News and “OCANews”

Metropolitan Jonah

Metropolitan Jonah

“Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme…” (IISam 12:14)

As you are all aware, I have praised Mark Stokoe in the past. I’ve called him a stalwart and he was certainly heroic in his efforts to expose corruption at Syosset. However, I believe that Mark has crossed a line from journalist/blogmeister to propagandist. I will presently discuss why I believe much of what he wrote in his latest column is more editorial than reportage. Indeed, I will call him out as a slanderer, and one who by his actions has given “great occasion” for the enemies of the Church to blaspheme, in the poetic words of the Prophet Nathan.

First of all, let’s get the caveats out of the way. Yes, +Jonah probably alienated certain of his brother bishops. Certainly he alienated the bureaucrats who work at Syosset; that’s simply going to happen every time you speculate about selling all the property there and using the money for other things. And of course, +Jonah’s supposed squishiness regarding the OCA’s autocephaly earned him no respect from the American Church’s detractors and more than a little suspicion from the OCA itself. And of course the fact that he wanted to rehabilitate the former Rev. Kondratick and bring him to Washington was not a good idea. Ultimately though, he tried to move too fast on too many fronts.

None of the above acts were criminal, unethical, immoral, or uncanonical in and of themselves. At worst some were imprudent. In fact, I believe that the attempted rehabilitation of Kondratick was really the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Holy Synod. But that’s just my guess. What we have here was a hyper-kinetic Metropolitan brimming with great ideas who had way too much on his plate. Besides being the bishop of a territorial diocese, he was locum tenens of up to five dioceses from day one. That’s not good for any man. As to why he had all of these burdens thrust upon him, I’d like to offer an opinion: quite simply, the episcopal bench of the OCA is not deep. +Jonah was simply the best of the lot. Although that sounds like damning with faint praise, it really isn’t. In fact, I’d say that in the history of American Orthodoxy, there have been a handful of bishops up to his par. I include Sts. Innocent, Tikhon, and Raphael as his peers. More recently I’d say that the late +Iakovos had his breadth and vision. Certainly +Philip as well and +Dmitri of Dallas would have been capable Metropolitans in their prime. +Demetrios of the GOA is a kindly, saintly man who could easily unite the American jurisdictions and lead them into a respected autocephaly but the nature of the GOA is such that it is always going to be a permanent satrap of Istanbul.

Regardless, the other criticisms leveled against +Jonah by Stokoe are absurd. His Beatitude’s vision for the American Church are squarely within the mainstream of Orthodox Christianity. I especially liked his idea of breaking up the dioceses into smaller ones. That’s a fantastic idea. (Presently I am working on a major essay discussing many of these same ideas. I’ll publish it within a week.) Also, establishing a monastery in Washington is a superb idea. As is working more closely with the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the vibrant leader of Orthodoxy today.

Okay, now that we got the history out of the way, how am I justified in questioning Stokoe’s bona fides? Well, let’s look at his recent editorial. The fact that it was as well-crafted as it was shows that it took days of planning as well as concentrated cooperation with certain members of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council. Certainly some of what he wrote was real-time –the attempted firing of Rev Garklavs is a case in point. But it definitely has the feel of a well-prepared and well-thought out document. I can say this because many of the essays I write for this blog and others take weeks of preparation. I know that a lot of bloggers are middle-aged guys living in their parents’ basements eating twinkies and watching Star Trek reruns, but Stokoe is not one of these guys. His output is always first-class and show clear signs of deliberative thought and analysis. (Neither am I for that matter, this editorial alone took me the better part of two days, and I’ll probably still go in later and add a point or two.)

But inaccuracies abound, more than enough to prove my point that this was agenda-driven. They weren’t sloppy mistakes but contained enough truth to prove to me that this was largely a concerted effort. Let us consider three that popped out immediately to me:

1. His supposed “autocratic attitudes.” That simply is too ludicrous for words. If anything, +Jonah has bent over backwards to allow open and honest debate about him. I have witnessed with my own eyes people respectfully telling him that he was wrong about “re-imagining autocephaly.” I was one of them. I did this both privately and in the presence of witnesses, one of them being my parish priest. Also over my public objections, he allowed Rev. Lambrianides to come to St Vladimir’s to speak on Hellenism and Orthodoxy, even though Lambrianides gave a scathing speech at Holy Cross the year before in which he heaped scorn on the OCA. And he accepted with meekness the humiliation that the Phanar heaped on the OCA when they finally did show up at the first Episcopal Assembly. He should have demanded a seat but he didn’t. As for his role as territorial bishop and locum tenens, he has always acted in a conciliar manner with the priests and lay leaders therein. If any of this is “autocratic,” I’d hate to see what submissive is.

2. The supposedly “severely damaged relations between the OCA and Constantinople.” Are you kidding? What dream world do the people who fed Stokoe this information live in? The relations between Washington and Istanbul have been dreary at best going on for 40 years now. Worrying about relations between these two sees is like wondering what will happen to a corpse when it is shot. They simply can’t get any worse. The Phanar has delusions of grandeur regarding its prerogatives and will never give them up. If Syosset don’t know that, then they’re deluded as well.

3. That +Jonah’s speech in Dallas in 2009 “curtailed” the OCA’s invitation to the upcoming Episcopal Assembly is absurd. Istanbul was never going to invite the OCA to this conclave in the first place (see Reason #2 above.) In fact, the only reason that the OCA was invited was because +Demetrios defied the Phanar in favor of what he thought was right for the American Church. This act as so egregious in Istanbul’s eyes that it tried to fire +Demetrios. In fact, it’s still trying to get rid of him as we speak. (Who do you think leaked the story that +Demetrios is continuing to receive a pension from Greece? Ever tried to call some bureaucracy there and try to find out information like this, which incidentally, is confidential?)

I don’t know if there are any other misstatements of fact so I’ll just leave it there. After all, I wasn’t at the Holy Synod meeting but then again, neither was Stokoe. But these three alone are enough for me to doubt significant parts of the rest of it.

Now let me go forward and offer my reasoned opinions about what’s really at stake here and the agenda behind this editorial. Let me first preface it by repeating an old cliche about the life-cycles of institutions. They first start out as a cause, then they get transformed into movements. From there they because organizations. The last step in this devolution is when they become rackets. I believe that most organized religions hover in the nexus between organization and racket. We’re still in the organization stage but whenever the bureaucracies engage in turf wars they come dangerously close to the racket stage. Shibboleths abound. They talk about derivative things and they forget about the cause, which is Christ. An example would be when bishops and priests worry about their brocades and vestments and not about preaching the Gospel. Or when lay administrators shuffle papers too assiduously. The bureaucracy/committee/whatever becomes all-encompassing. Energy and talent is wasted in maintaining the status quo.

In the political sphere there’s a new buzzword. It’s called The Ruling Class. It exists for itself and all other considerations be damned. In the Church, the “servants of the servants of Christ” (and this includes the laymen and clerics at Syosset) become more interested in protecting their respective turfs and don’t take too kindly at visionaries who have new ideas. Comfort abounds. Incidentally, they become part of the socio-cultural elite.

One of the tip-offs to me that +Jonah was on the wrong side of the Ruling Class was when Stokoe castigated him for “unilaterally signing The Manhattan Declaration.” As I mentioned on another blog, what gives Stokoe the right to question whether a Christian bishop can sign a document that is in accord with his conscience? That makes absolutely no sense. I seriously doubt the other bishops on the Holy Synod would take too kindly to another person telling them that they had no right to do so. +Jonah is a bishop. He had the right to sign this document. I do as well. So does anybody else. Whether that was a prudent thing or not is completely beside the point.

This last point deserves more comment. Quite simply, I have yet to understand exactly what it is about The Manhattan Declaration that is so appalling. In a more sane civilization, one informed by Christian views, no reasonable case could be made against it. Indeed, it accorded in every particular with the stated moral tradition of the Christian Church from its very inception (see for example SCOBA’s 2003 encyclical against gay “marriage”). I for one have given up any hope whatsoever for an honest debate with a progressive as to what was so objectionable about it. At this point, I’m reduced to asking these people to lay one solitary finger on the simple word that is offensive to them. (I’d be happy if they’d tell me which syllable it is that so exercises them.) The fact that certain ecclesiarchs and theologians are shocked by it leads me to believe that they are not in accord with this tradition, for whatever reason. Perhaps they should search their own consciences and lifestyles instead of castigating those who take a more courageous approach to our civilization’s collapse. Or if the Orthodox Church’s teaching on abortion is not to their liking, I can recommend other liturgical denominations that have elevated the killing of the unborn and sodomy to sacramental status.

But perhaps I am being too judgmental here. The fact that Stokoe continues to serve on the Metropolitan Council while continuing to run a supposedly muckraking website shows that OCANews has now become propagandist. One cannot serve two masters. No journalist in good conscience can be in the administrative class. That’s a complete conflict of interest. At the very least, it casts doubts on the intentions of the text. Stokoe has done excellent work in the past, if he wants to regain credibility, he needs to resign from the Metropolitan Council.

Oh, one more thing. If Stokoe wants to continue serving on the Metropolitan Council and is so offended that the Holy Synod stayed at “luxurious accommodations” while on their pre-Lenten retreat in Santa Fe, then I suggest that he make a motion that the next meeting of the Metropolitan Council be held at some place more in keeping with his purist intentions. Whenever I travel, I usually stay at a Holiday Inn Express. They have adequate meeting rooms and their breakfast buffet is quite good. Plus you get reward points.


  1. Perhaps they should meet at a Monastery such as St Anthony’s in Apache Junction. Arizona. I’m not sure there’s much room but it’s certainly not luxury. The reward points have to wait until they repose but there’s a trade off to everything

  2. Greg Polkowski says

    I’m not sure what to make of all of this since I’m on the outside looking in, but I do find it terribly sad and dissappointing. Sad because many seem to have lost sight of what’s really important and what should truly be representative of the Christian Church. It sounds like the self-righteous squabbling and posturing of the Pharisees. If humility is the mother of all virtue, then there is very little virtue in this situation. Dissappointing because the daily struggle of the Christian life is already difficult enough without an egotistical power struggle by some of those who are suppose to be walking with us and guiding us along the path.

    It gives me an understanding of what the paralytic by the pool must have thought and felt. He just wanted to get into the pool to be healed, and those who could have helped him wanted to squabble about who was best suited to do it, the right way to do it, how many angels stirred the water, the color of the angel’s wings, and so forth. Whatever happened to the first shall be last and the last shall be first? In the meantime, and while the powers that be continue on with this un-Christlike power struggle, I’m going to continue crawling toward the pool to be healed. May God have mercy on us.

  3. George, I certainly don’t know what to make of all this. I’m in the OCA, but not long Orthodox, so take it for what it’s worth.

    The Manhattan Declaration is not an evil thing, for sure. I, for one, am happy to see it out there. But many Orthodox feel/believe, and I’m inclined to agree, that (in and of itself) it has little of real spiritual weight and is likely to be fairly inconsequential in terms of the actual influence for Christ it carries in our culture. What will carry weight is when Bishops, clergy, and Christians everywhere, Orthodox or not, put their lives where their mouths and signed writings are in terms of defending the gospel imperatives–beginning in the sphere in which Christ has called them to direct stewardship, such as their own family, parish, diocese, or jurisdiction!

    Secondly, for me personally, it is not Met. Jonah’s signing of the Declaration, etc., that disturbs me particularly, but only that he would give more attention, seemingly, to engaging in such largely symbolic public activities (the most weighty point of which istm is to be “seen by men” and which in the end, in and of themselves, have little real spiritual impact), and at the same time neglect matters of substance and practice for the care and well-being of that portion of Christ’s flock he has been elected to directly serve (such as restoring proper order and accountability in the OCA and following through on important matters of Church discipline). Quite honestly, I think this is what Mark Stokoe finds most galling about the current situation and why he has “editorialized” as he has, but I could be wrong. . . . Back to my point, though . . . Istm, that if Met. Jonah can do the latter, the former (having a public influence for good in the wider Church and culture) will take care of itself (without expressly seeking it out). This probably has applications for American Orthodox in general, not just Met. Jonah and the OCA.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Karen, as I said publicly in the past, Mark has done great work. However he has now crossed a line. In fact, even if he is ultimately right, he has used nefarious methods to acheive good ends. The ends can’t justify the means, Karen. I mean that.

      What means am I talking about? Well, first of all looking at the SMPAC report. He doesn’t have the competence to do that. Second, he released part of its contents, just enough to implicate people who may or may not be innocent. Third, the laying of the trap to ensnare +Jonah. There are others as well: the breach of episcopal confidentiality.

      Think of it: he has set himself up as Grand Inquisitor. In his view +Jonah screwed up, was too monastic, too Russo-philic, not secular, whatever. He must go.

      Remember: nothing +Jonah did was in and of itself criminal, unethical, or immoral. Some may have been blunders but none rise to the level of the ferocity of Stokoe’s attacks.

      • “. . . he has used nefarious methods to acheive good ends. The ends can’t justify the means, . . . ”

        I agree that the ends don’t justify the means, and I can’t defend Mark Stokoe’s position vis-a-vis what and how he has reported/editorialized about this issue as being proper or desirable (only perhaps, understandable on a human level, if it turns out to be fully true).

        In any case, I think my sentence about Mark was a bit of a distraction for you from my main point, which was to respond to your commentary about attitudes toward the Metropolitan’s signing of the Manhattan Declaration. I will reiterate that if the Metropolitan’s time and energy put into such as the signing of the Declaration, frequent travel and lobbying for a seat among his peers elsewhere in the Orthodox world, and courting of outsiders (such as the Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians) have come at the expense of real pastoral care for the members of the OCA and attention to correcting their financial and sexual scandals and the crisis of leadership plaguing our jurisdiction, that would explain a lot of the ruckus about these things (not evils in and of themselves, to be sure) among those who had hoped for such a corrective in the wake of the Metropolitan’s election. I just think it’s one thing to have “great ideas” for the Church at large, and quite another to get down to business and work hard applying the demands of the gospel in practical ways to address the less glamorous needs of what amounts, in terms of ecclesial institutions, to immediate family. Yet, I believe it is impossible for the Bishops of the Church (or us as members of the Church, for that matter) to truly fulfill Christ’s call without giving priority to doing the latter. “He who is faithful in little, is faithful also in much,” the Lord said. Ought not we hold to the Scriptural admonition that those appointed to positions of responsibility in the Church be only those who have learned how to order their own household properly? Titus 1:6 surely has its ecclesial application for our American Metropolitans/Archbishops–is not the Bishop’s Diocese considered his “wife?”

        • George Michalopulos says

          Karen, I’m glad you brought up the Manhattan Declaration. Please understand, it was not me who made mention of it but Stokoe himself. TMD was an important document and I myself signed it (as did Bishop +Basil of Wichita) but it was not the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as HB is concerned. It was however an important weathervane in Stokoe’s eyes and the eyes of most socio-political libertines. It simply went into his calculus. Please understand, I’m not reading his mind here, just repeating his own words.

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            As one of the original (pre-publication) signers of the Manhattan Declaration, George, I want to thank you for these comments.

      • George, if you read Stokoe’s site now, he claims he has never read the SMPAC report, and refuses to discuss his sources on the matter. So basically he’s just repeating what some unnamed source has told him. So how does Stokoe know that “the SMC case is appalling” against the Metropolitan, as he wrote in that email? I guess the unnamed source told him so.

        Maybe it’s time for the unnamed source to speak for himself, instead of hiding behind a layman.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Helga, you bring up several interesting points. I don’t know whether Stokoe saw the SMPAC report. But whether he did or didn’t, he’s civilly liable because he reported part of its contents. Yes I know, a conspirator probably revealed the contents to him. Well, that conspirator is liable as well.

          This goes to a larger problem however. As both self-styled mucrkacker/journalist on the one hand and administrator on the other, he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. It would be as if Woodward and Bernstein were members of the Congress and they massaged the news to fit their agenda. That’s not honest and by necessity calls into question his bona fides.

          And at the very least, it is prima facia evidence of a conspiracy. As I told Karen upstream, we don’t know what’s in the SMPAC report (really) and whether it implicates HB or not, but now we can never judge HB honestly because of Stokoe’s notorious spin on it. Yeah, he’s backtracking big-time now. Now that it’s possible that some people in the Church (and the MC) are thinking of legal action. And the HS itself will probably not come to his defense, that’s why he had to get Hopko to do so.

      • I agree that the purported ends certainly do not justify the means. If + Jonah is experiencing personal difficulties, we should pray for him, the Holy Synod, and the church as a whole to work through the situation in a Christian manner. This merciless and hubristic public flogging of our duly elected Metropolitan is disgusting to say the least. If OCANews is now the mouthpiece of the OCA leadership, may God have mercy on us all.

  4. (cont.) Further to my earlier comment, I get the uncomfortable feeling as a pattern emerges with the Metropolitan in his relationships with his OCA peers and fellow-members, that what may be happening is something similar to what one sees when a charismatic and well-respected “visionary” Evangelical pastor with a national or international ministry is later exposed as having sacrificed the love and care of his own wife and children for the “needs” of the ministry. Many a charismatic leader, lauded by those whose cause he is perceived to uphold and advance, has later been discovered feeding off of and abusing those with whose care he was entrusted in order to preserve and sustain his own prestige and power, in order to maintain the public image and platform he believed necessary to the advancement of the “cause” to which he devoted himself (in the case of the would-be Christian or Orthodox apologist, of his “witness for Christ/Orthodoxy”). The trouble is, I think all such hypocrisy and perversion begins with a well-intentioned evangelistic desire. I think we are probably courting, or will shortly encounter this sort of trouble, virtually every time a Christian loyalty devolves into loyalty to a “cause” (even a Christian or Orthodox cause) rather than Christ Himself. Let us hope that whatever of this sort of thing may exist with the Metropolitan is truly just the result of overburden and inexperience, not full-blown delusion, and that he will rather correct his course, if such is needed, for the benefit of the OCA . . . and beyond.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Karen, have you met HB? I have. Believe me, there is nothing cultic about him. Yes, he’s charismatic and visionary, but he’s very humble about his personal being.

      As for Stokoe, he has opened up a hornet’s nest that will ensnare many people, not just HB. Eventually, Stokoe will oversee the destruction of the American Church. And let’s be honest, it’s because of his innate sinfulness, which he does not recognize.

      Karen, I’m a sinner, but I don’t put myself over other men. He is playing with fire and he better repent.

      • George, I have merely greeted the Metropolitan when he came to my parish following a service, but not spoken to him. (I belong to a large, growing, diverse and thriving, very open and transparent, OCA parish, with well-seasoned Priests). I did not find anything “cultic” about him, to be sure, but I did sense a certain insecurity and uneasiness. I’m not at all clear that concern about something “cultic” is what is being claimed by Mark Stokoe either–only that the Metropolitan has his own strongly-felt agenda and has apparently ceased being responsive to the needs and concerns of his own Synod and OCA membership. It is possible even for someone who is quite otherwise unassuming to run roughshod over others when a strongly-felt goal is threatened. All humans, no matter how otherwise reasonable, can succumb to such. I’m not trying to suggest there is anything at all criminal or malicious about the Metropolitan’s behavior. Indeed, I have no reason to think this. I just want to allow that my above concerns *could* be the issue here, and that HB’s priorities are perhaps disordered and his timing off. The fact that he seems now to be doing his utmost to subvert and defy what seem to be quite reasonable requests of his Synod is deeply problematic for me–unless the published minutes of the Synod’s meeting in Santa Fe are completely disingenuous. . . . Is that what you believe?

      • As for your second paragraph here . . . .Wow! You clearly see Mark Stokoe as having more power than certainly I would accord him–certainly more than I imagine anyone in my parish would accord him. Destroy the American Church (and single-handedly at that, it would seem)? That seems a bit grandiose even to me–especially in the wake of the likes of Mets. Theodosius and Herman. You must have inside information about Mark, because I certainly don’t see him claiming anywhere to be sinless (quite the reverse in many of his responses to commenters in the threads!). First, he “did a good work” and now he is single-handedly going to “destroy the American Church?” So are you saying if Metropolitan Jonah is fired, that means the demise of the American Church? Now, who is raising the importance/influence of this Metropolitan to “cultic” proportions? I’m sorry, George, I believe Christ is much bigger than that and that He has more of His own within the OCA and within other jurisdictions who will continue to be faithful, despite all the struggles. This is a tempest in a teapot to Him. Generally, it seems He does His best work in the midst of human weakness.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Karen, one more thing about TMD and the pro-Life movement. Yes, I do wish that we did something more concrete than merely participate in marches, sign documents, and the like. But yet that’s an important first start, especially for a Church that’s made up of immigrants with deep-seated inferiority complexes (BTW, I’m speaking of all jurisdictions here).

          Anyway, I don’t give Stokoe any more power than that which is given to him by his cohorts in the MC and possibly the HS. Personally I think he should be ignored because his arguments don’t have a lot of weight and he has no moral authority at present. What he little he has is because of the good work he (and others) did in the past in getting rid of truly awful men.

          The problem with that is manifold. For one thing, +Jonah may be inept at times, but he’s not evil or calculation or criminal or morally reprehensible. You could not say the same thing about his two predecessors or Kondratick. Stokoe is definately fighting the last battle, as it were. And yes, I stand by what I said: he has unleashed dark forces which ultimately will take down the OCA. I’m convinced of this.

          Please respond and I’ll explain this last sentence more fully.

          • George, I am a totally ignorant (in terms of having any kind of first-hand information) neophyte. You really don’t owe me any explanations for your beliefs. And, good grief, yes, I hope you are wrong. But, my attitude is that these things are ultimately not in hands of flesh, but in God’s hands. Maybe, He needs to do more winnowing to get a base of people within American Orthodoxy who are really responsive to His leadership, and so the glory will go to Him, not to some charismatic young Bishop with feet of clay (like with Gideon in the OT). I don’t know. All I have to go on is 50-odd years of experience with people in church settings, personal experience that is a little too close for comfort with human beings (groups and individuals) who become afflicted with the delusion that the fate of the whole Church rests on their feeble shoulders (IOW, observation of what goes on when people get into positions of unchecked power), and the various religious controversies that tend to abound and go viral and then fade into oblivion when the next sensational news hits the press all the time in our adrenaline-addicted American culture–Orthodox blogdom being no exception to this pattern, it seems. I have many times been very naive and misjudged things. That is as likely to be the case here as not. With regard to Kondratick, isn’t one of the concerns regarding this Metropolitan his lack of follow-through in bringing to bear the appropriate Church discipline in Kondratick’s case? Isn’t that the real straw that broke this camel’s back? Were it not for things like that, I truly believe the Manhattan Declaration would be a complete non-issue (for most in the OCA, if not Mark Stokoe). But, as I said, I could be wrong. Probably am, even. Take it for what it’s worth.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Karen, please do not apologize. I believe you may be right about some things, certainly you are right about God’s “winnowing” of the Church. As I wrote in my first posting, I think that the attempted rehabilitation of Kondratick was a mistake. I will go further now and state that from what I know of +Jonah, he’s a very humble, loving, and merciful man. Personally, I would have left Kondratick out to dry. I think HB should have as well.

              As for an earlier posting of yours in which you said that +Jonah felt insecure in your only meeting with him, I must say that I believe you. Please understand HB is a true monk and has lived his entire adult life within the confines of a monastery. That’s a rarity in America these days. Also, because he is a normal man but with no experience in mingling with women, he is going to be very insecure. That shows to me that he is in fact normal. Homosexual men are never nervous around women, straights are.

              • George, I think you are a little misinformed about Met. Jonah’s life. From his official biography and other articles, he spent most of his 20’s in college, getting two master’s degrees from SVS, and starting a Ph.D. program at Berkeley. He took a year off to spend in Russia, that wound up being more than a year and he never returned to finish the program. In Russia, he sought to discern whether he ought to pursue the monastic life. He was eventually ordained and tonsured in his mid-30’s.

                Also, I could swear I read somewhere that he once had a girlfriend whom he had thought of marrying, but decided to become a monk instead.

                FWIW, I met him several times, and I never got the impression that he was uncomfortable talking to me alone just because I’m a female. I find his candor when talking about life issues, contraception, and marital relations to be quite refreshing.

              • Well, thank you, George. For the record, I didn’t take HB’s seeming nervousness as anything other than perhaps a bit of shyness and, no doubt, tentativeness in feeling his way through what seems to be revealing itself to be pretty much of a minefield still in the OCA in the wake of all the scandals. I am quite sure it had nothing to do with me or my sex. I suspect, rather, it was just HB’s anxiety to make a favorable impression in what is an exceptionally strong OCA parish.

          • P.S. BTW, I think if you try to explain your fears to me further, you will likely be doing little more than feeding the adrenaline addiction some American Orthodox are on, anyway. I can take you at your word that you have some good reasons for believing what you do (especially given my acquaintance with my own ignorance).

  5. Michael Bauman says

    We can attempt to parse all of the rights, wrongs, deceptions and step-on toes but the bottom line is that the savaging of Met. Jonah (regardless of his faults, mistakes) is simply wrong and must stop.

    It is a witch hunt looking for a scape-goat to sacrifice. That is satanic. NO MORE!

    In the middle of a witch hunt on cannot appeal to the rationality of the hunters–they have none.

    In the middle of a witch hunt the best one can do is to defend the hunted without desending into the anger and insanity oneself, but the hunted must be defended espeically when the hunted has obvious faults.

    Those of you in the OCA have got to stop being Hamlet and take up your swords and defend your hierarch. It is the only way. There is no middle ground. If the witch hunters win, they will not stop. Who will they come for next? Uncle Screwtape knows.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Well said, Michael. I feel demonic influence here. It’s the only thing that explains the ferocity.

  6. I have seen many blogs like this blog. Actually I challenged myself trying to commence one something like this as well, however I am not certain how to do it. How exactly is this “blogging” all about? Is it hard to learn? Must I be well versed in computers to make a blog? I am trying to put together a simple blog for my learn english writing language website. Can the functions be integrated into an existing website?

  7. I guess we’ll just have to wait two months (an eternity on the internet) and see what happens.

  8. I cannot speak about things which I know nothing about so I will have to stick to a narrow offering here. I have appreciated much that you have written across the ortho-blog-o-sphere though sometimes we part ways when you seem to be much more prepared than I to act.

    I am no progressive, though I won’t defend myself by attempting to recite my conservative bona-fides.

    In fact, it is because I am conservative that I do not support the Manhattan Declaration. There are so many wonderful clerics and laypersons on the web (yes, I know there is trash as well), but I was pleased to see the one whom I respect (on matters primarily of measured judgment and rational insight) compose a post on this vary subject.

    There are a couple of other spot references in his blog over the next couple of months, but a particularly thoughtful one is

    At any rate, I am not a very smart man. I write mostly poetry. But I felt it was good to pass on the words of someone much smarter than me. Particularly on the illness that seems to surround things such as the Manhattan Declaration.

    As for the rest of this. Lord have mercy. I used to pray for God to answer my prayers. I would say, “God please do this.” or “God please don’t..” I look at the current events and say, “God let your will be done, because I haven’t got a clue.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      David, The Manhattan Declaration is not a make-or-break thing for me. I have some friends of mine who are more conservative than me who would not sign it and asked me not to as well, even though they supported everything stated therein. For some it was cultural, others principled. Regardless, I don’t look down on anyone who won’t sign it.

      It did appear to be make-or-break for Stokoe. It was he who first brought it up. And it clearly reveals his animus to +Jonah because he wouldn’t go after +Basil of Wichita who also signed it or the dozens of other Orthodox priests who did as well. Why single out +Jonah? Because +Jonah is consequential, and he’s the primate of the OCA. The two previous primates were non-entities. With +Jonah we had a different “vibe” out there. If he came down on a cultural issue, it was going to have reverberations that the go-along-to-get-along crowd on the MC didn’t want to have to deal with. The grovelling spirit of Syosset could have no part of this.

      • Strange, I thought the implication was that Stokoe wouldn’t sign it because he’s a raving liberal (so ocatruthers seem to think). I thought the MD itself was the thing that started Stokoe being upset at Met Jonah. I’m not saying that any of this is true, I’m merely looking about at all the rumor mills and trying to see through the static and the fog.

        I can’t. Oh sure, there are some rudimentary charges that seem fairly certain. Met Jonah has been pushing things hard, the Synod seems to want to move more slowly, Stokoe is a gun and guns don’t just sit on a shelf, they get shot at things and everyone’s a bit upset that his previously desirable feature has turned against their favorite son. There are all sorts of talks of conspiracies and factions (though with all the turnover in the last 5-10 years in all areas of OCA leadership I am at a loss to see “intractable generational feuds” behind every awkward public tussle).

        I’m a new fellow on the block. After having a few conversations with a very much loved (our daughter’s Godmother) member of our parish who has been to heck and back in her own personal life and so stays out of the public life of American Orthodoxy, I am fascinated how even she knows everyone’s business and all sorts of the messiest of messes.

        I came from another folksy tradition and thought I knew a bit of who knew who, what private business was making the rounds and such, but I have never seen anything like the appetite Orthodox have for this sort of thing. Right or wrong, a scandal (and just in time for Lent) seems to be just the thing to make everyone happy.

  9. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    Thank you, George, for this balanced assessment.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Thank you, Fr. Perhaps you could touch on the cultural implications of this (from an ecumenical perspective) in your fine magazine?

  10. Thanks, George – I think your writing is good and the points are well made. I agree that the dark powers are really agitated about the OCA, and it is because (in my opinion) there are now people such as +Jonah that really want to make the Church into the Church. Not an institution, but in reality the body of Christ. The devil hates this, and seeks to distract, divert, and divide all those who would try to do this.

    This problem has shown up really strongly with the OCA, because, I think, for years this church has been marginalizing its own Creed for the social, forsaking the divine for the profane. Case in point, I have seen the FOCA journal magazine, and what is there? Old guard running it, more of a focus on social events, Bastketball, Award ceremonies, birthdays and the like. Not that there is anything that is by definition, intrinsically bad in all of this, but the way it is oriented is SOCIAL with a little Church involvement, and not LIFE IN CHRIST, with its appropriate extensions and connections, to show us that all our life activities can and should be intimately connected and surrounded by the Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church, her Gospel, and most of all, in communion with our Lord and His saints.

    The social element would probably say “that’s too religious, people have services for that, but this magazine is for Church Life…” in defense. But to that I would submit that these people should have a look at the Antiochian Word magazine, and the Divine Ascent Journal, and the Orthodox Word magazines, as well as ROCOR and MOSPAT publications in Russian. I think my point would be made. It is subtle, but it is there, and I have picked up on it for a long time, and that is why I never joined any Church organization except for the Fellowship of St John the Divine (Antiochian), because the other groups appeared to be just spiritually dead.

    I saw with my own eyes, a FOCA chapter in New Jersey that was having its social events take place DURING the All-Night Vigil, in flagrant defiance of the priest’s wishes. I don’t think anyone even came in for the Vespers part of the service – if they did it was for only minutes. Praying apparently wasn’t important to them at all. This is Christianity?? And, when the priest tried to do something about it, they used this and other various attempts by the priest to lead the parish to a truly Christian existence, and they fabricated stories about him and ran him out. And nothing has been done to correct this since then. The new priest there is a good man, but he knows what will happen to him and his family if he tries to make a stand for what’s right, and I don’t blame him for his reluctance to endanger his family, though I think it is tragic for the community as a whole that nothing is done.

    With all due respect, those who are trying to detract +Jonah for his efforts, whether he blunders or not, are in league with the Enemy of our souls. Look, St Peter did lots of things wrong. St Paul had to face off with him because he was to be corrected, but St Paul and St Peter both had something that one of the sides in the OCA controversy does not – a deep love for Christ first and foremost, and the foremost concern of both these men was “how to best spread the Gospel, and how to save the most people.” Not “don’t disturb the institution!” It’s not that +Jonah or any other hierarch, priest or other clergy or the laity, or myself is constantly right in all things. We cannot possibly be, so blinded as we are by our own passions. St Peter’s problem was along these lines- although he had come a long way towards perfection, he was impulsive and passionate, and although he was 100% sincere, sometimes he was wrong. Someone like that may be hard to talk down, but he cannot be blamed for anything more than wrong approach, provided that love for Christ is the foundation. If it is ANYTHING other than love for Christ and the people He desires to save, then the whole thing falls apart, and we really have nothing to say.

    I do not know all the bishops in the OCA, but I know a few. I profoundly respect these men, and I have no qualms about them (and maybe it is because I am either ignorant, or simply refuse to take issue with mistakes they may make, because I sense their sincerity for Christ, even in their own struggles.) But, the Enemy has a way of dividing even the faithful. The whispered gossip, the rumours, the snide remarks, the self-righteous disbelief at someone else’s actions (“I would NEVER do that!!”) allies with the desire of a darker element that has always been within the Church, the tares with the wheat, which is those people who are in the Church for their own ends, and not for the glory of God. These people seek power, to manipulate and control, to profit financially at times, and to destroy. When I see such things as are happening to Met. Jonah now, I am led to believe that there is a great locus of this darkness executing its agenda from within the Metropolitan Council, and I suspect this power cows the Holy Synod to some extent. I could be wrong, but the MC is not insured of adherence to the Orthodox Christian faith by having members which are, like the clergy, bound to defend the Chalice, even at the cost of their very lives. Instead, they are bound to protect their money, their power, their prestige. I find the idea of seeking prestige in the Christian Church laughable, since that is not, nor has it ever been the goal of the Gospel of our Lord. “Let he would lead you be the servant of ALL!!!” – there’s no room for prestige in this. There is, though, a great deal of love and respect for people who are truly the servants of all, and I believe +Jonah is certainly one of these.

    Second to last point: We talk in America often about our “rights” while we judgmentally take those rights away from others. Here’s what I mean. We have not got it right in our understanding of fallen human nature, as well as our understanding of ecclesiology, that hierarchs, all the way to Patriarch, are still first and foremost, fallen human beings, like me, like George, like Mark Stokoe, et al. As we are wrong about so many things, and we are not placed in charge of something so gravely important as a Church, a parish, a diocese, how much easier is it for one in charge of much to do wrong? Even if, and sometimes because, they mean well? I agree with George, and uphold that I am not cutting down +Jonah and then excusing it with faint praise. Far from this, I hold that he is doing what holy men and women do – they put it all on the line for Christ, and in so doing they aggravate the establishment (which is in sore need of disturbance!) , but sometimes they commit real blunders. Look at Gandhi – he wasn’t always a good speaker, he got better. His vision never wavered, and with time he got better and better at delivering it.

    Let’s remember everyone has the right to be wrong, and let’s remember that this is part of why we are instructed to forgive “up to seventy times seven” – and no, that does not mean that after wrong number 490 that it’s all over!!!

    Last point in my silliness here…

    Blogging here and other places is dangerous, since someone may be tempted to take offense by the electrons’ placement (that is, the writing) of someone else. So here I sit writing my own stream of consciousness drivel, and probably aggravating people along the way. But I do have sincere love for our Lord, Who has done so much to bring me back from the brink of Gehenna, and to bring me into this wonderfully true Faith.

    So, please forgive me if I have wrongly agitated anyone. But if I have disturbed you for the sake of our Lord, I will not apologize for that. That’s what we’re supposed to do.

    May God show His mercy on us, on the Church militant, and help us all to learn what this means, and to be honest fighters in the army of Christ, to stand against evil everywhere, starting within ourselves, that we may “dash our little ones against the stone.”

  11. Fr. Jim Rosselli says

    This is my first visit to this site, and it will certainly not be my last! I serve at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Homewood, IL, a parish of the Kyivan Patriarchate under HH +Filaret. I have met and spoken with Metropolitan +Jonah, who impressed me grreatly as a fine and gracious man who loves the Lord. I’ve ben curious about the controversy surrounding him, because I have followed his speeches and his writings. He seems like a straight-down-the-line Orthodox Christian Prelate, and a
    kind and friendly man into the bargain. Why would that offend anyone?

    I am also curious about who in Orthodoxy would want to be known as an opponent of something like the Manhattan Declaration? It’s Orthodox! To favor homosexual “marriage,” the slauighter of infants in
    what should be the safest place they will ever experience, etc., is heterodox and abominable. Who would want to admit to that, let alone defend it?

    Perhaps we are losing sight of the fact that it is Jesus Whom we serve. Perhaps we occasionally become so puffed-up over being “Orthodox,” the noun, that we forget that “orthodox” is actually an adjective. It
    defines those who have decided to keep the Apostolic Faith, the Faith as first given. Perhaps we occasionally forget that we can be as (capital-O) Orthodox as we wish, but it’s meaningless if at the same time we are (small-h) heterodox.

    Are “our own interests” really all that important? Where will they be after we move from here? For that
    matter, what are we missing, now? Life here and life Eternal are a continuity. Our life here is only part–the shortest and least-accomplished part, at that–of our Forever. We live our earthly life in Heaven’s anteroom, and are invited by our Lord to embrace each other and rejoice together in Him as His Body
    and His Family, to conform our minds and spirits to the Truth which he has graciously revealed to us,
    and to live a life that will bring us steadily closer to Him. In short, He invites us to do the things that ((even if we don’t at first realize it) will make us happy!

    Life on earth is given to us as a gift, and we make it such a chore! Jesus says, “here, live like this, and be happy,” and we answer, “No thanks, I’d rather live like that over there. But don’t worry, I’ll still get up and slog my way to church on Sunday, to show you that I’m really a fine fellow, after all.”

    It’s all so unnecessary. It’s good to visit a site where people seem to know that!

    Lenten Blessings–

    Fr. Jim +