OCANews.org Shut Down after 5 Years

Perhaps World Orthodoxy’s only consistent news organ of the past few years, unafraid to go where people wanted to go when it came to their church, and a thorn in the side of many World Orthodox Bishops for their inconsistencies, has finally been shut down as of Nov. 8, N.S.

The notice on the OCAnews.org website seems to give little indications as to the reason for the shutdown as it was apparently run by a number of individuals, which would seem to indicate that the site could have continued although an individual member retired from posting:

“As the book of Ecclesiastes famously observed: “There is a time for every thing, and an appointed time for every event under the sun.” With this posting OCANews.org reaches its appointed time and suspends publication. …

Shortly before his untimely death in 2009, Archbishop Job was able to answer his question: “Yes, the allegations were true.” This did not end the need for transparency or accountability in the Church, however, as the Archbishop himself affirmed that we are indeed “free men”, with a duty to listen, learn, question and discuss so as to build up our common life. 

Last year, in November 2010, I had to inform co-workers that I would be unable to continue OCANews.org for very much longer. Best laid plans, however, had to be repeatedly postponed – given the arrest of Archbishop Seraphim, the release of Bishop Mark from Antioch, Santa Fe, the events surrounding +Jonah’s first Leave, the tumultuous MC meeting in Chicago, the continuing dyspepsia in Syosset, the Mess in Moscow, and then the 16th AAC. Publication, by necessity though, became more infrequent and irregular.”

However, some give other indications as to the reason: the claim was made that Mark Stokoe, the primary editor of OCANews.org was an open homosexual who attended his OCA parish with his partner. In August, it appeared that Stokoe was removed from the OCA’s Metropolitan Council. On many sites angered with OCANews.org, it was automatically assumed the two were linked.

Of course, we here at NFTU feel free to ask: if Mr. Stokoe was as open about his lifestyle as his opponents say (apparently he goes to church with his domestic partner), what business did he have being on the Metropolitan Council of the OCA to begin with? It appears to me that pressure ratched up to shut down the website. We can therefore assume the rule in the OCA is “be what you want, but don’t you dare put up a website criticizing us, because we’ll getcha.”

Mr. Stokoe’s personal issues, which should have been dealt with by his spiritual father, are now being brought up publicly and by people “in the know” and in touch with the very people Stokoe attempted to take to task– in response to a number of scandals, which not only involved homosexuality, but heresy, corruption and possible felonies such as fraud and theft on a large scale.  This seems to have been going on since at least March. Apparently OCANews.org decided to take on the “big guys”, and eventuallly the “big guys” responded.

Some days I am glad my own personal issues have been dredged out dozens of times publicly. I am also glad I am not the only one running NFTU, and am actively working to build a base of writers who will continue it no matter what happens to me, whether it be my retirement or death.

The only way I can really see responding to the news is the following: if what is said about Mark Stokoe is true, I hope he works it out and deals with it for his salvation.  But those who claim to be Bishops of the Church are held to a far higher standard than a layman.  If what was said by Mark Stokoe and his team on OCANews.org were likewise true, genuine accountablity will take more than silencing the messenger. The ramifications of those actions, whether or not made public, will affect countless souls.

Obviously, the news on OCANews.org was of marginal interest to us, so we cannot– nor do we have a desire to– take up the cause of acountability for World Orthodox jurisdictions in America, except primarily in relation to ecumenism (such as the revelation from internal notes concerning the AOA permitting non-Christian spouses to commune) and egregious enough situations to garner nationwide attention (such as the refinancing of Church properties for personal gain).

So I’d like to take a moment to thank Mark Stokoe, his personal life aside, for taking upon himself such a thankless task as constant calling corrupt leaders to accountability in World Orthodoxy, and hoping someone else– one without any anchors that could drag them down publicly and psychologically– could take up that daunting and difficult task.