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Orthodox Church in America leader returns to Chicago
Convert was elected last year after scandal forced predecessor to resign
By Manya Brachear, Tribune Reporter.
Source: Tribune, July 27th, 2009

Home in Chicago for the first time since his election to head the Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Archbishop Jonah reminded the faithful at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral on Sunday that American converts like himself form the core of the denomination. Elected in December to lead the main branch of Orthodox Christianity in the U.S., the Chicago native became primate under a banner of reform after his predecessor retired amid financial scandal last year. The Orthodox Church in America is part of a constellation of churches separate from the Roman Catholic Church since the 11th Century. In his sermon Sunday, the metropolitan called for humility, responsibility and sacrifice on the part of church leaders to invigorate the church’s mission and asked parishioners to pray that bishops could live up to those expectations.

Bishops should have “no personal agenda, no desire for riches, nothing left of egocentrism,” he told worshipers at Holy Trinity, the seat of the denomination’s Midwest diocese. “I ask that you pray for me and other bishops that we may keep this in mind and serve in a more authentic way.” Born James Paffhausen and raised on Chicago’s Near North Side, Archbishop Jonah, 49, was originally baptized at St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church. He discovered the Orthodox strand of Christianity during college at the University of California at San Diego. A book about mystical theology affirmed his concerns about the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in 1978 and led him to convert that same year. “A church should be stable. There shouldn’t be that kind of turmoil,” he said. “Intuitively, I had to become Orthodox.”

His family was “horrified” by his choice, he said. He strayed even further off the course when, while working in Russia as a doctoral candidate, he fell in love with the wholesale commitment of monasticism. He eventually established monasteries and missions in California and Hawaii. “I’d come to the realization that I really didn’t care about pursuing a position of money and power,” he said. “I was raised to be a corporate executive like my father and grandfather. I found it empty.”

On Sunday, he blamed former church leaders who had their sights set on money and power for corrupting the Orthodox mission, saying the church must find a “new healthy way of being so that the old ways found corrupt with passions of the flesh are cast off.” Archbishop Herman retired in September amid allegations that leaders of the 400,000-member denomination used millions of dollars from church coffers to cover personal expenses. One leader called for discipline of Archbishop Job of Chicago simply because he had called for a church commission to conduct an investigation. On Sunday, Metropolitan Jonah commended Archbishop Job for taking a courageous stand and helping steer the church in the right direction. Archbishop Jonah blames corruption for delaying his and others’ vision of eventually unifying more than a dozen ethnic Orthodox churches into one American Orthodox Church under a North American patriarch. “What we all need in this is to approach this with goodwill, without any kind of rancor,” he said.

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