Thoughts on Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation as primate

“But I say to you,” the Lord says, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you.” Why did he command these things? So that he might free you from hatred, sadness, anger and grudges, and might grant you the greatest possession of all, perfect love, which is impossible to possess except by the one who loves all equally in imitation of God.”

—St. Maximus the Confessor

“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.”

—St Seraphim of Sarov

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Metropolitan Jonah is an exceptionally kind and loving man, a wonderful pastor at the primatial cathedral of St Nicholas here in Washington, D.C. His heartfelt, thought-provoking sermons have deeply inspired me, and his writings have illumined so many of the Church’s teachings and the principles of the Gospel. I have gone before him for confession, where he is a gentle and compassionate listener who offers great wisdom, and I have spoken with him numerous times. He is such a blessing to our parish, such a light to everyone he touches with his presence. I was aware that the relationships between the Metropolitan, the Chancellery and the Holy Synod of Bishops were often strained, but it seemed like time, mutual forgiveness, and the grace of the Holy Spirit were healing these wounds. We are all deeply shocked by the Synod’s abrupt decision to request that he resign.

Thousands of ordinary faithful in the OCA are taking to Facebook and other forms of media to express their love and support for our primate and their dismay at his removal. The outpouring of love for him coming from all across North America truly amazes me! Those who have met him love him for his incredible kindness and deep spiritual insight, while to all those who have not met him, he represents a new face, a revitalization of the OCA as someone who was untainted by the fiscal and ethical scandals of the previous years. His dynamic vision for the Church’s continued ministry on this continent has inspired so many of the faithful, especially young people, along with his and his brother bishops’ gentle but committed defense of the moral fullness of all the Gospel teachings. These spiritual qualities are ones which I and so many others believe uniquely suit him to help restore and lead the Church through so many of its difficulties.

We will always have his example before us, even if he cannot be our Metropolitan. Anyone capable of writing the beautiful thoughts on forgiveness and love which he published in his “Reflections on a Spiritual Journey”, reflections to which he so often gave voice during sermons at St Nicholas Cathedral and around the country, is a person of immense spiritual and pastoral grace and insight.

I pray that the bishops in the Holy Synod recognize this evident truth, mindful that by asking for Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation, they have initiated a great disturbance in the inner life of our Church. I love the bishops, and I know most of them are men deeply committed to the Church who love the faithful, but it is difficult to express the degree to which the Metropolitan’s resignation has unsettled and shocked many of us.

I hope and pray that we hear more soon about what transpired. At present time neither the Chancery in Syosset, New York nor the Holy Synod are releasing any detailed statements explaining why the Synod unanimously requested Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation. Unfortunately, the press releases on oca.org which they have put out are vague and do not address the core question which so many of the faithful are asking: why did the Synod ask him to resign? All the faithful seek to find out why this has come to pass.

Above all, everyone is praying that Metropolitan Jonah will continue to have an active role in the Orthodox Church in America. He has so many gifts as a theologian, a pastor and a bishop. We need him very much. He is one of the most caring, insightful, and loving pastors, a truly Orthodox hierarch in his compassionate but committed defense of the Church’s moral teachings, and an inspiration to everyone at St Nicholas.

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On a personal level, as my spiritual father he played a formative and guiding role in my conversion to Orthodoxy. His interest in engaging young Orthodox Christians in their parish life, his offering of retreats where frank and open discussions with young people about Church teachings took place, and his compassionate Christian witness and sense of humor have inspired numerous young people across Orthodox jurisdictions.

On Monday, July 9 I talked briefly with the Metropolitan at his DC residence. I shared with him that so many people love him and are praying for him. He is as kind and warmhearted as ever, and is deeply grateful for all of our prayers. He told me what everyone has long understood, that there were several different visions for how to communicate the Church’s moral teachings and continue to bring the Orthodox faith to people in North America. He expressed a strong interest in continuing to serve the Church. I pray that God uses him, with all his gifts, in whatever capacity He sees fit.

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Let us pray for Christian love and understanding in this difficult time of questions and uncertainty. As the holy and blessed St John of Kronstadt urges, “Leave all human injustices to the Lord, for God is the Judge, but as to yourself, be diligent in loving everybody with a pure heart. . .” Let this be our intention as we go forward together as a Church, seeking to be true Christians, little Christs, to one another and all the world.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us and save us!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

Saints Herman and Innocent of Alaska, watch over your Church here in North America and everywhere in this time of confusion! 

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12 thoughts on “Thoughts on Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation as primate

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

  2. I find it a puzzle also, I do not know our Metropolitan Jonah personally but know those that have had long and fruitful relationships with him. He seems exactly what our Church in America needs in the light of what has transpired in our Church over the past years. My heart is broken.

    • I feel the same as you do, Michael. We absolutely need his wisdom, his ascetic emphasis on forgiveness and repentance, and his pastoral guidance in these times.

      I am blessed in that I am still able to see my spiritual father frequently. Thanks be to God, he still celebrates the Liturgy every week, and I have been present for these services which are deeply healing and restorative to the soul. He has spoken only respectfully about those who ‘encouraged’ him to resign. His sermons, wisdom in confession, and his pastoral counsel are as guiding and helpful as ever.

      Where several weeks ago my heart was broken in many ways, now a quiet peace reigns there. I have a quiet surety that the providence of the Lord will resolve these matters in the fullness of time, as will the commitment of the faithful to love the Church while pushing her hierarchs and the Chancery to permit a full investigation. This is no internal matter for the senior administrators to handle among themselves at some uncertain future date, but a great disturbance in the life of the Church which has reverberated around the Orthodox world.

      I do not fear for the life of the Church, which is as timeless as her Faith and her living saints, but at present I fear for the future life of this jurisdiction. The principal reason I and many young people chose to enter the Church through baptism/chrismation in the OCA, knowing what we do about its many past scandals, was because we discerned in Metropolitan Jonah a real grace and a true vision for Orthodoxy on this continent. We see in him someone who had the energy, spirit, and clarity of purpose to revitalize the inner life of the OCA.

      No one is claiming the Metropolitan is or was ‘perfect’ or infallible, and he has repeatedly asked forgiveness for his own shortcomings, but for him to have been ‘encouraged’ to resign in such a way as he was raises serious questions not only about the integrity of those who encouraged his resignation, but the very future of the OCA’s canonical status. Our Mother Church no longer regularly commemorates us in the diptychs. Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, has cancelled a planned visit to the historic OCA Cathedral of the Holy Trinity during his upcoming trip to San Francisco when he will visit Holy Virgin (Joy of All Who Sorrow) ROCOR Cathedral, which houses the relics of its founder, St John Maximovitch, “the Wonder-worker” of Shanghai and San Francisco. This is a matter of grave concern, and we need to pray for the OCA hierarchs and the Chancery that they come to understand the potential implications of these actions by our Mother Church.

  3. I think what the Orthodox church in America needs is someone like Metropolitan Jonah, his thoughts and examples of the faith help us all to remain steadfast in our faith and spiritual journy`s. What is this “madness?”

    • I think so too Jesse. Regardless of which jurisdiction he serves in, we can be sure we will have his pastoral gifts, words of wisdom, and his example of faith in the future. For now, we should all pray and allow God’s providence to take effect.

    • Now we find forgiveness in our hearts, here is a story that St. Dorotheos told in “On Refusal to Judge Our Neighbor”:
      “So the holy fathers, by patience and love, draw the brother (in) and do not spurn him nor show themselves unfriendly towards him…they always protect him and keep him in order and they gain a hold on him so that with time they correct the erring brother and do not allow him to harm anyone else, and in doing so they greatly advance towards the love of Christ. What did the blessed Ammon do when those brothers, greatly disturbed, came to him and said, ‘Come and see, Father. There is a young woman in brother X’s cell!’ What tenderness he showed to the erring brother. What great love there was in that great soul. Knowing that the brother had hidden the woman in a large barrel, he went in, sat down on it, and told the others to search the whole place. And when they found nothing he said to them, ‘May God forgive you!’ And so dismissing them in disgrace, he called out to them that they should not readily believe anything against their neighbor. By his consideration for his brother he not only protected him after God but corrected him when the right moment came. For when they were alone he laid on him the hand with which he had thrown the others out, and said,, ‘Have a care for yourself, brother’. Immediately the other’s conscience pricked him and he was stricken with remorse, so swiftly did the mercy and sympathy of the old man work upon his soul.”
      Here is one canonized by the Church as a saint telling the story of a righteous man hiding another’s sin in public while admonishing him in private.
      I do not know Metropolitan Jonah’s motivation for his actions, I only know that I am to forgive and not to judge, judgment is God’s jurisdiction not mine.

      brother’. Immediately the other’s conscience pricked him and he was stricken with remorse, so swiftly did the mercy and sympathy of the old man work upon his soul.

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