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5.20.11

+Jonah - In His Own Words

On November 11, 2008, at the Pittsburgh All-American Council, Metropolitan Jonah, as a Bishop of 11 days, addressed a large group in the evening Q &A session. He spoke of the relation between the Synod and the Primate, offering the analogy of a priest and his parish:

“..what is the Metropolitan? He is the chairman of the Synod. The leadership of a parish priest in his parish: If you sit there and you lord it over your parishioners {saying} that ‘I am the priest and I can do whatever I want and I can spend the money however I want without accountability and without…’ you are not going to go very far. In fact you are likely to get thrown out because you will get into all sorts of problems. And I think that form of leadership is over. (Applause) ”

He spoke on leadership and obedience:

“Our leadership is leadership within; and underlying this is the essential theological principle that is in every aspect of our theology.....that’s the principle in the word of St. Paul, of ‘synergy’, of cooperation. And it has to be a voluntary cooperation. And obedience, within that context, is not some kind of, some guy, who can lord it over you and make you do what he wants you to and you are going to get in trouble one way or another. Obedience is cooperation out of love and respect. ..”

And on authority and responsibility:

"The Holy Synod needs a chance to function normally with a leader who is engaged, who’s not drunk, who’s not preoccupied, with somebody who is engaged, who is engaged in building that synergy and building that communion and working ... Authority is responsibility. Authority is accountability, it is not power. (Applause).”

The following day +Jonah was nominated by the Council as one of two candidates for Metropolitan, and elected minutes later as the Primate of the OCA, in what some described as a “pentecostal” atmosphere.

Two and half years later +Jonah appears to have lost the confidence, trust and respect of his Synod, staff, and Metropolitan Council. He has been stripped of all responsibilities by the Synod, save those specifically enumerated by the OCA Statute. He most likely faces Ethics charges from the Council. He no longer has complete authority over staff, save his personal aide. Nor does it end there. Three days after being forced to relieve his new Cathedral Dean of all duties, Jonah surprised his DC Cathedral’s parish council with the name of a new candidate for the post. Even the parish council finally balked, preferring sometime be allowed to pass before a replacement for Fr. Fester is named, and that a search committee be established instead.

How did it come to this?

In a recent Washington Post article on +Jonah, Julia Duin wrote:

“Jonah’s insistence that his church address the pressing issues of the day is a gauntlet thrown down before the feet of his fellow Orthodox leaders, and it has not sat well with the OCA’s governing bodies.”

According to Duin the conflict is between Jonah (“The Forward-thinking, Social Conservative Activist”) and his Synod (“Old-fashioned, Ethnic Liberals”). Of course this theory founders on reality. Not one of the OCA hierarchs could be labelled “ethnic”. The majority of OCA Bishops, like +Jonah, are converts themselves. As for the Synod being split between “social conservatives and social liberals, Bishop Tikhon pointed out to the Post (read his letter here) that other many Bishops, seminarians and clergy had march against abortion -long before +Jonah. The Bishops did not have to “prove” their opposition to homosexuality by signing the Manhattan Declaration of 2009; they had already spoken out forcefully on the issue in an encyclical in 2005 - which has remained posted on the OCA website ever since. Finally, the Synod never opposed the move to DC, let alone out of “fear of the public square”; it was the Metropolitan Council which opposed the move, and that on financial grounds. As the OCA is still paying $12,000+ a month in interest to repay loans taken out because of the last Metropolitan's arbitrary decisions, the Council was loathe to take out additional massive loans to pay for this Metropolitan’s personal choices, given the pressing needs of necessities. .

Others blame not just “the governing bodies “of the OCA for +Jonah’s situation, but whole populations in the OCA; people beset, in their opinion, by spiritual fear and pain caused by economic hardship. 'It is worth noting”, writes Fr. Gregory Jensen, “that with maybe one or two exceptions, Metropolitan Jonah’s critics are from the former centers of American Orthodoxy. ...Like it or not, in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and throughout the Rust Belt and the Mid-West, gone are the days when Orthodoxy was a cultural and familial given. So yes, there is certainly a liberal/conservative dynamic in all this. But I think we should not discount the pain and fear of people who have suffered economically as well as spiritually...”

Unfortunately, Fr. Jensen’s analysis founders on reality as well. +Jonah’s critics, episcopal, clerical and lay, come from the North, South, East and West, not to mention Alaska. Fortunately, some OCA parishes in the South and the West are indeed growing; but so are some parishes in the Midwest and in the Atlantic States as well. Indeed, growth in these latter areas is even more impressive for it is those areas that are losing population overall, as America’s demographics move south and west. Which may, in fact, explain some of the parish “growth” in the latter areas...

The +Jonah blogosphere, centered on OCATruth.com, is more specific in their articulation of Jonah’s problem: +Jonah is under surprise “attack” by a small faction on the Metropolitan Council determined to turn the OCA in little more than Eastern Rite Episcopalianism. One only has to enter this world to realize very quickly, in the words of conspiracy analyst Jonathan Kay, that ”From the very instant they first boot up their computer in the morning, their in-boxes comprise an unbroken catalog of outrage stories ideologically tailored to their pre-existing obsessions.” In this case, their manufactured outrage and obsession is with a “conspiracy” against +Jonah. Such people generally do not dispute their critics; they simply, in Kay’s words, “... reject their opponent’s reality.” Amid the mass of their unsubstantiated assertions and often baseless allegations, rational discourse is difficult, if not impossible.

For the past two years the Synod’s, Council’s and staff’s growing concerns with +Jonah  instability have been talked about, privately and publicly. The only one "surprised" by  the growing chorus of criticisms  - which he now calls a "conspiracy" - seems to be +Jonah and his followers. But nothing was been done in secret. The Synod, over the past 24 months has had, by one Bishop’s account, more than four increasingly serious “interventions” with the Primate - culminating in Santa Fe. The Council has had three “interventions” of its own with +Jonah, including a full day retreat with Fr. Thomas Hopko last September. And the Staff, well, +Jonah began his term as Primate by ignoring his officer's advice, and physically avoiding the Church’s headquarters at every opportunity --despite their constant and recorded pleas for decisions.

What happened to bring the OCA to this current fork in the road - with a Metropolitan now unwelcome in any diocese but his own; who is bereft of trust by his governing bodies; and yet who continues on as if nothing has happened?

The answer lies not in youth, lack of training, arbitrariness, lack of prudence or wisdom, conflicting management styles, liberalism or social conservativism. “Conspiracies”, “betrayals”, and “the public square” have little to do with it. The answer lies not in any specific actions or inaction by Jonah, important as those are to understanding the sequence of events. The answer lies in +Jonah himself, and his frightening ability - or rather disability - to simply ignore reality and its consequences.

+Jonah in Santa Fe

+Jonah’s opening talk to the Synod at their February meeting Santa Fe clearly evidences this fundamental problem. The day before the meeting of the Synod +Jonah shared his draft agenda and opening talk with his small circle of intimates, seeking their comments and approbation for what he was about to say. This is +Jonah in his own words - not +Jonah playing to the crowds, but as he is - and how he would be.

[Editor’s note: For those who wish to read the following speech in its entirety, without any identifications, explanation of terms, corrections of fact, or comments, you may do so here. The following text will include all of the preceding.

+Jonah begins :

“This is a critical time of judgement for us as the OCA. Do we want a church that is led by the bishops, with advice from the clergy and lay [sic]. Or do we want a church controlled by the Metropolitan Council, its committees and officers, criticizing and marginalizing the bishops?

Do we want an all powerful chancellor who controls the Metropolitan, Synod, MC [Metropolitan Council]? Or do we want the Metropolitan to determine the policy with the Synod, advised by the Synod and his staff? Do we want a church controlled by a consistory, or by a Synod?“

+Jonah’s questions paint a vivid struggle - except for the fact no such struggle exists. There is no “all-powerful” Chancellor in the OCA; nor has there been for more than four years. No“consistory” exists, or has ever existed in the OCA. The Metropolitan Council cannot "marginalize" the Synod or Metropolitan - for all the Council's decisions must be blessed by them to take effect. But by setting up false questions, +Jonah can suggest a threat exists:

“Even more so, are we going to permit the Church to continue to be torn apart by endless controversies, endless investigations and reports which destroy mutual trust? Are going to cede episcopal responsibility to self-appointed watchdogs, wolves without even a shred of sheep’s clothing, that have their own personal power as their sole agenda? Stirring up endless controversies where they can become the great saviours of the Church? Only Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the Church, and He did not operate this way.

The entire Orthodox world is watching. The rest of the Church in North America is watching.

Our task is to take back the leadership of this Church. We are ordained for that. It is the task given to us by God. It is our responsibility before Him, and how we handle it will be the criterion of our judgement. For that to happen, we need a united Synod. We need to come together in real love, as true disciples of Jesus Christ, and freely debate one another, freely disagree and argue, until we come to a consensus we can all live with.”

But unity does not just mean consensus or agreement in the Synod. In the end, it means the Synod must agree with +Jonah. He writes:

“We must unite together under my leadership as the Metropolitan. Whether I like it or not, I am not going anywhere. You put me in this position, and it is your responsibility to support me in it. You are free to disagree, free to oppose me to my face. But it is unconciousable, for the sake of the Church for us to undermine our episcopal leadership by gossip or tearing one another down to anyone. It is self-destructive, and leads to the paralysis we now see. Our disagreements must stay among ourselves, and we must present to the entire Church, and everyone in it, a basic image of unity. Because it is the unity of the Church that is at stake.”

+Jonah then softens his tone, with his usual litany of apologies, which are familiar to all who speak with him, having been offered at all previous “interventions”:

“I am not in any way saying that I am without fault, or in anyway have not made numerous mistakes. I see my mistakes and misjudgments, my inaction regarding certain things, and my unadvised deliberate actions, and I try to learn from them.“

In the end, though, it is about authority, +Jonah’s authority:

“It is not me, as an individual that is demanding this respect, but the office of the Metropolitan. And it is not only me, and my office that are being definitively challenged; it is the episcopacy itself. And with it, the Orthodoxy, never mind the autocephaly, of the OCA. We must stand together, and we must understand the calling God has given us as a Church and as bishops. We each have a unique responsibility within the life of the Church, mainly our dioceses. Only I as Metropolitan have the responsibility for this Church as a whole, in the face of God. And is my responsibility to bring about and foster the unity between us, as my office is the icon of that unity. “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. I alone here have the responsibility to intervene in other dioceses where there is disorder. Yet, we all bear together the responsibility to work with one another, to listen to one another, and to be respectful of one another.

We need to protect each other’s backs, as well as faces. Otherwise, what are we doing? What kind of bishops are we? What kind of Christians are we?”

It is often difficult in reading a text to fully grasp the tonality or intensity of the speaker. In this case, we have +Jonah’s coach’s email notes of the same day, appended to the text of the speech, explaining how +Jonah should deal with the issue of his authority vis-a-vis the Synod. Fr. Fester writes:

“....They are not your friends until they prove it. Don’t try to be their buddy. You are their Father whether they like it or not. You are their brother, but for this encounter you are first the Metropolitan and you will direct and inform...

You know who your friends are and you know who your enemies (at this point) are. Be strong. Don’t back down. Don’t be bullied. Cut off discussion if they are disrespectful. You can adjourn any meeting. You are the chairman. If you back down Benjamin, Mel and Tikhon will fold. Keep Bp. Michael read to counter BB [Bishop Benjamin]. Let Bishop Mark and Bishop-elect Matt. speak. Don’t let anyone say they can’t. You are the chairman. I know you will take the reigns of the Church and hold them tight...

Don’t let them interrupt you. If they don’t like it, they can leave because you are not.”

With this message fresh in his mind, +Jonah, in his speech, sets forth his analysis of the problems facing the OCA:

“When I took office just over two years ago, three months out of the monastery, this Church was in shambles. Angry, hurt, disunited, distrustful. Over the past two years there has been a tremendous amount of healing. Now we are at a critical crossroads: the last major piece of business from the past two decades. We’ve gotten through the Kondratick lawsuits, the +Nikolai lawsuit, and the SIC, the STIC and other crises.

There is one thing left: a small group of people in and around the MC are determined to undermine the Metropolitan; and the very nature of the episcopal authority. There is a conspiracy of several people who believes the MC should control the Church, and the bishops: that brags that they unseated two metropolitans, and they plan to get a third. They believe the officers of the Church work for them, and in this case, it is true. In the canon law of the Church, conspiracy against a bishop is a deposable offence (4th ecumenical council, canon 18). Some of these people were involved in the SIC report, others in various committees of the MC. They are bullies, asserting their own will , motivated by their passions, and tearing down and destroying everyone who opposes them. They have to be stopped dead in their tracks, and removed from any position of influence in the OCA.”

+Jonah’s blaming "a small group of people in and around the Metropolitan Council " for the SIC

(Special Investigative Committee) and the STIC (St. Tikhon’s Investigative Commission) is simply untrue. The SIC was appointed, not by the MC, but by Metropolitan Herman in early 2008. So, too, the STIC. It was not appointed by the MC, but by the Metropolitan - in this case, by Metropolitan Jonah himself in 2009. The STIC was from the beginning a Synodal Commission, which reported not to the MC, but only to the Synod. The Synod, it should be pointed out, of which +Jonah himself was the head.

If he is incorrect in his facts concerning the SIC and the STIC, so too is he incorrect in his assertion that a small group “in and around the MC” brag about “they unseated two metropolitans, and they plan to get a third”. Such a “brag” would be foolish, for it would be contradicted by the facts. No one “unseated” +Theodosius. The fact is that Metropolitan Theodosius voluntarily, and unexpectedly, retired in 2002 after 25 years of being Metropolitan - before any current member of the Council was even on the Council. It was only discovered later, in 2006, that misdeeds occurred under his watch.

As for Metropolitan Herman, he was indeed forced to resign in 2008, but not by the MC, which has no statutory authority over Metropolitans, but by the Synod.

If +Jonah’s facts are incorrect, so too are his characterizations of members of the Metropolitan Council. Members of the Council are elected, freely and openly, by the AAC, and their respective dioceses. They must be confirmed by their diocesan hierarchs. To suggest that the AAC and dioceses have chosen clergy and lay “bullies” who are determined to “destroy episcopal authority”, motivated by their own “lust for power” -- and furthermore that the Synod has connived in this -- is both absurd and insulting. Sadly, it was not a“small group in and around the MC” that has privately and publicly questioned +Jonah’s ability to lead, but an increasingly larger and larger group that grew with each passing month, until it included the vast majority of those in the OCA’s governing bodies, episcopal, clerical and lay, as was demonstrated in Chicago. Unfortunately, suggesting there is a “large conspiracy”against one doesn’t sound very good...

But every “conspiracy” needs a leader. +Jonah continues:

“Chancellor Alexander Garklavs

First among them is the Chancellor, Alexander Garklavs. For a year and a half he has been working to undermine my episcopacy, through deceit, slander, bullying employees, lies and misrepresentations. He has used the committees of the MC as his sounding board to undermine me with the members of the MC, telling the Strategic Planning Committee that I am “destroying the OCA”, slandering me at the Board of Trustees Meeting of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, among a very few cases; and to top it all off, is this SMPAC Memorandum. This document is not about how I handled cases of sexual misconduct, but rather, about him, and his power. It is about how I did or did not consult him,. And where I did, he takes it and twists it, making me sound incompetent. I am not in any way incompetent. I resent the allegation.”

As a historian, +Jonah’s assertion that Garklavs turned on him, 18 months ago, is interesting. Looking back in the period directly before November 2009, a year and half ago, we see four events that might have raised questions about +Jonah in the eyes of an officer of the Church: +Jonah’s Dallas Statement attacking the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Spring 2009 (which he was repeatedly warned beforehand would have severe negative consequences for the OCA, and yet gave anyway - then denied he meant what he said); +Jonah’s ill-fated proposal to merge St. Vladimir’s and St. Tikhon’s that same summer (which he later denied ever having made); Jonah’s interference in the NY Episcopal Search process that autumn (by inserting Fr. Brum’s name into the mix, who later withdrew his own name); and +Jonah’s unexpected signing of the Manhattan Declaration that winter, (landing him on the front page of the New York Times, without informing, let alone consulting, his Synod). Both externally and internally +Jonah was sowing havoc.

But +Jonah claims that Fr. Garklavs was the problem, not he, because Garklav's “bullied employees”. Once again, Jonah’s claim founders on reality. Every current officer has publicly praised Fr. Garklavs, even after he was removed from office, and no longer had authority. One does not do that for a “bully”. Moreover it is hard to imagine that priest who “lies”, “slanders” and “misrepresents” would be honored as was Fr. Garklavs in Chicago...

At the center of all Jonah’s complaints to the Synod however, lies the SMPAC report. According to +Jonah the SMPAC is not about “how I handled cases of sexual misconduct”, but rather, about Fr. Garklavs and his “power”. The theme of “power” resonates throughout +Jonah’s speech; who has it, who should have it; and who wants it. As we shall see, though, the issue is not really about power, but reality. +Jonah continues:

“You could say it is about how we disagree about management style. He does not like my management style. But I am the bishop and he is not. If he does not want to conform to my style, and accept the level of responsibility that was delegated to him, he should resign as the only honorable thing to do. There have been multiple instances in which I should have simply fired him. That is my great regret. I hope reconciliation would change things. Instead, he used it to buy time against me to complete this slanderous document against me.

The Sexual Misconduct Committee [sic] was under my episcopal authority. I blessed their work, and in fact, encouraged it. It was the duty of the chancellor, as the chair of the committee, to keep me informed of every action of the committee. Instead, this was done entirely behind my back, as a way of discrediting me; not once did he let me know something like this was brewing.

Loyalty? Trust? No: betrayal and absolute insubordination. He has destroyed every last shred of trust. Would you demand anything but loyalty in a relationship of mutual trust from your chancellors? Would you even imagine they would do anything like this to you? Ian McKinnon, or John Kowalczyk, or John Kreta, or Alexander Pichach? No, it is unthinkable.”

Frs. McKinnon, Kowalczyk, Kreta and Pihach are the Diocesan Chancellors of the West, Eastern PA, New England and Canada respectively. +Jonah continues:

“This constant undermining, slander and deceit is what created a tremendously toxic atmosphere at the chancery. It is a scandal known world wide, and the great question is: Why have I not simply fired these people? How can I continue to tolerate their presence, working against me in my own chancery? What is wrong with the OCA that you tolerate such insubordination? Because the reality is, that he and some other members of the staff have gossiped and complained to anyone they spoke with, including bishops and staff of other churches and jurisdictions, not to mention members of the MC. Whether it is deserved or not, personally, it is entirely unprofessional and supremely destructive. But there is an underlying temptation that is the core of this whole demonic prelest: lust for power and beneath that, rejection of authority.”

+Jonah’s regret with the SMPAC Memo is not over his reported failures of oversight. These he simply ignores. It is, rather, that he did not use his “power” to fire Garklavs before he could participate on the Sexual Misconduct Panel Advisory Committee itself. In short, the issue for +Jonah is not that  the Memo criticized his failures - but that as Metropolitan, he should, or could, be held accountable.

Two and a half years ago +Jonah famously said in public that “Authority was accountability, not power”. Now, in private, he says accountability is “a rejection of authority”. Two and a half years ago he famously said in public that “Authority was responsibility”. Now those in authority who seek to fulfill their responsibilities by holding +Jonah accountable are simply “lusting for power”. Two years and a half years ago +Jonah himself thought questioning a Metropolitan was not only permisible; now it is evidence of “demonic prelest”.

The SMPAC, Garklavs and the MC may be victims  of a demonic “illusion”: but +Jonah sees clearly, and how he sees authority now is not as accountability, but as power:

“What is the authority of the Metropolitan in regards to his Chancery Staff? The OCA Statute is very unclear. But, the Human Resources guide to Policies and Procedures is very clear: The Metropolitan has complete authority over his staff, and can fire them “at will” and without any stated cause. This document is signed by every hire in the OCA Chancery, was submitted by the MC, and approved by the Holy Synod. There is not a single word, in the Statute or the Policy Manual, about appeal to the Synod. I only granted it {Garklav’s scheduled appearance before the Synod the following day} for the sake of the unity of the Synod, no other reason. The officers are my stavropegial priests under the episcopal authority of the Metropolitan. They are my priests in my diocese, who owe me respect and obedience of any priest to his bishop. It is true their ministries have a broader scope, affecting the whole; thus they bear far greater responsibility than most to maintain a professional and Christian attitude. In this we have massive failure, insubordination and betrayal that has been going on for a year and half and now is bringing the Church to the brink of another scandal, based on lies and innuendo - for the sake of Garklavs remaining in power. This must end by tomorrow.

You must support me in demanding Garklav’s resignation, for the sake of the good of the Church, and for the sake of maintaining some shred of the authority of the episcopacy in this church. It is the authority of the Metropolitan that he is challenging, by his appeal. But it also the authority of a bishop over a priest for whom he is responsible that is challenged. I should call him in and accept his resignation, without explanations, as a matter of supporting hierarchical authority. I do not want vengeance: I will give him a severance package and assign him to a nice parish, with a somewhat comparable salary ( thought that will be difficult), if he resigns. If we do not demand his resignation, we are committing ecclesiastical suicide.

There is the further question of the authority of the Metropolitan vis-a-vis the Synod, in relation to the officers of the Church. While the Statute is vague, it only says that the Synod appoints the officers, after recommendation by the MC. The whole question of the officers is vague in the Statute. Whom do they work for? At least in the Policies guide, it is absolutely clear: they work for the Metropolitan, as his staff. Not for the Synod; and not for the MC; though they interface with both. By Synodal approval, those policies have the same effect as the Statute.”

If these pleas sound familiar, it is because we have heard them all before under +Herman: the allegations against him are all “lies and innuendo”; what he has done he did “For the sake of the good of the Church”; the bishops must agree “for the sake of maintaining some shred of the authority of the episcopacy” to stop all further investigations; for not to do so would be “ecclesiastical suicide”. Such assertions rang hollow as +Herman’s defense ; and they ring no better the second time around by +Jonah. But in the end +Jonah’s appeal to the Synod is not about historical precedents, documents or even excuses. The heart of his appeal to the Synod is existential, and it is a threat. +Jonah warns:

“This issue is not just about me. This is about you, because you are next, if we not stop this whole process in its tracks."

By "whole process" he means being held accountable for his decisions, or lack of them, +Jonah explains:

"SMPAC Memorandum

The SMPAC Memorandum is a monument to the dysfunctional relationship between the Metropolitan and the Chancellor, and little else. It is a purely political document, aimed at discrediting me. It is all about the power and authority of the chancellor, and how the Metropolitan has not submitted to the chancellor. And most of it is a twisted subversion of the truth. It begins by flattery of the Synod, and then becomes an essay of disrespect of the authority of the Metropolitan. In tearing down the Metropolitan, it also undermines the authority of the Episcopacy. Using false information and twisted facts, it disseminates mistrust in the Metropolitan, his office and the bishops. There is not one instance of actual violation of policies or the Sexual Misconduct guidelines cited. Nor is there even one violation of the canons cited. Rather, it is impressions and opinions, but no actual facts. There is no evidence brought forth. I supply the evidence and most of the letters quoted in my response, and they do not support the Memo’s allegations. There are disagreements evidence, but they are about management style. Is the Metropolitan supposed to conform to the chancellor and submit to him, or is it the other way around. The canons specify the latter.

As to the impressions and opinions, I have had little personal contact with most the Sexual Misconduct Committee members that signed this letter. Where would they get such information about personal reactions that they could form such opinions? It was almost entirely through Garklavs. Every piece of information came through him, and my reaction or response was conveyed through him, and interpreted to them.

I did not want to interfere in their work: I thought they were competent professionals, and I did not interfere when their mission morphed from revising guidelines to an investigative oversight committee. I was also advised to keep investigations at arms length. My administrative style is to leave what requires professional knowledge and experience to the professionally competent. I certainly misjudged this one.

This Committee was under my authority, and this report was compiled secretly, behind my back. That is insubordination. Transparency? Accountability? Absolutely none. It was the responsibility of the Chancellor to not only let me know how my actions were being interpreted, but to inform me of the necessary steps to explain my actions. Would you demand anything less of your chancellors? He failed in that, and in fact, nurtured these misperceptions for his own reasons, and to his own perceived benefit. This is complete betrayal of trust, and of his basic responsibility to support the Metropolitan, rather than tear him down.

As Metropolitan, I definitively reject this report, and seeking the support of the Holy Synod, demand its retraction and consign it to permanent confidentiality.”

Pity the poor Synod! Having listened to +Jonah rail about a purported “conspiracy” of a small group of MC members,  that then involved the Chancellor, then grews to include entire SMPAC committee, they now learn “all the officers of the Church” have now joined in the “betrayal”.

According to +Jonah this conspiracy is not really even aimed at him, but at all the bishops. Worse, it was not just about administrative and pastoral failures, but "spiritual warfare" centered on “demonic prelest”.

Now the dagger of the “conspirators” is before them: a brief memo written by a lawyer experienced in sexual misconduct litigation, an academic pyschologist who is a specialist in  the study of sexual  misconduct, three priests (one the Chancellor of the OCA, one a licensed forensic investigator into sexual misconduct, one the Chair of the MC Ethics Committee) and an Archdeacon, a former top executive with Exxon Corporation. The Metropolitan has declared them all professionally incompetent, and their Memo dismissed as no more than “impressions and opinions but no actual facts”. It is to be rejected, no, retracted --- and then consigned to “permanent confidentiality”.

What does one do?

In the end, it was Bishop Mark of Baltimore who suggested the way forward; (and thereby may have begun his speedy descent from +Jonah’s replacement candidate for Chancellor in Santa Fe to Team +Jonah’s main target in Dallas sixty days later). +Mark suggested that given the Metropolitan’s charge that the Memo contained “no actual fact”, each side should present their evidence. The SMPAC should offer concrete documentation for their assertions; and +Jonah the same, in rebuttal. The Synod agreed this was to be done as soon as possible.

Eighty days later, in Chicago, the SMPAC offered more than 650 pages of supporting evidence, including more than a hundred and forty footnotes, and a 51 page timeline outlining who actually said and did what, when, and to whom, backed up by emails, letters, and other documents.

+Jonah offered nothing.

It is important to point this out in the context of his Santa Fe speech, because only then can one see, and begin to appreciate, the gulf that separated +Jonah’s claims, from SMPAC reality. Only in retrospect can one fully appreciate what was real, and what was not.

Like all of +Jonah’s assertions, his claims against the SMPAC founder on reality. The SMPAC was never a tissue of 'lies and innuendos without facts'. It was fact from top to bottom. There was never any 'assault on the episcopacy”' or Orthodoxy - just professionals doing their professional duty. There was never a MC “conspiracy” against +Jonah; but it made a great smokescreen to divert attention from the SMPAC Memo. There was never a “lust for power” by the MC or Chancellor, but only desperate attempts to hold on to power - at any cost - by +Jonah in the face of the reality. The only thing Jonah correctly characterized was that someone was practicing deception, creating illusions and had fallen into delusion; he just misidentified who was the victim.

Having dismissed the SMPAC and its Memo, +Jonah begins his assault on the villians of this drama - the Metropolitan Council:

The Metropolitan Council and the Cabal

The Metropolitan Council is a body that has as its primary statutory responsibility to care and provide for the financial support of the central church administration, but also to create and support charitable institutions.   It needs to be confined to these essential tasks, and stop trying to run the Church. I have had several members tell me that the Synod needs to take back the leadership of the Church. The MC is to carry out the decisions of the AAC, and assist the Synod and Metropolitan in doing so; but it is not and does not have the authority of the AAC.“

This is untrue. Article V of the Statute dealing with the Metropolitan Council actually begins: “The Metropolitan Council is the permanent executive body of the Church Administration which exists for the purpose of implementing the decisions of the All-American Council and continuing its work between sessions.” When those decisions are subsequently blessed by the Synod, the MC, does have authority like the AAC.

In his agenda notes for the meeting, which he appended to the finished text of this talk, +Jonah offered details about how the Council should be “confined”.

“1. Opening Talk to Holy Synod
2. Agenda
3. Accept Garklav’s resignation: replace with Mark
[Bishop Mark Maymon]
4. Explain and Reject SMPAC Memo
5. Put MC back in its place - statutory role
6. No more investigative committees
7. Confront the Conspiracy”
8. Competence of the MC

    a. implements decision of the AAC and HS within

       its  competence
    b. Assists Met and Synod in implementing decision
    c. Budget
    d. Collection of Assessments
    e. Development: plans for voluntary contributions
    f. Provide for maintainence of Central Admin
   g. Purchase, Sale, Mortgage of property
   h. Inventory of all church properties
   i. Establish and maintain institutions of charity
   j. publish books on Orthodoxy:
      Determine forms and books necessary
   k. Appoints officers and committees within its

      competence
   l. Initiates, prosecutes and defends legal matters.
   m. Receives reports from departments

The Real Competence of the MC

a. Implement decisions and assists Metropolitan

   & Synod
b. the financial support of the Church
     a. Budget and fund allocation
     b. Collection of Assessments: tithing initiative
     c. Development Department
         i. for support of Departments and Charities
         ii. Funding of Seminaries
         iii. Various other needs.
c. Purchase, sale and mortgage of property
d. Legal Matters
e. Establish and maintain institutions of charity and education
     a. schools
     b. Homes for widows and the elderly
    c. Youth ministry, OCF houses
    d. FOCUS NA projects, ministry to the poor
    e. Books for outreach”

+Jonah has long advocated that the Metropolitan Council be reduced in scope and purpose. (Read his opening address to the Council itself last year here.) What is unique and revealing in these outline notes is how he juxtaposes what he claims the Statute says (incorrectly, as it turns out) with what he then asserts is the MC’s “Real Compentence”. At first glance, Jonah’s initial sequence appears to be a shorthand outline of the duties of the MC as currently enumerated in Article V of the OCA Statute. Closer inspection shows one consistent crucial omission of the MC’s current statutory duties by +Jonah. Consider the following examples:

Jonah writes: “c. Budget.”


The Statute reads: “Establishes the budget for the operations of the Church and examines all financial reports of the Church;”

Jonah writes: “d. Assessments.”


The Statute reads: “Supervises the collection of the assessments and fees established by the All-American Council and determines the allocation of such funds;”

+Jonah writes: “f. Provide for maintenance of Church Admin.”


The Statute reads: “Provides for the maintenance of the central administrative bodies of the Church and for the allocation of the general Church funds;”

In every case +Jonah has omitted from his shorthand outline of the Statute all references to the MC having authority to “determine the allocation of funds”, or “to examine financial reports”. The MC’s only real “power” - the “power” of the purse - is everywhere missing in Jonah’s synopsis.

Jonah’s “Real Competence” outline is even more revealing. Any mention of the MC’s being a “permanent executive body” is gone . In the Statute the major task of the MC is “to implement the decisions of the AAC, and assist the Metropolitan and Synod.” In Jonah’s world, the major task of the MC is “to assist the Metropolitan and Synod in implementing their decisions.”

Unlike the Statute, which authorizes the Council to create and establish the OCA’s budget, allocate funds, and ensure financial transparency and accountability, Jonah envisions the Council as little more than the fund-raising arm of the Church. It is the new Development Department, with a focus on a tithing initiative, whose purpose is to support the departments, charities, seminaries, schools, youth ministry, and “various other needs” - as defined by the Metropolitan, advised by his Synod.

It is no wonder then, given this vision of a Council "contained", that Jonah suggests all MC committees - such as the Governance Committee, or the Ethics Committee -  or even those encouraged by the Council such as the SIC or STIC - all designed to insure transparency and accountability - be disbanded. Not having the power of the purse, nor even the authority to review financial reports; no longer being responsible to the AAC but only the Metropolitan and the Synod, there is no purpose for the Church, let alone the MC, to investigate anyone, or anything, ever again.

Jonah knows that many, if not most, of the current members of the MC would oppose such a tenditious re-imagining of the OCA Statute, even if he could convince the Synod to accept it. The simplest way forward, therefore, is to remove those who would sqwauk the loudest at the changes. He must, in his terms, now "confront" the "conspiracy" he has created by discrediting them. +Jonah asserts:

“There is a small group that has been around a long time, which has a congregationalist idea of the Church; that it should be controlled by the MC and its committees, and all other functionaries including bishops are subordinate to it. It is a false idea of conciliarity. This came as a result of the abrogation of the responsibility by the previous Metropolitan and the Synod, where the MC stepped in to fill the power vacuum. My assertion of episcopal and canonical authority within the church is creating great opposition within this group. It is for this reason, I think, that they are mustering their forces against me, to try to force me to resign and take a leave. I will not. They want someone they can manipulate, who will submit to them, and like Theodosius, be so weak every word is scripted and every appearance stage managed, with the chancellor running the real show. At least they made Theodosius look good; me, they have trashed. But in the end, especially if he has some kind of will, they would throw him out as well. “

For +Jonah the issue is not his actions, his deeds -- but his Will. Here he reveals it is not what he has done, but what he wants to do that is the cause “of opposition” against him. And thus, any claims become possible, because he is not bound by facts or consequences, but only his "assertions".

Thus, although +Jonah claims that opposition to him is because of his “assertion of episcopal and canonical authority”, he cannot not cite a single instance of where actually so doing occasioned opposition. So he claims it is about “their” desire to manipulate; “they” made +Theodosius look good - +Jonah “they have trashed.” Once again his claims founder on reality.

Who is “they”? Of the 9 members of the Synod, only 2 served with +Theodosius before he retired - and one of those for just a preiod of weeks. Of the 27 members of the current Council, only 3 served previous terms in the +Theodosian era: and of the much reduced Syosset staff, which once encompassed 35 persons, none of the officers, and only 2 staff (including one secretary) were present for any portion of +Theodosius. "They”, whoever "they" were, have been gone for years. As for the Chancellor, does anyone, outside of +Jonah, think Fr. Garklavs is akin, in any way, to Robert Kondratick, in style, manner or “power” - or would even ever want to be?

Being unconstrained by fact or evidence allows Jonah’s assertions become even wilder. He continues:

“There is the idea being put forth that the officers and the MC members are equal with the bishops and should have equal authority. “

Seriously? Where does such +Jonah get such an absurd idea ? He explains:

“After all, the officers make more money than the Metropolitan ( and can cut his salary without even the courtesy of informing him, much less his consultation), so they are his superiors, to whom he must submit.”

Seriously? This is really all about who gets a bigger paycheck? But even here +Jonah’s assertion is untrue. It is a fact that the officers of the OCA do “not make more money” than the Metropolitan - especially this one, whose total package draws income not only from the OCA, but from his diocese as well, and until recently, as locum tenens from multiple other dioceses.

Moreover, it is simply untrue to claim, as does +Jonah, that the Chancellor cut the Metropolitan's salary. In 2009 the MC voted an additional $20,000 line item to assist the Metropolitan in moving his personal household to DC where he desired to live, since he steadfastly refused to live in Syosset. That line item was not included in the 2010 budget. Apparently the Metropolitan saw dark intent by the Finance Committee’s removing a line item whose purpose had been fulfilled.

Jonah continues:

“The MC works so hard, and the bishops must be compelled to obey these committees and their reports. The Metropolitan must be accountable to the Chancellor and the MC, not they to him. The bishops must submit. This is an old demon, the spirit of congregationalism, which has afflicted this church for a century. We have to exorcise this demon. Otherwise, it will destroy the OCA. “

Accountability is now not just “demonic prelest”, but the “demon” itself. Thus +Jonah, without any evidence, facts, or reality can claim:

“In short, we have a conspiracy with an agenda that will destroy the Church. We cannot live through another scandal. If their agenda goes forward, the OCA will become more a isolated and marginalized in the Orthodox world until everyone leaves. We cannot live outside the Orthodox Church. Underlying this is a very bitter subtext, the gay agenda, which demands one type of moral code for clergy, another for the laity accepting that agenda. I will not stand for this. “

First it was a just a “conspiracy” by some “members in and around the MC” who were secret “congregationalists” ; then, in the power vacuum surrounding +Herman’s exit, a larger “conspiracy” evolved based on a “lust for power “ that included all the officers the Church, which in turn grew into a full scale “demonic” attack on +Jonah himself by the SMPAC Committee; but beneath it all, we now learn, is a “conspiracy” within the “conspiracy” that has as its agenda to destroy the Church itself - the "gay agenda".

In fact, there are no congregationalists on the MC; the officers in Syosset do not seek to emulate Kondratick; the SMPAC was not demon-led. The governing bodies of the OCA are not promoting a gay agenda. Since one is not bound to reality in making such allegations, one can only ask, as perhaps the Synod did, who, or what, is next? Masons? Zionists? The Federal Reserve? It is easy to stand against that which doesn’t exist: it takes more courage to face up to reality.

But +Jonah plows forward with his accusations following allegations:

“This group is a bunch of bullies, who are willing to use any means to advance their agenda and rip apart their enemies. First among these means is the internet, and Mr. Stokoe’s ocanews.org. Through intimidation and the threat of exposure, of, for example, this supposedly confidential document -- they try to manipulate the bishops and Metropolitan. How often do we hold back on a decision wondering how it will be spun on ocanews.org? And what would be the reaction of the general parishoners, as they find another metropolitan being dragged through the mud?

How many of us have been bullied by this threat of exposure? How many of us have been manipulated by fear of the media? Several of us have been bullied and abused by bishops.We need to put this kind of abuse of the Church behind us. It destroys our self-confidence. But it also puts us in a state of fear, and being subject to intimidation. Somehow, this must be exposed, and the people dismissed from service.”

Once again untruth follows untruth. Consider his statement: “Through intimidation and the threat of exposure, of, for example, this supposedly confidential document -- they try to manipulate the bishops and Metropolitan.” In this context “they” would appear to be”OCANews.org”, and the claim is that by threatening to expose this supposedly confidential document (the SMPAC Memo) OCANews.org is trying “to manipulate the Bishops and the Metropolitan.” One small problem: OCANews.org does not have the SMPAC Memo, and never threatened anybody with it. In truth, the only persons we know that have the Memo (besides the Synod and the Committee) are on Team +Jonah: Rod Dreher, Fr. Joseph Fester, and Bishop Nikolai (Soraich). How they received it, and from whom, is the real question - not “bullying” where none has occurred. They certainly did not get it from OCANews,org. There is little chance Team +Jonah will reveal the SMPAC, though. If we are to take +Jonah at his word, to do so

" would drag another Metropolitan through the mud."One wonders why , having dismissed it entirely as "lies and innuendo, without any actual facts"+Jonah suddenly appears worried about  it?

+Jonah concludes:

“All this is really a distraction from the real work to which we are called. We are not dealing with evil people, but people in prelest from the demons.

We must give the MC a charter as to what to do, and reign them in on the things which they are off base on. God knows we need development work.

We must redefine the office of chancellor, as the old models do not work. We need an auxiliary bishop to have that position of support to the Met.

Much more than all this, we need to focus on the future, on the AAC, and what message we want to put out, how to rally the faithful, and convey the fact that the real life of the Church, the parishes and dioceses, are doing very well, and that there is great hope for the future.”

 

Existence in Untruth

The philosopher Eric Voegelin once noted:

“We have all had occasion at one time or another to engage in debate with those for whom no appeal to facts, or events or witnesses has effect. And we have all discovered on such occasions that no agreement, or even an honest disagreement, could be reached. Rational argument could not prevail because the partner to the discussion did not accept as binding for himself the matrix of reality ... the universe of rational discourse collapses, one may say, when the common ground of existence in reality has disappeared.” We cannot withdraw from such a debate though, Voegelin continues, and just let error proceed , for error, in the real world, has consequences, often dire. We must, in Voegelin’s words, “seek to diagnose untrue existence, and to initiate, if possible, thereby, a healing process.”

In Santa Fe the Synod did not need to wait 80 days for the SMPAC’s mountain of supporting evidence to realize existence in untruth. They attempted to begin a healing process then, demonstrating to the Metropolitan that he needed a medical and spiritual evaluation, and seeking his agreement to go on Leave to do so. Despite his stated fears of being "forced to resign", or even "going on Leave",  the Metropolitan eventually agreed with the Synod, went on Leave and promised to get help. The Synod took him at his word that he would; but in world were Will, not fact, rules, +Jonah's word is an infinitely malleable thing.

The world of fact does not go away because one, in this case +Jonah and his supporters, choose to deny it, attack it, dismiss it, ignore it, or Will it away. The refusal to recognize reality does not diminish reality. It only diminishes the one who refuses to perceive. The fruits of this apperception and increasingly egregious behavior -from Santa Fe through OCATruth.com, from attempting to destroy Bishop Mark to challenging the Synod's decisions - with the resulting instability, chaos, disappointment, anger, and amazement are apparent for all to see. +Jonah has and is a problem, and will remain one. Resolving that problem is the Synod's task, and one that cannot wait resolution forever.

And the OCA? Can the OCA survive +Jonah for the indefinite future? Ironically, if Jonah began his speech in Santa Fe with false questions, he ended it with the seed of truth: “..the parishes and dioceses, are doing very well, and there is great hope for the future.”

- Mark Stokoe

 
 

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