After a Syosset meeting on this Tuesday with several OCA bishops, clergy and staff, Russian Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) appears to have told the rogue Primate of the OCA on Wednesday, in the words of Jonah’s surrogate website, OCAtruth.com , on Thursday, to change “his day-to-day management style”, “his working relationship with the Synod”, and to “comply willingly” with the “medical, spiritual and emotional evalutions” requested by the Synod, the results of which are then “to be shared with the Synod”.
Just days earlier Jonah’s surrogate website was reporting that Syosset was in “meltdown” in anticipation of Alfeyev’s visit, speaking anonymously of the“risk of schism with Moscow and other churches”, a risk the OCA Synod “conspirators” were taking according to OCATruth.com, “....for the sake of getting rid of His Beatitude”.
But the opposite appears to have been the result.
• While critics of the OCA were decrying +Jonah’s personal turmoil as evidence the OCA’s autocephaly was in mortal danger, Alfeyev, in the words of the OCA press release: “...reaffirmed the position of the Russian Orthodox Church with regard to the autocephaly of the OCA, which, as he emphasized, has remained unchanged since 1970.” Alfeyev continued by pointing out that it is the Russian Church “...which consistently and actively defends the autocephaly of the OCA on the inter-Orthodox level”, a direct and pointed reference the recent meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission for the Great and Holy Council, which took place in Chambésy, Switzerland, February 21-26, 2011 which adjourned in failure - in no small part due to the Russian Church’s steadfast position.
• Despite reports from +Jonah’s website suggesting a welcome “Finlandization” of the small OCA by the large Russian Church - through Moscow’s “intervention” in the latest +Jonah crisis - the OCA reported that Alfeyev
“...also stressed that the Moscow Patriarchate will in no way intervene in the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church in America.”
So why the visit?
According to +Jonah’s own supporters in Dallas: “the tumultuous situation” left “..the Moscow Patriarchate clearly concerned.” Specifically citing that robust defense of the OCA in Chambesy that took place even as these events were unfolding in Santa Fe, the OCA press release stated that the seriously confused Patriarch Kyrill “ ...needed to be directly informed about the details of the current situation.” Accordingly, “direct information” on the +Jonah problem was provided by Bishop Nikon of Boston; Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia, Bishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh (also Interim Chancellor, following +Jonah’s firing of Fr. Garklavs), Bishop Michael of New York; and Bishop Mark of Baltimore ( who administers the Diocese of the South). +Jonah’s website described other participants in the meeting as “....clergy from the New York and New Jersey area, and two clergymen who were in New York for the postponed Metropolitan Council meeting.” That is not fully accurate. According to participants in the meeting there were clergy not only from NY-NJ area, but from the West, Midwest, and Alaska as well; a Dean Emeritus of SVS and representatives from the OCA External Affairs department. Three of the participants were on the Metropolitan Council*, and several had previously served under +Jonah in various capacities during the past 2.5 years. And as one clergyman, who declined to be identified, stated to OCANews.org: “And they spoke with one mind.”
The OCA itself did not disclose what the Bishops and representatives of the governing bodies of the OCA said to +Hilarion about +Jonah, other than to “....express their gratitude to Patriarch Kirill for his love and concern for the OCA and to Metropolitan Hilarion for undertaking this visit and for his continued brotherly support.” At which point +Hilarion flew to Washington to meet with +Jonah - with the outcomes described in the opening paragraph. In the end, itwas not the OCA Synod that risked discredit in the eyes of world Orthodoxy, but its rogue Primate.
Will +Jonah now comply with the Synod’s requests, now reiterated by the Russian Metropolitan?
Well, he has certainly changed the tone of his surrogate website in Dallas. After decrying those who criticized+Jonah as ‘liberal, homosexual, west coast feminists with an agenda to destroy Orthodoxy’, the site now claims: “OCATruth has always said that HB’s enemies aren’t all wrong, and that HB ought to take them seriously, and to learn from their just complaints.”
The website now takes the position “....that +Hilarion has effectively imposed order on this tumultuous situation, and shown us the only way forward.” It is a position, to be sure: with only one oversight. OCAtruth just failed to mention is that the order" supposedly imposed by +Hilarion was the Synod’s, not +Jonah’s, nor a Russian one.
Moreover, the site is now pulling back from public accusations of clergy and laity of homosexuality. The site now claims: “....I know nothing about any of the persons named over the past couple of weeks, and I don’t have any right to know the secrets they share with their confessors. .....That being said, God forbid that we engage in any kind of witch hunt. Public misbehavior by anyone in our leadership, clergy or lay, must be addressed. Private sins should never be revealed.”
The future of +Jonah’s surrogate website is now unclear. The anonymous poster writes: “I’m going to pull back from this debate now, and pray for +Jonah, the Synod, and the whole church. This is not the time to keep fighting, but to do what we can to reconcile and make this settlement work. What better alternative do we have?”
For +Jonah, there appears to be no better alternative, now that he has played the Synod card, and lost; the public outcry card, and lost; and finally the Russian card; and lost. +Jonah’s surrogate site may be toning it down, but he couldn’t resist one last, revealing swipe at the OCA, and its future:
“If we can’t get these basic points, then I, for one, hope that Moscow takes and even stronger and more public stand regarding our waywardness. If the message hasn’t gotten through, yet, then the next step needs to be an unequivocal suspension of autocephaly until our Church can show herself to be the Church.”
If his website is changing for now, so, too, is +Jonah’s refusal to allow the Metropolitan Council or Synod to meet. Both have rescheduled their meetings for the first week of May, to be held in Chicago, rather than New York. The topic of Fr. Garklav’s firing will be on the agenda of both, for sure.
And +Jonah, personally? Will he change?
His supporters say: “The process of beginning to make those changes is already underway as part of His Beatitude’s rest and spiritual retreat.” From that, one might infer that +Jonah is about to begin his long-anticipated “rest and spiritual retreat”. On the contrary. Rather than taking one, he is scheduled to lead one this weekend.
Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.
- Mark Stokoe
• The meeting between +Jonah and +Hilarion took place in New York, not Washington DC, as previously reported. It was also reported that three members of the MC participated in the Syosset meeting: only one is a current member. We regret the errors.