Thursday, September 18. 2008
Diocesan Assembly, the agenda for the AAC, +Nikolai, your comments are welcome.
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Sounds as if Moses the Tklingit needs to be retained for guarding the door at the AAC in case +Nikolai shows up.
#1 Annon. on 2008-09-18 09:50
Anon, that's funny, but I am SO tired and burnt-out I won't be guarding anything anytime soon, this entire situation has left me feeling like Bilbo: "butter scraped over too much bread". I will say that there are some of the ex-Bishops supporters still quietly slipping out of Alaska, which is, in my opinion, a very good thing.
Moses the Hobbit
#1.1 Moses on 2008-09-23 11:55
The Council nominates candidates by secret ballot without previous discussion of names. From the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America.
It the strongest terms, I urge all those who will attend the All-American Council to refrain for all politicking for the next Metropolitan. It is neither appropriate inside the Holy Synod nor outside the Synod in the general Council when it gathers and is expressly prohibited in both canon law and the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America.
It would have been better if the good Father Webster’s pregnant thoughts and sincere enthusiasm were not given birth on this website so as not to influence one way or another who the next Metropolitan will be.
The one who will be the next Metropolitan is known by God and has not been revealed to us yet. Thus promoting one man over another is as wrong now as it was when St. Paul scolded the faithful in Corinth for some being “of Paul” and others ‘of Apollos” and still others of “Cephas.”
We are all called to be of Christ. So let us be of one mind as we gather in His Name and be open to the Holy Spirit and refrain from forcing our will on Him with “previous discussion.”
(Editor's note: I respectfully disagree. The purpose of a Council is to discern God's Will; if it were obvious we wouldn't need Councils. The only way I know of for people from many places, of many opinions, and many experiences is to share them, and the only way to do that is to talk. Unless, of course, you believe ESP is one of the gifts of the Spirit? Or, you are a Quaker. But not being Quakers, I suggest it best we talk amongst ourselves. If we fail, before the Council, and during the Council, to discuss who would best be able to serve as Metropolitan, we are, in effect, abdicating our responsibility and opportunity, by Statute, to elect the same, since it can only happen on the first ballot. In short, if we don't talk, the choice falls to the Synod. It may yet indeed - but I think it prudent to see if there is one among us who can achieve 2/3 on the first ballot, and save the Bishops at least that one decision. They can still say no to the popular choice - but then they must explain why. It's a risk I am willing to take, and I hope others are as well. So, no, Father, I will continue to allow people to express their opinions about who would make a good Metropolitan, because at this time in the OCA, little else has as much direct impact on our collective future.
But feel free to sit quietly if you think that the better way. The Spirit moves as He Wills. )
#2 Anonymous on 2008-09-18 10:02
Yet there always has been politicking. I've heard that people were specifically encouraged to put a variety of names on the first ballot last time -- whatever the stated reasons, the actual reason seems to have been to ensure that it would go to the second ballot.
It behooves everyone who is a delegate to the council to undertake as a sacred duty to understand the election process and to consider the implications of their actions. Fulfilling this duty must entail sharing ideas, listening to others, reading widely, debating, quietly considering in our own minds, and, above all else, praying.
But the mechanics are the mechanics and their implication must be properly understood. It's simple -- either there is cohesion around a single candidate and that man gets 2/3 of the first ballot, or the choice will be made by the synod.
Events at large in the world this week underline that past performance is no guarantee of future anything, but if history is any guide at all we can be pretty sure that the choice of the synod after a second ballot will not be the popular choice of the council.
The first ballot will in effect be a referendum -- either unite around the one candidate who has consistently been honest about his own failings and called for his brother bishops to own up to theirs, or the synod will choose whichever of the two names presented to it they feel will best maintain the status quo.
Some may say there is more than one candidate, and another poster raises the possibility of Bp. Benjamin and what the SIC report demonstrates about him. This is a good point in terms of proving +Benjamin's potential as a leader for the future of the OCA. But we need a metropolitan who will be a leader for the present of the OCA and, quite frankly, who doesn't want to be around for too much of the future. +Benjamin is a young man as the ages of bishops are measured. While we're still in the midst of this crisis and its fallout are we really in a position to make a choice [from a very, very limited field] of someone who would lead us possibly for decades?
Think what a better position we'll be in three years from now -- there could four or five new bishops in the synod by then. Over the next three years each of the bishops will have the opportunity to demonstrate what he is able and willing to do to build the future of the OCA. If +Benjamin continues on the course he seems to have chosen with this report, then 2011 will be the time to consider him.
#2.1 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-09-18 21:56
I agree if the purpose in discernment is "what makes a good metropolitan" based on Holy Writ and the Holy Tradition and not making political speeches. My fear is that people will hope one candidate is elected, which could easily lead to except one candidate to be elected and then if that one candidate is not elected tempt people into factions. That we should try to avoid, or at least discern now since it is obvious that some are for one bishop and some are for another etc. Make an informed decision but knowing that another may in fact be elected and we should give that man a chance to bring us all back together.
I pray most that the bishops will have the greatest level of discernment if they are asked to decide the matter.
#2.2 Anonymous on 2008-09-19 06:32
I just read with great interest Fr Alexander Webster's reflection based on the novel The Shoes of the Fisherman. I wouldn't call myself a senior member of the OCA, but I am old enough to be familiar with both the book and the film, and the election of Kiril Cardinal Lakota is an amazing scene - ending as it does with (in English): "I accept, have mercy on me, O God." What is even more amazing is the new Pope's first night in office when, dressed as a simple priest, he ventures out into the streets of Rome and happens upon a suffering family. His years in prison have instilled in him a powerful humility.
I have in the past stated my opinion in this forum that Vladyka Job might be too weighed down; that we need someone with a fresh mind. If I were a delegate at the AAC, my vote at this point would probably go to Bishop Benjamin, who has shown that he will put the needs of the Church first, even before friendships. He has also been weighed down by all of this for much less time than Vladyka Job or anyone else.
At one point, when there were questions about whether we should even hold an election, I thought perhaps we should elect Vladyka Dmitri, who was popularly elected 31 years ago, knowing he would be an interim metropolitan, who could provide stable leadership under the dust settles; knowing also that he would need an administrator to assist him.
However, I do remember well The Shoes of the Fisherman, and that the scene in the conclave was indeed powerful. As such, Fr Alexander's point is well taken. I have immense respect for Vladyka Job, who, while I do not know him at all well, has always been very gracious personally, has indeed the cruel insults and borne them with grace, and I believe he has been quite realistic in his approach to our crisis, both about his own part and about the over needs of the Church. With that in mind, were I a delegate, and the scene from the story were to play out in real life, I would not hesitate for one second to add my support to His Eminence, for he has, without doubt, earned that title : he is truly eminent among our hierarchs.
By the way, to put a bug in the ear of any and all AAC delegates: at present the plan is to have the election first thing, from what I read before (I've not looked at the latest story on this site yet). There is also a resolution for a statutory change to the election process. Would it be possible, and would it not be HIGHLY advisable, to vote on that resolution first, and if it passes, then hold the election by the new procedure? I should think that if reform of the election of the metropolitan is to take place, it should start NOW, WHEN WE NEED IT MOST, not with some election down the line. If the election were to take place under provisions of the proposed change to the statute, we would in a position somewhat similar to that in the book, and to which St. Tikhon of Moscow was elected: one in which God makes the choice. Then I could (if I were a delegate) put in all three names I think are worthy.
#3 Mark Harrison on 2008-09-18 10:06
Re: +Job for Metropolitan-Axios! Axios! Axios!
#4 David Wargo on 2008-09-18 10:09
There is something very troubling that was in the minutes of the Diocesan Assembly which were taken from the report of the MC member. It says under the treasurer's report that they are moving the OCA's securities to the Honesdale Bank.
We must ask, what is it with the Honesdale bank, located so far from our administrative offices, that makes it so attractive that we are in known debt of $1,820,000 and we want to move our securities there. First of all, and the Treasurer had this in his report so let's hear from him, where are the securities held now? What is in the Honesdale Bank curently, loans, accounts, securities, etc.? I do not see the minutes of the MC meeting on the OCA site so was this something else that is being hidden?
This is troubling for a few reasons. First is this cozy relationship with the Honesdale Bank. Are the movement of securities part of the deals for the loans? Secondly, the outlook for regional banks is bleak. It is estimated that many regional banks will fail. Are we wise to put the entire ball of wax in this one regional bank, located hours from our central place of business, and which has a tight relationship with a person who is no longer in the administration. Was Wachovia, Citibank, Chase, etc., not worthy enough? Are they too unstable for our securities?
Looking at the OCA site for news, the last Treasurer report, on 5/24, states nothing about this? What did the MC discuss concerning this?
(editor's note: The Minutes stated that the matter was being looked into but that several members had expressed reservations. )
#5 Anonymous on 2008-09-18 11:10
None of the three large banks cited is in particularly good health, as of this writing.
Here's one thing that has troubled me for awhile. We all tend to act as if things were all going well, our financial house was in good shape, transparency was the order of the day. Then, suddenly, evil people took over, and under cover of satanic darkness cheated us, misled us, etc. Yet nearly every priest I have asked about this has told me that while the scale of the scandal was certainly unprecedented, the actions themselves were pretty much the way things have always been done in the OCA. ("Always been done" seems to be a real catch-all for all kinds of mischief.) What seems high-handed to us today was normal, which is probably why nobody thought to take a closer look for so long. It's also probably why bishops felt entitled to borrow money as they saw fit and set up discretionary accounts in the same way. And it hasn't been demonstrated conclusively that they weren't simply exercising their prerogatives. I also know from experience that bad bookkeeping is by no means unusual among religious not-for-profits. "Bad bookkeeping" to the tune of $5 million-plus, of course, is another matter entirely, but again, it is the scale that is shocking more than the procedures themselves.
What I am saying is, anyone with a pulse has to bear some responsibility for things in the OCA having come to this pass. And we have to share the responsibility for fixing it. We've sat by and let people run things pretty much as they wanted. My concern in this regard is that once the outrage subsides, we will not follow through to make sure the necessary systemic changes are put into place. This is exactly what happened after Enron. The SEC made a few cosmetic adjustments, but nothing significant was fixed. People moved on to other concerns. Now, a scant seven years later, we have our entire banking system on the verge of meltdown because of behavior that was technically legal, however unwise.
In line with taking responsibility, if we like the idea of picking our metropolitan by lot, then we have to make sure, first, that we nominate good candidates. There must be hundreds of people within OCA who meet the basic canonical requirements. And second, before we vote to make the proposed procedural change, we have to be honest enough to ask if we are really going to be willing to live with whichever name is drawn. The proposal on the table is only one possibility. Among our bishops, whether it is fair or not, it appears that only two have any real support. What if the name drawn were one of the others?
#5.1 Morton on 2008-09-19 08:01
Chase (JP Morgan Chase) has what they call a "fortress balance sheet", they're in pretty good shape, that's why the Feds always involve them in solutions to problems.
#5.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-20 12:18
I am horrified at the prospect that +Job may be elected Metropolitan. He was my bishop in New England, and I know him too well.
I will say only this, someone better make damn sure this is God's will.
To Archbishop Job: Don't screw up!
#6 no name on 2008-09-18 11:32
I am even more horrified that you would make insinuations regarding +Archbishop Job, and then prove yourself to be a gutless wonder by refusing to sign your real name!!!!
#6.1 David Barrett on 2008-09-19 05:14
Look David, you're in NE; ask around. + Job is a fine candidate, but there were issues in NE.
#6.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-19 11:35
As the son of a priest who was assigned in the New England diocese during Archbishop Job's tenure, I will attest that Anonymous is not entirely wrong. David Barret, you are just like Metropolitan Herman: too quick to dismiss someone with an opposing opinion, or troubling data.
As far as the resolution to select a Metropolitan by lot: this is an absolutely horrid, retrograde, old-world knee jerk reaction. Sickening. Sure, God works through statistics. But God also works through His people, His creation. Why bother having the human condition if everything could just be decided through a permutation of probability? We have the life of the Church for a reason. Let us work together, through conciliarity, and not through chance - the chance created by a bishop's hand, hovering over three pieces of paper.
St. Andrew's Church, Dix Hills NY
Student at Syracuse University
#6.1.2 Reader Nilus Klingel on 2008-09-19 11:54
So, all of you who think there are issues that may preclude Archbishop Job from submitting his name for consideration to hold the office of Metropolitan, are you willing to confront the Archbishop with what you know or will you simply allude to it here?
You too must ask the question, "Are the allegations true or false" with regard to Archbishop Job.
If we have learned anything it should be if we know something to be true that would bring scandal to the Church - which sooner or later will come to light - isn't it better to get out in front of it now rather then try and cover it up later?
Certainly Archbishop Job has generally confessed his weakness, his sinfulness, his imperfections, but like any genuine confession, one deals with specifics and not in generalities in confession.
So, too, with those who accuse another. If you really know, first-hand a sin or sins that would preclude another from the office of metropolitan, then speak now or forever hold your tongue.
#188.8.131.52 Anonymous on 2008-09-19 19:57
an absolutely horrid, retrograde, old-world knee jerk reaction. Sickening.
I doubt the apostles considered God to be exactly "working through statistics" during the selection of Matthias (though it's an interesting question) -- but whatever they thought, it didn't make them ill.
They were, I grant you, from the old world -- the old, old world, you might say. But how is it that "old world" is pejorative? There are after all some things that those in the the old world, even today, do better than those of us from the new, like having wine with lunch and producing Orthodox saints.
Not that I don't enjoy and honor the blessings of the new world (you'll have noticed me exercising my right of free speech over the internet) but I don't think my Orthodoxy -- my mindset as an Orthodox, I mean -- is ipso facto superior to that of non-Americans. I don't know if that's your perspective, but I must say that it's an attitude I've witnessed a lot in the OCA. One hears people from all jurisdictions saying that the old way as regards this or that isn't a good fit for a Church native to America, a statement which sometimes makes perfect sense (obscurantist finances) and sometimes doesn't (fasting from meat). But the OCA twist seems to be, in either case, always to go further and assert that the old way is not merely a bad fit for us, but is at base theologically inept, anthropologically myopic, and just plain dumb.
And, if Americans really do get something right, then we're painted as unearthing -- at long last! -- the legacy of the early Church. I mean, people talk as though the next texts on frequent Communion after those of the Apostle Paul were those of Fr. Schmemann. (I notice, though, that no one ever calls to reinstitute any of the tough policies of the early Church!) As one who's seen old world Orthodox nationalism up-close, let me say that it all gives me a very familiar feeling; and I think it holds us back.
I question whether selection by lot is a good idea right now. But before you accuse those who have relied on this method in the past of being slavish, fearful, and ignorant of divine-human synergy, consider that getting to the final two or three candidates required plenty of discernment. (In this case, of course, assuming delegates limit themselves to the present synod, that wouldn't really be true -- remove those in utter disgrace and those who are on the verge of retirement and incapacity, and who wouldn't end up in the chalice?)
Lastly, a word as regards my anonymity, since anonymity is something you care about and I've been called out on it in another thread. I'll quote myself: it's "not about my own protection, but that of others. Many of my posts (like the above) are nothing to worry about in that respect, but I've decided I'd rather have a consistent posting identity than oscillate between being myself and the Masked Man."
#184.108.40.206 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-09-20 04:17
Dear Fellow Orthodox,
As Ronald Reagan used to say, there you go again! Unlike Reagan, I am not using the term critically. Although you do have a tendency to have a thin skin when somebody criticizes the old ways, you are a welcomed corrective to rhetorical overreach.
Placing of the various elements of 2,000 years of beliefs and practices in our context is indeed a difficult task. Yes, the Church has produced saints even in its darkest hours--that is during its captivity by the state during the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Russian empires, as well as in the newly liberated nations that were under the Ottoman yoke. This is most of our history and it does us no good to pretend that this long captivity did not produce some beliefs and practices that are against those of the Holy Apostles.
I am tired of bringing up the case of married episcopacy because there seems to be a consensus that the time is not ripe. Fine! Let us forget about the merits of the argument. Instead, let us look at it as a prime example of self-admitted "adjustments" to the faith as delivered to the Church by the Holy Apostles. The problem is not a 6th Century deviation from the norm, but the insistence in the 21st Century that the cornerstone of Orthodox Holy Tradition is not the Holy Scriptures. Instead, the counter argument is the length of time that this practice has been adhered to and the fact that, undoubtedly, many saints were produced in this long period.
Thank God that we have learned, at long last, that there is a difference between Holy Tradition with a capital T and mere practices. It seems to me that when a tradition with a small "t" is in contradiction to the Holy Scriptures, the reaction should be prayerful reconsideration of the practice, to include an investigation of why the Church elevated a practice in contravention to the plain meaning of the Word. In this investigation, some sources are more important and definitive than others. We now seem to have two kinds of Orthodox Christians: those who want to keep the status quo of monarchical episcopacy (essentially deaf, mute and blind obedience) and those who in various degrees can read, see, hear and understand on their own. The trump in the first instance is the authority of the Church embodied in the bishop. The trump in the second instance is the authority of the true Holy Tradition.
#220.127.116.11.1 Carl on 2008-09-20 15:59
Do you think that the Church did away with the married episcopate for no reason at all??? Do the research and you will find that it didn't work well...and that married bishops had no time for their families or for their eparchies (it was one or the other!). Plus...we only have to look at the present OCA situation to see that those married priests who had responsibilities with helping to run and operate the dioceses did no better than the metroplitans and bishops involved! Also...any such REAL change in the tradition of the Church must be brought about by an Ecumenical Council.
It would seem that our energies would be better spent strengthening the monastic life of our Church so that we would have a better and healthier 'pool' of candidates to choose from?
Just my humble 'two cents.'
In His Holy Name,
Fr. Pius, priestmonk
(Editor's note: Actually, the historical evidence is that it worked for hundreds of years before it was discontinued. And it is anachronistic to argue that one of the reasons was " lack of time" for their families. One could easily argue the same for any priest - and Catholics do. The major concern, historically, was always alienation of church property. And with all respect, Father, that seems to be the problem in the OCA whether one is married, or not, according to the SIC report.)
#18.104.22.168.1.1 Fr. Pius on 2008-09-21 10:58
The argument about having time for one's family seems weak to me. Whatever the case may have been historically, we have means of communication and transportation that change the situation radically. For an enormous diocese, yes, it might be an issue; but that would be a post more suited to a celibate, or to a married bishop with grown children. (Besides, in a properly organized American church, we wouldn't have enormous dioceses.)
I continue to feel that the OCA is in no position to attempt such a maneuver, and I agree that monastic life needs to be strengthened for this reason (along with many others, of course). But we can't just dodge the issue. The reality is that, everywhere these days, episcopal candidates are rarely real monastics by any measure, and this is not likely to change in America for a variety of reasons. This is bad for the Church, and we must respond to it, and a married episcopate is one way to do so -- indeed, an apostolic way.
#22.214.171.124.1.1.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-09-21 17:55
Dear Editor & A Fellow Orthodox Christian,
Since neither of you have been a confessor (at least I think?) to Orthodox priests: I will tell you from EXPERIENCE that after being a confessor to priests for over 30 years that ALL of the priests and matushki that I have dealt with over the years have complained most bitterly about the 'time issue' and most have had REAL problems with the whole thing. Being a monastic and idealizing the whole marriage thing, I would have thought differently myself...but this has not been born out by my
Fr. Pius. priestmonk
#126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 Fr. Pius on 2008-09-22 03:42
Dear Fr. Pius,
You may have a point about the "time issue" for clergy families, though I have heard the same thing as a father-confessor of lay parents as well. It's nothing unique to the clergy today.
A brother in Christ Jesus our Savior
#184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1 anon. priest on 2008-09-22 15:38
Dear Father Pius,
It does not surprise me that parish priests have time issues. I don't think that is so because of some inherent and prevalent personal characteristics or deficiencies. The problem is that they are not supported properly with deacons, trained lay-ministers (education, music, counseling, etc.), and administrative staff.
#18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.2 Carl on 2008-09-22 20:50
As ever, thanks for your reply. I've written a browser-full, so I'm going to break it up into a few posts, to make it easer if you or anyone should feel moved to reply.
It isn't just a matter of producing saints even under adverse conditions -- it's about the fact that we don't seem to be, and they manifestly still are. Of course, many saints are known only to God, but I am speaking about holy teachers of the faith and wonder-workers. (If you'd like examples, Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit is a good text as regards Greece; there are several others of late.) Yes, there is plenty wrong with Orthodox culture in Russia, Romania, Greece, and so on -- which the aforementioned figures will often be found to criticize, in fact -- but evidently there is also much that is very right, and which we are missing.
It may be because we think too much of ourselves by comparison. "Thank God," you wrote, "that we have learned, at long last, that there is a difference between Holy Tradition with a capital T and mere practices." I've got to ask -- hoping that you'll tolerate my bluntness -- just how bone-stupid do you think people used to be? I mean, I suppose St. John Chrysostom noticed that he was composing liturgical prayers that had never existed before. I trust the saints sometimes traveled from place to place, and noticed that not everything in Church life was organized quite the same. Do you know how many fathers struggled to eradicate mere practices, long-entrenched, that did not correspond to holy tradition? [cont'd]
#126.96.36.199.1.2 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-09-21 17:25
Dear Fellow Orthodox,
As you know, I am an admirer of your scholarship and erudition. So, you can never be too blunt.
As usual, you a bringing forth important considerations. I felt overwhelmed and decided to go back to my primary sources: the writings of +Kallistos and Father Schmemann of blessed memory. What I got, particularly from the Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, was the Father Alexander's sense that, no matter what the sins, imperfections and convolutions of the Church, what kept it faithful to the Gospel and the Holy Apostles was the theology inherent in our Divine Liturgy. And, I don't believe that he meant every detail but the essential elements of our Liturgy.
You asked me how stupid did I think people were. I'll give you one example of stupidity. Father Alexander points out that the Council of Trullo was an attempt to address the defects in the Church. The most telling overall criticism was the tendency of "...even Christian rites and sacred objects (becoming) centers of pagan veneration and (overshadowing) what they solely exit for: the liberating force of truth. " He continued to say that "This tendency becomes perceptible in the seventh century, appearing as a kind of price for the complete political victory of Christianity." (Page 186). Other examples may be the requirement for all Imperial officials, even Jews, to take communion at least once, at Easter; priests being ordained only because they could chant; etc. However, my main point was not that most believers were stupid for all these years but that they were ignorant for no fault of their own, due to no or limited education, lack of printed materials that were accessible, and no encouragement by the clergy to read and think on their own (this one perhaps an overreaction to the excesses of the Reformation).
#188.8.131.52.1.2.1 Carl on 2008-09-22 20:19
 You raise fidelity to scripture as a central issue. First of all, let me note that the comment I responded to was a curt dismissal of a biblical practice. Scripture is precious to me. But scripture is not the cornerstone of holy tradition: holy tradition is the cornerstone of scripture. After all, there were plenty of scriptures to choose from as the canon was solidified -- how other than according to tradition were these choices made? The Word is not first of all a "what" but a "who" -- the living Christ, whose body the Church is. Scripture is indeed our preeminent written authority -- but how many thousands of schisms have our protestant friends had over "the plain meaning of the Word"?
"So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' And he said, 'How can I, unless someone guides me?'" (Acts 8:30-31). Couldn't the man think for himself? And yet he asked, and St. Philip answered -- why? Our guidance, in scripture as in everything, is that which "the Prophets saw, the Apostles taught, the Church has received, the Teachers express in dogma...": it is holy tradition. Holy tradition is not, of course, merely that which is handed down "horizontally" by men, but that which is at the same time being handed down "vertically" by God; it is something synergistic. Thus, as Elder Sophrony writes in his biography of St. Silouan:
" Suppose that for some reason the Church were to be bereft of all her books, of the Old and New Testaments, the works of the holy Fathers, of all service books -- what would happen? Sacred Tradition would restore the Scriptures, not word for word, perhaps -- the verbal form might be different -- but in essence the new Scriptures would be the expression of that same 'faith which was once delivered unto the saints.' They would be the expression of the one and only Holy Spirit continuously active in the Church, her foundation and her very substance .... If the Apostle Paul had the "mind of Christ," how much more does this apply to the whole body of the Church of which St Paul is one member! And if the writings of St Paul and the other Apostles are Holy Scripture, then new Scriptures of the Church, written supposedly after the loss of the old books, would in their turn become Holy Scripture, for according to the Lord’s promise God, the Holy Trinity, will be in the Church even unto the end of the world " (pp. 87-88).
Bold words -- but what after all do we believe about the Church?
Who does God inspire -- what does it take to have Christ's mind? Everything in our tradition -- certainly including scripture! -- tells us that it takes holiness, profound humility, unceasing prayer, and struggle with the flesh. We should look, then, to the saints -- to those of illumined and, in fact, deified nous.
Not that that's as simple as some take it to be. For one thing, we sometimes have to apply the teachings of the saints -- even those who lived immediately before us -- in new circumstances. For another, holiness is not binary: we ourselves should be progressing sanctity, and may certainly have something to say that "seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us." But first of all -- in the main, and by default -- we ought to look to the manifest activity "of the one and only Holy Spirit continuously active in the Church" that is shown forth in the lives of our acknowledged saints. [cont'd]
#184.108.40.206.1.3 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-09-21 17:27
Dear Fellow Orthodox,
How can I disagree with you? Your remarks are unassailable and I don't think that we are so far apart. I chose my words carefully: "It seems to me that when a tradition with a small "t" is in contradiction to the Holy Scriptures, the reaction should be prayerful reconsideration of the practice, to include an investigation of why the Church elevated a practice in contravention to the plain meaning of the Word." What I called for is prayerful reconsideration of the issue not automatic reversion to the plain meaning of the Word, precisely beacuse I share your concerns.
I should add that there are many more cards than trumps.
#220.127.116.11.1.3.1 Carl on 2008-09-22 20:25
 The "old ways" I tend to have recourse to are not only old but those chosen with deliberateness by our holy forbearers. I believe it was Twain who wrote that when he was fourteen his father was an ignoramus, but on turning twenty-one he was amazed at what the man had learned in seven years. I suppose we should draw on our parents wisdom all the more when they're saints, even though we won't do absolutely everything the way they did.
But that is just what I do not see here. Really -- how often does anyone in this forum look to the wisdom of the past, even just by analogy? (Quite a while ago, Mr. Watcher mentioned that he was putting together a document collecting patristic references to accountability in the Church, and Chris Banescu, I believe, offered to host it, but that sadly seems to have come to nothing.) We have a lot of people with their own ideas -- and I mean that in the low, not high sense of "one's own": ideas that come from who-knows-where, possibly the television, and which are never presented with reference to much of anything but the poster's sense of the obvious.
We respect and even require experience and deep knowledge in every other endeavor -- for example, being Treasurer of the OCA. But when it comes to the inner life of the Church, to the evaluation of her past and the spiritual security of her present, and even to the interpretation of her scriptures -- we can handle that ourselves, thanks. Have we purified our hearts, sanctified our rational faculties, and beheld the living Christ Himself in unceasing prayer? Do we heal the sick and raise the dead? Please. We go to Church on Sunday and we've been to college, and just who does this Chrysostom big-shot think he is?
It goes without saying that bishops and priests are just as capable of this attitude as anyone else. "For not from his Apostolic Confession," wrote the Eastern Patriarchs of the Pope in 1848, "does he glorify his Throne, but from his Apostolic Throne seeks to establish his dignity, and from his dignity, his Confession." But this is not the Orthodox way -- according to which "the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves" -- and we do not "judge Orthodoxy from the holy Throne, but the Throne itself and him that is on the Throne by the sacred Scriptures, by Synodical decrees and limitations, and by the Faith which has been preached, even the Orthodoxy of continuous teaching."
No, we don't need popes -- not one pope nor a synod-full, not a presbeterium of popes nor indeed a whole jurisdiction of them. But sometimes, as I read here and elsewhere, it feels like those are the only options before us.
#18.104.22.168.1.4 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-09-21 17:30
P.S. Please don't take me to be accusing you of all of these phenomena that I have complained of! The tendencies I'm writing about are general ones -- which I also see operating in my own life -- which I emphasize them because I think they're important to talk about in the present situation. Secondly, please forgive my sometimes heavily didactic tone. In a forum that doesn't allow for immediate back-and-forth I prefer to avoid unnecessary clarification by being maximally obvious (something that also keeps me on track, impromptu as these postings have to be). That's an easy style to adopt for this purpose, particularly when I don't have all the energy and time I'd like -- but I couldn't blame a reader for finding it irritating.
#22.214.171.124.1.4.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-09-22 04:50
I completely agree with you that serious opinions should be more than feelings but be backed up by some kind of evidence, source materials, and authoritative references. I am afraid I have not always lived up to this tenet. Indeed, in my first reply to your post, I kind of "baited" you. I apologize for doing so and I thank you for not responding in kind.
#126.96.36.199.1.4.2 Carl on 2008-09-22 20:33
Sure, bring on the married bishops! Let the OCA end up like the Living Church and Filaret Denisenko's Kiev Patriarchate -- a fringe pseudo-Orthodox organization, rightly rejected by all other Orthodox. That's sure to advance Orthodox unity in North America, and guarantee the universal recognition of the OCA's autocephaly! I mean, seriously, people.
I'm sure that Moscow and Constantinople (for different reasons, of course!) can't wait for just such a thing to happen, so that they can get rid of the "OCA problem" without having to do any dirty work.
#188.8.131.52.1.5 ejv on 2008-09-23 22:43
EXCELLENT COMMENT !!!!
#184.108.40.206.1.5.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-25 20:09
I am not dismissing him because of an opposing opinion. You have an opposing opinion, and I am not dismissing you. I am dismissing the situation whereby people easily have a lot to say, but hide behind a cloak of anonymity, much as a young toddler hides behind his mother's skirts! I think open debate, discussion, disagreement, and even dissension concerning vital issues is essential. What also needs to be essential is people being upfront and honest about who they are, as well as what they say! Thank *you*, Reader Nilus, for being courageous enough and honest enough to sign your name as well as stating your feelings and opinions!
#220.127.116.11 Reader Nilus on 2008-09-20 10:17
LOL! Surly this in not the right signature, although I certainly agree with its sentiments. Mr. Barrett perhaps?
#18.104.22.168.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-09-20 12:02
Archbishop Job was bishop in New England YEARS ago...YEARS ago!!! Gosh---is there NO room for growth for him (for any of us)??? Where is your faith Brother/Sister??? Then considering the New England parishes...(where) many of the New England parishes have their own 'unique' and 'difficult' histories...I'm not surprised that some people would have difficulty with the archbishop! Perhaps we should ALL spend the next few days PRAYING and stop trying to 'color' the reputations of others?!
Fr. Pius, (from New England)
#6.2 Fr. Pius on 2008-09-20 10:59
Speaking from very limited personal perspective, having been in New England from 1979 - 1989, Bishop Job was much loved. He had to deal with problems and not everyone may have liked the solutions, and he is thoroughly human and has limitations and makes mistakes.
None of these are bars to being Metropolitan. I'd say that his awareness of his own limitations is a distinct advantage.
#6.2.1 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-09-20 13:00
Fr Alexander Webster has articulated very efficiently and succintly the excellent reasons for the election of +Archbishop Job to be our next Metropolitan in the OCA!!! I, too, pray that the Holy Spirit will guide all of the delegates to make this choice, for the good of the Church and to the glory of God!!
#7 David Barrett on 2008-09-18 12:17
Let me be the first to say a big AMEN to Fr. Alexander Websters nomination of Archbishop Job for Metropolitan. I really wish the synod would wait but if it's to be soon I would like to see Archbishhop Job elected. He would hate it. He wants to retire. Yet He is needed. Is the best choice on the Synod, in my opinion. May God grant Him many years or atleast 10 as Metropolitan until God raises up another to fill his shoes.
#8 Gerianne Coats on 2008-09-18 12:22
Bravo Fr. Webster and NY/NJ/DC Diocese for your recent suggestions and actions!
I have been giving some thought to the proposal to select the OCA's Metropolitan by lot, a lot actually. I still don't like the idea, although limiting its application to a small number of vetted and selected candidates beats throwing the names of all OCA bishops into one big pot.
The reason I don't like a lottery is that it smacks of an abdication of responsibility that puts the onus of choosing someone on God. Should we go back to "trial by ordeal" in resolving legal matters? Are we not putting God to the test?
I am, of course, aware of the biblical precedent for selecting Judas's successor. But aren't we really supposed to take personal and institutional responsibility and forgo the temptation to leave everything to fate, chance or God? Perhaps this just highlights a big cultural difference between the American ethos and the cultural traditions of Russia or, for that matter, the cultural traditions of Western Europe in the Middles Ages.
At any rate, I remain to be convinced that we should move in this direction for selecting our Metropolitan.
#9 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-09-18 12:27
Oh just bring Nikolai back and prosecute him for his alleged offenses. That should shut him up once and for all. If he is so innocent why did he flee the country? Why did he take Panteleimon with him? Why does Isidore want to join him? And by the way, Nikolai should read the OCA statutes. It does give authority to remove him. People should also read Serbs in Sydney to get a feel for the problems they are having with Irinej. Talk about birds of a feather. No wonder he and Nikolai are friends. He pretty much is doing to the Australian Serbs what Nikolai did to the Alaskan Orthodox.
#10 anon on 2008-09-18 13:53
If the Synod of Bishops didn't retire the former Bishop of Alaska and just went the canonical way of a spiritual court and deposed him, then the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia would not be suffering. Allowing Nickolia to continue is harmful to the Orthodox Church. My question is why didn't the Synod of Bishops do this. Is it because Nickolai would spill the beans of their errors (sins).
#10.1 anonymous on 2008-09-19 07:10
News reached Anchorage's KTUU with "Bishop get Cold Reception in Australia":
#10.2 somewhere over the rainbow on 2008-09-27 07:03
Re Fr. Alexander's reflection, the first order of business will be to elect a new primate; later will be an opportunity to change the statute concerning the election process. The present statute, which will govern the election of the new primate, is couched deliberately to make the decision fall to the Synod of Bishops if the delegates do not overwhelming select someone on the first attempt. If we, those delegates, attending the AAC in Pittsburgh do not caucus among ourselves before the election, the decision will go to the Synod and we will not likely get +Job as primate Let the caucusing begin now; let a growing consensus of whom we want develop in the next seven weeks.
To +Job, I repeat from memory from the same film (actor Leo McKern's role): "Holiness, this is calvary" The Church needs you in this moment at least until we get back on our feet. Therefore,
I, too, proclaim him!
Terry C. Peet
#11 Terry C. Peet on 2008-09-18 14:19
Two strong, thoughtful, independent-minded new members for the MC ... step by step.
I know it's hard to be patient, especially as new things come out reinforcing just what a pervasive and horrible mess we have been living with for so long, but change is coming. We have to keep walking the uncomfortable narrow path between two temptations -- on the one hand, to find it too difficult to face up to the problems and just "move on" without examining them, and, on the other hand, to become so overwhelmed by facing the truth that we give up and cease to believe that change is possible.
Slowly, slowly, slowly said the sloth ...
#12 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-09-18 15:12
It is not easy to balance fair punishment and religious temperament to someone who has done grievous acts against the church of Christ. It is almost impossible not to interject a spiritual approach into the mix.
However, there are many people who believe that the office these men held as Metropolitan is as sacred as it ever was. And that goes for the chancellor, the priests, and anyone who held a position of respect and honor in the church. The offices they held are still as revered as they ever were. But men, and they are only men, have taken these offices and smeared the positions with filth, lies and all the things that Christ Himself warns us about in the bible. No one who calls Herman “Herman” is desecrating the position of Metropolitan. In fact, they may be even stronger in the belief that that position is worthy of all manner of respect and reverence. They may feel that to continue to give these “men” the honor of that title is blasphemy after the manner in which they violated the position they were so honored to hold. The worse of all crimes, and we know there were many, is the destroying of the veneration and trust that that position and all clergy are entitled to receive.
A question for the legal committee concerning the SIC recommendation number 7: “The OCA Legal Committee and legal counsel review this report for possible referral to the Nassau County District Attorney and other appropriate authorities by no later than September 30, 2008 and that these entities report back to the holy Synod and Metropolitan Council on that date.”
It was reported by the MC representative for the NY/NJ/Washington diocese at their latest meeting as follows regarding recommendation number 7: “the OCA General Legal Counsel Thaddeus Wojcik recommended that this issue be reviewed further to see if contacting the authorities must be done. If the answer is “YES,” then it must be followed up. If not mandatory, it must be determined if this move is in the best interest of all concerned.
If it is not mandatory to report the embezzlement to the Nassau County District Attorney, will we, as the party that was harmed, take action against the perpetrators by pressing charges; or does that mean we should close our eyes to the all the past malicious acts and pretend they never happened?
One last question! Why, on our beautiful God’s earth, would we transfer the Church’s securities portfolio to the Honesdale Bank???????????????????????????????????
Please help me to understand the transparency that has now been employed in our Church practice now.
#13 Wondering on 2008-09-18 15:50
General counsel probably did not say it must be determined if this move is in the best interest of all concerned, but the best interest of the OCA, his client. Btw it seems since there are competing interests, then the best interest of all can't ever be met.
#13.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-19 20:51
That "best interest of the OCA" sounds to me like a way to avoid any accountability on the part of those that robbed MILLIONS. I just hope that committee which includes a prosecutor understands that the best interest of a few should not trump the outright theft and fraud perpetrated on the many.
We also, hope that this is not part of a bargain against that $25,000,000 lawsuit.
We have seen too many times that the default action is to do nothing, let things continue as is, and when the popular demands are too much, take a token action. We hope this is not what the legal committee is contemplating. Its strange, we must say, because if someone robs our house, we don't spend a month determining if we're going to have the cops go after them, we call them immediately upon seeing the theft.
In this case we're carefully weighing what little we can do to the perps and still placate the faithful who were defrauded and just seek justice and accountability.
Also, if you toss Mr. Rodion Kondratick in jail you basically nullify that $25,000,000 lawsuit because he's going to need money to defend inthe indefensible in his criminal trial, and, folks, he wants this to go to court. Why not give him his forum and put it in a criminal court. At least that way he cannot back out of his desire to have this aired out in court as he did by taking himself off of the Promissory suit thereby hiding behind a skirt to extract more money from the Church. What a man!
If it takes down a bunch of others, including bishops, would that not be in the interest of the OCA?
Bottom line is that if at least one person doesn't end up with criminal proceedings as a result of this theft, you can elect anyone you want to be Metropolitan, its going to mean nothing as people are going to bolt for the doors because the inability to contemplate the right thing, do it, and accomplish it, is so entrenched in this corrupt organization that they can't stay in a CHurch that is a Church in name only.
#13.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-22 10:56
Wouldn't the best interest of the OCA require the opposite ... holding accountable the individuals who bled the OCA dry?
#22.214.171.124 Anonymous on 2008-09-23 16:17
I could not agree more with Fr Alexander Webster's description of Archbishop JOB's qualifications to be Metropolitan. I support the casting of as many votes as possible for His Eminence +JOB on the first ballot. We must avoid the possibility of throwing the election into the Holy Synod.
The proposed amendment to the OCA Statute (asking for three candidates and selecting by lot) does not appear reasonable to me at this time in view of the paucity of acceptable candidates. In addition, I do not understand why (in both the existing and the proposed versions) there should be "no previous discussion of candidates" -- as if it were below the dignity of the Episcopate for their past actions and qualifications to be discussed in public! I think that we have forgotten Jesus' advice "By their fruits shall you know them" (Matthew 7:16).
Protodeacon Peter Danilchick
#14 Protodeacon Peter Danilchick on 2008-09-18 19:10
I am glad to see Protodeacon Peter once again contributing his views. It would be best to have a 2/3rd consensus for the first ballot, and perhaps Archbishop Job is the consensus choice.
I was also troubled somehow by the proposal to go to a list of three from which one would be chosen by lot. Perhaps it constitutes, in our time and in our place, putting the Almighty and Everliving to the test. I could be wrong, and can be persuaded otherwise.
#14.1 Edmund Unneland on 2008-09-22 15:39
I’m a little surprised that the proposal to change to the voting procedure has not attracted more discussion. The proposed change creates the possibility that a candidate preferred by a relatively small minority of delegates may be elected as Metropolitan. The proposal would give three votes to each delegate. Unlike the current second-round voting procedure, there does not seem to be any requirement that the three votes be cast for three different candidates. This means that a minority of delegates can absolutely ensure that their candidate is among the three from whom the Metropolitan will be chosen by lot, by simply casting all three of their votes for the same candidate. A minority as small as 26% of the delegates would be able to do this. An even smaller minority might be able to due it if the majority are not unanimous in voting for the same three candidates. This would not happen (or would be much less likely) if the current second-round procedure were followed and delegates were required to write three different names. I’m not sure what the rationale is for the proposed change, but it creates the possibility that there could be more than a two-thirds majority behind a particular candidate but that another candidate, supported by only a small minority, will be selected instead. Changing the proposal to at least require that each delegate write three different names would make a big difference and result in three candidates that better reflected the views of the delegates. Leaving the current rules for the first round seems to make the most sense. I would hope that the proposal gets a little more publicity and discussion.
The current and proposed procedures are at: http://www.oca.org/news/1641
#15 Jim Lacko on 2008-09-19 10:11
I am very much against the proposed new statute for electing a primate. It is antithetical to North American culture and retrogressive. But if the proposed statute change were to succeed, I strongly recommend that it would be consistent for the primatial see to be moved to Las Vegas!
#15.1 Terry C. Peet on 2008-09-21 16:47
As much as I do not wish to lose +Job from our Diocese, I must say YES to +Job as Metropolitan on the first ballot. (Thank you Fr. Alexander for your reflection).
I also hope that Metropolitan Job would make his first act be the announcement of his retirement in 2011.
Other points to ponder:
Now is not the time to change the statute on how a Metropolitan is elected. I fully agree that it should be changed for the future, but do you REALLY want to take 3 of the current Synod, and put their names up for grabs in the chalice? Which 3?!?
I believe that the future way of elections should be a hybrid of the current and the "lot" system. If a candidate gets 2/3 on the first ballot, they are submitted alone. Only if nobody gets 2/3 on the first vote is there a second vote, and the top 3 then put in the chalice.
Finally, I must say NO to +Benjamin.
His DWI was too recent.
His accusations that +Job was "presbyterian, congregationalist, and democratic" (OCANews 12-21-07) for having the conciliar mind to actually meet with and discuss issues with his priests reveals +Benjamin's frightening view of the episcopacy.
His silence while +Job was accused by the disgraceful bishop of Alaska is inexcusable.
No, +Benjamin is not ready to be Metropolitan.
Priest Christopher Wojcik
#16 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2008-09-19 11:43
Recently, this thread has had some interesting and thought-provoking posts. God has raised up people from a variety of backgrounds to lead the Church back to the narrow way of salvation in the past. In many cases monks have challenged bullies and heretics, thanks to brave men like St. Maximus the Confessor, and St. Theodore Studion.
For a variety of sociological reasons, we do not have a robust and influential monastic presence on this continent. That's not to say that there are no men and women carrying their crosses in an authentic monastic rhythm of prayer and labor. There are. But in our time and place, the dynamic of the Church has shifted dramatically. God is making changes through a new sensus fidelium - one crafted primarily by a group of somewhat unknown lay men and women, along with many priests and deacons, through Web 2.0 social media. This is unprecedented for Church history and contains both threats and opportunities. That technology provides an open forum for immediate and widely accessible participation in discussing important issues is a great opportunity. Measuring the representation of participants and weighing the real strength of their contribution is another matter. Either way, though, one thing won't change - social media, blogs and virtual online communities, have the best chance, for betetr or worse, of posting challenging questions and raising issues no one else would in times of crisis. I think recent history speaks for itself on this matter, and that's not even mentioning parallel or contrary opinions expressed on other sites.
What does all of this mean for the immediate leadership of the OCA, and really, Orthodoxy on this continent? We need to compare our episcopal ecclesiology to the one we really practice. Because our ecclesiological praxis is, ironically (in lieu of Fr. Chris's reference to Bp. +Benjamin's remarks about Archbishop +Job), predominantly presbyteral, since the vast majority of Orthodox experience the Church at the parish level, liturgical relics notwithstanding. Almost all of the men responding to God's call to ordination prepare for presbyteral service, not episcopal, even though all presbyters duplicate most episcopal functions of oversight (except for ordination and the consecration of myrrh). Its not like the past, when thriving monastic communities committed to both prayer and intellectual development attracted men for study and prayer. The OCA has more than enough men interested in presbyteral ordination, but seriously lacks organic structures that attract men who might make good bishops (this excludes married men who might make good bishops).
To return to the narrow path we need not only a Metropolitan, but a Synod of bishops that wants its parishes to know and love them. We need authentic, qualified and courageous teachers, people who truly clarify, who faithfully recast our faith so that our tradition is understood. We need people who are not estranged from parish life, who do not eschew it, who embrace all of its beautiful weirdness and diversity. We need people who honor and preserve our past but also embrace the present and will be willing to speak openly, if very cautiously, to all of our virtual communities, so that everything is transparent from the beginning. We really need people who will restore an authentic episcopal dimension to our parish ecclesiology, so that the presence of the bishop is not limited to letters read from the amvon and a signature on the antimension.
These qualifications are daunting. Theological education and some real world experience are needed, but it's today' reality, because by and large, this is how we live.
Personally, I really want to see new bishops who are veterans of prayer and able to teach clearly, decisively, and contextually. If they are "monastic," let them come from an authentic monastic community. If they were celibate or lay, let their civil and ecclesial experience vouch for them.
I'm guessing that among the men in Orthodox North America, we have people who, with our prayers and humble help, and especially through the gift of the Holy Spirit, can faithfully lead us during these new times. This might not be possible when we elect a new Metropolitan, but more importantly, it can become a reality when we consider candidates for the episcopate. I believe that St. Ambrose of Milan was someone who had no ecclesial pedigree, but was recognized and acclaimed for his ability to lead Milan in the fourth century (let a seasoned historian clarify).
If there are such candidates, perhaps even for Metropolitan, may God help us recognize and elect them to lead us.
#16.1 Dn. N. Denysenko on 2008-09-20 05:25
"I believe that St. Ambrose of Milan was someone who had no ecclesial pedigree, but was recognized and acclaimed for his ability to lead Milan in the fourth century (let a seasoned historian clarify)."
They were considering who to be the next bishop of Milan, when a child exclaimed "Ambrose is bishop!" Ambrose was a layman at the time.
[from an unseasoned historian, me]
#16.1.1 Michael Strelka on 2008-09-22 08:31
Just a few refinements to the Ambrose of Milan elevation to the episcopate:
1. When he was acclaimed as "axois" for the episcopate, he wasn't even baptised! He was still officially a pagan, and not even enrolled as a catechumen!
2. According to some books that I have read, it took all of a week (!) to accelerate him through the catechumenate to baptism/chrismation to diaconate to priesthood to epsicopate!
3. His dealings with those concerning the destruction of the synagogue at Kallinikon, and of his suspect hagiography of the Empress Helena demonstrated that he was not "axios" at any time for the office of bishop.
4. No one doubts his administrative abilities, or of the legality of his appointment as bishop - both firmly within the Constantinian tradition, but when they were devoid of any true Johannine/Arimathean spirituality throughout (in fact he hated the Johannine/Arimathean tradition with a passion!), one is left to muse over his legitimacy as a bishop.
#126.96.36.199 John Battye on 2008-09-22 15:04
You're mistaken: St Ambrose was a catechumen when he was chosen by acclamation as Bishop of Milan.
As for his worthiness for the office, both careful Church historians and our liturgical tradition take a much different view of the matter than the one you espouse. You might want to review these at some point.
#188.8.131.52.1 ejv on 2008-09-23 22:31
I agree, but especially because of Bishop Benjamin’s outlook on episcopal authority. + Benjamin received his “episcopal training” from the former Bishop of Alaska, Nikolai, and the former Bishop of San Francisco, Tikhon, neither of whom are exemplars of a pastoral bishop. While presently +Benjamin is acting in a conciliar manner, his election as primate might be sufficiently traumatic to cause him to revert to an earlier model, that of Nikolai and Tikhon. The OCA should not take that risk.
#16.2 Terry C. Peet on 2008-09-20 05:49
I agree Mr. Peet. His election "might" cause a return to his "training", but more likely it MIGHT just put a truly pastoral, humble and loving bishop under the white hat for the first time since the ever-memorable LEONTY. But, the truth is, I don't want him as Met anyway...I want him in the West where he is truly loved and appreciated. I agree with Father Deacon Yousuf Rassam, the OCA has had him long enough, we want him back and we want him to stay.
Fr Michael Spainhoward
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
Juneau, Alaska (until October 28th, and then of the Diocese of the West, and *NOT because the former bishop is gone*.)
#16.2.1 Priest Michael Spainhoward on 2008-09-23 16:16
Fr. Wojcik raised several important and valid issues in regards to +Benjamin and his views on episcopal power and approaches. He is quite right in stating that +Benjamin is not ready to be Metropolitan. A lot more humility, experience, courage, character, integrity, and real Christian leadership should be evidenced before trusting a hierarch to fill that post.
Fr. Chris did not say all those sweeping statements about +Benjamin which you impute to Fr C. He rightly pointed to 3 specific, pertinent facts and concluded, rationally, from them that his would not be a vote for +Benjamin. He did not so cavalierly impugn the man's entire character, certainly not in writing for the world to review. You use a mallet to kill a fly on a glass top table.
#16.3.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-23 07:40
Anonymous, I did not say that Fr. Chris said those things. I said he (Fr. Chris) raised several valid points and I added that +Benjamin needs to strengthen and prove some key character traits that would evidence the qualification to me considered Metropolitan. Given the disasters and malfeasance that the OCA has suffered under for so many years, caution, deliberation, and proper screening and selection of new leaders is absolutely crucial. I did not say that +Benjamin lacks those characteristics, just that he does not appear to be seasoned and strengthened enough in them to lead the OCA.
"He [Fr Chris] is quite right in stating that +Benjamin is not ready to be Metropolitan. A lot more humility, experience, courage, character, integrity, and real Christian leadership should be evidenced before trusting a hierarch [sic] to fill that post."
Now you've clarified the second sentence contains your words and not those of the good padre from Wisconsin. Good.
Still, its fascinating that you follow Fr C's conclusion with those sweeping characterization, yet now say "I did not say that +Benjamin lacks those characteristics." Whatever, bro.
No wonder people avoid talking to most lawyers as much as they do bishops.
#184.108.40.206.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-23 16:25
Dear Father Christopher,
As a member of Bp. Benjamin's diocese, I welcome your non support. I know I'm being selfish, but I think we have shared our bishop enough with the rest of the OCA for now. Your reasoning couldn't be more wrong, but I really don't care what your reasons are so long as we get to keep our bishop.
So, Please, Please, keep being frightened by imaginary notions of tyranny! Don't look at his installation address to get a broader notion of his ideas of episcopate. Don't cheack out how our diocese functions, and above all, don't let any doubt enter your mind as to not voting for Bp. Benjamin!
Dcn Yousuf Rassam
Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral
#16.4 Anonymous on 2008-09-20 09:34
Hear, hear! Thank you, Dcn! I was going nuts reading these thoughtful-sounding-but-devoid-of-content postings. Far too much speculation.
I, also, would like for us in the DOW to keep our bishop. He's been an example of humility, strength, leadership, and perserverence through adversity and, yes, sin.
My life has been challenged through his archpastoral and hierarchical presence amongst us.
#16.4.1 Rdr. T. John on 2008-09-23 18:07
Being new to the OCA and Orthodoxy and having a young daughter (8) I am wondering when we will start to be equipped to start sharing our faith in word and deed. While all these discussions take place, money is spent, etc. our little mission can't afford to be much more than a tiny gathering which meets only for the divine liturgy. I can't help but wonder if our mission would better serve Christ in another jurisdiction where we won't get lost in the greater political happenings of the OCA. I seriously have to consider for the health of myself and more importantly for my daughter if we should look at one of the surrounding parishes for help in our spiritual development.
I try to avoid the politics of the church, I read events here and scratch my head because I don't know the personalities involved (with the exception of some of those in AK where I once resided). It just seems like a giant distraction from our call to make disciples of the world. Here my priest works two and three jobs while raising a family and we have crooks working against his efforts (in the broader scheme) and it makes me very angry.
#17 David L on 2008-09-19 15:19
No need for anger, David. These things happen from time to time, in every century, every place, and every jurisdiction. It’s a fallen world, after all, but its fallenness need never threaten the joy we find in Christ. There are many good people in the OCA, and some of them have been called to help clean up the mess, but God has thankfully spared you and me that burden. Just work to save yourself and those around you through your new mission, and give the rest in prayer to God.
Peace in Christ,
#17.1 Dn. Patrick Mitchell on 2008-09-23 07:28
I believe that Archbishop Job is a fine candidate for Metropolitan. I am not aware of any better candidate at this time. If anyone knows of someone else who deserves consideration, I hope that person speaks up.
#18 Samuel Osman on 2008-09-19 16:43
I believe + Seraphim to be a better candidate. He may be mentioned in the report for inaction with regard to the financial scandal, but this includes all the hierarchs. + Job only asked, "Are the allegations true?" Many are unaware of + Seraphim's "behind the scene" activities in bringing the scandal to light.
If you want an honest assessment of who the next metropolitan should be, you should have ask all the senior archpriests in the OCA and have them vote. In fact, like the Roman Cardinals, it may not be a bad idea for the OCA to institute such an official "council" calling it the "Archpriest's Council." The archpriest's should also fill any void in any diocese lacking a bishop or hierarchical leadership.
(Editor's note: I too would be interested in learning of Archbishop Seraphim's "behind the scenes" attempts to bring the scandal to an end beyond covering it up. If you are aware of any, please share.)
#18.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-20 07:37
I am a parishioner in Seraphim's diocese and I know him very well. He continues to this very day to put his personal concerns (as was indicated in the letter to Zaccheaus in the SIC report) before any repentance or asking of forgivemness for his part in the cover-up pf this terrible scandal. We must remember that the scandal, although sickening, is only once piece of this tragedy. How the Bishops have reacted, and continue to react, is the ultimate scandal. Seraphim has only ever made excuses for why he couldn't act, but no one is buying his excuses. Seraphim needs to do the right thing and resign as bishop, and beg forgiveness from the faithful. The true Seraphim was revelaed in the letter attached to the SIC report - this is only a small glimpse into what this man does. He continues to ruin people's lives by treating his positon and power as a means unto themselves and disreagrding the obligations he has to protect the church from scandals such as this. I speak from first hand experience - believe me, you DO NOT want him as Metropolitan. The arrogance potrayed in th SIC report letter - that being he is more concerned with addressing where he was seated than with dealing with evidence of misappropriatin of funds - is how he really thinks and acts. It is right there in black and white....
#18.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-21 10:56
Do not be deceived O Jews, study the scriptures and understand. I too am a parishioner of +Seraphim's diocese. I, too, must stongly state that this is NOT the man you want as Metropolitain. ....
#220.127.116.11 Another Canadian on 2008-09-21 19:17
I also attend Ottawa’s Annunciation Cathedral. Sadly, I have to agree that +Seraphim needs to confess and repent but we have been given no reason to believe it will ever happen.
In the wake of the SIC report and the publication of his dishonourable letter in Appendix F there was some frank criticism of him from several Ottawa Cathedral parishioners posted on ocanews.org.
+Seraphim’s response was to pen an arrogant and dismissive note in the Parish bulletin that failed to respond to any of this criticism (or to the SIC report that had generated it), except by saying that he was “paying attention” to it and that because the parish posters were anonymous they were “dishonest.” - text can be found on http://www.ocanews.org/news/DecisionDueToday9.11.08.html
After +Seraphim’s silencing note in the Parish bulletin, who would dare to speak openly about this matter to him or to anyone else in the parish?
Canadians are well known to be more deferential to their elites than are Americans. One of the best reasons for this is because Canadian elites believe themselves entitled to deference and are not above retribution when challenged.
#18.104.22.168.1 anon Canadian on 2008-09-22 12:13
Thank you, 'anon Canadian' for your supportive statement, above!
If you were at last Sunday's election of the Cathedral's AAC delegates and heard the five nominees' speeches, you were witness to the "let bygones be bygones--it's all about reconciliation" messages given by most of them (we recognize that refrain all too well). Sadly, the one nominee who spoke freely both there and at our Town Hall meeting was not elected--I pray that the rest of our OCA parishes may vote more discerningly.
Our parish council may be toeing the 'party line', but in their condemnation of the honesty and the anonymity in the postings they are proving that people who speak anything other than "newspeak" (George Orwell's 1984) NEED to remain anonymous because of the chastisement that follows (in the printed word, by furtive glances, and the gossip).
Some may find it impossible to believe that those posters may, in fact, (as I do) recognize that +Seraphim is:
a) the polar opposite of that bishop from Alaska;
b) to be commended for accomplishing many godly things (i.e. growing the Canadian Archdiocese) brought about by much self-denial (i.e. he is seldom in one place, including home, for more than a couple of days at a time);
c) amazing in his knowing of and greeting with genuine warmth just about every parishioner in Canada (and many, many in the U.S.) by name;
d) living (and always has lived) extremely frugally (I would say 'as a monk' except that he hasn't been able to establish a true monastic routine due to the necessities of travelling);
e) is not wanting (some would disagree with this), nor has he ever wanted, the job of being a hierarch.
I can, and do, thank God for everything He has been able to accomplish through +Seraphim. I personally have been very blessed through knowing him. However, that does not mean that I will not insist on complete answers regarding his role in the OCA scandal. He is our hierarch, whether he wants to be or not, and is accountable to us. Our bishops, as 'representations of Christ' in our Church have most definitely not been "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" throughout their actions as the "Holy" Synod. Because of this, our trust in the whole Synod of Bishops has been despoiled, spat upon, and discarded without a single thought, and +Seraphim was/is part of that.
Holy Synod, you have allowed wolves access to the flock that has been entrusted to you by God, and it has been devastating. At your consecrations you were charged with being the best and truest model of Christ in our midst, which, through your fiduciary duties includes guarding us from deception, massive theft, wrongful dismissals, and wrongful excommunications. You, Holy Synod, are by your denial and cover-up of any wrongdoing ("committed in knowledge or in ignorance"), modeling less-than-Christ-like behaviour, yet are still insistent on wearing the elaborate robes which proclaim your status among us (which, in my opinion, ought to be Christ the Humble Carpenter, not Christ the "Big Cheese" (I mean no blasphemy or offence--this is my poor wording of what I see happening at every hierarchical liturgy).
May God help us, save us, and have mercy on us!
#22.214.171.124.1.1 One of the critical ocanews.org posters from the Cathedral on 2008-09-23 19:34
If we really want to brainstorm for names I have a few:
1. Golitzen at Marquette. But he reportedly doesn't want to be Met, plus I think he is very useful at Marquette.
2. Nicholas Constans. Former professor at Holy Cross and Harvard Divinity and currently resides on Mount Athos. He left Holy Cross over a scandal investigation gone wrong (http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/religion/features/973/index3.html). I'm not sure if he is actually ordained to anything.
3. Michael Dahulich, dean of St. Tikhon's. A widowed priest, he has reportedly spent the last few years trying to shield the students from the shenanigans going on at the monastery and the central administration. In other words, he already knows what the politics are and how to work with/around them.
That's all the quality names I can think of right now. I'm sure there are more that I am missing.
#18.2 Anonymous on 2008-09-20 11:48
I second Michael Dahulich.
He is one of the few, maybe only, well known and highly placed priest who is within the governance of our Church who is well respected and highly qualified. We need to get out of this thinking that the only choices exist within the current Synod. We must realize that true change can only occur when a breathe of fresh air comes in from outside. Fr. Dahulich is that breathe of fresh air.
If we really want to see things take on a much needed radical change, the election of Fr. Dahulich is giant leap in the right direction. Electing anyone from the current Synod, no matter how much we like Job, is still maintaining the status quo.
Consider this man seriously. It would be a bold step not only in us selecting a bishop (what a concept!) but it would be an historical act in a priest being elevated to Metropolitan for us. It would be a major vote of no confidence in this Synod as it is composed and a choice that they would have a difficult time in trying to go against. It would be the kind of event that would mark this AAC as historic in the Church.
#18.2.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-20 14:49
On the recurring issue of anonymity:
We've gone through various waves of discussing and arguing about anonymity on this website. I've gone from being rather antagonistic to anonymous postings to accepting them based on those discussions.
But as we move forward to the AAC, there's a certain style of anonymous posting that I think we need to be on guard against. That is those that anonymously assert vague negatives or positives with respect to possible candidates for Metropolitan.
If you say something vague and post your name, then people can judge the information by what they know of you. If you post anonymously, but give specific information and a few particulars then readers have at least somewhere to start in considering and weighing the information. But if posters are both anonymous and completely vague, then it strikes me that there is absolutely no value in the post.
(Editor's note: I would agree. Caveat Emptor.
#19 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-09-20 13:14
I don't believe it is coincidence that Fr. Jonah Paffhausen will be consecrated bishop Nov. 1. I have read some of his lectures and they are truly reflections of a man of God. Everyone should take the time to read these writings/lectures and gain some insight into this truly inspirational priest. He may be the candidate we are looking for.
#20 Jane Cap on 2008-09-20 13:42
Nice try, but the manner of selection of Fr. Jonah just casts too much of a shadow on him. If a bishop from the current cast of characters is chosen, we need to find one that was originally selected the old fashion way, the diocese chose them.
#20.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-20 14:51
Well, to be honest, we in the Diocese of Western Pa. were on the verge of choosing him when he was selected to be auxilliary in the South and we had to start all over.
#20.1.1 Jane Cap on 2008-09-20 19:33
One of the problems we have is that he leads the monastery that Steven Strikis was sent off to. He is a person who knows where the bodies are buried and how they got there. Sending him off to a secluded location under the watch of Fr. Jonah raised an eye brow or two.
We would have a lot more confidence if he had no contact, and not such blatant contact to boot, as that.
We also, vehemently, disagree with the Auxiliary bishop as a way to pick your own successor. This is the very thing that Bishop Benjamin accused Patty Shellbach (as told by Fr. Paul) of, that has resulted in bad, and has to change.
Also, speaking of Benjamin, remember that part that he played in the drama against Job when Nikolai wanted to bring him up on trumped up charges that eventually were shown to be bogus. Do you want that kind of a person as your Metropolitan?
#126.96.36.199 Anonymous on 2008-09-21 12:56
I have watched and read for some time now... as I can recall since this web site came into existence. Before you attack me with your responses, I will tell you that I am not an overly devout churchly type - but still, I am some one with great concern for our Orthodox Church. I speak as a simple observer, as both the textbook definition of "cradle" and "convert" Orthodox – I am by birth the descendant of White Russian immigrants but actively chose at the age of 18 to return to the Orthodoxy of my ancestors. The sadness is that my family stopped attending the Russian Church due to the strains of North American legalism and inefficiency of the Church administration!
I must admit that ocanews.org has done some good, but I cannot deny that the "evil regime(s)" of Syosset also did some good for Orthodoxy. Yet thanks to the diligence of many, I now fear that "accountability" is the new term for parish coffee hour gossip... I also fear that ocanews.org has too readily become a tool for the laity to dictate the manner by which the Holy Synod, and the Orthodox Church in general, should be constituted. Perhaps the faithful bloggers in the OCA should consult the works of the so-called “Living Church” or possibly the actions of Metropolitan Sergei Stragorodskiy and his friends for guidance if we wish to reorganise the apostolic succession and general organisation of the Church? Perhaps many might feel that the Church should have a set four-year term for Metropolitan, a bicameral clergy/laity congress, and an efficiently bureaucratic judiciary to ensure proper conduct of church life and, just for kicks, a Calvinistic electorate of the faithful to cast votes for their favourite candidate every four years…
Now, if this blog - which appears now as no different than any other superfluous internet blog focused upon public angst and concern - hopes to do some good, I should hope that it refrains from encouraging useless speculation and continued intimidation – you can intimidate people without a wearing klobuk.
I am fully aware that I do not speak at all to the legalistic issues at hand, nor am I competent to speak to the matters of church administration – that responsibility falls to our Archpastors alone. I am simply tired of the fervency with which we all wish to find answers and the scapegoats who hold them. When I was reunited with the Church, I was fully aware of all that came with it, and when I read posts here, I fear that we have received a painful reminder that the OCA has never had the unity required of an autocephalous Church.
I fear that writing now would draw some short-sided response from you, the blogging faithful... please refrain from attacking my ignorance and please forgive me if my words seem unduly argumentative and inappropriate. I am simply tired of watching gossip destroy what I most heartily embrace.
But just to be sure, does anyone know what Archbishops Seraphim or Job eat for breakfast? That could change the entire outcome of the AAC…
#20.1.2 G.S. Shakotko on 2008-09-20 19:36
I agree with Fr Chris Wojik, Terry Peet and Chris Banescu. During the last AAC I was asked by Fr Tate to see +Benjamin because I was enquiring of any vacancies in the DOW. My wife Patty has said much on this post that I will not go into great details but suffice it to say +Benjamin told me I would never be given a parish in his Diocese because, paraphrased, Patty had "irregular views of conciliarity" from letters she had sent to retired+Tikhon. The letters were about trying to get help for churches in crisis.
I agree that having him voted as Metropolitan would be a mistake. She is a seminary graduate and knows as much about the Doctrine of the Church as a Bishop does. This is my first posting and I want to see a Church run by someone who talks the talk and walks the walk.
#21 Priest Paul Schellbach on 2008-09-20 17:43
Many wish to see Archbishop Job as the next Metropolitan because he is likely to take it as a burden rather than a privilege. But I hope he is not pressured into that role at the expense of his welfare. +Job has not yet responded to these appeals but if he feels he truly can’t endure the task it should not be demanded of him. He’s been through enough and deserves our gratitude for all he’s done regardless of whether he accepts or declines the nomination.
#22 Karina Ross on 2008-09-20 18:02
Most respectfully, I disagree. Unless his doctor orders otherwise, I think it just the penance the Archbishop needs to atone for any past mistakes. His humility is commendable, but sometimes duty calls.
#22.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-09-21 11:49
We should be fortunate enough to have as Metropolitan one who is not only qualified morally, ethically, spiritually, intellectually and technologically ... but also one who absolutely and sincerely does not want the office. Would that we'd not get the man but for having dragged him kicking in protest and praying for deliverance, heel marks dug deep from the west doors to the royal doors.
#23 Anonymous on 2008-09-20 19:19
Wow, I have to admit, I am a bit shocked. All these comments about who will be the next Metropolitan. Why does it matter? I feel that none of them are suitable. Why do these bishops have all the power? Isn't God the all powerful One? We are His people and we are His church. Think about it. If, at your job, you had knowledge of wrongdoing-what would you do? If you are a christian, as I am, you know that you would certainly NOT participate in the wrongdoing, and you would pray for courage and wisdom to act to expose the wrongdoing. If you are a parent- is this not what we teach our children? To do what is right- even if it is difficult and the consequences are severe.
Now, here we have the Synod of Bishops, some who obviously participated in wrongdoing and some who had knowledge of this wrongdoing, but did not act to stop it. At the VERY least, I would expect a heartfelt apology- an act of repentance. +Job got this part right. In some cases, I would also expect a resignation (+Seraphim, +Nathaniel, +Nikon).
Remember- without these Bishops, the Body of Christ still exists. Please, have courage and do not let THIS Synod decide the future of our church. Ask for their resignations. Do not worry about how the Church will survive without them, We, the laity can work together to find suitable candidates for our leaders. They have let us down. They have failed us. I will work on forgiving them all, but that doesn't mean I want them to continue to lead us. Frankly, save +Job, I could NOT honestly say "Axios" to any one of them now.
#24 Saddened on 2008-09-21 00:27
It's funny. Reading your name doesn't tell me a thing about who you are. Reading what you say does. "By their fruits, ye shall know them." There will always be those who love the limelight, who want everyone to be aware of their thoughtful observations. Also there are those who want to bring attention to their ideas when their ideas may not have occurred to others, but may not need to draw attention to themselves. I could type my name, but you won't know me. Many have typed their names but I don't know them. Mark Stokoe could walk up to my door and I wouldn't know him, nor would meeting him in person change the way I feel about him. You may go on feeling whatever for the contributers to this site but identity of individuals is of little importance to you if you really think about it. After all look at all the space I just took up and I didn't do one thing to solve the problems of the Orthodox Church of America.
About that. Archbishop Seraphim when he was in Alaska a few years back for a consecration was one of only two bishops that even pretended to notice the parishoners here. All the rest never turned an eye toward the regular people. They hugged each other and scurried after Kondratick like he was either their tour guide or the host of the event. I had know idea who he was. In my naive little mind I assumed that they were so focused on inner prayer that they weren't distracted by the worldly activities like fellowship and friendliness. I have since begun to see things a little differently. +Seraphim, hands down, was most like what I would want a bishop or a metropolitan to be. That is why I have been so disappointed by what he has done during this trying period. I know he must be struggling to the point of madness at not being able to be direct and honest with all of us about all he knows. It must be terrible. Maybe I have placed too much weight on my first impression of him or maybe I have just flat out misread him, but I think this lack of ability to just open up and confess all to the world must make for a lot of sleepless days and nights.
Once again I must state that I will prefer a hundred anonymous posters with hearts full of love for the church than have a dozen well known and recognizable figures with nothing to say.
#25 Alaskan, looking for humility on 2008-09-21 02:33
What the real shame of all this is; the hierarchs of the SOB have not groomed those to take thei place. They left the identification process up to RSK and turned over many rocks to find sub-standard talent. Now, we are back to looking for good candidates for the episcopacy and again we are turning over rocks. All the more reason the OCA should really turn to the married episcopate. Consecrating celibates who have outward appearances, but are just empty, would be a mistake. Regarding the vote for the metropolitan this Nov., anyone examining all the available current episcopal candidates in depth will learn that the ONLY candidate suitable is + Seraphim. + Job is a nice fellow, but please....
#26 Anonymous on 2008-09-21 11:53
As Dean of Annunciation Cathedral in Ottawa I am writing on behalf of the parish council to say that the personal attacks on Archbishop Seraphim from people identifying themselves as members of the Cathedral do not reflect our view or the feelings of the vast majority of parishioners. Archbishop Seraphim is known here as a beloved pastor since before he became bishop in 1987 and it is shameful to erase this long and continuing record of demonstrated pastoral care that we have experienced.
This does not mean that there aren’t people in the Cathedral who are troubled by the crisis and by the SIC report in particular. Indeed, many parishioners expressed themselves passionately about this at our Town Hall meeting in the presence of Archbishop Seraphim. But we remain deeply grateful for his Christian warmth and kindness and support him with our prayers.
Archpriest John A. Jillions
#27 Fr John A Jillions on 2008-09-21 17:55
I think you should allow people to state their opinions openly, unless you are fearful of what the truth will reveal.
#27.1 puzzled on 2008-09-21 21:48
Evidently, Fr. Jillions, you and your parish council are NOT troubled by this crisis and the SIC report. Being grateful for +Seraphim's Christian love and kindess is fine. Every parish in Canada is praying and remembering him specifically. As a fellow Canadian, I can't help but be troubled by the crisis, the SIC report and especially +Seraphim's silence. I can't understand why he has not gone to each of his parishes in Canada and asked for forgiveness. I know that if I were mentioned, as he was, in the SIC report, my FIRST response would be one of repentance. I would certainly examine myself and ask "How have I contributed to this?" "What should I have done?" "What would my flock expect me to do?" I would be running to my priests and their congregations and explaining myself. I agree with an earlier post- the financial scandal is bad enough, but the real scandal is the
lack of repentance shown by all the synod including +Seraphim.
#27.2 Another Canadian on 2008-09-22 21:00
With deepest respect to Fr. John and the Annunciation parish council, this unfortunate statement divides parish ranks for no good purpose.
The origins of your statement are in +Seraphim’s letter to the parish following the SIC report in which he accuses his anonymous critics of dishonesty and wonders aloud whether those who criticize him represent a significant number of parishioners. Are parish posters who comment anonymously here on these issues really engaging in shameful personal attacks or are you simply reacting to +Seraphim’s transparently obvious appeal to divide the parish and change the subject?
Where is your public statement, brothers and sisters, concerning the crisis of the OCA and the role that Bishop +Seraphim has played in this crisis - as documented in the SIC report and elsewhere? Surely that should have been foremost on your minds.
Please brothers and sisters, reconsider your position.
I urge you to read the Fr. Andrew Moore’s Reflection just posted here - http://www.ocanews.org/news/MooreReflection9.25.08.html - in which he concludes by saying: “Getting caught is not repentance. Letting people off is not mercy. Healing is impossible without Truth.”
#27.3 anon on 2008-09-27 07:09
Reading these posts, I breathe a sigh of relief that I am no longer Orthodox, but free now and happy. So glad not to be in that grip any longer, the grip that holds so tightly, no one can see that the emperor has no clothes. There is your view of heaven, where all the saints are and everyone is wonderful, and we should all talk to them and during Divine Liturgy, we can't tell if we are on heaven or on earth.
But we are on earth. We are here.
I remember the Pascha I was chrismated a lifetime of sorrow ago. As I drifted off to sleep, I gripped my little gold pendant cross in my hand. I could still smell the holy oil on my hands, and as tears welled up in my eyes, I held the cross and whispered, "No one can take this away from me. I have found the truth at last."
How could I ever have known then that one day my faith would crumble. That no matter how much the saints are said to comfort, the real comfort I needed was from the living Church, and the Church was not there. How could I have known that the crisis I went through was made so much worse because the so-called shepherds I have known in the Orthodox Church are long on words about love but short on acting in love?
I am a poor widow, and have been through more than these Bishops could stand, and I passed through that fire and came out safely on the other side, not alone, but surrounded by friends and family, none of whom are Orthodox and many of whom are secular humanists and skeptics and even atheists. They were the real, live, warm supporting friends who helped in real, tangible ways, while the "Church" stood as silent and stony as the bricks the buildings are made from.
Orthodox say that the Eucharist deifies, that God became man so that man might become God. But if that is true, why doesn't it "work"? Where is the theosis in the Church?
Why was everybody so sad when I visited a monastery, and why so serious, and why were we rebuked for being late to a meal, when the visiting, non-Orthodox man we were with was using a walker and could not get to the meal the second the bell rang?
Why do the priests and bishops stand over the lay people and tell them what is wrong with them, and point out the little piece of sawdust as though it were an oak tree in the eye, when they are in fact blinded by the massive plank in their own eyes?
Why does the Baptist Church I was raised in have such terrible theology, and such a fantastic and giving outreach program, both in the inner city where it is located, and throughout the world?
I hestitate to post because of the "answers" and remarks that may result, but on the other hand, I am speaking from my own experience, and what I know to be true.
On the other hand, maybe I need to say this to the Church for my own healing, and so, I say it, anonymously, and leave it at that.
#28 ananymous on 2008-09-21 20:52
and I passed through that fire and came out safely on the other side
Naturally, no one here knows what you are alluding to, but then I doubt more detail would buttress what you're trying to convey. I don't know why you had such a bad experience in the Church -- but, sad to say, it certainly does happen. There were trusting faithful in Russia whose bishops sold them out to the KGB, and they ended up in labor camps or executed. How many of the saints were oppressed by their ostensible brethren? You'll have noticed that some of the clergy are grave sinners. Something tells me you were not told the truth about the Church when you joined -- perhaps you were given the sunny-triumphalism version of Orthodoxy, in which, God help us, we say that everything is beautiful and we are wonderful and theosis is just a few communions away.
For my part, I've had different experiences than you at monasteries -- most monks I know are really cheerful, though I have come across a scolding pietist now and again. Certainly, it wouldn't be good to judge monasticism from one monastery (or from monasteries that are younger than you are, which probably describes wherever you were).
As to why you didn't see the Church "work" -- actually, the Church is perfectly capable of working. But perhaps you were in wretched parish environments: some of our places would give the worst of the New-Testament-era congregations a run for their money. Or perhaps you missed it -- and I mean that seriously, because I've done this myself: these things usually happen quietly, even obscurely. As to theosis, the apex of all spiritual endeavor -- this is very rarely seen in this lifetime. Even to be largely cleansed of the passions is rare, and that is only part of the path. What it takes, to fully give oneself to Christ.... And, these days, many of us would need to find a healthy sense of self in the first place. But, then, how many miracle-workers have you met? And yet they exist: I recommended a book about contemporary saints above, and there are countless witnesses to their miracles, and those of others, alive today.
We should of course have our own saints in America, but local Churches tend not to produce native saints right away. And that is in mission environments under the guidance of traditional missionaries -- that is, missionaries who are experienced and spiritually tested. This is not, to put it mildly, a luxury we've been afforded in the Church's few decades of consciously native presence in America. It's a big mess.
I present these comments, incidentally, not as answers, but as a series of reactions to your remarks, and ones which I hope will spark some self-examination among Orthodox. I think there is much that we should be forthright about but are not -- out of ignorance or ideological self-delusion -- indulging instead in back-patting and vain, premature victory parades.
#28.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian (nothing personal -- it's my nom de plume) on 2008-09-22 18:21
T.S. Eliot wrote that 'between the idea and the reality falls the shadow', and in the case of Orthodoxy the shadow is a long one.
Triumphalism is woven into the very fabric of Orthodoxy ecclesiology, as this sister points out, and I too could no longer live the Christian life with the 'cognitive dissonance' caused by the disconnect between what the O.C. claims to be and what she is in reality....
#28.2 Anthony on 2008-09-22 20:06
Your comments resonated very strongly with me. Outside of my parish, most of my friends are non-observant Christians, Jews, secularists, humanists and agnostics and in them I see more Christ-like behavior than in my fellow co-religionists. Yet I cannot shake my faith, because I actually believe it – it’s part of me and I cannot separate my faith from me anymore than I can literally cut off one of my limbs.
Being self-aware is an integral and necessary part of being Christian and that includes dealing with difficulties and problems head-on. It’s a trial and looking down the road of life, it will also be so.
I wish you well and pray that you find peace and joy wherever you go.
#28.3 Terry C. Peet on 2008-09-23 02:47
Love is attractive. Who can blame you? Not I.
#28.4 Anonymous on 2008-09-23 07:27
Preach it sister. You are not alone in your laments of what might have been, should have been, will be, hopefully. The disconnect between the theology and practice of much that calls itself Orthodox is sad, but it is what it is. Will a congruency between what is taught and what is practiced ever be there? Only time will tell. I do not blame you for leaving. Truth and love have no boundaries or labels. Your job is to rightly affirm it wherever you see and experience it. That is the Orthodox Church's calling also. May she become worthy again of your love and trust. That is my prayer.
#29 Anon. on 2008-09-22 18:52
The time has come for this "outfit" to sell their assets, pay their debts and allow the individual parishes to align themselves with financially solvent existing diocese within their geography. The continued malfeasance and complete disregard for all things ehical in regards to finace and ministry point to one thing. The positions in our hierarchy were created to serve the individuals who occupy them. There is no money for growth, ministry, education, or even charity. The experience that I have observed has been of watching a bunch of seriously emotionally disturbed people bobbling around and deluding themselves that they are somehow still in pre Revolutionary Russia. The OCA was a grand scheme, however in its 50 some odd years in practice it has never been more than activity that is more akin to a Renaiisance Festival complete with its own Potemkin village in Russia. Are the bishops going to mortgage all of the parish buildings to continue funding their eccliastically inconsequential vocations?
When does it end. I hope they can abandon their delusions of granduer, pay their debts and allow the Orthodox faithful to move away from this debacle.
Must we serve another bishop and Mrs. Soraich?
(Editor's note: While I can appreciate your points and frustration, I for one intend to wait a month to hear what the Bishops have to say in Pittsburgh before I could agree with you. If they admit nothing, say nothing and do nothing, well, you may have a point: if they admit nothing, do nothing but say alot, you may still have a point; but if they admit all, say much and finally do something, I think the OCA has as bright a future as it does a glorious past.)
#30 anon in the Northwest on 2008-09-23 08:36
Let me introduce a new topic. In order to consider proposed amendments to the statute at this All-American Council, ninety days notice was required. The question may arise as to what the council may do on the floor to the proposals. My understanding is that amendments from the floor that are germane to the topic of the proposal are in order; however, it may be wise for the Pre-Conciliar Committee to seek professional advice on the matter so that the chair will be ready with a reasoned ruling.
#31 Edmund Unneland on 2008-09-23 10:55
I just thought of a possible way to elect a Metropolitan. If the AAC can't decide on the first ballot, the Holy Synod could decide to elect by lot, not by vote. Would this be possible?
They could go into the Altar, put all the names from the previous attempt into a chalice and select an innocent male child to draw out one name. Voila!
#32 Rdr. James Morgan on 2008-09-24 12:34
Dear Reader James,
This idea has been bandied about for a while. The idea is to emulate the Apostles when they selected Matthias to replace Judas. The problem with this idea is that it would not replicate the methodology. The Holy Apostles considered all of Jesus' most prominent followers--the second string so to speak, right behind the Apostles themselves. Out of that whole bunch, they came up with two names, both apparently as worthy as the other. It was only then that they drew lots and Matthias moved up to varsity.
It would not be a bad idea if you had two equally outstanding candidates at the AAC (Note that I did not say equally worthy). I think the best thing to do is to select a bishop who is less compromised than the others; who has repented and tried to make amends; and who can be a transitional figure until the next AAC. I can think of no one but +Job.
By the way, I would like to know which Biblical or canonical provision mandates that you must "go into the altar" to select by lot. It nay be slightly tone deaf for you to propose for the bishops to huddle around the altar (and may be close the Royal Doors and the curtains!) at this juncture. If it comes to pass, let an innocent girl child pick from the chalice at the dais, in plain view of the entire AAC.
I apologize for the attempt a levity; it is my clumsy effort to reign in my emotions. Please forgive me if I have offended anyone.
#32.1 carl on 2008-09-24 18:03
You are not the only one thinking this, believe me. Potential questions about the integrity of the procedure are a major reason that I question its appropriateness in this case. I think there'd need to be several lay observers, up close, chosen by the MC or (better) the delegates. And use a little kid by all means -- I've read that this used to be done in Russia.
#32.1.1 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-09-25 07:53
What you describe is how it was always done to choose the leader of a church. The candidates were chosen by the people, the finalists by ballot were placed in a chalice, prayers were said and an elder would pick one ballot. This maneuvering by the SOB when a majority of votes isn't reached led us to + Herman when it should have been + Seraphim.
#32.2 Anonymous on 2008-09-25 05:36
While we're still in the midst of this crisis and its fallout are we really in a position to make a choice [from a very, very limited field] of someone who would lead us possibly for decades?
Very limited field indeed! The only criteria for being an OCA bishop are "male, single, Orthodox and breathing"...
(Editor's note: On behalf of all single, male, breathing, Orthodox I feel slightly dissed at that comment.....)
#33 Pauline Costianes on 2008-09-26 14:23
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