As most of you know, I am a member of the Diocese of the South, which was founded by the Venerable Dmitri of blessed memory back in 1978. Until his retirement in March of 2009, His Eminence was our only bishop. Since then, we’ve been served by a number of locum tenentes, including Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Nikon of Boston, respectively.
When Bishop Mark Maymon was received into the OCA, after a somewhat colorful career within the Antiochian jurisdiction, he was made an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Washington (Bishop of Baltimore) and situated at the Cathedral in Dallas as “Administrator of the South.” The game-plan was that he would be formally nominated by the South and then elected by the Holy Synod as our diocesan ordinary. For about a year things went on as usual, there were no controversies that we know of and the people seemed to take to him in general. Your humble correspondent even wrote a letter to His Grace asking what I could do to facilitate his election as our next bishop.
Well, rather than rehash the scandalous events of last year, the opinion of most people in the South has since changed –dramatically. It is now the concensus of most in the South that His Grace would be a disastrous choice. This is of course unfortunate and we mean no ill-will towards him personally but the events that were unleashed by his involvement with Mark Stokoe (last year especially) cannot be taken back. Too many people have been materially and spiritually hurt, both in Dallas and elsewhere.
Maymon’s attempt at an apology to the people at the Cathedral at the beginning of Great Lent this year struck many as the typical “non-apology apology” that is so common in the political world. (“I’m sorry if you are offended by what I said…”) Moreover, his pose as wounded victim in this entire matter strikes many as unmanly. Rather than owning up to his mistakes and seeking genuine repentance, he is unable to see himself as anything but unblameworthy. Quite frankly, this is conduct unbecoming a bishop.
This is all water under the bridge however. What is troubling to many of us in the South is that for some reason, we are not following the procedures that we set out last year for choosing a nominee for our diocese which were clearly laid out and posted on our diocesan website. As of today, the vast majority of the people don’t know who the candidates are. Except for one. Bishop Mark Maymon continues to draw a generous salary from the Diocese of the South even though he has no official or unofficial capacity for that matter. At the time, a prudential decision was made to have him leave Dallas as hastily as possible and move to Miami. (This of course was due to the remarkable ill-will that he generated in Dallas.) In any event, he was not allowed to campaign for the position of Bishop of Dallas and the South nor travel anywhere in the South without the blessing of the locum tenens and His Beatitude (in whose archdiocese he actually serves).
Recently, he departed from this protocol and spent the weekend in Houston, where he spoke at a church there. Monomakhos was informed by several sources that neither Bishop Nikon nor Metropolitan Jonah gave him their blessing to travel there.
This of course raises questions about his temperament and causes some of us to look anew into his career in the Antiochian archdiocese, especially his relationship with Mark Stokoe of OCANews. As is by now well-known, Maymon admitted that he purloined the private emails of Fr Joseph Fester, which Stokoe then dramatically dropped into the Holy Synod’s lap when they met last year in May. The tumult caused by that action had disastrous consequences for our Church. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is still the question of how Stokoe received private correspondences which only the Holy Synod was privy to, including a lengthy critique of the mess in Syosset that His Beatitude gave to the episcopate. Although Maymon’s involvement was never proven, the fact that he had worked with Stokoe in the past while in the AOCNA and more recently with the purloined emails, paints a rather bleak picture of how he operates.
So where are we? The Diocese of the South assured us that we would have several candidates to choose from and that the process would be open, transparent, and lengthy. (http://www.dosoca.org/esc.html.) These men would travel the length and breadth of this diocese and get to meet the people. This would probably have taken the better part of a year but by the time we were to meet at the Diocesan Assembly in July 2012, had we stuck to this plan, we would have been able to make an informed choice as to who our nominee was to be. Unfortunately, and for whatever reason, we have departed dramatically from this plan.
None of this has happened. We are now just three months away from the Diocesan Assembly and we don’t know who the other candidates are –other than Bishop Mark (whose name is only mentioned sotto voce). It certainly looks like this is a “done deal,” that the “fix is in” so to speak. This is unacceptable. Indeed, some of the deans of the South have expressed grave concerns about the lack of transparency. One of them sent me a letter that was written by Fr Justin Frederick, the Dean of Dallas. Obviously Frederick’s concerns are his concerns as well.
Regardless, the trepidation felt by many regarding the continued presence of Bishop Mark in the South is coming to a boiling point. We in the South have wanted a bishop for a few years now, but there is no way that we want a bishop as compromised as Mark. Given his past conspiratorial relationship with Mark Stokoe, he simply does not have the goodwill of the majority of the priests of this diocese, especially since he continues to believe that he did nothing wrong during his tenure as Adminstrator in Dallas.
To be sure, any successor to the Venerable Dmitri was going to have a tough row to hoe. Hierarchs like Dmitri come only once in a blue moon. Any successor is going to be a disappointment in one way or another. That is not the point here. The most charitable thing that can be said about Maymon is that given all that we know, he would be a singularly uninspired choice. We don’t need that, especially when there has been a provable history of wrong-doing and maladroitness. We need a fresh face, one whose hands are clean.
At the very least, we in the South deserve to know who the other candidates are. Otherwise, we cannot make an informed choice. If Mark is foisted upon us simply because there is no overwhelming concensus at the Assembly in July –and this would be due only because of our ignorance of the other candidates–the results for our diocese will be disastrous.
The Diocese of the South is the only diocese in American Orthodoxy which has experienced any growth at all during the last ten years. Foisting Bishop Mark Maymon upon us would derail the impressive legacy of Archbishop Dmitri Royster. There is no need for such, especially when there are other candidates out there who deserve our consideration.