Alaska Orthodox bishop defies order to leave the state

Author: Ralph Gibbs
Date Published: 03/10/2008

Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, a chancellor with the Orthodox Church in America, confirmed today that Archpriest Eugene Vansuch has decided not to accept an appointment as administrator of the Alaska Diocese, temporarily replacing Bishop Nikolai Soraich.

“I believe there was just a change of plans,” Archpriest Garklavs said. “I haven’t spoken with him directly, but it sometimes happens, a reconsideration for personal reasons.”

On Friday, the Lesser Synod of Bishops ordered Bishop Nikolai, clerical leader of the Alaska Diocese, to leave the state.

The Very Rev. Garklavs said as of now, no decision has been made as Fr. Vansuch’s replacement, but a decision could come later today.

“I may be coming up myself,” Garklavs said. “It’s not certain yet. We’re waiting on the bishops to make contact with each other and make an official announcement.”

Whoever is named administrator may not have an easy time in Alaska, especially since Bishop Nikolai is refusing to leave.

Weekend developments

Leaders of the church have placed the bishop in timeout like a disobedient child, but the bishop isn’t going to his corner willingly. Instead, the bishop refuses to leave saying there is no law requiring him to step down.

The latest development played itself out on the OCA Web site Friday, when church officials posted the ruling of the Lesser Synod of Bishops.

“We inform you that we have received many letters of serious complaint from deaneries, clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Alaska,” the letter said. “Not relying on hear-say, yet acknowledging the seriousness of these letters, at your suggestion, all your brother bishops were contacted; and they unanimously agreed that the best course of action for you is that you be placed on temporary leave of absence.”

The OCA leader, Metropolitan Herman, gave Soraich 24 hours to respond positively to the letter or he threatened to make the leave mandatory.

Bishop Nikolai came out swinging.

“As a diocesan bishop of the Orthodox Church in America, I formally request that if charges are being brought against me, then canonical standards be followed,” he wrote. “I beg you, confront me with my sin and I will repent. But confront me with