alaska and "escort" + Nicolai on the first flight to.....wherever. + Nicolai could enjoy a nice vacation and a locum tenenes could be firmly put in place.
#38 Anonymous on 2008-03-04 06:38
Respecting a bishop or someone in authority only because of the office held is the lowest form of respect, and it only lasts so long. The generic respect due to an office-holder is impersonal, and rather like an empty bowl. It must be filled with the office-holder's personal attributes, which engender respect and love.
An authority figure cannot realistically fall back on this--that he should be respected for his position--when he does not show himself to be worthy of the position. A president who bumbles and appropriates authority not given to him by the law or a bishop who lashes out in anger for the smallest perceived infraction or who is so caught up in protocol that he himself gets entangled--these two can expect neither respect nor love, especially if they themselves lack humility.
Bishop Nikolai has defied the canons and rules of the Church. Even worse, he has shirked his duty as a shepherd and through his irrational actions, he has given excuse for Orthodox parishioners to wander off into strange pastures. Such a man must be deposed. He is a bishop in name only, receiving only the empty honor of the office, and not the respect and love due a man who is a good shepherd, a father. His actions are to blame for the loss of souls and the defamation of the Orthodox Church, not only amongst he non-Orthodox, but the Orthodox as well.
I do not buy that the Holy Synod of the OCA is just waiting for the right moment; they are clearly divided and having trouble coming to a decision, since this scandal has continued for a long time, and they have scandals of their own. There is enough evidence to depose Bishop Nikolai. Swift action is required. The man should no longer serve in a clerical capacity. Let him live by himself as a hermit on an uninhabited island. He can have a nice little cell and plenty of coconuts and he won't be a bother to anyone else any longer.
Then a man who is worthy of the office can be consecrated bishop of Alaska. This should be a man full of love for souls. A humble man. A prayerful man. A man who goes out of his way to visit and comfort the sick and dying. A man who can commiserate with the poor and down-trodden. A man whose every care and thought is for his flock. As examples, see St. John of San Francisco and St. Raphael of Brooklyn.
#39 Eric Peterson on 2008-03-04 09:54
You say he is very intelligent. Can you tell us all what his credentials are? I read about Father Oleska (Archpriest Michael J. Oleska, Alaskan Orthodox missionary for nearly three decades, completed his doctoral work in Church History and Patristics at the Orthodox Theological Faculty in Presov, Slovakia, in 1988. Upon completing a year of research and teaching at Moscow's St Patriarch Tikhon Theological Institute, he was elected Dean of St Herman's Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska, in 1996.- this is in addition to his graduation from Georgetown and St. Vladimir’s). Tell us about +N before he became bishop of Alaska diocese.
#40 Wants to know! on 2008-03-04 09:57
Nikolai has many, many evil sins -- both public and private. As a Christian we must forgive, but as a leader we cannot give our blessing to continue. Blind support is kind, but damaging. I suggest you open your eyes for your own sake.
#41 Anonymous on 2008-03-04 10:04
While a modicum of respect is given to the office, the person IN the office still must EARN respect by his actions.
It is not a REQUIREMENT and it is not an AUTOMATIC GIFT.
To date, His Grace's public actions have not earned him much in the way of respect. And demanding that it be given is a clear sign of dysfunction.
I hope and pray that His Grace is intelligent enough to overcome whatever makes him act as he does toward his flock, beg their forgiveness on Sunday, and settle down to become the beloved shepherd and pastor he could be, rather than the autocrat and dictator he has been acting as.
And then respect will follow.
#42 Kevin Nikolai Payne on 2008-03-04 10:18
How do you know that calls have not been made?
You must know that most people use various means of communications. The most secure communications would be face-to-face where no one less can eaves drop, followed by secure telephone calls. On the other hand, most everybody knows that written communications even between two people are never fully secure.
Bottom line: You would not normally know if people talked on the phone. For that reason, it is absurd to claim that folks are not talking to each other on the phone.
#43 Carl on 2008-03-04 10:23
Oh dear, oh dear. Where to begin? Let's see...how about "Everyone is so uptight." Yes, people do tend to get uptight when they have been on the receiving end of an endless train of abuses. Have you even read what the courageous priests of Alaska have posted? What would you think if it was your mom shoved out of the Church because she tried to tell her hearing-impaired brother what His Grace was saying? Or if it was your sister denied the Body and Blood of Christ because she had the temerity to get married in another Orthodox Church, and that put His Grace in a snit? Or your cousins who had worked hard and provided the best they could for their village church, only to have His Grace sneer at it as being unfit for worship. Or your dad the priest, who gets one of His Grace's copyrighted because he, as a priest, thought it more important to hear a dying woman's confession than to hang out at a party? Go back and read the testimony from the suffering clergy and people of Alaska, because, Olympiada, those people are your mom and sister and cousins and dad. And they have endured much from the "very intelligent" wolf of a bishop to whom you so desperately cling. Can you spare a prayer for them, as "intimidated" and unintelligent as you seem to think them to be? As to "a narrow definition of what a bishop should be", I refer you to St. Paul and his narrow definition of what a bishop should be, found in the Pastoral Epistles. (1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus) It's all right there. Compare and contrast: St. Paul and His Grace. One final word, if I may. Although I emphatically take issue with what you say, I honor your courage for posting with your name.
#44 Scott Walker on 2008-03-04 10:24
Ok, folks, I am going to take these one at a time, and if the first one gets through, on the next one, and if the first one does not get through, on to the next one. There are four comments in all. If you want to email me in the meantime, you can use this email address olympiada2007[at]gmail.com. All email is personally confidential.
Ok, His Grace The Right Reverend Bishop NIKOLAI's credentials. Credentialism. I don't subscribe to that philosophy. It is an ism. And, if I may, refer to a critique of Fr.Michale's credentials by His Grace The Right Reverend Bishop TIKHON, https://listserv.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/wa-iub.exe?A2=ind0802D&L=orthodox&D=0&O=A&T=0&P=5916
Now if that is not about Fr. Michael, I apologize.
Ok, to continue, I don't have a problem with him. If you click on my link you will see a photograph I took of him delivering the sermon at His Grace The Right Reverend Bishop BENJAMIN's enthronement. I was very impressed.
I will not comment on the affairs of another diocese, that is not my place. But I will comment on the character of the bishop of another diocese, and I repeat myself, you got it all wrong. That bishop is strict not abusive. My mom was strict, and I got really mad at her as a kid. Rebellious teenagers is right.
That's all for now. More later if Mark allows.
Ok, this explains it all. Someone defending Nikolai, and quoting Tikhon (CA) as a subject on anything other than 19th century Russian Church rubrics. Wow. Sorry Olympiada, but at that point you just completely destroyed your own credibility. I think you mean well, but you've been severely misled over the years without any other point of view to keep you on the straight and narrow path. Please pray, reflect and understand the truth.
#46 Anonymous on 2008-03-04 21:04
I'm formerly Orthodox, formerly OCA, now Lutheran, not presently living in the USA, but still following events with interest, just so you are aware of my history and can judge my comment accordingly.
From my perspective there is an obvious solution to the problem of bishops who lord it over their flocks or are otherwise unsatisfactory in the performance of their duties, although it will not be easy to implement in the OCA until the present crisis deepens even further.
In the Lutheran Church bishops (who, of course, can be and usually are married clergy) are nominated by the clergy of the diocese for a three year term, and this nomination is then ratified on the floor of synod by ordained and lay delegates (other nominations from the floor are accepted too, although it would be rare for them to be elected). This process ensures that the bishop is one who has the confidence of the clergy and the support of the laity. After three years the bishop is up for re-election. If he has maintaiend the confidence of the clergy and the support of the laity, he continues in office. If not, he returns to be a parish minister or whatever he chooses.
If it be suggested that this procedure would place too much power in the hands of the laity, my observation is that laity are reluctant to oust a bishop, but are secure in the knowledge that the mechanism is there if required.
Obviously, there is a different theology of ordination/consecration behind this method, but then it would probably be helpful for the Orthodox to revisit this issue anyway. Much of traditional Orthodox practice is just that, traditional, but without biblical warrant.
#47 Anthony on 2008-03-04 21:15
You sure have a strange way of arguing a point. The question was credentials. You said you don't believe in them. Inexplicably, you then linked to an unseemly and stupid diatribe by the retired bishop of the West, a diatribe that viciously attacked Father Michael and all of the suffering priests of Alaska.
After using the retired bishop's scandalous attack on another diocese, you then stated that you will not comment on another diocese's affairs.
#48 Carl on 2008-03-05 06:30
Ok so I bit the bait. I read the link. But because I am a lowly sinner, I must have missed where +N's credentials are listed. Can you please be more clear to me. Highlight where +T mentions where +N went to school (graduated), etc. I must have missed it!
#49 Please be honest. on 2008-03-05 09:43
The Feds have nothing to say about the foundational issue afflicting the OCA. The Feds cannot make hierarchs reexamine their defective ecclesiology. Frankly, the !st Amendment pretty clearly implies that our problems in the OCA are none of the Feds' business. We need to think long and hard before issuing invitations to Caesar to come in and clean up our business. Now, Federal crimes are the Feds' business, and perhaps action will be forthcoming if there is sufficient evidence to justify indictments. But I think the overwhelming response to any attempt by the Feds to straighten out the OCA's ecclesiological issues should be a loud and clear, "Butt out!"
#50 Scott Walker on 2008-03-05 11:41
After reading the link you refered to, I was astonished at the tone of the document written by the retired bishop. In many ways it was quite upsetting to think that a bishop could write in such a negative way. I am truly saddened that this retired bishop writes in this manner.
I too do not see where there is anything in that document that points to any of Nikolai's credentials. I am not particularly interested in his credentials, but I believe you directed us there for that reason.
#51 A Sad State of Affairs in Alaska on 2008-03-05 14:39
I fear for you, Father Peter. We have to think of what the Gospel reading is for the one before Last Judgment. Pray for me for you do not know who I am. Only God knows.
#52 Anonymous on 2008-03-06 01:49
When Bishop Nikolai was first assigned to Alaska my husband Deacon Moshe Zorea, was among the first people to realize how truly evil and what a megalomaniac the Bishop was and is. He was abused and humiliated and witnessed the total lack of human warmth from the Bishop. At the time, everyone was telling my husband that the Bishop was wonderful and bringing much needed reform to Alaska. I won't name anyone but some of my husbands most ardent detractors are now today realizing that my husband was entirely correct and far sighted in refusing to serve under a person who evidently hated being here in Alaska and was disgusted by the native people and the Native culture. The Bishop honestly thought he would serve out a small amount of time here while awaiting his true calling to be able to succeed the Metropolitan. My husband went through hell under the treatment of the Bishop and when he refused to serve him , he was assured by the Bishop that his could never leave the OCA jurisdiction and would be basically blackballed wherever he tried to go. He didnt use those words , of course, but that was the veiled meaning. I am heartened to see that finally the Priests of Alaska are speaking out against this man who is not a Godly person , has failed in his charge of shepherding the people in Alaska and I hope and pray that some day we have true spiritual guidance restored to the Alaskan diocese. The evil and cruelty of this man can be catalogued from the treatment of my husband to the abominable treatment of Lydia Black and others to finally the betrayal of the trust of Father Oleksa. THANKS BE TO GOD!
Rivka Chana Zorea
#53 Rivka Zorea on 2008-03-06 23:26
I invite Anthony to show us precisely what the scriptural basis is for the initial election ot office or periodic ratification in office of bishops. The isn't any. Which, hopefully, will encourage Anthony to re-examine the judgment he pronounces on Orthodoxy for relying too much on tradition.
The disagreement, Anthony, is not between the Bible as the province of the Lutherans or other Protestants v. tradition in the form of the Orthodox or Romans. The question is not "Any tradition?" but rather "WHAT tradition?" In the case of Lutheran polity an important part of the answer is "the tradition of the emerging egalitarianism in Western Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries."
#54 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-03-08 08:48
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