Bishop, OCA in open battle over Alaska diocese

Author: Ralph Gibbs
Date Published: 03/13/2008

The battle for the Russian Orthodox Diocese in Alaska continues into its ninth day today with the disputed Alaskan leader, Bishop Nikolai Soraich, still refusing to leave Alaska as ordered.

On Wednesday, Bishop Nikolai called a press conference to reiterate that he would not step down, accusing Orthodox Church Leader Metropolitan Herman and the Lesser Synod of Bishops of causing the current crisis by not following proper church protocol.

“For the first time in the history of the church in North America, a lesser synod has attempted to effectively depose a bishop and to place an administrator in authority over an entire diocese,” the bishop said in his opening statement. “This non-canonical innovation is not only a moral threat to the church in Alaska, it is a mortal threat to the Orthodox Church throughout North America.”

He said the threat is whether the OCA will decide important issues according to Scripture and the Canons or will issues be resolved as public opinion.

“If the call for me to vacate my office had been the result of decent and orderly process based on Holy Scripture and Holy Canons of the church, I would have exited Alaska immediately.”

Until then, he said he will not leave Alaska until he is deposed.

The dispute heated up another degree yesterday as clergy and supporters closest to the bishop spoke to the media for the first time. Archimandrite Isidore, who is at the center of his own troubles, told the Anchorage Daily News that the OCA is seizing on the internal strife to remove a bishop they have had long-standing issues with.

Bishop Nikolai said he didn’t know why he is being targeted.

“You know, I can’t speak for what’s in another person’s heart,” he said.

He said that his strict adherence to rules had made him a target inside Alaska.

“When I came to Alaska, it was a pretty loose diocese,” he said. “There were 26 priests here and I think eight of them were suspended, and it was pretty loose over the years where they pretty much wanted to go where they wanted to go.”

Meanwhile, Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, the newly appointed administrator of the Diocese of Alaska issued his own statement Wednesday in a letter published on the church’s Web site.

“By the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America