Citing Fear and Abuse, Alaskan Clergy Cry Out Against +Nikolai

Author: Mark Stokoe
Date Published: 02/21/2008

”Everywhere He goes the people scatter, the clergy and their wives and children are trembling with fear.”

After a rare public interview given to the Kodiak Daily Mirror, published February 16th, in which +Nikolai, the Bishop of Alaska, dismissed all criticisms against his Chancellor and himself, Ms. Mina Jacobs, his secretary, sought to do the same in a letter addressed to fellow Metropolitan Council members. These attempts, public and private, to counter mounting concerns about the Bishop – concerns about a new federal investigation into Paul Sidebottom’s charges of sexual harassment and retaliatory dismissal, concerns about the recent tonsuring of convicted sex offender Terenty Dushkin, concerns about the retaliatory suspension of Protodeacon George Nelson and concerns about the growing denial of sacraments to parishioners – are now being overshadowed by new allegations of abuse against the Bishop. this time made by his own clergy.

In recent days increasing numbers of Alaskan native clergy have begun writing letters of appeal to the Synod of Bishops of the OCA requesting the Synod’s help in freeing their villages and parishes from the regime of fear, personal intimidation and cultural oppression they assert +Nikolai has established throughout the OCA’s oldest diocese.

A Plea from Russian Mission

In the first of these letters to appear in public, the Very Rev. Peter Askoar of Russian Mission, the parish of St. Jacob Netsvetov, writes:

”To The Most Blessed; The Most Reverends; The Right Reverends, Archpastors, Dividers of The Truth, Fathers and Protectors of the Church of Jesus Christ: The Holy Synod:

‘Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.’ Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’

He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’

Peter said, ‘Explain the parable to us.’

‘Are you still so dull?’ Jesus asked them. ‘Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’. (Matthew 10:15-20)’

I am V. Rev. Peter Askoar, Rector of the Elevation Of The Cross Of Our Lord Church here in the Diocese of Alaska. For the last 28 years I have been serving this good Orthodox Church in America and praise God that I have been found worthy of the title of Archpriest. It is humbling to be called that and first of all I would like to ask forgiveness for my forwardness and the lack of, in my opinion, respect for you. I dare to quote scripture to my master and dividers of The Truth. For this, and any part of that, may you forgive me. Especially for even daring to put myself in an higher level to complain of what God has given me to suffer.

We are peaceful, non-confronting (if there be such word, English is my second language), happy to have suffered for the Truth, loving and simple. I have been taught by my elders never to be disrespectful to them, always to draw knowledge from them, even before doing any task that involves putting our lives on the line. We do this day in and day out, this is why probably, I have aged so much in my God-given life span of only sixty years.

We were taught that we should be in Church even if we have to crawl over to the place of Worship, and (now) to be told that we should stay home because we cannot stand for very long, to me, seems just not right. To be told that we should not speak our native language in