OCANews.org: +Jonah Placed on Leave of Absence by Synod [CLOSED]

Metropolitan Jonah

This report is from OCANews.org and recently posted. Obviously there is a significant degree of tension between Syosset (OCA headquarters) and Met. Jonah. I don’t know the ins and outs of the OCA, but it appears that this report, given the extensive detail, was probably prepared for publication before the suspension (the part beginning with “How Did This Happen?” reads as if it was carefully constructed and edited; it would have taken considerably more than a few hours to write). In any case, the story is taking shape.

• Fate of Fr. Garklavs, Chancellor, as yet unconfirmed

According to a report from Geneva on the Greek website Romofea.org late last evening, citing “exclusive information” from unamed sources, Metropolitan Jonah has been removed as the Primate, and Archbishop Nathaniel has been named Temporary Administrator by the OCA Synod of Bishops. Earlier in the day the retired Bishop of Los Angeles, Tikhon posted a short note on the web saying “Metropolitan Jonah…. has been given the “Bishop Nikolai’ treatment——mandatory leave of absence. Archbishop Nathaniel Popp has been named to temporarily fill the spot of First Hierarch.Bishop Melchizedek has been named as Chancellor, replacing the Archpriest, Alexander Garklavs.” Neither story has been confirmed or denied by OCA.org.

OCANews.org has, however, confirmed with mulitple sources that Metropolitan Jonah has indeed been placed on a leave of absence, and that indeed +Nathaniel has been named as a temporary replacement. However, the fate of Fr. Garklavs is as yet unclear. According to sources close to Syosset, Bishop Michael (Dahulich) was to travel to Syosset this morning to discuss the Synod’s decisions with Fr. Garklavs. (Fr. Garklavs returned from Santa Fe yesterday before the Synodal retreat was concluded.) Bishop Melchizedek, named by +Tikhon as Garklav’s replacement, was unavailable for comment as he is currently on a train travelling back to Pittsburgh from Santa Fe.

How Did This Happen?

The decision of the OCA Synod, composed of six diocesan bishops and two diocesan Administrators ( who participate, but do not yet vote), gathered for their annual pre-Lenten retreat, to ask the Primate to step aside, is a shock, but not a surprise. Since his enthronement some 26 months ago Metropolitan Jonah has experienced growing trouble in his own diocese, refused the advice and professional counsel of official Church committees, increasingly refused to cooperate with the governing bodies of the OCA (including the staff in Syosset and the Metropolitan Council), alienated several sister Orthodox Churches, and finally, challenged the Synod itself. Multiple attempts by his staff, the Metropolitan Council and its members, individual bishops, and finally the Synod itself, to intervene with the Metropolitan, personally and corporately over the past 18 months failed to convince him to alter his leadership style, decisions, practices or actions – actions that, in the eyes of many in positions of responsibility in the OCA were causing irreparable harm to the structures and status of the OCA.

The Fight Over – and With – Syosset

Three events in January-February 2011 brought his increasingly problematic leadership to the crisis point. With the advent of the new year the Metropolitan, who had long proclaimed in public that the atmosphere in Syosset had become “toxic”, expressed his desire to replace the Chancellor, Fr. Alexander Garklavs, with a person of his own choosing, and then quickly move the administration to Washington DC. (The Metropolitan Council has previously voted unanimously not to fund any move to DC at this time, nor entertain consideration of such until after the Strategic Plan was developed, following the Seattle All-American Council in November, 2011.) The Metropolitan’s long-standing antipathy to Fr. Garklavs (who was frequently charged with telling the Metropolitan that his wishes could not be fulfilled immediately due to financial, statutory or legal considerations) was well known. The Metropolitan had often floated the name of Fr. David Brum (Metropolitan Theodosius’ and Metropolitan Herman’s former Secretary, who the SIC report described as part of Kondratick’s “inner circle”) as a possible replacement, as well as the name of Fr. Joseph Fester (Fr. Kondratick’s former Secretary) whom he recently appointed Dean of the Washington, DC cathedral.

However, the appointment of the officers of the OCA (Chancellor, Secretary, Treasurer) according to the OCA Statute, rests with “…the Synod, upon recommendation by the Metropolitan Council” – not the Metropolitan himself. Members of the Synod, it is reported, attempted to dissuade the Metropolitan from precipitous action at this time, pointing out that the Metropolitan Council would not look kindly on such changes now, especially since the DC move had been discussed at length already. And to remove Fr. Garklavs, especially under a cloud of conflict, would be a potentially crippling blow to the OCA just 7 months from an All-American Council. It was suggested to delay such a decision until after the AAC, when, according to tradition, the Metropolitan nominates new officers for the upcoming triennium, and an orderly transition would be possible.

Nevertheless, in mid-January, the Metropolitan publicly called for a “Special Synodal Committee “to meet on February 3rd in DC, which in the words of the OCA press release was to discuss “….a variety of issues associated with a possible move of the Orthodox Church in America’s Chancery to Washington, DC”. Privately, the Metropolitan, Bishop Benjamin (a member of the Special Synodal Committee”) and Fr. Garklavs actually met with a candidate suggested by +Jonah as a replacement for Fr. Garklavs.

The meetings did not go very well for the Metropolitan. After the meeting another OCA press release was issued stating :“A report (on the feasibility of moving to DC) will be prepared after a complete and thorough study,” which will then “….be presented to the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council for review and guidance. No deadline has been established for issuing the report.” Moreover, the replacement candidate, another priest with close ties to Kondratick, withdrew his name from consideration.

The Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee Report

The second event was even more potentially serious. Since its establishment in 2009 as part of the settlement with Reader Paul Sidebottom in the wake of the EEOC ruling regarding events in Alaska (Read that story here) the OCA Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee (SMPAC) has labored to create a new policy and establish better practices throughout the OCA regarding the handling of sexual misconduct issues. Its members, all appointed by Metropolitan Jonah, include its Chairman, Fr. Alexander Garklavs, Fr. Eric Tosi – OCA Secretary; Frs.Theodore Bobosh (Metropolitan Council) and Michael Matsko (a licensed forsenic sexual misconduct investigator) ; Protodeacon Peter Danilchick (Metropolitan Council) ; Dr. Nikita Eike (a clinical pyschiatrist) ; and Mr. James Spencer, Esq, the lawyer who represented Mr. Sidebottom.

According to sources close to the Committee, the Committee has discussed mass resignation in protest at least twice in the past year due to the actions – and inaction – of Metropolitan Jonah regarding these issues. In both instances, Fr. Garklavs has been outspoken in dissuading the Committee from such a course, citing the “harm” it would do to the Church. Rather than resign, the Committee has spent the last weeks writing a confidential report on Jonah’s actions, and inactions, addressing their concerns to the Synod.

This multi-page report, signed by all the Committee members (including Fr. Garklavs and Tosi)was emailed to the Synod on February 10, 2011. Among the topics covered were issues relating to the allegations against Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa, (read about those allegations here); issues surrounding Fr. Symeon Kharon, a monastic who, together with and a group of nuns from Greece, was brought by the Metropolitan to start a monastery in the DC area; issues surrounding Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain); the Committee’s concern with the Metropolitan’s unilateral appointment of an investigator for clergy sexual misconduct they felt was unqualified; and other, related concerns. The highly critical report suggested no specific action by the Synod, but warned the OCA was courting pastoral, legal and professional troubles if the Metropolitan’s actions – and inaction – were allowed to continue unchecked.

Confrontation in Syosset

The Metropolitan received the report while he was in Dallas with Russian Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfayev) for a performance of Alfayev’s Oratorio. Upon reading the SMPAC Report, an angry Jonah abandoned +Hilarion, and flew back to New York on a “red eye” to confront Fr. Garklavs, who he felt was “behind” this Committee’s criticisms, and was “disloyal” because he did not share the Committee’s confidential report with him privately before it was sent to whole Synod. In the middle of the night +Jonah ordered Fr. Garklav’s access to his computers at Syosset shut down as well as his email account. The following afternoon, Friday, February 11th, taking Bishop Michael (Dahulich) as a witness, +Jonah went to Syosset and attempted to fire Fr. Garklavs, sacking him for “insubordination”. Fr. Garklavs refused to accept the dismissal – citing the provisions of the Statute – and appealed to the whole Synod. Garklav’s was then told by the Synod that he would be allowed to attend the episcopal meeting in Santa Fe in 10 days to explain his actions – as would +Jonah. Stymied, +Jonah restored Garklav’s computer access.

Jonah’s Anger Continues

+Jonah, however, was not finished. He also moved against Bishop Benjamin, who he felt was behind growing criticism of him on the Synod. Jonah instructed Fr. Jensen, the new Sexual Misconduct investigator for the OCA (the one whom the SMPAC had expressed reservations) to immediately launch an investigation of Bishop Benjamin, on the basis of allegations contained in letters attributed to the disgraced Bishop Nikolai of Sitka – letters that had heretofore been laregely ignored since there were first posted on the internet months ago.*

Meanwhile, the SMPAC members , learning of +Jonah’s retaliatory action against Fr. Garklavs, began discussing filing Ethics charges against +Jonah under the Best Practices Whistleblower provisions, standards which +Jonah himself had signed. Several members of the MC began similar preparations to be offered at their meeting in two weeks.

+ Jonah’s Report From Russia

These events – +Jonah’s attempted move to Washington, the SMPAC report, the attempted firing of Garklavs, the investigation of +Benjamin – were not the only things roiling the waters for the OCA Synod. For many in the OCA governing circles, Jonah’s own report of his actions during a January 2011 trip to Moscow, offered in an early February report to the Synod, were as troubling as his inactions discussed in the SMPAC.

+Jonah originally billed this trip as an “official visit”, meaning he claimed he was invited by the Russian Church. When challenged as to whether the Russians would invite him for the third time in 18 months, +Jonah revised his statement saying that it was “semi-official” insofar as he planned to meet with Metropolitan Hilarion and the Patriarch. He later admitted that it was not at the latter’s invitation, but at his own request. Moscow, in its press release, described the visit as “private”.

The Synod expressed its concern at yet another “private” meeting between the three, especially in light of the Metropolitan recent statements that the OCA should consider “redefining” autocephaly in favor of rejoining the Russian Church with “maximal autonomy”. The Synod then ordered Bishop Melchizedek of Pittsburgh to accompany the Metropolitan to Russia, as the “eyes and ears” of an skeptical Synod to make sure +Jonah, as they say, did not “give away the store”.

He did not – but in his report to the Synod about the trip +Jonah did tell how he envisioned his store – the OCA – to look in the future.

• The Metropolitan stated that he told Patriarch Kyrill that the “biggest challenges” the OCA faces “…are ecclesiological: the challenge from within, of an ecclesiology understood through the lens of the 1917 Council and academic theology, a democratic interpretation of Conciliarity combined with a strong anti-episcopal Congregationalist mentality.”

• The Metropolitan claimed to have garnered the Patriarch’s approval that there should be “only one agenda” in the OCA – “the Metropolitan’s” – and that it was “the duty” of the Synod to support him.

• The Metropolitan then described his hopes for a monastery in the Washington DC area the “goal and purpose” of which would be “the preparation of bishops and other leaders of the church” through cooperation with the Patriarchal Department of External Affairs and the Graduate Program (Aspirantura) in Moscow. It would be, in Jonah’s words, “a tremendous opportunity for co-operation with Moscow”.

• The Metropolitan concluded his report by stating that, given the above, it was his “right” to chose his own senior staff, so as to be able “to be surrounded by loyal young men.”

Clearly, +Jonah’s report raised more questions than it answered.

• What was the real purpose of +Jonah’s proposed new monastery in DC? Did creating a Washington monastery in conjunction with the Russian Church’s Department of External Relations mean that young Russian monastics would be trained for leadership service in the OCA? Did that mean that the preparation of bishops and other leaders of the OCA would now also occur in Moscow as well? What, then, if any, is the role of the three OCA seminaries in training our future leaders? Or are future leadership opportunities to be simply for monastics in the OCA +Jonah envisioned?

• Is it true to say there should be only “one agenda”, that of the Metropolitan, in the OCA, and that it is the “duty” of the Bishops to support it?

• Is it wise for any leader, let alone an Orthodox Primate, to demand as a “right” to be surrounded by “loyal young men”, who offer “unquestioning support”? What would such “unquestioning support” have meant for his 2009 plan to merge St. Tikhon’s Seminary with St. Vladimir’s Seminary? Or for his 2010 notion that the autocephaly of the OCA is “relative,” and that the OCA should “redefine“ it as “maximal autonomy” with the Moscow Patriarchate instead? Or for his 2011 attempt to replace the staff and move the OCA Chancery to Washington, DC without even seeking consensus?

• Does +Jonah really think that the All American Councils represents “congregationalism”, or that our diocesan councils, or our parishes council, are rampant with“anti-episcopal” feeling? Was he really that out of touch with OCA history, traditions and policies?

• What happened to the man who boldly stated in 2008 that the Church “had been raped” by its two previous Metropolitans, and that “Authority is responsibility”, thereby promising a new day?

It turns out he holds, in private, exactly the same autocratic views as his predecessors – without their commitment to an independent OCA.

Showdown in Santa Fe?

Taken together – for both reports appeared in early February – as well as Jonah’s attempted firing of Garklavs and investigation of Bishop Benjamin – the Synod was forced to finally deal with the “issue” of Metropolitan Jonah – rather than deal with a planned agenda, which included +Jonah’s idea to restructure all the dioceses.

Not that this was the first time +Jonah was the major topic of conversation, though. Over the past two years the Metropolitan Council has had two (as one colorful MC member described them) “Come to Jesus” meetings with the Metropolitan concerning his actions/inaction. The Synod, according to sources close to the Synod, had already had more than that number.

And now , yet another. The question that faced the Synod, this time, was not just +Jonah’s poor decisions, for which he offered constant denials, and when confronted, the constant excuse of “lack of training” and “lack of experience”, but rather, his constant refusal to perceive any concerns, or even any restrictions on his actions, apart from his own desires.

For example: in Lent 2009 the Metropolitan made controversial comments concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Dallas during a Sunday of Orthodoxy service. The comments attracted world-wide attention via YouTube, and severely damaged OCA-Constantinople relations, to the point the new Metropolitan’s planned trip to Istanbul was cancelled, OCA participation in the then-upcoming Episcopal Assembly was curtailed, and the OCA forced to apologize for the remarks.

When asked to explain why he did such a thing the Metropolitan denied he said anything untoward, and when challenged, stated he was misunderstood and that what was heard was not what he intended. And yet, in fact, it was what was exactly what he intended. It only later emerged that the Metropolitan had been repeatedly warned by senior advisors in the OCA not to make those specific remarks for fear of precisely what did, in fact, happen. He had his agenda and would not be deterred.

And so, too, with his refusal to even visit Syosset during much of 2009 -2010, his plans for moving to DC, his plans for the DC monastery,  the unilateral signing of the Manhattan declaration, etc., etc.,etc.

The growing fear among the governing bodies of the OCA was that +Jonah would not change – but that he could not change. And that was not sustainable.

The Synod Decides

Thus the Synod gathered in Santa Fe on Monday, February 21st, at a luxury spa resort hotel chosen by the Metropolitan (La Fonda, overlooking the Plaza) to decide Garklav’s fate, and that of +Jonah, and beyond them, the fate of the OCA. +Jonah was well aware his Metropolitanate was in serious trouble as he flew to Santa Fe. Last week at the Diocese of the South’s Pastoral Conference in Mississippi the Metropolitan spoke openly to the assembled clergy and laity that “a small group” was seeking to “replace” him.*

That “small group” turned out to be the Synod of the OCA.

-Mark Stokoe


  1. What was wrong with his comments about the EP+ Was he lying? This report makes it seem that His Beatitude was instigating “Red Dawn” …

  2. George Michalopulos :

    His Beatitude’s remarks in Dallas of 2009 were in response to the scandalous attack (I wouldn’t call it a “speech”) given by Rev Lambrianides just a month earlier at Holy Cross. As leader of the local Church in America, +Jonah had no choice but to defend its integrity. As for the Phanar, it has done nothing in the interim to soothethe waters or take a humble attitude re the jurisdictions in America.

    • george the spin doctor extraordinaire.
      Archimandrite was brilliant.

      • Dear Angela

        Archimandrite is a bigoted racist who makes me embarrassed to be Greek.


        • For someone who is so unimportant heading a Church so insignificant, it is amazing how way off in Greece they have their ear to the ground and run off to romfea.com (which was one of the first to start on this topic) and pay such close and rapt attention to what is new with Met. Jonah and the OCA. Me thinks the Phanar doth protest too much on how “inconsequential” the OCA is.

          On the Phanar’s propoganda minister, I notice how he was subdued someone but unrepentent at the Hellenism thing at St. Vlad’s.

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Angela, where were you when the Phanar took out +Iakovos? I suppose that was okie-dokie with you. As for my “spin,” what exactly did HB say in Dallas that was incorrect?

  3. Guys: I think it best to be careful with any commentary until the OCA makes a statement. Having said that, this is deeper than any speech in Dallas.

  4. Nick – I’ve made a mental note to myself not to speculate. But I don’t think this is going away. And, I don’t think this has anything to do with “bad tempers” –

    • Agreed.

      • George Michalopulos :

        I’m gonna speculate however: first of all this posting by Stokoe (who I think has done admirable work in the past) shows a lot of care and effort. It was crafted and wasn’t just rushed off, so it shows such pre-judgment on behalf of the Holy Synod.

        Second, just because the Holy Synod has the right to do what it did, doesn’t mean that it was right for them to do it. I think they (and the Metropolitan Council and Syosset) GREATLY overestimate their popularity among the faithful.

        Third, maybe in the internal working of the Holy Synod things weren’t always smooth sailing, the fact remains that +Jonah’s overall vision for the Church –and this includes the idea of moving to DC, a monastery there, etc.

        • Ironically – do you think it is possible that Met. Jonah+ was viewed as being too “soft” in keeping the OCA autocephalous?

          • precisely. +Jonah offended his base.

          • OR, it could be just what the OCA website says it is, and it is a group of others who have a problem with convert americans being the base of an Autocephalous Orthodox Church and have therefore orchestrated a smear campaign against His Beatitute in order to divide that base. This way, those others won’t have to stand up against their nominal orthodox politicans, they can continue to promote themselves as the historical orthodox par excellence, and they won’t ruffle the feathers of the others by forcing them to be part of a Church that puts priority on infanticide over global warming.

            Just a hunch….

  5. My impression of OCAnews.com (from occasionally perusing articles and comments there) is that they’ve always been displeased with His Beatitude. I can’t help but wonder at the accuracy of this “article” as it reads more like an editorial. Honestly, I think a fair number of OCA folks would like to see the Chancery moved to DC, the Diocese reorganized, and some of the other “tyrannical” things Met. Jonah wanted to do.

    • OCA press release:
      Holy Synod Announces Changes

      Posted 02/25

      SYOSSET, NY [OCA] — From February 22-24, 2011, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America participated in a retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His Beatitude, Metropolitan JONAH led the hierarchs in a review of matters affecting the life of the Orthodox Church in America, including the OCA strategic plan, preparations for the upcoming Assembly of Bishops and plans for the 16th All American Council in Seattle.

      During their retreat, His Beatitude presented a request to the Holy Synod for a time of personal retreat and spiritual renewal. The Holy Synod granted His Beatitude’s request for a period of 60 days and appointed the senior Hierarch, His Eminence, Archbishop NATHANIEL, of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate to assist in the temporary administration of the OCA during His Beatitude’s retreat.

      As an additional means of assistance to His Beatitude, the Holy Synod relieved him from his responsibilities as Locum Tenens for the dioceses of the South and of the Midwest. The Holy Synod appointed Bishop NIKON as Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South, with Bishop MARK of Baltimore continuing as Administrator. The Holy Synod also appointed Bishop TIKHON Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the Midwest with Bishop-elect Archimandrite MATTHIAS continuing as Administrator.

      In other matters, the Holy Synod accepted the resignation of Archpriest Alexander Garklavs as Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America and appointed His Grace, Bishop MELCHISEDEK of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania as interim Chancellor.

      At the conclusion of their retreat, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops expressed their joy at the upcoming Bright Week consecration of Archimandrite MATTHIAS as Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest. The consecration will take place over the weekend of April 29 to May 1 and will be concelebrated by His Beatitude, Metropolitan JONAH, the hierarchs of the OCA and other guests.

      The Holy Synod also bestowed it’s pastoral blessing on the clergy and faithful of the OCA and wished them a profitable season of prayer and repentance during the season of Great Lent.

      • George Michalopulos :

        An example of collateral damage: Garklavs should have gone to +Jonah first or at least given him a heads-up. He didn’t and now he’s out. Irony, huh?

  6. What makes me doubt Metropolitan Jonah’s capacity as a shepherd the most is he seeming obsessive desire to ignore the failings of the previous administration and even restore the folks who ignored and aided these problems to power. I am sorry this is not forgiveness, repentance or humility. It is a deception. Its also just stupid. What Jonah peddles is not forgiveness but pride. I also believe that the questions about whether or not +Jonah supported American Autocephaly are legitimate.

    All us who have been here want the new bishop or the primate to be THE ONE who changes the face of American Orthodoxy and unites us. But time and again, bishops usually just disappoint and depress you.

    Harry Coin is proven right again. We need those married empty nester priests in the episcopacy more than ever.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Andrew, usually I agree with you 100% of the time. I must respectfully disagree. I know Fr Fester, he’s not the monster that Stokoe makes him out to be. At worst, +Jonah showed a lack of judgment or politcal adeptness. Sometimes it’s good to throw people under the bus, Kondratick should have been. Perhaps he was a little “soft” at times re the OCA’s autocphaly; I myself brought this up to him personally, that it would be disastrous to “re-imagine” autocephaly. He actually agreed. I guess you could say that he was never as di-hard in his verbiage re autocephaly as many of would have likec but autocephaly was never on the table in the first place, nor could it have been, even had wanted it to be.

      Having said that, everything else that +Jonah wanted for the OCA was visiionary and breathtakingly correct. Ryan is right, Stokoe’s “newsstory” is a carefully crafted editorial worked out hours or days in advance with those who think the sun rises and sets in Syosset.

      • Perhaps he was a little “soft” at times re the OCA’s autocphaly; I myself brought this up to him personally, that it would be disastrous to “re-imagine” autocephaly. He actually agreed. I guess you could say that he was never as di-hard in his verbiage re autocephaly as many of would have likec but autocephaly was never on the table in the first place, nor could it have been, even had wanted it to be.

        George, are you taking about Met. Jonah?

  7. Andrew – I think the person who coined the phrase, “Be the change you want to see” hit it right on the target. Who say’s we wait on the Bishops, and only the Bishops do “make the change?”

    Scapegoats all over the place today.

  8. Michael Bauman :

    I am sad–deeply sad. Whatever the reality of the situation (most likely its everyone at fault), it is not good.

    Pride, hedonism and self-will. The center does not hold because we focus on a false center (our own desires) rather than on Jesus Christ.

    The jurisdiction or the country does not matter. “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one to his own way”

    I would say Nick that we are proving each day that we are not conciliar and have no intention of being.

    I am graced to be under a good bishop who protects us and guides us. If +Melchizdek is of the same faith and character, the center of the country is indeed the best place to be for the Orthodox.

  9. Here we see the dangers of jumping on the ‘Axios!’ bandwagon without knowing personally for sure why saying so is a good idea.

    People hear from pastors the dangers of that come from saying bad things about people, lest they be untrue in some way or unhelpful.

    Likewise it’s a big mistake to say something about a person’s worthiness (what ‘Axios!’ means) while in fact having no seerious idea whether it’s true or not. We act as if, somehow, it’s the same as a cheer for a favored sports team. It’s just as big a miss from the target (aka ‘sin’) to say something good about a person when we have no idea as it is to say something wrong when having no idea.

    It the effete language of some in the church ‘ shouting ‘Axios!’ at an ordination of a person to this or that clergy rank is not to be understood as an aspirational activity, though it too often is.’

    • George Michalopulos :

      Harry, I still say that +Jonah is “Axios!” We’re all reacting to the spin of people who’ve always had it in for HB and his audacious vision for the the American Church. The further I get from the Hudson River the clearer I see things.

      • George, while there are so many secrets and mirrors upon mirrors in the puzzle houses of many of the ordained young never married (and those special friends ordained who ought to have never been married…), the view from 30,000 ft seems that as those old guard gained ground with HB, HB lost ground. That, and demonstrating by choices all see that not keeping to agreements regarding how things are to be done seems rather un-monkish.

  10. Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

    I know from what ocanews.org has posted about the situation at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC, where I serve, that its reporting can be wildly off the mark. I suspect that’s the case now. The Jonah depicted in these recent ocanews.org posts isn’t the Jonah I’ve known for the past two years. The Jonah I’ve known is the kindest, least pretentious, most approachable, and most courageous bishop I’ve ever met. He is patient, tolerant, and forgiving. I have differed with him publicly on three occasions, and he has never held it against me. In fact, he’s been nothing but encouraging to me.

    The OCA’s press release fits much better with the man I know. Since ascending the throne, he has been run ragged with serious problems, not of his making, at all levels — the parish level, the diocesan level, the OCA level, the SCOBA/EA level, and the international level. No wonder he needs a break. God bless him.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Deacon, I couldn’t agree with you more. +Jonah is presently the ONLY bishop in North America who has the vision to go forward. A lot of what Stokoe writes in this essay is editorial, pure and simple. It takes me weeks to put out just one of my essays (addmittedly, I have a day job, but the point still stands).

      In a lot of the precincts of the OCA administration, I continue to pick up a grovelling attitude, especially from the Old Guard. I sense this in Stokoe’s editorial as well. At present I’m at work and shouldn’t even be on the internet, but I plan on dissecting this affair and a lot of the reportage sometime tomorrow on my blog (shameless plug: http://www.monomakhos.com).

      Bottom line: mistakes were made (I can’t defend the attempted rehabilitation of Kondratick) but we’re dealing with conflicting visions: an ethnocentrice East Coast mentality versus a robust Evangelistic vision that exists in the South.

      • George, you know in Mark’s writing there can be found many things, but I don’t know that ‘grovelling’ is in evidence anywhere.

        • Geo Michalopulos :

          Harry, example:

          “For example: in Lent 2009 the Metropolitan made controversial comments concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Dallas…The comments attracted world-wide attention via YouTube, and severely damaged OCA-Constantinople relations…”

          I think if we’re being honest, we would say that “OCA-Constantinople relations” were always in the dumpster. The facts are that it was never in the cards for the OCA to be invited to any Chambesy-contrived Episcopal Assembly. It was only because Archbishop +Demetrios defied the EP and invited the OCA that the OCA was admitted. (And let us not forget that +Demetrios almost lost his job over that.)

          Another example? “It only later emerged that the Metropolitan had been repeatedly warned by senior advisors in the OCA not to make these specific remarks…”

          Sorry Harry, I sense Stokoe was channeling the grovelling spirit of the Bureaucrats of Syosset who have a major inferiority complex regarding the status of their own Church. I stand by what I said. +Jonah had every right to defend the integrity of the Americian Church and its mission here in America, especially in light of the scandalous speech given by Lambrianides. In the interim, Lambrianides’ Phanariote triumphalism was proven to be the official party line when the EP was in America and gave a speech describing the history of Orthodoxy in America and didn’t even mention the existence of the Russian-American mission but instead waxed poetic about the New Smyrna colony which went extinct. If these aren’t examples of mala fides I don’t know what is.

          (Later, I’ll dig up several quotes from from some of these people in other contexts who never hesitates to apologize for the existence of the OCA.)

          • George: In your zeal for the OCA (which I share) and in your zeal for Jonah (which I used to share) you have overlooked the most important thing: the loss of the very vision for which you praise him.

            Both before and after the Episcopal Assembly (“EA”), he was making rounds between the various non-EP jurisdictions lobbying for a seat on the Executive Committee (“EC”). He was extremely upset after the EA that he would not be on the EC. In my view and observations, this became an increasingly alarming obsession. Shortly after the EA, he published a paper in which he subtly implied that a solution had to be found and, reading between the lines, that autocephaly have to be re-thought. At the Canadian Diocesan Assembly, his speech went further, suggesting that the recent protocols on autocephaly made the OCA a “process” still on-going and that it needed to somehow be fitted into the recent protocols. There was an implication to me in that speech that we were not really autocephalous but in the process of becoming autocephalous and, if necessary, giving up the autocephaly in process was certainly not an unviable option.

            I was a delegate to the Midwest Diocesan Assembly in Minneapolis. When he got up to speak, he opened the laptop that was on the podium. There was some computer problem that he mumbled about. He closed the laptop and began to ad lib. It was about as disjointed an ad lib as Obama’s when his teleprompter goes on the blink. I did not take notes, nor did I record what he said, but the speech is still vivid in my mind.

            What he said was that HE had to get on the EC and that HE would not be left out of the process. He said that several alternatives were on the table, under discussion and under negotiation (the reference to negotiation meant clearly to me Moscow). He explicitly indicated that autonomy under Moscow was not off the table and could be a reasonable alternative. (Parenthtically, I might add that I did not know how that would change things because Justinian would certainly not give up his seat on the EC in favor of Jonah the autonomous or why would Jonah the autonomous take precedents over Hilarion the autonomous if Justinian would step aside.) I was dumbfounded that the obsession with being on the EC would have gone so far as to be in negotiations on trading autocephaly for autonomy. But, as we all know, obessions can severly cloud clear thinking.

            Most delegates appeared to me to be dumbfounded as well. Many of them had not followed his written or verbal comments over the summer on this subject as I had. I can tell you that the hallway conversations by and between many delegates bordered on “Has he lost his mind”.

            Through back channels, it came to my attention that the Synod was dumbfounded as well and that he was continuing to push this idea of negotiating away autocephaly for autonomy in the hope of a seat on the EC. Then came his recent “uninvited” third trip to Moscow where Moscow reported he was in private meetings with Pat. Kirill for, I believe, two days. The purpose of those meetings could only mean one thing.

            Nothing of what I have said in this post is derived from Mark Stokoe or other similar persons. It has come from my own observations or, in the case of the Synod’s displeasure after the Midwest Assembly, through non-OCA back channels in whom I have trust and who have no stake in this matter.

            Having said the above, it did not surprise me that the Synod did what it did to give him some time off for reflection before he, on his own, gave away not only the kitchen sink but the whole house or created a horrendous schism within the OCA.

            George, giving up autocephaly in exchange for autonomy for the hope of getting a seat on the EC is not “visionary”. It is suicidal. If (big IF) the Chambesy process is successful and we get a unified autocephalous Church here, we would all give up autocephaly of the OCA and become part of the unified Church. That is what Jonah originally meant by “kenotic” to which Fr. Arey expressed extreme surprise.

            However, to give it up now, and to have the Chambesy process fail, would condemn us as a Moscow dependency for the indefinite future and that is just plain insanity!

            P.S. I have always been leary of “visionaries” in most contexts. Someone, whose name presently escapes me, once said; “Visionary people are visionary partly because of the very great many things they don’t see.”

          • Excellent points Nick! Thank you for providing this first-hand account of the situation and Met. Jonah’s view on this. I was very troubled to hear him hint at giving up OCA’s autocephaly when he talked about the situation. It did not make any sense why he was bringing that up so early in the process and speaking on behalf of the entire OCA without any discussions or involvement of the Synod and the Church at large. Now that I have read your comments and analysis, it turns out my suspicions were justified and the situation seems worse than we could have imagined. I really hope the OCA does not go down this road because it will lead to disaster, chaos, and even a possible schism, God forbid!

          • Not to mention that the Smyrna colony was populated by uniates-there is only one recorded Orhtodox man (married to a uniate) in the whole colony. The priest who served it was a Spanish Latin rite priest who restored the Vatican’s organization in Florida. Extinct and forgotten, until it seems the GOARCH had to find something to counter St. Herman and his mission.

            And it was preceded by the family of Philip Ludwell III, who converted in 1734 in London and was given special permission by the Holy Synod of Russia to bring the Eucharist back with him to Virginia. Btw, his grandfather was the governor of the Carolinas, his mother is buried in the church of Jamestown, and he was the one who gave George Washingtion his commission in the army.

          • Geo Michalopulos :

            Nick, thank you for bringing this up. As for my “zeal for the OCA,” your bringing this up allows me to clarify one important thing. I am not “zealous” for the OCA (justifiably so). What I am zealous for is good and proper order in the Church. The Holy Spirit saw fit to send Russian monks to evangezlize this land, then create an archdiocese. He further saw fit to have the Mother Church of this land grant its Daugher autocephaly. As an American, I would never consider going to Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, or wherever and set about to establish an English speaking jurisdiction.

            Let us not forget that this latest kerfuffle is because of jurisdictional chaos. Look around at these comments: +Jonah was “too harsh” in proclaiming American independence or he was “too soft” in “reminagining autocephaly.” Which is it? (Rhetorical question.) The fact that he did both was because he had a dozen audiences listening. The Archbishop of Athens doesn’t have this problem, nor any other other patriarchs. They got only one jurisdiction within their lands.

        • Geo Michalopulos :

          Nick, I too was not enthusiastic about some of HB’s musings on this front. However, the fact that he spoke in this fashion showed that he was not a triumphalist and open to unity. This gives the lie to those who would say that he was antagonistic to other jurisdictions, doesn’t it?

          • George: I think that his comments were not “musings”. He was serious and prepared to give away the house. It is interesting that Bishop Melchizedek accompanied him. I think he was sent by the Synod as their eyes and ears as to what HB was trying to do in Moscow. Obviously he has a level of support in the Synod in that they made him the temporary Chancellor.

            However, the fact that he spoke in this fashion showed that he was not a triumphalist and open to unity.

            No, it shows a lack of maturity and understanding of the Byzantine nature of this whole Chambesy thing. He acted non-triumphalist and open to unity when he gave his “kenosis” speech. That was wonderful. But when he took it to the next step, of actually contemplating giving up autocephaly for a seat on the Executive Committee he showed a level of panic (and I might add ego to the equation) that was incomprehsible to me.

            George, think about it without pre-conceived blinders. Think about the ramifications. You and I both agree that this Episcopal Assembly is going no where. Why go to Moscow NOW to negotiate away autocephaly? If the EA fails, and we are now for the forseeable future once again a dependency of Moscow, that would be a disaster. History would judge his actions in that regard as a serious blunder from the OCA perspective.

            I think the press release on this last Chambesy meeting issued by Moscow is telling. They could not agree on autocephaly or the diptychs. Moscow brought this process back to square one. One interesting thing is that Met. Amphilochios of Serbia, when he addressed the Chambesy gathering at the beginning on February 22 said, or implied, that all of the other things that have presumably been settled regarding the agenda (apart from autocephaly and the diptychs) are open to further dialouge. He also suggested that the “pre-conditions” to even calling the Council are still up in the air and are not settled.

            If Jonah would sit still and let Moscow, Serbia and others play Byzantine politics with the EP, to which they are better adapted, things would be better. That would be wise and mature. Jonah’s only agenda, I thought, is to have an autocephalous American Church. That I grant and that is all you and I desire. But he is playing with Byzantine heavy wieghts and he is out of his league. We have to trust Moscow, Serbia and some others in this game. None of the Slavic jurisdictions will give up their dependencies to an autonomous or semi-autonomous or non-autonomous American Orthodox Church under the EP. If Jonah does not understand that, then he is out of his league. If he does understand that, then ego has come into play. I make no comment on which.

            Reflect. I am getting tired of hearing about the Old World Partriachates as if they were of one mind and are acting as one monolithic block. They are not. This last Chambesy gathering confirms that. They are divided. They are not of one mind. Some are pushing for a Council and some are stalling. “Premudrost” or in English “Wisdom” is what we need here while they are in the midst of their Byzantine intrigue. Panic and Ego are not what we need. HB needs time to reflect.

          • Geo Michalopulos :

            Nick, I think that broadly you are right. But I’ve got the experience of actually speaking with HB about autocephaly on more than one occasion. To me and the others who were present, he was emphatic that autocephaly was not on the table. Admittedly, does “reimagining autocephaly” have room for a kenotic emptying of the OCA into a “greater autocephaly”? Yes. It can also be negative, I agree. Regardless, we had no reason to suspect otherwise. As to whether he was saying these things to “negotiate” a seat on the ExComm of the EA, I have no way of knowing and until you brought it up, could’ve cared less. We all know that the EA is going nowhere fast. We also know that the Phanar played it too clever by half in creating the EA assembly in the first place. First, in their belief that they could pull it off without the OCA in it, and second, without thinking that +Demetrios would undermine them (God bless him for that).

            If anything, what this all tells me is that these Byzantine games are deleterious to our salvation (bishops included) and they should be left aside. Instead, we should just preach the Gospel. The rest will take care of itself.

    • John Gilluly :

      Yes, Deacon Brian, that’s it exactly, the man I’ve known for 10 years. Out here on the West Coast it’s been pretty much everyone’s experience too. Once you get to know Bishop Jonah you grow to love him. He started his small monastery with 4 and now they don’t have room for 40. I think he traveled 30,000 miles a year in his car visiting churches, giving relief to priests and parishes, and being a father-confessor for hundreds. Young people especially are drawn to him.

      At the end of the day that should mean something, yes? A person’s true character shining through.

      The interesting thing is this – if what I say is true and what you say is true – because this is the man we know – and this is, has been, and continues to be – our consistent, ongoing experience of his character – an outlook acquired by personal interaction, not by hearsay – not something theoretical, not presumed, not supposed – -then what does this say about the incredibly detailed and litigious description of his actions by the reporter and his detractors?

      You can’t have it both ways. It’s either him or them, and it sounds to me like their descriptions of +Jonah are descriptions of themselves and the axe they wish to grind – couched in a carefully wrought slight-of-hand in which the victim is cast as the victimizer. I’ve never known +Jonah to be a mixed bag. What you see is what you get.

      The other thing about writing propaganda is that those who do it are really good at it. Propaganda is one thing. Journalism is another. Propaganda is to journalism what Fox News is to the Christian Science Monitor. Playing to emotions ‘sells’. A good propagandist can get an audience worked up over almost anything because they mix emotions with words, subjective content with images, and disguise personal opinions as facts.

      If one was to re-read Mr. Stokoe’s article with the intent of answering: “What is he trying to tell me?” The answer is clear. “Metropolitan Jonah is a bungling idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing, defies authority, and is set to ruin the church. He should be stopped. ”

      That’s not the guy I know. But maybe Mark does. There’s a mirror in his office where he can look him right in the eye.

      • Michael Bauman :

        I’m glad to hear from someone who knows +Jonah. I know folks who know him: my brother, a fellow parishoner and friend who is a God son of +Jonah. They speak highly of +Jonah.

        • Geo Michalopulos :

          Michael, John, that’s the big disconnect for me as well. I’ve known +Jonah for about 2 years now. The man is the soul of humility as well as being a regular guy that you can joike around with. I know I have my faults, but being in the profession I’m in in which my life is at risk, I’ve developed a very acute sense of sizing up people within a few minutes. Yes, I become biased, and hard-nosed, and it’s hard for me to shake a first iimpression, which is quite possibly to the detriment of my salvation. Having said that, I know people who know +Jonah and known people who know people who know him as well. His record as abbott in Manton was impeccable. As Metropolitan he’s become a veritable rock star of Orthodoxy. Sure, he’s made missteps but nobody I know has said that he was driven to fits of dischord, rage, or criminality. It’s just not in him. Even if you read Stokoe’s account, he’s very careful to label his bill of particulars against +Jonah with weasel-words about “attitude” and “process” and “ineptness” and his monastic prejudices, with a good bit of Russophobia thrown in for good measure. These are important distinctions. They paint a broad picture but not necessarily an accurate one.

          If I may, if the Holy Synod had something of a serious nature on +Jonah, they should have asked him to resign right then and there and if he refused, they should have resigned out of principle. They didn’t. This means that anger and bitterness may certainly have brought some of them to this point, but that’s not enough in and of itself to remove a bishop, let alone a primate. The fact that Stokoe’s latest report indicates that +Jonah is fighting back and that the Holy Synod seems to have caved in to him (doubtful in my view) indicates to me that the original report was mostly agenda-driven and that the facts that were known were slanted in such a way as to paint HB in as bad a light as possible.

          Regardless, the Holy Synod is going to have to come to the point where they either ask Stokoe to recant or repudiate his report in a signed statement to that effect. If they don’t then OCAnews will continue to be viewed as their spokesman and they will be tarred by association. especially if his reportage gets any more hysterical.

          As for me, I will stand by my own analysis: assuming that he did not make any of this up, we have to ask why he did not have the courage to source his notes. Hence my hunch that he’s carrying water for one or more bishops. If a bishop, clergyman or bureaucrat came to me and asked me to write something of this nature, I’d tell him: “do it yourself and sign your name to it. I’m not your lackey.”

          • John Gilluly :

            George, I read your comments and I think they are germane. It’s almost as if Stokoe has a hidden video-camera following t he metropolitan around from city to city – even room to room – except the ‘Lens’ is not Sony, it’s subjective Stokoe. So who’s recording all the blow-by-blow stats that go into Stokoe’s creep caster? A back-stabbing staff member par excellence, someone who raises the term “creep” to new heights, and someone who has a lot to lose if Metropolitan Jonah sticks around.

            So you fill in the blanks.

            Stokoe should get his conscience clear on this one as he goes in for the kill. Who’s killing whom? Even the most jaded journalist should know when he’s being played by darker forces far smarter than himself. But that’s evil and maybe he’s too enlightened to consider that. They always make sure you wake up after the fact, or after you’ve been tempted to go over the edge of the brink.

            Thus far, Stokoe and crew have proven clever at ripping people to shreds and have the long teeth to prove it (Go get em tiger?). But can they build anyone up? I don’t think so.

            If you’ve been around long enough, you learn that what you see at first is usually what you get. Stokoe could give Shakespeare’s Iago (King Lear) a run for his money.

        • Geo Michalopulos :

          John, it appears that we now know that there was a carefully planned conspiracy to get rid of HB, HB found out about it, confiscated the e-mails, knows where the bodies are buried (out West at least) and more heads are going to roll. In other words, as Mark Twain said, the rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

  11. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Is Chambesy a backdrop to the troubles? It really is the wrong time for a move like this, a point that ought to be apparent to everyone on both sides of the divide. So why now? Does Chambesy play a role in the decision somehow?

    • Father and fellow readers, I know we have some different opinions on this one but I think we can all agree that the last thing we need right now is chaos and confusion. Chaos and confusion can be exploited by all types of folks around the world looking to impose a solution on America. We cannot have an old world solution to this problem nor can church governance become similar to those found in banana republics.

      • Andrew: I agree with you. But, I think we are all speculating. I think we need the dust to settle and maybe more facts will be developed in the next few days. I would hope that Met. Jonah would himself issue a press realease calming and clarifying the situation.

    • Fr. Hans: It has everything to do with Chambesy. See my post at

      • Though all rights Met. Jonah should be on the executive committee (and I’m rather disappointed that no OCA chairs a committee), to back off in any way from autocephaly to secure a seat on the EC makes absolutely no sense.

        The OCA is listed on the EA as a canonical jurisdiction, but without any reference to its “Mother Church.” One can be a little pregnant only so long.

  12. The writer of the blog that supposedly came out with this story taken from the Greek “source” claims this is a cover up by the OCA. Not on the blog but on their Facebook page. So this is either a cover-up or, IMHO, another piece in control for the North American throne. Or I could be way off base as I usuall am. …

  13. I believe it all started when Met. Jonah said to Old World bishops: “Hands Off the American Church.” Lack of love and humility has plagued the Church since Apostolic times and it reached a climax in 1054 with the Great Schism. Admonition conquers but it does not convince when it lacks love.

  14. Hi everyone,

    Let me just pass along a few personal observations…

    First of all Dcn Brian, I’m thrilled to hear your comments about the Metropolitan, there’s nothing like serving with someone on the altar to really show you what he’s like. That’s great to hear. It confirms my own impressions.

    Next, with regard to some of the personal criticism – look folks, we knew what we were getting, or should have known. Does His Beatitude have 20 years of senior management experience and a degree from the Wharton School, not exactly. Has he ever run an organization larger than his little monastery…no. Has he made mistakes, you bet (but most people who are changing organizations do). Has his thinking been at times disjointed…yes. Has he managed to build a coalition around his vision. No. Sounds like a lot of the same mistakes I made early in my career…all fixable.

    With regard to Chambesy and the whole EA process…I’d personally suggest that we cut the man some slack. This was a “Gordian knot” if there ever was one, and the poor man was swimming with sharks…the Greeks, the Phanar, Moscow, double dealing and forked tongue speaking Englewood….a little minnow with the power to stop the entire parade.

    Personally, I think he conducted himself with a lot of grace and humility. It’s not what I would have done, I’ll guarantee you that…but it was honorable and Christ-like. Can we ask for more?

    Finally, I’m looking at this from another vantage point. This whole episode is proving, once again (removal of Met. Herman and Bp Nikolai were two previous examples) that the OCA is the ONLY functioning diocesan based Orthodox church on this continent. To me, it’s like watching a long dormant engine coming to life…choking, smoking coughing…but turning over nevertheless.

    Let’s not expect the impossible from our hierarchs in the OCA. They are swimming upstream, and have a long legacy of being “lapdogs” to the other Orthodox on this continent…that doesn’t change overnight.

    But…we ARE seeing signs of life, which is encouraging. The Holy Synod took action…GREAT! It was done in a very pastoral way, from what I can see…equally GREAT. And there is room for the man to come back…FANTASTIC!

    I see a lot of wisdom in what we have just witnessed. Further, I see signs of a LIVE church.

    If His Beatitude can use this “time out” to reflect on many of the (very precise) criticisms enumerated by you all above…and work out a plan to fix them…he can come back stronger than ever. That door appears to be open.

    I, for one, have been praying for this man every single day since his enthronement. I still believe he is the right man, at the right place, at the right time…with the tools to get the job done. I also think the man is divinely inspired. But even Churchill had setbacks..that usually means you are doing something.

    And if I could give one word of advice to our metropolitan, it would be the same advice Abp Nathaniel has given us at St Andrew House for years…”Never take criticism from someone who does not love you.”

    In any case, it also proves once again that “God definitely has a sense of humor!”

    Best Regards,

    PS Dcn Brian – please pass along our heartfelt concern for the metropolitan when you see him on Sunday. He needs to know who his friends are right now! He’s down, but he’s not OUT. Time to roll up his sleeves.

    PS PS and, just for the record, I do NOT consider His Beatitude’s comments about the ecumenical patriarch in Dallas to be one his mistakes. His only error there was not going FAR ENOUGH.

    • From what I’ve read about the entire situation, His Beatitude stated a few times that the OCA should prepared to “die” in order for Christ’s Church or a united, Autocephalous Orthodox Church to live. I think perhaps this is what he was trying to do, if I am not mistaken. Perhaps, it’s not as important to him to have the “red, white, and blue” Orthodox Church as it is to have the True Church in North America – I mean, being a monk and all?? Being broken, sinful, and selfish, I want a clear American Orthodox Church to take the lead. But who am I to say anything?

      Having said this, I think Dean hit to nail on the head. Who could have done better? I’m sure all of us sitting in the “cheap seats” believe we could have. Where I think His Beatitude made his mistake, or showed his naiveté was in believing he could build a united church with other jurisdictions who put their national colors in front of the True Church and think that the result would be anything close to a missionary, Christian Church. Perhaps this was why he insisted in being on the EA so strongly in order to help lead or steer the “diverse Church” in the right direction? And in the end, the fact that he had to obssess over it proves the above, which is why I agree with Nick that he shouldn’t have been so stress about it because quite frankly, the EA doesn’t have any credibility in North America. My apologies if I have offended anyone, or unjustifiably judged, or stereotyped – but I’ve grown up in the Church. I, for one, know what I’ve been through and I know what “my people” prioritize. It isn’t a unified Orthodox Church that puts Christ first. So what’s the answer? Well it’s like St. Paul first, and then Father Tom Hopko wrote in his letter second, about unity: We work on our own, personal unity with Christ first and then all others are saved around us. OR, we accept the fact that, from the Church of Corinth on that certain Church’s are disorganized so that the “approved ones may be made manifest among” us.

      In the end. He’s a Hierarch, we are part of the Body, we have a voice and should voice it, but every single hierarchical movement we do not agree with isn’t grounds for his removal, and it certaintly isn’t worth having his name being run through the freaking dirt. There’s a point where we show obedience if the Hierarch isn’t breaking the canons. And His Beatitude isn’t breaking the canons or being outrageous in putting Christ before nationalism even if it’s something I do not agree with. And he certainly doesn’t have a problem with prioritizing theological issues manifested in the political scene. And if he’s said anything outrageous, it isn’t nearly as close as likening Barack Obama to Alexander the Great – IMHO.

      He may in fact be “one of the approved ones” being manifested right before our eyes.

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Dean, forgive all the replies but I’m able to post freely now. I was just wondering, does the Holy Synod now realize that they are front and center on all things? Not that that’s a bad thing, in fact it’s a good thing, but from now on they’re going to have to handle the problems that come forward. +Jonah can just sit back and say “I’m just one bishop, what do you want from me?” I’m all in favor of this but I’m curious if they understand the full implications of their actions. This is not exactly what I would call “collateral damage” but it is an example of “unintended consequences.” They’re now leaders, they better start acting like it.

        Let me give you an example of collateral damage that is entirely possible: the Syosset Set thinks that they are very popular among Orthodox in America. That’s a stretch, but what if the money dries up? The irony here is that the far-sighted vision of +Jonah for the future of Orthodoxy in America may come to fruition after all. Including the selling of Syosset to pay the bills. But that’s negative and I don’t want to dwell on the negative. Let’s concentrate on the positive aspects of +Jonah’s vision:

        1. a monastery in Washington. What’s wrong with that?
        2. the Archbishop of Washington living in Washington. What’s wrong with that?
        3. closer relations with the ROC. What’s wrong with that?
        4. engaging the culture. What’s wrong with that?
        5. more dioceses. What’s wrong with that?

        Certainly there are others.

        Since I’m on a roll, I’ll compare what happened to +Jonah with the ouster of +Iakovos. I think that all reasonable people can agree that that was a disaster of the first magnitude. It was in 1996. It’s now 2011. We’ve lost 15 years –that’s half a generation. The only reason this latest escapade isn’t nearly as cataclysmic is because cooler heads prevailed and he’s still Archbishop of Washington. (Plus the fact that this was done by an American church to an American bishop instead of by Turkish citizens to an American bishop is somewhat of a sop I suppose.) Unfortunately, like the ouster of +Iakovos and the shenanigans done by +Philip two years ago, this cannot have a beneficial effect on the Church. Still, as Joseph told his brothers: “what you intended for evil, the Lord has used for good.”

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      As usual, Dean, you are right on the mark. I like especially your analogy Churchill. He had many ups and downs but even in exile, he was right on the mark. Who did they call when the bullets started flying? That’s why I think HB has a future in American Orthodoxy. Name me one bishop in ANY jurisdiction (the OCA included) who has any vision at all?

      Personally, I think this is cultural. Forgive me for saying this, but the closer one gets to the East Coast the more alienated he feels from the vibrancy that’s going on in “Flyover Country.” Don’t believe me? Then howcome within five miles of my house six new megachurches have sprung up in no time at all? Do I agree with their theology? No. Do I agree with their ecclesiology? No. But these people are starved for Christ, otherwise they wouldn’t dig deep in their pockets (ever hear of “tithing”?) and be building these gigantic edifices. And I forgot to add: these churches tithe to the poor in their localities. And endow missionaries to go to Lord-knows-where? Where exactly in Lambrianides’ speech was this vision enunciated? It was in +Jonah’s inaugural speech.

      Unlike other correspondents who weren’t at the Holy Synod meeting, I can’t say that mistakes weren’t made, by all concerned. However I have a feeling that after 2 months, the Holy Synod is going to a good look around and notice that the dearth of vision is probably as parlous in the OCA sans +Jonah as it is in the other jurisdictions?

      We’ll see. In the meantime, Lord have mercy.

  15. Dear Macedonia74,

    Maybe that’s not dolmathes we smell in our future after all!


    Seriously….very VERY well put.

    “I know what “my people” prioritize” too….and it’s much the same as what “your people” prioritize.

    We all need to go back and read St. Gregory Palamas. When we elevate anything else to the center of the church, language, ethnicity, philosophy….then we have REMOVED Christ from the center of the church, and have become heretics.

    I could not agree more…the hierarchs are simply part of the Body, as are we…the royal priesthood. When they err, it is our job to assist them, correct them – just as it is their job to do the same when we err. It’s a beautiful symphony.

    Best Regards,

    PS we need to meet at the local kaffeneion sometime! I’ll bring ISA!

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Dean, you do realize that the word dolmathes is Turkish, don’t you? Now that our Greek-American bishops are taking Turkish citizenship your irony is squared. 🙂

  16. Dean – I am happy you mentioend St. Gregory Palamas. He is definitely one Saint I see as a “unifier” especially the Balkan people, at least Christ through him.

    Dolmathes in our future wouldn’t be a very bad future. Coffee, of course. Turkish, Greek, Macedonia, or Middle Eastern – I’m game! 🙂

    Christ is our midst.

    • Macedonia74:

      Coffee, of course. Turkish, Greek, Macedonia, or Middle Eastern

      Is that a pyletistic version of what is generically known world-wide as “Serbian coffee”?

      Brate — samo se salim.

  17. Orthodox & Psychiatrist :

    Gentlemen, are you dismissing the actual text of the Synod minutes and the concern expressed there for the health of the Metropolitan and the wish for him to succeed expressed simultaneously? This statement has nothing to do with deposing him but expresses a concern about his present state of being. Are you suggesting by simply ignoring this issue that you dismiss that as a legitimate concern of the Bishops and by implication should we infer that you believe the Synod are less than genuine and with a political agenda themselves? Their minutes read like an intervention they feel is needed. Why not listen? The impression I get is that some of you are as eager to thrash Mr Stokoe here (and not to him directly on his own site which seems unOrthodox) as you believe he wishes to thrash the Metropolitan. Some seem to applaud the raid on emails by HB (MJ). However, is it possible then that he or a politically motivated associate himself created the firestorm of controversy via “Lee Fitzgerald” in order to avoid an enforced rest? If he truly needed it to regain equilibrium, why is that a victory for anyone? And why would he not be straight with his Synod instead of misleading them about acting in mutual obedience? To those of you who love him from personal experience I ask, who has made this about his character? Has it not been about either his positions which are worrisome to some and his actions which have been confusing, reactive, and atypical of late? His positions should be open to spirited debate with a healthy opposition respected by him, but his actions of erratic or misleading might suggest a burnout of some kind which endangers him as a person. Why is this ignored? If you love him, why isn’t that a concern for you? I do not know him but I know folks who get in trouble and how they react to an intervention and it tells you something about their state. I have been concerned that he was thrust without preparation into much responsibility because perhaps we Americans are trained to crave that sentimental Hollywood moment, of which type of delusion Orthodoxy itself works hard to cure us. How many times do we hear about the passions and not reacting and yet one charismatic speech speaking about healing (of the rape actually revealed by ocanews by the way) led to a surge of emotion which carried the day, reportedly. Emotions are suspect and yet all seemed carried away, including perhaps Metropolitan Jonah himself who spoke of the moment he was told by a Russian priest I believe that he would become Met and joked he had not expected it so soon. Perhaps he like others was meant to decline at this time, I don’t know after sober reflection which never took place due to the giddy feelings ruling the day. Perhaps he was flattered and used by persons or factions for their own gain, and his lack of preparedness exploited. Or perhaps he has not heeded his human needs since then and has gone beyond his strength which his brothers on the Synod have seen, and can learn a valuable lesson. The priest in my parish took a leave, he did not have to be told to do so. It is worrisome when an intervention is needed because the person in that case is out of touch with himself. So if HB truly resisted such a genuine intervention intended to be private, that is even more concerning for someone who loves him His actual resistant and paranoid reactions to their expressed concern may be understood as that of a man resistant to cure proving the Synod’s point OR a man who is quite well and yet resistant to authority who can lie and mislead. Why don’t you counsel him to rest and not to fight as if he is being deposed when he is not? He or his colleagues are rallying the troops against the Synod as if they are a cabal. Bp Mark was there. He is new and beholden to the Metropolitan for receiving him here. And he has said the Synod acted out of concern for the Met’s spiritual, mental and physical health. I am glad to think that is exactly what it is. Why are others using this time to polarize and inflame the troops if they love him? Is their own position or agenda more important than he is? Perhaps those who voted for him need to repent that our need for a rockstar leader and fairy tale ending, our starryeyed wish for an unprepared good monk to know how to do everything may have contributed to whatever he is experiencing and suffering now. His positions we can argue with. But his personal well-being should not be neglected.


  1. […] a day before the adjournment of the Synod meeting, a Greek-language website (www.romfea.gr) had announced the “resignation” of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of the […]