An Orthodox priest who attended the pro-Trump rally that preceded a mass assault on the US Capitol buildings has been suspended from his ministry role.
Archpriest Mark Hodges says he was handed an unfair suspension of three months after attending the 'Stop the Steal' rally on 6th January, and that he may face being defrocked as a result of his actions.
"My beloved bishop had questioned the wisdom of a priest attending,” Hodges told the Journal News. “I think part of the problem is I viewed that ‘Stop the Steal’ rally as expressing extreme concerns over voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election.”
A notice on the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of the Midwest website indicates that Hodges was “suspended from all priestly functions” from 12th January.
However, a spokesman for the diocese said that the priest's suspension was related to other matters. "Fr. Mark was not suspended for his presence at the rally,” Priest Alexander Koranda told the New York Post. “This suspension is the result of various circumstances that is currently part of an internal process.”
The specifics surrounding Father Mark's suspension cannot be shared, according to the spokesman. "The suspension is not due to one event, but also involves other matters," they added.
Fr Mark disputed this, insisting that he was found "guilty by association” as a result of his attendance at the demonstration. He insisted that he "began to leave" when things began to get violent and the crowd started surging towards the Capitol buildings.
"We left and went to Union Station,” he said.
Fr Mark was called out for his attendance at the rally by an Orthodox website that penned an open letter to Archbishop Paul Gassios, the head of the Orthodox Church in America Diocese of the Midwest. Hodges says that the order to suspend him came directly from Gassios himself.
Source: Orthodoxy in Dialogue
"Fellow Orthodox believers and I wanted to report that one of your clergy, the Very Rev. Mark Hodges, was present at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. during the siege attempt of the U.S. Capitol building," the letter reads. "This was a premeditated plan, as he posted it on his social media page, and there is both photographic and video footage of his presence there."
The letter attaches an image of Father Hodges present at the rally.