It’s Really All About Money
Bishop Nikolai, his Chancellor Fr. Isidore (Brittain), and “Anna”, a “humble parishoner” whose comments were posted on the diocesean website controlled by the Bishop, all offered different reasons yesterday for +Nikolai’s troubles - and none of them mentioned the Bishop’s behaviour or actions.
In a posting yesterday morning on the diocesean website “a humble parishoner” identified only as “Anna” suggested that the “dissenting” priests' motives were largely economic. “Anna” writes:
“Instead of being focused on conducting church services first and foremost, it seems that their own incomes may have been prime concerns. .... I would venture that most of the priests made a habit, as did the ones that I am most familiar with, of pretty much shutting down their church from the end of May until late August in order to do subsistence. They want no responsibilities except to put up fish, berrypicking and moose hunting for the whole period.
I really think the timing of their combined requests to the OCA is in the hope that it can all be resolved to their satisfaction so they can go back to having Summer and Fall off again to pursue commercial and subsistence activities.” (Read the posting here)
At an 11:30 AM (Anchorage time) press conference yesterday morning at the Russian Orthodox Musuem, Fr. Isidore (Brittain) echoed the economic theme, but said the real issue was a fight over “ownership of the diocese’s lands in Alaska”, lands that “generate about $100,000 in income a year”.
The Bishop, meanwhile, reiterated he would not step down. The Bishop again blamed the Metropolitan of “innovations” accusing “... national church leaders of not following proper church procedures when no formal allegations against him (+Nikolai) have been filed.” Both the Bishop and his Chancellor were quoted in a front page story in the Anchorage Daily News. (Read that story here)
Fr. Garklavs Responds
In an earlier story - also on the front page of yesterday's Anchorage Daily News - published under the headline “Season of Lent marred by Orthodox infighting”, Fr. Alexander Garklavs, OCA Chancellor and newly appointed Administrator of the Alaskan Diocese, revealed that he “expects to arrive in Alaska next week.” (Read that story here)
Fr. Alexander offered a slightly different, and expanded version of his plans to the Kodiak Daily Mirror. In an interview with Fr. Garklavs published today, reporter Ralph Gibbs wrote:
“Garklavs said because Bishop Nikolai is refusing to leave Alaska, he’s not sure when he will come up, but hopes by next week. Until then, he had a message for members of the OCA in Alaska.
‘Remember that the church is larger than the sum of its parts and therefore the church is larger then the Diocese of Alaska,' he said. 'We are very concerned about everybody in Alaska, from Bishop Nikolai to the most recently baptized child, and just as soon as possible we hope to be there and we hope we can maintain their faith and love at this time.’
Garklavs said his appointment is just the first step of the healing process. The investigation into the allegations is another, and while he’s here he will be traveling and listening to members.
However, he said that couldn’t begin until the bishop leaves Alaska.”
(Read that story here)
And finally, in Syosset, Fr. Garklavs posted a pastoral letter to the Diocese of Alaska today, a letter that aimed to encourage the faithful in Alaska. It also contained a warning to Bishop Nikolai. Fr. Garklavs writes:
“By the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, on March 4, 2008, His Grace, Bishop NIKOLAI has been placed on an indefinite Leave of Absence. ...
The decision of the Holy Synod was done with much care and pastoral concern. A Committee is in the process of being formed, from the members of the Holy Synod, which will thoroughly investigate the situation in Alaska. This method is entirely Scriptural and canonical. Neither guilt nor innocence is prejudged, and ascertaining the truth is the only objective. Unfortunately, Bishop NIKOLAI is openly defying the Holy Synod and thus placing himself into a critical situation which may have serious canonical repercussions.”
In the conclusion of his letter Fr. Garklavs announced that he “hopes to be able to convene the clergy of the Diocese of Alaska in the nearest future.”
(Read his letter here)
Given the Bishop’s continuing, and increasingly public intransigence. if Fr. Alexander is really serious about not visiting Alaska until the Bishop leaves, he may remain in New York, and the clergy of Alaska left waiting, for the foreseeable future.
- Mark Stokoe