Wednesday, March 25. 2009
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To: another anonymous antiochian priest,
What we really need is an unified Orthodox Church in the U.S. instead of more votes on a synod halfway round the world.
#1 Anonymous on 2009-03-25 09:10
Agreed. In that respect the letter is self-contradictory. In maintaining control over their extension jurisdictions here foreign patriarchates too often care about either money or power. Also they appear to compete with each other for influence and prestige. I also heard statements like “overseas cultures and church politics are too complicated for you to understand”. I am content to stay out of the loop.
The problem is not loving one’s native culture (or a foreign culture for that matter). Nothing wrong with poetry, music, cuisine. The problem is deception. It is denouncing your genuine self and attempting to fit into an imaginary reality, be it American, Arab, Greek or Russian. When that false reality is threatened reason, logic and consistency all vanish. Is it any wonder that Metropolitan Philip backed down on his own assurances and beliefs? When common sense does not fly it only means that personal agendas are at stake. Those who keep asking what caused the Antiochian Synod to make its decision will receive new twists in reasoning but they will never get a satisfying explanation because there is none.
Furthermore, if an “inner circle” here indeed bribed the Antiochian Synod, is an American representation on it going to change the way Damascus operates? A larger presence on an overseas Synod will not alter centuries-old foreign cultures, nor should it. Therefore, cultural tensions will persist and so will the ambiguous status of the Antiochian Archdiocese. So I too wonder, why not merge with the OCA?
#1.1 Karina Ross on 2009-03-25 14:25
"Metropolitan Philip brought in many Americans, but failed to understand them on an instinctual level. He changed his outsides, but his inner self remained untouched. He's an Arab through and through."
I remember sitting through a presentation by one of the "top" Arab Antiochian priests to seminarians. After ranting about how priests should be "proper Americans" and the evils of wearing a cassock for over half an hour he stated that a priest's wife should not receive guests, rather, as the priest received guests his wife should be in the kitchen making tea and baking cookies for the guests. As an American, if I went to someone's house and the wife was sequestered in the kitchen the whole time I was there, I would be greatly offended. How is it that this priest has lived in America almost his whole life and have the position of instructing young seminarians how to be priests if he doesn't bother to understand the basics of American household culture? Sure, he is an Arab, and the Arab culture of women practically living in the kitchen is very ingrained, but this is an obvious and clear difference between American and Arab culture. I just find it very striking that this priest was so concerned with looking/smelling/acting American on the externals, but had absolutely no interest in American things which would affect his own internal cultural mores. For all his "American" ways, he is still an Arab through and through. If he thinks otherwise he is simply fooling himself.
#2 Anonymous on 2009-03-25 09:24
So, THIS is the Gospel of Christ???? THIS is the Good News that the Orthodox Church proclaims to the world????? THIS what Our Lord was incarnate, suffered, died, and rose again for? THIS the face of Christ that we want to show to an increasingly Moslem world????
THIS looks more like the disciples arguing over who will be first in the Kingdom of Heaven. I guess we still just don't get it, do we.
#3 Sophia Weisheit on 2009-03-25 09:27
As my godson wisely said yesterday, "You can spend your whole life arguing that your religion is better than another's; or you can live your religion. The choice is yours."
#3.1 John Congdon on 2009-03-26 06:12
Only 15 questions?
How about: "Why really haven't you seriously taken the AOCA into the OCA to become completely independent from Damascus?"
#4 Anonymous on 2009-03-25 09:39
I am a American citizen, of American birth and culture. My "heritage" is Russian and Eastern European. I view it as the region where my "ancestors" immigrated to the United States from.
When the Founding Fathers of the United States won independence, they established a government independent and unlike that of Great Britain and Europe. The government was established to serve the people of the new country, who were now citizens of that new country.
Somehow, religion never followed this model. While thousands upon thousands of immigrants come to the United States seeking political and social freedoms, and a new opportunity of wealth, they are somehow not free of the "old world" religious dictatorship that they, in part, have also tried to leave.
I love the "old" traditions of the church. But, these "old" traditions have given way to new traditions in America. Furthermore, religion is every evolving more and more with the internet. Evangelists "entertain" millions over the internet weekly in podcasts and programming.
Somehow, the Orthodox Church resists all of this and fails itself to evolve.
The failure of a unified Orthodox Church in the United States is the failure of EVERY Patriarch. While they dress in Byzantine vestments and rightly perform ancient prayer services, the new hope of the new world that was and is America escapes them.
As Jesus said, "They are not blind, but cannot see..."
They worry exclusively for "their" own, instead of calling for a serious meeting / council to discuss how one church could prosper in America.
In essence, if that one church succeeded, they themselves would be reduced, and that is the heart of it.
America needs one Orthodox Church. The financial crisis and universal scandals of the past mandate it. The Patriarchs need to meet and decide it. That would be true courage. That would be true leadership.
But, alas, Satan is divisive. And, as long as one thinks that he is above the other, our church, the true church, will forever remain a fragment of what it could be; with the Patriarchs themselves accountable for their actions before God. It would be nice with all of the talk of forgiveness and Great Lent if they themselves focussed on their own judgement, without judging others, event the OCA.
#5 Anonymous on 2009-03-25 10:11
To Another Anonymous Antiochian Priest,
A couple of things you said call, I believe, for clarification:
1) You stated that "As I recall, Metropolitan Philip faced stiff opposition to the 'Allen Affair', though in the end he did not punish anyone who spoke out." That is absolutely not true! Many priests who refused to continue concelebrating with "Father" Allen were not only shunned, but were actually suspended for quite a while. One of these was Fr Mark Hodges.
2) You also stated that "Just as the generation of Metropolitan Philip wanted to be accepted by Americans, so Americans want to be accepted by the Church of Antioch." I believe that this, also, is absolutely not true!! Oh, yes, there may be some "die-hard" Old World-style members of the Church who think that being Orthodox means being Arab, just as there are some in the OCA who think that being Orthodox means being Russian. However, more and more young people, of all the various jurisdictions, are not only more imbedded in the American culture, but are also attending and graduating college and even pursuing graduate studies. In other words, the younger people are more educated and more "savvy" regarding what the Church really teaches and believes (which is the Gospel) rather than what they have been sold as a bill of goods (which is the particular ethnic culture of their own specific jurisdiction).
Eleven years ago, I was on the last seminary Octet from St Vladimir's. We traveled to seventy-seven parishes in thirty-three states that summer. The parishes we visited were not just OCA/Russian-background parishes, but also parishes of the Greek and Antiochian Archdioceses. What struck all of us eight men on our travels was the following: the big, established, Old World-style ethnic parishes were dying, while the newly-established mission parishes were thriving!!! We stopped at a Greek cathedral in Pennsylvania, where combined church and parish hall were so huge it reminded me of the humungous estate in the movie "Citizen Kane." Hardly anyone was in church for the Divine Liturgy. A few aging Greek couples were in the hall afterwards for a dinner. None of them cared about our traveling bookstore that we set up, complete with books on the Orthodox Faith, as well as icons and music recordings. On the other hand, small mission parishes, like the one we encountered in Plymouth, MA (with only nineteen parishioners) and another in Mississippi, contained enthusiastic young people, well educated and informed about the teachings of the Faith. They hungered and thirsted for the materials we made available to them. One person in Mississippi asked me what a particular book was about. Before I could answer him, a woman who was his fellow parishioner explained accurately the theme of the book, making it obvious to me that she had seriously read it. These parish communities were vibrant, alive, and exciting places to be!
Much of your Reflection deals with how those in the AOCA should try to reconcile with those in the Patriarchate of Antioch. A much more constructive plan of action would be to frankly admit (as esteemed theologians like Fr John Meyendorff and Fr Thomas Hopko have) that, with our multi-jurisdictional situation, we are in a heretical situation here in this country, and that we should all be working, *together*, towards a united autocephalous Church in America. It has been part and parcel of the Tradition and traditions of the Church that those who first missionize a new area lay claim to founding a Church that will be autocephalous. ..... Let us work together to become one Church in America, to fulfill our mission of bringing the Gospel of Christ to the people in America, to His glory and the glory of His holy Kingdom!!
#6 David Barrett on 2009-03-25 11:05
The old parishes which never excepted "outsiders," including Arabs from a different village or Greeks from a diffeent island, perhaps are dieing. The children married someone who was never accepted in the church and they went elsewhere. If the doors are closed the community will die. How many times will we have to see this formula repeated before we accept the simple fact that the Church's ONE FOUNDATION IS JESUS CHRIST HER LORD. It is not and cannot ever be based on Country of Origin or village of origin. As St Paul says:
 But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says, "I belong to Paul (Constantinople, Antioch, Belgrade, you name it)," and another, "I belong to Apol'los (Moscow, Kiev, the OCA, etc.)," are you not merely men?  What then is Apol'los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apol'los watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.
 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.  For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.*
We need to stop being museum keepers for old world culture and begin to preach the Gospel. Yes we are grateful for those who brought Orthodoxy to this land, but the faith is the heritage tha many of their children are losing. Why are over 50% of Greek Americans NO LONGER IN THE GOA? Why are we losing our youth when they go away to college? REASON NUMBER ONE: THEY DID NOT LEARN AS MUCH ABOUT THEIR FAITH AS ABOUT THEIR CULTURE; REASON TWO, THEY WILL NOT ATTEND CHURCH OF A DIFFERENT ETHNIC JURISDICTION (BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THEY LEARNED FROM THEIR PARENTS).
What will some of our closed community parishes do when those who support them die, especially since their children are gone or going? Te doors will be shut and the building eventually sold to somone who WILL preach the Gospel. (The millionaires are getting older and their many of their children do not come or will not support the church they way their parents did.
#6.1 anonymous on 2009-03-25 18:53
Nice article, but better memory is encouraged: "As I recall, Metropolitan Philip faced stiff opposition to the "Allen Affair", though in the end he did not punish anyone who spoke out."
I give you one name to jog your memory: Chris Holwey
#7 Silouan James on 2009-03-25 11:08
Not only Fr Mark Hodges and (Fr) Chris Holwey were disciplined, but also the Rt Rev John Namee (memory eternal, who had his housing allowance suspended); and Fr Daniel Guenther, who was only reinstated and released to the OCA ten years after being suspended. How many have already been called this time to hear the arttling of sabers? Why are we no longer seeing any AOC priests including their names with their comments? Have they been warned or threatened? Let us watch and see! This is how Metropolitan Philip controls his clergy and maintains power, THROUGH FEAR! Is that how a LOVING FATHER cares for his questioning children?
#7.1 anonymous on 2009-03-25 18:32
And if you will recall, right after the Allen Affair emerged, there was a great hue and cry for action by clergy across the AOC... which rapidly faded to a whimper. So much for the courage of everyones' words. In the end, the parish salaries spoke more loudly than morals and ethics. Only a few lone voices like Fr. Mark Hodges stood firm. His supporters vanished. Let's see if that happens again this time. Sooner or later Orthodox clergy must get a backbone and stop these abuses; speaking up on behalf of all the faithful, of all jurisdictions. The time for living in the light has come. Some have. More need to join them. The time for these ecclesiastical abuses must end. We need true pastors in the hierarchy who love people more than power and money.
#7.1.1 Anon. on 2009-03-26 20:24
Yes the clergy should stand up. But the faithful need to speak up as well. Clergy opposed Metropolitan Philip in Troy 4 yrs ago and were told to sit down. NOW THE LAITY HAVE TO TAKE A STAND WITH THE CLERGY! Stop the cash flow to Englewood! That is the only thing MP will hear. Remember the old adage, "Actions speak louder than words."
His recent response to the clergy of Wichita was full of lies, once again. He is slick and slippery, like Sauruman. Be ware as he still has the ability to charm with his voice. Metropolitan Philip's actions have ALREADY SPOKEN LOUDER THAN HIS WORD! NOW THE LAITY NEED THEIR ACTIONS TO SPEAK! SEND BACK THE RED RIBBONS AND CROSSES WITH YOUR LETTER STATING WHY YOU ARE RESIGNING FROM THE ORDER OF ST IGNATIUS. DO NOT GIVE A PENNY TO THE COLLECTION FOR THE PATRIARCHATE THIS YEAR ON PALM SUNDAY. Parish Councils slow down the cash flow or stop it if at all possible.
#184.108.40.206 anonymous on 2009-03-29 20:45
Absolutely coorect! A Saint of a Man, Archmandrite John Namie, was indeed punished for speaking out on restoring Fr Joe Allen. He was not allowed burial in the Antiochian Vllg cemetary he got the PENNA. authorities to allow. "Bishops only," said Met. P. .... I liked the comment on speaking out at the Assembly in CALIF. in July!Never will be allowed. Thanks to OCANEWS.ORG someone can speak out. Not in the WORD (carefully screened) you can be assured.
#7.1.2 Anonymous on 2009-03-26 21:50
Holwey serves as Chairman of the Archdiocesan Department of Sacred Music, a position Met. Philip would hardly have given him if there had been a price on his head.
As someone else has remarked, a better name to remember in connection with Met. Philip's punitive fury over the Allen affair is that of Fr Mark Hodges.
#7.2 ejv on 2009-03-25 21:48
and Fr. Daniel Gunther, and Dn Mark Hodges, both suspended for four years, then kicked out of the AOCA. Others as well, and other repercussions...
#7.3 Annon on 2009-03-25 23:50
Bishop BASIL knew about the meeting, he just didn't attend. FYI. God bless you.
#8 Anonymous on 2009-03-25 12:29
With reference to your comment "On the other hand, Bishop Basil did not stop his Council of Presbyters from meeting - unlike Bishop Joseph of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, who requested his Council of Presbyters cancel a planned meeting for the same day", I have it on very good authority that this part of your comment is incorrect.
A meeting was planned by the clergy council, then blessed by Bishop Joseph. Upon further reflection and of its own accord, the clergy council thought it prudent to cancel the meeting, but not at the request of Bishop Joseph. Bishop Joseph was fine with this as well.
(editor's note: Thank you for the clarification. Sad that we live in times that it is "prudent" for clergy not to meet. )
#9 Kevin Allen on 2009-03-25 16:50
Just a question arising from my ignorance of Antiochian organization: if Bishop Basil and Bishop Joseph are no longer diocesan Bishops, how are the councils their Council of Presbyters? Would it not be, rather, Metropolitan Philip's councils for thus-and-such a region? It seems rather odd to fault someone for not exercising authority which has been taken away from them.
(Editor's note: Touche.)
#9.1 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2009-03-26 04:27
"Whereas Americans value planning, consistency and, above all, consultation when decisions are made..."
This is a joke right? This Alaska Native almost wet himself when he read this! You "Americans" are too much sometimes...You guys really DO believe all of your own national mythologies and cute patrotic slogans don't you?
#10 Moses on 2009-03-25 18:06
Actually, I think it's the Church that values consultation above all when decisions are made--the fact that we, unlike the Latins, have always had councils settle important doctrinal and disciplinary matters, the fact that the faithful have sometimes upheld the faith by rejecting conciliar decisions (cf. Lyons and Florence/Ferrar), and the whole notion of catholicity as sobornosty, all make it fairly clear that consultation in decisions is one way the Holy Spirit sees to it that in the long run it is the Holy Trinity, not ambitious hieararchs, who governs the Church.
#10.1 Subdeacon David Yetter on 2009-03-26 06:08
You bring up a good point in my mind. The values that we so nostalgically proclaim as "good American" are more values that the Church holds, ones that have struck a resonant chord with us north Americans..
Maybe instead of calling them American, we should refer to these as the long standing Christian values that we all value.
#10.1.1 Reader Michael on 2009-03-26 17:27
I agree one hundred percent. Under the Ottomans, the Christians compromised in order to survive. Lying, cheating and bribes became a way of life. Sadly they took on attributes of their captors and never left them behind. Even while making agreements such as the Constitution or a Priests Guide for hat matter, the rules only apply when the one with the money says they do! Unfortunately, while there are may pious Arab Christians, who are honest, there are others who give the rest a bad name. They have taken off the cassock, but inwardly they behave as those who are completely unconverted. St Ignatius said, "we must not only call ourselves Christian we must be Christian."* Now, however, MP and the Holy Synod have their hands in our pockets and dismissed summarily the theology of St Ignatius. Just send the ribbons back and forget about it. As money means so much to them, the only thing they will understand is lack of money! It is truly time to break fom a corrupt system will little hope of ever being transformed. Perhaps we should try to missionize the Patraiarchate (starting with Englewwood, NJ?
#10.1.1.1 Christian is a adjective on 2009-03-26 20:44
Good point Reader Michael, thanks for pointing that out...The Church (that's US people, ALL of us!!) should always strive to act in ways that transcend the ways of the World, including those of Nations, States, Governments, Militaries, etc., when we fail (miss the mark, sin) we try again...At the end of the day the Cross is our only true flag.
#10.1.1.2 Moses on 2009-03-28 13:06
The Latin church claims some 23 councils -- I'd hardly say that they do not resort to conciliar action over docrtinal and disciplinary matters. Vatican II, I and Trent have all very much shaped ecclesiastical and secular life in the last 500 years. And I don't find this to be a trivial point.
#10.1.2 Rdr. John on 2009-03-26 17:43
This must be why we Americans save a whopping 0.7 % of our income, compared to the primative Chinese who save 25% of their income. That's why we unilaterally go to war, without consulation. The list can go on and on. Moses is spot on: Lets dispense with the national mythologies and cute slogans. We American's are far from being models of anything.
#10.2 Anonymous on 2009-03-26 06:31
Moses and anonymous are missing a rather obvious point.
"Americans value" does not mean that "Americans, all of them and always, live up to their values, and, utterly free of hypocrisy in this, and in every other regard, are a model for everybody else".
Priest Yousuf Rassam
St. Innocent Orthodox Church
#10.2.1 Priest Yousuf Rassam on 2009-03-27 16:08
Not a model for me...I live in the Colony of Alaska, sometimes known as the 49th state...known to me and my ancestors as "Home". It's an Indigenous thing...
#10.2.1.1 Moses on 2009-03-29 22:21
Ps.49 A Wake-up Call for those Who Trust in Money, Power and Position!
 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
 Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together!
 My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.  I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.
 Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,  men who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?
 Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life,  for the ransom of his life is costly,
and can never suffice,* that he should continue to live on for ever, and never see the Pit.*
 Yea, he shall see that even the wise die, the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.
 Their graves are their homes for ever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own.
 *Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish.* This is the fate of those who have foolish confidence, the end of those who are pleased with their portion.
 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; straight to the grave they descend, and their form shall waste away; Sheol shall be their home.
 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. [Selah]
 Be not afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases.  For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.
 Though, while he lives, he counts himself happy, and though a man gets praise when he does well for himself, *he will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never more see the light.*  Man cannot abide in his pomp,
he is like the beasts that perish.
#11 anonymous Death the Final Leveler on 2009-03-25 19:13
- Mark Stokoe
Just how much is B.B. and B.M. paying you to put all this on the eternet on this so called oca.....?
Your web page is nothing but full of trouble, do you not fear your Almighty Lord and God?
And for thos so called Anonymous priest....If you are not fearing your Lord and God you will let us know who you are? orther wise stop the ....
#12 Anonymous on 2009-03-25 20:09
"And for thos so called Anonymous priest....If you are not fearing your Lord and God you will let us know who you are?"
#12.1 Michael Strelka on 2009-03-26 07:16
Why is it that so many of the Braveheart Anonymous Defenders Of True Orthodoxy can neither spell English correctly nor use it grammatically? I don't know about priests not fearing their Lord and God, as I don't know any like that, but what are you afraid of, Anonymous One? Why no name, while calling for others to release theirs? Do you not know what "hypocrite" means? By the way, you are not worthy to carry Bishop Benjamin's garbage to the curb; I assume he is the one you are impugning (I know it's a hard word-look it up) with your reference to "B.B." I have no idea who "B.M." is, but it does apply to the value of your post.
"Fear not!" Jesus Christ, and the archangel Gabriel
"Without courage, no virtue can long exist." Blessed Augustine
"I'm too chicken to use my real name, but hypocritical enough to demand that other people use theirs!" Braveheart Anonymous
Defenders Of True Orthodoxy
#12.2 Scott Walker on 2009-03-26 14:03
I think the bishops in question may more likely be Bishops Basil and Mark, as they are more involved with the questions put forward here.
#12.2.1 Fr. Dennis Buck on 2009-03-27 07:43
Rather ironic that someone throws out accusations like these against bishops, warns against fearing God, criticizes anonymous priests, and then signs their e-mail "Anonymous."
#12.3 Anonymous Antiochian Priest on 2009-03-26 15:31
Great work. Thank you so much for providing a venue for the AOCA to faciltate open discussion and support. This could never happen at a General Assembly.
On suggestion --- I barely noticed that that one could make comments. I only did so after someone else told me how. Secondly, I at first thought all the AOCA material was gone. Then I noticed at the bottom in extremely small print the word next. I did have an eye exam recently. Perhaps the layout and font size could be adjusted to help those who eyes to see, but see not? Thank you again.
#13 anonymous on 2009-03-25 21:38
Yes, Met Philip has done a lot of good for the archdiocese but if you look closely, most of the growth has been because of American, non-Arab, converts. It would be an interesting analysis to see how many of the Antiochian priests have any connection to the middle east. My guess is that at best it's only 30%. It's time to grow up and stop leaving the management of Orthodoxy in America to the those in foreign lands.
By the way, sources say RSK took a visit to New York this week. I wonder if he stayed at the Marriott?
#14 Another anon Antiochian priest on 2009-03-25 21:49
"...sources say RSK took a visit to New York this week..."
How nice and courteous of Bobby to return the visit Met. Jonah paid to him while he was in Florida!
#14.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-30 00:27
It appears to me that papal-like power, and the reluctance to relinquish it, is the overarching problem with the Antiochian Archdiocese. Constantinople has the same problem. Moscow relinquished its hold on America but retains parishes in the US. Moscow ought to remind those Patriarchal people that they don't actually live in Russia. But nobody is willing to do anything for unity. Its a shame. We have such beautiful services and church buildings here in America. You can hear Greek chant here or Slavic style singing, or Carpathian chant just traveling in a 50 mile radius here in Pennsylvania. You can see the beauty of Orthodoxy from all around the world right here. But it won't stay that way forever. Many parishes have shrunk in numbers very rapidly. Some churches have closed and many are well on the way to being an empty church building with a for sale sign out front. There could be a unified church that incorporates the multi-ethnic beauty of Orthodox Christianity here in America. But the Patriarchal sees and many American Metroplitans, Bishops ect.. are unwilling to offer up whatever power , authority or status they have acquired as sacrifice to the cause of unity. How wonderful it would be to be able to address population shifts and declining church membership. To evangelize and build with a unified strategy here in America. But no.... no can do. I'm a member of the OCA. Despite the fact that I believe in the vision of the OCA, I think that EVERYTHING should be on the table for discussion including the OCA's autocephaly. What good is autocephaly if hardly anyone recognizes it and 2/3 or more of the American Orthodox don't belong to it? I am an convert from Protestantism and believe the Orthodox Church is HIS church with unwavering certainty. But with all this mind blowing selfishness from the successors to the apostles, does anyone find it hard to imagine the difficulty getting protestants to believe in this Church when they see this stuff and say they'd "rather just have Jesus in their hearts"? The current leaders in all jurisdictions did not author the current confusion here, but they have tried with all their might to keep the status quo. The Church should give itself fully and unselfishly to all the world in all of its diverse beauty. Converting the hearts and minds of everyone it encounters. Instead it's ;eaders are busy monopolzing power in each corner of the world while millions are left untouched by its grace. SHAMELESS. It would like to think that Patriarchs, Metropolitans, Archbishops and Bishops are humble and less sinful than I am. So far I haven't seen it.
#15 Scott Yonkin on 2009-03-26 08:23
One of the things that happens in times like these is that the time horizon, if you will, collapses. The emotions, the energy of a controversy makes everything appear short term and people act accordingly by looking out for short term interests. It's something we do because we're human.
What I'm pondering in all of this is not just the specifics although this site has been very helpful in providing a forum for people with insights I don't possess. I'm wondering where the call of God is in all of this. After the earthquakes and storms subside where is the still small voice of God?
I don't have an answer, yet, although God may, and I emphasize may, be allowing all of this like He allows forest fires; the fire itself is hard even terrible but it clears the underbrush and deadwood that had choked the woods and prepares it for the emergence of new life. Of course I could be wrong, probably am, but it would be interesting to hear what other people think about where God is in all of this. I think when we do that we might start to find the answers we seek.
Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
Dear Fr. John,
You raise some interesting questions that I believe reflect on the very nature and historical reality of the Church.
My priest, Fr. Anthony Michaels, makes two very important points: Orthodox Christians historically have always had an eschatological world view, and we live our Faith at the parish level.
It is a extraordinary blessing of God, that in spite of the sinfulness of those in the Church, the Faith has been preserved until this day. I believe that all Orthodox Christians must understand that this is more a work of God, than that of the fallen and sinful members of the Church, be they serving in Holy Orders or not. However, those that we recognize as Saints have cooperated with the Holy Spirit, and have been the glue that has held us together.
God's plans are much bigger than we realize. We Orthodox Christians should put aside all of our petty priorities and focus on the big picture, which is the eschatological world view. With each day that passes we are one day closer to the Day of the Lord, so we need to understand that how we live our Faith in our individual parishes is very important not only to us individually but to many, many others.
The Holy Spirit has given us the beautiful Divine Liturgy so that we can be a force of light and goodness in this fallen world. We can not know the full effect of our prayers and worship upon those who are not members of our Church, yet we must always remember that there is no boundary to the effects of this work.
Come Lord Jesus, Come.
(editor's note: While I would never argue with Fr. Anthony, one can posses an eschatological world view and still be concerned and active in the world. I would offer St. Paul as one example. Although his eyes were always firmly on the prize, he had time to deal with Corinth as well.
Likewise, while for the vast majority of Orthodox CHristians faith is lived out in their families and parish, the faith may not be reduced to either. It takes Bishops and priests to keep my parish going, and seminaries to train priests, and monasteries to train monks, and money to do both, and well, before you know it some sort of administration to keep parishes, seminaries, monasteries and it all in order. That in turn calls into question my stewardship of the same, for my good stewardship requires me to ask these bodies to be accountable, because God will certainly hold me accountable if I continue to throw away or misuse the resources he gave me to share with others. I would suggest that's part of an eschatological perspective.
My point is that we cannot use either as excuses for avoiding or denying the issues before us. In fact, both propel us to deal with difficult things, if only to ensure I have a parish in which to pursue my eschatological perspective.)
#16.1 Marc Trolinger on 2009-03-26 15:31
You are very correct in pointing out the need to have balance in our world view and how we focus our energies and resources. We do not know when our Lord will return, so we need to follow the admonitions of St. Paul, among others, and live our lives with the expectation that we my fill out our three score and ten, or that the Lord may come at anytime.
Having said that, it is important for us to take stock of where we are in the historical flow. That the Church has entered into a period since 1917, unlike that of the previous 19 centuries cannot be denied. More Christians have been martyred for their Faith in the last 92 years than in all the history of the Church. The Church both here in America, and everywhere, is suffering the effects of the events of recent history.
While continuing to strive to overcome the effects of these adversities, we must not forget the big picture. Yes we must strive to right the wrongs of abuse of authority, and your work with this website have been a wonderful asset in that effort. Yet let us not forget the times in which we live.
Your brother in Christ,
#16.1.1 Marc Trolinger on 2009-03-26 16:59
I'll give you credit, Fr John. You always try to see the positive.
Where is God in this? He is being crushed beneath the weight of human ambition, human glory, and worldly power. This is not a forest fire that began without human intervention. This is not a natural disaster that no one could control.
This was a decision that flies in the face of Orthodox ecclesiology and basic Christianity. We can sit around and try to figure out where God is in this, or we can move forward trying to correct the situation and bring out the truth of our Archdiocese, a truth that many have been trying to hide for decades.
I am glad that St Athanasius, the Cappadocians, St Mark of Ephesus and many others did not sit around wondering where God is in this. God always emerges from the mess, so long as some people are willing to be messy and bring out the truth. But that doesn't excuse those who created this mess, nor does it give us an excuse to sit around pondering rather than acting (though one would hope we could do both simultaneously).
(editor's note: That's what I meant to say to Mark T.....)
#16.2 Anonymous Antiochian Priest on 2009-03-26 15:42
The question could equally be asked, where is Satan in all this? If we recognize the work of the evil one, we know what must be done to overcome it. This always takes prayer and persistence. Whether Metropolitan Philip can offer acceptable answers to the 15 questions asked of him by your brother priests, will help us to know what we must do in the future.
#16.2.1 Marc Trolinger on 2009-03-27 05:00
Why is it that those claiming to be the successors of the Holy Apostles and the guarantors of Holy Tradition be given any lee-way when it comes to their particular ethno-centristic ways? How often did Christ cast such things aside in His earthly ministry. How many times did He say, "You have heard it said but I say to you" He was crucified among other things for not being a good Jew. We are now being told it is impossible for a few of His successors to escape being duplicitous power mad Arabs?
Their Master, whose titles and prerogatives they have imperiously appropiated for themselves despite the clear directives of Christ not to do so (Matt:23) have always perplexed me, no matter the ethnic background. I am now almost bewildered beyond repair over this whole, who is going to be chief amongst them now fiasco.
We have a Metropolitan who fancies himself a Pope and now it seems former Diocesan Bishops, grieviously humiliated by traumatic slap down demotions. I think they can still wear all the Emperor's clothes, keep most of their titles and sit upon thrones in their now Regional Temples? Their shame will not be total, thank God!
When they finally all process into heaven, each can explain this to the one he serve's and see what He comes up with?
#17 Kevin on 2009-03-26 13:37
Please don't let anyone mistake my attitude or opinions as being about wishful thinking or contemplation without purpose. I understand the issues are real and the stakes may be very high so in light of this a bit of contemplation (itself a kind of action) in anticipation of other kinds of action may be wise.
People and personalities,in my opinion, are all a part of this but in the end is that what we really want this to be about?. I've seen all kinds of people give their take on this situation, some eloquently and some just full of bile. But shouldn't the end of this be not just a contest between people or ideas but rather about seeking out, learning, and acting on the will of God? It seems, sometimes, that we're having a discussion or a debate about important things in the Church all the while avoiding the consideration of what the One whose Church this actually is might think about the whole thing.
When the Church gathered in Council there were certainly differences of opinion and some ideas were upheld and others were discarded. People were affirmed and some were rebuked. It was messy but the desire was not simply to have a winner take all contest. Instead the gatherings were about seeking the wisdom, guidance, and will of the Holy Spirit for the Church.
What's happening in this moment is real. If, however, we don't have the equally and in truth more real vision of the glory of God and the search for His will as our goal we have little more than a fight, lots of heat and little light, hurt feelings and years of repair. I'm hoping for something different. I'm hoping that the resolution to all of this will be something we can affirm as "...good to the Holy Spirit and good to us..." (Acts 15:28).
I believe that if this breaks down into something just about power, ego, or our positions in the Church we're in trouble. If we decide, however, that we are all, regardless of the position we have now, seeking the will of God we at least have a destination to which we can travel regardless of how difficult the road ahead may be. Who knows we may even be able to take a lot of the struggle out of the days ahead if we have this in mind.
Again I could be a fool or a fool for Christ, who knows? But if all of us approach this with God's glory and will in mind I think we'll save ourselves a ton of hurt and decades of repercussions. That may be naive but it's at least worth a try.
Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
I do appreciate your input, but I would like to respond to you again.
First, I think you are greatly over-simplifying the Councils and the process that went into them. The way you present them sounds more like a fairy tale than reality. In retrospect, it's easy for us to make these broad statements about their purpose and accomplishments, but if one engages with the actual texts and minutes from the Councils, we see a much more complex picture.
Second, I think you are making a mistake in assuming that people who are taking quick action do not reflect or seek God's will. Sure, there are those that we have all seen who trash their opponent at every opportunity. On the other hand, there are those who provide a well-balanced opposition and whose opposition results not just from this decision, but from years of wrongdoing in our Archdiocese about which few want to speak.
Third, people will make mistakes in this process. I've already said and done things throughout this that I would do differently if given the chance. But again, it's fairy tale to think that we can just sit back and discern God's will and then go and do it perfectly. We discern God's will through struggles and mistakes. We discern God's will by taking action, and often the wrong action.
Finally, Metropolitan PHILIP is banking on thinking like yours. He stays two steps ahead of the game, so the slower you move, the easier it is for him.
In the end, Fr John, I think we both agree that we desire God's will. I personally have nothing to gain from this decision or its reversal. I am fighting it because I think it is flat out wrong and un-justifiable. So I guess our only disagreement is about how God's will is discerned or accomplished.
#18.1 Anonymous Antiochian Priest on 2009-03-26 20:27
It would greatly behoove +Philip if he would follow the teachings of one of his own Antiochian Archdiocese priests, namely, the Professor Fr Paul Nadim Tarazi. I would zealously encourage him to read Fr Tarazi's commentary book, *Galatians*, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, while having his Bible open to this most central of St Paul's Epistles. By the way, the Bible he should have open is the Nestle-Alland Greek-and-English version, so that he can follow Fr Tarazi's pertinent points and themes of St Paul as elucidated in the Epistle to the Galatians. Maybe, then, he will think twice of centering his whole "theology" and perspective on the ethnocentric trappings of Arabinism and return, with St Paul, to "the one thing needful" in the Gospel!!!
#19 David Barrett on 2009-03-26 18:35
Utterly amazing! David Barrett, in a post which might easily be described as "know it all", tells a Metropolitan to use a Greek English NT, tells him which one to use, which modern scholar he must read with it, and then uses the word "Arabinism" (!!!). Not very smart.
For the record, this is not a defense Met. Philip in this matter.
Priest Yousuf Rassam
St. Innocent Orthodox Church
#19.1 Fr. Yousuf Rassam on 2009-03-27 15:54
Thank you for your word of wisdom Fr. John. I pray that we all may enter into that wisdom. I was hoping that the Mid-America Presbryter's Council would be more forceful than they were in addressing Met. Phillip. Perhaps the fact they were not shows at least an element of the wisdom you counsel. At the same time James chapter 4.
#20 Michael Bauman on 2009-03-26 23:37
I think that Fr. John, makes some great points. Our focus must be on the Glory of God. It has been said that "the Glory of God is in his Saints."
My point being this.... None of the parties involved are Saints, at least not yet. And while us earthy insignificants debate the institutional ramifications set about by a few churchmen, The work of the Church continues. The intercession of the Saints, The testimony of the Saints, both in word and in blood. Yes, let us consider what God's will is in all of this, but let us also keep in mind our limitations.
To this end, the only recourse is dialogue. So, continue to lambast us you anons... for asking some questions of those who do have authority over us. It is not disrespect, nor insubordination, but the only way, in any culture, anything gets accomplished.
There is a Proverb of Solomon that says..." Man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps." All we, as mere christians, are capable of is planning, and questioning and discussing. No, we should not sit around in front of our computers or at our coffee hours, disrespecting the men or man whom the Church has placed in authority over us. But, neither should we sit around and wait for The Lord's Will to be done.
Did Maximus the Confesser keep silent? Only when they cut out his tongue! Silence is Golden for those who value stagnation. All any of us simple laymen want is dialogue, if not between us and the Metropolitan, at least between the Bishops (Auxillary or not) and Englewood.
"Come let us reason together"
#21 CHristopher on 2009-03-26 23:53
Dear Anonymous Priest,
I don't think we disagree. I simply hope that everyone involved with this will say as they participate in this process "..not my will but thine be done." If every time we post, every time we share with our brother Priests, every time we pray over this situation we have that attitude, the desire to seek God's glory and will then we have done the right thing whether the immediate outcome is what we desire or not. That's not passivity, rather its action focused in the right direction. God will ask me one day how I responded to this and I'm trying as best a sinful Priest can to have a good defense.
And if this is a "game" I refuse to play, at least by the rules set out in some of the posts. Again maybe I'm a fool but I believe St. Paul when he said we don't 'wrestle against flesh and blood..." I refuse to give myself over to personally attacking anyone. I will not hate. I will not seek to flow with the politics of things. I will do my best as a sinful Priest to keep my eyes on Christ. I will try my best to pray for our Bishops and the whole Church and against the Adversary. I believe that if I keep my face towards God the nuances and complexities will work themselves out and I'll have the wisdom to act as the situation unfolds. Both the goal and the way we get there matter and I can only control what I do in all of this.
Thank you for listening and if you'd like to speak with me I'm in the directory, give me a call or you can email from this site. Thanks to others for your kind words but they are undeserved, I've said nothing new.
It is time to change!
After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the bishops assumed the titles and garb of the Emperor. Bishps began to wear crowns; the outer garment of the bishop, the saccos was the Emperor's garb; etc. All of the hymns were also changed. So, it really is time to get back to reality of what and who our bishops are. We can start with the singing of "Eis polla ieti DESPOTA." (Many years to our ruler or despot.) We need to sing rather, "Eis polla ieti EPISCOPOS." (Many years to our BISHOP.)
This should only be the beginning of our changes!
#23 Anonymous on 2009-03-27 07:53
We can start with the singing of "Eis polla ieti DESPOTA." (Many years to our ruler or despot.) We need to sing rather, "Eis polla ieti EPISCOPOS." (Many years to our BISHOP.)
That assumes our beloved clergy take the Gospel narratives seriously and seek to serve rather than to rule. History and the current events in question should not give you any consolation.
The only song we will hear coming out of Englewood will likely be sung by the demoted Diocesan Bishops following the meeting with the Antiochian Despota.
My guess it will be an old Patsy Cline classic...."Sorry". If Philip doesn't hear that I imagine he'll respond with an old Ray Charles standard himself..."Hit the Road Jack".
#23.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-30 07:41
I pray the American Antiochians will have the spine to resist this spineless violation of their autonomy, all the way to the courts. It would serve the other churches in showing that we do have rights both legally and canonically to prevent this rise of neo-papism in the OC worldwide today.
#24 perturbed on 2009-03-27 08:54
It will never reach the Courts, Met P's "legal team" will see t it including some clergy reassignments as previously noted. Despota!
#24.1 Anonymous on 2009-03-27 22:18
The spines you speak of will probably be found only in those without a job or pension to lose. (Or an actual saint or two)This fact should not give you much hope nor Metropolitan Philip to much concern that his will is going to be opposed beyond the coming to Jesus meeting he is having in Englewood the Friday of Bright Week.
A wise retired Deacon of this Archdiocese has told me to expect a statement coming out of that meeting indicating that for the "Good of the Church and Peace in Our Time" ect. ect. the matter is now settled.
A cynical person might say that the clergy having had sufficient time to consider all the financial ramifications of opposing Philip may have had something of a revelation as to how they should now proceed. If you have ever perused Diocesan Guidelines regarding Cergy Compensation you'd see what I mean. I am quite sure the vast majority of our clergy would not be able to replicate these benefits outside the Church. This insight is not lost on most if not all of them.
#24.2 Kevin on 2009-03-28 15:40
You must be kidding about clergy compensation. The problem for most of our clergy is not that they could not have been as well off financially elsewhere. The problem for most of them is that they will not be financially as well off when they change "careers" at age 50.
There is essentially no retirement plan, unless you consider an $800/month "housing allowance" to be received at the discretion of the Metropolitan to be a good retirement plan. Of course, you must also keep in mind that what the Archdiocese puts in print and what they actually force parishes to follow are two different things. There are many, many parishes that do not meet the minimum guidelines and the Archdiocese does nothing about it.
I know that I will never make as much as a priest as I did when I worked privately like the laypeople. I knew that when I left my old job and left it behind gladly. The problem, like I said, with the priests is not about how much money they could have made elsewhere. Most of our priests these days are highly educated and capable of many different "careers." The problem is that it is too late now. How can you afford to be "fired" by the Metropolitan and start a new career at age 45, 50, 60? There is no workers comp and the courts would likely side with the "hierarchical church" every time.
#24.2.1 Anonymous Antiochian Priest on 2009-03-29 10:59
First of all not all parishes follow the Guidelines of the Ant. Arch'd. AND while retired clergy of the OCA & GREEK receive about $2500 mo after max years of service (by having 4 or 5% matched clergy & parish contrib. each) the Ant. clergy get $800. mo housing allowance. Many have put off retirement due to this! Learn all the facts FIRST.
#24.2.2 Anonymous Priest & Council member on 2009-03-29 14:21
Kevin, it is difficult to grasp what you mean. The clergy may in fact be concerned as jobs are not easy to find. They have bills and payments the sam as anyone else. Their children need a home. gas, electric and clothing. They also need health insurance, etc. Unless they are part of the inner circle they do not have a few million in the bank.
The vast majority of clergy make significantly less than a school teacher. Do not calulate the benefits into their salary that are not included in yours. Secondly, the clergy would be unable to draw unemployment if offered a aprish paying a fraction of the salary and no benefits. The clergy are QUITE VULNERABLE TO ABUSE OF A HIERARCH AND HIS CRONIES (RABBID DOGS).
*As Americanas MP says he wants the clergy to be, what corporate manager could get away with abusing any employee the way MP abuses his priests? What corporate executive could punish or threaten to take away someone's retirement benefits because the employee simply disageed with their opinion? This is not the way things are done in America.
IF HE HAD A BETTER SENSE OF THE AMERICAN MIND WE MAY HAVE HAD UNITY YEARS AGO. HIS WORDS ARE SIMPLY THAT, WORDS. HE IS AFRAID OF UNITY AND HE IS AFRAID OF GIVING UP POWER.
#24.2.3 anonymous on 2009-03-29 21:00
Which archdiocesan compensation guidelines are you talking about? Even if they were as great as you imply, they aren't enforced. Most of the priests in the AOCA could have done better for their bank accounts by being school teachers. They could not be in it for the money.
Having said that, would you want to lose a job? Any job? Who wants a forced career change after committing your life to something. Most of them already uprooted their families for education and assignments, often multiple times. You begrudge them a little reluctance to put their wives and children through more? A little charity, please.
#24.2.4 anonymous on 2009-03-29 21:13
Please understand I am not condoning Metropolitan Philip's actions. I have been direct in my criticisms of him. I merely am making an observation that the huffing and puffing of Antiochian Priests and Auxiliary Bishops will fade in the face of economic realities.
Of course no one will have to lay down their life for their beliefs. God Forbid! Those who truly believe however that a travesty against the Faith has occurred may have to suffer some economic inconveniences for their convictions. I do not see that happening and evidenced by the comments here I am now even more convinced no martyrdoms (Of any degree) will follow. Amazingly my provacative statements only engender responses when economics are mentioned. Well really that is not so amazing.
#25 Kevin on 2009-03-30 17:21
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