Orthodox church names fill-in for Alaska bishop

Author: Ralph Gibbs
Date Published: 03/11/2008

Maintain faith and love.

That was the message sent by Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, to Alaskans, in an effort to begin the healing process.

Fr. Garklavs was appointed administrator of the Alaska Diocese on Monday. He replaces Archpriest Eugene Vansuch, who declined the appointment over the weekend.

An administrator was appointed for the diocese after the church placed Bishop Nikolai Soraich on mandatory leave of absence and ordered him to leave Alaska while church officials investigate accusations of physical and mental abuse and abuse of power.

“Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, in addition to his responsibilities as chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, is hereby appointed as the administrator for the Diocese of Alaska, effective immediately,” Metropolitan Herman, leader of the OCA in America and Canada wrote in a letter published on their Web site. (Bishop Nikolai’s) name is not to be elevated at any service and he has been released of all responsibilities in the administration of the diocese and St. Herman’s Seminary.”

Garklavs said because Bishop Nikolai is refusing to leave Alaska, he’s not sure when he will come up, but hopes by next week. Until then, he had a message for members of the OCA in Alaska.

“Remember that the church is larger than the sum of its parts and therefore the church is larger then the Diocese of Alaska,” He said. “We are very concerned about everybody in Alaska, from Bishop Nikolai to the most recently baptized child, and just as soon as possible we hope to be there and we hope we can maintain their faith and love at this time.”

Garklavs said his appointment is just the first step of the healing process. The investigation into the allegations is another, and while he’s here he will be traveling and listening to members.

However, he said that couldn’t begin until the bishop leaves Alaska.

“Bishop Nikolai has not been prejudged,” he said. “There is no prejudgment on him, his character or his administration. Rather, I would say the church is attempting to investigate the situation in Alaska in an impartial and objective manner, which really cannot be done while Bishop Nikolai is in Alaska.

Garklavs said that an official communiqu