An Explanation for Metropolitan Jonah’s Resignation

His Grace, Bishop Matthias has sent out a letter (the OCA Synod Statement on the resignation as adopted by the Synod of Bishops) offering an explanation about the events surrounding the recent resignation of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of the OCA.  Bishop Matthias’ letter is also available on the Diocesan Webpage at Archpastoral Letter.

July 16, 2012
Hieromartyr Athenogenes

Archpastoral Letter
No. 149

Beloved Clery, Monastics, and Faithful of the Diocese of the Midwest:

Christ is in our midst!

We, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, have
hesitated to release further details surrounding the resignation of
Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of our Church, this in a desire to
preserve his dignity and to prevent further harm to an innocent party.
We did this knowing there would be appeals for additional information
regarding our decision. We also harbored some hope that Metropolitan
Jonah would show a willingness to accept responsibility for his
actions and failures to act. However, things said and written by
Metropolitan Jonah since his resignation have demonstrated that he is
not accepting that responsibility.

Why did we ask Metropolitan Jonah to resign?

In slightly less than four years as our leader, Metropolitan Jonah has
repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow
bishops, in accordance with the Holy Synod’s Policies, Standards and
Procedures on Sexual Misconduct (PSPs), and in compliance with advice
of the Church’s lawyers and professionals in expertise in dealing with
cases of sexual misconduct.

The most disturbing and serious matter, indeed the final matter that
caused us to ask the Metropolitan to resign or take a leave of absence
and enter a treatment program, involves the Metropolitan’s poor
judgment in critical matters of Church governance, lack of adherence
to the PSPs, and the risk of serious harm to at least one other
person. While the names, dates and other details must be held in
confidence to minimize the risk of further harm, we can say the
following.

At some point after his enthronement as our Primate, Metropolitan
Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and to
others to be actively and severely abusing alcohol, which more than
once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women.
One of these episodes involved the brandishing of a knife, and the
other the discharge of a firearm, the former resulting in the man’s
arrest. The man was also incarcerated for three days in yet another
incident, shortly after he was accepted into the OCA by Metropolitan
Jonah. While under Metropolitan Jonah’s omophorion, this priest is
alleged to have committed a rape against a woman in 2010.

Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012,
yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor
notified the Church’s lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police,
nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of
the OCA. The alleged victim, however, did report the rape to the
police. We know, too, that the alleged victim and a relative were
encouraged by certain others not to mention the incident, and were
told by them that their salvation depended on their silence. As
recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating
with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime
by the alleged victim and her relative. In addition, the Metropolitan
counseled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without
informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems.
Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other
Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to
another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there
were no canonical impediments to a transfer.

We have started an investigation into the rape allegation, and cannot
assume whether the allegation is true or not. We only know that
earlier allegations of misconduct by this priest were handled by
Metropolitan Jonah in a manner at a complete variance with the
required standards of our Church.

Moral, canonical and inter-Orthodox relations issues aside, in light
of the recent widely-publicized criminal cases involving sexual abuse
at Penn State and in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Kansas City
Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, the extent of the risk of
liability to which the Metropolitan has exposed the Church cannot be
overstated. We knew already from past experience with Metropolitan
Jonah that something had to change; we had hoped that change would
come about as the result of Metropolitan Jonah fulfilling his promise
to comply with the recommendation given him by the medical facility to
which he was admitted for evaluation and treatment last November, as
he assured us he would do at our last All-American Council in Seattle.
That promise having gone unfulfilled, when this latest problem came
to our attention at the end of June, we felt that we had no choice but
to ask him to take a leave of absence or to submit his resignation.
The moral, human, canonical and legal stakes were simply too high.

Leading up to this most recent problem, there has existed for several
years now a repeated pattern by Metropolitan Jonah of taking other
unilateral actions that were contrary to the advice of the Holy Synod
and/or the Church’s lawyers, which prolonged or caused litigation
involving the OCA, which substantially increased legal fees, which
created confusion in negotiations, and which exposed the OCA to
otherwise avoidable additional financial and legal liability.

He withheld information from his brother bishops and from the Church’s
lawyers concerning litigation matters, and matters which might have
resulted, and still might result, in litigation.

He has spoken unilaterally with and provided sensitive information to
opposing counsel and opposing parties concerning pending and
threatened litigation, although he had specifically been warned many
times of the perils in doing so.

He gave to unauthorized persons a highly sensitive, painstakingly
detailed internal Synodal report concerning numerous investigations
into sexual misconduct, risking leaks of names of alleged victims and
alleged perpetrators. While those who now possess the report are
wrongfully in possession of OCA property, they have not yet returned
their copies of these highly confidential and sensitive documents,
further exposing our Church to potential legal liabilities.

What we have said here is based on the Metropolitan’s own words, both
during numerous Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council meetings, and
established in documentary evidence. We cannot release that publicly,
and the Metropolitan Council members have legal and moral obligations
to maintain in confidence information pertaining to threats to
individuals and alleged crimes. We have however been communicating
with and will continue to communicate with law enforcement
authorities.

Our request for Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation, or that he take a
leave of absence for treatment, came at the end of a rather long list
of questionable, unilateral decisions and actions, demonstrating the
inability of the Metropolitan to always be truthful and accountable to
his peers. The Metropolitan’s freely-chosen resignation has been
characterized by him and others as the result of politics and internal
discord among the members of the Holy Synod. Quite to the contrary,
the other members of the Holy Synod stand firmly together in our
unanimous astonishment at the Metropolitan’s actions. We cannot
stress enough that while the most recent events are likely the most
dangerous for the Church, these represent only the latest in a long
series of poor choices that have caused harm to our Church. We
understand and agree that an ability to work or not work well with
others, or a challenged administrative skill set, or Metropolitan
Jonah’s refusal to comply with the recommendations of the treatment
facility, while not the reasons for his requested resignation, were
fundamentally related to the consequences of his actions.

Each bishop of the Orthodox Church in America has a duty to Jesus
Christ to shepherd his respective diocesan flock, and to be a good
steward and trustee of the temporal properties of the Church entrusted
to his care. After the developments of the past few weeks, we knew,
individually and together acting in one accord as the Synod, that we
could no longer exercise our duties as shepherds or as trustees and
stewards without asking for the Metropolitan’s resignation.

There are some who are seeking to promote a variety of rumors or other
reasons for the Metropolitan’s resignation, in their conversations or
on the Internet. Some argue that the resignation had to do with moral
or political views publicly expressed by Metropolitan Jonah that
conflicted with the views of others in the Church, the so-called
“culture wars.” Such views have never been a point of contention in
Holy Synod or Metropolitan Council meetings. These issues were
discussed, and statements and actions of the Holy Synod have
demonstrated their unchanging position on traditional Orthodox views
of morality. This speculation as to other motives behind the
resignation is simply not true; the reasons for the resignation are
detailed in this message.

We continue to pray for Metropolitan Jonah’s spiritual needs even as
his brother bishops have provided for his immediate material needs.
He has no Church assignment obligations, allowing him to focus on
himself and his family. Meanwhile, he is drawing full salary and
benefits until at least October, when the Holy Synod next meets.

We ask your prayers for the Church, for Her clergy and faithful and
for Her mission in the world.

Your shepherd in Christ,
+MATTHIAS
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest

 

See also my blog The OCA and Spiritual Maturity

14 thoughts on “An Explanation for Metropolitan Jonah’s Resignation

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

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  3. Pingback: The Resignation of Metropolitan Jonah | Fr. Ted's Blog

  4. Pingback: Metropolitan Jonah Offers His Resignation | Fr. Ted's Blog

  5. Marc Trolinger

    May God continue to bless and guide our bishops as we strive to fulfill our mission. I am very appreciative of the efforts made by all of our bishops to serve the Church with conciliarity and responsibility. May God provide a path for former Met. Jonah to serve the Church in a manner that enables his spiritual gifts to be fruitful.

  6. Benjamin

    I thank Bishop Matthias for issuing this epistle. What His Grace states here saddens me greatly, and I pray that Vladyka Jonah receives and utilizes that which he needs personally for help and healing. I love him, and I hope to see him return to full episcopal ministry, but if what His Grace states here is true (and I have no reason to not believe it), these issues must be dealt with first. I pray that they are. I consider the visibility that Metropolitan Jonah has had, and his work with other Christian groups (such as the ACNA) to be vital for the future of the American Church, and hope the next Primate will share those qualities.

    1. Fr. Ted

      There is in this a tragedy which should sadden us all. But God who can restore even the conscience reduced to ashes can bring healing to all who will come to Him.

  7. Billbagbom

    “There is in this a tragedy which should sadden us all.” This much I understand and agree with. I am not sure what to make of the next statement: “But God who can restore even the conscience reduced to ashes can bring healing to all who will come to Him.” I there some particular conscience that has been “reduced to ashes” that Father Ted is referring to? This reference seems oblique — or perhaps I am reading too much into Father Ted’s remark. I hope he will clarify what he means.

    1. Fr. Ted

      It comes from the Akathist “Glory to God for All Things”: “No one can put together what has crumbled into dust, but you can restore a conscience turned to ashes…”

      That phrase speaks to me about hope for us all: our most dear projects and plans might crumble into dust, crumble beyond any hope of repair or restoration. But God can save the sinner who feels hopeless. The tragedy of the OCA’s current situation might indeed appear to be a crumbling unto dust for us. But our hope is in God who can restore even that soul or conscience which has lost all hope.

      I think it is apropos for those of us who feel the pain of the current tragic situation in which we (the members of the OCA) find ourselves.

      Does that help clarify my statement?

  8. Pingback: The OCA and Spiritual Maturity | Fr. Ted's Blog

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