Yet Another Enconium

Abp. Demetri in Repose (Click to enlarge)

Please read Rod Dreher’s take. We may have to start a book on His Eminence, just on remembrances of him.

From: Real Clear Politics | By Rod Dreher

Death of the Richest Man in Dallas

We stood at the parsonage door in the rain, worrying that we were at the wrong place — could this ramshackle house in Oak Lawn really be where the archbishop lives? — and that we were underdressed for the dinner to which we had been invited.

We had seen Archbishop Dmitri in his church, St. Seraphim’s Orthodox Cathedral, on the Sunday we visited, and found the very sight of him — tall, gaunt, his long white beard resting against his black cassock — thoroughly impressive, but thoroughly intimidating.

The man looked like an Old Testament prophet. Julie and I didn’t dare turn his invitation down.

We knocked. Someone opened the door. The house was jammed with people, food, and conversation. Everyone was there to celebrate the Orthodox Feast of the Dormition, which Julie and I as Catholics knew as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Seated there in the middle of the scrum was the austere archbishop, laughing and chattering, the happy genius of his household.

We didn’t know it then, but Dmitri’s party would change our lives. The old man died last weekend in that same house, surrounded by many of the Orthodox Christians we first met on that rainy August evening.

As it turned out, my wife and I were overdressed. As Catholics, we figured an archbishop would be an exalted personage who carried himself with a sense of inner pomp. By that time, frankly, I had had quite enough of bishops and archbishops.

I was on the ropes spiritually, battered by several years of writing about the sex abuse scandal in my church, and disgusted beyond measure with our hierarchs. They carried themselves with such a pride and entitlement, but when it came to protecting the children of the faithful, they had disgraced themselves. Even though this Dmitri was an Eastern Orthodox archbishop, I can’t say I was excited about supping with his kind.

He welcomed us that day with grandfatherly warmth, but in truth, we didn’t have the opportunity to talk with him much. As it turned out, we didn’t need to speak with Vladyka (a Russian term of affection for bishops) to learn a lot about him – indeed to learn everything essential.

For example, that house. It was a dump. The kitchen roof was leaking. This is how an archbishop lives? Well, yes, it’s how this archbishop lived. He cared nothing for comfort. He never forgot that he was a monk first. Vladyka gave his money to his cathedral, to evangelism, to the missions, to the poor.

In the kitchen, a tall Ukrainian and a short Siberian took me aside and told me how much they loved Vladyka. They spoke of his kindness, his holiness, his humility. “You will never find an Orthodox bishop like him in all of Russia!” said the Siberian.

The Ukrainian poured three shots of vodka, and handed me one. “To Vladyka!” said the Siberian, raising his glass. We drank.

Tables and shelves groaned under the weight of casseroles and platters of food, most of them brought in by parishioners for the party. I remarked on how beautiful the desserts were. Vladyka made those, they told me. To support the cathedral in its early days as a 1950s mission, Vladyka worked for his sister in her Dallas restaurant. Because of that, Vladyka became a serious cook, and loved to make fancy desserts for holy days.

Here was an archbishop who knew what it meant to fast — indeed, who practically lived in poverty — but who also knew what it meant to feast.

At some point, Julie motioned for me to come over. I squeezed through the crowd and saw Vladyka sitting in a side room where the little children had gathered during the party. The kids sat at his feet, listening.

“Look at him,” she said. “He’s listening to their questions and telling them about Jesus. He’s not talking down to them, either. It’s amazing.”

Suddenly, the conviviality drew to a close, and the crowd turned toward an icon of Jesus on a mantle in Vladyka’s dining room. A hush fell over the room. Archbishop Dmitri rose and began to pray with great solemnity and reverence. And then, the feasting began in earnest, with the merry old monk presiding over affairs like Gandalf the Grey at Bilbo Baggins’s birthday party.

Driving home that evening, I told Julie, “That seemed like a family reunion.” It was a family that we two exhausted, broken, fearful Catholics wanted to be part of. A year later, Vladyka took us in. He never argued doctrine with us, or spoke an ill word about Catholicism (for which I, who experienced the loss of his Catholic faith like an unwanted divorce, was deeply grateful). All Vladyka did was show us love and friendship, and celebrate the liturgy with awesome reverence. That was all we needed.

Just after midnight last Saturday, as I sat in my Philadelphia apartment listening to hurricane winds lash the windows, the Ukrainian who poured me the vodka toast that evening, telephoned from downstairs at the archbishop’s house.

“He’s still breathing, but it won’t be long now,” my friend said. “Please pray. Just pray.”

Vladyka lay dying upstairs in his house, surrounded by clergy and parishioners, who had been keeping vigil at his bedside for the days and weeks of his final illness. For my poor part, I took my most beloved icon down from the shelf, hit my knees, and prayed for God to welcome my dear old friend home in peace.

As I lay prostrate in prayer, I thought about the many liturgies I attended that he celebrated, and the conversations we had about the faith after my conversion. I recalled the times I stood in St. Seraphim’s Cathedral watching Dmitri on the altar, a man out of time, thinking, “This is what a saint looks like.” None of those memories spoke as eloquently about the man’s measure as did that house party.

I had showed up that night bitter and full of cynicism about bishops, so puffed-up and proud, and the way they treat the faithful. In the deep modesty of his household and in the profound love and respect his people had for him, I saw that this man Dmitri was someone altogether different. In his sweet-spirited humility, I saw an icon of Christ, shining through the spiritual darkness in which I had lost my way.

Vladyka’s final months were tragically painful, owing to the cathedral’s agonized struggle this year with Bishop Mark, whom the Orthodox Church in America sent to be the retired Vladyka’s replacement. The iniquitous Mark nearly destroyed the parish before he was finally driven away; many at St. Seraphim’s believe the turmoil he caused hastened Vladyka’s demise. Only God knows the answer, but the rest of us have learned this awful spring that there aren’t any Orthodox bishops like Dmitri in the OCA either.

That said, Dmitri’s leadership was not flawless. I never saw problems, because I came to know him only in the late winter of his life. But some parishioners with long memories told me that as personally holy and pastoral as he was, Dmitri hated conflict, and didn’t exercise strong administrative oversight when he needed to have done so. (This is also true of Pope John Paul II, incidentally).

Nevertheless, Dmitri’s life, and the church family he leaves behind, serves as a powerful witness to the power of true humility to change lives, heal the spiritually sick, and even to save souls. The men and women who kept bedside vigil for Vladyka in his final days, who fed him and cleaned him and held him, and who prayed for him as he breathed his last – they knew who this man was, and what God did through him. They loved him as fiercely as they were loved by him.

The day of Vladyka’s passing, the Orthodox blogger and Dmitri friend George Michalopoulus wrote that a Greek archbishop once told him after Vladyka’s retirement service that the holiness of +Dmitri, and the rarity of such a bishop in the Church, makes the sad divisions among the American Orthodox seem like nothing.

“He was right,” Michalopoulus wrote. “In the grand scheme of things, we either know saints, or we don’t. Tears were running down both our faces.”

I think we knew a saint.

Robert Dmitri Royster left this life in the upper room of a dilapidated cottage, one so frail the faithful worried that the ceiling would collapse from the weight of those praying at his bedside. His razor-sharp mind had been scattered by old age. His once-strong body had been stripped by mortality of all dignity. The elder had barely a penny to his name, having given it all to the service of the Lord and His people. But I believe he died the richest man in Dallas. Blessed are his spiritual children in their inheritance.

Rod Dreher is a writer in Philadelphia.

About GShep


  1. Ευχaριστώ πολύ, και Rod και Γεόργιος.

    • Cathryn Tatusko says

      Thank you for taking the time to write and post this most beautiful tribute to Archbishop +Dmitri. Such words are so healing–even salvific. It appears the OCA has lost a humble giant. Memory eternal–and peace be with all of his beloved spiritual children.

      In Christ,
      Cathy Tatusko

  2. John of Holy Apostles says


    Great idea about the book of remembrances for Archbishop +DMITRI. As you know brother, he changed our lives. I will never refer to him in the past tense. He, like the cloud of witnesses, is with us. A good subtitle for the book may be his favorite quote from St. Seraphim, “Have a peaceful spirit and a 1000 souls around you will be saved.”


  3. Matushka Elizabeth says

    Shame on you, Rod, for injecting your unholy politics into what could have been a lovely tribute to a truley saintly man. If you love the man, why did you not honor him? Your insertion and assertion about Bp. Mark in this piece would (and I am certain DID) have offended our beloved Vladika greatly. Why did you do this, Rod? Why? What was your motivation??? While Vladika Dmitri most certainly IS the richest man in Dallas (and the South!), you must not have learned the lessons he so quietly and powerfully sought to teach us all: Love and Respect being chief among them.

    • Matushka, there is already a discussion about this on the In Memoriam thread, so you may wish to refer to that.

      Can you explain why Vladyka Dmitri would describe Bishop Mark by saying, “it’s as if he has no soul”? Those are pretty strong words, and I find it difficult to believe Vladyka would say such a thing without due cause.

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  5. Matushka Elizabeth says

    Helga – I could only guess why Vladika might say that. I do know that in that season, some truly horrific things did happen to some of the people I love best in this world who live in Dallas. However, the stage was well set for this several years before Bp. Mark ever set foot in Dallas and the directive to act was given him before Bp. Mark really knew the circumstances and the score. He did what he did; he could have said no; and what he did do was shocking and cruel. But at the same time, he was intentionally set up. Bp. Mark also asked forgiveness, and returned to Dallas for the funeral and burial services to pray and cry with all of us who loved Vladika Dmitri. Bp. Mark was not “driven away” by the Parishioners of St. Seraphims. The proceedure and decision making process for his move actually was not their call at all, but that of the Synod of Bishops, along with the feedback and information shared not only at St. Seraphim’s but also at various Deanery and Clergy meetings held thoughout the DOS, with Bishop Nikon in attendance at all, and Bp Mark in attendance at some of these gatherings. So, the issues are not nearly as clear cut and one sided as many on this list would like to make believe. The truly important thing now, however, is to fully forgive, to hang onto Christ, to lay aside former delusion, division and partisanship and to find unity in the Church, in our Parishes, in our DOS, by the prayers of the newly departed and ever memorable Archbishop Dmitri. May his memory be eternal!

    • However, the stage was well set for this several years before Bp. Mark ever set foot in Dallas and the directive to act was given him before Bp. Mark really knew the circumstances and the score. He did what he did; he could have said no; and what he did do was shocking and cruel. But at the same time, he was intentionally set up.

      Matushka, I am not sure what you are talking about when you say Bishop Mark was intentionally set up somehow, but Bishop Mark was certainly not set up to invade Fr. Joseph Fester’s Gmail account. What justification or excuse is there for that? All else aside, Bishop Mark did something cruel and terrible, and he did it of his own volition. Bishop Mark violated many people – Fr. Fester, Metropolitan Jonah, and the parishioners at St. Seraphim and St. Nicholas – and they deserve a public and wholehearted apology.

      The truly important thing now, however, is to fully forgive, to hang onto Christ, to lay aside former delusion, division and partisanship and to find unity in the Church, in our Parishes, in our DOS, by the prayers of the newly departed and ever memorable Archbishop Dmitri.

      I think most of Monomakhos posters, myself included, would like nothing more than that, Matushka. I thought Rod was out of line, and have said so repeatedly, while continuing to love him as my brother in Christ.

      However, I have a problem with a layman trying to run the OCA with lies and manipulated information. I have a problem with people attacking Metropolitan Jonah, a kind and prayerful bishop, for trying to do his job, which includes imparting the moral teachings of the Church. And I have a problem with people trampling on the tradition of the Church, and abusing those who defend the tradition, in support of the perverted idea that certain passions ought to be catered to rather than battled against.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Very well said Helga.

        At the risk of reopening a can of worms in which I and most of my correspondents may not agree on, I’d like to revisit Rod’s recent enconium on our beloved Vladyka. Though most all agree that Rod’s words were poignant, most all took him to task for what he said towards the last regarding Bp Mark. I of course disagreed and came to Rod’s defense.

        I’ve given this more thought and I very much respect the contrary opinions. Y’all may very well be right. I however I think Rod was right to post what he said. Why do I say this? After all they were harsh words and jarring in another otherwise beautiful eulogy. So why do I think Rod was justified?

        Let me explain.

        We must remember that all Rod was doing was regurgitating Vladyka’s assessment of his putative successor. He must have done this for a reason. More than most, he had extended contact with him (more so than all of us combined I dare say) and he took a measure of the man. Though old and failing in health, Vladyka was old and wise. He also knew that he was dying and that he was also not a voting member of the Holy Synod. In a sense, he cast his vote from beyond the grave. The DOS is in the process of selecting and vetting men for the office of bishop. The Holy Synod will vote on the respective candidates. +Dmitri’s words were a shot across the bow that nobody –whether in the DOS or the HS–will take lightly. They will be considered. They should be.

        The legacy of evangelism that +Dmitri bequeathed to American Orthodoxy is not a toy and even though there are certain theologians and clerics in the Northeast who are flippant about the moral tradition of Orthodoxy, this same moral tradition cannot be divorced from real evangelism. The fact that HG was caught up in the web of deceit that has characterized the entire ecclesiastical career of Mark Stokoe is likewise something that must be considered. Absent genuine repentance (and this would include working with the requisite authorities, whether secular or religious or both), I do not see how a serious Church or serious men within the DOS can cast a vote for HG.

        Let us be careful in throwing stones at Rod as I believe he was delivering the words of +Dmitri to us.

        • George, I agree with you. I didn’t know Vladyka, like most of you did, but he didn’t strike me as a person who spoke without thought. If he said what he said about +Bishop MARK, it was for a reason. I believe that he was trying to protect his flock. I believe that he meant for these statements to be repeated, or he would not have said them.

        • George, I could be closer to agreeing with you about Rod’s words about Bishop Mark if Rod’s piece hadn’t been published before Vladyka was even buried. I would have felt better about it if he’d waited even 24 additional hours before publishing that. And it would have been even better if he had dealt with his issues with Bishop Mark in another piece altogether, coupled with evidence and testimony from church members. Vladyka Dmitri deserved better.

          Also, I felt Rod’s final sentence in that paragraph was unacceptable regardless of when it was published. That was a cheap shot at the rest of the Synod that they didn’t deserve, although it was especially uncouth for it to be delivered while they were burying a brother bishop. Think of Bishop Matthias, who kicked Mark Stokoe off the Metropolitan Council so hard that it even knocked me to the floor. Think of Bishop Michael, who has done nothing wrong that anyone has told me about, is a *really* nice man, and happens to be the only one who smiles in his official portrait anymore. And think of poor Metropolitan Jonah, who has earnestly contended for the Church’s moral teachings more than any other bishop in the OCA, and only earned Rod’s wrath by possibly mishandling the pastoral situation at St. Nicholas. (Even Rod admits Vladyka Dmitri was not administratively flawless.)

          None of these three are quite the same as Archbishop Dmitri of thrice-blessed memory, but it’s impossible for any of them to have attained that level of distinction in such a short time, and no reason to say that none of them could ever attain it. Rod’s derisive commentary was cruel and unreasonable, and I think all of them deserved better along with Vladyka Dmitri.

          • In the spirit of the 40 days after the repose of our beloved Archbishop Dmitri, why don’t we dial it all back, pray of His Eminence, asking him to intercede for his flock before the Throne of God.

            Let’s stop this back and forth about others. It is really not appropriate.

          • Helga, there’s a lot of wisdom in your words. For what it’s worth, I didn’t take Rod’s rebuke to be against the HS per se but I could be wrong. BTW, I completely agree with you, with the addition of +Matthias and +Michael, the OCA is on the mend.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            Metropolitan Jonah’s one sin was that he stopped towing the line on OCA autocephelacy. His signing of the Manhattan Declaration was just the hammer being brought down harder on his supposed coffin. Read what Fr. Ted Bobish said about Metropolitan Jonah’s remarks about the speech he gave about the OCA’s autocephelacy being good for it’s time in 1970, but maybe not so good now.

            That was and still is Mark Stoke’s aim and motivation for attempting to take out Metropolitan Jonah. Stoke and the other co-conspirators are died in the wool authocephalists. For the Metropolitan to break from the official party line made him a marked man not only for MS but also for certain members of the HS.

            In essence this has always been by clergy and others are removed because they upset the status quo and try to instill a new vision. Albeit a vision the old guard does not like. So if the old guard on the HS does not like it it does not like you and you are gone. Do you think Metropolitan Jonah is safe from them on the HS?

            Helga, I along with George saw and heard the EP say the Archbishop Spyridon was going to be our Archbishop for life. Well, people like Michael Jaharis, Alex Spanos, Fr. Stephanopoulos, and others made sure that wasn’t going to happen. That was the old guard flexing it’s muscle. Some because, like Jaharis and Spanos, wanted to keep on controlling the GOA and it’s money, others like the OCL, who wanted to push for GOA autocephelacy, and take presumed control away from Jaharis and Spanos, although this was not ever explicitly stated, started a war and possible schism in the GOA. The EP was not having any of it, as it did not want to lose it’s money and it’s fund raiders, Jaharis and Spanos and the rest of leadership 100, so it cut Archbishop Spyridon loose.

            Unfortunately the same thing will happen to metropolitan Jonah. After everything I have seen in my 40 years of life as an Orthodox Christian I cannot see where Rod was wrong, just honest.


            • This happened before I became Orthodox. May I ask what problem the Old Guard had with Archbishop Spiridon?

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Too long to get into, and too much of opening old wounds that have yet to heal. What I can say is that the Greek Church had its first schism between Old and New Calendarists back in the 1920’s that persists to this day. Archbishop Spyridon’s reign percipitaed a second schism in the Greek Church that may still happen. The lines are between the young Greek Orthodox that want to return to a more traditional style of Orthodoxy and the Old timers that became Americanized with their Chiors, and hand-shakes of peace to you brother, and non-confrontational sermons from their Priests, and NO preaching of the Gospel.

                BUT THEN….Along comes Father Ephreim that started the push back of Americanization in the Greek Church, Archbishop Spyridon was determined to get the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese back on a more traditional track that emphasized traditional Orthodoxy and Hellenism. The more Americanized elements did not like this. I personally witnessed several local Greek Churches loose members because of this fight between traditionalisis and modernisits.

                Now you start to loose members you start to loose money. So you have several conflicts going on at the same time. Traditionalists versus Modernist, and Americanized Greeks versus those of us who wanted to retain our Hellenism. So you had one faction pulling for a return to traditionalism and a closer union with the monastery, another faction that believed the GOA had come of age and needed to become independent of the EP and strike its own course in America (i.e. become autocephalists) so alot of arguments were being thrown around about the EP violating the Charter of the GOA with the newly formed and minted Orthodox Christian Laity leading the charge for indepdendence and autocephalacy. the other faction which was the leadership 100 guys just did not want to loose control of the GOA to either Archbishop Spyridon or the OCL and started to crack the whip and crack it hard.

                When all the dust settled a deal was struck between the EP, leadership 100 and the Metropolitans. Leadership 100 stays in Charge of the GOA along with the EP’s representatives, i.e. former Bishops now elevated to Metropolitan status, and both Archbishop Spyridon is out as well as the OCL. I spoke to several local Greel Orthodox representatives that were at the Clergy-Laity Conference, third one in the past from today, where the OCL people were not even allowed on the floor to make motions, argue the charter violation , etc. It was a complete shut down.

                Now Archbishop Spyridon has strongly hinted that the EP had a plan all along to get control of the American Orthodox Church, especially away from the OCA, that initially Archbishop Spyridon played a role in doing, but that the plan changed. For the EP to get the control that he wanted Archbishop Spyridon had to leave to settle the unrest among the laity, the Bishops elevated to Metropolitans to give the EP greater control over the GOA, the OCL maginalized, the Archons increased in number, and be the direct apologists for the EP, and that Canon 28 was to be interpreted in such a way as to increase the jurisdiction of the EP over America to the exclusion of all others, even the OCA.

                Good people got caught up in this mess, or pathetic power play, whichever way you want to call it, and people were hurt, other people left the GOA in either disgust or dissillusionment and join either the OCA, ROCOR or the Antiochians, I knew of familiies where the parents continued to go to a GOA church, but not their Children, or visa versa.

                In the end it was the moneyed interests that won the day. Michael Jaharis and others along with Leadership 100 is still there, still obediant to the GOA and the EP and the rest of us were left to pick up the pieces.

                But the old moneyed guard went after Archbishop Spyridon viciously, just as viciously if not more so as the old guard went after Metropolitan Jonah.

                Still to this day even I am not clear as to everybodies part in the whole debacle. Even then their where accusations of people and professions at HC/HC that were fired for being homosexual, for money missing from accounts, and people reinstated that were once deposed and fired. All very familiary right?

                So now I see it again in the OCA. When Metropolitan Jonah broke rank in his undying support of OCA autocephalacy the long knives were out. Fr. Thomas Hopkos retort of Fr. Fester makes sense, and this whole kabbuki theater in the GOA and now the OCA is just for us lemmings. The real people in charge have already made up their mind as to who goes and who stays. I honestly believe that Metropolitan Jonah will NOT remain as Matropolitan of the OCA. Just mark my words and see what happens at the AAC.

                Again, I do not have the full picture of everything that happend during the Archbishop Spyrdion years, George may know more as he was part of the GOA and OCL back then. Today, I really do not care because I cannot stop what will happen, which is another schism in the Greek Church, but when that will happen I do not know.

                This is just my humble take on this then and now. However, I will also defer to others, especially George to fill in the gaps if then want. If not so that fine. I like many othera have moved on. After awhile Church politics and intrigue wears on you, and all you want to do is just be an observer with the occassional comment here and there.


    • Matushka,

      I’m not sure who you have been talking to, but your summation contradicts my first hand experience of that season. Also I do not believe the “directive” you mentioned existed, so I would encourage you to fact-check before making such statements.

      I would also like to quote a priest of the DOS who said, “Bishop Mark was set up. He was set up to succeed.”

      • Matushka Elizabeth says

        Jesse – I am very well aware of what happened at St. Seraphim Cathedral, and it all began years before Bp. Mark arrived. And before Archbishop Dmitri was forcebly retired earlier than he had intended. If we here are taking such stock in the words and actions of our dear Vladika Dmitri, let us remember some other words he spoke, again long before Bp. Mark arrived. Divisions and loyalties and misinformation had been intentionally cultivated. It was breaking Vladika Dmitri’s heart. One Sunday, it all came to a head. After hearing the heartfelt pleas of a long-time St. Seraphim’s Parishioner, Vladika looked straight at the source of the problem and said, rather distinctly and loud enough for many if not all to hear: “I am still the Bishop here and I can still send anyone packing.” Tragically, it was only a short time after that statement was uttered that Vladika was forced to retire. The voice of one man was heard; the voice and concerns of Vladika Dmitri were set aside. The efforts to “get rid of” a certain person at the Cathedral was a long, ongoing project which culminated in Bp. Mark’s devistating attempt to finish the job. So, if you truly love and honor this man, Jesse, which I fully believe you do, you will look further and broader than you are now seeing and see the whole truth of the matter. I pray that you and your family find peace and healing.

        • Matushka Elizabeth,

          I am not sure where you are getting your information, but I am appalled at the rumors, and innuendo you have brought to this discussion when it is clear “the issues are not nearly as clear cut and one sided as many on this list (please include yourself among that number) would like to make believe.” Yes, all that investigation was performed, and Bp Mark was removed – so it was not simply St. Seraphim’s parish that had concerns with Bishop Mark’s actions.

          ” Divisions and loyalties and misinformation had been intentionally cultivated.” You might look into the mirror with respect to that sentence. Inasmuch as it might be true, you might be very surprised at the cultivators.

          The diocese of the South, as well as St. Seraphim Cathedral, are mourning the loss of our beloved Vladyka. Despite your position as Matushka, you are persisting in slinging accusations without facts. Losing Bishop Jonah so quickly after having found a successor to which he could turn over his life’s work was more than “pleasantly annoying” to the good Archbishop. It took the wind right out of him, and this was a man in his 80s, for goodness sake. To assert that he was forced to retire is inappropriate at this time, and, dare I say, cruel. How do you know such a thing? Were you there? Throwing mud with one hand, and calling for forgiveness and unity with the other seems disingenuous at best.

          While you ask for Rod’s motives, I have to wonder about your own agenda.

          But, please, as Jesse has suggested, take it up privately with those you believe responsible, as this method of spreading your allegations does no honor to the diocese, Vladyka Dmitri, or to the title you hold.

        • Jane Rachel says

          I am also surprised and appalled. You fold all your barbed accusations into soft, fluffy Christian words and you don’t back anything up with facts. In a public forum, you accuse and condemn people without naming them or stating anything with substance to back up your claims. You are doing a lot of damage with your accusations. This is the definition of gossip, innuendo and division. It seems this way to me and I am an outsider. I’ve never met you nor visited the Diocese of the South. I have no idea who you are talking about but you are messing around here, expressing your anger, without doing any good. Matthew 18 says if your brother offends you, go to him privately. If he does not hear you, take one or two others with you, and if he still doesn’t hear you, go to the church. You need to get your ducks in a row, Matushka Elizabeth.

          • Matushka, please forgive me for what I am about to say but the idea that our beloved Vladyka was “coerced” into retirement is an assertion without any factual basis. I am sure you were misinformed. As has been known and reported upon throughout the year 2008 (i.e. before the election of +Jonah as Metropolitan), +Dmitri had let it be known that he was going to be retiring soon on his own volition, as he was getting increasingly feeble. The whole purpose of electing then-Abbot +Jonah as Bishop of Ft Worth was for this express purpose.

            Vladyka temporarily held back once +Jonah was elected Metropolitan but only for a season. Nevertheless, his announcement did come as a shock to the many who know and love him but those of us who had seen him more regularly knew it was the right decision and that it was of his own volition.

            On another note, if his putative successor did come back to St Seraphim’s and issue an apology, I for one would be gratified beyond words. I would also publish this fact on Monomakhos with a request for reconciliation. If anybody has any knowledge of this purported incident please, you may write and do so now.

            • George, I heard from many well-placed sources in the DOS for *years* that Vladyka Dmitri planned on retiring. All of them adore Vladyka, and harbored the hope that Vladyka would stay for another five or ten years, but I think knew in their hearts that this was not something that they could expect of a man in his mid-eighties whose health was failing. And no, none of these sources were the man obviously being accused here, whom I have never met in person, and I started hearing this well before he ever moved to Dallas.

              On the sole occasion that I met Vladyka, he was still active bishop of the DOS (although this was a very short time before he retired). He was very sweet and gracious, but quite obviously frail, and I remember hoping Vladyka could live his remaining years in peace instead of jetting all over the place as he’d had to do as locum tenens of the Metropolitan See.

              As far as is publicly known, the only thing that forced him to retire was his own age and infirmity. If Matushka Elizabeth can prove otherwise, I invite her to present her evidence, or otherwise withdraw her accusation with an apology to the accused party.

            • Matushka Elizabeth says

              Not “coerced” George, and forced was perhaps the wrong word Helga, but he had actually planned to retire after Pascha of 2009. Instead, he was asked – requested – to retire early and did so on March 22, 2009, effective March 31, 2009.

              • Yes, Matushka, I would have to say “forced” was the wrong word to use. You also appear to be using another incorrect word, “early”. Archbishop Dmitri was 85 years old when he retired. Forgive me if this sounds disrespectful, but in what temporal continuum is that an “early” retirement? By comparison, Archbishop Job expected to retire at 65 years.

                In the old days, bishops may have been expected to die in office, but that was when it was comparatively easy to die of communicable disease and lack of medical care that we in the modern world would consider basic. These days, bishops who are too infirm to continue ministering to their flocks effectively are able to live out their lives with funds accrued during their earlier working years.

                Also, I have to ask what nefarious purpose could have possibly been served by the good archbishop retiring a few weeks before Pascha rather than on Pascha?

              • Dear Matushka,

                As far as I know, Pascha 2009 was on April, 12. So, you accuse someone to “request” Vladika to retire 13 days earlier than he have planned??? Are you serious?

              • Matushka, the words you used in the earlier post were “…forcibly retired…” I think that’s what set off this recent firestorm. Those of us who knew him knew that it was next to impossible to force him to do anything.

  6. Matushka,

    Maybe we should continue this privately. It does seem to me as if the discussion everyone else on this forum is having is about an issue other than the one you have in mind. If you have been told that situation had bearing on Bp. Mark’s time at the Cathedral, you are quite mistaken.

    • Matushka Elizabeth says

      Gladly, Jesse. But it is you who are mistaken and you who have been misinformed. Vladika himself said – in his usual kindly style and withiout anger or rancor – that he deeply regreted inviting a certain person into the DOS because of the problems he had created. It was not just one person effected, but a number of clergy and even some laity who were persecuted by this same person. May God have mercy upon his soul. The last time I saw Vladika Dmitri was when we were in the Dallas area after the (June?) Deanery Meeting. We attended a private dinner at someone’s home in honor of Vladika. At the end of this precious evening, during which we feasted, talked theology and Christ’s gospel, laughed and joked and even shared a few shots of vodka, Vladika ended the night as he walked towards the door… he leaned upon the back of a nearby sofa to steady himself and then looked at each of us intently. Then he said, “This is what the Church is meant to be.” That was my last time seeing Vladika Dmitri in this life, although my husband did get to visit with him several times more when he later attended another Deanery Meeting in Dallas. May his memory be eternal!

  7. Not sure which thread to post this under… but that’s never stopped me before. In any event, for those interested, I have uploaded my latest bit of satire in anticipation of the impending 16th AAC. It is entitled “The End” and may be viewed along with past efforts here :

    • George Michalopulos says

      Herc, I like your style. Hopefully it will be the end of the old MC/Syosset/Stokovite Axis of Weasel

      • Carl Kraeff says

        I think that would be wishful thinking. Not when the pot is still bubbling. Check out the latest at OCAN: “Obscure Chronology Reveals Details of +Jonah’s Actions in Moscow Affair.” The problem is that certain events have indeed happened and they do not look good for somebody (or more than one person) in the leadership. Forget about anyone’s interpretation/spin, here are the uncontested events:

        a. There was an allegation of sexual impropriety against Arch. Z.

        b. Somebody in the OCA put him on a leave of absence and recalled him to the US.

        c. Arch Z lawyered up, checked into a hospital, did not travel to the US, and celebrated DL in Moscow.

        As you know, there have been lots of discussions on who did what to whom. Let’s forget about that and just concentrate on whether there is indeed a problem here. The way I see it, reasonable folks may come to the conclusion that the 2003 policy of the Holy Synod may not have been followed, particularly in the sequence and timeliness of the execution of the procedures. Incidentally, this is the policy that Met. Jonah endorsed in no uncertain terms just last year. I will quote what I perceive to be the relevant provisions.

        8. Reports and Complaints of Sexual Misconduct

        8.01. Reports:
        (a) Any person may report allegations of sexual misconduct orally or in writing. Laypersons shall report possible sexual misconduct in a parish to the Rector if the Rector is not alleged to have committed the acts. If a report cannot be made to the Rector it shall be made to another member of the clergy serving in the parish in the order of precedence. If there are no other clergy the report shall be made to the senior elected layperson of the parish council.

        (b) Reports of sexual misconduct in any other unit of the Church shall be made to the ecclesiastical head of that unit unless he is the person believed to have committed the acts, in which case the report shall be made to the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations.

        (c) Any person receiving a report under subparagraph (a) of this paragraph shall forthwith inform the diocesan Bishop. Any member of the clergy believing that possible sexual misconduct has occurred, even if he has not received a report from any other person, shall forthwith inform the Bishop. Any Bishop receiving such information shall forthwith inform the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations.

        8.04. Response Team:
        (a) Unless the Bishop is able to easily determine that a report received under paragraph 8.01 is entirely without any foundation whatsoever, the Bishop shall designate a Response Team of one or more individuals to conduct an investigation and assessment of the report.

        (b) The Response Team shall work with the person making the report, the alleged victim if different, any parents or guardians of the victim, the individual accused of sexual misconduct, other interested parties, and the parish to resolve the matter. The Response Team also shall coordinate with any outside agencies to which the allegations are reported, and shall comply with applicable civil and canon laws in any investigations by such agencies.

        9. Investigation and Assessment of Complaints

        9.01. Interim Actions Pending Resolution:
        (a) If allegations of sexual misconduct involve a member of the clergy as a respondent, the Bishop will inform him of the complaint and may, pending resolution of the allegations, suspend him, with pay, from further service in the Church under such terms and conditions as the Bishop determines appropriate.

        (d) Any action taken pursuant to this paragraph shall be done in the interest of protecting the parties and the Church. No such action shall create any inference of culpability or innocence, and shall not be construed as an indicator of the final disposition of the matter.”

        Now, when such a situation exists, it is futile to dismiss it as something concocted by the “Axis of Weasels.” I am not convinced that Stokoe’s account is definitive or that his interpretation is correct. I am waiting to see what comes out of this.

        • Heracleides says

          Are you kidding me Carl? That whole piece of dreck posted by Mrs. Stokoe-Brown is vintage weasel spin. You not only drink the Kool-Aid, you apparently bathe in it.

          • Stokoe had no problem with the dropping of the investigation against Bishop Benjamin, apparently concluding that those charges were fabricated, without any kind of investigation. But if Metropolitan Jonah – who arguably has more access to the evidence than Stookey – concludes this set of charges is crap, well, it’s time to string him up in his vestments, and then throw his corpse into the Bosporus.

            Never mind that all of Met. Jonah’s behavior, however bizarre and inexplicable it might be in Stokoe Land, can be explained by the possibility that THE CHARGES AGAINST FATHER ZACCHAEUS ARE A TOTAL FARCE.

            • Carl Kraeff says

              I think that you are reading too much into what I said. I merely pointed out to George that Stokoe will not go away as long as events such as those depicted take place. I have no idea who is right or wrong as there is not enough information available to me. May be y’all know more than I do. The bottom line for me is that I will have an open mind.

              • Carl, I for one, never thought that Stokoe would “go away.” Far from it. I said he’ll get increasingly hysterical. This has been borne out by his latest posting which is impenetrable in its narrative. For the life of me, I could hardly make heads or tails of it.

                • Yes, it is very hard to read. He unfortunately tried to parse a posting by Bishop Daniel of the True Orthodox Church of Russia, External Church Affairs Department. The posting by Bishop Daniel was purportedly an effort to help Father Z. I have no idea why this bishop from this uncanonical church would get involved, but I think it was a mistake for Mark to have tried to extract useful facts from Bishop Daniel’s chronology. The only thing that I reliably got from Stokoe’s article was the sense that this is not over. I hope and pray that the Metropolitan, the Holy Synod and the applicable church organs successfully address the underlying issue of how to best handle a sexual misconduct allegation.

                  • Mark from the DOS says

                    Here is what I got from the deposed MC member’s article: he confirmed categorically that someone is providing him copies of documents and other information sufficient for him to evaluate the accuracy of the narrative posted by the vagante bishop.

                    “ can confirm many of the details given in the chronology are true and accurate. The documents cited by Moguntov were provided to as well, and they are reported accurately. has also confirmed the telephone conversations cited were reported accurately. “

                    So while Stokoe screeches over the Metropolitan talking to a lawyer or other disclosures of purportedly confidential information, he has no problem receiving and using this information, and, because he benefits from it and it serves his purposes, absolving the leaker of any culpability while preserving his anonymity. If the agenda, hypocrisy and rank maliciousness of Stokoe is not plainly evident to anyone who reads this latest “article” then frankly, I think the person reading it is beyond reason.

        • Carl,

          The ONLY purpose for Stokoe’s latest article is to put into play his plan (which he denied as mere speculation) of February 13, 2011:

          However, the emerging consensus of the appalled four, seems to be that Jonah should be placed on a Leave of Absence immediately, and left there while an Administrator takes over in the interim until after the AAC.

          And this very week you will see it all come to pass. Jonah will be forced into retirement (the South is no longer an option) and the OCA-in-decline will be led by hapless dupes for at least three years as Stokoe continues his reign of terror and adds a new moniker to his list of titles: “King-maker.”

          And then you will eat a banquet of crow.

          • Is there any way for Met. Jonah to come under ROCOR or the Moscow Patriarchate directly?

            • Anything is possible, and that is probably the only hope for priests and parishes who wish to leave this quickly sinking ship. If Met Jonah is retired off to a quiet monastery, it’s game over. There’s no way out after that. There’s no changing the OCA from within – it’s now under a hostile takeover. Stokoe’s plan is in play, and it’s all happening very quickly.

              That being said, the sad fact is, Met Jonah does not seem capable of saving, or speaking for, himself.

              • That’s what happens when you put a monk in charge. He gets all humble and forgiving on people. 🙂

              • Pravoslavnie says

                Spasi, I think the Metropolitan is choosing to keep his powder dry until the AAC.

                Helga, Met. Jonah could be released to ROCOR or any other jurisdiction. Much the same for any OCA clergy. As far as OCA parishes go, cutting ties and leaving creates a problem for many parties.

                In the Tomos of Autocephaly the MP agreed to dissolve its exarchate in North America, and never to reestablish it. The agreement that preceded Autocephaly gave all Metropolia parishes the right to opt “in” to OCA by parish vote otherwise they became MP representative parishes by default. There were some 30+ parishes that opted “out” and otherwise voted to remain with the MP. Part of the deal was that the opt-in was a one-way exit, and those parishes that went with OCA can’t come back under MP. MP parishes retain the right to join OCA, and that is their only option if they decide to leave MP. ROCOR was not mentioned in the agreement, but it’s reconciliation with the MP would seem to rule out any OCA dissident congregations from seeking refuge there. Unless the jurisdictional landscape in North America changes anytime soon, the majority of OCA parishes will have to just tough it out. That doesn’t apply to the members of course.

                • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                  Wow, that sucks. Because under the old guard, OCA will never, ever get anywhere.

                  • Of course this is all contingent on the canonicity of any such coup attempts against the Metropolitan. Which, as +Hilarion warned the Stokovites would be viewed by Moscow uncanonical. Then it would be game over for the Stokovite-led rump OCA. In other words, they could orchestrate a coup but it would be null and void.

                    As for people leaving for ROCOR and not parishes, I wouldn’t be so sure. Assuming a worst-case scenario, the Stokovite synod that would remain in place would not have the resources to fight entire parishes who would sue to take their parishes en masse into ROCOR. I’m not sure that they’ve thought that through.

                    Also –and as much as I’ve doubted the bona fides of the Episcopal Assembly–these idiots (the Stokovites) could actually and unwittingly breath some life into them. They could then disinvite the rump-OCA. And don’t you know that Istanbul would just love to jump on that bandwagon?

                    • Pravoslavnie says

                      I can agree that a strong MP response to a possible Jonah ouster is likely, but each church agreed to a mutual noninterference and *anti-poaching* clause when Autocephaly was granted. Because of this I don’t think a Jonah led OCA faction entering ROCOR or MP will happen. I can speculate that if Met. Jonah is ousted that the MP may declare the majority of the Synod to be acting non-canonically and continue to recognize Jonah as OCA Metropolitan with a number of parishes abandoning Syosset. Basically that’s a civil war at which point things will get very ugly as sides are chosen, locks get changed, and the lawyers get put on retainer. Let’s pray that OCA avoids such a disaster.

                    • Pravoslavnie, I think that as long as we have unTraditional, bad-faith actors in positions of power (Syosset, 2-3 bishops on the HS), that is the only option available. Again the “non-poaching clause” only is in force if the OCA is considered canonical. Once it’s deemed to be uncanonical by the MP (and the five other churches that recognize our autocephaly) then all bets are off. Indeed, bishops could then be brought up on charges in canonical court.

                      Personally, I wonder if Stokoe unwittingly tipped their hand, which could unnerve them from taking this action (assuming this was going to the case).

                      We’ll see.

                      As for the worst-case scenario playing out the way you describe it, it would be just desserts for the anti-Trads.

                    • Pravoslavnie says

                      George, time and circumstances may yet prove you right. We’ll probably know by the end of the year. I just think that the MP has too much capital invested in supporting autocephaly that it won’t give up and have the EP make it eat crow.

                    • I see your point, but the MP –and the majority of the people–may also consider that the Stokovite-led Synod is completely devoid of any legitimacy if things play out as some fear. It will certainly shrink in numbers. At that point, the autocephaly of the OCA would be a dead letter. Remeber, the whole point of the OCA is to manifest Orthodox unity in North America. It squandered its ability to do so up til now under the myopic and inept mismanagement of the previous two metropolitans (and the coterie of liberal priests on the East Coast). +Jonah was its only chance. An anti-Trad, pro-libertine OCA will be looked upon by the other jurisdictions as even more of a laughingstock . In other words, a Stokovite victory would be a pyrrhic one.

                      Assuming the worst-case scenario, and assuming that you are right that the MP has too much invested in the OCA’s autocephaly, what will probably happen is MP will continue to recognize +Jonah as the Metropolitan and those bishops who are loyal to tradition as being the authentic HS. Of course, the aftermath would be messy, as you say parishes picking and choosing whether to go with the schismatics or staying with +Jonah, but as sad as that would be, it might be necessary.

                      Personally, one of the major reasons people are coming to Orthodoxy is because they’re tired of the apostasy of the churches that they left. After finding refuge within the OCA/DOS, I certainly don’t want to fight the battle from within. Pretending that we are one church when one faction is heterodox and the other is not will never last. Look what happened to the Trad Anglicans. They’ve been kicked out of ECUSA. In time, the rot of ECUSA will spread to the Anglican Communion as a whole. As I’ve said before the Archbishop of Canterbury is a fool if he thinks he can paper over the differences between the heretical ECUSA and everybody else. Even though ECUSA is only 5% of Anglicanism, unless its permanently cleaved off from Canterbury, its poison will ultimately destroy it.

                      P.S. I guess we know now why MS found no time in the past 12 days to write about the repose of +Dmitri. He was too busy putting together his latest confusing hit-piece in anticipation of the meeting of the Lesser Synod.

                • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says


                  Article VII specifies that all Metropolia parishes would be under the jurisdiction of the OCA, and the tomos did not provide them with a right to opt out. It was parishes of the former exharchate of Moscow that could choose to opt in to the OCA, Articles IV and V.

                  The Tomos is online:

                  Otherwise, the evident glee at schism is most disturbing.

                  • Fr. Yousuf, the reason I brought up the possibility to begin with was for Metropolitan Jonah alone. In other words, I was asking about the possibility of having him leave the OCA for another jurisdiction, rather than wasting his life and talents by locking him in a monastery forever.

                    Even if Met. Jonah remained OCA and there was a schism, Met. Jonah would need the MP’s approval in order to establish his own legitimacy, because the other autocephalous churches would need to recognize him as the rightful primate of the OCA. Met. Jonah would also have to borrow some other bishops in order to hold canonical trials of the traitor bishops and depose them from the episcopate.

                    Please don’t mistake this for glee over schism. I know for myself, nothing would please me less than to see the OCA schism. I would have hoped to have seen this resolved in the light of Pascha, that everyone would have taken that exhortation “Let us call brothers even those who hate us, and forgive all by the Resurrection” to heart, that Lent would have called them to abandon their passions and sinful attempts to get the Church to approve them, and embrace lives of repentance. But “this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

                    Therefore, I can also see the possibility of schism as a much needed, though painful, housecleaning. Those who have driven the OCA to this point are not Christ’s and only have the outward semblance of being united to Him, and the OCA loses no more in their absence than the Church lost by cutting off Arius. They are the ones who have kept the OCA in a deadlock for the forty-one years of its autocephaly, not out of high-minded ideals about a united Church in America, but simply to protect the tacit approval of their sinful passions given by shameless and corrupt past hierarchs in the OCA. What you mistake for glee is hope for the possibility that the OCA will soon shed its dead weight and rise as the leader of a movement towards the Orthodox Church *of* America.

                    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                      The field is rich and fertile for seeding and harvesting, and instead people are busy carving out their own fiefdoms and playing “kingmaker”. This simply cannot continue.

                    • Helga, you said it best. Fr Yousef, there was no glee in when Arius and his ilk were put out of the Church but relief that the “dead weight” that Helga talks about above (a cancer really) was finally removed. At all points subsequent the Church welcomed back with joy those who repented. This was especially true during the aftermath of the Iconoclast heresy when the Iconodules, who had been horribly persecuted for the better part of 200 years did not visit vengeance upon the former Iconoclasts.

                  • Pravoslavnie says

                    Fr. Yousuf,
                    I appreciate the correction and it seems that I was confusing the Metropolia with the former Exarchate which apparently dated only from 1927. I still learn something new every day. I was basically repeating OCA folklore as I heard it from an older parishioner although I didn’t think to ask more details at the time. In any case I’ve heard from some older people that autocephaly did not necessarily appeal to everyone in the Metropolia and I think his gist was that some parishes may have considered leaving the Metropolia/OCA at the time and put it up to a vote.

                    While there is the saying “any port in a storm”, and Met. Jonah has cordial relations with both ROCOR and the MP, I think that the Metropolitan and autocephaly will be defended by both sister churches if push comes to shove. Only time will tell, but time is running out. Something has to happen by the end of the year otherwise OCA will suffer the death of a thousand cuts if the partisan bickering continues. It’s fate will then become stagnation and irrelevancy.

          • Read It And Weep says


            Exactly on point. I would ask now, what is the plan for the OCA? You elected a new Primate and three years later you dispose him? What is the OCA trying to achieve? What leadership example is its?

            OCA dioceses are shrinking, even the South is now only treading water, episcopal candidates for vacant sees are far and few between, and we will now have another retired bishop? I think this will tip the balance and the OCA will have more retired bishops than they do active diocesan ones. That is quite a “strategic plan!”

            I just can’t figure out why clergy and laity are not getting a bit “pissed off” (pardon my strong language) about this revolving door of Metropolitans if Jonah is ousted? It is getting quite embarrassing and I would think more difficult to justify each passing day as to if the OCA is legit. If given the opportunity, I wonder how many clergy and parishes would leave the OCA?

            What a terrible thing, just days after the repose of Archbishop Dmitri, and we see another act of OCA synodal fratricide. Lord, have mercy!

            • Lola J. Lee Beno says

              I, for one, am getting pissed off. Do I really need to expect every single bishop elevated to Metropolitan to be tossed out when he does something that annoys a group of people? We need stability, people.

              • Lola,

                My thoughts exactly. But of course you can’t trust my opinions because Stokoe says I’m Team Twilight Jonah.

            • I honestly think there’s no plan. There’s no leader, there’s no plan, and there’s no vision.

              A removal of Met Jonah, whether it happens now, or a few months from now, or a year or two from now, will be a complete embarrassment to the OCA, and will create profound questions for many priests and parishes. No one with a sense of propriety could have confidence in such a display of puerile drama.

              Priests and people are not openly getting “pissed off” as you say, but I assure you, many are privately. The problem is that the Stokoe cabal has so skillfully mastered wielding their internet sword, destroying anyone who gets in their way, that most priests and lay leaders who want to speak out are cowed into silence. (The irony that Stokoe mastered what he accused Kondratick of is delicious, isn’t it?) I believe that many priests are simply waiting for the next act in this sick play. They quietly minister in their parishes, hope they don’t call attention to themselves for fear of being the next target, and then maybe make it to the age where they collect their pension, breathe a sigh of relief and get out.

              (Actually, as a post script, I would say that even after a priest retires, breathing a sigh of relief may not be an option anymore. Other internet forums are going after dead priests now, so I guess the saying should be, “You can run, but you can’t die.”)

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Apples and oranges, my friend.

        • Carl,

          As usual, you twisted and cut and paste and screwed up – AGAIN. In your posting of the policy, you missed prior paragraphs which clearly state that the bishop only informs the committee at his discretion.

          7.01. Authority of Bishops: (a) Diocesan Bishops have full hierarchical authority for all Church activities within the diocese, including all matters concerning allegations of sexual misconduct. Bishops may fully exercise that authority in accordance with these Policies, Standards, and Procedures, and may impose any clergy discipline not requiring action of a Church court.
          (b) Bishops also may refer all or any part of a review or investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct to the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations, which is created in paragraph 7.02 below, or may request assistance from such office in connection with the matter.
          7.03. Duties and Responsibilities for Reviews and Investigations: (a) The Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations shall, at the request of the Bishop with jurisdiction, assist the Bishop in reviewing, investigating, or dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct. In accordance with the Bishop’s request, the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations may supervise and administer all or any part of the review and investigation.

          If you’re going to quote the policy, get it right.

          • Carl Kraeff says

            I honestly missed that; just started with the reporting and investigations stage. On the other hand, don’t you think that the parts that I did quote supports flexibility of a bishop? I am referring to 8.04(a) and 9.01 (a).

            So, Spasi–let me ask you if you think that the diocesan bishop’s authority is absolute or it is limited/guided by say, Holy Canons, the welfare of the entire OCA, or such other concern.

            • Carl, you are right, bishops do have “flexibility.” +Jonah is the bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, and as such is the ordinary in charge of Fr Z.

            • The canons are not one-size-fits-all prescriptions. The bishop has a wide berth to apply the canons as he sees fit, especially in this day. His authority is not so much absolute as it is profound. The guidelines you quoted are meant to be just that – a guide. The bishop can apply them as is appropriate for each situation using his own wisdom, experience, and pastoral care for everyone involved. The same goes for any disciplinary measure in any circumstance.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                Thank you for your textbook answer, with which I agree in the main. I would have qualified “as he sees fit” but I take it that your context for this still is the principle that lies behind the canon; after all, a bishop does take an oath to preserve all canons.

                I think you would agree with me that it is a bishop’s unique charisma (divinely given power/talent) to discern (a) the principle behind each canon, (b) the reason why it was instituted (the intent of the writers of the canon), and (c) apply it correctly to the present circumstances.

                I also think that you would agree with me that there are a number of factors (thus applicable canons) that would be applicable to a decision that a bishop takes, particularly one with a dual hat like the primate of a local church. If you don’t mind, I will list a few such factors that immediately comes to mind:
                – The spiritual welfare of the affected individuals
                – The health (spiritual, organizational and financial) of the affected parish.
                – The health (spiritual, organizational and financial) of the diocese.
                – The health (spiritual, organizational and financial) of the local church.
                – The health (spiritual, organizational and financial) of the Orthodox Church as a whole.
                – If the action is by a diocesan bishop, the opinion/permission of the primate if the action affects the local church.
                – If the action is by the primate, the opinion/permission of the Holy Synod if the action affects all.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Carl, the obvious hypocrisy of All Bishops Supreme within Their Dioceses on the one hand but The Metropolitan Must Ask for Permission to Go to the Bathroom on the other is glaringly obvious. Fr Z is a priest in the Metropolitan’s diocese. Bishop Bog of Bugtussle (even if he is a saint) has no right to interfere in +Jonah’s diocese anymore than +Jonah has the right to interfere in the Diocose of Bugtussle. (Ecclesiologically speaking, of course the Statutes of the OCA do give the Metropolitan that right but now we’re splitting hairs, aren’t we?)

                  • Read It And Weep says

                    It worked on Fester, why not try it again on the Archimandrite.

                  • It is not my problem that you have a problem with Canon 34. It is what it is. It is on the books. It is a cornerstone of Orthodox ecclesiology. It is one (among many) that each bishop swears to uphold.

                    Really, the “permission to go to the bathroom” argument is a ludicrous argument. Remember that each leader has a both formal and personal authority.In a good leader, personal authority is present to such degree that he does not have to “ask permission to go to the bathroom.”

                    But, forget about Canon 34, doesn’t the team, conciliarity, sobornost, equality of bishops mean anything? Isn’t the Holy Synod the supreme authority or is it not? Apparently not as I have seen bishops of the Holy Synod and officers of the Church repeatedly demeaned here. Folks who so treat these leaders seem to be claiming that the Holy Spirit was absent when these bishops were consecrated and when the Church officers were elected/selected/blessed by the Holy Synod. There are cartoons by deranged people that are published here that depict a bishop of the Church in an insulting manner; while folks disrespect not only the person but the office by not using titles and by publicly insulting some bishops with adjectives that do not normally go along with a bishops name. It seems to me that many folks here care more about the welfare of one person than for the Church as a whole, that many folks here are willing to overlook, downgrade and ridicule parts of the Orthodox Holy Tradition and even common sense in order to protect just one person. Their dear leader.

                    • I have no problem at all with Canon 34. Unfortunately, its application in the absence of love (which is what we have here) is nothing short of an atrocity.

                      But since we’re talking about canons, what about the ones that say bishops should “not be given to strong drink.” That’s a canon that’s actually Scriptural. If we’re going to play Proof Text Roulette, let’s at least be honest about our intentions.

                    • Alf Kentigern says

                      Doesn’t Canon 34 also say that the bishops should focus on their own region, and ask for a blessing for any big project there from the primate, and respect his leadership? This would seem to suggest that bishops shouldn’t be involved in central administration, while needing to ask the primate for a blessing before pursuing new projects of note in their dioceses. Under other aspects of the Canon, the primate in turn needs synodal unanimity for action in the role of first hierarch. Seems like the harmony of the full Canon has been honored more in the breach than by fulfillment in the OCA for a long time–including by those who may cite part of it against the Metropolitan.

                • Carl,

                  Do you think the application of canonical discipline is akin to sentencing guidelines? Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. The guiding principle is, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” When you have a Bishop consulting a lawyer before he consults the Gospel, then you have a church spinning into severe decline. It’s the sign of the end of sanity.

                  • Spasi, excellent point. This brings us back to Bp Mark who assured everybody in Dallas that “his lawyers” told him that what he was doing with Fr Fester’s private e-mail account was “completely legal.”

                    As any lawyer worth his salt will tell you, if you have to ask a lawyer whether something is legal, it’s usually not a good idea. This is doubly so in the Church. If we had love guiding us then we wouldn’t have to play canonical trump cards.

                  • If you ask if the application of canonical discipline is similar to a judicial decision, yes I believe that it is the best analogy. There is judgment involved, not in a juridical sense here but in the sense that the decision is arrived at in a thoughtful and deliberative manner. The process of determining the intent of the writers of the Canon is similar to the consideration of the intent of the writers of a law. The consideration of basic sources are the same: the Holy Scriptures on the one hand and that of basic law (constitution) on the other hand. BTW, there is another source that one must consider and that is the OCA Statutes. There is even a parallel in that a good judge will consider what other judges have held or think, and so any bishop must also consider the opinions of his fellow bishops. There is one more parallel and that is the similarity between a Holy Synod and a Supreme Court (in this instance that of the United States). The Metropolitan is akin to the Chief Justice but he has one vote, the same as any other justice. Of course, the Holy Synod tries to operate by consensus rather than majority vote. As for your guiding principle, I will let the bishops who have been given special charisma by the Holy Spirit to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

                    Regarding legal counsel, if a bishop has agreed to have legal representation I will not begrudge him that decision. If the Holy Synod decides on that procedure, who are we to gainsay it? But, if any bishop goes against such an agreed upon procedure, he has broken conciliarity, which is a different animal all together.

                    • Wow, if that’s what you think the Orthodox church is, I’d rather be a Mormon.

                    • By the way, what you term my “guiding principle” is not mine at all. It’s the words of Jesus. It’s the principle by which He redefines the law. But I do realize Jesus has little to do with this when it comes to the way things work in the OCA.

                    • You know, Spasi, as much as I’m appalled by Mormon doctrine (and I mean every bit of it), I’ve never met a bad Mormon. I wish I could say the same thing about the Pharisees who are choking on gnats trying to find some principle to justify the overturning of traditional moral teaching.

                    • Somewhere I got confused about a real basic concept; If it ain’t yours don’t take it,

  8. As Paul Harvey use to say, “and now, for the rest of the story……”

    Two writers, most-likely being fed the same information, but two very different conclusions.

    You decide who is the more accurate reporter of the truth! They both have biases, but which one is trying to tell the whole truth and the other promote his personal agenda.

    • Carl Kraeff says

      You are right, there are two different conclusions. However, both writers agree in the essentials of the case. Based on Jesse Cone’s (Parishioner) article on OCAT, it seems definitive that:

      – There was an allegation of sexual impropriety against Arch. Z (Source: Stokoe and Parishioner)

      – The OCA Chancellor, with agreement of the OCA Metropolitan, put him on a leave of absence and recalled him to the US (Stokoe and Parishioner)

      – Arch Z lawyered up, checked into a hospital, did not travel to the US, and celebrated DL in Moscow. (Stokoe and Parishioner)

      – Metropolitan Jonah seems to have changed his mind (Stokoe and Parishioner)

      – Somebody (unclear) has been asking for +Jonah’s correspondence regarding this case to be turned over to the Holy Synod. +Jonah is refusing to comply. (Parisioner)

      Since I suspect the last two pints will be controversial, here is the language of the aPrishioner:

      “The way it should have worked, is that the response team should have sent someone(s) over to the place where a thorough, quiet, and non-litigious investigation could have been done. As far as I can tell, there are many people to blame for this one, including Met. Jonah. He should have overridden the suggested plans of action presented to him and made sure the right thing was done: both for the accuser and the accused. Instead he accepted the suggestion that he recuse himself (see 7.01b), and watch the clunky machinations of the Character Assassination Squad from the sidelines. That he has been forced to intervene is unfortunate but necessary….Some of the same people are currently accusing Metropolitan Jonah of ineptitude and failure to execute his fiduciary responsibility. They are also demanding he turn over all his communication regarding the case to Holy Synod, something he is refusing to do.”

      • – The OCA Chancellor, with agreement of the OCA Metropolitan, put him on a leave of absence and recalled him to the US (Stokoe and Parishioner)

        That’s not accounting for the not-so-minor matter of the signature on that letter supposedly placing Fr. Zacchaeus on leave of absence and recalling him to the US. From statements by Berezansky, and quotations of Metropolitan Jonah given by the vagante bishop, Metropolitan Jonah’s signature was applied to the letter by the OCA chancellor without Metropolitan Jonah’s permission.

        What’s that number for the Nassau County District Attorney, again? That’s something to keep in the OCA Rolodex!

        • The most likely (and most charitable), read on this is that it is Syosset’s very sloppy and unprofessional bureaucratic habits, and not mustache-twisting motives behind this one. Do I think that auto-signing was abused? Probably. Do I think it was outright conspiratorial? Probably not. If I did I would have written about it ages ago.

          I think this is a deeply sick organization profoundly bad habits, manned by a group of “friends” that include each other on everything.

          The former-Father Kondratick was not the only one with an Inner Circle.

          One of Metropolitan Jonah’s biggest failures is that he has not done a good job babysitting his employees. (But then, if you agree with Stokoe, that’s not his failure since they don’t report to him.) I think he has to shut them all out of his affairs. No giving access to email accounts in his name, no autosignature abilities, strictly guarded access to hardcopy files, etc. In other words, the office of Metropolitan has to be one entity and the Chancery staff another. This is financially untenable, and would cause a lot of office gridlock. But until the staff see themselves as working for the Metropolitan and he is able to exercise control over them he needs to operate completely independent from the Chancery staff.

          Till that time, he will continue to be pulled into their preexisting, problematic bureaucratic culture and will have to keep taking it on the chin for their mistakes — even when his hands are tied.

          • Your comments are right on target. I would go one step further. The insistence of the staff (and the Synod for that matter) that the CA does not work under the direction of the Metropolitan is a completely failed experiment in the particularly distorted take on what they term “conciliarity.” Until the the OCA divorces itself from being the “living, breathing inheritor of the 1917-1918 Moscow Council,” we will never get out of this “new life through committee” mentality that the OCA is stuck in. It is my firm contention that this misguided view that holds up that council (a council filled with politically socialist voices and held in the midst of a godless, Communist revolution!) to be the very apex of Orthodox governance is killing the OCA. Until that idol is destroyed, the OCA will continue to limp along.

          • I am afraid I have to disagree about the motives, Jesse. I know there are circumstances where support staff are able to sign stuff for other people, as when I was in school and had to get various forms signed, I had them “signed” by the ever-present secretary instead of having to hunt down professors all over campus. However, it was always done in good faith, with the knowledge and consent of the professors involved: they knew “Miss Helga is writing her thesis on X” and that this necessitated a form to be signed, and however it came to be signed, they didn’t really care.

            The difference between that and this is that it doesn’t look like Metropolitan Jonah intended to enact those disciplinary actions towards Fr. Z. If he *did* mean to do those things, and this signature thing was just a bit of jumping the gun on Bishop Melchisedek’s part, I don’t think he and Berezansky would have made such a big deal about it. But this is what Stokoe wrote in ZacchaeusMisinformation8.8.11:

            In his August 1st response to +Melchisedek’s July 29th letter to Zaccheaus directing him to return to the United States, Berezansky claims: “ The Metropolitan did not instruct or authorize you ( +Melchizesek) to send the letter attached to your e-mail message. Indeed, the Metropolitan was only vaguely aware of an early draft of the letter attributed to him. Please ask him yourself.” The question is not whether +Jonah authorized the letter – his signature is clearly visible. The real concern is why would Berezansky even make such a claim and challenge, if he had not been so told that by the Metropolitan? And if he was indeed told such by the Metropolitan, for what purpose would the Metropolitan be working against the OCA’s Synod, policies and his own administration?

            Overlooking Stokoe’s spin, we see Berezansky was informed that Metropolitan Jonah never wrote the letter and that he had not signed it. Why would anyone bother telling the lawyer about the signature snafu, if the letter actually did express Metropolitan Jonah’s intentions? Also interesting is the fact that Stokoe’s source didn’t bother admitting the truth about the letter, and that at that point Stokoe is not even questioning Met. Jonah’s authorship of it!

            (Also note that the possibility that Met. Jonah told the letter recipient that he’d never signed or approved the letter is construed by Stokoe as “working against” everyone else. As if it’s Metropolitan Jonah’s fault that someone else did this to him, and telling the letter recipient the truth about its authorship is somehow bad.)

            As for the possibility of separating the office of Metropolitan from the chancery, I agree in principle (and that appears to be at least partially the case with Fr. James as his assistant). As long as Met. Jonah is not able to supervise the chancery staff in accordance with the human resources handbook – which actually gives him authority to fire chancery employees on his own initiative, without any of this Fr. Garklavs-appeal-to-the-synod crap – he has to cover his behind. Part of that should be disabling the mechanical signature in Syosset, and investigating what else it might have been applied to without his consent.

            By the way, Jesse, thank you for all the work you’ve done lately. I look forward to the day we can beat our swords into ploughshares, but not yet, not yet…

            • Helga, thank you for point out what is at the heart of the matter here, the lack of “good faith.” On a Christian level, what bothers me (among many other things) is that those who are acting to undermine +Jonah don’t seem to understand that the system of church governance that they’re embracing is doomed to fail. Also, the hypocrisy is astounding.

              To All: I just posted a recent essay late last nite, specifically concerned with this topic. If there’s going to be any further commentary on these shenanigans, please feel free to read the latest and make your comments there. I’d like to free up this thread for what it was intended –an enconium for our beloved Vladyka +Dmitri.

  9. Heracleides says

    Since Bp. Mark is once again a topic of conversation, thought I’d sum up my take on the man. For those interested, my latest bit of satire is entitled “Return to Sender” and may be viewed at:

    • Nice summary Carl, however the entire point of Stokoe’s article was to get to his final sentence…..” In short, the Metropolitan of the OCA, instead of defending the policies, standards and best practices of the OCA, is opposing all those who would.”

      Note to self…..Policies, standards and best practices – new OCA buzzwords replacing the old ones, “are the allegations true or false!”

      Note to self 2 – Since the bias of Mrs Brown has now been exposed, again, for all to see, maybe those” allegations” were not so true after all???

      • Jane Rachel says

        Amos, both of your comments are spot on. I really smiled sadly on reading the second comment. I wish he were here so I could ask him, “Are the other allegations true or are they false?” But I wouldn’t. It’s all so sad.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        The strange thing about biases of a writer or reporter is that they do not by themselves negate the truth of part or all of what they write or report. What is in dispute here is not the entirety of Stokoe’s reportage but how much his biases have influenced it. Are the events that he is reporting true or not? Yes, they are by and large corroborated by Parishioner. That does not mean that we therefore have to agree with Stokoe’s conclusions. I myself am not convinced of (a) the quality of Stokoes’ and Parishioner’s sources and (b) the validity of their conclusions. All I know right now is that there is a problem that was not caused by Stokoe, just as the Santa Fe problem was not caused by Stokoe.

        However, I know that I disagree with Parishioner on the extent of a Metropolitan’s powers and prerogatives. I also agree with Stokoe that process matters. Does that make me a Stokovite? If it does, I proudly will wear that label to my grave. I wish you all to know that I am a political conservative, signer of Manhattan Declaration, a practicing Orthodox in a conservative OCA parish. What I will not do is to subordinate the Church to any given individual. What I will not stand for is any move away from conciliar principles,demeaning of the Holy Synod and her members, demeaning of national officers and institutions, and character assassination for the sake of advancing one’s position or satisfying one’s passions.

        • Carl says,

          All I know right now is that there is a problem that was not caused by Stokoe…

          Actually, the issue is whether or not there’s a problem deserving of our attention at all. The way this situation has been handled has made this harder for the alleged victim and the accused, but that is because the Syosset Circle made hullabaloo about a non-event. (Or at least a non-public-event.) Since then, things are so topsy-turvy you can point fingers at everyone who has touched the case — which happens to be A LOT of people. Singling out the Metropolitan is rich.

          … just as the Santa Fe problem was not caused by Stokoe.

          I appreciate your reservation of judgments in the matter of Fr. Z, but the only way to say this with a straight face is if (a) you accept everything Stokoe says about how “The Synod” thinks and feels, and (b) if you haven’t been paying attention.

          He is certainly right in the second part of his argument and he backs it up with a citation. But, notice the free use of the word “canonical” without citing a single canon? I will shortly fill in that chasm.

          I’m still waiting.

          You provide an argument, which is, I guess, better than just stating something. What you do no provide, like you promised, is a canon. Your argument stretches quite a bit from the Statute on which it is based, forces you to make Fr. Z a canonical exception, and does not clear up who he is to be responsible to, what the role of the Holy Synod is, etc. In short, it is more complicated and more complicating alternative.

          So, at worst, Met. Jonah and everyone else who doesn’t agree with you has failed to rationalize your unhelpful, implicit, unprecedented argument. And, at best, they are right and you are wrong.

          Either option (or something in between) I think I can live with. Neither leaves me in aporia as to Met. Jonah’s actions.

        • Carl Kraeff says: September 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

          I also agree with Stokoe that process matters.

          Process is important, only if it is the correct process, administered through the proper authority!

          The concept of OCA “Best Practices” are a joke foisted upon the church by the “respected” law firm representing the interest of a previous Metropolitan. These “processes” would be considered laughable in most good organizations. And yes I have the professional credentials to make that statement.

          Since the activities of the SMPAC and other MC subcommittees are outside of the Statues, even with the approval of the Synod, what is the true “governing” decision in the OCA?

    • Herc, you crack me up!

  10. Carl Kraeff says

    Jesse Cone’s (Parishioner) article in the OCAT repeats again the mantra that this issue is strictly within the purview of the diocesan bishop and does not concern anybody else. However, this is is specious argument that is immediately made clear by a reading of the canons and indeed by the application of common sense. Here is our friend Jesse says:

    “So let me clear up some technical issues regarding Fr. Zacchaeus.

    1. He is a direct report to the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan is his bishop. The Synod’s canonical relationship to him is the same as any regular diocesan priest. What is different about him is his parish’s relationship with Moscow. It would look exceedingly bad for the OCA if the other bishops or priests attempted to meddle in affairs outside of their jurisdiction as it pertained to a representational parish on foreign soil.

    This is not just canonical, it within the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policies, Standards, and Procedures. From 7.01a, (emphasis mine):

    Diocesan Bishops have full hierarchical authority for all Church activities within the diocese, including all matters concerning allegations of sexual misconduct. Bishops may fully exercise that authority in accordance with these Policies, Standards, and Procedures, and may impose any clergy discipline not requiring action of a Church court.”

    He is certainly right in the second part of his argument and he backs it up with a citation. But, notice the free use of the word “canonical” without citing a single canon? I will shortly fill in that chasm. Let’s look first at his conflation of +Jonah as a mere bishop that seeks to protect the integrity of his canonical rights as a diocesan bishop with +Jonah the Metropolitan of a local church that has a representation to another local church. Yes, it is true that the other diocesan bishops would not dare meddle in the affairs of another diocese. But, the priest in question is not a mere parish priest that has no impact whatsoever outside the boundaries of the diocese, this priest the rector of “a representational parish on foreign soil.” Thus, this priest represents the entire OCA, even though administratively he is under the primate of the OCA (as it should be).

    Some of you may have realized that there is one diocesan bishop in our church who has been elected by the supreme canonical authority of the Church (the Holy Synod) as its primate–the Metropolitan. Some of you may have even realized that the Metropolitan speaks/acts both both a diocesan bishop and as the primate of the OCA. The canon is perfectly clear: the Metropolitan cannot do anything that concerns/affects the entire church without the consent of his brother bishops and fellow members of the Holy Synod. There is indeed a problem when folks like Jesse Cone cannot (or may be refuse to) see that distinction. This is irritating and unproductive at best. At it’s partisan worst, it is on par with what Stokoe is accused of–just the other side of the coin.

    • How many times must we remind you that a priest is never under the authority of more than one Bishop? How difficult is that to understand?

      • Carl Kraeff says

        How many times must I remind you that the Metropolitan, whoever he is, is not a super bishop and is under the authority of the Holy Synod?

        • Not when it comes to matters of the primary steps regarding priestly discipline. You’re simply wrong on this point. No priest is only under the authority of the Synod. They are first under the authority of their diocesan Bishop. The Metropolitan, not the Synod, is the head of Stavropeghial institutions. Is the Synod the president of the Seminary? Is the Synod the abbot of Stavropegial monasteries? It’s a ridiculous argument you’re making. It flies in the face of every tradition, and yet you keep making it as if that makes a difference.

          And regarding being elected by the Synod, every Bishop is elected by the Synod. So what? How does that change the authority of any Bishop one iota?

          • Carl Kraeff says

            We agree perfectly that no priest is under the authority of anyone or anything but one bishop. In the case of a diocesan priest, he must be under the authority of his diocesan bishop. In the case of stavropegial institutions and representation churches, they are under the authority of the primate of a local church–in our case Metropolitan Jonah. So far so good, no?

            So, is Archimandrite Z a diocesan priest? I don’t think that he is; he does not have a parish in the Diocese of Washington and what he does affects the entire OCA and not just the Diocese of Washington. He is under the omophorion of +Jonah in his capacity as the primate and not the Archbishop of Washington. The question that matters here is not whether Archimandrite Z’s bishop is +Jonah or not. The real question is whether +Jonah can dispose of the case at hand as if he is nothing more than a diocesan bishops–as if any action that he takes does not affect the entire OCA.

            • The criteria is not what a particular priest or institution affects, it’s what bishop a priest is under. Every priest is under one bishop. AZ is under Met Jonah. He is under no other bishop. No other bishop has any authority at all over him. None. The initial steps of any investigation or disciplinary measure (short of deposition) is under the authority of one bishop.

              There’s nothing magical about the word ‘diocese.’ In fact, that word isn’t even particularly Orthodox. The question is, who’s omophorion is AZ under, not who’s diocese or what diocese is he in. What about the 15 or 20 priests that are attached to St Sergius Chapel in Syosset? You’re telling me they’re under the Synod? What about the priests at St Vladimir’s Seminary? Who’s their bishop? Who do they answer to in such matters? The Synod? No way.

              And thank you, but I’m done repeating myself to you. It’s just annoying now. It’s like trying to convince you the sky is blue, and you’re convinced it’s green. Enjoy your green sky.

        • another one says

          Even, Carl, as the other bishops are under HB’s authority, per the Canons?

          It is this give and take which is lacking, and combined with an out of control Syosset staff and an MC covetous of power, is creating this crisis. Our Metropolitan has a diocese the relative size of a postage stamp, and even in that tiny area everyone else wants to call the shots. However, I don’t see +Benjamin asking HS permission before embroiling himself in a mining controversy in Alaska. This must go both ways, and so far, it hasn’t.

          I too, have had a belly full – pissed off doesn’t even cover it.

          • Carl Kraeff says

            The Holy Synod expressed perfectly in their Santa Fe communique: they are to be obedient to each other. You know it does not take that much effort to talk to your fellow bishops and obtain a consensus before he does anything that affects the entire Church. In the Officer Training School, we were taught a maxim that has stayed with me to this day; A good leader is a good follower. BTW, Bishop Benjamin is the locum tenens for Alaska, just as +Jonah used to be the locum tenens for two other dioceses before the Holy Synod relieved him of those responsibilities. Perhaps, so that he has more time to consult with his fellow bishops? (ADDED: I know my last comment is a bit petty. I am just tired of arguing process against a personality).

            • Alf Kentigern says

              Again it seems (and maybe I’m missing something as usual) that Canon 34 in addition to requiring the primate to act as primate with a unanimity of the Synod, also requires local bishops to focus on their own dioceses. In this situation we seem to have bishops other than the primate involved in running personnel issues of the central administration. That is clearly outside of their dioceses in any institutional or geographical sense. (Well, actually, geographically it is within Bishop Michael’s diocese, but that is also why the issue arose of moving h.q. to the Metropolitan’s diocese in the national capital–and I don’t think, just based on these online reports, that Bishop Michael is one of the local bishops taking an active role in this complex of issues.) There is an ambiguity and a lack of good established practice in the OCA, so far as I can tell, for balance between those two requirements, and for defining the situation of the central administration vis-a-vis the Metropolitan’s diocese and the local bishops. Lacking verified details of all that has transpired (illuminating who sought or who didn’t seek each other’s permission and when, and how that fits into canonical frameworks in various stages of this personnel case), in a bigger picture we get back to the need for a loving symphonia between all concerned. Within the framewok of the canon, that need seems reflected not only in the requirement for the primate needing to seek unanimity, but also in the canon’s requirement of respect for the primate by the local bishops and their needing to seek the blessing of the primate before embarking on significant new projects within their doceses. If governance has been pursued outside of that canonical framework in various ways by various parties across the brief history of the OCA, ambiguously in the name of economia for good or ill, the need for loving mutual respect holds. To me the report under discussion seems to produce the opposite.

              • I take your general point. If the Bishop of Chicago meddled in the personnel issues of the Bishop of New York or Archbishop of Washington, for example, that would be against Article 34. Indeed, as you pointed out, a diocesan bishop cannot do anything of significance in his own diocese (that is something would have an effect outside diocesan boundaries) without consensus, just as the Metropolitan cannot do anything of national consequence with consensus. This is the model that the OCA has operationalized with the OCA Statute, by adding one more player to the equation; the Holy Synod, which is the collection of all diocesan bishops. It is by virtue of being members of the Holy Synod that the diocesans can indeed consider personnel actions that affect the entire church without running afoul of Canon 34. Here is the relevant provision:

                Article II. Holy Synod, Section 7. Competencies, The following matters are within the jurisdiction and competence of the Holy Synod:
                1. All matters involving doctrine, canonical order, morals, and liturgical practice;
                9. Solution of problems arising in the administration of individual dioceses and requiring the judgment of the entire episcopate;
                14. Pastoral supervision over all Church organizations whose activity extends beyond the boundaries of a single diocese;”

                I hope this helps, Carl

                • Alf Kentigern says

                  It seems strange then that the OCA Statute seems to designate an institution to take on a role not given local bishops in the Apostolic Canon 34 as supreme canonical authority . Potentially then the Holy Synod under the statute could be a “super bishop” in its majority or leader(s) with little or no canonical restriction. The Holy Synod itself is not required to seek unanimity under Canon 34 as the Metropolitan is with local bishops, nor is it required to seek a blessing from the Metropolitan personally for any significant project, as local bishops are under the Canon. Ideally it functions conciliarly, but in practice it can act by majority vote and that may color its formation of consensus. This all may need re-visiting as the Statute itself is not sacrosanct but amendable, and the description of the Synod’s impersonal pastoral function as an institution seems ambiguous relative to the overall personal pastoral and supervisory duties given the Metropolitan under the statute. Of the Metropolitan the Statute says, “He supervises the internal and external welfare of the Church and represents it in its relations with other Orthodox Churches, religious organizations, and secular authorities” and has “right of pastoral intervention, in all matters concerning the life of the Church within the framework of the holy canons.”

                  • Head of nail meet hammer. Hammer, nail.

                    Get the governance travesty sorted out, and maybe the OCA can function as the Church … or some kind of body at any rate.

                    In this specific case, the issue is the meaning of “supreme canonical authority”. The Stokovites (and ironically others who are deluded into thinking they are supporting strong separation of powers a la the U.S. Constitution) attribute not only judicial but also executive and legislative authority to the realm of the “canonical”. To these folks, “canonical authority” is just a sophisticated term for “church authority” in “church speak”. So in the secular translation of the OCA statue, we would just ascribe “supreme authority in all matters relating to the OCA” to the synod.

                    Most outsiders who don’t have a dog in the fight would interpret canonical here to mean “judicial” in church speak, and the statutory role of the synod as being the “supreme judicial authority in matters of church law.”

                    So does “supreme canonical authority” mean supreme judicial authority or supreme everything-church-related authority? Only one of these interpretations is even remotely consistent with canon 34 or the rest of the OCA statute. And only one of these grants the term “canonical” any real meaning in this context (giving the phrase a different meaning from what it would have if the term was just left out). Turns out it is the “judicial” interpretation in both cases. But you guys need to sort this out and approve some guidelines for how this “supreme canonical authority” should be exercised.

                    Not that this is the only thing that needs to be sorted out, but it is a very good candidate for #1 on the priority list.

                  • Interesting point, but essentially a distinction without meaning. If Canon 34 requires consensus (and it does), the operation of the Holy Synod in the same manner affects a metropolitan the same way. The metropolitan, patriach, archbishop–whatever a head of a local church is called–is nothing more than a mouthpiece for that consensus in accordance with the Canon 34. The fact that some heads of local churches have not operated by the Canon 34 does not negate its applicability. I reiterate: there is nothing in our ecclesiology that justifies a Metropolitan to get his way in opposition to the wishes of his fellow bishops. It is certainly true that there is a presumption that whatever a Metropolitan does and says would be in concordance with his fellow diocesans (with or without a Holy Synod). There usually is no problem when a Metropolitan advances a new proposal but only if he has gotten to the point that he knows the minds of his fellow bishops. There is certainly a problem if a Metropolitan believes that central church authorities/organs/officials work only for him and not those institutions that they are assigned to, such as a Metropolitan Council or Holy Synod. The system is not broken. The statute preserves the hierarchical nature of the OCA, while providing for a modicum of conciliarity. It is simply wrong to wish for a strong, super-bishop, quasi-Papist Metropolinate.

          • Carl,

            So your argument is that because +Benjamin is locum tenens of Alaska, that absolves him from getting a blessing from either the HS or HB for his activities? Then in the next sentence you snipe that +Jonah was relieved of locum tenens responsibilities so that he would have more time to consult with fellow bishops?

            Come now, respond to the argument. Either the Holy Synod are responsible to one another or they are not. You appear to be defending that +Jonah must get approval for every move, but no other bishop is bound in a similar matter.

            While that appears to be how “the process” is being altered, I invite you to consider another motive than providing the Metropolitan more free time to consult with his fellow bishops. The reduction in the Metropolitian’s pay by the MC, coupled with the “new” policy that he may not appoint himself locum tenens were punitive in nature. The administration in Syossett, aided by some members of the MC (notably Mark Stokoe,) and the HS are working very hard to re-institute a “strong chancellor/weak metropolitan” governance model on the OCA. The irony of this is that this group is fleeing to the structure that Mr. Stokoe so loudly decried on his site during the tenure of Fr. Kondratick. But for the CA “inner circle”, it is the game that gives them the most latitude and the most power.

            Make no mistake, they have gone all in on this strategy. All that stands in their way is Vladyka Jonah. So weakening him financially and any other way is part of the gambit. Pray for him and for the Holy Synod.

            • I have no idea what Bishop Benjamin is doing in Alaska.I was merely pointing out that he is not meddling in the affairs of another diocese. Now, if what he is doing is of significance and may affect the entire OCA, Canon 4 and OCA Statutes would require him to get the agreement of the Holy Synod,

              Regarding the Santa Fe and post Santa Fe actions regarding the Metropolitan, the Holy Synod has the authority to do what it has done. The Metropolitan has agreed with all of these actions.Nothing more needs to be said about it except to move on.

  11. Mr Kraeff:

    I don’t think Mr Cone’s piece is irritating. At the very, it least raises some interesting logistical questions. Some of which I put to you now, in addition to asking about your post.

    1. Which canon are you citing in your argument?

    2. What authority do you offer (canonical, statutory, or small “t” tradition) for saying that stavropegial priests occupy a position that affects the entire church so as to trigger the aforementioned canon in #1?

    3. Why couldn’t one say–sloppy thinking aside– that Fr Zacchaeus is the Metropolitan’s representative to Moscow? Isn’t the Metropolitan, by OCA statute, the bishop charged with conducting external affairs? See OCA Statute Art. IV, section 1. External affairs isn’t mentioned in as an explicit competency of the Synod. See OCA Statute Ar. II, section 7.

    Best Regards,


    • Sam–I am happy to answer your questions.

      1. I am citing Apostolic Canon 34 that requires the Metropolitan to do nothing of consequence that affects the OCA at large (as opposed to his own Diocese of Washington) without obtaining consensus in the Holy Synod.

      2. Regarding Archimandrite Zaccheus, the former rector of OCA’s Representation Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr, I do not believe that he is a stavropegial priest as I understand stavropegial institutions to generally be monasteries that are under the omophorion of the primate. The only place in the OCA Statute that stavropegial institutions are mentioned is in Article III–the All American Council, Section 15. Auditing Committee. That said, I am guessing that you mean Arch. Z. is under the omophorion of Metropolitan Jonah, which leads to the question of whether any action by his bishop–Metropolitan Jonah, is a diocesan or national matter.

      The representation church is not part of the +Jonah’s Diocese of Washington but represents the OCA as a whole to the Russian Orthodox Church. The rector of that church reports to the bishop who is wearing a second hat as the primate of the Church–the Metropolitan. And this is because under the OCA Statute the Metropolitan “supervises the internal and external welfare of the Church and represents it in its relations with other Orthodox Churches…” (Article IV, Section 1), BTW,

      Anything that happens at/in Saint Catherine’s may be of such consequence that affects the entire OCA. Therefore I am offering Apostolic Canon 34 again as the relevant authority. As with the application of any canon, we cannot mechanistically apply Canon 34. Thus, Canon 34 would not be applicable if what has happened is not something of consequence. Looking at the facts of the case, we find all sides agree that an allegation of sexual misconduct was made against Archimandrite Zaccheus. This allegation by itself is something of consequence, covered by the 2003 policy on such matters and reinforced by Metropolitan Jonah’s letter of last year. The fact that it is of consequence is reinforced by the decision by Metropolitan Jonah to agree with the recommendation of the Central Administration staff to put the accused on a leave of absence and recall him to the United States. I will throw in another consideration: even if the accusation that precipitated the decision of the Metropolitan had not been of consequence, it became so the second that the action was published on the official site of the OCA.

      3. Regarding external affairs and competencies, I have already indicated agreement that the Metropolitan represents the OCA in its relations with other churches. Interestingly, none of the Metropolitan’s listed duties in Section 2 explicitly reiterates the general description Section 1 ( I do not think that this is of any consequence, just odd). On the other hand, there are plenty of general and specific provisions in Article II of the OCA Statute that make the role and authority of the Holy Synod crystal clear.

      “Section 1. The Holy Synod is the supreme canonical authority in the Church.
      Section 7. Competence. Competence. The following matters are within the jurisdiction and competence of the Holy Synod:
      1. All matters involving doctrine, canonical order, morals, and liturgical practice;
      12. Establishment of general policies in relation to other Orthodox Churches and non-Orthodox religious bodies;
      13. Appointment, upon recommendation by the Metropolitan Council, of the Chancellor, Secretary, Treasurer, and other officials whose competence or service extend beyond the boundaries of a single diocese;
      14. Pastoral supervision over all Church organizations whose activity extends beyond the boundaries of a single diocese…”

      Indeed, one can say that the rector of a representation church represents the Metropolitan who himself represents the OCA and must/should logically carry out the general policies established by the Holy Synod (Section 7.12). In this the Metropolitan is aided by a number of national officers/functionaries “whose competence or service extend beyond the boundaries of a single diocese” ( Section 7.13) among whom is the Director of External Affairs. Given the Apostolic Canon 34 and OCA Statutes, it is clear that there are a number of players beside the Metropolitan in the conduct of external affairs, the most preeminent being the Holy Synod, which under Section 7.14 has the ultimate competency to supervise a Representation Church whose activity does indeed extend beyond the boundaries of a single diocese. So, if you were wondering if the Metropolitan can treat the case of Father Zaccheus as if the latter is a priest of the Washington Diocese, the answer is an emphatic no. I hope that this helps. With best regards, Carl

      • Mr Kraeff:

        Thank you for your response. It was helpful in thinking through these things. I will respond by paragraph.

        1. I am not sure that your gloss of Apostolic Canon 34 is dispositive here. As the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (Ravenna, 13 October 2007) notes in its document entitled “Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity, and Authority” at paragraph 24, the norm that Canon 34 sets forth “re-emerges in several forms in canonical tradition.” Indeed, there must interpretation here because a rigid adherence to this canon will inevitably lead to paralysis. It would be interesting to know how does the Russian Church or Ecumenical Patriarchate handle the issue of clergy in Representation Churches. Therefore, I do not think your gloss on Apostolic Canon 34 is dispostive. I agree though, that the first place to look for answers is the OCA Statute.

        2. I don’t know the facts of the case. There is no citation to documents publicly available. Thus, I think it wrong for me to comment.

        3. I agree that the Statute says what the Statute says. Given that the Metropolitan supervises the internal and external welfare of the Church and represents the Church in external affairs, it is not unreasonable to believe the Metropolitan has the ultimate responsibility for a Representation Church.

        Thus, I return to my original point. Mr Cone’s piece is not irritating. It raises some timely questions that need a timely answer.

        Best Regards,


        • Carl Kraeff says

          Dear SAM–If the Statute says what it says, there only one logical conclusion; The Holy Synod has the ultimate responsibility for a representation church per the provisions that I quoted. I would agree however that the Metropolitan has the penultimate authority or authority of first instance, or that he is the primary point of contact for the Holy Synod–the lead so to speak, on external affairs, to include representation churches. That does not mean that the Holy Synod ceases to be the ultimate authority. May I remind you that the Holy Synod is the ultimate canonical authority under any canonical or statutory authority?

          • Mr Kraeff :

            You may remind me! It is a good reminder. I did not mean to suggest that the Metropolitan can disregard the Synod in a matter appealed to the Synod. Since there is no public documentation suggesting that such an appeal has been made (or is there? I don’t go everywhere, so I don’t know), only questions remain. Questions and speculation particularly about good order and due process. Unfortunately, good order and due process seem to be absent from much of the OCA today. Thus, it is never a waste of time to think through things.

            Again, thank you for your responses. They have helped me think through the issue.

            Best Regards,


  12. Heracleides says

    A satirical visual aid for the next meeting of the OCA “Lesser Synod” is now viewable at:

    (Personally, I wish they’d just get it done and over with.)

    • LOL. These klobuk-and-dagger shenanigans!

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        “I know”, Helga, “Oh, I know,”: as Mrs. Basil Fawlty is wont to exclaim into the telephone. It’s enough to get our chotki in a twist!

  13. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    I’ve been noticing the proliferation of statements about stavropigiality and so forth, most of them extraordinarily dogmatic and authoritatively composed.
    The words stavropigial and stavropigia pertain solely to institutions. When a Christian bishop intends to found an institution, be it a college, a seminary, a hospital, he plants a cross, in his own name, and officially assumes jurisdiction for it forever. Cross—that’s where the “stavro” comes in. Planting, that’s where the pigia comes in. Such institutions are found in the West as well as in the East. In Germany, they are called “Stiften.” For example, Tubingen is a well known theological institution—-many, if not all, of the Greek young men who were sent abroad to learn to read and write and study theology in the 18th and 19th centuries went to Tuebingen, correctly called “Tuebinger STIFT.” We could call it stavropigial, because the Planting (stabbing into) into the ground of the Cross by a Bishop, sometimes a Bishop from outside the diocese of the local Bishop is in charge of it. Seminaries, in other Local Churches may be, and usually are, diocesan institutions, however sometimes larger ones are declared to be Stavropigial. In modern times almost without exception (OCA is one) these institutions come directly under the authority, supervision, and governance of the Holy Synod of that Local Church.
    Having generalized on that enough, we should now say that human beings ordained or not, are NOT stavropigial and never can be. No Bishop plants as Priest in the ground and declares him a stavropigia. What an idea. All Priests must belong to a diocese, which is the fundamental institution of the Church, the absolutely essential component of which is that diocese’s bishop. Any Priest assigned to a stavropigial institution is either on loan from his diocesan bishop, or, if he belongs to the Bishop (or Primate, First-Hierarch) and is THEREFORE under the omophorion of, better, IN THEDIOCESEof that Bishop.; The bad, ignorant even, convention adopted in recent decades in the OCA to actually (in official or semi-official documents) designate people, clergy as “stavropigial” shows a reckless attitude toward language and teaching. “Close enough for Church Work!!!”
    ONE of the reasons the pseudo-deposition of Protopresbyter Rodion S. Kondratick was so appallingly uncanonical (or even anti-canonical) was the TOTALABSENCE of the Protopresbyter’s Bishop from the spiritual court. Astoundingly, astoundingly, this was touted as “OK” because the Protopresbyter was “stavropigial” and therefore (this is false teaching o the first water) was NOT in any particular diocese!!!!!!!!
    There also is not and never can be any dual authority over any cleric of any Church anywhere, ever. Metropolitan Jonah COULD, if he so decided, suspend Archimandrite Zacchaeus from all sacerdotal functions whatsoever at any time, and he would only be obligated as a matter of personal courtesy, decency and good order, to let the Patriarch of Moscow know of his action. Such a suspension MUST be public, lest a suspended cleric defying his bishop, continuedto serve and perform marriages, baptisms, etc., and the Faithful be deceived.
    To sum up. Institutions, but not people, may be stavropigial.
    It should be remarked that the statute could be amended to define stavropigial institutions (but not clergy/people) as being directly under the authority of and in the exclusive care of (without any reference to any “metropolitan soviet”) the Holy Synod, with its leader, the First Hierarch of that Synod.

    The same reckless attitude pertained there. The diocesan bishop of an ethnic diocese presided over disciplinary proceedings against a Priest IN ANOTHER BISHOP’s DIOCESE.

  14. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    Sorry, the sentence beginning “The same reckless attitude” belongs right after “Close Enough for Church Work.”

  15. Your grace, thank you for a most enlightening post. The addition of light in contrast to heat is most appreciated!

  16. Touhdcown! That’s a really cool way of putting it!