Russian Orthodox bishop leaving Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The leader of the Alaska Russian Orthodox Church said he is stepping down, and will leave the state within a week.
For months, Bishop Nikolai Soraich has been at the center of a growing divide within the Alaska church.
After seven years in the state, some parishioners asked church officials for his removal.
Thursday, Bishop Nikolai said he is leaving, so the Alaska church may heal, and move forward.
“I’m going to be leaving Alaska and taking some time to visit family and friends whom I’ve neglected for the last seven years since I’ve been in Alaska,” Nikolai said.
When he first arrived in Alaska, he was welcomed by local church members.
But a growing divide within the church forced some to ask for the bishop’s removal earlier this year.
“When I came here the diocese was divided and that was because of the bishop prior to me,” Nikolai said. “And to divide or to continue to allow that division to be here, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do, and sometimes you need to go where you can be appreciated for your talents and your efforts.”
Since his arrival, the bishop says he has increased by half the number of clergy in Alaska.
“We put St. Innocent of Irkusk here because of the historical value of the museum,” Nikolai said.
At the Downtown Anchorage Museum he helped build, the bishop says, despite his departure he still cares about the Alaska church.
“And that I will still pray for them and ask for their prayers for me too in these difficult times,” Nikolai said.
He said he will take a leave of absence from the church – and travel the west coast to visit family and friends before deciding where he will go next.
Nikolai said he does not know who will replace him.
He said the head of the Western Diocese, Bishop Benjamin will come to Anchorage either Thursday or Friday to assess the situation.
Perhaps a sign of the divide within the church here: Bishop Nikolai said he wasn’t told the travel itinerary of Bishop Benjamin – even though the two leaders will be in Anchorage at the same time, before Nikolai leaves the state, perhaps for good.
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