Alaska Russian Orthodox Church bishop is stepping down

Author: The Associated Press
Date Published: 05/02/2008

ANCHORAGE — Bishop Nikolai Soraich, the leader of the Alaska Russian Orthodox Church, is stepping down amid a growing divide within the Alaska church.

Some parishioners had asked for his removal.

The bishop told KTUU-TV on Thursday that he is leaving, so the Alaska church may heal and move forward. Soraich said, despite his departure, he still cares about the Alaska church. But he said he now plans to travel the West Coast to visit with family and friends.

“When I came here the diocese was divided and that was because of the bishop prior to me,” Soraich said. “And to divide or to continue to allow that division to be here, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do, and sometimes you need to go where you can be appreciated for your talents and your efforts.”

Soraich said since his arrival, he has increased by half the number of clergy in Alaska.

The bishop said he does not know who will replace him. Bishop Benjamin, the head of the Western Diocese, will come to Anchorage to assess the situation, he said.

The Holy Synod of Bishops announced last month that Soraich was taking a leave of absence after meeting in New York to discuss allegations that he was abusing his office through intimidation.

Soraich denied the accusations, but acknowledged that he needs to become a better leader. He previously was ordered to leave the state by national church leaders but returned after the decision was reversed.

He argued that the church did not have the authority to remove him from his position without first going through procedures outlined in the Church Canons.