October 31, 2014

Removing Metropolitan Jonah Hurt the American Orthodox Church

– By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse

When the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) axed Metropolitan Jonah they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Mediocrity was the watchword. In the jurisdiction that has been steadily losing ground for twenty years, they rejected the man who displayed the necessary gifts to bring the Gospel as it is understood and comprehended within our Orthodox faith to America.

His Beatitude wasn’t a suitable administrator his detractors said. The claim might have some merit but since when has administrative capabilities been the high water mark of ecclesiological competence? Why weren’t accommodations made to employ his prodigious gifts and make up for the weaknesses?

Met. Jonah is an evangelist first and an administrator maybe third, but evangelization is what the American Orthodox Church needs to do.

Look at the results of Fr. Peter Guillquist and his colleagues. Were there missteps along the way? Of course there were, but no one believes that Fr. Guillquist and the work of the Evangelical Orthodox (as they were called for many years) have been anything but a great gain for the American Orthodox Church.

Metropolitan Philip had the foresight to see the hand of God when the Evangelicals came knocking. When an opportunity presents itself you take it, even if you have to make adjustments down the road. It’s a pity that the OCA leadership doesn’t have the same expanse of vision.

Met. Jonah’s great strength is his ability to reach Christian audiences outside of the Orthodox Church. They are searching for a deeper communion with our Lord Jesus Christ, and the dogmatic and theological coherence he offered clarified how to find Him.

His audience comprehended Met. Jonah’s words because he understood that the critical questions of the age and the ones his listeners held were anthropological in nature. They already knew that answers could not be found outside of reference to God and in that sense they are proto-Orthodox and brethren. Moreover, in answering their questions Met. Jonah also defined for them how their questions should ultimately be framed.

Reaching audiences in this way requires discernment. A man cannot understand the interior life of another person without doing his own interior work first. There is no way we can understand the needs of neighbor without repentance and the striving against temptation and sin that the Christian life requires. Without it our words will ring hollow – noisy gongs and clanging symbols.

If our Orthodox leadership does not comprehend this point, then it suggests that the discernment necessary to penetrate the moral and theological relativism of the age does not exist and the Gospel of Jesus Christ will not be preached. The best we will see are hollow substitutes.

Unfortunately, in some quarters of the Church Met. Jonah’s words were received with suspicion and even alarm. There is a tendency for the Orthodox to become self-referential — to see the Church as a private possession or to conflate notions of the “True Church” with Christ who is Truth. When this happens the Church becomes an echo chamber that can make discerning the truth even more difficult.

Orthodox Christianity was brought to America for Americans, not just the Orthodox faithful. It is coming of age at a time when the dominant communions that guided American culture are suffering grievous internal fracturing that leaves many faithful Christians homeless.

This timing is not an accident of history. It defines our mission, one that Met. Jonah took on to show us a more excellent way. We should listen.

See: Met. Jonah: Asceticism and the Consumer Society

Also see: Metropolitan Jonah at the American Enterprise Institute, December 6, 2011 [Video]

Comments

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    Chrys says:

    Amen! Amen! Amen!
    Incisive observations about preaching and our current need, as well as cogent points about what has occurred.
    Your conclusions are, in my view, spot on.
    Thank you!

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Thank you Chrys. When we are unable to evangelize, it means the doors are locked from the inside. Serious problems exist that are not being addressed.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        “Orthodox Christianity was brought to America for Americans, not just the Orthodox faithful.” Unfortunately, there appear to be many in leadership who have yet to grasp this obvious and simple statement. What is worse, it is beginning to appear that, in some quarters, the Orthodox Church is not even for the faithful of this country (we don’t really count).

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          John Panos says:

          Michael – that is exactly correct, and worse, they aren’t even embarrassed by it, or trying to hide it.

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            Andrew says:

            All of these Shenanigans are funded by the free will donations of the faithful. It is only when we cut off the money and starve the Orthodox bureaucracy that change will take place. We can no longer afford to have countless suburban bishops and adminstrators living large off the hard work of the American faithful.

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              alyosha says:

              I am so glad that I haven’t donated in quite some time. I will only give to those who truly need it. Time for these boys to get a job and live like the poor shleps in the pew. I work too hard for my money. It’s bad enough I have to give to the government who spends my money frivolously each year. I don’t have to give to the scribes and pharisees who cause problems. Shame on the hierarchy!

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          Pere LaChaise says:

          I agree with what Mr. Baumann says; the prospect ofr a nativizing Orthodox Church gets more untrnable with each passing year. The OCA is crippled by ‘grandfathered’ ethnic dioceses (4, 5? I lose count) that are exempt from not just financial support of Syosset (maybe neutral value) but the whole ‘vision thing’ to quote GHW Bush. As a seminarian ay SVS I heard that few students and none of the Bps ‘get it’ about the Schmemannic vision of a Local American Church and continue to reference Old World ‘Mother Church’ precedent – as though afraid to face the challenge of reaching out to just plain old Americans.
          What I see is a Church mired in reference to the recent past and dedicated to a ministry directed solely at those already within the fold: i.e. Ethnic Orthodox Communities. Parishes are aging and dying all over the country with no leadership to prevent it. Pastors are not equipped to cater to the sentimental desires of aging emigres while simultaneoudsly making a church life that interest newcomers. There has to be a sacrifice of the less essential features of the former in order to give the latter a fighting chance. We desperately need episcopal leadership willing to challenge ‘ethnic notions’ by giving pastors needed support to grow their parishes in new directions:like toward the Americans.
          I don’t see it as a failure of morals, just lack of creative enterprise. A spirit of entrepreneurship is encumbent, though, upon the mission priest. I just have not seen it on any level above parish clergy.

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    William Leara says:

    The article says:

    “For example, consider the egregious charge that Met. Jonah covered up a rape. This charge has been proven false but not before major media outlets reported it worldwide and delivered a crushing blow to his reputation.”

    In what way has this “been proven false”? Could you point me to the source from which you are getting this information?

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:
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        William Leara says:

        Fr. Hans, You are basing your article on the rantings of a hateful blogger at monomakhos.net?

        I really do not see any contradiction between the Synod’s official statement:
        http://oca.org/PDF/NEWS/2012/2012-0716-holy-synod-statement.pdf

        and the report:
        http://pokrov.org/Documents/Articles/1852/Report_on_Fr_SK.pdf

        Bishop Jonah brought in a severely disturbed man to serve as a priest at St. Nicholas Cathedral. He later tried to find a parish assignment or military chaplaincy for the man. He did not share the nature of this man’s legal and ethical problems, as per OCA sexual misconduct guidelines and basic common sense. This is the issue cited for his resignation, and there is no inconsistency between the Investigative Committee report and the OCA’s statement on this matter.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          Whenever I hear the adjective “hateful” the warning light starts flashing. In any case, I don’t intend to argue it here. That can be done on Monomakhos which is not run by a “hateful” blogger, BTW.

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            William Leara says:

            The Metropolitan was asked to resign for his handling of Hieromonk Simeon; not because he simply “wasn’t a suitable administrator”, or because he stood up to those who “see the Church as a private possession”. Your blog article is inaccurate because it misrepresents the reason why the Metropolitan was asked to resign.

            I don’t think it is fair for you to be leveling such serious charges against the Holy Synod of the OCA–that they falsely charged Metropolitan Jonah with covering up a rape–and then defer responsibility for such a statement to another blog site. You should not be making such allegations so lightly.

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              Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

              I’m not making an allegation. I am making a charge. And Met. Jonah was not asked to resign for his “handling of Hieromonk Simeon.” The letter alleging a cover-up came out after the resignation to quell public outcry that was disavowed by the Godmother of the alleged victim and the facts of which a chief bureaucratic of the OCA could not confirm was correct.

              I don’t believe the letter. I’ve seen this tactic before. Fire a person then come back later to allege malfeasance of the kind that makes people uncomfortable, is very difficult to prove, and never has to be completely explained because it involves privacy concerns. It works if the person fired is compliant. If not, all bets are off.

              My concern is that a charge was leveled against Met. Jonah that can destroy his reputation and effectiveness for the rest of his life. One doesn’t have to like Met. Jonah to see how spurious the charge is and the injustice being perpetrated. I didn’t become a priest to stay silent about injustice even when it takes place within the Church.

              I make several points in my essay but lay out only one necessary condition: the Synod has to retract its charge of covering up a rape and restore Met. Jonah’s reputation. I would do the same even for a man I might not personally like but still stood falsely accused.

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                Ken Miller says:

                Fr Johannes’ blog post is insightful, accurate, and gets to the heart of what is going on in the OCA.

                Jonah is not perfect, and he may have seen Simeon’s true colors immediately, but it is beyond dispute that Jonah did nothing worthy of being removed from office. Not even close. The Lavender Mafia couldn’t come up with a single moral scandal involving Jonah, so they resorted to an overblown technical violation as a fig leaf to oust him.

                To this day, the nuns who are closest to Fr Simeon still don’t believe the accusations against Fr Simeon, showing that it is possible for well intentioned people to overly trust someone. It is not a scandal worthy of overthrowing a hierarch if that hierarch doesn’t immediately believe all the rumors about another priest, and lets not forget that the only credible evidence of rape didn’t surface until 2012, long after Jonah had barred Simeon from the OCA.

                On the other hand, some of the same hypocritical Lavender Mafia who cast the stones against Jonah are themselves probably guilty of moral failings that ARE ABSOLUTELY grounds for their removal from office – public drunkenness, communing transgenders, and worst of all, purveying pornography. Compare that to the relatively benign accusations against Jonah.

                Try to find a single canon or writing from the fathers about adhering to Syosset’s policy book, and you won’t find it, end of story.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Hate: to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest

          Mr. Leara, IMO, it is inappropriate to describe a fellow Chrisitan, even one with whom I strongly disagree as ‘hateful’. The only manner in which any faithful Christian could be described as hateful is an intense dislike for perceived untruth, obsfucation, incompentance of misfeasance in the conduct of clerical office. Even there a ‘hateful’ attitude is quite problematic for a Christian.

          While you may certainly detect a strong attitude of disapproval for lies, obsfucation and misfeasence from the author the the blog, I think you are not being accurate to describe his posts and the conversation there as ‘hateful’. There are blogs out there which are hate full, Monomakhos is not one of them IMO.

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      Veronica says:

      http://www.monomakhos.com/another-hole-in-the-offi
      Another Hole in the Official Story: ‘Alleged Rape’ Timeline Reporting is Wrong
      LETTER FROM THE GODMOTHER

      JamesDS @ Washington Post7/21/2012 12:14 PM EDT
      This story simply reprints an OCA press release which was discredited this week by the alleged victim and her godmother. In her statement, she expresses dismay over how this alleged incident has been turned into a political tool to remove the Metropolitan who has been locked in disputes with his Synod for nearly 3-years. She also reveals that the priest in question was never accepted into the OCA by Metropolitan Jonah, and that Jonah first learned of the alleged 2010 incident only two months ago (May 2012) when the victim came forward to file complaints with both the police and church authorities. This is long after the priest, who was a guest, had left the Metropolitan’s jurisdiction.

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    I had occasion to talk with Met. Jonah during his leading St.Vladimir’s Seminary Lenten retreat. I have never known a person who listened so deeply, a man who silenced his inner self to hear without interruption what was being spoken. He is a mature, calm, available person who is fully present.

    We have reason to mourn our sins and those of others who were blind to the great gift they had been given in Met. Jonah. Lord have mercy.

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    M. Stankovich says:

    It is interesting that you would draw the analogy of Met. Philip Saliba, in that he has demonstrated himself, undeniably, to be a leader tested by time and “trials,” but has never been particularly known for a “charism” as an evangelist. Nevertheless, Met. Philip seems to exercise an unique gift characteristic of successful leaders: a fearless ability to utilize the gifts of others to fulfill “charismatic” responsibilities he does not possess in himself. Fr. Jon Braun told me that Met. Philip instructed them, “Bring America to Orthodoxy,” quite the opposite of what we ordinarily hear. Of course he was insightful to receive the Evangelicals when the OCA was not interested! In hindsight, heaven only knows the different outcome. Sadly, this fearless ability to utilize the gifts of others was lacking in former Met. Jonah.

    You have confused the concept of “administration” for “leadership.” I have seen no criticism or complaint from the Synod of Bishops that former Met. Jonah was an inadequate “administrator,” for whatever that might have entailed. However, they were quite explicit as to the deficiency in his capacity for leadership. To confuse these two concepts is to trivialize the seriousness of their resolution, in the end, that he seek help or resign. It is the difference between keeping a calender and checkbook, and providing a direction and collegiality for the entire Synod, and thereby the Church.

    There is something surrealistic about a socially awkward – truthfully, “inept” and uncomfortable – young man who was of a directionless type who could afford to make a sort of vague “career” of SVS; who having had a, truthfully, inadequate – by any Russian or Athonite tradition – monastic discipline, going on to lead a monastery (and some have said he spent more time out lecturing about monasticism, than actually living as a monastic); is consecrated as the youngest OCA bishop, and after only eighteen days as a bishop, is elected Metropolitan. I repeated what I have always held: he is a spiritual, sober-minded, pastoral, kind, naturally humorous, and intelligent man. He is not, nor he has ever been, a leader, personally setting his own direction, or otherwise. And after four years as Metropolitan, he stood before the assembled All American Council (and broadcast live internationally) and declared a “disaster” of his own responsibility. You cannot provide direction when you have none; you cannot draw upon experience when you have none; and you cannot lead when you are not a leader.

    The idea that the OCA, having wandered in the desert for forty years, would rise or fall because of one man, is repugnant and shameful. Former Met. Jonah was and remains incapable of impacting forty years of history, and it seems to me that the “answer” is to re-question the issue of autocephaly anew. The Russian Orthodox Church was in no position to make demands or to set rules in defining an American Church forty years previous, but they are certainly capable now. Bring America to the Orthodox Church.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      Just as you find weaknesses in Met. Philip, so you can find them in Met. Jonah. But I see the strengths of both and few men and even fewer bishops possess them.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Mr. Stankovich, while much that you say is true, it was the OCA Synod that put Met. Jonah in a very difficult position and then proceeded to make it an untenable position by refusing all cooperation and actively sabotaging him. They are the ones that lack the ability to harness the ability of others. Clearly, Met. Jonah has a lot of strengths that could have been utilized for the betterment of the Church and the OCA. Clearly, the Synod (and others) had neither the intelligence to recognize the gifts nor any desire to utilize them and, in fact, were offended by them.

      IMO, the OCA has become a organization that is devouring itself, a slowly imploding star–not because of Met. Jonah but because the gift the OCA was given has been frittered away by entrusting it to a series of successively inept and morally compromised leaders. The Metropolitan Council was, or so I am told, supposed to help guard against that, be instead has become an enabler whose very existence makes a canonnical Orthodox life a challenge. It is sad, deeply sad.

      Met. Philip, on the other hand, as difficult and un-charismatic as he is, has developed quality people to serve in the episcopate in this country–all life long Orthodox with credentials, skill and a commitment to serve.

      Whether it is liked or not, that Antiochian Archdiocese seems to present the most capable and strongest core around which a living Orthodox Church in this land can be built. Being under the direction of Moscow will simply not work in this country. That is why the OCA exists in the first place. Not only that the Antiochian ethos is, IMO, much more suited to the spirit of this country that either the Russian/Slavic or Greek ethos.

      Ideally, we will have a bit of all three and not some forced homogeneity.

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      John Carter says:

      The ROC remains compromised by its ties to the secular Russian state. The latest scandal in the news shows Kyrill as a kind of vengeful old spider asking Putin to punish the bad girls for blasphemy. Weak. He is former KGB, is he not? That is a nonstarter. ROCOR’s return to the ROC underlined the mess that is the OCA…it will be interesting to watch how that goes for them.

      What is it with this Synod? One week they can’t say what the causes of his stepping down are for pastoral reasons, the next week they enumerate a laundry list. You can’t have it both ways. Likewise the charge that he received the alleged rapist. Either he did or he didn’t. If he didn’t, the synod seems to be basing their most formal charge on a lie. It behooves us to determine IF it is a lie and if it is a lie, to determine who is telling the lie. If your synod are liars, they are not fit to serve.

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        macedonianreader says:

        Let’s see John – Girls enter a private sanctuary/entity without granted permission, and they proceed to act obscenely. The same group organized an orgy in a public library right in front of children, and had a women walk into a grocery store and masturbate with a frozen chicken, in front of everyone. This is free speech? But it’s not really the girls’ fault. They are pawns and the monies come from “non-profit” ngos from outside governments. They were used. And seeing just out photogenic they are, I wouldn’t be surprised that they were precisely chosen to fulfill this role by the powers with the money. But Putin and the ROC are authoritarian and scandalous…. sure.

        There was nothing spiteful or scandalous about the way the ROC or the State handled this situation. That is unless, we no longer believe in sacred spots and, the historical aspect that society has always protected these spaces with the understanding that these spaces are the source of our liberty and freedoms.

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      macedonianReader says:

      Mr. Stankovich –

      Met. Saliba WAS all of this. Since his prophetic words in the 70’s 80’s he has not been heard of. Because of his inactivity, SCOBA is gone. I love Met. Philip+ but he dropped the ball and opened up a vacuum for the likes of the Episcopal Assembly, which I do not think has lived up to anything we need so far.

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    Arden Vark says:

    Pure baloney. Met. Jonah was removed by his fellow hierarchs for very good reasons. Some, haven’t been published and may never be, but the decision to remove him was correct. Met. Jonah was not some great oracle or “light” of American Orthodoxy. He was chosen at the Pittsburgh OCA Assembly because he was the best, untainted choice at the time. They soon found out, for many reasons, that the choice was a mistake. The OCA will be stronger and better with a head hierarch who will not act in a unilateral manner with his own agenda.

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      Ken Miller says:

      In my opinion, your comment about acting “unilaterally” proves the assertion that Jonah’s ouster was a conflict between traditional Orthodoxy and the establishment modernists. I have read or listened to most of the homilies and lectures that ruffled the feathers in Syosset. They are nothing more than pure patristic Orthodoxy. It is the modernists who have deviated form Orthodoxy, wanting to redefine sexual morality and deny that repentance from all of our sins is necessary for salvation. If Jonah’s speeches are veiwed as an “agenda”, it reveals more about the Jonah-haters than it does about Jonah, because Patristic theology is not an “agenda” – it is entrenched modernism that is an “agenda”. It is the role of the Metropolitan to defend and promote traditional Orthodoxy without asking permission from Syosset or any other bishop. It is the back-room plotters who think that message is out of date who acted inappropriately with an “agenda.”

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      Gregg Gerasimon says:

      Arden,

      You write, “He was chosen at the Pittsburgh OCA Assembly because he was the best, untainted choice at the time. They soon found out, for many reasons, that the choice was a mistake. The OCA will be stronger and better with a head hierarch who will not act in a unilateral manner with his own agenda.”

      Met. Jonah was chosen to be Metropolitan by the Holy Synod, who makes the final choice. Did the Holy Synod choose to be Metropolitan someone whom they did not even know, who was not “vetted” appropriately, as we hear so much about these days? I think so. How could a Synod elect someone to be their First Hierarch when they don’t even know what his leadership would be like? Were they, in a sense, using Met. Jonah to placate an OCA that was embittered after years of financial wrongdoings? Again, I think so. What Synod elects as its Metropolitan someone whom they do not know? Does that even make sense?

      The members of the Holy Synod who were there in 2008 indeed bear responsibility for Met. Jonah’s leadership, since they put him in that position. I do think that they expected a young, naive bishop whom they (and other high-level OCA leadership) could control. Sadly, they were mistaken.

      I have not heard any apologies as of yet from the Holy Synod for choosing as their own leader a young bishop (who had been an ordained bishop for only 10 or 11 days before he became Metropolitan) of whose leadership style they had no clue. Again, it boggles my mind: what Synod would choose as its leader someone they don’t know? Is this dysfunctional and a clear sign that things are a huge mess: you bet.

      At this point, I think the OCA has 2 choices:

      (1) If the Parma, Ohio, AAC does indeed happen, the clergy and laity in attendance there should demand that the Holy Synod formally apologize to Met. Jonah for electing him as their First Hierarch, for how he was treated while in office and then thrown under the bus and out of office. It should be up to Met. Jonah if he wishes to return as First Hierarch of the OCA, and if so, he should be able to lead the Synod according to his style, as a First Hierarch does.

      (2) Petition the Holy Synod that the OCA request to be taken into the ROCOR American dioceses.

      Since (1) is about as likely to happen as snow in the tropics, I truly think that (2) is the only option at this point. Trust for the OCA leadership is gone, the number of retired or suspended bishops now outnumbers the number of active bishops, entire dioceses have been left without a bishop for years with no end in sight, many parishes have gone years without any episcopal visit, ever. What kind of model or example is this for the evangelization of Orthodoxy in North America, which is our mission here?

      I love the OCA, but it is so sad to see it implode like it is doing. I used to be a huge proponent of autocephaly, but now I realize that isn’t most important. The OCA needs real leadership, and these games need to come to an end.

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      macedonianReader says:

      What were those “things” Arden that haven’t been published yet or never will be?

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    macedonianReader says:

    I have to say. If we asked clergy to resign everytime they ‘mishandle’ something or someone or is viewed to have mishandled something or someone, we wouldn’t have any clergy left. On the other hand, we have Bishops blatantly mishandling things elsewhere and there’s not one single peep out of anyone. Convenient? I think so. At least for some.

    There is a bigger force working in the world today, which I am sad to say has infultrated our Church. His beatitude may not have been the first to identify it, but he was the first to speak out against it and give it an Orthodox Voice.

    Now he’s gone. Why? You can be the judge.

    All I know is that he must be brought back somehow. I don’t care what jurisdiction, I don’t care how we define autocephaly at any given moment to suit our egotistical needs, I don’t care if a hirearch has his PhD in adimistration, or if he has a temper, and I really don’t care who is honored first in the Typikon….

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      Pere LaChaise says:

      They do ask clergy to resign their posts quite frequently every time an obstreperous parishioner decides he or she cannot achieve satisfaction with him leading. I speak from experience that the OCA runs through priests like cigarettes – acting as though they just have to wait for another crop of greenhorns with the good stuff still all over them to solve every problem in every parish that real diocesan leadership would have prevented, or at least properly identified. But my experience has shown me already that hierarchs, chancellors and deans will say anything to ‘sell’ a callow ordinand to a position, and then let him flail until removing him.

      So far I havce yet to see anything remotely like far-sighted leadership, or incisive archpastoral care of priests, anywhere in the OCA. And that includes from our ex-Metropolitan. It seems to be a syndrome akin to a missing gene in the OCA makeup – mutual care, frank disclosure of actualities, shepherding of priests. Until we fix this widespread problem we will continue to burn out priests, bankrupt parishes and retire hierarchs that ‘just don’t work out’. The problem is cultural, deeply rooted and endemic.

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        macedonianReader says:

        They do ask clergy to resign their posts quite frequently every time an obstreperous parishioner decides he or she cannot achieve satisfaction with him leading.

        Yes. I know this about the OCA. And there’s always this obscure “he’s insane, angry, or hooked on back pills” rumor behind every ouster.

        I know this about the OCA all too well.

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        M. Stankovich says:

        Let us not also forget, mon pere, that some who could not “provide satisfaction” themselves out of a paper bag also frequently are the ones to disrespect “white hair” – be it on other clergy or even laymen – “is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Prov. 16:31) Those who do not see a need to be taught have nothing to learn. And thus, I have bitten my tongue amidst fellow parishioners chastised with the words of Theophan the Recluse: “You get the priest you deserve.” Well, that explains it: his shortcomings are our fault. And, he continues, we can force him to be a better priest by becoming better Christians ourselves. Certainly I have no objection to motivations in the interests of spiritual growth, even when tempered with the element of charity, but there is something even St. Chrysostom would find distressing in this logic. Quite a gig, I think. Only a bit ahead of Ann Zinzel’s story of interviewing to become Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s personal secretary: “What are the benefits? I will need health insurance.” “We can’t afford to provide health insurance, but the benefits include the kingdom of heaven.” At least for that moment she was sold.

        Ordinarily I would applaud your observation of “the syndrome,” but, giving credit where credit is due, the thunder belongs to Abouna Ioannes (though I have, dutifully & faithfully, been along for the ride): the bishops lack moral authority. In my mind, it is no more “bottom-line” than this. And here I would point any hierarch’s attention to the same St. Chrysostom’s On the Priesthood, Book VI, Section I:

        For it is not possible for inexperience to be urged as an excuse, nor to take refuge in ignorance, nor for the plea of necessity or force to be put forward. Yes, if it were possible, one of those under their charge could more easily make use of this refuge for his own sins than bishops in the case of the sins of others. Do you ask why? Because he who has been appointed to rectify the ignorance of others, and to warn them beforehand of the conflict with the devil which is coming upon them, will not be able to put forward ignorance as his excuse, or to say, “I have never heard the trumpet sound, I did not foresee the conflict.” For he is set for that very purpose, says Ezekiel, that he may sound the trumpet for others, and warn them of the dangers at hand. And therefore his chastisement is inevitable, though he that perishes happen to be but one. “For if when the sword comes, the watchman does not sound the trumpet to the people, nor give them a sign, and the sword come and take any man away, he indeed is taken away on account of his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hands.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

        and later in the same section:

        The saintly Moses was so far from grasping at the leadership of the Jews as to deprecate the offer, (Exodus 4:13) and to decline it when God commanded him to take it, and so to provoke the wrath of Him who appointed him and not only then, but afterwards when he entered upon his rule, he would gladly have died to have been set free from it: “Kill me,” says he, “if you are going to deal thus with me.” But what then? When he sinned at the waters of strife, (Numbers 20:12) could these repeated refusals be pleaded in excuse for him? Could they prevail with God to grant him pardon? And why was he deprived of the promised land? For no other reason, as we all know, than for this sin, for which this man was barred from enjoying it; the same blessings which those over whom he ruled obtained; but after many labors and sufferings, after that unspeakable wandering, after so many battles fought and victories won, he died outside the land to reach which he had undergone so much toil and trial; and though he had weathered the storms of the deep, in the end, he failed to enjoy the blessings of the haven.

        Apparently, the Father is not taking excuses today.

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          Pere LaChaise says:

          Mr. Stankovic,
          Your turgid, elliptical, parenthetical and heavily quotational prose has me flummoxed. I gather it’s something of a rebuke for speaking out of turn, with heavyweights backing it up from Scripture and Tradition. Ouch. I am bitten to the quick.

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            M. Stankovich says:

            Holy cow! Is everyone – as certain ethnic women on the streets are wont to say – “on their last nerve?” Benzodiazepines for all my friends! Pardon me, mon pere, for mistaking flowery speech for ego strength. The owner of this house directs traffic, not me. My only “rebuke” was to suggest a man can be handed his hat for a number of reasons: head’s too big or head’s too small. But you knew that.

            I am fascinated by the theories of communication – notably information cascades – that suggest “truth” can be rapidly derivative by accepting what others are accepting, without a concern for whether it might actually be the correct. The internet, unexpectedly, is the perfect medium for this phenomenon. At the same time, cascades do not occur in communities where there is cohesion, concern, and mutual respect. This would seem to suggest that a cascade would be an impossibility in the Church. Hmm. Many sides, long on rhetoric and short on “the money.” My thought: it’s diagnostic of a specific pathogen, lack of moral authority.

            Somehow, I had imagined that the quotations from St. Chrysostom emphasized that the shepherd cannot blame the flock (or any other entity, for that matter) for his inability to lead. Even that “saintly Moses, ” paid a big price, says our Father John. Our God is a jealous God, indeed, and I do not mean to imply the OCA does not need an evangelist; I do not believe it needs one now.

            I am deeply saddened to contemplate not living to see an actual American Orthodox Church, forty-two years after I was promised, and knowing the architects have passed. On the other hand, I somehow imagine that someone like Fr. John Peck will rise at the Parma, OH All-American Council, to remind the Synod of Bishops of the words of St. Chrysostom Commentary on the Ephesians: “For forty years the Jews wandered in the desert. At this moment, how many scorpions, how many snakes are in this wilderness, how many serpents, how many ‘offspring of vipers’ (Matt. 3:7) must we, at an instant pass? But do not fear, for the leader of our Exodos is not Moses, but Jesus Christ.”

            Be sure to put something on that cut. A lot of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus going around. I read about a man who actually lost his sharp tongue.

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              Ken Miller says:

              Jonah did not have an inability to lead and his flock loved him. It was only some corrupt, power-hungry, self-absorbed, egotistically self-important bishops around him that had any problem with him. On moral and spiritual issues, Jonah had leadership ability in spades, as his many homilies and speeches attest. However, the entrenched, politically correct, morally compromised bishops around him didn’t want moral purity or deeper spirituality because it makes them look bad and hindered their politically correct agenda to be like the apostate Episcopal church. On administrative issues, Jonah’s approach was simple–delegate. Let others involved in administration do their job without hindrance from him, and that’s how he administered the church, and that’s how a good spiritual leader should lead the church. The problem is that wasn’t enough for the bishops. They wanted control of Jonah’s message, not just the freedom to administer the day to day affairs of the church. Since when has any committee ever produced an inspiring message for the flock – that always comes from the pure soul of an individual spiritual leader.

              Modern American Orthodoxy is light years away from reaching its spiritual potential. Luminaries such as St Gregory Palamas rightly taught us that Orthodoxy is about achieving inner communion with God. American Orthodoxy resembles Barlaamistic rationalism much more than Orthodox mysticism. Jonah understood this, and his message was slowly but surely trying to set the church on path to deeper spirituality and communion with God. If you read Palamas, two of the things that are necessary to achieve communion with God are purity and heart-felt prayer. On the purity issue, Jonah taught patristic morality, but that didn’t sit well with the rationalistic politically-correct agenda of the Lavender Mafia. On prayer, it was well known that Jonah was one of the few American Orthodox leaders who had actually devoted a lot of time and effort toward hesychasm and heart-felt repetitive prayer.

              Lord have mercy on American Orthodoxy. Replace our cold stone hearts with the warmth of Your love, our rational arguments with the immediate perception of Your truth, and our outward legalism with inner purity!

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                M. Stankovich says:

                Mr. Miller,

                From the dead of night at the emergency unit, M. Stankovich, your friend, here, looking at this wonky bit of your “cascade” – and directly below my comment, for heaven’s sake – and I want to dial in a righteous order asking for something to chill you out. Seriously, you have managed to riff off every trite phrase from the “Don’t step on the Mantia, son, it’s silk” handbook. Holy Cow!

                Mr. Miller (and may I call you Mr. Miller?), what I cannot figure out, if I am to believe you, is why this man, who had the ear of the righteous, the support of the faithful, the respect of world Orthodoxy, and the inner strength and discipline of the monastic tradition of spirituality did not stand before the All-American Council, the Acton Institute, the conservative Anglicans, the Washington Post, whomever, and declare in courageous & righteousness indignation: “These are corrupt, power-hungry, self-absorbed, egotistically self-important bishops who will destroy the OCA, and I will resign before I will be a part of it.” “His flock loved him,” Mr. Miller! He would have been hailed “defender of the faith,” another Mark of Ephesus. The Synod of Bishops would have been humiliated into resignation. Unless…

                The fact is, Mr. Miller, you have created a myth that works for you. I could suggest that the Synod extended themselves, even unto seventy times seven; offering professional help and a plan for mutual “commitment”; waiting, begging, hoping for a leader to provide a sense of direction, to be true to his promises, and to initiate his many ideas and plans. To actually do something. And they offered “lifelines” and assistance and more “lifelines,” and in the end – perhaps irresponsibly – allowed him to implode and burn the brides back. And the fact is, Mr. Miller, my “suggestion” is as viable and logical as your fairy tale, and you have absolutely no information to prove me wrong.

                Take the meds, don’t take the meds. The NFL season is upon us. You know, men brutally banging their heads against one another for no particularly good reason I can see. I do, however, appreciate the analogy. Flip a coin for me – turn cable TV back on (heads). Let me know what you got.

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                  Ken Miller says:

                  M. Stankovich,

                  Being a firebrand is one of my faults, not Jonah’s. Jonah was kind and patient and never spoke ill of his detractors, even (especially) behind their backs, and I was there at St Nick’s during all of the attacks against Jonah by other bishops so I would know if he was trashing them. Look back at the AAC last year, bishop after bishop used classless personal attacks and jabs against Jonah from the platform, but whenever Jonah spoke, he never fought back or attacked the other bishops; instead, he calmly presented a very positive vision for the church. Never has the contrast between Jonah’s character and that of the bishops who waged a mutli-year campagn to oust Jonah.

                  In fact, it was Jonah who was infinitely patient to work with the other bishops, not the other way around, but they wanted to control Jonah and couldn’t tolerate a visionary leader. You talk about them trying to implement his programs. Hang the programs! The power of Jonah’s message was not that it could be packaged up into a program. The message was one of humility, purity, overcoming our passions, renouncing earthly distractions and seeking the pearl of great price, inner communion with God. That cannot be implemented in a program, but Jonah was effective at delivering that message through homilies and lectures.

                  You suggest that I “take the meds.” Not to read too much into your own hyperbole, but this is exactly what they said to Jonah, and Jonah wasn’t nearly as much as a firebrand as I. He wanted to work within the leadership, not take pot shots at it. I assure you I am quite sane. If my hyperbole was over the top, it is rooted in heartfelt frustration that the most spiritual leader we have ever had in the OCA was treated the way Jonah was. I don’t personally know the other bishops, but I have been around Jonah enough to know what he was about, and he is a visionary spiritual leader. “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country.”

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    Marian says:

    I was quite pleasantly shocked when Metropolitan Jonah was present representing the OCA last week, Aug 28, for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. Present were First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Metropolitan Jonah (OCA) , Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) (ROCOR), Bishop Benjamin (OCA), Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=499692966726012&set=a.499692943392681.127850.190674810961164&type=1&theater

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      Ken Miller says:

      It was a wonderful thing, but I wouldn’t characterize it as “representing” the OCA. That would make it seem that OCA leadership appointed him to represent the OCA in that event. It is much more likely that the Russians, who are not fooled by the slander against Jonah, invited him to participate in the liturgy.

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    Harry Coin says:

    Nina Dimas posted this link on the Yahoogroups Orthodox Forum this morning:

    http://www.christinefevronia.blogspot.com/

    It is the best and most complete, footnoted timeline of events I’ve seen to date.

    Here we see the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct committee and synod acting with great speed to remove the OCA’s leader and Chicago bishop on the basis of allegations from women (two years after the events of concern in one case), while apparently doing nothing in the case of allegations of subtly coerced hypnosis under color of church authority leading to male-male sexual activity at a monastery under Bishop Benjamin.

    The events detailed and footnoted give rise to tremendous concern and evidence of highly selective and suspiciously agenda-driven focus regarding the work of the OCA’s sexual misconduct committee. Public comparison of the OCA’s Metropolitan’s choices to Roman Catholic rape coverups and civil prosecutions of misdoers in PA on the basis of allegations of a godmother two years after the fact?

    Unless there is some very important omission of fact or big error in this document (if so those who know ought respond and right soon) — I can see no other conclusion than that the OCA synod was greatly misled and ought not have asked Met. Jonah to resign.

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      M. Stankovich says:

      Mr. Coin,

      You have decisively, though imaginatively, gone on to answer the question, “How many sleuths does it take to miss the forest for the trees? ONE” That would be you, señor.:

      We knew already from past experience with Metropolitan Jonah that something had to change; we haqd hoped that we had hoped that change would come about as a result of Metropolitan Jonah fulfilling his promise to comply with the recommendation given him by the medical facility to which he was admitted for evaluation and treatment last November, as he assured us he would do at our last All-American Council in Seattle. That promise having gone unfulfilled, when the last problem came to our attention at the end of June, we felt we had no choice but to ask him to take a leave or to submit his resignation. The moral, human, canonical and legal stakes were simply too high… Our request for ‘s resignation, or that he take a leave of absence for treatment, came at the end of a rather long list of questionable unilateral decisions and actions, demonstrating the inability of the Metropolitan to always be truthful and accountable to his peers.

      Would it seem fair, Mr. Coin, that the Synod is insisting this is not a “single-issue-driven” matter, but a culmination of the fundamental lack of leadership over the course of his term between All-American Councils? Remove the issue of sexual misconduct from the argument, Mr. Coin, totally remove it. What have you got? As I noted above: You cannot provide direction when you have none; you cannot draw upon experience when you have none; and you cannot lead when you are not a leader.

      Was that fast enough for you?

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        Harry Coin says:

        Overlooking the youthful snarky-sneer factor in your text, there’s some substance worth exploring.

        The official line put to the press and the media about JP, such as we’ve seen in recent newspaper accounts, does not highlight the phrase you’ve picked out, but rather that JP was guilty of covering up a rape juxtaposed in the mode of the convicted felons recently seen in PA. However the basis for the rape coverup allegation, according to the timelines I’ve been given to read is an assertion of the alleged victim’s godmother two years after the fact, after police investigation no charges came, though the police were involved contemporaneously and arrest records created. In the case of those convicted there were multiple victims, no police involvement nor reportage at the time of events, no general awareness by the police at the time in those cases. Quite a major distinction over against this case: here we’ve seen by the police records of the arrest of the alleged rapist priest, and documentation by the prosecutor’s office (posted on Pokrov) that such records would appear on future employment searches (smashing to bits the allegation there could possibly be employment deception potential via silence).

        Plainly there is neither honor nor merit in such an undue juxtaposition of felons vs. JP based upon these facts (unless the documented timeline is incomplete or in error in some as yet unknown way). The timeline as set forth I think in a neutral party’s eyes couldn’t possibly support morally lumping JP in with such severe felons, nothing even close to it.

        Now to the text you’ve quoted, taken in the light of the footnoted timeline, what remains? Clearly the many interpretations apropos unstated facts, save one, must be rejected even demolished, as incompatible when the given details in the timeline are explored. What then of the willingness to juxtapose JP with felons of severe criminality in the civil media by some in church leadership who write as if in full possession of relevant detail? Detail that can’t be supported by the revealed presented facts?

        The one matter the above does detail, about which the offered timeline doesn’t offer much light at all (it is long I could have missed it): the matter of the agreement to treatment in the Roman Catholic facility best known for treating sexual offenders. Here it must be noted that particular facility was chosen specifically at the insistence of the same folk willing to group JP with sexual offenders of the worst rank, no other facility or doctor would suffice in the eyes of whoever was capable of projecting his insistence upon the synod. Who was that and why? I don’t know. If something awful transpired and remains hidden about which the synod knows– well, given the exhaustive detail the public has received about these minor events, that appears hard to credit.

        The above text goes on to explain their assessment that JP did not follow Roman Catholic institutions psycho-medical advice, or at least not to their satisfaction, and on that basis he had to go.

        We do not have anywhere in the record what that advice was, on what basis it might be seen to have merit, in what specific instances it was in fact chronically overlooked or not followed, and so no means to measure whether the synod’s statement ought properly be credited. Ordinarily one would allow that a group of folk all engaged in the detail would if unanimous probably have got it correct. But in this instance, how to morally overlook the willingness of the same folk synod to juxtapose JP with the most severe of sexual offenders in the public media? This while the timeline really only leaves the basis as the assertion of a godmother two years post events which the police previously investigated. Tough one.

        Given that seems hardly the standard a Christian body ought recognize as due, well, all that’s left is that the synod was badly mislead, and ought not have done as it did. Or, there is some important error or omission in the given footnoted timelines.

        I do think it is fair to conclude a sense of dislike drives the official narrative above, overlooking detail unhelpful to JP’s removal as relates to the actual decisions and actual events. Unless, unless– there is some major omission or error. But where does the preponderance of the evidence point?

        It remains beyond creepy to me that such an active sexual misconduct committee could suffer the alleged continuance of pressure upon monks to engage in homosexual conduct in a SF monastery, while suspending a different bishop for no conduct beyond a small group of text messages, or removing a Metropolitan on the facts noted in the timelines and released documentation. There is a distinct feeling of selectivity in activity about the facts the faithful are given to read.

        So, given the balance of the footnoted facts and statements revealed to this point, there exists reasonable evidence to support that the synod was misled in seeking JP’s resignation. At the least there is a need to explain how it comes to pass the apparent alleged exploitation of monastics leads to nothing for bishop supervising that institution, while some text messages cause a another to be suspended immediately. Visible strictness in some cases, inexplicable ‘zippo’ in what appears to be much worse other instances.

        The faithful and the public has a right to ask that the church resolve whether its rules are just for disliked offenders.

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    M. Stankovich says:

    I would like to make a note here to anyone who may have read my comment regarding Ann Zinzel, personal secretary to Fr. Alexander Schmemann, noted above: I received an email notifying me that Ann Holod Zinzel, age 86, fell asleep in the Lord on the evening of September 7, 2012 at White Plains Hospital, just north of SVS. She rightfully earned the respect of extraordinary men in an extraordinary time in the life of the Orthodox Church in America. She will be be buried on Monday, September 10, 2012. May she rest among the Righteous and may her memory be eternal!

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    Ken Miller says:

    Anyone who believes the facts contradict the Bishops’ statement about the removal of Jonah and/or that there were canonical irregularities surrounding Jonah’s removal now have a vehicle to express their desire for an independent investigation into these matters:

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/oca-investigation.html

Trackbacks

  1. [...] readings and commentary on the lectionary of the Orthodox Church ☆ ☆ ☆ 5) Removing Metropolitan Jonah Hurt the American Orthodox Churchhttp://www.aoiusa.org/blog/removing-metropolitan-jonah-hurt-the-american-orthodox-church/By Fr. [...]

  2. [...] written on this topic before, but I thought it deserved a little more attention in the light of an essay that has recently been [...]

  3. [...] written on this topic before, but I thought it deserved a little more attention in the light of an essay that has recently been [...]

  4. [...] ability to present the Orthodox faith to a larger American audience. I outlined these points in an essay I wrote a few weeks back. Unfortunately, I have seen the good men slandered before as a way to justify bad [...]

  5. [...] Jonah’s removal was American Orthodoxy’s loss (See: Removing Metropolitan Jonah Hurt the American Orthodox Church) although long term it may prove to be a blessing because he will be able to speak unencumbered by [...]

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