HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – A Christian Orthodox priest in Nova Scotia was forced to retire after delivering a sermon that honored Judaism and Israel reported the Canadian Jewish News.
The head priest of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Church in Halifax, Father Vladimir Tobin, got a letter from the Orthodox Church in America Archbishop Irénée, the archbishop of Ottawa and Canada, on Aug. 12, letting him know that he is being forcibly retired. The forced resignation was due to the “Jewish twist in your ministry.”
The wording appears to be referencing a sermon Father Tobin gave in which he mentioned Israel and Judaism in favorable terms. He then requested that congregants pray for Israel and reminded the congregation that Jesus was a Jew.
“I’ve always been straightforward, have always spoken my mind,” Father Tobin told CJN from his home in New Germany, about 75 miles south of Halifax.
He also said that over the last several years, his sermons have connected Christianity’s roots and the Old Testament’s Jewish background.
The 77-year-old cleric traveled to Israel in May for the first time in 30 years. In the late 1960s, he visited the Holy Land for two weeks and came back in 1985 to get a doctorate in Egyptology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A native of Halifax, Father Tobin noted that his grandmother was Jewish. However, he was baptized a Christian. While studying the early Christian era at Dalhousie University, he says that he realized that early Christians were actually Jewish and their scripture was the Old Testament.
The cleric was ordained as an Anglican priest. But Father Tobin felt that something was lacking in the denomination and was compelled to go to the Orthodox side.
“I was happy in Orthodoxy but felt there was some anti-Jewishness there. I wrote a piece for publication, but was told by my superiors that it was ‘too Jewish.’ That increased my determination that Christianity grew from Judaism. My own theology recognized a faith that started with Abraham and grew through the centuries through Christ,” he explained.
He initially received a letter from Archbishop Irénée in April, after a written complaint by the assistant priest, Father Alexander Treiger, who accused Father Tobin of including prayers for Israel in his services.
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided that effective this date, April 8th, 2019, you are officially retired as Rector of St. Vladimir Orthodox Church, Halifax, NS,” the archbishop wrote.
Father Tobin didn’t take it lying down. The priest replied writing: “It is true that I regularly pray for both Israel and United States, its armies and its president, and for ‘the land of Israel and the armies which protect her.’ What is to prevent us for praying for other countries that need it? The U.S. and Israel are our allies and need our support for peace in the Middle East. There are precedents of praying for other nations within our tradition. My prayers are mainly intended to advance peace in the Middle East .”
The Parish Council was upset at the news of his dismissal and subsequently wrote a penned a letter urging Father Tobin’s reinstatement. Archbishop Irénée agreed, but then reneged on that agreement in August.