Answers posted here are related to Vladyka’s Letter.
January 30, 2007
Mark N. Sudia wrote:
Dear Fr. Isidore:
Why does the Orthodox Church In America own property within a separate Territorial diocese?
I just reread the posting from “Orthodox Christians for Accountability”, regarding the apparent problem of ownership of Church Properties in Alaska.
Although I’m not a lawyer, it seems clear to me that the quickest way to end the dispute would be for His Beatitude Metropolitan Herman to convene a meeting of the Metropolitan Council, and to begin the procedures that would lead to all properties in Alaska being officially-deeded to the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska.
Maybe this answer is oversimplified, but it seems that it would reinforce His Grace Bishop NIKOLAI’s assertion that as Diocesan Bishop, he is responsible for all spiritual and administrative matters in His Diocese.
Also, this would allow the Diocese of Alaska to support the national church by tithing, as His Grace has suggested, and it would equalize the authority that Syosset has over the Diocese.
I hope this suggestion is helpful. Please answer at your earliest convenience.
Yours In Christ,
Mark N. Sudia
Greetings. We have been thinking about the best way to answer your question and I spoke to Vladyka NIKOLAI who gave me some good pointers to appropriately answer your question.
In Orthodoxy, the territory, i.e. the physical property in a particular diocese, comes with the Diocese. No where in the world does a bishop who is not the bishop of a particular diocese own land in that diocese - this is a canonical impossibility. There is what we call stavropighial but that is yet another term and is not being used properly in our Church and does not pertain to Alaska at all. Nearly all of the property which we have title to in Alaska falls into the category of current church or cemetery sites, or sites which once had churches or cemeteries. When Alaska was sold to the US in 1867, specific stipulations were made in the treaty with Russia that church lands would be titled to the church. This took some time to complete — but it should be understood, in 1867 there was only ONE diocese in America, and that Diocese had as her see, Sitka. In 1867 there were no parishes outside Alaska in America. It was only later that the administrative center was moved to San Francisco, and later New York. At the time, there was no Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Metropolia, or later OCA.
The Lands Commission was created by Archbishop GREGORY because he wanted to ensure what was being done. Since this commission was created by the diocesan hierarch at the time, that same commission only exists at the pleasure of the diocesan hierarch. Bishop NIKOLAI chose to dissolve the commission which consisted mainly of members outside his diocese. To do so was his prerogative.
Any question of who owns property in Alaska is a question of the authenticity of the church here and nothing more. For example, if the OCA owned the property in Alaska, then it also owns the churches and cemeteries, and there is no diocese. That’s not the case in any respect, canonically or legally.
The Diocese of Alaska is alive and growing and will continue to do that despite the negative allegations and attacks. Our bishop is competent, experienced, and well-versed in the work he needs to do for the care of the church. The spiritual and material needs of the diocese couldn’t be in better hands. I think the growth and spiritual renewal we are experiencing is clearly indicative of that.
Please let me know if this doesn’t answer your question adequately and I will elucidate any other point you might find missing.
Love and Blessings,
December 26, 2006
Thanks for the very insightful letter. Many questions were clarified.
Any comment about the dismissed librarian, or the 50 year old deacon who was dismissed from St. Herman Seminary?
The 50 year old deacon is a Subdeacon. I received a call from Father Chad,
my dean at SHS prior to my visit there in early November. He said that the
Lekanof’s wanted to leave because of family issues back at St. George and asked if I
would talk with them. We agreed that this would occur on my visit. The day of my
arrival he served as a Subdeacon at vigil but was not at all focused on the
service which I thought must be his preoccupation with leaving, still not an
excuse not to serve well to God’s glory. The next morning he didn’t serve
and actually had to be called and told to come to Church by one of the staff
and after liturgy Father Chad went to get them for their meeting. He was told that it
was no use they had started to pack and were leaving. The fact is that I
never met with them and he was subsequently suspended from serving.
As for the librarian, you must be referring to Dr. Lydia Black. She was not
terminated at this time nor was she evicted from the apartment the Seminary
had provided her for several years while she used our archives to do
research for her writings.
Love and Blessings,
Gail Sheppard wrote:
On the Forum, a popular Internet site, several people were wondering if everyone
in the OCA received letters with Vladyka’s statement?
We took all the names and address that we have accumulated in the last five
years and tried to remove the duplicates before sending the letter to all on the list.
It may be interesting to note that there was no diocesan mailing list when
we arrived. Bishop Innocent took it and we were told by the people at PIP
printers, here in Anchorage, that he would bring the list in and then take it away again after the mailings.
Providentially, they kept a copy for whatever reason and it was from that copy that we started our first mailing list.It’s too bad, that the Orthodox Church in America does not make it’s mailing list available to all the dioceses for their mailings.
Love and Blessings,