Yikes! The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

Forgive the hyperbole, but that’s the only title I could think of this morning that describes the fear and revulsion that I’m picking up from the partisans in the anti-+Jonah cabal.

Let me explain.

In previous posts (here and here), I presented a rough chronology of what we know. I’ve tried to keep speculation down to a minimum. And yes, everything I wrote was factual, including the leaked e-mail by Stokoe in which he described a well-planned attempt to overthrow +Jonah, weeks before the Holy Synod met in Santa Fe (at the “luxurious” accommodations which so vexed his sense of Altruism and Purity).

My own research — particularly within the last few days — has fleshed out a bigger picture. I’ve connected some dots and understand certain arguments, assertions and facts by looking at the broader context (which is still hidden for the most part).

Having said that, I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t want to betray one particular confidence and so I must avoid stating certain things which I know to be true (my source was definitely anti-+Jonah).

As I mentioned in an earlier post (“Who Speaks for the Synod?“), I got a very real sense of the frustration and anger at +Jonah. But I also picked up a palpable sense of fear. I couldn’t place my finger on it at first. This fear centered around the Russians and particularly the recent intervention of Metropolitan +Hilarion Alfeyev with the Holy Synod and Met. Jonah. (Privately, Alfeyev’s intervention troubled me because it created the atmosphere that the OCA Holy Synod is in some ways a “junior synod,” which must snap to attention whenever a Russian shows up [not as impotent as the GOA’s “eparchial” synod but you get the point].)

I think the fear arises because by all accounts Moscow’s intervention means things went horribly wrong for the anti-+Jonah partisans. Consider their silence. It’s deafening. I know from a first-person source now how ill-received Moscow was by the partisans and had they gained any advantage over +Jonah, you can bet it would have been trumpeted to the heavens on Stokoe’s blog (“Moscow Brands +Jonah as Rogue!” or some such nonsense).

Among all the autocephalous churches, the Russian Orthodox Church is the one that is growing and their moral authority is impressive. One reason of course is that no church has suffered as severely as the Russian church. The fact that it has arisen like a phoenix from ashes in less than twenty years is nothing short of a miracle. When +Kirill speaks, people listen and even if they don’t like what they hear, they’re still respectful.

The Russian Orthodox Church has tremendous moral authority. When it sends its representatives all over the world, people stand up and take notice. +Kirill is working with the Pope, not because he wants to commune with him, but because they see the effects of secular liberalism all around them. Both +Benedict and +Kirill know that the sharing of the Eucharist would mean nothing if in their own private thoughts and public actions, they did not uphold the Gospel.

(Contrast this with the current Patriarch of Constantinople. Not only was the Riverboat Cruise a major bust, but even his recent ill-advised statements on the disaster in Japan passed without any comment whatsoever. This is stunning. Even the pastor of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church is accorded more media coverage.)

And what do I mean when I say “uphold the Gospel”? For one thing, +Kirill has openly condemned “careerism” in the Church. Secondly, he has issued strict protocols which will make it difficult for single men to enter the parish priesthood. Behind the scenes, homosexuals in the clergy have been removed. We know how his exarch governs the patriarchal parishes here in America and the sense of ROCOR in this matter is well-known. +Jonah’s own anti-homosexualist views are well-known as well.

I believe that much of the antipathy to +Jonah arises from the very real fear that their more “worldly” view of how the Church should be run is about to be challenged — big time. +Jonah has come to clean house.

And make no mistake, the liberal Apparat exists in other jurisdictions as well. That is why they have done everything within their power to marginalize him alongside the partisans.

That they might fail explains the fear.


  1. J P Gordon says

    I think you are onto something here. In my own opinion (worth nothing!), it would be better if Moscow were to help the OCA return to something closer to autonomy than the pretense of “autocephaly” we have now. The Moscow Patriarchate carries weight because it does represent a living, growing, Church.

    Until this latest insanity unfolded, I was an ardent supporter of the OCA as the model for a truly autocephalous church on this continent. Reading the comments on “oca news” and discovering the very real disconnect from the moral and, by implication, theological norms of the Church, I find it difficult to support the OCA as it stands now. The GOA, with its connection to the dropped flower of Constantinople (really, a tiny Greek village in a Muslim ocean) is certainly no better. But Moscow stands as a solid Orthodox Church–engaged with the real world around it but unafraid to “speak the truth in love”. Perhaps this is so because the Moscow Patriarchate has been purged of fear–fear of this world’s powers, fear of humiliation, fear of ridicule. It has experienced all those things and cast them out by love. “Perfect love casts out fear” ( 1 John 4:18). We need that fearless love, now.

    I, for one, hope that when the inevitable crash happens, the Russian Orthodox Church is there to help pick up the pieces.

  2. I’m in the OCA. I’d much prefer it remain an autocephalous Church, but if we had to go back under anyone, I’d prefer that be Moscow rather than Constantinople. Why? Wishy-washy +Bartholomew gives me the hives. +Kirill shows by all accounts that he has a backbone. The Russian Church speaks out against abortion et al. “The Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church” is an excellent document. Has Constantinople ever spoke out against abortion? Not that I can remember. And Greece has a very large abortion rate.

    I’m not one of those conservatives who’ve swallowed the Kool Aid of the Republican Party. But given a choice between Moscow and Constantinople, I’ll take the former rather than the latter. That Moscow isn’t under the thumb of the Turks is an additional positive.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Met. Jonah was absolutely correct when he stated that we needed a Church in the US that was not under the tumb of any foreign power. As active as the ROC has become, it is still closely tied with the Russain government whose political and economic interests are at odds with the United States. A difference that is likely to grow in the future rather than lessen.

      Do not mistake that the myth of Holy Russia has quite a hold on the imaginations of many who come to the Church with monastic sensibilities.

      • RE The ROC “is still closely tied with the Russian government…”

        Yes. So much so that the MP is considered a politician in some polls:

        Russians trust Patriarch Kirill – poll. 25 March 2010

      • George Michalopulos says

        Michael, I get your drift, but let’s not forget that even when America was a Christian nation that our government made some terrible choices. Though our culture was heavily informed by the Christian ethos, the nature of our fallen world meant that this country could never be perfect.

        Having said that, I’d give my eye-tooth if we could go back to having a country in which the Christian contours of the culture were reinforced by the politcal establishment. Russia has that today to a greater extent than we do.

        Let us not forget that Jefferson’s famous “wall of seperation” between Church and State was never meant to result in a secular/atheist polity in which religion was only to remain private. Not only is this understanding a clear misunderstanding of the historical record and Jefferson’s own words and actions, but it is an impossibility. In time, even secular/atheist governments devolve into religious cults. Revolutionary France did that, Bolshevik Russia, and today we see this in North Korea, where The Great Leader Kim Il-sung was deemed by their parliament to be “President for Eternity.”

  3. I have never heard Metropolitan Jonah say that he wanted the OCA to become an autonomous (even maximally autonomous) part of the Russian Orthodox Church. I would like to see the citation for this if anyone has one.

    • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says


      You might want to listen to this:


      This address sounds like an obituary for our Autocephaly. (Parenthetically, I found the question and answer session that followed rather interesting and illuminating).

      The day that this appeared, I was fixing to serve Vespers in a monastery when I got a call on my cell phone, from a priest on the East Coast asking me what I knew about the Metropolitan giving a talk about Autocephaly. I got home, and before I could listen to it a friend of mine who attends an Antiochian parish greeting me with the good news that the OCA autocephaly was going to go away. You see, he had heard a talk from Bp Basil of Wichita given in Oklohoma City which asserts that the Chambesy-Episcopal Assembly process was likely to lead to a united Autocephalous Church (I don’t have time to look up that talk now), but he was worried that the already existing autocephaly of the OCA was in the way. Well, I listened to the talk and then contacted my bishop to find out if this represented a new OCA position. I received a firm but frustrated negative. So I told my friend, in response to his questions, that I did not think the Phanar would allow the Episcopal Assembly process to lead to Autocephaly for the GOA or anybody else in North America, that I thought that the Phanar was trying very hard to see to it that that not occur. Then I am afraid I had to tell him that the Metropolitan was expressing private opinions or thinking out loud through options. That made me queezy because I understand that this was the primate addressing a diocesan convention and also being carried on Ancient Faith Radio, a point not lost on my inter-locutor. So I made excuses about inexperience and being unpolitical.

      This reminds me of the way the bishop has had to answer questions in our diocesan assembly meetings, when the Met Council reps gave their report on the settlement of the Kondratick lawsuit, as to why a man who was suing our church for millions and costing us litigation money was still employed by an OCA institution. He answered simply, “You would have to ask the bishop of that diocese”. Well someone pressed ahead, “who is that? ” He had to answer who that was, the Metropolitan as locum tenens. Alas, the questions weren’t done. Has the Synod asked him about this? The Bishop’s answer. “Yes. Repeatedly.” Still more questions: “What was His Beatitude’s response?” The bishop said simply. “He said he doesn’t want to make the situation worse”. Finally there were no more questions to ask. At no time in this did the bishop go on the attack, nor did he elaborate. He answered as tersely, as simply, and as directly as possible, and got the whole thing over with as soon as possible. But his frustration was evident. I know this scene, or ones very like it have occurred in other dioceses.

      None of the questions directed towards myself or towards the bishops were illegitimate. Nor until recently has anyone to my knowledge, including the bishops, and including myself, has wanted to elaborate, has wanted to attack.

      Perhaps these experiences explain why clergy and faithful outside the DoS have been so reticent to sign up on the OCATruth band wagon, (though why anyone would sign an internet list proffered by anonymous persons unknown is beyond me).

      But you see there were no problems until Mark Stokoe was able to single-handedly turn most of the Synod and the Metropolitan Council and most of the OCA into a Gay Cabal of progressive culture warriors.

      I do not like reporting all this. People who love the Met. may not like to hear it. I understand that because I love him too. But I don’t like hearing the slanders against the other bishops, against my bishop either. And I love my bishop.

      Those of us outside the DoS who were exposed to these frustrations were, I am afraid, a whole lot less surprised to read that much of the Synod were losing or had lost confidence in the Met. Saddened? yes, terribly. Hope it isn’t so? Yes, absolutely! Pray that Synod can work it out? Yes, fervently.

      I was told that another bishop (not mine) was asked about the firing of Garklavs, why should he be fired? The gist of the Bishop’s answer was that the bishops did not think that he and the Met would ever be able to get along and have a working relationship.

      If the bishops were planning on never letting the Met off of “retreat” why would they bother with whether or not the Met and that Chancellor could work together? Also, Bp. Mark Maymon was explicit in his letter to the DoS about the Synod meeting planning on the Met returning to the helm after the retreat.

      But the “cooling off period” isn’t working. And inflammatory rhetoric that seeks to build up the Met. by tearing down the other bishops, and most of the OCA dioceses destroys the possibility of a Synodal resolution. And my heavens the logorrhea from OCATruth and George far exceeds what Mark Stokoe has posted. And the defense for OCATruth and George when they are asked to slow down and be careful: it is just shrill yelling “Mark Stokoe is doing it too! and He did it First! And he wrote that email! And He’s GAYYYYYYYYY! ”

      Well, when you all are done there won’t be much of an OCA left for anyone to be Metropolitan of. And when that’s done, we will all die. And some will have to answer for those who lost hope or faith because they believed the slander that the whole of our Church was in thrall to a Gay Cabal.

      O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts!
      We Thy Servants, delivered from evils, sing our grateful thanks to Thee, O Theotokos!
      As Thou dost possess invincible Might,
      Set us Free From Every Calamity
      so that we may sing:
      O unwedded Bride!

      Blessed feast to all.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Fr, on the “gay” front thou doth protest too much. As I’ve said time and time again, I care not a whit about any person’s sexual orientation. I DO care very much whether such a person is in position of authority over me or anybody else in the Church. And I very much care that such a person uses extortionist tactics to get what he wants.

        That’s basically all there is here Fr. Please confine your outrage to these specific topics.

  4. Carl Kraeff says

    I am just going to cite the following from (gasp!!!) OCA News:

    11.17.10 http://www.ocanews.org/news/NewsAroundOCA11.17.10.html

    News From Around the OCA

    The Five Points

    In a frank and open statement to his Albanian Diocese at their September 23rd meeting, concerning external affairs of the OCA, Bishop Nikon of Boston referred to the 5 draft points that set forth the OCA Bishop’s position regarding the Chambesy process. The Bishops may seek to formalize these points during this meeting. Bishop Nikon stated:

    “I will say that for the members of our Holy Synod, most if not all*, are not inclined to request maximal autonomy at this time but are open to (other) avenues to achieve true Orthodox unity in America. In my estimation, it is too early to make such a lateral move or change. We are from the beginning committed to Orthodox Unity in the United States; the road to achieving that reality should be explored over the next few years. …”

    The Bishop then affirmed that any decision regarding any redefinition of autocephaly would not be made by the Bishops alone, but the entire Church: “Should the OCA, (bishops, clergy and laity; we are a part) at some later date, opt to rescind autocephaly, that would make any, especially our agreement (with the OCA) null and void, and new agreements would then be in order or new affiliations may be in order.”

    Bishop Nikon concluded: “Now is not the time to act, now is the time to stand firm on the mountain top and see the promised land of Orthodoxy in America and ascertain the best avenue in order to achieve it.
    This is evidenced by five points outlined by the members of the Holy Synod.”


    1. The OCA understands itself to be a local, indigenous, multi-ethnic, missionary Church, continuing to bring Orthodoxy to Americans.

    2. The OCA affirms that it is historically derived from Russian Orthodox Church as a historical realty; as
    the heir to the Russian Mission of 1794, the Diocese in Sitka, 1843; the Diocese in San Francisco 1870; and its relocation to New York in 1907 and the Autocephaly of 1970.

    3. The OCA is functionally autocephalous Church, electing her own bishops and Primate, without
    confirmation by any other Synod, maintaining inter-Church relationships with all other Churches, and consecrates its own chrism, according to the Tomos.

    4. The autocephaly will be fulfilled when the OCA is merged into a united Autocephalous American
    Church, recognized by all and including all.

    5. The united American church is being cast in terms of the Chambésy protocols. The OCA is prepared
    to work within the Episcopal Assembly in order to realize this goal.”

    (Editor’s note*: Metropolitan Jonah and Archbishop Nathaniel are alone among members of the Synod to have spoken in any way favorably regarding the idea of possibly “redefining” autocephaly as “maximal autonomy”. under the Russian Church. The idea has found no support among the other Bishops, in the Administration, the Metropolitan Council, nor among the clergy and lay delegates at several diocesan assemblies where the idea has been broached.)

    Question for George and other anti Stoke/pro +Jonah partisans: Where exactly is Mark wrong in this report? Why is the Holy Synod compelled to reaffirm the OCA autocephaly/ Why is Bishop Nikon telling his diocese that “maximal autonomy” have been put on the table by a minority of the Holy Synod if it is not indeed true?

    No, “the Russians are coming” is not as ridiculous as George is trying to make, by concentrating on the prominent (conservative) role that Moscow plays in the public square. For the record , I agree with the developments in ROC (even though some of its manifestations are over the top) and I have signed the Manhattan Declaration. My point is that “maximal autonomy” is a horrendous idea, one which will tear the Church apart. I do not want to be commemorating any foreign Patriarch, period. And, if +Jonah has been pursuing this idea in contravention of the stance of the Holy Synod, well that gives even more credibility to Mark, doesn’t it?

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Carl, I have always been for our Church’s autocephaly and have stated so on numerous occasions. My words on this issue stand for themselves and I would be vociferously against any “maximal autonomy.” Really, that’s a red herring, as it simply makes no sense for Moscow to revoke its tomos of autocephaly. And let’s be honest, an OCA without +Jonah’s vision will always remain a poor-man’s version of the GOA, similarly spineless and always obsequious.

      You are correct: much of what Stokoe wrote in the past was borne out by events. We also know however that as to the most recent events, he has been less than forthcoming. The leaked e-mails prove it. His comments on his own website prove it. And his demand that he serve as both a church functionary as well as a church “whistleblower” is laughable in its illogic. Give up one or the other.

      My question goes directly to his credibility. Except for what you quoted above, such statements are factual and likewise stand on their own, whether he reports them or the Man in the Moon. However, there is no way given what has transpired in the recent past that we can continue to worship at the Journalistic Church of St Stokoe. His biases, hidden agendas, and extortionist hold over Syosset (to say nothing about his animus for +Jonah) make this impossible for reasonable men.

      Will I doubt everything that emanates from keyboard in the future? Unless it’s sourced, yes. In the past, I’ve been very lazy with his take on events, giving him the benefit of the doubt. And please, as for myself, don’t take my word for anything, if you think I’ve reported something or misinterpreted something, call me out on it.

  5. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    I remember back when candidates were being sought to fill the Metropolitan seat, some people were hoping and wishing that +Hilarion Alfeyev would have been one of such candidates. I wonder how things would be today had he been chosen.

    I’m not crazy about being under under anyone, but I’d rather that it be under MP than Ecumenical Patriarchate. The MP has done SUCH an amazing job reaching out to the deaf and hard of people parishioners – there are many churches all over Russia where RSL (Russian Sign Language) is used and I know there are several deaf deacons and there are special programs at seminaries for deaf and hard of hearing people. And it all started with an interpreter back in 1991. We could certainly use some of that evangelical spirit that MP exhibits. It is my dream one day to visit one of these parishes and be able to understand everything. It is also my dream that something like this will be established here in the US.

    Not as long as people are more concerned with who has control over what, alas.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Lola, you are describing the difference between a living church and a tribal one.

  6. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome web site!

  7. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article author for your weblog. You have some really good posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Thanks!

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Kerry, please feel free to contact me privately. I’m alwayslooking for good material.

  8. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this brilliant blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  9. I read through the entire transcript of the metropolitan’s address on autocephaly, and far from seeing anything alarming, I found it a profoundly spiritual and enlightened address. As I see it, the changes the Metropolitan is hinting at would be in the context of a new united Orthodox church that includes all Orthodox churches in America. In my opinion, once a comprehensive Orthodox church is formed, the OCA and all other branches of Orthodoxy would cease to exist, and the nature of that new body’s autocephaly will be different – and better – than what we have now, because it will be recognized by all jurisdictions around the world. I found the following paragraph particularly reassuring:

    “Whatever the particularities, we remain steadfast in our vision that the only acceptable solution for North America is a fully inclusive, united autocephalous Church with a single synod of bishops, electing our own bishops and primate, and controlling our own life. We will remain committed to a vision of conciliarity, of catholicity on all levels, affirming that all Orthodox Christians should have a voice in the life of the Church. We are absolutely committed to the vision that our task is missionary, to bring the gospel to Americans, and to incorporate Americans into the communion of the Orthodox Church”

    Notice that the Metropolitan refers to a “united autocephalous Church”. He is not proposing that a united church would be without autocephaly.

    Even more important than the nuts and bolts about unification is what the Metropolitan says about the attitude that we should have in seeking a unified church, and that is a spirit of humility and repentance. By the way, the spirit of schism is a sin. The spirit of jockeying for power and political control within the church is a sin. As our Lord taught, the lease shall be the greatest, and the greatest shall be the least in His kingdom.

    No one knows exactly what a united church will look like, including the Metropolitan. One thing that is certain, though, is that no foreign hierarch can have authority over a united American church for obvious reasons. The foreign Orthodox churches owe allegiance to foreign governments, and that alone makes it absolutely impossible for a united American church to be under their authority. I have immense respect for the MP, but I would never be under the MP’s authority becuase it owes allegiance to the Russian government, and the Russian government is at odds with our own on virtually every foreign policy interest. For example, America opposes the nuclear threats from despotic countries like Iran and North Korea, and Moscow protects and defends them. I know a couple who work for the State Department who were in ROCOR for many years, but after the reunification with Moscow, they had no choice but to leave the church. Americans cannot claim one political allegiance in church and another at home. Patriotic Americans can have no allegiance to any country other than America.

    Having said all that, I do have some apprehension about an All-American church, and that is that Americans tend to adopt modernistic and politically correct attitudes from society and bring them into the church in opposition to Scripture and Holy Tradition. Right now, the most vivid example of this is the approval of homosexual activity that is so pervasive within the OCA among the bishops. Scripture and the Holy Fathers were exceptionally clear that this sin is even greater than fornication and adultery. There are many sources, but it should suffice to refer to Chrisostom’s homilies on Romans and 1 Corinthians. Chrisostom says that it is worse to “approve” of this sinful behavior than to commit the sin. Indeed, for those who commit sin, there is always the possibility of repentance. However, for those who claim that sin is not sin do not even have this recourse of repenance because they don’t even acknowledge that it is a sin.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Ken, an oustanding synopsis!

    • The problem with Metropolitan Jonah’s speech is that he doesn’t subscribe to the bellicose interpretation of the Tomos of Autocephaly that has been the OCA’s raison d’etre for the past forty years. I think this is the most brilliant document I’ve ever read on the subject of the OCA’s autocephaly. I am blown away by the fact that Metropolitan Jonah is willing to admit the issues with the autocephaly openly and without a stitch of arrogance. Bottom line: if he’s crazy, you can put me in a straitjacket, too!

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Helga, remember the snivelling letter put out by Kishkovsky after it was announced that the OCA would be allowed to attend the first Episcopal Assembly? He literally grovelled all over the place, abasing the OCA and its supposed “triumphalism.” How is +Jonah’s different? Because he didn’t grovel but was confident enough to think about our brothers in the other jurisdictions.