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Did the OCA Bishops Lie about Metropolitan Jonah? — Updates

Joel Kalvesmaki

On 18 September 2012 Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) published an op ed piece in which I laid out an argument for how recent events in the OCA should be assessed in light of OCL's four principles (jurisdictional unity, spiritual renewal, lay participation in church governance, and transparency and accountability in the same). I argued that the bishops' July 16 statement and other recent actions they took vis-a-vis Metropolitan Jonah (a supporter of OCL) ran counter to those principles. My criticism was meant to be constructive. I offered two ways the bishops might move the Church forward: (1) offer the Faithful a detailed, complete account of reasons for seeking +Jonah's resignation, correcting or justifying alleged errors in the July 16 statement; (2) teach the Faithful how to repent by explaining how and where members of the synod and administration erred. I had intended the piece to be a firm but polite catalyst to conversation; I looked forward to edifying dialogue that might help me—and anyone confused—understand recent events better.

A Bishop's Response

2 October 2012

The Sunday after that piece ran (23 September), my parish, St. Nicholas Cathedral (Washington, DC) had a special meeting to consider a proposed basement renovation. Toward the end of the meeting, the Administrator, Fr. John Perich, secured the floor to discuss the cathedral's delegation to the 17th All-American Council, in Parma, Ohio on November 13. That is the council charged with electing a new Metropolitan for the OCA. Fr. John said that the cathedral was authorized to have one voting delegate, one (nonvoting) alternate, and one observer. He said he had been given the authority to appoint lay delegates himself. (If so, then Fr. John was being authorized to violate OCA Statute III.6.a, which requires lay delegates to be elected at a parish meeting; no accommodation is made for rectors' appointments.) But he said he preferred to put the decision in the hands of the parish, which then agreed. I was one of five persons nominated. On closed ballot I was elected to serve as the second, alternate (nonvoting) delegate for the cathedral.

Two days later (Tuesday, 25 September) I received an envelope from the cathedral with two letters. The first, signed by the cathedral clergy Fr. John Perich, Fr. Denis Bradley, and Fr. Valery Shemchuk (and addressed to me) is a cover letter to the second, signed by Bishop Alexander (addressed to Fr. John), barring me from attending the 17th AAC for two congruent but different reasons. The first (main paragraph, sentence two) is because I authored the document; second (sentence four) is because of my sentiments (that is, no reference is made to whether or not I expressed them).

I have been asked by a number of people, most of whom are perplexed by the rationale and the propriety of such a decision, to publish the 25 September letter. I refer such inquirers to Fr. John Perich, whom +Alexander instructed to make the letter public. I would prefer that he—not I—obey that directive. If he does not make the letter public, as asked, then requests should be directed to +Alexander.

I take no offense in any of these matters. The injury is to the parish, whose call to serve I was prepared to obey. I cherish the critics of my arguments, particularly those who are able to reveal my errors (or those of my sources) with precision and care. I still hope to include my bishops among those loyal critics. To date only one has responded, merely by stipulating that anyone who comes to the same conclusions I have, whether expressed or not, is unfit to represent his or her parish at the upcoming All-American Council. This principle, and the response, should be of great concern to all OCA faithful—laity and clergy alike.

No Response

2 November 2012

For more than a month, the letter that Bishop Alexander asked Fr. John Perich to make public has remained outside the public view. The parish of St. Nicholas Cathedral has not even been notified of the decision or its rationale.

I asked Fr. John by email to clarify when and how he planned on making the letter public, since I was being asked by ordinary parishioners about my dismissal. No response came. In my second, follow-up email, copied to the parish council (on a moderated list—I am not certain they got my message) and the Legal and By-Laws committee, I once again asked for clarification. The only one to respond to the entire group was the parish president, who said that this was a matter between me and the clergy, and that I should not drag the parish council into the discussion.

I responded (October 16):

...Am I correct to infer that the members of the parish council have not received copies of +Alexander's letter to Fr. John?

I respectfully disagree with your characterization for the following reasons:

After the parish's election, it took all of merely 48 hours to coordinate the signing and mailing (to me) of a pair of letters. Yet it has taken more than three weeks for the Administrator to convey +Alexander's request to the body that initiated the decision. As a mere intermediary, I should not be the one who has to point this out.

Forgive me any offense I may have caused. None is intended.

The only answer I received was a brief note to me (alone) from the parish president, stating that the council had not received copies of the letters. And still, no priest or bishop has answered my question.

My parish deserves better treatment than this. I provide here a scan of +Alexander's letter.