Metropolitan Jonah steps down

July 9, 2012

I just learned that Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) has resigned as primate of the Orthodox Church in America. He submitted his letter of resignation this past Friday, July 6; the bishops of the synod, meeting by conference call, accepted his resignation the following day, and, today, appointed Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit as locum tenens and Bishop Peter of New York as temporary Administrator of the O.C.A. The text of Metropolitan Jonah’s letter of resignation, taken from the OCA website, reads as follows:

“To the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America,


“As per your unanimous request, as conveyed to me by Chancellor Fr. John Jillions, I hereby tender my resignation as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and humbly request another Episcopal assignment.

“I had come to the realization long ago that that I have neither the personality nor the temperament for the position of Primate, a position I never sought nor desired.

“It is my hope that due consideration will be made for my financial situation, both in any interim and in consideration for any future position. I am the main financial support for both my parents and my sister, beyond my own needs.

“I will appreciate your consideration in this, and beg forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment.

“Asking your prayers, I remain faithfully yours,
“Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington”

One fact that comes to light in this letter is that the synod of the O.C.A. had unanimously requested Metropolitan Jonah to step down. One wonders why.

9 Responses to “Metropolitan Jonah steps down”

  1. psiosifson Says:

    I friend described the situation this way: “The short answer is that the head of the OCA resigned because he’s had trouble working with the rest of the Synod of bishops. The story is that, essentially, he wasn’t really cut out for the role of head honcho of a national church. It was, perhaps, a consequence of essentially going straight from a role as the abbot of a monastery to the head of the national church – quite a jump in level of responsibility.”

    He and another also said: “the real story, in my opinion, is how the Synod has lost the PR battle. There is little they can do to come out not looking like the bad guys. When you here the words “cabal,” “pack of wolves,” and the like, you know that the public opinion is driving itself without any real knowledge of what is going on. It sounds to me like few to none of them have the wherewithal to lead a national church, at least from a PR point of view…. Metropolitan Jonah is the only one with professional journalists and such spinning for him on the web-logs (though they don’t, of course, have his blessing and permission). AOI and Rod Dreher have national platforms and inside scoops. They also have an interest in “poisoning the well” if things don’t go as they say – note how Dreher says he wishes Jonah would go out like Samson instead of going out meekly. The Synod lost the PR battle over a year ago when Dreher put out his slick insider-knowledge-fueled OCA Truth web-log and they’ve been unable to catch up since.”

  2. bekkos Says:

    Well, it may be as you say; I don’t claim any insider knowledge about the situation. But, given the limitations of my knowledge, I must remain open to the possibility that some at least of Rod Dreher’s claims about the causes for the bishops’ unhappiness with Metropolitan Jonah are true. Undoubtedly, as you say, he was not a very competent administrator; he himself seems to admit this. However, some would claim that there was opposition to Metropolitan Jonah because of his public stance against abortion and same-sex marriage (see the linked article by Nicholas Chancy); my guess is that there is at least some basis of fact to this accusation. The best article I have read concerning the church-political background to Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation is by Andrew Walsh, titled “Cirque d’OCA“; it is very informative and, I think, even-handed, and, if nothing else, it shows the extent to which the culture wars that divide the larger American society have now affected the relatively insular community of the O.C.A.

  3. dmd53 Says:

    Nonsense – the Bishops of the OCA, and all of Orthodoxy for that matter, have been staunch defenders of traditional values – particularly apposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. This is a made up charge against the Synod and a review online of the letters and publications of the various Dioceses of the OCA and their Bishops verifies the same. The problem with some is that while Orthodoxy is a conservative faith by nature, religious conservatism does not always line up with the political version of the same.

  4. psiosifson Says:

    The culture war/politics aspect of this is definitely the view of a small group in the DOS. Regarding Met. Jonah’s “public stance against abortion and same-sex marriage” as a primary reason he was pressed to resign, I would simply note that Met. Herman and Bp Tikhon were regulars at the annual March for Life in DC, and Bps. Michael of NY/NJ and Matthias of Chicago issued public letters against gay marriage (as has the Assembly of Bishops across jurisdictions, I believe). It’s an angle, it’s just not the whole picture. Same is true of the old guard/liberal vs. new guard/traditionalist/monastic dialectic, same with the cradle/convert bit. They’re all true and all part of the story, but it’s more the tangle of all of them and someone not temperamentally appropriate for the politicking needed to manage such constituencies while being the unifying face of the OCA to other Orthodox, other Christians, and in public life.

  5. psiosifson Says:

    Fr Yousuf Rassam of the OCA addressed some of the issues Dreher, Monomakhos, AOI, et al have been putting forward as the reason Met. Jonah was pressured into resigning:

    “…at the last All-American Council in Seattle, every bishop voted openly and plainly for the resolution “On the Sanctity Marriage”. I watched them, and I repeat, every single bishop there voted for the resolution, which resolution passed, text is on pp 77 – 78 of the pdf here:

    Click to access 16thaac-minutes.pdf

    in addition to which there are the following, which remain as OCA statements on the subject:


    If you or anyone else chooses to believe mostly anonymous provocateurs and propagandists on Monomakhos, whilst dis-believing the plainly stated convictions of the Bishops in the exercise of their teaching office, that is your choice, but I do not think it a “pro-Orthodox” choice at all.

    There are in fact, no actual indications that these issues were what caused Met. Jonah to “get the boot” as you say.

    You then reference several personal issues. Fr. Bobosh’s words, for instance, were grossly de-contextualized. It is alleged that the Bishop and Deacon you reference have an improper relationship, among other allegations involving one or both of them, but when Met. Jonah had direct authority over that situation as locum tenens of the South, he did not act. It is alleged that communing of practicing homosexuals takes place at the DC Cathedral, which was Met. Jonah’s primatial cathedral until last Friday, and precisely those who make this allegation also allege that Met. Jonah’s response to the situation was insufficient. When Met. Jonah was locum tenens of the Mid-west, he did not act against Stokoe. Bp. Matthias, however, did act against Stokoe, and not one bishop of the OCA stood against Bp. Matthias on that issue. Bp. Matthias, however, was one of the bishops who thought that Met. Jonah needed to resign.

    I do not believe that simply making an allegation, let alone an anonymous internet allegation, means that what would ordinarily be a private pastoral issue needs to be endlessly discussed in internet for a by further anonymous ones. I simply point out the above facts because they are the points you provide, and if, IF, IF, they show a lavender mafia, THEN they do not show Met. Jonah as a threat to said lavender.

    Rather, the indications are that the culture war angle in reference to the Metropolitan’s difficulties with the Synod is and has always been a deliberate diverting distraction.”

  6. bekkos Says:


    Thanks for the link to Fr. Yousuf’s comment, although I confess that, in reading your quotation above from Fr. Yousuf, I thought at first that you were replying to my own previous comment, and I was somewhat puzzled.

    As stated earlier, I don’t claim any insider knowledge about the situation. Confronted with the unexplained fact of the metropolitan’s resignation this past weekend, I have been trying to understand why it happened. The mere fact that this resignation came as a complete surprise to me should be a sufficient sign that I am very much out of the loop on these matters. It also should demonstrate that I have not been addicted to internet discussions about the internal politics of the O.C.A., nor to any of the websites that you mention (AOI, Rod Dreher, etc.) which thrive on disseminating gossip.

    That being said, it still seems to me that the Walsh article that I linked to above is informative and helps shed some light upon the church-political background to His Beatitude’s resignation. I would note that Walsh does not take sides; nor does he claim that the Metropolitan’s problems with the synod were merely an outgrowth of internet polemics. But he does see those polemics as symptomatic of the times in which we live, and as showing the Orthodox Church in America to be affected by the same sort of political pressures that are affecting other Christian bodies.

    As for the Nicholas Chancy article to which I also linked: you, and dmd53, are probably right that the basic allegation made in this article — viz., that Metropolitan Jonah resigned because of opposition from bishops to his positions on abortion and same-sex marriage — is fundamentally wrong; having looked now at the OCA official statements on these issues, I find that explanation weak and implausible. Also, I think dmd53’s assertion about accusations against the Synod is true and worth repeating: “The problem with some is that while Orthodoxy is a conservative faith by nature, religious conservatism does not always line up with the political version of the same.” (For my own part, I am grateful for that non-allignment.) Nevertheless, Chancy’s article is not without merit, even if his basic contention about the causes of Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation is wrong. He describes there an interchange he had with one Inga Leonova on a discussion on Metropolitan Savas’s Facebook page some months ago; I remember reading that discussion when it occurred, and I remember finding Miss Leonova’s assertions disturbing. I do not know Inga Leonova personally; but I was, for some years, a parishioner at the church she now attends, the OCA cathedral in Boston; the priest there, Fr. Arida, was my spiritual father. I also know that there are other Orthodox Christians in Boston, besides Miss Leonova, who are vocal proponents of the view that the Church’s teaching on sexuality — its understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman — is open to revision. And I also know that there are Orthodox who did not like Metropolitan Jonah’s signing of the Manhattan Declaration, and who complained about it. All of this is not to say that the Metropolitan’s problems with his synod were an outcome of a political cabal against him. It is simply to say that the heavy winds of our overheated American political climate are undoubtedly circulating through the sanctuaries of our Orthodox churches; the possibility that Metropolitan Jonah caught a cold from this is not one that I can a priori discount.

  7. psiosifson Says:

    I agree that it played a part, but more as an exacerbating factor among many – and not the most important in the overall situation. i also agree that there are camps that are primarily focused on the social/political aspect, both right and left, and for them this may be more primary (e.g., Dreher on the Right, Leonova on the Left) – but it was not primary in the Synod or the Metropolitan Council’s problems with the Metropolitan, and it’s these broadly ‘administrative’ problems that did him in.

    I lived near the OCA Cathedral in Boston for many years when I was in school there, but that was before I was Orthodox. I visited since becoming Orthodox and it seemed a litle too, well, more like Inga and Crestwood of the 70s; I prefer Holy Resurrection in Allston when I’m there.

  8. George Says:

    There has been wild accusations that Jonah was done in by liberals who were against his stances on homosexuality and abortion. Nonsense. These have been the official stances of the Orthodox Church for 2000 years. Also the OCA has been part of the Pro-life march in DC 30 years before Jonah was even elected and have an official document regarding abortion and homosexuality since 1992 that all members of the Holy Synod including the Primate must submit to. The truth of the matter is that Metropolitan Jonah continually lied and to and about the Holy Synod, the officers of the church, the Metropolitan Council, and many other members of the Church’s governing structures. He was only ever concerned with playing dress up. Instead of asking to be financially compensated for failing the OCA he should be paying back 3 years worth of salary he never earned since he performed no services for them. Mark Stokoe was right about him and his supporters. Anyone that has the stomach can read all about it on I dare say that Jonah will be forgotten by the oca and world orthodoxy rather quickly. There has been a petition out for a week among Jonah supporters that can only muster 68 signatures and it is highly likely that it is a smaller group of hardliners just signing under fictitious names. They have done before on their defunct website A propaganda machine that seems to have disappeared. Thanks be to God for that. And before you judge me too harshly please understand that I originally supported +Jonah but very quickly his side of the story didn’t add up. I also signed the manhattan declaration.

  9. bekkos Says:

    A postscript: Bishop Matthias of Chicago has published a letter which clarifies the Holy Synod’s grounds for requesting the Metropolitan’s resignation; it can be read here. Here is a passage from it:

    Our request for Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation, or that he take a leave of absence for treatment, came at the end of a rather long list of questionable, unilateral decisions and actions, demonstrating the inability of the Metropolitan to always be truthful and accountable to his peers. The Metropolitan’s freely-chosen resignation has been characterized by him and others as the result of politics and internal discord among the members of the Holy Synod. Quite to the contrary, the other members of the Holy Synod stand firmly together in our unanimous astonishment at the Metropolitan’s actions. We cannot stress enough that while the most recent events are likely the most dangerous for the Church, these represent only the latest in a long series of poor choices that have caused harm to our Church. We understand and agree that an ability to work or not work well with others, or a challenged administrative skill set, or Metropolitan Jonah’s refusal to comply with the recommendations of the treatment facility, while not the reasons for his requested resignation, were fundamentally related to the consequences of his actions.

    Each bishop of the Orthodox Church in America has a duty to Jesus Christ to shepherd his respective diocesan flock, and to be a good steward and trustee of the temporal properties of the Church entrusted to his care. After the developments of the past few weeks, we knew, individually and together acting in one accord as the Synod, that we could no longer exercise our duties as shepherds or as trustees and stewards without asking for the Metropolitan’s resignation.

    There are some who are seeking to promote a variety of rumors or other reasons for the Metropolitan’s resignation, in their conversations or on the Internet. Some argue that the resignation had to do with moral or political views publicly expressed by Metropolitan Jonah that conflicted with the views of others in the Church, the so-called “culture wars.” Such views have never been a point of contention in Holy Synod or Metropolitan Council meetings. These issues were discussed, and statements and actions of the Holy Synod have demonstrated their unchanging position on traditional Orthodox views of morality. This speculation as to other motives behind the resignation is simply not true; the reasons for the resignation are detailed in this message.

    So far as I am concerned, this letter makes sufficiently clear the grounds for the Holy Synod’s action in asking the Metropolitan to resign.

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