The Orthodox Leader

Archive for the ‘jonah’ tag

Authority is Responsibility

with one comment

“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” –Luke 1:38

For those celebrating Annuncation today: Blessings with the feast!

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I think it is worth remembering Metropolitan Jonah’s statements made in his epochal speech on November 18, 2008, the eve of his selection as primate. I encourage readers to consider the degree to which the metropolitan’s words do or do not reflect our current situation and the events leading up to it.

On conciliarity:

“I would assert first and foremost as Orthodox Christians our leadership, the leadership of the Church, that element that comes from above, is the divine element. But the leadership that is within the Church, the leadership of bishops and the dioceses of the Metropolitan among the Synod–because what it the Metropolitan? He is the chairman of the Synod. The leadership of a parish priest in his parish: If you sit there and you lord it over your parishioners that ‘I am the priest and I can do whatever I want and I can spend the money however I want without accountability and without…’ you are not going to go very far. In fact you are likely to get thrown out because you will get into all sorts of problems. And I think that form of leadership is over. (Applause )”

On obedience:

“Our leadership is leadership within; and underlying this is the essential theological principle that is in every aspect of our theology. It underlies our soteriology, it underlies our Christology, it underlies our ecclesiology–and that’s the principle in the word of St. Paul of ‘synergy’, of cooperation. And it has to be a voluntary cooperation. And obedience, within that context, is not some kind of, some guy, who can lord it over you and make you do what he wants you to and you are going to get in trouble one way or another. Obedience is cooperation out of love and respect. Monasticism is the sacrament of obedience. You see what it is, incarnate, when you experience that communion of a brotherhood, with its spiritual father, in a spirit of love and respect.”

On discord:

“If we can build that community of love and respect, seeing how our passions have distracted us from that living communion with God, have turned us against one another, and have created all sorts of hostility between–well, we just saw it, between the body of the All-American Council and the Synod of the Bishops. … Between the Synod of the Bishops and the Metropolitan Council–talk about a sick dysfunctional situation! Why? Because, our passions have gone awry. Yes, we were betrayed. Yes, we were raped. It’s over. It’s over. Let it be in the past, so that we can heal.”

On authority and responsibility:

“The Holy Synod needs a chance to function normally with a leader who is engaged, who’s not drunk, who’s not preoccupied, with somebody who is engaged, who is engaged in building that synergy and building that communion and working . And it’s not about just that particular Metropolitan or that particular leader, it’s about every about one of us. And you, all of you here, you are the leaders of the Church. Every priest here has probably dozens or hundreds of people who look to you. And your authority is based, it’s founded on that responsibility to convey the Gospel, to convey the message of Christ–95% by your actions and by your attitudes and 5% by your words.

Authority is responsibility. Authority is accountability, it is not power. (Applause)

So we look at some of these questions: Was the Holy Synod leaderless?

Yes, for 30 years, 30 years [under] Metropolitan Herman and Metropolitan Theodosius.

We need to give [the Synod] a chance, with the full complete voluntary, willful support of the church. Let them and help them bear their responsibility, so that you can bear your responsibility. Hierarchy is only about responsibility. It’s not all this imperial nonsense.”

“How do we re-establish trust? There’s only one way. It’s to choose to love. It is the only way. There is no other way. There’s no organizational methods, no kinds of business practices we can invoke, no corporate ideologies, none of that. If we are Christians, we have the choice: Do we choose to enter into the love of Jesus Christ for one another — including our hierarchs, including our priests, including those who have betrayed us, including those who have failed us miserably, including those whom we judge and criticize and — all to own damnation?”

You can listen to audio portion of the recorded speech here, or watch:

Or, read the transcript at

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

March 25th, 2011 at 1:29 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

Switch to our mobile site