Friday, October 9. 2009
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OK...this is why +Philip has taken a liking to St. Tikhon's graduates via St. Vladimir's. St. Vladimir's has taught students to be "thinkers" and "mini-theologians." To be educated men & women who know about the Orthodox Church. St. Tikhon's has traditionally been known to produce ... "cookie-cutter" graduates who aren't taught to "think," but "OBEY." So you see, my dears, +Philip wants blind-obedient priests, not thinkers ....
(Editor;s note: Then the Metropolitan is in for a nasty surprise: I know many St. Tikhon's graduate who know how to think! Conversely, there are more than a few SVS grads who are more than willing to obey without reflection. In a fundamental sense the issue is not where you go to school, but what you do with what you learn there.)
#1 Anonymous on 2009-10-09 08:11
Thank you, Jason, for asking the questions we all need to be asking ourselves every day as we try to pray.
#2 Mickey Hodges on 2009-10-09 09:27
While the reflection on what it means to be a theologian is good I dont' believe that it reflects entirely what I suspect was the essence behind what Metropolitan PHILLIP was trying to convey.
Just because you can say something doesn't mean you should. A couple of months ago I was driving in my car and heard a radio anouncer talk about something that ocurred at his radio station. A fresh new college graduate came into the station and noticed an older man with severe acne and acne scars. He then stated to the older man, "Hey, pizza face, why don't you go and see a doctor about that acne." When confronted by the talk show host who said to him, "Why did you say that to him? Do you realize how insulting you were?" The young man replied, "What's the matter? What I said was true?"
The point that the radio announcer was making is that just because you can say something doesn't mean you should -- even if it is "the truth." There is a time and place for everything. It is not necessary to belittle or embarrass someone just because it's "the truth."
The recent comments from Metropolitan PHILLIP are, in my opinion, saying the same thing. Having attended St. Vladimir's Seminary, it is true that you are taught to speak. What is lacking, however, is teaching how and when to shut up, be quiet and be respectful.
The problem with speaking "the truth" is that it can sometimes do more damage than good. Even in the current new on this website, look at how many people have risen up to tell Metropolitan PHILLIP "the truth" or to ask pointed and insulting questions in the name of "the truth." Would that they had spent even a few minutes praying about whether or not they were going to embitter or embarrass others (or for that matter themselves) with their remarks before they spoke up.
For the record I am not a member of the Antiochian Archdiocese and am not an apologist for Metropolitan PHILLIP. However, I am a concerned Orthodox Priest who is perhaps a bit from a different time and place. I was taught to respect my elders even if I did not always agree with them. I was taught that you should always be respectful to your hierarchs as if they were the living presence of God. This, too, is what it means to be a theologian.
#3 Anon. Orthodox Priest on 2009-10-09 14:26
The real catch with all this is that Met Philip takes ANY questions as a challenge to his authority, which he regards as absolute and, therefore, beyond any accountability to anyone. And there has been about nothing in the questions asked here on this website that are not without good cause. Given the disrespect that Met Philip has shown over and over again, to his brother bishops, his poor priests and laity, it is no wonder that sometimes the tone of comments and questions can carry some animosity. How long would you get physically kicked around before raising your voice and being point blank about the one who is abusing you?
#3.1 Another anon on 2009-10-09 17:08
Fortunately, for the Church, everyone does not think that way, Anon. Orthodox Priest. In fact, if St Paul thought that way (and, remember, he is Saint Paul, after all!), we wouldn't have a good portion of the New Testament, namely, the Epistles of St Paul! Not only does St Paul speak up when it seems to be inappropriate and to those whom he should be "respectful" to (such as his public admonition to Peter who, at that time, was the head of the Apostles, as recorded in Galatians, chapter 2!), he even gets quite insulting at times, such as in the statements, "O foolish Galatians" (Gal 3:1) and "I wish those tho unsettle you would mutilate themselves!" (Gal 5:12). His zeal for the preservation of the Faith led St Paul to declare these, even in our times, inflammatory statements! Oh, by the way: this particular Epistle of St Paul, to the Galatians, that I've quoted so much here, is stated in the New Oxford Annotated Bible as the Epistle that is "often called the Magna Carta of Christian liberty" (from the introduction to this Epistle in this very edition)! While I agree that we should try to express ourselves as lovingly as possible, sometimes, to bear witness to the truth and to be faithful to Him Who is the Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to call a pile of fertilizer just that: a pile of fertilizer!
#3.2 David Barrett on 2009-10-09 17:52
Dear Mr. Barrett:
I think you have just helped His Eminence just make his case about the kind of theologizing that is "mini" by providing Exhibit A.
You've grabbed a proof text out of Galatians that fits with what your very American and egalitarian mental processes have already imagined - namely that because the most prolific author of NT scripture, Paul, was gifted and called to do certain things, every modern Tom, Dick, Harry ...and David has the right and calling to do so too!! That is quintessentially modern evangelical "eisegesis."
Instead of appealing to the prerogatives and calling of an apostle who was truly one of a kind, why don't you quote the verses that follow your reference to multilation: Gal. 5:13-15?
"You have freedom brothers, but don't use it as an apportunity for the flesh." (i.e. don't indulge your passions to trash and dominate others who don't see it your way) Instead "through love serve one another." v13 "The whole law is fulfilled in one word, love your neighbor as yourself." v. 14 (how many of the anonymous backbiters and mini's holding forth here would like to have their names trashed worldwide by any old anonymous with a grudge, an imagination, and a computer? And then v. 15, "Look out folks, because if you bite and devour one another you will find out that you have gobbled up someone and something essential to your well being." The theologizing that is mini, among its other inferior characteristics, almost always involves constant exercise of the mouth and has a very BIG bite indeed.
By contrast the theologizing that has any hope of being maxi serves others through action, not big talk, involves self emptying and sometimes even non-resistance to one's own crucifixion, makes unity with other Christians its hallmark, (v.2) and does NOTHING through selfishness (me first) or empty conceit (me first because I am wiser, better, more insightful than you!) (v. 3) (Phil. 2:1-8)
At the risk of proof-texting illegitimately in the opposite direction, let me offer a verse that the minis who post so readily and vituperatively here may do well to consider: Pr. 12:18 - "There is one who speaks rashly, like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Or how about Prov. 18:2 "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing [the operations or imaginations of] his own mind." (I am not calling Mr. Barrett a fool here, by the way; my comments focus mostly on anonymousers and one or two others who use their names, although I am criticizing the methodology in his mst recent post.)
This is not by way of saying that Met. Philip is always right or that Antiochian North America does not need to engage in wise self-examination and beneficial change. Good things are happening and will continue to happen within the context of legitimate diocesan and archdiocesan leadership. There has never been a rapidly growing Orthodox Church in a media-dominated, very far flung, radically egalitarian society of instantaneous information and opinion-sharing before. The most institutionally conservative Church (no Ecumenical Councils for well over a millenium, but hey, who's counting?) meets the most institutionally non-conservative society the world has ever seen (excepting, of course, a temporary few months here and there of Bolshevism, Rwandan people's action, the Great Cultural Revolution or the Directorate).
Voila! Tough choices have to be made, new adjustments accommodated, egos leashed, virtues exercised and vices exorcised in all of us. The hue and cry of mini-theologians is not liable to make the positive contributions we need. And in fact is liable to set people at one another under the domination of their own egos at best and the influence of evil spirits at worst, rather than working patiently to voercome world, flesh and devil - starting with ourselves.
That sad, reflection a few weeks ago describing the ME Antiochian leadership as the real problem was SO far off the mark. Our battle, as was St. Paul's, the Galatians' and every Christian's and era's ever since, has always been against principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12) who history demonstrated so often win battles large and small when Christians speak rash words to and about one another.
#3.2.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2009-10-12 09:03
How typical you are of a Metropolitan-Philip trained mini-theologian! As soon as someone presents you with valid arguments backed up by the authority of Scripture, which is the authority of the Church, you play the "you are proof-texting" card in an attempt to refute him.Then you go on to insult his nationality, as if being an American is somehow a bad thing.
What don't you like about the "American" mindset anyway? Is it that we appeal to logic, reason and argument instead of emotion and feelings? Do you despise the freedom we possess in our ability to order our lives as we see fit? Does it bother you that His Eminence cannot shut down journalists that he doesn't like? Is that what you don't like about we crazy Americans?
#220.127.116.11 Disgusted Member of the AOCA on 2009-10-13 12:35
First of all, thank you for your response. I know about the "following" verses from Galatians that you quoted, and I agree: rash comments are uncalled for. However, my point only dealt with the fact that we not only have the right, but also, the responsibility to speak up whenever things are out of synch or just plain wrong, whether they be from a lowly layman such as myself or a Metropolitan or Patriarch. Therefore, I only used the verses I quoted since they sufficiently dealt with the only side of the two-sided issue that I was addressing. But, again, I have always stated on this site that the two extremes (tar-and-feathering those who disagree with us; and cowering like a beaten puppy and saying nothing) are both mutations of our ecclesiology.
Again, Fr George, thank you for presenting the other necessary side of the mutated coin that we should all avoid. Speaking the truth in love (Eph 4) is truly the way to go! Thanks again for your input and clarification.
#18.104.22.168 David Barrett on 2009-10-13 13:30
I appreciate the sincerity and spirit of what the one actually named responding party, Mr. Barrett, writes. He and I may need orthopedic treatment, however, if we keep on patting each other on the back like this! But at least it's a change from the usual, and my health insurance premium is paid up.
However I must continue to strongly disagree with the fundamental reasoning by which he seems to be operating:
Major premise - The great Orthodox Christian saint, Paul severely rebuked the Galatians and others for certain mistakes.
Minor premise - We too are Orthodox Christians.
Conclusion - Therefore all Orthodox Christians have the right and duty to severely rebuke Met. Philip.
Merely to state this syllogism should be sufficient to refute it for truly Orthodox minds. St. Paul had the spiritual gifts and the calling to do so. Most if not all of us don't. It is a very American, egalitarian and Protestant mindset to say that we all have the right and duty to pipe up "whenever" something is "wrong." For starters most of us lack the discernment to know what God is really doing and why at any given time.
Are there constructive things to be done or said to help the bishops and trustees to balance and use power effectively? Yes. Do the laity or lower clergy just have to shut up and salute? No. But a great deal of the time all that is being done here is nasty venting more suited for inflaming others than actually working out a Christian solution to a vexing situation.
There is a whole lot more to the wise Christian use of the tongue and our freedom in Christ than Mr. Barrett's simple pronouncement: "...we not only have the right, but also, the responsibility to speak up whenever things are out of synch, or just plain wrong ..."
Let's take a few examples from scripture:
Pr. 10:19 - the more we talk the more we sin, but whoever keeps his mouth shut does wisely
Pr. 18:21 - death and life are in the power of speech, and those who love it will eat its fruit (and not necessarily the one of those two fruits they think they will be eating!)
Pr. 29:11 - a fool utters all his anger, but the wise man is quiet.
Jas. 4:11 and 5:9 urge the laity not to speak against or judge one another - the very opposite of the duty Mr. B imputes to all to judge and speak against any wrong, any time
The wisdom of the earth is full of bitterness and anger, jealousy of other people's power or prerogatives. James 3:14-16 The wisdom from above is pure, peaceful, gentle, easily entreated.
Titus 3 was just one of the Sunday epistle readings. Notice the tendency among those he shepherded to embroil themselves in foolish controversies under the illusion that they were engaged in the most spiritual of discourse. (v. 9) Anybody here have an exemption from that sin? Or the commonness of people so factious that they had to be rejected after two warnings. (v10-11)
Any factious people been spotted on this site? But here they are not only not rejected, they're assumed to be heroes!
Church history starting with the NT is a virtually unbroken tale of people who fought other Christians over things that a) did not matter or b) did, and it seems clear to me that they often could not tell the difference. And when they were disagreeing about things that mattered, how much literal and figurative bloodshed and division could have been avoided by more Christian control of the tongue?
On Met. Philip's watch the Archdiocese grew to the point that he needed and asked for more bishops. After so many decades in which he was essentially the only authority around it is hard for him and the others to figure out how to go forward in ways that respect the authority of the bishops and metropolitan at the same time. No surprise there. It takes time, good will, patience (note the emphasis on this virute in James 5:7-11) to work all these things out and make the crowning years of one administration the seedbed of peace, love and good order for the inevitable new one.
Nowhere in the Bible or the canons of the Church does it confer on all the individual members of laity in general the duty to make and trumpet public judgments whenever they think something is "out of synch" or "wrong," and I have only begun to scratch the surface of the spiritual teaching that says more or less the opposite.
I am reminded of the morning prayer of Met. Philaret of Moscow, which includes "Teach me to act firmly and wisely without embittering or embarrassing others." That's not exactly the watchword around here, is it?
#22.214.171.124.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2009-10-13 19:05
I read what you said with interest, because I agree with you. In the example you gave, the truth served no purpose other than to be hurtful, which is unforgivable.
However, there are other instances where the truths has to be revealed. If a wife is being beaten by her husband, the truth becomes imperative, as is the case where a child is being molested. In these examples, the truth isn't revealed to hurt anyone. The truth is revealed to PROTECT someone.
The same is true in our case. No one wants to hurt Metropolitan Philip. We want to protect the Archdiocese.
It's too late to put the genie back in the bottle. The people who love Metropolitan Philip should help him to see this. If he were to order an external audit and announced his retirement, he would be protected from the ensuing fallout. He can always claim ignorance because after all if he were guilty of misconduct, why would he order the audit? However, if he continues to dig in his heels, the Board of Trusties, the Holy Synod, and/or the authorities will step in and will require the audit. Whatever they find will tie directly back to Metropolitan Philip. It's pretty hard to claim ignorance when you're still at the helm. He needs to step down for his own sake, as well as for ours.
Metropolitan Philip could blame his retirement on his health. Nobody would question that. If he ordered an audit on his way out, he would give us something positive to associate with him, in addition to the other wonderful things he's done in the past for the Archdiocese. If he makes an effort to bury the hatchet with the people he's hurt, these same people who have be so vocal would be just as vocal on his behalf. We're a pretty forgiving bunch. But there is only a small window he has in which to act. If he misses the window, the consequences will be grave. He will definitely go down in flames. . . or should I say SHAME, which he would find intolerable. - If you love this man, please point these things out to him. Spare him the embarrassment.
I pray for Metropolitan Philip every day. I would encourage all of you to do the same. For his sake as well a ours.
#3.3 Gail Sheppard on 2009-10-10 04:06
In the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, a theologian is one who has learned to pray! In his words, the little old lady in the pew who attends every service and "prays," yet has no formal education, probably knows God better than any graduate of St. Vladimir's. Something to remember!
(Editor's note: Actually, he said " may know", not "probably knows".)
#4 Anonymous on 2009-10-09 17:21
this little old lady has no "pew" and does not consider that being there for every service guarantees her knowing God better than the seminarians or even those who aren't there for every service.
#4.1 Alice Carter on 2009-10-10 19:11
The problem with the "little old lady" example (which has been used ad naseum within the OCA at least) is that it is generally voiced as a false piety. In my experience, those extolling the virtues of the little old lady actually abjure the little old lady and have no intention of changing behavior based on her wisdom. They just give the example because it sounds wise and pious. God save us from this hubris. IMHO, most of our theologians wallow in their hubris. They are silent when they should speak, and the speak when they should be silent. This behavior reveals an endemic attitude of pride. Our "theologians" need to repent. How can they lead others when they are blind themselves?
#4.1.1 Anon. on 2009-10-12 20:23
Jason, I was so thankful to see your post.
After reading the Metropolitan's statement I was troubled and eventually realized that it was simply because that's not how Orthodox speak! A Priest can only be a good pastor if he is illumined. Spiritual fatherhood means he illuminates others. Isn't purification -> illumination -> theosis how souls have been healed since Pentecost? Isn't this "theology" a key to what makes Orthodoxy unique and vital for every person and parish on earth?
#5 MichaelPatrick on 2009-10-12 19:43
Yes, that is the disturbing thing. Before Jason Barker posted his reflection, I had asked (aside from 'mini'-ness) why it wouldn't be a wonderful think if all our seminary graduates did not at least a little, pray truly, so that they might be true theologians, if all of them didn't, at least a little, show the kind of sanctity that earned only three saints in the history of the Church the title of "Theologian".
I am not sure of what phronema our Metropolitan partakes: some seem to think it's the phronema of the Ba'ath Party; I'm inclined to think it's the phronema of secular America in what I have dubbed "the Era of Bad Stewards" in which everyone with fiduciary responsibility, from corporate CEO's and CFO's to university, presidents and athletic directors, to Congressmen, to directors of charitable foundations, hierarchs and clergymen, seems to regard what they have stewardship over on behalf of others (be it stockholders, faculty and students, citizens, the intended beneficiaries of charities, or the faithful in whatever confession) as existing for their own benefit. Whatever it is, it is not the Mind of Christ.
Even the robber baron Jay Gould realized he worked for his stockholders. Met. +Philip, alas, seems to work not for Christ, not for the faithful of our Archdiocese, but for himself. No other explanation accounts for the absolute resistance to audits, or maltreatment given the Orthodox faithful of Fargo, ND--send Fr. Oliver back to the OCA, fine, but a Father in Christ would have in the same edict sent a replacement priest! Even without the mind of Christ, a simple regard for the notion of fiduciary responsibility, should have led him to insist upon audits from the day he was enthroned as Metropolitan.
Soon or late, pray that the Holy Synod of Antioch will send us a godly bishop, who is at least a 'mini' theologian if not a full-fledged one, or even if not, who at least understands and takes to heart the meaning of the words "steward" and "fiduciary", to replace him.
#5.1 Subdeacon David [Yetter] on 2009-10-14 07:54
I got so sick and tired of hearing the "little old babushka" mantra ad infinitum ad nauseam from the priest as an excuse for the spiritual ignorance and superstition and Biblical and theological illiteracy of many of the people in the church that I eventually left the OCA for a place where people know the Scriptures and the God of the Scriptures in a real and living and daily way. And, no, it's not in the Orthodox Church.
#6 antiorthodoxian on 2009-10-13 07:29
Thank you, Jason Barker for the citations from the Fathers which shed valuable light upon the nature of "being a theologian". A truly rich subject for reflection is contained therein, and commends itself to our sincere self-examination.
So much of what is written in the pages of this web-site gives evidence of a deep desire to purify our mutual relations with each other, and to promote right conduct within the Church. Yet, a spirit of the very atmosphere of The Church at Corinth, which so grieved the Blessed Paul, permeates many writings. All of us contain the seeds of pride, lack of humility, and self-promotion.
Are we not called to refrain from judging others? Having been forgiven much, do we see ourselves in the Parable of the unforgiving servant? How we deal with problems within our Community speaks volumes to the world around us, and is more convincing (for good or ill) than any preaching or polemic.
The enumeration of ways in which we obviously do not "pray truly" could be expanded to include saying hurtful things anonymously, using innuendo to discredit others, and attacking a persons character by assuming the worst. Where is mercy in these things? Have we not all read "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice"?
In a touching and very moving passage in First Corinthians, St. Paul, speaking about Christians going to law against other Christians, asks if those who do such things have not already lost, and poignantly tells us that "it would be better to allow ourselves to be defrauded".
Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for each other with at least as much fervor as we criticize. Let us ask, with great humility, for a spirit of gentleness, and unfeigned kindness.
May we seek always more humbly to "have this mind which was in Christ Jesus,. . who "emptied Himself. . .taking on the form of a servant" so that we may learn to pray truly.
In Christ, Ron Benner
#7 Ron Benner on 2009-10-13 12:13
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