Thursday, November 16. 2006
Your comments on the OCA's predicament in Alaska are welcome.
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I think I'm safe in saying I speak for many here who are grateful to finally see something said about the mis-goings on here in Alaska. We here have been the 'silent scream' for years, and have been treated poorly. For +Nikolai, we have been the fodder for his purse. It's time the outside world was aware of what's been happening up here. If he continues in the way he has been going, the Alaska church will cease to exist as an historical icon to the Orthodox world.
Continue the good work in getting the word out.
Please do not print my name...
#1 Name withheld on 2006-11-16 12:29
Seeing today's news on the Diocese of Alaska's archives, I logged in the Society of American Archivists (www.archivists.org) to find some information about the archivist in the membership roster. There were no entries for the Diocese of Alaska (in any of its many names)... I reviewed the 19 professional archivists in Alaska: nothing Church related.
Remembering the photos on the OCA web site of Summer Youth Institute touring the OCA Archives (from June 28, 2006 photo archives), I figured there must surely be a professional archivist associated with the Church. I searched for both institutional and individual members with the terms: OCA, RUSSIAN, ORTHODOX, GREEK... amazingly, nothing! I then recalled and read each entry in the list of religious special interest group (400+ entries); NOTHING! After a half hour's fruitless searching, I can only conclude that there are no professional archivists associated with the Orthodox Church (in any of the US jurisdictions) at all.
I suppose I should not be surprised. If there were no professional accountants or bookkeepers in the administration's past, I shouldn't reasonably expect professional records managers or archivists would have been retained as paid staff or bonded volunteers. Such PROFESSIONALS would object to shredding the corporate memory of the Church, and taken legal action to prevent it.
I beg the Metropolitan Council (and each diocese) to find and engage a professional records manager and/or archivist, as soon as possible. We as the Orthodox Church in North America cannot afford to lose any more of the primary source documents that describe the lives and works of His saints in America, from St. Herman to Fr. Hopko, to our grandparents!
#2 An MLIS student in the Midwest on 2006-11-16 13:37
According the the OCA web site, the OCA's archivist is a Mr. Alexis Liberovsky; he is not listed in the membership lists of the SAA.
#3 An MLIS student in the Midwest on 2006-11-16 13:48
There is for certain, good reason for local control of properties in Alaska. It would be foolish for Syosset to stay on top of all the issues there.
In fact, there is probably good reason that the OCA should have long ago ceded local control of those properties to diocese of Alaska.
What value is there in a bunch of Long Islanders holding this asset?
If any of you find it valuable that the OCA be the owner, I'd suggest you turn over your local parishes to the OCA in Syosset as well.
It really shouldn't be a question about who owns the properties. It should be a question about who is best suited to manage the properties and that isn't Syosset by any stretch.
#4 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-11-16 15:10
The issue of property ownership is a question of rightful ownership of deeds and accountability. Nothing more, nothing less. Bp. Nicholai is (or should be) a steward of Church properties. If he has overstepped the bounds, then he should be held accountable. If he has acted within his responsbilities, then lets move on.
#5 Name withheld on 2006-11-16 20:17
These comments are for Mark Stokoe and of course anyone who wishes to read them. I have followed this distasteful episode since the website was published with much reservation for I could not believe that any of these statements could possibly be true. As time went on and the replies began to manifest themselves, I began to believe in the credibility of the reporting. Sorry Mark, but you must take into consideration that I was a priest in the OCA and proud of it and proud to know personally and trust, and respect, all of the principals in this fiasco. My trust in the OCA and all of the principals involved is shattered but not my faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. This last treatise on Alaska I think has to be the final nail considering that Alaska was where I served faithfully. It would take truly the hand of God to renew my faith in any church organization on this planet. I will of course continue to attend my Orthodox Church and support that church and no other. I will continue as long as possible to receive the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ from canonically ordained priests wherever I have to go and they will always be there for the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. Goodbye Mark, you will not hear from me again.
#6 Thomas Haulund on 2006-11-16 20:45
Yes, Syosset should not be managing or owning everything in the OCA. On the other hand, if there is mismanagement in a particular diocese, as is now in Alaska, Syosset and the Holy Synod and/or the All-American council should be able to step in and take the needed action. It's a delicate issue so that it doesn't turn into a power struggle like what is happening now, though if we all, especially those in power, seek to do this in a loving, humble manner for the good of the church, it should turn out alright. Let's just keep praying and petitioning that we do get back to the right attitude.
Regarding the news, thank's a lot for sharing it. It's horrible news, but if there is rot to deal with, I guess it is better to deal with it all at once.
#7 Stephen Ullstrom on 2006-11-17 04:12
This is a very sad note about Dr. Lydia Black, widow, her less than 24 hour eviction from the Seminary, the lost documents and the issues still facing her to regain her research and archives and the implications for Alaska as the heart and soul of Orthodox America.
More lost and buried talents, polluted souls, and a 'silent scream' from the victims of the abusive power of one hierarch.
"Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered,
let those who hate Him flee from before his face."
#8 Matushka Carol on 2006-11-17 08:54
Greetings Mark, fellow Believers,
I dont think the church; local or national has proven by any means that it should own or otherwise govern any lands in Alaska!
By what virtue should they own any of it? God provided the land for man to live on and off of.. not to own, squander and sell for the personal gain of few despite the needs of the many!
If anyone should own the land it should be those people who kept it clean pure and natural as God intended... not some bunch of bureaucrats from Syosset or Anchorage... who adorn themselves with pretty things whilst the world about them crumbles...
lifelong Alaskan, native and Orthodox Christian
name withheld to protect my Orthodox Christianity from our bishop
#9 Anonymous on 2006-11-17 11:26
If +Nikolai was elected he'd be booted out on the primary just like our Governor was!
Never before has our diocese or church been in such an uproar or fearful of the future.
Non Orthodox friends remark at how few people go to church anymore, they note our demoralized state regading our church.
I pray that the legal system of the United States and the State of Alaska will begin to investigate this scandal and prosecute those who are responsible.
Pray for His expedient mercy!
#10 Anonymous on 2006-11-17 11:40
He should have made the bed himself, if he knew anything about being a shepherd....
#11 Anonymous on 2006-11-17 15:35
My heart goes out to you. As one raised in Alaska, I understand the importance of the land to its people. It breaks my heart to know that +Nikolai (and Syosset before him) are RAPING the humble Alaska Native Orthodox Christians of what means so much to them.
He (and anyone ignorant of the Alaska Native culture) cannot even begin to understand the eternal damage and loss of souls that he is causing. And, it seems, all to build his kingdom in Anchorage.
May God have mercy on his soul.
Of course, why should we be astonished? It seems the Administration of the OCA has been raping all of the people for a very long time.
#12 Name withheld on 2006-11-17 18:07
No one can fail to notice that the Alaskan Diocese has improved dramatically with the arrival of Bishop Nikolai....some brilliant financial moves, from the Sitka Icon to the Archorage acquisitions, has proved that mangement at the local level is far superior to management from Syosset via the former bishop may it also be said that even university professors should not claim church patrimony as personal property Alaska is actually an example of what Syosset should have been doing for the past decade Bravo Bishop Nikolai !
#13 luke on 2006-11-18 05:29
"No one can fail to notice that the Alaskan Diocese has improved dramatically with the arrival of Bishop Nikolai."
At what cost???Priests from the "lower 48" with little or no understanding of Alaskan Native culture have been imported. Bishop Nikolai has surrounded himself with people who dare not disagree. Liturgical practices have been changed in some ways that tend to alienate the faithful.
Critics of Bp Innocent always fail to mention that Syosset set him up for failure. Not allowing him to have the full title of Bishop of Alaska effectively tied his hands, maiking it impossible to do the job effectively.
"Brilliant financial moves" - well, anything would seem brilliant after decades of financial mismanagement - which included (in one case) granting a 99 year lease for lucrative properties for FAR less than the going market rate - with no provision for adjustment. (there have been murmurs of under-the-table dealing in this instance - where the administration profited from the deal...)
"Alaska is actually an example of what Syosset should have been doing for the past decade"
I'll reword it for you - Alaska IS an example of what Syosset HAS been doing for the past decade.
All of these monies that have allegedly gone missing could have been used to preserve the priceless artifacts that exist in Alaska. Syosset has definitely profited from Alaskan lands, but hasn't rolled that profit into the appropriate maintenance of the very records and objects that so vividly tell us our history.
One can only continue praying that the greed that has become so much a part of the culture of the OCA administration will soon be replaced with better wisdom to manage the earthly affairs of the Church.
#14 A former Alaskan on 2006-11-18 14:34
Dear MLIS Student there is a professional archivist in the Archdiocese of Canada as well as some associated historians.
#15 Mike on 2006-11-18 20:48
"[...] even university professors should not claim church patrimony as personal property"
And bishops can manage it as such? By what right?
Actually, what I found most appaling in the entire disquieting account of the Alaskan trials was the "little emotional detail" of the elderly woman being evicted from her quarters late at night with a 10-hour notice - by a bishop!!! Talk about the highly touted way of treatment of widows that is "inherent in the Orthodox tradition"! Regardless of the real or perceived transgressions of such widow (for the purposes of argument I'm going to give Bishop Nikolai the benefit of the doubt), how can this be justified?! Your Grace, when asked how you could kick an old lady out of her room at the seminary (never mind all the years of invaluable service this particular old lady gave to the Church), you are actually going to respond, "Because..."? There IS a "because"????
I must confess that every time I think nothing more can shock me, a new story comes along... this one is perhaps one of the nastiest, since it involves direct action, as opposed to non-action such as ignoring the plight of the disabled priests, etc...
#16 Inga Leonova on 2006-11-18 22:09
I recently received a request from Bishop Nikolai, as I'm sure many others did, for a donation to the "Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska" to restore several buildings. I had no idea that the Diocese used this name, even though it is part of an "American" church and as far as I know has American parishioners, many of whom are Native Americans. Why is this allowed to continue? This does not seem to me to be a legacy St. Herman would have approve of. It is for sure not conducive to evangelism nor the mission of the church in America. Does every Diocese have the right to call itself what it pleases? Does the Bishop have the power to take his diocese to the RCOR? More importantly, given the incredible challenges the our brothers in sisters in Alaska face, financial support for the seminary and priest would seem to me to be a far greater priority. Why have we not received any request for this kind of support from the Bishop?
#17 Carston R. Wagner on 2006-11-19 00:02
In an interesting development, Fr. Chad Hatfield, Dean of St. Herman's Seminary in Kodiak has just been elected provost of St. Vladimir's Seminary. He will join St. Vlad's after the end of the current academic year.
I wonder how much of this move was due to the situation in Alaska. However, by moving from St. Herman's to St. Vlad's, Fr. Chad puts himself geographically closer to Syosset and Met. Herman.
#18 Michele Hagerman on 2006-11-19 21:05
A word about Dr Lydia Black:
Dr Lydia Black is a foremost, international authority for Russian American history, including Alaska Russian Church history, and Aleut ethnography. She is respected internationally for her contributions in these fields and for her credibility, the fine level of her academic work. For example (and this is just a single example), Oxford University invited her to become a co-supervisor for a doctoral dissertation into the development of Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska .... no less than Oxford University, an institution which rarely ever, and then only very cautiously, invites any outside supervision. Yes, she is called on for her expertise from top levels in Europe and in Russia. This year alone, she has been asked by hierarchy of the Orthodox Church in Russia to help with an aspect of the (forthcoming) 210th anniversary of the birth of St. Innokentii (Veniaminov). She is a figure of international stature, high credibility.
#19 Prof. S.A. Mousalimas (D.Phil. Oxon) on 2006-11-20 02:17
I am Lydia Black's son-in-law, so I am hardly a dispassionate bystander. I cannot let anonymous comment #9, "Even university professors should not claim church patrimony as personal property," pass without response.
The materials Lydia is looking for are, for lack of a better term, intellectual property accumulated by Lydia while she was at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks for the celebration of St. Innocent's Bicentennial, two years before she went to the seminary. Copies, hand and typewritten notes, and the like. They are part of her legacy. Her association with the seminary was professional and she not only facilitated the restoration of material that had been damaged, but was also instrumental in obtaining several thousand dollars in grant money for the seminary.
Lydia does not like controversy. Her passion, as it always has been, is the history of Russians in Alaska and she viewed her work in the seminary as an honor. She certainly never saw the accomodations between her and the seminary as her right.
In my opinion, if the Bp. Nikolai were somehow disturbed by Lydia's presence at the seminary, he and Lydia could have come to a quick understanding as Christians and members of the Orthodox Faith and allowed her to leave with dignity. His Pharisee-like behavior, I believe, underlies a deeper, more basic problem of character.
But now I let my passions carry me away...
#20 Chris Pierson on 2006-11-20 12:15
Mr. Stokoe: I REQUEST THAT YOU REFRAIN FROM IDENTIFYING ME - I AM ANONYMOUS.
This web site has openly published several instances in which individuals either accuse or imply grossly inappropriate behavior by certain bishops of the OCA. While those among us who know both domestic and international Orthodoxy are hardly surprised by this behavior - it is commonplace throughout the world - mere accusations should seriously alarm us.
Stories of Bishop Nikolai's behavior circulating among clergy and on the Internet in Alaska and during his tenure as the chancellor of the diocese of the West are harrowing. One cleric told me that Bishop Nikolai told him in a private meeting: "if you lie to me, I will crush you." This seems to authenticate the other stories, the foremost being that of Dr. Black. It reminds me of the chapter titled "The Grand Inquisitor" from Dostoevsky's classic work The Brothers Karamamzov. In seminary, we were taught that this kind of behavior is "ecclesiastical abuse." How couldn't it be? Only a sick person could find a spiritual or theological justification for acts of cowardly bulliness.
While one could argue that we can wait for Judgment Day - as our Lord will certainly deliver the final word - we allow Christ's body to be wounded when we refrain from investigating truly grave accusations.
While I am not afraid of Bp. Nikolai as a man, I must remain anonymous, because the accumulation of stories I have heard concerning his behavior indicate that he could arrange for my own defrocking or transfer in an act of vengeance through the episcopal office. My only fear is, if such behavior continues to be tolerated, restraint will not perdure, and a tragic mob could instead react with violence. Keeping this in mind, we can only request that Bp. Nikolai himself respond to these stories, and if they are true, resign for the sake of the Church, and possibly as an aid for many to respond to Christ's salvation in faith.
#21 Name withheld by request on 2006-11-20 13:42
I would like to provide a very strong echo to Prof. Mousalimas' comment concerning Dr. Lydia Black. All of us who have studied the history of the Church in Alaska are indebted to her and her superior work over the years.
As a senior priest and sometime student of Church history, Dr. Black opened the archive to me in 2001 on one of my many trips to Kodiak. Her care of and conern for the documents and her clear love for Alaskan Native people shown forth in her every word and action.
When she left the seminary this was a loss for scholarship and for the Church.
As one of a handful of priests who have been blessed to serve in Alaska, I am very saddened by the continuing revelations concerning the Church's property. This is one of the many symptoms of the disease discribed in this website.
Thank you Mark for your work. And thank you Dr. Black for your trailblazing scholarship that has opened Native Alaskan Orthodox history to us all.
A very Concerned American Orthodox Christian
#22 Very Concerned American Orthodox Christian on 2006-11-20 13:46
It's good to hear that the Archdiocese of Canada retains a professional archivist, registered with the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA)! My membership to SAA allows me to view only the American side of the equation, and you're quite right in pointing out that the OCA isn's just the USA!
I just wanted to state, in case anyone got the wrong idea, that my concern about the lack of registered, professional archivists in Alaska and Syosset has NOTHING to do with Dr. Black, who is beyond a doubt a respected professional in her field and very dedicated to the Church as well. My point is that ETHNOLOGISTs and HISTORIANs should be working side by side with archivists, not asked to become archivists! The position of "archivist" should be as assumed in a religious organization (especially one founded in 33 AD) as those of "treasurer" and "secretary". Someone with CLOUT needs to be safeguarding our history.
#23 MLIS/Midwest on 2006-11-20 14:47
In the past, it has been explained to me that "Russian Orthodox" is the self-designation used and preferred by native Alaskans, whose Orthodox Christianity dates back to when Alaska was part of the Russian Empire -- and did not fare very well after its transfer to the United States. (Orthodox Christian native Alaskans suffered harassment and persecution at the hands of Protestant missionaries who took over the civil government there.)
#24 Gregory Orloff on 2006-11-20 21:10
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, for instance, does have an archive and an archival staff: see for example (online), Nikkie Callas at http://www.pahh.com/symposia/workshops2002/contents.html
The problem in this thread of discussion is about the brutal dismissal of a highly qualified historian of international repute, dismissed from her work in the Alaska archives, dismissed by an OCA prelate, and even about the confiscation of some of her own personal material by the OCA hierarchy there.
#25 Prof. S.A. Mousalimas on 2006-11-21 12:21
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