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Lies and Leadership

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A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.” -Proverbs 13:15

First and foremost, I remind readers of this site that the primary goal here is not to report on details of any particular scandal. Rather, the blog exists to discuss matters of leadership in the Orthodox Church. To that end, the recent conflict within the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America provides much material for reflection on leadership.

The most recent events in the scandal – primarily the release of confidential emails between Archpriest Joseph Fester, Bishop Nikolai (Soraich), Mr. Rod Dreher, and others – have turned everything upside down. I am not surprised at the names of the principals of I had already deduced the identities of two of them solely by their words and actions, prior to the revelations from the ugly emails. What is of greater concern now is that a site devoted to “truth” is, in fact, built upon lies. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 4th, 2011 at 12:08 am

Suspicious Minds

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“Why can’t you see what you’re doing to me when you don’t believe a word I say?” –”Suspicious Minds,” sung by Elvis Presley, written by Mark James

In the last post, I made reference to the suspicious minds behind the uncharitable motives credited to everyone viewed as enemies of Metropolitan Jonah. Just a couple of hours ago (around 3 p.m. Eastern), the following post was published at It was pulled down within the hour. (It may still be available in Google’s feed reader cache.)  [UPDATE: 7:30 pm Eastern: The post is back up, in slightly modified form, here, with new and improved references to "Machiavellians."]

Outflanking +Jonah
via OCA Truth by Muzhik on 3/24/11

The following e-mail went out to priests of the Southwest Deanery of the Diocese of the South:

To: SW Deanery List
Sent: Thu, Mar 24, 2011 10:18 am
Subject: [Swdeanery] Nominations for Bishop

Brother Concelebrants of the Southwest Deanery,

The nomination committee of the Diocese of the South is being strongly urged by two bishops on the Holy Synod to move ahead on nominating candidates to fill the vacant post of bishop for the DOS.

The committee, which is the Diocesan Council, will have a conference call this coming Monday to discuss the matter.

I trust that we all have been praying for God’s provision of a faithful bishop to shepherd His flock in the DOS.

If any of you wish to discuss this matter with one another on this list, put forward names for consideration by the committee, and so for, now is the time.

May God grant us his wisdom to discern the man He has called for this ministry.

Love in Christ,

Priest Justin Frederick, Dean

This is interesting. While the DOS really needs a bishop, it is striking to me that two bishops on the Synod have a strange new interest in the urgency of filling that post. Wonder why? There has been some wishful speculation lately among the faithful of the DOS that His Beatitude might be willing to leave the primatial role and return to Dallas, where he is loved, to serve as the DOS bishop. Don’t get me wrong, I have heard nothing from my sources indicating that this might even be a possibility. It’s just the thinking of laity who love His Beatitude and want him to live and to work where he is loved and valued.

I told someone just last night that the Synod would never let that happen, because they would see +Jonah in the South as a threat to them. Call me cynical, but I interpret the renewed interest in these two unnamed bishops in getting someone named to the DOS episcopate, especially while HB is sidelined on his retreat, as an attempt to close off the possibility that +Jonah might establish a Southern stronghold. These two bishops — who do you think they are? — are trying hard to outflank +Jonah. Under these suspicious conditions, the episcopate of the South could be a poisoned chalice.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s because the Diocese of the South has been vacant since early in 2009? I can almost imagine the Church Lady writing that last paragraph.

It’s likely superfluous to note this, but when one’s entire worldview is (apparently) predicated on the notion that the entire OCA administration,the entire Holy Synod, and (at a minimum) a solid majority of the Metropolitan Council is out to “get” Your Guy, maybe it’s time to step back, take a deep breath, say “Lord, Have Mercy” a dozen times with prostrations, and reflect on the significance of the word “paranoia.”

Here’s some mood music to help (unfortunately, Sony might insist you watch it on YouTube):

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

March 24th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Charity or Suspicion?

with 15 comments

“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” –1 Peter 4:8

Like many others, I have watched the tumult within the Orthodox Church in America’s Holy Synod unfold over the course of the past month. Also like many others, I have no secret information, or access to the deliberations of the Holy Synod or Metropolitan Council.(*) What has come to concern me most in this affair is the remarkable lack of simple charity.

The sequence of events is well-documented elsewhere, so I won’t rehash them. What I will say is that the following all represent the least amount of charity:

  • Interpreting the decisions by the Holy Synod in Santa Fe as giving Metropolitan Jonah the “’Bishop Nikolai’ treatment,” as retired Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) of the West put it.
  • Interpreting the alleged “smoking gun” email from Mark Stokoe as evidence of a coup, rather than as a heated and hasty response to a “What is going ON?!” email from another Metropolitan Council member. (And what is the source of the information that “four of the recipients of this e-mail were bishops”? +Tikhon (Fitzgerald) certainly didn’t mention that.)
  • Regarding the minutes of the Holy Synod’s Santa Fe meeting as deceptive.
  • Understanding the motives of the bishops on the Holy Synod as other than what they claim to be, absent other evidence.

If those are least charitable interpretations, it’s downright malicious to suggest, repeatedly, that the Holy Synod desires to depose—as in “to remove from clerical rank”—Metropolitan Jonah. It’s malicious because it gives cause for alarm without any support whatsoever. The only place this suggestion has appeared, that I can find, is (see this, for example). I suspect that if we know which of the anonymous cowards first introduced this term into the discussion, we will know who is really behind the tumult.

Worse still are the accusations of active homosexuality by Mark Stokoe and of tolerance of (or support for) it by his priest, Fr. Ted Bobosh. If there’s clear evidence of the former, please send it to Bishop Tikhon (Mollard) of South Canaan, PA, the locum tenens of Mark Stokoe’s diocese. (Charity, not to mention Matthew 18:15, would have you contacting Mark directly about it first.) “Clear evidence” does not include an obituary and an address, nor does it include an accusation seen on another website. Repetition adds nothing to the truth.

This is a leadership blog, not a news blog, nor a “defend someone’s side” blog, which is why I’m not slogging through every point like a lawyer. Other people are doing that. However, a dear friend, early on in this particular scandal, gave me pastoral advice to avoid having a “suspicious mind” (which makes me think of Elvis, but I digress). The suspicious minds at this point are those attributing evil motives to the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Council, and all those who are rightly concerned about Metropolitan Jonah’s actions since his enthronement as primate. The suspicious minds are the ones suggesting actions (e.g., deposition, or forced retirement) that no one is talking about. The suspicious minds are the ones framing this as a “culture war” between liberal/pro-gay/pro-abortion Orthodox from the Northeast and Midwest and conservative/anti-gay/pro-life Orthodox from the South and West.

We would all benefit from recognizing that the bishops on the Holy Synod today, in 2011, have almost nothing in common with the Holy Synod of even three years ago. Each of them received (and, it is hoped, continues to receive) the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the cheirotonia of his office, in no less fashion than Metropolitan Jonah. Contrary to some commentators, His Beatitude is not the only “real” monk among them.

The Holy Synod is clearly concerned about more than leadership style. I can’t believe they care about whether he prefers the telephone to email, or top-down versus bottom-up management. I do think they are concerned about specific acts and failures to act that have only increased scandal, legal exposure, financial liability, and doubts about the future of the OCA. A little bit of charity in understanding their motives and situation and a lot less malice in presenting them would go a long way toward seeing us through our current plight.

(*) In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll note that I work closely with Archpriest John Reeves, a member of the Metropolitan Council, as I am his assistant rector. However, he never breaches confidentiality.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

March 24th, 2011 at 12:20 am

Leadership: Is the microphone on?

with 14 comments

The recent turmoil surrounding the recent passage of healthcare legislation by the United States Congress is providing ample opportunity to look at the absence of Orthodox leadership. As a reminder, this blog’s purpose is not political. To the extent this legislation reflects Caesar’s affairs, it is generally best for the Church to remain silent. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

March 23rd, 2010 at 12:27 am

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