Chicago native quits as leader of American Orthodox Church
The Chicago native elected to the helm of the Orthodox Church in America resigned this weekend, saying in a letter that he has “neither the personality nor the temperament” to lead the church.
Metropolitan Jonah submitted his resignation during a conference call on Saturday with other bishops of the church. In his letter of resignation, he said he was leaving the post in response to the unanimous request of the bishops.
“I had come to the realization long ago that I have neither the personality nor the temperament for the position of primate, a position I never sought nor desired,” he wrote in a letter of resignation.
The letter was written Friday in his Washington, D.C. home and witnessed by the Orthodox Church in America’s chancellor, according to a statement from the church.
Elected in 2008 to lead one of several branches of Orthodox Christianity in the United States, Metropolitan Jonah became primate under a banner of reform after his predecessor, Archbishop Herman, retired amid allegations that leaders of the 400,000-member denomination used millions of dollars from church coffers to cover personal expenses.
The Orthodox Church in America is part of a constellation of churches separate from the Roman Catholic Church since the 11th Century.
Born James Paffhausen and raised on Chicago’s Near North Side, he was baptized at St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church.
He discovered the Orthodox strand of Christianity during college at the University of California at San Diego. A book about mystical theology affirmed his concerns about the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in 1978 and led him to convert that same year.
“A church should be stable. There shouldn’t be that kind of turmoil,” Metropolitan Jonah said during an interview with the Tribune in July 2009. “Intuitively, I had to become Orthodox.”
His family was “horrified” by his choice, he said. While working in Russia as a doctoral candidate, he fell in love with the wholesale commitment of monasticism. He eventually established monasteries and missions in California and Hawaii.
“I’d come to the realization that I really didn’t care about pursuing a position of money and power,” he said. “I was raised to be a corporate executive like my father and grandfather. I found it empty.”
In his letter over the weekend, Metropolitan Jonah asked the bishops to consider his financial situation when making another assignment since he supports his parents and sister.
“I will appreciate your consideration in this, and beg forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment.”