Who Speaks for the Synod?

OCAtruth today released a story “Now is a Critical Time.” As in most everything they’ve published, it’s very much worth reading. The upshot is that “the bishops” are working feverishly behind the scenes to depose +Jonah. The author (“Muzhik”) asked all of us to pray and then to contact the bishops.

So I did. The first bishop I called was Bishop +Nikon of Boston, who is the locum tenens of my own diocese. I left a very respectful message on his machine. I don’t know whether he’ll call me back or not but I hope so, because I really do want to get to the bottom of this.

The second bishop I called I won’t name at present because I don’t think it’s right or proper for me to reveal his identity. For one thing, he was gracious enough to take my call. Let’s just say that we both spoke openly and forthrightly about a lot of the matters engulfing the Church for almost an hour. He struck me as a fair man who loves his Church and wants what is best for it.

That being said, we had to “agree to disagree” on certain key issues regarding the present crisis. One issue that seems to vex some of the bishops was the apparent lack of “accountability” that presently exists within the Holy Synod and HB. This includes +Jonah’s “closeness” to “the Russians.” (If I had to guess, I would agree with OCAtruth’s reporting of the recent visit of Metropolitan +Hilarion Alfeyev to the Holy Synod, ie: +Hilarion read them the riot act. Note: this is pure speculation on my part and did not come from the bishop in question.)

I brought to the Bishop’s attention that there seems to be selective outrage against +Jonah. Specifically, I told him about Garklavs and his apparent tampering with an official report. I won’t reveal whether he defended this action or not, but he told me that some of my facts about Faith Skordinski were wrong, particularly that she is not an attorney (I posted that earlier today but changed it for accuracy).

Mention of her name also raised another issue, specifically whether she is in good standing in the OCA. The implication of course is that if she is not, then +Jonah is derelict in not removing her from the Metropolitan Council. This latter point was rather curious to me on several fronts, the first being that Faith had done heroic work for the OCA in the past, and that she co-chaired the original SIC committee that brought down the previous administration, Kondratick included.

The sudden concern about the integrity of the Metropolitan Council however, bothered me for another reason as well: if Skordinski’s placement on the Metropolitan Council is a problem, then what shall we say about the moral issues surrounding Mark Stokoe (and for that matter, Fr Ted Bobosh who clearly rejects the Church’s teaching on homosexuality)?

Rather than describe in detail his side of the conversation, I will instead reveal my own concerns. I asked if he had considered the very real damage that OCANews has done to the Church because of Stokoe’s brazenness, particularly a later comment by Stokoe about his hold over the Holy Synod (one that reinforces his attitude of invincibility in my opinion).

I also brought up the leaked email that implicates Stokoe in a conspiracy to remove +Jonah before this scandal was made public (see my recap). I was very clear that the leaked email implicates the entire Holy Synod in Stokoe’s conspiracy.

Of course, the Bishop gets e-mails every day from hither and yon and he can’t respond to each and every one of them — as do I and everybody else. Regardless, I emphasized that because four bishops were named on the e-mail and because these same four bishops were subsequently moved in some way to relieve +Jonah*, then the appearance of a plot is inescapable. I also emphasized in stronger terms that this perception is increasing in the larger Church. (*The only account we have of this meeting where +Jonah’s future was discussed is Stokoe’s, and subsequent facts have come to light that makes his reporting of the event highly suspect.)

We both agreed that Stokoe’s email revealed he was interfering in Church affairs far beyond the proper boundaries that his position on the Metropolitan Council allows. Moreover, the interference has created a significant and potentially debilitating public relations problem for the Holy Synod because it appears that Bishops on the Synod were conspiring with him. His Grace agreed completely that this was a serious problem and must be “dealt with.”

If nothing else, without a clarification or disputation, the historical record itself will be faulty since the only written record that exists is Stokoe’s leaked email and record of events. But why would we trust the the record of events by a man who was later revealed to be manipulating them? We eagerly await his explanation on OCANews.org. If Muzhik, myself, or anybody else for that matter has misinterpreted Stokoe’s original e-mail in any way, he owes it to his readers and partisans to clear the record.

Meanwhile, the Church is left to ask: Who really speaks for the Synod? The Bishops or Mark Stokoe? Until the Bishops clarify that they were not conspiring with Mark Stokoe to remove +Jonah as Stokoe’s leaked email implies, Mark Stokoe does.


  1. One thing I would really like to get across to the Synod is that Julia Duin is not an agent of Met. Jonah’s war machine. She wrote a very nice article from her own perspective on the situation. It had nothing to do with promoting Metropolitan Jonah’s “agenda” or making the rest of the Synod look bad.

    • Rod Dreher says

      Helga, that’s really true. People around His Beatitude were so nervous about talking to a Washington Post reporter, and not returning her phone calls, that I sent them a message saying that I know Julie personally, somewhat, and by reputation, and that she is an honest reporter that they can talk to with confidence that she’s not out to get them. I know for a fact that they had no idea what kind of story she was going to write about H.B., and were worried about it because the media are usually so critical of ministers who hold +Jonah’s views of abortion and homosexuality.

      • Rod, I’m really glad that you and Ms. Duin have been trying to clear things up. I would hate to see the crisis exacerbated by a misunderstanding. I remain fearful, however, that those who want the Metropolitan gone may keep going with the insistence that HB somehow solicited that article after Santa Fe to bolster his own reputation, despite all evidence to the contrary.

        George, did the bishop you spoke to say anything about his impressions of the article, or how it is affecting the Synod’s dealings with the Metropolitan?

        • George Michalopulos says

          Helga, I don’t want to betray a confidence so let me put it this way: he (and the three of The Appalled Four) would have been very happy had this story been spiked. I sensed a large degree of frustration that this article took the wind out of the anti-+Jonah force’s sails. (Same thing about OCAtruth for that matter.)

          • Rod Dreher says

            Well, Mark Stokoe and I were both interviewed for the article a long time ago. I think it was late January for me. Duin spoke to Jonah right after the March for Life, which was late January. As I’ve said, the Santa Fe debacle happened only a couple of days before Duin’s final deadline, which sent her scrambling to find out what the heck had just happened, and to rewrite the ending of her piece.

            It’s incredible to me to think that anybody in the US believes that anybody, much less the head of a tiny church that most people have never heard of, can call the Washington Post up and order up a story complimentary to themselves. It’s a ridiculous and childish idea of how the media work. But then again, if it’s true that Bishop Benjamin withdrew his blessing for HB to visit his old monastery in California after the Post article appeared, then we are not exactly dealing with grown-ups in every case.

            • If Bishop Benjamin did do that, that’s an outrage. They WANTED Metropolitan Jonah to go to a monastery! What do they want from him?!

              They supposedly (according to Stokoe) ordered Fr. Gregory (HB’s assistant, a monk and a subdeacon) to go to St. John’s, but if that’s true it’s strange that it’s not reflected in the minutes.

              They also ‘recommended’ (Stokoe again) that Met. Jonah go to Ellwood City, also something not reflected in the minutes. Considering Fr. Hopko’s stunt with the letter, I can’t blame Met. Jonah for not going there.

              I just have one more question: how is Met. Jonah supposed to get any rest with everyone jumping down his throat like this?

          • Can you say what bothered them about it? Was it an issue of veracity, or simply its tone?

            I suppose it would have been nice to have opinions from other members of the Synod in the article, but if Ms. Duin tried to talk to them and they refused, that’s their own problem.

            I don’t see how anyone can read it as a pro-Met. Jonah propaganda piece at all. For one thing, it didn’t mention the speech by then-Fr. Elpidophoros that precipitated Met. Jonah’s criticism of the EP. As presented in the article, it looks like he was just randomly shooting an insult to the Phanar. It doesn’t really look like one of Met. Jonah’s finer moments.

            It also makes the reassigning of the South and the Midwest appear to be punitive measures against Met. Jonah. That may have been the case, but that’s assuming a fact not in evidence without some kind of testimony to that effect. My guess is that Ms. Duin was working from the press release here: http://www.oca.org/news/2430 as well as the video of Met. Jonah’s address to his diocese, and this information had to be worked into the last-minute revision she made on the Monday after the retreat, so I’m not faulting her for that (and I am very grateful for her hard work and that the piece was not spiked). It is presented in the press release, by Met. Jonah himself, as well as the Synod minutes that came out Monday night, as simply a measure to relieve his responsibilities. So to me, the idea that it was punitive seems to be reaching a bit.

            Anyway, my point is that the piece does not appear to have any innately pro-Met. Jonah aim to it. So my question is, why on earth would the Synod read it that way?

            • Because it was positive and factual. And all things being equal, it made +Jonah look good. And because he’s the new kid on the block and he leapfrogged over almost everybody else to become Metropolitan.

              Helga, the institutional jealousy is not contained to the OCA alone. I’ve heard rumblings that some of the GOA bishops are angry themselves (not +Demetrios, he’s a true Christian gentleman).

              What +Jonah represents is big. Not only is the rock star of American Orthodoxy, his rock-star status inures to him because there’s something fundamentally “right” about him. He has a certain elan or what in military terms is called a “command presence” that no other Orthodox bishop in America possesses. Compare his actions at the March for Life with his predecessor, essentially no difference. Both men were there every year in which they were primate. But his predecessor was essentially a non-entity. Look at all the GOA “metropolitans,” do any of them strike you as having command presence?

              That is what drove this story. Whether HB comes out of this whole imbroglio unscathed or not, I have no way of knowing at present, but that’s essentially where we stand now.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Now Helga, you do know that +Jonah is a master manipulator who controls the Mainstream Media, don’t you? 😉

  2. A Christian Mother says

    Dear George,

    I just wanted to thank you and others who are seeking to find the truth in the current situation and to address important issues in the Church. I am heartsick over the whole situation. From the perspective of a mother who is trying to raise her children with Christian values in a secular society, I am so very tired of feeling abandoned by my own church. Children are bombarded with secular messages day in and day out, in school, in the media, everywhere. Yes, we parents try to live out our faith and provide a Christian home, but if the Church itself abandons preaching the Gospel and clear teaching of right and wrong in favor of moral relativism and “tolerance” (read acquiescence), where are we?

    Instead, I see my beloved Church devolving into a “brood of vipers,” ferociously attacking our Metropolitan and anyone who appears to sympathize with him. Where is Christian charity, grace, mercy or unity in this? How could Fr. Hopko condone this behavior (that was such a low point for me). I have studied Fr. Hopko’s 55 Maxims for Christian Living and have felt deeply humbled by how far short I fall of them. How on earth can one reconcile a venomous site like ocanews with the 55 Maxims? How can one reconcile it with the Gospel? How can the Church live out the Great Commission like this?

    Our parish is small and shrinking. There are few children, and as my older children reach middle school and high school, I see them already slipping away from the Church, and from Christ Himself. I find my own faith challenged in the midst of this relentless mockery of the Gospel. With sadness, we have begun attending an evangelical church. My husband and I feel like refugees. Our children are thriving and revitalized in their faith. The evangelical church’s mission statement is as follows:

    “We are a community of people who come together because God’s love is transforming our lives. We realize from the Bible that our mission is to reach people for Jesus Christ and raise them in the family of God to glorify Him. To do this, we emphasize discovering Jesus Christ, developing in our walk with Him, and deploying ourselves in His service. We invite you to join with us in this journey!”

    With all its beauty, Truth, and wondrous Tradition, how could the Orthodox Church in America throw away its birthright for a mess of pottage?

    Please continue to seek the truth. I will continue to hope and pray, and to do my humble and imperfect best as a mother. May Christ have mercy on us all.

    • Lord have mercy on this family! I scarcely know what to say to you, because there is nothing and nobody anywhere in the world which or who ever could persuade me to leave the holy Orthodox faith. The Church was founded by God, and is run, administratively, by sinners (i.e. people). It is impossible for the sins of people to undermine the truth of the faith. The vitality you see at the evangelical churches is, at core, hollow because it lacks the vitality of the Author of Life, Himself. Of course what you see at some of the non-Orthodox Christian communities strongly attracts you because you are seeing important elements of the Christian life. Only in the true Church, however, will you find everything that your soul seeks. Please, oh please — ! ! ! — do not cripple your life and starve your soul by settling for something that is so far distant from the truth as scarcely eligible to be called “second best”. Orthodoxy is the faith for which saints and martyrs have died. The debacle playing out within the OCA rates is nothing in comparison with what those holy men and women have faced and overcame. Please do not abandon God’s Holy Ark of Salvation! The only reason, ever, to leave the Orthodox faith is if one consciously and purposefully rejects that it is the true faith, given us as a precious and immutable treasure by God Himself. Only then, sadly, is it rational to depart. May our beloved and holy Mother of God, whose joyful feast day it is today, succour and console you and your family. May she, through her ceaseless prayers to her Son, grant you the courage to cast off the temptations to leave the faith. May you quickly find again the genuine joy which exists only in the Church!

      • R. Dreher says

        Antonia, I generally agree with you here, but I have a lot of sympathy for Christian Mother, and I believe that your comment about “the genuine joy which exists only in the Church” could actually undermine the case you’re trying to make to her.

        Let me speak from my own painful experience as a Catholic convert to Orthodoxy. I had all the doctrinal arguments clear in my head for why the Roman church was the One True Church, exactly as you believe about Orthodoxy. I thought that conviction would carry me through any trial. But the terrible scandal of sexual abuse and its cover-up worked on my conscience like acid, and the difficulty of finding a solid, believing, spiritually filled parish community in which to raise faithful Catholic children was another burden. We never considered going Evangelical, because we could not, under any circumstance, leave the Eucharist.

        Eventually I lost my faith in the truth claims made by the Roman church. It wasn’t so much that I weighed them objectively and found them to be wanting, as much as I found I could no longer affirm them, and moreover, I had become convinced that my salvation, and the salvation of my children, might well depend on our leaving Catholicism. Why? Because I was so far gone into despair and cynicism about the Catholic Church that I feared for what that was conveying to the children about Christianity. That, plus being worried that if they became faithful Catholics, it would be in spite of the Church, not because of it.

        It is more important to me that my children have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ than that they confess the Orthodox faith. Ideally, that statement should be nonsensical. I pray to God that to them, it always is nonsensical. But I know from my own bitter experience that failures in the parish and in the government of the Church can make it difficult, and maybe impossible, for people to consider the truth claims made by our Church, or any church. The day I realized that I might stand at my Judgment and say to God, “I come to you after a lifetime of embitterment, mistrust, and cynicism; my children have fallen away from the faith because keeping the faith was, to me, a joyless duty, and they got little or no real teaching or support from the parish. But Lord, I remained a Catholic to the bitter end — and boy, was it bitter” — the day I realized that that was going to be my testimony if I stayed on the path I was on, that was the day I knew I was out the door. It would have been easier for me to present myself to the Judge as someone who perhaps failed to keep the Catholic faith, but who left because he was hungry for Christ, and was tired of being fed stones.

        All I’m saying is please try to understand why what the Evangelicals have is not as awful to Christian Mother as you think. I wouldn’t abandon Orthodoxy for Evangelicalism, because what we have been given is so deep and rich and true. But I do not feel triumphalistic about it, and I am sure I understand the pain and distress Christian Mother is going through. I have been there, as has the Christian mother of our children. It is a terrible tragedy that this sister even has to entertain these thoughts. It is a judgment on the OCA.

        • Hi Rod.

          Never did I intend any disrespect to, or additional hurt for, “Christian Mother.” When I write, I select words carefully, with thought to what they mean. For example, then, there is “joy” to be found in any Christian group which intends to honor and worship our Lord Jesus Christ. Only, however, within the Orthodox faith is “genuine” joy to be found. My core point is that although portions of the life in Christ have survived in the Christian groups outside of the Church, only within the Church is everything possible and needful present and available to a believer. I was not born into the faith; God brought me to the opportunity over thirty years ago, when I was a young adult. My conversion was every bit as painful as those in accounts I have read from other people. Once “home”, though, I had to rejoice with repentance and gratitude. It grieves me to read of people who feel driven to settle for an inadequate substitute because they (apparently, based on only what was presented in the original post) confuse the bureaucratic, administrative wrongs executed by human beings with the flawless purity and source of everlasting life which is the Orthodox faith. Human bungling should not drive anyone away from Orthodoxy. As for children, you know I have four. The responsibility for their religious/moral training in the faith, the encouragement to persevere no matter how difficult the struggle involved, devolves directly upon my husband and me. A local parish is not going to be reliable for that. Mine is not, nor has been any other parish in which we have lived, no matter how deeply we have loved the local clergy and parishioners. The Christian life is hard. A “saving relationship with Jesus Christ” is our goal and reward. It is worth whatever transient, earthly pain we must endure, including what goes on within jurisdictions, and whatever failures persist within local parishes. Again, this is a day of rejoicing (March 25th). May the Mother of God protect and cheer us all!

          • George Michalopulos says

            Antonia, you are a wise woman and your husband and children are indeef fortunate. Please pray for all concerned that we turn to repentance. I ask your prayers because your words are just and “the prayers of a just man, availeth much.”

          • Michael Bauman says

            Antonia, but if the elders and overseers are teaching doctrines that are not of the Church in a way that perverts the hearts of both children and adults, what is one to do?

            1. Stand up and proclaim the true Gospel and risk the vilification that will assuredly come with it; and in the end may be forced into:

            2. Seek a clamer port whose errors are not so obvious

            3. Abandon the faith altogether.

            • Dear Michael,

              I live where practices not consonant with Church historical belief and practice are common. Being a layperson, I quietly follow Church teaching as best as I can, and in the privacy of our home, make known to my children what I understand to be the right way to live. If anyone chances to ask me questions, I reply as peacefully and as honestly as I can. I strive to defer to what can be documented as taught by the Holy Fathers as best as I can, so that I cannot be faulted for inventing beliefs and practices that match my own opinions. I am blessed by the lifestyle and teaching of my confessor.

              The “standing up” you reference in your choice #1 in general may best be done through my life, rather than through disputation. But when asked specific questions by someone honestly seeking information, I do my best to research and reference helpful articles or books. Your choice #2 is unclear as to whether you mean seeking a different Orthodox parish, or seeking a faith outside of the Church. If more than one Orthodox parish exists where one lives, I don’t see a problem with someone changing parishes quietly and without fanfare. I do not, personally, feel bound to any particular Orthodox jurisdiction because, in theory, the faith is the same, no matter what “ethnic clothing” it wears. Your choice #3 is untenable for an Orthodox Christian.

              I do not merit the comments posted by Mr. Michalopoulos, for I am no more than a plain-natured woman who sins daily, over-and-over, but who trusts those Orthodox men and women, saints recognized and unrecognized, who have preceded me in the faith, demonstrating a confidence in, and a love for, God that I naver attain. I believe their witness.

              • There is no typing correction mechanism here. Someone called out to me, so I mistyped that next-to-last sentence which should read “. . . that I never will attain.”

        • George Michalopulos says

          Rod, as “lexcaritas” stated, “bowls of wrath” are being stored up for us and “even Nineveh will judge us.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      Christian Mother, I do not judge you. Lord forgive me for what I’m about to say, but I believe that those who are putting this Church through this present turmoil are no different than the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus castigated “who went to the farthest reaches of the earth to make proselytes, only to turn them into twice the sons of Satan that [they] were.”

      I must beg you however to reconsider what you are doing. Unless your priest is a worldly and indifferent pastor who is merely a liturgical technician, please give him another chance. Your character is a serious adjunct to his ministry and a witness to those who are weaker in the Faith.

    • A Christian Mother says

      Thank you all for your kindness, comments, and prayers. I wish I had Antonia’s spiritual fortitude, and perhaps, in time, I will. I understand well that I am responsible for my own soul and for nurturing my children in the faith. In my heart, my hope is to return to my parish or another Orthodox parish when I am strong enough. How odd that must sound. I am afraid that I am more than a bit worn down by various cares of the world, and I do need active fellowship with those whose priority is a deeper relationship with Christ. My teenage children do as well as they begin to spread their wings in a culture that is actively hostile to our faith and values. They are at an age and of a temperament to ask questions and seek reasoned explanations in regard to the moral issues of the day, the existence and nature of God, and so on. I do my best, but in all humility, I must recognize it is not enough. This latest crisis in the OCA has only served to wear me down on several levels–and so my attempt to seek some sort of refuge with sincere and welcoming evangelical Christians.

      Our small OCA parish has been and continues to be supportive of ocanews and of a “progressive” approach to the intersection of the Church, the world, and various political issues. My more conservative family is a bit of an anomaly there. I do not wish to distract from your blog’s discussion of the broader issues. I only mention my personal situation because I feel powerless to do anything else but watch and pray, and because I fear my family is part of a larger trend in leaving (or considering leaving) the Church. My concerns are not simply in regard to bureaucratic bungling or the inevitable human failings one encounters in any organization. My concerns are about who the OCA really is and whether or not it will live out Christ’s Great Commission as we are called to do.

  3. Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

    I commented on the WaPo peice when it came out here:


    Poor Vladyka Herman. He never seems to get included in the blanket amnesties of agnosticism that are going round. He gets no credit for zealously slogging through the January cold at the March for Life – for decades. I don’t have any reason to suspect Ms Duin of any bad intentions. But going to the March for Life is not something new in the OCA. And for years I have been hearing about whether we can afford the move to DC, frankly a rather obvious concern. It’s not like being in the New York City area is out in the boonies. George and OCATruth are perfectly happy to cast aspersions far and wide, but no one should ask where Ms Duin got her (mis) information? I don’t doubt what Rod Dreher says about the time line of the piece and the process of writing and publishing. I certainly don’t think that the Metropolitan or anyone else in the OCA controls Ms. Duin or the Washington Post. The only one who seems to claim the Met. Jonah wrote it himself is Voices from The Drezhlo, who doesn’t like the OCA, period.

    Dear Mother, for charity in the Church, we must have the charity we hope to see in others. These might help.



    • Poor Vladyka Herman. He never seems to get included in the blanket amnesties of agnosticism that are going round. He gets no credit for zealously slogging through the January cold at the March for Life – for decades.

      Fr. Youssef, it’s true that Met. Jonah didn’t invent going to the March for Life, but I think the focus was on Met. Jonah’s strong encouragement of others (other bishops, and the seminarians) to come with him, as well as his loud and strident behavior in dealing with abortion and other moral issues. I kind of thought that behavior (not simply going to the March), and Met. Jonah’s drive to make the OCA more prominent on moral issues, was the whole point of the article. Met. Jonah has also addressed the crowd every year since his election, something I cannot recall Met. Herman doing.

      I don’t mean any of this as an insult towards Met. Herman; perhaps he was never given the opportunity to address the march and so forth. I do try to give Met. Herman the credit he is due for things he did right, and forgive him for things that transpired as a result of human weakness. What His Beatitude does with that is his own business.

      And for years I have been hearing about whether we can afford the move to DC, frankly a rather obvious concern.

      For many reasons, a move to DC is worth looking in to, and perhaps plan for long-term. Just because we can’t snap our fingers and move within a day doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. When I heard about the dispute between Met. Jonah and Fr. Garklavs, my first thought was not, “Wow, Met. Jonah is a monster!” but “Why does Met. Jonah feel so strongly about this? What is he proposing? Is it reasonable? If not possible now, is there a way we could set it as a goal for the future?”

      It’s not like being in the New York City area is out in the boonies. George and OCATruth are perfectly happy to cast aspersions far and wide, but no one should ask where Ms Duin got her (mis) information?

      Trust me, another wacko church in New York is not going to make a big splash. You walk around in a black dress with a big beard, people do not notice. They merely assume you are an orthodox Jewish transvestite.

      DC, on the other hand, is not only the seat of the US government, it’s also a smaller pond. We’d have a much better chance of being taken seriously, and even being allowed to whisper in the emperor’s ear, if we were better noticed there.

      As for Syosset’s alleged isolation, to set things straight, I looked up the Syosset chancery on Google Maps. I think the map marks the chancery’s location incorrectly, but the turn-off from N. Hempstead Turnpike (25A) for the chancery appears to be halfway between Split Rock Rd. and Berry Hill Rd, about where the road narrows. Now zoom out and you’ll see it’s about thirty miles from Manhattan, and about fifteen from the Nassau County border with Queens. If that doesn’t sound that bad, add in NYC’s infamous 24-hour traffic congestion. (At least you have the chance to appreciate the scenery.)

      Syosset is convenient to New York City when compared to, say, the Hamptons, but it’s hardly next door. Certainly Metropolitan Jonah, who has presumably been to Syosset once or twice, doesn’t find it convenient. Ms. Duin is not an idiot. What cause do you have to accuse Met. Jonah of ‘misinformation’ for expressing a reasonable opinion, or her for printing it?

      • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

        Dear Helga,

        Perhaps I can get back to this after Annucniation Vigil. Perhaps not. Please read my initial post on Ad Orientem. Met Herman was a big, big supporter of the March, friends with the organizers, and he addressed the crowd every year, and gave the formal invocation more than once. I didn’t accuse met. Jonah of a single thing, nor do I wish to. Please do not read more than is there. Unlike some around here, I choose more words carefully, and I mean no more than I actually say.

        I am not against moving the chancery to DC.

        The public discussion of the chancery move, and public objections to the move from the Met Council centered on affordability at this time. To say otherwise is misinformation.

        To portray the Synod meeting as a response to the March is misinformation. To call our Synod a disastrous conclave in revolt is an insult to our Church. (I assume Ms Duin didn’t mean it to be but it is).

        • Perhaps I can get back to this after Annucniation Vigil. Perhaps not. Please read my initial post on Ad Orientem. Met Herman was a big, big supporter of the March, friends with the organizers, and he addressed the crowd every year, and gave the formal invocation more than once.

          Hey, good for Met. Herman. I did not know that. However, the whole point of the article was to focus on Met. Jonah’s advocacy in life issues, not compare him to his predecessor.

          I didn’t accuse met. Jonah of a single thing, nor do I wish to. Please do not read more than is there. Unlike some around here, I choose more words carefully, and I mean no more than I actually say.

          I didn’t say you did accuse Met. Jonah, Fr. Yousuf.

          I am not against moving the chancery to DC.

          The public discussion of the chancery move, and public objections to the move from the Met Council centered on affordability at this time. To say otherwise is misinformation.

          Mark Stokoe is quoted as calling it “a major decision that should be considered carefully in the context of the finances and the strategic plan by the entire church. To play the game in Washington takes a lot of money, and the OCA is not a wealthy church.” I am not sure what Stokoe means by ‘play the game in Washington’ beyond political advocacy in life issues, or why it would cost a significant amount of money. It doesn’t cost much to dialogue with elected officials (as I recall, talking is free, all it requires is air in your lungs and a voice box to regulate it). Considered with the amount of good the Church could do, it could easily be a worthwhile investment.

          As to the question of how much money the OCA has, if you check the treasurer’s report for 2010, available on the OCA website, you will see that the OCA is not hurting for money. They are not rolling in dough, exactly, but they appear to be living within their means. I can understand wanting to put off such a move for a little while, but this is clearly not a state of financial exigency.

          To portray the Synod meeting as a response to the March is misinformation. To call our Synod a disastrous conclave in revolt is an insult to our Church. (I assume Ms Duin didn’t mean it to be but it is).

          Give Ms. Duin a break. She had very little time to process that information, which probably came out of the blue for her (and everyone who isn’t on the MC mailing list, apparently). None of the other members of the Synod spoke to her to give her their side of the story.

          And considering how much the Synod’s actions resemble past actions taken against troublesome bishops to get them out of the way, I think “disastrous” and “revolt” are fairly apt words for the situation when considered from Met. Jonah’s perspective.

          • Helga, well put! Fr Yousef, let’s not forget that the Chancery of the national Church should be in the nation’s capital, ostensibly close to the diocesan bishop of the capital. That makes sense. Now please not: I’m not at all that concerned whether we even have a “national” chancery. I’d much prefer diocesan ones. If that’s the case, then the Archbishop of Washington, who is a diocesan ordinary, should have a chancery for that diocese. Let us be consistent if we truly believe that all bishops are “equals.”

            • All, if I may say, The Washington Post article was well-witten and fair. The fact that it presented +Jonah in a good light is because he is a good man. Lately, I’ve been picking up a vibe from certain anti-+Jonah partisans who I’ve talked to, who feel that the WaPo article was a definate strike against their narrative. In fact, the fear in the voice of one man I talked to strongly ndicated to me that the Lord was not on his side in this, and that he was shaken by the possibility that this might be true.

          • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says


            You wrote, “What cause do you have to accuse Met. Jonah of ‘misinformation’ for expressing a reasonable opinion, or her for printing it?” and then you wrote, “I didn’t say you did accuse Met. Jonah, Fr. Yousuf.” Helga, do you read what you yourself write?

            I did give Ms. Duin a break and say that I thought the insult unintentional. But point in fact, she does present the Santa Fe meeting as a “ferocious” response to the Metropolitan Jonah being at the March for Life. Now either she invented it or someone told her that. But I call it misinformation. I repeat, going to the March was not new, and I can’t hardly imagine that anyone will seriously try to say that the Synod met in Santa Fe because Met. Jonah went to the March.

            Another thing, Bp. Michael is plainly visible in the pictures that go with that article, yet you would have no idea that any other bishops were there from the article.

            I actually fully agree with you Helga, about going through our process to achieve a move, should such a move occur. I have no personal vested interest in seeing us keep Syosset. I was there only once. I would not have ever thought of it as an “isolated cottage” to use words from Ms. Duin’s article. Somehow Metropolitan Illarion Alfeyev manages to come through and have a meeting at the “isolated cottage” in Syosset make it to ROCOR and GOA HQs in Manhattan, and get back out to the ROCOR Church (St. Seraphim) near Syosset, all in one day.

            Fr Yousuf

            • You wrote, “What cause do you have to accuse Met. Jonah of ‘misinformation’ for expressing a reasonable opinion, or her for printing it?” and then you wrote, “I didn’t say you did accuse Met. Jonah, Fr. Yousuf.” Helga, do you read what you yourself write?

              Sorry, Fr. Yousuf, I made a mistake. Sorry to say, this is not the only thing I have going on right now, and I am fallible.

              But you did call it “misinformation”, which means you accused either Met. Jonah or Ms. Duin of giving incorrect information. Since Metropolitan Jonah knows perfectly well where the Syosset chancery is, accusing him of giving incorrect information is saying that he lied.

              At the very least, it’s a matter of opinion, and if Met. Jonah finds the chancery isolated, what cause do you have to dispute that? No public transportation is nearby. The nearest LIRR stations are the Syosset and Oyster Bay stations, each about three miles in either direction, and it takes at least an hour for either trip to get to the city and back. You can get a city taxi to take you there as it’s in Nassau County, but once you cross the county line the fare rate doubles, and you have fifteen miles of that before reaching Syosset. That certainly qualifies as being out in the ‘boonies’ by New York standards.

              I did give Ms. Duin a break and say that I thought the insult unintentional. But point in fact, she does present the Santa Fe meeting as a “ferocious” response to the Metropolitan Jonah being at the March for Life. Now either she invented it or someone told her that. But I call it misinformation. I repeat, going to the March was not new, and I can’t hardly imagine that anyone will seriously try to say that the Synod met in Santa Fe because Met. Jonah went to the March.

              She ‘invented’ it or someone ‘told’ her. Could it be that it was her honest impression of the situation? And she never said that Met. Jonah invented going to the March for Life. Nor did she say the Synod meeting was because of that. She clearly established a pattern of behavior on the Metropolitan’s part – his teaching and preaching – related to his stances on life issues and the status of the OCA. She then talked about how this pattern of behavior has affected his relationship with other Synod members, his flock, and the rest of the Orthodox world.

              Another thing, Bp. Michael is plainly visible in the pictures that go with that article, yet you would have no idea that any other bishops were there from the article.

              Really? Because I could have sworn that was the point of the entire first paragraph of the article, and of mentioning that Met. Jonah put the word out that they were expected at the March.

              I actually fully agree with you Helga, about going through our process to achieve a move, should such a move occur. I have no personal vested interest in seeing us keep Syosset. I was there only once. I would not have ever thought of it as an “isolated cottage” to use words from Ms. Duin’s article. Somehow Metropolitan Illarion Alfeyev manages to come through and have a meeting at the “isolated cottage” in Syosset make it to ROCOR and GOA HQs in Manhattan, and get back out to the ROCOR Church (St. Seraphim) near Syosset, all in one day.

              It’s true that the chancery was once a summer house of some kind. And I never said the chancery was located on the moon or anything. It’s perfectly possible to get to all those places within a day, and the ROCOR and GOA headquarters are only 20 blocks apart in Manhattan. Met. Hilarion more than likely had a car service with a driver to take him around, which is probably the fastest way to get around (provided you don’t hit traffic), as the driver is a professional who knows the area back routes and so forth. But even in the best of road and traffic conditions, Syosset is still a 45-minute hike from Manhattan, and Met. Jonah is probably either driving himself or being driven by his assistant, not a professional New York-area driver. So if he calls the Syosset chancery isolated, I believe him.

              • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

                For reasons that I have stated repeatedly, I feel the article gives a misleading picture, hence, “misinformation”, and I have pointed to specifics. To most of what I have said the response has been that the other facts aren’t important.

                “if Met. Jonah finds the chancery isolated, what cause do you have to dispute that? No public transportation is nearby. ” I thought it was MS. Duin who called it “isolated”. And its the biggest house I have ever seen called a cottage. Bigger than anything anyone I know lives by orders of magnitude.

                I am not interested in debating the move to DC. If the Metropolitan, the Synod, and the Metropolitan Council agree to it and also think that the Chancery staff needs to be able to bus to work, I haven’t the slightest problem with that. Very green.

                “Because I could have sworn that was the point of the entire first paragraph of the article, and of mentioning that Met. Jonah put the word out that they were expected at the March.”

                I have actually avoided this. But shouldn’t participation in a March be voluntary? I don’t believe for a second that Bp. Michael was compelled. I know him way to well to imagine that. If Met.Jonah is encouraging participation, great. So did his predecessor. If he is attempting to compel it, than that is both wrong and counter productive. I choose to believe that His Beatitude encourages and does not compel participation.

                No matter what Ms. Duin wrote, it only indicates the information she was able to obtain. If you already think that the Synodal problems are part of a culture war thing you might think this article is great. If you think that the talk of, for instance, Bp. Michael, or frankly any bishop of our Synod tolerating let alone joining a cabal to keep the OCA safe for sodomy, is slanderous and idiotic, you might react rather differently to that article.

                And frankly, Mark Stokoe must know that no possible successor to Met. Jonah will take a more kindly view of homosexuality or of OCANews. I know it. He even implies that he knows it. I can’t figure why a small but vocal minority in our Church insists on avoiding this obvious fact. Mark’s openly stated aims and views about the role of Kondratick in the past and the role he imagines is appropriate for the Metropolitan council, and for his own accountability efforts really seem to me to explain his ambivalence. Yes, Mark may have additional reason to dislike the Manhattan statement. But if the Manhattan statement did not exist and Mark was certifiably and vigorously heterosexual, but all other things remaining the same, I would expect that his position would be much the same. Please note, none of the above should be taken to mean that I wholly share either his ambivalence or stated goals and agendas. But I do think I understand them.

                • Fr, I don’t believe Miss Duin said that Bishop Michael’s participation was “compelled,” only that of the seminarians. (I may have read that wrong, if so, then she was either misinformed or made the mistake herself. )

                  As to your assertion that “any possible successor to +Jonah will [not] take a more kindly view of homosexuality or Mark Stokoe,” I am not nearly so sanguine. Please understand: I hope very much that you are right. But I’m not at all confident that that will be the case. If anything, the deposition of +Jonah will only strengthen the hand of the Lavender Mafia within the Church.

                  But I could be wrong. May I suggest a test case? Have the Holy Synod issue a declaration something along these lines:

                  “We, the Holy Synod fo the OCA state categorically and for the record that OCANews is not to be trusted as a news source. It has provided inflammatory misinformation and is presently operating against the good order of the Church. In addition, we are asking that no clergyman, bishop, or layman in the employ of the OCA communicate any information whatsoever to this website. More importantly, we are asking its purveyor to shut down its site and are calling him to repentance. Until that time, he is at present cut off from the Divine Mysteries of the Church and his membership on the Metropolitan Council is temporarily suspended, for ‘The Lord desireth not the death of a sinner, but his salvation’.”

                  • PS, that should be easy enough, shouldn’t it?

                  • The main problem with excommunicating Mark (for anything, not just his website) is that he could easily make it look like he’s being silenced, and the Eucharist is being used as political blackmail. Not good.

                    I think the OCA’s best option is simply to throw Mark off the Metropolitan Council. Apart from his moral impediment, a case could be made that by using his MC position to gather info for OCA News, and using OCA News to garner public support for his MC lobby, he has abused his position. After that’s done, they could make a public statement that OCA News and its editor are not affiliated with the administration and, therefore, caveat lector.

                  • Also, I want to mention that the article wording was a little misleading. No seminarians were forced to participate. All that happened was that a bus was provided for free to take them to the March. A better phrasing might have been “encouraged” to participate, rather than “expected”.

          • Fr Yousef, bless,

            To quote Mark Stokoe at this point as an authority on whether the chancery should be in Hicksville or Bugtussle is immaterial at this point. Not only has he lost all credibility in this matter, he’s proven himself to be a bad-faith actor (malefidactor?).

            To show you how off base he is, consider carefully his quote: “…to play the game in Washington takes a lot of money…” I’m sorry, but he lost me after the words “to play the game.” What nonsense. Is this all that he thinks this is, the moral collapse of our nation (to say nothing about the degeneration of our Church) a game?

            But since money seems to be a consideration here, I dare say that a monastery in Washington staffed with real monastics who are undertaking the spiritual struggle would be far cheaper in the long run than a lethargic chancery in NY which has heretofore done nothing but manage the decline of the OCA. There is simply no way that we can decouple the malfeasance of Kondratick with the culture that sustained him all those years.

    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

      The article was about Metropolitan Jonah, not Metropolitan Herman.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Very good point, Lola.

        • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

          Um, no George, it isn’t.

          A good, fair well written and researched piece about Metropolitan Jonah, or anybody else for that matter, if it says “look at the novel thing and novel approach that the new so and so is doing” has some responsibility to describe a novel action or approach.

          For example if I say, look at the fair, good article about me becoming priest here, and the article begins:
          “Last Sunday the new priest in Tarzana, Fr Yousuf took bread and wine. He has decided to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday in Tarzana” it’s perfectly true. If someone says “Hey, Fr Sergei Glagolev did that there for 20 years before Fr Yousuf was even born”, my saying, “It’s a great article. its just about me and not Fr Sergei”, is actually no defense whatsoever.

          • Kevin Allen says

            My reading (I just re-read it in full) of the WaPo article on Met, Jonah is that the reporter uses the March simply as a lead-in to set the stage for the article’s POV that: (1) Met Jonah is engaging in the “culture wars” of our times, (2) that this is a “new” phenomenon in the Orthodox Church, and (3) that not it has not been met with glee by all in the OCA. I think the reporter is correct on all points. The article is not an analysis of the history of OCA or Orthodox participation in the March, or the anti-abortion movement, for that matter. I think the reporter’s perspective is right: Met Jonah IS something new – as fact and symbol – in the Orthodox Church. Many of us – looking in from the outside – were encouraged when the OCA selected Met Jonah, because for many of us, HB reprsents a fresh face, voice and a new perspective — not a seasoned politician (as has become clear), not an “administrative” leader per se, but a spiritual leader who says what is on his mind (perhaps too quickly), but who understands our culture and sees the Orthodox Church as many of us see her: as a beacon of light in a dark world. That he is being torn apart in such a fearsome and public way by his “own” is a tragedy and a travesty in my opinion.

            • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

              My very Dear Kevin,

              It is good to hear from you,and I wish you a most joyous Annunciation. and I actually agree with almost everything that you write here.

              The big caveat is your point 3. I do not believe that there is anything like widespread discontent on that front. I do not believe that opposition to these good efforts is anywhere near central to the internal problems of the Holy Synod, the chancery, and the Metropolitan Council.

              Also, if the following quote from the piece at least gives a strong implication, one which I believe is misleading:
              “He was there to rally the huddled masses waiting in the freezing air to begin the March for Life, the annual demonstration protesting the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide. His aim was to boost Orthodox participation in political issues. But his efforts to change the OCA would spark a ferocious reaction from his own bishops one month later. ”

              I wish that the internal problems of the Holy Synod etc. had remained internal. While certainly Mark Stokoe took the lead in making them public, George M and OCATruth have far and away displaced him as the main source of agitation, inflammatory accusation etc.

              • Harry Coin says

                I think Fr. Yousuf has it right. Somehow George has taken the sense that Met. Jonah is the more conservative over against, well, not sure who really, the synod? Jonah in a few weeks? Who really? Anyhow he tries to dust up Jonah’s critics by noting an agenda but not actually being able to produce a material error of fact posted on OCAnews. ‘OCATruth-anonymites’ raises whatever cards it can (Fundamentalism, conservatism, whatever) with an end to keeping on track the restoration of those in the old regime discredited by their personal choices.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Yeah, Fr, it is. I could just as easily make a case that Ms Duin’s article was deficient because it made no mention of the late +Iakovos’ march with MLK back in 64. In fact, it would have been a great lead-in to +Jonah’s participation in the cultural wars (civil rights was also a cultural war, btw).

            Please explain to me why certain priests and bishops were so upset by this neutral, third-party article in a secular newspaper which operates on its own timetable (I mean other than the fact that it made +Jonah look good)?

            I have several reasons which I’ll reveal in due time.

      • thank you Lola!

  4. Kevin Allen says

    Dear Fr Yousuf,

    Thank you for your clarification and thank you for your personal greeting! My family is well, thank God. I hope you, Matushka Rachel and family are well, too.

    Frankly I still do not know (maybe someone else does) what the root cause(s) of the “internal problems” within the OCA are. I am not fishing for a repsonse on that one either, because I agree with you that these are matters that should be dealt with in a calmer, prayerful and ideally redemptive way by those whose responsibilities they are (Synod, MC, etc.).

    My question: why are people on the Synod and the MC and retired bishops leaking information to the blogs and the virtual world that provide the fodder? (I get that Mr Stokoe is on the MC and is thus privvy to information; this seems to me to be a clear conflict-of-interest. I have lost most of my respect for his endeavor at OCA News as a result.) Don’t they realize the collateral damage they are doing, not only to your God-protected “jurisdiction”, but to the entire Church?

    The impact of these revelations in the sort of “tabloid-esque” context and manner in which they are being presented and framed, is very damaging to the morale of the faithful and especially to those journeying towards the Church. Just recently one of our catechumens was confronted during idle conversation by horrific mischaracterizations of what is going on in the OCA, and I could literally see the color leave her face as she said, “maybe I should not rush into this”, meaning her upcoming chrismation.

    I have prayed and hoped for years that our God-proteced Church would someday come out of the religious shadows and into the public square. I never, ever imagined THIS would be the way we would be introduced to the national media.

    God help us.

    • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

      Dear Kevin,

      We really should get together sometime. Not during Lent, Lord have Mercy! I am so busy.

      The tabloidization of this whole thing is really tearing us all apart. But those who are committed to some “constructed narrative” seem willing to push ahead with their inflammatory rhetoric and assertions regardless of the cost to souls.

      Again, good feast!

      Fr Y

    • George Michalopulos says

      Kevin, the thing that has shaken me to the core about this whole kerfuffle is the animus which is directed towards +Jonah. There’s nothing that he’s done that justifies such hatred. In my talk with the bishop the other day, the only thing I got out of him was that “+Jonah may have issues with sticking to things” (a paraphrase). I wish I had responded: “For THAT you’re bringing down the Church!

      Fr Yousef, I’m sorry but as I posted in today’s blog, I sense that there is a very real fear that +Jonah’s incorruptable and he’s going to clean house.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Kevin, I think part of the “root causes” of the problems have to do with the usual sleepy way of doing things in all of the jurisdiction’s central chanceries. The fact that the present MC/HS/Syosset way of doing things is injurious to the Church really means nothing so long as the paychecks keep coming in and/or until the first Social Security check can be drawn (then it’s somebody else’s problem).

      It seems a reasonable case can be made that this institutional lethargy is augmented during economic downturns and/or institutional crises, when the typical Orthodox jurisdiction retreats inward to its ethnocentric core. There’s a Darwinian aspect to this if you ask me. It’s in fact happening in all sorts of institutions and countries all over the world.

      Let me elaborate: we saw the GOA retreat to its ethnic core when the efforts of +Bartholomew to bring down +Iakovos and the subsequent aftermath. Part of this was self-selecting in that potential converts looked with horror on the situation and self-selected themselves out of joining. Same thing with +Philip’s ecclesial hamfistedness, in which he threw his only convert bishop under the bus rather than make the four Arab parishes in the Diocese of Toledo answer to +Mark’s questions about their internal finances.

      This is now happening in the OCA. Fortunately, I think it will fail because the ethnic core of the OCA is no longer the Carpatho-Russian settlement but the Anglo-American contingent which is genuinely starved for Christ.

      Now operating under the radar in all such circumstances (except blessedly the Antiochians) is a progressive/secularist mindset that does not disapprove of homosexuality. Yes, there are homosexual priests and bishops in the Church. They do not as yet constitute a gay mafia which exists only to protect and perpetuate its own interests as they are not yet as large or sophisticated for that.. However, they are subject to blackmail.

      Taken all together, this is a toxic brew which ensures institutional stasis and intellectual stalemate. OCAT called this a recipe for “managing the decline.” I agree.

  5. There is an insightful post from Fr. Basil Biberdorf on The Orthodox Leader blog outlining Metropolitan Jonah’s own views on the issues of authority, responsibility, obedience, and conciliarity. I’m providing a direct link below since it provides key information and lessons to reflect upon and consider.

    Authority is Responsibility

    • George Michalopulos says

      Chris, I believe in hierarchy, accountability, obedience, authority, and conciliarity. (Although Mark Stokoe by his own admission and lifestyle certainly has problems with the first four qualities which you described.) I’m sure that +Jonah believes in them as well.

      You forget one important quality however: moral authority. That derives from praxis, not ordination. The history of the Christian Church is filled with God-pleasing saints who stood up to the authorities, many of whom were ecclesiastics, and took them to task. Maximus the Confessor was one such individual. When he was in exile and somebody came to him and told him that the Emperor, Pope, and all the bishops subscribed to the Monothelite heresy, he replied: “Then I am the Church.” For this, the patriarch of Constantinople had his tongue yanked out so he couldn’t preach and his right hand cut off so he couldn’t write.

      In my post about the Russian Orthodox Church, I wondered what is it about that church that makes it so powerful, just a mere twenty years after the fall of its oppressor? I believe it was the horrendous persecution, which winnowed the wheat from the chaff. It’s arisen like a phoenix from the ashes and it takes its evangelical calling seriously. That’s why the Holy Synod had to meet with +Hilarion, because they were shamed into doing so. Their consciences demanded it.

      • Harry Coin says

        Support from the Russian government makes it powerful George. It’s support among the people is deep, but sparse.

      • George, you’re right, moral authority is absolutely important. In my use of the word “authority” morality and ethics were presumed.

        Also, if you read my commentary on that link you will see that “belief” and “preaching” (the Talk) are not the issues, but the actions are (the Walk). That’s where the kind of authority leaders possess is tested and that’s where the sheep can see if the leaders’ authority is genuine and Christ-like, or a smoke-screen for their own pride and egos. Lest we forget the OCA’s previous financial and spiritual crisis dealt with precisely these very same issues in regards to several leaders (priests and bishops) of the church. It’s clear that some have still not learned a valuable lesson or educated themselves on what it takes to be an effective and respected (“great”) leader.

        Key Characteristics of Great Leaders – Part I

        Key Characteristics of Great Leaders – Part II

        • George Michalopulos says

          Chris, and how was +Jonah responsible for the mess of his predecessors exactly?

          • George, Where did I say that? Why are you insinuating that I’m holding +Jonah responsible for any of that? I used the reference to the previous OCA crisis only as an example of what can happen when leaders (notice the plural) fail to Walk the Talk. Current leaders (all the bishops in the Synod, which includes Met. Jonah) need to be cognizant of the mistakes made previously, consider the delicate and wounded position the OCA finds herself in at the hand of previous unethical and abusive malfeasors, and act accordingly. When that does not happen often old problems re-appear or new problems can emerge.

            Met. Jonah himself expressed the tragic situation the OCA went through:

            “Between the Synod of the Bishops and the Metropolitan Council–talk about a sick dysfunctional situation! Why? Because, our passions have gone awry. Yes, we were betrayed. Yes, we were raped. It’s over. It’s over. Let it be in the past, so that we can heal.” (http://orthodoxleader.paradosis.com/2011/03/25/authority-is-responsibility/)

            Given how serious the issues were in the OCA, the current leaders (notice the plural again) must be especially careful in being open, honest, ethical, and transparent in their very public roles in regards to their leadership style, decisions (administrative in particular, given the previous violations), and actions, to insure the Church is informed and reassured that real shepherds are working to maintain good order (especially in regards to due process and conciliarity given the previous abuses and non-Orthodox models of governing and decision-making) and doing their best to guard and protect the flock.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Chris, good point. I’m glad that you don’t view +Jonah as the anti-Christ. Are you aware of what you’re asking though, where your line of interrogation will lead? All I can say is that at the end of the day, those in the HS/MC/Syosset Apparat who are throwing better be sure that they have NO skeletons in their [ahem] closet.

          • Kevin Allen says

            I’d be curious to know whether any of the recommendations of the 2008 Special Investigation Committee Report [chaired by HG Benjamin] have been followed by the OCA, other than the replacement of Herman? There were recommendations by the Committee for the pursuance of personal accountability, the return of funds, public apologies, etc. Has anyone been prosecuted, accepted accountability, been laicised, returned funds, as the Report recommends? From what I have heard two of the people at the vortex of the financial scandals are still on the OCA payroll. Apparently millions of dollars have been misappropriated, with no recourse…am I getting this right?

            • George Michalopulos says

              Kevin, as far as I know Kondratick was laicized. I don’t know who these other two are but I imagine if they’re guilty of anything, they should be laicized/prosecuted/etc. as well.

              However, if there is to be True Accountability, then more serious and penetrating questions will need to be asked. Among them:

              1. Who else is/was involved?

              2. Who else received favors/monies from the previous regimes?

              3. How many of these people are still in positions of power?

              4. How was this culture of corruption able to propagate itself for so long?

              This is only a start. I think those who have been reading this blog may understand where I’m going with this.

              I have a feeling that there’s going to be a documentary about this someday: Sleepless in Syosset might be a good title.

              • Kevin Allen says

                Sounds more like Asleep in Syossett.

              • Kondratick was deposed in July 2007, about a year and three months before the SIC report came out. The SIC basically identified who was left in the OCA who had aided or ignored what was going on. The report has been deleted from the OCA website, but I have a backup copy! 🙂

                Kondratick sued the OCA after his deposition by the spiritual court; the OCA attempted to recover funds from him through a countersuit. This was infamously settled in May 2010 with the OCA paying Kondratick $250,000. Beyond him, there were five people that the SIC recommended be disciplined by the Holy Synod:

                Metropolitan Herman retired after his six-month leave of absence was declined. He had a serious and painful condition of the lumbar spine and had surgery planned, so the denial of leave, coupled with the damning revelations of the SIC report, essentially forced his hand. There is no further mention of him that I can find in the OCA’s news archives until this meeting between him and Met. Jonah in March 2009 – had he remained Metropolitan, this is when he would have returned to work, so I assume that the retired Metropolitan’s recuperation is why this meeting took place six months after Met. Herman’s retirement. Met. Jonah delivered the Synod’s decision that Met. Herman should restrict his attendance to Ss Peter and Paul in Uniondale, PA, and that the privilege of wearing a white klobuk is reserved to the current primate. http://www.oca.org/news/1790 Met. Herman acceded to both decisions.

                Metropolitan Theodosius was restricted to attending and celebrating services at St. John the Baptist in Canonsburg, PA. http://www.oca.org/news/1631 Although the SIC report recommends that the OCA “seek the recovery of funds” from him, I am not aware if this ever happened.

                Met. Theodosius is rather frail and suffered multiple strokes before his 2002 retirement. His and Met. Herman’s poor health and old age (they are both nearly 80) may account for why they received what were basically slaps on the wrist.

                The other three were former treasurers Fr. Paul Kucynda and Fr. Dimitri Oselinsky, and former comptroller Fr. Steven/Stavros Strikis. They were reprimanded by the Holy Synod, and the minutes of the Fall 2008 MC meeting include the following:

                Frs Paul Kucynda, Dimitri Oselinsky and Stavros Strikis are hereby deemed permanently ineligible for election or appointment to any future position of trust or office in the administration or administrative bodies under the purview of the Central Administration of the Orthodox Church in America…


                Interestingly enough, Fr. Strikis is now assigned to St. John’s Monastery in Manton, CA.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Helga, thanks for this brief refresher course. Although these five were punished in some way (perhaps not enough), I still can’t help but shake the suspicion that the rot in Syosset was more extensive. Usually, in a scam like this, not all of the malefactors are brought to book. Prosecutors have to confine themselves to using the best evidence available, and this means that some guys slip through the noose.

                  Since that chapter is over and done with, I’m more concerned with the question of Original Sin (so to speak), i.e. what set of circumstances existed that allowed Kondratick to act with impunity all those years? And what set of circumstances presently exists which allowed Stokoe to threaten people because of his intimate knowledge?

                  The answer is clearly corruption, but “corruption” is an abstract term. It means nothing if you don’t define the sinful acts that constitute it. Was it drunkenness? Embezzlement of funds? Money laundering? Sexual depravity? Etc. Invariably, in most ecclesial structures, you find that the corruption in question is homosexuality. Not just among the top guys, but further into the fabric of the clergy. And the desperate need to hide the truth from the people at all costs.

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