News From Around The OCA
• Chicago, Illinois
Minutes of the Midwest Diocesan Council meeting held November 13th in Chicago confirm the recent statement of OCA Chancellor Fr. Alexander Garklavs made at the Eastern Pennsylvania Diocesan Assembly that Archbishop Job intends to continue withholding assessments from Syosset. The Minutes state: "His Eminence feels we should continue to withhold." The Minutes also state that the clergy polled by the Archbishop remain divided on the question. The Chicago Deanery, which has always opposed withholding, is now in favor of remitting assessments; while the Minneapolis deanery, which has always advocated withholding, remains opposed. Other deaneries were not referred to in the Minutes - although the Archbishop will be meeting with several (such as the Columbus deanery on November 27th).
The Minutes make clear that the Archbishop "wants the whole (clergy) convocation (to be held in February 2008 ) connected with preparing for the All-American Council." Among the themes suggested for the 2008 Council were repentance, reconciliation, revitalization, the selection of bishops, finances and assessments.
• Syosset, New York
The OCA announced that the Preconciliar Commission of the 15th All-American Council held its first meeting on Friday, November 16th in Syosset under the chairmanship of Bishop Nikon of Boston. The names of all the Commission members were also revealed for the first time. Almost all are Syosset insiders. They include: OCA Chancellor and Acting Secretary, Archpriest Alexander Garklavs; OCA Treasurer, Priest Michael Tassos; Director of Ministries and Communications, Archpriest Andrew Jarmus; Professor David Drillock (Chairman of the Department of Liturgical Music); Matushka Michelle Jannakos (Church Ministries Coordinating Secretary); and recording secretary, Lisa Morris (member, OCA Department of Christian Witness and Service). Only two are not presently holding appointements with Syosset. They are Archpriest John Jillions (a parish priest in Ottawa, Canada; a member of the Archdiocesan Council in Canada); and Mrs. Eugenia Skuby (of Holy Cross Church, Medford, New Jersey).
• Moscow, Russia
OCANews.org has confirmed that the former Chancellor of the OCA, Robert Kondratick, returned from a visit to Moscow this week. It has been widely reported on the internet that the former OCA priest was requesting the Moscow Patriarchate accept an appeal regarding his recent deposition from the priesthood. An earlier attempt by Kondratick to appeal to Moscow via the Moscow representative in the USA was reportedly thwarted by Metropolitan Herman. Apparently Kondratick now chose to introduce his appeal in person. A decision on his appeal to the OCA Synod of Bishops is expected on December 12th.
• Ottawa, Canada
On November 9, 2007 Archbishop Seraphim published a "Pastoral Letter" on the general situation in the Orthodox Church of America. You can read his pastoral letter here.
• Kodiak, Alaska
A new article by journalist and former instructor at St. Herman's Seminary Mike Rostad questions whether the recent Alaskan Diocesan Assembly "put closure" to the turmoil in the Diocese as the supporters of Bishop Nikolai would pretend. Rostad writes:
In his Diocesan Assembly report to his congregation at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Kodiak, Alaska, Father Innocent Dresdow said the messages of Bishop Nikolai and Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain), chancellor of the diocese, at the meeting 'put closure' to the ordeal of the last several months. He urged his parishioners to read the messages online and said he would post them on the Cathedral bulletin board. Dresdow said he understood why those who are not aware of the controversy would choose not to read the messages.
He also said the OCA is going through a process of purging.
Although he didn't go into detail about the incident last spring which resulted in the archimandrite being admitted to a treatment center, Dresdow appealed for people to understand the nature of addiction. He said that Brittain had addressed it. This incident took place in Kodiak during the archimandrite's first visit after being mysteriously appointed rector of the seminary, a shocking surprise to everybody.
Dresdow skirted the crux of the issue, which was what the new seminary rector did and said while under the influence.
In a letter to Metropolitan Herman, Paul Sidebottom, Assistant Dean of St. Herman Seminary at the time, reported that, while Fr. Isidore was under the influence of alcohol, he said he didn't want to be sent back to Anchorage to the bishop because 'papa beats me'. Sidebottom also alleged that Brittain made sexual advances.
The office of the Metropolitan said an investigation into the allegations was forthcoming. Also he told Bishop Nikolai to stay out of the process.
Incidentally, after sending the letter to the Metropolitan, Sidebottom was informed, via email, that he no longer had a job. His position was eliminated (purportedly for financial reasons) based on a decision made by an executive committee consisting of Cliff Argue, Myna Jacobs, who is the bishop's personal assistant and a vocal supporter, and (hold on to your hats) Archimandrite Isidore!
In their addresses to the Alaska clergy at the Diocesan Assembly, the bishop and his chancellor decried the 'evil' doings of those who sought to attack their character.
What does the bishop mean by 'attack?' Do efforts of Orthodox faithful in Alaska and elsewhere to call him into account for things he has done and said during his Alaska episcopacy constitute an attack?
Did Sidebottom 'attack' the bishop's character by filing a report?
If charges of that nature had been filed in a school, university or state office, the suspects would have been put on suspension in short order.
Did Ben Ardinger, a Board of Trustees member for many years and staunch supporter of Holy Resurrection Church and the Seminary, attack the hierarch when he asked why Sidebottom lost his job? By the way, Ardinger was dismissed of his duties as well.
Is it an 'attack' when St. Herman's librarian, Mark Harrison pseudonymously expressed thoughts on OCANews regarding the qualities of a bishop? It must have been because Bishop Nikolai fired him (Harrison was allowed to submit a letter of resignation.)
The most damning charges against the bishop came from Father John Dunlop, whom, ironically, Nikolai praised at the recent Diocesan Assembly meeting in Anchorage. In a letter to Archbishop Job in which he recounted the episode involving the archimandrite, Dunlop gave examples showing how the bishop had created a climate of fear in the diocese. Dunlop alleged that the bishop pushed Mark Harrison in the altar, was verbally abusive, and had thrust the clergy into a state of fear so that they were afraid of making one false move. Dunlop said that the bishop had referred to him as 'Father Nobody' and said that if Dunlop messed up he would be deposed.
The bishop's behavior is more fitting for a bad character in a fairy tale or a dictator of a totalitarian country, than a spiritual father who leads his flock like the Good Shepherd.
Would a police officer, a teacher, a doctor or a student get by with this kind of behavior? Let the reader judge.
Bishop Nikolai whines about the darkness that he's been cast into this last year, comparing his plight to Mother Theresa's much publicized 'dark night of the soul'. I say, reserve the right of lamentation for those who've been victimized by the bishop.
It seems that he has a Divine Right of Kings idea of his episcopate. Just because he wears the robes, carries the miter and holds the title, he is immune from criticism. As if to call him into question is to question God Himself.
Is this really the teaching of the church? Are there no checks and balances within the Orthodox Church? Can hierarchs continue in their reign of terror without superiors or equals saying 'Stop! Enough!'
Some of the faithful in Alaska continue to speak up when they see injustice, knowing that the bishop will most likely lash back. The priests are obviously afraid to criticize the bishop, knowing that to do so is to jeopardize their positions, ultimately their means of livelihood.
No matter what Dresdow says about 'closure' the informed in the diocese know better than to accept his shallow, misleading optimism. They pray too, that they may not be embittered by the injustices that are going on within the OCA. Some parishioners are getting fed up and worshiping elsewhere. They can't take anymore of the nonsense, the denial and abuse. Can you blame them?
May God have mercy on us all."