A College Student’s Perspective
by an Anonymous Child of Christ
Growing up, I was taught that as an Orthodox Christian I was responsible only for my own actions. My parents explained to me that I could only change what I had control of; it was only possible to control my behavior rather than that of others. The adults, they said, would take care of the rest. Likewise, I was responsible first for my own relationship with God, and it was the adults’ responsibility to care for our church and set the example for the rest of us. As a college student, I am now on the brink of being one of those adults myself. While technically an adult under the law, I seriously doubt that I would be treated as such in most parishes. You can imagine my frustration then, when I stand by powerless as the “responsible adults” watch our Archdiocese fall into spiritual, moral and financial shambles.
I have been following the Antiochian Archdiocesan scandals with what some might politely refer to as “perturbed consternation.” Leading up to Palm Springs, I hoped that our laity and clergy meeting there would have the courage to voice concerns about the numerous allegations circulating in Orthodox web circles – many of which were true, I’d like to note. And some people did broach the various topics that needed addressing: audits, reinstated bishops, Board of Trustees members with shady pasts, etc. Unfortunately, there were other “responsible adults” who thought it would be appropriate not just to allow the misconduct in our Archdiocese to go undiscussed, but to behave in an unChristian manner towards those who were expressing deep concern about the state of our Church.
Even after Palm Springs, not much has happened. As far as is public knowledge, nothing has been officially remedied. And while people continue to post on internet forums and discuss the legal and moral implications of our current situation, nothing has changed. Looking at the Archdiocese’s track record, I honestly doubt anything ever will. Not in the foreseeable future, not under the current way of operating. For these reasons, and after much reflection and prayer, I have had to return to my parent’s original advice: change what is in my control.
I have attended parishes in two different jurisdictions while at school, but have recently decided to make a clean break and leave the Antiochian Archdiocese. I can no longer justify remaining in the Antiochian Archdiocese, as it has – for me – become a spiritually toxic environment. I commend those of you who are strong enough to stick it out, but I am at a crucial stage of my spiritual development. I cannot risk staying in an Archdiocese that sets such an example, where such behaviors are considered okay. While I admit that no Orthodox jurisdiction in the US is without its problems, I would much rather belong to one that is willing to openly address its issues in a spiritually reflective manner and strive towards more Christ-like behavior.
I’m not the only college student who feels this way. If the hierarchs and leaders of our Archdiocese think that the young people aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them, they are sorely mistaken. They might also consider what will happen to the future of the Archdiocese if it continues to turn off its youth – a demographic of our faithful that are especially sensitive to corruption and abuses of authority. We're at the age where we begin making conscious decisions as to what we do and don't believe. And we’ve all heard the statistics about the number of college students who leave the Church. How can a situation like this do anything to help the Church convince young people to stay? I have enough formerly Roman Catholic friends to know what happens to the youth of a Church that doesn’t properly address its problems.
I earnestly pray that the worst that happens is that people just leave for other Orthodox jurisdictions. But I fear that if the situation continues as it has, we may lose faithful from the Church altogether. Every minute that the cloud of scandal hangs over the Archdiocese is another opportunity for the devil to creep into the hearts of our faithful, to pull them away from their faith because what they see is sinful and perverse.
May the “responsible adults” rise to their calling, before it is too late to set an example for your spiritual children.
-A Child of Christ