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