Convert is chosen to lead Orthodox Church in America
by Ann Rodgers.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Date: Thursday, November 13, 2008
Auxiliary Bishop Jonah of Dallas, left, who was a monk until 12 days ago,
was elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada by the clergy and laity of the
Orthodox Church in America at its meeting at the Hilton Pittsburgh yesterday.
Hundreds of clergy and laity of the Orthodox Church in America wept for joy
yesterday as a monk who had become an auxiliary bishop just 12 days earlier was elected to lead
their scandal-plagued church into the future.
Auxiliary Bishop Jonah of Dallas, a 49-year-old convert, was chosen by clergy,
laity and his fellow bishops to be Metropolitan Jonah of All America and Canada at the All
American Council held at the Hilton Pittsburgh.
His predecessor retired suddenly in September as the church released an
internal report detailing the disappearance of more than $4 million in church funds under
two successive administrations.
"We have to work together with one mind and one heart and one soul, striving
with all our might to bear witness to Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. Nothing else matters,"
the new metropolitan said.
Among those weeping and embracing friends was the Rev. John Reeves, pastor
of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in State College and an outspoken advocate of reform.
"This is a miraculous occurrence. We hear of stories like this in the lives
of the saints," he said of the selection of the least known, junior bishop.
The multi-ethnic Orthodox Church in America has Russian roots. Its membership
is listed at 1 million, although church officials say it's far less. About 2,500 members live
in Western Pennsylvania.
Delegates could write the name of any qualified priest on a ballot. If no
one gets two-thirds of the vote on the first ballot, a second ballot is taken. The names of the
top two vote-getters are then given to the Synod of Bishops for a final selection.
On the first ballot, the two leading candidates were Bishop Jonah, with 233
votes, and Archbishop Job of Chicago, with 212 votes. The elderly Archbishop Job had been
a champion of reform and accountability in the church and had the support of
During a time of questions Tuesday night, however, the little-known Bishop
Jonah gave answers that drew standing ovations.
On the second ballot, Bishop Jonah received 473 votes and Bishop Job 364. Their
names were given to the other bishops. When Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas, the elderly interim
metropolitan, announced their choice, his words were nearly drowned out by the ringing of
church bells outside the ballroom.
"Axios!" -- worthy -- came the cries and chants of the crowd.
The new metropolitan was born James Paffhausen in Chicago and baptized an
Episcopalian. While attending the University of California at San Diego, he converted to
Orthodoxy. He went to seminary and, while working in Russia, became interested in
After his 1994 ordination, he was tonsured and took the name Jonah. He
served and established many missions in California and founded a monastery in Manton,
After the death of Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh earlier this year, Abbott
Jonah was considered the leading candidate to succeed him. But he was chosen by the Dallas
archdiocese before Pittsburgh had a chance to vote, and was consecrated Nov. 1.
On Tuesday night, the Synod of Bishops took questions about the scandal. Bishop
Jonah's answers drew attention for their forthright admission of wrongdoing at church headquarters
and his explanation of how bishops are supposed to lead.
"Authority is responsibility. Authority is accountability. It's not power," he
"His speech changed the equation. He spoke intelligently, forthrightly and
directly," said Mark Stokoe, a layman from Dayton, Ohio, who had pushed for investigation into
allegations of financial malfeasance.
The Rev. John Behr, dean of St. Vladimir Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y., said
the new metropolitan has a dynamic vision for the future of the church.
"He has my complete confidence for the ministry that lies ahead. It's going to
be very difficult for him, but we will be here to support him," he said.
Ann Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.
First published on November 13, 2008 at 12:00 am