Someone Has to Protect the Water

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From the back cover of Alaska Magaine, June, 2011 ( Click to enlarge.

Muzzling Bishops

One of the beefs Monomakhos has with those who disdain Metropolitan +Jonah is their claim that Metropolitan Jonah is not “conciliar.” You know the drill: +Jonah acts “unilaterally;” his letter to the US Congress (.pdf) about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and signing of The Manhattan Declaration is “divisive;” he risks “marginalizing” the OCA by “aligning” it with the Christian Right, and so on.

It’s all specious nonsense of course, but that doesn’t deter +Jonah’s detractors. His “unilateralism” requires that the other bishops constrain him, they argue. That’s why they passed their “nonbinding resolutions” in Chicago recently. The Stokoevites want to marginalize +Jonah by reducing his role to a mute figurehead.

Monomakhos categorically rejects their efforts. A bishop — any bishop — has the right to act and speak according to his conscience. A bishop is first the protector and teacher of the Gospel. His role is to guide his Church in living this Gospel in the concrete exigencies of the culture. That is how the tradition is carried forward from one generation to the next. If a bishop is constrained by forces outside of his office, then in the end the preaching of the Gospel will be muted and the Tradition skewed.

Bp. Benjamin’s Activism in Alaska

For that reason I do not object to Bishop Benjamin Peterson’s current involvement in a local controversy in Alaska. His Grace has lent his considerable moral authority to a project sponsored by The Renewable Resources Foundation (RRF). I don’t know many details yet but it appears that RRF is against a proposed gold and copper mine called The Pebble Project, a conflict that pits developers against environmentalists.

The Pebble Project is obviously a hot-button issue, at least locally, but that doesn’t bother me. If RRF is on the side of the angels then good for the Orthodox Church. We are Orthodox Christians and we are Americans. We believe that reasonable people can reasonably disagree on reasonable things. We believe that among men and women of goodwill the relative truths — the way that we must live as Christians in the world today — can be discerned and applied without the subterfuge of non-binding resolutions and other backroom skullduggery that is calculated to close debate under the rubric of “conciliarity.” (Here conciliarity really means everyone must agree with the Stokovites.)

What happens if +Benjamin is wrong? What happens if conservatives like myself feel +Benjamin is aligning the Church too closely to the pseudo-spirituality that informs too much of the environmentalist movement?

We discuss it. We hash out the ideas, the history, the ramifications, every constituent that informs the decision. We do not attempt to muzzle the man just because we disagree with a decision he made or stand he took.

The Video “Someone Has to Protect the Water”

First the video, then some questions:

Source: Renewable Resource Foundation. Every year the Russian Orthodox Church blesses the waters in Bristol Bay. This year however, the blessing carried with it a concerned message from the church. With the potential development of the Pebble Mine in this region, Bishop Benjamin Peterson traveled to this part of Alaska with a sense of urgency and a special message for the people of the region. This short video was taken in January of 2011 in several villages around Bristol Bay.

It’s clear +Benjamin is stepping into a political issue that has ramifications far beyond politics, just as +Jonah did with his DATD letter and his signing of the Manhattan Declaration. +Benjamin’s support of the Pebble Project is more than a mere photo-op or moral pose. Overall I find his involvement encouraging.

The Stokovite Attack on +Jonah and the Silence about +Benjamin is Inconsistent

I have to ask however, were the new rules that tried to create the bureaucratic hyper-conciliarity in operation here? Did His Grace run the video by the Holy Synod, the Metropolitan Council, the Chancellor in Syosset, or (God fobid!) Mark Stokoe? I don’t think so because he does not have to. So why the alarm when +Jonah was the featured speaker at the March for Life? Why the dressing down (by +Benjamin no less!) when +Jonah was featured in the Washington Post for his cultural involvements? Does anyone else see the inconsistency here?

Furthermore, why didn’t OCANews inform us plebeians, we denizens of the great unwashed, that one of our Bishops was involved in such a high-profile endeavor?

It is possible, especially as I look more closely into the particulars of RRF, that I may find areas of substantial disagreement with PPR. I am a cultural conservative after all. Nevertheless, I applaud +Benjamin for reaching into the larger culture. I offered the same kudos to +Demetrios Kantzavelos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese for spearheading the repeal of the death penalty in Illinois, even though I do not agree with his conclusion that the death penalty is morally illegitimate in all circumstances.

OCANews and the Stokovite Vision for the Church

It’s no secret anymore that OCANews is agenda driven. The closer we watch it, the more evident it becomes that the “news” it reports is selective and portrays the people that Stokoe dislikes in the worst possible light (“+Jonah Goes Rogue!”).

So why did OCANews ignore this report? Is is because Stokoe was not aware of it? That hardly seems likely. The video is sure to get a lot of notice. It features Fr. Michael Oleska, a high-profile priest in the OCA and a fan of OCANews. Remember, Stokoe’s sources leak like a sieve. He publishes private speeches intended only for the Holy Synod and private emails stolen from computers. Do we really believe he didn’t know about this?

Maybe our intrepid Apostle-of-Accountability-and-Transparency can dig deep into the dungeons and discover if +Benjamin vetted his involvement with the Synod. Or maybe, and most likely, he will ignore +Benjamin’s initiative because it gets too close to revealing what the the “non-binding resolutions” are really about: intimidate +Jonah to quit speaking about the things that the Stokovites disapprove of.

First they tried to oust +Jonah by branding him as unstable. That didn’t work. Now they are trying to silence him with bureaucratic duct-tape. That won’t work either.

In the meantime, enjoy the video.

Download a full size copy of the Alaska Magazine ad (.pdf).

About GShep


  1. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    His involvement in this controversy is news to me.

  2. another anon says

    Thank you for pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in Bishop Benjamin’s actions as opposed to Metropolitan Jonah’s pronouncements on DADT and statements on abortion. It is unbelievable that Jonah cannot lead without ridiculous criticisms of his actions. Isn’t it the moral responsibility of the Church to speak out on moral issues?

    And you are correct in pointing out the complexities involved in the environmental issues in the Alaskan situation. The situation in the OCA is beginning to seem more and more ridiculous with an Alice in Wonderland quality to it. Thanks again.

  3. Alf Kentigern Siewers says

    The mine project could negatively impact a number of native Orthodox communities as I understand it, and I’d unworthily encourage anyone concerned to get in touch with Fr. Michael Oleksa to see how best to support his effort. I understand that the OCA planning process this spring rejected support for it as a jurisdictional effort in its strategic planning. That to me reflects how our emphasis on strategic planning can impersonalize our Church and make it less of a family and more of an impersonal institution–reflected in the shameful treatment of our Metropolitan as our father in the Church in recent months, or in this case the lack of jurisdictional-wide support for our brothers and sisters in native Alaskan communities. After all, isn’t holy foolishness really Orthodox strategic planning? When we impersonalize our Church, we just end up with foolishness alone it seems.

    Missing in all this is the spirit of reciprocity in Apostolic Canon 34. The Canon clearly indicates that the primary concern of the Bishops should be on their local areas and not on jurisidictional government, which directive members of the Holy Synod needs to obey as well. (Currently we see a sitting diocesan Bishop for an extended period acting as interim jurisdictional chancellor contra the spirit of that Canon). If the Canon were followed in spirit, it would be extremely exceptional for Bishops to reject pastoral initiatives by the Metropolitan such as those you mention (based in his role as Pastor-in-Chief under the OCA Statute, Orthodox tradition, and also in his role as Bishop of our national capital), or vice versa for the Metropolitan not to bless major initiatives of Bishops such as this (which I’d guess he would bless, if he hasn’t already).

  4. Mat. Elizabeth says

    Perhaps the difference between the situations is simply that in the Alaskan case, since BP. Benjamin is the Locum Tenens of the Diocese of Alaskas and this issue/response falls squarely within the Diocese of Alaska and directly effects only those within Alaska. he has this perogotive which may not require the concensus of the entire Synod of Bishops. You may be comparing apples to oranges. Just saying….

    • Alf Kentigern Siewers says

      Interestingly, the Apostolic Canon requires a Bishop to receive a blessing from the Metropolitan for any important new initiatives even if in the Bishop’s own diocese. Maybe that blessing was asked and given in this situation (in any case, again, it’s I think an important project for us to support as a Church). Judging from everything that’s been going on in recent months (including Bishop Benjamin’s reported refusal to bless His Beatitude’s return for a rest at his monastery), such mutuality however may not be the norm today, unfortunately. Also, the Metropolitan’s diocese as Bishop includes Washington DC where decisions about the issues that he supported are focused, the OCA Statute gives him strong authority for jurisdiction-wide pastoral actions, and the Canon again instructs bishops to focus on their own local areas rather than Church-wide issues. So that implies that in a good canonical spirit the Metropolitan should generally bless the Bishops’ new local initiatives and vice versa the Bishops should bless the Metropolitan’s Church-wide ones (presumably so long as his positions are in accord with Orthodox tradition, which probably most people would say his stands on those initiatives were).

    • With all due respect…. Saying the destruction of Alaskan fishing industry by the poisening of the waters of Bristol Bay has nothing to do with you is akin to saying the radiation of the waters off Japan also have nothing to do with you.(only the locals need to take heed and deal with it). The killing of planet earth is a concern for all Christians and most certainly Orthodox. The quarry, opening there is the biggest in the world and is not even owned by Americans.
      This is a national issue and of great importance.
      Having said that, I am sure you believe that DADT does affect you.
      The inconsistency here is NOT whether +BB did the Right Thing but that he didn’t have to run it by,
      A Holy Synod committee, the MC and OCAnews.
      Wake up.

      • Alf Kentigern Siewers says

        I absolutely agree that the Bristol Bay situation is a Church-wide issue (see my earlier post above). It should have been included in the jurisdiction-wide strategic plan this spring as requested but it was left out, and that was while the Metropolitan had been knocked out of action so I don’t think that he can’t be blamed. In fact, I would suggest that the disrespect accorded to the Metropolitan has contributed to our apparent weakness in being able to speak with one voice as a Church on an issue now like this. And why do you make assumptions about my views on other issues? Since you brought it up, maybe you can tell us about your views on the issues that the Metropolitan supported rather than stereotyping others without knowing them.

        • Alf Kentigern Siewers says

          p.s. typo above, sorry—should read “don’t think that he can be blamed”

        • Sorry Alf, I was actually responding to Mat. Elizabeth offering which stressed the whole jurisdictional attitude regarding big issues like this. I found it off putting.
          As for my support of +Met Jonah. It is 100%. Not because I am in constant alignment with every position he takes. But because I support the patristic ideal that allows us and blesses us to have a spiritual leader instead of democracy of popular opinion.
          If +Met Jonah public stands on issues scared them enough to muzzel him. through the tactics they have now employed………. we will lose the mission of any +Met, not only Jonah.
          It seems a mob rule situation at best right now and I hope he survives it. However, it seems as your most wonderful writing has revealed the faith and trust is at an all time low.

          • Alf Kentigern Siewers says

            Thanks Faceit; forgive me, as often happens especially online I was not reading carefully enough!

            • Alf Kentigern Siewers says

              p.s. Not that I accept the compliment on any writing; our host here raised a good issue I think, and unworthily we all on all sides try to do our best as we see it, however wrong we (especially I) may end up being. But I agree with your thoughts on supporting His Beatitude very much.

              • Eleni Palmos says

                Thing is: I don’t see what is going on with the OCA (or the GOA, for that matter) to be a case of “mob rule.” It is a vocal screaming minority imposing its will on all the rest of us. And we better put our heads down, go along, put up and pay up or they will make an example of us to make the world shudder. The chilling effect.

                Example: Father Joseph Fester. Out of a job, name destroyed. An ill wife and-I-am-afraid-to-ask about the medical insurance. All on the basis of stolen emails.

                Pay attention folks.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  Thanks for your comments, Eleni. I didn’t know Father Joseph’s wife was ill. 🙁

                  • Eleni Palmos says

                    She has MS.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      This is partly of why I mean by “collateral damage.” Just as bad, where is the Christian witness in this? Did Jesus not say to Peter “forgive seventy times seven”? I guess this doesn’t include those within the Church. Ironic, isn’t it?

                    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                      Oh, wow. So sad. :-(((

  5. This is a great find, George.

    Of course, I always thought it was a little strange that Bishop Basil (Essey) and Fr. Chad from St. Vlad’s also signed the MD, and have never been criticized for it to the degree Metropolitan Jonah has.

  6. Mat. Elizabeth says

    Bishop Basil (Essey) is not in the OCA but in the Antiochian Archdiocese. He does not represent the entire OCA. Fr. Chad represents himself and by virtue of his position, St. Vladimirs Seminary, but not the entire OCA. Metropolitan Jonah does represent the entire OCA, as he is our leader. I do not believe the criticism is at all the contents of the Declaration itself but rather, the other issues involved. Our Metro. Jonah is not the only “pro-life” Bishop in the OCA by any means and is not the only person expounding and addressing the important and vital issue of LIFE.

    • Alf Kentigern Siewers says

      So far as I know His Beatitude never represented that he was the only person speaking on what you call “the important and vital issue of life,” but if you have evidence otherwise, that would be good to present. He is the First Hierarch and our father in the Church, and is given strong powers for jurisdiction-wide pastoral acts as Metropolitan by the OCA Statute. He arguably was also acting in his role as Bishop of Washington DC, and on national issues that are not the focus of the other Bishops under the Apostolic Canon. Granted that we all need a lot more mutual love these days within the Church, but under the canon that’s true of Bishops asking for His Beatitude’s blessing for any actions “of consequence” in their dioceses as well as for the Metropolitan seeking their blessing for his. So in giving and withholding such blessings, each is supposed to keep in mind their primarily local or national focus based on the Canon and tradition. That’s the “ideal” anyway, which should just be part of regular practice. But what do I know? Nothing or I wouldn’t be spending time posting here now. Please forgive me if I scandalize, and pray for me.

    • My point is that they both can be said to represent something in the same sense Metropolitan Jonah is claimed to represent the entire OCA, Bishop Basil the Antiochian Diocese of the Midwest, and Fr. Chad the seminary. But neither of them were taken to task for how they represented those institutions. Metropolitan Jonah can still do things on an individual basis, like going to visit his family or cultivating personal friendships. What did he do to make it seem that he was trying to represent the entire OCA by signing the MD?

      • He does represent the whole OCA. It’s no different than the mayor of a city writing a letter, say, in support of a criminal defendant, on city letterhead. Met. Jonah didn’t sign that thing as an individual. He’s not listed as a “person” who signed. He’s listed as a “religious leader signatory.” And he doesn’t speak for me. I support all the issues listed in the Declaration, but not the way in which Christianity is so entwined with conservative American politics. I was sickened by the fact that he signed it. I left all that crap behind when I left Evangelicalism, or so I thought.

        Ya’ll need to calm down over here. You kinda look silly.

        • The MD explicitly says those who sign it do so as individuals.

          I am not a huge political conservative myself. In fact, I can even be a bit of a hippie throwback at times. But Metropolitan Jonah is not advocating anything based on these issues just because they happen to align with conservative talking points. He speaks out because these are moral failures that are unraveling our society.

          The pro-life movement is not really the political province of conservative right-wingers alone, anyhow. That’s just a stereotype.

        • How is the MD entwined with conservative American politics?

          Simply because the people who hate them are the same?

          • What do you mean “the people who hate them are the same?”

            The MD is the same old tired political game as the “moral majority” and all that crap. For many of us Christians out here, there are other issues that are important to us, particularly in how we live out our faith. I’m not just concerned with abortion as a practice, I’m also concerned about how our country’s corporate practices and how those impact the lives of people who are trying to scrape together money to raise families, to provide health care for their children, etc. I am not just concerned about homosexual “marriage” but also about the really high divorce rate, and how American materialism and a life divorced from true community, and those aforementioned corporate stresses, play into the breakdown of our homes.

            I don’t care if he signed it individually or not. He’s not listed on the site as an “individual.” He’s listed as a religious leader, and since I’m in the OCA, he’s my religious leader and I don’t welcome his participation in this dialog in that way. Christianity, true Orthodox Christianity, is neither conservative or liberal, republican or democratic. It is a different WAY. It is the WAY. It is how I am to live, how I am to interact with my fellow citizens and my brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter if the government says my Church has to marry same-sex couples. I know we won’t. It doesn’t matter if my government says we can’t care for the poor, I know we will (and we need to do more). What matters is that my Church is doing what Christ said and if there’s persecution, we’ll do what we always do: pack up our icons and head off into the woods to pray in secret. My leaders should prepare me for that possibility, help me form my faith in such a way that I can stand firm in front of Christ, not the ballot box.

            I come visit this site, not because I agree with what you all are trying to do, but because it is like some kind of spiritual train wreck and I can’t look away. You speak of conspiracies and high-intrigue. You worry and wonder about the “lavender mafia” and all such silliness. Tell me, please, how does this help you, help me, and any others who visit grow in their faith? How does this build up the body of Christ? The Metropolitan? The Church? The Bishops? Our councils?

            • You say:

              I’m not just concerned with abortion as a practice, I’m also concerned about how our country’s corporate practices and how those impact the lives of people who are trying to scrape together money to raise families, to provide health care for their children, etc.

              The Manhattan Declaration says:

              A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination. The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot themselves speak. And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent. What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear. We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.

              Our concern is not confined to our own nation. Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and “ethnic cleansing,” the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS. We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research. And so ours is, as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.

              You say,

              I am not just concerned about homosexual “marriage” but also about the really high divorce rate, and how American materialism and a life divorced from true community, and those aforementioned corporate stresses, play into the breakdown of our homes.

              The Manhattan Declaration says,

              We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage. Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same.

              To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.

              Tell me, when you were in school, do you think a teacher would have given you a good grade on a book report if you only based your report on the reviews the book received by critics, never reading the book itself?

              • A member says

                Oh, aren’t you cute, Helga.

                I have read it. And what I see in it, or don’t, is language largely void of any calls to our materialistic culture to knock it off. I don’t see any true witness to “financial justice,” for lack of a better term. And I have a problem with that. To me, as someone who left that world (the “moral majority, Jesus-is-a-conservative-Republican world), I don’t care for it. Great for you, if you like it.

                How about we talk about the moral imperative to provide adequate health care, that our physicians behave as “un-mercenaries”? How about a pro-family stance that looks at the ways in which our culture contributes to the breakdown of the family in ways beyond just promiscuity? This is a comment thread in a blog, so we can’t really get into the meat of these issues. But I will say that I don’t want my Metropolitan handling these things the same way the schismatics and heretics do.

                Does that work for you?

                • For the record, it is this statement that is the crux of the issue for any signers of the MD:

                  “Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.”

                  The rest is an incomplete proclamation of the truth and does not pretend to be otherwise.

                  What the signers of the MD are pledging is a refusal to bend under the pressures placed on them by the prevailing culture which is increasingly finding support from government through the force of law. Some think the idea that the government would make such laws is ridiculous. The same have their heads in the sand, as many such laws have already been passed, and many more are being propounded.

                  I, too, confess a small amount of unease when our leaders enter into the ugliness of the political arena. But I also find it fascinating that those who are harshest in their criticism of the ones who do seem always to complain that they don’t go far enough. It has, moreover, been my general experience (certainly not true in every case) that those who cry the loudest about economic justice (“The government should… ” “The Church should…”) always seem to want to do it with other peoples’ money while ignoring the needs of the neighbors they encounter personally.

                  The MD is essentially a witness and a warning (and little more) to the government that if it attempts compel the signers against their moral consciences civil disobedience will follow. Yet because the civilly disobedient will no doubt be subject to some measure of persecution, it remains to be seen who are the faithful and who are simply giving lip-service to what they claim to believe.

                  May God grant me the courage to be found among the faithful.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  A member, I don’t know you personally so forgive me if I mischaracterize your stances, but all the people that I know who use such sanctimonious talk as you display here don’t really care about the issue at hand. It’s always a “well, I’d be all in favor of ‘X’ if only the other people who were in favor of ‘X’ were also in favor of ‘Y’.”

                  it’s sophistry pure and simple. Frank Schaeffer has mastered this technique wonderfully, so much so that he’s made a third, and more lucrative career, than his first or second one (when he was touring Orthodox Churches telling them to be more evangelical).

                • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

                  A member, if a person won’t stand for the unborn, the aged and the infirm — the first and weakest victims of the materialism that you rightfully decry, in the end he won’t stand for anything.

                  • Fr. Hans, AMEN!

                  • The poster formerly known as “a member.”

                    I am absolutely, 100-percent pro-life. I just don’t understand we as a culture (spiritually) seem to always stop at just arguing for the unborn. It is never right to kill the innocent. It is never right to enter into relationships God condemns. And it’s not right (though not at the same level) to promote usury, greed and all the other problems that are eroding away the American economy, our moral fabric and our peaceful way of life.

                    And Geo, you are correct. You don’t know me.

                    I have not said that I disagree with the general positions of the MD. What I am saying is that it does not go far enough to deal with the problems at hand. It is a religious equivalent of the “Oathkeepers” nonsense, promising not to do something that one has never been asked to do.

                    I want Orthodoxy in America to stand for something different, to protect the unborn in better ways, to stand for justice in better ways, to actually have an impact on this culture in a way that is less “American Christian” and more Orthodox. We came from a place historically (the 1st Century) much harsher in some ways than this one and so similar in others. They stood for more than political ideology. They loved and took care of and prayed for and hoped for. Why aren’t we doing more of that? Why are we here arguing about “lavender mafias” and Bishop so-and-so griping about Fr. what’s-his-name?

                    For God’s sake, let’s knock it off.

                    • So, RSG, since the MD doesn’t go far enough, one should not take any steps at all?


                      While righteously arguing for a whole loaf, or none, it seems that you can starve to death.

                      Can you point somewhere to a church demonstrating a better example? What is it we should emulate? How do you know?

                      The MD seems like a start.

                    • Sigh.

                      I have a problem with the “how” of the MD. I do not like American Christianity’s merger with a political party. That particular party is completely beholden to the interests ruining our culture. That particular party and those interests get what they want at the expense of citizens in large part because they snap their fingers and say “ooh, look over there: abortion and gays.” Aren’t you tired of it? I am.

                      If you go back and read my posts on this, I think Orthodoxy should stand apart from all that. We don’t need influence or to be influenced. By our existence we can change the culture and our communities in a way it has not seen and in a way we are hungry for.

                      The MD is not a start because it is nothing different. I want more for us.

                      Is that so wrong?

                    • I must have missed the part of the Manhattan Declaration where they endorsed the Republican party.

                    • Dear RSG:

                      The MD does, essentially, one thing: it tells the state that a Christian of conscience will defend–to the point of civil disobedience–his or her right to practice traditional Christianity. It simply asks for the retention of previously-allowed levels of religious freedom. I don’t see how, as a Christian, you can have any issue with that, unless you are suggesting that you dislike Christianity as it is presently constituted.

                      Some have argued that there is no need for the MD, but I think that is mistaken. As can be seen by evidence in the US and, especially, the UK, the state is becoming ever more intrusive in its efforts to enforce conformity to a civil norm. One could make a strong case that Christianity, as it has been practiced for the last 2000 years, is, in fact, on the verge of being made illegal.

                      It is one thing, for instance, for the state to permit gay civil unions; most Americans believe that all citizens are entitled to equality under the law. It is quite another, however, to enforce secular behavior on the Church by insisting that it perform wedding ceremonies for same-sexed couples on the threat of legal action. This is coming; you can see it already in the UK.

                      The MD was an acknowledgement of this hard reality.

                      I don’t know how that could be construed as a Left issue or Right issue; it is a Christian issue. I don’t have to agree with every other signer’s politics. I just have to agree with them on this one fact.

                    • Dear qwfwq,

                      Dear RSG:

                      The MD does, essentially, one thing: it tells the state that a Christian of conscience will defend–to the point of civil disobedience–his or her right to practice traditional Christianity.

                      To the extent that it does what I italicized for emphasis, no problem, at all. Bravo. 99.9999% of us are with you 100%. Asserting, however, that it “does, essentially, one thing” seems untrue to many of us. This is because what it does, very selectively and safely, is being spearheaded, largely, by those who have been comparatively silent, to be very charitable, on a whole host of other arguably relevant aspects of the “right to life” in the cosmos we actually live in, one damaged far more than is necessary by the doings in our name of a world-bullying America, domestically but especially abroad. Recall that this is still the tatters anyway of a republic governed by and for the people. All of them, not just a few greedy and cruel ones.

                      It simply asks for the retention of previously[]allowed levels of religious freedom. I don’t see how, as a Christian, you can have any issue with that, unless you are suggesting that you dislike Christianity as it is presently constituted.

                      Incorrect. We suggest that you give cause to be suspected of disliking the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was fully constituted, is now and will be, for the ages of ages. Amen.

              • Formerly “a member”

                I have no problem with the leader of my Church speaking out in this area. I have a problem with the “how.” That’s what I said before.

  7. Brilliant, George! I am 100 percent behind Bishop Benjamin’s position in this cause, and his involvement in it. And I am 100 percent behind Metropolitan Jonah in his stance on same-sex marriage and the Manhattan Declaration, for the same reasons.

    As you have discerned, however, there is rank hypocrisy here in the way Benjamin is treated by the Synod and the OCA Establishment, and the way Jonah is being treated. It is not hard to understand why. I have just about lost hope that truth and fairness will prevail in this Synod of Snakes, but I do give thanks that you keep on pointing out what’s going on. At least there will be a public record of their deeds so future church historians doing an autopsy of the OCA will have clues to go on to determine cause of death.

  8. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    I am trying to imagine a scenario in which certain bishops of old—let us say, Basil of Neo-Caesarea, Ambrose of Milan, or Cyril of Alexandria—were told that they should not express their views on disputed and publicly controversial questions without the approval of their respective synods.

    I’m trying, but so far no luck.

    Now, with respect to the signers of the Manhattan Declaration, I can speak more directly, being one of the original (pre-publication) signers and charged with the task of inviting other signers to join us, chiefly from within the ranks of the Orthodox hierarchy.

    Here is what I know:

    I am told, on unimpeachable authority, that Father Chad Hatfield, of the OCA, was the man who invited Metropolitan Jonah to sign the document.

    I am the man in the Antiochian Archdiocese who invited Bishop Basil to sign it. Bishop Basil asked me to give him 24 hours to study the document carefully. He sent me his signature the next day.

    The names of both bishops were published (like mine and Father Chad’s and Father Hans Jacobse’s) with the release of the document itself.

    A few hours prior to the release of the Manhattan Declaration, I send a message to Mark Stokoe, giving him the chance for a journalist’s coup.

    To my astonishment, Mark’s reply was negative with respect to the entire project.

    At the time, I had no idea why Mark was so negative about the Manhattan Declaration.

    Things have cleared up quite a bit since then.

    • Tiresias says

      Thank you for this interesting information, Father.

      It is worth noting that when taken to task only a couple of months ago for including ++Jonah’s “unauthorized” signing of the Manhattan Declaration in his litany of examples of Metropolital misconduct, Mr. Stokoe denied on his webite of having read the Declaration or knowing what is in it. Since Mr. Stokoe is not one to ignore the news and over 500,000 people have signed MD, his denial seemed entirely disenguous at the time. Your first-hand testimony confirms the suspicion that what he says it not to be trusted as entirely candid, transparent and accurate.

      And still he and his collaborators sit with impunity on the Metropolitan Council. This must not continue. Heaven will not be mocked.


      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        “Mr. Stokoe denied on his webite of having read the Declaration or knowing what is in it.”

        Oh goodness!

    • How thrilling for you, Father! Did you get to shake hands with Chuck Colson, too? What an honor that must have been.

      • You embarrass yourself, Mike.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Mike, a certain GOA priest tried the same thing on us at the OCL last year when he disdained the ministry of Chuck Colson. Many of us were shocked at such a brazen display of contempt for a Christian gentleman. I answered something to the effect that “even if his ‘numbers’ weren’t that good, the fact that he has spent the last 30 years in the prisons of America, ministering to the worst of the worst, must stand for something.”

        I’m sorry Mike, but your hatred for Colson doesn’t justify your arguments and in fact, speaks volumes against your arguments.

        Thought experiment: how did you feel about Arb Iakovos when he marched with MLK Jr in 1964?

        • George, Mike is a troll. I like reading comments from people who don’t agree with my point of view (which is your point of view), because they make me rethink my own assumptions. All Mike does is trash-talk people he disagrees with. I hope you’ll ban him.

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          When the Russian Orthodox Church was getting on its feet after the fall of Communism, it invited Chuck Colson and the Prison Fellowship ministry to come to Russia and teach them how to set up a ministry in their prisons. The Orthodox in Russia value the man and his work.

      • Pox on All Houses says

        I know I’d sure be proud if my name was on a document that had also been signed by Tony Perkins (the guy who laundered over 80K in regular GOP donations over to David Duke for his KKK dominated mailing list).

  9. Geo Michalopulos says

    Fr Patrick,

    As usual, your perspicacity is very much appreciated. The historical record thanks you as well for solidifying the timeline and provenance of this wonderful document.

    Thank you as well for informing my readers about this personal little quirk of Mr Stokoe, who surprisingly for a “journalist” wasn’t interested in scooping one of the biggest stories of recent times.

    The selectiveness which he evinces in his quest for Accountability and Transparency never ceases to amaze me.

    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

      I’ve been told by others I trust and have known for years that their comments have not been allowed to be posted on his site. Selective, indeed.

    • Very rarely does Stokoe throw in a “human interest” story. One recent example is the one about the Russian boy adopted with the help of the OCA. In the past, I thought that he posted those kinds of stories on occasion because he was really trying to be a news source, but it was rare that he did so because one man couldn’t do all the news alone. Nowadays, I see what ByzTex and Mystagogy are able to do. Maybe the only reason Stokoe posts those token stories is to maintain the illusion that he runs a news blog.

  10. Mat. Elizabeth says

    I am guessing that most here would not appreciate this or take the message to heart, but I suggest a reading and consideration of this newest post. Perhaps some could answer the questions posed within:

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mat. Elizabeth, wow, what a wonderful, positive, non-judgemental and unemotional way to introduce the topic and get people to actually read the message on the other end of the link! Perhaps you wish to know when I stopped beating my wife?

      Too much emotionalism? Kinda blew your whole point with your own approach didn’t you? However: Supporting the teachings of the Church has always been emotional in nature. Even saints have gone too far (St. Nicholas punching Arias is the prime example). People get emotional when stuff is important. The Church has a history of fighting with one another. So it is only to be expected. Personally, the umbrage against it seems mostly to me just another way to divert attention from the attack on Met. Jonah.

      For some, even saying that certain acts are sinful in the eyes of the Church, e.g., homosexual behavior (without regard to Mr. Stokoe’s behavior) is enough to produce a violent torrent of accusations that such a statement (and the person making it) is homophobic biggotry and there are a cart load of other sins that are much more important (to the one making the accusation) that we obvioulsy suffer from (all in the most elevated of theological language of course to prove their rationalism.

      Homosexuality is not the real issue: Scapegoating is–on both sides unfortunately. That mentality is enormously destructive. Mr. Stokoe unleased that demon. If Mr. Stokoe is an activist homosexual as well, the destructive quality of his work is increased quiet a lot because activist homosexuals deny all that the Church teaches about the nature of man, the nature of sin and the course of our salvation.

      The OCA can be brought down because one: it is, at best, a local Church and may not even really be canonically part of the Church or really share in the Apostolic authority. And two: Even if she does share in the Apostolic authority, the actions of her heirarchs and the faithful can remove her from said authority and therefore from the Church

      Several clear complaints against Bishop Mark have been made:

      1. He suspended a long-time priest and confessor suddenly and without explanation (not good pastorally even if there were adequate reason).

      2. He used a totally different rubric for the celebration of Pascha. (upsetting to be sure, but perhaps understandable everything else being equal)

      3. Taking an attitude of ‘my way or the highway’. Bishops can certainly do that, and on some things they should, but as a routine modus operandi it doesn’t really work. An educational/teaching approach works much better, don’t you think?

      4. Stealing e-mails and causing confidential communications to be published in a public and dare I say emotionalized forum (which the good bishop admits even though his statements rationalize his unethical and possibly illegal choice).

      I believe that is the gist of the conflict. #2 & #4 seem the most problematic and have been stated numerous times in both emotional and more rational ways. So the primary assumption of the author to which you link is fallacious.

      Rationally: Still have not had one person come up with even an attempt to answer the question as to what Met. Jonah has done that warrants the vitriolic public attacks he has suffered. The only answer given to what he did that is wrong is an interpretation of canon 34 which may or may not be correct. But why he is worthy of such public and personal aggression? No answers.

      To me the nature and extent of the attack on Met. Jonah is wrong and it needs to stop. That is the issue. All of the rest has a causative link to the attempt to unseat Met. Jonah and to malign him as a bishop and a person. So, you want rational, support Met. Jonah with vigor and charity. Then and only then, will rationality prevail. If you believe that +Mark has been the victim of like attacks, support him in the same manner, not with mere statements as to the irrationality and emotionalism of those who don’t believe as you do.

      • Isn,t it time to embrace Bishop Mark with the spirit of Christian Forgiveness that is so very much a part of the culture of the DOS and the example of Metropolitan Jonah. Metropolitan Jonah exhorted people to forgive Robert Kondratick and the previous administration and move on. The DOS has embraced Robert Kondratick as a parochial administrator in Venice Floria. He is part of the DOS family. Likewise, Fr. Fester who played a role in the past administration was received as Dean of St. Seraphims. Metropolitan Jonah issued a call to move on less we be spiritually destroyed. People moved on then…. now can people just move on with Bishop Mark?

        Does not the same hold true for Bishop Mark?. Is it not time to move on? Certainly forgiveness applies to everyone and not just a select few. I hope that the DOS and the parish family at St. Seraphims will forgive Bishop Mark of any offenses whether real or perceived and welcome him into the parish family as they have so many other folks. Perhaps the forgiveness of the DOS will go do far as to elect him ruling Bishop of the DOS. What an example of forgiveness that would be 🙂 !

        The question before the DOS is whether not their spirit of forgiveness is genuine or merely selective.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what happened. There’s still the problem of whether he committed a crime or not, one which the authority has yet to weigh in. Until then, trust will not be 100% certain.

          • Lola, wouldn’t it be better for all just to move on. I hope Metropolitan Jonah takes his exhortation to forgive even deeper and call up St. Seraphim’s to forgive Bishop Mark and welcome him as their Father. I hope people will rise up and speak of this publicly. Forgiveness without boundaries is a part of the DOS and the vision of Metropolitan Jonah

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Andrew, your words are correct but incomplete. Bp Mark has to in turn ask for forgiveness for all that he has done. He especially must ask forgiveness of Fr Fester for stealing his e-mails. Then he must ask forgiveness of Met +Jonah because the purpose of those e-mails was to do maximum damage to him before the HS met in Chicago.

              Let’s not forget that what he did was break trust (even if it was legal). No priest in the DoS can or will trust him until he owns up to his actions. It seems to me that a public apology is in order. Then a retirement to a monastery for a season to show the people of the South that he was truly repentant.

              • George, Robert Kondratick has never publicly repented and the Metropolitan told us to move on. Joseph Fester has never once taken an iota of accountability for being a lapsed steward of the previous administration and yet we are told to move on. The DOS has welcomed both these men as family. We should do no different with Bishop Mark.

                If we believe what the Metropolitan says to be true then the people of the DOS must move on and the bishop welcomed as the shepherd of the DOS. I simply propose that Bishop Mark be forgiven and received the same way Robert Kondratick and Joseph Fester are. It doesnt matter what they did. What matters is us and our ability to move on and forgive. The question is not Bishop Mark’s alleged action but the ability of our hearts to forgive

                • Robert Kondratic is a defrocked priest. Fr. Joseph Fester is a priest without a parish, or a job, for that matter. Where exactly is the parity? I guess when Mark is defrocked and without a job we can forgive him, even for not asking for forgiveness??? OK.

                  • Your surname wouldn’t happen to be Fester, would it?

                    I think Andrew might be suggesting this sarcastically. However, he should know that Bob Kondratick is not an employee of the Diocese of the South. The parish in Venice, Florida employs him. There is a big difference.

                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  Parity, false or real, does not change things. Basic trust must be restored. Let’s see what happens.


                  • Peter, maybe when you forgive and move on there can be trust. Why won’t you take the first step?

                    • O Hamartolos says


                      You are completely right: bishop Mark is deserving of forgiveness, whether or not he repents. However, that would only heal this side of the rift. Without him asking for it, he would still be alienated from us.

                      You also assume that he will, or should, be our bishop. You, nor I, can make that decision. The diocese as a whole must come to a conclusion about who should be our bishop. As of now, my feelings is that the diocese not see Mark as a good fit. That is neither good nor bad, it just is. No need to read into that judgementalism. No need to create a controversy where there is none. He is not our bishop and by most accounts, is unlikely to be chosen by the laity for that position.

                      Again, you are right. We can, and should, and even must forgive. But to choose him as our bishop on that one account is unwise.

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      Andrew, as a member of the DoS I’ll forgive him even if he won’t seek forgiveness from Fr Joe. My forgiveness does not erase his unsuitability to be our bishop.

                  • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                    Forgivness is a process and a two way street. Also, I am not part of the DOS. I have nothing to forgive. Ask the DOS people, which I believe they are more than willing to do.


                • Andrew,

                  First, I would direct you to a quotation taken from (then) Abbot Jonah’s talk/paper “Do not Resent.”

                  To forgive does not mean to justify the other person’s sin. It does not mean that we absolve the other person—not hold them responsible for their sin. Rather, we acknowledge that they have sinned and that it hurt us. But what do we do with that hurt? If we resent, we turn it against ourselves. But if we forgive, we accept the person for who he is, not according to his actions; we drop our judgment of the person. We realize that he is a sinner just like me. If I am aware of my own sins, I can never judge anyone. We can begin to love him as we love ourselves, and excuse his falling short as we forgive ourselves. It helps when the person who hurt us asks for forgiveness, but it is not necessary. We must always forgive: not only because God forgave us; but also because we hurt ourselves by refusing to forgive.

                  I would however, take issue with your huge leap:

                  Forgiveness without boundaries is a part of the DOS and the vision of Metropolitan Jonah.

                  I do not know where you get that. I would refer you to Met. Jonah’s statement above.

                  Forgiving Bishop Mark for the harm he has done to the parish and clergy is a work in progress. But trusting him with the diocese after seeing that he has produced that same damage before, in Fargo, in Troy, in Toledo, would display an amazing lack of discernment. By your logic, forgiving an admitted serial rapist would consist of inviting him to babysit for your three young daughters.

                  You may be confusing forgiveness with trust. Trust has been profoundly broken, and while forgiveness is key to the healing for an individual soul as well as a parish community, it is possible that trust will never be restored.

                  Andrew says:
                  June 1, 2011 at 3:31 am

                  Peter, maybe when you forgive and move on there can be trust. Why won’t you take the first step?

                  It is extremely problematic as Bishop Mark has given no indication that he feels any remorse over any of his actions. Therefore, if he feels he has done nothing wrong, why would he feel compelled to act differently? And given the damage to date, why would DOS sign up for more of the same?

                  Additionally, there are numerous other issues, not requiring forgiveness, that under close examination make +Mark a very poor fit for the DOS.

                  Andrew, you wouldn’t, by any chance, be a formerly displaced lemming?

                  • Seraphimista says

                    Andrew is baiting everybody here. I don’t think he believes a word of what he’s saying.

                • Katherine says

                  As others pointed out, Fr. Kondratick isn’t a good example, as he was disciplined by being defrocked. He was not forgiven without any consequences was he?

                  The fact is, +Bishop MARK has done a lot of damage to the flock of the DOS. A true shepherd puts the needs of the flock before his own needs. It seems like +Bishop MARK came right in and started making changes before he even knew his flock. Maybe +Bishop MARK had to be removed as Administrator for the good of the flock so that they wouldn’t be damaged even more.

                  • Jane Rachel says

                    Please stop passing judgment on Father Robert Kondratick. Fact: Fr. RSK’s case was thrown out and all the “evidence” that “proved” the allegations was rejected by a high ranking judge. Everything. He was cleared. The amount that they settled for, $250,000, was exactly equal to the amount loaned to the OCA by the Kondraticks in order to do repairs on the house they lived in, which was owned by the OCA.

                    Where did all the money go? I don’t know, but read what Monk James wrote recently on this blog. I don’t think we can ask Met Theodosius. Why did Chancellor Kondratick not “do” something about it? I don’t know.

                    Fact: What we’ve been told isn’t the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To say that “he was disciplined by being defrocked” is making a judgment that is unstable. You are accepting that it was right that he be disciplined by being defrocked. You listened to one side, but not the other side. We cannot be sure he’s guilty because the evidence and testimony casts doubt on the conclusions drawn by the SIC. There is also clear evidence that casts doubt on the ethical credibility of his judges.On the documents themselves, which we are finding out have been altered. I showed that kind of tampering a couple of weeks ago. Did you read that?

                    Listen. A high ranking judge cleared him, but in the Church, he continues to be tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life without parole. His accusers are questionable morally and may even be criminals… there are giant, gaping holes, there is truth missing. We, the jury, are not allowed by law to convict him, to watch him lose his life, and then gloat (which comes in many different guises). So, please stop saying publicly that he’s guilty. You don’t know.

                    • Okay Jane, if we apply your thinking about Robert Kondratick especially with regards to a high ranking judge then we should also apply it to Bishop Mark who at present has no legal issues against him. If American Courts are the arbiter of our Church life then people neeed to forgive Bishop Mark, forget and move on.

                      And if the DOS is really the culture of Do not Judge than Bishop Mark deseves forgiveness and the opportunity to move on.

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      I didn’t judge Bishop Mark.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  What matters in the end is that we don’t judge. You heard that Father Joseph was a “steward” of the previous administration. And from whence came that little tidbit of juicy gossip? MMMMmmmm????

                  By the way, speaking of Father Joseph, he was not supposed to interfere in another diocese, yet he did. GUILTY!! Defrock him!

                  I’ve never met Father Joseph and don’t know anything about him except what I’ve read. I never did buy into that “Bad Guy” image of him. And yes I’ve read those emails he wrote. He’s certainly determined. But look who he’s fighting. He certainly said some things…. oh, go ahead and throw what I’m saying in the trash, too.

                  In a book I read, the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. It doesn’t matter if he’s been moved to another flock, because the shepherd loves his sheep in Texas as much as his sheep in Washington, DC, so when he heard his sheep crying out from the edge of a Texas cliff, he rushed to help them. I’ll bet his Texas sheep are grateful that he did.

                  • Jane, i call someone who was Assistant Chancellor at Syosett for years a person who is a steward of the national church…….. wouldn’t you?

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      As long as it’s just a statement of fact and not used to discredit the man.

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Andrew, what does “lapsed steward of the previous administration” mean? Is it possible that what we “know” about the previous administration is shaky?

                  • No, the exact opposite is true. We know the previous administration abused and misused the money and resources of the Church. Those who were part of said adminstration whether they were chancellor, assistant chanceller etc failed in being custodians of the Church’s funds. The failed in their duty to protect the Church. and are not good stewards but lapsed and fallen stewards

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      The ADM money did not belong to the OCA. That money was managed by Fr. RSK. I don’t need to know where it went. If those who put the money in that discretionary account are okay with what happened to it, well, it’s their money.

                      There’s no proof the donations to charities were misused and abused. If you have proof, please provide it. Go ahead and link to ocanews and we’ll deal with it. I know you are stating what you think is fact, but where did you get your facts?

                      If we know for certain that documents have been altered, if we know for certain that some of the people running the show are corrupt, if we know for certain they have hidden agendas, then why do we continue to state that whatever we read that comes from them is true?

                      P.S. Apologies for the really rotten use of English in this comment.

                • Eleni Palmos says

                  The adding of Kondratick’s name here seems, to me, to be done on purpose as an attempt to influence the reader as to Father Joseph Fester and his character. Prove to me what Father Joseph allegedly did under the previous administration. Pulling out the paintbrush to draw broad strokes makes me wary.

                  As for Mark, he stole emails that he used with malice. No one should follow him. You can forgive the person but it does not mean that he has any right to guide anyone, much less a diocese.

        • back at the ranch says


          Perhaps the forgiveness of the DOS will go do far as to elect him ruling Bishop of the DOS. What an example of forgiveness that would be 🙂

          The OCA should also demonstrate this forgiveness by making Fr. J. Fester Chancellor, reinsating RSK as a priest and OCA treasurer, and sticking Bp. Nicolai back in Alaska.

          Pefect! That’s what forgiveness looks like!

          • No, actually I was thinking Nicolai for the vacant see in the DOS. Metropolitan Jonah as already reached out to him if we follow the Metropolitan’s vision of forgiveness and the forgiveness preached for years in the DOS then its obvious the DOS can welcome Nicolai into the family. Bishop Nicolai like RSK has not been convicted of any crime…. who are we to judge. Just forgive and move on….

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              It’s obvious that you don’t really believe this nonsense about forgiveness after all. I always thought it was nothing more than a pose, now you’ve proven it.

              • George, you are a good friend and I thank you for your patience as I led readers on this little thought exercise. I hope you will forgive my rantings but I have really come to believe that the entire DOS/Dallas culture is not about forgiveness, repentance or living the faith. Its about personalities and whether or not you are in the good graces of the right people. How many questionable actions have been overlooked or unquestioned because Archbishop Demetrii blesses it? And you better not question our beloved Vladyka……

                Forgiveness is for the people the DOS/Dallas in crowd likes. Its not real. Dallas looks like a clique of popular girls at your local -and you better not cross the popular girls or else you are socially ostracized.

                I also wonder what would have happened if say Fr. Fester did what Bishop Mark did and came into information that would have benefited him politically? I bet the Dallas crowd would rally around him and say how its from the good of the Church and the DOS but someone we do not like does it and whoaaaa….. its horrible.

                Maybe the problem is not Bishop Mark but St. Seraphim’s? How many other parishes and dioceses hold themselves in such high esteem as the DOS and St. Seraphim’s? Its kind of scary sometimes. Reading everything here and else where makes me wonder if Dallas is the equivalent of a big bully with a three bar cross whose bragging has gotten a little tired.

                In the end George I value your friendship and agree with you on the so many of the cultural issues you present here. But here is the deal, there is no way people of good faith and common sense like myself are going to support the Metropolitan when it means taking sides with such folks as RSK, Fr. Fester, Demetrii Royster, Nicolai Soraich, Tikhon of the West, Rod Dreher and countless other wannabes who have similar aspirations. Are these folks leaders or manipulators and to the folks who support them I simply ask….. are you being lead or being manipulated?

                Maybe this super duper DOS Orthodoxy is not all its cracked up to be?

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Vladyka +Dmitri did more for any diocese within the OCA than any other bishop. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

                  And as for the story from OCAN re personnel in Syosset, it’s interesting that no criminal charges were filed. Are you sure you want to hang your hat on what supposedly transpired?

                  • Criminal charges re: RSK? Heard of statutes of limitations, George? Or are you referring to something else?

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      The whole case was heard and thrown out, not because they could no longer convict him, but because it had no merit.

                • Andrew,

                  Ever hear of Aesop’s fables?

                  The fable of The Fox and the Grapes is one of a number which feature only a single animal protagonist. The Latin version of Phaedrus (IV.3) is terse and to the point.

                  Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked, ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.’ People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.

                  From Wikipedia

                  I invite you to consider your words in light of this fable.

                  And as you continue to throw about wild assertions, think about this. We have not seen any Garclav emails on the Internet, have we?

                  You haven’t even seen most of the data on Bishop Mark, and are unlikely to, because it is a matter to be resolved in places other than the blogosphere.

                  Seems that much of your rant of June 2 at 1:58 AM is pure projection.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  We have gone from discrediting individuals to discrediting a cathedral full of people. Everyone who threatens our status quo has been lumped into one big, sloppy pile. Now that all of them are properly disposed of (outside the camp, of course!), we can continue to live with ourselves.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  I’ll bet anything that “such folks as RSK, Fr. Fester, Demetrii Royster, Nicolai Soraich, Tikhon of the West and Dreher” (well, maybe not Dreher) know things about the real manipulators that would make your hair turn vivid shades of white and set your knees to wobbling.

                • O Hamartolos says

                  You disdain the entire community. You disdain Archbishop Dmitri. You disdain the DOS. On what basis? What have they done to you? When have you crossed them? What retaliation did you receive? What evil wrong doing did Archbship Dmitri do?

                  I ask this in all sincerity. I have held all three entities in high regard, but perhaps dates, events, people, places will help me form a clearer picture. You have made many allegations, I would simply like some concrete evidence.


                • Jesse Cone says

                  Adnrew says

                  Forgiveness is for the people the DOS/Dallas in crowd likes. Its not real. Dallas looks like a clique of popular girls at your local -and you better not cross the popular girls or else you are socially ostracized.

                  I wonder what first hand experience you have of this. I also wonder why you don’t make a similiar accusation about the Syosset/ Stokoe crowd in regard to our Primate.

                  For what it’s worth, Fr. Joseph wasn’t immediately liked at St. Seraphim. I personally had misgivings because of what I had read from Stokoe. The fact that it didn’t become embarassingly ugly and public doesn’t mean that we liked him and so whitewashed the past. So your characterization founders on my experience.

                  It seems to me that you would only be pleased with St. Seraphim if they start backing +Mark for the DOS See. That would suggest there being a disingenuous reason for you to insult an entire parish/ deanery/ diocese.

                  And for the record, I was never one of the popular girls. 🙂

    • Spartion Geometrias lost all credibility with me for two reasons:

      – Disrespectful references to Orthodox clergy. They are not simply “Paffhausen” and “Maymon”, they are His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah and His Grace Bishop Mark unless either or both are deposed by due canonical process. I can understand those references coming from non-Orthodox, since it is an acceptable way to reference most people, but an Orthodox source referring to bishops like that is either very ignorant or deliberately disrespectful.

      – Gratuitous insults. Take this one directed at an OCA seminary: “Can you think of any other place in the Church where spirituality is more unwelcome than at St. Vladimir’s, and yet Met. Jonah has done nothing to straighten up that mess.” That is a cheap shot, and is not based on any evidence, just something the blogger seems to think the reader will already “know” and agree about. This shameful and heartless attack on the St. Vladimir’s community is something I’d expect from a certain Russophile blogger, but not from anyone who could safely be taken seriously.

      As for the supposed overly exuberant admiration for Archbishop Dmitri, I have only met Archbishop Dmitri once, close to the end of his active episcopacy. He was nice enough, but I didn’t fall down and worship at his feet like so many people accuse Diocese of the South members of doing. Contrary to a lot of portrayals of him as doddering, weak, and easily manipulated, he struck me as completely lucid and sharp. I don’t agree with his inaction with regard to Archdeacon Gregory Burke, but I recognize that he did try to deal with the situation. And people criticize him over allowing the monk Andrew to stay in a monastery in New Mexico, but fail to mention the safeguards that were put into place so that Monk Andrew could work out his salvation in peace and repentance. Pokrov’s criticisms revealed more about their ignorance of Orthodox spirituality than any wrongdoing in the Diocese of the South. Based on what I know about the situation, I think Monk Andrew’s rehabilitation could be a model for dealing with other repentant pedophiles in the Church.

      Also, I personally do not currently question Bob Kondratick’s conviction by the spiritual court, and won’t start based on the evidence at hand. Some of the people involved in that have been less than scrupulous in recent affairs, but that does not in itself invalidate the determination of the spiritual court. It’s true that Kondratick was not prosecuted in criminal court, but that does not mean he was innocent, any more than Bishop Mark must be innocent of wrongdoing in the Fr. Fester email affair just because he will likely never face charges. I say this because I think the Kondratick spectre is partly being used as a scaremongering tactic by Stokoe and company (some of his stuff basically reads as “+Jonah hangs out with Kondratick’s buddies, and Kondratick is eeevul, therefore +Jonah and his supporters are eeevul too!”), and I’m not taking the bait.

      As to the matter of Bishop Mark, there is simply no evidence that his troubles in Dallas have had anything to do with Metropolitan Jonah or Fr. Fester’s influence. Fr. Fester may have been irritated with Bishop Mark about his statement about the terminology used in Santa Fe, but don’t overlook the fact that Bishop Mark AND Bishop Nikon in their Lenten letters to their dioceses were both using a boilerplate text that described Metropolitan Jonah’s leave as a “break” and a “rest”, used interchangeably with “leave of absence”, so Bishop Mark’s claims in the chat were misleading at best. It was ill-advised for Fr. Fester to get involved in the situation at St. Seraphim’s, since he was technically interfering in another diocese, but there is no evidence that I’m aware of that Fr. Fester got involved for any reason other than a love and concern for his former parish.

      SG’s labeling Fr. Fester as “the Dark Wizard” makes it sound like Metropolitan Jonah is the bumbling little Sultan in Aladdin, and Fr. Fester is Jafar, with the hypnotic snake staff! The stolen emails show that Fr. Fester gave Metropolitan Jonah some advice and friendship, but none of the purloined emails published even comes close to suggesting that he prevented Metropolitan Jonah from thinking and acting on his own initiative. I do think Fr. Fester’s active campaigning for Metropolitan Jonah was a bad idea, and he should have resolved the questions about his involvement in the Kondratick scandal first. However, Fr. Fester did not deserve the horrendous violation of the publication of those emails, nor did he deserve Fr. Thomas Hopko’s cruel and humiliating Clean Monday letter. SG pushes these violations aside as if they meant nothing, because Carthage Fr. Fester must be destroyed.

      So, that may have been a bit of a ramble, but I hope you will forgive me if I don’t find SG’s arguments very compelling.

      • Jane Rachel says

        What a good post. Once again. The only thing I want to say is that I’m convinced of Fr. Kondratick’s innocence not only because of the court process, but also because, well…. of what’s been written, and I may be the only one, but I happen to believe the two people who have written about it over the past five years. On my own, trying to figure it out, I’m sure there are mistakes in my thinking. However, I am convinced that what those two men said is true. I don’t want to talk too much about them because they always get slammed whenever their names come up. Otherwise, Helga, yep.

  11. With regard to the Manhattan Declaration, did y’all read this, explicitly:

    “We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

    The declaration, signed by whomever affiant, is on behalf of the individual. Last time I checked, I believe, people do have a sense of their own will.

    • lexcaritas says

      Thank you, Madam, for the quote. I have been trying from the beginning of this conflict to make the same point to “Jonah’s opponents.” Generally, to no avail. I hope your quotation will be more effective. it ought to be.


  12. Alf Kentigern Siewers says

    Matushka, for clarity’s sake could you outline those questions that you see posed in the article and your own answers to them? This would help with some actual discussion I think rather than mutual name-calling or stereotyping. I see a lot of emotion in this article itself, of which I’m sure we’re all guilty in terms of discussing people with whom we don’t agree, myself most of all. Its conclusion, for example, suggests that people who have gotten emotional (against His Beatitude?) will leave the church, but what evidence is there for that? In my view the disrespect of our First Hierarch (in violation of Canon 18 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and the Apostolic Canon) indeed opened up a flood of disrespect for authority in the OCA, a bit (on a much smaller scale fortunately) like what the Russian Revolution opened up . But I am hoping that the critics of our Primate will not react to the situation with Bishop Mark by becoming schismatics, and I would expect not, barring evidence to the contrary. My question would be what evidence there is of that happening, if you know?

  13. Mat. Elizabeth says

    The anonymous author of that blog posed questions regarding Bishop Mark, basically asking what really happened, so to speak. I urge those of you who seem to know what happened to share your own experiences back with that same author. My own answers are my own answers and I have fully taken up my concerns and perspectives with all appropriate authories within the Church. Thank you for asking, though. God be with you.

    • Alf Kentigern Siewers says

      You too, Matushka. Thanks for sharing your concerns here with me, an online and offline sinner, and please forgive my offenses. May the Lord grant that we all may meet and talk and know one another with love in happier times, here or hereafter.

  14. Mat. Elizabeth says

    This much more I can say: I have expressed my concerns to our Church authorities, as have many others. Now, I prayerfully trust that our local clergy, our DOS Deans, our Locum Tenens Bishop Nikon and the Holy Synod of Bishops will do the best they can to discern and serve Christ and His Holy Church in their decision making process regarding those concerns which have been expressed. Thus far, I have not been disappointed. Let us pray for all of them, that God’s will [and not our own] be done.

  15. With sincere respect to all, there is something that must be said (and I say this as one who has consistently defended +MARK’s character, if not his judgment in this case).

    Forgiveness and acceptance of a person is not the same thing as suitability for an office. The people of the DOS are obligated to forgive and must do so for the sake of their own salvation. (The same applies in the case of Mr. Stokoe, by the way). But by no means does forgiveness of offenses – even if humbly besought – automatically demand that one cry “Axios!”

    Forgiveness of persons is mandatory. Acceptance of persons and their reconciliation in the community is predicated upon repentance. Suitability for office is for the Diocese of the South and the Holy Synod to decide together as an entirely separate matter.

    This is not to make any judgments about +MARK one way or the other. It is to bring clarity to the discussion about forgiveness. We must forgive everyone for everything, but forgiveness must never be confused with the hard (and often seemingly ruthless) rules for what is actually best for the Church. Such decisions should be guided primarily by the depth of understanding of human nature found in Holy Scripture and the Sacred Canons.

    Ignoring the wisdom of the Fathers when it comes to spiritual leadership in favor of our modern notions of what constitutes forgiveness gets us into a lot of easily avoidable trouble. We are commanded to forgive. We are not commanded to ignore – quite the contrary.

  16. Mat. Elizabeth says

    May 31, 2011

    During the meeting of the Holy Synod in Chicago, IL, on May 24-27, His
    Grace Bishop Nikon, as Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South,
    conveyed Bishop Mark’s request to be relieved of his duties as
    administrator of the Diocese of the South as well as other diocesan
    responsibilities given to him previously. The Holy Synod accepted Bishop
    Nikon’s recommendations concerning Bishop Mark. Bishop Mark remains as a
    guest in the Diocese of the South. In addition to his visits to the
    Dallas area, His Grace Nikon has visited with the clergy and faithful in
    the South Florida, Orlando, and Carolinas Deaneries. On Monday and
    Tuesday, May 30 and 31, His Grace chaired a meeting of the deans to
    facilitate and finalize the procedures to be followed by the Episcopal
    Search Committee of the Diocese of the South. During this two-day
    meeting, Bishop Nikon appointed Archpriest Marcus Burch as chancellor of
    the Diocese of the South. Fr. Marcus’ duties as Rector of St John of
    the Ladder Orthodox Church in Greenville, SC, and Dean of the Carolinas
    remain the same. Furthermore, upon recommendation of the deans, Bishop
    Nikon appointed the Archpriest Theodore Pisarchuk to be Missions
    Coordinator of the Diocese of the South.


    • Does this still mean that Bishop Mark will be campaigning in the DOS and spending the DOS’s money? I still find it very disturbing that Bishop Mark is a guest here and he somehow spends money that is not his. This does not sit well with me at all.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Lilly, unfortunately you are correct. I am curious as to how much money the DoS is paying Bp Mark for the privelege of being “guest clergy.” From what I understand, the Deans were unalterably opposed to his election and his removal to Miami and demotion to glorified guest may be nothing mroe than a face-saving way for him to lie low until the dust settles or he finds another position in another diocese. (Andrew, would you like him in your diocese?)

        Personally I think this is an unworkable situation which merely kicks the can down the road, so to speak.

        Interestingly, some have speculated that things went south for Bp Mark in Dallas only after he admitted to exposing Fester’s private correspondence. This will no doubt be the Stokovite spin but the fact of the matter is that things started deteriorating for him during Clean Week and reached their climax with his unwise suspension of Fr John Anderson during Holy Week. The Fester brou-ha-ha didn’t take place until the week AFTER Pascha.

        So what does this mean? If Bp Mark has a pattern of rubbing people the wrong way, he will continue to do so in Miami. If not, then good for him. I will continue to pray for him but the fact remains that he remains unlectable in the South.

    • That’s a pity. Bishop Mark, in my experience with him, is a fine bishop and a fine human being.

    • Mat. Elizabeth says

      This just in:

      Posting of MC Minutes.

      • That Fr. Alexander’s compensation and benefits continue in place until he receives an assignment that is appropriate to the excellence and length of his priestly ministry
        In addition to above (point 1), Fr. Alexander is to be given a severance package equal to four (4) months’ salary including housing allowance

        Really? Fr. Alexander keeps his pay, benefits, housing, and job and on top of that he’s getting 4 months of “severance”? If he’s still getting paid and is going to be given another job/assignment (when they say “appropriate to the excellence and length of his priestly ministry” they mean “equal in pay”) then thats not severance, thats a “bonus”.

        Meanwhile Fr. Fester gets what? right, he gets kicked out of his housing and has to find somewhere else to live while waiting for another assignment (without compensation).

        Thats crazy talk.

        • I only wish I had those Mystery Science Theater 3000 characters reading the minutes for me. It would be so much more bearable!

          That this resolution, and the resulting documents, is a response to a unique situation. The adoption of this resolution does not create a past practice, precedent or alteration of existing or future employee policies. CARRIED WITH THREE ABSTENTIONS.

          Translation: Fr. Garklavs gets a special golden parachute as a reward for stabbing his boss in the back.

          He stated that, although he did not go to the institution requested by the Holy Synod, he did get solid evaluations and found the leave to be refreshing.

          Now, would this be his refusal to go to Ellwood City to be worked over by Fr. Thomas “gravely troubled Metropolitan” Hopko, or his refusal to go to the alcohol and drug rehab for treatment of the alcohol and drug problems he doesn’t have?

          – meeting of Fr. Mark Arey of the Greek Archdiocese with Bishop Melchisedek and Fr. Kishkovsky;

          I assume they did this after they were rebuffed by Archbishop Demetrios. Fr. Mark Arey is basically the GOARCH counterpart to Fr. Kishkovsky.

          Hey, isn’t it funny how people came down on Metropolitan Jonah for having a meeting with Patriarch Kirill, going so far as to send Bishop Melchisedek as a babysitter, but when these two try to meet with Archbishop Demetrios underhandedly, those people are curiously silent?

          Metropolitan Jonah affirmed his unequivocal support of OCA autocephaly as expressed in the Holy Synod’s statement on OCA autocephaly issued in December 2010.

          Metropolitan Jonah supports the OCA’s autocephaly? I will require a break from commenting here, for my surprise at reading this has given me a massive heart attack. (Sorry, only joking.)

          However, I was really pleased to see that they actually did discuss the issue of Metropolitan Council members no longer being eligible to hold office… oh, wait, no, they didn’t. But they did cover the Metropolitan Council members who have been exposed as trying to actively undermine their chairman’s leadership… oh, wait, no, they didn’t. Hmm. Seems like those are pretty critical issues pertaining to the viability of the Metropolitan Council’s functions under the statute. But hey, who needs good order in the church, when we can embrace the long-standing administrative traditions of backbiting and treachery?

          • Ivan Vasiliev says

            Reading the minutes brings back those old Soviet memories….almost nostalgic…. though I had some uncomfortable moments reading the (report on) the Metropolitan’s remarks. Is he playing Khrushchev 1964, or, will he be paraded around the AAC in a dunce cap with his “confession” tacked to it, a la Mao’s China at the start of the Cultural Revolution? The heartbreaker is that admitting any weakness in the presence of that lot (the Metropolitan Soviet) will never be seen as a sign of conciliation, but will be used as an excuse for further persecution. A quick look at the names of the sponsors of the motions related to Fr. Garklavs and some of the names associated with the initial SMPC (am I missing an initial here?) blow up makes for some interesting surmises from those of us who were taught to read between the lines in good old Pravda.

            Oh, and before the roof falls on me, I am not even pretending to apply the rules of Anglo-American jurisprudence to my observations. Just old fashioned USSR style guesswork–which is a whole lot more fun, if you don’t take yourself too seriously and the KGB doesn’t catch up with you!

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Andrew, that’s called “forgiveness for me, but not for thee.”

  17. Well put. The inconsistency is rather glaring, especially since Bishop BENJAMIN is acting –perhaps rightly– by conscience, but outside the well-defined moral tradition of the Church, while Metropolitan JONAH, by speaking prolife and anti-sodomy, is well within the articulated moral tradition of the Church. Benjamin may very well be doing the right thing, but Metropolitan JONAH is unquestionably doing so. Instead of taking issue with Metropolitan JONAH’s actions and words, why didn’t his brother bishops join him in signing the Manhattan Declaration, and back up his letter regarding DADT? If unity is what the Synod values, the follow the leader!

    • Cathryn Tatusko says

      Precisely, Fr. Mark–you have hit the proverbial nail on the head! Thank you.

      Cathy Tatusko

    • Now that would have been a beautiful thing!

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      “Instead of taking issue with Metropolitan JONAH’s actions and words, why didn’t his brother bishops join him in signing the Manhattan Declaration”

      In truth, they were not given the chance. We asked signatures only of those Orthodox bishops we were SURE would sign it.

      In fact, there were only three: Jonah, Basil, and Mark (Maymon).

      Bishop Mark did sign it, but his signature arrived too late to be part of the event itself.

      • Couldn’t they still sign it, though?

        Maybe they could compromise and just sign the petition to reinstate the iPhone app. 🙂

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          “Couldn’t they still sign it, though?”

          Yes, they could.

          I was thinking of the original signatures—the sponsors of the Declaration.

    • A. Arganda (Rymlianin) says

      Met. Jonah signed the document as an individual , not as the head of religious body. The whole tempest in a tea-pot scenario is surreal. Maybe our hierarchy is more lavender than even we suspect.

  18. Michael Bauman says

    I wonder if part of the opposition to the Manhattan Declaration is not the principals (they seem astoundingly un-controversial from a Christian stand point), but the call to oppose the government when its laws controvene those principals?

    For many Orthodox such action is really unthinkable. Even for those who have not drunk the kool-aide of the Obama hagiographers, or those who generally favor a statist approach, the long history in the Church of deference to government has to be an element.

    While I have no doubt that the homosexual activist agenda is part of it, I think it is a mistake to think it is the only thing.

    BTW one of the main Baptists pastors who signed it specifically said he abhors the ecclesiology and soteriology of some of the co-signers (RCC & Othodox), but the call to stand against the evil perpatrated by government was why he signed it. Many of the public objections from the Orthodox side are not nearly so charitable in their abhorance at having anything to do with those nasty heterodox publicans, er people.