His Grace Melchisedek Pleska, OCA Bishop of Pittsburgh is at it again. In a reprint on the OCA website of a interview published in a small Russian-American newspaper*, +Melchizedek was asked about the recent problems in the OCA and responded with a bureaucratic answer: keep all control of the national Church in the Chancery; squelch all creativity that threatens the status-quo inherited from +Theodosios and +Herman. (I wonder, was this interview cleared by the Lesser Synod?)
Leaving aside the problem of “conciliarity,” His Grace seems to a man of little vision.
The interview has that same dry, perfunctory and relentlessly consistent tone that you hear from Stokoe. It’s the same tone you hear from some “customer service agent” or other representative of faceless policy makers. They are the people who read you the rules of compliance and then charge you the fee when you are a day late with your payment. No mercy, no humanity, no imagination — just slavish obedience to policy.
“Don’t you see?” they ask pointing to the rules while ignoring that they change them to their favor whenever the circumstances warrant. It’s another case of “Memo from Syosset: The Beatings will Continue until Morale Improves.”
Just take a look at Stoke’s recent missive on OCANews. Our Fearless-Agent-of-Accountability-and-Transparency reports that Bp. Mark Maymon asked to be “relieved of his duties as Administrator of the Diocese of the South.” Ah, yes. Such a moderate, perfunctory, eminently reasonable report! Such order! Such progress! Don’t you see? And isn’t it interesting that for once Stokoe played the story straight, without infusing his usual editorial spin — ‘+Jonah Tonsures Nun: How DARE He!’.
As usual the truth is something far different. Stokoe collaborated with +Mark to steal Fr. Joseph Fester’s email. +Maymon got caught and was effectively fired as Bishop of the South before he even got the job. Fr. Fester lost his job because of their malfeasance. Meanwhile, Stokoe continues on churning out his Pravdaesque spin.
So what occasioned this hastily-cobbled interview? Why now? The answer lies in a lack of imagination and the threat of +Jonah preaching the Gospel.
Yesterday, His Beatitude Met. Jonah gave a speech at the Acton Institute that was received with an extended standing ovation by over six hundred attendees. Early reports are that it was one the the best presentations Acton participants have ever heard — a grand-slam home run as one organizer put it. Monomakhos will post the video as soon as it is available.
Success of this kind doesn’t sit well with the compliance officers of Syosset or with their their public mouthpieces. It takes too much imagination to comprehend it, too much courage to throw off the constraints of the status-quo. Don’t you see?! It’s better to maintain the mediocrity of the +Theodosios and +Herman years! It’s order! It’s progress! We know where we are going!
So what to do about +Jonah? Let’s make him comply with our demands! How dare he go into the highways and byways! He’s a rogue! He’s defiant! Make him get our permission to preach! Stokoe, go after him!
+Melchizedek’s interview is a game of one-upsmanship, a power play. It’s rather sad as I’ve actually met him and think he has potential. Regardless, these are the words of a man who lacks the vision of a man like +Jonah. If he continues down this path, he will will never rise to demands of the Gospel in the way that +Jonah has and will continue to do.
This is the story of the OCA of the last two decades, perhaps longer. It’s the same story being played out in the GOA. “Where there is no vision the people perish” says the scripture (Proverbs 29:18) and these men can offer no vision because they have no imagination.
We’ve seen this play out too many times in American Orthodoxy. The last true visionary was +Iakovos. After he organized Ligonier, his overlords removed him from office. Now it’s +Jonah’s turn and the minions of Syosset are reacting just as the Phanariots did. It worked in the GOA because Istanbul rules it. Whether a play like this can succeed in an autocephalous Church only time will tell.
This does not mean that the coup attempt against +Jonah orchestrated by Stokoe and his cohorts can’t and won’t succeed. My best guess is that since they can’t fire him (like the Phanar did to +Iakovos) and will engage a war of attrition — like a Chinese water-torture. If they do in fact succeed, the plodding, dull, and compliant time-servers will cast the OCA back into the slough of mediocrity that it was mired in for decades. We will end up becoming like the Episcopalians (with an Eastern Rite flavor) that they secretly admire.
I, for one, won’t tolerate it.
[*Editor's Note: Monomakhos was just informed by reliable sources that the newspaper is not a newspaper but a website based in Moscow. "It is one of the most visible and influential Russian websites dealing with religious news of all faiths worldwide. The journalist who conducted the interview is a Russian who lives in the US. She requested the interview with Bishop Melchisedek and he agreed to it." We regret the error.]