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12. 21. 07
News From Across the OCA

• Bethesda MD

St. Mark's parish in Bethesda, Maryland is giving parishioners a new outlet to express themselves regarding the financial scandal in the OCA. In addition to sponsoring the national on-line petition calling for the Metropolitan's resignation (view that petition here), the parish has acquired votive candles in transparent, yes transparent, glass to offer special prayers for guidance and deliverance from the ongoing crisis in the national church.

The original proposal was to have the votives placed outside the main door of the church as a public vigil prayer, but it was felt the temptation for vandals was too great. Instead, the votive candles are now available for use in the narthex of the church just inside the main entrance, with the following text:

"O Lord, Save Thy Church

and Bless Thine Inheritance

These votive candles are displayed in transparent glass and are intended as a special prayer for guidance
and deliverance from the ongoing national church crisis. In offering your prayer, please place these candles by the icon of St. John Chrysostom."

• Syosset NY

The recent meeting of the Synod nearly resulted in another deposition besides that of Robert Kondratick. At the conclusion of the Synodal meeting Bishop Nikolai of Alaska sought to bring forth official canonical charges against Archbishop Job and have the Archbishop removed from office. The Bishop of Alaska accused the Archbishop of Chicago, among other things, of "interfering in the affairs of another diocese" in the matter of the allegations against Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain). (Read that story here) Others joined in, specifically Bishop Benjamin, who criticized his former colleague on the Special Commission for his "presbyterian, congregationalist and democratic" perspectives. In return for an apology to the Bishop of Alaska, formal charges were not filed. Archbishop Job has declined all public comment on the meeting.

The OCA announced today, December 21st, that an anonymous donor has stepped forward to fund Church Planting Grants for four additional missions in 2008 in recognition of the new Administration's commitment to transparency and accountability. The gift totals $60,000.

• The Diocese of Alaska

At the Synod meeting it was also decided that the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Archimandrite Isidore ( Brittain) has concluded. No action is to be taken. The Archimandrite has returned to the Diocese and resumed his ecclesiastical duties as priest and Chancellor.

The turmoil in the Diocese, however, continues.

Another excommunication in the Cathedral in Kodiak prompted this recent letter to the Metropolitan. Tatiana Berestoff writes:

"I am writing to you on behalf of myself, my husband and my family because I believe that I have been excommunicated wrongly. I am begging you to intervene on our behalf.

On Sunday, December 2, 2007 I was refused Holy Communion by Father Innocent Dresdow at Holy Resurrection Church in Kodiak, Alaska. As I approached the chalice he said that I could not have Holy Communion because I had not received a blessing from +Nikolai. I told him that I had been married in an Orthodox Church. He then said, 'You did not have +Nikolai's blessing.' I then told him that my marriage had been approved by an Orthodox Bishop. All he said was that I did not have +Nikolai's blessing. It was at this point when I became upset and told him that what he was doing was wrong and that he knew it. Although very hurt and confused, I did not leave. The Orthodox Church is my home and I do not understand why I am being banned and driven out when I have only wanted to make my life right in the eyes of God.

My husband and I were married at St. Innocent Academy by Father Paisius on November 25, 2007. You may remember them from when you were here during St. Herman Pilgrimage 2005. My husband developed a positive relationship with the Academy and Father Paisius which began before we met; therefore, when we decided that we needed to put our lives right with God for the sake of our family and ourselves, Father Paisius is the priest we met with to express our wishes to be wed.

We were hoping to have our wedding at Holy Resurrection because we wanted everyone that we love and who mean so much to us would share in our joy including Father Herman. Father Paisius instructed us to go and convey our wishes to the priests at Holy Resurrection. We also requested that Father John serve at our wedding. The fathers assured us that there would be no problems whatsoever.

After weeks of making plans and only days before our wedding we were informed by Father Innocent that we could have our wedding at Holy Resurrection Church but Father Paisius could neither serve nor attend. This was heartbreaking news and I couldn't understand what the problem was. I had called +Nikolai on Wednesday morning, November 14 and it was during this conversation that I stressed the importance of Father Paisius serve. We went forward and decided to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony at the Academy. During our wedding and reception it was noticed that the clergy, seminarians, their wives and families were absent. This past Sunday, a seminarian informed me that they wanted to attend but were afraid of getting kicked out of Seminary because +Nicolai had forbidden them to attend our wedding celebration.

My husband is a commercial fisherman. Prior to us meeting he had not been active in the church for many years. I was able to persuade him to join us for worship. As a family we celebrated Pascha this year at Holy Resurrection. We have close ties to the Seminary and graduation is always a happy time in which we enjoy attending. This past June, friends of ours at the Seminary, called up needing salmon for the wedding reception of one of the former students, we were honored to provide fish for them.

My husband was raised in Kodiak and I was raised primarily in the village of Old Harbor. My mother and my husband's father were both born and baptized Orthodox Christians in Afognak village as were our grandparents and the ones before them. As children growing up we both attended Holy Resurrection Church with our parents, him on a regular basis and me when I would come to town with my mom. My husband's mother, siblings and our baby have all been baptized at Holy Resurrection Church. Because we have relatives and friends in all of the surrounding villages, I have attended church in almost all of the churches on Kodiak Island at one time or another. During college, I visited and worshipped in the village of Kwethluk during Christmas. I have relatives in the villages along the Kenai Peninsula and have attended numerous services in Nanwalek. This is our home and why are we being made to feel as though we do not belong, especially in our church?

Marilyn Kreta was also refused Holy Communion at Holy Resurrection after having Confession the night before. This was very heart wrenching for many in the parish because she was publicly humiliated. For years now she has been pushed aside and not allowed to conduct choir in our church. She has one of the most beautiful voices that many throughout the OCA have been blessed to hear. She currently attends services at the academy along with other long-standing members of Holy Resurrection who are seeking out the Academy as a refuge.

Everyone is aware of the scandal surrounding +Nikolai and Father Isadore. We may never know the truth about their situation. What is factual is that Father Isadore came to church drunk, proceeded to read the Holy Gospel, heard a young woman's confession and then staggering left the church. Father Isadore sexually assaulted Paul Sidebottom. Paul Sidebottom was fired. What is the punishment for Father Isidore? I know a priest in our diocese that got a DUI and was suspended from serving for months. Bishop Nicolai kicked a woman out of church because she was trying to convey what +Nicolai was saying to her hearing impaired brother! He refused to listen to her explanation! Aren't there rules regarding sexual misconduct by our priests? Aren't there rules that our Bishop needs to abide by? We can forgive him for meanness but trust can never be restored.

I do not mean any disrespect. I am worried. Not only about myself and my situation but for my brothers and sisters throughout Alaska who are afraid of Bishop Nikolai but unwilling to speak out. I am pleading that someone will hear our cries and listen. Like children that are forced to live in an abusive or alcoholic household, we need outside intervention. Please come and help us. Asking for your loving prayers and your Archpastoral blessings,

Tatiana Berestoff"

On December 9th, Bishop Nikolai tonsured Terenty John Dushkin as a reader in the cathedral in Anchorage. Photos of the event are posted on the Diocesan website. Dushkin, a former seminarian, is a convicted sex offender and is listed in the National Sex Offender Registry. The following is from an Anchorage Daily News article in 2004:

"Dushkin was charged last Saturday in Unalaska District Court with seven counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Those charges accuse him of having sex several times with one girl, as recently as
June 24, when she was 15 years old, and dating back to 2002.

On Tuesday, he was charged with four additional sex offenses, including possession of child pornography, exploitation of a minor and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The latter two charges accuse Dushkin of having sexual contact with two girls, ages
13 and 14, in June or July 2003."

Dushkin, represented by attorney Andrew J. Lambert, pled no contest to these charges. More information may be found on Pokrov.org, the website that tracks Orthodox sex offenders.

• Dayton OH

With the posting of two new reflections on Saturday, December 22nd, OCANews.org will interrupt publication for the holiday season on December 24th. No new comments will be posted (or articles, except in the case of breaking news) until we resume publication during the first week of the new year.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

- Mark Stokoe


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