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Archive for the ‘Moral leadership’ Category

No Going Back

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“Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?’” -Exodus 14:11

Memories are often short in this internet age. For this reason, I draw your attention to the reports of the Special Investigative Committee and Special Commission which, in 2007 and 2008, investigated the gross immorality, malfeasance, and theft that plagued the Orthodox Church in America for some two decades. The people who undertook those investigations labored with difficulty against obstructionism, lies, misdirection, character attacks,  malevolent excommunication, and clerical abuse. (As Metropolitan Jonah once put it, “[The] church was looted. It was an expensive lesson, a very expensive lesson.”) The reports themselves are no longer available at, but they are now posted here at Orthodox Leader. To all of those who worked so hard to bring these sins to light: thank you. To the rest: learn well, and remember.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 20th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

The Christian Understanding of Bearing False Witness

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“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: … A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” –Proverbs 6:16,19

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen! (Lest we forget with the hubbub over the past few days.)

No time for a lengthier article today (or for the next couple of days, in all likelihood). But, since some readers (well, one reader, I guess) have suggested that I have characterized the Truthers unfairly, I’d like to explain that my standard for bearing false witness is that of the Church.

That standard finds its origin in Exodus 20:16, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,” a.k.a. the Ninth Commandment. Deuteronomy 19:15-21 goes on further, in establishing that accusations are made only “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses.”  The point of the witnesses is that known individuals (more than one of them, so someone has to agree on something) in the community, with personal reputations to uphold, stand up and make their accusations. Rumor and innuendo are tossed aside in favor of faithful maturity. If there’s any room for doubt or misunderstanding, it’s better for no accusations to be brought than to risk a loss of credibility face.

Beyond that, the prohibition on bearing false witness achieves its fullness in the light of Christ, as explained  its fullness in the Christian profession given by St. Paul:

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. –Romans 13:9-10

Thus, “false witness” cannot be reduced to “did what I say, technically, turn out to be a lie?” as the world would have it, but must be understood in terms of that and more. False witness is also found in attributing evil motives to others, in casting aspersions on our enemies’ character absent any proof, in making unsupported statements about others’ beliefs, and in misrepresenting what our adversaries say.  As I’ve written previously, avoiding false witness is central to those in leadership. We must seek to present others in the most honest and charitable light, not the light in which we want them to stand or the light that makes them look as bad as possible.

With that, I’ll close with something I’ve quoted before (see preceding link) because leaders really need to be able to answer righteously to this particular set of questions for self-examination before confession:

Ninth Commandment – You shall not bear false witness.

Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth? Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone? Have I told any secrets entrusted to me, or betrayed anyone? Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation? Have I concealed the truth, assisted in carrying out a lie, or pretended to commit a sin of which I was not guilty? Have I tried to see the good in others rather than their shortcomings?

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 5th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

The Courage to Have a Face

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Insert Face Here

“He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.-Proverbs 10:18

To elaborate briefly on the post immediately preceding this one, it is hard to overstate the role that anonymity played in the damage inflicted by Being anonymous allowed the writers at OCA Truth to receive information without revealing who they were, and to launch attacks with impunity against whomever they chose. The domain name was registered with a proxy, shielding the true registrant-owners of the domain from public visibility, likely requiring a court order to lift the veil of secrecy. Further, disabled comments, even though the site is a blog. Thus, for anyone to counterattack required any critic either a) to have his own site, or b) to post in other venues. Both options forced respondents to stick their heads up out of the foxhole, becoming ready targets for more attacks from The shill names used at sites like enabled them to lure others into revealing their objections.

In short, was a nest of snipers drawing out their prey with a steady stream of half-truths, innuendo, unsupported accusations, taunts (“C’mon Fr. Bieberdorff [sic]“), and invective. Worse, having been flushed out, OCA Truth has withdrawn two damaging posts with the excuse that the information disclosed falls under the seal of the confessional.

What kind of leadership is that? Cowardly leadership (whether misguided or malicious), facilitated by anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

May 4th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

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

The Word is Out

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Pastoral obligations prevent me from commenting on it at the present time, but the newest post at concerning the founders of is required reading, regardless of what you make of the contents.

In the event goes offline, I’ll do my best to get my own archive of the site’s contents up and running here.

Don’t forget to pray.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

April 30th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Still More Accuracy in Reporting?

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“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” -James 2:20

I see the most recent post on another site ostensibly devoted to truth reads as follows (formatting as in the original):

Sadly, there is a “need to print,” and that’s why we’re printing this. The Synod has got to wake up and understand what it is doing to the Church. It sat around for years and did nothing about Met. Theodosius’s abuse of office. It did nothing but wring its hands over Met. Herman following in that tradition. When we finally got a primate who was uncorrupt and visionary, though one who needs help mastering the finer points of administration, oh, that’s when they suddenly got vigilant — and now are willing to risk tearing the Church apart to have their way.

The following table shows ordination dates  of the current members of the OCA’s Holy Synod, along with the dates of their enthronement as ruling (i.e., diocesan, not auxiliary) bishops and, as a result, full members of the Holy Synod. (Dates taken from biographies at and diocesan web sites; this really should be in one place.)

Bishop Ordination as Bishop Enthronement as Ruling Hierarch Ruling Hierarch during Met. Theodosius? Ruling Hierarch during Met. Herman?
Metropolitan Jonah 8/2008 12/2008



Archbishop Nathaniel 11/1980 11/1984



Bishop Nikon 5/2002 9/2003 (Albanian)
9/2005 (DNE)



Bishop Tikhon 2/2004 9/2005



Bishop Benjamin 5/2004 10/2007



Bishop Alejo 5/2005 1/2009



Bishop Melchisedek 6/2009 6/2009



Bishop Michael 5/2010 5/2010




Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

April 7th, 2011 at 6:47 am

Accuracy in Reporting?

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“Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.” -Deuteronomy 5:33

Perhaps I missed it, but which of the big players – the hierarchs comprising the Holy Synod, the OCA’s officers, the members of the Metropolitan Council – in the current difficulty has suggested that anyone is crazy (or less than sane)? I don’t recall seeing anyone in a significant role doing that. Or is this like the same folks’ talk about deposition, when it was the Metropolitan himself who first mentioned deposition, with OCATruth repeating it further?

A request for a mental health evaluation carries no implication of madness, certainly not in the year 2011, when we now regard a huge spectrum of behaviors not as disqualifying handicaps but rather as conditions to be managed with a large variety of treatments: mental, physical, and spiritual. [UPDATE 5:13pm EDT: Further, the minutes from the Santa Fe meeting make no mention of anything other than concerns about physical and spiritual health. So, how is it that this is transformed into these other claims?]

Honest leadership (and I emphasize honest) requires that people understand the positions of those who agree and disagree with them and then recount them accurately in discussion and argument. Doing otherwise is a violation of the ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” That’s even in the Bible, in Exodus 20:16. One common set of questions for self-examination prior to confession (from the Antiochian Archdiocese’s pocket prayer book) reads as follows, italics mine:

Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth? Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone? Have I told any secrets entrusted to me, or betrayed anyone? Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation? Have I concealed the truth, assisted in carrying out a lie, or pretended to commit a sin of which I was not guilty? Have I tried to see the good in others rather than their shortcomings?

It’s impossible to lead without the willingness to give sufficient attention to what is being said. Sometimes it even means reviewing what exactly was said, to ensure that our memories are correct. Otherwise, we end up tilting at windmills, and, worse,  bearing false witness against our neighbor by attributing to him things he did not say.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

March 31st, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Leadership: Is the microphone on?

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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

What to do about a bad priest?

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Since secular work, house blessings, and kids’ school projects have conspired to slow down the next segment of the Making of a Priest, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out that St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894) addressed the question of “What to do about a bad priest?” well over a century ago. (Many thanks to Fr. Justin Frederick for translating the original.)

Read it: What to do about a bad priest?

As you work your way through it, consider St. Theophan’s counsel in light of many reactions today to poor leadership. Readers are invited to weigh in in the comments.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

January 26th, 2010 at 10:20 am

Fr Aris on Clergy Sexual Sin

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In light of the interest that the Eli’s Road post is getting, I really should point out that Fr Aris Metrakos made many similar points over two years ago.

And all sexual misconduct deserves the maximum penalty. When persons on the bench, in the bar, or with a badge undermine the legal system they get locked up for a long time; they are held to a higher standard. Priests who are pedophiles, homosexual predators, and adulterers need to be defrocked — not only to send a message but to protect the Church and her members. Some of them need jail time too.

I even managed, quite inadvertently, to pick up his closing statement: “Sexual sin among the clergy must stop.”

The only point at which I would disagree with Fr Aris is on the second chance for adulterers. I think even one time should lead to defrocking.

However, Fr Aris deserves praise for speaking out very clearly concerning this issue. Now to get everyone else speaking and, more importantly, acting just as firmly.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

December 1st, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Posted in Moral leadership

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