Here are Bishop Nikolai Soraich’s opening and closing statements, which he read during a March 12 press conference in Anchorage.
National church leaders with the Orthodox Church of America have ordered him take a mandatory leave of absence and leave the state while the church conducts an investigation, following claims from Alaska priests and parishioners that he’s intimidated and insulted them.
Bishop Soraich, head of the Alaska Russian Orthodox diocese, is refusing to leave. He held a press conference in Anchorage on March 12 to explain why.
He also answered questions. Those questions and answers are included on this Web site’s home page under the title, “Orthodox bishop refuses to yield.”
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I have a brief opening statement and then I will take your questions.
The situation we Orthodox Christians in Alaska face today is sad, not fatal, and one for which The Church has long been prepared. But make no mistake, this situation represents a mortal threat to Orthodoxy itself.
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. This non-canonical innovation is not only a mortal threat to The Church in Alaska, it is a mortal threat to The Orthodox Church throughout North America. The threat to The Church is this: will The Orthodox Church in America decide important issues according to Holy Scripture and The Holy Canons, or will these issues be resolved as a result of public opinion and innovations that are appropriate for corporate board rooms and churches characterized by congregational rule?
If the call for me to vacate my office had been the result of a decent and orderly process based on Holy Scripture and Holy Canons of The Church, I would have exited Alaska immediately. It was not and I will not because I refuse to abandon the faithful of the Diocese to the inevitable heresies that will result from substituting anything for Holy Scripture and the Canons of The Church as the supreme authority of this church.
I am not, and those who have studied the history of The Church are not surprised by the problems we face. Slander, unsubstantiated allegations, and the attempt to decide Church practice by politics and public opinion have been problems The Church has defeated throughout its history. That is precisely why The Holy Fathers established church law/The Holy Canons and why God Himself inspired The Holy Scriptures, especially and including Matthew 18, 15 to 17, and 1 Timothy 5.
Finally, let me offer the counsel of more than two thousand years of Church history.
To the Orthodox Clergy of Alaska: Consult Holy Scripture, the Canons of The Church, and pray. Then do what Holy Scripture and the Canons of The Church tell you to do.
To Orthodox lay people in Alaska: Go to your priest and ask him to show you what Holy Scripture and the Holy Canons say as Orthodox persons and ask what they should do in a situation like this and then do what Holy Scripture and Holy Canons tell you to do.
These are as relevant today as they have been over the last two millennia.
For those of you who are not Orthodox Christians, I have this to say: we Orthodox Christians, like you, are imperfect people. It is also true that we Orthodox Christians have more than two thousand years of experience living our faith despite persecution, poor leadership, gossip, and terrible in-fighting. And we have grown and thrived because, in the end, we submitted to the clear directives of Holy Scripture and Holy Canons