Update on Metropolitan Jonah’s situation

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 

“Again, we ask Thee, Lord, to remember all Orthodox bishops who rightly teach the word of Thy truth, all presbyters, all deacons in the service of Christ, and every one in holy orders.”

– from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, inspired from this verse of Holy Scripture.


Many friends across the U.S. and Canada have asked me to give an update on Metropolitan Jonah’s situation. People often ask me how he is doing, or if I have heard anything new. I hope that I am able to answer people’s questions here. 

I am blessed to see him regularly, since he resides here in Washington and has been serving each week at the ROCOR Cathedral of St John the Baptist, a warm and bustling parish. Metropolitan Jonah has been welcomed very kindly by all, including both English-speaking parishioners and Russian and Ukrainian parishioners who usually attend the Slavonic Liturgy. His weekly Friday night Bible studies are always very well attended, and this is a growing ministry at St. John’s which Cathedral rector Fr. Victor Potapov has kindly encouraged with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. Friends from across the country have told me of how much this ministry enriches their faith and spiritual lives, and deepens their understanding of Orthodox teachings and beliefs, Church history, and contemporary moral issues in society. 

When I think of his growing ministry, how so many people are asking me how they can access his YouTube videos (these can be found here at the St John’s Cathedral YouTube page), I am amazed and deeply moved that, despite everything he is going through, he has the focus and presence of mind to continue his teaching ministry. I see this as the Providence of God. By cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Metropolitan Jonah is able to continue to serve as a teacher, his true capacity as a bishop.

The true responsibility of an Orthodox bishop is a profoundly pastoral one: to communicate the transformative wholeness and living beauty of the Faith to people in the language and context of the times in which they live. Above all, a bishop’s writings, sermons, and talks should enable the faithful to better live and integrate the fullness of Orthodox teaching and spirituality into their daily lives. As Metropolitan Jonah often says, “what we do in church on Sundays counts for less than 5% of the week, so how are we spending our time while outside of church?” How are we understanding, and most of all, living, our faith day-to-day, hour by hour?

Thus, in communicating to the people the fullness of the Orthodox faith which is the way to salvation, the inner life and glory of the Church, a bishop’s role is primarily that of a teacher. He is charged with guiding the people, “rightly dividing”, or discerning and communicating, the word of Truth in all its catholicity.

This is how I see Metropolitan Jonah: above all, he is a teacher. From the numerous Bible studies, sermons, conference and retreat talks I have heard him give, it is clear to me that he is an exceptional one. Metropolitan Jonah has the charism of communicating profound spiritual truths, as well as deeply intellectual, and often philosophically worded, Orthodox spiritual concepts (theosis, koinonia, theoria, synergeia, hesychia, prayer of the heart, conciliarity/sobornost, etc) in language that people can understand and apply to their lives. Thus, as a teacher who can articulate Orthodoxy to people today living in a cultural context removed from that of a traditionally Orthodox cultural environment, he is invaluable. He is widely and rightfully recognized as an engaging speaker whose spiritual talks have served as an Orthodox bridge to the Roman Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant communities.

Even now, Metropolitan Jonah’s ministry is inspiring many faithful across the Orthodox jurisdictions on this continent. This is a great joy, and I am reminded of one of my favorite verses from Holy Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16):

“Rejoice evermore”.

It amazed me to discover that the verse following St. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to always rejoice is a verse with which I was already familiar, but whose exact context and placement in his epistles I did not remember until re-reading it: “Pray ceaselessly”. (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How fitting that, inseparably tied to rejoicing in the boundless grace of God, we should also always remember to thank and supplicate Him in prayer, our hopes, praises and deepest yearnings which rise like incense to heaven (Psalm 141:1-2).

There is so much for which I and many others close to Metropolitan Jonah are profoundly grateful. His constant kindness, easygoing warmth and sense of humor always put anyone meeting him for the first time at ease. When one has talked with him often, one comes to appreciate how he has not only a remarkable depth of theological knowledge and spiritual awareness, but a profound humility of spirit.

This humility and real sense of Christian love is at the heart of who Metropolitan Jonah is as a person. Anyone who has heard his spiritual talks or read his book Reflections on a Spiritual Journey  knows that a constant theme is: “Do not resent. Do not react. Keep inner stillness.” It is this profound theological and spiritual principle which he has so often articulated, one which the early Desert Fathers and many of the Church’s foremost theologians taught, which he is trying to live now. 

My wonderful godmother, who is a great blessing in my life, often tells me about the extraordinary life of Bishop Basil Rodzianko, her spiritual father, whom she assisted for many years. From my godmother I have heard many wonderful stories and anecdotes about his life, and in many ways I feel I have come to know this remarkable holy man, especially through prayer.

There are a number of parallels between the life and work of Bishop Basil, and Metropolitan Jonah. Just like Metropolitan Jonah today, Bishop Basil preached the true fullness of the Christian witness of two millennia, offering to all the full message of the Gospel and the Church’s revealed moral teachings.

In retirement, Bishop Basil often served at St. Nicholas Cathedral, and lived out the remaining years of his life in a cozy studio apartment-chapel. He often served liturgies there, and continued his remarkable radio ministry to the faithful living behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union. As you can see below, this intimate, holy place remains in use today.


Metropolitan Jonah celebrating Liturgy on January 23 at Bishop Basil Rodzianko’s studio apartment-chapel in Washington, D.C. Bishop Basil reposed here in September 1999.

Metropolitan Jonah serving Liturgy at the late Bishop Basil's apartment chapel on February 21, 2013.

Metropolitan Jonah serving Liturgy at the late Bishop Basil’s apartment chapel on February 21, 2013.

Besides his acting teaching ministry at St. John’s ROCOR Cathedral here, where he also serves regularly at Liturgy and vigil, Metropolitan Jonah spoke at the February 8-10 DC-Baltimore Orthodox Christian Fellowship district winter retreat at the Mar-Lu-Ridge camp site near Jefferson, Maryland. For many years he has participated in similar conferences and retreats, recently speaking at the 2012 winter OCF College Conference in California.

It was a joy to host him as a speaker, along with the exceptionally kind author and lecturer Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green and Dr Joel Kalvesmaki, Editor in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks.


Metropolitan Jonah and Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green with students at DC-Baltimore OCF winter retreat, February 8-10, 2013.

The Holy Archangels Foundation, originally set up in 1986 to support Bishop Basil’s continued radio and teaching ministry, has been receiving hundreds of envelopes with checks and cash to go toward supporting Metropolitan Jonah’s continued teaching ministry here in Washington. Every day the Foundation receives many e-mails and letters from people across Orthodox jurisdictions, asking what they can do to support this kind hierarch whom so many of us love and support.

If you or anyone you know would like to help support Metropolitan Jonah’s continued ministry, please write any letters or send checks to this address:

Holy Archangels Orthodox Foundation

3027 Foxhall Road NW

Washington DC, 20016

Wherever you are, if you love and support Metropolitan Jonah as do so many people, please continue to pray for him. He deeply appreciates everyone’s prayers. Many of us here in Washington have begun praying the Akathist to St. John Maximovitch (the Wonder-worker) in the hope that this blessed saint will intercede with the Lord to bring about a clear resolution.

May God bless you and keep you, and give you joy in all things.

A picture says a thousand words

Here are some insightful images from His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah’s tenure as primate of the Orthodox Church in America, as well as many poignant photos taken following his July resignation. I share these photos in the hope that they will provide a glimpse, for those who are not blessed to know him in person, and especially to those who have never met him, of the Metropolitan ‘at work’ in his various Church roles: interacting easily and joyfully with the faithful, especially young people; presiding over many historically significant inter-jurisdictional meetings and liturgies; and con-celebrating with fellow hierarchs and bishops from other Orthodox jurisdictions. I hope they convey a sense of his grace, his profound piety and love for Christ and the Orthodox faith, and his joy and love for Orthodox Christians everywhere.



A young parishioner is lifted up to kiss the cross at St Nicholas Cathedral on Pascha.

A young parishioner is lifted up to kiss the cross at St Nicholas Cathedral on Pascha.


Metropolitan Jonah greeting a group of Orthodox faithful in Mexico.


On Sunday evening, October 23, 2011 the miraculous myrrh-streaming Iveron icon of the Theotokos came to St Nicholas Cathedral. Metropolitan Jonah presided over the beautiful akathist sung in honor of the Theotokos in the packed Cathedral. I was present to venerate the icon, and, incredibly, when I kissed it, my lips came away covered in myrrh! That night, more than any other time, the Cathedral was filled with the abundant warmth, light and grace of God’s presence.


Receiving a gift of flowers from a young Orthodox girl.


Metropolitan Jonah with Father Constantine White and students at the Georgetown University Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF).

Metropolitan Jonah with Father Constantine White and students at the Georgetown University Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF).


His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia.

My chrismation took place on Sunday, December 4, 2011 at St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington.

Metropolitan Jonah addressing the faithful at St Nicholas Cathedral on the feast day of St Nicholas (Julian Calendar), Monday, December 19, 2011. Father Valery stands in the left foreground and my godmother Marilyn is visible in the bright red coat.

Addressing parishioners during the same December 2011 Liturgy commemorating St Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of the Cathedral. The tall man standing in the back in the white shirt is my godfather, Mikhail (Misha).

At Saint Nicholas Cathedral on the feast of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, bishop of Myra and Orthodox opponent of Arius.

At Saint Nicholas Cathedral on the feast of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, bishop of Myra and Orthodox opponent of Arius.

Metropolitan Jonah celebrates the Divine Liturgy in honor of the Nativity of Christ (Christmas) at St Nicholas Cathedral on December 25, 2011 (New Calendar). Behind him to his left is Father Valery Shemchuk, acting dean and pastor of the Cathedral, and to his right is his personal assistant, Monk James Stevens.

The very kind Deacon Blagoje (left) and Father Valery, pastor and acting dean of St Nicholas Cathedral, (right), standing on the solea with Metropolitan Jonah presenting the Holy Gifts during the Nativity Liturgy.

Metropolitan Jonah blessing the worshipers during the Christmas Divine Liturgy.


Metropolitan Jonah with Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and some members of their respective Holy Synods of bishops, mitred archpriests, priests, and monks.


His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah and His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy for the first time together at the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City on Saturday, December 10, 2011 in the presence of the Kursk Root icon of the Mother of God. Present and con-celebrating along with the primates were the respective Holy Synod of bishops of the OCA and of ROCOR, and many attendant priests and monks. My godmother was also present and the Liturgy left a lasting and memorable impression on her.


On New Year’s Day, Sunday, January 1, 2012, at the invitation of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion and Archpriest Fr. Victor Potapov, Metropolitan Jonah celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the ROCOR Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Washington, D.C. This historic Liturgy, which my godmother and many parishioners from St Nicholas attended, marked the first time a primate of the Orthodox Church in America celebrated Liturgy in a cathedral of the Russian Church Abroad without a ROCOR hierarch also present.

At St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Washington for the January 1 Liturgy. Father Vladimir, a ROCOR priest, is wearing his purple mitre, while Monk James, His Beatitude’s personal assistant, holds his train.

With the clergy of St John the Baptist Cathedral on New Year's Day, 2012.

With the clergy of St John the Baptist Cathedral on New Year’s Day, 2012. The Cathedral rector Fr. Victor Potapov, a mitred archpriest, stands in the foreground.

With Russian parishioners and His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Moscow Patriarch’s Department for External Church Relations, at St Catherine’s church, the official Moscow podvorie (Greek: metochion, ’embassy church’) of the OCA.

In gratitude for her brilliant lecture “Our Great High Priest: the Church as the New Temple”, on January 29, 2012 at the 29th annual Father Alexander Schmemann Lecture at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, NY, Metropolitan Jonah, president of the seminary, presented Dr. Margaret Barker with an icon of “Christ the High Priest”.

On Saturday, June 23, 2012, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah welcomed His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), internationally renowned Orthodox author and theologian and titular bishop of Diokleia (under the jurisdiction of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople) to St Nicholas Cathedral. The two bishops, who have spoken together at the popular annual Orientale Lumen theological conferences, concelebrated Divine Liturgy together.

Vigil for the Dormition of the Theotokos (Julian Calendar), August 27, 2012: Metropolitan Jonah served in San Francisco’s historic Holy Virgin Cathedral alongside His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and brother bishops of the respective Synods for ROCOR and OCA.

On Tuesday, August 28, 2012, the Julian Calendar celebration of the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah served with and stood on the episcopal ambo with two of his brother bishops: Their Eminences Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), left, and Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, center.

Standing in the altar with the respective Metropolitan bishops Hilarion (Alfeyev), center and Hilarion (Kapral), right. Archbishop Justinian  of the Moscow Patriarchate is to the left.

On Sunday, September 16, at the invitation of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and Cathedral rector Father Victor Potapov, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah con-celebrated the Divine Liturgy with them at Washington D.C.’s historic St John the Baptist Cathedral.

Walking with a parishioner outside St John the Baptist Cathedral after Liturgy

Walking with a parishioner outside St John the Baptist Cathedral after Liturgy