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Metropolitan Jonah has been removed as leader of the Orthodox Church in America.

9 July 2012

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Metropolitan Jonah has resigned under pressure from the Holy Synod of the OCA.

A commenter Monomakhos blog, identifying himself as Nikos, gives this summary of +Jonah’s tenure. I have some experience in the OCA, and with the abusive authoritarianism of it’s clergy. From my understanding, Nikos is offering a pretty good summary:

+Jonah was NOT the agreed upon choice of the synod going into the AAC in Pittsburgh. The choice was +Job. Stokoe had done his best to set things up to make his path to the white hat and done deal. Bishop Seraphim was the only other serious contender, but he withdrew after he was threatened by a clergyman in the Midwest of exposing his problems, which are not being pursued by the Crown. No one expected “The Speech” from +Jonah. Yet that speech sparked something in the Church. It presented to the Church a clear path from the past to the future. A break with the status quo, a man untouched by the usual “grooming” process by the synod.

When the votes were finally tallied, +Job withdrew. The synod was in no position that day to AGAIN overturn the popular vote of the Church. Yet, that very night Fr. Hopko told anyone who would listen that he did not believe that the Holy Spirit was at work in the nomination and election of +Jonah. The drumbeat against +Jonah began that night.

The synod found out quickly that +Jonah would speak his mind. He expressed his belief that the OCA was the local Church in the USA and said as much in his (in)famous in Dallas. THAT speech convinced Kishkovsky that +Jonah was a loose cannon and had to be either controlled or sent packing.

All the while Fr. Hopko did what he could to second guess almost every action +Jonah made, knowing that he could plant the seed of doubt in the minds of the bishops, members of the Metropolitan Council and clergy and laity. He considered +Jonah a threat to the OCA of his understanding and vision – and, Stokoe and OCAN kept beating the drum questioning +Jonah at every turn.

Inside the synod +Benjamin exploded on several occasions that +Jonah was impossible. +Jonah tried his best to patch things up with +Benjamin. They both agreed to be mediated in their differences by Fr. Meletios Webber. That attempt did nothing to change +Benjamin’s mind even though +Jonah thought he had resolved his differences with his brother. Ah, +Jonah, ever hopeful, ever willing to see the best in the other.

Lest we forget, Santa Fe was the first attempt to paint +Jonah as “damaged goods” by the synod, led by +Benjamin, +Melchedek and +Mark Maymon. They wanted him to go to a drug and alcohol rehab center even though +Jonah displayed no addictive behavior. This was confirmed by a doctor +Jonah went to. That was not good enough for the synod. Failing in that attempt, the synod went after Fr. Fester, a member of “Team Jonah” so-called and coined by Stokoe. With Fester out of the way, +Jonah lost someone willing to fight for +Jonah. +Jonah was saved for the moment because Moscow let it be known that if the synod took +Jonah out for anything but a canonical infraction, Moscow would not recognize such an action and thus those bishops would be in schism.

Next was the run up to the AAC in Seattle where the synod would make their second assault on +Jonah, this time saying on the eve of the Council that if did not go to St. Luke’s they would dispose of him after the AAC. +Jonah gave in, said the words written for him, taking responsibility for everything wrong in the OCA. He did his St. Luke time, came out with a clean bill of health, but now “tainted” by his time there. +Jonah did a very credible job at the AAC, but still, the Church in Council was restless. They elected two people to the Met. Council both open supporters of +Jonah, Fr. Hatfield from SVS and Maureen Jury from the DOS. Syosset was able to push a vote on the Assessment to the last day and a close friend of Stokoe, Jillions and Wheeler, Fr. John Shimchek, a decent man, presented the compromise amendment to move the Assessment question along keeping the $105 amount safe.

Since the AAC, +Jonah was further isolated with travel restrictions, on a short leash in what he could say and do, the synod continued to close in on +Jonah making the case of the nuns and in particular this Fr. Simeon as the basis for their last run at him. Under threats of having his salary stopped, a full blown investigation of +Jonah in his handling, or lack thereof of Fr. Simeon and the nuns, the final ultimatum was made at the Lesser synod meeting on July 5. Retire or be suspended and deposed. Concluding that he could not lead a synod that was against him, he gave up, gave them a verbal resignation, yet in his mind, still thinking that he was just resigning as Metropolitan but not as a diocesan bishop. He made a final attempt at trying to go back to the DOS, but by now, the synod smelled blood and cut off that avenue of “escape” for +Jonah. He had run out of options which brings us to today, Sunday, July 8. A +Jonah appeal to Moscow had been effectively cut off by Kishkovsky who lobbied Moscow hard to understand that +Jonah was mentally impaired. When +Jonah tried to make contact with Pat. Kirill, he was told that a trip to Moscow at this time would not be possible. He was finished.

Chancellor Jillions presented +Jonah with the final decree of resignation/retirement for him to sign. today. I don’t know if he signed it or not. But I suspect that he did, under duress, but the document will state that +Jonah resigned/retired of his own free will and that it was “voluntary.” That will give the synod all the cover it needs and insure that no other Church will interfere.

Now, we just wait for the official announcement by the synod.

Where will +Jonah go? What will he do? How will be support his aged mother and father who he moved to DC to better care for them? Shall we hope that the synod has not clean cut him off and that they will at least treat him with a measure of dignity as a retired Primate of the Church. with some compensation or stipend? The recent treatment of OCA Primates by the synod does not give me much confidence that they will do the right thing. We can only hope and pray they do. But if they don’t we will know for sure that the priorities of the OCA have totally gone out the window leaving us with a terminally diseased hierarchy and central church administration loyal to itself.”

+Jonah is a good and decent man who has long seemed to me to be like a lamb among wolves. (An image that has also occured to Rod Dreher.)  It seems that the wolves have won this one. I wish it were not so.

Some are already saying that this, along with the crisis that has been going on in the Diocese of the South, means that the OCA is over. I don’t think that to be true, but what is true is that events, which have been getting ugly and uglier for years, have reached a point of absurdity.

More about the unpleasant mess that is the OCA can be found here, and here.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Sudia permalink
    9 July 2012 5:03 pm

    I don’t know what to make of this. And, I’m shocked at the conspiracy theory that is being put forth. Haven’t we learned not to jump to conclusions, and let the facts be revealed in their time? Or have we already forgotten the explosive circumstances that thrust His Grace (Then Bishop) Jonah in to the Primacy of the O.C.A? Have we forgotten how often he even freely admitted that he wasn’t prepared for the “White hat”, and the responsibilities that it’s wearer would have? Please be ABSOLUTELY CRYSTAL CLEAR on this point. I’m not denying the facts, (that haven’t yet been revealed), and I’m not trying to protect him. I’m ONLY suggesting that we wait for the truth to come out form the Holy Synod. Then, we can each make our own decisions on how to understand it. Stop Rumor Mongering, and wait for the TRUTH! He deserves that of us, as he was the Duly Elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada for slightly over 3 years. Furthermore, I agree that His Eminence the Late Archbishop Job would have been a fine Metropolitan, precisely because he wasn’t seeking the position. Imagine the ensuing shock, if shortly after his election and installation, he had passed. Besides, If he’d lived, he would’ve retired last year anyway, thus the 2011 A.A.C. would’ve elected His Successor. Let’s wait and see what the future brings, praying to God that in His Divine Wisdom, He will provide the leadership that the O.C.A. Truly Needs, and that at the Next A.A.C., we shall truly be opened to HIS WILL in electing our next Metropolitan.

  2. Steven Clark permalink
    9 July 2012 5:40 pm

    Please stop. This is a continuation of the same division that has been visited upon us by the evil one. STOP. Cease the slander. Pray to God for help and guidance for the OCA, for her people and her hierarchs.

  3. Maureen permalink
    9 July 2012 7:20 pm

    This in-fighting and evil doing and internal schism makes one pause: Perhaps the Church of Rome is right, perhaps the Church needs one undisbuted leader and not hundreds of bickering, bitter bishops clamoring for power. This sort of thing will be the DEATH of Orthodoxy. Shame. This is pure evil. Maybe the Uniates are RIGHT.

    • Fr. Frank permalink
      12 August 2012 6:25 pm

      Yes, the Uniates are right, and for the very reasons you cite.

  4. Maureen permalink
    9 July 2012 7:22 pm

    Our Orthodox congreagtion is in shock. Some are considering going over to the Byzantine Catholics. This will be the death of Orthodoxy. Bickering and in-house back stabbling and petty ugly fighting. Shame! Shame!

    • 10 July 2012 2:26 pm

      I understand how some are very shocked/saddened. But to think that Christ’s Church rode squarely on the shoulders of Metropolitan Jonah and that all of Orthodoxy will fall with him is a bit much. Whatever scandals may or may not exist, whether anyone’s hands or hearts are dirty from this…..to claim a death of Orthodoxy is to betray a lack of faith in Christ who heads the church and the Holy Spirit which protects it, as well as a forgetfulness of how much worse the church has survived. It’s also identifying all of Orthodoxy with the OCA too much. The OCA is very young!

      I’ve always felt that Metropolitan Jonah (or however we are supposed to refer to him now) was in need of all of our prayers and love – regardless of what people felt they couldn’t support his opinions or decisions, regardless of what mistakes he may or may not have made. I hope people can find it in their hearts to give that to him now, because here is a Christian brother who needs our love and prayers the most at this very time.

  5. 9 July 2012 9:31 pm

    Please, Maureen and everyone else, let’s not conduct ourselves like Chicken Little here. The sky isn’t falling and neither is Orthodoxy! Ok, so a Metropolitan resigned today. Is HE the Church? No! Who is the church? WE are! Did not Christ himself say re: His church “and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!” If one studies the history of the Orthodox Church from the Byzantine era to the present, one sees that we’ve weathered many a storm and lived to tell the tale. The One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church will never die no matter what happens or whom is at the human helm. Why not? Because GOD is still the head of this church, and we need to always remember that and not get into negativity and gainsaying and politics. We need to continue to pray for ALL people who are entrusted with priestly or clerical positions in the church: from Patriarchs on down to the little boys who are altar servers. That is the best thing we as Orthodox Christians can do. It’s in God’s hands, I say.

  6. Timothy Hyer permalink
    10 July 2012 12:14 am

    Amen to most of what was said in the comments here. Remember that we are called to Love Christ!

  7. Emmie permalink
    10 July 2012 2:13 pm

    this is good my friend, great post, all the best and success in your future.

  8. Jay permalink
    10 July 2012 6:13 pm

    I think this quote in the Chicago Tribune story was telling:

    “What we are witnessing now in my opinion is the result of the disconnectedness of the Orthodox Church in America from the rest of the Orthodox world,” [Rev. Mark] Arey [of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America] said. “Its internal politics have almost become cannibalistic in my opinion.”

  9. Michael Seraph permalink
    10 July 2012 7:47 pm

    Maybe the Uniates are right? People looking with longing to the Byzantine Catholics?

    C’mon. Sex and finance scandals, anyone? An observer who looks at the Church of Rome with clear vision should realize a move away from Orthodoxy would just be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

    The rumors of conspiracy and mutiny are indeed sickening. Yet as SOCW notes above, the Orthodox People are the Church, and are in the hands of Christ our God.

  10. 10 July 2012 11:41 pm

    “+Jonah was saved for the moment because Moscow let it be known that if the synod took +Jonah out for anything but a canonical infraction, Moscow would not recognize such an action and thus those bishops would be in schism.”

    What was the canonical infraction that Metropolitan Jonah committed?

  11. 11 July 2012 10:04 am

    I wonder if the closeness of Metropolitan Jonah to the Mother Church in Russia, and his rapport and bridge building with the canonical Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia – also a constituent part of the Russian Church proved his undoing? Metropolitan Jonah should serve as the Moscow Patriarchate’s US Exarch or join ROCOR.

    • George permalink
      15 July 2012 6:13 pm

      No it was not his closeness to the MP or ROCOR that played a part in this. It was the fact that administratively he was incompetent. And on a personal level he could not be trusted to keep his word or obligations to his brother bishops, the officers of the church, or the governing bodies of the church.

  12. 11 July 2012 7:33 pm

    Dear Lesser Synod:
    Why have you asked for the resignation of our Metropolitan JONAH?
    The very fact that you have asked “unanimously” indicates that you previously agreed among yourselves to do this.
    The fact that you did it at a Lesser Synod meeting indicates that you wanted a fait accompli: you wanted a resignation in hand before gathering the entire Synod to “approve.”
    Why did you take such a momentous decision and task upon yourselves as a “lesser” synod, a smaller committee of bishops who have not been given the authority to make sweeping decisions in isolation, but who are simply given the task of implementing and expediting the decisions of the larger, Holy Synod?
    How is it proper for you, the Lesser Synod, to make requests of our Metropolitan which are not in consultation with our Holy Synod?
    How do you take it upon yourselves to demand our Metropolitan to resign, without the consultation of the entire Synod, let alone the entire Body of The Orthodox Church in America, and then, after the fact, call a telephone conference to affirm your already concluded business?
    This action is clearly coercive toward Metropolitan JONAH, and is manipulative toward the entire Synod and the faithful.
    +JONAH has complied with all your demands: when confronted with mistakes and bad decisions, he has openly, to his own repeated public himiliation, admitted mistakes and repented and humbly, asking forgiveness for things which are not even his fault. When told to undergo humiliating psychotherapy, he came back with a psychotherapist’s letter giving him a clean bill of health. When pressured to undergo rehabilitation, he has complied –even at a designated anti-traditional institution– and come back with another clean bill of health.
    So… why give your metropolitan the boot, as you have just done?
    I suspect it is at least in part out of fear, because His Beatitude has challenged your complacency, by speaking to our culture’s most pressing issues, and engaged non-Orthodox in serious dialogue. His Beatitude has exposed something all Orthodox have been hiding: the moral culture war is not just outside, but within the Orthodox Church.
    But the question remains: Why did you, the Lesser Synod, request His Beatitude’s resignation? To give facts and evidence would clear up this mess. Press releases and episcopal letters which call for “trust” without giving answers or facts do not help.
    It is in the interest of the peace of Christ’s holy Church that I ask this question: What charge do you have against our Metropolitan?

    • George permalink
      15 July 2012 6:18 pm

      Please be accurate. It was not the Lesser Synod that unanimously requested his resignation. It was every OCA Bishop…the ENTIRE Holy Synod. This has been more than 3 years in the making. He has been at war with the Holy Synod, the HIGHEST Authority in the Church, the officers of the church, the Metropolitan Council et al. +MJ couldn’t cut the mustard. Doesn’t make him evil just not the person cutout for an important job such as the episcopate. He supposedly did great things at the monastery he came from. The most humane thing if to allow him to either return there or establish a new one.

  13. EmilyWest permalink
    16 July 2012 3:13 pm

    What you said made a lot of sense to me.

  14. 25 July 2012 11:44 am

    I am very saddened now that the reasons for Metropolitan Jonah’s removal have been made known. Saddened that such a grievous thing happened, and saddened that my confidence in his personal integrity was seemingly misplaced.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/24/metropolitan-jonah-ousted_n_1691990.html

    • vlad permalink
      22 November 2013 7:32 pm

      If you trust the huffington post on anything, you have much bigger problems.

  15. 10 November 2012 8:45 pm

    This is the very reason that I, as a potential convert, will NOT come to Orthodoxy through the OCA. The UNGODLY fighting is disgusting. SHAME! God bless +Jonah!!!

  16. David Johnson permalink
    19 December 2012 8:46 pm

    I would like to know what will happen next for Bishop Jonah, and if we will ever get a clear statement as to just what he did that was wrong. I have heard absolutely no comment at m local parish other than he was suddenly no longer commemorated during the liturgy.
    Who can speak with honesty about just why he was toppled from his office?

  17. 11 February 2013 11:49 pm

    Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation was coerced. Before July 6, 2012, many horrific lies were spread about him by certain people in the OCA Chancery, especially Fr Leonid Kishkovsky, who repeatedly lobbied the Moscow Patriarchate that +Jonah was mentally unstable. Why would a senior archpriest in the OCA do this, defame his Primate so? He didn’t want the Patriarchate to intervene to possibly restore +Jonah.

    In their July 16 letter, backed up by only innuendo and hearsay, the OCA Synod sought to destroy +Jonah’s public reputation by accusing him of unilaterally receiving into the OCA a priest who was never actually received into the OCA at any point. This same priest, alleged to have committed rape, was never accused or arrested on a rape charge. This priest struggled with alcohol abuse, and +Jonah refused to let him serve in OCA parishes once he had several outbursts and had refused to get counseling or treatment.

    Meanwhile, the OCA Synod, which claimed to be acting to protect the OCA from Met. Jonah’s tolerance of an allegedly abusive priest, took no action when one of their bishops, Matthias, sent sexually inappropriate text messages to a young woman– even though these text messages are a matter of the public record. Talk about horrific hypocrisy!

    Sadly there is no neutral ground here. One must either believe the accusations against +Jonah made by the entire OCA Synod, and thus believe +Jonah to be some kind of monster, or believe that, by spreading such lies about their then-Primate, the Synod loses all moral authority, and that they, in fact, were led by the Evil One in writing what they did about +Jonah.

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