Bishop Nikolai Soraich, head of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska, is taking a voluntarily leave of absence after hearing the preliminary results of an internal investigation into his leadership.
The leave of absence is effective immediately, according to the Web site of the New York-based Orthodox Church in America.
Nikolai's leadership record will be reviewed at the May meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops, the governing body of the church, the Web site says.
The Alaska church has been rocked by controversy since last spring, when allegations of sexual misconduct by a priest emerged. Since then, internal bickering and public accusations have dominated the normally quiet church with about 25,000 members in Alaska. Much of the controversy has centered on what critics say is Nikolai's domineering leadership style and his tense relationship with the leaders of the national church.
National church leaders ordered Nikolai to step down in early March, but he refused, saying they were not following proper procedure.
The bishop of San Francisco, Benjamin Peterson, will assume temporary responsibilities for Alaska, the Web site says.
Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.