Monday, March 31. 2008
Your comments on Judge Madsen's letter or Protodeacon Wheeler's essay are welcome.
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As we have been at this now for a few years, it appears that the Synod of Bishops is unable nor willing to clean up the Church as well as their actions.
I would think that we as interested lay members of the church and clergy should no longer just ask and pray for the betterment of the Church, but now start to demand and pray backing up our actions by withholding any financial support until appropriate actions are taken such as the resignations of all who have continued the coverup as well as the total disclosure of all of the facts of the controversy over the past years.
It was said at the seminary "that the skulls of Bishops and Priests pave the path to hell" and with actions such as we have seen in the past year, this is certainly an appropriate phrase.
Let those who know the truth, come out and speak it!
Your and their silence has been too long, and has amounted in more corrupt behavior, by the Bishops and senior membership of the Church.
It appears that the only solution is to withhold all funds to the dioceses and Syosset, until we hear of resignations and the truth begins to appear, as it appears that is the only kind of message that the Bishops understand!
Chaplain (MAJ) Nicholas Czaruk
US Army Retired
#1 Chaplain (MAJ) Nicholas Czaruk on 2008-03-31 13:47
The EP staunchly continues to refuse to recognize our autocephaly, the Greek Metropolitan of Boston won't permit his clergy to concelebrate with OCA priests, the MP Metropolitan politely asks an OCA hierarch to "butt-out of Metropolitan Laurus' funeral. What's next? An Alaskan (and lower 48) mass-exodus to Antioch?! Stay tuned...
If that mass-exodus does indeed happen, so much for the OCA! Kudos, once again, to our intrepid hierarchs for their on-going policy of cowardly self-preservation at the expense of the clergy and the faithful of this church.
#2 Dr. Herbert Elfers on 2008-03-31 14:09
What part of these people's pain do we not get!? I mean, how can we not stand with them? Or perhaps the better polling question; anyone standing with the SOB's?
let's all send brother in Christ Roy a message, that we choose Christ, and we stand with him, and the rest of Alaska.
Roy, tell us, specifically what do you want us to do? What will help and benefit Alaska most.
#3 no name on 2008-03-31 14:41
It is imperative that our Orthodox scholars speak up. Everyone is saying that the bishops are hiding behind the canons. I am not advocating ignoring the rules but can our church canons really be in such contradiction with basic common sense? Does this Synod have the competence to interpret anything let alone the canons? It is after all the same Synod that unfathomably decided to make into a bishop a man with +Nikolai’s history.
#4 Karina Ross on 2008-03-31 14:53
Kudos to both Deacon Eric and Judge Madsen who have hit the proverbial nail on the head.
#5 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-03-31 14:59
I firmly believe that Wheeler has been involved with Herman and Kucynda from the beginning of this entire mess. NOW he cannot handle the fact that Herman is still in place, so it's now a call to arms.
Wheeler can call all he wants, Herman and company are in the seats of authority and no one will budge them - not even that self-righteous man - Wheeler.
#6 MP on 2008-03-31 15:00
Fr. Deacon Wheeler,
Re: " And, if the experiment of autocephaly does fail, it is what we deserve if the clergy and faithful stand by without voicing their concerns to their bishops."
The OCA faithful obviously have no problems VOICING their concerns. If voicing ( talk, talk, talking) about "concerns" is way to the salvation for the OCA, then this "experiment of autocephaly" should have been a success built upon the first great success of OCA "voicing" namely this website, ocanews.org.
In the spirit of the Fast, let us be instructed by St. John Climacus:
"Talkativeness is the throne of vainglory, on which it loves to show itself and make a display. Talkativeness is a sign of ignorance, a door to slander, a guide to jesting, a servant of falsehood, the ruin of compunction, a creator and summoner of despondency, a precursor of sleep, the dissipation of recollection, the abolition of watchfulness, the cooling of ardor, the darkening of prayer."
Your call to talkativeness (what you call "voicing") is just symptomatic of the American pop-psychological therapeutic culture (cf. Oprah, Dr. Phil). American culture at its very self indulgent worst ,now advocated as a salvific American Orthodox "t"radition. USA! USA! USA!
#7 Anonymous on 2008-03-31 17:15
Please no comments. Glory Be to Jesus Christ! Glory forever.
#8 Anonymous on 2008-03-31 18:21
On April 3, Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m., Fr. John Erickson will give a lecture entitled "The Church Canons - What They Are and What They Are Not." It will be held at St. John the Baptist ROC located at 29 Weaver Street, Little Falls (Singac), NJ 07424. (Not OCA) Since the canons are being discussed constantly, it would be good to hear someone who is knowledgeable concerning them. This is one of three lectures being held during Great Lent by the FROC.
#9 For Your Information on 2008-03-31 18:24
Protodeacon Wheeler's insight has been said before by others who were summarily skewered under the cynicism of this false conciliarity he rightly exposes. The time to organize is now, before it is too late. I have remained anonymous simply because I was finished with the grief these despots created in my life and family. No one followed my lead. If that changes, I will certainly support. Deacon Eric's words are truly directive, if there is interest in taking it. He is not sure. I am not sure either. We can only hope. It will certainly not come from the SOB (with one exception), Syosset and their sympathizers, so we need to stop even paying attention to them. At this point we can only conclude that their consciences have been "seered with a hot iron." We need to get on with God's work and stop expending all our energy on these reprobates.
#10 Anon on 2008-03-31 21:08
"We will witness the demise of the Orthodox Church in America unless our seminary faculty begins providing us with an understanding of an ecclesiology befitting our high calling as a Church in and for America ."
It is obligatory, I suppose, to indicate my appreciation for Dn. Wheeler's initial willingness to put a stop to the madness; and to say that I agree with most of what he has said.
But, that done, I wish to say this: there is nothing special about America that makes us more likely than other nations to live a genuine Orthodox ecclesiology. Our calling is not higher or better than that of the Russians, Greeks, Japanese, Indonesians, or that of any other people. (Whether the deacon intended to convey the latter sentiment or not, it is one that, as we have seen in this forum, is alive and well.)
Further -- and more importantly -- there is not any specifically American ecclesiology."Ecclesiology" refers to "knowledge about the Church," which is the body of Christ. The body of Christ is something objective. We are a part of it, but no more or less than the Orthodox of other nations and across time. To the extent that there are properly differences in the administrative functioning of the various local Churches, these are nonessential and incidental to the one truth that all Christians are called to live. I love my country, and I despise the mistaken piety that feels the constant need to trash-talk her. But America will pass away, whereas the Body of Christ will last forever.
Conciliarity does not stop with the episcopacy. Nor, however, does it stop with the OCA. Autocephaly is not ecclesial atomism. For example, in all these discussions of the canons, how many asked what other Churches might think of the Synod's actions? How many cared? Is conciliarity important only when it elevates us as priests and laypeople? I think it is time to return to the practice of a married episcopacy. But there are posters here who have called for the OCA to reinstate it unilaterally! To say that this could or should be done by OCA fiat (especially now) is flat vanity.
It is also learned vanity. There has long existed in the OCA a culture that exults it over the Churches of other nations and ages. Christ, as several ancient fathers noted, said "I am Truth," not "I am custom" -- there is no need to emulate whatever errors other Churches may have committed. But the tendency to to dismiss and even sneer at these Churches is a sickness. I'm not speaking of Fr. Wheeler's letter now -- but I am speaking of a phenomenon I have witnessed time and time again in the OCA.
I propose that it's time to stop teaching the world -- or dreaming of teaching it -- how to do Orthodoxy right. Pride goes before a fall. We have before us an astonishing fall. Forgive me for asking this -- because I am no paragon of humility myself -- but have the bishops been the only self-important ones here?
#11 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-04-01 02:28
This just reported. The SOB's has decided to resign en masse due to the overwhelming protests concerning + Nicolai, the OCA financial mismanagement scandal and the faithful's loss of support. They have decided to make this official at the May SOB's meeting. Senior Archpriests in every diocese will be elected by their own diocese to run their affairs. Inroads will then be taken to merge the OCA with the Antiochians suggesting that Bishop Basil Essey become Metropolitan of the new OCA.
(Editor's note: Happy April Fool's Day to you, too!)
#12 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 04:57
Dn. Eric places the fault with "leadership" in the seminaries and I don't think that is correct. There have been some very good candidates (celibates) who have graduated from SVS & STOTS, but they have been side-stepped and ignored by the SOB's. What we have is an "old boys" club afraid to let new blood in. So we end up with what we have; old men with long-beards who have had many strokes and ills yet still trying to lead. What a disaster! Yes, the OCA needs leaders, but the OCA has ALWAYS had a policy of "eating its own young!"
#13 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 05:55
At this point truer words have yet to be spoken. This site has done the OCA a great service but it has not lead to action of any substantial kind. As we all talk, talk, talk people have been and indeed are busy covering their tracks. There is enough evidence of wrongdoing for there to be a FEDERAL INVESTIGATION and that is the only thing that will solve this infamy.
Problem is, if you have been in the OCA you realize the corruption is so vast and indeed varied involves so many people both clergy and laity and indeed involves other autocephalus churches that it has become the orthodox Churches version of very big very corrupt government in other words corruption is what is keeping it together.
#14 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 06:05
As you may know, Archbishop Nathaniel, president of St. Andrew House, is one of the two bishops traveling to Alaska this week to conduct/continue the investigation into the problems there. On various websites across the web, the recriminations have already begun, the presumption being that the trip is mere window dressing and a way for the Holy Synod to sweep the entire affair under the rug.
Well...anyone who thinks that doesn't know our bishop very well.
Please pray for our bishop and friend - May God keep him under the shadow of His wings as he travels to Alaska to seek the Truth of what is going on up there. May the Saints of North America guide him, intercede for him, keep him safe, and give him the strength and courage to do what needs to be done.
And to all of the brave clergy in Alaska, speaking only as laity who have worked closely with him for many years - you will soon see for yourselves that you have a fair, humble and honorable man on the way to see you...one that has no time for fool's errands.
One of the things the archbishop has taught us is "Do not be afraid - there is no place for fear in Christ's church." Tell him the truth and we are sure you will not be disappointed with the results.
The St Andrew House Board of Directors
as originally posted at http://members5.boardhost.com/STANDREWHOUSE/msg/1207011327.html
First of all, I would like to say that had we followed early Church ecclesiology and let deacons like Protodeacon Eric Wheeler be the eyes, ears, heart, and mind and hands, etc. of the bishops, we might not be in the mess we're in now.
It is documented that Protodeacon Wheeler tried to do this , but was put done by bishops and a chancellor years ago.
So maybe we could consider going back to this kind of ecclesiology not a NEW American ecclesiology but an American restoration of an OLD ecclesiology.
That said, the author's point that *There has long existed in the OCA a culture that exults it over the Churches of other nations and ages*, I think, needs to be further explored; for I have also received a sense of this over the past 15 or so years as an Orhtodox convert in a pan-Orthodox setting. The tower of Babel (Gen 11:4) notes the people saying Let us make to ourselves a name*.
Perhaps there is an inherent sickness rooted in pride that lurks in the depths of OCA's autocephaly. Can we humbly explore that and admit any human failings while still rejoicing in the birth of the OCA? If we can, it will be a day of great rejoicing for as 1Cor. 1: 25 says ...the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men* We will learn then the true strength of humility.
#16 Karen Jermyn on 2008-04-01 06:29
When he was here two years ago, I spent a great deal of time with Arbp Nathaniel and Bishop Nikon - driving them around Kodiak in my personal vehicle...
During some of those times I took the opporitunity to speak with the two of them of the sad state of affairs of our Diocese at that time... they questioned me as to Isidore and his worthiness to become bishop, they asked of Nikolai and how people felt about him....
I was none too shy in telling them what I thought we the peoples feelings about Isidore at that time - most if not everyone [in Kodiak] severely disliked him if not worse!
Regarding Nikolai; nearly the same, that he was insulting and mean....
Now Nathaniel is here with Tikon.... to do what...
validate those claims made a couple of weeks ago.. a couple of years ago...
to find a way to sweep this all under the rug...
I think it is important to know where these bishops are staying... (as I attempted to post) as it speaks reams of their impartiality or lack thereof...
(Editor's update: Bishop Nikolai had arranged for the two Bishops to stay with supporters of Nikolai. The Bishops have confirmed they are staying in a hotel instead.)
#17 Ted Panamarioff - Kodiak Alaska on 2008-04-01 06:41
Forgive me, Fr. James, +Archbishop Job, and those Priests who seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the OCA
SOURCE: St. Ambrose, Elder of Optina,
"End Times and Now Collection of Writings"
[edited from the original translation to improve sentence ructure]
(Found on the Orthodox Christian web site)
"My child, know that in the last days hard times will come; and as the Apostle says, behold, due to poverty in piety, heresies and schisms will appear in the churches; and as the Holy Fathers foretold, then on the thrones of hierarchs and in monasteries there will be no men to be found that are tested and experienced in the spiritual life. Wherefore, heresies will spread everywhere and deceive many. The enemy of mankind will act skillfully, and whenever possible he will lead the chosen ones to heresy. He will not begin by discarding the dogmas on the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, or the Theotokos, but will unnoticeably start to distort the Teachings of the Holy Fathers, in other words the teachings of the Church herself. The cunning of the enemy and his "tipics" (ways) will be noticed by very few -- only those that are most experienced in spiritual life. Heretics will take over the Church, everywhere, and they will appoint their servants, and spirituality will be neglected. But the Lord will not leave His servants without protection. Truly, their real duty is persecution of true pastors and their imprisonment; for without that, the spiritual flock may not become captured by the heretics. Therefore, my son, when you see in the Churches mocking of the Divine act, of the teachings of the Holy Fathers, and of God's established order, know that the heretics are already present. Be also aware that, for some time, they might hide their evil intentions, or they might covertly deform the divine faith, so that they better succeed by deceiving and tricking the inexperienced.
They will persecute pastors and the servants of God alike, for the devil who is directing the heresy cannot stand the Divine order. Like wolves in sheep skin, they will be recognized by their vainglorious nature, love for lust, and lust for power. All those will be betrayers, causing hatred and malice everywhere; and therefore the Lord said that one will easily recognize them by their fruits. The true servants of God are meek, brother-loving and obedient to the Church (order, traditions).
At that time, monks will endure great pressures from heretics, and the monastic life will be mocked. The monastic families will be impoverished, the number of monks will decrease. The ones remaining will endure violence. These haters of the monastic life, who merely have the appearance of piety, will strive to draw monks to their side, promising them protection and worldly goods (comforts), but threatening with exile those who do not submit. From these threats, the weak at heart will be very humiliated (tormented).
If you live to see that time, rejoice, for at that time the faithful who possess no other virtues will receive wreaths for merely remaining steadfast in their faith, according to the Word of the Lord, "Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will confess before My Heavenly Father". Fear the Lord, my son, and don't lose this wreath so as to not be rejected by Christ into the utter darkness and eternal suffering. Bravely stand in faith, and if necessary, joyfully endure persecutions and other troubles, for only then will the Lord stand by you...and the holy Martyrs and the Confessors will joyfully watch your struggle.
But, in these days, woe be to monks tied to possessions and riches, and who, for the sake of love of comfort, agree to subjugate themselves to the heretics. They will lull their conscience by saying: we will save the monastery, and the Lord will forgive us. Unfortunate and blinded, they are not even thinking that through heresies and heretics the devil will enter the monastery, and then it will no longer be a holy monastery, but bare walls from which Grace will depart forever.
But God is more powerful than the devil, and will never abandon His servants. There will always be true Christians, till the end of time, but they will choose lonely and deserted places. Do not fear troubles, but fear pernicious heresy, for it drives out Grace, and separates us from Christ, wherefore Christ commanded us to consider the heretic and let him be unto thee as a heathen man and publican.
And so, strengthen yourself, my son, in the Grace of Christ Jesus. With joy, hasten to confession and endure the suffering like Jesus Christ's good soldier who was told: "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the wreath of life".
St Ambrose of Optina
Rejoice, oasis of faith in the desert of unbelief.
Akathist to Abba Moses the Black
#18 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 06:51
Surely, there is no longer any reason for inordinate pride in the OCA. But I think you confuse the critics with the defenders of the status quo when you attribute or infer "OCA boastfulness" in them. Quite to the contrary.
You need to be more specific when you claim that "we" in the OCA or North America are denigrating our sister Churches abroad. Certainly, they are not above criticism in many respects, but then neither are we. If we learn anything from this debacle it should be the inevitable fallibility of institutions run by human beings, especially when they think themselves "set apart" and answerable only to God.
The late John Paul II, to his immense credit, apologized for many of the historic mistakes, and yes, sins, of the Roman Catholic Church (committed , of course, by fallible human beings). Would that we could humble ourselves in a similar fashion.
#19 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-04-01 06:52
Something to keep in mind for anyone considering the withholding of assessments, donations.
If you really believe that those in control of the OCA machinery are bad actors, then what do you think they will do in response to a cash flow crunch? ..... Thinking ..... thinking .... if your answer is 'roll over and give up' then you don't really think these folks are bad actors. If your answer is 'finally see the light' then I submit that when God chooses to perform miracles He has demonstrated to use pretty much anything that comes to hand. (Donkey's, sticks, snakes etc.) and doesn't need our financial votes to push Him over the line.
There are two things bad actors would likely do: One is court donors of an unsavory kind, those who may have an interest in various connections or for cover for their activity etc. The other is to cash-in various assets including property and waste away that money for personal enrichment.
Hence, the badder you think they are, the more money you should give them because the wolf does more damage to the sheep when hungry.
Now. When you get to the point that you can no longer lay your treasure at the apostles feet in the persons of the hierarchy, then why on earth would you receive the Holy Mysteries under their care? In otherwords, how do you tell God that you believe He honors these bishops with His grace but you won't honor them with your piddling few hunder $ per week?
Please understand this is a thought experiment. This in no way reflects my position on anything other than the likely organizational impact of various actions under hypotetical conditions.
#20 Symeon Jekel on 2008-04-01 07:06
"I firmly believe that Wheeler has been involved with Herman and Kucynda from the beginning of this entire mess."
Based on what facts?
#21 Michael Strelka on 2008-04-01 07:38
Too bad! If the entire synod did resign, it would be the answer to many prayers. The current synod is comprised of lawless men. They do not follow the Canons of the church, yet they enforce the obey and pay law. What a mess!
#22 MP on 2008-04-01 07:54
Dear Fellow Orthodox,
As a cradle Orthodox and an immigrant to the United States, I for one believe that there are many things that are special about North America. First of all, the Orthodox Church in the new world is not a national or ethnic church. While the Greeks may lead the Orthodox world with their ethnocentric attitude (If you are Greek, you must be Orthodox, and if you are Orthodox, you would be better off if you were Greek), there is no question that the Russians’, Serbians’, Rumenians’, Bulgarians’, Armenians’, Albanians’ and Georgians’ self identity is defined by their “local” Church, language, and other lesser factors. If you look at the ancient patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople, you will not find one that is not like a boat that is trying to survive the vast, Muslim ocean that they are in--they have indeed become strangers in a strange land.
In contrast, we have two major Orthodox jurisdictions in North America that have made special efforts to discard unnecessary ethnicity to be able to reach out to those who are not cradle Orthodox. One of these two major jurisdictions produced theologians that were able to discern true Orthodoxy by filtering out traditions with a small “t”, The other major jurisdiction, started using English in its services 50 years ago; vigorously reached out to Western Rite Christians, who use a liturgy that was brought up to Orthodox standards by Saint Tikhon; and took into its bosom the Evangelical Orthodox, who have been bearing true Orthodox/Christian fruit.
You are correct that there is no specifically American ecclesiology. There is, however, a nascent ecclesiology in North America that is closer to the essential and true Orthodox ecclesia--the Body of Christ that is stripped off of its ethic, historic, nationalistic, and cultural barnacles. I think that you idealistically dismiss the influence of “differences in the administrative functioning of the various local Churches” on ecclesiology, which Orthodox Wiki defines as the theology of the Orthodox Christian faith concerning the Church. However, it is precisely those differences that have caused trouble and inhibited the growth of our Church. I’ll give you one ancient and one modern example: the Old Believers and the fragmentation of the Church in North America into national/ethnic jurisdictions. Finally, the evidence is very strong that the Imperial Church (in Rome and its two follow-on incarnations) have resulted in the sickness called Monarchical Episcopacy.
You will likely put me with those that sneer and dismiss other churches. I think you are confusing criticism with sneering, Indeed, you yourself said that “there is no need to emulate whatever errors other Churches may have committed.” I did advocate that a local church council, such as the OCA, may arrive at the conclusion that current circumstances call for the return to the normal practice of married bishops, just as centuries ago another local church came to the contrary conclusion based on its own circumstances. One cannot emphasize the point strongly enough: This ancient canon stressed that it was not overturning the Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic Canons; however, circumstances had led the local church to exercise economia and deviate from the norm because the faithful was being scandalized by the conduct of some of the married bishops. I don’t think any Orthodox alive would think that this particular local church was wrong to have taken the initiative in making this better for its faithful. I do believe that we should be guided in these matters primarily by the Holy Spirit, We should by all means consider possible adverse reactions by the other Orthodox Churches; however, this consideration should not affect the substance of the proposal, just the matter of its timing and phase-in.
#23 Carl on 2008-04-01 08:19
Kindly explain how a FEDERAL INVESTIGATION conducted by "a very big, very corrupt" government does any good. That's assuming, for a moment, that there is no such thing as a First Amendment to the Constitution that precludes, thank God, any Federal investigation at all into questions of ecclesiology or hierarchy. It is not a Federal crime to be a narcissistic and bullying excuse for a bishop. It is not a Federal crime to tonsure a convicted sex offender as a reader. Misallocation of charitable donations may be a Federal crime, but there has to be sufficient evidence for an indictment, and there has to be a prosecutor willing to wade into an ecclesial swamp in order to pursue the case. If there was such a prosecutor, I think we would have seen him by now. Face it, Anonymous, our troubles are very small potatoes in the grand world of FEDERAL INVESTIGATIONS. Ain't gonna happen.
#24 Scott Walker on 2008-04-01 08:45
Wait, FROC invited Fr. John Erickson to come and talk about *canons*? The one and the same "ecumenical-freemason-new calanderist heretic" Fr. John Erickson?
Where was I when hell froze over?
Seriously, the lecture sounds lovely. Thanks for mentioning it.
#25 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 08:58
I would just like to make a correction and point out that both +Serpahim and +Benjamin graduated from SVS (they were classmates and good friends even then). +Tikhon has a degree from STS, no? I'm fuzzy about the rest.
Nonetheless, I agree with your basic premise that there is, in fact, a circle of "good old boys" which runs large portions of the OCA. For all their reliance upon the work of Shmemman and Meyendorff for their own existence, a lot of them get very nervous about actually doing anything that those two luminaries suggested. They would, indeed, much rather sit behind closed doors and carry on a past which is very very stale.
(Editor's note: Bishop Tikhon graduated and taught at STS. Archbishop Seraphim and Bishop Benjamin were classmates and both graduated from SVS; the Archbishop with a MA in liturgical theology. In the interest of full disclosure, I, too, was their classmate and friend - and all three of us were on a SVS octet together in 1979. )
#26 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 09:16
You cant be serious. Excuse me but the validity of the Holy Mysteries is not contingent upon the worthiness of the dispenser. In fact, the dispenser should tremble with the fear of God. Obviously those responsible for this debacle have no fear of God. If they had, they would weep before the flock and ask forgiveness. As it stands now, it sure seems like it will be a cold day in hell before any geniune repentance is forthcoming from this group. If you just want to just roll over and take the abuse, be my guest. Those that won't fight for liberty in Christ, are destined to be slaves of tyrannical counterfeits wearing the garbs of Pharisees.
#27 Rich on 2008-04-01 09:24
Frankly, the position of the EP that we are not "Greek" enough and the position of the MP that we are not "Russian" enough is none of my concern. Nor does it actually concern the work and mission of the OCA.
Though I have talked to some OCA priests who were at the funeral, and none of them felt particularly slighted or discriminated against. So I'm really not sure where you're getting your information from, but I've heard a different story.
#28 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 09:31
Time will tell.
We all know about Nikolai's behavior. We all know what he has done and how he has mistreated people - and there is a long long long long list of people he has mistreated. So what will the result be? What will these bishops find in Alaska? If they find otherwise than what ALL of us already know, or what Fr Garklavs found, well then....
Time will tell.
#29 A sad state of affairs in Alaska on 2008-04-01 09:33
It was just reported that Fr. Alexander Rentel, Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, resigned as the canonical advisor to the Synod following the most recent Synod meeting last Thursday. Hummmmm . Interesting and may make the lecture more interesting too.
#30 Will Attend on 2008-04-01 09:39
Facts is facts gentlemen.
The fact is that the heavy handedness of Nikolai is finally getting recognized by the Synod.
It should have been investigated after Lydia Black was booted from her home and Nikolai should have gotten the bowshot he deserved then.
The 'investigation' isn't a window dressing, its an expression of a stern warning of what can be taken away.
For many, a warning is a window dressing.
The likelihood that any superficial 'investigation' into noncriminal wrongdoing will lead to anything is pretty slim to be fair to the Abps leading the 'investigation'.
Setting the bar for expectations is important for everyone here. The bar for Nikolai has been set pitifully low. Far below the expectations for the rest of us. Is that because he is a Bishop? Higher standing equals lower bar? It seems so. The bar for the 'investigation' should be that Nikolai understands its a final warning.
Don't hit anyone and be charged with a criminal assault and you can still be Bishop? What is a Bishop's performance bar?
The question is, if Isadore was slapped by Nikolai, why didn't he report it. Oh wait, to whom would he report it? Only the cops and then its a he said she said ultimately noncriminal event and termination under the current OCA policies [for Isadore]. Or he could call Abp. Job and that would result in Job getting kicked out of the Synod for meddling.
The problem isn't with the investigators, it is with the poor governance structures of the OCA.
Three or six calls into an ethics hotline for a Bishop kicking people out of homes, beating subordinates, kicking old ladies with hearing aid issues out of church, etc. What investigation would be needed? A proper governance would have given the Bishop warning upon warning, allowing him to modify bad behaviors, and allowing the people to respond to an intimidating style without the internet.
Bad governance requires new leaders that understand it, and want to repair it. The Canons might be underlying principles, but they are not procedurally clear governance. The resignation of the Canon expert seems like pretty clear evidence to me that there is a general debate going on about the Canons themselves.
The single underlying problem with the OCA is a failed governance system. The system fails to respond to bad chief priests and pharisees in a timely and responsible fashion. In the secular, corporate world, beyond a reasonable doubt isn't required for termination. So the OCA is beat by the secular, corporate world on addressing bad behavior. How can we expect much from the 'investigators'?
And the two Archbishops visiting the frozen tundra aren't charged to fix the broken governance.
And apparently, the Canons ain't worth the paper they are written on because noone will dare to say the Canons are procedurally vague and add procedures to them that bear witness to the Deacon Wheelers and Lydia Blacks of the world.
The failure of our Synod and any AAC to respond to the clear governance problems would indeed support the idea that a new group of leaders is needed.
Or an AAC intent on fixing bad governance.
#31 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-04-01 09:44
Mark reported that “At the Metropolitan Council yesterday, Metropolitan Herman refused to allow the new clergy delegate from Alaska, Fr. Michael Oleksa, to be seated at the meeting, or to speak to the Council, thereby repudiating the choice of the Alaskan clergy and the decision of the interim Diocesan Administrator he himself appointed.”
Hopeless, absolutely hopeless. Despondency, joylessness. This is no longer a faith of hope and love. It has been hijacked by men with no conscience. There will be no joy in the Resurrection in our jurisdiction. I will turn away when my bishop’s Easter greeting is read to the people. What hypocrites. Where is the comfort, the consolation that we should find in the church?
Stop the assessment funding! Stop all funding! They seem to think we are “fooling around” but we need to let the MC and the Synod know we mean business. The vermin in the church need to be cleaned out or we will all suffer at the final judgment for not taking care of the inheritance that our Lord gave to us all.
I am so mired in depression.
#32 A Very Sad Lizzie on 2008-04-01 09:52
Reading the latest news and Swaiko's address to the MC, where the most fascinating, and probably only truthful part to any degree is the leave of Fr. Tassos. I'd love to get the real reason he's taken some time with family.
And this comes on the heels of the canonical expert to the Synod resigning and Perry too. Hey, Jimmy Silver, offer your services to the Synod, I'm sure they'd value your knowledge of the canons which is only exceeded by the fathers who actually wrote them!
And Swaiko wants us to think things are going really great!
He's GOT to be EXTREMELY medicated. No one else with any shred of rational mental capability would be able to say what he did unless they're standing up with a microphone in hand, a stool near with a glass of water on it, and a brick wall behind them.
Joe, resign as Metropolitan and hit the comedy circuit. What you say is priceless in that context!
(editor's note: Fr. Tasso's need to be with his family has been known for some time; as has his desire to return to them. That is the "real" reason. )
#33 Larry the Cable Guy on 2008-04-01 10:26
"Editor's update: Bishop Nikolai had arranged for the two Bishops to stay with supporters of Nikolai. The Bishops have confirmed they are staying in a hotel instead"
Finally-- some money in this mess that's actually well spent!
#34 Valentine on 2008-04-01 10:38
I stand corrected, and on a good note!
#35 Ted Panamarioff - Kodiak Alaska on 2008-04-01 10:43
The Light of Christ illumines all! And has not His Light illumined darkness in the leadership of the OCA sufficiently at this point to reveal that the metropolitan and the bishops are living in complete delusion, having reversed their perception: good is seen by them as evil, evil as good. The bishop of Alaska dares to identify himself as being crucified like our holy, sinless Lord Jesus Christ! In their delusion they believe that all others than their minions are blind or wrong. They are not going to change. Withholding money will not change them--we have seen that. Requests by senior clergy, diocesan resolutions, individual parishes, or internet lists will not result in any of them stepping down. They are intransigent, believe themselves to be untouchable, and have not manifested by their behavior that they believe the situation in the OCA even to be grievous. The darkness of immorality, corruption and abuse are exposed, the people are reeling from revelation after revelation, but not to worry--solidarity is everything, all is well. Any bishop can get away with any behavior, Mr. Kondratic can proceed behind the scenes with impunity, because these men stand together. Archbishop Job made valient efforts but in the end what prevailed? Solidarity--and continuance in delusion, with more immorality, corruption and abuse to follow.
When the Synod of Bishops reversed itself and Bp. Nikolai was restored, with token inquiries to be made and make-nice words to be spoken by Bp. Nikolai, it was (*over*) for the OCA. The wolves won the field, and the sheep know it. What is left to occur is the scattering of the flock. There are jurisdictions with leaders who can be true shepherds for the sheep of the OCA. Time to depart for a safe fold. Now individuals and entire parishes must begin the process of choosing a jurisdiction. No one can leave without grief, sorrow, a deep sense of loss, and regret that the metropolitan and bishops of the OCA chose to live in delusion and to refuse their many opportunities for confession and repentance--but to have been enlightened by the Light of Christ, to have seen the darkness, and then to stay, is to participate in that darkness. We cannot do that and save our souls.
#36 Name withheld by request on 2008-04-01 10:53
FINALLY! FINALLY! FINALLY!
Someone is speaking of withholding money to the dioceses THEMSELVES! This is the most significant call to action, and by clergy, that we have heard yet.
The individual diocesan bishops will easily let the central administration melt away under the pressure of no money, but now there's word of hitting THEM where it makes an impact because of their inaction and in most cases, willingly complicit behavior.
You are under NO requirement to spend your money in ways that make you a bad steward of it, namely funding a bunch of corrupt, Godless men, masquerading around as successors to the Apostles! Remember, you can withhold your money to Syosset, but the diocese is still under the gun to send in the assessments. So, you can withhold thinking its not getting there, but if they have other resources they are going to continue to send to Syosset. Withholding to the diocese not only finally cuts the life blood to the individual bishops, but secures that no money gets to Oyster Bay.
There is one other action that we have just seen worked like a charm with Nikolai: use the press. The last thing they want is for people in a wider audience, outside of the Church to see they are frauds. There's no rehabilitating their reputations and lives within the Church, but when you start to show other people that their immoral behavior ranks up with the worst of them, they they start to budge off of their duffs. Let's hold a press conference. Next time the Synod meets let's put an inflatable rat out on the road in front of the Chancery. Let's bring that rat to Pittsburgh! Let that rat follow Herman around like his shadow!
But, even so, the best you can hope to do is to make them highly uncomfortable, which is great too, until they die. This is an endurance match. A endurance match where they will do WHATEVER they need to make sure they maintain the facade and keep the office until they are securely beneath the ground decomposing away. While they are breathing they are going to do WHATEVER they need to keep a lid on all the immoral and illegal behavior they have been part of for decades. Allowing the Church to die doesn't bother them as much as having to face the long arm of the law.
If one of these guys resigned and new people with character and integrity took over and started to uncover what's been going on, people will go to jail. Why on earth would someone willingly give way to THAT? Look at what Nikolai did to keep his place.
#37 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 10:59
Mr. Tobin, you are no more specific than ‘Fellow Orthodox Christian’ in your appeals to stop idolizing tradition and ritualism. I am hardly the person to disagree with you on that one. But the problem is that one easily encounters a wide range of opinions about what is meaningless and what is valuable in Church practices. It is a very necessary discussion but I think that it is important that the OCA does not engage in it single-handedly. I think that ‘Fellow Orthodox’ spoke not so much against the substance of possible inquests but rather against unilateralism and self-reliance. As the saying goes, ‘the future lies in the past’. We don’t have much of a past yet. I also think that the vanity described by ‘Fellow Orthodox’ indeed exists among some of our faithful. And I fear that it is eroding the OCA from underneath, while our bishops are eroding it from above because of the underlying pride in both approaches. We may have to carefully tread a narrow path to save the OCA. And as far as the “high calling” goes, it comes from God and He may find us unworthy of it. As you yourself said, men’s institutions are fallible. It is again the past that is full of such examples.
#38 Respectfully, Karina Ross. on 2008-04-01 11:01
its people like you who make me sick! your no chaplain! you're a "BASHER" ! NO FACTS! AND YOU HAVE NO POWER! ITS PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO THINK THEY KNOW SO MUCH! YET KNOW SO LITTLE! PLEASE GO START YOUR OWN CHURCH! YOU AND YOUR BASHER FRIENDS PLEASE GO AWAY!
#39 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 11:52
Dear Anonymous who ended with the chant USA, USA, USA:
If it is hard to tell the players at a baseball or football game without a program, we kibitzers who see any number of contestants here wearing "anonymous" on their uniforms have to have some way to address our boos or cheers. So I'll call you USA.
I hope I summarize USA's views fairly by saying "he or she believes the commentary on this site sins against God because it involves talkativeness." I have two main questions:
1. What did St. Paul mean when he instructed the "saints in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1) (sounds to me like the kind of people who are trying to make use of this site) to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them?" (Eph. 5:11, both quotes ASV)
2. How can or should we apply any principle we extract from that passage of scripture to the present difficulties in the OCA and the role this site plays in them?
It seems to me that a lot of the information and comment that gets posted here is about stuff St. Paul would have had no trouble identifying as "unfruitful works of darkness," and that the commentary here involves very energetic reproof of the same a high enough percentage of the time to justify the site's overall existence even if some misuse it.
So was it OK for Paul to advise the Ephesian church to bring some shameful and nasty stuff to light? Were the people who did so sinning by talkativeness?
And if it was OK for the Ephesians, can you distinguish for us why shining light on shameful things here is automatically invalid, as you seem to suggest? I have no problem saying that a fraction -perhaps even a large fraction - of what is posted here is not very helpful, and even detrimental, but when there are unfruitful works of darkness about and exposure can be the will of God, it seems hard to argue with the effectiveness of this particular method of shedding light.
Fr. George, Fr. George, Fr. George
#40 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-04-01 12:17
Dear Anonymous, Thank you for your expressions of concern and support, they are truly appreciated. As to how you can help, I'd have to say that help at this point would be like throwing a rope to a drowning person after they had gone down for the third time. The only thing left to do is PRAY FERVENTLY! Miracles can and do happen! That's what it would take to lift the Alaska Diocese out of this catastophe. Unless of course the Synod recognized what is at stake and did what they should have done long ago with Bishop Nikolai. With Love in Christ, Your Brother Roy (Vladimir).
#41 Roy and Linda Madsen on 2008-04-01 12:24
You are quite right that it is not fair to tar every OCA member with a single brush. I apologize. I was speaking, mostly, a general attitude that I found prevalent in the OCA more especially in the time leading up to this crisis. There has been a sort of self-regarding triumphalism. Fr. Hopko sometimes tells a story about being in the Altar with Fr. Schmemann. (I recount it from memory.) Fr. Tom commented on his vestments, which had a repeating Christogram ("ICXC") pattern, noting that text wasn't the best choice for a vestment design, since it would often end up pointing in various wrong ways when worn.
"Father Tom," replied Fr. Alexander, "just be glad it doesn't say 'OCA.'"
Maybe you have not been exposed to a puffed-up sense of "doing it right," to casual dismissals of the entire pre-revolutionary Russian Church, to snide comments about "ethnics" (this, I am sure, is rare, but I have seen it), and so on. In any event, it would be good to see people asking what might be learned from Churches that -- whatever their flaws -- have survived centuries, producing countless saints right up to the present day. Instead, I only ever hear people asking how the OCA can be more genuinely American, or how the OCA can reconstruct the experience of the early Church, which, it is said, has been "lost," including by all the other Orthodox in the world.
I've even seen posters here, when confronted by the suggestion that the OCA might reexamine its initial vision or question the wisdom of the timing or manner of autocephaly, claim that there is no need for this because the OCA is not actually worse off than any other local Church. It's Pseudo-Dionysius' fault, really; or it's some other common sickness unnoticed by over a thousand years of holy men and women -- martyrs, ecumenical teachers, wonder-workers....
But we've figured it out. No wonder it seems there's nothing to be learned from others!
#42 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-04-01 12:54
I heard that Abp Nathanial, Bp Nikon and Bp NIKOLIA! all went out to dinner together the night before the synod meeting....
I'm not holding my breath.
#43 anonymous on 2008-04-01 12:55
Hell is beginning to freeze over - in Alaska!
#44 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 14:17
Thanks for your reply.
The OCA and AOA are often perfectly ethnic -- it's just an ethnicity Americans don't sense because it's our own. I am not sure that this is such a bad thing, so long as the tail doesn't end up wagging the dog. And your statement that basically every local Church on the planet has got their identity wrong, unlike us, would be convincing to me if these Churches were no longer producing saints and we were. But, in fact, men and women of exceptional holiness continue to be raised up in nearly all of these Churches. Meanwhile, our American saints (Alaskan natives excepted) are imported from abroad -- indeed, from those moribund places you've mentioned!
I am grateful for what we have, but I think we are too self-congratulatory. The ability of early St. Vladimir's theologians "to discern true Orthodoxy by filtering out traditions with a small 't'" is far from universally acknowledged. In fact, some of the bits of Orthodoxy that got caught in their filters -- like traditional monastic life -- are now being rediscovered by many as rather valuable. And the Western Rite as practiced now didn't pass Fr. Schmemann's test.
The conversion of the "Evangelical Orthodox" and their subsequent apologetical work was a great blessing to me personally. But their catechism was in many instances left woefully incomplete, and this has shown itself repeatedly (for example, in various incarnations of the Orthodox Study Bible). And I can tell you from experience that there are not a few members of this movement who have come to realize that they have much more to learn from the "ethnic" Orthodox than they ever imagined.
As to ecclesiology: we seem to be using the word differently. I refer to the truth about the Church. I believe you are referring to what people think this truth to be. In that sense, there may very well be an American ecclesiology -- the question is whether it is Orthodox. Also, my remark referred not simply to "differences in the administrative functioning of the various local Churches," but to those instances in which "there are properly differences...." The American phenomenon of overlapping jurisdictions is not in any sense "proper."
The general phenomenon of what you've called the "Imperial Church" was -- if we are to believe the consensus of Orthodox fathers throughout history -- God-ordained. No one, of course, has asserted that everything done in the Church during these many centuries was also God-ordained. For example, we see how St. John Chrysostom was persecuted. Yet we do not find him calling for the disestablishment of the Church, or any other radical structural change in Church-State relations. Before we condemn the "Imperial Church," we should stop to consider the witness of the many holy and learned men and women who actually lived in it, and who did so without illusions.
Lastly, regarding the married episcopate: Your historical point is well-taken, but there is an important difference here. The OCA is barely recognized anywhere as an autocephalous Church. (Even Moscow, which granted the tomos of autocephaly, completely ignores it in practice, as witness its substantial Church organization in America.) If the OCA had a record of stability, of long firmness in the faith -- basically, if the fruits of the OCA commanded respect -- it might be a different matter. I think that is worth considering, and not only with reference to strategy: is the OCA indeed the right body to do this?
As a practical matter, if the OCA were to implement a married episcopacy without taking counsel of the other Churches -- to say nothing of acting with their blessing -- it would result in an immediate schism. Moreover, our American jurisdictional situation means that the controversy would not be limited to communications between geographically distant synods, but would be in everyone's face, all the time. There would be, in other words, substantial downsides to ordinary faithful.
#45 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-04-01 15:15
"small potatoes" ? Scripture prevents one from calling you a "fool" but you are very naive.
#46 anonymous on 2008-04-01 15:17
Judge Roy, I remember you fondly from my atendance at the pilgrimmage several year's ago. It was the pilgrimmage in which the disaster concerning the archivist occurred. Locally, I value and treasure the Alaskans in our parish, and it pains me to know that they and their families are in pain. You remain in my poor prayers; it's people such as you who have kept Orthodoxy alive so that people like me might embrace it. Pray for us.
#47 Rdr. John (Tracey) Edson on 2008-04-01 15:48
Specificity? How about our Lord's answer: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is first and great commandment and the second is like onto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
While I could give a much more lengthy and detailed answer, it would be secondary to and derivative from the above. Its watch words would be tolerance and respect for the informed exercise of God-given Free Will.
#48 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-04-01 16:33
Comments continue to be posted regarding the lack of candidates available as hierarchs and suggestions that the OCA needs to return to married hierarchs. The big problem that no one addresses is that, historically, the hierarchal needs of the church were taken care of, in general, by the monastics, true monastics who lived holy lives in monastic endeavors. There are few monasteries in America, few people who support the few that exist, and fewer yet who even acknowledge that monasteries should play a part in Orthodox life.
From what I understand, few if any of the current group of hierarchs of the OCA (and other jurisdictions, as well) are true monks; just taking vows of celibacy does not a monastic make.
The faithful of Russia and other Orthodox areas of the world used to practice pilgrimages to the monasteries on a regular basis.
We read the wonderful Optina elders series and other texts the portray the lives of saintly monastics and fail to get a hold on the fact that all of these people were Monastics.
When St Barsanuphius of Optina entered the altar (in a military uniform) where St John of Kronstad was serving, the saint turned and kissed his hand because he saw, 'in the spirit', that St Barsanuphius would become a hierarch and a saint even though he was a layman at the time. So, this man at the peak of a powerful military career, resigned and became a simple monk. Those are the kind of people that are needed to become OCA hierarchs.
#49 Yanni on 2008-04-01 16:46
Written with all the eloquence of a 4 year-old on a temper tantrum.
Somebody needs a time-out.
#50 Felix Culpa on 2008-04-01 17:41
I understand Metropolitan PHILIP has written favoring married bishops. Perhaps the church is ready to accept this. Christ chose married bishops. Perhaps we should follow His example.
#51 Anon on 2008-04-01 18:13
Re: "What did St. Paul mean when he instructed the "saints in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1) (sounds to me like the kind of people who are trying to make use of this site) to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them?" (Eph. 5:11, both quotes ASV)"
Ephesians 5:11-13: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. But all things when they are reproved, are made manifest by the light.”
St. John Chrysostom's commentary on the above:
"He had said, 'ye are light.' Now the light reproves by exposing the things which take place in the darkness. So that if ye, says he, are virtuous, and conspicuous, the wicked will be unable to lie hidden. For just as when a candle is set, all are brought to light, and the thief cannot enter; so if your light shine, the wicked being discovered shall be caught.
So then it is our duty to expose them. How then does our Lord say, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged'? (Matt. vii. 1, 3.) Paul did not say 'judge,' he said 'reprove,' that is, correct. And the words, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged,' He spoke with reference to very small errors. Indeed, He added, 'Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?' But what Paul is saying is of this sort. As a wound, so long as it is imbedded and concealed outwardly, and runs beneath the surface, receives no attention, so also sin, as long as it is concealed, being as it were in darkness, is daringly committed in full security; but as soon as 'it is made manifest,' becomes 'light'; not indeed the sin itself, (for how could that be?) but the sinner.
For when he has been brought out to light, when he has been admonished, when he has repented, when he has obtained pardon, hast thou not cleared away all his darkness? Hast thou not then healed his wound? Hast thou not called his unfruitfulness into fruit? Either this is his meaning, or else what I said above, that your life 'being manifest, is light.' For no one hides an irreproachable life; whereas things which are hidden, are hidden by darkness covering them."
Re: "How can or should we apply any principle we extract from that passage of scripture to the present difficulties in the OCA and the role this site plays in them?
St. John Climacus:
"If you want, or rather intend, to take a splinter out of another person, then do not hack at it with a stick instead of a lancet, for you will only drive it in deeper. And this is a stick – rude speech and rough gestures. And this is a lancet – tempered instruction and patient reprimand."
Re: "So was it OK for Paul to advise the Ephesian church to bring some shameful and nasty stuff to light?"
If SAINT Paul said it was "OK" then it must be okay, right? But did SAINT Paul advise the Ephesians to bring "shameful and nasty stuff" to light? St. John Chrystostom (again): "[B]ut as soon as 'it is made manifest,' becomes 'light'; not indeed the sin itself, (for how could that be?) but the sinner."
Re: "Were the people who did so sinning by talkativeness?"
Reproof with the intention of HEALING (Again, St. Paul meant to bring the SINNER "to light" not the sin) has nothing to do with the talkativeness (i.e. hatemongering, idle tallk, gossip and slander) that makes up a large "fraction" of the voicings on this site.
St. Gregory Palamas:
"If you wish to correct anyone from his faults, do not think of correcting him solely by your own means: you would only do harm by your own passions, for instance, by pride and by the irritability arising from it; 'but cast thy burden upon the Lord,' (Ps. 55:22) and pray to God 'Who trieth the hearts and reins,' (Ps. 7:9) with all your heart, that He Himself may enlighten the mind and heart of that man."
#52 Anonymous on 2008-04-01 18:28
Actually, All Caps Anonymous Guy, people are beginning to just go away. In time you can have the church you always wanted: you, and your pal, "the met", and the several dozen others who favor form over substance. You'll enjoy it. It will be a cozy little mutual admiration society where nobody thinks any differently or asks questions or expects anything from the hierarchs except that they look good in vestments. And you won't have to deal with those nasty refugees from other Christian bodies because nobody will ever, ever come to your...well, I suppose I have to call it a church. It will look like a church, anyway. What it really will be is a museum, or even a whited sepulchre, if we want to be precise.
#53 Scott Walker on 2008-04-01 18:38
Yeah, I guess it's naive to suppose that the Feds have bigger fish to fry than the troubles of one small church that most Americans have never heard of. And I may be a fool for thinking that American taxpayers don't give a tinker's dam about angry members of that small church they have never heard of. Thanks for setting me straight.
#54 Scott Walker on 2008-04-01 18:46
This is not where I should be adding my comment, but I cannot find the place where I should. Thank God for you Ansonia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I wish more us were in the position to join you publically! However, know that very many of us are with you.
Withhold! Stand your ground and perhaps with time more of our parishes will find the guts to stand with you. In the meantime, thank God for you, Ansonia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
#55 anonymous on 2008-04-01 21:24
Goodness! Church Fathers! How charmingly old-fashioned.
I second the sentiment that some of us here (me too, though not usually in print) have succumbed to sinful mockery and to contempt. But that is hardly the case for all or most of the contributions here. And your point is well-taken, regarding seeking the repentance of the fallen. How often do we feel compassion for twisted souls when we criticize them? We are outraged at distortions of the episcopacy, but do we shed tears for the distortions of humanity that the evil one has accomplished? Our fathers in the faith had compassion even for the demons, were in pain for them over what they had become. God help us to emulate this.
But there is something you are missing here. The personal repentance of the fallen is important. But the spiritual health of the whole Church is also important. Yes, we should have compassion on the fallen, even when they offend us. But what about compassion for the scandalized, for the oppressed, for old women tossed out of their homes, for our brothers estranged from the Church, for the defrauded children of Beslan? Compassion for them means acting for their salvation.
Severity and calling to account can sometimes work for everyone's salvation. Indeed, sometimes nothing else will, as plenty of fathers have made clear in word and deed. Who is the our model Physician of souls? The Lord. And didn't He cast from the temple the money-changers and those who sold the sheep, oxen and doves? Here's what St. Bede has to say about that, and how it relates to the Church:
"Oxen represent teaching about heavenly life, sheep the works of undefiled piety, and doves the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is with the help of oxen that we usually plow a field: the field of the human heart, carefully cultivated by the Lord's heavenly teaching and properly prepared to receive seeds of the word of God. Innocent sheep furnish their fleece for the clothing of humans. The Spirit descended in a bodily shape as a dove upon the Lord. But those persons sell oxen who impart the word of the Gospel to their hearers, not out of divine love, but with a view to earthly gain: the apostle censures such as these by saying that they proclaim out of factiousness, not purely. They sell sheep who carry out the works of piety for the sake of human praise: of them the Lord says that 'they have received their reward.' They sell doves who give the grace of the Spirit they have received, not without recompense, as has been commanded, but for pay. They bestow the imposition of hands by which the Spirit is received, albeit not for monetary gain but to gain the favor of the public; they confer sacred orders, not on the merit of the ordinand's life but as a personal favor. They charge money in the temple who perform their service in the Church, not pretending that they are doing it for heavenly reasons but clearly for earthly purposes, seeking their own advantage and not that of Christ."
Does any of this sound familiar?
(P.S. You'll find St. Bede in Homily 2.1, "In Lent," qtd in the Orthodox New Testament 488. In the future, it would be helpful if those who cite the Fathers would provide citations, so that the interested can see their words in context.)
#56 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-04-02 01:10
Why quote the Fathers for your various agendas Christ is the best example and he acted, isn't that what the Incarnation is all about ? The trouble is no one is acting they are just talking. We're all lame men by the pool waiting for a helping hand yet it was already offered and we've passed on it.
#57 anonymous on 2008-04-02 05:45
It's a literary tool called hyperbole. In this case my point is that the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America is what the Bible calls, "A byword among the nations" or in simpler terms a laughingstock... a sad joke made possible by our former and current leadership.
#58 Dr. Herbert Elfers on 2008-04-02 06:49
Sorry, All Caps Anonymous Guy-or Gal, you Are experiencing people leaving in your own Parish. A loving and peaceful Parish family has become divided and if anyone asks a question, expresses a different point of view, or has an alternative suggestion they are dismissed as "evil", troublemakers, "so called rich who want control", and it has been stated that they "should just leave the Parish if they don't like it because it would be cleansing".
Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and shouting at everyone. People are hurting everywhere! If You know the facts you might want to share them with everyone in a reasonable and discernable manner. Otherwise, you become as a "clanging bell". Peace!
#59 Anonymous on 2008-04-02 07:36
Ansonia, we stand with you as well. We are a parish in the Washington, New York Diocese and we are withholding as you are. We have had a parish meeting and unanimously voted to withhold. If more parishes would do so as well, the problems would be solved faster. It is time to have every priest stand up for what is right and withhold their parish funds to their diocese in a combined effort. If not, this nonsense will continue and we will all be to blame for the slow painful death of our church. It is time to act NOW!! When you sing “Christ is Risen” in a few weeks, do it in a church that is pure and clean.
#60 Withholding all the funds on 2008-04-02 08:39
I stand ready to be corrected, but didn't most most of our Saints live during persecutions? That is, when the Church was not part of the state apparatus ( I am including the Soviet Era in this).
I have never meant to imply that the Orthodox Church ceased to be the True Faith during the Imperial Church era. It just was/is less than its full potential.
Look, I believe making lemonade when all you are given are lemons. It may enough for some folks to merely get back to the status quo. I am just pushing a bit further, in non-traditional but nonetheless truly Orthodox Christian directions. This is a small menu that derives its theology and ecclesiology from Holy Tradition, with emphasis on the Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic Canons:
- Reform the Church statutes and bylaws to ensure true conciliarity and accountability;
- Go back to married bishops; and
- Go back to the way the Early Church used deacons.
Some of these measures may happen in the distant future, some fairly quickly. The important point is that they all provide context to any reform. The context is simply fidelity to Holy Tradition not merely to usage. It is true that Orthodoxy is very conservative and slow moving; that does not mean that it blindly should follow what folks in the home country or the other jurisdictions did or are doing. It certainly does not mean that it should be paralyzed like a deer caught in the headlights and standing still in the middle of the road for the inevitable crash.
Like I said, we have been given lemons. Let us accept them as gifts from the Lord and make lemonade!
#61 Carl on 2008-04-02 11:38
Worldwide Orthodoxy can mock the OCA all it wants, but I have yet to see any of them (the Antiochians excluded) who have stepped up to the task of bringing salvation to the American people. The sins of the OCA are many, but the sin of keeping souls from salvation is even greater.
Every ancient Patriarchate has undergone its shares of trials and tribulations, scandals and cover-ups. Remember the recent Patriarch of Jerusalem, Irenious? Selling Patriarchate land to Israelis was only the tip of the iceberg, there were numerous other shady deals and exchange of vast amounts of money going on. You want laughingstocks, there's plenty to go around.
I hope that 50 years from now we can look back upon this past decade as the time when the OCA, through its struggles and problems, was able to finally consolidate itself a strong, healthy, and vibrant Orthodox Church, with leaders to be reckoned with on the world scene. I am willing to work towards that goal, and if we all put a bit of elbow-grease into it (as my mother used to say) I think it is a very achievable goal.
#62 Anonymous on 2008-04-02 11:46
The plain fact of the matter is that any group, especially a heirarchial one, will remain inevitably conscienceless and evil until such time as each and every indivdual holds himself/herself directly responsible for the behavior of the whole group of which he or she is a part. Have we yet begun to arrive at that point?
Bearing in mind the psychological immaturity of our Heirarchical group, we need to examine the aspects of both the crime and the cover-up, because both are quite interwoven. They are, in essence, part of the same ball of wax. How is it that so many individuals at the top could have participated in such evil without any of them being so conscience-striken as to be compelled to confess? The cover-up is a gigantic group lie by men consumed with laziness and narcissism. As with any lie, perpetrated at the top, steeped in self-absorption I suspect that many have not confessed their sins simply because they don't consider the atrocity to be a sin. They do not confess because they do not realize they have anything to confess- a sure sign of narcissism. Some hide their guilt while others pretend they have no guilt to hide. How could this be? Can a whole group of spiritual leaders be so arrogant as to distance themselves from the Cross of Christ, the very Cross that gave them life. As the Heirarhcy has submitted less and less of their lives to Christ so have they become absolutely faceless and perhaps, worse, soulless. Is there just a vacuum or is there Satan where once a soul resided? The task before us is nothing less than to metaphorically exorcise our heirarchical structure to the submission of Christs' real church on earth. There is no word adequate to describe the urgency of this task. The total failure of submission is always evil, for a group and for any individual to be sure. Unless we can heal ourselves by submission, the forces of death will win and we will consume ourselves in our own evil. Finally, to purify the narcissism from our beloved church we must continually examine ourselves as individual souls in dire need of salvation for the salvation of all.
#63 Brother David on 2008-04-02 15:15
What a mess!!!!! First the financial scandal that looks like it will not ever be resolved and now the Alaska crisis that seems to be a duplication of prior years of irresponsibility and maltreatment of the flock with hidden reports, unanswered questions and selfishness by our Bishops, Archbishops and Metropolitans. I fear the eventual collapse of our beautiful OCA which was created by believers who are mostly first and second ethnic generation followers from proud parents who would be shocked to see what has happened to the fruit of their labors performed years ago. How sad. G.Curtis
#64 gabe curtis on 2008-04-02 15:27
I have tried...really tried to understand the anti-ethnicism that I have experienced from so many of my brethren in the OCA over the years. Tried for years. I really didn't have a clue until yesterday. Perhaps God had mercy on me, because like a postcard from heaven, my eyes came across a book review in the April 2008 issue of First Things.
Richard John Neuhaus reviewed 'The Puritan Roots of American Patriotism' by Richard McKenna. In this review. I found the root of THE defining little "t" tradition of the OCA.
In a nutshell, this defining "t"radition is basically a (True Red White and Blue) American reflexive Protestant prejudice and hatred against things "Catholic."
In the case of the Puritans of the book's title, children of the "Radical" Reformation, this prejudice was directed against American Roman Catholics and their foreign potentate, the Pope.
In the case of today's rabidly pro-American Orthodox Churchers, this prejudice manifests itself in a newer form (mutation?) against "ethnic" Orthodox under foreign potentates (e.g. the MP, EP, etc.).
The constant belittling of Orthodox "ethnics" and their ways in these pro-American Orthodox circles of the Protestant baggage that some converts carry into the Church. In places like ocanews, this baggage is touted as "progressive" thinking when it is just reactionary protestantism.
On the other hand, the same constant belittling of Orthodox ethnics by "cradle" American Orthodox is a symptom of the growing pains of assimilation by immigrants and their children. We, in the second and third generations have at times imitated our surrounds in order to fit in. Sometimes what surrounds us is not good.
Richard McKenna wrote: "Historically, American Patriotism and American anti-Catholicism are joined at the root." I substituted "Orthodoxy" for "Catholicism" in this line and began to better understand my pro-American Orthodox brethren.
Anyway, read for yourself the sections of the review that jumped out at me. You'll find that the many of voices of anti-ethnicism here in ocanews are just echoes of the American Old Time Religion, Protestantism.
Try substituting "Orthodoxy" for "Catholicism" and "ethnic Orthodox" for "Catholics" in the following to get that full ocanews-y kind of flavor:
"Anti-Catholicism was not an adventitious element in American patriotic rhetoric, a prejudice that sometimes got attached to it, like racial prejudice or anti-Semitism, but a foundational premise in the American narrative handed down by the Puritans."
"Historically, American patriotism and American anti-Catholicism are joined at the root."
"After all, the Puritan 'errand into the wilderness' was an errand undertaken to escape the tentacles of popery, which was identified with the Antichrist."
"An 1856 essay in the distinguished North American Review described the intellectual faculties of Catholics as 'cabined, cribbed and confined,' their conduct being 'guided by a single will,' that of a foreign potentate."
"Theodore Parker, a leading Unitarian minister and social reformer, described Catholics as an 'ignorant and squalid people, agape for miracles, ridden by rulers and worse ridden by their priests, met to adore some relic of a saint.'"
"McKenna writes: 'This kind of language was used commonly in the writings and speeches of progressive intellectuals...It was, as we would say today, no big deal.'"
#65 Anonymous on 2008-04-02 16:18
The martyrs of the Communist period were for the most part raised and formed in the pre-revolutionary Church. Their steadfastness under persecution is a testament to the profundity of its Orthodoxy. Of course, it was sick in terrible ways, as well (it's governance was distorted, for example, thanks to Peter). And some of the Church's worst persecutors came from within. But, whatever else may be said of the spirituality of the "Imperial Church," it was this that that nourished the martyrs.
Here's what I want to say about condemning the relationship between Church and state that characterized the era of what you've called the "Imperial Church." If what happened with Constantine was a bad move, if the existence of the Church-state bond that characterized the Byzantine period was not in harmony with Holy Tradition, I think the bearers of Holy Tradition would have said something about it. Did the great ecumenical teachers of the Church -- who were perfectly learned in political philosophy -- decry it or disapprove of it? Or was it the contrary? How about the desert fathers? The move to the desert went along with state recognition and support for the Church. Did they teach that it was a bad idea?
You say that you don't question the faith of the Church during this time, and I think that you might not have as harsh an attitude in this as some others have expressed. Certainly, I do not see how one can support the claims of the Orthodox Church while asserting that Orthodox ecclesiology has been fundamentally broken for sixteen hundred years. Conciliarity was lost, the spirit of the early Church was lost, all our fathers in the faith were sucked in by a neo-platonist distortion....
(We, of course, have figured it out.)
I think married bishops are good, and I think deacons can helpfully serve the Church in administrative capacities. I think that bishops should generally be selected from among the people they will serve, and approved by their consensus. All this is traditional.
Accountability is a good thing too, at least as a pastoral matter, considering the expectations of Americans. Better to defuse suspicion by having matters out in the open. And of course it makes actual financial malfeasance harder to commit (though to get to where we seem to be now, there must be far more than this in play). Further, Caesar requires us to keep our house in order in a certain way, and accountability plays a role in that.
I do not see, however, where accountability and transparency are found in the early Church (including in the New Testament). I'm happy to have examples pointed out to me. Like I said, I don't think these things are by necessity wrong, or anti -traditional, but I think it is going too far to say that they are part of the scriptures or apostolic canons.
#66 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-04-02 18:14
Umm, I beg to disagree. Many American Orthodox converts still get their jollies from being anti-Catholic, while also being completely enamored by the fact the ancient Orthodox countries are "so holy".
Other than the Antiochians, not one of these ethnic jurisdictions have bothered to be concerned about the welfare of my soul in any way. This is not only just downright rude, it's sinful, and that makes me a little angry and a whole lot sad.
Lots of Americans are completely burnt out on the religion that "Puritanism" gave them, and are looking for something better. Is their soul worthless simply because they don't want to trade in their American identity for a Greek (for a good example) one? I walked into a Greek church here in America not too long ago and I got asked, more than once "who are you? and why are you here? there's an Anglican church across the street." Yeah, been there, done that, please excuse me while I come and defile your chalice for the salvation of my soul and the healing of my soul and body.
Sure, there are issues which Protestant converts bring with them, But these issues are only exacerbated by the fact that they are pushed out of the ethnic churches (sometimes forcibly so) and hence have to form their own little enclaves. Converts have lots to learn from cradles, and vice versa. Throwing them off like rubbish doesn't really help matters, now does it?
#67 Anonymous on 2008-04-02 18:45
Post #11 has certainly generated a spirited, and for the most part, intelligent discussion!
I stand with Carl and anonymous #184.108.40.206 (oh people, please use a human handle of some sort!) in their respective comments, while also finding much in Fellow Orthodox and the other posts with which to agree. I must, however, take exception to the slurs cast at Protestant or Anglican converts by #11.3.2. I'm afraid you've gotten it all wrong when you blame latent anti-Catholicism for a supposed attack on ethnicity.
Once again, a simple reference to the New Testament exposes the route of the problem. "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek," so ethnicity can become a barrier to following our Lord if it is used to categorize and exclude. The early Apostolic period makes clear that ours is a universal religion for the salvation of the whole world, not a private preserve for the elect of any one nation or race. This stands in marked contrast to the old Jewish Covenant, at least as understood by the Chosen People.
No one is, or should be, belittling the contributions to Christianity from all points on the globe--including the dreaded, heterodox West. Let us lay aside the past "triumphalism" indulged in by all sides just as Fellow Orthodox suggests.
#68 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-04-02 21:15
Maybe I misread you. I hope you are not saying that the only place a Christian can find salvation is in the Orthodox Church. It is not for us to say what the Holy Spirit will do or will not do. Although the betrayal of the Conciliar tradition of our Church by its hierarchs (not the first time it has happpened, either) is certainly making Orthodoxy in America less attractive to the alternatives.
#69 Greg Denysenko on 2008-04-03 07:54
What we are seeing is the reaction of ethnic groups to the history of Protestant treatment of Orthodox Christians. I recently was categorized as "non-Christian" by Protestant acquaintances whose own church intellectuals have begun to recognize the roots of this particular sect in Eastern Orthodoxy (St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and more). Here in Alaska, Sheldon Jackson's policy of "Americanizing" the Alaska Natives included "separating" them (by traditional lower-48 mistreatment of indigenous populations, including rather brutal missionary work in some instances) from "pagan" (and, importantly, of course, Russian) Orthodoxy. In the lower 48, growing up, I and my siblings were perceived by peers as being part of a very "weird" religion. So, when a stranger who is "not one of us" walks in, unfortunately, today, the assumption - underpinned by a certain amount of fear-induced hostility - is that they must be in the wrong place. However, having been recently insulted by my Protestant acquaintances and in doing some research, I have to say that I am concerned about some "baggage" which may be entering the Orthodox Church by way of more recent converts (having seen some Internet postings which alarm me) - Orthodoxy traditionally has managed to keep debates (i.e., the exact nature of Hell - e.g., fire, oblivion, extinguishing of the soul, the potential salvation of those outside of the Orthodox Church who believe in Christ the Savior - e.g., not possible vs. the "only God can see into the hearts of men" arguments - the debates cross all sorts of "ethnic", "jurisdictional", etc. lines) under the umbrella of the Church - the Church seems to reason that since the debaters can all make justifiable arguments for their interpretations and since we are but God's imperfect creatures, debate within the Church can continue for millennia. A large number of Protestant sects preach absolute certainties, and I'm seeing a trend in which Orthodoxy's tradition of allowing debate may be overwhelmed by a desire for absolutes.
#70 Anonymous on 2008-04-03 08:29
Thank you for further articulating what I said in the first paragraph of my posting. It is said very well and I believe is accurate as to the "how" and "why" of the spiritual place at which our heirarchs have arrived. What, though, about the second paragraph? To continually identify the problem, to try some variation of all that has been tried already and then lament "ain't it awful--they don't hear, they don't see, their hearts are hardened" when whatever variation was tried fails utterly is to engage in a game not unlike the game in any other sick relationship. The abuser abuses, the victim takes comfort in "ain't it awful", convinced that by protesting the horrible behavior something has been done, it's being dealt with for sure this time, and the game goes on, both parties stay sick, indeed they get sicker. But the game is familiar, more comfortable than change or leaving the relationship to seek health. What, other than the efforts which have already been tried and which have failed, do you see as a healthy and effective solution to the OCA's troubles? Anonymous #21
#71 Judith Bennett on 2008-04-03 13:12
Dear Fellow Orthodox:
You asked about New Testament passages that deal with accountability and transparency. How about the following few?
I Timothy 1: 8We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that law[a] is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
I Timothy 3: 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
I Timothy 4: 11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
I Timothy 5: 17The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,"[b] and "The worker deserves his wages."[c] 19Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.
Matthew 5: 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18: "15"If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
In Matthew, the Lord tells us how to generally approach conflicts in the Church and pronounces the single most authoritative prescription for transparency: "..tell it to the church..."
Saint Paul acknowledges the central role played by the law in human affairs (I imagine both religious and secular) and enumerates the most obvious infractions, while acknowledging that other infractions may be covered.
He then affirmatively lists mandatory guidelines for the clergy and confirms that those who sin must be rebuked publicly (I think after the Lord's approach has failed).
Seems to me that we have the foundation, starting point, philosophy or basic strategy of dealing with matters of accountability and transparency. While we may lack canons that interpret the basics in our age of instant access to information or cover due process considerations inherent in the laws of USA and Canada, it does not take a rocket scientist to apply the New Testament to our current problems. All the while, respectfully and prayerfully considering the Holy canons of course. I do think, however, that any such consideration must be done in light of our Lord's injunction that we must do better than Pharisees.
#72 Anonymous on 2008-04-03 13:41
Thanks for your reply. The first issue we'll have in applying the New Testament, rocket scientists or no, is interpreting it. Thus:
1 Tim 1:8-11: Even if we extend this passage to apply to civil law -- it appears to be in reference to the Jewish law (v. 7) -- I am not sure how this could go beyond the Lord's injunction regarding Caesar. If civil law requires something, the Church should do it (unless it's ungodly, of course, but that's not what we're talking about here).
1 Tim 3:2-10: This is St. Paul's counsel regarding how the bishop should evaluate candidates for ministry (cf. Titus 1:5).
1 Tim 4:11-16: Here the Apostle enjoins Timothy to lead an exemplary spiritual life. If he does this (particularly regarding reading, teaching, and doctrine), people will of necessity "see" his progress, which will be to their benefit. Part of living this life -- part of loving people and setting an example for them -- might include transparency in the administration of the Church, where such transparency is sufficiently valued by the culture to be called for pastorally. As I said, I think that this is the case in America; but I do not see that it is in itself part of the apostolic tradition.
1 Tim 5:27-20: Again, the counsel here is addressed to the bishop. The bishop's issuing of a rebuke should be a public matter, but for the purpose of making an example (not, for example, so that it can be independently approved of by the people).
Matt 5:19-20: The passage doesn't directly affect the point one way or another, I think. Here Christ is explicitly referring to the Old Testament law. We do not attain the greater righteousness to which Christ refers by being even more scrupulous about the Law than others. Rather, we do it through faith in Christ Who is the fulfillment of the Law, Who enables us to exercise the greater righteousness that He calls for in the next verses ("You have heard that it was said....") This interpretation has some support from Saint Paul (Rom 8:4), and it is explicitly supported by Chrysostom in his 16th Homily on Matthew.
Matt 18:15-17: Thanks to +Nikolai and Ms Jacobs, months may go by before I am able to see a reference to this passage and not shudder. Anyhow, according to Chrysostom (60th Homily) this is not a call for an announcement before the people: "'...tell it to the church,' that is, to the rulers of it." (Incidentally, as I understand matters, in the case of malfeasance by an entire synod, appeals could be made to a broader regional council, or -- in some cases at least -- to the Ecumenical Patriarch.) I'm happy to be presented with alternate interpretations by Church fathers; but I do not think we can substitute our own for such. (After all, we call them "holy fathers" and "ecumenical teachers" for a reason!)
I can't tell quite what connection (if any) you're making between the canons and Pharisees. In any event, let me reemphasize that the reason we follow the guidance of the canons is that they were not composed by Pharisees, but by holy men whose words were confirmed by the Ecumenical Councils. Now, following their guidance is not the same as being enslaved to them; nor is a Christian forbidden to go beyond what they call for. But one cannot demand this -- as such-- of others on the basis of holy tradition.
As I've said, I'm not against greater transparency and accountability. On the contrary, I consider it a pastoral imperative. My distinction may seem petty, but I do not think it is, since as Orthodox, whatever we do, we must have a thorough understanding of our reason for it.
#73 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-04-04 08:10
Like the heirarchy in the Church, we are all in combat against evil. In the heat of the fray it is tempting to take hold of some seemingly simple solution-such as litigation and use it to stomp out evil. If our passion is great enough and our will is strong enough we may even be willing to point the finger, accuse and condemn all because the ends justify the means. Or does it? Although evil is anti-life, it is a form of life. To engage evil with same are we not drawn into the anti-life and subsequently end up destroying ourselves, spiritually if not physically? We are likely to take some innocent people with us as well. This is the path that the Heirarchy would deceives us with. They have sold us the pretense of respectability. They have deceived us with the mask of sanity. We have relied on them to guide and preserve us from an uncivilized state of being, from madness and anger and from destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous. The ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles of deceit and press the buttons of lies that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they have prepared. I, for one, will not engage them on their terms. We know our spiritual enemy and by the works of the faithful and your diligence, Judith, they have been contained. Now we must allow God to take the battle to His conclusion and for us to walk the path of love, a love of almost Godlike compassion. It is not easy to embrace ugliness with the sole motive of hope that in some unknown way a transformation into beauty might occur. But the methodology of love must work and it must heal because our souls are truly depending on it. Br. David
#74 Anonymous on 2008-04-04 17:13
Dear Fellow Orthodox,
This has been an interesting interchange and, frankly, I feel woefully unprepared and inadequate to the task. Nonetheless, let me try to make a few points.
1 Tim 1:8-11: Although Paul started with the reference to the Law of the Old Testament, he clearly expands on it in verses 10-11 (...and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.) Taken together with other New Testament references by the Lord and the Apostles regarding both Old Testament and secular law, the point I wished to make was that law per se is important to the Church and its members, not only simply a matter of observance but also as an accountability measure to each other, our neighbors and our communities.
1 Tim 3:2-10: Yes, this is indeed about the qualifications of candidates to be overseers or bishops (and by extension, priests) and deacons. My point is that these qualifications do not disappear after ordination; on the contrary, one would expect bishops, priests and deacons to be even better teachers, for example, after their ordination. These qualifications are thus the baseline for them, to be reviewed periodically by themselves, superiors and indeed the Church. This comparison of baseline and actual performance information is the cornerstone of accountability.
1 Tim 4:11-16: I suppose I should have isolated verse 15, "Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress." It is true that Paul is counseling transparency in a positive sense, so that Timothy may inspire those who see his progress. However, the principle has been established and nobody knows how things will turn out in the future (because we are all sinners). To me this means that you cannot approach this after the fact: Let people observe if you are doing fine, but hide your conduct if you are not doing so hot. I interpret Paul here to say there will not be any curtains on the conduct of church leaders
1 Tim 5:17-20: While Paul is counseling Timothy, thus by extension a bishop, the focus changes to how elders will be treated. I don't think that these are just the bell ringers, candle sellers, and ushers. Indeed, Paul makes specific reference to "especially those (elders) whose work is preaching and teaching." In our Church, isn't it true that the primary work of bishops and priests is to do just that? When Paul talks about rebuking deserving elders publicly, I believe he is laying out a check-and-balance mechanism for the clergy.
Matt 5:19-20: Your point is well taken. I suppose I saw something else there. In the spirit of the entire chapter. I read the Lord to say that His followers ought to interpret the law not mechanistically and blindly but with discernment of the underlying concepts.
Matt 18:15-17: By the Fourth Century, I suppose the Church had indeed moved on from public confessions to private ones. Similarly, it does makes sense to advise folks not to air the dirty laundry in public, particularly when the Patriarch and the Emperor were involved and, in Chrysostom's case, the Patriarch was embroiled in a public confrontation with the Empress. This is not the case in North America in the 21st century, when it us perfectly sensible to consider the simple meaning of the Church--the body of Christ, clergy and laity together. Incidentally, this illustrates my overall point: we should not give the same weight to each of the elements of our Holy Tradition. I cited the Lord Jesus and you invoked Chrysostom's homily as a counterpoint. I am not saying you were wrong to do so--I am a mere novice in all of this. It just seems wrong to so smoothly glide over Holy Scripture to canons and homilies.
You said "I can't tell quite what connection (if any) you're making between the canons and Pharisees." Forgive me for being so obtuse. I merely meant to say the following: We should not delve into the Holy Tradition as Pharisees or teachers of law. I was particularly thinking of +Nikolai's misuse of the canons and of others who approach them without regard to the basics as I touched upon earlier.
Thank you for taking the time to pursue this issue. I am flattered and lucky to be engaged by such a scholar as yourself.
#75 Carl on 2008-04-04 17:17
It's always polite to say , you are very welcome.
#76 anonymous on 2008-04-04 20:30
Hardly! Thank you for your kind words.
What I was mostly noting in my reply was that the choosers, evaluators, and rebukers in the passages in question are bishops rather than the people. There are definitely objective standards given for the behavior and qualities of bishops, and it would indeed be very strange if these did not continue to apply during their ministries. But who is to do the applying? That is, who in the end?
For example, regarding public rebukes -- I wasn't very clear. I definitely agree that the "elders" referred to include bishops and other clergy. My point, though, was that St. Paul's charge to rebuke deserving elders is given to Timothy ; that is, to the bishop.
Regarding the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy, you write that they are the baseline for clergy, "to be reviewed periodically by themselves, superiors and indeed the Church." But the Church as a whole is just not mentioned here. Clearly, anyone is permitted to make charges against elders, but that person is going to be making the charges before those charged with the task of rebuking.
As I've said, I believe that greater transparency and accountability before the faithful can be perfectly in harmony with the Gospel, and that these are mandatory now for pastoral reasons. But I am unconvinced that we can derive an imperative in this regard directly from scripture or early apostolic tradition. I simply do not yet see patristic warrant for this position.
Why does this matter? You write, "we should not give the same weight to each of the elements of our Holy Tradition. I cited the Lord Jesus and you invoked Chrysostom's homily as a counterpoint." But I was not trying to replace what Christ said with what Chrysostom said. Rather, I was trying to interpret what Christ said, and to do so I turned to someone who saw with greater spiritual clarity than myself, someone whose holiness and trustworthiness as a guide is testified to by universal tradition.
You write that in our day it is "perfectly sensible to consider the simple meaning of [the words,] the Church," namely "the body of Christ, clergy and laity together." But we do not know that this is the meaning of these words. Countless false teachings have arisen from scriptures that seemed plainly obvious to many. "Call no man father," says the Lord -- and yet we are constantly addressing people as "Father." We only know that the Lord was not in fact forbidding this (nor, for that matter, forbidding us to call our natural fathers "father") because of our interpretive tradition.
It matters because Orthodox tradition is not simply "ours": it's the result of God's work in the Church, and we we see this work most especially in the saints . That is why it is against their testimony that we should be testing ourselves, and why we should prefer their interpretations to our own. In other words: they, who knew Christ so deeply, are the surer guides to the meaning of His words then are we!
Let me reemphasize that I have not undertaken a deep study of the passage in question, and I would be happy learn more about what the Church understands it to mean. (It's the "consensus patrum" that we look for, after all.)
Mainly, I want to note here that I am not "gliding over" Scripture in favor of canons and homilies. Rather, I am trying to view Scripture through the lens of the patristic tradition, which is expressed in part in canons and homilies. You might say I read the Gospel with glasses, as my eyesight isn't so great. (I went to see a doctor about it, and he said something about a huge log....)
#77 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-04-06 14:48
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