An Open Letter to His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah

The Robber Council of Chicago (click to enlarge)

Your Beatitude, bless!

Christ is Risen!

I write this letter to you on behalf of myself and several others who have been appalled by the treatment you received recently while in Chicago. The stench of injustice hangs like a pall over the entire Orthodox Church in America. In time, I think that the recently concluded Holy Synod/Metropolitan Council meeting will be remembered as The Robber Council of Chicago.

It is clear that certain of the bishops on the Synod lack basic notions of Christian charity. Certainly the assembled clergy and laity who heartily applauded those who conspired against you was most ignominious. Despite the pain and humiliation that you as a simple human being must have felt, we all live with the consquences of their actions. I do not see how any of this is a Christian witness to those who are looking to the OCA as the evangelical model for American Orthodoxy. Under the present circumstances, it is cannot serve as “the servant of Orthodox autocephaly” as Archbishop +Dmitri described it several years ago.

People are scandalized by these actions. More undoubtedly will be scandalized in due time. What transpired caused great merriment for the enemy. As such, I do not believe that the Orthodox Church in America can long survive as presently constituted. Indeed, the dire diagnosis that Fr Thomas Hopko made five years ago (three years before you were installed as Primate) very accurately described a dying church. Thanks to the recent contretemps in Chicago, we now know that his diagnosis was spot on and the prognosis is, in fact, bleak. Indeed, the decrepit culture which he described makes it all but impossible for true reform to take place.

A case could certainly be made that the Synod behaved in an uncanonical fashion. A bill of particulars would include:

  1. The proposed merging of the Metropolitan Council with the Lesser Synod,
  2. The use of surreptitiously obtained information to destroy a priest;
  3. The desire to punish you by restricting the office of Primate through various subterfuges (including revoking the right of the Metropolitan to appoint loci tenentes);
  4. The resolutions passed to curtail your travel budget;
  5. The refusal of one diocesan bishop in particular to allow you to visit your former monastery;
  6. The rank interference by certain bishops in your diocese, who through their spokesmen condemned you for ordaining a dying woman to monastic orders;
  7. The rehabilitation of a priest who was fired by the Holy Synod and yet continues to function as Chancellor;
  8. The refusal to remove from the Metropolitan Council members who have undermined your authority.

These are but a few items that come to mind. Some of these measures will come back to constrain the individual bishops who supported them. Nevertheless, any single item could imperil our Church’s canonicity, or at the very least its recognition by some of its sister-churches. I don’t see how our synod, working under the constraints imposed upon the Episcopate, can be invited to the upcoming Episcopal Assembly. Indeed, ecclesiastical discipline mandates that these precedents remain formally unrecognized by the other canonical jurisdictions as well as by all other Orthodox Churches, whether they are autocephalous or autonomous.

I therefore ask in the spirit of Christian love and humility that you and those few bishops who are similarly aghast at the Soviet tactics recently deployed against you, call for the intervention of a sister church. Since the Russian Orthodox Church is our mother church, it would seem logical that they be contacted first. I suspect that that would be the proper protocol. In addition, since all Orthodox Churches now work within the framework of the regional Episcopal Assemblies, which were canonized by the primates of fourteen other autocephalous Churches upon the initiative of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, perhaps an appeal to the first among equals would be in order as well.

Regardless, the very existence of our Church — to say nothing of its continued canonicity — demand forthright action at this point. Unless our ship is put aright, then the OCA will not long survive.

Your Servant in Christ,

George C. Michalopulos
May 13th, 2011

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Comments

  1. Thank you.

  2. Pox on All Houses says

    Fold it in to ROCOR – it is now readily apparent that OCA is now so far off the rails in terms of personality conflicts among its hierarchs that reasonable self-governance is impossible.

    • John Panos says

      Evidently, the Orthodox Church of Russia does not agree with you, Pox.

    • ROCOR is in bed with the former KGB gangsters currently running Russia. The same gang of criminals that persecuted and killed millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the 20th century.

      • My friend that is manifestly untrue. The MP perhaps, but not ROCOR. Merely being “in communion” doesn’t mean “in bed”. Reestablishing communion no matter how you look at it was a gusty move for Met. Laurus for he tried to avoid politics, and perhaps hasty. But is was also the goal of Met. Vitaly if I’m not mistaken. And frankly I’m weary of anyone who thinks ROCOR is “liberal”.

        • I’m troubled by the many pictures of Putin and Medvedev (or wives) on the ROCOR website. Have these men become devout? I must have missed that pivot point.

          The totalitarians currently running Russia have wisely corrected the error of vilifying The Church (as was done in the 20th century) and have chosen instead to co-opt it. (imparting a pious “sheen” to their rule)

          I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t many righteous and wonderful people amongst the clergy and laity of ROCOR. I’ve attended ROCOR Churches, and felt very comfortable. It’s just that I find the political affiliations of it’s hierarchy worrisome.

          • Lola J. Lee Beno says

            I’m not sure about the men, but the wives are very devout.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Andrew, for what it’s worth, G W Bush was convinced that Putin was a Christian. Lest we forget, on that awful day 10 years ago, when the whole world was wondering what happened, Putin ordered the entire Russian military to stand down. He did W a solid. Maybe we who have never met Putin don’t know what those who have met him know. A little humility is in order.

            • George,
              With all due respect, I don’t need a lesson in humility from someone who entitles a blog post about a renowned theologian, “Stuck on Stupid.” We may both disagree with Fr. Thomas’ views regarding the current scandal, but to demean a man who’s clearly devoted his long life to The Church is not exactly one for your highlight reel. Dare I say, it lacks humility.

              As for the Oligarchs, I sincerely hope that Putin (et al) have had a meaningful change of heart, but I see no real world evidence to support that conclusion. You may feel comfortable basing your judgment (and yes, it is a judgement) on the “feelings” of a naive former President, (for whom I voted twice, incidentally) but I prefer to let the man’s actions do the talking.

              I ask again. Where was Putin’s pivot point? Enlighten me. I’d love to be wrong. Heck, in light of the current OCA meltdown, I’d welcome having more confidence in the judgment of ROCOR’s Metropolitan.

              But really all of this is beside the point. All I’ve endeavored to do here is express my unease at the politicization of my faith. Whether it’s a Bishop writing about global warming or a Metropolitan posing for photo ops with a former KGB agent, I believe it’s unhealthy and will ultimately lead to the Church’s subjugation and eventual demise.

              • Chris Plourde says

                All I’ve endeavored to do here is express my unease at the politicization of my faith.

                And in doing so you speak for the vast majority of the laity and clergy of the OCA, who are under-represented in these blogs.

          • Nick Katich says

            Andrew: Putin is quite devout. He frequently is off at a monastery for periods of time living and working with the monks. Ditto on his soujourn a few years back to Athos. Those in Russia know. Those here do not care.

      • Andrew, as someone credentialed with the foreign press in Russia, I can answer your question. Both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin attend services at certain times of the year with their wives. It is widely known in Russia that President Dmitry Medvedev and Mrs Svetlana Medvedeva are devout Orthodox and practice the faith.

    • George Michalpulos says

      I must agree with you Pox. I don’t see how the Synod can come to any agreements in the future given that certain of the bishops run their ideas by OCAN anyway.

  3. Lily Rowe says

    Lord have mercy! You all are in my prayers.

  4. George,

    ecclesiastical discipline mandates that these precedents remain formally unrecognized

    What does this statement mean?

    It sounds like you are saying that the 8 items you noted should not be accepted by the other Orthodox Churches, but why do they have to “recognize” any of them at all? (Unless the term “recognize” is some technical Orthodox concept unknown to me.) Aren’t these conflicts internal to the OCA? I’m confused.

    Thanks.

    • George,

      ecclesiastical discipline mandates that these precedents remain formally unrecognized by the other canonical jurisdictions as well as by all other Orthodox Churches

      Please help me understand what you mean by the above statement.

      Is it normal for the other Orthodox Churches or jurisdictions to take positions on the specifics of OCA meetings? Is it required? Does the OCA “recognize” the minutes/findings/decisions of GOA and AOCNA meetings?

      Thanks.

      • Hi All,

        Can anyone tell me what George’s statement means? Is he right?

        • No and don’t know. But let me take a stab at it anyway:

          (1) Start with a clear statement like George’s (just “George,” you’ll find it near the end of the comments on this post) of an obvious conflict between church law and the new governance structure developed at the HS meeting:

          Resolution 3 passed in Chicago
          “…The Metropolitan, as the Chairman of the Synod, shall seek and receive prior agreement of the Lesser Synod for all programs and initiatives relating to the external and internal affairs of the Church”

          OCA STATUTE-Article IV, Section 2i.
          “The Metropoitan has the right of pastoral initiative and guidance, and when necessary the right of of pastoral intervention, in all matters concerning the life of the Church within the framework of the holy canons:”

          (2) Then recall the ROC’s veiled threat to stop defending OCA autocephaly if the OCA does not follow its own church law. Because the EP has no interest in OCA autocephaly, you have a situation were the OCA could very well cease to exist as an Orthodox church if it does not follow its own church laws right now. Or to put it another way, the only hope of the OCA becoming a canonically valid church across the entire Orthodox world is if it very carefully follows church law right now.

          I really have only a foggy notion of how these things work, and that notion may be incorrect on key points. So that’s the best I can do for you.

          • Well… thanks for taking a shot at an explanation. The ROC observation makes sense. If any organization can’t follow its own rules – that does not speak well for it. (Although I still find it hard to believe that the MP cares about the OCA travel budget.)

            • It’s also that every Orthodox Church must follow the “canons”. Following the canons isn’t really an internal matter to one local church, as the canons bind all Orthodox churches.

              The problem here is really two-fold: statutory (i.e., conflict with the OCA’s Statute, which I am assuming the HS will try to remedy by amending the Statute at the AAC in the fall) and canonical (which they can’t deal with in that way). Specifically, is resolution 3 compatible with apostolic canon 34 and other canons.

              I think the fact that there is a statutory conflict is at least embarrassing, because it gives the impression that the Synod isn’t complying with its own church law. I think that issue is more remediable, however, than the canonical issue. At the same time, if the Statute is revised in this way in Seattle, I would think that the likelihood of any other Orthodox Church, including the MP, deciding to de-recognize such an act as uncanonical would not be great.

              • … is resolution 3 compatible with apostolic canon 34 and other canons.

                Brendan, et.al,

                Who makes that decision?

  5. Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

    Dear George,

    Christ is Risen!

    I am really sad to see you writing such a confused emotional mess of half truths, un-truths, hyperbole and hysteria. A few quick notes:

    A case could certainly be made that the Synod behaved in an uncanonical fashion. A bill of particulars would include:

    1. The proposed merging of the Metropolitan Council with the Lesser Synod,”

    Nonsense. Nothing of the sort is happening, and the presence of the Lesser Synod under the presidency of His Beatitude actually gives greater hierarchical oversight to the met Council, which I regard as a good thing.

    2. The use of surreptitiously obtained information to destroy a priest;
    3. The desire to punish you by restricting the office of Primate through various subterfuges (including revoking the right of the Metropolitan to appoint loci tenentes);

    The restriction is on appointing himself. The Synodal resolution explicitly provides for the Metropolitan appointing, according to the statute.

    4. The resolutions passed to curtail your travel budget;”

    ???? Where did you get that?

    5. The refusal of one diocesan bishop in particular to allow you to visit your former monastery;

    The right of a diocesan bishop to allow or not allow other bishops in his diocese is enshrined in the canons.

    6. The rank interference by certain bishops in your diocese, who through their spokesmen condemned you for ordaining a dying woman to monastic orders;

    Again, nonsense. The idea that the bishops are responsible for Stokoe’s editorializing, or that Stokoe asks them for permission before opining.

    “7. The rehabilitation of a priest who was fired by the Holy Synod and yet continues to function as Chancellor;

    His “resignation was accepted” rather than being fired, so there is nothing to rehabilitate him from. If anyone believes they have evidence, they may make a canonical charge and ask that it be heard in a spiritual court.. And he is not functioning as chancellor, Bp. Melchisedek is. He has temporary position to help transition to his future replacement.

    8. The refusal to remove from the Metropolitan Council members who have undermined your authority.

    These are but a few items that come to mind. Some of these measures will come back to constrain the individual bishops who supported them. Nevertheless, any single item could imperil our Church’s canonicity, or at the very least its recognition by some of its sister-churches. I don’t see how our synod, working under the constraints imposed upon the Episcopate, can be invited to the upcoming Episcopal Assembly. Indeed, ecclesiastical discipline mandates that these precedents remain formally unrecognized by the other canonical jurisdictions as well as by all other Orthodox Churches, whether they are autocephalous or autonomous.

    The measures taken by the Holy Synod have been agreed to by the Synod and they have all signed the minutes. You are attacking Met. Jonah as much as any other member of the Synod when you write that these measures will “constrain” them, that is when you are writing about the measures actually taken and not simply indulging your imagination. Our Bishops are going to the Episcopal Assembly. None of these internal governance matters are up for recognition by our Sister Churches, indeed there is hardly a canonical mechanism for them to “not recognize” them. Your idea that our canonicity is imperiled is hyperbole in the extreme.

    George, you seem to have accepted a story line (the one Fr. Joseph Fester was using OCATruth to promote), which certainly hit some hot button issues for you, but does not seem to actually help you to comprehend facts, as witnessed by your list so full of combinations of suspicions and misreadings, and assumptions. Sadly, it has distorted your own vision. Yes, the Fester Narrative can actually subvert one’s own outlook when accepted. Nothing could be a more sad monument to this than watching George M ask our Metropolitan to turn our Church over to the tender mercies of the Phanar.

    • George Michalpulos says

      Fr Yousef, regarding Fr Garklavs, his resignation “was accepted,” then he was “later informed of this decision.” Where I come from that sounds like firing. Regardless, he was clearly insubordinate of this there can be no doubt.

      • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

        Not only can there be doubt, there is doubt.

        • George Michalpulos says

          “Accepting” someone’s resignation then “informing” them afterwards is Orwellian. As is criticizing Jonah for “unilaterally” signing The Manhattan Declaration. That’s how modern liberalism works: use “tolerance” as a club to condemm those who think clearly.

    • Father, though I am very new to Orthodoxy (though not to faith in Christ), it appears very much to me as if you have not only some sound pastoral instincts and ethics on your side, but also just plain sanity! I’m sad to say that it appears your words will largely fall on deaf ears where they most need to be heeded, but it’s reassuring, all the same, to those of us who see the same things. Thanks.

      • Why would you think his comments will fall on deaf ears? Have you not been reading all the substantive dialogue going on over the past several days?

        Maybe there are some exceptions, but it seems like most people on here are listening, thinking, and trying to communicate.

        • Sorry, Um, I do realize that is the case with most commenters here–my words were prompted mostly by discouragement to see how little moved has been the site’s moderator, frankly! My comment was also more a reflection of my real life experience with the nature of paranoia (some close to me in my life with real clinical paranoid tendencies, alas!). Please, don’t take it personally. I’ve learned a lot from everyone here–even those with whom I may at times disagree on some points.

          • I’ve learned a lot from everyone here–even those with whom I may at times disagree on some points.

            Karen, that’s great! 🙂

          • Dear Karen,

            You have life experience, but you yet may not understand what it is like to worship in an Orthodox parish year after year – a parish which resembles a dank tomb or a thwarted, unfruitful vine; where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated in all of its fullness and beauty, but communicants live a shadowy spiritual existence both within and without the walls of the temple. Its priest, deacon and a number of its faithful possess either a homosexual orientation or are actively gay. Most adults in the parish are aware of this reality but dare not to speak of it – leaving the matter to be dealt with pastorally by the gay priest. The parish does not grow; is whispered to be a ‘cold place.’ Such a situation is accepted by the people as being normal, because Orthodox parishes often have been small, insular bodies in this country. Do ethnicity and low expectations explain away the whole of the spiritual poverty which plagues the parish, however?

            It is fine to wish for reasonable arguments to be presented on a message board, and it is the way of Christ for clergy and laity to extend love and understanding to our fellow human beings. But the Lord also spoke out against sin. Sin leads to death, yet as it awaits its fiery destruction, sometimes is contained in ice. Please don’t rush to label cries for warmth, on the part of the shivering faithful, as being paranoid.

            In Christ,

            Elizabeth

            • Elizabeth, if you only knew what solidarity I feel with you in the scenario you paint and the horror I feel that it could overtake my parish as well (or that I could move and not find a healthy parish). Add to that the fact that I am the only Orthodox in my family and certain members of my family are very much skeptics of Orthodoxy. I may be ignorant with regard to having a full understanding of all that is going on in the Synod right now and with HB, but it is not for a lack of compassion for the plight you describe. I have close relatives who spent years in two different “church” contexts under extremely cultish abuse. That is why I have been so concerned that impassioned accusation and exaggeration and fantastic leaps of logic fueled by fear could derail attempts to actually make some progress toward greater accountability and health, or at least impede it. (And here the analogy of the prosecuting attorney who tries to rush a dangerous criminal to justice before all the evidence is carefully compiled and in to nail the conviction seems apt. Such a sloppy process allows the criminal to go free all the wiser and wilier for his experience in court, i.e.., harder to catch the next time!) I certainly do understand the fear that is behind all the hysterical speculation, in view of our cultural climate and, more significantly, the past history of the OCA (and likely also the present experience of many members within it). I support our Met. despite his mistakes, and one of the biggest, istm, was to rely on and trust Fr. Joseph Fester. It is understandable to me why this might make even would-be supporters of HB on the Synod skittish and make HB vulnerable to those who might have more nefarious motives for undermining him. I pray for truth to win out and healing for all our sakes. May the Lord have mercy on us!

              • Karen. Yes, except for this:

                I support our Met. despite his mistakes, and one of the biggest, istm, was to rely on and trust Fr. Joseph Fester

                Why?

                • I don’t get that bit either.

                  While many appear to be shocked by what was written in his emails, I have heard much the same thing from more than one Orthodox priest (and not him) about other priests and even bishops in the OCA and elsewhere. It happens. It’s not uncommon. While that doesn’t make the remarks “ok”, it places them in context. His distinctive factor here was a lack of judgment in terms of placing those words in an email, because with an email you just never know who will someday end up seeing it. I have seen this come up in litigation time and again, and we tell people in the company to be very wary of being loose with their email talk, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. In any case, I can tell you that the kinds of ideas that he expressed there (including the colorful characterizations) are not uncommon — but it *is* uncommon (and foolish) to write them in an email.

                  • A Remnant says

                    And trust a Bishop would not steal them, that is extremely foolish!

                  • Brendan, Karen, Rachel,

                    Please don’t forget, Fr Fester’s emails were stolen. They were viewed by +Mark who had no right to look at them. Even if he happened to stumble upon them, THE MOMENT he realized that he was looking at Fester’s emails WITHOUT HIS KNOWLEDGE and PERMISSION, he should have informed Fr Fester that he had gained access to them so that Fr Fester could change his password.

                    The real question is why didn’t he? +Mark says because he had uncovered a conspiracy against his rule and rise to power in Dallas and the South. Well that numb skull argument might have worked on the luminaries on the OCA Synod, but the folks in Dallas and the South sure ain’t buying it. We can spot a Carpetbagger when we see one.

                    The entire story of +Mark’s misdeeds are now being played out in Dallas. We all were fed a bunch of bull by Stokoe about the much suffering +Mark of Toledo. Well, he has brought suffering to Dallas and to the Cathedral in DC.

                    “Holy” Synod, sue for peace now because you are so legally exposed it ain’t funny. Here we go again, the OCA spending big money to fight another losing lawsuit.

                    Question. “When was the last time the OCA defended itself successfully in court?”

                    Another Question to Bishop Mark and the OCA Synod. Matthew 18:15-17, when did you follow the Lord’s commandments in dealing with your issues with Fr. Fester? Did you? I think we know the answer. They never did. Shame on all of you.

                • To all of you who don’t understand my distrust of Fr. Joseph, if you have been reading all of the comments here diligently (as well as other sites), are aware of OCA history, and still don’t get that, I’m afraid I can’t help you. I also think its possible for someone to be quite untrustworthy and not a bad priest or person in many respects. All it takes is to have certain weaknesses. I have never met Fr. Joseph in person–just read some of his comments and seen a little of his m.o. through this crisis. Others I respect are concerned about his influence. That’s all I know.

                  • Karen,

                    Father Fester is a human being and a child of God. He’s also cocksure, and a very talented priest, dean and chancellor. You see, I have met him, and worked with him, and watched his heartaches and victories, and shortcomings. I also have seen him ministering from the heart. You see, I’ve seen him on his knees, asking forgiveness. Generally, you don’t read about that side.

                    You are considering hearsay and comments carefully culled to show the absolute worst in this man.

                    And have drawn conclusions.

                    And have made your judgements.

                    Would you like to be judged by what Mark Stokoe has to say about you? Would you like to be judged solely on what we have read of you on this blog?

                    I would submit that you have an incomplete picture of a man who is a sinner like me, ( though I am chief). And I have an incomplete picture of the man, too.

                    And that the OCA would throw away such a man, especially considering the pool from which they can choose, is cause for heartache.

                    Ask the folks at St. Nicholas Cathedral.

                    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                      I was in the same position as Karen and then I met Fr. Joseph in person. I’m pretty good at reading people, most of the time, so I was really puzzled after comparing what I’d read about him versus what I was seeing in person.

                      For what it’s worth, my inner alarm bells went off when I went to a meeting to hear what Robert Kondratick could do to help us get funding for the church expansion.

                    • You can read Father Fester’s Facebook status update from last Sunday here:
                      http://www.facebook.com/notes/joseph-fester/thoughts-on-an-early-sunday-morning/118720868209453

                      It’s possible, and likely, there is evidence that hasn’t been brought forth yet, which will make things more clear. There may even be a few big surprises. I’m thinking if there is more to be brought to the light, the people with evidence and proof are waiting for the right time.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Karen, I have met Fr Joe in person. He’s an unassuming fellow with a quick sense of humor. More importatantly, as a parish priest, he’s got an excellent reputation. Just ask the people in Dallas and DC. His major problem is that he refused to disavow his friendship with Kondratick. That may be a character flaw, it may be admirable. It just depends on your point of view.

                    • It makes you wonder “Why?” He’s an intelligent man. He knew Father Kondratick well and spoke with him often. Stick a big wall in between the two and you can like one and continue to not like the other. The problem is, it’s your wall, put there to maintain order in your brain. Or, you can decide that Fr. Joseph has a character flaw, but that doesn’t make sense at all. What is he, stupid? Or you can say the only thing that makes sense is that there’s a lot we don’t know, and therefore we had better give him the benefit of the doubt, pray for him, and wait to see what happens.

                      Karen: What’s possible, is for someone to be judged trustworthy and noble, and be adored, and have a black heart, and for someone else to be judged untrustworthy and vilified, and have a good heart. Many of us who have been watching it all for years are, well, more cynical than we used to be.

                    • Well, George, I think Rachel has basically given the sort of response that is true to my experience as well and may indicate why even impressions such as yours (and hers) may not give the whole story. Frankly, from what I’ve read here, I’d probably like the guy in person, too. But even the mode in which those emails between him and retired Bp. Nicolai came to light doesn’t then oblige me to ignore that communication and what it implies given Bp. Nicolai’s now quite infamous and public track record. There are those close to me who bear wounds and scars of both the abuse of spiritual authority and sexual sin (their own and that of others against them). There is personableness and then there is sterling character and moral clear-sitedness. There is ability to understand and articulate a Christian moral ethic and appear even to live it (maybe even to do so on one level) and then there is the ability to see exactly how that applies even when our own personal interests may have to be sacrificed to obey the truth and protect the defenseless in a dark and confused situation. In both these cases, the two don’t always go together (often don’t, I expect). May the Lord have mercy on Fr. Joseph. I trust if he is truly more on the right side of these dichotomies than on the wrong (we can often flip-flop depending on what the issues are), he will indeed be vindicated in due time. In either case, I don’t wish him any evil, and would desire his forgiveness, especially if I have believed he has done wrong in error. In any case, I do not pretend to judge his heart (my own is surely blacker), just possibly some glaring blind spots and weaknesses that in his position could be a real problem to the peace and good order of the Church.

                      Though I haven’t agreed with your position on some things, George, I do appreciate your commitment to give me and others like me a voice. For that I do thank you. I ask your forgiveness where I have offended. At this point, I think I, too, have exhausted what of substance I can learn from reading your blog and others like it (including OCAnews and OCAtruth). I spent most of my first few years as an Orthodox reading Fr. Stephen Freeman’s work and other sites like that, mainly quotation and reflections on the teachings of Saints and Fathers of the Church. The Lord used that to ground and rescue me after a very rocky start in a troubled parish. I don’t think it wise for me to linger here longer, both because I may lead others astray and because I may also be led astray.

                      To all, forgive me. May the Lord have mercy on us all! Pray for us in the OCA.

                    • Karen,

                      Please don’t worry about honest mistakes leading to harm, either yours or others.

                      There’s a wise man (I believe folks in the Orthodox churches know of him) who once said, “seek and you will find.” You can take comfort in that promise.

                      Do take care of your emotional health though. These culture wars take no prisoners, and they have done serious damage to many. I say that from a place of personal experience, not in a patronizing way at all.

                      On the bright side, those who are blindsided by this war are the most vulnerable to long term spiritual damage, and I don’t think you are in danger of being blindsided.

                      So take heart!

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      Rachel and all,

                      It’s paradox, isn’t it?

                      Very good people sometimes do bad things. Very bad people sometimes do good things. None of us is purely one or the other, and pushing anyone into a box marked “good” or “bad” requires blinding oneself to one or the other, and violating Christ’s own commandment.

                      And to be perfectly fair, we often do those things, good or bad, “voluntary and involuntary, in knowledge and in ignorance, in word and in deed.” Very good people can believe they’re doing very good things when in fact they’re not, and vice-versa.

                      The proper response to this fact is Lord, have mercy, not cynicism.

                      The fact of this matter is that Fr. Fester was conspiring with Rod Dreher against Bishop Mark. That is plain, and the fact that we know that because someone else did something very wrong does not change the plain fact that Fr. Fester was involving himself. It’s sad, very sad, and he is today suffering the consequences of this error in judgement.

                      That doesn’t make him a terrible person, it makes him a human being. Expecting our pastors and bishops to be perfect is our flaw, not theirs.

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      Actually Chris, you’re quite wrong about Rod and Fr Joe “conspiring” against Bp Mark. Just so you know, Bp Mark came into Dallas a hero and was welcomed by all. After all, he was +Dmitri’s putative successor, handpicked by the beloved locum tenens (+Jonah) himself.

                      Things were going swimmingly until the transfer of Fester and the actions of the HS. When the people of Dallas wanted to know which side +Mark stood on, he became obsequious to the HS. This did not set well with the majority –strike one. With the loss of Fester, he started reverting to Byzantine chant and making changes in the rubrics –strike two. At that point, people started rumbling, perhaps unfairly. Anyway, they contacted Fester, which is perfectly understandable. Things kept spinning out of control.

                      Then strike three: the “disciplining” of Fr John Anderson, a kindly priest if there ever was one during Holy Week. Unacceptable. Then when he admitted that it was he who communed with MS, it was over.

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      Karen, you’re very kind. I’m glad you like the blog. I hope that it becomes the “go-to” place for honest and open discussion on events like this.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      Hey George,

                      I’m not defending Bishop Mark. (Though it is mildly interesting that in your telling he became a bad bishop when Fr. Fester moved to DC.)

                      To say that Fester and Dreher were not involved in conspiring against him, however, is absolutely and irrevocably belied in their own exchange:

                      Fr. Fester outlines to Dreher the how the plan is to proceed :

                      1. The Case For One Diocese Now, and Two Going Forward ( The combination of the DOS and Washington diocese into one with a date certain of two dioceses within 10 years.)

                      2. +Philip’s Problem is Now Our Problem ( The Troubled ways of Bishop Mark… maybe Philip wasn’t so wrong afterwards)…

                      3. The turmoil in Dallas ( How a peaceful, stable parish has been disrupted by Mark)…

                      Anyway, just FYI”

                      Dreher replies:

                      “… I think it it will be crucial to get as rich and as detailed account of marks tenure at SS ( St. Seraphim’s) up as soon as is feasible (eg. as soon as Jonah fires him). We can be sure Stokoe will play up the martyr narrative. If we have a lengthy and highly detailed post ready to go, we can get out ahead of the stokoe narrative. …

                      I’ll work out something up with Jesse and Jason. Am I right to expect Mark will get the heave-ho on Saturday ( April 30th) ? If yes, u or dn. gregory ( Editor’s note: Deacon Gregory Stevens, the Metropolitan’s assistant) shd text w the signal to publish at once.”

                      I note that, like +Jonah, +Mark has yet to be removed. This is as much a conspiracy as Stokoe’s.

                    • Chris,

                      How are those equivalent?

                      One is not even a conspiracy, let alone an equivalent conspiracy.

                      The conspiracy against Jonah was an effort to remove a superior who had done no wrong via false pretenses. That is a conspiracy.

                      Bishop Mark was a temporary administrator placed by Jonah. Right? He’s not the Bishop of the DOS. Right? Maybe you are forgetting: Jonah was the Acting Bishop of the DOS. Jonah could remove Mark at will. Right? If this email is real, it suggests that Jonah had already planned to remove him. So why would they need to conspire to remove him if they believed that was a done deal?

                      Sounds like the plans you are labeling a “conspiracy” were to head off a public relations campaign that they were anticipating from Stokoe. Preparing for someone else to falsely spin a news event is hardly a conspiracy, hardly …

                      I get the sense that you are pretending to try and not really trying right now.

                      I’ll just add that if the email was real, you do understand why Jonah didn’t remove Mark on April 30, correct? …

                      For those who aren’t trying, I’ll connect the dots for you: Jonah was told by the HS that he was no longer Acting Bishop of the DOS. Therefore, not Mark’s boss. Therefore, could not remove him as planned.

                      Are things clearer now?

                      I’m gonna back off here, because this is not my religion. But things don’t look good for you guys.

                    • Harry Coin says

                      George, looking at your point 40 above. There you write about how Mark came to Dallas a hero and then strike this, strike that and strike out.

                      Almost exactly parallel to Jonah’s history in his job.

                      Has Mark done anything ‘defrock and outta here’ worthy? You’re ready to send him packing, but he hasn’t crossed any of those huge ‘fire me now’ lines really. That’s how the people who have to deal with Met. Jonah personally feel.

                      Also, having said the nice things you found owing to meeting Fr. Fester, I bet you had a hard time really believing when reading those emails it was the same person who wrote them. So reasonable was your first impression, the first thought you had was to try to explain them away, minimize them, whatever because it just couldn’t really be the same person you met.

                      Believe me, I recognize these signs and histories, I’ve seen them and lived them before. How could such inconsistency be in the same person? Funny old world.

                    • George and everyone, I second what Karen wrote in Note 37 above. She wisely and eloquently summarized her perspectives of the issues at play in the OCA. I agree with her insights and trust her discernment.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      Um,

                      Both Stokoe and Fester assumed that they knew what was about to occur. Both Stokoe and Fester are organizing their efforts to make sure what they want to occur gets maximum support and to head off opposition.

                      Fester and Dreher are not plotting an election campaign for an American politician, they are plotting a campaign to support the removal of a bishop. Stokoe et.al. are likewise plotting a campaign to support the removal of a bishop.

                      But Stokoe can’t remove a bishop and neither can Fester, so all they can do is organize support for actions they hope others will take. This is why they are the same.

                      If one is conspiracy, the other is conspiracy.

                    • Harry Coin says

                      Chris — You’ve got it surrounded!

                      ….Once there was a silly old ram
                      Thought he’d punch a hole in a dam
                      No one could make that ram scram
                      He kept buttin’ that dam.

                      ‘Cause he had high hopes
                      He had high hopes
                      He had high apple pie
                      In the sky hopes.

                      So any time your feelin’ bad stead of feelin’ sad
                      Just remember that ram
                      Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam
                      Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam….

                      Ah, you know, every mirror starts off as a window. Ouch!

                    • What a fine post, Karen, thank you.

                      Kids, I’m putting Rachel away. My middle name is Jane, so I’ll use that in the future. Finding out about Greg Solak’s death had a deep and profound effect on me. Probably because I’ve stared death right in its ugly face. All I know is, whatever the circumstances, this man died, tragically and too young. What do I know for certain? Nothing. Therefore, having come to that realization, that I know nothing for certain, I’m moving away from expressing myself on this blog as if I know anything or am right about anything. I’m moving towards a central, neutral place of waiting to see what happens. Seems wise. Signed, truly, Jane

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      Yes, Harry, as a matter of fact Mark did do something egregious, unlike Jonah who hasn’t. Mark hacked into a former employees e-mail account and conspired with MS to destroy said employee. That’s kinda big Harry.

                    • Chris, Fr. Fester and Dreher were not trying to get rid of Bishop Mark in the sense of forcing him to retire. As far as I could tell, they were just in favor of getting Bishop Mark reassigned out of the Dallas cathedral. The Stokoe conspiracy, on the other hand, was aimed at removing Metropolitan Jonah from office permanently, “a la [Met.] Ireney Bekish”. Removing Bishop Mark as administrator of the DOS would basically just be a change of one of his duties, whereas removing Metropolitan Jonah as metropolitan is a very serious and drastic measure. The two “removals” are not remotely comparable.

                      Furthermore, someone else brought up the point that Fr. Fester and Dreher spoke of Bishop Mark’s removal as a fait accompli rather than something they were conspiring for; their conspiracy was basically to counteract the expected Stokoe spin. This reminds me of the defense of the Stokoe email that Stokoe was not conspiring against the Metropolitan, only describing what he thought the bishops felt. Well, Stokoe’s own interpretation, not long after the email was written, was that he felt that “Metropolitan [Jonah] must be removed.”

                      On the other hand, we don’t really know Metropolitan Jonah’s intentions with regard to Bishop Mark. Everything’s kind of tangled up and twisted because Bishop Mark is supposed to be an auxiliary to Metropolitan Jonah, who assigned the former to be administrator of a diocese in which the latter was locum tenens. Metropolitan Jonah is no longer locum tenens of that diocese, but Bishop Mark remains administrator. As Bishop Mark is an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Washington, Metropolitan Jonah should technically have the authority to remove or reassign him from his administrative position in another diocese. However, if he did, he could be accused of interfering with another diocese, since another bishop is now the locum tenens of the DOS. As primate Metropolitan Jonah has the authority to intervene in other dioceses when necessary, but considering what just went down in Chicago, the rest of the Synod may not be too agreeable to Metropolitan Jonah exercising that particular kind of authority right now.

                      Whew! I guess it all comes down to whether Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Nikon can come to an agreement to straighten this out.

                    • Chris,

                      You didn’t read what I wrote before responding. Or maybe you just didn’t understand. Since it appears you are trying to waste my time, this is the last I’m going to respond on the issue. Forgive me if I sound unloving at times in my response, but when you waste my time on purpose it is really disrespectful.

                      I shouldn’t have to explain this to you, since I’m not part of your religion (you really need to try harder), but here goes anyway:

                      Bishop Mark is Bishop of Baltimore. Check the oca.org website. He was NOT Bishop of the South. He still isn’t Bishop of the South. He was Temporary Administrator of the South, serving at the pleasure of the Temporary Bishop of the South, Jonah. He is now Temporary Administrator of the South serving at the pleasure of the Temporary Bishop of the South, Nikon.

                      Once a bishop, always a bishop everywhere, and so he confusingly retains the title of Bishop Mark in his position as temporary administrator. But he was not and is not even now the interim bishop of the South. So if folks with concerns or complaints about the diocese expressed these to the actual Bishop of the South (Jonah), they were doing exactly what they were supposed to do (even according to Bishop Mark’s own recently released rules of engagement). There was no impropriety there, was there?

                      Now maybe some folks decided after working with Mark that they didn’t want him to be elected as Bishop of the South in the future. That seems plausible. But once again, this is a completely different scenario from the one you are painting, and all bets are off as far as politicking prior to the election of a bishop, aren’t they? I don’t think it is easy to remove a bishop once he is in, so it seems like the time to be frank about real issues and rally the troops, etc. is before the election, not after. As best I can tell even the bluest-blooded Orthodox have popular democratic elections for their bishops.

                      You and many others seem to be TOTALLY missing this part of the story. MARK WAS NOT BISHOP OF THE SOUTH. It is that simple. He was purely an administrator for the real bishop: Jonah. And he was a temporary administrator at that. If they want him removed from the South, all they have to do is convince Jonah. Sounds like they did that. If Stokoe had a problem with this, it was really NONE OF STOKOE’S BUSINESS.

                      Who knows why they were expecting Stokoe to try to make a scandal out of it. Maybe they know something or suspect something we don’t. But if Stokoe did try to make a public relations stink about Mark being reassigned to some other duty, why wouldn’t people from the Diocese of the South have every right to work together to contradict Stokoe?

                      In any event, they were only preparing for this eventuality. There is evidence that several people actually DID TAKE ACTION, via INAPPROPRIATE CHANNELS, to ACTUALLY REMOVE NOT JUST REASSIGN A metropolitan and BISHOP from all positions of service to the church, VIA FALSE PRETENSES. I used caps here to highlight the key points of difference between the two situations you are saying are equivalent. For the situation involving Dreher, Fester, and Bishop Mark, just replace the capitalized text with the opposite.

                      The only similarity between the two cases is that people must have talked to other people about a plan. A plan, even if it is a plan that is not shared with the entire world, is not a conspiracy. A conspiracy is a secret plan that is unethical or unlawful.

                      Now if Dreher and Fester were trying to get Mark defrocked or removed from his position as Bishop of a diocese for simply being an awful administrator, then we might actually have a reason to be having this conversation.

                      But that is nowhere near the story I’ve been reading, so why are you being so thick-skulled about this? That’s a rhetorical question. I don’t really want to know.

                      For your own sake and for the sake of your church, and for the sake of the society that could benefit from a healthy version of your church, please try harder. If you are not part of the Lavender Mafia yourself, then you clearly have no clue what you and your church are up against. You are going to have to raise your game substantially, many of you are, or you are toast. If I was responsible for writing the obituary, I would be working on it now.

                      p.s. I see that while I was posting this Helga beat me to the punch. But since I’ve gone to the effort, I’m going to post my less eloquent explanation with my impassioned plea anyway.

                    • Harry,

                      The above is my reply to you too. Minus the parts about it being your church. And toned down a bit in the parts where I accuse you of purposely wasting my time 🙂

                      Chris,

                      I’m sorry for being frustrated about the time wasting, but I do honestly believe you can do better so much better. No reason to make me do the work for your church, right? I suspect you are a sleeping giant who just needs to be awakened. Wake up, buddy! The church needs your intellect right now.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      Helga and Um: We see in both Stokoe’s and Fester/Dreher’s e-mails only id and ego, desire for power and self-aggrandizement. We read in their e-mails assertions of knowledge of things to come which time has proven incorrect. We read in their e-mails lust for power and idle talk. Nothing more, nothing less.

                      Helga: “Reassignment” and “retirement” are essentially the same realities on the ground. Removing bishops from present responsibilities is the goal of both efforts.

                      Um: This isn’t about you. That I don’t agree with your analysis doesn’t mean that I didn’t read your post carefully or that I’m too ignorant or stupid to understand it. It simply means that I don’t agree with your view. Apparently this is a shock, given your response, but don’t take it as more or less than what it is, and it’s certainly not an attempt to waste your time, just an attempt to express my disagreement in a clear manner.

                      Conspiracy is a process regardless of content. The process by which both Stokoe and Fester sought to support and defend events that did not come to pass is the same. If one is conspiracy then the other is conspiracy.

                    • Chris, do you really not see the difference between “reassignment” and “retirement”? There certainly is a difference between a transfer of someone from one department to another, and tossing someone out on his behind without so much as a cheap gold watch. The former is what’s hoped for for Bishop Mark; the latter is what was attempted against Metropolitan Jonah.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      Helga,

                      There’s a difference to the person being reassigned or retired to be sure, but no difference to those who want that person gone from their position. One of the ways that businesses often get rid of problem executives and employees is to reassign them instead of firing them. (The Peter Principle has a good section on this.) The effect on the ground is the same, that person is no longer in their job.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Karen, Rachel raises a good point. Based on my first-hand knowledge of how Fester pastors a parish, one could do far worse than have Fr Joe as rector. He’s good, diligent, and discerning. Did he make a mistake in reaching out to Bp Nikolai? Yes, but Bp Mark made an equally horrendous mistake (far worse actually) in leaking those e-mails to MS.

                  So how should he have handled it? I would have called Fr Joe up and said that he had accidentally gained access to Fester’s e-mail. I would then have asked him if Fester had had anything to say to him personally or should the both of them go to speak to Fr Joe’s bishop (+Jonah). Fr Joe would have gotten the message immediately to cease all further contact with people in Dallas and of course Bp Nikolai.

                  That’s the Christian, civilized, businesslike approach to how things are done.

              • Karen, if you are new to the faith, in Christ I humbly suggest you find another forum. There are other healthier places on the internet where you may learn more about the faith, ask questions, have your questions answers and not have to indulge in all this Byzantine intrigue. My own parish (see comment on another post) split not long after I converted. It was terribly painful, but one thing I tried to remember was that I converted to Orthodoxy, not a particular parish, parish priest or individual who may have influenced my journey.

                Talk to your priest. Seek counsel from those who have been living the faith in its ups and downs for some time. Do not despair and do not allow the dark ramblings and musings of those who may be concerned but may not always be right to taint your view of the Holy Orthodox Church.

                • A member, thanks for the advice. I do indeed plan to talk to my priest about all this (and ask him for some recommendations of people in the parish he would recommend I confide in and ask questions of), and soon. I hurt for everything that has come to light here, but am not despairing. The Lord has planted me and my family where there is a good and healthy parish–it is large and growing and I don’t expect it to pass away anytime soon. I’ve not been Orthodox long, but I’ve been around the block a few times and virtually all of it as a conscious believer in Christ. I’ve had to look at a lot of darkness square in the face for a while (not least of all within myself). I’ve been through a lot, made many mistakes (mostly in opening my mouth or typing on the keyboard with too little information!). The Lord hasn’t let me down yet (after some 50 odd years). I do appreciate your concern and that of others as well.

      • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

        Dear Karen,

        Christ is Risen!

        Thank you. and to Rebecca Matovic, and Chris as well.

    • I suppose it was providential that I posted a new entry at Orthodox Leader earlier today.

    • Fr Yousuf, Thank you for bringing some much needed common sense, objectivity, and sane critical evaluation of a letter that is indeed full of “half truths, un-truths, hyperbole and hysteria.” The objections, corrections, and criticisms you have outlined are sensible and just. They reflect reality as it really is, not as distorted and mangled by many who have spun it to an extreme only understood by Fr. Fester/Kondratick/+Nikolai (Soraich) /+Tikhon (Fitzgerald, retired – thank GOD! – of the West) and Crew.

      As I wrote previously regarding key characteristics of great leaders: “They embrace truth and live in reality. They deal with things as they really are, not as they would like them to be.”
      http://chrisbanescu.com/blog/2008/06/key-characteristics-of-great-leaders-part-ii/

      • Okay, I’m getting it now. I’ve been hearing this from others in your camp. The great leaders are the ones who live with the reality, the truth, that Church leaders are corrupt. Even if they would like it to change, they live with things the way they are. A great leader accepts the status quo and doesn’t try to make changes. WOW. So, that pretty much excludes every Old Testament Prophet beginning with Abel on up to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, all of His Apostles and Saints and Martyrs through the centuries all the way to the present. WOW again.

        • You know, Chris, a relative of mine sexually abused his daughter for several years, while he was an active missionary and pastor. When the truth came out he denied it at first and vilified his own sister (my cousin – a psychologist specializing in sexual abuse cases) as being on a “witch hunt” because she notified the family in an open letter. There was a family reunion coming up (it’s a very large family) and she and others were concerned that he would be unsupervised around young children. Years earlier, he told me that humanity can’t help sinning because of our corrupt sin nature (he was a Calvinist). I have often thought of that statement he made, and how he must have used that to justify what he was doing. In a way, your statement that “great leaders” “…embrace truth and live in reality. They deal with things as they really are, not as they would like them to be” reminds me of my cousin Ted and his Calvinistic “TULIP” if you know what I mean.

          “Great leaders embrace truth and live in reality. They deal with things as they really are and envision the way they would like them to be. They put plans into place and apply them, working to change the reality where needed.”

          • Rachel, okay, I have to ask you to take your own advice to me, sister. I’m so sorry to read of your painful family history (truly, sorry–and I am no fan of Calvinist heresy either BTW!), but you have clearly *completely* distorted Chris’s words out of context, and your attack on him is unjust. We are *all*–every last one of us–sometimes speaking out of our own impassioned reactions to our own life experiences, rather than offering a truly reasonable question or response to another poster (and I am no exception to this), but at some point we have to try to help each other get a grip, no? It’s my observation that those who use excessive hyperbole, half-truth’s, etc., actually hurt their own cause. Where accusations against OCAnews and some members of the Synod have merit (and I think it likely they do at many points), I would like to see that cause succeed. They can speak for themselves, but I doubt Chris or Fr. Yousuf feel differently. The wheels of justice sometimes move painfully slowly, but trusting in the Lord’s goodness, I believe they do move. Take heart.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          Actually Rachel, the Prophets were all killed and persecuted by the Clerical elites, just like Jesus was by the Sanhendrin.

        • And the spin and contortions continue. I guess the plain meaning of the English language is insufficient when an agenda has been locked in and the “enemy” has been identified . Lord have mercy! One cannot engage in rational dialogue when even simple and universal concepts are flipped every which way to mean anything.

          • Chris, I was reacting both to your statement that “great leaders… deal with things as they really are, not as they would like them to be,” coupled with statements and actions and non actions going on that seem to follow that concept to the effect that we should not rock the boat when we see corruption. It’s an overall reaction and not a personal statement directed towards you. I apologize, I’m hot-headed about all this. I’m usually reasonable and able to use the English language.

            If I misinterpreted you, let me know, that is, if you can stand to interact with me given how different we are. The first thing I thought of when I read your statement was a comment Father Bartholomew Wojcik recently made on ocanews. Here is part of his comment:

            Based upon the service text above (plus the Scriptures, etc.), it is expected that we will have strife and scandals perennially. Such events are not grounds to be ashamed nor to contemplate schisms, fractioning away, nor returning to some idealized “mother” Church which is no more mother to most in the OCA than England is for citizens of the USA. (Speaking of which, why all the Slavonic, Polish, or whatever it was, in the Liturgy for the consecration of Bp. MATTHIAS? Including the Catechumen Litany, too!)

            We should take the whole series of event over the last several years “in stride” as it were. Not sanctioning scandal in the Church, but understanding that it is endemic to fallen man and that our Lord and Savior is victorious regardless of our personal or collective sins. We need to oppose scandal with humble, fervent prayer for ourselves, for those with whom we disagree and those with whom are in agreement, in addition to praying for the innocent by-standers.

            Your statement and his sound similar in concept. I read both of them as saying we need to keep going as we have been going, and not rock the boat.

            That’s about it.

            • Rachel, The interpretation you gave to the plain and simple observations I made regarding true and ethical leaders: “They embrace truth and live in reality. They deal with things as they really are, not as they would like them to be.” is wrong. Reading that to mean: “we need to keep going as we have been going, and not rock the boat,” is most subjective and spins the plain meaning of those sentences into something that has nothing to do with the objective and common sense meaning of what I said.

              Here’s more on “truth” and “living in reality”:

              Truth in Organizations is Not a Matter of Opinion
              http://chrisbanescu.com/blog/2007/10/truth-in-organizations-is-not-a-matter-of-opinion/

              • Didn’t mean to spin. Sin *is* endemic ain’t it?

              • Chris, getting back to basics now that the day is done and I have a chance to think, you quoted yourself thus:

                “They embrace truth and live in reality. They deal with things as they really are, not as they would like them to be.” If you had added the sentence before this one, I would have agreed. Instead, I got nailed. It’s bothered me all day. I’ve been reading your posts for a long time and without reading the full article, reacted based on what I’ve read that you have written over the years.

                Here’s the more full quote from your article:

                “Great leaders are great dreamers and visionaries, but with their feet firmly planted on the ground. They embrace truth and live in reality. They deal with things as they really are, not as they would like them to be.”

                That’s better. It is true, of course.

                How does your article apply to OCA leadership?

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  It doesn’t. The mean little men on the HS and MC who blindsided +Jonah are anything but leaders or visionaries. It is clear that in American Orthodoxy today there is only one visionary leader –+Jonah. The trouble is that the toxic culture of Syosset that promotes humunculi like Theodosius as primate cannot abide a true reformer. Had +Jonah risen through the ranks there would not have been a problem. Of course had he risen through the ranks he would have been a compromised man, just like the others of the Old Guard.

            • I brought up the case with my cousin in this conversation because he did nothing to change himself. Not that anybody here is as bad as he was, but Father Bart’s statement and my apparent misreading of your statement triggered that memory. The cousin business is really unpleasant but so is the stuff we’re dealing with. Sin is indeed endemic to fallen man.

    • George,

      Fr. Yousuf’s belittling and disparaging of your efforts in writing this letter cannot be characterized as pastoral, quite the opposite. His perjorative opening litany is inappropriate and probably speaks to his own biases and lack of time/care more than anything. An apology from him would be highly appropriate.

      Having said that, both he and GegF have raised some good questions and points of criticism with regards to specific points in your letter. So some thanks to them both would also be appropriate.

      Even if you have already sent this letter, I would recommend you view the letter as a first draft or a first stab at characterizing the missteps of the HS meeting in question. I’d like to see your point by point response to GregF and Fr. Y., with concessions to their points where appropriate. Then lets see what you have left, and I’m sure others will point out things that you missed or could have characterized differently.

      Clearly individual biases are beginning to peak through the stress fractures right now. That’s fine. I encourage you to be the grown up in the room and take the personal knocks in stride. Let’s see if the readers here can’t help you hash this out and arrive at a much better explanation of grievances than what you started with. But I think you really do need to start by responding point by point, even if that means conceding most of the points.

      I don’t see an end product here but a potentially important initiative.

    • A Remnant says

      Think you left out:

      9. Synod interference with the establishment of a Monastic community in the Diocese of Washington.

      10. Using Synod authority on personnel matters of the Diocese of Washington Although in doing so they may have negated a “Spiritual Court” as remedy.

      • Using Synod authority on personnel matters of the Diocese of Washington Although in doing so they may have negated a “Spiritual Court” as remedy.

        To be fair, it may have been necessary for the Synod to intervene on a spiritual level because the situation involved more than one diocese, and a bishop. However, they should not have the authority to remove the dean of the Washington cathedral. That should be Metropolitan Jonah’s prerogative alone as diocesan bishop.

        It’s interesting, therefore, that the minutes from the May meeting say “The Holy Synod also acted decisively in the case of the clergy interference case,” and the note sent out to the SNC community about Fr. Fester says, “In the spirit of obedience, Father Fester accepted the decision of His Beatitude to be removed as Dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral. His Beatitude accepted the determination of the Holy Synod.” So, Fr. Fester accepted Metropolitan Jonah’s decision, which actually wasn’t his decision but an acceptance of the “determination” of the Holy Synod which decided something they have no authority to decide. Hmm.

        I suppose we could say that the “determination” was really more of a “recommendation”, and Metropolitan Jonah agreed with that recommendation and therefore removed Fr. Fester as dean. On the other hand, I have to say I noticed that this language is identical to that used in Santa Fe regarding Metropolitan Jonah’s leave: the Synod’s “determination”, and Metropolitan Jonah’s “acceptance” of that.

        So, either the Synod interfered with a Diocese of Washington issue, or Mark Stokoe lied when he claimed Metropolitan Jonah was “placed” on leave.

        • Helga,

          You are correct on the use of semantics. Although, doesn’t the word, “forced” come to mind, in both circumstances?

        • George Michalpulos says

          Helga, surely you jest! The Synod “interfering” with a diocesan issue? Stokoe “lying”? I’m having a case of the vapors. I must repair to the Victorian fainting couch in my salon.

    • Rebecca Matovic says

      Fr. Yousuf —

      At least someone here is speaking with some common sense.

      I’ve only recently become aware of the amount of commenting and discussion going on here at this blog. The volume is quite — well, ‘impressive’ doesn’t seem the right word given the emotion, lack of basis in fact, and hysterical nature of much of it — let’s just say ‘voluminous’.

      The tone of the discussion here and the degree of antagonism shown by those following the party line of the blogger in responding to dissenting views are disturbing.

      Information and facts are twisted around to signify the opposite of what commonsense would dictate … just as one example, by any reasonable measure, what went on in Chicago was a mark of maturity and responsibility on the part of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council and a confirmation that reform is well on the way to creating a healthy governing culture within the OCA. Many problems remain to be addressed, many of them are complex and difficult, there’s still a need for greater courage and forthrightness, particularly regarding cases of clergy misconduct, but the institution as a whole is progressing.

      How you manage the fortitude to engage in these discussions is quite amazing — I for one am grateful that you persist in presenting a reasonable, reality-based alternative to the drivel being marketed here.

      Thank you!

      • But Cathy, are you saying that we have no right nor reason to speak up about what we are becoming increasingly convinced is true because we have to be in the actual bedroom to prove it? You say, “there’s still a need for greater courage and forthrightness, particularly regarding cases of clergy misconduct” into the mix. You say we are emotionally charged. Of course we are. This is not an aside, this IS the issue. Clergy misconduct. Tell me where changes are taking place to rectify clergy misconduct. Clergy…. Sexual…. Misconduct. And that’s only part of it. Tell me whether something IS NOW being done about this. Tell me these leaders will be removed. “Repentance” is not enough. Tell me, *if* it’s true that there are some who have been falsely accused, will there be justice for those people? What I see is, no change. Tell me there will be change. If the leaders act, I will believe it.

        My second issue is to say that your comment, “given the emotion, lack of basis in fact, and hysterical nature of much of it”makes my cheeks burn. By using the word, “hysterical” you pass judgment on those you don’t know, on hundreds of comments. Suddenly you appear and decide that the posters here are “hysterical.” I am, a bit. I’m in shock.

        • Heracleides says

          “I am, a bit. I’m in shock.”

          Don’t be Rachel – Matovic is generally quite histrionic on the Yahoo Orthodox Forum in her own rather hysterical defense (in her instance, more of a slavish ‘brown-nosing’) of her “hero”, Mrs. Stokoe.

          • Hah. My shock is over Bishop Benjamin and all that. Glad to have you here, oh hysterical Heracleides!

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Disgusting remark from a hysterical person. Please apologize to Cathy, one of the most level headed and intelligent Orthodox person on this continent.

        • Rebecca Matovic says

          Color me confused.

          Who’s Cathy?

          I don’t post anonymously, I don’t use pseudonyms, and I have only one name that I was given at birth and given again 12 years later in baptism.

          To clarify, commenting on the tone of language used is not passing judgment on a whole group of people — it’s offering an observation concerning readily available evidence.

      • Rebecca,

        At least George does not censure people’s posts like Stokoe does. You may feel more comfortable in the “controlled environment” of OCAN where just enough critical comments are posted by Mrs Stokoe-Brown so that folks like you think he is playing fair. Yeah, right!

      • Mark from the DOS says

        Ms. Matovic:

        It is condescending and demeaning for you to assume and assert baldly that the people posting here are following the party line of anybody. I am a grown man and can think for myself. I don’t know you from Eve, but unless you have walked a mile in the shoes of every poster in here, I’ll thank you to let me form my own opinions from the reality that I wake, work and sleep in every day. If you don’t agree with my opinions, that is fine. To suggest that they are fed to me by the owner of this blog or derived from anything other than the reality on the ground here, is offensive.

        Mark

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Mark from the DOS: isn’t it wonderful how people who don’t agree with us (liberals?) think that those of us who are traditionalist/conservative can’t think for themselves?

          • Rebecca Matovic says

            The conservative/liberal meme doesn’t hold water.

            Chris Banescu is one of the most conservative people I know. Others I’ve heard from who have been direct observers of the interactions at these meetings are also staunch conservatives.

            This whole thing started with two issues: 1) a Metropolitan who is good at inspiring and putting forth a vision (or successive visions) but poor at follow-through and terrible at coordinating with others, and 2) a priest (and a former priest and assorted others from his old friends) with a strong vested interest in personal vindication and a return to administrative power.

            Some who are highly invested in the Metropolitan’s vision don’t want to see the chaos and difficulties that his inconsistencies and lack of attention to administrative matters have caused. Instead they have chosen to believe that the entire (or large chunks of) the Synod and MC are conspiring to subvert the vision. This view is only credible if you don’t have much exposure to the actual people who compose those bodies, in particular the newer members of the Synod who are being smeared with the misdeeds and undeeds of their predecessors.

            As for the priest — that’s a much more complicated matter. I recognize that for many who know him through his work in parishes he is seen a certain way. He has great talents. He is inspiring and persuasive and can be quite charismatic. He often directs those talents to bringing people to an understanding and love of the Church. The loyalty and defense of him by those who know that side him (and who have little connection to some of the other personalities involved, thus being susceptible to accepting wildly inaccurate characterizations) is completely understandable. That such talent exists side by side with manipulation and lust of power is a great tragedy. The other side of this man is kept carefully hidden or is wrapped up for public consumption in an agenda that many share (so that his bald actions and words seem justified by a cause rather than being about naked personal ambition).

            There’s a new website floating around that I won’t link to because it’s anonymous and I don’t agree either with what seems to be the underlying agenda of the author or with the burnt earth approach of the postings — but the quite ugly things said there appear from my personal observations over the past couple of decades to be most unfortunately highly accurate. Those who think you know the motives of some of the characters in this drama might want to consider that there may be other things going on.

            • Rebecca Matovic says

              By the way, as a newcomer, let me say that I do appreciate the free flow of dialogue here and that the feature that gives you half an hour to reconsider a post is quite brilliant. Please don’t take my disagreement with the viewpoints held by several of you as a personal attack.

              • Geo Michalopulos says

                Rebecca, I do not. One of the reasons I’ve become a Conservative (and remain an Orthodox Christian) is because I know the world to be a fallen place. That means me as well. Hence I am very tolerant of other viewpoints so long as they are not bromides, platitudes, or assertions. I despise the treacly inanities of political correctness. I’ll go further than that –I do not suffer fools gladly.

                Anyway, getting back to the blog, I absolutely LOVE the give-and-take; it clarifies my own thinking and makes me reconsider my own biases. I appreciate your compliments of the inner workings of Monomakhos and hope that you direct your friends to it. Whether y’all agree or not is immaterial, but I do ask that the discourse be civil and rational. I don’t mind humor or sarcasm even but I won’t tolerate ad hominem attacks against anyone.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Rebecca, you leave out a very important point. Perhaps the most important point. In fact it should be number 1: a liberal propagandist who uses his position on the MC (however he acquired it) to drive church policy and to punish those bishops and priests who do not share his vision.

              As for your criticism about the “conservative/liberal meme” not being in play, you are quite correct. Chris is on the side of the angels, no doubt. But the question I keep on asking of the Good Guys who have come down on the Stokovie interpretation constantly remains unanswered: what exactly did Jonah do to merit such condemnation and humiliation by the assembled at Chicago?

              That’s all.

            • anonymous says
            • The link to the anonymous web site is posted on Orthodox Forum. Here ’tis:

              http://spartiongeometrias.blogspot.com/2011_05_01_archive.html

              • Fester never resigned from Syosset in protest over Kondratick. Whoever is spinning that untruth is just recasting the Stokoe line of bull and then saying Fester was trying to stay ahead of the posse. Fester was never disciplined in the SIC because there was nothing to discipline. The SIC just hung that “Inner Circle” tag on him by saying he should have known something even though they never said he knew anything, so he should have known what he didn’t know! Great logic then, eh?

                Fester’s current discipline sure looks like a big bad case of settling old scores. And who was that bishop on the SIC? Yep, +BB. He couldn’t get him then, but he threw his weight around with the help of the email stealing +Mark and his old pal Stokoe. Smells like a conspiracy don’t it?

                • Jane Rachel says

                  Absolutely, it smells like a conspiracy. After reading the changes made to the minutes of the 15th AAC questions and answers, I am standing on facts. I know changes were made, and I know the editing shows a doctoring to make Fr. K look even worse. Just look at them. Why were the words that came out of people’s mouths at the actual meeting changed to that extent, and who did the editing? See how Stokoe’s comments are changed? “I published the Call to Accountability.” he says in the “official” version. That statement is not in the other document, which I suspect is more true to what was actually said at the meeting. So who made that change? Did Stokoe read it and say, “Add this”? Is that being transparent? Good grief. Even if you take out my “biased” reading of them, we know for certain they were altered. How many more documents have been altered? Look at the pattern, folks. Someone once said, “If enough people tell you you have a tail, maybe you’d better turn around and look at it.”

                  Compare:

                  http://holytrinityorthodox.org/parish_news/AAC_blog.htm

                  To:

                  http://www.oca.org/PDF/15thAAC/15AAC.minutes.pdf

            • Chris Plourde says

              Rebecca,

              Yes. Thanks.

  6. Chris Plourde says

    George,

    Your letter reminds me of the childhood “my cousin is bigger than your brother” taunt.

    Seriously, it’s childish. “Dear Metropolitan, some of those bishops and other people were so mean to you, I think you should get your Russian uncle, or maybe your Turkish uncle, to beat them up” is about as immature a counsel as one could give, no matter how it’s dressed up.

    I’m saddened to see it, but not at all surprised.

    I know you feel strongly about these things, George, but regressing and counseling others to regress with you isn’t going to solve anything.

    • George Michalpulos says

      Not at all Chris. The bishops who went along with the diminution of the office of Metropolitan will soon realize how untenable this situation is when the lay uber-procurators come to restrain them as well. Hence, my belief that what has been created is not only uncanonical, but unworkable. As far as I’m concerned, sister-churches should never hesitate to inform errant churches about erroneous courses of actions.

      The major case in point is ECUSA, which has constantly been coddled by the Abp. of Canterbury much to the sadness of the other, orthodox Anglican provinces. Had more resolute Cantabrigians warned ECUSA about its reckless stupidity decades ago then it might not have been to the moribund laughing-stock that it has become. Worse than this of course, is the fact that the “let’s-avoid-schism-at-all-costs” crowd in Canterbury have allowed the heresy of ECUSA to drag down the entire Anglican Communion.

      • Chris Plourde says

        George,

        Despite the meme, there are no lay über-procurators in the OCA. But if there are I expect you’ll nominate me, right? 😉 After all, I’m good with management and labor, and good with schedule and budget, award-winning yadda-yadda and all that….

        Seriously, one guy with a blog has all people on both “sides” acting crazy. Perhaps this is because y’all thought he was great when he was doing the very same things you now distrust him for not so very long ago.

        I know I’m a bit of a broken record here, but I’ll repeat anyhow: Jonah has his issues, the Synod has its issues. They need to work those out together, quietly and carefully, and without the laity having a food fight in the next room and urging them to pick up their own tomatoes and fire away. A step was taken in that direction in the latest meetings, wobbly though it may be and explicitly subject to revision. This is why vacant seats matter, why the DOS taking more than two years to find a bishop is a problem. We need a full Synod with many voices and viewpoints.

        You once wrote that if autocephaly were the issue behind the tension then it was a non-issue because it wasn’t at risk. Then you posted that Hopko’s defense of the OCA’s autocephaly (the “dream of the OCA”) that you did not actually hear or read was such comedy that your sides were split. Now here you seem to encourage the scism/return to Russia meme that been prophesied at OCATruth, but taken seriously no-where else.

        I know you think you’re defending the faith from a real and pernicious and stealthy threat, but it seems to me that letters like this serve only to confuse things. They don’t help.

        • George Michalpulos says

          Chris, that’s the point: they can’t be worked out quietly. Not whenever there are putative ober-procurators setting the terms of the debate and receiving confidential information. Sorry Chris, you’re a reasonable man and your point is well-taken, but it’s simply impossible under these conditions. The position of the liberal wing has hardened into ideology.

          “Jonah is wrong because he is:

          a. too monastic,
          b. too close to Russia,
          c. too accommodating to the other jurisdictions,
          d. insert your own bias here.”

          It pains me to say this, but his enemies aren’t going to rest. Reasonable men –you, me, Jonah, some of the bishops–could lock ourselves in a room and come up with a modus vivendi. That’s because like most Conservatives, we know man is fallen and are tolerant of each others’ foibles. Leftism however has hardened into a type of totalitarianism. There is no compromise.

          • Chris Plourde says

            George,

            We’re seeing very different worlds, my friend. I’ve not heard even the most vociferous critic of Jonah make any of the claims you outline above. Ever. (And some of my better friends are, on this topic, unreasonably critical of our Metropolitan.)

            Every criticism I’ve heard has come down to one thing, executive seasoning. That is something that can be solved pretty easily. But when a green executive decides, or is convinced by his “team,” that the “real” problem is something else, then it becomes hard to break through the suspicion to get to what is in fact a simple issue.

            First rule of successful executive management: no surprises. It’s irrelevant whether the surprise is good or bad, the fact of the surprise is the problem. I know of no-one who will say that Jonah has not surprised everyone from time-to-time…

            IF you were ever to accept this operating diagnosis, THEN you’d look at what the Synod actually did in a very different light. But you first have to divest yourself of the bad faith conspiracy theory that justifies the bad faith of some on Team Jonah.

            And in Christ, I think divesting ourselves of assumptions of bad faith is always a better place to start…

            • A Remnant says

              Chris

              You are correct there is a high cost for young leadership. Young leaders tend to be more idealistic, and trusting in their approach to a leadership challenge. They are often confused in deciding whether the advice they receive is from a trusted compatriot or from the bureaucratic bog which is resisting change to the status quo. The Church leadership challenge is different in many ways than than other management situations, since they have no ability to fire people, particularly other senior leaders. Since they cannot fire or replace key staff, they cannot bring their own team at the National level. And there is no external scorecard to measure the performance of the Leader, and no remedy for mediocre performance. (Criminal activity yes, but not poor performance.)

              There are a couple of other distinctions in this structure that are not in other environments; conciliarity the constructive tension between the Synod and the position of the Metropolitan, AAC being the highest authority unless overridden by the Synod, and combination of the Metropolitan council and Chancellery.

              All of these conditions create a considerable different environment in which the exercise of leadership, even for a seasoned leader, is very very challenging.

              • Chris Plourde says

                A,

                I’d say the conditions for leaders are always complex, but each organization’s complexity expresses itself in unique ways. Even within one industry corporate cultures vary dramatically, with one not being better or worse in terms of achieving success, but presenting vastly different issues.

                But with every organization, no matter the leadership challenges, no matter the management culture, “no surprises” remains a constant rule. Even good surprises give room for suspicion, for conspiracy theories, for dissension, as we see at OCAN, OCAT and here. Surprised members of the board or management team fear a cabal, wonder if they were purposefully out of the loop, and from there paranoid fantasies replace reality, especially if more than one were surprised. If many were surprised they rightly question whether the leader has bothered to consider all the ramifications of the surprise. Etc.

                Bringing everyone along on the decision a leader knows from the start to be correct takes patience and a willingness to educate even superiors to the full scope of the issue and the full ramifications of a decision. And, finally, leaders need to avoid hubris, need to avoid thinking that they’ve got all the answers. Humility and patience often carry the day where boldness costs the entire enterprise. General Custer learned that lesson the hard way. 😉

                • A Remnant says

                  Chris

                  I appreciate your response. Humility and patience with boldness leads to success for the entire enterprise. Leadership has many definitions, “lack of surprise” is not a model with which I am familiar! While we could have a great theoretical discussion on Leadership, management and the operation of organizations, and I would love to, the challenge at hand is a badly broken Church, complicated by factors, both current and historical. Unfortunately, the remedies available to most other organizations in this situation, are not available to the church e.g. acquiring leadership from outside of the organization, reorganizing, divesting non performing units, and/or significantly changing the operational people. Though Churches due have one appeal not common in other venues, prayer!

                  Due to the current crisis, I have delved into the history of corruption and ineptitude in the OCA, both sides of the issue. Good thing this is a church! And that most of the faithful are not embroiled in the current or historical crisis. Costs in these kinds of crisis are the loss parishioners, they vote with their pocket book then their attendance. The majority of the parishioners are only concerned with what is happening in their Parish. If Parish life is good, the parishioners are happy, problems in the Parish, well not so happy.

                  OCA faces the challenge of using the current leaders, all of whom have some taint of current or historical crisis, to fix themselves and the church, not impossible, but quite daunting. We are relegated to the bleacher seats to watch the drama unfold. We can comment, cuss and discuss the current events (as we think we know them) but we are not in a position to affect much.

                  Looks like it is time to invest in more prayer!

                  • Chris Plourde says

                    OCA faces the challenge of using the current leaders, all of whom have some taint of current or historical crisis, to fix themselves and the church, not impossible, but quite daunting. We are relegated to the bleacher seat to watch the drama unfold. We can comment, cuss and discuss the current events (as we think we know them) but we are not in a position to affect much.

                    Looks like it is time to invest in more prayer!

                    I doubt anyone could have said this better.

        • Mark from the DOS says

          I know I’m a bit of a broken record here, but I’ll repeat anyhow: Jonah has his issues, the Synod has its issues.

          Chris, I agree completely, which is why the “solution” of constraining one party with issues to the empowerment of the other parties with issues is scary. Whoever can form the biggest block of people with issues apparently can run the church.

      • Christopher says

        Truth be told, the Abp. of Canterbury is of the same mind as ECUSA. I wonder what frame of mind the faculty of St. Vlad’s is in when they recently gave the Abp. of Canterbury an honorary degree…

        • Michael Bauman says

          Christopher, the best I have been able to determine the facualty at St. Vlads was (is) living in a world on intellectual unreality totally divorced from the Church they purport to serve. The ‘honor’ the Abp of Canterbury solely for his academic achievements which are recognized by folks the intellegentisa wishes to be recognized by to give more creedence to the scholarship of the Orthodox.

          Not something I’d be seeking, but then, I’m not a professor.

          • Maybe the SVS faculty didn’t fully appreciate how Williams’s profile in the culture wars might affect how people would perceive his invitation and presence there. But what I saw, as a lowly lecture attendee, was a man who was very grateful to lay that aside for a little while and just talk about heady smart-people stuff for a change.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Helga, “…just talk about heady smart-people stuff for a change.”

              Mind divorced from the heart, divorced from genuine communion with God and therefore a false view of humanity. OK, so Williams writes nice stuff about the Fathers of the Church, so what? He denies the reality of what they teach with every act of his ministry. To me that proves he knows nothing of them. That kind of bifurcation of the human soul is one of the things I entered the Church to be healed of.

              • I didn’t mean that Williams seemed like someone who wouldn’t or couldn’t apply the teachings of the fathers in his life, only that it seemed like a relief to him to be able to talk about the Philokalia and the Eastern Fathers to people who actually know what they are. Maybe you should pray he finds his way towards the Church, and finds healing from the “bifurcation of soul” you accuse him of.

                I will just say I walked into that auditorium with a great deal of cynicism towards Williams, and walked out feeling sadness and empathy. As I remember, he spoke with a great deal of affection and admiration for the late Fr. Nicholas Behr, Fr. John Behr’s father, who was an Orthodox priest in Bristol while Williams was a teenager.

                • The current Abp. of Canterbury (ABC) is widely recognized as a gifted theologian by both liberals and conservatives alike. But sadly he is no biblical scholar. An odd duck for a pastor. Many conservatives and liberals view him as a total failure as an administrator.

                  He refused to intervene in the US Episcopal church problems because he claimed he had no authority to do so. But if he had simply used his mind and mouth (or pen) to point out ways in which TEC was violating its own canons and other written agreements, that might have been enough to prevent the total meltdown of the world-wide communion. But then he is compromised because he wants TEC to succeed, he just can’t admit it because this would violate the clear teaching and consensus of communion.

                  Perhaps the best thing you all in the OCA have going for you is that the Russians are not enablers. They have already committed themselves to pointing out when you do not follow your own canons. That could be the difference maker. We’ll see.

                  As someone who suffered the neglect of the ABC in TEC, I’m moved by what appears to be the genuine concern and affection you enjoy from the ROC.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Williams means well and in a different life, he might have been a good, fairly traditional Orthodox theologian. But being English, he felt he had some responsibility to try to hold fast to the Anglican tradition and keep it from falling further into the abyss. Unfortunately, he’s one of those “unity-at-all-costs” bishops who because of his good faith is used by the secular Left.

          • George Michalpulos says

            Michael, I’ve often said that SVS is the premier institution of higher learning in the English-speaking Orthodox world. I still believe that. But like all institutions, unless its revivified by fresh blood, it becomes hide-bound. I think we really have to re-think the spiritual formation of priests. I see nothing wrong with sober, spiritual men living in the world and being mentored by their parish priest for several years.

            As much as theological training is important, at this point in our culture we need priests who know more about pastoring than about the Theodore of Mopsuestia.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Higher than what George? Ph.D stands for Piled Higher and deeper doesn’t it?

              The whole push of education in our culture is to trivialize and deconstruct the reality of the human spirit and our unique ability to commune with our creator. Dis-integrating people in the process. SVS cannot escape the worldly mind on this just because its named after a saint. The only way to escape that is to be radically different than other educational institutions. Instead it is more interested, it seems, in becoming just another clone in the educational establishment recognized for its ‘brilliant’ scholarship in the world.

  7. John Panos says:
    May 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Evidently, the Orthodox Church of Russia does not agree with you, Pox.

    John if you only knew how upset and actually disgusted the Moscow Patriarchate is with the OCA, you would see how precarious the OCA’s standing is within world Orthodoxy. If there was a way Moscow could no longer recognize us as a self-governing Church without losing face with Constantinople, they would do it in a heartbeat.

    Archbishop Demetrios just returned from the Phanar on Thursday after a one day meeting with the EP. He came back with the “approved” agenda for the upcoming EA meeting in Chicago. It would not surprise me if the OCA is not invited, or uninvited. AD took a tremendous amount of heat from the EP when he expended a great deal of personal capital to get the OCA seated next to the water cooler and almost in the hall at last EA meeting. Now that the OCA has hacked off Moscow this gives the EP even more fodder to slowly close the noose around the neck of the OCA.

    And to the Stokoe, Hopko, Kishkovsky and the Synod, they really don’t care if we are relegated to being an Orthodox sect. It would suit their plans even better to do even more scandalous things in order to “Keep the Dream of the OCA Alive!”

    The ship of the OCA has already hit the iceberg. It is going down hard by the bow. Get to the lifeboats and find safety, laity and clergy alike.

    • John if you only knew how upset and actually disgusted the Moscow Patriarchate is with the OCA, you would see how precarious the OCA’s standing is within world Orthodoxy. If there was a way Moscow could no longer recognize us as a self-governing Church without losing face with Constantinople, they would do it in a heartbeat.

      Good. At least they see the corruption. At least our cries for justice aren’t falling on deaf ears.

    • George Michalpulos says

      Samuel, quite possibly the best comment I’ve read on this point in a long time (and the vast majority are excellent!). At the very least you have distilled a lot of this controversy to its essence in relation to the other Orthodox jurisdictions.

      I worry however about your assessment about the Liberals in Syosset. Do they really hope that we become a “sect” not in communion? I pray you are wrong. If so, then schism is not only forgivable, but commendable. I’ve long seen the grovelling spirit of Kishkovsky become dominant among the leading dimbulbs of the OCA. Schmemann must be spinning in his grave (and Innocent, Tikhon, Platon, Leonty, etc.)

      • Christopher says

        I’ve long seen the grovelling spirit of Kishkovsky

        If memory servers (it often does not), this is the first time I have seen a forthright appraisal of this man by a member of the OCA. I have never understood his place until my more recent understanding of just how liberal (not just socially – religiously also) NE Orthodoxy really is. Good for you!

        • Michael Bauman says

          Christopher, when Met. Philip pulled we Antiochians out of the NCC, Kishkovsky went to the mat to keep the OCA in the NCC (at least so it was reported). If that is true, then he is far down the road to making Orthodox Christianity a ‘spiritual’ adjunct to liberal/totalitarian politics; an agenda which inclues abortion, same-sex unions, redistribution of income, nationalization of everything for the good of the poor, etc. In the past it has also included specific support for Castro and other totalitarian governements that have no love for Christianity.

          • George Michalpulos says

            Michael, one of the things that causes me to respect +Philip (even though I’ve had lots of philosophical disagreements with him in the past) was his resolute standing up to the demonic NCC and getting the Antiochians out of it. What I would have given had the GOA and OCA done the same thing. If Kishkovsky fought half as hard for Orthopraxy as he does for the NCC, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems that have recently plagued us.

            • Peter A. Papoutsis says

              Outside of Clergy I know of no one in the GOA that likes the NCC and overall ecumenical movement. Most GOA priests I know do not like it or our involvement in it. I also George wish the GOA get the heck out of the NCC and ecumenical movement. Instead of making them realize the True Light of Orthodoxy many GOA clergy in the NCC have become modernists. That tells me and has told me its time to go and GO NOW!

              Peter

              • George Michalpulos says

                Peter, one reason I fervently believe that so many GOA/OCA priests like the NCC and other local ministerial alliances is because in many localities, the local Orthodox priest is the only Orthodox one for miles around. As an Orthodox pastor, he has a certain “cache” which liberals like (he’s kind of like the token Third-World celebrity). So he’s rather fawned upon, invited to fancy lunches, and generally treated with better respect than they’re used to.

                If you hit the big-time (like Kishkovsky) the lavish treatment is multiplied significantly.

                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  George I see your point and its a good one. However, do you think its a generational thing? Meaning the older priests may like it more than the new and younger one’s coming up throught the ranks? The younger priests are actually more traditional than their older counterparts IMHO, and are no fans of the NCC/WCC that I have been able to see like my local priest.

                  I pray that we get out, ALL Orthodox get out, as most of our problems I believe stem from this most unholy alliance.

                  Peter

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Quite possibly. I see your point of the older, sixty-somethings who were the first generation of Orthodox born in America. The disdain that many of them felt for traditional Orthopraxy was informed by a conflation of it with the simple-minded pietism of their parents, most of whom were barely educated.

            • Michael Bauman says

              George, as long as the bishops in the AOCA don’t challenge +Met Philip’s control, they are left pretty much alone to run their diocese (or whatever they are) as they wish. Tending to their flocks, teaching the faith, building up parish life, etc. Isn’t that what they are supposed to do?

              Yeah, I don’t much like Met. Philip for a lot of reasons, but give the alternatives right now, he looks half way decent.

              Met. Joseph of the Patriarchal Bulgarians is a really fine bishop, but they simply don’t have the resources or the willingness to accept a large influx if the OCA falls apart.

              How many really want to go the GOA route?

              I guess it will depend on the local situation.

              • Geo Michalopulos says

                good questions all, Michael. I suppose the only hope is that when the secularists split from the traditionalists (or visa versa) then the Russians will come in to rearrange the furniture. Who knows? this may all be part of God’s plan.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  One thing I do know, when this happens, there is no way that a structure like the MC is going to be allowed to exist. And as far as agitators on the blog, especially those that receive info from the bishops, they won’t be given the time of day.

    • Chris Plourde says

      John,

      Unless you’ve been in the room with the principals you’re playing a dangerous game of telephone….

      Which is it?

      • George Michalpulos says

        I dunno, let’s ask OCAN. He’s obviously got better sources than me. (I guess episcopal confidentiality cuts only one way.)

    • Carl Kraeff says

      Of course, there could be an entirely different reason for Constantinople’s displeasure. You must recall that Moscow and Bucharest torpedoed the recent Chambesy conclave on the proposed and long-in-coming Great Council. If OCA is affected, she will be so as a proxy.

  8. Ivan Vasiliev says

    George,

    Thank you. I hope the MP has finally had enough of the outrageous antics of the OCA Metropolitan Soviet and the Politburo. The (sadly) predictable events in Chicago ought to be a sign to them of the contempt in which the current political junta in charge of the OCA holds the canons and traditions of our Orthodox Church.
    Let’s say to His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill–“It is time for the Lord to act, Master!”

    • Carl Kraeff says

      Good evening Ivan–A few questions:
      1. Exactly which canons are held in contempt?
      2. Are you aware that your quote refers to the start of the Divine Liturgy, which is the premiere service of the people?
      3. Are you familiar with the reforms of 1917?
      Looking forward to you thoughts. Carl Kraeff

  9. Cathryn Tatusko says

    Greetings, All–

    Can someone please clarify for me? Are the resolutions that were brought to the Chicago Synod meeting actually fully adopted at this point? My understanding was that only the AAC could make such changes to our Statute. How do things stand with all of this? It all seems so out of order and, frankly, a bit crazy to me. Is the OCA leadership now comprised of anarchists? Does our own Statute matter anymore? I’m honestly confused by all of this. Please, someone, clarify this for me. We in the OCA do seem to be getting very off track.

    In Christ.
    Cathy Tatusko

    • George Michalpulos says

      Cathy, I think you are right in principle, that these resolutions were unbinding and/or could not be implemented except by some statutory change at the AAC. Having said that, the entire graceless way that they treated HB speaks volumes to me about their hearts. And of course MS’s way of gloating on OCAN.

      I guess we traditionalists can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that no good will come out of this. Indeed, I predict that much of what transpired is already in the process of unraveling.

    • Carl Kraeff says

      There are folks, like me, who look upon the Chicago resolutions as elaborations on, or clarifications of, the Statutory provisions, not changes to them. To claim that they were unauthorized revisions is a gross exaggeration that serves no purpose at all. Please do me a favor and tell us exactly which provisions have been changed. Thanks.

  10. Nick Katich says

    George:

    I am absolutely amazed at your knowledge and/or interpretation of the canons when you say, in regard to your bill of particulars that “Nevertheless, any single item could imperil our Church’s canonicity, or at the very least its recognition by some of its sister-churches”. I have studied the canons for most of my adult life and actually consider myself an expert in that regard.

    I never knew that the canons addressed your bill of particulars. I never knew that a Church’s canonicity depended on:

    1. Not merging the Metropolitan Council with the Lesser Synod. [I did a data base search of several compiliations of the canons and did not get a single hit when I searched Metropolitan Council and Lesser Synod. Maybe those terms were not in use in the first eight centuries. Can you enlighten me as to the terms used then and the Council that promulgated the canon?].

    2.The use of surreptitiously obtained information to destroy a priest. [Oh yes. Now I recall. Hyppolytus was uncanonized because it was learned later that he surreptitiously obtained information against “Pope” Callistus in order to destroy him. Sorry. How could I forget].

    3.The desire to punish Jonah by restricting the office of Primate through various subterfuges (including revoking the right of the Metropolitan to appoint loci tenentes). [Sorry again. I forgot that you and I shared the belief that under Apostolic Canon 34, the Metropolitan was essentially a figure head because he could do nothing without the consent of the Synod. But that was then. Now that Jonah is Metropolitan, the rules change. How could I forget that cult of personality trumps the canons. Please forgive this error.]

    4.The resolutions passed to curtail your travel budget. [Oh, yes. Canon 346 of I Nicea says you can’t curtail the Metropolitan’s travel budget. I’m sorry. The official records only show 20 Canons by I Nicea. I guess the scrivener in the 4th Century got it wrong. I should have known better and remembered about scrivener errors. My apologies. By the by, what are Canons 21-345?].

    5.The refusal of one diocesan bishop in particular to allow you to visit your former monastery. [Sorry again. I forgot. When Apostolic Canon 34 says that the Metropolitan can do nothing without the Synod’s consent, “nothing” does not mean or apply to just a measly old diocese in the West. I guess the Serbian Church is now uncanonical because Sava, Bishop of Shumadia, now deceased, would not allow the Serbian Patriarch, German, now deceased, to step foot in his diocese. I should have brought canonical charges against the heretic Sava. My mistake!].

    6.The rank interference by certain bishops in your diocese, who through their spokesmen condemned you for ordaining a dying woman to monastic orders. [Sorry again. I forgot that those received must have a cononical release from their bishop. My mistake. We are in America. Forum shopping is the norm].

    7.The rehabilitation of a priest who was fired by the Holy Synod and yet continues to function as Chancellor. [Horrors! I guess that Athanasius should be de-canonized because he was deposed five times by the then EP, but fled to the desert and functioned as bishop of that awful petty jurisdiction known as Alexandria. My apologies for suggesting to our parish that we need an icon of laicized Athanasius

    8.The refusal to remove from the Metropolitan Council members who have undermined your authority. [What authority George? The statute does not give the Metropolitan “papal” or “monarchial” authority. Maybe I am misreading the statute. If so, my apologies].

    Bottom line. I guess I am not the expert on canonical law that I thought I was. I confess my error. I bow at your feet, Gamaliel Michalapoulos. Please forgive. God bless you for your insights. I am going to take a new course, as soon as I can arrange it in the Tulsa Confession.

    Father of other posts, the subject of much criticism by the self-ordained experts, please join me in this act of contrition.

    • Touché.

    • George Michalpulos says

      Regarding point #2, I would even be against a saint doing that. Ends don’t justify the means, Nick; you’re a lawyer, you know that.

      Let’s not forget, just because a man’s a saint doesn’t mean he’s perfect. One of the greatest bishops and saints of our Church was Basil the Great. He did not cover himself in glory when he tried to divide up his diocese in order to get his brother and another friend ordained as bishop. Even if at the end of the day, he may have been technically correct (for the sake of argument), the appearance was inapt.

    • George Michalpulos says

      Your contrition is accepted. Go in peace. (Just don’t distort Canon 34 in order to get out of traffic tickets.)

    • I forgot that you and I shared the belief that under Apostolic Canon 34, the Metropolitan was essentially a figure head because he could do nothing without the consent of the Synod. But that was then. Now that Jonah is Metropolitan, the rules change. How could I forget that cult of personality trumps the canons. Please forgive this error.

      This canard again.

      Apostolic canon 34: “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent … but neither let him (who is head) do anything without the consent of all.”

      Notice how it begins with a restriction on the bishops to do nothing of consequence without the primate’s consent. Then it proceeds to confirm that the “head” also must not do anything without the consent of all. This is an elegant expression of primacy and conciliarity, and how they are to work together. Not primacy without conciliarity (which is what the Roman Catholics have, in essence, despite efforts to slowly grow conciliarity there), nor conciliarity without primacy (which is what the current OCA synod seems to want). The idea of the primate as a mere figurehead runs afoul of the first sentence of apostolic canon 34.

      Of course there is a threshold. Apostolic canon 34 describes this as “nothing of consequence”, which clearly was meant to apply to both sides of the equation here. This reality is reflected in the way that the Orthodox churches have generally operated over the centuries. Primates were generally hardly figureheads, yet at the same time councils and synods weren’t mere rubber-stamps. It’s supposed to work on the basis of consensus, but a consensus that, without doubt, requires the approval of the primate. The synod may have a majority of votes this way or that, but it cannot force this upon the primate against his vote without running afoul of the first part of apostolic canon 34. The role of the primate is to generate consensus among the synod, knowing that he can’t do anything of consequence by himself legitimately. But at the same time, the synod is not at liberty to “gang up” on and “outvote” the primate without violating apostolic canon 34, and thereby acting in an uncanonical way — something which puts them at grave danger of risking their very Orthodoxy.

      This figurehead primate nonsense is poison and is not in accordance with apostolic canon 34.

      • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

        “the Metropolitan cannot veto decisions of the Synod.” Met. Jonah.

        I by in large agree with His Beatitude Met. Jonah’s work from Feb. 2009, “A Time of Crisis and Opportunity”, from which the above quote was taken. I was unable to pay sufficient attention at the time since I had momentous personal events that month. I look forward to giving this paper renewed attention.

        http://www.oca.org/jonah-2009-0218.html

        • Father —

          Frankly, selective quotes like that are almost always an indication of less than bona fides.

          However. leaving that aside, the full quote of the paragraph from which you bold-quoted eight words is thus:

          “The Synod, however, and the Office of the Metropolitan as the organizational recapitulation of the Synod, is different. While the MC started out as an archdiocesan council, with the above function, as the Church has grown into a fully functioning Synodal structure, the structure of the MC has to change. It is the bishops who bear the primary fiduciary responsibility for the Church according to the Canons. The MC shares that responsibility, but on a different level. The Metropolitan and Synod have to approve or can veto decisions of the MC; the Metropolitan cannot veto decisions of the Synod.”

          As we can see, and frankly reviewing the entire talk is of benefit (and as you well know yourself, Father, there are numerous references in the self-same paper to the relationship of obedience of the other bishops to the metropolitan, which I will cite at the end of this comment), here the direction of Jonah’s argument is that the way that the institutions relate to each other is different. That is, he is discussing how the current structures of the OCA are not working well (“the MC has to change” because ” the bishops bear the primary fiduciary responsibility for the Church according to the Canons”). He ends the paragraph by providing evidence for his view: the Met and Synod have to approve the MC’s decisions, whereas the Synod is its own body — that is, the Met cannot, apart from the Synod, “veto” what the Synod does, because he is a part of the Synod himself, rather than standing apart from it. This is buttressing the authority of the Synod, acting together with the Metropolitan — it includes the Metropolitan, and the Metropolitan cannot “veto” an action that the Synod takes, precisely because he is its head, and sits in the Synod, and his vote is needed before the Synod takes any action. This is not a “veto”, because he does not stand outside the Synod, judging its actions — he is the head of the Synod, and his vote is needed for the Synod to act, period. In this way he is supporting his statement that the Synod has the ultimate fiduciary authority, and not the MC, and is using this final sentence as support for that.

          Reading this to mean that Jonah meant that the Primate has no power other than one vote among many on the Synod flies in the face of almost the entire rest of that article, to wit (to take only a few examples):

          “The real underlying question is the issue of leadership–primatial, Episcopal and lay. We need to examine the nature of primacy: how the episcopacy relates to the local church, and the interrelationship of the local churches within their province, and hence, the role of the Metropolitan as Primate. Central to this, however, is the nature of that relationship of obedience: of the presbyters to the bishop, and the bishops to the Metropolitan. Primacy is constituted by accountability and authority, in a relationship of obedience.

          This is Christian leadership. All of this is, ultimately, defined in the ancient Canons, and rooted in the Scriptures.

          Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebr. 13:17)

          I believe that the starting place to understand all this is to understand authority and obedience as responsibility, rather than as “power.” Any reduction to “power” is by definition, corruption. Accountability in relation to responsibility is a core element in obedience.”

          “The Metropolitan bears the responsibility to maintain unanimity and consensus among the bishops in all matters affecting the life of the Church as a whole, and is the point of accountability for the bishops; while he in turn is accountable to them. This is a relationship of obedience, accountability in mutual love and respect, for the responsibilities given. The Metropolitan has the responsibility to relate his Local Church to the other Local Churches, and maintain unity and communion. This “ecumenical level” is the highest level of accountability, as it is the final court of appeal. The Metropolitan is a diocesan bishop, as are all the others. Thus all the bishops of the Synod bear an equal responsibility, as well as an equal ordination. The one thing that distinguishes the ministry of the Metropolitan is his primacy: his responsibility to be the point of accountability, with the other bishops in a relationship of obedience.

          “The Metropolitan’s ministry is to hold the bishops to accountability in a structure of obedience that is by its very nature love and respect, unanimity and synergy. The Metropolitan’s leadership arises through building consensus, rather than authority over the other bishops. Decisions are communal, by consensus; and the Metropolitan cannot act alone. As a bishop sacramentally recapitulates his diocese, so also does the Metropolitan recapitulates the Synod, personifying it and speaking for it. The Metropolitan cannot intervene in the affairs of another diocese, unless there is a canonical issue; then that intervention is his responsibility on behalf of the Synod. A diocesan bishop is accountable to the Synod for his stewardship of the diocese, because he is given that responsibility by them in election and ordination in a relationship of obedience. That structure of accountability is personified in the relationship of obedience to the Metropolitan.

          “A bishop’s authority comes from his responsibility for his own diocese; the metropolitan’s authority is within the Synod. The parishes relate to their own bishop, as their point of accountability in obedience. The bishops relate to one another in the Synod as the structure of accountability in obedience to the Metropolitan.

          “The Metropolitan’s responsibilities, as primate, are in maintaining unity among the bishops of his Synod, and resolving whatever decisions need to be made on a Synodal level, and whatever issues directly affect the whole Church. The primacy also demands that the Metropolitan relate his Synod to the other Local Churches, maintaining recognition, contact, and communion. This would include, in our contemporary situation, relations with other jurisdictions in America, as well as with the other Autocephalous Churches. Thus, all matters related to the transfer of clergy between Churches, jurisdictional disputes, and so forth, are the purview of the Metropolitan. It is also within his purview to convene the Synod, councils and church-wide conferences; oversee church-wide ministries such as theological education; and oversee economic matters such as tax status, legal matters and insurance which affect the whole Church. The Metropolitan oversees matters dealing with bishops, including election, placement, accusations, investigations, transfers, and canonical actions.”

          Here’s a friendly word of advice, Father. If you are going to cite a paper to support an apparent position which does not even match the obvious argument of its own paragraph, but flies in the face of the rest of the paper, be prepared to be called on the carpet for it.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Brendan, you need to write an essay on this. very well said.

            • A Remnant says

              Geo Michalopulos says:
              May 14, 2011 at 4:29 am

              Brendan, you need to write an essay on this. very well said.

              I think he just did that!

              • HB wrote the essay for me. I just quoted it. I think many in our church disagree with him, unfortunately.

          • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

            Dear Brendan,

            Christ is Risen!

            If I were trying to misquote with bad faith I would hardly have included a link and expressed general approval.

            The reason I didn’t quote the whole paragraph is that it largely concerns the Met council, not the relationship of the Metropolitan with the rest of the Synod. Indeed, the section I quoted is descriptive rather than prescriptive, the statement of something obvious for contrast, rather than an argument in it’s own right.

            I posted it because you seemed to clearly set up a veto in your post that I was responding to. You do so again in your paragraph before you get to quoting Met. Jonah’s paper. Your description of the Metropolitan’s veto goes beyond anything in the explicit language of Ap. Canon 34 or Met. Jonah’s paper. For example, when you say: “he is the head of the Synod, and his vote is needed for the Synod to act, period.” That would be the ability to veto. Here is, because it’s easy to get, the Wiktionary for veto: “1. A political right to disapprove of (and thereby stop) the process of a decision, a law etc.
            2. An invocation of that right.

            In order to read the Metropolitan your way we would have to assume he means his description of “relationships of obedience” are all one way, and that the bishops are in a relationship of accountability and obedience to both the Synod and the Metropolitan, but that the Metropolitan is accountable and obedient to no one. But that isn’t what he explicitly says, nor do I think that it is what he means, and I would regard it as calumny against him to impute this opinion to him. Despite your extensive quoting, and your willingness to dish out “attitude”, it is you who are misrepresenting the Metropolitan.

            His Beatitude, thanks be to God, and in accordance with the holy Canons and the Statute remains the chairman and “Protos” of both the Synod and the lesser Synod, and also of the Metropolitan Council. He retains his primacy. He has signed, first of course, the minutes of this Chicago meeting. Everything written above about the consensus now applies to the decisions of our Metropolitan and holy Synod as publicly stated, and counciliarly affirmed.

            • Father —

              In order to read the Metropolitan your way we would have to assume he means his description of “relationships of obedience” are all one way, and that the bishops are in a relationship of accountability and obedience to both the Synod and the Metropolitan, but that the Metropolitan is accountable and obedient to no one. But that isn’t what he explicitly says, nor do I think that it is what he means, and I would regard it as calumny against him to impute this opinion to him. Despite your extensive quoting, and your willingness to dish out “attitude”, it is you who are misrepresenting the Metropolitan.

              I disagree, based on what he wrote. To the extent that you mean I was suggesting that he meant that the Metropolitan is accountable to no-one, frankly I can’t see how that follows from what I quoted. Specifically, I quoted that he said:

              “The Metropolitan bears the responsibility to maintain unanimity and consensus among the bishops in all matters affecting the life of the Church as a whole, and is the point of accountability for the bishops; while he in turn is accountable to them. This is a relationship of obedience, accountability in mutual love and respect, for the responsibilities given. The Metropolitan has the responsibility to relate his Local Church to the other Local Churches, and maintain unity and communion. This “ecumenical level” is the highest level of accountability, as it is the final court of appeal. The Metropolitan is a diocesan bishop, as are all the others. Thus all the bishops of the Synod bear an equal responsibility, as well as an equal ordination. The one thing that distinguishes the ministry of the Metropolitan is his primacy: his responsibility to be the point of accountability, with the other bishops in a relationship of obedience.”

              In other words, he owes a duty of accountability to the Synod, while they owe a duty of obedience to him. Note that not in one sentence does he say that the Metropolitan specifically is in a relationship of obedience to the Synod, while he says in many places that the bishops of the Synod are in a relationship of obedience to the Met and that the Met is accountable to the Synod. That is just what he says. Accusing me of calumny for quoting him makes for fine blogosphere theatre, but is not a terribly convincing form of argument.

              Again, this discussion arose from an interpretation of apostolic canon 34/35 that said that the primate is a figurehead. Is this your view? I don’t think it is Vladika Jonah’s view, despite your attempt to use his words to impeach my own explication of the canons.

              • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

                Dear Brendan,

                Christ is Risen!

                The word figurehead came from an obviously very sarcastic response of Nick Katich to George M’s hyperbolic claim that his 8 items each endangered the canonicity of the OCA. I am not going to be lumbered with that, and I haven’t written of the primatial role as “figurehead”, nor do accept that as a description of what I have written. My participation in the this particular thread was your assertion of a primatial veto authority, which you twice asserted, the second time denying it was a veto. You seem to have dropped that and are on to making a distinction between obedience and accountability.

                On Calumny: let’s word it as an accusation, and see how it looks: “The metropolitan believes that he is exempt from the relationship of obedience”. Is that a compliment or not? I do not believe that a metropolitan should claim this, nor do I think met. Jonah does claim this.

                Exactly the sections you have put in bold type do not actually support what you say.

                “[The metropolitan] is the point of accountability for the bishops; while he in turn is accountable to them. This is a relationship of obedience, accountability in mutual love and respect, for the responsibilities given”. Your reading requires that “relationship of obedience” apply to “point of accountability for the bishops”, but not to the words right before, “he in turn is accountable to them.” The natural meaning is that “This” in “This is a relationship of obedience” denotes both parts of the preceding statement. Such a reading is all the more demanded of the text because Met. Jonah goes on to equate “a relationship of obedience,” with “accountability in mutual love and respect”. Since the relationship of obedience is equated with accountability, your attempt to assign them different meanings seems strained. If his Beatitude wished to distinguish obedience from accountability why does he call “the relationship of obedience” exactly “accountability in mutual love and respect.” ? Why does he introduce 3 things that are clearly and explicitly mutual: love, respect and accountability, if he means these are all mutual except obedience?

                Again your second quote “Thus all the bishops of the Synod bear an equal responsibility, as well as an equal ordination. The one thing that distinguishes the ministry of the Metropolitan is his primacy: his responsibility to be the point of accountability, with the other bishops in a relationship of obedience.” Again, your distinction between accountability and obedience won’t work here as once again “relationship of obedience” is being used to describe precisely accountability. You are reading the text as if it had words added “his responsibility to be the point of accountability, with the other bishops in a relationship of obedience TO HIM.” I read it as being the same as “his responsibility to be the point of accountability, in a relationship of obedience with the other bishops. ”

                Are you asserting that it is Orthodox Teaching that every one in the Church is in a relationship of obedience to someone except for the 14 first hierarchs of autocephalous bodies?

                Are the bishops bound by the joint decisions they make whilst together in Synod? Does this include the primate?

                • Father —

                  You are reading the text as if it had words added “his responsibility to be the point of accountability, with the other bishops in a relationship of obedience TO HIM.” I read it as being the same as “his responsibility to be the point of accountability, in a relationship of obedience with the other bishops. ”

                  ***

                  I read it that way because, a little bit later, he says point blank this:

                  “A diocesan bishop is accountable to the Synod for his stewardship of the diocese, because he is given that responsibility by them in election and ordination in a relationship of obedience. That structure of accountability is personified in the relationship of obedience to the Metropolitan.”

                  “A bishop’s authority comes from his responsibility for his own diocese; the metropolitan’s authority is within the Synod. The parishes relate to their own bishop, as their point of accountability in obedience. The bishops relate to one another in the Synod as the structure of accountability in obedience to the Metropolitan.”

                  “Relationship of obedience”, and a “structure of accountability in obedience”. What Jonah is saying is that he “recapitulates” or “personifies”, the obedience that the Bishops owe the Synod, because he is the head of the Synod. His authority is expressed in the context of the Synod. He specifically analogizes this to the relationship of parishes and bishops — the bishop is the point of accountability in obedience for parishes, while for the synod, the metropolitan is the point of accountability in obedience for the bishops in their relating to each other in the context of the synod. The analogy seems clear enough to me.

                  Are the bishops bound by the joint decisions they make whilst together in Synod? Does this include the primate?

                  Of course, but a synod cannot act without the primate (or someone canonically acting in his place) per apostolic canon 34. Once the synod has acted, the primate is as bound to its decisions as any of the other bishops are.

                  I realize that you will probably say that the first part of this is, in essence, a “veto”, but it is not. A “veto” is something that overrides the decision taken by another body. The President, for example, can veto an act of Congress. A senator, as a member of the Senate, cannot “veto” an act of the Senate, even if he has the deciding vote. He is a part of the body that is deciding. The metropolitan (or other primate) does not have a veto power *over* the decisions taken by the synod, but he has an indispensible voice within the synod which is required in order for the synod to act — per apostolic canon 34, the bishops can do nothing of consequence without the consent of the primate. Of course the point, which is also expressed in apostolic canon 34, is that the synod will act with unanimity. And it is primarily seeking this unanimity which is the job of the primate, holding, as he does, the indispensible voice, yet not the voice that can be spoken alone. His power to seek unanimity in the synod derives specifically from the fact that he has the indipensible voice within the synod.

                  • I think that this topic requires a bit more depth, and so I am going to post a rather lengthy close read of the text we are discussing here, so as to avoid talking past each other or dealing only with snippets of the text. I will post it as a standalone reply, however, so that the text isn’t scrunched up as a multi-layered embedded reply would be.

                  • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

                    Dear Brendan,

                    Christ is Risen!

                    The fact that the Metropolitan does speak of obedience to the Metropolitan does not justify subsuming every reference of obedience in the Synodal context to the references to obedience to the Metropolitan. It just doesn’t follow.

                    By acknowledging that the Primate must obey the decisions of the Synod you acknowledge that the Primate is in a relationship of obedience to the Synod.

                    Your description of the Metropolitan’s veto authority as not really a veto works if the veto is understood in American constitutional law. However, other vetos exist in this world than American constitutional law. I agree that the veto you give the Metropolitan is not a veto like the President vetoing legislation. Your veto is more like a UN Security Council veto. It seems you are interested in avoiding the term veto because the Metropolitan himself says he doesn’t have one. I actually think your veto as within the Synod is worse than an external veto. In your description, only the Metropolitan’s vote counts. It turns the Synod on its head: rather than the Metropolitan recapitulating the Synod, the Synod in your system recapitulates the will of the Metropolitan.

                    The analogy of the Metropolitan in the Synod to a bishop in his diocese has certain ecclesiological uses, and I think the Metropolitan was referring to these. If pressed too far, as I think you are doing, it makes a primate a bishop of bishops. I don’t think that is what His Beatitude meant, and if he did it needs to be corrected. A bishop is more than first among equals when he sits with his presbytery. A Metropolitan is a first among equals when he sits with his Synod.

                    It might be useful to point out that primacy is an ecclesistical institution for the good of the Church. The Bishop in his diocese exists by divine right and is of the very being of the Church. Primacy is bene esse, episcopacy is of the very esse of the Church. This is historically clear in that the primacy in Russia was dissolved by Tsar Peter the first and replaced by a collective primacy in a Synod where a lay bureaucrat had a veto. This was alien to the canonical tradition of the Church and her good order, even though recognition was sought and obtained from the other Patriarchs. The Orthodox in Russia did not for this reason fall away from Orthodoxy. Now if Tsar Peter had replaced the bishop in every diocese with a council of Presbyters, as he had replaced the Patriarch with a council of Bishops, there would have been a deviation from Orthodoxy into a sort of Russian presbyterianism. Because the bishop has authority by divine institution but primacy does not, it follows that the authority of the primate flows entirely from his being a bishop amongst bishops. The Metropolitan is authorized by the bishops to be their protos. The bishops do not receive authority as bishops by delegation from the Metropolitan.

                    • Father —

                      I think my close read posted as a separate comment below addresses what you have written here, in the context of what Metropolitan Jonah said in his talk. I think that understanding what he was saying requires a close read of the entire argument — when you do that I don’t think you get to the contradictions you see here.

                      However, I will add one point in addition to what I wrote there, regarding the “veto” issue. The Metropolitan’s role is to forge consensus in the Synod so that the synod can speak with one voice. His ability to do that is based on the fact that his voice in the synod is indispensible — the first part of apostolic canon 34 makes this clear enough. At the same time, it isn’t the “only vote that counts”. He cannot “force” the synod to do anything on his own — he can, however, use the fact that he has an indispensible voice to urge consensus and bring the synod into a position of unanimity. This may mean aligning his mind to the consensus expressed by his brother bishops, or it may be the reverse, but either way, the synod cannot act canonically without its primate — that is required by apostolic canon 34.

                      The primate abides by the decisions of the Synod because he is bound to them as is any other bishop. However, the Synod acts together with the primate, and not against him. As Jonah points out (and as I describe in my close read comment), the Metropolitan recapitulates the Synod in his person — so I guess he stands in a relationship of obedience to himself, as the person who recapitulates the Synod, if you want to think of it that way. The problem with your thinking in this regard, Father, with all due respect, is that you are juxtaposing “Synod” and “Metropolitan” — a juxtaposition that is a false one. The Metropolitan is the head of the Synod, sits within the Synod, and decides in the Synod with his brother bishops. He does not stand apart from it, and it cannot canonically act without him (or someone standing in the place of the primate). The Metropolitan “obeys” the Synod, because he and the Synod speak with one voice. Obeying the Synod is obeying himself, because the decisions of the Synod will, of necessity, also reflect his own decision, reached in a consensus with his brother bishops.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Fr Yousef, I am presently reading Alfeyev’s most recent book (vol 1) and it just so happens that I finished the section on the Petrine reforms. The debasement of the episcopate, clergy, and monastics wrought during this “Babylonian Captivity” (Georges Florovsky’s words) was not a sight to behold. It caused the decline of the Church and its relationship to the people, leading in time to estrangement even from the working classes.

                      Implicit in this understanding was how inevitable Bolshevism became because of this estrangement.

                      For our purposes, the parallels between the Stokovite vision of lay over-lordship over the episcopate and the Petrine reforms is startling.

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Brendan–You must be aware that there is a fundamental difference between the OCA Statute and the Holy canons, on the one hand, and +Jonah’s opinions of them.

            • Carl —

              Of course. This discussion has become about Jonah’s paper, which is itself openly advocating changes to the Statute in light of the canons. Have you read the paper?

              • Carl Kraeff says

                Indeed, I have read it and defended a part of it on OCA News. BTW, I do not agree that +Jonah’s proposal is based on a correct interpretation of the canons. As I have said before, the issue seems to be with compliance on the part of the Metropolitan with the relevant source documents that are operative right now, not what they could be upon formal changes in the future. I am not a fan of a leader who acts capriciously; I dislike a leader, to use Air Force terminology, to fly alone whilst in a position that requires close collaboration with others. It is clear from the official documents that +Jonah’s conduct has been found to be problematic and the Holy Synod, under its canonical and statutory powers, have taken disciplinary measures to help the Metropolitan discipline himself and act better than he has.

                I should add that while the Metropolitan may have made errors, they pale in comparison to the machinations of Father Fester. How in the world would that worthy establish his credibility after exchanging that disgraceful and disgracing exchange with +Nikolai? Another thing that I simply cannot understand is how a man like George M. can be on the side of the unholy quartet of +Tikhon (F), +Nicolai, Father Fester, and Bob K., and agree with someone like “Pox”? How can folks on this blog rail against homosexuals in the Church when their darling Father Fester was making cooing noises to +Nicolai?

                • Nice attempt to reframe the discussion in this specific subthread.

                  In any case, I think we disagree. I think Jonah’s interpretation of how primacy works with conciliarity is the most earnest attempt I have yet seen from an Orthodox Christian in trying to reconcile Ap Can 34 in theory and in practice. Most Orthodox I have known in the 11 years I have been Orthodox have simply ducked the issue, artfully or otherwise. It’s kind of the Orthodox disease, in a way, and it’s been egged on by the influx of ex-protestants, who are viscerally allergic to any kind of real primacy. In any case, I think that this is probably where the “fault line” lies now in the OCA. Your side will likely win in the short term. We shall see what happens after that.

  11. Nick Katich says

    Sorry George:

    I forgot to mention that “People are scandalized by these actions”. Yes they are. At last count, a paltry handful of clergy who signed on at OCAT. A little more than paltry “laity” who signed on at OCAT. And, though I didn’t count them, and though you were complimented about the number of posts you are getting (wow – in the hundreds), I only see a handful of the same names.

    Lenin had more troops. So did Paul!

    • George Michalpulos says

      Stalin asked: “how many divisions has the Pope?” Last I looked the Berlin Wall fell, the Vatican still stands. Moral rectitude isn’t a popularity contest. Of course, thanks to the antics of the Jonah-haters, the OCA will dissolve so the actual numbers won’t matter. Unlike ECUSA, which survives on “opium” (Other People’s Money) the coal miners’ left no endowments.

    • The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

      Nick, your anger betrays a real fear. I don’t point this out to demean you, but this vitriol is inconsistent with the substance of your claim that essentially no one cares and all is well in the state of Denmark.

      George might have got some of the trees wrong, but your attitude confirms his perception of the forest.

      What say you?

      • Nick Katich says

        Um:

        I am not a gentleman. Please don’t falsely accuse me when you don’t know me. And, I do not protest “too much”. I have been relatively mild in this foray. I also have no anger and I take no sides, as I have said before, in this “dispute”.

        I merely correct when correction is necessary. Note that of all 8 points that George refers to in his bill of particulars that he suggests imperil the “canonicity” of the OCA, his only response to my response is to refer to point # 2 wherein he suggests that he would be against St. Hipppolytus pilfering emails. “Pope” Callistus was to remote in time to know what an email was.

        Might I suggest, in all due respect to my good friend George, as follows:

        1. His bolg has a lot of posts but a paltry amount of posters. Just look at the same names over and over again.

        2. His comments regarding Jonah-can-do-no-wrong is cult worship. I do not favor idolatry of any kind. I respect Jonah as well as other hierarchs. I criticize them when they are wrong and extol them when they are right. George has a long history in the blogosphere of favoring a figure head first hierarch and of disfavoring the “Turkish mafia”. For him to suggest that Moscow or Constantinople be invited to intervene is not only absurd, it is against every fabric of his heretofore fiber. To witness one’s principles change because of Jonah is to witness that the witnessee has no principles any more. George is principled. At least the George that I have known. Therefore, I can only conclude that George has been hijacked and the fellow running this blog is not George.

        3. This bolg by the blogger and various of the blogees has raised the spectre of, and even, in some cases advocated, schism. That is unorthodox, and is despicable, when no heresy is involved and there is merely an internal dispute about what is probably much ado about nothing. Who of you blogees, or the blogger, relish in the veil of the Temple being rent? What the hell is the matter with all of you?

        4. Based on many of the comments I have read, I wonder how many of you are actually Orthodox or know a damn thing about Orthodoxy. Nevins, as goofy as she/he is, seems to know more. Somebody even posted that Mark takes over from Jonah because he is the “vicar”. Who ever said that seems to think that Obama/Biden is the Jonah/Mark model. Don’t post a damn thing if you don’t know the fundamentals of what a bishop and a vicar is.

        George: there is nothing that would, should or could cause any of the other Local Churches to intervene in this matter. For you to suggest that is absurd. No. I hate to say it because I love and respect you, but it is absolutely stupid. Get real dude. You are losing your heretofore credibility. Don’t marginalize yourself, please.

        • I dont know that anyone has actually advocated a “schism” (of course, with 400 posts, who has time to read them all).

          Do you consider a “schism” to be moving from one Orthodox diocese to another Orthodox dioceses (e.g. from OCA to Greek)?

        • His bolg has a lot of posts but a paltry amount of posters. Just look at the same names over and over again

          There is a great possibility that there may be a lot more readers who prefer to remain silent with their opinions/judgement (like myself most of the time).

          no heresy is involved

          Abandonment of our Lord’s commandments and the teachings of the Holy Gospel by the present leaders of our Church in their treatment of +Jonah is the greatest of heresies and schisms.

          I wonder how many of you are actually Orthodox or know a damn thing about Orthodoxy.

          I for one was baptized into it in about 1933, raised to adult age in it, and have studied it ever since then.
          PS: I seems to me that you understanding of George’s posts is rather shallow.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Thank you, Niko. You sound like a levendi! (A gent of a fellow!) For what it’s worth, Monomakhos has been growing by leaps and bounds. I’ll post the stats when I talk to my IT guy.

        • I am not a gentleman. Please don’t falsely accuse me when you don’t know me.

          Nick Katich this is the first time EVER that I read somebody complaining of being addressed as a gentleman. I find this quite strange.
          How would you rather like being addressed? Boor?

          • Nick Katich says

            Joseph:

            “Gentlemen” in the context of Um’s post was intended to be sarcastic. So, I responded with sarcasm.

            I prefer being addressed by my Orthodox name = Nikola but Nick is an appropriate diminutive. I am also not so timid as to leave my last name off my dear Joseph, or make up a name as others have.

            Since the primary definition of a “boor” is a peasant, and I come from a long line of Serbian peasants who had nothing better to do than to pray Orthodox prayers and fight Turks, you would honor me by calling me boor.

            • Nick, I meant no insult, but just found your choice odd. I like your response, it shows you have a humorous site. Unfortunately you hide it too well in your other posts.

              My baptismal name is Joseph, the addition of my family name would not change the content of my postings or make them even more brilliant. So, I fogoe to publish my family name of a long line of not quite old-country peasants but, close enough, a little better off vintners…

              Boor means farmer in Dutch, Bauer in German, vintners are Bauern….. so boor for me isn’t an insult either…..

              Couldn’t you accept at least Gentleman Boor or Landed Boor? 😉

            • Ha! I was going for a direct quote from Hamlet, but thought “lady” might be provocative. Believe it or not, no sarcasm was intended. I really was just trying to make a point about the whatever it was (annoyance?, frustration?) upstaging the plain meaning of Nikola’s rhetorical points.

              But I also appreciate the good humor!

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Nick, I am not a Jonah-“cultist.” Therefore your argument falls flat. I have said on several occasions that he made mistakes. None of which however rise to the level of vitriol heaped upon him by his detractors.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Nick, although I have been a vociferous critic of +Bartholomew, it is not his office or the good order of the Church which I stand against. I have no problem in principle with the concept of a primus inter pares. In fact, it is vital that we have one. Primacy, not supremacy. Big difference. the fact that I would appeal to Moscow (first because its our mother church) and failing that to Constantinople is the right of every member of the OCA (or ROCOR or MP) who feels agrieved. There’s nothing wrong with that and a lot right with it when we consider that the OCA’s internal mechanisms for addressing grievances is structurally flawed. It’s either that or schism or continued attrition.

        • A Remnant says

          Nick

          George’s “Bill of Particulars” are a tawdry assortment of bad judgments, end runs on the statutes, in appropriate exercise of Synod authority in places they don’t belong, and probably some strong arm tactics instead of conciliarity. Were Canons not followed? Your scholarly judgment on the Synod actions would likely be more accurate (a very sincere compliment).

          What is apparent from the minutes (the first published version) is the Synod, or at least some of the Bishops were not interested in conciliarity. The four resolutions are clear evidence of that behavior. All of the actions suggested in the resolutions should have been resolved in private and should never have seen the light of day. The Synod actions on the case of the monastic community, reinstatement of the former chancellor, and several other items point to a confrontation rather conciliarity.

          So the question of how do you get the Bishops to play well together, and not have the minutes look like a third grade food fight is still on the table.

          • Could be why George is thinking of new solutions. There’s no progress the way it is. What I like about George’s posts, whether I always agree or not, is that he thinks outside the box. He is a forward thinker and is willing to put his ideas out there, knowing they’ll be torn apart, but using that criticism as a springboard to think and write some more.

            Whatever you say about this blog and its contributors, for the first time in the history of the OCA, we have an open, safe place to come, as a part of the church, and speak out. Whatever the “paltry” numbers of people who contribute here, there are many more who are reading. I am learning heaps.

            For many years we had no where to go. A few times on ocastews I posted anonymously, but you know what the comments section is like there. When the scandal erupted in 2006 I spoke out and asked questions on a forum, but I was going against the tidal flood of judgment and was shut down immediately by stronger voices than mine. I get intimidated easily by lawyers, businessmen, and sometimes, priests. They are so much more articulate, less hysterical, more intelligent, intellectual, logical, well-versed in the English language, and well-read than I, sitting here in my denim jumper and straw hat. Here, on this blog, not so much.

    • Nick, one word: Gideon.

  12. “Parishioners are those who, by virtue of their Baptism and Chrismation, are members of the Body of Christ” and “… according to the universal teaching of the Church, all members of the Body of Christ are responsible for the preservation of the Faith and the edification of the Church…”. OCA Statutes, Article X, sections 5 and 7.

    Its time we parishioners take a stand. Its time we actually do something instead of blogging all day about it.

    • Here’s an outsider’s take on the work you have to do. I’ll give a brief outline here and a more detailed discussion later.

      You must identify your most critical needs and their solutions.

      It appears that three general needs have been identified currently:
      1.To ensure that Met. Jonah is not ousted by any nefarious schemes and that his ministry is not illegitimately obstructed.
      2.To ensure that no cabal in support of the world-wide gay rights movement is allowed to cripple or destroy the OCA the way it has other churches.
      3.To ensure that the OCA follows its own canons.

      These are goals that every single member of your religion ought to be able to support.

      There are two important timelines for addressing these needs:
      1. The next year (until AAC).
      2. Thereafter.

      That’s the picture I’m seeing anyway, for what it is worth.

    • DETAILED DISCUSSION

      NEED 1:

      It does seem that keeping Jonah is key to the long term viability of your religion. You’ve already succeeded in prolonging his tenure. Congratulations on that. But it looks like Jonah’s biggest detractors have key positions of control over him for the next year (one year terms on the “Lesser Synod” and interim appointments until the ACC in Syosset). It would be naïve to ignore this as coincidence. There does seem to be a real possibility that his enemies arranged this with the hope that new plans for ousting Jonah could be developed and implemented by the AAC.

      Continued blogging may be key to preventing that. At a very minimum, you need to provide point-by-point reasonable alternatives to Stokoe’s agenda driven presentation on OCANews. But there is much more that could be done on the information front if there were workers and time to do the work.

      Pointing others to the blogs would also helpful, so that others have a foundation of common information about the political issues.

      You must push relentlessly for lay people involved in the conspiracy against Jonah to be removed from national and local leadership positions immediately. The case for formal trials of ordained individuals implicated must also be spelled out, assessed, and kept in the public conscience until all appropriate actions have been taken. If anything remains to be done by the time of AAC, then some kind of closure should be brought to all of these disciplinary matters at that time.

      With respect to the continued obstruction of Jonah’s ministry: Additional blog postings on an appropriate governance structure for the church and the role of the Metropolitan is essential to deciding on an appropriate legislative course at the AAC. Benjamin will no doubt have a list of actions he wants taken. Will you have an intelligent assessment of these? Will you need to present alternatives? Without serious dialogue on this matter, you will be powerless to do your part. Perhaps students and professors at some of the orthodox seminaries can be brought in to write guest essays for discussion.

      If the entire OCA is hellbent on ousting Jonah, then you cannot prevent that. Your work should be based on the assumption that there is at least a redeemable core. Devote yourselves to the truth and let people decide for themselves. But addressing Needs 2 and 3 will also help.

      **Summary of Solution to Need 1**

      a) Continue and promote the blogs you have started to offer appropriate support for Jonah through AAC and to expand the support for AAC actions that will provide appropriate support Jonah thereafter.

      b) Do not cease advocacy until all appropriate discipline has been taken against those who conspired to oust him.

      c) Aim for closure on these matters by AAC.

      • Thank you–that is somewhat what i am thinking.

        And resolutions and Amendments to the Statutes of the OCA MUST BE SUBMITTED BY AUGUST 1, 2011 (this year) to be considered at the AAC.

        And how are you an “outsider”?

        • Point (b) above is one you could take action on at the parish level. Ad hoc groups, official parish councils and diocesan councils could consider the evidence carefully, and then draft a letter to the Metropolitan, the Holy Synod, the Metropolitan Council, the various diocesan councils, and their own bishop spelling out the grievances and asking for appropriate action. Since all the evidence is public already, the letters could be released as public letters and published on blogs such as this one. If enough people care to make their concerns heard, I suspect you’ll see action on most issues that are truly actionable. If people don’t care, then my bet is the only disciplinary action you’ll see will come from federal or state prosecutors with respect to stolen electronic data.

          Who knows, maybe even some of these folks who are being blackmailed by Stokoe would really love to see a grassroots effort to force some kind of sensible action.

        • Sticking with your parish level motif:

          What would prevent you from organizing a group to pray together for the health and ministry of your Metropolitan and healing in the OCA on a weekly basis from now until the AAC?

        • And resolutions and Amendments to the Statutes of the OCA MUST BE SUBMITTED BY AUGUST 1, 2011 (this year) to be considered at the AAC.

          I’m wondering if the anti +Jonah leaders will resort to “union boss bullying” techniques to get them pushed through and accepted at the AAC?

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Niko (please forgive me not using the terminal “s”. In Greek the vocative form of a man’s name drops the “s” and sometimes changes the terminal “o” to a short “e” depending on the number of syllables and other factors. I hope you don’t mind.)

            Anyway, my point is that despite any bullying tactics, the OCA on its present course cannot long last. The present campaign of villification against Jonah can only be sustained by pharisaiacal notions of legalism along with additional childish attempts to delegitimize his office.

            This cannot stand, nor will the other patriarchates allow the misbegotten precendents of the Robber Council to become entrenched. It’s just a matter of time and who is going to act first: is the Patriarch of Constantinople going to seek his pound of flesh against the OCA because of its anti-traditionalist wing or will the Patriarch of Moscow allow it to twist in the wind?

            This is going to be fought on many fronts. Already we in the South are fighting back hard. We may win a victory and eventually elect a qualified bishop. I’ve heard good things about Matthias and Michael. Their dioceses may be salvaged as well.

            The second scenario will come into play when people outside these dioceses who are horrified continue leave their parishes. I imagine the more orthopractic will join the nearest MP/ROCOR parish and/or petition the hierarchs of these eparchies to establish missions nearby where they can worship.

            We’ll know more during the AAC. If it becomes clear that the Stokovites have solidified their grip on the HS and consolidated their program via formal change in the Statutes, then it will not be long for the final end of the OCA, Hopko’s hopes notwithstanding. I imagine at that point, the exodus will increase from a trickle to a flood.

            On the other hand, I remain optimistic. I believe that much of what The Robber Council achieved is in the process of unravelling as we speak. As they say in secular politics, five months is an eternity. A lot can change. I suspect a lot will.

            • 154
              Geo Michalopulos says:
              May 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

              Niko (please forgive me not using the terminal “s”. In Greek the vocative form of a man’s name drops the “s” and sometimes changes the terminal “o” to a short “e” depending on the number of syllables and other factors. I hope you don’t mind.)

              Hey George!
              I’m an American of Greek heritage too (2nd generation)
              (Place of father’s origin: village of Neohori on Mt. Pelion, coda Volo)
              Biologically, I’m 100% Greek
              Psychologically, about 50%
              Culturally, I would guess about 25%
              Linguistically, 0.5%
              My close Greek friends call me Niko
              Therefore, I feel honored when you do so also.

              PS: Don’t let up. It seems to me that BB is in effect acting as Met. of the OCA. The hierarchs of the other Orthodox churches are probably wondering who they should address if official business between them and OCA arises. I’m also wondering, if the Lesser Synod wins with their proposed resolutions, what bishop in his right mind would want to be Met. of the OCA after that? He would not be just a “figure head” but actually a “puppet” to all those secretly in command.

              • if the Lesser Synod wins with their proposed resolutions, what bishop in his right mind would want to be Met. of the OCA after that? He would not be just a “figure head” but actually a “puppet” to all those secretly in command.

                And, irony of all ironies, elected as a puppet Met. of the OCA by national delegates to an AAC!

                • if the Lesser Synod wins with their proposed resolutions

                  It appears to me that they may have already implemented them without waiting for them to be voted on and passed or rejected by the upcoming AAC.

                • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

                  Dear Nikos,

                  Christ is Risen!

                  Metropolitans are elected by the Synod, not the AAC. The AAC nominates, but does not elect.

                  • Dear Fr. Yousuf:
                    Indeed He is risen!
                    You’re absolutely correct, Fr.
                    I don’t know why I forgot that
                    I apologize for that mistake
                    Asking your prayers

        • Regarding my status as an “outsider”:

          I’m what you might call a genuinely interested bystander. Yes, I’m a human and have those universal capacities for observation and rational thought (and yes, they do come along with that universal tendency to succumb to misperceptions and irrational thought at times). But I have never been Eastern Orthodox.

          I’m an ex-Episcopalian. I’ve seen the Episcopal Church and the world-wide Anglican Communion destroyed from the inside by the gay rights movement. I’ve seen my life and many others wounded by it. I’ve also seen tremendous potential go unrealized.

          Aside from that, I’m currently what you might describe as a seeker or an infidel, depending the day and your perspective.

          I’m happy to say more, and had typed a good deal more; but I really don’t want to hijack the current dialogue.

    • DETAILED DISCUSSION

      NEED 2

      It is a tall order to prevent a cabal from forming or get rid of it once it has formed. And the gay rights movement is so well organized, so well connected to the halls of power in society, and has so much momentum right now that you have to consider all possibilities, even draconian measures, if you are to have any chance of success. But here are a few thoughts.

      Clear statements about sexual ethics should help. Even liars don’t really like to sign something they disagree with. Having the church clearly and publicly support a position that is anathema to the gay rights movement should make association with the church less attractive to at least some individuals who would otherwise be intent on subversion. Maybe a clear statement needs to be put forward for support or rejection by the church. How could it be wrong to ask the church to show it cards, to clarify for other orthodox and non-orthodox what the OCA believes and teaches?

      A clear articulation of what steps must be taken if there are violations or suspected violations of sexual ethics (including homoerotic relations) by clergy or lay leaders should help. You could devote yourselves to obtaining this clear articulation and then disseminating it throughout the church.

      Personally, I wish it was not necessary. But it probably is necessary to implement a policy similar to the new RCC policy which makes homosexuality a nonstarter for ordination. It is sad that these sexuality issues exist, but they really should be dealt with before investing in a seminary education. Homesexuality should be considered a sexual addiction. For candidates with a history of sexual addiction of any kind, healing should be demonstrated for a period of several years before tuition can be charged for seminary.

      It seems like a great deal of work needs to be done, much of it intellectual work. Work takes time, it is not completed the moment you start. You need to find a way to support capable individuals and groups to do the necessary intellectual work to accomplish the objective of sexual health and purity in the church. If the seminaries are not doing enough applicable work, you may need to form one or more nonprofits to support this work. Of course, membership in any organization of this sort should be public. No online pseudonyms for this kind of thing.

      I can give some advice about “voting with pocket books and voting with feet” based on my experience of what did and did not work in the Episcopal Church if anyone cares.

      **Summary of Solution to Need 2**

      a) Pass a clear, detailed sexual ethics statement, which specifically addresses homogenital sex and homoerotic attraction at the AAC, so that the church and the world will know exactly what you believe and teach. Or better yet, ask that the bishops to compose and release such a statement within a year’s time. This request probably needs to be specific, including at a minimum a request for the church’s position on homogenital sex and homoerotic attraction.

      b) Pass or request a clear articulation at the AAC of the steps that must be taken if there are violations or suspected violations of sexual ethics (including homoerotic relations) by clergy or lay leaders. Most likely a statement already exists or is being formulated, and you will just have to add specifics about homosexual issues. Then print up and disseminate the steps in a reader friendly format to parishes across the country.

      c) Institute a policy at AAC, or request that the bishops do, to identify homosexuality as a sexual addiction and making sexual addiction an impediment to candidacy for the priesthood.

      d) Do everything you can to support rigorous intellectual work on issues of sexual ethics in the church. Consider starting or financially supporting a nonprofit organization that can direct more serious efforts toward this end. This should be viewed as a service to both church and society at large.

    • DETAILED DISCUSSION

      NEED 3

      Blogging could be a solution here as well, but you all are going to have to substantially step up your game. Just as an example, the list George identified in his letter … frankly it is weak, and I mean that with all due respect to George, who I’m sure is overworked and underpaid (and under-thanked!) for this aspect of his vocation. This is not just George’s fault — none of you have really stepped up to the challenge. You need an exhaustive and unassailable list that is precisely worded. And you need this kind of careful analysis after each and every important action by an individual bishop or the Holy Synod. In the same way that OCATruth was set up to provide an alternative perspective to the Stokoe spin, you need to provide a sophisticated critique of every violation of canon (or statute or whatever!) as it happens. And it would not hurt to anticipate potentially important violations in the near future. This is not something only one intellectual can do all by himself. You all need to take your intellectual work more seriously, or you will be lambs to the slaughter. I guess I’m beginning to sound like Harry here. But if you don’t all step up your game and start doing more rigorous intellectual work on these blogs and elsewhere, then George’s intuition will be proved correct and your only hope will be through foreign intervention.

      Unfortunately, I suspect George’s intuition is correct and that it may already be too late for you, just based on what I have read from those who are so obviously intelligent and so obviously in denial. You guys just do not have a clue what you are up against. Ten to twenty hears from now, after much heartache, you will look back and wish you had not underestimated the challenge. I’m beginning to conclude that Orthodox (or at least Orthodox men — the women seem to be of a different breed) of all stripes and jurisdictions are impeded in their vocation by a little something we in the English speaking world like to called pride, and you know what the book of Proverbs says you can expect after pride? It is not victory, and it is not peace.

      Supporting Jonah is also one of the keys to meeting this need long term. He is a capable intellectual, knows the church rules and regulations, and is probably capable of defining violations to the canon law as they occur. But when he is given the dunce cap and told to sit in the corner by the HS and MC, he is too humble to fight the reigning consensus. This is what I am observing anyway. So refer back to Need 1 for ideas about how to support Jonah.

      Your only real hope here may be, and certainly your ace in the hole is the Russian church. They have publicly committed to helping you stay honest. They put you on notice that you must follow the canons or they will do something. This alone may be enough to force the hands of the schemers to only take actions that meet at least the letter of the law. Certainly that is a good starting point for a just church, a minimum of healthy order and propriety. So thank the Russians, thank your God for the Russians, and stop condemning them unless you have a really good reason to do so. They are smart cookies, well educated, and they are not naive to the machinations of the human heart or the maladies of Western culture the way so many in the American church are. Perhaps more of you need to learn from them instead of criticizing.

      But as good as the Russians may be, it certainly couldn’t hurt if you give both Jonah and them a jump start on the intellectual work. Don’t make them do it all by themselves. Identify the key issues and arguments here for them, so they can build on that and do what they need to do when the time comes. I can pretty much guarantee you the Russians are reading these blogs, probably more carefully than the average American. Most likely there are members of the Holy Synod who will benefit from this work as well. I suspect that a number of these men are horrified and offended that they’ve been pegged for being part of a gay cabal. When they come to their senses and get over the offense, they’ll be capable of digesting whatever rational arguments you can feed them. I’m pretty sure Bishop Benjamin is certifiable (willing to discuss the evidence on this if anyone cares), but whether the rest have minor neuroses or entrenched psychoses is impossible to say given my limited information. So again, you all need to start sucking it up and doing more careful intellectual work on these blogs and elsewhere (the detailed discussions that have just come out in the comments to this particular posting being an excellent step in the right direction but by no means all that is needed).

      **Summary of Solution to Need 3**

      a) All of you must be willing to do the hard work necessary to raise your intellectual game when it comes to church law. And several of you need to do an exceptional job of it on a regular basis.

      b) Pray daily that God spares you all from the pandemic of pride among Orthodox men.

      b) Support Jonah so that he can exercise his own gifts in this area.

      c) Thank God for the Russians and pray that you will become a blessing to them! And I mean, you all should, daily, in your prayers thank God specifically for the Russian church and your familial ties with it. They are the reason you exist, and they are likely to be the reason you continue to exist. But wouldn’t it be great if you could go beyond existing and actually start thriving. Wouldn’t it be great if you could stop being a thorn in their side and actually make them proud for once.

      • Ian James says

        Um, first off, thank you very much for your contributions. Second, could you expand on your assertion that we “don’t know what we are up against?” We need to know these things. Thank you.

        • As a very indirect answer to your question, let me recommend two books that I would have found helpful in your position. These are rare gifts, written by American “liberals” who have provided an invaluable service to all of humanity through their commitment to honesty, empathy, intellectual rigor, and clear communication.

          Unfortunately, the activists trying to eliminate your church as a player in the culture wars will not be so committed to these liberal values.

          (1) L.R. Holben’s “What Christians Think about Homosexuality: Six Representative Viewpoints”

          This book is a rigorous presentation of how self-proclaimed Christians across the broad spectrum view homosexuality. I know of no other resource like it. It is theological in its flavor — not exactly pleasure reading. But if you are hungry for this information, you will have a hard time putting it down till you have read it cover to cover, bibliographic notes and all. It is astounding to note the dramatic social shifts toward the most liberal of the 6 positions since this book was published in 1999. The notes on the Amazon link will tell you more about it. Although there might be only one “Orthodox position”, it is a fair bet all 6 of these positions are held by individuals in your church, and that increasing numbers of parishioners, priests, and bishops secretly hold the more liberal positions — secretly because they probably realize these are not the “Orthodox positions”. It is possible that the “Orthodox position” does not coincide with any one of these 6 as presented, but the work here provides a helpful framework.

          (2) Honor Moore’s “The Bishop’s Daughter: A Memoir”

          If you prefer narrative to expository prose, this autobiography tells the haunting story of one of the most influential early figures in the gay rights movement in the Episcopal Church. Though you may not agree with the author’s conclusions about what her story means, she tells the story as openly and honestly as she can. As a result, the story speaks volumes. In fact, the author’s interpretation is part of her story, and therefore informative in its own right. It was a reminder to me that there can be profound truth in narrative. Again, more details are available on the Amazon link.

          There’s an abbreviated version of the story in The New Yorker magazine called The Bishop’s Daughter: A father, a faith, and a secret. If you don’t go for novels, it might be worth checking link this out.

          I’ll try to give you a more detailed direct response eventually.

        • Christians unfamiliar with the gay rights movement often don’t realize they are up against the following:

          (1) THE ETHICAL SYSTEM — Most activists are committed to an ethical system that the common person finds alien and incomprehensible. It’s a system that has no qualms about taking advantage of this ignorance. (See if you can find my previous post on this. Does George have a search function on here? If not, it would be great if he could add one).

          (2) THE LEVEL OF COMMITMENT — The typical activist is more committed to their cause than you are to yours. They simply want it more. This surprises pious religious folk who believe themselves sincere and the rest of the world frivolous.

          3) SOPHISTICATED TACTICS — For decades now, a network of activists around the country and around the world has been trying out different tactics for producing social change, sharing information about what works and what doesn’t, and then refining the tactics that do work. They know for example in Christian churches to stay out of all abstract doctrinal battles and instead focus on social inclusion, framing decisions in terms of whether you “accept or reject” a person.

          4) THE VALUE OF THE CHURCH — Most Christians don’t realize how important their church is to the gay rights movement. But religion is far and away the biggest obstacles to having unqualified approval of homogenital sex in society as a whole. There is no bigger prize than a Christian church.

          I wish I had time to give you concrete personal examples for all of these, but I just don’t right now, sorry.

  13. Is “loci tenentes” the correct plural form of “locum tenens”?

    I guess I had always assumed that in the singular version of the phrase “locum” was neuter nominative, but I suppose it could be masculine accusative as the author appears to assume. If this is the case, shouldn’t the plural be “locos tenentes” for the sake of consistency since “loci” is masculine nominative rather than accusative?

    “Loca tenentes” is the most common plural form if you want it to mean “ones holding places”, but “locum tenentes” appears to be the standard plural rendering of the phrase (ones holding place).

    Homosexuals are notoriously good with languages, so you’d better make sure that your grammar is impeccable when drawing your swords against theirs!

    • I looked it up for a post here a few weeks ago. Wiktionary and Dictionary.com both said the plural is locum tenentes, so that’s what I use.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Helga, I stand corrected! How I wish I took Latin. It’s not the same thing helping my sons do their homework. But I must say that in all of the years of helping them in their homework, it was definately Latin that I enjoyed the best.

        In a more ideal world, no one should be able to graduate high school without taking either Latin or Ancient Greek. I think it would solve a lot of our problems.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          And rhetorics. That would go a long, long way to helping people be able to debate without resorting to ad hominem attacks and using logical fallacies.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        Ah, but they are both infected by the Homosexual Front.

    • Locus (accusative locum) has two plurals. One is loci (acc. locos); the other is loca (acc. loca).

      Loci generally refers to places in a book, i.e. passages; loca to physical places, but this is not a hard and fast distinction.

      In the event, the plural in Latin would be locum tenentes since we are talking about the holding of “a” place: loca or locos tenentes would imply that the holders held several places each. The word eventually came to be written locumtenens and passed into French as lieutenant.

      Stultus, I commend the deft wordplay in your final sentence (and it would read much better in Latin (linguas … )) but I confess myself astonished at your conclusion!

      • “Stultus, I commend the deft wordplay in your final sentence (and it would read much better in Latin (linguas … ))”

        Fabulous.

        “but I confess myself astonished at your conclusion!”

        I did not mean to imply any conclusions. Personally, I have neither started nor concluded, but to this point I have sat alone quietly as is expected of fools like me. I converse with myself frequently, but do not offer beginnings or endings to others. I know that talking to oneself is not exactly healthy, but I do not think that total silence can be expected of anyone but the most temperate of monastics. Obviously fools such as myself should never be let anywhere near monasteries anyways (even though that is often enough where we end up!).

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      It’s locum tenentes for the same reason that it’s “place holders” and not “places holders.”

      Oops. I now see that has already been pointed out.

  14. otsukafan says

    I guess I’ll jump in here against my better judgement and address Fr. Yousef’s original post. Fr.Y raises some valid points, not sure I would agree with all of them but they are valid, as are the original points raised by George. I would pray, as easy as it is to become emotional, to remember that all of us have the good of our Church in mind. Let’s also remember that dialogue can be a good thing that makes us think and self reflect. I hope we can dialogue without any pesonal attacks.

    That said, it is the garclaves issue that bothers me most. It just seems like dirty pool. Turn the tables and let Fr. Joseph keep his pay and benefits indefinatly as a “consultant” and watch the fur fly. These types of little games is what will cause the laity to lose faith in the Synod. Just my opinion.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Otsukafan, it’s striking that nobody else (myself included) saw the essential hypocrisy here. Thank you for pointing it out.

      Can anybody dispute the point Otsukafan just made? I can’t. At least not without resorting to sophistry.

      • And since when does the interim Chancellor have the authority to unilaterally hire someone and install him in the chancery? Especially considering that this someone is the ex-Chancellor himself, and the Synod has just fired him?

        If I were Metropolitan Jonah, I would have found a local priest willing to serve as interim Chancellor, and put his name before the Synod as such. You know, so we could avoid overburdening a diocesan bishop.

        • Chris Plourde says

          Helga,

          Having replaced fired executives, and been fired from a management position myself, new management often finds it very helpful to keep the ex-executives on as consultants for a time in order to have access to them when questions arise, when claims are made (“Exec x promised me y” or “Exec x told us we had to do z“) and when trying to sort out what the old executives were thinking when they did what they did.

          And, from experience, I know that often the ex-executives did nothing more wrong than to lose the confidence of those at whose pleasure they serve. And it’s not at all unusual for the new executive to eventually inform those who fired the old executive that they fired the old guy for telling them the truth, that they need to shape up and fly right if their organization is going to be successful.

          But my point is, there’s nothing necessarily nefarious about this situation, it’s certainly not uncommon.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Well, would it be OK then if +Jonah kept Fr Joe as a “consultant” at the cathedral in Washington?

            • Chris Plourde says

              Was it OK for +Dimitri to keep Kondratick on?

              I find much of this to be way too “inside baseball.” I know that Fester is sorely missed at the Cathedral, and the whole situation is utterly sad.

              • A Remnant says

                Chris

                +Dmitri did not keep Kondratick – the Parish hired him as an administrator. (even when they knew he was deposed) Don’t know where the church rules and labor law collide.

                For what that is worth in this discussion

          • George Michalopulos says

            I hope we get past this soon. I pray that Fr Joe will be incardinated into ROCOR and Bp Mark finds an assignment in another diocese.

  15. As I mentioned in my post at 6:17pm, I think that the topic of Metropolitan Jonah’s ideas about primacy, and their relation to the canons in this respect, requires a bit more depth. In some ways we have been talking pat each other, but in other ways we have not. In any case, Metropolitan Jonah’s diagnosis and prescription set forth at length in the 2009 paper merit a closer examination than we have been giving it with our back and forth here so far. So here I am going to try to do a close reading of the text and what I see the paper saying, as it relates to the issue of authority and specifically the role of the metropolitan vis-a-vis the Synod and the other bishops. I apologize in advance for the length of this comment, but I think these issues need to be addressed in some depth and in the logical order of Jonah’s argument in order to avoid selective quote wars.

    After a lengthy diagnosis of the structural issues facing the OCA, were he states, among other things, that “[t]he Statue (sic) itself and the organizations it creates have become obsolete”, Jonah next begins a lengthy discussion of what kinds of principles should govern a new structure for the OCA.

    He begins with the basic principle of Orthodox ecclesiology, the Bishop. (“The Apostles invested the bishops with the leadership of the Church, through sacramental ordination. This is the principle of authority in the Church: sacramental responsibility. This sacramental responsibility is not only over what is “spiritual,” but the entire life of the whole Church, in every aspect, because even how we use our money is spiritual and sacramental.”) His point here is directed, I think, against the idea of a body of lay fiduciaries over the financial aspects of the life of the Church (the core mission, or at least the original one, of the Metropolitan Council), as apart from the “spiritual authority” of the Bishops, because this distinction has no basis in Orthodox ecclesiology or the canons. (“There can be no dualism between the spiritual and the material.”)

    He then directly proceeds to the question of how this leadership is exercised. His basic premise, which is a note he will reprise repeatedly in the sections that follow, is that “[p]rimacy is constituted by accountability and authority, in a relationship of obedience”. This is the core concept for everything which follows in that talk, and so it strikes me as a particularly important point to understand, and to understand properly. For Jonah, primacy is exercised as accountability and authority, on the part of the primate, taking place in a relationship of accountability and obedience to the primate. That is, again, the primate is accountable to those whom he leads and has authority over them in a relationship of obedience. Said again in a different way, the nature of a relationship of obedience is that the primate has both authority and accountability – that is, for Jonah, what a relationship of obedience means. This applies not just to the primacy of the Metropolitan, but also to the role of the Bishops in their dioceses: “Central to this, however, is the nature of that relationship of obedience: of the presbyters to the bishop, and the bishops to the Metropolitan.” The very next sentence describes “the nature of that relationship of obedience” as being “constituted by accountability and authority”. The obedience of the bishops is owed to the primate, but what that means is that the primate has both accountability and authority – that is the “content” of the relationship of obedience. Jonah states that “[t]his is Christian leadership.” To summarize, the core “note” of his entire ecclesiology of primacy, here, is that primacy is to be properly understood as a relationship of obedience, within which occur accountability and authority on the part of the person in authority (bishops vis-a-vis presbyters and metropolitan vis-a-vis the bishops).

    Jonah then immediately explains that this primacy is not, however, “power” but “responsibility”. He notes that “[a]ccountability in relation to responsibility is a core element in obedience.” In other words, a core aspect of a relationship of obedience is that the one to whom such obedience is owed is bound, himself, by accountability and responsibility. “Accountability is intimately linked with responsibility; the structures of accountability are built as structures of obedience.” That is, structures of accountability are built as structures of obedience in which the one who is to be obeyed is also the one who is to be accountable and responsible.

    Jonah then applies these principled to the bishops and the metropolitan, which is, I think, the core of what we have been discussing here. He starts by quoting apostolic canon 34:
    “ 34. The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account to him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent. But each may do those things only which concerns his own parish [diocese] and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him, who is the first, do anything without the consent of all, for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.”

    He roots the foundation of Orthodox ecclesiology in the office of the Bishop, as do the canons. Jonah’s phrasing here is again important, as it is also later applied in the context of the metropolitan: “The bishop has responsibility for the whole body, and sacramentally recapitulates it, and all ministries flow from the bishop.” That is, the bishop is responsible for the entire diocesan church, and “recapitulates” the entirety of that body in himself. This is a relationship of obedience, characterized by accountability and authority, as Jonah described at length in the previous section: “The presbyters and deacons, in particular, as well as all the faithful, are in a relationship of obedience to the bishop, and accountable to him for their service within the Church. The bishop has a double accountability: to the clergy and laity of his diocese; but also to the Synod which elected him and its head.” That is, the clergy and laity owe the bishop accountability and obedience, and he owes them accountability. The bishop is also accountable to the Synod itself “and its head”, which is a key point for the subsequent discussion.

    Jonah next describes the Synod as having “responsibility for the oversight of all the churches in their care” and as being “the point of accountability for each other.” Within the Synod, the Metropolitan “bears the responsibility to maintain unanimity and consensus among the bishops in all matters affecting the life of the Church as a whole, and is the point of accountability for the bishops; while he in turn is accountable to them.” That is, the relationship is one of mutual accountability. However, as described above, both in the discussion of primatial power in general, and in the context of the discussion of episcopal power, this mutual accountability exists in “a relationship of obedience, accountability in mutual love and respect, for the responsibilities given.” This is analogous to the situation of the local Bishop, where the Bishop and the clergy/laity are each accountable to the other, within the context of an overall relationship of obedience to the Bishop. In other words, the Metropolitan and the other Synodal bishops are accountable to each other, within the context of an overall relationship of obedience to the Metropolitan. Jonah is quick to point out that this does not mean that the Metropolitan is a “Super-Bishop” – but rather that “[t]he one thing that distinguishes the ministry of the Metropolitan is his primacy: his responsibility to be the point of accountability, with the other bishops in a relationship of obedience.” Father Yousuf seems to be saying that this means that the relationship of obedience is mutual, because this sentence does not add “to him”. I do not find this a convincing interpretation, for a few reasons. First, the principle is again restated further on a few times in the text (which we will cover in a minute) where it clearly states, in two different places, that this is “obedience to the Metropolitan”. Second, it seems quite clear to me from a reading of the entire argument in this section, beginning with the discussion of primacy, and leading to the discussion of episcopal authority, that the vision of primacy articulated here is of one of a primate (or diocesan bishop) having authority and being owed obedience, while the “content” of that obedience is characterized by authority on the part of the primate linked together with mutual accountability. This is the core of what Jonah is arguing throughout this Section. That, taken together with the explicit formulations later of “obedience to the Metropolitan” make it more than abundantly clear that the lack of “to him” or “to the metropolitan” in this sentence cannot be taken to mean that the intention was to describe a relationship of mutual obedience – that flies in the face of the entire discussion and is therefore an improper interpretation of the text.

    Jonah next describes the differences between episcopal primacy in a diocese and the exercise of primacy in the synodal context. In a diocese, there is a “difference in responsibility and structure of accountability because the levels of ordained responsibility are unequal”. In a synod, by contrast, it is a “community of equals, all bishops, though the Metropolitan has primacy.”. That is, the Metropolitan has no sacramental order which is “higher” than the other synodal bishops, as is the case with respect to a diocesan bishop vis-a-vis lower ranks of clergy and the laity. In the context of a synod, this primacy is “ to hold the bishops to accountability in a structure of obedience that is by its very nature love and respect, unanimity and synergy.” That is, it is the job of the Metopolitan to hold the bishops to accountability within a structure of obedience to him as the Synod’s head, a structure of obedience which has, as its very nature, love, respect, unanimity and synergy. His leadership “arises through building consensus, rather than authority over the other bishops.” “Decisions are communal, by consensus; and the Metropolitan cannot act alone.” That is, the nature of the exercise of primatial authority, per Jonah, is building consensus and striving for unanimity among the entire Synod. The Metropolitan cannot act alone (this is clear from apostolic canon 34) but rather the Metropolitan is to steer the synod to a communal consensus by holding them to accountability in a relationship of obedience.

    This does not mean that the Metropolitan has “authority over” the other bishops, but rather that the Metropolitan’s authority “is within the Synod”. This is based on the relationship of obedience that each bishop holds with respect to the Synod (“A diocesan bishop is accountable to the Synod for his stewardship of the diocese, because he is given that responsibility by them in election and ordination in a relationship of obedience”), because the Metropolitan “recapitulates” the Synod (“As a bishop sacramentally recapitulates his diocese, so also does the Metropolitan recapitulate the Synod, personifying it and speaking for it”) in his person: therefore as the bishop stands in a relationship of obedience to the Synod, he also stands in a relationship of obedience to the Metropolitan, because “[t]hat structure of accountability [i.e., the accountability of a bishop to the Synod] is personified in the relationship of obedience to the Metropolitan.” In other words, the bishops stand in a relationship of obedience to the Metropolitan, because the Metropolitan recapitulates the Synod in his person. Jonah clarifies this yet again: “The parishes relate to their own bishop, as their point of accountability in obedience. The bishops relate to one another in the Synod as the structure of accountability in obedience to the Metropolitan.”

    Again, the exercise of this primacy is understood not in terms of power over, but in terms of presiding within: “The Metropolitan’s responsibilities, as primate, are in maintaining unity among the bishops of his Synod, and resolving whatever decisions need to be made on a Synodal level, and whatever issues directly affect the whole Church.” This is clearly more than “a chairman who has one vote like everyone else”. Rather, he maintains unity, resolves decisions on the Synodal level, and resolves issues that directly affect the whole Church. Of course, in doing this, the primate cannot act alone, as Jonah expressly confirms in his talk. Nevertheless, the primate does have significant authority, to wit: “[t]he primacy also demands that the Metropolitan relate his Synod to the other Local Churches, maintaining recognition, contact, and communion. This would include, in our contemporary situation, relations with other jurisdictions in America, as well as with the other Autocephalous Churches. Thus, all matters related to the transfer of clergy between Churches, jurisdictional disputes, and so forth, are the purview of the Metropolitan. It is also within his purview to convene the Synod, councils and church-wide conferences; oversee church-wide ministries such as theological education; and oversee economic matters such as tax status, legal matters and insurance which affect the whole Church. The Metropolitan oversees matters dealing with bishops, including election, placement, accusations, investigations, transfers, and canonical actions.” These are matters that are “within the purview of” the Metropolitan himself. That is, they are actions he may take and direct outside of the context of the Synod, acting as the Metropolitan. This does not stand in contradiction to the idea that “the Metropolitan cannot act alone”, because that is in the context of the Synod itself. The Metropolitan cannot act alone in Synodal matters, that is clear. Yet as the diocesan bishops enjoy a degree of personal power in their dioceses that is free from interference by the primate (per apostolic canon 34 as well as the regional canon Jonah cites in the text), so also the primate enjoys a degree of personal power with respect to matters impacting the church as a whole, as Jonah describes here, on a regular basis outside the context of the Synod.

    Jonah next addresses issues relating to the central administration, which I won’t address here in detail, other than a sentence towards the end of the discussion, because it was the one part Fr. Yousuf quoted in his first response to me here. Jonah’s discussion, quite generally, is that the structures that exist under the Statute are obsolete and need to be changed. Specifically, he addresses the relationship of the structures with respect to financial fiduciary responsibilities. He notes that in a parish “the Parish Council, led by the priest, has the responsibility to manage the financial and material resources of the parish; in a diocese, the Diocesan Council, led by the bishop” and that “[a]s long as the presiding clergyman is the president of the Council, there is no problem: the Council has the responsibility to assist the priest or bishop in the administration of the material resources as trustees.” That is, as long as the presiding clergyman is in charge (either the parish priest or the bishop), the structure is canonical.

    He next notes that “[t]he Synod, however, and the Office of the Metropolitan as the organizational recapitulation of the Synod, is different” because “[i]t is the bishops who bear the primary fiduciary responsibility for the Church according to the Canons.” Because of this, “the structure of the MC has to change”, because “the Church has grown into a fully functioning Synodal structure”, which means that the MC which “started out as an archdiocesan council, with the above [i.e., financial fiduciary] function” should “share that responsibility” with the Synod. He notes that this sharing is “on a different level” because while “[t]he Metropolitan and Synod have to approve or can veto decisions of the MC; the Metropolitan cannot veto decisions of the Synod.” That is, the MC is subordinate to the Synod here, while the Synod is not subordinate to the Metropolitan – meaning that the Synod should have the ultimate financial responsibility in the Church, functioning in the manner described elsewhere in the body of the talk. This follows from the entirety of the discussion above, and does not abrogate any of it. The Metropolitan does not have a “veto right” over decisions of the Synod. He acts within the Synod as its primate, in a relationship of accountability to the other bishops contained within a relationship of obedience to the Metropolitan, who recapitulates the Synod in his person. A person cannot veto himself! The primate, however, leads and guides the synod to consensus, a consensus which of necessity includes him, as required by apostolic canon 34. Again, this is an indispensible voice, but not a veto, because the voice is exercised within the context of the synod and its decisionmaking process. Again, as the primate recapitulates the Synod in his person, rather than standing “apart from” it, it is nonsensical to characterize this indispensible voice within the synod as a “veto right” – again, a person cannot veto himself!

    ***

    These are complex and subtle ideas, I think, developed with a great degree of care by Metropolitan Jonah. In my opinion, they represent a real vision of how to move things forward, and merit close study and reflection.

    • Harry Coin says

      I think you’ll find the above points also in “The Brum Doctrine” and with approval from points near the Vatican. Even in Turkey, should the synod so choose, there could be a new EP tomorrow. Not so in the Vatican. All that above ‘close parsing of carefully crafted words’ adds up to this: ‘the one who speaks first can interpret their many nuances to give himself permission to do whatnot whennot. However, should the king kick the prince, the prince is free to kick the duke, and the duke is free to kick the sub-deacon, who can kick the dog.’

      No, thank you. Those who wanted to be Byzantine Rite Vatican/Roman Catholics already have that option.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        Agreed. Another point: Is it not strange that we have not remarked on the remarkable agility of Metropolitan Jonah in changing his mind about the OCA Statute so soon after he took an oath to uphold it? Talking about growing and maturing in office! /s

        • Harry Coin says

          To me, the pattern here is plain enough: George is dubious about autocephaly, George supports Met. Jonah, Met. Jonah is dubious about autocephaly, and there are various doctrines being proffered that suggest the Met should have more power to take decisions of himself, for the OCA, and able to remove those who disagree. They all seem barely able to keep from swooning in a faint when genuflecting toward Russia, or more properly what Russia wants in other places though those here don’t really get that. Start learning ‘Eis Polla Eti Despota’.

          I know that didn’t take very many words, but I think it’s easier to decode that way.

          So, who benefits by this? I’m not able to puzzle that one out, but I know that direction is toxic if growth in the USA counts for anything. Not that I have anything but good hopes for churches abroad including Russia. However the future here is what we’re given to support, I think this direction of foreign control will lead to ever fewer parishes.

          • Succumbing to the gay rights movement will lead to the fewest.

            Not to mention the additional harm done (or allowed) to society by furthering the movement.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Harry, I am not dubious and have never been dubious about autocephaly. Please re-read my words carefully. What I am describing is not the viability of our autocephaly, but of the OCA’s existence itself. If Hopko was correct back in 2008, then we are headed for the dustbin of history –and deservedly so.

            Please don’t give me any platitudes about how bad things are in the other jurisdictions. I’m not in the other jurisdictions. What is abominable is what we in the OCA are doing with our vaunted autocephaly. Right now we are trampling the word of Christ underfoot. That’s obvious to a blind man. God will not honor this, any more than He honored the autocephaly of all the dioceses that have gone extinct over the last 2000 years (Laodicea, Philadelphia, Carthage, Babylon, etc.)

            I’m sorry to be so harsh on a Sunday morning (I guess I can’t take Communion now) but the words ICHABOD have been painted over the door of the Syosset Soviet. Unless there is genuine repentance, the one remaining gift of the OCA to American Orthodoxy –its autocephaly–won’t matter diddly-squat.

            Harry, you’re still in the GOA. Lemme ask you: is anybody in the GOA looking to the OCA as a shining example of what American autocephaly should look like? We know that the hidebound Greekists are licking their chops right now, but how about the evangelically-minded like you and the activists within the OCL? You think they’re pleased with what they see? If they’re anything like me, they’re heartbroken if for no other reason than it confirms the ethno-retrograde vision that we in America aren’t “ready” or “mature” enough. And as vociferous a critiic of this position as I have been, I can’t argue with them as much as I’d like.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Harry, I owe you an apology. I was wrong to come down on you for your criticque that I was “dubious.” I temporarily forgot what “dubious” meant, thinking “antagonistic” about it. It was sloppy thinking on my part (at 6:30am or so).

              Anyway, for what it’s worth, I am at present dubious about the viability of the OCA’s long-term autocephaly. Given the present state of affairs, there’s no way that I see us surviving, much less growing. The insular ghetto that obtains in the Syosset/MC/SVS axis simply can’t see that Hopko’s analysis was dead-on.

              They’re not any different than any other Ruling Class, which after awhile, exists for itself.

              I know this sounds harsh, but look at how they horribly misread the situation in the only diocese that’s growing –the South. No one had the presence of mind to tell Bp Mark that in undertaking the course of action he did by hacking into Fester’s e-mails, that it would open up a can of worms. (Come to think of it, nobody had the morality to tell him that it was an immoral thing to do.) Instead, it was “Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead!” I guess because it was par for the course.

              Anyway, what was my point? That because this is How Things Were Done, nobody would bat an eye. Got a gripe? Just leak like a sieve to Golden Boy. He’s got instant cred! Tout la monde reads him; he gives us our cues. Mark would be installed as Bishop of the South, the anti-+Jonah coalition would gain an additional member (“The Fabulous Five”?) and things would go along as before.

              Wrong.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Harry, for what it’s worth, the author of the so-called “Brum Doctrine” agreed with the dubious resolutions authored by his overlord BB.

        • Harry Coin says

          Really? The ‘Brum doctrine’ I read emphasized ‘prerogatives of the primate’. The resolutions you attribute to BB directed further decision making to the synod.

      • Ah, yes. The Brum Doctrine. Another Stokoe contrivance. Harry do you know the actual genesis of that report? What the context of it’s writing was and who it was written for? Or are you just going to perpetuate the historical legends of Mrs Stokoe-Brown?

        • Harry Coin says

          Hardly a contrivance, the source documents and verified context is here:

          http://www.ocanews.org/news/BrumDoctrine_000.html

          Here, we see a Roman Catholic ordained young never married priest becoming Orthodox in the OCA, advocating for a Vaticanesque way of doing things. How has that worked out for the OCA? Theodosius? Herman? The synod recently decided, apparently, having as much to do with decisions as the potted plants decorating the meeting room as they did in the past wasn’t an effective growth strategy. So, they’re trying something else.

          This idea that folk overseas should run things, as we see George and others doing here, sort of on the basis they feel excessive embarrassment, will only accelerate decline.

          The only way out is through.

          But, hey, George, you know, if you’re not up to helping to cook up and support ways to raise the situation in the oca, beyond ending it somehow, head on over to a ROCOR parish if that’s where you feel most at home. Then you can have what you want right now. Pussywillows on Palm Sunday, kind of cute I think. Excellent Borscht.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Harry, the tenures of Herman and Theodosius were hardly “papal” in any meaningful sense of the word. Those guys were time-servers and paper-shufflers, nothing more. The real power was in Syosset. Luckily neither interferred with real bishops like +Dmitri who actually preached the Gospel. The Synod never acted against them because they were just as corrupt as them (for the most part). It was a “mutual embarrassment society” as someone recently described it on my blog.

            But, like any good hypothesis, we’ll run a test: one in which we have a real Primate who has real vision and another in which we have a MC/HS made up men who have real power but no vision (and want to keep the Primate locked up). We will see which one causes the OCA to grow.

            You wanna place any bets?

            • Harry Coin says

              Here we see the game of ‘who owns the primate’ just not being as fun as it once was.

            • Harry Coin says

              George, I think you’ve got a fundamentally negative growth assumption in the placing so much importance upon the ‘rock star’ status of ‘the primate’ as a reason to vest unOrthodox, Vaticanesque powers in him.

              The churches that grow measure every financial and non-doctrinal decision on whether on balance it will help local local local.

        • Jane Rachel says

          Amos, if you know, would you post it here? I have been wondering about that and would appreciate more understanding. Thanks.

          Ah, yes. The Brum Doctrine. Another Stokoe contrivance. Harry do you know the actual genesis of that report? What the context of it’s writing was and who it was written for? Or are you just going to perpetuate the historical legends of Mrs Stokoe-Brown?

    • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

      Dear Brendan,
      Christ is Risen!

      I have to apologize for the lateness of my reply. I must also thank you since it occasioned a conversation with one of my closest friends who just got his doctorate in the subject of Orthodox Ecclesiology. Talking to him was a treat, (he lives in England), and I don’t get to often, certainly neither of us had time during Lent. I look forward to my next conversation with him, which will probably include some evaluation of the article which you refer to.

      I think that your interpretations rest on an overly juridical reading and overly apodictic reading of Met Jonah’s paper and a misreading of Ap Canon 34.
      You seem to read Ap Canon in a way that makes the primate and the synod as two sides. I think it first qualifies the authority of the bishop making him accountable to the primate, and then qualifies the Mprimate making him accountable to the consensus of the Synod. The Canon is not to establish the primate as a super bishop, but to establish whatis familiar to us Americans as “checks and balances” , disallowing one individual hierarch from acting unaccountably. Thus Ap Canon requires both Primacy and synodical government of a province. We start with the diocesan bishops, which defers to the Primate, who defers to the consensus of the whole. You reading equates a single bishop with the consensus of the Synod, should the primate not agree with that consensus. My reading accords with the Orthodox understanding that the Ecumenical Council has greater authority than an individual primacy, including the first throne, (whether old Rome, or Constantinople, or any other primacy).

      The primate “recapitulating” the Synod could describe the way in which the wise primate rightly exercising his primacy will stand and defend and promote the consensus of the Synod which he chairs, and be its public face, and be the point of reference in carrying out the consensus. But “recaptiulation” is not automatic and apodictic. This, as you bluntly illustrate simply collapses the Synod into the Metropolitan, as you repeatedly speak of the Metropolitan as if he simply were the Synod, “a person cannot veto himself.” Precisely because the primate is not a super bishop, a bishop of bishops, or of a different order of ministry, your reading of Ap. Canon 34 and your apodictic reading of the primate “recapitulating” the Synod must be abandoned. Since the paper is clear that the Primacy does not establish a super bishop or bishop of bishops, its assertions of the Metropolitan recapitulating the Synod must not be read as you read them.

      Your interpretations seem to introduce “prima sedes a nemine iudicator”, that is the First see is judged by none, (which like the primate as bishop of bishops is “off limits” to Orthodox ecclesiology). I think that if “prima sedes a nemine iudicator” is accepted the declaration of infallibility of 1870 can and probably will follow. If he can’t be judged there must not be an error which might need adjudication.

      In Met. Jonah’s paper, the comparison of the primate in his synod with the bishop in his diocese is inexact, and possibly problematic. There are some comparisons that might be made, but the Bishop is exactly of a different order, and is an primacy not subject to judgment from within the diocese – the presbytery or diocesan assembly can not of its own judge or eject a bishop. Also, the ministry of a presbyter is dependent/contingent on the bishop, the presbyter serves as a deputy and delegate of the bishop, and represents the bishop’s authority. The bishop rules his diocese in his own right, not as a deputy or delegate of the primate.

      I strongly suspect that in the heat of this moment you have taken a position that is some what extreme. Perhaps if you think more of it applying to other primates you might find why I don’t want to apply it to any primate. For instance, if I accepted your system, the clear implication to me would be that Met. Herman should still be the primate now, for how did the Synod act without him and without a locum tenens to deny his request for a medical leave and ask for his resignation?

  16. I can’t help wondering why we in Orthodoxy insist upon shooting ourselves in the foot whenever something positive happens for us.

    It isn’t like I have a personal dog in this particular race–I serve a parish of the Patriarchate of Kiev, under HH +Filaret.–but I am concerned for the Church overall. That having been said, I’m an admirer of HB +Jonah. He is a man of vision, intelligence and holiness, who is the best thing to happen to the American Church since Metropolitan +Philip over in the Antiochians brought in the Campus Crusaders.

    Orthodoxy’s besetting sin is phyletism. Phyletism’s fruit is territorial jealousy and pride of place, even to the undermining of good and positive things that one cannot particularly claim responsibility for. It calls us to loyalti4es other than Jesus, and leads us to behave as if our Faith were authored and finished by someone or something else, something of human manufacture.

    It seems like any time anyone wants to do something that isn’t completely moribund, he’s surrouinded by Lilliputians throwing ropes around him. This is a disgrace to Christ,Who somehow grets forgotten in the midst of all the maneuvering.

    Maybe it’s time for all of us to lay aside our plans, agendae, programs and priorities for a year or so, and simply recommit to Christ, and trust Him to lead us.

    • Harry Coin says

      Fr. Jim — Those foremost in these present coils think Christ is presently leading them.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Fr Jim, excellent advice! Personally, I think that Orthodoxy in America in general will become even more moribund if we don’t repent. And that includes the bishops and functionaries as well as the people.

  17. Ian James says

    Chris Plourde,

    Team Stokoe tried to blacken and remove Jonah. OCAT was set up to counter Stokoe and co-conspirators. Big difference.

    You are trying to blur this fact. Most of us aren’t that stupid.

    • Not to mention, there is an essential difference between trying to get someone assigned elsewhere, and having someone confined to a monastery for the rest of his life. It’s like the difference between the mafia forcing you to move your business, and the mafia giving you cement overshoes and throwing you off a bridge. Both get rid of you in the sense that in either case, you’re not where you once were, but what an impact the difference has on the rest of your life!

      • Not to mention there is an essential difference between a temporary administrator vs. a sitting bishop and metropolitan.

        Not to mention there is an essential difference between collecting evidence to demonstrate an actual grievance vs. searching for a pretense that has nothing to do with your real grievance.

        Not to mention there is an essential difference between collecting first-hand accounts vs. tampering with an ethics report.

        Not to mention there is an essential difference between wanting to do something legal (collecting first-hand accounts) vs. illegal (tampering with an ethics report).

        Not to mention there is an essential difference between following appropriate, previously established channels to accomplish your objective (going to an administrator’s boss) vs. using channels that were not intended for your purpose (undoubtedly putting someone on leave for health issues is an act that has its intended time and place, but this was not it) and making up the rules as you go along to suit your purpose (new committees formed with new special powers, etc. at the recent HS meeting as opposed to using the established mechanism of a spiritual court).

        Not to mention there is an essential difference between preparing to respond to an anticipated viscous public relations campaign if necessary vs. initiating a viscous public relations campaign.

        Not to mention there is an essential difference between right vs. wrong.

        I could go on, but let me see if I can just summarize briefly: ethical, moral, and legal vs. unethical, immoral, and illegal.

        And smart people are saying there is no difference because in both cases a group was working hard to accomplish a social objective? If the gay rights movement wasn’t targeting your church before, they certainly will now. I don’t like to hurt feelings, but I see no benefit in sugar coating it: You guys are low-hanging fruit.

    • Chris Plourde says

      Not blurring anything, Ian, and I don’t disagree one iota with the verifiable facts you’ve presented.

      But let’s be clear: Conspiracy is about process, not content. Conspiracy is defined as “A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.”

      Stokoe’s conspiracy was to convince the broader OCA that Jonah is a terrible Metropolitan who needs to GO. Fester/Dreher’s conspiracy was to convince the broader OCA the same about Mark.

      In short, both were involved in secret plans to harm the reputations of their targets. There simply is no other impartial and fair way to understand the facts of their actions.

      • Ian James says

        Oh please Chris. Hitler hated the Jews. And the Jews hated Hitler. But it’s about process, not content, right? Ever visit Dachau?

        Let’s try another. Hitler conspired to kill people. Bonhoeffer conspired to kill Hitler. Therefore, there is not one whit of difference between Hitler and Bonhoeffer.

        This is “impartial” and “fair”? I call it ignorance.

        Nothing like absolving yourself from making moral judgments, Chris. Don’t have to take any unpopular stands that way!

        • Chris Plourde says

          Ian,

          At this point you seem to be overwrought.

          The only way your analogy comes close to the facts of this situation is if Stokoe and +Mark are in league with each other (therefore stand-ins for “Hitler”), if +Mark hates +Jonah (stand-in for “the Jews”), and if +Jonah hates +Mark.

          Got evidence of any shred of that?

          Without evidence to support your analogy it’s very hard to make the case that Fester/Dreher were just like Bonhoeffer.

          The fact that Fester/Dreher did wrong takes nothing away from the awful wrongness of Stokoe et.al. It does not excuse any of them one whit. Where I come from the adage is: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

          And it’s not moral equivocating to point out that what marked both conspiracies is an utter lack of charity. It’s easy to lose sight of Christ when “winning” becomes the most important thing, even for very good people, most tragically for very good people.

          Lord have mercy.

          • Ian James says

            It’s not an analogy. Read it again, a bit more slowly if that’s what it takes.

            The point is not that Dreher is like Bonhoeffer or Stokoe like Hitler (or vice versa). The point is that when you assert that “conspiracy is about process, not content” you place equal moral weight on Stokoe and OCAT (or no weight at all which amounts to the same thing). You ignore that Stoke worked to blacken and remove +Jonah while OCAT worked to stop Team Stokoe. It’s an important distinction you keep wanting to blur.

            And it’s not moral equivocating to point out that what marked both conspiracies is an utter lack of charity. It’s easy to lose sight of Christ when “winning” becomes the most important thing, even for very good people, most tragically for very good people.

            You are shifting the ground here, wanting to make a moral case for your assertion through the back door. Doesn’t work. Besides, “lack of charity” means people were not as nice as you think they should be, nothing more.

            You are trying to lessen Team Stokoe’s culpability by spouting high-minded nonsense.

            • Chris Plourde says

              What about plotting to attack Bishop Mark is working “to stop Team Stokoe?”

              Wanna know the sad answer, from their own lips?

              … I think it it will be crucial to get as rich and as detailed account of marks (sic) tenure at SS ( St. Seraphim’s) up as soon as is feasible (eg. as soon as Jonah fires him)We can be sure Stokoe will play up the martyr narrative. If we have a lengthy and highly detailed post ready to go, we can get out ahead of the stokoe (sic) narrative. …

              Fester/Dreher plotted to trash +Mark in order to pre-empt what they feared Stokoe might write if +Jonah removed +Mark.

              In essence, Bishop Mark was to be collateral damage in an anticipated blogging war between “Team Jonah” and Mark Stokoe.

              If we hold this behavior to the standard stated in Matthew 25 “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me…”, and you simply replace “Bishop Mark” with “Christ,” I think you’d more clearly see the problem I see.

              Regardless, this is precisely and perhaps solely where we differ.

              Not one jot or tittle of this relieves Mark Stokoe of anything nor minimizes anything he’s done. I am not a moral relativist.

              • O Hamartolos says

                Chris,

                With all due respect to you as a brother, you are mistaken about the damage bishop Mark did in Dallas. If any body plotted to get rid of Mark it was all because he, bishop Mark, did not listen to our frank requests for him to address the growing problems. He brought this upon himself, not Dreher, not Cone, not Folsom, not Metropolitan Jonah, and not Fr. Joseph. You would have no doubt of that if you were at St. Seraphim’s this weekend., of the past 2 months for that matter. Imagine, a grown man, in his 40s weeping and prostrating themselves before bishop Nikon asking him to intervene swiftly to remove bishop Mark. So, I ask you please, unless you have spoken to the folks at the Cathedral, if you haven’t shed tears with them, and heard their painful stories, then I ask you to refrain from deftly sweeping bishop Mark’s misdeeds under the carpet and chalking it up to the work of some evil conspirators. That is not how things went down. Everybody at the cathedral knows that. You, do you not. It will all (or at least mostly) come to light soon, and you will see for yourself.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Chris, I must agree with Hamartolos here. The problems of Mark in Dallas are completely self-inflicted. I very much regret this. In the interests of fairness, I wrote a laudatory letter to Bp Mark at the beginning of Lent. I was concerned about the fact that we in Dallas didn’t have a bishop yet and I thought that he was the right man for the job. Up until Bright Tues, I was exhorting people in Dallas to give Mark another chance, that their complaints were all because of rookie mistakes, etc.

                  Then I heard about the financials going through the floor. Then I heard that +Dmitri was distressed. I started to turn myself, wondering how was I snookered? By the time that he admitted that it was he who hacked into Fr Fester’s account, the worm had already turned. There was no going back.

                  The Goldwater-to-Nixon moment came five days ago when his last major supporter went to him and told him that he was “unelectable” in the South. This is all rather sad as I think had he not fallen into bad company and their connivances, he might have been the bishop we needed for the South.

                  Stokoe strikes again!

                  • George,

                    Be careful, that “worm turning” comment might get you in trouble. Ask Fr. Joseph….

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      I know Trey. We live in such a ridiculous world that I fervently believe that the Synod will do the absolutely worst thing possible, whatever it is in any given situation. I fully expect egg on my face. They’re so inverted in their logic because of the toxic culture from which they come that they couldn’t do something right if their collective lives depended on it.

                      I think the operating philosophy of Ruling Classes in general is: let’s consider all possible outcomes and do that which is the most 1) stupid, 2) evil, 3) insane, 4) any two of the above, or 5) all of the above.

                      Right now, I’d be bet the rent that they will do everything in their power to keep Mark in the South by whatever contrivance possible. It’s just the way they roll. When the DoS shrivels up to nothingness, they’ll just chalk it up to a few “malcontents.” In fact, I’m so sure of it that I will post a picture of me eating crow if they do the RIGHT thing and reassign him.

                      I guess you could say that I’ve got too much intellectual and emotional investment in my thesis that the MC/Syosset axis is so inept that I would hate to be proven wrong. If nothing else, it would deprive me of the pleasure I get when I say things like “I told you so!”

                  • Chris Plourde says

                    The Goldwater-to-Nixon moment…

                    There’s a reference I’m afraid few will appreciate.

                    • A Remnant says

                      Yup

                      Just us old pharts!

                      For those who are not historians or were not around at the time, from Wiki

                      In 1974, as an elder statesman of the (Republican) party, Goldwater successfully urged President Richard Nixon to resign when evidence of a cover-up in the Watergate scandal became overwhelming and impeachment was imminent.

                • Chris Plourde says

                  Focus, folks.

                  My post is not a defense of +Mark nor an attempt to sweep anything under the rug.

                  The issue for me is a secret plan to spread negative information about Bishop Mark in order to pre-empt a feared Stokoe response to something that didn’t happen. They wanted to do that not in opposition to Mark (neither was presently in the DOS) but to pre-empt opposition to Jonah.

                  That’s all I’m saying, guys. This is not a reflection on the goal of anyone, not a reflection on the relative good or bad of any of the principles. It is a reflection only on the means that were employed here.

                  My post is not about the ends of these things, but about the means being employed to reach those ends. Process, not content. The ends don’t justify the means, which is why a discussion of how good-or-bad Mark is, while interesting, is irrelevant to the actions taken by Fester/Dreher. Just as a discussion of how good-or-bad Jonah is is irrelevant to the actions taken by Mark Stokoe.

                  Now I disagree with Stokoe’s ends here as well, but had I agreed it still would not justify his plotting, would it? There are forthright ways to bring up real or perceived wrongdoing in the Church, and there are the ways of snakes. Get it?

                  • They wanted to do that not in opposition to Mark (neither was presently in the DOS) but to pre-empt opposition to Jonah.

                    And what makes you say that, Chris? As far as I know, the only indication that this plotting to undermine Bishop Mark had anything to do with Metropolitan Jonah was Stokoe’s interpretation of the emails.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      The quote is posted above in 249. That’s not a characterization, it’s their words.

                    • That’s a reference to Metropolitan Jonah being the one to remove Bishop Mark – which would be natural considering that Bishop Mark is Metropolitan Jonah’s auxiliary, and +Jonah was planning on becoming locum tenens of the South again, so if anyone was going to be removing Bishop Mark, +Jonah would have been the man to do it.

                      What it most certainly does not say is that Fr. Fester and Dreher wanted +Mark out of Dallas for any reason relating to +Mark’s relationship with +Jonah. If you can find a quote to that effect, please present it.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      Helga,

                      I agree with you, Helga.

                      Fester/Dreher thought they knew that +Jonah would remove +Mark, and they thought they knew that this would present Stokoe with an opportunity to attack +Jonah and make +Mark appear as a martyr.

                      This is explicit in the quote.

                      So they conspired to damage +Mark’s reputation before Stokoe could make him appear a martyr, thus hoping to prevent Stokoe from attacking +Jonah.

                      This is also explicit in the quote. I haven’t suggested otherwise.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Chris, there’s one other problem with this scenario, it’s that despite the strategic bull-sessions that appeared to be going on between Fester and Dreher, there was no actual implementation to put these ideas in play in Dallas. Things were going south in Dallas under Mark’s auspices from the second week of Lent. In other words, Mark was making a hash of things on his own and in rather spectacular fashion.

                    Was it charitable for Fr Joe to be discussing these things electronically with a former parishioner who is no longer in Dallas. No, of course not, it’s idle gossip at worst. No different from what we’re doing now (except that we’re doing it in an open forum), but neither man was in a position to execute any of these plans as neither one were in Dallas.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      …neither man was in a position to execute any of these plans as neither one were in Dallas.

                      This isn’t simply “idle talk,” George. It’s not like this place, which is akin to sitting at Starbucks’ and talking about the day’s news.

                      Rod made clear that he’d coordinate with the others at OCAT in order to spread the bad news as far and wide as possible the moment +Mark hung up the phone with whoever it was who would remove him. They discussed Fester’s using a txt (no need to go to the other room) to trigger the hit piece. They outlined the hit piece.

                      This was closer to Clinton’s quick response team getting organized than a group of people who remember Barry Goldwater speculating about events.

                      PS: Just thought of a way to make my point clear. If you re-read those e-mails and simply replace Fester with Stokoe, Dreher with Sordinski, and +Mark with +Jonah you’d see what I see. I don’t think you’d react to that as “well, they were just chatting….”

                • Chris Plourde says

                  O,

                  you are mistaken about the damage bishop Mark did in Dallas.

                  I made no comment about this at all, so how could I already be mistaken?

                  • O Hamartolos says

                    Christ you are correct, you never said anything in direct defense of bishop Mark. I stand corrected.

                    Yet, the feeling that I got from your post was that bishop Mark was the passive recipient of the contrivances of the aforementioned confederates. If you intended that or not, I cannot tell.

                    However, I do take issue with your 8:10 PM post in which you say

                    “So they conspired to damage +Mark’s reputation before Stokoe could make him appear a martyr, thus hoping to prevent Stokoe from attacking +Jonah.”

                    They did not damage bishop Mark’s reputation. That was done by him, and by him alone.

                    • Chris Plourde says

                      Point taken.

                      The goal of any hit piece is to maximize the damage to someone else, and to do so by painting a one-sided (all darkness, no light) picture of the person. No matter the source, it seems tremendously un-charitable.

                      And I’m really sad to see the small report of the meeting with +Nikon in Dallas. You’re in our prayers.

                    • Chris,

                      I suspect that in private most people would be willing to concede your “one small point.” But it seems inappropriate to do so in public for a number of reasons, and I think this is why you are facing so much resistance to your efforts. Let me just highlight a few of the reasons for you.

                      One reason is that there is no obvious benefit to anyone in recognizing a lack of charity in the instance you reference. Is there something to correct? Has it not yet been corrected? I don’t think readers here see a role for them in this issue.

                      Another reason is that there is potential harm in having the focus of attention distracted from an as yet unresolved injustice that is very much on the hearts and minds of everyone and which at least some people do believe they have a role in correcting. This ongoing issue is really more than just an injustice to one person, it is about the church being able to fulfill its mission. So it is a much bigger deal. What some probably fail to realize is that they could deal with this better by simply saying, “OK Chris, you made a valid point, now lets move on to something beneficial.” This diversion served Stokoe’s purpose of distracting attention from his own indiscretions for a little while, but now those indiscretions should be front and center again. Those who conspired both illegitimately and uncharitably against Jonah need to be dealt with appropriately. Your church can’t be itself until this much more important issue is resolved. Within this context I’m sure you understand that people feel like you are just enabling Stokoe and they don’t want to be part of that.

                      A third reason it seems inappropriate to cede your point is that you seem to be doing exactly the thing that you are criticizing. You are publicly trying to make a case that someone else has sinned, potentially doing harm to that person. I’m not trying to condemn you, but I think that contradiction between what you are saying (“don’t hurt another Christian’s good name even if you have evidence they did wrong”) and what you are doing at least in appearance (trying to hurt another Christian’s good name using what you believe to be solid evidence) makes it hard for people to agree with you.

                      Having said that, I think there are also some real doubts and misgivings about the point that you are making. The main reason for this being the origin and journey of the text itself. The text you quote would be inadmissible as court evidence — at least for the case you are trying to prosecute. I personally feel like it is unethical to be spending time debating text from a batch of emails that was illegally obtained with the intent to do harm and then filtered and edited by a felon with the intent to maximize harm. I know this sounds overly dramatic, but to the best of our knowledge this really is the nature of the text in question. Reading and analyzing such a text is guaranteed a priori to do harm and be unfair, meaning there is a reasonable chance even smart people will be misled by this type of evidence.

                      And finally, the other misgiving about your point is that you might be making an interpretive error. The limited background information we have would indeed set us up to interpret the text the way you have. But if you go back and read the text with a firm conviction that there was never any intent on the part of the author to do harm to anyone else, I think you will find that the text is not as strongly worded as you currently believe. A gracious statement of facts published under a pseudonym (giving it all the legal and conversational weight of hearsay) might not do any damage to a career, but it might give key players just enough doubt about Stokoe’s narrative to grant the Bishop (formerly Jonah) probable cause for helping the diocese to move forward. If you think I’m wrong about this, I really don’t want to know about it for all the other reasons I just cited 🙂

                      My guess is your heart is right and you were just trying to be fair and balanced and make this an educational exercise for us all. For what it is worth, I suspect most people do understand what you are trying to say and they just have qualms about agreeing with you in public for reasons like the ones I’ve outlined.

              • Ian James says

                But let’s be clear: Conspiracy is about process, not content.

                I am not a moral relativist.

                Then:

                If we hold this behavior to the standard stated in Matthew 25 “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me…”, and you simply replace “Bishop Mark” with “Christ,” I think you’d more clearly see the problem I see.

                Actually you think like a moral relativist and a squishy one too.

                The verse you quoted is a statement on how God will judge you in the final day. The only license it allows you is to judge yourself, not others.

                But judge others is exactly what you do. You have determined that both Team Stokoe and OCAT don’t meet the standard of Matthew 25. You have set yourself up as judge.

                You think like a liberal. You think that drawing the proper moral distinctions and judging someone is one and the same. But since we can’t live in a world without moral distinctions, the only distinction you draw is that everyone is equally guilty. This is the same thing as saying that moral distinctions don’t really matter.

                That’s why you have real trouble with the distinction that Stokoe was out to get +Jonah while OCAT was formed to counter Team Stokoe. Big difference.

                When you find a fault on the OCAT side (real or perceived, it doesn’t matter), it allows you to collapse the distinction. Using scripture to justify the collapse makes it seem a responsible the thing to do. What it really does is absolve yourself of responsibility.

                Drawing correct moral distinctions is a necessary part of life. The only way we avoid is to become the judge over others. But that is not a role we are allowed to take. It leads to moral darkness.

                Earlier you justified your relativism because both sides displayed an “utter lack of charity.” Now you are justifying it because both don’t meet the criteria of Matthew 25. You are flailing all over the place.

                • Chris Plourde says

                  Oh, Ian.

                  The adage says we are to hate the sin and love the sinner. There’s nothing relativistic about hating sin wherever it pops up, nothing squishy about loving the sinner no matter who they are (though that latter is one of the greatest challenges in life). One can be totally clear that a given action leads away from Christ, yet totally love the person taking that action. This is the example of Christ on the Cross, after all.

                  Christ is not a squishy relativistic liberal. So let’s review:

                  There is an absolute Truth whose name is Jesus Christ. Every one of the deadly sins is deadly and all sin, no matter how small or large we think it is, separates us from God with equal efficiency. Victory comes only through the Cross, and it comes in God’s time, not ours.

                  I distrust every new-age in which any part of the above is declared incorrect, and every movement that declares its goals to be so righteous as to render it immune from any of these simple facts.

                  I disagree with Stokoe’s goal and agree with OCAT’s goal. The problem is that I see only slight difference in how those two chose to go about achieving their goals and thus it is actions, not goals, that I address.

                  It would be relativistic to say that the ends justifies the means, that no sin is committed if our goal is good., or that such sin is less damaging than other sin. I draw a sharp moral distinction between goals and means, which is why I am not a relativist in any sense of the term.

                  When I am told “don’t you see, they were working for the good guys” what I hear is moral relativism, the claim that people are allowed to be uncharitable and to enter into conspiracy if their goal is good.

                  As to the individuals involved, I truly like Rod Dreher and have always found him to be a thoughtful and good guy. My friends tell me that Fr. Fester is a good priest and confessor and a genuinely good man. I want nothing but the best for both of them, and am disappointed that these good people committed this unforced error. It seems to me that they are currently suffering the results of their actions, and I look forward to the happy day when their suffering is mere history.

                  Lots of words, I’m sorry, but it seems to me that so much here is being misunderstood that I felt I had to take the space.

                  Christ is Risen!

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          Beware . . . Godwin’s Law at play.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_rule

  18. Pravoslavnie says

    Well George, it seems as if your open letter has been read and the response came this morning. If there was any question as to whether Moscow would speak out on the recent gelding of Metropolitan Jonah by his own Holy Synod, it was settled today at my ROCOR parish just down the street and across town from the OCA’s St. Nicholas Cathedral.

    So Pravoslavnie & Co. shows up for Sunday liturgy, but instead of our usual priest serving, the Royal doors swung open and we were surprised to find the service being concelebrated with Fr. Joseph Fester at the altar. Furthermore, Fr. Joe not only concelebrated, but he served at the “# 1” position, and was given the honor of delivering an (outstanding) homily as well as holding the cross for veneration at the end of the service, and blessing the food in the parish hall. Given recent OCA events, and Fr. Joe’s current predicament, I think that the mother church just delivered a powerful statement that a number of people in positions of authority in OCA would be wise to make careful note of.

    It’s a certainty that Fr. Joe would not have been allowed to serve in a ROCOR cathedral unless blessings had first been received from higher up the chain, probably all the way up to Moscow itself. I think the implied message here is quite clear. The mother church is extremely displeased with recent actions of the OCA Holy Synod. Furthermore, the welcome sign has been hung out at ROCOR, and it has left the lights on just in case more visitors intend to show up.

    • Wow. He led the liturgy at St.John’s? Certainly that would have required episcopal approval, given the prominence of that parish in the scheme of the ROCOR overall, really. Wow.

      • Jane Rachel says

        That is amazing. My faith just got about a molecule bigger, and it was only the size of about a molecule. Glory to God for all things!

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Indeed. I think we all just felt the earth shift under our feet. I wonder how MSNBC is going to play this? How about: “Insane Rogue Bishop’s Hit-Man Plots the Overthrow of the All-Holy Metropolitan Council.” With sub-heading: “women and minorities hardest hit.”

          • Ian James says

            Sub, sub heading: Conservatives to blame!

          • His usual plan is that if there’s anything that doesn’t conform to his narrative, he pretends it never happened.

            • He will ignore it, I agree, unless he has a positive spin he can put on it.

              • O Hamartolos says

                I think lawyers are probably telling him to say as little as possible. We heard at the town hall meeting that Bishop Mark refrained from saying too much about the leaked emails on advice from his lawyers. It is not a stretch to see MS following suit.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Well, I guess this destroys one of the major planks of Stokoe’s reportage in general, that he would “never” engage in anything “illegal” and has “never dealt in stolen goods.” Because, you know, what good is it “if you gain the whole world but lose your soul.”

                  Perhaps we should take up a collection and endow a new chair at SVS: The Mark Stokoe Chair of Situational Ethics.

      • Pravoslavnie says

        Yes it was Fr. Joe, in one of the most prominent ROCOR cathedrals, and it was clear the Patriarchate was making a statement as I don’t think that ROCOR’s Met. Hilarion would be of the proper pay grade to make the call.. One would suspect that such a strong message must have received a Patriarchal blessing.

        • Seems to be a reasonable assumption to me. Fr. Victor is close to +Hilarion (Rocor) anyway, and it seems reasonable that, given the MP’s interest in this situation after Santa Fe, that mother would also be taking an interest again now. Either way, this is a huge event and will be noticed.

          • Pravoslavnie says

            I suspect that St John’s was chosen because of its proximity, and high visibility, but I wouldn’t doubt that a phone call was made late last week informing its rector what had already been decided from up upon high. This was a carefully calculated move. I agree that it is a huge event with many possible outcomes.

        • Knowing how things work in ROCOR, I doubt very much that anyone outside of ROCOR was consulted on the matter. I would not bet too much money that Metropolitan Hilarion was consulted on the matter, though he probably was, because he is the ruling bishop. There are two liturgies each Sunday at St. John’s: an early English Liturgy, and a later Slavonic Liturgy. Of the two, the Slavonic Liturgy is the more prominent, and I am told that Fr. Joseph served at the earlier English Liturgy. I have not spoken to anyone at the Cathedral on the matter yet, but there may be no bigger message being sent here than that the priest who normally serves the English liturgy (Fr. John Johnson) was out of town, and they needed a priest to serve that Liturgy), or that they were extending hospitality to a priest who needed a place to serve on Sunday, because he was asked not to serve at St. Nicholas, or perhaps did not wish to serve at St. Nicholas because of all the hub hub.

          Again, none of the above is based on inside information about what went on, just based on knowing ROCOR.

          • Pravoslavnie says

            Dear Fr. John,

            Christ is Risen!

            That would be a reasonable assumption, but the English liturgy is only slightly less well attended than the Slavonic liturgy which follows it. St. John the Baptist Cathedral has four priests assigned to it, two deacons, and a Protodeacon. Fr. John Johnson, who usually presides at the English service, was present, but he defered to Fr. Fester who otherwise led the service in its entirety. There may be some protocol that I am not aware of where a senior visiting priest from another jurisdiction is given the place of honor, but it certainly wasn’t like Fr. Fester was some vacationing priest who happened to wander in the door with his Epitrachelion in hand. It was clear to me that a message was being delivered although it was lost on most of the congregation who don’t follow the recent OCA organizational problems. That message would have been intended for the OCA.

            Given that Fr. Fester has been suspended from his duties as dean at nearby St. Nicholas Cathedral, I don’t see where the decision to let him serve could have been made without an episcopal blessing, and that blessing would have to come from Hilarion himself since he is the diocesan bishop. ROCOR is becoming much more tightly integrated with the MP, but it so happens that the ROCOR bishops had a synodial meeting last week, so perhaps it was a ROCOR statement, or an MP statement delivered through its proxy. In either case, a statement was made, there are any number of interpretations. Given the uncomfortable and evasive responses that poor Fr. John was making trying to explain Fr Fester’s presence, it seems obvious that it was not a decision made at the parish level.

            • If I’m not mistaken, Fr. Fester would have also needed Metropolitan Jonah’s blessing, right?

              • Pravoslavnie says

                I don’t want to speculate as both Fr. Joseph and the Metropolitan will be walking on political eggshells until the next AAC in November.

                I read this morning on OCA.org that ‘resolution proposals and possible amendments to the OCA statutes” has been placed on the AAC agenda. So that is when the MC plans to make the Chicago resolutions affirmative OCA law which will reduce the office of Metropolitan to a mere synodial spokesman. I don’t see OCA’s sister Orthodox churches taking this change lightly, or many AAC delegates for that matter too. I think the OCA is now risking internal schism and ostracism by world Orthodoxy.

            • There is nothing evasive about my comments. I stated clearly that I had no inside information, but I do know how things work in ROCOR and know the DC clergy. I spoke to Fr. John Johnson today, and it was pretty much what I thought. Hospitality was extended, and that is the only message that was intended.

              I have not seen any announcements that Fr. Joseph Fester has been suspended from serving as a priest… were that the case, this would be a much bigger deal indeed. Clergy in a given area are generally on friendly terms, and I have done the same thing in similar cases where a brother priest suddenly finds himself removed from his parish, and needs a place where he can serve and pray in peace. Clergy are human, and regardless of the merits of the actions of the bishops, a Christian should sympathize with the difficulties of a priest who is in such a situation. It is hard for a priest to have a family leave his parish. I can only imagine that would be exponentially difficult to be removed from a parish. Christians should extend kindness to anyone going through such a thing, rather than kick a person while their down.

              There just is no dramatic message from Moscow here.

              • Pravoslavnie says

                Dear Fr. John,

                All right, I think we are both guilty of not reading each other’s messages carefully enough. I was not indicating you were evading anything, I was speaking of Fr. John Johnson who seemed a bit uncomfortable on Sunday explaining the details behind Fr. Joseph’s presence as he is/was known to be the dean of St. Nicholas, and it raised questions as to why Fr Joe was not serving in his own parish less than 3-miles away.

                I can certainly understand Fr. Victor making Fr. Joe feel welcome as well as extending the courtesy to have him serve the morning English liturgy. All that being the case, I accept Fr. John Johnson’s explanation that you just relayed to us, however I can’t believe that Fr. Victor did not first speak to the Metropolitan about it, and that everybody fully understood that appearances are important, particularly when the visitor in question is from another jurisdiction and he is being disciplined. The church press has only explained that Fr. Joe has been relieved of his duties as dean, and his photo has been purged from the St. Nick website. Fr. Joe indicates that he is in a kind of limbo, but it has never been written that he was suspended from any ministerial functions. Still, the fact that Fr. Joe has not been serving at St. Nick for three weeks, and that a ROCOR cathedral welcomed him warmly sends a very strong message, and very positive one.

                • Pravoslavnie says

                  Mrs. Pravoslavnie is telling me that I am naive. She points out that it has never been made clear, but while it reads like Fr. Joseph has only been relieved of his duties as dean of St. Nick, it seems as if he is being treated as “toxic” by the OCA and is under a defacto suspension. If in fact he has not been banned from performing any priestly duties, then why isn’t he serving in his own parish as an assistant priest? It’s one thing to be busted down a few ranks, but to basically be barred from saying liturgy in your own parish, or any other OCA parishes, even in a assisting role, makes it all the more unusual for St. John (and implicitly, the ROCOR) to have extended him the courtesies that he received last Sunday.

                  The priest from the nearby OCA parish of St. Mark was traveling last weekend, and his place could have been filled by Fr. Joe if in fact he is not suspended and is available for assignments. One would think he has some free time on his hands, and would welcome the opportunity to fill-in at St. Mark. Having him drive 3-miles across town to serve at ROCOR’s St. John, instead of driving 5-miles to the OCA’s St. Mark gives the appearance that he has been suspended in his own jurisdiction. Then for the ROCOR to roll out the welcome mat, and put him stage center, either shows a complete ignorance of recent OCA events, improper vetting of visiting clergy, or it is a challenge to the OCA Holy Synod which is applying disciplinary measures to Fr. Joe. His visit can certainly be justified as a simple courtesy, and even an act of Christian mercy, but I still think it contains a message directed at the OCA Holy Synod because it circumvents their disciplinary measures. So, yes, I’m sure that the rector of a highly visible ROCOR cathedral simply extended a private courtesy to visiting clergy who has suffered some unrelated personal misfortune recently. (wink-wink) I suppose it is up to Fr. Joseph himself, or the OCA Synod, to clarify his status at some point. Appearances do matter!

                  All-in-all, I hope that Fr. Joe is invited back. I can see why many people have good things to say about him, and he has a charisma about him.

                  • DC Indexman says

                    I think both of you need some more information before you decide who is right. I was in attendance Saturday evening at St. Nicholas where Father Joe served the Vigil. Then again Sunday at the second service Liturgy where Metropolitan Jonah served and Father Joe assisted.

                    • Pravoslavnie says

                      I have already said that more information is needed. This bit of news is very welcome, and certainly fills in some gaps on his current status, and it also explains why Fr. Joe left St. John’s rather quickly after the English liturgy. It also means that Fr. is not “homeless” and free to serve at St. Nick in some capacity, and supports the idea that his serving at St. John’s was a courtesy and hospitality extended to him. The questions though remain, why and why last weekend? Particularly when he was needed to assist Met. Jonah in his own parish the same morning, and with his own status and controversial role in the recent events where the ROC, and presumably the ROCOR, clearly support Met. Jonah. It in the end, appearances still matter, but I intend to let the matter rest.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Pravoslavnie, I believe you are right. Putting Fr Joe in the front and center positionn at St Nick’s sends a powerful message to the OCA Synod. Several in fact.

                    • I find it a bit ironic that some are claiming that ROCOR is trying to send a “clear” or “powerful” message to the OCA Synod by allowing Fr. Joseph to serve at St. John the Baptist. First of all, it is only assumed at this point that the ROCOR Synod, or Met Hilarion, gave their blessing for Fr. Joseph to serve. Met Hilarion’s blessing should have been sought, so it is safe to assume that it was given, but we don’t know for sure. If it is verified that Met Hilarion or the ROCOR Synod had involvement in the matter and gave a blessing for Fr. Joseph to serve, we do not know for sure whether Met Jonah was consulted. It is not impossible to consider that Met Jonah was consulted and gave his blessing.

                      What I find most ironic about this situation, however, is that the OCA has historically done a very poor job at sending “clear” or “powerful” messages when it comes to “disciplining” errant clergy and bishops. For some reason, the OCA seems to have a great aversion to using the canons in these matters and clearly applying the appropriate disciplinary measures in a way that leaves little question as to the status of those being “disciplined”. As far as I know, Fr. Joseph has not been declared defrocked or suspended, and there has definitely not been any kind of spiritual court. The OCA, with much reluctance and as a last resort, has “disciplined” errant clergy and bishops in recent years by taking them out of their official positions or diocese, but they do not seem capable of defrocking priests or deposing bishops even in cases where such disciplinary measures are clearly justifiable from the canons.

                      The minutes from the OCA Synod meeting state:

                      HEARD:
                      The Holy Synod discussed several areas of concern in the Church, including a case of clergy
                      interference in another diocese, an unresolved clergy misconduct case and concerns about a monastic
                      community.

                      DECIDED:
                      The Holy Synod received the assurance of His Beatitude’s definitive action in the case of the
                      monastic community and will prepare official documents in reference to the clergy misconduct case.
                      The Holy Synod also acted decisively in the case of the clergy interference case.

                      http://www.oca.org/PDF/NEWS/2011/2011-0506-mayhssynodminutes.pdf

                      I only assume the “clergy interference case” refers to Fr. Joseph, but his name is not mentioned anywhere in the minutes. If it is Fr. Joseph that is being referred to, “The Holy Synod also acted decisively” gives no indication of what action they took “decisively”. The whole matter is extremely vague, and unless informed directly, I highly doubt that the ROCOR Synod has the time, energy, or interest, to follow this constant OCA circus.

                      If anyone would like ROCOR or any other jurisdiction to respect the disciplinary measures taken by the OCA Synod against its clergy and bishops, please recommend that the OCA Synod follow canonical procedures for disciplining its clergy and bishops, and then clearly announce who is being disciplined and what is their status.

  19. Resolution 3 passed in Chicago
    “…The Metropolitan, as the Chairman of the Synod, shall seek and receive prior agreement of the Lesser Synod for all programs and initiatives relating to the external and internal affairs of the Church”

    OCA STATUTE-Article IV, Section 2i. “The Metropoitan Has the right of pastoral initiative and guidance, and when necessary the right of of pastoral intervention, in all matters concerning the life of the Church within the framework of the holy canons:”

    seems to be a conflict

    • Yes. That’s the “castration clause of Chicago”.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Ya think? The Syosset Soviet are in for more surprises.

      • Well, i would think that would be the first and main point of your letter.

        Anyone can clearly see the Resolution is not in conformance with the Statute. Hopefully the AAC will agree. I think Starting a new blog posting on that alone would generate a great discussion–Maybe we are missing something and someone can explain why the Synod thinks they can do this.

    • Ian James says

      Passing the “non-binding” resolutions had only one purpose: emasculate +Jonah. The tactic is morally repugnant and shows that Team Stokoe are amateurs. They think we are stupid and that we won’t see through it. They hold us in contempt.

      They have to go. This was their last shot. It’s over. They have thrown the Church into the deepest turmoil at a very vulnerable time proving to everyone that they cannot be trusted.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Harsh words, Ian. But nevertheless very true. What next? If the Insane Clown Posse that is Syosset has any active neurons left, I imagine honest reflection.

      • so…

        what do you (or anyone that is repulsed) plan to do about it?

        Leaving the OCA for another Orthodox diocese is always an option, but that does not help whoever is left in the OCA.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          No, it does not.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Agreed. My take is that we should make a stand wherever we can. I’m in the DoS; I think we have a fighting chance here.

            • By no means should anyone leave the OCA at this point. That will just make it easier for the Stokovites to have more of those abusive resolutions rammed through diocesan councils and even written into the Statute.

  20. A. Rymlianin says

    I think I just heard the other shoe drop , in Moscow.

  21. Does anybody out there have any information about Fr. David Moretti and Bishop Mark Maymon that can help the people of the Diocese of the South and especially the people of St. Seraphim’s Cathedral in Dallas to better understand what their modus operandi is. Especially any details about whether or not it is true that Fr. David got investigated by the FBI for harboring a fugitive.

    • Mark from the DOS says

      John – What came of Bishop Nikon’s visit?

      • Mark,

        Bishop Nikon’s visit was bitter sweet. The town hall visit at St. Seraphim’s was heavily charged with energy, mostly negative. The people spoke from their hearts and held nothing back from Bishop Nikon in hopes of receiving some sort of peace, but it was not delivered, at least from what I have heard and seen. I am a member of St. Seraphim’s myself. The meeting was mixed. There were people who were there in support of the Parish Priest who was almost removed for no apparent reason, others were very concerned with the email situation with Father Joseph Fester, but the general consensus was that Bishop Mark was no longer welcomed at the Cathedral. Bishop Nikon offered no real binding words or promises, like a true politician he said he would report the situation and in a few months time we might hear something. There was no real word given. Since then there has been some confusion as to Bishop Mark’s status in the DOS. As is stands right now he is actively campaigning for a Bishop seat in the DOS but is officially a “guest” here and he continues to receive money for his travel/living expenses. Whether or not this is right is up for serious debate right now. I hope this answers your question.

  22. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    Respectfully, George, “loci tenentes” does not work.

    “Locum tenentes” would be perfectly acceptable, I think—grammatically if not logically—but if you pluralize the word, it must still be in the accusative case: “locos tenentes.”

  23. http://www.oca.org/news/2538

    I find it interesting that Met. Jonah did not participate in the Preconciliar Commission. It may mean something, it may mean nothing. I don’t find it encouraging, unless there’s a really good reason.

  24. A. Rymlianin says

    The Lztin term “locum tenens” has its equivalent in Russian ,Spanish and French. In Russian , the plural of locum tenens is заместители , in French, lieutenants and in Spanish, lugartenientes. In each case the part that is pluralized is ” the holder” not “place”. So, it appears that “locum tenentes”is the proper plural. As if it mattered a breaking of wind in a hurricane. Now back to more serious matters.

    • Соловей says

      Messrs Reardon and Rymlianin,

      Please refer to my previous comment on the Latinity of locum tenentes. All dubia are therein resolved.

      Mr. Rymlianin, you are right about the proper plural as well as the meteorological effects of an etymological пердун.

      Заместитель is not, however, a direct calque on locum tenens but means something closer to “deputy”, “one who serves for temporarily another”, i.e. a временный заместитель especially in the medical or ecclesiastical sense. Заместить means to replace, deputize, substitute.

      This is not to contradict your point but merely to point out that there is not a Russian calque on locum tenens as indeed there is not an English one. Hence the resort to Latinity in the terminology of Orthodox ecclesiology.

      • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

        XPICTOC BOCKPECE!

        mestoblustitel? Wasn’t that the word for the locum tenentes which St. Tikhon selected?

        (Sorry, I have yet to install a Russian typing on my computer)

        • Воистину воскресе!

          Thanks for that, Father. I was wracking my brain to try to complete the word, место- … место- and all I could come up with was держатель which didn’t sound right, probably because it doesn’t exist.

          Местоблюститель is really “one who watches over the place” and so I suppose the equivalent Latin would be “locum vigilans.”

  25. A. Rymlianin says

    On May 15, the Sunday of the Paralytic, Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk served with Fr. Daniel Gubiak of the OCA, at the church of Our Lady, Joy of All who Sorrow in Moscow. Fr. Daniel is leading a group of pilgrims from the U.S. (РУССКАЯ ПРАВОСЛАВНАЯ ЦЕРКОВ OBЦC)

  26. A. Rymlianin says

    Correction: Fr. Daniel Hubiak. (Губяк) Diocese of Washington.Ret.

  27. I am an Orthodox convert from the Anglican faith. I have to say it is very disheartening to read the assorted blogs, social media pages, and other on-line sources of information about the state of the OCA and the power struggle at the top between the Synod and Metropolitan Jonah.

    I left the Episcopal church eight years ago, at the time of it’s disintegration over the ordination of an openly gay bishop. When professing Christians can no longer act in a Christ-like manner, then it speaks very poorly for their faith.

    I was genuinely excited, relieved, and invigorated by my Orthodox experience. I became a better Christian, and in the process, a better man. At the local level, my parish, I see little ill effects. We keep you in prayer, but our daily lives remain unaffected.

    I can only say, I now realize that pride, vanity, dogma, and judgment are at work in all corners of Christianity. A lot of us are just really disappointed right now. I acknowledge the importance many of you place upon being “right.” Perhaps you should place a similar importance on being “kind.” I don’t see anything Christian happening here.

    God have mercy on me, a sinner.

    • Chris Plourde says

      John,

      I think you’re exactly where the vast majority of the OCA is with all of this.

      At the local level, my parish, I see little ill effects. We keep you in prayer, but our daily lives remain unaffected.

      I think it is important to recognize that what we are reading is a large amount of reporting from one parish in one diocese. The problems at St. Serpahim’s are not happening everywhere, and for the rest of the OCA’s parishes all of this has gone by without creating so much as a ripple.

      It’s also important to recognize that the reporting we have on the goings-on within the Synod is largely speculation based on second-hand reports and non-participant’s interpretations of the posted Minutes. Aside from the one recorded statement of the Metropolitan’s that was a direct refutation of rumors spread by the retired Bishop Tikhon of the West and by Mark Stokoe at OCANews (strange bedfellows, to be sure) our Bishops have preferred to allow the Minutes of their meetings speak for them and otherwise have refrained from making statements.

      On the one hand that cedes the field to bloggers and their anonymous sources, on the other hand the fact that there are 510 (of 512) parishes where life is going on without concern of any these things is testimony to the wisdom of their silence.

      So the life of the Church goes on, unaffected by what are not doctrinal differences but are really managerial issues within the OCA. We all do well to keep these things in perspective.