Dr Joel Kalvesmaki: Essays Concerning the Orthodox Church in America

Joel Kalvesmaki

Below are several essays by Dr Joel Kalvesmaki. One examines the letter released by the Synod that alleges that Metropolitan Jonah covered up a rape. The letter was intended to serve as political cover for removing His Beatitude but was discredited almost immediately. The Synod has yet to apologize or issue a retraction.

Dr Kalvesmaki was also elected as an alternate delegate from his home parish of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington DC to the All American Council in Parma, OH next week. His credentials were pulled after publishing the essay critical of the Synod’s letter. The reason given by Bp Alexander Golitzyn was that his “sentiments” toward the Holy Synod rendered him unsuitable to represent the parish. Apparently the qualifications for being a delegate are such that you are not allowed to speak out on a letter that you know is spurious and defamed an innocent man. Or having the wrong sentiments.

When the bishops devour their own make sure to call it a light lunch or you may lose your credentials too!

Source: kalvesmaki.com | Joel Kalvesmaki

Did the OCA Bishops Lie about Metropolitan Jonah?

First published on the website of Orthodox Christian Laity on 18 September, and removed 1 October 2012.

Updates: A Bishop’s Response (2 October 2012) | No Response (2 November 2012)

Letter from Four Scholars to the Holy Synod of the OCA

Coauthored with three other scholars who are parishioners in OCA parishes, this letter appeals to the synod to clarify its July 16 statement.

Why I Disbelieve What the OCA Bishops Said about Metropolitan Jonah

A series of essays critically examining the 16 July 2012 statement released by the bishops of the Orthodox Church in America.


Part One: Many Allegations, Few Arguments

Part Two: Testing the Only Argument That Can Be Checked Publicly

Part Three: A Tale of Three Tales



Links to significant public responses, accompanied, where necessary, with my clarifications or retractions.

About the author: In 1997 Joel Kalvesmaki was received into the Orthodox faith through the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Seattle, Washington, Church of the Assumption). He joined the Orthodox Church in America (Washington, DC, St. Nicholas Cathedral) in 2001, where he has served on the parish council (2009-2011) and numerous committees. He holds a PhD in Early Christian Studies (Catholic University of America, 2006), is a member of the Orthodox Theological Society of America, and is Editor in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks.


  1. Carrying a sentiment or sentiments against the Holy Synod does not disqualify anyone, clerical or lay, from being a delegate to any Council of ;the Church, according to the Statute of the OCA, the Holy Scriptures, and the Holy Canons. To disqualify a member of the Faithful on that basis is to disdain the members of the Faithful who elected that member to be a delegate or alternate delegate. It is the sort of thing that a leader of a Sanhedrin, rather than a successor to the Apostles would do.

  2. Michael James Kinsey says

    The authors report is extensive, to the jot and tittle of the Royal Law. It also contains an unrelenting appeal to honesty. It is not unexpected that such a worthy person be excluded for expressing his reasonable reluctance to electing a new Primate. I am also glad to see the bishop can employ the Royal Law when he wants to, and I gave him a thumbs up. The ramifications of a new Primate foisted upon the OCA will create a house divided against itself, similar to what the US Government faces with the honesty of the 911 truthers being called crackpots,and idiots by the liars who actually did the attack. This divide and conquer technique is as old as history and the homosexual agenda which spured Met. Jonah deposition will have thwarted any attempt to remove it’s influence in the OCA. Accept them or be destroyed, either end works for them. The homosexual agenda can be stopped by diligence and our children made safe. I beleive Met Jonah would have got this done and this is the real reason he was deposed. I speak from looking at the methods employed against him, and my own descernment, but I offer this only as my opinion.

  3. The response of the OCA leadership to Joel is one of the reasons why the DC Cathedral is emptying out as well as people leaving across the country. Joel K. is not the problem in the OCA, he and his family are exactly the type of people the OCA needs but have been shown the door.

    Potemkin Parma, it means nothing until the OCA leadership and those who have driven this jurisdiction into the ditch repent and resign.

    Excellent work Joel. I hope every delegate reads your words and prayerfully considers responding in Parma by speaking truth to power.

  4. Joel,

    Thank you very much for your struggle. The Orthodox Church is very lucky to have you. I noticed that you converted to Orthodoxy later in your life. Are you not, in some ways, the poster child for what the OCA is supposed to be about? If the OCA can not see that you, and people like you, are the only possible chance for the church to continue, I can not see how the OCA will survive. This last sentence may sound overly dramatic but it’s the truth. One has to only spend about ten minutes perusing the typical church web site to see that many of the OCA parishes are still stuck in about the 1950’s. There’s the perogi sale coming up, the women’s organization made $200 from the halupki sale, Mr. (insert Slavic last name) passed away last week, etc. Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with this but it is the slow death of many of the OCA’s parishes. There is no outreach to the community, no real ministry to the youth, no formal religious training for adults, and no attempt to draw new people into the church.

    I’ve been to the OCA cathedral in Washington, and let’s be realistic, it’s not full. I can only imagine that this latest stunt of kicking you to the curb as a delegate has not helped attendance much either. As one who has followed the current disintegration of the OCA since around 2006, I can not but come to the conclusion that the single biggest problem in the OCA is the hierarchy. It’s like a complicit den of thieves, and they are slowing destroying the church with arrogance, stupidity, and malice.

    One thing that the hierarchy seems to have seriously failed to consider is the influence here in America of the other jurisdictions. Without dealing with the homosexuality issue, with slandering the former metropolitan, with the majority of the chancellor’s time taken up with sexual misconduct issues, with the reinstatement of a standing bishop in one of the largest dioceses of sexual misconduct, they are killing the church! I honestly don’t know anyone who would want to consider going to St. Tikhon’s seminary now and it is questionable whether anyone from my church will even go to St. Vladimir’s. Clergy I know are horribly embarrassed by these scandals. I have heard from several priests that they don’t want to concelebrate with OCA hierarchs or clergy anymore. When is this going to end?

    I am not a delegate to the Parma shindig but I sure hope and pray that any delegates who are looking at this site will seriously consider that they have the ability to right this ship. But if they go to Parma and blindly take the crappola that is going to be dished out without taking the time to speak up, they will get what they deserve. I can only hope and pray that there are at least a few good men and women who will bravely approach the microphone and take a stand. I don’t know the number of people who read this site but I’m sure it is considerable. It would also be quite unfair to one or two people who do stand up and everyone else who feels that the OCA is tumbling out of control to stand by idly and let this train wreck continue.

    I’m sure many followers of this site were in Pittsburgh at the last election. I was there as well and here is what I saw. When several people approached the microphone and wanted to discuss the scandals that had occurred, there was stone silence for a period of time. All of the bishops sat in silence except one, Metropolitan Jonah. He was the only person to approach a microphone and talk openly about what was happening in the OCA. That is exactly why he was elected. I’m afraid that the same thing is going to occur this time but no one is going to step forward. Perhaps if that happens it would be an appropriate time to ask all of the bishops to resign and start over.

    At a bare minimum, will someone at least stand up and clear Metropolitan Jonah’s name. Yes, there were a number of things he could have done differently, but he does not deserve to go down in history libeled and slandered.

  5. OCA Synod Issues Statement on Negotiations

    Motivated solely by a prayerful desire to achieve an appropriate resolution of matters of care and mutual concern both to the Orthodox Church in America and to His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah, the Church and His Eminence continue at this moment in ongoing discussions that are intended to achieve a mutual agreement and understanding that will be a Christian resolution acceptable to both.

    Metropolitan Jonah and his legal representative, together with the appointed representatives of the Church, have mutually agreed to maintain these discussions in confidence until a point in time when they can be made public to the satisfaction of the Orthodox Church in America and His Eminence, Jonah.

    This press release was for the benefit of:

    1. The Russian Orthodox Church which has not moved in its stance that the OCA must treat His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah with respect, and,

    2. To try and quell any voices of outrage who are sick of how the OCA leadership has handled this whole situation.

    I believe a deal has been struck with +Jonah and the OCA and will be announced either right before the Parma gathering or will be announced at Parma.

    The OCA leadership wants the +Jonah situation tied off before Parma so they can declare peace and bask in the glow of their, as they say “prayerful desire to achieve an appropriate resolution of matters of care and mutual concern both to the Orthodox Church in America and to His Eminence, (sic) Metropolitan Jonah…”

    However if they think this 11th hour settlement will wipe from the memory of the OCA their terrible and brutal attempts to punish His Beatitude, they are mistaken. They will have to live with this for decades to come and they will continue to pay the price for their sub-Christian behavior. Also, there is nothing stopping anyone from still voting for +Jonah at Parma or to cast a No Confidence vote in the OCA leadership.

    All that will come out of Parma is another person wearing the White Hat in a jurisdiction going the way of the dinosaurs. I can’t wait to see how the party apparachiks in Syosset spin their settlement announcement. Stay tuned.

    • Pravoslavnie says

      Yes it’s likely that both parties want to wrap up negotiations quickly, but Metropolitan Jonah’s attention is focused on something more serious this weekend. His sister Laurie, who has been hospitalized, is not recovering well from a surgery earlier this week. She is in need of everyone’s prayers.

  6. Deposing and restoring and deposing and etc. Seems to be an important part of Orthodox tradition. The OCA can now prove they are just as orthodox as their foriegn parents

    • Greggo, I laughed when I read your comment. It is true. Yet, such sadly holds for every institution that man staffs. Where there are imperfect parts, a machine will not run smoothly. Human things are unstable. Hence, the sad history of our race.

  7. Thomas Paine says

    More, more & more malarkey. This guy’s entire premise from the get-go is that + Jonah was railroaded. Typical for a Convert Russophile. It’s all blah. The Synod of the OCA decided that + Jonah did not represent them. Done, over. No conspiracy; not railroaded just a bad choice of Met. from the beginning. If this guy wants to arouse people and conspire to disrupt Parma, why should he attend? Apparently + Alexander saw that this fellow didn’t really represent the D.C. Cathedral, but a faction. And to others, people in the OCA aren’t leaving in droves nor is the OCA spiraling downward. You people must be Republicans; good at twisting reality.

    • Thomas Paine sure sounds exactly like phil r. upp and Diogenes.
      One and the same?

    • Alfred Kentigern Siewers says

      Glory to Jesus Christ!

      Well, in terms of reactionarianism, philetism, and anti-sobornost bias, your sentiments would win the daily prize in the Orthodox blogosphere, Mr. Thomas Paine, which is saying something. That would place your own party affiliation off the charts with the Skinheads I guess. But perhaps your comment is meant to be satirical and your real name is George III?

      Next time try to steer clear of the ad hominem attacks and see if you, like your namesake, can come up with some reasonable arguments–bearing in mind nonetheless that modern rationalism, as the Blessed Martyr Pavel Florensky and many other Orthodox Christians note, is not, like the heart, any deep measure for the spirit of our tradition.

      Rather, how persons treat one another as persons, or contrariwise demonically impersonalize one another as objects, speaks more to the heart of our tradition than any ancestral birthright. Certainly the real Thomas Paine knew that in rejecting inherited feudal aristocracy, at any rate.

      Please pray for me a sinner,

      Alf Kentigern Siewers

    • Mr. Paine, you are a real pain, no pun intended. You are probably right in that +Metropolitan Jonah does not represent the OCA synod, he is not homosexual and he is totally (as all Orthodox Christians should be) against abortion. He won’t be at Parma, I am sure. The OCA is spiraling downwards and the exodus has just begun, wait and see. The only possible salvation for the OCA is repentance on a goodly part of the OCA, a complete disbanding of the Syosset apparatus and a GODLY metropolitan of the order of the GODLY metropolitan that they just kicked out. If you are badmouthing Republicans (who have plenty of problems), then you must be one of the other party who left their brains in their potty when they were small children. BTW, this isn’t about politics, it is about holiness (Metropolitan Jonah) or lack of it (the synod and their fellow travelers).

    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

      Did you read every. single. page of the essays? Did you look at a.l.l. the reference links? If you haven’t done so and you’re calling all this malarkey, well, bless your heart.

      And I can assure you Joel isn’t a Republican. Sheesh. Talk about stereotyping with a broad brush.

    • Light reveals the truth says

      Thomas Paine’s comments are an excellent example of the deeply entrenched delusion of the synod, to which he seems to have a blind loyalty that bespeaks his own delusion. This entrenched delusion prevails in the MC and in the chancery, also, so any notion that forcing the retirement of just the bishops, if that were even a likelihood, is not going to “save” the OCA.

      The nature of delusion is that everything is seen backwards. Revelation after revelation has been brought forth from dark, covered recesses into the light, and we faithful see it and respond vocally with varying degrees of shock, revulsion and dismay. We call for recognition from leadership that there must be acknowledgment of their overwhelming dysfunction, and we justifiably call for retirements, laicizing, and true repentance. We see there must be change, must be cleansing. (We read that even Fr. Chad Hatfield, from within, points out to them their denial and dysfunction and pleads for agreement to get outside help.) But truly it is the nature of delusion to see it all backwards! So, against all reason, OCA leadership ignores the pleas of the faithful and continues in dysfunction, convinced that we are all wrong, we are the liars, harassers, trouble-makers, and that we are ultimately impotent. They truly believe they are right and truly believe that in the end they will triumph. They think they have only to control the AAC, elect a new metropolitan and then wait us out. They are convinced we’ll see that all the power lies with them and they are sure that the bulk of the faithful will accept their actions and fall in line. The trouble-making priests can all be dealt with in time, some sooner, some later. This is the way they really see it! They are blind to anything else! That OCA faithful will withhold finances, that there will be a mass exodus of parishioners for other jurisdictions, that the other Orthodox jurisdictions are not simply looking on passively but can be expected to react in decisive ways–in their delusion, these things do not register with them as they do with us.

      Is this state not called ‘plani’ (long-practiced craftiness, cunningness)? What is written of this state is that the only thing which ultimately opens the eyes to reality and creates an opportunity for true repentance is a complete, crushing fall! Even then, it is said, unless a person’s heart is utterly broken in the fall from delusion, there is little chance of repentance.

      I can’t be at Parma, but I hope people who can be do go to the microphones and calmly, gently, and firmly confront the bishops, chancellor, hired parliamentarian(!), and others, with the truth. I hope they ask for public apology and redress for Met. Jonah. But what is likely to do the greatest ULTIMATE good is what will undoubtedly be their rejection of reason and truth and their “success” in pulling off this farce. The aftermath of their “success” has every chance of bringing about the complete, crushing fall that is the one possibility of repentance. If I am correct about the state of OCA leadership, it seems to me that the best long-term solution is a short-term victory at Parma, followed by the consequences that the rest of us all see.

  8. Fr. George Washburn says

    Well friends:

    Here we are again. This IS the day that the Lord has made! Let’s rejoice in it!

    Without taking a partisan position on anything that he has written, either for or against (I think there are more than enough people here trying to play BOTH those positions), I want to start my comments by saying that I truly welcome the spirit in which Dr. Kalvesmaki seems to be making his contribution, and the carefulness with which he submits the evidence to analysis instead of emotive reaction. That is the sort of thing that promotes truly Christian dialogue, not reactivity, attacking, and “spins” on the truth.

    My comments focus rather on something recently published here which stands out in sharp contrast to Dr. Kalvesmaki’s contributions, the Ken Miller guest editorial. I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity or integrity of Mr. Miller himself. There is something awfully sincere and decent that shines through. But I still think he made some serious errors for understandable and preventable reasons.

    Let’s start with the fact that the very nature of these instantaneous internet exchanges promotes hasty, partisan reactions among the participants and bystanders. There is a premium on fast, hard-hitting and emotive responses, and little or no incentive to reflection and careful evidence gathering or analysis. Wasn’t some military leader of the WWII era known for a comment about “he who gets there firstest with the mostest?” The internet did not invent the human tendency to hastily rationalize one’s own partisan beliefs or devalue the ideas and judge the conduct of one’s perceived opponents, but it sure exacerbates it.

    I believe we have seen an example of this in the Miller editorial regarding the Fr. Vasile Susan issue. It is possible to trace how a series of axe-grinder errors, whether completely innocent or not I cannot really say, have resulted in a false charge being made.

    That charge can be found in an emotive pronouncement late in the Miller editorial: ” It is unconscionable that a faithful pries like Fr. Vasile was removed from his parish without any charges or explanation….” (we will leave the pronouncement of “faithful out of this for now, but in passing let me say that I do not believe Mr. Miller or pokrov or monomakhos have the calling or experience, and have not done the investigation necessary, to pronounce Fr. Suan faithful or unfaithful, and therefore ought to shrink like crazy from so stating)

    Where did the statement “never given a reason” come from? Not from the supposed “transcript” as Mr. Miller dubs it of the alleged exchange between the lat Abp. Job and Fr. Susan. (I have very significant questions about that document which I may try at some point soon to explain.) I have read it through several times and do not find in it any claim that Fr. Susan was never told a reason for his ouster. Please correct me if I overlooked it.

    Such a statement may be found somewhere in the many, many pages of the Fr. Susan documents pokrov has posted. I tried to read them, and each time found myself crawling around on the floor cross-eyed after two or three pages. I did not notice any place in those documents where Fr. Susan claimed he was never given a reason. By all means correct me if I missed it; I am sure I missed a lot that was in there, a whole lot.

    I think that Mr. Miller got that impression about no charges ever having been stated from the text of pokrov’s editorial remarks on the page where one finds links to the Susan documents. There pokrov pronounces , without citing us to any source in Susan himself, let alone a more objective or authoritative source or independent pokrov investigation, “Susan was never given a reason for Popp’s actions,….”

    I believe that pokrov was dead wrong in so stating. Why? Yesterday I obtained file stamped copies of two court orders issued by Judge Moshe Jacobius of the Cook County Chancery Court in Fr. Vasile’s lawsuit against the Church and the bishops, including Metropolitan Jonah. The orders are dated July 15, 2011 and February 9, 2012. I read them through page by page.

    The orders include the judge’s detailed analysis, count by count and allegation by allegation, of the complaint Fr. Vasile filed. For the uninitiated a complaint is the document filed by the person who starts a lawsuit in which he tells the judge what he thinks the defendants did wrong, and what the judge ought to do about it.

    The judge specifically analyzed two counts in the complaint in which Fr. Vasile claimed money damages against Abp Nathaniel for sending two letters to Romanian Orthodox Christians, including the parishioners of the church from which he was removed, stating that Fr. Vasile had been removed for disloyalty. (The judge threw out those two counts, and the rest of the lawsuit too; his decision is on appeal.)

    I am 110% sure that the judge was reading the allegations on that complaint clearly, exactly as written. And those allegations, when you boil them down, said to the court: “Give me a big money judgment against Abp. Nathaniel for telling people that I was removed for disloyalty.” Fr. Vasile doubtless disputes the *accuracy* or validity of the reason but it is simply false and unfair to claim he was totally ignored and stonewalled and given nothing.

    How did we get misinformed about this? It is not possible to say with complete certainty, but I think the most probable explanation is there for us to discern if we are open to it: axe-grinding.

    An axe-grinder is someone with a deeply held interest in a certain position or outcome, either for himself or against others. An axe-grinder becomes so sure of his own rightness and certain other people’s wrongness that he presents a partisan and unbalanced perspective as if it were the whole story, omits the kind of normal fact checking he would do if allegations arose in a different context, or worst of all sometimes changes/”spins” the facts to suit the desired outcome.

    Fr. Vasile, to say the least is an axe-grinder who presents only his own side of the story. He submitted his side to pokrov.

    The pokrov ladies are well known for commonly choosing the point of view in any disagreement that is least favorable to Orthodox hierarchs, and they seem to be the source of the pronouncement that Fr. Vasile was “never given a reason” even though for the last seven years he has been suing Abp. Nathaniel for big money for having *stated* a reason in writing!!!

    Then another axe-grinder, Mr. Miller, who is obviously aggrieved about Met. Jonah, sees in the Susan/pokrov statements a chance to denigrate one of those who seems to have opposed him. Abp. Nathaniel. And so without checking the facts Mr. Miller seems to have repeated pokrov’s error in stating that Fr. Vasile was “never given a reason.”

    And if our gracious and entirely well-meaning host will forgive me, he too grinds an axe for Met. Jonah and therefore accepted Mr. Miller’s partisan statement about “never given a reason” and published the guest editorial without checking with the Archbishop or others who might know to see if it was true. Checking of facts is of the essence of objective editorial function, and we would all want a fellow Christian to do so before a public accusation against us.

    So we have a plausible tale of how a one-sided view of matters originating from the central figure morphs into an understandable, but nevertheless false misstatement about the evidence (“never given a reason”) and then gets passed on into the middle of a highly-charged run-up to a very important meeting at which the person who has been mischaracterized as having refused to give a reason will be a key participant. I do NOT claim to know if any of the people I call axe-grinders here did anything more than innocently and mistakenly fail to check or present all facts, but I am confident that they at least did that. I lack evidence or insight to know if there was anything beyond mistakes or oversight, and do not accuse them of more.

    If, as Proverbs tells us, that among the seven things God hates is the person who sows discord among brethren, then from the editor on down there needs to be so much less reactivity and partisan axe-grinding from all sides lest the ones who are giving themselves license to make or pass on wrong claims without fact-checking find themselves ” the sons of discord sowing.” And let me beg the pardon of those who may think I have wasted a lot of words on a rather peripheral point. I only seized on it and tried to tease out what really happened because many years of sad experience with disputation among Christians have taught me that most of it could have been avoided, or at least made more productive, if people avoided axe-grinding on little stuff because little disconnects always tend to metastasize into bigger ones.

    Let’s instead show the calm, deliberate, epithet and loaded terminology-free approach of Dr. Kalvesmaki whether or not we start with…or end up in …agreement or disagreement with his conclusions.


    Fr. George

    • I dunno, Fr. George. Does a label of “disloyal” answer the question or beg a lot more questions? It’s a bit like saying you don’t want to be my friend because of “unhealthy dynamics” or you got divorced because of “irreconcilable differences”.

      As for the emotions, I prefer the cold, hard logic myself, but I doubt it will have much influence on Jonah’s abusers. They are committed to “irreconcilable differences.” They do not need anymore coldness or hardness than they already have. They know the truth, they know what’s going on, and they do not wish to reason with any man.

      The shepards are needed, but they cannot bring unity and peace to the flock if they are not trustworthy men. No one can trust these men after what they have done to their head. How do you overcome this problem?

  9. Thank you very much indeed, Dr. Kalvesmaki! You have stepped in where no hierarch would and have, using the tools of your proven scholarship (almost it not totally absent from the counsels of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council of today’s OCA) examined all the printed and published material related to the vacating of the Chair of the First Hierarch of the Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America. You have weighed the contents of all that material with an objective, unprejudiced and even often disinterested pair of eyes and given us the results of your consideration thereof and of your competence. One would have assumed that any Hierarch in preparing for a council of the Church would not only NOT exclude your counsel from that council, but invite it and thank the Lord God for it!
    But no….this is on a much smaller scale, a modern and, may I say, sleazy reenactment of the dreadful exiling of St. Athanasius from the counsels of the Church!! The OCA of today is not, of course, concerned with any issues to compare with the heresy of Arianism: it is concerned with bureaucratic management and struggles for power, with investigation of sins and publication of them and of guarding “the bag”, i.e, the money, to the exclusion of churchly or religious/spiritual matters.
    Again, thanks very much and may the Lord bless you!

  10. Finally got around to reading the essays a 3 AM this morning and found them to all be gone. Reason: no response from the hosting server. Hmmm . . . hopefully they will come back, I should have read them when my wife told me to; is procrastination a sin? lol