Scandalous Days in the OCA

Author: Andrew Walsh
Date Published: 03/02/2009

POKROV NOTE: This article was published in the Winter, 2009, issue of “Religion in the News.” It was republished on Pokrov on March 2, 2009.
Euphoria in remarkable degree greeted the November 12 election of Bishop Jonah Paffhausen as the leader of the Orthodox Church in America at a church conclave in Pittsburgh.

“Hundreds of clergy and laity of the Orthodox Church in America wept for joy yesterday,” Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opened her story on the event. “This is a miraculous occurrence,” the Rev. John Reeves, an OCA pastor in State College, Pennsylvania, told her. We hear stories like this in the lives of the saints.”

Press critic Terry Mattingly called it a “stunning, amazing” story in his blog Get Religion on November 13. For Mattingly and others, part of the news value of the event involved the election of the first non-“cradle Orthodox,” or convert, to lead one of the nation’s major Orthodox jurisdictions. Part had to do with an electrifying, impromptu speech Paffhausen had given a few days earlier at the Pittsburgh All-American Council, which had been called to elect a new metropolitan, or primate, for the church.

But most of the giddiness bubbled up from an unanticipated outbreak of hope that the OCA might finally escape a grinding decade of squalid scandal that has discredited virtually all of the church’s leadership on charges of financial corruption or collusion to cover it up. It is hard to think of a church scandal that has involved so large a proportion of a significant church’s leadership