Thursday, June 28. 2007
The younger Fr. Hopko's reflection raises a host of questions worthy of discussion. Please feel free to do so.
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A most remarkable plea from the heart.
We would all do well to read and re-read it.
Thank you, Father John.
#1 Gregg Nescott on 2007-06-28 13:05
Thank you very much, Fr. John, for this thoughtful, heartfelt posting. If I may be so bold, I would like to say to you, "Don't be so hard on yourself."
If you would indulge me for a moment, I would like to offer a couple of personal comments on some of your statements. I have served in a lot of different positions in the organizations I've been associated with over the years. Even in my younger days, I often volunteered to serve on "The Staff" of the senior and/or central administration, so I could see a lot of things that others of my station or rank didn't have the opportunity to see.
Today, as an officer of my company, I try very hard to "keep in touch" with our customers and our line employees. It's not an easy task, especially when the "line people" feel like you're looking over their shoulder, or butting-in where you have no business. Such is the nature of being a part of the "leadership" of any organization, and I suspect that the OCA is no different.
As a young man in the U.S. Air Force, I once stood an inspection whereby I watched a one-star general in full dress uniform get down on his knees, and run his hand behind a teletype machine looking for dust and chad. At the time, I thought to myself, "What a ridiculous waste of time and resources! And what a position for a Brigadeer General, to be here down on his knees in his dress-blues looking for chad!"
As a line worker, I resented this. I mean, we were a clean shop; we were an award-winning shop. And, we cleaned-up every night. We kept our machinery in working order. We were the best in the nation. Didn't he know that?
As I got older, became an officer myself, served on Flag officer's Staffs, and did my own part in conducting "visiting inspections," I came to realize that in some cases, the visited unit was NOT going to clean-out that chad UNLESS they suspected tha that general or the colonel might actually get down on his hands and knees and run a gloved finger over the machinery!
In the context of the Church, I would like to venture the suggestion that it's not a disruption of the Parish's activities to host the visiting Bishop, but rather it should be seen as a welcome part of the Parish's routine to host such visits. I've been in the OCA for nearly three years, and I've never met a bishop -- although one did visit my parish once when I was away on travel. I've never seen a "Hierarchical Liturgy," or seen what it is that the Subdeacons do, anyway. Far from being a diversion, I'd like to actually see it, experience it, and so forth.
We could all just go on providing support to our parish, and it would be a nice little congregational group we'd have. I, for one, actually like the idea of having a Bishop and even a Metropolitan -- i.e., diocese and central church -- "out there" providing oversight for the cohesion of the overall Church. And there are things that make it worthwhile. Those annoying financial reports are supposed to keep people honest (that's the theory, anyway) and demonstrate to potential donors (and the authorities) that monies given to the Church go to support the Christian and not-for-profit purpose of the organization, as stated. As many an ace-fighter-pilot has complained, "Now I'm flying a desk at the Pentagon," but hey, someone's got to be in charge of ordering the spare parts, or NO ONE will fly the planes, so why not an experienced pilot, with seniority?
Such is the nature of "moving into management." It can be enabling, as well. How can our Church have a significant impact in missions and evangelism unless it musters the resources to take advantage of today's communications technologies, which you mention? And if the "representational church" in Russia is not really serving as our "representative," then new leadership needs to reorient it and reinvigorate it. In this crisis, it seems to me that many people are ready to throw-up their hands at the "national church," and even autocephaly itself, because we have a dysfunctional crew of folks at the helm. We don't need a new ship, we need a new hand on the wheel!
In the modern world and the world outside, the OCA is a non-entity. I spent many years searching for the "true church" after my dissilusionment with protestant fundamentalism, and although I had heard of orthodoxy, I knew nothing about it; and I had never even heard of the OCA -- never heard of it! I was fortunate in that someone with whom I worked was an OCA member, who directed me over to my current parish, when I couldn't even get a telephone call back from the local Greek church were I found a brochure during a Spring festival. After I read that brochure, and got my hands on Fr. Thomas (Hopko's) "multi-color series," I became a convert in a bout two-seconds flat, although was still a catechumen for a couple of years.
My biggest concern with the current crisis is that, it has really poured a buck of very cold water on the fire of the OCA's spirit of evangelization. We are non-existent to non-orthodox, and we have really crippled our reputation within the North Ameican Orthodox community. I personally think that we can overcome this if we deal with the crisis effectively (we can already forget doing it in a timely manner), purge (that's not too strong a word) the perpetrators, and refocus our efforts upon those day-to-day things that you mention in your Reflection, BOTH at the parish level AND at the national level. If we do that, then the answer will be, "Yes, we DO need three seminaries!"
So much for my two cents. In any case, thank you very much for sharing so openly your long experience in the Church, at all levels. It provides us with uniques insight into how we got to where we are today. Your love for the Church comes through in bright colors, despite the drab background of this Website. And, if you ever find yourself again in "management," don't despair. "They also serve who chair committees." Sometimes, bureaucracy gets a bum rap. When it was "invented" in Germany, it was intended to prevent chaos. Just look at what chaos it can create when it goes awry!
We have to "fix it," not by rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but by throwing overboard the folks in those deck chairs who are sailing on someone else's ticket! Who those people are is probably to be found in the pages of the PR Report; if not, then we need a new report, and not one overseen by the suspect-in-chief!
#2 OCA Convert on 2007-06-28 13:49
"Far from being a diversion, I'd like to actually see it, experience it, and so forth."
Similarly, as one who'se "seen" and "experiened" the Hier. Div. Lit., I actually "like" it; it's entertaining to "watch" and "hear," and much of the music gives me goosebumps and makes me feel "spiritual" (esp when the bishop has a good voice) and I can't imagine others not liking it. But, that's all part of the problem (mine, anyway)! -- its not supposed to be a show! And my own sensual response to the externals is as unrelated to the spiritual as indigestion. At some level -- and I think that that others have written about this, though in other words -- its become externally something so other than what it is spiritually. I think there are 4 apparent responses to a Hier Dv Lit.: 1st, "its entertaining"; 2d, "run to the hills" (due to first-hand negative experience); 3d, interested curiosity of the "uninitiated" from hearing of it; and 4th, anxiety of other uninitiated due to stories from the 2d group. I guess I can add two more: 5th, nausea at visits of certain hierarchs who don't even try to hide that they're there for the "stipend" or otherwise to be served be the lowly parish; and 6th, those who "get it" spiritually notwithstanding the circus effect in which the whole thing is performed.
Yeah, its neat and cool and fun and all that (I really do enjoy it, too; Im not being sarcastic about that), but what I understand from what Fr John and his dad and others have written and said at various times, its both emblematic and a cause of lots of problems. And that kinda makes sense I think. But, do go see the next performance you can ... its better than Broadway, esp when there's a good choir!
#2.1 Anonymous on 2007-06-29 02:44
I have been an Orthodox Christian for the past 10 years and I love Hierarchical liturgies. I find that when properly done, they can be moving, very reverent and the Bishop can be an icon of Christ in the midst of His people. Apparently they don't have this effect on everybody. My guess is that those that dislike (or think they dislike) hierarchical liturgies might rather have a dislike of the hierarch himself and they transfer that over into disliking the entire hierarchical liturgy. If one had an abrasive, cold, arrogant bishop who had the habit of scolding people for ceremonial mistakes, I could certainly understand why such a person might want to flee the building when a hierarchical liturgy begins. But all bishops are not like that, thank goodness. I guess I have been spoiled by His Eminence, Archbishop DMITRI. I love his hierarchical liturgies. We look forward to his pastoral visitations with us, and I would go so far as to say that a good time is had by all. He comes for Vespers or Vigil the evening before, then afterwards he always spends time (usually an hour or so) meeting with people in the parish, answering questions (usually in an informal talk with food and snacks present). Then on Sunday he serves the Hierarchical Liturgy and afterwards we have a meal at the Church (not some fancy restaurant or banquet hall) and he eats with us. He goes around and meets everybody. And usually has another question and answer session for people that couldn't make it on Saturday night. We love him and he loves us.
#2.1.1 Tikhon Griffin on 2007-06-29 09:33
As a priest who served as a deacon for a number of years, I understand that what you describe is what lay people, at least, should experience in an Hierarchical Liturgy.
However, that has NEVER been my experience. As a deacon, the rare appearance of the hierarch was always the experience of terror, punctuated and followed by the seemingly required criticism and upbraiding by the bishop.
As a priest, there is less terror, since the priest has far less to do in an Hierarchical Liturgy, but there is always the same required criticism and upbraiding by the bishop, at least afterwards.
I truly appreciate the comments of Fr. John, and ask why it is that our bishops have to dress and pretend to be Byzantine Emporers?
Has anyone ever actually prayed in one of these dramas?
#220.127.116.11 Name withheld on 2007-06-29 12:57
in the orthodox church of all jurisdictions the hierarchical liturgy is served similarly,with some small differences between the different ethnic churches.my point being that the oca should not and could not do things too differently from the other orthodox churches.only a panorthodox synod has the authority to address such questions.otherwise the oca could wind up being excommunicated by world orthodoxy.i am presently a priest in the oca and the protestant mindset of some of the people who post on this webside frightens me.would changing,modernizing the liturgy really change anything.if the bishop is good he is good and his goodness and love shine through the most elaborate ritual,if he is bad,he would still be bad even if he wore no vestments at all.STS TIKHON,INNOCENT,NIKOLAJ,RAFAEL served the hierarchical liturgy as it was then and is now and saw no need to "change"anything.i trust those great saints of our church.frs.schmeman,meyendorff and hopko truly made great contributions to world orthodoxy.i love most of their works and writings.for example fr. thomas hopkos booklet on confession is simply brilliant in comparison to some of the scholastic nonsense written on the subject by others.i wonder what changes he would envision for the the hierarchical liturgy.but as pointed out above the oca better be very careful not to deviate from the norms of the orthodox church at large.i love the hierarchical services as they are,but again ,it depends WHO is celebrating.changing the ritual really would not change anything.if the bishop is mean he'll still be mean even if he wore no klobuk,mantya or miter.
#18.104.22.168.1 Anonymous on 2007-06-29 23:55
Please let's try and avoid using "Protestant" or Roman Catholic" as an epithet. I have done it myself with respect to specific doctrinal issues but not as a generalization.
Like you, I love the Divine Liturgy as it is--for the most part. But that does not mean it can never change or evolve as it most certainly has over the centuries. Maybe some modifications in the hierarchical celebrations are in order--then again, maybe not. Your larger point is key--if the hierarch celebrating is an obvious fraud as a representative of Christ, it is offensive and disturbing.
#22.214.171.124.1.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-30 06:40
What he said.
#126.96.36.199.1.1.1 Anonymous on 2007-06-30 17:04
"if the bishop is mean he'll still be mean even if he wore no klobuk,mantya or miter."
all too true. My husband got very little of use out of his training at St. Tikhon's, but he did get one extremely important thing: he vowed NEVER to treat subdeacons, altar servers, or anyone else taking part in the liturgy with the impatience, contempt and verbal abuse that was the order of the day at St. Tikhon's. I don't know if it is different now, but the entire seminary in our day there had all the marks of a seriously dysfunctional system. Symptoms, it now appears, of a deeper and wider problem in the OCA. May the Lord have mercy on us all and help us to make the necessary changes.
#188.8.131.52.1.2 Matushka Anonyma on 2007-06-30 21:01
The biggest problem is the "pretending to be Byzantine Emperors". And, my belief is that wearing the Imperial regalia, standing on the Imperial rugs, etc., contributes to the tendency of some to do just that. Granted, this is not true of all bishops, but it seems to be true of many. MH is a good case in point.
#184.108.40.206.1.3 Name withheld on 2007-07-04 10:52
I've always admired the precision and exactness, resutling in great beauty, of the "Russian churches," ie. OCA, ROCOR....
I've been equally somewhat frustrated by the casualness/sloppiness of my own Antiochian (East Coast North American version anyway) tradition.
But after having just come from a diocesan gathering and the accompanying Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, I really appreciate what we have; at least in my diocese. We have a bishop who loves his people, starting with the clergy. Yes, I was frustrated that we don't have clear cut rubrics, and that many of our clergy seem to have never picked up the Liturgicon....yet it was a BEAUTIFUL service. We basked in Saidna's love for us, and he in ours. He never snaps at "mistakes" by us, and you have to really dig to get any constructive criticism from him at all. Of course we sang the required "espola eti despota"....but what was most impressive in my mind, was the seeming spontaneous "God grant you many years" by the people towards our bishop. AS I consumed the chalice, the Lord's body and blood were intermingled with my joyful tears.
I don't mind some "snapping" and certianly need LOTS of correction. Anything that requires coordination will put a leader in the situation of sometimes having to raise your voice to be absolutley clear. If we have ever yelled at our own children or snapped at them, then we shouldn't be suprised when our father in Christ reacts similarly to his children (rightly or wrongly). Yet its alot easier to accept the momentary harshness of one whom you trust has your best interests in mind.
Hmmm …. First time I've ever been likened to a Prot! : D ("OCA Convert” in 6.1 below). I'd better clarify my above post (#2.1) and apologize.
The point (sardonically and inappropriately made for which I am sorry) was that there is so much "stuff" attached to the modern Hierarchical Div Lit from over the centuries that hardly anyone knows what so much of it means. I don't, anyway, and I started serving as an altar boy at age 3 (I was very cute, though I couldn't hold a candle still very well) and lived in a home that hosted many visiting bishops overnight growing up. Maybe I never paid attention, but I certainly don't know why we carry the bishop's hat on a tray in procession, for example. Or why he wears all of the vestments he does. Or why he comes into church wearing that very cool purple vestment and then gets changed into other ones (though Fr. Ted Wojcik wrote a great, great reflection about the mechanics of the changing of vestments as an icon of the Church with its Bishop and the Bishop as one taken from among the Church). Or why certain clergy include Ottoman (secular, or religious?) garb in their formal wardrobe. Perhaps it makes more sense intuitively when the regal trappings (whenever, wherever their origination) correlate with the regal presence of humility of the given bishop (or at least the absence of indifference or aloofness), but still––what’s it all mean? I recall a Seinfeld episode where George considered converting to “Latvian Orthodoxy” (yes, Latvian) and told the priest he was inspired because he likes the hats. Yes, its all inspiring and ethereal and enigmatic, but why are we doing what we are doing, specifically, here, now, in 21st Century America? Esp. when so many are not only confused by it, but are in fact turned away by it. I’m not turned away by it, personally, and I know the Liturgy isn’t a show (really, I do), but it really puts off a lot of people, and it doesn’t help that so few understand it. Or at least is seems that way to me. I dunno … maybe I’m wrong and I’m sure I’m missing many important and probably obvious points. But, I know this … I’m happy to not be Protestant, even though this may read like a mini-protest, and I’m happy to be in the OCA since it’s given me so much profundity from which to draw over the years beyond the trappings (hooray for English!), and I’m delighted that this site exists since it evidences, I think, a holy spirit (and the Holy Spirit) alive and stirring among the people of the OCA. But, we can’t move to a full resolution without our bishops on board, so I guess Fr Ted’s thesis was right … it really is in the buttons. And this site –– or, more accurately, the innocent zeal and concern and offers to help expressed on this site –– is one heckuvan important button, even when some of us are all thumbs when trying to fasten it.
#2.1.2 Anonymous on 2007-06-29 14:49
Dear Convert: You (and anyone else who wishes) have an open invitation to join us for our altar feast day next year (or any year), on Thomas Sunday. The bishop is (almost) always there, and you get the bonus of a steak dinner afterwards (I'll even buy, if you're nice to me). Holy Resurrection, Palatine, IL
#2.2 Michael Strelka on 2007-06-29 15:13
AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
Fr. John's reflection focusea on many critical issues that are tearing the OCA apart and perpetuating an environment that separates and destroys rather than unites and buils up the body of Christ. His reasoned and powerful reflection bears witness to the power of the Holy Spirit and the sacramental calling of his priesthood. Here is yet another opportunity for those in positions of leadership and authority to hear and heed the call to repentance, truth, and return to Christ's teachings.
I am once again encouraged and comforted to know that so many good and decent priests are stepping forward, risking it all, and taking a stand for the sake of Truth, for Christ, and for the salvation of the faithful, our parishes, and our Holy Orthodox Church. May our Lord guide, protect, and strengthen these men to continue to fight the good fight and lead us out of the spiritual desert we've been wondering in for too long.
Disconnect is the reason choirs in the OCA go 25 years between Holy Week Vol 2 and Holy Week Vol 3. Meanwhile we spend half a mill on the installation of +MH, and will be paying for it for the next 10 years.
#4 Michael Strelka on 2007-06-28 14:46
Good point Michael. We could use some updated Vespers and Matins books as well. However, I think one of the very talented people capable of such work was let go recently.
I would prefer to see a Central Administration focussed on helping our Orthodox daily lives: prayer, fasting, charity, divine services, education, etc.. I truly believe some hard workers in Syosset are working to that end, but are not adequately led or supported.
At least His Eminence Archbishop JOB called his diocese to pray and fast. I am rather surprised that the leaders of the Central Administration have not asked the entire OCA and our brothers and sisters in other jurisdictions to do the same. Or maybe they have and I missed something? Is this not what each of us should do more than anything (even more than to post here)?
I repeat myself: this is, in my opinion, fundamentally a spiritual issue and a spiritual battle. Inquiries, reports, exposes, etc. will only deal with the symptoms of this present darkness (cf. Ephesians 6).
#4.1 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-06-29 08:46
#5 Anonymous on 2007-06-28 15:06
INTERESTING REFLECTION. I HAVEN'T CHIMED IN A FEW MONTHS BUT I MUST ADD. I REALLY DO NOT CARE ABOUT ONES ORTHODOX PEERAGE. IT DOES NOT EXCUSE NOR MAKE ONES OPINION ANYMORE VALUABLE. WE ARE DEALING WITH A DEN OF THEIVES AND WE NEED SOMEONE WITH GONADS TO CLEAR THE TEMPLE.WHAT IS WRONG WITH RELYING ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR STARTERS AS A BASELINE BELIEF.
THE NEPOTISM IN THE OCA CHURCH IS ONE OF THE MANY ISSUES THAT NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH. BROTHERS, WIVES, ETC. ALL WORKING FOR THE OCA. THIS IS NOT A FAMILY BUSINESS.
I HAVE BEEN TO PARISHES THAT PRIEST ARE AFRAID TO DISCUSS SOME OF THE ISSUES OR WERE INSTUCTED NOT DO.MY SON CAN'T EVEN ASK A PRIESTS "WHAT'S STEALING?" PERHAPS THE CLERGY CAN NOW SYMPATHIZE WITH US WORKING STIFFS THAT HAVE TO PUT UP WITH OFFICE POLITICS, NEPOTISM, ETC. AND STILL SUPPORT THE CHURCH. UNTIL SOMEONE IN THE REFLECTION SECTION CAN ADDRESS HOW AND WHY AS WELL AS THE REAL MOTIVATIONS FOR STEALING FROM CHILDREN THE OCA CHURCH IS DEAD, IT HAS NO SPIRIT.CLEAR THE TEMPLE.
ITS STILL SAME ALL SAME ALL SHAME US.
#6 a concerned orthodox christian on 2007-06-28 15:44
You missed most of the point of Fr. John's message. I believe that he lists his "peerage" as you call it, not to impress anyone, but to demonstrate that the critics of the current OCA Administration are not all out to "destroy the church" as some have said. Fr. John's lengthy family involvement gives him some unique insight into what some of the movers-and-shakers from OCA's past had in mind when they sought to form our jurisdiction. And, aparently, it was not all for "personal gain" or individual ego.
It seems that such has taken place, through the so-called "disconnect" between the leadership (the Bishops) and the flock (the laity).
It would be easy to blame the Bishops totally for this. But, in a reply posting to my previous posting, one individual says of a Hierarchical Liturgy, that it's all just a "show," and I should enjoy it like a Broadway musical. Spoken like a true protestant! If the laity are all standing out there just listening to the choir and enjoying the Liturgy -- any Liturgy -- as though it were a show, then I ask, "Who's disconnected?" I'm naive enough to have thought that the Liturgy actually means something, and actually involved Communion with God. That's what it says in the brochures and booklets, anyway. Now I hear that it's just a long-running play; maybe we should nominate St John Chrysostom for a Tony Award for lifetime ahcievement, I mean, pulling the wool over so many people's eyes across multiple generations! Quite a feat.
In summary, the real question is, "Do we really believe all of this stuff?" Do we, the flock, really believe that the Liturgy is "Communion" with God? Do we really believe that our clergy is endowed with a "charisma" given by the Holy Spirit? Does the clergy and esp. the episcopate really believe that they are to be the servants of the followers of Christ? If we do, then we should all start acting like it, and take it seriously, that is, that it's NOT just a play; that it's not just a "job." And that it's a serious event when a senior priest and associates makes-off with several million dollars given to support the mission.
I'm starting to wonder whether anyone in this Church really, actually believes in any of these things. I mean, we've got one poster on this Website who says, "I don't like anyone in the OCA." Now THAT'S mighty Christian of you, Brother. I must ask, given that, why did you bother to read this Website, and post anything on it? Why go to Liturgy at all?
Maybe the Protestants are right after all: It really is all just about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and all of these bishops, priests, ceremonies, and so forth is just so much hooey. Canons and Councils -- what a joke! No one follows them, and no one wants to do anything about it when the Archbishop of the Church decides to not only toss the Canons, but the Ten Commandments as well.
A complete failure of leadership is what we have here, revealing the lack of belief and discipline throughout the entire group. And here I was, naive as usual: I thought this was a Church, maybe even THE Church. And all it is instead is a group of folks who are a cynical fan club of a long-running play called, "The Divine Liturgy." And I thought that the fan base of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was crazy! They're amateurs by comparison.
#6.1 OCA Convert on 2007-06-29 08:11
Dear OCA Convert,
It seems you are struggling with some possible disillusionment. I don't blame you. I for one do "believe all that stuff".
As a former Protestant, I reject the notion that they "are right after all". It is indeed about a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, however it's not about a me-centered head-trip where I go it along thinking I am smart enough to lead myself on the path of salvation and that I can have it my way.
I encourage you to remember that the Church is full of spiritually sick sinners. SOME are seeking salvation and healing. OTHERS are playing games. Part of the struggling is to constantly ask God for wisdom and strength to discern right from wrong and to stay on the straight and narrow path.
Remember the parable about the "wheat and the tares (weeds)"? Yeah, He warned us. There are a lot of prickly weeds around the wheat these days, and the weeds aren't going to pluck themselves out.
Let us pray that by His grace we continue to be wheat ready to be a pleasing harvest to the Lord when He comes back. He didn't promise it would be easy, and looking back at the Forerunner, the Apostles, the Martyrs......it does not appear to have been easy for many people that we consider to be "holy".
Let me leave you with this from 1 Peter 4:
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right."
The context is a little different I suppose, but the point is that suffering and entrusting our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right is part of the deal for Christians.
#6.1.1 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-06-29 12:02
And all it is instead is a group of folks who are a cynical fan club of a long-running play called, "The Divine Liturgy." And I thought that the fan base of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was crazy! They're amateurs by comparison.
I thought I was the only one seeing this going on! In my case though what I was seeing was something reminiscent of the fandom kerfluffles and invective wars in the adult Harry Potter communities...among other places, some very dark and Godless actually...been there, ya know?
Some of the language and attitude toward "the masses" coming from the Big Names in our Church is pushing me into breaking several immutable laws of coherent discussion.
And then I realize that this ((unlike any of those little special interest communities where cults of personality and BNFdom (Big Name Fan) rule)) isn't about some book or hobby but about The Life Of The World! And the madness of the unreason flying around is almost soul crushing when it sinks in.
So, let us converts remember to remember one another in prayer, that we may all be strengthened.
#6.1.2 Olga on 2007-06-29 16:06
It all has to do with tares and wheat. Remember that Judas Iscariot was in the group of disciples and actually cast out demons and healed the sick, was present at the Last Supper, and yet he betrayed our Savior. Sergei Fudel mentions the "dark double" of the church (Light in the Darkness p31f). Nothing has changed, tares and wheat are to grow together and the Holy Angels will separate them at the end,
#6.1.3 Yanni on 2007-07-01 20:28
I'm glad to read some of these postings. As a matter of fact, I'm not really struggling with my faith. The more I learn about Orthodoxy, the more I like it, and the more convinced that I become that it does represent the truth, insofar as we humans here on Earth can approach it. The things that concern me really are:
(1) How non-real it seems to be to some people, including some posters on this site; makes me wonder sometimes if I'm the only one who believes it!
(2) How did some of the "tares" as it were, become the leaders of our church, and how is it that they persist in retaining their positions; as I said in another posting, in any other "regular" organization, they would have been booted long ago! In the OCA, it seems not only do they stay, but some people support them, and seem to take great umbrage if anyone questions their improper actions! Should we expect more from the men who are put into these positions -- and not just give them a pass because of their august position?
(3) Am I the only one who is bothered by the proliferation of protestant mega-churches, while we, the holders of the Orthodox truth, languish and dwindle, because our superiors are taking funds from the church for unknown purposes, and saddling us with debt to service, instead of building the church and evangelizing? And why this is allowed to go on?
No, I'm not really struggling with the faith. I'm struggling with understanding why some people want to continue to stand up for (and contribute to) men who have robbed from this church for YEARS. And why they seem to still hold their offices, and use these offices to cover-up and threaten those who would reveal the full truth of what's happened. And berate honorable clergy and laity alike who seek to expose the facts. That, I'm struggling with.
But thanks for the concern. I appreciate it.
#220.127.116.11 OCA Convert on 2007-07-03 10:04
You are not alone.
#18.104.22.168.1 Sophia Weisheit on 2007-07-03 20:41
Interesting and a great summary. I guess what is so hard for me is expectiong more of our hierarchy and clergy. They too sin, are afraid, and want to keep their positions. It is no different than someone in the secular world. It's hard to accept but the pedestal has be removed by their own doing. How much more time does the OCA hierarchy and clergy need.
Furthermore, the term orthodox peerage is very appropriate.All these references to past OCA leaders and authors in my opinion is a waste of time. I would just ask''WHAT WOULD JESUS SAY." Not only did you steal from the laity but from God. What did you know and when. The weasels are coming out with a bunch of religous/pyscho babble.
I agree, clear not clean the temple. The hierarchy and clergy really lost their chance.
#6.2 ready to leave on 2007-06-30 12:11
Dear Fr. John,
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
This should be the agenda for the upcoming Synod meeting. It won't, because most of our bishops hate us, but it should be.
#7 Eddie Kayeti on 2007-06-28 18:13
Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky’s report on the Metropolitan Council last meeting shed some light on its inside operations. It made me feel naïve to look to the Metropolitan Council to resolve the crisis inflicted upon our OCA. I was saddened to read of Metropolitan Herman’s complete control over the council, turning it effectively into a totally useless governing organization. I confess to losing some faith that the crisis could be resolved with the same leadership and administration in spite of the good works of reorganization and the “best practice” document.
Then Fr. John Hopko wrote his reflections. He restored my hope. God granted us many Orthodox Christians, laity and clergy, who answer their call to serve the church, continue to raise questions, and call for changes to correct errors including a change of leadership. I urge members of the OCA to read Fr. John’s reflection and questions and to dwell on them. We, then, may suggest changes to help our Bishops serve the Church rather than being served. The trust and respect between the people and their hierarchs should be mutual.
And Fr. John, sometimes a bit of righteous anger is what it takes to get a message heard. It is important to get the attention of our hierarchs to listen and recognize that now is the time to act and meet their responsibility to serve the people, that is the church, the body of Christ.
Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church
#8 Michel Michail on 2007-06-28 20:42
If our bishops seem out of touch or out of reach (a common complaint in all American jurisdictions, not just the OCA, nowadays), perhaps part of the problem is that many of their dioceses are too large, spreading these men too thin by dint of distance and travel expenses?
In all of our American jurisdictions, some bishops must oversee dioceses covering several states, sometimes as much as a fourth of the United States, if not more.
And others oversee dioceses with so many parishes, there is no way they could visit each parish at least once a year, if they visit one a week.
Yet at the present time, there are at least 40 or more active bishops in the United States -- almost one for each state.
What if we followed the logic of the Ecumenical Councils, which states there should be one local Church in one land, one synod of bishops in a given territory and a church organization that parallels the civic organization of the country in which the Church lives?
What if we had one Orthodox Christian Church in the United States (OCCUS), with fifty dioceses that match the fifty states, each with its bishop's see in the state capital? (The Canadian bishops could do the same in their country, on the basis of provinces and their capitals.) The result could be smaller dioceses with bishops not spread so thin, making their ministry more accessible and less expensive.
Each diocese could be divided into geographic deaneries along borough or county lines. According to local need, there could also be ethnic deaneries to which all parishes of a particular ethnicity would belong, to solve the "ethnic problem" and ensure that nobody feels left out. There could also be a monastic deanery in each diocese (hopefully each one would have at least one monastery and one convent), to which all monasteries and convents would belong.
Each bishop would simply be a bishop, "archbishop" or "metropolitan" being reserved for the primate, whom the bishops choose to chair their synod. Each geographic or ethnic deanery could be headed by a protopresbyter, while each monastic deanery could be headed by an archimandrite. All titles thus remain "functional" rather than "honorific."
Each bishop could oversee his diocese with his presbyterium (all presbyters in the diocese), a diocesan council made up of all presbyters, deacons, abbots, abbesses and parish wardens, and whatever local staff is needed (chancellor, secretary, treasurer, auditors, etc.), meeting once or twice a year. In most states, that would be more manageable in one state than in a diocese covering many states.
The synod of bishops would oversee units and programs that have a "national" or "trans-diocesan" character: relations with other local Churches abroad, seminary education, and the production of uniform liturgical and catechetical materials for all ethnic groups within the Orthodox Christian Church in the United States. (Think "Departments of Albanian, Arab, Belarusian, Carpatho-Rusyn, French Quebecois, Greek, Hispanic, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian Ministries," etc., if you will.)
To get things started, the existing episcopate could celebrate a common Divine Liturgy, after which each bishop chooses a slip of paper from a chalice on the altar, telling him which state is his new diocese, accepting these lots as the will of God. In states where more than one parish exists in the state capital, his cathedral parish could also be chosen by lot in the same way.
How much more we might be able to do (parochial schools, city- and county-wide charities, credible representation before the civil authorities, etc.) if all Orthodox Christians here pooled their resources as one single local Church, with smaller, more manageable dioceses, in America! Then, perhaps, clergy and laity would feel their bishops were not quite so distant, if a closer relationship with them is what they truly desire.
#9 Gregory Orloff on 2007-06-28 20:46
Excellent suggestions! But we also need bishops who are young and viral enough to do their job. Has no one ever heard of retirement for elderly bishops who no longer can perform the duties of their office?
#9.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-29 07:41
No, please no viral bishops!
#9.1.1 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-06-29 11:42
LOL, so much for spell check!
#22.214.171.124 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-29 12:08
Dear Rdr. Alexander,
LOL! We sure don't need viral bishops!
But, nnooo, I don't think we need virile ones either... Since "r" and "t" are next to each other, how about vital bishops?
#126.96.36.199 Ann Animus on 2007-06-29 13:37
Don't give up on "virile." It doesn't just have sexual connotations, but means: masculine energy, strength, forcefulness, vigorous (another "v" word!), etc. Perhaps I should have said "virtuous," but "viral" is more descriptive of our current situation.
#188.8.131.52.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-30 08:01
We don't need virile or viral bishops: we need verbal bishops, veritable bishops who will speak verily (in truth) How do the sheep know their shepherds? BY THEIR VOICES! Do our bishops have laryngitis or has an angel of God shut their mouths as was done to Elizabeth when Zacharias refused to believe the truth of God that his wife would bear John the Baptist? Zacharias lost his chance to witness for God by his unbelieving heart, his refusal to see God acting in a scandalous situation. Will our bishops (excepting Job) also lose their chance? VERILY, I say unto you....... is their right and responsibility as bishops, as shepherds. Unfortunartely many of the sheep are bleating out more direction than the shepherds these days.
#184.108.40.206.2 Karen Jermyn on 2007-06-30 08:09
That is not a bad idea. However, some states may have so few Orthodox parishes (if any) their bishop would have to be "bivocational", or very frugal.
But this overlooks other issues, such as "which typicon?" and "which patriarch gets the money?"
#9.2 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-06-29 11:47
Dear Reader Alexander,
At this point, I think maybe one state in the United States has absolutely no Orthodox Christian parishes in it; and that may no longer be the case. As for states that have few, it would (1) certainly be an impetus for missionary outrearch and parish-building; and (2) mean there's no way the bishop would be remote. It would also mean bishops of smaller dioceses would have modest salaries (not that I'm sure their salaries are so generous now), but certainly no more modest than the average middle-class parishioners. Parishioners should never want to pay their clergy less than what they themselves live on.
As for typica (or, rather, two different versions of the same typicon), we would have to do what Saint Tikhon the New Confessor did as archbishop of North America: simply respect the differences among different ethnic groups. Bishop Nikon probably does the same in his dual role as head of the Albanian and New England dioceses, since the Albanians (like the Greeks and Antiochians) tend to follow Constantinopolitan practice, while the parishes of New England mostly follow Slavic practice. There have always been differences in liturgical practice in the far-flung Church worldwide, so they ought not to be a reason for disunity here. Unity in essentials; diversity in what is secondary. The bishops in synod can iron out any differences, on the basis of theological and liturgical scholarship, if they really cause any problems.
#9.2.1 Gregory Orloff on 2007-06-30 20:02
It really is an appealing idea. Perhaps there are some monasteries with men ready to become bishops. It would be interesting to know what the SCOBA bishops would have to say about such an idea.
#220.127.116.11 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-07-01 13:41
Those reports say one thing RSK stole millions of dollars,what do you think Herman paid for. MH spent a half a miil for a firewall . Any day now the report will read guilty and millions missing. After a audits , Herman where's the money ? 500,000 and the money has now left the building. I don't like anyone in the oca, but Kucynda and Herman know all of that mismanagement was approved by MT and MH. Look in the mirror and blame our leadership not"one". We are not that stupid. Great job again Mark, God Bless.
#10 Anonymous on 2007-06-29 04:28
What a gift on the eve of the Feast! My introduction to Orthodoxy began with attending services and reading Father Schmemann's For the Life of the World. I reread him especially throughout this crisis, as a compass which can guide us through this wilderness. Thank you Father John. I look forward to our next meeting! Peace, Alice
#11 Alice Carter on 2007-06-29 05:22
Dear Fr. John,
I am glad you included restitution with your plea for repentance, I think your own words were respond accordingly That could mean as well as moving aside, restitution of the financial value of giftsand perks, and/or public apology. Today on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, I think how Sts. Peter and Paul were willing to count the cost and to make their sins known and even be recorded for all posterity, becuase they counted it all joy for the sake of Christ.
This scandal has become so public that it in fact is demanding justice. It is Christ Himself who has been crucified anew, and His Body suffers for it. Oh that the ones who misapproriated funds for personal and secret use, the ones who knew and received little bribes not to tell, the ones who strongly suspected and did not stand up for what was right, that they would publicly act to join Christ in His suffering for our scandal on that cross. Perhaps this is an unattainable ideal in our present complex situation, but what a witness it would be for the world that we love truly one another, that we bear one another's burdens, that we truly believe and make up for what is lacking in righteous suffering in Christ so that all the world may see that Christ's death and resurrection was and is gloriously effectual, yesterday, today and forever. Then will come our healing, restoration and wholeness in the Light of sacrificial love. What do you think? Am I a starry-eyed idealist?
#12 Karen Jermyn on 2007-06-29 05:42
What a contrast between the measured and introspective words of Fr John Hopko and those of Fr Vladimir Berzonsky. I was truly saddened by what Fr Vladimir wrote. Although he made many correct points, it was not necessary for him to be no better than Herman and Kucynda who hurled their crass words against him and he hurling his words against Dr Woog, a fellow MC member and educator like himself. Oh why do we need to be so hurtful with each other?
I pray we can get to the point of repentance and forgiveness. This will be the true test of our Orthodox Christianity in praxis. Like Fr John, who laid his soul bare as one who knows the persons involved and shared with us how it has impacted his life, it is time for Fr Kondratick to do the same.
Fr Kondratick, what I want to know is why? I don't care about the money ADM gave Theodosius. It was not my money. I do care where the Appeal money went because that is money I sent to Syosset to steward. But more than the money, I want to know why you felt it was important, even necessary to use those funds and others to move the OCA in the direction is moved.
Why was it necessary or important to make so many trips to Russia?
Why was it necessary to be so generous to so many while we lived beyond our means?
Why was it necessary or important to cover the sins of those who are our leaders? Is the truth worse than the covering? And if so, why did you feel you must do this?
Explain to us what the goal was for making the decisions that were made. Where did the leadership of our OCA want us to go and be? Did they even care?
Today we are left with little in the central church. Maybe this is better. Let the central church decrease so that the dioceses may increase?
Maybe we have to stop looking to someone else to do what we should be doing? Syosset as institution could not put converts in our respective parishes, could they? No amount of programs or image building or whatever we wanted others to think of us did. That work of living the faith so that others can see it in each of us is only done one-on-one, where we live.
It will take time for trust to be restored. I believe that we must allow that to start now but be the conclusion of the next generation to determine when it has been restored.
We now are fighting our "Civil War" and we all are must too close to the fight. It will be others who will write the concluding chapters but in the meantime we must know why we lived as we lived being led down a path as a Church that has brought us to these most terrible and costly days.
Better now that our bishops stay close to their respective flocks. Listen carefully, act without regard for personal praise or gain. Take the heat, absorb the frustrated blows of those who want to know why and being the healing. Restore love, trust and forgiveness where we all live, work and pray.
It is time to tell the story, Fr Kondratick. You must cast your burden upon the the Lord and trust in the goodness of people. Tell us why the Church was led the way it was so that we may better understand and trust in God and the goodness of people. Let whatever judgement may come be not just your judgement, but all of ours. Only then can we begin to close ranks and turn our Church back to what it is called to be.
Dear brothers and sisters, we must all repent and get back to what is really important, our salvation. I long for the day when PR means public relations again and not Proskuer Rose. Don't you?
God bless you all and I ask for your prayers and forgiveness.
#13 Asking Why on 2007-06-29 07:16
I fail to see the dramatic contrast between Fr. Berzonsky and Fr. John Hopko that you reference in your otherwise excellent post. We all have our more reflective and demonstrative moods, as Fr. Hopko has clearly indicated. As for Ms. Woog, it is about time somebody took her to task for her horrible performance as a member of the MC. Her support and interventions on behalf of the unholy trio of Tikhon/Kondratick/Herman put her in a class (pun intended) all by herself.
#13.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-29 12:35
Since Ms. Woog was illegally elected to the MC (as pointed out in this forum months ago), I would suggest that the MC just vote to terminate her.
#13.1.1 Michael Strelka on 2007-07-02 06:55
How does someone get "illegally elected"? How does an illegally elected person remain on board for over a decade?
#18.104.22.168 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-07-03 10:58
Is there somewhere written that there are term limits to being on the MC? Has Ms Woog overstayed her legal time in being there? Just asking!
#22.214.171.124.1 Wondering? on 2007-07-04 10:17
OCA Statute, Art V (1): "All elected members, whether representing the several dioceses or those elected by the All-American Council, may succeed themselves in office for one term only."
#126.96.36.199.1.1 Edmund Unneland on 2007-07-04 18:58
And the term being how long? How long has she been there? Is there any way to monitor how long these members are on and how often they are replaced? I think Archpriest Gregory Safchuk has been on as long as she has too. Will they have to leave at the next AAC meeting?
#188.8.131.52.1.1.1 Still Wondering on 2007-07-05 12:01
It is good to hear, no, better to hear the frustration of a member of the MC, than to hear a report of their resignation.
#13.2 daniel e. fall on 2007-07-02 16:53
#13.2.1 Anonymous on 2007-07-06 04:24
Actually, it would be lovely to hear of the resignation of some members of the MC!!!
#13.2.2 Ann Animus on 2007-07-06 11:03
I think that, for the most part, Fr. John’s comments about the pomp and circumstance and special treatment (expected/required or not) of our bishops is true…for the most part.
I was raised in the GOC and so that was the norm for me…until I came to the OCA. Whenever Archbishop JOB visits our parish, it’s like having a long-time friend visiting. I was so pleasantly surprised the first time (about 7 years ago) I saw and met him at our church for our annual Feast Day steak fry. He came by himself. We didn’t have a special table for him, nor special china, glassware and silverware. He went through the line to get his food and no one tripped over themselves to “serve” him. He sat at a table with our kids! He mingled, blessed, joked, and talked with everyone. That was a big “WOW” for me!! Maybe our parish doesn’t have as much “class” as other parishes…but, I personally thought it was wonderful. He visits at least once a year and also attends our annual dinner dance fundraiser when he is able…on his own! I guess we’re very fortunate to have a nice and comfortable relationship with our Archbishop! I know this is not the norm!!
On another occasion, we held our Orthodox Christians for Life (OCLife) meeting at Archbishop JOB’s residence, located just north of the Chicago Loop area. After the Sanctity of Life service at Christ the Savior Church (next door to His Eminence’s residence), everyone walked next door for refreshments and the meeting. During the service, there was a homeless man in the congregation, actually participating in the service. He looked very much at home there…in fact during Fr. Luke Nelson’s sermon, he laid on the floor with his head propped up in his hands taking in every word. This man and a couple other “street” people joined us afterwards at Archbishop JOB’s residence…ate with us and actually participated in our pro-life meeting. They were made to feel very welcome there.
We were also blessed with a visit from Archbishop Seraphim of Canada a few years ago, and again, I was so surprised and happy to see that he too was very down to earth and so approachable. He too sat with everyone during the luncheon…no special table or place settings for him either…and he seemed very at ease.
More recently, I attended a presentation at a Greek Orthodox Church and there was a visiting Bishop there from another jurisdiction. Before the presentation, one of the parishioners was asked by the speaker to help pass out some handouts. The poor parishioner didn’t know the “protocol” and, bypassing the bishop, he started passing out the literature. The bishop called out to the parishioner in a rather loud and perturbed voice…“The Bishop first!” This embarrassed the parishioner and, I have to say, it bothered me as well…for days I thought about that incident. At the next Bible Study session, several of us who had attended the presentation spent a good portion of the time talking about this incident and why bishops, in general, expect to get preferential treatment wherever they go. One of the things we decided was that WE might be part of the problem. In our desire to be good hosts to our bishops, we sometimes go over board lavishing them with the best seat, surrounded only by the most important individuals, (like the council members and the priest and his family perhaps) and special place settings and food and so on. Because of OUR own prideful need to put on a show for them, maybe they have now come to expect this type of treatment and may feel disrespected otherwise. Another angle that we might consider is that perhaps there was some other message that this bishop was trying to convey. Since the bishop is considered to be Christ’s representative, perhaps he was trying to tell us that we should always remember that Christ comes first and therefore as his representative we should remember the bishop first. Is this explanation too much of a stretch?
I guess what I’m trying to say in all my ramblings is that not ALL bishops expect the royal treatment. Archbishop JOB is not perfect…we know this because he has told us about his failure to see the magnitude of the problems as they were being reported years ago. I know for a fact that this man is very approachable, kind, loving and very concerned about his flock and the pain that this situation is causing all of us.
Currently, I am a member of both the GOC and the OCA and I have to say that I definitely feel more comfortable around the bishops in the OCA! All the issues mentioned in Fr. John’s reflection are things that should be fixed and/or brought under control…for sure! I just wanted to share my own simple experiences and to voice my own simple opinion that ALL bishops don’t necessarily fit the portrayal I got from Fr. John’s reflection.
Fr. John…thanks so much for your own testimony and the courage to share your heart with us!
God bless us and have mercy on us all!
(Holy Resurrection Church – Palatine, IL)
#14 Helen O'Sullivan on 2007-06-29 13:56
In reference to the announcement on the OCA website about the upcoming meeting of the Holy Synod, it appears that +H is setting the agenda. I thought it was going to be about the ongoing scandal! Wow, his lawyers are really working for their money. Also, as a member of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America for many years (when it was FROC), I’m amazed that +Herman will notify the Fellowship in plenty of time if the AAC is to be held during the Labor Day Weekend in 2008. Hey, duh, it’s too late already! See you in Disney World! I’m amazed at how little he knows about the workings of the FOCA! (Does he care?) He knew enough about it when he came to speak at the Alexandria, VA meeting and chastised all who heard about how little we are supporting the church! And to a group of people who are very generous to the church in time and money. I felt like I had been slapped when I left. Wow. Really inspiring! Well, to show you how cynical I’ve become, I’m planning a trip to a local casino. At least I KNOW where that money is going. And they employ alot of people and the locals are living better now then ever before. “H’s lawyers have enough money already! I wonder if my gambling with my money is really as bad as our gambling with our souls by succumbing to the evil in the church?? I hope we get the right answer before it is too late. Maybe when I heard the phrase “ you and I think we know that this is right and this is wrong, but really only God knows the difference” it was referring to the church!
#15 Lizzie on 2007-06-30 10:18
Right On Lizzie!
Enough spent on lawyers and accountants and more lawyers and more accountants. Why are we spending all of this? It's to save Herman's hide. HE IS NOT WORTH THAT MUCH, even at half the cost.
Who cares about how appeal account balances go forward. The money was spent elsewhere. All of this, we will be diligent in making sure that you know where the money went is hogwash. The money is gone. Should we take out another loan to repay ourselves? A totally stupid move, without consulting anyone.
But now we pay lawyers and accountants before we spread the Gospel. Have we all gone mad? Stop the waste of more money trying to solve the riddle we already know. How stupid to they think we are? Pretty stupid, I guess.
BTW, Herman only thinks about the FOCA when they write a check to St Tikhon's otherwise, he hold you all in contempt like he does the rest of us.
#15.1 A Lizzie Fan on 2007-06-30 14:09
I know of an OCA church where the poor are fed. I can give you the name of the priest and address.
#15.2 Anonymous on 2007-07-01 04:28
There is one particular parish that comes to mind and that is Holy Trinity in Elmira, New York (http://www.holytrinityorthodoxchurch.org/) who’s pastor is Fr. Jason Kappanadze. I believe that Father is one of the priests who Herman threatened to be quiet about this scandal sometime back. When you look at what parishes such as Holy Trinity do in fulfilling their mission and giving back for all they have and then you see what’s going on in Syosset where they only speak through the hands of lawyers and command more without giving back anything you see the glaring disconnect between the quality at the bottom and the bankruptcy at the top. One parish doing more than Syosset does for, say, the Chaplains at war. The crown jewels of the OCA are in parishes like Elmira and priests such as Fr. Kappanadze. It is people like this that make the OCA so strong at the bottom even though the top has rotted out with corruption and the reason why it hasn’t imploded. People who view the church as a place to serve.
Looking at the readings for yesterday (June 30th), there is an interesting passage: “You received without paying, give without pay”. Very appropriate to our current situation where money is the basis of all and we find ourselves in this scandal chiefly because of it. While not sure about all dioceses when Herman visits he’s expecting a tribute. I guess they never read that line or then again, maybe he just doesn't believe in this any more.
#15.2.1 Publius on 2007-07-01 11:34
After I read Fr John Hopko's words I waited some time before reading the comments, which have been varied, but have come back to a single problem: clericalism. Whether we are looking at hierarchical liturgies or just how the bishop interacts with people, we are coming back to the same problem.
I have met both Archbishop JOB and SERAPHIM. Vladyka SERAPHIM has long made it a practice to visit SVS while in NY for Synod meetings. I had the great fortune of being the guestmaster for a year or two and would enjoy our conversations and humorous interractions. In fact, I generally planned on getting a lot less work done while he was visiting, and that was a good thing: it was 'quality time' with a bishop, even if he wasn't 'my' bishop.
Likewise, I had my parish assignment as a second year seminarian in New Haven, CT when Vladyka JOB was still in that diocese. I met him also when he visited SVS. Each encounter was itself a genuine blessing. Both of these men, are people first, who relate to other people as people. They don't lose their episcopal status by lowering themselves to the base level of the laity; instead they are exalted in that they win true respect and LOVE. Bishop BASIL (Rodzianko) of blessed memory, was a bishop I could go to confession with, and did. Familarity doesn't always breed contempt, often it breeds respect. These are all MEN to whom I say "eis polla eti, despota" not out of liturgical routine, but with my heart.
I am reminded, yet again, of Fr Thomas Hopko's anecdote about St Tikhon the Confessor; of a parish priest writing after a visit by the saint, "it's the first time I saw a bishop who was a man (human being)." Isn't it so sad that St Tikhon stood out just for being human? Isn't it sad that any bishop who is really a loving pastor stands out so starkly? To borrow from Scripture, would that all of God's bishops were pastors!"
Ideally speaking, and I do emphasise the "ideally" part, a hierarchical liturgy should be a true joy. Bishop BASIL (Rodzianko) used to quip, "You know, Mark, without subdeacons, a bishop has no grace, because without a subdeacon, he can't put on his own omophorion." As the bishop stands in the midst of the people and the subdeacons vest him, we are supposed to be reminded that the bishop is from among the people and the shepherd among them. The subdeacons are in that wonderful state that isn't quite laity and not "major" clergy either. In that sense they are (ideally) representative of the people vesting their bishop. What is the bishop - the (arch)pastor without the flock? Nothing. No flock, no pastor; no subdeacons, no omophorion. Bishops, priests, deacons, people, we are all one flock, and all of us look to the One Good Shepherd and need his love and mercy equally. If I hadn't experienced hierarchical Liturgies with Bishops like BASIL, JOB, and SERAPHIM, I'd have long since joined the chorus of "ban the mitre" and called for getting rid of every imperial trapping. But I have experienced hierarchical liturgies in which the ideal was the reality, and I know that the one anonymous priest who wrote about has a solid point: if the bishop is good, his goodness will transcend the imperial/episcopal regalia. If he is wicked, he will stand naked in his wickedness, whether he is wearing a sakkos, a mandya, a riasa, or a t-shirt and shorts. If he is good, he will be loved (and honoured), and if he is wicked, the "honours" will be empty symbols of nothingness because he will have no love from the flock entrusted to him.
Bishops like BASIL, JOB, and SERAPHIM, aren't clericalists. They don't see themselves as standing above the rest of us. They don't believe they are "the everything" while we are "the nothing." The love and respect the "noble task" to which they have been called, and they carry out that task among us all, like the Latin expression goes, "totus Christus, caput et corpus": the whole Christ, Head and Body" that's the Church.
#16 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-01 13:07
Having lived in the US as well as Europe, I must add my 2 cents worth to your posting about the bishop as a humble pastor.
To begin, I would offer the example of the late Met Anthony Bloom. The examples of this man's humility and accessibility are legion. A fellow who ultimately became Orthodox told me the story of bringing a delivery to +Anthony's residence. +Anthony answered the door and introduced himself as "Father Anthony", invited the man in for tea and had a delightful chat. Later the gentleman realized who it was that greeted him so warmly and offered him a hot cup of tea on a cold day. Thus begun a journey into the Orthodox faith. I know many others who were received into the Faith by +Anthony's Christian example.
"Where there is the bishop, there is the Church", wrote Met John of Pergamon. This is so very correct. The diocesan bishop is the pastor of the flock, assisted by the clergy. When the bishop ceases to be a pastor and decides to be a ruler, he is no longer an Orthodox Christian bishop, for he is no longer a shepherd.
I am currently living in a "traditional Orthodox country". We see our bishop regularly. Not as a ceremonial figurehead or potentate, but as our pastor. He knows the people in his diocese, and alway has time to share a word or two with us and attend to our spiritual needs. Pomposity? Never.
I remember an occasion when Met Theodosious (OCA) was passing through our city enroute to a meeting elsewhere, along with our diocesan bishop and another OCA bishop. We were told that they had to leave shortly after the Liturgy on Sun to catch a flight. Our diocesan bishop told our priest to arrange a private breakfast in the rectory following the Liturgy so the bishops could eat and run "without people holding them up". +Theodosious surprised us all by going directly to the parish hall and heading straight to the coffee pot. There, he poured himself a cup of coffee and remained at that spot in the serving line to greet people as they got their coffee and snack, assisting folks in getting their coffee. When a place of "honor" was set at a table for him, he declined, saying, "If I were to sit, I would not be able to exchange a word or two with everyone. Besides, I like helping in the serving line." For all his alleged faults, +Theodosious always related to us as a simple man.
My experience in the US was that many bishops lived up to the expectations of their flocks - to be a ceremonial figurehead who shows up for fundraisers and patronal feasts. To attract a crowd when we want to pass the collection plate. And to leave the parish alone at all other times. And, at times, dioceses got exactly what they wanted, to the detriment of the Church.
What is truly sad is that people point our bishops such as +Job and +Seraphim as exceptions, when they are simply living the rule our Church has held for centuries!
#16.1 Overseas Observer on 2007-07-02 00:53
I told myself that I would take a leave from posting because of my personal feelings that the same people posting over and over destroy the spontaneity of the website. However, Mr. Harrison made two statements that I HAVE to contest.
He said...."They didn't lose their episcopal status by lowering themselves to the base level of the laity."
Mr. Harrison. I believe I'm much older than you are and have far more experience with the church even with your seminary experience. Frankly, other than one or two now deceased bishops, I have NEVER felt that the episcopy was on a higher level than I am/was and that by friendly conversation with me or other laity, they were in any manner lowering themselves to my--or other --base level. The base level of the episcopy is no higher or lower than the laity. I hope you didn't learn that at SVS. In fact, I am convinced that with some of the present hierarchy, it's the other way around. In short, the comment you made --and listed above---is completely off base.
My second comment refers to your comment...."If the bishop is good, his goodness will transcend the imperial/episcopal regalia." More to the point......"If the bishop is good, he doesn't need all the imperial/episcopal regalia.".
#16.2 nicholas skovran on 2007-07-02 08:19
I believe you missed the sarcasm in Mark's first point (which of course doesn't travel well in the internet).
Mark was decrying the "attitude" of bishops who by their actions (and sometimes expressly in their words) seem to say "we are better than you, we will not lower ourselves to your base level".
In other words, Mark was pointing up the wrongness of that attitude.
#16.2.1 Rdr Kevin Nikolai Payne on 2007-07-03 10:03
Thank you for your thoughts and they would have been very well placed had I been serious about "base level" but I was indeed being quite sarcastic. I lived under a bishop who seriously considered us all to be at some base level well beneath him. He told many people, even in my own hearing, that we could never be his equals. He said it plain language and his behaviour reinforced his words. "I am the everything, you are the nothing," was his general attitude toward the people. That is an attitude that is far from episcopal as you pointed out, but it was his, and itis from that experience that my sarcasm came. When I wrote about Bishop BASIL (Rodzianko) I did so as a contrast with this particular bishop. In fact it was in reply to telling this bishop about Bishop BASIL's quip about the bishop having no grace without subdeacons, that I received the reply (via IM), quoting a different late hierarch, "I am the everything, you are the nothing." Needless to say, I was shocked. I kept that to myself for a long time, sure that nobody would ever believe it. The bishop was known for his strictness, but this went well beyohnd that. So yes, I was being quite sarcastic, and I'm sorry it didn't come out that way to you. The fact is that I agree with your sentiments, including the fact that good bishops don't need all the regalia. I used the word "transcended" because they are still going to have the regalia. I met Metropolitan THEODOSIUS was when he was in shorts and a t-shirt! He was still very much the metropolitan, and I am saddened that he is implicated at all in the current scandal, because he always seemed to be a good pastor, a very approachable man. I often asked him questions. Again, your comments apply.
Victor Hugo's book Les Misérables includes a chapter toward the beginning called "Good Bishop, Bad Diocese." That chapter alone is worth reading. It echos the observations of the observer from abroad. If anybody has seen the broadway play, they'll have a little idea, but the book goes into much more detail, of how this bishop traded residences with a neighbouring hospital to give them more room (had had a mansion, they had a little place). The book by Morris West "The Shoes of the Fisherman" is similar and more poignant throughout. Both are about Roman Catholic bishops, of course, but they point to the same reality, and probably for the same reasons. Sadly, bishops like the one I had pattern themselves on the model of the medieval prince-bishops of Western Europe. Wrong model. My whole point was in fact that the "base" level of the episcopacy and that of the laity, should be, and ultimately are (in spite of the attitude of some) one and the same. As I wrote in a reflection posted on this site, they are stewards, not kings; taken from the earth like the rest of us and destrned to return to the earth like all of us.
I hope this clarifies my meaning for you and anyone else who missed the sarcasm.
Sdn. Mark Harrison
#16.2.2 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-04 10:19
Mr. Harrison: I apologize for missing the sarcasm. My training and work experience was in writing, reading and interpreting written documents including contracts etc. Thus, I tend to read words carefully and expect that they mean what they say. I try to write the same way. From the tone of your post above, I believe we are more in agreement than not in agreement.
#184.108.40.206 nicholas skovran on 2007-07-04 20:41
I was wondering when someone would mention the "good bishop" in Le Mis! The scene with the stolen candlesticks still brings tears to my eyes. Now there is an episcopal model that reflects Christ.
As for Morris West and "SHOES," don't forget that the novel ends with Papal authority trumping all other considerations!
#220.127.116.11 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-05 06:07
If I recall correctly, however, that last act of papal authority is one of total love, committing all of his church's resources to feeding the Chinese and averting a global war. What I see in this is an imitation of the King of all emptying Himself by "descending from heaven to ascend the cross" (tone . Yes, perhaps there is papalism there, but in that act, there is a model for earthly kings, and wannabe kings, i.e. bishops who think that being bishop means ruling like a king. Said bishops should be aware, far more than actual monarchs, of the example of the King of all, whose stewards, not kings, they are. If they wish to play king, while wearing episcopal vestments, all the more must they rule like the True King and Head. When I read "The Shoes of the Fisherman" that is what i saw in the Pope's act.
Regarding the full story of the noble Bishop of Digne in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the part with the candlesticks, is the crowning act of his humility and sanctity. Victor Hugo based the character upon a real life bishop in France. Hugos's bishop (like the Pope in "Shoes") generally wore the cassock of a simple priest. He gave up all of his riches, his mansion, his coach, all of it, save the silverware, which included the candlesticks. The silverware was not used. He ate from wooden utensils. When Jean Valjean stole it (for those who don't know the story), he told the police a white lie, that he had given Valjean the silver. After the police leave, according to the book, he literally exorcises Valjean: "I withdraw from you every spirit of evil." The exorcism doesn't come through in the Broadway play, but his words there are equally poignant. It is significant to me that, as Valjean is dying of old age at the end of the story, it is the bishop who appears to him in a vision (per the book). In both the book and the play, this self-emptying bishop, who in that day in France could have weilded great power (and ORDERED that the hospiital move into his mansion), showed himself to be truly a saint. Such is the model of Bishop BASIL (Rodzianko), such is the model of the great hierarchs of the Orthodox Church who have been saints. None were glorified for weilding power. All were glorified for, in some way, appearing before their flocks as rules of faith, images of humility and teachers of abstinence.
Thanks, Ken, for your thoughts.
#18.104.22.168.1 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-07 09:14
Thanks for your additional comments, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Actually, it was Cardinal Leone I had in mind, not Pope Kiril. The Pope in "Shoes" certainly fits your profile of a humble and holy cleric. But Cardinal Leone, brilliantly played by Leo McKern in the movie, makes his submission to Kiril only after stirring up opposition to his policies (pledging the Church's wealth to fight famine and prevent a world war), when he invokes the Petrine Doctrine of Papal Authority, thereby doing a complete about face. But I digress and quibble.
The larger, and more important point, is that holiness and Christian witness transcend jurisdictional boundaries in this world, as does sin and corruption. We should draw inspiration from wherever we can find it and forgo pride in institutions and individuals that fail to meet the basic moral standards of Christianity.
#22.214.171.124.1.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-08 10:40
Mark, thank you very much for this post, you have said much of what I wanted to say as well, and said it so wonderfully.
Whatever Fr. John's personal disappointments and frustrations may be (for which I have great respect & compassion), some of the stuff in his reflection feels rather heavy-handed to me, and the discussion of the hierarchs is the one I probably have the most problems with.
I have experienced different hierarchal services (not only liturgies), including a memorable one where a remark by a hierarch "Let's get on with the show" was overheard, and I must say that my experience of an "ideal" hierarchal liturgy is very similar to what has been so eloquently described by Mark and Tikhon in this thread. In our parish there is always a mood of happy anticipation before the hierarchal service when Bishop Nikon is in attendance (which has a lot to do with the loving bond that has been established between him and our parish ever since he had become the Bishop of Boston of the Albanian Archdiocese, a couple of years even before he became our "proper" ruling bishop). Furthermore, although Archbishop Job left the Diocese of New England something like 20 years ago, there is again an enduring loving bond that we have with him, including those of us who have not even been around during his episcopacy in New England but who have met him during one of his more recent visits.
No, our anticipation has nothing to do with "entertainment" as one of the anonymous posters earlier in this thread seems to feel. In fact, the hierarchal liturgies are always longer and physically harder to endure, and everybody engaged in the service is under additional stress to do everything right. But - I am speaking for myself as a reader & member of the choir - when it is an "ideal" service, the it's the "good" kind of stress. It comes from the more acute liturgical sense which is elevated by the figure of the presiding hierarch who stands in the midst of his flock as a figure of Christ, the ideal shepherd.
I know that many nowadays dismiss the teachings on the episcopate of St. Ignatius of Antioch, but I think those are the people who have either never been fortunate enough to experience the value of a good bishop, or are simply blind to the high aspects of the Orthodox tradition. There is always a danger of throwing the baby out with the water, we shouldn't let it happen to us no matter what the shortfalls of our Church's handling of crises may be...
#16.3 Inga Leonova on 2007-07-02 15:32
QUOTE: "Particularly to be regretted is the role that the bishop seems compelled to play when visiting parishes or carrying out other public duties—almost like a character in a show. (I know this—I spent seven years as our primate’s deacon. In that role, I often felt like a bit player in a theatrical production.) The hierarch arrives, he presides, he leaves—he rarely truly encounters. While presiding at liturgy, the bishop does not see the real life of the parish. All too often, virtually everything that is usually and routinely done has been abandoned for the occasion of his visit—the quite artificial and aloof ceremonial of the “hierarchical visit” takes over. As a parishioner once observed about the bishop, “He comes, he often brings his own people to serve with and talk to, he ‘does his thing’ (and we help him do it, not always with competence or comfort), then he leaves and we breathe a sigh of relief.” Even our bishops and their aides sense this—a standing joke that I had as aide to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS was that the local clergy accompanied us to the car when we were departing to make sure that the bishop was actually leaving!" ENDQUOTE
I was saddened to read Fr. John Hopko's comments about Bishops' visits to some parishes, because that has not been my experience at all. Perhaps it's because we're less than an hour away from our Archbishop, +Dmitri Archbishop of Dallas and the South, who presides at St. Seraphim Cathedral, or maybe it's because he's still a native Texan at heart (I'm a transplant!), but his annual visits to our church, St. Maximus the Confessor in Denton, TX, are not like the arrival of a potentate, but like the visit of a relative or friend. He sits and chats with the folks and answers any questions they have. He also makes occasional visits to the local University on behalf of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship group. Plus, we're able to visit the cathedral when we want to, and he's just as amiable at the fellowship meals there on Sundays or after Wednesday vespers as he is when he visits us.
To Rev. John Hopko: Your latest Reflection is very imteresting and indeed raises many questions. However I think very strongly that the present scandal should be solved to everyone's satisfaction first, before taking on new (or old?) issues concerning the Archbishops, Bishops, Seminaries, etc. God bless you and your father for the insights given to all of us, the humble and troubled laity. G.Curtis, Crestwood, NY
#18 gabe curtis on 2007-07-01 21:08
I must admit, that when I read Fr. John's reflection, I found it very foreign. It seemed to me that he was implying that all bishops, at least OCA where as bad as he felt they were, or are. I've only known one bishop, I mean really known him for many years: Vladiko Dimitri. I've written many times before when his good name was being distorted and smeared. I think now seems to be a good time to give some relief or humanity to Fr. John's very broad strokes.
Like I said, I've only know one bishop, Vladiko Dimitri. All other bishops I have known aside from him, I say with all honesty, pale in comparison. I understand, though, peoples' horror and even disgust for bishops who prance around demanding our obedience and respect. The ugliest and most frightening encounter I ever had with a bishop was once, several years ago. This bishop (OCA) was talking with some people and I did not want to interupt, so I delayed in asking for a blessing. However, he thought it rude of me and asked me if at my parish I was not taught any manners. Yes, frightening, especially to a neophyte. I said within myself, Vladiko Dimitri would never do something like that. He would as soon shake your hand than expect you to kiss his.
Fr. John's reflection also sounded foreign to me, especially the clericalism that apparently is the scourge of many diocese. I remember being at cofee hour some time ago and Vladiko blessed the food and the people were signaling him to go first.."Clergy first!", but what did Vladiko say...."clergy...smergy" and the people went before the bishop.
The aloofness from the people, is also an apect I found strange to my ears, since I assumed in my ignorance that all bishop were like Vladiko Dimitri. Since the departure of the Mexican priest who served in the Hispanic misison in Dallas, Vladiko Dimitri, has taken it upon himself to tend to the Hispanic flock. Out of love for them, he has been serving the liturgy in Christian (a.k.a Spanish) once a month, doing most of the service himself and delivering a homily and afterwards sharing a meal with the Hispanic community. There aren't to many Hispanics that come, but that doesn't matter to Vladiko. Even if just one shows up, he will serve in Spanish, out of love for his flock.
Is it aloofness that inspires him to hold a 5 de mayo celebration for the Hispanic faithful of the cathedral? (By the way his enchiladas are the best this side of the border). Aloofness? I don't really understand what Fr. John means.
However, just because he doesn't consider himself terribly important doesn't mean his flock doesn't. I have only one more story to tell, and I promise I'm done.
Several years ago we celebrated Vladiko's 80th birthday. People from all over the diocese and from all the jurisdiction, even ROCOR (I think) were present, at least 300 people. Towards the end of the festivities, one father came up to the podium for some last words. First he asked all those who had been baptized, married, confessed by Vladiko Dimitri to stand. And a few people stood up. Then the priest asked all those who had been ordained by him to stand, and several more stood. Finally the priest asked those who had been baptized, married or confessed by those whom he had ordained to stand and the majority of those present stood. "Behold the fruit of your labors", said the priest. You could see in Vladiko's face a redness, maybe embarrassment. He then quietly walked to the podium and said simply, "I only did what I was obliged to do". That's all he said and sat back down.
The people who respect and love Vladiko Dimitri do so because he has earned it, not because he has demanded it.
This is the only bishop I've ever really known. The world will be a less bright when this sun sets.
I pray my comments will not be censored because they praise Vladiko Dimitri. I feel that they are extremely relevant to the present discussion, because many may get the impression after reading Fr. John's reflection that all bishops are bad, aloof, arrogant and indifferent.
Mark, please do not censor my comments.
#19 A Different Perspective on 2007-07-02 09:39
I'm glad to read another response honoring +Dmitri, our Archbishop, but I'm again saddened to hear that he may be somewhat of a rarity among bishops, OCA or otherwise.
When one of my fellow converts (chrismated and baptized with us this April) gushes on about how great Orthodoxy is and how he loves our church, I sometimes tell him that from what I've read on the Internet, we may be especially blessed to have encountered and entered Orthodoxy via +Dmitri's diocese. Had we been where churches were convert-leery and ethnic-focused, with aloof bishops and priests, we might have found Orthodoxy too offputting to pursue.
I agree that the financial mess in OCA is distressing, and the name of our archbishop and that of one of his priests from the Cathedral have been mentioned here in a negative light. I have unfortunately encountered serious clerical misbehavior too many times in my past Christian involvements to be naive and innocent anymore. But I pray that when all things come to light, +Dmitri and his priests are not stained by any of the charges, and that they are able to minister to the body of believers here that loves and respects them.
Dear Bishop JOB:
Your challenge to leadership for us faithful looking for a strong moral leader within the OCA has only begun:
Try to encourage the Holy Synod to have its special session in July, and if July slips away, then August, or the next month until you do meet with them.
Try to encourage the HS to continue to strive to break all ties to an administration that is stuck in any way to a failed and broken status quo which would not seek renewal, repentance, and a restoration of trust for the faithful in its hierarchy and administration.
Try to encourage the HS to bring the utmost integrity to the ongoing process of restructuring and renewal to the OCA's administration and its financial policies.
Try to encourge the HS to allow long standing members of the OCA's administration (such as +Herman and Fr. Kucynda) to resign/retire from OCA administrative duties to continue the healing process of all that these two men were administratively involved with throughout the years.
Great leaders make hard decisions. They make lonely decisions. But they make decisions full of righteousness and integrity.
You have made great strides in confirming your leadership of integrity. Don't stop. Don't be intimidated. Don't get discouraged. Don't be talked out of, or talked down to, in making the OCA a bastion of the great integrity it is called to be.
Please help, please be filled with holy fire, to establish the banner of integrity for the OCA.
#20 Patty Schellbach on 2007-07-02 21:05
Unfortunately those that need to leave, Herman and Kucynda, are not going to leave voluntarily. Not while they can control what they can of the situation and have you and I pay for their legal protection to a tune exceeding half a million dollars. Half a million dollars NOT going to missions, needy clergy, building up of our seminaries. Half a million dollars going to rich lawyers who couldn’t care less in what happens. Half a million dollars that you worked for and gave to the Church for good – going to rich lawyers who couldn’t care less how this ends – they win. When we refuse to cut off our money, remember, we’re not cutting it off because we want it to go to rich lawyers who win no matter what happens. Are you demanding the lawyers? Are you demanding a firewall around Fr. Kucynda, oops, I mean Herman. It’s really a moat with the waters patrolled by the legal alligators.
But back to Herman and Kucynda. It’s not a matter of pride with them, it’s a matter of using the Church as protection from their crimes. They are in too deep and the more it goes on the more it looks likely that the muck they are deep in is criminal. When it walks like a duck, when it quacks like a duck, it's likely a duck and Herman and Kucynda are showing all signs that they have committed acts so grievous they go beyond simple administrative transgressions or innocent omissions. Kucynda’s red faced bluster as the last MC meeting is damning to those of us that were questioning his involvement with Herman. He has left no doubt. There is no longer a distinction between Herman and Kucynda. They are partners of equal standing in this the more it goes on and likely working behind the scenes with the Kondratick crew. The only way they are going to be persuaded to leave is by men wearing windbreakers with "U.S. Marshal" printed on their backs.
Sorry, Holy Synod, the marshals are our knights in shining armor – defenders of the truth and justice. The IRS is our investigator and the judicial system the guarantee and granter of justice and punishment. All are indirect protectors and cleaners of the Church. Men who know nothing of the Tradition will likely be the ones that allow it to continue in the form of the OCA. You, Holy Synod, can only sit back, watch, and shake in your shoes as to how much you're involved is going to leak out at the trials. You, Holy Synod, will have to take it upon your shoulders that when Herman and Kucynda are taken away in handcuffs it's going to be from on Church grounds and in clerical garb. Nice image, but that's what you get when you don't care to act or don't have the backbone to or have so much to hide yourselves. Were all the perks and gifts that convincing that you gave away your soul? We know, by your abdication, that you’re complicit. We’ve lost faith in you. How are you going to gain that back? WILL you gain that back as, you, Holy Synod, are currently constituted? That image, very powerfully, shows that there is a lot of bluster when it comes to you, Holy Synod, but that when it counts you couldn’t clean up the obvious mess. Remember, that you, Holy Synod, had to get recommendations from a lay committee recommending the disciplinary action of clergy under your direction long after you know something wasn’t right. That’s the leadership we got. That’s the leadership that we give millions to each year to continue. That’s the leadership we got to defend The Truth. What ever gets revealed is going to be all the much worse when it’s revealed in court about how complicit you, Holy Synod, was in this entire thing. That's going to be the saddest day, but not nearly as sad as the growing realization that you, Holy Synod, were nothing of what you pretended to be and what we believed you to be. In the end, we know people go bad and commit crimes, that’s not surprising, what is surprising is how, Holy Synod, you let us down and became morally complicit. Sad days indeed.
A very happy 4th to all those who live under the American flag, undisputed symbol of freedom the world over, that men for over 230 years have shown bravery and cast aside fear to preserve and protect and defend. Let us reflect on the selflessness of the men who declared their independence, fought and gave their lives for that independence, and who still fight and give their lives to keep this the greatest nation. These are the type men we look up to.
#20.1 Publius on 2007-07-03 11:12
They may have mismanaged, they may have erred, but I am satisfied with their newer efforts thus far and they are willing to publicize their names with their work.
#20.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-07-04 20:11
Well, as long as you're satisfied ....
#126.96.36.199 Anonymous on 2007-07-07 13:54
Reading this thread, I can't help thinking that it is rather nice that Fr. John's critical remarks about the hierarchy made so many people respond with the declarations of love for their bishops. Maybe we are in a better shape than we think if the bonds between the people and their pastors are still strong. I only wish all those wonderful bishops understood just how much their sheep are hurting...
#21 Inga Leonova on 2007-07-03 06:48
The fact that the bishops (collectively) are so out of touch with what their flocks are feeling is proof, in my book, that something is wrong. Certainly, I too, have had positive interactions with some bishops--Bishop Basil of Blessed Memory and even former Metropolitan Theodosius come to mind. But a kind and gentle demeanor is not, in and of itself, sufficient to make a "good" bishop. The job description is far more extensive even if good pastoral abilities are at the top of the list.
So while it nice that some persons on this thread can say positive things about their bishop, it does not answer the question of whether or not that bishop is providing Godly leadership and bearing fruitful witness, not just time serving liturgical presence, to Christ. Looking at the record of the OCA since autocephaly, a thoughtful observer must say the bishops have failed the Church and their mission to bring Orthodoxy to North America. Failed miserably, and shown no contrition about this sad fact.
So I guess, for the first time, I take some small exception to what you have said, while acknowledging that your bishop, +Nikon, appears to be one of our better bishops. Along with Archbishop Job, he at least has recognized that there is a scandal that needs to be addressed. While awaiting further developments, I am forced to observe that neither has so far been willing to cajole the other bishops into taking the necessary steps to deal with our current crisis, let alone other important reforms to improve the OCA's function and witness.
#21.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-04 07:12
I share your view. ALL Orthodox Bishops celebrate the hierarchal Divine Liturgy with the people in their churches. God forbid, it is not a theatrical celebration. But this is only a minor part of their responsibility as shepherds to the people in their dioceses.
I also like to take some exception to what Inga said about Bishop Nikon who is also my bishop. Although he recognized that there is OCA crisis, he prefers to wait while doing nothing about it. He refuses to allow parishes in his diocese to hold OCA assessment in escrow account.
Let us hope that he along with the other OCA bishops will take some positive action soon to deal with the crisis. How long are we going to wait for Metropolitan Herman to retire? Then we can consider reforms for improvement.
#21.1.1 Michel Michail on 2007-07-05 08:38
Ken, I do not disagree with you. I was trying to make the point to the bishops, perhaps all too subtly, that the love of their flocks needs to be repayed with standing up for them. I can only assure you that I have made this point before in a more direct manner, both on this website and in private.
On the other hand, one of the things I am reacting to is that I am often saddened by the tendency of some of the posters here to "throw the baby away with the water". If we are serious about trying to rebuild our church, we should do it in the manner consistent with the fullness of the Orthodox Tradition. I do not mean the trappings of the Byzantine regalia and the other temptations of the "sensual beauty" of our worship (quoting Fr. Robert Arida whose most poignant reflection on this particular matter seemed to have been mostly overlooked). We must understand the fundamentals of our Church structure in its original meaning in order to be able to address our crises, and that includes the knowledge and appreciation of the apostolic tradition.
Lastly, it is not just the bishops that have failed the OCA. It is all of us. It is the inert, docile laity that either idolizes their ethnicit(ies) beyond all reason (I was recently told by a prominent member of the parish council in a NY parish that they think of themselves as a Russian church first and that it is a source of disagreement with their rector), or is content with Sunday-only worship; it is the clergy that is just as inert and docile or is frustrated into an Orthodox form of congregationalism (I'll do the best in my parish and forget the church world outside). It is the all-pervasive ignorance of faith. Our counciliarity is bogus, many of us cannot even verbalize what it means, and we disagree on the most fundamental issues of our Church's ecclesiology and eikonomia. Sure, the shepherds are taxed with leading us, and time and again they fail. But we are also taxed by being the Church of the apostolic tradition with supporting our bishops but also being their conscience should they stray from the straight path. Can we say that we have done that?
#21.1.2 Inga Leonova on 2007-07-05 09:15
Certainly, not until recently! I'm sure they consider it a hair shirt!
Thanks for your clarification and further response. Of course, I agree with you.
#188.8.131.52 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-05 12:24
St. John 12:4-6 ... Jesus knew that Judas Iscariot was taking from the money box. Judas had been doing that for a long time. That is what thiefs do, and the cost of this type of life is great, and we have a good idea of what happened to Judas Iscariot. At the postal facility where I worked as a craft employee, management (supervisors) would leave money
on the workroom floor and watch to see if a employee would pick it up and put it in their pocket.
Ifso, the employee would be fired. Also, as another example, as a former police officer, I made many shoplifting arrests by use of video cameras recording the criminal act. My point is that
those who have abused their power and trust have been watched and recorded , and it is a matter of time before judgement and punishment.
As for calling (in some cases"demanding") for changes in the OCA, I think that a person should look deep into their own "backyard" before telling their neighbor what to do. Such
as, for those who were offered and accepted high positions in the OCA out of seminary do to political favor and not merit, should examine themselves. And to those who "bailed out"
during the time of "financial improprieties" within the OCA,( instead of "bringing to light" the so called perpetrators and evil acts), should greatly examine themselves.
And if someone is looking for forgiveness and support from the OCA family and repentance from past wrongs and illicit deeds, should not take a position in a well established parish.
But rather take a parish position the old-fashion way--- Earn It ! Labor in the fields and harvest the rewards. Do missionary work here in the USA, as they say, "just do it", stop taking, stop talking, start producing.
Yes, I do believe that the OCA is in need of changes. To many chiefs and not enough indians.
To much Bureaucracy, not enough grass-roots action.
Just my first thoughts on the subject.
#22 Thomas Ashton on 2007-07-03 11:56
Having gone back and re-read Fr. John Hopko's reflection, I will keep my responses to these two:
1) A seminary in California would be a great idea. Or even Arizona or Colorado. But I'm in Minneapolis now, so reviving the one they had here way back when would suit me just fine.
2) Regarding the bishops, I'm with Inga.
#23 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-07-03 11:58
I would like for all of you to remember our Pittsburgh diocese in your prayers. It is important that we get strong leadership in the way of a bishop. With the population reduction in the Pittsburgh area, some of our churches are struggling to pay the bills. This diocese needs to be "energized" from the top down. Does anybody have any ideas how long it will take for a bishop to be seated here? Does anyone have a clue who is being considered for bishop? I hope this does not drag out for months ( I have a funny feeling it will). There can be no good in +Herman being the temporary chief here. I feel time is of the essence, regarding this vacant post. I pray that our new bishop will be a humble leader, teacher, and a "real" icon of Christ. May +K memory be eternal!
#24 Dave on 2007-07-03 14:51
Based on the history the past several years of bishop picking which has been scandalous of itself we can probably guess the order of events in two scenarios. First, immediately, maybe on July 31st as one of his two agenda items, Herman will appoint himself temporary administrator. All will approve. After that they will scurry to locate a man of questionable character to be consecrated as Herman's auxiliary, as, let's say, the Bishop of Chevy Chase, MD, who will then be assigned to administer Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Once the new bishop has forged relationships and exerted his control, at the next diocesan council his will be the only name placed in nomination and he will be unanimously elected as the next ruling bishop of Pittsburgh and the West. A special meeting of the Synod will be quickly arranged (faster than a meeting to attend to deep seated corruption at the top of the Church) and they will confirm the election at which time they will announce the new ruling Bishop and members of the Synod will pat each other on the back on another job well done to preserve the sanctity of the club.
The other way it could happen is that Herman will just fold Western PA into his NY/NJ/DC mega diocese and take another step towards being the Imperial Bishop. Unofficially we can say that it’s really NY/NJ/DC/PA because if stories are true then Herman is really running Eastern PA through his Tikhon proxy.
Both have happened, with the auxiliary route being the favored scenario the past 6 years, and with the behavior of the Herman/Kucynda dynamic duo and the acquiescence of the Synod one of the two are likely to be how it happens. Hope springs eternal, but reality is like a slap in the face.
#24.1 Publius on 2007-07-03 20:34
Publius, I don't know if your reasonable or not but there are times when you walk forward and many times you walk backwards.
This also goes for the EYTXO signer.
I don't know Mark Harrison or Fr. John Hopko, but I know several of the Hopko family that serve ORTHODOXY faithfully. This is what they have observed and I believe them.
In my seventy five years of as an Orthodox I have been the building director of two complete remodeling projects and two new churchs. I have seen good and bad priest, bishops and metropolitans. The last two metropolitan were/are horrible as our leaders.
The last three Bishops in the midwest, Bishop John was by far the most Humble Bishop that I had the great pleasure of reading the Epistle in his service.
All of you guys should sign your names as all of the BRAVE LADIES do when signing your postings! Be proud of your name!
ST. James--Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO
Thank you for your eloquent posts. But would you be so kind and let us in on your legal/real name? I believe Mark Harrison had gone public some time ago with his real name. I am glad and proud to know it is he who writes and speaks! Perhaps the trend can continue.
#184.108.40.206 Patty Schellbach on 2007-07-04 18:50
I don't understand this odd curiosity for delving into one's privacy. Surely, were Publius (it ain't me, by the way) interested in sharing that info, she or he would do it. It strikes me as terribly wrongly focused; a diversion from the issues at hand.
#220.127.116.11.1 Anonymous on 2007-07-05 13:37
Hell, he could be Bill Clinton! Bill didn't know what "is-is".
St. James---Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO
Mr. Babish, Publius is not only extremely intelligent, but also very well-informed. (And I haven't heard anything about Mr. Clinton becoming a convert to Orthodoxy.) Publius must have his reasons. Let's just appreciate his wonderful posts!
#18.104.22.168.1.1.1 Ann Animus on 2007-07-06 11:18
Ann, I didn't say he was an Orthodox, but I got your attention! When Clinton was in a sea of "hot water" you would see him with a soft covered Bible and his wife coming/going to church. You don't see that anymore.I have seen many epistles before on this site.
I hope we do not become complacement in the little changes that come from Herman and his crew. We really need to look forward as to how we can survive. Herman knows how to put the carrot in front of "the donkeys". I hope we don't bite this time!
IT IS TIME TO CUT OFF THE MONEY!!!
GET RID OF HERMAN AND HIS CREW!!!
St. James---Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO.
Happy 4th of July!
It is with great joy and sadness that I offer my thoughts and prayers to you my brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, on this very day that our nation has claimed independence, freedom and a sense of pride as we display our American flags outside our homes and businesses, I offer to God my deepest gratitude of proudly being able to call myself an American. I am very grateful to my forefathers and current brothers and sisters, who have served our country with much dignity and respect. During these past couple of weeks and the recent postings concerning events and attitudes in Sysosset, I must commend our faithful Fr. Berzonsky, Dr. West Fr. John Hopko, Archbishop Job, Deacon Eric Wheeler, Mark Stokoe, Greg Nescott . . . and so many countless others who have put their hearts (and heads) on the line for truth in our Orthodox Church in America. Please know that my heart yearns for the truth to be told, my heart breaks with the words from each of you asking forgiveness and repentence towards this darkened situation. I feel very blessed today on the 4th of July to be a part of this journey having all of you speaking out with faith and placeing your names, hearts, dignity and respect on the line. I ask in my prayers that God will continue to shed light on this situation and that the church will be transformed. It is only through open, honest, and candid discussion that our Orthodox Church can grow strong and provide true witness to this God Blessed land of America.
#25 Irene on 2007-07-04 09:24
Although the latest two reports display strong contrasts of the OCA, I find them to be quite complementary. Fr. Berzonsky provides us with missing insight on the operational order of the Metropolitan Council. If we thought that body, which is intended to represent the entire OCA, was listening to the hearts, feelings and conscience of the concerned laity, just re-read the report. The autocratic trinity of MH, PK & AW, apparently strives to shutdown any independent thinking. Yes, with the crisis still unresolved, no one makes a peep unless it is in-line with MH.
To me Fr. Berzonsky has rung the death bell for that autocratic trio. It’s over! If you can’t even hear what the people have been shouting, it’s time to leave. With the laity having lost faith in Chancery, the top brass is telling us to eat cake! The bell started ringing with the public call for truth on this website over 18 months ago. It got louder with the simple questioning of Archbishop Job and then began resonating with the shouts from the likes of Fr. Bobosh, Fr. Reeves, Steve Babish, Fr. Wojcik, Greg Nescott and certainly many others. The shouts have lead to simplistic changes; cutting exhorbanant travel and lavish spending, while adding some checks and balances that any simple organization would espouse. However, the real reform of the OCA will require a change at the top. The new Treasurer can’t arrive soon enough, but it is also time for the new Metropolitan. Until the change is made at the top, the restoration of faith and trust will be delayed. The bell is sounding. It is a slow steady ring, calling for one more change. The only change that can help restore confidence. All the other changes are relatively meaningless if we do not correct the leadership.
With Fr. Berzonsky’s report sounding the death bell for the current administration, we must look to the future and here we find Fr. John Hopko’s reflection. Having just celebrated Independence Day for our nation, it is time for us to look at Independence Day for our Church. Fr. Hopko presents the groundwork to begin re-thinking our vision for the OCA. How many Bishops do we need? Should there be 3 Bishops for Akron, Ohio? What are we doing to promote Orthodoxy in our communities? Do we gloat when a “competing” Orthodox church of a different jurisdiction suffers a calamity and look to see how we can attract their discouraged members? Are we laboring and assisting other Orthodox parishes and missions in our communities, with the understanding that the growth of our faith is to the benefit of all? No, Fr. John does not raise all the questions, nor does he pretend to, but he begins to make us think. Where are we headed, what do we need to do? His quote from his grandfather, Fr. Schmemann, from 1982 is revealing “… So we have apparently achieved what we were dreaming of. We have achieved the reduction of the Church to a successful bureaucracy, administration to a paper waterfall, all of it rather dull…” Yes, that quote is from 1982; where have we gone? How would Fr. Schmemann view a “Metropolitan discretionary account of $5 million” an amount larger than any OCA annual budget, an amount that could have grown to $7-8 million today and still have funded 10 mission priests over each of the last 10 years? Now, tell me how we can allow those who helped formulate the “Metropolitan Discretionary Account” to continue to direct and influence our future? No, Thomas Jefferson did not call on King George for advice, nor should we. One great revelation apparent while slugging through all of the ugliness that this scandal continues to reveal, is the great talent revealed in thought provoking comments that appear on this website -comments that span across our country and across our OCA. Should we have a representation church in Russia? Wow, why do we, I have to ask? Personally, I’ve never considered more than half the questions that Fr. John raises. It appears that our Metropolitan Council and Holy Synod that should be observing, leading, mentoring and developing plans for what the OCA should look like in the future is too blinded trying to hold on to what they have – mostly small fiefdoms that will only get smaller. The question for our leaders is not how does it benefit me, but how does it benefit our witness in America? From what I’ve observed on this website, I can only believe that there are scores of Fr. John’s out there with vision to ask the questions and begin developing plans for the future of the OCA. The limited discussion on this forum, the sharing of thoughts and ideas, is one of the bright lights that provides me with a glimmer of hope for the OCA.
Yes, you softened me up. But I’m not that soft, time to shift gears. That darn draft Financial Report released by the OCA in conjunction with the Midwest Diocese got me fired up, but I haven’t had time to really look at it. I found out that some older financial data is available on the OCA website. I knew the financial problems at the OCA were not new, heck I sent in more money because I thought they were struggling (what a moron I am sometimes). Just look to the financial report presented at the 2005 All-American Council (http://www.oca.org/PDF/14thAAC/FinReport.pdf). The operating losses for 2002, 2003 and 2004 total $1.9 million! Yes, nearly $2 million in 3 years. So from that document, what was the proposed budget for 2005? You got it; let’s increase the operating expenses from the 2004 actual of $3,498,000 to $4,397,000 for 2005. Yes, after you have lost $2 million over 3 years, let’s go increase the expenditures by another $900,000. Huh??? You got me! Can anyone explain? Probably not, because somehow our Treasurer is missing financial information and can’t formulate a financial report for 2005. We did have to take out a $1.7 million loan in 2006. Wonder why? It should not have been a surprise to anyone.
So, what’s happened since this website started; since people started to become informed? (Yes, back to the vision stuff, where we, everyday people discuss issues). Expenses were drastically cut. The $3.9 million in budgeted operating expenses for 2006 were actually reduced to $2.9 million! Yes, one million dollars of money was saved. (The link for the detailed presentation of the 2006 Financial Report from the OCA web site from August 31, 2006 is: http://www.oca.org/PDF/finances/2006budget.pdf compare to the Draft Report released by the OCA on June 25 or 26). The $420,000+ in travel expenses appears to have been reduced to $65,859. The administration that couldn’t come close to the budget for 2002-2004, suddenly woke up to a website of angry, but caring faithful and somehow managed to trim $1,000,000 in expenses! Remarkable! Thank you Mark and all involved.
Can you tell it’s after midnight. I’m turning into a pumpkin. I could spend hours on the financial data that has been presented, but it would just raise more questions. It’s time for the Special Commission to get into those details. By the way, would Fr. Schmemann have been able to turn 30,000 financial supporting members into a million member church? The article with quotes from MH in the Toledo Blade regarding Archbishop Kyrill’s repose identified MH as head of the one million member OCA. Why is that number being used?
Praying we can open our hearts and minds, and allow Christ to dwell inside.
#26 Ken Kozak on 2007-07-05 22:26
Continuing this interesting discussion about bishops...
In the latest reflection, Alexis Troubetzkoy writes that he was taught to believe that bishops are "set apart."
I was taught that the reason we sing the Theotokion to the bishop (when he enters the church) is because he must care and be responsible, *like a loving mother*, for each and every soul in his diocese, entrusted to him by the Grace of God.
(Or am I wrong and there is some other reason we sing the Theotokion?)
#27 Ann Animus on 2007-07-07 23:01
We sing It is truly meet when the bishop is being vested, because there was a time when the Panagia he wore contained a blest bread that orginated in monastic blessings.
It was like holy water: blessings were invoked by its use.
It was not reseved eucharistic bread, but a special bread of blessing. In the hierarchal liturgy, we are singing to the Theotokos, not to the bishop. It was about looking to the Theotokos for motherly comforting that was signified by this special bread, not to the bishop. The bishop is a servant/overseer who shepherds and rightly divides the Word of Truth. He should be an example of Christ the Good Shepherd and Teacher for us.
I think panagia bread may have developed as a reaction to those who said she was not the mother of God; liturgical use has since minimized our looking for blessings other than Christ Himself so we no longer see or seek this panagia bread, but we rightly continue to venerate the Theotokos as the Mother of Our God, for her humble obedience and purity. And so her example is humility and purity ; a Bishop's example is Christ the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, and he wears a panagia to remind him to be a pure and obedient servant as well. May it be so.
#27.1 Karen Jermyn on 2007-07-09 07:38
A lot is being written about a lot of things...a topic now seems to be the aloofness or distance of bishops, clergy, etc. There is much one can write on this subject, and I tried to reflect on my experiences as part of the laity and later clergy. I am blessed now with a bishop, NIKON, who is friendly and approachable. I have seen him interact with all persons when he visits the parish. He makes a great effort to personally visit with persons, for example visiting each table at a banquet, etc., so he can personally speak with persons. He is very welcoming with altar servers. And he has been very considerate of clergy in many ways. It has been a long time since I had experiences with Bishop JOB, but as I remember he exhibited an openness toward persons both clergy and laity. And I can go on. I can recall sitting with Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and his joking and warmness. And I can also remember many interactions with Metropolitan HERMAN as a seminarian, but also witnessing his interactions with my family both at joyful times and at sad times. And I can remember many clergy (including my former pastors and our former chancellor among the priests and deacons I have met) who also were open to me and to others. And this does not stop at the ordained, but also includes the laity most of whom have been welcoming of me in the parishes I was at and in which I visited. I love them all.
Now I suppose if I was so inclined I could find a bad experience or one I considered bad with some of these as far as their seeming to be distant at one time or another. No doubt there were reasons why they at times might have appeared unapproachable, and I am not questioning the experiences relayed in the original reflection on this subject and the persons the author may have met or observed. However in some cases perhaps the hierarch, etc. had to deal with something pressing, perhaps he had to offer discipline, or perhaps there were other reasons.
I think we can see good in each person if we look for it and I just wanted to offer my observations that reflect a different perspective than some shared by a few on this site.
May God have mercy on us all...May we come to love each other and see Christ in each other...
#28 Very Rev. William DuBovik on 2007-07-08 10:04
Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ, While reading the recent postings I must comment on a couple of issues.
First and foremost our children were at SVS camp this past week and my 15 year old daughter said to me on saturday evening, mom I must tell you, Bishop Job visited us this week, and he was amazing! when I first approached him he had an array of peace and a warm feeling was surrounded around me, he sat near the camp fire and all of the camp kids asked him questions about his life and struggles and he was so personable. He answered questions about his faith and talked opening about Orthodoxy and life in general, He told a lot of jokes, and sang a country song that his friend made up and we all laughed so much! he talked about life, he even talked about his first love, and his journey and we all felt at home with him I felt very good inside and also I feel blessed to of met him.
These are the very words from my daughters mouth. Through the eyes of a child. What an example of true witness to our faith, and love from Jesus Christ! Bishop Job didn't display an attitude, or a feeling of being supurb towards oneanother, he displayed a humbleness and feeling of peace that was shown through his god given talents and gifts, he displayed a sense of equalness that made those children feel as though he was a part of each and everyone of them.
Sadly I must report to you that he is not our bishop and I was thinking I wished he was, for haven been given the blessing of children I want to lead, and guide them into the true witness of Jesus Christ on this earth while I still have time.
Many people have been reflecting on the recent postings of Bishops, since Fr. John Hopko recently posted from his heart, yes I believe we must tend to this problem and find solutions, but first and foremost, the greatest problem that we face is the use of Gods name in our Church, people were robbed cheated and lied to and I want to know why this current administration is still in place? Can someone please tell me why???? In Christ Irene
#29 Irene on 2007-07-09 16:33
Dear Father John,
Thank you for your recent reflection. You are brave, with the name you carry, to risk your comments. But your dad has given several opinions which have ended up being shared on this site. As another said on this site, I think that you are being too hard on yourself!
Your honesty is refreshing and a model for our leaders within the central church administration to emulate! Like the song goes, "Honesty, is such a loney word; everyone is so untrue."
I am very glad you shared Fr. Alexander's comments from his diary that he had also questioned what the role of the central church administration should really be.
A certain amount of restructuring is in process, but as some have asked within the blog comments, 'are we just re-organizing the chairs on the deck of the Titanic?' But if this 'Titanic' must sink even more, to then build a ship with the proper number of safety features (such as the right number of life boats), then we will be better off. Thank you for offering your words of insight and wisdom!
#30 Patty Schellbach on 2007-07-09 17:11
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