In response to recent questions and comments that have been directed to the Orthodox Church in America by the media, victim advocates and members of the Church with regard to Archbishop Seraphim [Storheim], the following clarifications are in order.
- The Holy Synod of Bishops, at its spring session held at the OCA Chancery March 18-21, 2014, retired Archbishop Seraphim as Bishop of the Archdiocese of Canada, effective immediately.
- In a Statement issued by the Holy Synod, dated March 21, 2014, communicating this and related decisions, it was noted that “the Synodal Commission is directed to complete its investigation from an internal Church perspective as part of the ongoing canonical process that will lead to the convening of a Spiritual Court.” That is, while the Holy Synod has within its competency the ability to remove a bishop from an assignment, as was done in this instance, deposition from Holy Orders requires that a Spiritual Court be convened for the purpose of rendering a decision on said deposition.
- Pending the Holy Synod’s receipt of the final report from the Synodal Commission and the transcripts from the criminal trial, a Spiritual Court will be convened. The Church’s canonical tradition clearly requires that, in the case of a bishop, the court must consist of twelve bishops. Given that Archbishop Seraphim cannot travel outside of Canada, the Spiritual Court proceedings will of necessity be held in Canada. The OCA is bound to follow all canonical procedures, and has drawn upon experts to guide the Church through this process. Furthermore, such a process would be insisted upon by the other sister Orthodox Churches as the canonical norm. [It must be noted that the OCA has never been confronted with the possible deposition of a bishop since it was granted autocephalous status in 1970.]
- As further testimony to the above decisions and in accordance with canon law, the Holy Synod Statement further declared the See of Ottawa vacant, appointing His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, as Locum Tenens of the See of Ottawa and Canada. His Grace, Bishop Irénée of Quebec City, will continue to serve as Archdiocesan Administrator. “In due time,” the Statement reads, “a Special Archdiocesan Assembly will be convened for the purpose of nominating a new ruling bishop.
Until such time as a Spiritual Court can be convened, as noted in the Holy Synod’s statement, Archbishop Seraphim is restricted to the Chapel of Saint Silouan, Spencerville, Ontario, and Holy Trinity Church, Edmonton, Alberta, and “must follow all restrictions placed upon him by the Canadian authorities as he awaits sentencing following his conviction on January 24, 2014 on one count of sexual assault.” Not only is this consistent with the Canadian authorities’ decision, but inasmuch as he is restricted to the chapel in Ottawa [Spencerville] and the church in Edmonton, the Holy Synod in fact has tightened these restrictions.
Finally, the Statement in no way indicates or implies that the Holy Synod refuses to depose Archbishop Seraphim. To the contrary, as noted above, it clearly states that a Spiritual Court will indeed be convened, as required by canon law as well as the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America.
Official updates will be provided as they become available.