Metropolitan Jonah, by most accounts the highest-ranking, evangelical-friendly archpriest in North America's Eastern Orthodox Church, resigned under duress in July.
His removal has observers less concerned about his leadership shortcomings, which allegedly led to his removal, than about the widening gap between conservatives and the Orthodox Church.
"His efforts were the most explicit attempt by any Orthodox hierarch to join with evangelicals and other conservatives in a common social agenda," North Park University professor Brad Nassif said of Jonah's nearly four-year tenure as primate.
Jonah, a former Episcopalian, was especially popular among the convert wing of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), which in 2008 constituted 51 percent of the denomination's 85,000 North American adherents, according to the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute.
His ecumenical social efforts also endeared him to a wider conservative audience. In 2009, he linked arms with prominent evangelicals and conservative Catholics in signing the Manhattan Declaration, which defended a traditional definition of marriage and denounced abortion.
His bold social stances drew the ire of members of his own community, according to conservative pundit and Orthodox convert Rod Dreher.
Dreher, who broke the news of Jonah's resignation, compared the OCA synod in a blog post to "a pack of ravening wolves" that he said has long been trying to unseat its leader.
The New York-based synod countered the Internet buzz with a statement outlining the allegations that led to Jonah's forced resignation, including that Jonah knowingly harbored a priest accused of rape in his diocese.
The synod said its request ...1