The Toxic Culture of Syosset: The Early Years

Abp. Dimitri (Royster)“One could have gone to Syosset and become a Metropolitan, or go to Dallas and become a saint.” –Fr Thomas Hopko in 2006, in remarks given before the Diocese of the South’s Annual Assembly.

These words are a testament to the great evangelistic work of +Dmitri Royster, the first Bishop of the Diocese of the South (DOS). Since the OCA created this diocese in 1978, it has exploded in growth. It started with twelve missions and parishes and now it has 70, including three monastic communities. +Dmitri, an indefatigable traveller and preacher, was always on the road between the Miami and Dallas, the two major hubs of that diocese. Along the way, he preached the Gospel, catechized, resolved disputes and continued planting missions. By all accounts, the DOS the richest diocese in the entire OCA and the only one that’s growing.

Forgotten however, was that back in 1970 +Dmitri Royster was elected the Metropolitan of the OCA. The vote wasn’t even close. According to the archives (copied below), he received 278 votes. The next highest vote-getter received only 57 votes. Besides +Demetri, there were eleven other candidates yet he captured more votes than all the other candidates combined. That’s a ninety-four vote margin. In politics that’s called a Reagan landslide.

Unfortunately, Royster was not part of the Carpatho-Russian majority. He came from Southern Baptist stock. After a second round of voting in which +Demetri received 348 votes (well past the 308 votes necessary for election), the Holy Synod vacated the results and chose instead Feodosy Lazor. That decision will go down as one of the most bone-headed moves in OCA history. Lazor, while known as a personable man one on one, misruled the OCA for nearly three long and languishing decades. Also troublesome was that the Holy Synod dressed up this charade with words borrowed from the First Apostolic Council (Acts 15:28): “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” Really?

I think this illustrates the culture of corruption that has plagued the OCA’s inner circle for at least thirty or so years, maybe longer. Alongside Lazor, Gabriel Barrow, another candidate of questionable character received one vote. Since that time, Barrow has jumped from jurisdiction to jurisdiction trying to outrun the charges of molestation that dogged him. (For more information on Barrow go to The fact that Barrow was even considered causes me to question the capabilities of the men who who drew up that slate in the first place. Didn’t they know that Barrow (like Lazor) was heterosexually challenged? Weren’t there any grownups in the room?

How did we sink so low? We passed up a man of sterling character. And why didn’t the delegates rise up and object?

In my post The Dumping Ground, I suggested that the fault for the decline rests mainly with the laity. Their initial poverty and continued stinginess aided and abetted the institutionalization of clerical mediocrity. Neither can we overlook the regression to the mean; that when all was said and done, the Carpatho-Russian core of the OCA was suspicious of a convert like Royster. Perhaps the Kishkovskys of the time muttered inanities into the ears of the Holy Synod; things like “the other jurisdictions won’t take us seriously if our primate is not himself ethnic,” or some such nonsense. The paucity of vision is stunning. When you shake off the spiritualized language used to justify the mediocrity and see all its flaccid glory, you want to avert your eyes.

Would things have been different with +Dmitri at the helm? Maybe, maybe not. He would no doubt have had to to fight the lassitude endemic to Syosset (much like +Jonah today). It’s probable that a significant percentage of the ethnic core would not have taken him seriously. Just being situated on the East Coast, which ranks as one of the deeply post-Christian corners of America, might have demoralized +Dmitri as well. Who knows? ROCOR and the MP jurisdiction seem to have escaped this plunge but none of the other jurisdictions have. (I can’t be too hard on the other jurisdictions. I’ve discovered that a spiritual lethargy afflicts the OCA outside of the Diocese of the South as well.)

Regardless, a case can be made that had +Dmitri’s election been allowed to stand, things might have been different. But maybe the Holy Spirit is not done with us, at least not yet. We in the South had +Dmitri, an establishment outsider, and flourished. Syosset had +Methodius and +Herman, men from the inside, and languished. By their fruits you shall know them.

+ + + + + + + + + +

From the OCA website:

Met. Theodosios

On the opening day of the Fifth All-American Council, Archbishop Sylvester officiated at the Divine Liturgy at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Montreal. This was immediately followed by the opening prayer service for the council celebrated by Metropolitan Ireney as his last primatial function. In keeping with the provisions of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, following the formal retirement announcement by Metropolitan Ireney at the council’s opening session, Archbishop Sylvester, who, as Temporary Administrator, was asked by the Holy Synod to also be Locum Tenens, read the Synod’s decision accepting the Metropolitan’s retirement and declaring the primatial see vacant. He directed the Fifth All-American Council to proceed with the election immediately.

With 463 delegates accredited and in attendance, 308 votes were determined as the two-thirds required for nomination on the first ballot.

The results of the first ballot were:

Bishop DMITRI (Royster) 278
Archbishop KIPRIAN (Borisevich) 57
Bishop THEODOSIUS (Lazor) 33
Archbishop SYLVESTER 25
Bishop HERMAN (Swaiko) 21
Bishop GREGORY (Afonsky) 19
Bishop KYRILL (Yonchev) 9
Archpriest Boris Geeza 8
Archbishop JOHN (Garklavs) 5
Archbishop JOHN (Shahovskoy) 5
Archbishop VALERIAN (Trifa) 1
Invalid ballots 2

As no candidate received the two-thirds required for nomination on the first vote, a second round of voting was held immediately. An additional delegate was accredited at this time.

The results of the second vote were:

Bishop DMITRI 348
Archbishop KIPRIAN 99
Bishop HERMAN 73
Bishop GREGORY 48
Archbishop SYLVESTER 43
Fr. Boris Geeza 36
Bishop KYRILL 21
Archbishop JOHN of Chicago 18
Archbishop JOHN of San Francisco 18
Archbishop VALERIAN 14
Bishop JOASAPH (Antoniuk) of Edmonton 3
Bishop JOSE (Cortez y Olmos) of Mexico 3
Fr. Mark Forsberg 3
Fr. Damian Hart 1
Fr. Gabriel Barrow 1
Fr. Thomas Green 1
Dimitri Mityanin 1
Invalid ballots (9 x 2) 18

With the nomination of Bishops Dmitri and Theodosius, the hierarchs in attendance immediately proceeded to the sanctuary for the election. In the development of clearer ecclesial structures after autocephaly, it was determined that only diocesan hierarchs are members of the Holy Synod and only they could participate in the election. Auxiliary, titular and retired hierarchs are not members of the Holy Synod and do not vote. Likewise, the two nominated candidates, Bishops Dmitri and Theodosius, did not participate in the election. A short time later, Bishop Gregory announced to the council, on behalf of the Holy Synod, that Bishop Theodosius had been elected the new Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. A short prayer service was immediately celebrated and the newly elected metropolitan was officially installed in office. Later that afternoon at the Sheraton Mount Royal Hotel in downtown Montreal, where the rest of the Fifth All-American Council would take place, a press conference was held with the new metropolitan. This was followed by a Service of Thanksgiving after which Metropolitan Theodosius delivered his inaugural statement to all council participants and all in attendance were able to receive individually his primatial blessing. That evening, a Grand Banquet was held in honor of retiring Metropolitan Ireney and newly elected Metropolitan Theodosius. Uplifted by the election of the first American-born Primate, the Fifth All-American Council joyfully continued its sessions for the next three days under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Theodosius, who was to be the leader of the Orthodox Church in America for the next quarter of a century.


  1. John Panos says

    Sadly, this pattern repeated itself throughout the different levels of the OCA for decades, following the example of this Council, and the horrible decision they made.

    Now, however, things are different. The AAC actually elected Jonah and the Synod confirmed it.

    That’s what this fight is really over. The Status Quo Syosett (languishing) and the vital American Orthodox vision (flourishing, and ABP Dmitri is a prime example).

    He who has ears to hear, let him ear.

  2. Toxic clean up definitely needed. If you add Free Masons to the mix – that’s the conspiracy nobody has addressed.

  3. A. Rymlianin says

    We could have done worse than Archbishop Dmitri and in fact we did; 30 years of unmitigated disaster, the loss of probably half of our members and an OCA apparat which is still in denial.

  4. Rod Dreher says

    George, I hadn’t realized this history quite so fully until reading your entry. It says to me that we probably won’t have this thing we’re all dealing with now settled until the AAC this fall. I have no idea how the laity, in general, feels about this — that is, whether most of them side with the Synod, side with HB, don’t know what to think … or don’t think of it at all. The AAC might arrive and some of us will be mighty surprised. My hope is that the laity support +Jonah, but I know that me and my friends aren’t necessarily representative (and anyway, I have at least one friend who supports the Synod).

    I wonder if this AAC will be like the last one, in which the whole thing threatened to fall apart until Bishop Jonah turned everything around with his speech? Is there any opportunity for a gesture so dramatic this time? Will it be required?

    There’s a long time between now and then, and much drama straight ahead after Pascha. Anyway, George, thanks for posting this.

    • Enlighten me.
      What’s the canonical process within the synod role that endangers +Jonah’s as Metropolitan. How would he be removed by them?
      If he isn’t removed by the Holy Synod’s process , what threat is there to him at he AAC? Would the delegates to the council have the right to affirm or remove him with no process other than their vote?
      Thanks for taking the time to explain this.

      • The threat is not that Met. Jonah would be removed as Metropolitan right away, but that he will be forced to take a proper leave of absence (rather than this self-directed “retreat”) until some point after the AAC, naturally resulting in his absence at the council. The same thing was done to Metropolitan Ireney (Bekish), and this plan for Met. Jonah was outlined in Mark Stokoe’s email.

        The ultimate purpose of these machinations seems to be to browbeat Met. Jonah into resigning or retiring. Article IV, section 3 of the OCA Statute reads,

        The office of Metropolitan shall be declared vacant by a vote of the Holy Synod in the event of death, voluntary retirement, medically certified incapacity, or deposition by due canonical process.

        Vacancy can only be declared by the Holy Synod under these specific circumstances under the Statute.

        We can strike death, as I would hope nobody is willing to commit murder over this. Metropolitan Jonah has reportedly been cleared as mentally sound by a qualified psychologist, and he is not in a coma or vegetative state, so strike “medically certified incapacity”. They could try to depose him by “due canonical process”, but that would require a credible charge against him, and a trial that would find him guilty. No canonical charges, not even farfetched ones, have materialized. Convincing him to take “voluntary retirement” is pretty much the only realistic option for getting rid of Met. Jonah, and the Holy Synod can make a big push for that if they forced him on leave.

        There is no question of him being *removed* by the AAC, because that’s not under their purview. However, those who feel unsympathetic towards the Metropolitan could take a vote of no confidence in the Metropolitan. The OCA is not a democracy, so such a vote could not remove the Metropolitan, but it would do a lot to undermine his leadership and turn remaining Synod members against him.

        On the other hand, if the Metropolitan’s leave is extended through the council, those who feel sympathetic towards the Metropolitan could demand answers and not allow council business to move forward until the issue is resolved.

    • I wasn’t counting before, but I think there are a few hundred new fans of the “Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of All America and Canada” fanpage on Facebook. I hope that says something!

  5. Rod, George, the pure concept of dealing with this “noise” until Fall is appalling. The drama must stop; I didn’t realize drama was so appealing to so many. I just don’t happen to be one of them.

    • Rod Dreher says

      Madam, I’m with you; I wish it would all be over and done with. I fear that it won’t be, however, though I pray that I’m wrong.

    • Ivan Vasiliev says

      I’m reminded of a room full of kids who have eaten too much candy. They are all fighting and screaming at one another. But, given a little time, the buzz will wear off and they’ll all be bawling and ready for bed. Anyhow, that would be my hope. But, I, like many others, have learned over the last few weeks that even when we are utterly exhausted by our folly we carry on.

      I think we are in a situation where God will have to intervene directly, as I still believe He did in 2008 (no intent to pass judgment one way or another regarding managerial expertise and other “qualifications” for leading the Church that have never been mentioned anywhere or at any time in our history).

      Unfortunately, God, Who sees all things and knows every person’s heart, often allows His beloved ones to suffer as a sign of His favor. I really don’t get that part, but I don’t have to since I’m not God. I just know He will prevail and that He will not be mocked for long.

      • ditto, ditto ditto! Wiser words never said! Here’s to everyone having a blessed Lent. There’s still time 🙂

  6. Christopher says

    I had always thought of +Dmitri in light of his behavior during the financial crises. His letter instructing (it was far from a suggestion) his flock to forgive (without repentance or accountability of those responsible) and to not discuss the matter any further was simply intolerable. In my parish, not a few of us left. Interestingly, we all had children as we saw that if they (Synod, etc.) could be so wrong about this, they would get it wrong about pediphilia also. So I never saw the good side of +Dmitri. I don’t buy the “he was aged/infirm” argument either – I have had a few aged and infirm family members and they knew right from wrong. The majority of the parish went along with these orders, mostly out of apathy which simply proves George’s point about the laity being the root cause of much of this. Still, in the end +Dmitri was a company man and failed miserably to bring any clarity to the crises…

    • Rod Dreher says

      I love and admire Vladyka Dmitri, and was in his congregation when all this was going on. I don’t recall that he sent that letter, though I don’t doubt you that he did. I might simply have missed it. Had I been aware of it, I simply would have disobeyed it — and indeed, I did disobey it, in retrospect, because I did not stop talking about the scandal among my Orthodox friends. Had I been aware of his request, I would have spoken to him about it, and explained to him respectfully but clearly why he was wrong about this — and why it was so important to get it right.

      I think it’s a characteristic of folly that people in leadership will seek to cover up and/or diminish scandalous information that damages the credibility of the institution they serve. But I wonder too if there is, or will be, some sort of change once people who have been raised in a cultural atmosphere in which greater transparency (and accountability) is expected of those in leadership come into power. I hope there will be, anyway.

      • Harry Coin says

        For an example of what happens when an Orthodox church does NOT do what Rod suggests in the modern context: Look at Greece. Failing to take balanced corrective action when facing a problem that isn’t going to improve on its own creates ongoing loss until corrective action comes. No corrective action when facing an issue that won’t get better over time causes the effort to dwindle and eventually no longer be heard from at all.

        We’re doomed if our leadership is drawn only from those with the rare gift of finding that special one-of-a-kind way to read the word ‘denial’ and think only of a river in Egypt.

    • Do you even know Vladika? In his letter, he wrote of forgiveness. The last time that I was taught about God’s kind of forgiveness — the kind that we receive through the mystery of Confession — the message was that forgiveness is unconditional. If someone repents genuinely, forgiveness of him is without strings attached, other than the Biblical “go and do so no more.” (This is the forgiveness that Vladika offers to people in real life, too.) Vladika did not have to draft a letter written in comic-book English, methodically and condescendingly spelling out every single detail that Orthodox people are supposed to know about forgiveness. I do not recall that anything implied or specified that repentance and accountability of people were irrelevant or unimportant. Nonetheless, as most of us are riding unicycles, and are adept at back-peddling when it suits us, it would be useful to have the original letter text made available, as it obviously has been a long time since I read it. As for not speaking privately among ourselves, people continued to do so. Not a big deal.

      • Christopher says

        Nope, did not know him. I and others took the letter the way I stated above. As you say, he did not say anything about the repentance and accountability, which is exactly what was needed. At the time we had heard enough of the (very true) need to forgive, and too little about accountability. Indeed, if you recall “forgiveness” was being used as a shield against accountability. That being said his instructions to not discuss the matter (again, using the laudable warning not to gossip as a shield against the call for accountability) was the real point of contention for us.

        So I do think he was a “company man” during this important time. It was a failure. No doubt he had far less than I have and will have. What I found interesting about George’s post was the history behind his and His success in the South.

        The us vs them (hierarchy vs laity) attitude is alive and well. My current non OCA bishop said something interesting about Met Jonah to me over dinner a while back. He is very upset that Met. Jonah is so forthright about “his brother bishop’s” and the financial crises, arguing it should have been handled “more discreetly” and that he should have never called out certain bishops in the way he did. I think that says a lot about clericalism in American Orthodoxy no matter what “jurisdiction” you are in. Let’s just say my “trust level” of these guys is very low, to the point that I don’t think they have it in them to do the right thing on homosexualism, pediphilia, etc. I am concerned for my children and the possibility of some things they might be exposed to.

    • Christopher, I agree 100%. This whole idea the +Dimitri is some saint of the South is completely irresponsible. He was not anti-Syosett at all. He was pro-syosett and gave quarter to disgraced members of the previous administration without seeking their repentance or to make the victims of their actions whole. How can anyone in the DOS or anywhere else reconcile these actions? Why did he do it?

      When it counted the most Archbishop Dimitri was an absentee father. I very much consider him the Bernard Law of the South.

      Metropolitan Jonah chose to play along with this charade and will not correct it. This says everything to me. When the pressure is on we see who people really are and what their priorities are.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Christopher, Andrew, obviously we are not going to agree. Having said that, +Dmitri was/is very much the Saint of the South. Before you take your fine-tooth comb to his entire career, I suggest that you do some research on St John Maximovitch and the incredible financial troubles that he was involved with in Frisco. While your at it, please read up on the life of Constantine the Great (Equal to the Apostles).

        As for being “for Syosset,” well, let’s just say that he had no control over what went on there and as long as they left him alone, the better.

        • Christopher says

          George, given his failure to properly frame, instruct on, and respond to the financial crises (which is really a moral crises), do you have faith that +Dimitri would have handled something like homosexualism and pediphilia in a fundamentally different matter. If the answer is yes, why?

          Honest question here – not trying to be combative.

          • Okay, Christopher, you want to know how Archbishop Dmitri has reacted to pedophilia? This was a letter written to the Pokrov women after they accused him of allowing a convicted pedophile to lead youth retreats:

            To whom it may concern,

            The following is a response to the letter of June 1, 2004 regarding Fr. Andrew of St. Michael’s Skete in Canones, NM. In that letter there are assumptions made which need some clarification and/or correction.

            First, it should be noted that Fr. Andrew was never employed by the Diocese of the South. While in Miami, he may have volunteered his time at the Chancery office performing clerical duties, but he was never an employee.

            Second, Fr. Andrew is not an ordained cleric, nor has he ever been a clergyman of the Orthodox Church in America. He is a layman who has heard the call and chosen the monastic way as best for him to ‘work out (his) own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12). Professed lay monks in the Orthodox Church are traditionally referred to as “father.” This simply is their title, consistent with their vocation, regardless of past sins. As an example, St. Mary of Egypt, once overcome by sexually related activities before her conversion, is known as our, “Holy Mother Mary.” She is referred to as a mother of the Church because of her monastic way of life.

            Third, I think it important that readers of the Pokrov website be informed of the conditions under which Fr. Andrew has addressed groups of people. To begin with, neither he nor the Skete has ever sponsored a youth retreat. Furthermore, during the past eleven years only four or five times have parishes initiated contact with the Skete asking if adults, or adults with children, could visit Canones for retreats. I have been told that when these groups were welcomed it was never the case that Fr. Andrew was alone with children. They were always supervised by the clergy bringing the group and parents. I also understand that on only a couple of occasions was Fr. Andrew asked by clergymen to speak to gatherings at their parishes. These priests knew Fr. Andrew and of his past, and the talks always took place under the same supervised conditions as described above. These points need to be emphasized because some individuals may have the impression that Fr. Andrew makes a habit of regularly leading retreats, initiates opportunities to do so, and that he is left alone with children at such gatherings. These are simply not the facts. Also, since the opening of the Skete, at Fr. Andrew’s instigation, it is a rule that no minors or women are allowed on the premises without parents and/or appropriate chaperones.

            Fourth, I would like to stress two things that characterize life within the Church: repentance and forgiveness. I understand and believe strongly in the need to protect the innocent. The desire to safeguard our youth and others is in fact why the OCA adopted the Guidelines for Sexual Misconduct. But I am also concerned with Church members providing people who have gone astray with an opportunity to repent and be shown some measure of compassion. The Guidelines do not negate this Christian responsibility. Somehow we must always find and walk that narrow way that allows for both protection and reconciliation. We may not often see it within society at large, but it needs to be found within the Church amongst the faithful.

            Finally, as a summary of what I have already stated: Fr. Andrew is a layman living for the most part, a secluded monastic life with the help of other men who have also heard the call to monasticism; he is not a member of a parish; he is rarely in the presence of children, and when he has been, there have always been adults and/or clergy present; he holds no office or position of authority within the Church; and again he is not an ordained cleric or employee of the Diocese. He lives a simple, repentant life in the desert of New Mexico looking for the consolation of Christ. In addition, it should be noted that all of the clergy in our diocese as well as Orthodox clergy in the surrounding area of Canones, were notified of Fr. Andrew’s past.

            I observed on the Pokrov website a prayer which calls for God to “turn the hearts” of those who have sinned, and “pour forth (His) healing grace upon them, that they may be convicted in their hearts and turn from their evil ways.” In Fr. Andrew’s case that prayer has been answered. It was answered years ago. I would merely pray that Fr. Andrew be provided the chance, by his brothers and sisters in Christ, to live the new life bestowed upon him by our Lord.

            I hope this response serves to clarify and assuage any doubts or fears that some may have with regard to Fr. Andrew. I would ask that although the Pokrov website states that the group’s spiritual advisor must remain anonymous, it would be helpful if he could contact my office privately in the near future with any questions or concerns.

            To end, I am reminded of a verse from Psalm 130 that we chant at every Vesper service, “If Thou, O Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee…”

            In Christ,


            Archbishop of Dallas and the South

            • Christopher says

              On the face of it (having no knowledge of “the other side”) this is a letter I can stand behind.

              • I linked to the original Pokrov letter above. It disgusted me, especially in light of the information Archbishop Dmitri offered. His Eminence outlines a scenario I can support for a repentant pedophile: kept away from children, and able to work out his own salvation. The crimes that the monk Anthony committed (and went to prison for) are heinous, but I am reminded of one of those sayings of the desert fathers about the repentance of a man who cut open a pregnant woman.

                Also, I am forced to wonder if the differences between Metropolitan Jonah and the SMPAC committee amount to something like this.

                • Michael Bauman says

                  My problem with POKROV is that they never seem to really allow for forgiveness, practice guilt by association and nurture the fires of their own pain. I wish they could find a better way of doing what they do.

                  At the same time, too many hierarchs have let too many offenders off the hook and but them in positions where continued offense is amost guaranteed so I understand their suspicion too.

                  • Harry Coin says


                    Until there is a news website where the leadership publishes a set of standards they purpose to uphold, and people pay for it, it must be asked: What is it we have a right to complain of?

                    For example here on George’s blog he’s comfortable with publishing what I call political ‘lose-lose’ items. In this case Mark Stokoe if he hasn’t published anything it isn’t because it’s the end of Lent and Holy week, or because he’s got a cold, or because he just doesn’t feel like it (you want a refund maybe??)– it’ s because he’s been muzzled (by whom? Let the negative speculation begin!).

                    And, if he does publish something it’s all underhanded, agenda filled and just awful from the jump according to prior stuff. Meanwhile the anonymites are upheld as the grand bearers of light. With friends like these, Met. Jonah might be more motivated to make peace I guess.

                    But, there have been a few important facts put out there, facts people can check, that are good for folk to know. That’s why I appreciate Pokrov, because what they publish appears to be carefully sourced and has always in the past turned out to be correct. They don’t publish about the misdoing of those not either directly or indirectly in positions of decision making authority.

                    That’s why I appreciate Mark’s postings, what fraction of what he knows that he chooses to post is his business, I never suppose any news item publishes everything I might think important about what the writers understand to be true.

                    Now I am beginning to worry whether there is a cadre somewhere in the OCA that is formally pushing to require clergy ‘look the other way’ in the context of intentional sexually active same gender living arrangements. Notice the item on the Orthodox Christian Laity’s Orthodox News website.

                    Pastorally, we know that homosexual promiscuity shortens life considerably and spreads horrific wasting disease, expensive to manage and grim generally. We know that the Alaskan christians tolerated polygamy for a time. In this context, is it better to permit some manner of overall unwelcome situation that might avoid worse: disease spread and early death? I have to say that when real people are involved the situation isn’t so obvious. Living people might choose not to live that manner of life after a time, right? Risk of death and spread of horrific disease is worse than promiscuous sexual misconduct on many levels, right? Serial sexual misconduct is less bad than promiscuity, one-partner sexual misconduct is better than serial sexual misconduct. Right?

                    Those who have an active inner life cherish solitude, but for whom that is not attained, loneliness is terrible. In some ways there are parallels to the ‘jail the abortion seekers’ debate, what obligation is there to offer real alternatives along with prohibitions?

                    The core of our problem is the wrongful de-facto preponderance (owing entirely to longer life spans and women’s health in recent decades) of those who struggle in that way in positions of high church leadership. The lives of those who marry diverge in serious, vast and important ways from those who do not. Lost are their voices in important decisions and so we dwindle.

                    • Michael Bauman says

                      Until all is right with the world, not everything will be right with the world and, of course, all will be solved if we have married bishops. The key to everything is the key to everything and on the other hand are five fingers and a thumb.

                    • Harry Coin says

                      A man who had a sore spot on his head went to the doctor, and was always dissatisfied on the basis the doctor told him, while it wouldn’t cure all his problems, none of them would get any better until he stopped whacking himself on the head.

                      The steward did an excellent job polishing the knobs on the Titanic, winning many debates against fearsome adversaries on the subject of how to do it properly, right up until the water covered them all.

                      We either recognize that while who we are hasn’t changed, how long who among us live has changed a great deal. If we aren’t capable to recognize that, we will be counted as successful as the top dinosaurs that walked this earth. Their bones are on display in many locations for your once annual museum visit.

                      Moreover, the deep wisdom in our Tradition predicted this and explains just what to do. We changed away from it for a time owing to the circumstances of those days long gone and no longer present. If we can’t pay attention to our own instruction book in times that make it painfully obvious how stupid we are being otherwise, well– I guess you can lead a person to the door of the school but you can’t make them think. You can’t fix stupid. Are we that stupid?

            • George Michalopulos says

              As usual, the clarity and logic of His Eminence’s arguments stand as a beacon of Christian love. If only those boneheads in the Holy Synod had heeded the call of the Holy Spirit back in 1970.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Yes, I do believe so. But please understand, a primate is only as good as his assistants. If all of his functionaries were as back-stabbing as they appear to be to +Jonah, then, no, I think +Dmitri would have failed as well. And if some of the other bishops were compromised men, then it would have made his job infinitely harder. We’re only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.

            That’s why my concept of The Dumping Ground has gained as much traction as it has. All it takes is just a few losers in positions of authority to kibbitz the whole shebang. It reminds me of the Communist infiltrators who were in the State Dept and the FDR administration who undermined Roosevelt and then Truman. Just five or six high operatives caused the US to give away the store to Stalin. Same thing with Hollywood. All it took was ten or so card-carrying members of the CPUSA to demolish American patriotism in the movies.

      • Christopher says

        After leaving the OCA I did not follow the DOC, although I recall someone mentioning that Kondratick was allowed to “play church” after being defrocked whatever that means. In what other ways did he give quarter?

        However, I did like George’s post because it allowed me to see another side of +Dmitri. He was not (could not) be all bad, despite my thoroughly negative experience with him.

  7. Ian James says

    This could end if the bishops decide to put an end to it. I do not believe all the bishops are against +Jonah, although I do think that all of them saw he needed a rest. Stokoe’s story, that all wanted him out, is spin. It was calculated to fabricate widespread disgust with +Jonah as a pretext for removal by the MC, as the third leaked email revealed []. Stokoe and a handful of cohorts were manipulating the MC to that end.

    We have new men at the helm. Two of them our widowers, none are heterosexually challenged (as far as I know) so the homosexual pathology should not be an issue, and most of them have good track records. If they decide to put an end to this, they could do it overnight. It is time for them to man up and exert real leadership.

    Then, at the proper time, Stokoe and cohorts need to be removed from the MC. It’s time to retire the careerists at Syosset who hid the corruption under +Theodosios. Don’t forget, Stokoe was one of them [].

    Maybe moving the entire enterprise to Washington, DC like +Jonah suggested is the only way to scrub the house clean.

    • Harry Coin says

      Ian, I wonder what you think: Should a person victimized while young be allowed, or not be allowed to work later in his life to improve the conditions that enabled his having been exploited?

      • Ian James says

        He should be allowed assuming his victimization didn’t create or enable the same pathology as his victimizer. If it did, he needs more therapy. If it didn’t, I see no reason to discourage it. He might even be in a better position to understand and thus prevent recurring victimization.

        • Harry Coin says

          Yes. So, have you done the math yet?

          • Ian James says

            What am I missing?

            • Harry Coin says

              I think you’ll get there. Just re-read your own post 24 and on down through the above. The light bulb went on for me. Not proof of course, but the histories, the culture of coverups back in the day, what experience and time brings.

              • George Michalopulos says

                OK, I’m not gettting it either. Being cryptic is almost as bad as being anonymous.

    • Maybe moving the entire enterprise to Washington, DC like +Jonah suggested is the only way to scrub the house clean.

      A few weeks ago, an anonymous commenter made some very astute remarks about the attempt to move the chancery to DC. George’s response is equally sagacious.

      The only thing that hasn’t panned out is that the ‘cabal’ has not lost their inside man; apparently he is still hard at work in Syosset.

  8. That brings back some old memories:
    I attended that 1970 AAC as a voting member for my parish of that time.
    I remember the low gasp and hush that came over the assembly as +Theodosius walked through the royal doors vested as our new Metropolitan.
    I also remember Fr. Schememann in front of the assembly kind of shaming the synod for ignoring the majority vote to select “their boy” as he put it.
    I remember wondering “why the long drawn-out election process if the bishops were going to choose who they wanted anyway.?”
    I don’t know how true it is, but I also read or heard somewhere afterward that the synod had always intended +Theodosius to be Metropolitan and that is why they sent him to Moscow to receive the Tomos of Autocephaly.
    O well, “time marches on” (relentlessly), and that’s all history now.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Un-bloody-believable. Thank you Niko for providing a first-hand account of what went on. I’ll cry myself to sleep tonite.

      • Anonymous since it's all the rage says


        Just because I enjoy disagreeing with you, George, let me say “Nonsense!”. It’s absolutely believable.

        But then again, I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing, are we?

    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

      I also remember something about the unusually long wait for the counting of the votes that led to Herman’s election.

  9. Anonymous since it's all the rage says

    I admire +Dmitri, though I have not met him, and it is a shame that the vote of the AAC was not ratified by the Synod. Certainly (and not as any “slight” to +Dmitri), I don’t possibly see how he could have done a worse job than +Theodosius.

    He certainly wasn’t perfect. He acquiesced to too much financial impropriety (as did the entire Synod, bar none), and there is the matter of the defrocked Mr. Kondratick running around in a cassock playing Church, but these are really somewhat minor anomalies compared to his long and fruitful ministry. He did amazing things with Spanish language ministry, and was quite successful in expanding the South. May God grant him many years!

  10. Frustrated Observer says

    I’m afraid much of the righteous anger here results from a misunderstanding of the election process in the OCA. In the first place, the All-American Council does not elect the Primate. The Holy Synod elects the Primate. The Council only votes to nominate candidates for consideration by the Synod. Here’s the way the process works:

    There is no pre-existing slate. Every delegate to the Council is given a ballot and is free to write down whatever name he or she likes. These ballots are collected and tallied. If a single candidate receives a two-thirds majority in this ballot, his name alone is forwarded to the Synod for election. If the Synod refuses to elect this candidate, it must provide canonical grounds. If, however, no single candidate receives a two-thirds majority, then a second ballot is held. The names of the top two vote-getters from the second ballot are forwarded to the Synod for election. The Synod may pick either of the two, and by doing so is not “vacating” the results of some previous “election.” The Synod has traditionally followed the pattern established by ever-memorable Metropolitan Leonty, and given the Primacy to the more senior candidate. The one exception, to my recollection, is the last AAC, which selected Metropolitan Jonah.

    As regards the various one-vote candidates, all this means is that there was one delegate at the Council who wrote down the name of that person. It could have even been the one-vote candidate himself. It says nothing about the attitudes of any powers-that-be.

    Finally, it is highly misleading to portray the Holy Synod as representing in any way the “old guard” as opposed to Metropolitan Jonah. Of the currently active members of the Holy Synod, not including His Beatitude, two were consecrated by Metropolitan Theodosius, three were consecrated by Metropolitan Herman, and two were consecrated by Metropolitan Jonah. Bishop-Elect Matthias will bring that last number to three. Of those, only one was on the Holy Synod during the 90’s. Ethnically, only two (three if one counts Bishop-Elect Matthias) are of Carpatho-Russian extraction, and all of these three were elected during the reign of Metropolitan Jonah.

    For that matter, His Beatitude is not really an outsider. He was at SVS for most of the 80’s, spent time in Russia, and was – by his own account – in line to take over the Representation Church in Moscow. He ultimately chose not to go that route, but that is not a career path open to an outsider. His monastic experience is also not considerably more extensive than that of the other members of the Holy Synod. He spent a year at Valaam when he was trying to discern his vocation, and began a few years later to work to establish a monastery, during which time he did a great deal of traveling, filling in in missions and giving retreats. As for the other bishops, some of them are monks in name only, but Bishop Tikhon spent fourteen years living as a monk in a monastic community before he became a bishop, and served as Deputy Abbot for two years beforehand. Bishop Melchizedek lived in monasteries for some ten years before he became a bishop, and has received the Great Schema.

    I would also point out that I claim no special insight into the goings-on at Syosset, nor do I possess any occult information not generally available to the masses, nor do I have the gift of clairvoyance. Everything I’ve written here is a matter of public record and easily verifiable to anyone who’s willing to take the time to check his facts before posting them.

  11. I read a comment on orthodoxforum and I don’t post there, so I wanted to address some of Jodie’s comments that she made on George’s blog a few days ago. No one replied, and she asked some valid questions. I am friendly too, Jodie, so I’m not trying to take sides. I don’t want your comment to get lost so am reposting it here. Hope you read this. Jodie wrote on George’s blog:
    Jodie Captein says:
    April 11, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Dear lexcaritas,

    Greetings from Oregon! I’m the person that wrote the sentences above that have upset you. They were from a longer post on the Orthodox Forum yahoo group. My intention was not to be clever or exacting but to bring up the concerns that are troubling my heart. What I wrote was what I HONESTLY feel about what is implied and, yes, even overtly stated in some of the articles I have read on OCAT (I’ll find the quotes, if need be). It was my flawed attempt to possibly persuade someone to see the situation differently. Interestingly, although I have never posted here before, my words are quoted twice. Look below, I am one of the supposed “Stokoe groupies.” Please, don’t take offense, but I’m going to be absolutely frank. It is my perception that this whole “scandal” has been conjured up in people’s minds. That’s what I think. And I would be more than happy to discuss this with whomever is interested (my email is No one convinced me of this. I thought it up all by myself. You can pity me for my lack of insight, but please don’t disdain me for thinking this. I realize that parishioners in the DOS are upset by what they perceive to be a terrible injustice. I get that and I feel badly for them. However, I still wonder how it came to be that they have these perceptions? Who told them that Metropolitan Jonah is being persecuted? How is it that there is such distrust of the Holy Synod? Is not the real work of theosis in the mind, heart and intellect? To change our thoughts and judgmental attitudes, to treat all with love and respect, to discern the truth, to have the mind of Christ ; these are the quintessential tasks for the Christian, are they not? I’m not your enemy, I’m not anti-Jonah, and I’m not part of a cabal. Nor am I taking “sides.” (Though I caution those who cast aspersions on the Diocese of the West and our beloved Bishop, they’re my peeps, and we’re good people – just like 99.99999% of the OCA is.) Call me naive, but please don’t accuse me of being dishonest. I hold no grudge. Good night.”

    I hope others will also address your questions. I’ll just write down what comes to my mind as I read.

    I realize that parishioners in the DOS are upset by what they perceive to be a terrible injustice. …

    To be clear, what is the “terrible injustice” you are talking about? I think you’re saying that the DOS parishioners think the injustice is that Metropolitan Jonah is being persecuted, is that right? Let’s ask the bloggers and commenters on this site: Bloggers and commenters, Do you believe that Metropolitan Jonah is being persecuted? Is there a “terrible injustice” being done? If so, what is it? Jodie, do you believe that there is no injustice being done?

    However, I still wonder how it came to be that they have these perceptions? Who told them that Metropolitan Jonah is being persecuted?

    Jodie, what makes you ask this question? Not that it’s not a valid question. I’m just wondering. I know it’s been a nightmare, because +Jonah’s own sister said so, and I believe her.

    How is it that there is such distrust of the Holy Synod?

    Because we were betrayed by bishops in the past, because we can’t figure out what some of them are doing and saying of late, because we know that not all the truth has been told, because we can’t trust what we don’t know or understand, because the canons and the good order of the Church are not consistently being followed. Because of the “leaked emails” we’ve read. Because is losing its credibility in the eyes of a whole lot of people as a result of truth we are reading with our own eyes, not because we are being misled. Also, words like, “I know a bishop and I thought he was my friend. He turned on +Jonah and lied to me. I don’t know what to think” (not an exact quote) by that same sister of our Metropolitan, come to mind. I believe her.

    Is not the real work of theosis in the mind, heart and intellect? To change our thoughts and judgmental attitudes, to treat all with love and respect, to discern the truth, to have the mind of Christ ; these are the quintessential tasks for the Christian, are they not? I’m not your enemy, I’m not anti-Jonah, and I’m not part of a cabal. Nor am I taking “sides.”

    Yep, and okay.

    (Though I caution those who cast aspersions on the Diocese of the West and our beloved Bishop, they’re my peeps, and we’re good people – just like 99.99999% of the OCA is.)

    I’m not wanting to “cast aspersions,” though I don’t understand your Bishop’s actions. I do suspect there are reasons behind his actions that we probably will never know, however. And there was a time when I too had a “beloved Bishop,” and I’ll bet you everything it turns out he was not so great as we believed, after all. I’m not talking here about your bishop, but about the one I had. We are ALL broken, every last one of us.

    Thanks for your comments. Hope you get some other responses.

    • lexcaritas says

      Dear to Christ, Jodie,

      Thanks for your reply. Honestly, I hadn’t seen it until Rachel posted it and suggested someone ought to resepond. (Believe it or not with practicing law, teaching Latin, serving at Lenten services and trying to stay up with my own prayers and pay attentioin to wife, chidlren and grandchildren and file tax returns, many of us can’t stay up to date with these blogs–and we may even read other things.

      First, I wasn’t at all upset by your remarks–at least I don’t recall being so, and I’m certainly not now.

      I hardly have time to do justice to your questions, but if you’ll permit, I will address two. You ask: <>

      I don’t know whether “persecution” is the right word, but we concluded there was an orthestrated desire to impose a leave of absence on him to last until after the next ACC from Mark Stokoe’s email and from the sensationalist and vicious tone of much of Mark’s reporting of this matter. As for distrust of the Holy Synod, Rachel has provided a pretty good explanation stemming from past conduct and current official silence letting Mr. Stokoe tell us in his words what they think and what their silence means. Beyond this I would only add that I have been astonished at the lack of respect for the bishops that exudes from Mark’s own editorial comments and the linked Stokoe, Skordinski and Solodow emails. It seems to me they evince a great deal more disdain for the abilities and courage of the Synod members than anything coming out of the so-called “camp” supporting Jonah. And that, of itself, is tell-tale, isn’t it?

      Now unto Christ, Who is in our midst and Who desires us to reflect His presence and His character, be all honour and glory, now and forever and unto ages of ages.


  12. Chris Plourde says

    Does anyone know how much it will cost to move the Chancery from Syosset to DC?

    Not asking about property valuations, but about the costs associated with moving furniture, files, building out the new space, installing a phone system and internet capability, etc.?

    And does anyone have a handle on how long it would take?

    • It’s hard to say, because it depends on how much stuff they have to move. (They could also choose to replace old equipment rather than move it.)

      I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing that Met. Jonah wants to move. Obviously, this is something really important to him, and I personally agree that it’s a good idea. The cost of living around DC is far lower than Syosset (weren’t they paying the housekeeper something like $200k per year?!), and the move will almost certainly pay for itself eventually.

      However, the move will require a fair amount of money upfront, not to mention some extreme cat-herding logistics. Also, I’m pretty sure that it would be smart to wait 3-5 years to sell the Syosset chancery, to allow the Long Island market to recover. The chancery is a pretty high-end piece of real estate, and it’s going to be a while before people can afford to buy that sort of thing and give the OCA its money’s worth.

      Also, does anybody know approximately how big the Syosset chancery is? I know it’s on a big piece of land, but I’m not sure about the house itself. Most photos only show that front portion with the front door, and three windows on either side. From that I’d guess about 3,000-4,000 square feet, but that’s only a guess.

      • Chris Plourde says


        There’s really no good reason for the chancery to be anywhere other than where the Metropolitan is. The proper question should be “when” not “if.”

        It seems to me the answer to when is simple: “When we can afford it.”

        And to understand when we can afford it, we have to understand what we need.

        In the last decade the OCA grew by 21%. With the OCA growing, it isn’t hard to see how the chancery is likewise going to need to grow. That, or a massive reorganization of the OCA is going to have to be done, something larger than anyone is contemplating.

        Does anyone have the data of what the OCA actually needs today to house its chancery (not what it has, but what it needs), how much of that currently exists, and what the Church is going to need in the next, say, 10-20 years?

        I think that’s important information to have before the movers are booked.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          OCA grew by 21%? I thought it was the opposite, according to what people have been saying here and elsewhere.

          • Chris Plourde says
            • Rod Dreher says

              Chris, I wonder about how reliable various surveys and censuses of Orthodox Christians are. I’m surprised to see the 21 percent growth number, especially after reading that Fr. Hopko essay from 2006 in which he talked about how the OCA’s numbers are in freefall from what they were a generation ago.

              I looked at that link you posted, and saw that the OCA reports having only about 85,000 members, only about 40 percent of whom are regular churchgoers. I’m sorry, but that’s a tiny church. I can’t see why we need more than a suite of offices with a few rooms for meetings and maybe one for receptions. What is there to administer? I’m asking seriously, not rhetorically. It’s not like we’re the Moscow Patriarchate.

              • George Michalopulos says


                As I understand it, the “freefall” in the OCA’s population which Hopko alluded to happened before 2000. Since then, Krindatch’s study would indicate that the OCA and AOCNA have indeed grown, but in the OCA’s case, from a fallen baseline, as opposed to AOCNA’s growth which was from a smaller baseline (65 parishes in 1980).

                In all cases, the high point of Orthodox population was in the early part of the twentieth century. All jurisdictions have been losing population from the time of the first native-born generation (ca 1920s). Since then it’s either been stasis or loss. 2000 may be the turning point in continued loss, Regardless, if Orthodoxy is growing, we have miles to go to recapture that which was lost.

                • Chris Plourde says

                  There’s other factors at work as well. This month we had four funerals and one baptism….

              • Chris Plourde says

                I think this reflects two different trends, one the loss of the second-and-third generations of the founding immigrant populations, and the other the effect of evangelization and doing more-and-more services and formation in English.

                The real issue was a late understanding that the second generation born in America is at home, not in diaspora. Their native language is English, their native culture is American. In the 1970s this observation was tantamount to heresy, in the 1990s this was a bone of contention, but now it seems that pretty much every Church understands this.

                Which, of course, creates the challenge of dealing with those who are new immigrants and the older members of the community who like their tradition just fine the way it was. They deserve respect and to be ministered to as well.

        • George Michalopulos says

          personally, I think every diocese needs a chancery. I question whether there needs to be a natinal chancery at all. The archdiocese of Washington certainly needs a chancery because its a territorial diocese. However, if we can build a monastery in Washington, then that could serve as the chancery for the national church. That way, diocesan affairs of DC won’t get intermingled with the national affairs of the church in general.

          • Fr Simeon Johnson says

            The Chancery was not a large ticket purchase. The OCA paid $1.00 for the property in the mid 1950’s and then liquidated a $12,000 back tax bill from the Griswold estate. It is an old “Summer residence” mansion common in this part of NY.

            A good article providing a basic history is here.

            I am also told that the Syosset location was also considered for St. Vladimir’s Seminary until the current location in the Crestwood neighborhood of Yonkers was found.

            And there does need to be a national chancery if only to track transfers from one diocese to another and maintain relations with the rest of the Orthodox world.

        • Well, I can’t speak for anyone who actually works in Syosset. However, from the pictures I’ve seen of the chancery, it doesn’t look like the office is organized like a tenement. A lot of the building seems to be given over to fancy, tastefully-decorated space (that nice sitting room, the dining room, etc.). I don’t begrudge them that; I’m just using it to point out that they don’t appear to be overcrowded where they are.

          If the OCA had the money to make this happen, I wonder if the Syosset chancery might be better repurposed as some kind of retreat house, like a little version of the Antiochian Village. The central administration would benefit from not having to maintain the white elephant entirely out of their own pockets.

          Of course, that depends on the OCA administration finding another place to go and being able to afford that… but it’s a thought.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Excellent ideas Helga. Or it could be used as the retreat center for the Diocese of New York/New Jersey, given that it’s located within the borders of that diocese.

          • Lola J. Lee Beno says

            That’s a good idea. It can be rented out for appropriate events to help pay for its upkeep.

      • Lola J. Lee Beno says

        As for cost of living, it depends on which side of DC one settles in. It’s more expensive in NoVA and Montogomery Co than in Prince Georges County.

        • Yes, but going virtually anywhere in DC is going to be cheaper than Syosset. Syosset/Oyster Bay is one of the most expensive places in the country, and it drives up the costs of everything they do there.

    • Athanasia says

      We just moved a 2500 square foot house and it cost us $4,000. And that was discounted! Moving books is expensive and we had 27 boxes full. Cost is figured on weight of the load being moved.

  13. Um, at least you could get the facts right. The election that you refer to was in 1977, not 1970. The OCA didn’t officially exist until April of 1970. And the late Archbishop was Dmitri, Not Demetri.

  14. One would think that one so critical of the mistakes if others would at least fact check. A seven year mistake? Dat’s a whopper!