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Orthodox Church in America
927 N. LaSalle St. Chicago, IL 60610

Archpastoral Letter No. 53 March 30th, 2007

To the Esteemed Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful in the Diocese of the Midwest:

My Beloved in the Lord

Glory to Jesus Christ!

We enter into Great and Holy week amidst great distraction and confusion with regard to the crisis which continues to plague our Orthodox Church in America. Recent news concerning the Metropolitan Council, Holy Synod, decisions rendered by both, disregard for some of them, removal of one member of the Special Commission, his suspension from the Metropolitan Council, the testimony of the former Chancellor before the Holy Synod, the rescission of his transfer by the Metropolitan with the concurrence of the Synod, the change of mind on the part of the Archbishop of Dallas regarding the decision, the resulting canonical and logical chaos, etc. etc. form a mind-boggling litany of complications which having thoroughly "muddied the waters," could be described as a comedy of errors. But no one can laugh; it is proper for us only to weep.

I intend, by means of this communication, to offer clarification regarding some of the more perplexing issues:

1. The removal of Gregory Nescott from the Special Commission and his suspension from the Metropolitan Council

When I initially heard of Gregg’s posting on regarding his remarks at the Metropolitan Council session (although he had taken great pains to edit) I became irritated because it was done without my knowledge as chairman of the Special Commission and the Commission members had all agreed that nothing would be written or published unilaterally without the consensus of the entire Commission. Since Metropolitan HERMAN appointed Gregg to the Commission, he had the authority to remove him from it. This was the consensus of the Holy Synod and I did not oppose it, although I remember commenting about how the news would be received by the Church. Gregg was an extremely valuable member of the Commission and I regret losing his expertise and input. With regard to Gregg’s suspension from the Metropolitan Council, His Beatitude did this in concert with Archbishop KYRILL, Gregg’s diocesan hierarch. I had no right to say anything in opposition to the action, but I felt and continue to feel that it was a mistake that has only added to the anger, disillusionment and pain in the Church.

2. The Report of the Special Commission

The Metropolitan Council has approved the release of the fully documented 13-page Report of the Special Commission or a redaction of it, and the Holy Synod confirmed that decision. This has not yet been done because of the ‘complications’ since the Synod met. I continue to maintain that every member of the Church has the right and the obligation, in order "to fulfill all righteousness," to know the truth.

3. The former Chancellor’s suspension

In his letter of 30 March to Archbishop DMITRI of the South, His Beatitude Metropolitan HERMAN stated:

"On March 20, the Holy Synod heard a presentation by Archbishop JOB and Bishop BENJAMIN of the work of the Special Investigative Committee regarding allegations of financial improprieties committed by Fr Robert S. Kondratick while he was Chancellor of the OCA. This presentation was accompanied by a written report which consisted of a detailed summary of the evidence to support the allegations that were uncovered by our law firm and accounting firm. The investigation was not ‘fueled by fear and intimidation’ as your allege, but was rather the result of nearly one year of deliberative investigative work. As you pointed out, the evidence presented was ‘overwhelming.’

"Fr. Kondratick then presented himself to the Synod, allegedly to answer questions about the allegations concerning his misconduct. Contrary to the implication in your letter, neither I, nor the Hoy Synod requested his attendance at the meeting. Rather, as is clearly documented, it was Fr. Kondratick who asked to be permitted to address the Holy Synod to answer questions about the allegations against him... After hearing his presentation, his answers to specific questions presented by member of the Synod, and after significant deliberation in executive session, it was concluded that his limited responses were neither credible nor adequate to explain his actions. The Holy Synod unanimously supported the immediate suspension of Fr. Kondratick.

"Our final session was held on March 22. At that time, you persuasively requested that I rescind Fr. Kondratick’s letter of transfer to the Diocese of the South… I agreed to your request and rescinded his transfer. Fr. Kondratick was notified in writing of his change in status. These actions were taken at your request and with my approval and were witnessed by the Holy Synod. Thus, they are appropriate, legitimate and valid."

The suspension will become effective following Pascha and a Spiritual Court will be scheduled.

My friends, it has been a long and arduous road and it has taken its toll on me physically, spiritually and emotionally. Although much progress has been made, we are not, as they say, "out of the woods yet." I stand with the other Hierarchs of the Holy Synod in support of the efforts of His Beatitude Metropolitan HERMAN. I am also listening closely to the various opinions, recommendations and feelings of our diocesan clergy and laity and relying, as always, on the wise counsel of our Chancellor and Deans. I value everyone’s opinion. I have considered the possibility of convening an extraordinary diocesan assembly shortly after Pascha in order to discuss fully all concerns, but I have been persuaded that perhaps the time is not right in order for it to be effective. Instead I call for increased and persistent prayer for our Orthodox Church in America, especially during the Great and Holy Week, for watchful patience, and for an increase in love for "those who love us and those who hate us," that all may find salvation in Christ, our God and our Hope.

In a recent reflection by one of our diocesan priests, the following consideration was offered:

"We can compare our situation to the equally discouraging times for the people of God described in 1 & 2 Maccabees, where the Jews experience a never-ending series of sins: corruption, betrayal, apostasy, greed, deception as well as frequent murders and endless destructive warfare. We might find some solace for our own sorrowful state in the words of 2 Maccabees 6:12-16:

"Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities, but to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately. For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us, in order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people."

In another unidentified commentary, originally intended for a different crisis, but applicable to our situation, we may ponder these words:

"We need, in the midst of this crisis, to affirm our faith in the lordship of God. God is still firmly in charge, the center still holds - betrayal, some bad choices by bishops, inflated media reporting, and predictions of doom on all sides, notwithstanding. The church isn’t dying. Crucifixions don’t end life, they lead to new, enriched life."

My Beloved, we must lay our pain, our frustration, our impatience, our gloom at the foot of the Cross this week, confident that Christ is "fully in charge." May you have a spiritually edifying Great and Holy Week and a wonderful celebration of the Lord’s Pascha.

With much love in Christ,
Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest