Oleksa’s reply: What Does This Mean for Autocephaly?

In the interest of fairness, Monomokhos has decided to publish Fr Michael Oleksa’s letter to the Alaska Dispatch explaining his reasons for oppositing the Pebble Project mining controversy. As our readers know, the story as related in the most recent edition of the AD did not show Fr Oleksa in the best light.

As we have told our readers back in June when this story first broke, and reminded them again on Friday, Monomakhos has taken no editorial position one or the other regarding the rightness of the project or Oleksa’s opposition to it.

However his rebuttal unwittingly raises new questions about the status of the OCA and its autocephaly. Please direct your attention to the last paragraph in which he praises the Ecumenical Patriarch and his novel doctrines about “sins against the earth.”

The Pebble problem is just one practical, clear situation in which the Church has been called upon to†apply Her vision, her theology, her experience, Her Wisdom and most of all Her Holiness to a particular context. If we are blamed for this, I would maintain that we are only doing what the Church must alwaydo: proclaim the Kingdom in this place, for these people at this time.

If His All Holiness Bartholomew I is known in Europe as the Green Patriarch, we, I think, in North†America, should be known as the Green Church.

And the Ecumenical Patriarch clearly believes there are sins against the earth. Here our Alaska Native People could not agree more.

In addition, he christens +Bartholomew “The Green Patriarch” and thinks that the North American Orthodox Church should be a “Green Church.” To what end? Could not Oleksa have found a patristic citation for preserving the environment, or perhaps the Alaska church’s own acculturation in the lives and traditions of the natives, going on over two hundred years now?

Why this sudden need to look to the present Patriarch of Constantinople for doctrinal support for something that is already innate in the Orthodox Church of Alaksa?

A reasonable assumption could be made that Oleksa’s appeal to Constinopolitan authority will be viewed as a plea to place the OCA (or a united, trans-jurisdictional church) under the omorphor of Istanbul. It certainly will be viewed that way within the precincts of the Phanar, adding as it does yet another rationale for the Phanariote triumphalists in their never-ending quest for universal jurisdiction.


  1. Fr. Stephen Lourie says

    I just unsubscribed.
    You just invented the jump to conclusions ma t.
    Your editorial gossip mongering is not promoting the message of
    the Gospel. Not even asking relevant questions nor making relevant comments.
    Rather you are making up news. There is nothing here to report.
    God bless you. You truly are alone in this fight.

  2. George – there doesn’t seem to be a link to Fr. Oleksa’s letter in the Alaska Dispatch. I tried looking for it at the paper’s website but had no luck. Could you please provide a link to the url? Thanks.

  3. George Michalopulos says

    Herc, please bear with me. It should be up within 24 hrs. I got the original and complete editorial off of the Indiana.edu listserve. If there’s a discrepancy between it and The Alaska Dispatch, I’ll note it and correct it.

    To all: sorry that I scooped TAD. (I guess that’s why they call them “scoops.”)

  4. I have to agree with Fr. Stephen on this one, George. Not, by the way, am I opposed to the mining venture–not knowing the relevevant facts. But I can’t see the harm in Fr. Michael’s appeal to ++Bartholomew’s environmentalist views, nor am I sure that they are all that “novel.” In fact, the case can be made from the “dominion mandate,” in Genesis 1 and 2, q.v. the relevant texts:

    Genesis 1:26-28 26 And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have DOMINION (i.e. as a father cherishes his household) over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “BE FRUITFUL, and multiply, and REPLENISH the earth (i.e. fill it to the full), and SUBDUE (i.e. rule, regulate, put in godly order) it: and have DOMINION over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

    Genesis 2:5-15 5 . . . and there was NOT A MAN TO TILL THE GROUND (to work it; to seve it–i.e. to beautify it and make it fruitful). . . . 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. . . . 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden TO DRESS IT AND KEEP IT (to beautify it and make it fruitful and to protect it).

    For emphasis and focus, I’ve capitalized the key words in these texts: “to have dominion,” “to subdue,” “to till/dress,”
    and “to keep.” A careful study of the terms both from the Hebrew/Greek originals and in the light of how Christ has shown us to underderstand lordship and fruitfulness may very well support ++Bartholomew’s and Fr. Michael’s environmental concerns–though not necessarily their particular political application (though it could given the right facts and circumstances).

    Christ is in our midst.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Lex, much to think about here. I very much agree with you about our stewardship of the earth.

      All, I have no problem with Fr Oleksa’s use of the EP’s environmental theology (up to a point: there is a fine line between this and Gaia-worship). I was just trying to point out that the position of the Phanar is so weak on so many fronts that it looks to any positive reference, which it then churns out at a later date as authoritative. I’ve seen this happen time and time again.

      Example: In the past, Phanariotes and their sympathizers trotted out a disreputable legend that Christopher Columbus was Greek, hence the idea that the Americas fall within the EP’s jurisdiction. When this one was laughed out of court, a very minor, very whimsical (and hastily quashed) legend about Byzantine monks sailing to America pre-Columbus was used to buttress these foolish claims. This was all during the hullabaloo a few years ago about Canon 28 as the be-all and end-all of dyptich-worship.

      All I’m saying is that Oleksa would have been on firmer ground citing patristic and Scriptural sources rather than what is emanating from the Phanar (much of which is based on questionable science).

      • All In The Family says


        Fr Michael was playing to the media with his “GP” remark. He is an excellent PR person, knows the right thing to say to the audience he is speaking and to get a headline or himself in the Alaskan public eye. He has done many good things to promote the native Alaskan culture.

        His media savvy also worked wonders when he teamed up with Mark Stokoe to help oust Bp. Nikolai. The OCA Synod and Archpriest Alexander Garklavs bought Mr. Stokoe’s unchallenged line of bull, and of course the Metropolitan Council shook in their boots when Sidebottom brought his unfair labor relations case against Bp. Nikolai, which, by the way, was filed and represented by the same law firm that Bp. Mark (Maymon) got his opinion that it was ok to steal emails from the former Chancellor of the Diocese of the South.

        Of course, Fr Michael unlike Will Rogers, “has never met a bishop he liked.” He despised + Gregory, + Innocent and + Nikolai in Alaska and when he had a brief move to the Diocese of the West, he didn’t miss a beat in locking horns with Bp. Tikhon. His many attempts over the past several years to leave Alaska and be assigned in the lower 48 has met with no takers. It seems he is best suited for Alaska.

        You will notice that he has blocked every candidate offered by Jonah for Alaska. Who then is he waiting for? Who is the candidate that +Benjamin and Fr. Michael really want for Alaska? That is becoming the real question that folks should be asking.

        No, George, invoking the name of the EP was safe and played to the media. Keeping Benjamin close until Fr Michael get the the bishop he wants for AK, that is the real question.

        Kudos to Fr Michael for trying to protect the Alaskan lands, but I think it was tacky using the Church’s worship to strum the emotionalism of the issue and any potential kickbacks from a friendly billionaire.

        • Very interesting. Thanks for fleshing the story more. I hadn’t thought through the angle about Oleksa’s delaying tactics regarding the election of a pliable anti-+Jonah toady for the office of bishop. Although I have wondered why Stokoe seems so exercized about the fact that we in the South haven’t had a bishop even though Alaska’s gone on longer without one.

          We could kill two birds with one stone. Let’s get the HS to elect Mark Maymon as Bishop of Alaska. Since Oleksa and he have a working relationship with the same law firm, they should get along famously.

          • Some moose are like that says

            George, where is your love for the Alaskan Orthodox people? What have they ever done to you to merit such indifference to their spiritual health?
            The combination of Fr Oleksa and team Stokoe is more than enough reason to know Alaskan Orthodox need a Christ centered shepherd for the diocese! And sooner than later!

            • Read It And Weep says

              Why was Hieromonk Gerasim and Hieromonk Juvenally blocked by Fr Oleksa? Alaska needs a bishop. What makes you say that George doesn’t care for the Alaskan Church? He is not the one blocking candidates to be your next bishop. Right?

              • Fr. Michael Oleksa published some very complimentary information about Fr. Gerasim a while back. He seemed quite impressed by Fr. Gerasim’s resourcefulness and fortitude. Of course, this is the same Fr. Michael Oleksa who once claimed to have seen a miraculous light around Metropolitan Jonah while he was celebrating a panikhida for Matushka Olga in Kwethluk.

                Fr. Juvenaly’s election was blocked by the Synod for reasons unknown.

                The comment about George supposedly not caring about the Alaskan church was a tongue-in-cheek response to George’s also tongue-in-cheek suggestion to send Bishop Mark (Maymon) to Alaska.

                Bishop Mark suffers from seasonal depression, and a climate where there is a part of the year with minimal sunlight has the potential to make him very sick. Sending him to Alaska is about as feasible as sending him back to Toledo to be Walid Khalife’s wacky new roommate, which is how I know George’s comment was not serious.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          That’s a very good question you’re asking . . . why the long, long delay electing a bishop for Alaska? It would seem to me that they desperately need someone in charge up there.

        • Talking about slandering a good man of the cloth! Especially, when one starts and ends with sugar. Would you care to back up your accusations against Father Oleksa, anonymous person?

          • Carl, Lola’s question was not a slander. She was merely asking why there was such a “long delay” in electing a bishop for Alaska. Especially when there were already two good candidates?

            Do you have an answer for her? I myself would like to know. The good people of Alaska deserve a bishop.

            • I am not referring to Lola’s post (we are on the same level) but to that of All in the Family. If I were to answer LOla’s question, I would have said that I also would like to know.

          • Kraeff, glad to see your new found concern for slandering priests, even if it is selective. 🙂

            • I did think that I would be chided for being hypocritical since I was accused by you and many other posters that I had slandered Father Fester myself. I was so irritated by All in the family’s comment that I threw caution to the wind and decided to take my licks. 😉

          • Lola J. Lee Beno says

            No, I’m not slandering anybody! For years, I’d been hearing, Bishop Innocent is the bishop of Alaska. Then, Bishop Nikon is the bishop of Alaska. That lead me to form an impression that Alaska is an entire diocese, with its own Bishop. Now Bishop Nikon is not there anymore and a bishop whose own diocese isn’t Alaska is in charge of administrative matters and this has been the case for at least 2 years. And there are supposedly candidates being vetted but meetings to discuss and vote on these candidates keep getting postponed. Anyone can go find all these facts by reading through the news release and copies of the OCA magazine which used to be sent out in print and is now released in PDF format. I’m an avid reader, so I read every single issue and I remember basic facts for a good long time.

            So, yeah, I want to know, what’s the holdup?

            • Lola, please be assured that I did not think nor say that you slandered anybody. Regarding the bishops of Alaska, it looks like OCA does have problems selecting bishops to that diocese. Just too many locum tenens (temporary) bishops and not enough ruling bishops.Here is the story since 1973:

              Locum tenens (Bishop Benjamin (Peterson) of San Francisco) 2008-present
              Nikolai (Soraich) of Sitka and Anchorage, 2002-2008
              Locum tenens (I have not researched this yet)
              Gregory (Afonsky) of Sitka, 1973-1995

              So, you are not alone in wondering why this is so. There are Alaskan natives who think it is so because of an alleged paternalistic attitude toward the natives. There are others who pint out to the immense distance, harsh climate, and frankly the poverty of the parishes of the diocese. Finally, there are those who attribute part of the problem to the paucity of candidates. Just recently, problems caused the Holy Synod to retire Bishop Nikolai. So, take your pick for the delay.

              • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                I believe it is because Alaska is unique . . . I mean, it takes one made of a tough character to be willing to move up there. I know I would not be crazy about having to live with temperatures below 50 degrees for at least 6 months (although, my husband would be ecstatic over this). Also, the cultural aspects.

                Its just too bad there’s never been an opportunity to have a bishop of Alaska who grew up in Alaska. Now, that brings up an whole slew of new questions . . .

                • I think you stated the problem best of all. The one question that is left to ask is such a hot potato (married bishops who live with their wives) that nobody is asking outright. I myself used the cowardly “paucity of candidates” expression. .

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  If the good people of Alaska want to elect one of their own, they should do so. I’m sure that there are many God-fearing priests in Alaska who could stand for election. If they are elderly and married, then if the Spirit moves them and they really care about doing what is right for Alaska, they could ask their wives to take monastic vows. Even though I disagree with Fr Oleksa on certain minor issues, I’ve always felt that he would make a fine bishop for Alaska. I still do.

                  • Some moose are like that says

                    Geo, if you want a married bishop, then take him and thank you very much. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that Alaska holds to tradition and prefers to stay that way.

                    • Read It And Weep says

                      LOL. I think Fr Michael also thinks he would make a fine bishop, but Moose is right. Not this century!

                  • Good point George. There is no canonical impediment to a married person to become a bishop if he and his wife agree to live separately. However, the OCA would have to explain why She is harkening back to the Council in Trullo rather than adhere to the current and worldwide practice of restricting the episcopacy to “monastic or celibate clergy or laymen.” OCA Statute.

                    • This is perfectly in keeping with the tradition since Trullo of choosing bishops from among the celibate. He would be celibate if he and his wife separated by mutual agreement, and she went to a monastery at a distance from his bishopric. He would also take monastic vows and would be required to support her. Those are the terms for a candidate for the episcopacy who has a living wife.

                      With that said, I think Alaska can do better than Fr. Michael Oleksa. His behavior as of late is shameful. He should live out whatever remains of his earthly ministry in repentance.

                  • CodeNameYvette says

                    George M. says, “Even though I disagree with Fr Oleksa on certain minor issues, I’ve always felt that he would make a fine bishop for Alaska. I still do.”


                    Even though he is in the pocket of Mark Stokoe to the extent that he parrots the OCAN party line about your Metropolitan being a dupe of Father Joseph Fester? I would have considered that to be a deal-breaker, married or not.

                    I would hope that the office of bishop requires a higher standard of conduct and of judgment in Alaska as anywhere else, than that displayed by this priest.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Yvette, thanks for keeping me honest.

                      I should have said, “a married priest like Fr Oleksa who has a love for the indigenous culture would make a great bishop for that diocese, provided of course that both he and his wife agrees to monastic tonsure.”

                      The sad news is that as of last year I would have proposed him as a bishop for Alaska. That is of course before he came out as a Stokoe sycophant and someone who bore false witness. (And I mean false witness in two diammetrically opposite ways: not only did he speak ill of +Jonah, but he praised the journalistic integrity of OCAN –a double-whammy to his own credibility.)

  5. Mark from the DOS says

    I kind of agree with Fr. Stephen that I don’t see much of a link between Fr. Oleska’s letter and autocephaly questions. It just seems more like a rhetorical device than anything else. I think the much more important question is the apparent interest in trading the influence of the Church for monetary gain. Still waiting on Stokoe to alert the world to this (and publish the e-mails), in the name of openness and transparency of course.

  6. You’re ‘way over-reacting, George. Fr Oleksa is citing Patr Bartholomew because he agrees with the Patriarch’s views, not because he regards the Patriarch as an “authority” in the canonical sense. The AD’s readers wouldn’t understand the canonical issues involved in that, anyway. All he is saying is “look: a prominent Orthodox bishop agrees with me. That supports my contention that my stand follows from Orthodox doctrine.”

    At worst he is letting the widespread misconception that the EP is an “Orthodox Pope” do some rhetorical heavy lifting for him. But he is in no way acknowledging (or advocating) any canonical authority of the EP over the OCA.

  7. Green Patriarch, Green Church. In this case I dont think that a “rose called by anyother name smells just as sweet” can work in this situation.

  8. Yep. Pure silliness. I doubt you will find an obscure chronology here. Why couldn’t he have found a patristic citation? Whether Fr. Michael is right or wrong on the issue is a different topic. He is trying to defend his issue to a secular “news source” correct? I’m sure he gets more mileage out of referencing the guy that was on 60 Minutes than Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

  9. George–You said regarding Father Oleksa; “The sad news is that as of last year I would have proposed him as a bishop for Alaska. That is of course before he came out as a Stokoe sycophant and someone who bore false witness. (And I mean false witness in two diammetrically opposite ways: not only did he speak ill of +Jonah, but he praised the journalistic integrity of OCAN –a double-whammy to his own credibility.)”

    I suggest that, if the yardstick for “bearing False witness” is to speak ill of +Jonah, you may have done the writer of the Ten Commandments one better. Congratulations, George for you may have finally reached the sun and unlike Icarus you are not falling down back to earth, where mere mortals reside.

    On a somewhat related matter, can I wash away my sin of liking Stokoe if I say that I also like you? Or, is an opinion on this matter the equivalent of having Jewish or bourgeois parents?

    • Carl, whether you, me or the man on the moon likes Stokoe is completely beside the point. I don’t know Stokoe so I don’t know whether I like him or not. It’s completely immaterial to me. What I don’t like are his selective reporting, his selective outrage, his championship of moral relativism within the Church, and his attempt to destroy the careers and or lives of clerics and hierarchs who he doesn’t agree with. That’s all. In fairness to you, I try to love everybody but it’s really difficult for me to actually like people who are sanctimonious and from what I read and heard about him, he’s got that down pat.

      As for someone “having Jewish or bourgeois parents” I don’t get your drift. Are you assuming that I’m a Leninist or a Nazi? I think the bourgeousie is fine and dandy. I’ve been trying to be a member of it since I went to college. (I don’t qualify for the aristocracy so I’ve tried for the next best thing.) As for my feelings about Jews, please take the time to read my essay on Christopher Hitchens, where I take him to task for his anti-Judaism. Please also see my essay on the San Fran comic book “Foreskinman” and how I take it to task for peddling anti-Semitic tropes. So yeah, I admire Jewish people a lot. My main regret about them is that for the most part, the vast majority of American Jews are not observant. It would be a lot easier for the churches to uphold the moral tradition if we had more Jews on our side.

      • I was being sarcastic, trying to point out your unfortunate choice of words (bearing false witness) that makes you sound every bit as sanctimonious as Mark ever has been. Bearing false witness is a serious charge that out not be levied upon folks with whom you disagree. However, given your reply, it is clear to me that you are guilty of getting carried away–someting that I also am guilty of…often, to my shame and regret.

      • Father Michael may be “convinced” (convinced himself despite what he knows) that his bishop, along with Mark Stokoe, and those who support him, are the bees knees. He may be “convinced” (justifying himself) for his own purposes. Though what they say is not true, and their lifestyles were/are corrupt, and their integrity is in question, if their followers refuse to see the truth, are they deliberately “bearing false witness”? It amazes me that when the truth begins to come out and slaps them in the face, they get all huffy and close their minds even more tightly. Maybe part of the problem is that these leaders think they are big Roosters and all the other people questioning them are nothing but crickets making noise. I heard that once from a big shot in the Orthodox Church. “Ignore your critics, they are just crickets making noise.”

        People become convinced of things that are not true because they take the popular path, the path of least resistance, the one that makes life easier for them. I think that a lot of people and leaders in the OCA have done this. The parishioners sit in the pews after Liturgy during discussion time, or during coffee hour and nod their heads at whatever Father says, convinced that their priest cannot be wrong because he is convinced that he can’t be wrong. “Yes, Father _______, yes, Father ________, yes, Father ________. …. Good thing we have a priest so we don’t have to think for ourselves.”

        Father Michael is in a sense “bearing false witness” in the way George means it: “(And I mean false witness in two diammetrically opposite ways: not only did he speak ill of +Jonah, but he praised the journalistic integrity of OCAN –a double-whammy to his own credibility.)”

        What was written about +Jonah by Mark Stokoe in his articles does not show “Journalistic Integrity.”