Late last week, Metropolitan Jonah, who headed the episcopal synod of the Orthodox Church in America, resigned. The synod accepted his resignation. Needless to say, this has caused quite a stir in some sectors of Orthodoxy, especially on the blogosphere, and has made a minor ripple in secular news outlets as well. In response to some of this, Bishop Matthias, our bishop in the Midwest, has released this open letter, which is to be read following Liturgy this coming Sunday:
The latest secular news outlet that has been brought to my attention has been an article in the Chicago Tribune:
Some readers of this blog have emailed me asking what we are to make of all of this.
First, I would ask us to take Metropolitan Jonah at his word when he admitted he had “neither the personality nor the temperament for the position of primate.” His complete letter may be read here:
Second, we should also note Mark Stokoe’s remarks in the Chicago Tribune, wherein he stated this resignation was the culmination of a longer process, one that involved Metropolitan Jonah not following OCA policies and guidelines in a manner that would be productive for the governance of the OCA.
It is true that Metropolitan Jonah was a charismatic speaker with conservative religious values and this is something that will be missed by many. This appreciation of Metropolitan Jonah’s gifts lie behind the comments from Fr. Hans Jacobse in the same article. Fr. Hans is a good priest who has sought to engage conservative American politics in a manner he hopes will be fruitful. He is hardly alone, as a quick view of various Orthodox blogs would demonstrate.
Because Metropolitan Jonah was so appreciated by some for his outspokenness, there have been commenters and bloggers online who have tried to color the resignation as a political maneuver by a left-leaning synod. That is simply a false characterization. For example, our very own bishop, Bishop Matthias holds to conservative religious values and was present at the last anti-abortion march in D.C. this past January.
Another reason such speculations have been floating is, admittedly, due to a lack of knowledge. Part of this is the problem of the OCA, which shares the general Orthodox problem of lacking healthy transparency, but in this case, there are some aspects that really needn’t be publicized. And, sometimes when there is a vacuum, speculation fills the void, especially when the person in question has some clear gifts and has made some positions dear to him publicly and articulately known.
In reality, what happened was simply a long process, as noted by Mark Stokoe, wherein at least three things coalesced: poor administrative decisions, concerns for following OCA policies, and concerns with personality behaviors/expressions (and here, please remember that the synod was able to compare their own observations with those of Metrpolitan Jonah’s recent psychological evaluation: http://www.ocanews.org/news/16thAACJonahToBeEvaluated11.1.11.html). All of this led the synod eventually to ask for a resignation that was viewed as best for both parties. Metropolitan Jonah has agreed.
Metropolitan Jonah should not be demonized. The Holy Synod should not be demonized. Our synod has now wisely chosen to give the entire OCA some time before choosing our next metropolitan in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Definitely, some time for all to calm down and catch our breaths would be good.
On Sunday I will read from Bishop Matthias’ letter and it is my intention not to post on this matter again, but I hope this brief explanation is helpful to those who have been inquiring.