Monday, July 23. 2007
Your comments on the Archbishop's latest tack, the new Chancellors' letter; the continuing turmoil in Alaska or the clear success of our latest missions appeal (given the 850,000 new members of the OCA in the last six months) are welcome....
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Having a united diocese behind JOB means the lowest common denominator which does not mean united, but rather capitulating to what Herman wants.
JOB hasn't been known to show leadership, always requiring a consensus on what the diocese does, unless its to capitulate to what Herman wants.
The game of chicken continues and JOB backs down again. The pattern is getting to be boring already because its so predictable.
#1 Anonymous on 2007-07-23 15:06
Oh brave Anonymous one,
As a delegate from my parish to the now famous Midwest Diocesan Assembly where the Palatine Resolution was drafted, I recall clearly Bishop Job's request to all of us that in return for his support for our resolution, we would agree to allow Bishop Job to be the final word as to when with holding was implemented, and he asked us to trust his judgment should it be impossible for him to explain in full why he was making a decision either to withhold or not to withhold. We all agreed.
#1.1 Paula Brkich on 2007-07-25 04:37
Folks, throughout the centuries there have been many, many problems with the hierarchs of the Church. We have had the strangest people end up as bishops. Saints have been exiled. The Icons were burned. Money by the bucketful has been outright stolen by men calling themselves bishops. This is all nothing new.
Let me introduce another thought; all this OCA "scandal" stuff is a distraction. This distracts you from seeking the Lord and it disrupts your peace. For this reason, it is bad.
There are no shortage of Orthodox churches, even in America. If the OCA goes away, those of us who are Orthodox can just move to another church. The important thing is that you stay focused on God Himself. Let the Lord sort out the OCA. He can, and He will. Those of us who are tasked with governing the OCA will eventually come to what the Lord wants. There have always been troubles, but they become dangerous when the Christians take their eyes off of God and look elsewhere.
I am a convert from the Charismatic churches. Out there, scandals, church splits, turf wars, etc. are the name of the game, and they happen all the time. I became Orthodox to get away from all that and seek the Lord. And that is what I will continue to do. I encourage all of you to do the same and not let this OCA trouble, as bad as it is, distract you from what is really important.
#1.2 George Kruse on 2007-07-25 11:46
First, I regret that you lack the courage to identify yourself, but that aside...
Although I can understand frustration and impatience with the process of moving the Church to face itself, I can see the dramatic value to creating consensus.
His Grace, +Job is applying both a very modern managment technique and a very ancient approach required within the body of the Church for important decisions.
He appears to be on a firm path and deserves support and understanding. Give him a chance and stop whining against one of the few voices within the Synod who is acting appropriately and courageously.
No one wins, least of all the Church, if we lose the souls of even those among us who are most guilty in this matter.
I continue to pray for enlightenment...
#1.3 Alex Kreicbergs on 2007-07-25 13:38
Regarding the membership number, at what point does a delinquent but baptized, chrismated and communed Orthodox Christian cease to be a member of the Orthodox Church? This is a different quesiton than whether they are 'members in good standing' with the organizational rules of the local church and parish. Canonically, is it after not attending services for 3 weeks, 3 months, a year, multiple years, only if and when they begin receiving the sacraments in another church body, or if and when the apostatize to another faith?
It is an important theological question that may be at base under the Metropolitan's assertion. The measure of 'membership' then moves from 'dues paying members' or members in good standing' or even the number of regular attendees on an average Sunday and towards including all those that consider themselves Orthodox but are not regular attendees (i.e., Pascha, Baptism, Marriage, Funeral Orthodox) and have not excommunicated themselves by practicing another Christian or non-Christian faith.
Are negligent Orthodox visitors at Pascha Orthodox? if so, why would they not be considered members of our Orthodox Church as 'Church' rather than as 'nonprofit, incorporated religious association'?
I agree with Mr. Tobin (see #3). Mr. Orr, GET REAL. As per the Toronto Assembly the assessment paying membership was 25,000 and regular attendees was estimated at around 50,000. Even considering non-attendees, Orthodox in name only (why would one even want to count such marginal members among the faithful membership! ) 150,000 is more realistic. So, lets stop rationalizing; continual citing of this mythical million is just one symbolic symptom of the greater propblem--the lack of truthfulness, openness, transparency.
#2.1 anonPriest on 2007-07-23 19:55
I think you are missing my theological question. However many other, less than regular attendees there may be that are marginally associated with the OCA - from a corporation or religious association (worldly) POV - what is their status vis a vis Orthodoxy? Are they Orthodox? If they are not then they should not be communed at Pascha - but I am sure you and most priests in the OCA do commune them, regardless of whether you "want to count such marginal members among the faithful membership" in this context. If they are Orthodox, then counting them is perfectly acceptable.
The Christmas/Easter type of Christian is a common difficulty for a census of any church's membership - and a common reason why such numbers are taken with a grain of salt by those looking at the numbers. Lack of transparency and honesty is one way to categorize this number, the other is that there is a great degree of subtlety and complexity in such statistics. As Twain said, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and stastistics. Arguing for 25-50,000 members alone places you and most priests in the OCA up for defrocking since you have communed non-Orthodox, but this is not our theology: the line is elsewhere.
The first citation of the million person membership on this site was for the Honesdale loan (or for the NY State Attorney General's office which, if I remember right, had to approve the loan request). It wasn't a theological statement at all, it was offered by our leadership as a sort of collateral against the debt and was clearly a misrepresentation meant to influence a certain decision (approval of the loan).
This second instance isn't particularly theological either. The reference wasn't to how many Orthodox there are in the country, (some of those Pascha visitors are members in other jurisdictions, are travelling, are irregular in attendance-you are right that situation is more complicated- and I, for one, am happy to leave that decision to the priest at the chalice) but to the size of the church that the Metropolitan "heads". How can we talk about 25,000 among ourselves at an AAC and then claim 40 times that number publicly? If that discrepancy really existed, you would think the question of how to get the lost and wandering 975,000 sheep back into the fold would be paramount.
#220.127.116.11 Rachel Andreyev on 2007-07-24 19:07
In saying that those who participate in the worship life of the Church only infrequently are "not Orthodox" you are terribly wrong. They may be lost and straying sheep, but they are still members of the flock, who need better catechesis, deeper pastoral concern, intense parish prayer for the healing of their spiritual illness...and complete severance from the stupid notion that membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is gained by paying annual dues.
If such folk are communed on Pascha, it is doubtless because they were first confessed. Further, please re-read from Paschal Matins the Catechetical Address of St. John Chrysostom, wherein he urges both the devout and the heedless to come to the feast, meaning the Eucharistic feast.
Quite frankly, I don't give two hoots about statistics (seemingly a peculiarly North American concern), because we're supposed to be the Church of Jesus Christ, not the Church of the Sacred Statistic. Moreover, numbers are NOT always an indicator of health and growth. I think of a couple of non-OCA parishes where I've filled in for vacationing rectors: the places were empty at "Blessed is the Kingdom" and jammed at the Dismissal; most of the people come to church alright...but only after "Our Father," to light a candle.
Remember the Lord's parable about the wheat and the tares. It's not yet the harvest; so put your sickle away. Besides, the separation of the wheat from the tares is the angels's job, not yours.
#18.104.22.168 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-07-25 04:50
In saying that those who participate in the worship life of the Church only infrequently are "not Orthodox" you are terribly wrong. They may be lost and straying sheep, but they are still members of the flock...
I agree totally with you, Father. I'm sorry for being less than clear. My point was that perhaps (perhaps) the larger number used by the Metropolitan includes all those nominally Orthodox Christians that attend perhaps only at Pascha, for Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals. So, while the 'real' number (I agree with you regarding statistics, too) may only be 25,000 active, regular attendees, the real number of the flock is likely far higher.
Whether the real number of this extended flock requiring "better catechesis, deeper pastoral concern, intense parish prayer for the healing of their spiritual illness...and complete severance from the stupid notion that membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is gained by paying annual dues" may or may not reach 1 million souls, we cannot take the Metropolitan to task for not using the low number without also taking out our scythe and unwittingly cutting off the negligent from the Church contrary to the faith of the Orthodox Church as shown in the parable you cited.
I'm simply tending to give the benefit of the doubt to the Metropolitan, such as would be expected of any Orthodox Christian (assumptions are sins against the Commandment regarding false witness, after all), but agree that a better accounting of how the Metropolitan and Syosset have arrived at this number is called for. It is important for us to know both what our regular, supporting membership is as well as what extended, ailing members we must make sure to reach out to. I agree with Rachel that 'If that discrepancy [25,000 regular vs. ~1 million total members] really existed, you would think the question of how to get the lost and wandering 975,000 sheep back into the fold would be paramount." True. This is either proof that the higher number is made up OR that our hearts and faith are cold and we do not love our neighbor. I'm not sure which possibility is worse.
Even if we use the most expansive method of counting OCA members re your post, we would have to use the Chicago politicians' trick of counting the dead to get to one million!
#2.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-24 07:04
Thank you, Mr. Tobin. And I'm sorry, Mr Orr, there's nothing "theological about your question. And it ignores the fact that citing "1 million members" is nothing but a bold face lie. And incidentally, I do not commune individuals who show up once or twice a year at Christmas and Pascha ( unless they repent of their laxness and go to confession first).
#2.3 AnonPriest on 2007-07-24 18:36
"And incidentally, I do not commune individuals who show up once or twice a year at Christmas and Pascha ( unless they repent of their laxness and go to confession first)."
How interesting that you feel comfortable enough to judge a willing communicant, and thusly deny him/her the sacrament. Especially on Holy Pascha...
After all, lest we forget the words of St. John Chrysostom in his time-honored Paschal homily:
"If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour."
I shudder to think of the sad legalism that would prompt a priest to turn away a communicant at the chalice...
Shouldn't one feel delighted that a person, no matter their degree of "laxness," is compelled to join in the most joyous of feasts? And is it not a likely possibility that your willing denial of the Eucharist will make them think twice about returning to your parish?
And people wonder why a Church so focused on buzzwords like "mission," "evangelism," and "witness" is in fact -losing- membership...
#2.3.1 Anonymous on 2007-07-25 20:43
Are you a priest? Are you charged with the responsibility of dispensing the sacraments? Under no circumstances is a priest to commune people who have not been a part of his community, whom he may not know from Adam, whom, for all he knows, are not even Orthodox, lapsed, occasional, or otherwise, without some indication of the person's 'status.' This is done by simply asking the person, "are you an Orthodox Christian?", "where is your regular parish?" "when was the last time you went to confession?" At least one of these questions must be answered satisfactorily before Communion is given. Doing otherwise is to the priest's condemnation, for at Ordination, priests are told with great solemnity that the Sacrament is ENTRUSTED to them. I'm sorry to be so indignant about this, but I think you are completely missing the clegy perspective in all this.
But all this is just a footnote to the basic question being considered here, "why does +Herman / the OCA keep insisting that we have 1 million "members." As others have clearly stated here, this statistic has been given in contexts asking for hard statistical numbers. Fr. Kuchinda was not telling the Honesdale Bank that we have over 800,000 members who are on the fringes of Orthodoxy, but who we pray for , shepherd, hope for their return to a more meaningful life in the Church. Nor was +Herman making such a theological statement to a reporter at +Kyril's funeral. This is, to me a no-brainer. Neither +Herman, nor anyone who continues to cite this 'mythical million' deserves the benefit of the doubt about making 'a theological statement' , esp. in light of the fact that this is a hot button for so many. To continually cite the false nubmer is to continually decieve.
#22.214.171.124 AnonPriest on 2007-07-26 12:52
Well, the news is hardly encouraging. Facing disaster, our fearless leaders continue to preach solidarity forever--rather like an out of touch labor union as Ande said on a previous thread. Maybe lemmings going off a cliff is a better analogy-whatever.
For me it all like a Harry Potter novel. The wizards will gather in a week to produce more irrelevant and offensive missives from the Ministry of Magic. Meanwhile Valdemort and his gang will continue to zap those fearless few attempting to call attention to the farce that the OCA has become.
Go figure. Reality (150k versus 1 mil) refuses to move those in charge of a disintegrating church, so preoccupied are they with their authority and status. They serve no one save their own selfish interests and are therefore traitors to their Lord, just like Judas!
One last chance to prove me wrong.
#3 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-23 17:16
It is well known that the "members in good standing" is about 25, 000. Even if you double the numbers in the parishes, which in itself is pretty wild, you will only get 50,000.
It is possible that MH believes the myth of 1,000,000 members, but I suspect he has to keep the myth alive in order to save face.
#3.1 Another priest on 2007-07-24 10:45
Confucius say: Best way to save face is keep lower half shut.
#3.1.1 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2007-07-25 20:02
It is simply amazing what finally stiffens the backbones of our hierarchs: assessment payments. You WILL send them, Archbishop JOB commands. Fine!
But will any hierarch ever be equally insistent that we fulfill the basics of Christian witness: you WILL provide charity; you WILL provide challenging and accountable education; you WILL make your parish known intentionally and regularly; you WILL make yourself accessable to the surrounding community; you WILL stand for what is right and true and I WILL stand with you; we WILL finally realize that words are cheap and action is priceless; we WILL place the Gospel above cash flow; we WILL speak a language understood by our Central Administration and we WILL cut off their money supply; we WILL dismiss cowardly, career and compensation-oriented clergy from any leadership capacity...
A renewed OCA depends on whether our leaders WILL ever aquire a backbone in regards to these imperatives, and much more that Church life in America demands, but which has been neglected and left to chance for much too long. WILL we?
#4 Anonymous on 2007-07-23 19:16
1 O God, Thou hast cast us off,
Thou has scattered us,
Thou hast been displeased;
O turn Thyself to us again.
2 Thou hast made the earth to tremble;
Thou hast broken it:
heal the breaches thereof: for it shaketh.
3 Thou hast shewed Thy people hard things:
Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.
4 For Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee,
that it may be displayed because of truth.
5 That Thy beloved may be delivered;
save with Thy right hand, and hear me.
9 Who will bring me into the strong city?
Who will lead me into Edom?
10 Wilt not Thou, O God, which hadst cast us off?
and Thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies?
11 Give us help from trouble:
for vain is the help of man.
#5 Matushka Carol on 2007-07-23 19:28
In his open letter to the clergy, Fr. Alexander Garklavs the new OCA Chancellor, offers this wonderful imagery.
"St. Paul sometimes used the concept of spiritual warfare and military imagery to make a point. As clergy we are soldiers in Christ's army. Like soldiers, we are under obedience and we are held to codes of honor and fortitude, even if at times the officers are indifferent, the politicians self-serving and the people we defend unappreciative. Like all soldiers, we stand together. Without that esprit de corps we are doomed to fail and therefore we need to preserve this sense of brotherhood now more than ever.”
Taking a chance of being called a “self-styled pundit” who is only a lay person, let me offer an addition to this parable. If the General of this army fails his leadership then that army is also doomed to fail. Then it is time for this General to step aside and make room for a new General to lead and restore confidence of his soldiers.
Holy Annunciation Orthodox Church
#6 Michel Michail on 2007-07-23 19:53
Since Ken Tobin started the Harry Potter analogy, I'll continue it for a moment because as I read "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," I could not help be struck by the sickening comparisons. While the HP story may be more dramatic, the basic problems are sadly all-too-similar: corruption, subversion, power plays, innocent people losing their livelihood ( and often their lives in the book). I don't think anyone who has not read HP&DH will find any spoilers here. This is nothing new in the story line. For those who are not yet familiar with the HP series, do themes like top leaders refusing to accept reality and silencing all who would seek to keep reality in the public mind sound familiar? What about giving out favours to those who support the party line, or tasking people with reading people's writing to determine who is being "subversive"? Worst of all, what of a person having the idea that he is invincible and the rightful leader? One need only watch the newly-released "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" to get the idea. The question is, where are our real-life Albus Dumbledores, Harry Potters, Weasley families, Hermiones and Neville Longbottoms? It's not magic that makes these characters who they are, any more than it is magic that makes the bad guys in the story who they are. Like Albus Dumbledore tells Harry, it is our choices that define us. The heroes of Harry Potter choose to refuse to accept and tolerate the evil around them; a simple choice that makes all the difference.
I love stories like the Harry Potter series and the Tolkien trilogy because, however fictional the stories themselves may be, these stories point to very fundamental human realities. In Spanish, the word "historia" can refer both to "history" and to "story." Essentially, it means narrative. We say that those who don't read history are doomed to repeat it. I should have to say that the same applies to (fictional) stories. We don't need to believe in Crumple-horned Snorkacks (HP fans will understand) to recognise that fiction often presents us with some of the deepest, most sublime truth.
If you've not read the HP series, but have been curious, do yourself a favour and read it. If you're one of those who thinks that it is straight from the devil, do yourself an even bigger favour and read it. Aside from all that I have said here, it's highly entertaining, a great read from start to finish. Thanks, Ken.
I was very stunned and saddened to read here of the firing of my former colleague, Paul Sidebottom. I can confirm nothing and I do not wish to speculate on the motives behind such an action. I cannot believe for a moment, however, that there were any just grounds. Please, everybody, keep Paul in your prayers, and equally to keep all of the students at St Herman Seminary in your prayers.
#7 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-23 22:02
Dear Mr Harrison,
The OCA right now has neither a Potter nor a Voldemort. It seems to me that to say otherwise would be melodramatic in the extreme.
What we DO have are real life Rita Skeeters.
Deacon Yousuf Rassam
#7.1 Deacon Yousuf Rassam on 2007-07-25 11:32
Greetings, Deacon Youssuf!
Yes, while I can see that you would take my post to suggest that I believe that we have full fledged Voldemort's running about, I should have to agree with you that such a claim, would be melodramatic. I don't think it is at all melodramatic. I haven't seen any strange disappearances or murders, or bridges breaking for no reason, or "gas mains" exploding. However, I do say that we are seeing people display the kind of arrogance that Voldemort shows to the end, and the co-terminous willingness to punish others who oppose them, and at the same time, we are seeing a sad dearth of people like Neville, Ginny and Luna, not to mention Ron, Hermione, or Harry and Dumbledore. In short, way to few people refusing to "go along the program."
It is far easier to be a Rita Skeeter, but I could hardly compare the word of our good editor here to the likes of Skeeter. While some commentary here would have been better left out, perhaps even some of my own, Mark Stokoe, I believe has used anything but a Quick Notes quill. On the contrary, his facts, to the best of my knowledge (contrary to the claims of a certain select few), have been solid, and his commentary constructive.
Thank you for your thoughts in reply. I hope that others, even the non-Potter fans, have been able to follow my point. I never meant to suggest that we should be looking to see the most polar opposites of characters in our real-life drama. Simply put, however, I do see more examples of the less extreme characteristics of the "bads guys" and way to few of any characteristics of the "good guys." As the extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops approaches, as Fr Alexander Garklavs settles in his new role as Chancellor, and as issues come to light, it is my hope (beyond hope?) that these new issues, along with the old ones, will be faced squarely, and dealt with firmly.
#7.1.1 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-25 20:15
I hope that I have misread Fr. Garklavs' first letter to the clergy of the OCA. It sounds to me as if it is a call to the clergy of the OCA to remove themselves from all discussions concerning the scandal.
It is the second to last paragrpah, the one likening the clergy to the enlisted ranks of the military, that I find most disressing. The power of the clergy is not esprit de corps, but the grace of the Holy Spirit poured out on those individuals truly called to the ministry as priests, deacons, and hierarchs.
One aspect of the (Roman) military analogy for the brotherhood of the clergy that Fr. Garklavs omits mentioning is that the code of honor called for those leaders who had dishonored themsleves to commit suicide. If Fr. Garklavs' analogy is correct, which hierarch will be the first to figuratively "fall on his sword" and retire to life as an anchorite in a remote skete?
Mark C. Phinney
#8 Mark C. Phinney on 2007-07-24 04:08
Mark, I had the same impression on reading the Chancellor's letter on the OCA web site. It was a plea to clergy to fall in line, cease discussion about the scandal (gag), and march forward without further questions.
I don't know Fr. Garklavs either personally or by reputation. Is he a man who takes his calling seriously, and will selflessly work for the building up of the Church, or is he a company man?
#8.1 N. Todescu on 2007-07-24 05:47
"I don't know Fr. Garklavs either personally or by reputation. Is he a man who takes his calling seriously, and will selflessly work for the building up of the Church, or is he a company man?"
You might be familiar with the miraculous Icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin (if you aren't, you should be). Fr. Alex's father, Fr Sergei, and his grandfather, the late +Archbishop John of blessed memory, brought the icon to America from Russia during WW2, and guarded it for 60 years, until its safe return to the Tikhvin Monastery in 2004.
I have known the family all my life. To your first question I can most assuredly answer yes. I can't answer the second question. After only a month, I think it would be premature to judge.
#8.1.1 Michael Strelka on 2007-07-24 18:23
"I don't know Fr. Garklavs either personally or by reputation. Is he a man who takes his calling seriously, and will selflessly work for the building up of the Church, or is he a company man?"
Allow me to offer what I know of Fr. Garklavs- our God has truly blessed us with a man of integrity, honesty and humbleness, were these not the qualities we all have sought to lead the church from the current crisis- accept this man with all your heart, pray for him, and above all put your trust in the Lord that He has, by his divine wisdom, put a leader in place for us to end this suffering
#8.1.2 anonymous on 2007-07-25 05:19
NOW you're TALKIN'! I'll contribute the airfare to the nearest local airport. I hear there are some nice sketes in Colorado.
As an alternative, I think they could also volunteer to serve as a freshman-level instructor at St Herman's Seminary. Note, "volunteer." I wonder what Illasi's been doing with my little three-figure contributions ... while the Seminary's going under.
#8.2 C.C. on 2007-07-30 19:38
Mr Phinney and Mr Tobin,
Clergy do not need to be told what it is like to experience life as clergy. You've no idea how lonely it is to lead in these circumstances --- in the face of "indifferent" hierarchs, angry and "unappreciative" people, and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. You guys can scream and protest all you want, without any real concern for ordination promises. You've not promised to "do nothing without the will of the bishop" (as every priest and deacon have) .
Indeed, in the ordination vows, I have promised "to endeavor with my mind, heart, and soul to protect the souls of the faithful entrusted to my care, against every heresy and schism, and to labor with every means available to return to the True Flock of Christ those who may have strayed from His path." We would be doing no service to anyone to call for anything other than what Fr Garklavs called for: wisdom, discernment, patience, and unity. (Re-read the Epistle from Sunday, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18.)
I want this resolved, with proper accountability, as much as anyone else.
However, I have to ask whether any of you have found the time, between all your postings to OCAnews, to invite anyone to church, or to speak to those who know nothing of Orthodoxy? Discussion of this scandal does nothing to draw people into Christ's net.
#9 DOS Priest on 2007-07-24 05:09
Father, bless. It has been interesting to me to see the reaction of some who inquire about the Church. One young lady, a student at a conservative evangelical university, expressed relief that the controversy wasn't over what color the carpet should be. That has led to splits in protestant congregations.
An episcopalian commented that at least we were discussing something of substance also.
This controversy is good for the Church, albeit painful. Why? Because just like individual growth, Church growth comes at a price, and as the result of struggle. It forces us to confront that which keeps us from attaining holiness.
Besides, the scriptures tell us the gates of hades will not prevail against the Church.
We're learning just how irrelevant Syosset is to the growth and support of the Church. We're learning that the mission of Christ is carried out at the parish level, by people engaging their community with the love of Christ, not by our contributions to a central authority.
In some respects we're learning that the Episcopacy itself is becoming irrelevant. They are not engaging heresy. Heaven knows they have proven themselves inept at administration. They are spread so thin that there is no way they can pastor a flock. A spiritual father cannot visit his children once a year (or every three in the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest!) and expect to have a relationship. One cannot blame the Bishops for the frequency of visitations, though - both the Diocese of the Midwest and South cross three time zones!
We have somehow bought into the nostalgia of the old country, and believed everything in the Church is/was/will be above reproach. The Episcopacy surfs on the surface of that nostalgia. After all, simply look at how they dress - like the Byzantine princes they once were. Look at the imperial rugs on which they stand - for an empire that ceased to exist some six centuries ago. And we support them in this illusion! (delusion?)
I would contend they, as a group, have been exalted (by themselves?) so far above the clergy and the laity that they cannot remotely relate to our lives, our struggle, or our pain. They don't understand how hard it was for us to work for the money, and how we cheerfully gave it to Christ's Church for the betterment of humanity. They certainly don't understand our near despair, and frankly, embarrassment, upon learning we have been swindled.
In short, I cannot think of many ways the life of a "typical" Christian is made better by the Episcopacy.
Of course, there is the "not MY Bishop!" syndrome, just like with our elected officials. Corruption is rampant, except for MY congressman. He helped my mother collect her social security check, so he's a compassionate and caring man whom I will continue to support, even though the other guys are leading us straight into the bowels of hell itself.
I think we, individually and collectively, need to understand our mission better. Our mission is to make Christ present in the communities and neighborhoods in which we live. How does the Episcopate, the Metropolitan in particular, help or lead us in that process?
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#9.1 Marty Watt on 2007-07-24 18:27
I don't believe I've been critical of parish clergy struggling to cope with their responsibilities to their respective bishops and the obvious need to minister to many in their flock wounded by this scandal. My "screams" are directed at the OCA leadership which you accurately characterize as "indifferent." If your congregation is "angry" and "unappreciative" perhaps you best look in a mirror and reflect on what you have done or left undone in ministering to them.
Regrettably, I can no longer in good conscience bring anyone to the OCA (as opposed to Orthodoxy) in its present state. Nor can I endorse the sentiments of our new Chancellor which seem to me to be nothing more than the regurgitated pablum of his predecessors.
#9.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-24 18:32
Yes, I have taken such time, today and a couple days ago. I doubt I'm the only one. Many of us know how to multitask, to air grievances here and continue do God's work elsewhere. I don't think we need to boast about it here.
Do you, reverend father, think that we who are sick and tired of this message are not capable of good works elsewhere?
No need to put my name. Better to do good in secret, where God sees.
(Mark please post this anonymously.)
#9.3 Anonymous so as not to brag on 2007-07-24 19:36
For 15 years I myself invited and welcomed people to a fine Orthodox community, the most inclusive in our region. Over this period I was very happy to see the growth and development of this parish, which is part of the Greek Archdiocese. I was distressed to witness that a difficult period in the life of this community was exploited recently on behalf of the "missionary" efforts of the DOS. I saw good people slandered to justify the creation of the first OCA parish in the area. I saw people whom we had welcomed into the Church, including one whose sponsor I was at baptism, being recruited aggressively for the OCA mission. I saw an attitude that almost seemed to suggest there had been no real Orthodox presence in the area before the OCA arrived. I saw division being created and fostered among Orthodox Christian people, to advance agendas which cannot be those of Christ.
For many, including myself, who had been received into the Orthodox Church through the OCA, the OCA no longer represents a voice calling for Orthodox unity in this country. The OCA now seems to me rather a force of division, energized to a large degree by self-justification and condemnation of others.
I hope that the clergy and lay people of the OCA will experience some degree of purification as they confront the current troubles faced by this organization. For any of us, such purification can only begin by examining our assumption that everything we are about must by definition be good, right and true.
#9.4 Kevin Lawrence on 2007-07-24 19:44
The OCA-DOS is totally known for this. One of their so-called deans used to entertain any and every call from a malcontent member of any other jurisdiction and he would start a mission for them for $350.00 and travel and hotel and meals and do a Saturday Divine Liturgy. He had a low salary from his parish so he started doing DOS franchises. Then he would list them as a mission in the Dawn. Making missions helped supplement his salary. Even if they didn't survive he still got the loot and time away.
Archbishop had no problem. It gave the impression that they were doing gang-busters which is nothing more than propaganda but it created momentum. Bingo! Gold cross and a bland diabetic cake with "Congratulations" on top. Congratulations and a gold cross for dividing the Orthodox? However, this so-called dean would only visit the new mission if they came up with $350.00, hotel, meals and travel. Aggressive against Orthodox unity is the name of the game in the DOS and aggressive in plundering other Orthodox congregations – and if the priests doesn’t aggressively do it himself them he has his inner-circle laymen do it so he can’t be blamed. If there is not a problem, then the aggressive clergy create one so as to exploit it, like real Orthodox parishes don’t have pews, real Orthodox priests have beards, etc. I have personally heard OCA priests run down clergy from other jurisdictions (in the DOS) trying to make themselves the only real spiritual deal in town saying that all the others were to ethnic, secular, liberal, making the church all about dancing, he is an alcoholic, he is troubled, he is divorced, etc.
Maybe there needs to be a pan-Orthodox site like this so that all Orthodox can voice their grievances. You will definitely see a pattern in the DOS which is what I am familiar with. I have not been anywhere else so I can't comment about them others. Slick talkers and division mongers is what I know of as the OCA-DOS.
Excuse me, Father. But I invited someone to Church this last Sunday. And I often discuss Orthodoxy with those who know nothing about it.
Also, part of protecting the souls entrusted to you, includes addressing the reason for the dispair many of us, including myself, now feel. Do you realize that the way this scandal is being handled may cause some to leave Orthodoxy and scare others away.
I appreciate that you vowed to do nothing without the bishop. How about an ungodly bishop? I believe the same saint who said you should do nothing without the bishop also said you should not follow an ungodly bishop? And where does your loyalty to Jesus Christ fit in? Should that not come first? If Jesus Christ and His teachings do not come first, I fear you are in the wrong profession.
Father, I HURT, in the deepest part of my being, not so much because of what happened, though that is bad enough, but at the denial that anything happened for so long, the coverup, the continuing attempt to get the "sheep" to shut up and accept business as usual. How can people who know Christ in their hearts, and are temples of the Holy Spirit behave like this? How can they?
If the Orthodox Church is not the Church, nothing is. This is the end of the road for me. How can The Church act like this? I was at the AAC where our current metropolitan was elected. His election was announced with the words, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us..." I am sure this is said at the election of all primates. So let's see, that would include Met. Theodosius and Herman. Where was the Holy Spirit in their election? Maybe the bishops were not listening to Him. If they weren't, then that is a REAL problem.
You are from the DOS and talk of evangelism. I assume you are a convert. So am I. Do you know my Baptist mother and non-denominational sister have heard about the scandal? They live in Georgia. How embarrassing.
To all: I was also disturbed by new chancelor's letter. All of the scripture quotes he used for priests were written about all christians. The laity. The People of God. Clericalism has been a problem in the church for centuries. And it seems it is alive and well in "Oyster Bay."
#9.5 Linda Weir on 2007-07-25 06:55
Linda, I totally agree. It is very painful, especially considering that this is our Faith and yet the faithful had little to do with the scandal other than to continue to help fund the deceit.
I have actually had to tell several people who have inquired about my faith and my church to look at other churches in our area. I have given them insight on Orthodoxy, but have told them that our church is going through some difficult times and that they should look at some other non-OCA parishes in our area. Just as sad, it has become very difficult for me to talk with new people who are visiting our parish. I can welcome them, but I am not comfortable really talking with them in any depth. Our parish has not discussed this scandal as a whole, so I feel that we are not only misleading our parishioners, but also misleading new visitors. (Perhaps this is a sin on my behalf as well - when will I/we tell them what is going on?) But what could we tell new visitors about our church? Come to our parish and help support undisclosed criminal activities? Dear visitor, please help us with church donations for charities and orphans, but be aware of bait and switch tactics of our senior administration, which uses them for travel and entertainment. Join us with our 1 million members, we really only have 25,000 members but for media purposes, we like to multiple every member by 40. Oh, what are we doing about the scandal, well, rather than investigate and determine what caused us to veer off the path, our hierarchs and leaders (no, not all) think it is best that we cover up what has happened and move on - boy, doesn't that make you feel real comfortable going forward!
Then we have totally delusional "anonymous" commenters that believe that this website is the work of the devil. Please! Open your mind and look at how this site has helped to redirect millions of dollars to originally intended purposes, to cut out the cognac waste, and to push the church back to the work of our Lord. The work of the devil? I think you need to look at what has been happening in the administration for the past 10-15 years before you question this website. I can only think that you are part of the covering administration or that the truth will be painfully embarrassing.
It remains astounding to me that all we are asking for is the truth. Just the simple truth!
Obviously, two conditions remain: 1) the truth is so horrible that the current OCA Metropolitan believes that losing the support of thousands of faithful is acceptable, and 2) the depth of the scandal goes well beyond the scapegoat of Fr K.
Praying for Truth from above,
#9.5.1 Ken Kozak on 2007-07-26 03:04
Please forgive my tardiness in responding to your posting. I struggled in my attempts to right an appropriate response.
Please also forgive any offense that my posting may have caused.
I am curious where you got the idea from my posting that I was trying to tell any member of the clergy what they experience in their life. Please enlighten me.
While I can imagine some aspects of life as an Orthodox priest somewhere in the Diocese of the South, I cannot imagine the loneliness of which you speak.
At your suggestion, I read again the Epistle for last Sunday; I also read the commentaries on those verses in The Orthodox Study Bible and in Fr. Lawrence Farley's First and Second Corinthians: Straight from the Heart . My impression is that St. Paul was condemning factionalism, and I don't see the scandal involving factionalism at its core. Nor do I see the calls for full disclosure, transparency, openness, and confession and repentance as fomenting disunity. I see those calls as believers taking seriously their responsibilities to be good stewards and to call back those who err to the straight and narrow path of salvation. Where am I wrong here?
You say that "Fr. Garklavs [calls] for: wisdom, discernment, patience, and unity." How can any of us be wise or discerning without knowing what has happened? Where is the dividing line between patience and impatience, when much information is already at hand and ready for distribution? What is Fr. Garklavs' definition of "unity"? It sounds to me more like a not so veiled call to follow "the company line." Where am I wrong here?
Where I am in error, please correct me, Father.
Mark C. Phinney
#9.6 Mark C. Phinney on 2007-07-28 08:39
With the Holy Synod only a week away, I pray that Herman's fellow bishops have the fortitude to insist that Herman either step down or retire. Herman has been known to be a master manipulator and something tells me he's going to look for a situation with another hierarch to take the attention away from him and his primacy. The bishops must not back down, behind the venerable +Job, the OCA must start fresh!
#10 Peter Pappas on 2007-07-24 06:09
Maybe it's just me, but these particular comments from the new Chancellor, seem to actually indicate a return to "business as usual" in the OCA:
"You who are parish priests and deacons, who are on the front lines of Church life, will play a most significant role in setting the course of the future of The Orthodox Church in America. But this will not be accomplished by fomenting cynicism and dissent, by wasting precious time in judging others or by engaging in unproductive chatter."
That last sentence sounds like much of the old "blame the messengers" and "stop asking questions" mentality we have suffered under for many years.
So let me see if I understand this correctly. Does "fomenting cynicism and dissent" and "engaging in unproductive chatter" include:
(1) the original letters, appeals, and posts by Deacon Eric Wheeler,
(2) the posts and editorials by Mark Stokoe,
(3)the letter written by the 70 senior priests,
(4) the letters written by Fr. Thomas Hopko,
(5) the posts and commentaries posted by Fr. Christopher Wojcik, Fr. Ted Bobosh, and Gregg Nescott,
(6) the letters signed by 7 Orthodox attorneys,
(7) the comments posted by Fr. John Hopko,
(8) the various parish resolutions asking for corrective measures and accountability
(9) the thoughtful and critical posts and editorials by so many other Orthodox priests and lay men and women, (so many I cannot list them all here)
(10) the letters and comments of Archbishop Job, and
(11) the question "Are the allegations TRUE or FALSE?"
Since the Chancellor's comments did not bother to make any distinction between the various legitimate questions and justified cynicism of respected Orthodox clergy and faithful and a handful of unreasonable posts by several anonymous posters on the several Orthodox venues, I'm somewhat perplexed by what he is trying to say. The rather broad accusations, coupled with the lack of any acknowledgement and thanks for the constructive work done by so many courageous priests and laymen and women in trying to rescue the OCA and redress the unethical and self-serving conduct of our leadership, give the distinct impression that we're gradually returning to the status quo. Granted, this time the status quo has better accounting processes and a nice "Best Practices" document, but I personally do not have much confidence that's enough. More band aids are being given to a patient that needs a heart transplant.
This website is like Harry Potters books! it the work of the Devil!
#12 Anonymous on 2007-07-24 13:38
If you want to see the work of the devil, anonymous, look at stealing from the poor, at refusing to admit one's sins, at shaming and abusing those who are looking for a bit of truth. Don't worry about the adventures of a teenage wizard.
#12.1 Scott Walker on 2007-07-24 18:46
Awesome. I wonder: if this whole website is the work of the devil, does that make Anonymous' comment the work of the devil as well?
Furthermore, if we're talking about works of the devil, aren't there quite a few more significant ones in the world to complain about? Stealing money from orphans comes to mind.
#12.2 Zach Borichevsky on 2007-07-25 00:14
In the immortal words of Fr Paul Nadim Tarazi, "Let's just be a little more serious." By saying so blithely that HP is from the devil, you are telling me that you haven't read it, which tells me in turn that you don't do your homework before you speak out. By saying the same of this web-site, you are demonstrating that you need to really NEED to read Harry Potter - then you won't be saying that the one or the other is from the evil one.
Is this forum perfect? Are all of the comments made here constructive? No, of course not! Can one make a case for this site being a temptation to sin? Yes! But to remain silent under the present circumstances, is without doubt sin. Of course, the challenge remains to be constructive, to engage issues and not ad hominem attacks. There may even be people who ought not speak here for their spiritual welfare, but as a whole silence is inadmissable as the alternative to engaging in "prazdnoslovie" (idle talk) here as we say in the Prayer of St Ephraim. Idle talk is a sin of commission, but to keep silent under these circumstances, is a sin of omission; no less a sin.
#12.3 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-25 02:48
No, it just reports on the work of the Devil.
#12.4 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2007-07-25 07:02
"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
#13 Thomas Jefferson on 2007-07-24 14:38
Regarding Archbishop Job's latest position, I do not see a major shift. It looks like he wants to go the Holy Synod session with a stronger hand. True, he will not stride into the meeting room like a gunslinger or the conquering hero. However, it costs him and the cause for reform little to do what he did. It is always more difficult to convince your colleagues if they perceive you as an outsider. This way, he will be a bit more like his fellow bishops and may be more persuasive.
As in chess, the outcome is what matters. All that Archbishop Job may be doing is sacrificing a pawn to trap the Queen or checkmate the King. Let us wait and see.
By the way, I am an avid reader and I like books that address the age-old war between good and evil, and highlight those human qualities that uplift us and inspire us, informed as they may be by the Divine Word or the Holy Spirit. Many such books are fantasy, science fiction or children's books, the latter perhaps because they have not been corrupted yet. Such books include C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, Orson Scott Card's Ender series, and yes, J.K Rawling's Harry Potter series.
#14 Carl on 2007-07-25 08:25
It appears that many of you on this forum wish for Metropolitan Herman to leave his office for the survival of the OCA. I agree! He makes no impact on the life of this church and has offered nothing but harm to those who attempt to stand in his way, or correct his poor decisions. He rules through intimidation! This has been his history since his early days as an Archbishop in EPA.
If you are looking to make your voices heard to remove him by a vote of the bishops by the July 31st Synod meeting, I would encourage you to contact each of them directly so that you know for certain they are hearing your disgust. Mail them altogether, not individually, so that each of them know we do not want Metropolitan Herman, nor do we respect him any longer as our Primate!
All of this is available to the public, via the OCA web site:
+Seraphim:firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com;
#15 An Orthodox School Teacher from Pennsylvania on 2007-07-25 11:12
Thank you for posting the email addresses of the hierarchs.
Mark C. Phinney
#15.1 Mark C. Phinney on 2007-07-26 04:13
Fr. Philip Reese states of the financial scandal, "This happened over a period of nearly ten years. It was a culture that facilitated and allowed these things to take place. There were things done that should not have happened, and there were things not done that should have happened. "
Fr. Philip's words are wise: this is from a person who has attended all those recent Metropolitan Council meetings.
His words allow me to accept a total changing of the guard at Syosset. What seems to be accomplished within our corporate and secular institutions is just not happening within our OCA.
I hope that the Synod will reflect on a total changing of the guard within Syosset administration in terms of who is taking care of our finances. This would be refreshing, and help restore badly needed trust.
#16 Patty Schellbach on 2007-07-25 20:25
In the upcoming special synod meeting, the synod must decide to release the Proskauer Rose final report. Neither Proskauer Rose nor the OCA administration of Syosset should produce a summary report. (Assuming legal reasons require one.) A summary produced by potential perpetrators of the wrong doings reported on would mean little. A law firm that appears to answer only to the Metropolitan would also be unfit to serve as the sole editor. Perhaps (as an acceptable compromise), this law firm could work with select members of the Metropolitan Council. This group would see both the full report and proposed summary. They would consult with the led attorney for the editing process and decide when the summary is ready for release. Further, the Synod needs to re-start the special investigative committee. They would need a reasonable budget, cart-blanch to look into the scandal from any angle and permission to go as far back in time as they deem necessary. Syosset staff would aid them with interviews and available information. Accomplishing these tasks will make the meeting worth the time, cost and energy it took to convene it.
#17 Samuel Osman on 2007-07-25 20:30
If Metropolitan Herman is removed from his office as metropolitan of the OCA, then Proskauer Rose will answer to who?
#17.1 anonymous on 2007-07-26 07:12
We must for grasping for straws putting every repeated report on this website. The "SCANDAL" is the big cover up MH and the oca workers are still involved with. It's not the money spent then , look at the thousands still spent now. Lawyers,cars,houses,vacations, and what's next. It will never end , after Herman wins this week and Kondratick is found guilty , who's next ? Will anyone ever win and will the church ever recover . Think about that Mark.
(Editor's Note: Repeated for you, perhaps, Father, but not for the rest of us. While the scandal may be a big cover up, still going on, that is what we are seeking to uncover - the truth. And you are wrong about one thing - it does matter about the money spent then, just as it matters about the money spent now. As for who is next, well, that depends on where the investigation of the Special Commission leads.
And as for it ending, yes, it will; and the Church will recover. I think about that everyday, and it is what keeps me going knowing that the end and the recovery must be based on acccountability, truth and transparency - not cover-up, fatigue, or sand in our eyes. )
#18 Fr. James on 2007-07-26 06:08
"Voice of the Faithful", the lay Roman Catholic reform group formed in 2002 to address the sex scandals in the that Church has installed new leadership in an effort to respond to its reported loss of members and confusion about defining its mission.
Five years after its founding the "Voice of the Faithful" is fading. The impetus that began its effort to confront those who would conceal terrible wrongdoing by Roman Catholic Bishops and clergy has evidently waned. Those who want to stifle and silence the "Voice of the Faithful" seem to have begun to prevail. What happened?
The energy to suppress legitimate outrage in the face of undeniable evil-doing seems inexhaustible. While the energy to beat back the efforts of those who would silence the outcry against toleration of evil-doing, it would seem, can become exhausted.
Two things strongly impressed me when I attended my first OCA Sunday Liturgy. The first was that the priest actually turned to us, the lay people in the pews, and asked our forgiveness. And the second were the words of the Litany which asks us to pray for those "weary in well-doing..." Both of these acts addressed the real, everyday world where priests do things that need forgiving and people get tired of doing good.
My prayer arises from both of those insights:
May God turn the OCA's highest placed priest to face the people and give him the grace to acknowledge his need to unambiguously ask for the forgiveness of his "brothers and sisters" in the pews.
And May God strengthen those, like Mark Stokoe, and others, who, against all subtle and not so subtle efforts to silence them, press on. May they may not "grow weary" in the well-doing of informing the rest of us.
#18.1 Jean Sullivan on 2007-07-26 15:26
On one side you have people fighting for everything they have. On the other you have people who have familes, jobs, other interests, whose lives will go on if the OCA is crippled, or even if it disappears entirely and they must move to another jurisdiction.
Fear backed by power is -- in the short term -- a very powerful combination.
#18.1.1 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2007-07-29 08:57
Mark, on the surface your comment here sounds reasonable, feasible and attainable. Unfortunately, with Herman as Primate, an end will NEVER come. You have shown evidence of Herman's direct involvement in this scandal and Herman's brother bishops sit back and do NOTHING. This upcoming special commission will do nothing but confirm RSK's guilt and probable deposition. Herman is too powerful, his fellow bishops fear him. Herman's ultimate goal is to rid himself of +Nikolai and +Dimitri, once they're gone, Herman controls the entire Synod. There will be no further investigation by the Special Commission because they have their smoking gun (RSK). Will Herman allow himself, Kucynda and Theodosios to be investigated?? Are you kidding me? Herman has no honor or integrity. No Mr. Stokoe, the machine will depose RSK, give the mob (us) our body, and he will ride out the rest of the storm. I don't consider myself a pessimist, but a realist. I pray to God that I'm wrong!
(Editor's Reply: I,too,pray you are wrong. The Special Commission, fully reconstituted, will investigate whom it desires, not who they are restricted to. Been there, done that. Should the Metropolitan seek to stop them, well, then the Synod, whoever is on it, has no choice but to accept the undeniable, and remove him. My hope, and prayer, is that the Metropolitan will take the high road here, and that the entire Synod will soon vote to re-instate the policy adopted by it in the early eighties (but only followed by the late Bp. Basil) and announce all OCA Bishops will retire from active diocesan ministry at age 75. This does not preclude them from actively speaking, ministering, teaching, counseling, etc; but it does minimize the unfortunate effects that our advancing lifespans, but declining health, can have on daily administration and the requirements imposed by larger and larger dioceses. This is not about personalities, but about responsible administration. )
#18.2 Peter Pappas on 2007-07-26 16:17
Just an FYI-
At the DOS assembly, we had some open discussion about the current situation facing the OCA. Although there was a lot said, what is most relevant to this posting is that Archbishop Dimitri was adamant that the current situation with MH can no longer continue. (I want to clarify that these were not +Dmitri’s exact words, just a summation on my part.)
+Dmitri also appeared exceptionally confident about the July 31st special meeting….so much so that he said no resolution in the DOS was necessary. I cannot speak for everyone at the DOS assembly; however the conversations led me (and others) to believe that MH’s days as metropolitan are numbered. Many of us left the DOS assembly feeling that the Holy Synod is about to make some big decisions (good decisions).
We (the DOS) prayed for +Dmitri and his brother bishops to make the right decision.
I am hopeful there will be some changes forthcoming….
Yours in Christ,
#18.2.1 Juliana on 2007-07-27 09:05
Do not become too disheartened. This scandal will come to an end: if nothing else, those responsible will eventually die. All of the details may never be widely known in this life, but they will be known in the next. This is part of the grace of the Holy Spirit. This knowledge will help us persevere in determining who is responsible, through acts of commission and omission, and calling each of them to repent. A repentence that includes a full, public (i.e., church-wide) confession of their sins; making amends and restitution; and humble acceptance of the consequences of their sins.
Let us begin planning on how we, who are concerned about the health and vitality of our church, will take advantage of the coming Fifteen All-American Council to help correct what is and has been amiss in the adminsitration of the OCA.
Mark C. Phinney
#18.2.2 Mark C. Phinney on 2007-07-28 06:16
A couple of points I would like to make are that PR was engaged by Metropolitan Herman to do an investigation and not to defend himself or the church and the investigation already left no stone unturned.
The Metropolitan and Fr. Kucynda were looked at very closely by PR and I have heard that absolutely no financial wrong doing has come up on either of them whatsoever.
Now, if PR will put this in writing, will that satisfy the throngs who insist otherwise?
I cannot answer as to why PR has been so quiet but I hope that once the Synod meeting is completed this week, we will hear much more.
#18.2.3 Michael Geeza on 2007-07-30 13:46
I no longer care about "best practices", PR, audits, reports, etc. I hope and pray that this meeting on 7/31/07 results in MH removal. I am just saddened by the lack of humility, the cover up, the lies, that now define the OCA leadership. Please MH ! RESIGN FOR THE GOOD OF THE OCA !
And you Fr.K need to come out with the truth in a public forum for all to read. Former MT you need to do the same. And Fr.Kucinda (sorry about the spelling) you should consider your retirement as well.
And further if this post is being read in Syosset, go ahead and put me on report to my priest. The OCA churches in the Mon Valley are not the only choice here!
#19 DAVID RUDOVSKY CHARLEROI PA on 2007-07-26 13:52
re: "It remains astounding to me that all we are asking for is the truth. Just the simple truth!
Obviously, two conditions remain: 1) the truth is so horrible that the current OCA Metropolitan believes that losing the support of thousands of faithful is acceptable, and 2) the depth of the scandal goes well beyond the scapegoat of Fr K."
YES! YES! YES! Great synthesis of the current crisis. That is exactly what's happening here!
The reason why Voice of the Faithful is "fading" is that the Roman Catholic sex-abuse crisis is itself fading. That is, it is being dealt with. Most RC dioceses now have strictly enforced "zero-tolerance policies." The seminaries are undergoing a major cleanup. Problems remain, but they are being addressed. Some bishops are responding only because of lawsuit threats and fear of huge monetary settlements; others are responding from more sincere, Christian motives. But all are responding. That is why the vast majority of the cases date from the '70s, '80s, and early '90s.
Furthermore, today's RC Church does not stifle debate and dissent. Believe me, you can't stop contemporary Catholics from disagreeing, complaining, and debating. It's our favorite pastime.
#21 anonymous on 2007-07-27 09:57
Hi anonymous responder to my post,
I certainly would agree with you there is a lot of disagreeing on any number of subjects going on among the members of the contemporary Roman Catholic Church. It might not be a stretch to call, as some have done, all that disagreeing a "cultural civil war".
I cannot agree with you, however, that the sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church "is being dealth with" as effectively as you portray. Some aspects of it, perhaps. But what of the guilty complicity of the Bishops who covered up and moved offenders from parish to parish. Do you really believe, as you assert, that that particular aspect of the total crisis has been openly and honestly investigated and adequately addressed?
But my point is not to "throw stones at anybody's glass house". What I am trying to point to is that there is a natural fatigue phenomena that comes into play in any prolonged struggle to bring truth to light and justice to bear on any entrenched wrongdoing. Especially if the wrongdoers are highly placed and powerful.
As one who does NOT believe that, in the sex scandal crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, the membership has adequately brought light and justice to bear on some of the Bishops' culpability in it, I must lament any diminishment in the "Voice of the People's" effectiveness. And I encourage the OCA membership to take the lesson that is appropriate from this.
#21.1 Anonymous on 2007-07-27 16:08
Let us pray fervently for our bishops who will meet next Tuesday and Wednesday, that they will remember the coming moment of their death (cf. The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 6) and fear God more than any person.
Let us all remember the same for ourselves before we let ourselves get too angry and bitter. We must not let the devil win in that respect either.
#22 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-07-27 11:07
HIERARCHAL of course we are having problems.
What would you expect? We allow the employees to run wild, with total control of all financial matters.
How naive were we to allow this to be included in the charter.
What "stacked" council pushed it thru?
MR. Antich writes in a previous thread:
"The OCA is a Heirarchical Church! It is not a democracy where the layety is supreme and can vote its' priests and bishops out to thier liking. As a Heirarchical Church, its ruling body is the Synod of Bishops. If any among us does not trust the collective wisdom of the Synod of Bishops, then the honerable thing to do to leave the OCA and go to a jurisdiction more to their liking."
I don't know how his loyalties are tied to the clergy "union"?
I'm sure that some Bishops and Clergy would not mind if some of those who disagree (us trouble makers) would leave.
I say no one should leave, we should fix the problem.
I feel 99% of our problems are caused by "Hierarchal".
Our problems will never be permanently resolved unless this is addressed.
#23 Ande on 2007-07-27 12:05
Our Metropolitan Herman, it seems, has a disciple. It is New York's Governor Elliot Spitzer, who is currently in the midst of a brutal scandal. Reading about it today in a "New York Post" op-ed brought back some ugly memories from the past couple of years.
[from the op-ed]
"Whatever is going through his mind, it is beyond any speculation that the glory days are over -- even if the glory was built on specious attacks of other people. After all the public swaggering, it was bound to catch up with him.
"Spitzer still seems to regard the allegations as no big deal... What gets the public truly agitated is high-profile hypocrisy.
"Notice for example how the governor and his aides refuse to answer direct questions...
"Now under siege, Spitzer's denials that he had knowledge of what his staff was up to ring utterly hollow and self-serving...
"...Spitzer seems clueless about how to handle a controversy. Bullies rarely do and they are always surprised by a sock on the nose.
"A classic duck-and-cover strategy is developing. Obfuscate when an investigation arises -- check. Refuse to answer direct questions -- check. Deny any advance knowledge -- check. Issue qualified contrition -- check. Spitzer is now in the state of the crisis known as floundering."
"As a media consultant," the author of the op-ed then offers some "free advice."
"First, stop depending on blind loyalty from zealous underlings. When you're surrounded by 'yes' men, that invites a 'no' man from outside. Second... Third, shoot straight and tell the whole truth. What will come out eventually must come out immediately."
"In interviews over recent days, Spitzer said he would turn over a new leaf... He must have the sense that personal declarations alone can charm the press and repair an image. But it's not going to be so easy this time around. The glamor photo shoots are over. What counts now is hard truth and straight talk.
"If Spitzer wants to separate himself from [other] lowlifes, it will take more than posturing. Having strong convictions requires courage, after all.
"What the public wants to know is whether Spitzer's much-heralded sunshine policy applies to the self-appointed lifeguard in the high public chair."
In New York State, the pundits are saying this is a career-ender for Spitzer and his staff. What should such behavior mean in a community with much higher standards?
#24 anonymous on 2007-07-27 14:20
Ande's comment about the hierarchical nature of the Church, and the problems that will not be resolved until that problem is resolved is, if I have understood him correctly both sadly Protestant and, simultaneously, sadly correct.
I certainly do not advocate replacing the hierarchy with Protestant congregationalism. The solution must lie within the existing structures of the Church. I do not wish there to be any confusion about where I stand on that.
The difficulty, as I see it, is that the canons, one might even say the Holy Trinity as well, make a HUGE assumption, which, in these latter times, is proving more and more fallacious. It never was completely sound and I am certain that those blessed hierarchs that issued those canons were quite well aware of the potential problem. Still more would the All Holy Trinity have been quite well aware, knowing like no others, the secret hearts of men.
The assumption to which I refer is that hierarchs will act in a godly manner in their pastoral ministrations over and within the flocks entrusted to them. I have written previously that bishops are stewards, not kings, and do well to remember so. In establishing a hierarchical Church, God certainly knew the potential pitfalls, as surely as He know that Adam would partake of the forbidden tree. It is all the more important, then, that our bishops be elected in a manner that conforms with Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. The fact is that we have certain bishops within the OCA and elsewhere who have evidently completely forgotten their place as steward and have arrogated to themselves - and yes, I mean this with all of the force the word carries - arrogated to themselves royal powers, perogatives, dignities, luxuries, etc. They should thank God that the Church decreed centuries ago that moral corruption does not deprive a cleric of clerical grace. I suppose we should thank God for the same thing, though for different reasons.
Where we might find some realistic relief is from a thorough consideration of new ecclesiastical canons to establish appropriate checks and balances that will not diminish or hamper the legitimate archpastoral role of the bishop, but will curb abuses of power. One other person noted that the Roman Catholic Church has, as a result of its scandals, become more open to lay opinions. I doubt that is true universally, but to the degree that it is, we can be sure that the actual authority of their bishops has not changed. More likely they are learning to exercise it more prudently. Would that this would happen among us. I believe that we do have a few wonderful bishops - who are first of all episkopoi, not autocratic hierarchs. A king may not be required to take counsel with anyone, but only a fool of a king (and I was recently reminded that the Hebrew word for "fool" and for "king" are extremely similar - to the point of allowing plays on words) would not seek out counsel and take it, and heed it. In any authority structure - and we people need authority structures - the buck has to stop somewhere. There must be someone who makes a final decision. In government it is the president, the prime minister, or the monarch. In the Church it is the bishop.
It is highly unlikely that a council will be held to promulgate new canons, but by laws within local churches are possible. Would it be necessarily uncanonical, for example, within a local church to authorise commissions to present candidates to the Holy Synod? Would it be impermissible for such commissions to perform background checks and other types of examinations of candidates? Not being an expert, I cannot speak with abslutely certainty on this matter, but I do believe that the first step, which would be having the Metropolitan Council look into such possibilities would not be uncanoncial.
The situation in Alaska, at St Herman Seminary greatly saddens me. Mark Stokoe has published already the basic story of my release from the seminary. I cannot comment on the present situation in terms of providing any knew information, but I'll eat my hat if anyone can demonstrate to me that budgetary cuts had anything to do with Paul Sidebottom's release, which can only serve to destabilise the seminary. What about accreditation for which all of us worked so hard over the last five years - especially Paul? What about the day-to-day work that Paul did? What about the hours that he put into preparing his lectures? As dean, Fr Chad was obligated to travel a lot. In his absence, Paul played a crucial role in keeping focus in the community life and he did it well. He could always be counted on both by faculty and by students. I fear for the future of the seminary without him, and I pray for him and for all who are connected to the seminary and I pray especially that the Board of Trustees will succeed in getting Paul reinstated, in getting a sound administrative structure in place, and a good dean who will be a father to his children as Fr Chad Hatfield was to all of us. Above all, I pray that God and St Herman will be watching over the seminary and the diocese to correct the problems that we are seeing of which those at the seminary are but a part.
#25 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-27 21:12
What does the situation in Alaska have to do with Eric Wheeler's original complaint? What does the internal affairs of a diocesan seminary have to do with Mark Stokoe and the reason this website was created?
It seems to me that whatever may be happening in Alaska is not a matter for this website, unless it is now going to comment on every in the OCA. If that is the case than Mark should rewrite his original reason for the website. It was about the OCA scandal and I don't think you have been anointed to be the overseer of all things OCA internal.
If you really long for this website and scandal to come to a conclusion, then I would suggest you stick to your original mandate.
(Editor's Reply: The concern is a good one. Let me explain by referring to the two engendering desires of this website: accountability and transparency in the OCA. If in the almost two years we have labored to bring accountability and transparency to the financial issues raised by Protodeacon Wheeler, and we then overlooked all subsequent issues in the OCA where accountability and transparency were being trampled, because they were not explicitly mentioned in Protodeacon Wheeler's letter, well, that would be a most narrow understanding of our common task. This website will continue until transparency and accountability become the norm, not the exception in the OCA; until they become the standard, not the temporary "solution, so that once we all go back to sleep, the old ways that led us to the dead-end can come back. )
#25.1 Stick To What You Started To Do on 2007-07-28 07:31
But your original reason for this website was to deal with what Wheeler brought to the table. At that time Alaska was not an issue and to be frank, Alaska should be understood outside of any expectation of the Lower 48. It is still very much an infant missionary diocese, despite its relative age, with clergy unique to its reality. i would suggest that it should be "off limits" to your current efforts. It would be like trying to hold a 3rd world country to the same standards as a 1st world country. And besides, Alaska has always needed a strong bishop, one that might not do too well in the Lower 48. In the end, I think that those who object to Bishop Nikolai's "style" should never have gone to Alaska in the first place. It is not like any other diocese in the OCA.
Stay focused on what needs to be finished.
(Editor's note: Just to repeat, the name of the website is "Orthodox Christians for Accountability", not "Wheeler's allegations". The trouble with accountability and transparency is that it must be all or nothing - like pregnancy. One can't be a little accountable, or a little transparent. One either is, or isn't. To say parts of the Church - Alaska, Syosset, St. Tikhon's, this account, that fund - are "off limits" is exactly how we got into this mess in the first place with discretionary accounts that were "off limits". One does hold third world countries to first world standards, because acid rain, pollution and poison in pet foods knows no boundaries. Alaska is an integral part of the OCA; always has been and will always be, one expects. While I recognize different cultures exists among the native populations, it is still part of the Church, and its priests, parishes, schools, and yes, even its Bishop, are bound by the rules, sacred and secular, that govern the whole. Alaska, just like every other diocese in the OCA, will continue to be covered.)
#25.1.1 Anonymous on 2007-07-28 14:12
Well it is your website and I guess you can do what you like, without any accountability except to yourself. And what will you do when your bishop says, "enough Mark. You no longer have to keep your website going." What will you do then. Be obedient to your bishop, or only obedient to yourself? That day will come. You are in my prayers.
(Editor's Reply: Thank you for your prayers. I doubt my Bishop will ever say such a thing: he had nothing to do with the website starting, has contributed very little in terms of interviews (1), and reflections (2) relatively speaking, and I seriously doubt he would presume ever to tell me when to stop. As he, not me, pointed out: "We are free men in the Midwest". Freedom, like accountability, does begin with oneself; but like love, it does not end there if it is authentic. That is what we all must strive for now: authenticity. )
#126.96.36.199 Anonymous on 2007-07-29 16:00
As an Alaska Native I find the tone of this comment very paternalistic; after 200+ years of that, it gets a little tiresome. Gotta keep the natives in line, huh?
#188.8.131.52 Yash Kandaets on 2007-07-29 16:58
We would do well to remember that in its earliest stages the Protestant Reformation was a positive force for reform in the Western Church, which is why even Orthodox observers at the time were interested and hopeful that it might lead to a basis for reunion. Of course, we know the end result, but that does not mean that worldwide Orthodoxy doesn't need its own reformation after centuries of stagnation and subjection.
That said, I'm in complete agreement with your post.
#25.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-28 07:33
I disagree with you that Ande's ecclesiology is Protestant; most Protestants demonstrate at least a minimal respect for their pastors. Further, Ande's implicit but clear embrace of the notion that the essential nature of the Church is "democratic," is unscriptural and therefore not Orthodox. The Church is the Body of Christ, with CHRIST as the Head and we as the members (cf., e.g., 1 Cor.12-14); and any organism that is "democratic" rather than ruled by the head or brain is suffering from epilepsy. Again and again it must be insisted that our task is never to make decisions, but rather prayerfully to discern the decisions already made by the risen Lord Jesus Christ, our Head.
Moreover, the notion that the role of bishops and/or presybters and/or deacons in the Church is as "employees" is completely unscriptural (cf., e.g. 1 Thess.5:12; 1 Tim.5:17; Heb.13:17), as well as contrary to the teachings of the Councils and the Fathers. So on two key points Ande has rather publicly abandoned Holy Orthodoxy. Sad.
I do agree that there is indeed an assumption in the Sacred Canons, but it is hardly that hierarchs will always act in a godly manner in governing their flocks! The Canons (which are not arbitrary "laws" or "rules" but are the application of Orthodox Christian dogma to specific situations) are only too realistic in articulating all the different ways in which a fallen human being can mess up, and try to "cover all the bases" in providing for that inevitability.
The assumption is that if and when a bishop, a presbyter, a deacon, OR A LAYPERSON (because the behaviours of the laity are also covered) does mess up, the rest of the Church will hold them accountable....not necessarily punish, because the Canons provide for ekonomia (a softening or extenuation) as well as akrivia (strictness)....but hold accountable. The assumption is that the laity, the presbyters, the deacons, and the lower clergy will hold each other accountable before their bishop, while the Synod of Bishops will hold each of its members accountable.
Further, let's look at the full text of Canon 34 of the Holy Apostles, which lays out explicitly the relationship between Synod and primate. "It behoves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognise him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval; but, instead, each of them should do only whatever is necessitated in his own parish [i.e., what we now call a diocese] and by the territories under him. But let not even such a one [i.e., the primate] do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For this there will be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in (the) Holy Spirit, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
It is clear from this and other Canons that in matters which affect the entire ecclesiastical Province (e.g., for us, the OCA) there is no room for the "Lone Ranger syndrome" on the part of either a given bishop or the Metropolitan. In matters which extend beyond the boundaries of their own diocese, Ruling Bishops need the "advice and approval" of the Metropolitan; in matters which extend beyond the boundaries of the Diocese of Washington and New York, the Metropolitan needs "the advice and consent and approval of all" the members of the Holy Synod. That does NOT mean a Synod which merely rubber-stamps whatever the Metropolitan wants; it DOES mean a Synod which plays a very active role in the discernment process and necessitates genuine openness on the part of each Bishop to insights other than his own.
In our case, The Statute delegates to the Lesser Synod the ability to give to the Metropolitan SOME of that required "advice and consent and approval of all;" but nowhere do The Statute and/or the Sacred Canons give any bishop, including the Metropolitan, the authority to decide solely on his own in matters which affect all. Note that even Article IV,2,i of The Statute subjects the Metropolitan's "right of pastoral initiative and guidance, and, when necessary, the right of pastoral intervention" very explicitly to "the framework of the holy canons."
In any event, two millenia of repeated experience shows that failure to adhere strictly to the Canon can and inevitably will result (and, in our case, is resulting) in the loss, even the destruction, of the "concord" the Canon promsies.
Verbum sapientibus sat.
#25.3 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-07-28 08:11
Thank you, as always, for your informative post on the canons. i'm wondering: are the canons located anywhere online so that those of us who are ignorant might be illuminated?
#25.3.1 Zach Borichevsky on 2007-07-28 12:53
The canons can be found online in several places.
The Canons of the Holy Apostles:
All the canons:
#184.108.40.206 Subdeacon Robert Aaron on 2007-07-28 22:33
Glory to IC XC!
Thanks for your helpful posts, Mark.
You mentioned that you were "recently reminded that the Hebrew word for "fool" and for "king" are extremely similar - to the point of allowing plays on words"
The Hebrew word for king is melek while words for fool/foolish in Hebrew include 'wl and sakal and nabal which are unrelated to melek.
Fr. Bartholomew Wojcik
St. Nicholas Mission Church
#25.4 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2007-07-28 08:51
Mark, I completely agree with your observations regarding the episcopacy of the Church. Perhaps what we need is a more structured way for all those called into Holy Orders to be evaluated on a regular basis. This would help to identify problems early on, and to institute remediation to avoid the kind of serious problems we are now encountering. If parishioners were to submit a standardized written evaluations of their priests and deacons to their bishop annually, the bishop would be able to respond to potential or real problems on a timely basis. If priests and deacons were to submit a similar evaluation of their bishops to the Holy Synod annually, the Holy Synod would also have an enhanced ability to respond to potential or real problems on a timely basis. Perhaps the first hierarch and chair of the Holy Synod should be rotated every three years at the All American Council.
#25.5 Marc Trolinger on 2007-07-28 08:59
I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment and your statements here about the accountability of those in power. I see a great need to put a few checks on the papal-level powers being exercised at the top of late, for obvious reasons.
Please forgive my hankering to expound a bit on this statement: "There must be someone who makes a final decision. In government it is the president, the prime minister, or the monarch. In the Church it is the bishop." In our current context, I think it is important to emphasize not that those civil authority leaders have the "final decision", but rather that they are subject to the same rule of law as those that they lead (excepting the monarch, of course). While the president, PM, and bishop surely do have the final decision over many matters, do they have the final decision over their own sentences? Only the immoral king may escape the judgment of the law.
We are not a primitivist sect. Orthodox do not shun technology, be it the printing press, the car, or the electric light. We recognize the value of these technologies in aiding the diessemination of God's Word. Why should we not include innovations in political technology? Societies have learned from history and have developed new, better means of organization. The fathers of the OCA saw this and incorporated some of these innovations in the OCA's Charter.
Should we cease this improvement? Should we ignore that the old authoritarian structures of the Church were developed when it was more profitable for a society to have illiterate, malleable unskilled laborers than to have informed, active citizens? Should we, in fact, return to the time when the Faithful took their Bishops' word as God's Word?
The current crisis has displayed once again the dangers of authoritarian rule for all to see. It is right to offer fealty to bishops as a lesson on how to offer fealty to our Lord, but we must remember that our Lord was the only perfect human. The shepherd/flock metaphor is right to apply to God and man, but we must sometimes remember that bishops are just sheep with hats.
Let us have the confidence to assert changes that will improve the ability of the Orthodox Church to promote the Word of God. Be they technological, sociological, or organizational, let us have the wisdom to recognize those changes that will serve our goal. And let us all remember, whether we be President, Prime Minister, King, Bishop, or Unwashed Masses, that our goal is to better the Church.
#25.6 Zach Borichevsky on 2007-07-28 12:01
While I find Fr. Philip's post helpful in clarifying what the Canons have to say about the authority of bishops especially betwixt and between themselves, Zach's comments provide a vision for the future that we would be well advised to embrace. The notion that Canons that haven't been obeyed, evaluated, revised or eliminated as appropriate because the Orthodox World can not get its act together and hold a Council is sad and ridiculous. Surely, we are not contending that the Canons are infallible and not amendable?
#25.6.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-29 10:07
Do you or anyone else know if prior to the OCA being established, were we a Hierarchal Church?
Also, do you know if "all" the other jurisdictions of Orthodox Churches are Hierarchal or not?
#26 Ande on 2007-07-28 09:38
The Church, since the time of the Apostles has always been hierarchical and conciliar. Any group that is not hierarchical has broken with the established governance of the Church, established by Christ and His Apostles.
#26.1 Name withheld on 2007-07-28 19:03
Do you or anyone else know if prior to the OCA being established, were we a Hierarchal Church?
If by "prior to the OCA" you are referring to the Metropolia, then the answer to your question is: yes.
Also, do you know if "all" the other jurisdictions of Orthodox Churches are Hierarchal or not?
Yes, they are hierarchical. If they are not, then they probably aren't a canonical church.
"The Church is hierarchical because it is conciliar." I'm not sure if this quote is attributable to Archpriest Alexander Schmemann, but I think I have heard it in association with his name. Based on selections I have seen on this website, I believe he covers the subject of hierarchy/conciliarity in his book Church World Mission -- though I have not yet had the chance to read it.
Perhaps you might benefit from reading this article by a student at the Holy Cross School of Theology: http://www.edengrace.org/conciliar.html
If you are seeking an example of an Orthodox Church which is not hierarchical, I think your search will come up short.
#26.2 Rdr. Nilus on 2007-07-28 20:17
Greetings to all:
First, my thanks to Fr Philip, who, as usual, has expressed important aspects of the canons. It seems that last night was not a good night for me to be writing. I got caught in a private debate also, being a bit lazy in how I put things. Fr. Philip is quite right in all that he said. I was specifically referring to the lack - to the best of my knowledge, and being no expert I whole-heartedly invite Fr Philip's further correction - of canons that deal specifically with "white collar crime" and some other transgrsessions. I am quite aware of canons that deal with sexual aberrations and some other sins. I am not sure at all about theft, or physical abuse, or anything like that. Perhpas there is a general canon. Most importantly, Fr Philip was very correct about the canons dealing with specific matters that troubled the Church. They are more "case law" than "statutory law." This, if there was no 'white collar crime,' or rather, if it stayed quiet enough to not trouble the Church, there would be no canons.
In response to Ande, the Church, historically, as witnessed very clearly by St Ignatius of Antioch and ever since, has always been hierarchical. I am not going to engage in any debate about the exact roles of "episkopoi' and "presbyteroi' in the apostolic era. I just am not qualified to do so. The evidence is absolute from the time of St Ignatius (end of 1st century, beginning of second) on down. Recently, appeals courts have upheld the ruling of lower courts in cases in which members of the Greek Archdiocese have tried to claim that the church is "democratic" not "hierarchical." The courts have ruled that the Church is hierarchical. Last I heard, from a senior layman of the GOA, the courts told the lay group to stop bringing suits to the court on this matter.
I very much hesitate to raise this point, and I implore everybody to not read any doctrinal assertions on my part into what I am about to say, but I have wondered if perhaps the term "hierarch" might not need some review. Again, Fr. Philip, I openly invite your comments, and those of anybody else qualified to give them. The first instance that I recall of the use of the word "hierarch" is the writing of Pseudo-Dionysios. Said writer, because of his nominal (literally) connection with St Paul's convert, has had immense effects on the Church. He wrote well before the schism, and thus his writings influenced both East and West. The cathedral of Saint Denis in Paris is named for him. (Yes, "Dennis" is a pefectly Orthodox name.) Anyway, this writer's works spoke much of hierarchs and hierarchies. His writing struck me personally as edging on what we today would associate with the New Age Movement. That's a personal impression only, but a strong one. I've just never liked his works at all. Nevertheless, the influence has been strong, and we can't just write it out of Tradition. His talk of hierarchs and hierarchies, in my reading, promotes clericalism, and authoritarianism, even if such was not the intent or explicit message. Why the term "hierarch" instead of "episkopos"? The "arch" part in words like "hierarch" and "monarch" comes from Greek, meaning simultaneoulsy "origin" and "rule" / "headship." Monarchs are "sole-rulers." Hierarchs are "chief priests" to translate a littile loosely. The idea is that origination and headship/governance are intimately related. Having laid out these premises, I have a question, and it is that, a question: has the very term "hierarch" confused in our minds the role of the bishop, and detracted from his role as "episkopos"? I have come to seriously wonder about this, but I have reached no conclusions.
Fr Bartholomew - good to hear from you - I hope you haven't had any other dwellings that reached 98F in the Winter, like your room at SVS! No wonder I hated that room the year I had it! Anyway, what I was told was that there is a Hebrew word for "fool", "lemekh" that plays of "melekh." if you have better knowledge, I stand corrected. We have various words for "fool" in English and Spanish, perhaps Hebrew does as well. I was going by what I held to be a reasonable source.
Zach - You may be able to find the canons posted at http://www.ccel.org. Try a Google search too. CCEL I believe has all of the Eerdman's series.
No, I don't think we should expect the laity to simply obey blindly, whatever certain "hierarchs" would have. The laity didn't stand by idly when all but St Mark of Ephesus signed up for union with Rome at Ferrara-Florence. That union was wrong and it was rejected. If the laity in the 15th century could stand, so can we today.
In terms of the use of technology in church adminisration, I think we have a lot to gain, especially a lot of money being saved in the long run. For example, Adobe Presenter now allows for true video conferencing. I'm sure it's a bit pricy. I have access to it as a viewer only through my distance-learning master's program at U.W. Most instructors use it for their lectures. However, I watched a presentation about it, showing how the "chair" could pass the "floor" to another person, how people could ask questions, and how "white board" space can be used. While this might involve an initial layout, how much would it save for meetings of the MC, the Holy Synod, diocesan councils, etc.?
Putting these two examples together, I believe that it would behoove our episcopacy, out of sheer common sense, not to mention a little humility, to listen to the voices of able, knowledgeable laymen. I also am confident that there are some who presently do so, to the glory of God and the benefit of their dioceses. Furthermore, I don't think that they are abandoning their rightful place as bishops.
The canons are not going to change anytime soon. Perhaps Fr Philip, will be able to show us that there is no need to work out new canons at all. Where I hope my previous comments might be particularly beneficial would be in the areas of selecting candidates. Ordination is the perogative of the bishop, and I really don't see how that can change without detrimental effects on ecclesiology. What can change is that we can establish means of at least better advising bishops. If a bishop then ordains someone against such advice, it will be known. Better yet, by the bylaws accepted by his Synod, he will agree to not ordain anyone contrary to said advice. I am, of course, merely laying out basic ideas, trying to suggest a path that would be wholly consistent with Tradition, and yet meeting the needs of our present age.
Fr. Philip - it's your turn.
#27 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-28 14:25
Mark et al.,
It occurs to me that some on this site may be using the word "democratic" or "democracy" when they really mean conceptually "conciliar." We can, of course, fight over a definition of that word as well, but lets cut some slack for those opposing an autocratic hierarchy however imprecise their terminology.
#27.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-29 10:31
I do no know the word lemekh. I couldn't find it in my books or on computer, but, I could be mistaken and ignorant. (Well, I know I am that all that and all too often, but I mean specifically in regard to the Hebrew in question.)
Dang, I'd forgotten about that crazy radiator in my seminary dorm room with its two settings: off / inferno!
Keep up the good posts.
Fr. Bartholomew Wojcik
St. Nicholas Mission Church
#27.2 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2007-07-29 16:38
St. Dionysius the Areopagite has
always been seen as the enemy by
advocates of a certain type of
Enlightenment rationalism, but as
a physicist I am undisturbed by his
apparent time-travelling, and as a
patrologist, however mediocre, I am
still less disturbed by his Platonistic
(and indeed Plotinistic) vocabulary,
which is also that of Sts. Basil, Macrina,
and the two Gregories.
"Hierarchy" is one of those words, like
"patriarchy", which has rather different
connotations in Byzantine Greek and modern
English. The universe is an hierarchy because
it is a kosmos, an orderly system of countless
interacting levels. Each level is co-inherent
with every other. The image is like the
Pauline image of the Body, or like a fractal.
(Perhaps that is why clerical vestments often
have semi-fractal decorations.) All beings,
not just bishops, are hierarchs. However,
bishops (according to St. Dionysius) have a
special role: contemplating the Uncreated Light.
If the Areopagite texts are read without
commentary (always a bad idea), they may at
times give the impression that bishops are
somehow "closest to God", followed by priests,
deacons, "therapeuts" (as St. Dionysius calls
monks, using a first-century Jewish term), and
last of all the laity. However, as the
commentators (and in particular St. Symeon the
New Theologian) emphasise, every Christian
is in principle a layman, a therapeut,
a deacon, a priest, and a bishop, because every
Christian is called to the various functions
of action and contemplation represented by
these terms. To repeat: there is not only a
universal priesthood of all believers; there
is a universal episcopate, even though only
certain people take on the liturgical roles of
priests and bishops.
St. Symeon's many difficulties with the
authorities stemmed from his insistence that
the liturgical bishops and priests of his day
had failed to put into practice the universal
spiritual callings they were supposed to
Norman (Dionysius) Redington
St. Pachomius Library
Wow! Now THIS is why I converted to Orthodoxy!!! Would that we could have a Website about this sort of thing, instead of, "Who took da money?" Then maybe we WOULD have a million members.
#27.3.1 C.C. on 2007-07-30 20:28
There are indeed canons that deal with stealing and/or misappropriating and/or alienating church assets to personal use (e.g., Apostolic Canons 72 & 73). There is indeed a canon prohibiting Bishops, Presybters and Deacons from smacking anybody to smarten 'em up (Apostlic Canon 27) AND a canon prohibiting said clerics from getting anybody else to do the hitting for them (Canon 17 of the First-and-Second). And the list goes on. The "white collar" issues which concern most of us are addressed one way or another in The Rudder.
But so what? I see NO evidence that anybody in this outfit actually gives a tinker's curse about the Sacred Canons or The Statute or the proper, prescribed order of church governance or common decency and simple charity. Rather, there is a fine disdain for obedience to what folk do know, and a refusal to consult and learn about what they do not know. Our collective contempt for Holy Tradition and even for our own governing documents is a sowing of the wind, and sooner rather than later we shall reap the whirlwind.
#27.4 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-07-30 04:32
Tradition is not holy; the Holy Spirit is holy. If tradition departs from Truth, so also does the Holy Spirit depart. Before Holy Tradition, there was Holy Pharisaism which the Lord Jesus Christ had much disdain for.
Jesus kept His divinity secret as he taught and healed (for the Truth at that time would have cut short His teaching and healing), but at the right time He declared the Truth before rulers of the *Pharisaic holy tradition*, the turth that He is the Son of God. For this Truth which was considered blasphemy in their eyes, He was crucified. Truth alone faces the consequences and stands up in the face of holy tradition at the time appointed and ordained of God.
Obedience is a matter of the heart; it is not a function of fear.
#27.4.1 Karen Jermyn on 2007-07-30 06:49
Dear Karen and Ken,
Karen, it is apparent that you do not understand the language of the Orthodox Christian Faith, a failing for which whoever catechised you will have to answer before God. Tradition (with a captial "T") IS holy, precisely because it is the work of the Holy Spirit, given to us under the on-going inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The word "tradition" (paradosis) means "that which is passed on, that which is handed over or handed down." In Orthodoxy, "Holy Tradition" is short-hand for the full deposit of "the faith which was once for all delivered (paradotheise) to the saints" (Jude 3, NKJV).
Holy Tradition includes the Bible as the norma normans (i.e., the standard against which everything else is measured), the Symbol of Faith, the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils, the Sacred Canons, and the liturgical texts. Please consult the appropriate section of Timothy Ware's "The Orthodox Church" for a complete and eminently understandable exposition of this topic.
If you choose to reject Holy Tradition, you are choosing to reject the Orthodox Christian Faith. It's a package-deal; take it or leave it. That's your choice, and I have to respect your conscience in the matter. But if you reject Holy Tradition and its authority, you'd still be wrong. It DOES matter what you believe, because the Lord Himself tells us that truth matters (John 8:31-32). And it is not you or me or any one of us alone, but the Spirit-led consensus of the gathered community throughout the centuries (cf. Acts 15:28), which is the measure and guarantor of that truth.
And Ken, let's try this one more time. The Sacred Canons are NOT just arbitrary "rules and regulations;" they are NOT rules at all! The word "canon" means "ruler, measuring stick." The Canons therefore are the measure of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in a given situation; the Canons are the application of the Gospel itself to this or that human condition and are therefore DOCTRINAL much more than they are disciplinary....which is why they are included as part of the deposit of FAITH. If I cling to the Canons it is because I cling to the Faith they express. Clear?
And the freedom which Jesus Christ gives (Gal.5:1) is NOT the freedom to think whatever one pleases, much less to do whatever one pleases. There is a huge difference between liberty and license, as Adam and Eve found out, much to their sorrow. Christ set us free from the delusion of the devil so that we may be free to see/recognise the truth (Second Vespers Prayer), free to choose the truth, and free to live the truth. Christian liberty is the freedom, not to do whatever we please, but to do whatever we ought; it is the freedom to be wholehearted and fully surrendered in our obedience to the Gospel, because "not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord!' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt.7:21) Anything else is a return to the slavery of delusion (cf. Gal.5:13-26).
#220.127.116.11 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-07-31 07:17
You have misindertsood me: Tradition (with a capital T ) is indeed holy when it is living and it cannot be living apart from the Holy Spirit. When I read the Bible, it is the Holy Spirit that alone brings the words of truth alive in me; and if the Holy Spirit is not present in interpreting the canons, if the Holy Spirit is not welcomed and heeded in the liturgical services, the canons and liturgy become lifeless and do not bring spiritual growth. Holy Tradition (with a capital T), like Truth, is living and active: it cuts to the bone and marrow because it is enlivened by the Spirit of God.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: You search the Scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life John 5:39. Truth and the Tradition that carries it to us have no life apart from the Holy Spirit. The seat of the Holy Spirit is in the heart of the believer from whence comes the grace, the strength, the wisdom and the courage to appropriate the living Tradition in order to walk in living Truth. The holiness of Tradition is not the end but the means to our deification, if indeed they are enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Too many words to say something so obvious. Sorry.
#18.104.22.168.1 Karen Jermyn on 2007-07-31 13:19
Dear Father Philip,
You wrote "The Canons therefore are the measure of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in a given situation; the Canons are the application of the Gospel itself to this or that human condition and are therefore DOCTRINAL much more than they are disciplinary.."
Because of the current discussion, I looked up the earliest collection of canons (c. 350AD) and they impressed me (a) for their practicality and (b) their echo of the New Testament. I did not see anything in them that add in any substantial way to the teachings of our Lord or His disciples that are contained in the Holy Bible. To use a current analogy, if the Bible contains policy and procedures, the canons are written like a how-to manual (or Mark Harrison's distinction between case and statutory law). Certainly the Holy Canons are useful to better understand how the early Church applied Holy Tradition, which is as defined by Jude 3.
I would like to present a logical argument and ask you to please critique it.
Premise 1. Canons are practical responses of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, to situations that existed in the past.
Premise 2. The Holy Bible is the yardstick by which all else is measured, even though we understand the Holy Bible within the Holy Tradition.
Premise 3. Some of the canons are revisions of biblical and/or canonical antecedents (for example, married bishops are OK at first in the New Testament and the Apostolic canons).
Conclusion 1. The canons are indeed part of the Holy Tradition because they have embodied the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church in the past.
Conclusion 2. Not having any reason to reject the possibility of further work of the Holy Spirit in the present days, we cannot say that the Holy Canons have been "finished," as is the case with the Holy Bible.
Conclusion 3. Some of the canons may be more relevant to this century, to this Church, to this situation than others.
Conclusion 4. The Holy Spirit may guide the body and the members to consider further revisions in the form of additions, deletions, or reformulations.
Thank you in advance for your answer, Carl
#22.214.171.124.2 Carl on 2007-07-31 15:11
Dear Fr. Philip,
I promise this will be my last word on this subject, as we await word from on high.
You chose, which is your privilege, to ignore my more important points concerning the Canons, i.e updating and relevance to the present, hierarchical observance, etc. I understand and accept their value within the context of Holy Tradition--ALL of Holy Tradition-- meaning most especially the Gospels.
Of course, your characterization of freedom as license is one I reject as well. That is a strawman quite frankly, and easily knocked down. What I abhor, is treating adult Orthodox Christians as children by some members of the clergy and most of the hierarchy in the OCA. This is just another aspect of the widespread clericalism rampant in many quarters of the OCA, and worldwide Orthodoxy as well. It manifests itself in patronizing and paternalistic control schemes by some clerics seeking to enhance their power and status at the expense of everyone else. It has the odor of authoritarianism and is contemptuous of free men and women exercising free will in informed good conscience.
This is not to say that the clergy do not have an important leadership role in the Christian community. But this role is not as overseer or cult leader, but rather as pastor and servant of the faithful.
#126.96.36.199.3 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-31 15:34
Even the former archbishop of the diocese of NY/NJ, his eminence +Peter, a canonist with his degree from the Moscow Theological Academy, would reject the idea that canons are as such conditions for being a Christian without qualification, consideration of their own historical context as well as that of the present time, consideration of the details of the situation. Certainly a blanket statement such as the one made by Igumen Philip must be challenged. Fr Nicolas Afanasiev, one of the best canonists of his time, dealt with this question in his 1937 essay in Living Tradition, "The Church's canons: changeable or unchangeable." It's available online and in print. To take the canons as a whole as a fixed rule of life, pattern for behavior is a rejection of the very historical, adaptive, living qualities of the canons themselves. It is also to ignore the levels of significance and intent. Canons which deal with dogma as opposed to those dealing with details of life in a 5th or 7th century context. In this light, Fr Robert Taft's excellent scholaship on the celebration and experience of the liturgical services by the Byzantines, Through their own eyes, reveals dramatically different attitude and behaviors on the part of both clergy from what is held to be typikon-fidelity today.
#188.8.131.52.4 Fr Michael Plekon on 2007-08-01 04:52
I assume you are directing this tirade primarily at our hierarchs? Certainly, unending multiple jurisdictions, wrongdoing and unaccountability, interminable infighting and squabbling amongst our esteemed leaders are but a few of the canonical violations!
On the other hand, if you have a broader audience in mind, I must in part demure. Your reliance on the Canons seems to me, at least, to border on the "legalistic side" at times. I hasten to say that I don't find them irrelevant or inapplicable as long as the "spirit", rather than the "letter," of them is applied. But as a general rule :), to find refuge and resort to rules and regulations is inimical to the spirit of Christianity, which is freedom and free will.
To use a phrase frequently seen on this site--"A fish rots from the head down"--perhaps explains why the Canons are so often ignored, and by those who should be most observant of them!
#27.4.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-30 07:32
Before someone makes a telling joke, let me correct yet another typo/spelling error--"demure" (which I am not!) should be "demur."
#184.108.40.206 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-07-30 15:10
I am, in this case, extraordinarily happy to have my ignorance enlightened - to learn that there are canons on such matters. You asked, "So what?" and I certainly see your point. If people are prepared, as they obviously are, to ignore not only the letter of the canons, but their spirit as well, what good are they?
My only answer to that is to say that at least there is a canonical foundation upon which a case CAN be built. My concern had been that if the canons didn't deal with such things, how could we oust bishops who committed such acts? The greatness of oikonomia is that it means neither strictness nor leniency per se, it means finding what is best for all, which could be either or.
Sadly, even this spirit behind the canons is being ignored as you observe. Thus it shouldn't surprise us that people, Karen J., above, for example, don't see Tradition as holy. The result of ignoring the essence of the canonical tradition is that our relationship to Tradition as a whole is distorted. We no longer see Tradition as the very content of the Gospel alive in the Church - as Bishop Kallistos quotes, "the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church." I doubt Karen is alone, and while I was surprised by her comment, after a moment of reflection I believe I understood her post. Certainly she is right that genuine obedience is a matter of the heart (hearing the truth and submitting to it willingly), not a function of fear. But if the canons are ignored or applied in some twisted manner, well, we've been watching the results unfold before us.
Fr Alexander Schmemann, back in the 1960s wrote about what it is to be "canonical" in a rather different context. However, I cannot help but note that by his logic the OCA is becoming truly uncanonical. If our Synod of Bishops fails to correct the problems, we shall be doomed to the fate of the branches that are cast away and burnt (John 15).
#27.4.3 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-31 09:27
Amen! Amen Amen! You shed the light without the heat. Great job!
#220.127.116.11 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-07-31 13:05
Prayer for this coming week's Holy Synod Meeting:
Holy Father Saint Herman of Alaska, pray unto God for us!
Holy St. Peter the Aleut, St. Juvenaly, St. Jacob Netsvetov, and All Saints of North America, pray unto God for us!
Pray that the Holy Synod seek WISDOM this comming week.
Pray that the Holy Synod look BEYOND self-interest and spin that could take the OCA off it's road to needed purification and enlightenment.
Pray that the Holy Synod looks to the cries of its hurting faithful who want to know the truth!
Pray that the Holy Synod look to the upbuilding of Christ's Holy Church with faith, courage, hope, bravery, humility and love.
#28 Patty Schellbach on 2007-07-28 20:24
dilemma, dilemma, dilemma,
What to do? What would you do?
I am quoting a few (partial) comments written as replies to some of my posts:
"The clergy is not a union, and the laity does not employ the clergy"
"Moreover, the notion that the role of bishops and/or presybters and/or deacons in the Church is as "employees" is completely unscriptural (cf., e.g. 1 Thess.5:12; 1 Tim.5:17; Heb.13:17), as well as contrary to the teachings of the Councils and the Fathers. So on two key points Ande has rather publicly abandoned Holy Orthodoxy. Sad."
"is unscriptural and therefore not Orthodox"
"If you are seeking an example of an Orthodox Church which is not hierarchical, I think your search will come up short."
Do I stay with an Orthodox hierarchical church that has been stealing and lying to us for 17 years? They have not offered a defense so I assume it's true. They hide behind the hierarchical clause, so nothing can be done by the laity.
What do I tell and recommend to my family, relatives, and friends???
What would you do?
#29 Ande on 2007-07-29 15:36
I understand your frustration and confusion. I have friends and relatives who are not Orthodox and it is difficult for them to understand why I'd stay. In fact, however, it comes down to one central, paramount truth: The life of the Gospel, not just the written teaching, and preaching, is found only here. In spite of the gross, grosser, and grossest sins and failings of the hierarchs, in spite of the inherent problems in a hierarchical system, the Orthodox Church is the Church. In the Church, and I am borrowing from Fr Paul Lazor here in no small part, we find both the good and the bad. We find the spectrum of humanity. We are confronted by the fact that we are all sinners. This has been true from the outset. Just look at the problems that we see in the Apostolic Church. It is precisely in the human imperfection that we find salvation. Trying to escape it, trying to think that "this can't be the Church Jesus founded because these people aren't acting in a Christian manner" will go nowhere. Where else are you going to look? Where are you ever going to find a body of people where sin plays no role? Nowhere! There were sects back in the 4th-5th centuries that tried to claim that the Church was the body of the perfect - that after baptism if you sinned you were cut off. These were sects, not the Church. They didn't embrace the fullness of human reality, which is exactly what Christ came to save. The Novatians the Donastists, the Encratites, etc. all fell into shallow, single-dimensional thinking and in doing so, they lost the gift of catholicity. Fr Paul likes to quote Professor Serge Verhovskoy, saying, "Orthodoxy is the absence of one-sidedness" and I think there is a very profound wisdom in this, that is born out in history. One could substitute easily the word "catholicity" for "Orthodoxy" in this quote. Catholicity means literally, "according to the whole." It's not just universality in some horizontal, human sense. It means having the fullness of the Truth of Christ. All throughout history there have been individuals and sects that have, with the best of intentions, focused so much on a particular aspect of the Gospel and Christian life that they have become one-sided. This isn't the fullness of truth, or the fullness of life in Christ.
I too am very frustrated. I thought about leaving the OCA to join ROCOR or the Antiochians. I could go to a ROCOR community, but the fact is that the first community God placed before me was another OCA parish, and all ready I am feeling at home there. The priest, as I spoke with him this morning was agreeing that it is hard to keep the balance, to not stick your head in the sand and yet to not get so distracted that you're neglecting your family, etc., but that is the balance needed. We can't be ostriches, but we can't neglect our daily lives either. It seems to me that God has provided a good OCA community for me, whether I wanted it or not.
What would I do? I'd cross myself, and pray that God will deliver us from the malefactors of our day who wear shepherds clothing but act as wolves. I'd pray hard for genuine pastors like Archbishop JOB. And I'd ask God to remind me every day of why He brought me to the Orthodox Church. Time and time again, I experience exactly what Fr Paul used to talk about - that the Church in her overall realiity, confronts me, it measures me and my thinking, and it does so not just in the perfection of faith (orthodoxia), precisely also in the depth of failure of the humans who comprise it. It presents there the mystery of my own humanity, that mixed in there with whatever good I may do with God's help, is the evil that overwhelms me far, far more often. if the Church is the ark and fountain of salvation, she also reveals the mystery of salvation - and that means a whole lot of sin along the way.
"There is one Body and One Spirit … One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism." There's nowhere else to do, this is it. That doesn't mean that we just roll over and play dead and let the evil continue. That's why this web-site exists. Laypeople have made the difference in the past, and we can do so again. it doesn't mean financially supporting specific institutions when there is reason to believe that such would be irresponsible stewardship - escrowing funds as has been done in the Midwest is an option. If the Church is truly the Body and Bride of Christ, and I believe she is, then she's worth fighting for, from enemies within and without. It's the ones within that are the most dangerous.
This is life in the Church, because it is human life, wherever you go. No matter how hard we may try to not be "of the world" the world, by Christ's own words, will constantly, until the end of time, encroach on the Church, and inflict wounds. But the gates of hell will never prevail.
"It's my world and welcome to it."
#29.1 Mark Harrison on 2007-07-29 21:30
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