Monday, March 21. 2011
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Once again, Berger is interesting, fun to read, long winded and poorly informed on historical facts. Not surprising considering his orthodox sources. I like this piece more than I hate it, but Professor, you need to bone up on facts, you've missed a fewwwwww things!
(Editor's note: And how is your Lutheran history, or Sociology these days, friend? C'mon, don't be so critical of details, you miss his point.)
#1 BU-PU on 2011-03-21 06:34
There are historical mistakes in Berger's piece. One major one is that the Greeks nor any other Orthodox in N. America prior to the Russian Revolution, disputed that the Russian Orthodox Church planted the cross of Orthodoxy in North America. According to Canon Law, they were responsible for ALL the Orthodox in N. America. This was NEVER disputed until after 1917. All the different ethnic Orthodox then turned to their own patriarchs for $$$ and leadership. The land grab then began. Canon 28 of Chalcedon was not echoed by the Greeks until much later. (Ridiculous)
#2 Anonymous on 2011-03-21 07:37
Berger's view of "St. Serge-OCA vision" is just incorrect. This is the kind of rhetoric served up by ROCOR and right-wing converts believing this stuff. In reality, when the Russian Revolution took place, many of the Russian intellectuals & theologians found themselves in Paris. Thus, St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Seminary grew with some of the best & brightest theological minds from the Russian Orthodox Church. It was "THE" Orthodox theological academy to attend in all of Europe. As the American Orthodox Church grew and St. Vladimir's Seminary grew, founded in 1938; good, solid professors were needed. Some of the professors came from St. Sergius. What they found in the Metropolia (later the OCA), were practices within the church of minimalism, heavy Uniate influence and theology that just wasn't Orthodox. Fr. Florovsky, Frs. Schmemann & Meyendorff, Serge Verhovskoy and many others from the Paris school embarked upon teaching "REAL" Orthodox theology in America. What Berger points out as a "St. Sergius" view is really, the "TRUE ORTHODOX VIEW." One instance in particular, the Orthodox in America were teaching that the faithful should ONLY receive Holy Communion twice a year, Christmas & Easter (Because they weren't worthy enough). Yet, the bishops and clergy received at every Divine Liturgy. What was wrong with this teaching? And there were many, many more. In fact, many times the bishops themselves fought against the proper Orthodox theology and practice. So, what the Paris school brought to America was a "CORRECTION" and proper teachings of the Orthodox faith. To this day, as we can see from Berger's referrals, there are those who prefer to follow Orthodox aberrations in the church.
#3 Anonymous on 2011-03-21 08:45
After reading all of Berger's article, I really enjoyed it. In a fairly brief article he was able to capture much of history of Orthodoxy in the United States, without belaboring it with innumerable details. The one aspect I sense in all of this discussion over jurisdictions and authority, is that we've lost the vision that the people form the heart of Orthodoxy, not the bishops or the jurisdictions. For most average laymen, it doesn't matter who the bishop is or if the church is self-ruling or not. What matters is the day-to-day life of Christ manifested in the local parish and community. Berger is correct, however, in noting the Orthodoxy, perhaps up to 6 million strong, lacks a real presence or influence in America, because it has become (or is) too insular, ethnic and ineffective. I would disagree with one of his points, however. I met and spoke with, and heard, Fr. Schmemann speak on numerous occasions and I found him both inspiring and frustrating, because he changed his message depending on whom he was speaking to. He could be out-goiong and delightfully energetic and humorous, and he could be conservative and literal in his Orthodoxy. But, again, all-in-all, Berger has put together a very nice little article that I enjoyed reading.
#4 Sean O'Clare on 2011-03-21 09:36
I was not impressed. Then again, I don't buy the characterization of the "conservatives" as "fundamentalists". The term fundamentalism has a momentum of it's own now and means different things to different people, but used in a somewhat historical (i.e. protestant) fashion it is meaningless in an Orthodox context. It is particularly strange to say that Metro Jonah leans towards a "fundamentalist" view with his "engagement" politically on abortion and homosexualism (as in the Manhattan Declarationnn), and on the other hand claim that fundamentalist are by definition "...ipso facto uninterested in engaging with anybody or anything outside a narrowly confined community of faith..." aBergerer did.
This essay is as clear as mud...
#5 Christopher on 2011-03-21 13:06
I think we can postulate that Professor Berger (not to say Dr. Silk) might've been fed the opportunity to blog this set of issues and be published here by someone quite other than the one who stimulated the Washington Post article. If transparency reigned, however, we might recognize the name!
I am in basic (I almost wrote "fundamental!") agreement with commentator Christopher, who calls attention to the anomalous use of the word fundamentalist. What the anomaly points up is not necessarily that Dr. Berger or others who use this term to describe other people (just try to find who describes himself or his friends that way!) are dishonest, but rather that the term "fundamentalist" has become little more than a theological swearword: on some lips a blazing epithet for asserted troglodytes, and on others a patronizing put down for people who advocate that which is not currently de rigeur.
So despite the subtle spinning pro and con, the issue remains: what is best for the man and the Church in the long or short run? These are real issues which one senses the other bishops are trying to dispassionately handle with grace, and with the good of all in mind, while others with agendas on perceived opposing "sides" are trying to influence the outcome by resort to all the tactics of manipulation, many of which are employed here.
And while the views of Jewish and Lutheran academics who seemingly partake pretty much of current, mainstream American secularism are interesting, and perhaps suggest pitfalls to be avoided by church leaders with traditional ideas, on closer examination I think they really seem to tell us more about their authors than they do about the excruciating problem of how this branch of Orthodoxy should (given its past decades of leadership 'anomalies') or can (assuming it is possible to govern anything in the age of instant and anonymous "e-ssassination") be led just now, or by whom.
I apologize if I have hijacked a term that someone else originated, but I'm afraid by virtue of a mental flaw I may have coined it. Doesn't it sort of encapsulate the truth of a system in which anonymous vitriol - by those whose real agendas (on either side) necessarily remain hidden because their names do - is encouraged to hold sway despite what the scriptures and all the best minds of Christian spiritual history have written about the tongue and the heart - to say nothing of Shakespeare and a host of "secular" giants?
Legitimate issues there be, and their resolution for the good of the Church really is so beyond the ability of those of us way out on the margins to make a call. But admitting that a leader has real flaws and mistakes which need to be dealt with either by a) repentance and change or by b) reluctantly finding a better place and role in which he can serve, does not obscure what to me is abundantly clear from this part of the provinces and ought to be from yours: this Brave New World of "E-ssassination" now may well be ungovernable by anyone peddling anything but plain vanilla - with no toppings!
#5.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2011-03-22 02:55
You're right, on the misuse of the term "fundamentalist." Perhaps "pharasaic" might be a better word.
#5.2 Felix Culpa on 2011-03-22 07:41
"After Alaska came under American rule Protestant missionaries did their best to “reconvert” the Orthodox converts. There has been no significant Orthodox presence in Alaska since then."
There was indeed significant Orthodox presence in Alaska since its sale to the U.S. Most of the parishes in teh Kenai area and the Southeast were founded in teh 1880's and 1890's, well after the sale of Alaska.
The Russian Mission Society and the Imperial government financed a significant mission in Alaska before the 1917 revolution.
St. Anatolii Kamenskii received many of the Tlingits in Sitka into his parish, and churches were constructed in Juneau (1894) and Killisnoo (the parish and village burned in 1928 and neither were reconstructed, I am unclear when it was founded). The Mission in the southeast was hurt by the revolution, but there were still churches built in Angoon (to replace Killisnoo) and Hoonah in 1929.
Professor Sergei Kan, in his book "Memory eternal: Tlingit culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through two centuries" provides a very good study of the Russian mission in Southeast Alaska (warts and all).
Fr Simeon Johnson,
St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Juneau AK
I for one enjoyed Mr. Berger's piece. Yes, there are some inaccuracies, but overall kudo's to him for writing it.
I don't know why, but I have been pondering his statement about the Moscow Patriarchate's desire to get more of a footing in America. This point has been brought up considerably by others on this site and others, especially since the reunification of ROCOR and Mospat. Can anyone please explain to me what on earth ROCOR is doing in America other than perpetuating ethnic phyletism? And on what grounds does ROCOR have to exist on the soil of an autocephalous country like the U.S. (or any other for that matter?).
I have nothing against ROCOR, but as a simply Orthodox person, I fail to understand how the ethnic ghetto which is ROCOR has any canonical standing in the U.S. given the Moscow Patriarchate's granting of autocephaly to the OCA. Why doesn't ROCOR fold itself into the OCA? I'm sure that they don't want to because they want to keep their "Russian" identity, but strictly from a canonical perspective how are they allowed to be separate seeing as how their own church granted the autocephaly?
#7 Anon. on 2011-03-22 19:27
I think I am seeing a misunderstanding of Orthodox Christianity in both the articles and in the comments here as well. Some non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox Christians are failing to understand what the term"orthodox" means. If these people understood that "orthodoxy" by definition means conservatism of doctrine, we wouldn't be hearing the word "fundamentalist" thrown around. Orthodox Christianity is what it is, no more, no less. If one is "liberal" in doctrine (i.e. believes in abortion, homosexuality, any issue we are faced with today) they simply are not being "orthodox" since they are rejecting the true teaching. And in the end, there aren't really any "conservative" Orthodox Christians, since they by definition, are simply "orthodox" in terms of doctrine. I would say from experience that both "converts" and "cradle" Orthodox Christians alike here in America do attempt to bring modern Western baggage into the Orthodox Church. I am not qualified to speak about the issues surrounding Metropolitan +Jonah. What I will humbly say, is that we are called to bear witness to the truth, no matter how much this society and pop-culture rejects it. This does not mean we ought to scream at gays, humanists, atheists, and wave "God hates so-and-so" signs as theses things are not orthodox. However, when the time comes, when we are to speak with one voice the teaching of Christ, in love, we must not stand silent, offering nothing. We are called as Christians to speak the truth, not because we are better than others, but because it is our job to place the lamp on a stand instead of under a basket. Should we stay silent when our fellow human beings look for or need guidance?
#8 Wiw on 2011-03-23 18:57
Actually, "Orthodoxy" comes from the Greek words "orthos" meaning right, true or straight and "doxa" belief, praise or worship.
Think about "orthodontist"-- someone whose job is not to conserve teeth in an old, unhealthy line-up, but to move teeth into a proper, straight, ideal arrangement.
It's not the conservatism but the truth and rightness that are important here.
We hold tenaciously to the true theology and true liturgy that the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, has established as Holy Tradition. We often seem "conservative," but in seeking to do what is "right" can make radical shifts. ( The introduction of worship in Slavonic after the conversion of Rus and the return to frequent Holy Communion in the OCA are two examples that come to mind.)
The American political labels "Conservative" and "Liberal" really don't have anything to do with this. We Orthodox need to be trying to understand how Christ is calling us to act in this time and this place, "truly" and "rightly." I think it's not going to look too much like the platform of either American political party, but that's not a bad thing. Let's start trying to have that discussion!
#8.1 Ann McLarnan on 2011-03-25 08:31
What much of this is all about is that the new leaders of the OCA don't know how to be leaders of an American Church. Should we look like and emulate Russians? Should we look like Greeks? Maybe Mideastern Orthodox? Exactly how should we look, dress, act, etc.? The answer is way too simple - the American Church should BE the American Church. We don't need to parade around in cassocks all the time. We don't need to wear kamalavki; we don't need to wear black all the time nor long hair & pony tails and beards. WE ARE AMERICANS not foreigners. According to Lossky, the Orthodox Church entered every culture and adapted to the "culture" transforming it into Orthodox norms. Many of these new convert leaders of the OCA don't know how to act. They take their models from other countries and the result is trying to take the OCA back to 1930. The OCA needs to truly reflect Orthodoxy in America, not Russia, Greece, etc. Why is this so hard to see?
#9 Anonymous on 2011-03-24 06:57
I think this is an issue that has been raised numerous times in the past on this blog. There is no longer "an" american way of being American. Here we no longer "belong" to any identifier. Most of us Americans simply incorporate things, knowingly or unknowingly, from other cultures. Here, in America, in the American tradition, most Orthodox clergy I know incorporate traditions from various parts of the Orthodox world that fits their particular temperament, situation, and personality. Short hair, long hair, cassock, suit, beard, clean shaven: all are valid ways of being Orthodox clergy in America. Most of the clergy I know are OK with that diversity. The two extremes are forcing everyone around you to adopt your own personal adaptation of Orthodox traditions or forcing everyone to adopt your own interpretation of what should be the "American" expression of Orthodoxy.
By the way, it seems to me that there is hint that perhaps Orthodox clergy should be more like other contemporary clergy? Really? That would be an interesting sight: horn rimmed glasses, a graphic t-shirt, tight skinny jeans, a tattoo sleeve, a witty goatee…you get the picture. Or if you prefer, business casual. Or perhaps GQesque? Or if you like to blend the old with the new, a business suit made from orthodox vestment material. No joke, I have seen this on TV at the Potter's House in Dallas, TX.
My point is that this issue is not important. This is still America, is it not? The home of the free and the brave. Let's keep it that way. Or as we say in one of our fine southern cities, "let's keep [it] weird". My guess is that those clergy that gravitate towards the long hair, long beard, and the cassock, are no different from any other American: they simply want to belong and visibly so. Is that a flaw? One cannot make that assessment based on appearances. A genuine human interaction would give you a better picture.
#9.1 O Hamartolos on 2011-03-25 21:09
In photos from other countries, I've only seen Orthodox clergy in cassocks. What "local" dress would one expect a priest to adopt in Zaire? Guatemala?
#9.1.1 Matushka on 2011-03-27 06:21
"I fail to understand how the ethnic ghetto which is ROCOR has any canonical standing in the U.S. given the Moscow Patriarchate's granting of autocephaly to the OCA."
It is more of the same. When the Tomos of 1970 granted autocephaly to the Metropolia, it allowed some parishes to remain in the Moscow Patriarchate.
#10 Anonymus again and again on 2011-03-26 00:15
Yes, a FEW Patriarchal parishes were to remain but not dozens. ROCOR believes it really is still unto itself. We'll see!
#10.1 Anonymous on 2011-03-27 14:05
If I remember correctly, the Moscow Patriarchate had approximately 50 parishes in the U.S. at the time the Tomos of Autocephaly were issued to the OCA. The Tomos allowed the Patriarchate to retain those parishes. The Patriarchate was not allowed to increase the number of parishes beyond those when the Tomos were issued; any new missions or parishes were to come under the OCA.
I have wondered how the "reunification" of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate could take place without violating the conditions of the Tomos. I guess if no one asks the embarrassing questions, everything is OK.
Mark C. Phinney
(Editor's note: Too true. The anamoly is explained, I imagine, by considering ROCOR parishes "MP" parishes at that time as well, albeit in schism, and thus covered by the exclusion. The real point is that ROCOR has a history of administrative antagonism towards the OCA, has a different vision and ministry than the OCA, not to mention different structures, goals and style. Let us only hope that with the passage of time these points of difficulty can largely melt away as times change. Things are much better already, and such progress is what we need to work on as we seek to overcome our own failings....)
#10.1.1 Mark C. Phinney on 2011-03-28 03:53
I personally liked Bergner's piece. Yes, it is not perfect. However, he nailed it. The Greeks Orthodox Clergy were "insulted by the title chosen by the All-American Council to rename the Metropolia The Orthodox Church in America. I was a young teenager working in my uncle's deli when the local Greek Orthodox priest (who was a good customer, specifically said and what aren't we Greek Orthodox Americans too. Meaning how dare the Metropolia act as though they are the only Orthodox Americans in town. Regarding fundalmentalist the attitude of some of the convert clergy and convert laity is to follow the "letter of the law" and not the spirit of the law. Orthodox clergy for decades in the 20th century were clean shaven, wore business suits with clergy collars for non liturgical functions. They were part of the local ministerial associations. Spoke at high school graduations, were part of the community. They were at the hospitals, the interfaith dialogues to speak about Orthodox beliefs. And are our clergy out there today. I certainly hope so. Parading around town in a cassock and a cross etc isn't necessary. If the clergy is out in the community in different associations; the non Orthodox would know who are clergy are. I am advocating joint "prayer functions which would violate Orthodox teaching. But being out in the community even as a chaplain to the local Police force is a very good thing. The chaplain provides emotional/spiritual support in a non liturgical function. What we lack in most of our Orthodox communities is a real presence in the community. Fundalmentalism is women looking like they just stepped off the boat from Russia/Ruminia/Serbia, in the 1890's. We Orthodox women can be modest in attire without looking like the above picture. Long beards, long hair, etc is suppose to emulate modesty. But really we can be modest in dress and still have no facial hair, nor long hair. Long sleeve shirts if you have your arms covered in tatoos. etc.
#11 anonymous on 2011-03-27 20:06
"I am advocating joint "prayer functions which would violate Orthodox teaching."
Gee, who would have guessed given the tone and content of your post.
#11.1 Heracleides on 2011-03-28 06:46
#11 Please accept my apology. I mistyped the phrase-- it lacked the word NOT. I am not in favor of participating in ecumenical liturgical prayer services. I am advocating participating in the ministerial associations joint efforts for community service work etc.
#12 anonymous on 2011-03-28 15:05
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