3.5.08 From the Orthodox Forum:
Off My Chest...
by Bruce Little
I am a former Lutheran Pastor who converted to Orthodoxy while servingon Kodiak Island 2002-2004.
I spent an evening with +Bishop Nikolibefore I converted and it almost stopped me dead in my tracks. First I was struck by the Priests and parishioners apparent fear of him before he arrived. When he did arrived the spiritual, emotional and collegial temperature in the room dropped below zero. The Bishop was snide, sarcastic, arrogant and down right mean to both his priests and the people who came to honor him.
A small native boy approached him and the bishop berated him mother because the boy failed in some courtesy he apparently expected. He on everyone in the
room with disgust. I was introduced to him and kissed his ring, an action that I would like very much to take back.
Shortly thereafter my son (who was with me) and I hurriedly left the room. We were both shaken by the experience and dismayed for the priests and people who were left to spend the evening with a man who clearly was an absolute tyrant. I have never in my life seen a professed Christian behave in such arrogant, high handed, hateful and ruthless manner.
Since that time I have heard him critisized and excused by many people and that is mysterious to me. Often, when the subject of +Bishop Nikoli comes up in a conversation his behavior is admitted and then there occurs what I have come to call, "the Orthodox leap." For all of a sudden the conversation shifts into Orthodox code language to the effect that everything (even a wretched bishop) comes from God for a
reason...the orthodox version of fatalism. Or, his behavior is excused because we are all sinners and in criticizing someone else we are failing to identify ourselves as the chief of sinners.
That "leap" seems driven by a fear and reluctance to call behavior what it truly is. Orthodox have a wonderful respect for the office of the ministry but when someone is pathologically inhuman and destructive to the faith of hundreds of people then it is what it is; it isn 't something else. And you can't make it something else by appealing to dogma or spiritualizing with magic Orthodox words.
All of us fail to live up to the faith we profess. All of us will finally come before God in the last judgment. Until then however we have the responsibility to protect those who are suffering under the yoke of tyranny especially those who are most vulnerable. And we have a responsibility to call wretched and abominable behavior by its proper name, even when it is committed by a Bishop. To fail in that is a trip into irrationality. The Orthodox Church is responsible for every Orthodox Christian but every Orthodox Christian is responsible for the Orthodox Church. ..
Courage brothers and sisters...courage.