Friday, May 23. 2008
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To your knowledge, have the Romanian parishes within the OCA been obligated to finanically support the Church all these years through the paying of assessments?
If not, why?
Could you please try to explain what it is the OCA would be losing should they decide to leave?
Should they decide to stay, and I hope they do, I think it's time the administration takes the stance, you're either part of us or you you aren't. If you are, then here are the financial expectations that every OCA parish should conform to and we fully expect your participation and cooperation.
(Editor's note: This is precisely the attitude that has created such poor feelings and relationships between the OCA and its non-territorial dioceses. But to answer your questions:
1) The Romanians parishes pay nothing to the OCA. The Episcopate makes an annual contribution of $25,000 a year on their behalf to the OCA.
2) They are not obligated to pay the assessment as per the agreement struck in 1960, and re-adopted in 1970. Since that time they have been unwilling to change the agreement whenever the topic was raised. The only upside to this is that they have the comfort of knowing their monies weren't squandered like ours over the past 15 years.
3) To ask the question is to answer it. If the issue is reduced to money, numbers and parishes, there is little lost beyond history and friendships, and that pesky something called a common vision of a united American Church and mission. You may think vision is not as important as assessments; I think it is more. The OCA was always about a vision beyond onion domes. The Romanian (or for that matter the Albanian, Bulgarian, Mexican, etc., presence, even if manifested no more beyond the parish level, was nonetheless a visible sign of that dream. That so many now reduce everything to money and to making sure everybody gives a "fair share" only shows how poor we really are, and far we have fallen. How pedestrian, small and meaningless you would make us... )
#1 Michael Geeza on 2008-05-23 13:16
Finally a sign of real progress in America! While it can appear to be sad that a group is "leaving" the OCA, isn't it promising that a united Romanian church will be formed here to work with the OCA? Everyone knows +Nathaniel is firmly dedicated to Orthodox unity (he doesn't just "talk the talk" like other hierarchs, but he actually "walks the walk" too). Let's pray for this new direction and thank those who are brave enough to explore it!
#2 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 13:28
"They were at a loss, however, to explain exactly how the creation of a united Romanian, or even the new third Romanian jurisdiction, would be a step forward toward this goal [American Orthodox unity]; or how any of it applied to mission in America."
The answer to these two questions: it wouldn't and it doesn't. The old countries still consider people in America as the diaspora, especially cause we gots lots of money (little do they know).
#3 Michael Strelka on 2008-05-23 13:42
This is indeed interesting, but not surprising.
The OCA has long encouraged the de-ethnification of its parishes, its dioceses, and in turn completely turned on the oft-quoted vision of Ss. Tikhon and Raphael.
If one looks at St. Tikhon's 1905 report to the preparatory commission of the All Russian Sobor, and look at other writings by contemporaries like Fr. Leonid Turkevich (later Metropolitan Leonty), the early vision of an Orthodox Church in the Americas was one of multiple ethnic dioceses incorporated into a single national Church. Of course, the impact of 1917 perhaps permanently derailed such an idea, but it is not too late to revisit.
What we see today in the OCA are several small ethnic dioceses (Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians) and then the larger catch-all, which mixes Russian and Carpatho-Russian parishes with newer so-called "Pan-Ethnic," "American" parishes. And, thus, the mainstream OCA views itself as the "American" portion of what Mr. Stokoe refers to as the "American Church."
There is no "American Orthodox Church." No matter what those who wish to flee their Russian heritage think, and certainly no matter what converts think, there is no such thing, nor should there be. The influx of converts, and the efforts to try to attract more, cannot come at the expense of what makes Orthodoxy unique in the Americas. Of course a convert wants nothing to do with a foreign culture. Why, then, should they put undue pressure upon those that do? The pressure of the OCA establishment to strip ethnicity away from parish life, treating ethnic practices as trite relics of the past that get away from "true Orthodoxy," a process put in motion in the waning years of the Metropolia, has created an atmosphere totally opposed to meeting the needs of ethnic members of the larger flock.
Isn't it interesting that the Russian Orthodox Church is flourishing in the United States while the OCA is in a permanent tailspin... The Patriarchal Parishes are strong, despite having nearly every right to expand and flourish taken away by the Tomos of 1970. ROCOR is, for the first time in six decades, a part of the canonical fold, and thus far has done more than an admiral job of re-entering the community and putting the wheels in motion to overcome the divisiveness of the past. With the election of Metropolitan Hilarion, they seem to have found a leader they are genuinely excited about, who can look to the future in a clear and objective manner, yet can also understand what the trajectory of his Church has said about its mission. If only the OCA was so lucky...
Perhaps the ROEA sees that their opportunity is now to make their peace with their mission and identity in the Americas. Perhaps, also, it will not be long before there are parishes in the OCA that look to the Russian Church in the Americas and begin to think the same way. For factions of the Church that wish to remain strong in their ethnic identity, the OCA has proven time and time again that it is not the place to harbor such ideals.
(Editor's note: Thank you for your interesting, thought-provoking analysis. Seriously. I see one major one flaw right at the beginning though. You say: "There is no American Orthodox Church". Will you, or should I, tell my thriving OCA parish, growing from 12 to 180 persons in 20 years, even in Rust Belt, with a new beautiful temple, full of prayer, preaching of the Gospel and good works, that they do not exist? They are all, poor creatures, under the delusion that is exactly what they - and their many loud, wonderful children - are: the American Orthodox Church, or rather, the Orthodox Church in America. Moreover, I think there is another one, just as large and lively in Indianapolis, and another three in Columbus, and a smaller one in Lima to the north. Ah, heck, you probably just need to come to the Deanery and let us all know we are not here. Thanks.)
#4 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 13:44
Is it truly a "common vision" when their parishes outright refuse to provide some very basic financial support through an assessment system enacted years ago?
I find nothing at all "common" about that.
They either belong or they don't. This is simply about principal, Mark.
I think it's time certain "agreements" of long ago are reviewed by an AAC.
You want to talk about a "common vision", then let's drop the ethnic affiliations and just call ourselves Orthodox. That would truly be a good place to start while leading us in the right direction.
#5 Michael Geeza on 2008-05-23 14:19
Your response is thoughtful. There are very good and dedicated parishioners who are "American" converts to the Orthodox Faith and who are all practicing that Faith here in America.
But it is also true that they are under a bishop who follows only Russian rubrics, wears only Russian vestments, celebrates only Russian holidays & customs, follows only a system of Russian church administration, and sits on a Synod of Bishops who predominantly all do the same. Where is this American church? At best it might be hidden somewhere inside the English-speaking remnants of the old Russian Metropolia. I don't mean disrespect. I respect that tradition immensely, but I do want to view the situation for what it really is before we condemn others for their actions.
#6 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 14:59
This is not so much a reply as an observation. Several years ago an OCA-Patriarchal Parishes commission was put together to review the new possibilities of extending pastoral care toward new Russian-speaking immigrants. Among other things, the question opening a Russian Diocese within the OCA was also raised. Thanks to the ungrounded and arrogant position of the OCA, personified to a large degree by Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky, the Russian Church eventually was forced to look for ways to work around the Orthodox Church in America. Eventually this resulted in excluding the OCA from the negotiations with the ROCOR. If only the OCA administration was more flexible back then - who knows, the history may have developed differently.
Apparently, something of a similar nature happened during the negotiations of the Romanian diocese with the Romanian Patriarchate. Only now the story is taking place not outside, but inside the OCA and concerns the diocese which the latter, apparently was unable to assimilate over the course of nearly 50 years. This DOES raise a question of the OCA vision.
#7 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 16:11
How can anyone be surprised that churches in our Romanian episcopate may do this?
I just printed off the Dyptichs that were posted on our OCA.
Unfortunately, while +Herman is listed for our OCA many of us know that our situation in the OCA is very irregular. We have how many metropolitans from other jurisdictions other than the OCA overseeing areas here in America? Isn't SCOBA living proof of this?
While I grew up in the OCA, I am not at all comfortable knowing that we have so many leaders of the Orthodox church in one country.
#8 Patty Schellbach on 2008-05-23 16:17
In researching this subject, as I encourage anyone to do before jumping to conclusions, I found some helpful press releases that were released almost three years ago that clearly show this was a developing situation which fully involved the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops. It seems unfair and untrue to characterize this situation as the Roumanians "jumping off a drowning ship".
First, read this statement posted on the Roumanian Archdiocese website on 6/23/2005-
Next, you can read the press release on the OCA website, posted on 9/7/2005, which talks about a commission appointed by the Holy Synod (including Archbishop Seraphim) who sat down and discussed the issues of the above-mentioned document and then reported to the Holy Synod-
Where is the secrecy that some people have alleged? Or are there people out there with other personal agendas trying to take advantage of the current state of the OCA to drum-up hate and controversy? Is this the Church of Christ or a political campaign?
(Editor's note: I am going to do something I have not done before, but which you force me to do. Considering you have already posted three times today using different names, I would suggest you yourself are a prime example of the "secrecy" you claim does not exist; and that it is you who clearly have an agenda. In short, you are abusing the anonymity this site allows. If you wish to continue in this discussion, which is valuable, have the honesty and courage next time use the same name at least, if not your given name....)
#9 Adam M. on 2008-05-23 16:17
XC is risen!
I would like to thank you for your continued postings, though I must take issue with your post, wherein you say that They either belong or they don't. This is simply about principal, Mark.
If your principal point is that principal is most principal, well, that's being unprincipled. And that is my principled principal point.
Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik
St. Nicholas Mission Church
#10 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2008-05-23 17:06
Christ is risen!!!!!!!!!
I'm confused. If our bishops are allowing"25,000" people to leave the OCA, does that mean that 99 people comprise the sum total of the rest of the OCA?
Indeed, He is!!!!!!!
(Editor's Note: No responsible person has ever suggested the OCA comprised 26,000 members in full: although the Chancery itself over the last few years has stated that the "contributing" membership, that is adults over the age of 18 paying the assessment, was between 25-27,000. The members of the Romanian Episcopate never contributed individually or as parishes to the OCA: the Episcopate made a contribution of $25,000 a year to the OCA in place of the assessment made to by the territorial dioceses. Nor were they alone in this arrangement: the dioceses of Alaska, Mexico, the Bulgarian and the Albanian dioceses all have their own arrangements with Syosset . None are counted as paying members, yet all are members of the OCA.)
Could someone please provide a translation of the following document, posted on the ROAA website (in Romanian). http://www.romarch.org/Sf_Sinod.pdf
It bears Patriarch Daniel's signature.
#12 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 18:11
Hristos a inviat! May God bless the Romanian Orthodox Church everywhere!
#13 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 19:01
As a "convert" from Protestantism, I can share with you that my appreciation for Orthodoxy's Eastern European heritages has morphed over the years. I accepted the many explanations these last twenty years for the various contradictions between faith and practice. However, as I grow older, I am concluding that, by and large, these explanations are not valid, and are in fact, elaborate sophistry otherwise known as EXCUSES for avoiding Christian responsibility and accountability. These machinations over Eastern European ethnic sensibilities are no longer of any interest or concern to this American. Let me know when you are interested in living out the Christian faith in this land, instead of wasting all your time talking nonense about your ethnic pride. I too am proud of my European ethnic heritage, but I do not let it define my daily choices to live for Christ. They are irrelevant to that. Get a life folks. You are wasting your time with all this talk of irrelevant Romanian and Russian and Bulgarian etc. ethnic issues.
#14 Anon. on 2008-05-23 20:36
Could you clarify this third possible jurisdiction? Why would the Patriarchate threaten to undercut his own representative in America if he doesn't unite with Archbishop Nathaniel..?
#15 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 20:58
"While it can appear to be sad that a group is "leaving" the OCA, isn't it promising that a united Romanian church will be formed here to work with the OCA?"
No. It isn't promising at all. The Romanian Church is in Romania. This is not Romania. It is shameful that we have allowed non-territorial diocese exist for so long. It is not Orthodox.
It is very very bad that non-American churches would grow stronger as the American Church grows weaker. It is sin that causes it. Our sin and their sin. Theodosius' sin and Herman's sin. My sin (how many opportunities for prayer did i skip because I was too lazy to get of the couch and light the lampada?) and Nathaniel's sin. It was everyone who thought of themselves as Romanian or Russian or Bulgarian instead of Orthodox. This is as great a scandal as the stealing of money and other alleged crimes in the OCA Chancery. Those sins were sins of the flesh, and common to men. But this sin, breaking of fellowship, is a spiritual sin, a sin against the Body of Christ, who prayed that we wouldbe one. It is as evil as any heresy.
A rather significant development for Orthodoxy in America. If the withdrawal of the Romanian Episcopate from the OCA indeed happens, Archbishop Nathaniel could be an aggressive advocate for phased in unification of mutually benefiting ministries that could lead to the real, much desired unified administration of Orthodoxy in North America. With the substantial decline of the OCA as a national voice within Orthodoxy in North America, this may very well be the progressive route that could achieve the unified administration so many of us desire.
Thank you for your insightful reporting.
#17 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 21:30
good for the romanians,they have a wonderful church,great theologians(staniloe)thriving monasteries,spiritual elders and true faithful who kept the church alive under the brutal ceaucescu regime.the "oca"has ?????who can blame them for wanting to return to genuine orthodoxy.if the oca truly is doing the LORDS work she will survive,if not,she'll go under.time will tell.
#18 Anonymous on 2008-05-23 21:56
looks like Its damned if we let them go and damned if we force them to stay--
#19 sasha on 2008-05-24 05:24
In the interests of clarification, it should be noted that the vestments worn by virtually every Orthodox Bishop -- Russian and non-Russian alike -- in North America and around the world: the Sakkos, the great and small omophoria, etc. are of Byzantine (i.e. Greek) origin and were adopted by all the other national churches as they were each, in turn, evangelized. Does the writer know that SS Cyril and Methodius, who invented the Cyrillic alphabet, first recorded the Slavonic language in writing, and defended their translations of the Scriptures and liturgical books, from Greek into Slavonic, against what they called the 'heresy of 3 languages' (the notion that prayer could only be offered to God in Greek, Latin and Hebrew) were Greeks from Thessaloniki? Does the writer understand that the Russian St. Innocent of Alaska invented an alphabet (using Cyrillic as the basis) to first record in the writing the native Alaskan languages and to translate service books into those languages, and for this reason, among others, Fr. Michael Oleksa could write, in these pages, of Alaskan Orthodoxy?
Perhaps he could tell us which Holy Days celebrated by his bishop are 'only Russian'. The twelve Great Feasts: The Nativity of the Theotokos, Elevation of the Holy Cross, The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, The Nativity of the Lord, Holy Theophany, etc. are all universal to Orthodoxy, and the liturgical texts sung at these Holy Days were originally written in Greek and only later translated into Slavonic, Arabic, etc. Even such 'lesser' feasts such as St. Nicholas, Pokrov, the various feasts of St. John the Forerunner, etc. are universal to Orthodoxy and celebrated worldwide in multiple languages. I currently live in the Diocese which has as its Patron Saint, St. Seraphim of Phanarion and Neochorion, after whom St. Seraphim of Sarov was named (for which reason Russian bishops occasionally come to venerate his relics and the site of his martyrdom). Even such particularly Russian saints as St. Vladimir and St. Olga are remembered far beyond the borders of Russia, and in many languages other than Russian or Slavonic.
If the writer examines the matter a little more closely, he would find that the basic form of Church Administration as found in Syosset varies at most only slightly from that found in Alexandria, Athens, Damascus, Constantinople, Bucharest, Belgrade, Moscow, or any other Orthodox Church administration worldwide.
In the dictionaries with which I am familiar, the word 'remnants' refer to scattered fragments, leftovers, etc. It hardly describes the status of the English language as a liturgical language in the OCA, or for that matter in many of the other North American Orthodox jurisdictions. The last OCA parish I served before going into the monastery had a reputation for ethnic conservatism, and I always used some Slavonic in the Divine Liturgy. Yet, when we were requested to do a funeral in Slavonic, we could not because the choir -- where half or more of the members were older people who grew up singing Slavonic -- could not sing a complete Burial Service in Slavonic. When I was in the process of leaving, the District Dean called me in amazement to tell me that the committee with the responsibility of choosing the new priest -- all of whom were of Russian extraction and proud of it -- said that it was not necessary for the new priest to know or use Slavonic. The percentage of OCA parishes which use a significant amount of Slavonic are, and have been for a long time, a distinct minority. This situation is not peculiar to the OCA either. For instance, there is at least one diocese of the Greek Archdiocese where it is mandated that the Liturgy use English for at least 2/3's of the Liturgy.
My own background is Byelo-Russian and Ukrainian, and I am proud of it. I take particular pride in the fact that, on the Ukrainian side, when Princess Anna, daughter of Vladimir Monomakh Grand Prince of Kiev, was married to Louis II(?), King of France, she was able to sign the marriage documents in 3 languages (Greek, Latin, and Russian) wheras the ancester of the Sun King who built Versailles and other monuments and claimed to define civilization in his person, was only able to sign his "X". But, my Orthodoxy defines my ethnicity, my ethnicity does not define my Orthodoxy. It is the task of every Orthodox Christian living in the United States to work toward the day when Orthodoxy, rather than some variety of Protastantism, defines what it means to be culturally American, even if that day is centuries in the future.
#20 Archimandrite Melchisedek on 2008-05-24 06:35
"an atmosphere totally opposed to meeting the needs of ethnic members of the larger flock"
What are the needs of ethnic members? Seriously, what are they? And how are they different from the needs of non-ethnic members?
Is there any such things as "non-ethnic" people anyways. Americans are an ethnicity. Do they have needs?
#21 Anonymous on 2008-05-24 06:43
One further note. 'Russian' rubrics follow the Typicon of St. Sabbas of Jerusalem which varies only slightly from the traditional -- as distinct from the late 19th century compilation of Violakis -- Typicon of the Great Church of Constantinople.
#22 Archimandrite Melchisedek on 2008-05-24 06:46
I'm sure there are plenty within the OCA who do not see the leaving of Romanian Orthodox as a "fading away" of American Orthodoxy. I'm sure there is a feeling of warmth and of wholeness and strength in the hearts of many Romanian Orthodox in America to be reconnected with the roots of their faith.
On the evolving "American Orthodox"front of the OCA, I know that there is a sense of relief, a sense of, "LET THEM LEAVE," because, well, they are ETHNICS and, "We don't need no (insert mild epletive of choice) ETHNICS!" In other words, the leaving of the Romanians (with the Bulgarians and Russians to follow?) ethnically cleanses the OCA, allowing purification of the OCA, making it even more "American Orthodox"!
There will be a smaller, more purely American Orthodox OCA after the leavers leave. This holy remnant will be the seed of a NEW...nahhh, who am I kidding?
The germ of the new OCA will probably be comprised of the soreheaded anti-ethnics who are the stalwarts of ocanews.org. In fact, this site will probably evolve into a holy synod of sorts, since the new OCA will be ruled by its laity and the goal of TRANPARENCY will have been achieved to such a high level, that no one outside of their own circle will notice them. But at least it will be made of of "Real Americans"!
(Editor's note: I do not know what a "real American" is; one of the greatest aspects of America is that we can, as Americans, disagree on that very topic. But I do know that I am not "sore-headed anti-ethnic". I grew up as a proud Scandinavian AMerican, playing folk music and dancing ( yes, in costume, even); joined the OCA in a Slavonic+ English parish; lived in Finland for six years travelling with Syndesmos to almost every "ethnic" church there is in Orthodoxy; returned to the US and worshipped in another Slavonic+English parish, before ending up in my current parish, which is, mult-ethnic, albeit we worship solely in English. (You can take Russian lessons after Liturgy during the coffee hour, though). I do not know anyone in the OCA that is a"sore-headed anti-ethnic"; I do know many though that have differentiated their faith and ethnicity, realizing salvation comes through the former, not the latter - and that the latter is no substitute for the former. Jesus taught us that salvation comes from faith in him, not belonging to a tribe - be it the old Israel, Greece, Russia, Norway or what our pilgrim fathers called the theirs in the New World. )
#23 Anonymous on 2008-05-24 07:13
Mr. Stokoe re: your anecdotal: " thriving OCA parish, in Indianapolis, and another three in Columbus, and a smaller one in Lima to the north."
In my experience in one of the "leading" OCA parishes in the nation, most of the ones who are "thriving" in the Faith tend to leave the OCA after a time because they do not like being bound by its own peculiar little t traditions of the OCA that only serve to keep them away from other Orthodox Churches.
The irony that they have experienced is that to be truly Pan-Orthodox, one must leave the ghetto of the OCA.
This is a lesson that the OCA can take from the Romanian-American Orthodox who are going back to their Mother Church.
(Editor's Note: Well, its a step forward. A few days ago we didn't exist - now we are anecdotal - and if we want to continue to exist we must change. Friend, I have spent three years of my life trying to encourage the OCA to change. We both speak of turning, but the perigoge or metanoia, I seek is that of repentence, which is all we need to thrive. America has always been about pioneers, and the journey of faith in the New World is perhaps too perilous, too uncomfortable, too lacking reassuring routines and known responsibilities, for some. But for those called by God in this place and this time to witness the Gospel, the OCA is a great vehicle in which to do it, for it promises us a future, not only a past. )
#24 Anonymous on 2008-05-24 07:23
Triumphalism is a disease that has infected us. It is not even a triumphalism based upon current reality but on a poorly understood past.
I just want to live as a Christian in the manner revealed to the Church by Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the saints. All the rest is just miasmic waste and food for the demons.
In case people have forgotten, identification of the Church with ANY ethnic tradition is a heresy. One of the hallmarks of heresy is the division of the people of God. Another is claiming some special knowledge that is only available to a certain few. We are obviously divided, not just into jurisdictions, but in spirit. Those who hold that Russian, Greek, Syrian, or American rubrics are intrinsically superior to any other and they alone represent the 'real' Church are in grave danger and offer no life to anyone else.
The children of Israel who were called out of Egypt all died in the desert because of their disobedience and idol worship. Met. Joseph of the Patriarchal Bulgarian Archdiocese has said that all of the hierachs in power at the time of Ligoneer would have to die before the Church in the United States would progress to unity. Maybe a whole bunch of the rest of us will too. We are stubborn fools full of hubris and nothing else, whitened sepulchers full of dead men's bones.
Only God can give life, as long as we look for it else where we will remain dead.
Jesus Christ and Him crucified or nothing. That is our choice. So far we routinely choose the nothing. Where is the love of God? We love our idols more, the created thing, so we continue to grovel in darkness proclaiming that darkness to be light. We have not just buried the talent given to us, we have ground it up and eaten it.
Fortunately, God is merciful and forgives. He has already given us that gift, but from the comments here and events that engender them, we don't care. We condemn ourselves, throwing our souls into the pit rather than demonstrate the least humility. We mount our polished pedestals and bray that we are the best! We have less understanding than Barlaam's ass.
As you see I do not hide my name. I am a member of St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Wichita, Ks. Just to be clear, I do not claim for an instant that we Antiocheans are free from what I describe in the least. It seems our unity resides in our failure to be what the Church calls us to be.
If I were Mark, I would not post any more anonomyous posts, they are nothing but poison.
#25 Michael Bauman on 2008-05-24 07:53
Haluski, Lamb, Pitas, Mamaglia, Hot Dogs and Apple pie.
The Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 28:
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.
17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
We could have added many more classic European foods to the title. The first 4 are Russian, Greek, Lebanese, and Romanian the last is very American. Some of us may recognize all or some of the foods; others may not with the exception of the hotdog and pie. Why is that? The answer is we here in the United States have our ancestry from other parts of the world. So, depending on that heritage some are recognizable others not. However, the hotdog and pie is because we are Americans and that is what we eat. Even the “Native Americans” originally came from some place else. Regardless of where we come from (I’m from Youngstown Ohio, or at least I was born there) we live in the United States, united not divided. We all have our own heritages, some of which are uniquely American and that is what forms a society. We are many people united in a common theme. The Church that our Savior Jesus Christ is no different. It too is a collection of people from many different cultures united in a common theme. That theme is mentioned in the above passage.
Notice that Christ does not say to make them Russian or Greek or Jewish or English or for that matter American, no. He does, however, tell His Disciples to Baptize all the nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, which means Baptizing them into His Church. Where they are from is not important neither is what they eat.
This article is directed towards the many different Orthodox in the many different ethnical jurisdictions that are now located in the United States of America. However, there are more than likely, some walls of ethnicity built in every church regardless of their religion. There is nothing wrong with customs and traditions of various cultures but those customs are simply customs, they are not Religion, and definitely not the Religion of Orthodox Christianity. Do missionaries from the U.S. take to South America Christianity or hotdogs and apple pie? The answer should be Christianity; if they were able to bring a hotdog that’s great but not the reason for the trip.
We Orthodox in this country had better stop calling ourselves Russian, Greek, Antiochian and so on. We had better stop hanging signs on Christ’s Church saying so. We had better show some unification as One Body and start to open our hearts and doors to everyone “all nations” in this country. This country, the United States of America, where we have been sent on that “Great Commission”, will be given to some one else to do so if we don’t repent. The first people of God, the Jews, had that very thing happen to them. Look around it is happening to us. We will answer for speaking in foreign languages during our services because we like too, and “that’s how we’ve always done it”, or “we are the Russians”, etc. On Pascha the Church is packed and we, by far, speak in a language that no one speaks, shame on us. The Day of Resurrection, the Day of new Life, is transformed into the Tower of Babble. St. Paul said that he “will be all things to all men” in order to win just one soul. We had better do the same, not force them to be Eastern European. The “One Talent” has remained buried for too long in the ethnicities of our various walls of jurisdictions and it shows.
God, at the Tower of Babble, divided the tongues of the people who where trying to be like God. He made them unable to communicate by dividing their languages. He did so to teach them the lesson that they are not gods that should be catered to by God. No, instead, they should serve Him and Him only not their various wishes. The house of God, His Church is not a place to come and get our dose of ethnicity. No, instead it is the place where we come to worship God, in unity. On the day of Pentecost, the first day of the Church, the Holy Spirit enabled the Disciples to speak in the language of the people present. Since there were people from “all nations” present they heard the Gospel in their native tongue. They then, believing, were united to Christ and His Church through Baptism. They did not have to become Jewish to do so first.
I, God willing, will be Ordained a Deacon in a month or so. I will be serving in this country therefore I will speak English and follow American customs while doing so. If for some reason God seems fit to send me to another country to serve by starting a mission I will then learn to speak the language of that country and confirm to their customs. If I’m able I’ll take a hotdog or two, but, if some one there doesn’t know English or know what a hotdog is they will not be left on the outside looking in.
#26 Sub deacon Gary Thompson on 2008-05-24 09:24
Orthodox unity -- a falacy or a reality? People in the US only know the Orthodox Christian by its ethnic identify: Greek Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox etc. If an Orthodox Christian identifies himself/herself by Eastern Orthodox Christian, the American citizen does not understand the meaning of the term. Then a dialogue takes place. The Antiochians, the Greek have asked to be self-ruling. The Greek have been refused, and the Antiochians are working towards it. It is time for an Ecumenical Council to be held, in Europe, Middle East, Greece, or North America. The OCA Bishops do not have their act together. It is time for the OCA Snyod to wake up and smell the coffee. The generation that fought in WWII has mostly passed away. Their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren may or may not be practicing Orthodox Christians. There are many "Americans" who have embraced Orthodoxy. And yet, the Orthodox in America are for the most part only known by their Ethnic Orthodox church. We are Orthodox who are citizens of the US, and we pray in English. Yet we do not have an American Typicon. Has anyone been working on a Typicon which takes the best from the Russian and the Greek typicon? Do our bishops of all jurisdictions really communicate and talk with each other. So much is wasted: talent, energy, money, etc. episcopal centers and bishops are spread thin. Orthodox unity in reality is necessary. Perhaps it is just taking some backtracking to get there.
#27 Anonymous on 2008-05-24 09:52
Christ is Risen!
First: a major impetus for this move is the desire of the Romanian patriarchate to "gather in" Romanians around the world. The OCA can not, quite obviously, and by definition, be an option for such an "in gathering", regardless of the relative health of its central administration.
For helpful reading one might see:
on the issue in Moldova which springs from the similar motivation.
For further helpful reading, on living Christianity right here and now:
Second, *there is no call whatsoever to poo-poo or make light of *the presence of the Kursk Root Icon, and the relics of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov. To speak as if they are irrelevant is impious, and in very poor taste. It is not Met. Herman you discredit with such expression but yourself.
Far better to go to St. Tikhon's if one is able, and pray before that remarkable icon and those holy relics, have panakhidas at the graves of Met. Leonty and Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. Vladimir Borichevsky etc. If the holiness of the holy Mysteries does not depend upon the worthiness of the celebrant, than neither does the holiness of the memorial day pilgrimage.
Most Holy Theotokos Save us!
Righteous ones of God pray for us!
Indeed he is risen!
Deacon Yousuf Rassam
Los Angeles CA
(editor's note: It takes a particularly tendentious reading of my remarks to infer I was making "poo-poo" of the Kursk Icon or relics. A less tendentious reading would suggest that I was asking the question as to whether the scandal-plagued Metropolitan in South Canaan still cares about America, the OCA and its founding vision, or just about increasing pilgrimage attendance through using relics and borrowed icons?)
#28 Anonymous on 2008-05-24 10:13
The OCA is but one of many “ethnic” jurisdictions within the US. Its “ethnicity” is the cultural heritage that people brought from their collective and individual past. This country has now existed long enough to have developed its unique cultural identity. Naturally, Orthodox Americans bear its marks and convey it in their Orthodox practices. How could they not and why shouldn’t they?
But this country is remarkable in the sense that it contains numerous ethnic communities. The secular American society is reaching an understanding that it is no longer possible to forcefully assimilate immigrants. We have become culturally aware and sensitive. My children’s very diverse school just had a multicultural day; the kids are encouraged to appreciate ethnic, racial, religious and cultural diversity. Sounds like a cliché but we Orthodox somehow seem unable to achieve this attitude. Why cannot our jurisdictions accept the existing reality but instead each has a “vision” to absorb everybody else?
ROCOR did not “luck out” with their new Metropolitan, as one contributor said. They produced him. We produced ours. The results speak for themselves. Perhaps this is because the OCA prematurely and arrogantly focused on a grand “vision” before having gone through a lengthy and laborious formative process. We often hear accusations against ethnic churches about idolizing their past. But hasn’t the OCA also managed to idolize its own tiny thirty-something-year past, the vision of 1970 that Mr. Stokoe laments?
But the OCA also tries to openly deal with its problems pushing for transparency and accountability. It is weak, small and poor, which allows it to remain independent from the secular powers and from politics. If it survives then those children of today’s immigrants who grow up to be more American, than Russian, Romanian or Greek will be able to turn to it. If they retain their cultural affinity they will be able to stay where they are comfortable. What’s more important is that they find themselves in a Christ-centered church.
I don’t think that the OCA should worry about the Romanians. Their diocese should do whatever benefits best the US Romanian flock. The OCA should focus on cleaning its own mess. After all, doesn't the light of the righteous draw others to itself? If the OCA succeeds in rebuilding itself into a true Church we will not have to fret about administrative unity.
#29 Karina Ross on 2008-05-24 12:12
A very stupid move by the Romanians. Since the fall of Communism, this idea of "going back home" is just utterly ridiculous. The Romanians in Romania have nothing to offer the American Romanians. And the same with the Russians, Bulgarians, etc. There is noting overseas, but backward bishops with bad theology who wish to suck more income from America. The .....ethnics who think they are doing something good, are only turning their own churches back 50 years. ...
#30 Anonymous on 2008-05-24 14:56
Matthew 5, 13-16. The Lord said "13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
What do most people see when they look at the Orthodox Church in North America? Is the church still the salt of the earth? What kind of good deeds do they see? In short, what are the fruits by which they may recognize it?
The answers to these questions will go a long way in seeing our situation in its proper perspective. So the Romanians will leave. So what? So the Moscow Patriarchate is increasing its parishes in the territory of OCA. Big deal!
Let us focus on what the Lord and His Holy Apostles have told us. Let us focus on tradition with a capital T, the Holy Traditions, and let us deemphasize and perhaps even jettison practices that do not help, are not applicable, or are hindrances.
In making changes, it is often best to take very small steps. So, let us start with some very small and insignificant changes.
How about getting rid of imperial honorifics for our leaders? In the Bible you cannot find even one mention of "His Beautitude," "Reverend," Very Reverend," "Eminence, "Most Reverend," or "Holiness." If the Church in North America in the 21st Century is not capable of making such a minor, insignificant change, I submit it is not the salt of the earth and is hiding its light.
If you don't like this change, try another one. How about, revising the OCA Statutes so that it is no longer an unworkable mixture of conciliar and monarchical modalities? How about going back to a married Bishops, along with monastic ones? How about Deacons and Deaconesses in the New Testament sense? How about ____/ (You fill it in).
#31 Carl on 2008-05-24 19:05
I am nut surprised that the romanians are leaving the OCA, all the other churches such as serbians, russians were reunited, the romanians also have their right to do so.
It was very disturbing to see the way in which the holy relics of Saint Seraphim arrived at Saint Tikhon's Monastery. The relics were being carried lake a casket at a funeral. How ever , the relics deserved the respect of being carried on the shoulders of the clergy.
I was raised in the ROEA Episcopate as a first generation American born, and have to say the there maybe many that have no idea the strong roll that the ROEA had always been with respect to Orthodoxy in America. We were Blessed to have a wonderful leader in +Archbishop Valerian, God rest his soul; memory eternal; who always had the vision and concern for the youth in stressing English to be used in services, who always spent the summer months available at the Vatra so that the kids attending camps could have access to him daily. With that in mind, I agree that Archbishop Nathaniel is very dedicated to Orthodox unity in America, as noted, he does walk the walk. I remember when he was living at the edge of the Vatra property as a monk. While I have my own very strong concerns for the potential development unfolding, given the resent evidence, and by that I mean the roll +Nathaniel played in the Synod with respect to the Spiritual Court, as well as in the Alaska situation, it is obvious +Nathaniel should be remembered in prayer by all members of all jurisdictions of the OCA for his steadfast pastoral care in these very difficult and trying situations.
If the choice we are left with is that if unification does not happen, and the Romanian Patriarch looks to start yet another jurisdiction here in the US, what does that do for Orthodox unity in America? On the other hand, having another Metropolitan, who can work with the OCA, and who can sit on SCOBA could be a positive force. Maybe this is the push that SCOBA needs to be more effective towards its intended goal.
While I am not in the ROEA jurisdiction at present, this all is still of great concern since I am still OCA in DOS. I pray that +Nathaniel, along with the members of the Commission, some of whom I know very well, will have God’s guidance as this issue and potential process continues to move in what we can only pray will be God’s will, and that the Holy Spirit will be will all of the ROEA faithful, as well as with the ROAA in there deliberations as well. We can also only hope that the resent meeting to discuss Orthodox unity that took place at the Antiochian Archdiocese will be the start of something fruitful as well, with the OCA finally taking a leadership roll.
#33 Constantin Ardeleanu on 2008-05-24 21:33
Wow! This is an especially interesting exchange. As I have read all of the comments, I see a degree of polarisation, in which people are gearing up to fight for what they believe is right. I also see, however, rather valid points all around.
I converted into a very Russian parish of the OCA. A large number of the laity also attended a nearby ROCOR parish. I spent my first four years of being Orthodox learning a bit of Slavonic and developing a great respect for the New Martyrs throughout Eastern Europe. My conversion into that particular parish was motivated primarily by the parish priest, an elderly Russian emigre. Somehow he inspired me. I could have gone instead to an English-speaking OCA parish, and eventually I did, but not until he retired. At times I went to the English-speaking Antiochian parish - especially on Wednesdays during the Great Fast for Presanctified. I did not wish to "become Russian" but I did come to appreciate the beauty of Slavonic. At the same time, I was also pulled by the realisation that not only would the use of Slavonic be an impediment to mission, it was a problem for Orthodox youth, and that was more sad than anything else to me. I saw it happening at the Greek parish too.
My blend of experiences tells me that we cannot go to the extreme either way. The Orthodox Church is and must be about much more than ethnic identity, for that would truly be the heresy of ethno-philetism. At the same time, I believe that, just as children need to respect their elders, babes in the faith need to respect theirs - and usually those elders are going to be Russian, Romanian, Greek, Arab, etc. As a collective lot, it seems to be that we do well to learn from the "mother churches" what does and does not work. Right now, it looks like the Russians are doing something right. Glory to God!
I once read the opinion of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, issued in the early 1970s, regarding the autocephaly of the OCA. It was the one opposing opinion that really struck me as having some merit: the basic tenet was that the autocephaly had only been granted to a small fraction of Orthodox on this continent. How could that be realistically an autocephalous Orthodox church? I have recently wondered if our present situation has not been evidence of the merit of that question, however we may answer it.
My newer question is: would it be a terrible disaster if the OCA as I have known it ceased to exist? Would that be the end of the vision of a local Orthodox church in North America - not just a diaspora, or a collection of diasporas? Is the OCA even functionally contributing to its own vision or has it become an impediment? How might a local autocephalous church that comprised all current jurisdictions pastorally handle ethnic issues? I heard a ROCOR priest recently point out that however uncanonical it may be and problematic in other ways, the one benefit of of overlapping jurisdictions has been the ability for people to find clergy of their own cultural background. So, does a real united, autocephalous church have to mean the end of ethnic parishes? I hope not. I don't think it should. I believe the need is going to continue simply because wide-spread immigration is a fact of life now. Does that mean that every parish needs to have a priest of every ethnic background on staff and Liturgy in multiple languages? I doubt it. It may mean - and I really don't know - that ethnic dioceses remain a fact of life.
Above all, what strikes me the most, is that this is an area that needs a lot of SERIOUS study, instead of the vocalisation of polarised opinions. A proper, methodologically performed study might be able to help us to move forward and address the varying legitimate aspirations and concerns and find the path to genuine unity - whatever shape it might take.
Any Ph.D. candidates looking for a topic?
P.S. You will no doubt have noticed by now that I haven't touched on the question of mother churches letting their exarchates go, or any other factor in the equation. Topics for another day.
#34 Mark Harrison on 2008-05-24 22:26
"There is no "American Orthodox Church." No matter what those who wish to flee their Russian heritage think, and certainly no matter what converts think, there is no such thing, nor should there be."
No, Anonymous, you are wrong. My parish, Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco was the first Orthodox Parish in the USA. It used to be Russian. On the walls of the fellowship hall there are pictures of Russians who used to attend. They no longer attend. Well, to be fair, there are three beautiful old women who attended when they were little girls, but none of the rest of the people in those old black and white photos, nor their children, nor their grand children attend anymore. Sometimes, when I am alone in the hall, I pray for the people in those pictures and ask God to bring their families back to his Church.
The rest of us, we are almost all converts (our children are, of course, cradle Orthodox.) From my bishop, both priests, and the deacon and the sub-deacons are all adult converts. None of them is Russian. Though we are lacking many Russians, our parish is full of the ethnicities that make up the San Francisco Bay area. Which is as it should be. St. Thomas didn't take a buch of Jews with him to India to establish the church there. Neither did St. Matthew take a bunch of Jews with him to Ethiopia when he established the church there. And aren't we all glad the church in Russia is full of Russians? And don't we rejoice for what God had done there? Don't we marvel at the beauty of the Orthodox Church that grew in Russian soil, even if it was planted by Greeks from Constantinople and Viking-converts traveling on the Volga River? Thank Godit isn't the Greek Orthodox Church in Russia. Thank God isn't the Viking Orthodox Church in Russia. God cultivated the field of Russia and filled the Church there with Russian people. Just as he did in Greece, And Romania, and Italy, and England, and Georgia, and all other lands where the Orthodox Church was planted. It is the pattern he seems to follow.
As for fleeing their heritage, God forbid! I want all those families in those black and white photos to come back to Holy Trinity Cathedral and see how it has been preserved, to see how we have put what they built to good use. To see how the sacrifices of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents resulted in me and my family finding eternal life. I want to thank their ancestors through them. And I want them to join in the work of evangelizing the rest of America. And if God blesses us, as he blessed all the other peoples who embraced the Gospel, there will be an American Orthodox Church.
I don't know — maybe it does advance unity. I don't know this situation well, so I'm happy to be corrected. But, for one thing, it would bring all the Romanians together, making them able to deal in a bloc one day. When a pan-American Church merger happens, it's highly unlikely to happen under the OCA. How long will it be before the OCA can live all this down enough to gain the goodwill of the other jurisdictions, much less the ancient patriarchates? Will that ever happen? It gives me me no pleasure to say it, but I think this is an open question.
And in the meantime — however long that lasts — instead of having two Romanian jurisdictions, we'll have one. Because, after all, isn't the ROEA a jurisdiction? For all of the handwringing over two bishops ruling over a single city, that is exactly what the OCA has arranged with its "non-territorial dioceses."
Now this is a euphemism, obviously. "Non-territorial" really just means "ethnic." I don't see any non-territorial dioceses just for, say, Red Sox fans. But then it's a little arrogant to call Romanians or Greeks "ethnic," when Americans, Anglo and otherwise, are perfectly ethnic themselves. Not, as they say, that there's anything wrong with that: a nation's people, including the American people, have by definition a common ethnicity. So the really accurate term would be "the OCA's non-American dioceses."
In any event, they are perfectly territorial in their own way -- the territory involved is the whole shebang, just like it is for the ROAA, the GOA, the AOA, and so on. So it seems to me that the only question here is whether there is going to be one fewer of these freaks of ecclesiastical nature on the scene or not. I mean, sure, the ROEA bishop is part of the OCA synod, whereas a Romanian Exarchate bishop wouldn't be. On the other hand, does it matter? Consider Mark's observation about the futility of hoping for SCOBA to be a center of unity. Couldn't we say the same thing about hopes that the OCA will be one? I don't see the OCA having made any particular strides since the time of Ligonier, either.
At least, this way, the Romanians will be able to pool their strength. It is, after all, the only way they're going to unify for the foreseeable future. (Can we imagine the ROAA — or anyone at all — agreeing to go under the OCA?) They'll mend their post-communist fences, which is a spiritual good in itself, and they'll be better positioned to minister to Americans of Romanian descent. Do you know how many people the Romanians have lost to the Pentecostals — and who are living here? What is the OCA doing about it? What have they done until now? I don't like the idea of foreign Churches operating in America in perpetuity -- it's not Orthodox. But Nathaniel doesn't like it either; and, in any event, all things considered I see this as of definite benefit and only very questionable harm.
Criticism welcome, as ever....
#36 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-05-25 13:47
From the very beginnings of Orthodoxy in North America, the goal has
always been to establish an independent Orthodox Church. Just like a
Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Bulgaria, etc. this is the natural
progression of Orthodoxy in North America. Orthodoxy was very much on
track with this through the 1800's up until 1917. It was never
questioned that the Russian Orthodox Church first established Orthodoxy
in North America and therefore, according to canon law, all Orthodox
churches were under her omophor. This is why the Russian Church in
America had the Syrians, Greeks and others under her and it was NEVER
QUESTIONED! When the Russian revolution took place and Communism took
over Russia, money was cut off from Russia and so were priests, bishops
and any direction. This is where the Greeks turned to their own bishops
over seas, the Syrians, the Romanians, the Russians in America worked
independently of Russia, etc. Every ethnic bishop which came over to
America then started claiming churches and territory for their mother
country. Well, the different ethnic churches grew, but each was on their
own. Canonically this was an irregular situation, but occurred to
preserve the church in North America. Immigration continued and the
churches grew. In 1960, the irregular situation of the North American
Orthodox was well realized and the head of the Syrian Church, Met.
Antony Bashir; the Greeks, Archbp. Iakavos; the Russian Church, Met.
Leonty and others all gathered to form a road to correct all of this.
All of this really came from the forethought of prominent Orthodox
theologians in America like Frs. Georges Florovsky and Alexander
Schmemann. The organization was formed called SCOBA (Synod of Canonical
Orthodox Bishops of America). The immediate crux of this organization
was for the bishops to work together, coordinate information, religious
education, etc. The long-term goal was for an eventual UNITED ORTHODOX
CHURCH IN AMERICA. In fact, at the first or second meeting, it was
decided that the name of this united church of all the Orthodox would be
called, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA.
In 1970, due to the work of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, the Russian Church
in America which was the ORIGINAL Orthodox Church in North America
called the Metropolia, achieved it's AUTOCEPHALY from the Russian
Orthodox Church and was named THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA (OCA). This
was a great milestone in American Orthodoxy. WHY? First, the Metropolia
were the first Orthodox Churches in North America with canonical claim
to all the Orthodox in North America. Secondly, canonically, when an
Orthodox Church is established in a territory and becomes AUTOCEPHALOUS,
ALL ORTHODOX ARE UNDER HER OMOPHOR. This action would have lead the way
for SCOBA to truly fulfill herself in becoming a united Orthodox Church
in North America. The outline was clear, all ethnic bishops in America
would join the OCA in a synod and elect one Metropolitan to lead the
synod. All the ethnic bishops would rule their own dioceses and all
would be AUTOCEPHALOUS and completely independent of foreign bishops and
their control. Canonically, this was the right course of action and
formally agreed to by all the bishops who orginally formed SCOBA.
No sooner than the OCA was formed, the EP took serious offense and
looked for every possible way to discredit the formulation of the OCA
and its autocephaly. Ridiculous arguments with the EP stating that only
THEY could recognize and grant autocephaly to Orthodox Churches anywhere
in the world. Well, of course, the EP had already made inroads to
establish her own synod of ethnic bishops in America under themselves.
The Ukrainians, the Carpatho-Russians, etc. The EP wanted it all!
The OCA continued to grow and + Iakavos was even offered to be the
Metropolitan of the new OCA, but refused knowing that the EP would have
nothing of it. The Romanians joined the OCA, the Bulgarians, the
Albanians, etc. but some remained loyal to their mother churches over
seas. In 1994, a great meeting of SCOBA took place in Ligonier, PA to
finally give SCOBA the kick start it needed to move forward with a
united Orthodox Church in North America. A signed commitment was reached
by the attending bishops to move forward. The Ukrainian bishop under the
EP squealed to the EP that + Iakavos was betraying him. The
EP then stepped in, retired + Iakavos, emasculated all the American
Greek bishops making them all report directly to him and virtually
destroyed unity of the Orthodox in America including the Greeks.
With the fall of Communism in Russia in the early 90's, the ROC grew in
size and re-established itself as a dominant force in world Orthodoxy,
yet, it still has a long way to go in development of it's own correct,
Orthodox theology and thought. In it's attempt to re-unite all Russians
world-wide under itself, the ROC pushed and re-united with ROCOR and with
strong immigration of Russians to America, is seeking to reclaim them
unto herself. We also see new waves of immigration from Romania, Serbia,
etc. More and more immigrants from Orthodox countries have arrived in
the US. The mother churches wish to control these immigrants under
themselves and the immigrants want churches which reflect their home land.
Compounding this, the OCA is currently undergoing a "house cleaning"
which has had bad press and gives foreign bishops more of a reason to
force a wedge between the OCA and ethnic churches in turn trying to
reclaim any lost churches or people. The Romanians originally left their
mother church and joined the OCA because it was the correct thing to do
canonically and because of the American-Romanians rift with the
Communist Romanian bishops. Now, the Romanians in Romania wish to "make
nice" and reclaim the American Romanian Church.
What we have here are ethnic American Orthodox Churches wanting to "go
home" and setting their own growth back 50+ years. Thinking that Romania
really has something to offer Romanian-Americans, or Russia really has
something to offer Russian-Americans, etc. What all this really is, are
foreign bishops syphoning monies from Americans under the guise of
What will happen to the OCA? It will complete it's "house cleaning" and
grow as a TRUE Orthodox Church in America attracting more and more
converts while the ethnic churches march backward.
#37 Anonymous on 2008-05-25 14:06
Christ is Risen!
While I am not privy to what is occurring at the upper levels of Church administrations, I can relay concern I have had over the relationship that some of Orthodox of Romanian ancestry or ties with our OCA parishes. I know in the last few years a Romanian mission was begun in my region. I thought this was peculiar since the Romanian Orthodox were part of the OCA and we were an OCA parish already serving the area, with plenty of room for more persons. In speaking with some involved in starting the mission, I was told by them that they wanted a "Romanian Church," and that they wanted a place where Romanian was spoken. Thus they did not feel comfortable coming to a parish of the Orthodox Church in America which has American citizens of various ancestries. I found this unfortunate and not in the spirit of the desire expressed on a national level for truly one Orthodox Church in America. I still feel that such a Church is important for this country and important in presenting Orthodoxy to this country. There certainly could be parishes which have some different ethnic based customs, but all would recognize there unity as an Orthodox Church in America. I am not clear as to what everyone means by an American Orthodox Church. To me it means a hierarchy based in North America; the status to administer our own affairs; to consecrate our own Bishops to manage our own affairs. Yes, mistakes have been made, but there is no guarantee that a foreign centered Church will be free from mistakes and misdeeds. We are all sinful persons. I certainly rejoice when I hear Mark's comment about the growth of his and several parishes. Overall, though I do not think any Orthodox "jurisdiction" be it the OCA, Russian, ROCOR is flourishing in America. We pray that it will, but I think we must come together in all ways, to witness together in all ways and to live lives struggling to be the best Christians we can be in all ways for that to happen.
Indeed He Is Risen!
#38 Very Rev. William DuBovik on 2008-05-25 14:36
There is no need for comment. Fr. Bobosh wrote an excellent reflection on the topic of an American Orthodox Church. We have as much right to be "American" as other ethnics like the "Russians", "Greek", "Romanian", etc. If the Romanians broke from their mother church because of communism and now want to reunite, God bless them! I wish them well.
#39 anon on 2008-05-25 17:03
If the majority of Orthodox Christian who are, or seek to be American citizens still consider themselves to be Romanian, Russian, Greek, Syrian, etc. first instead of Americans, we will never realize the full potential of an American Orthodox Christian Church.
As an American convert to the Faith whose family has been here since before the American Revolution, I am greatly disapointed in the short sighted and self serving attitude of so many of my brothers and sisters in the Faith.
To those who consider themselves Orthodox Christians first, Americans second, and Americans with very special heritage third, I stand with you.
#40 Marc Trolinger on 2008-05-25 18:01
A problem in the contemporary OCA includes the RE-ethnicizing of parishes. A thriving cathedral parish on the West has just gotten a new priest who has made the parish into "Run Silent, Run Deep". A year ago, the liturgy was all out loud, doors open.
Now: buried prayers, doors watertight. The priest speaks English as a second language which makes it difficult to understand him when anything IS heard. This is not progress, it is regress. There is already a ROCOR, and it seems to have its reasons for being. The OCA bishops seem content to allow part of the OCA to become a ROCOR of their own, and it is *tiresome*. I hope they recognize this as the problem it is. The spectacle of convert bishops trying to outdo one another in their Russian-ness is ridiculous. It looks as though their actual Russian forbears had the idea of an OCA much better thought out than the amateurs.
#41 anon on 2008-05-25 22:16
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you, Mark, for your continuing maintenance and editing of this site. It is a gift to all of us. Usually, I agree with your insightful comments and find your comments very evenhanded, but I’m surprised at your reaction to the Romanians wanting to regroup into a larger Romanian body and your impassioned plea for “American Orthodoxy,” and feel that I must respond. Your “vision” of the OCA is not shared by all of us.
Because my work requires me to relocate periodically, I have attended six of our OCA parishes over the past 26 years, and have been an occasional guest at many others. While I have known many, many good priests and laypeople in the OCA who would be a credit to Orthodoxy anywhere, I have also been troubled for years by a tendency in some parishes, and more recently on this website, to think of ourselves as an “elite” group, that “should, would, could” guide Orthodoxy in America –(If only we could put these financial problems behind us and everyone would recognize our good sense and allow us to lead them into a better, brighter future!!! ) Instead, I believe that we need to take a deeper look, not only at our present problems, but at our foundation. Our current problems are symptoms of a much deeper illness.
Some OCA members who write in express regret that the present scandal is getting in the way of what they seem to perceive as our own brand of “manifest destiny”. This elitism is frequently accompanied by disparagement and disdain of “ethnic churches.” But where do we think we have come from? How about instead, expressing gratitude to the two thousand years of “ethnic Christians” that kept the faith so that we can be here? We are members of the Body of Christ, not an entity unto ourselves, and the Orthodox Church is based on a world-wide tradition.
Healthy autocephalous national churches come about after many centuries of forming themselves on their Mother Churches, not by a large influx of new converts, “claiming our rights” to a sanitized, tradition-free Church made to our liking,” We are all relative newcomers, who need to be humble in the face of a very long tradition, not telling others how “we” see Orthodoxy. An Orthodox world-view is not gained by "talking shop" with other converts. If we isolate ourselves into an American ghetto, we will die spiritually.
Even as our foundation crumbles under our feet and we see comments on this website and others yearning for an inclusive “autocephalous” Orthodox Church of America, or asking, “What is happening to our Church??” or pleading “We must save the “mission of the OCA,” as if we are somehow God’s gift to Orthodoxy. We need to realize that we realize that we are only a very, very small minority of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Orthodox Church. We must put not only these present scandals, but our entire fabric as an Orthodox jurisdiction under the same scrutiny as our finances.
I was fortunate enough to begin my Orthodox path several decades ago in two OCA parishes that still had elderly Russian communities, people who lived a traditional Christianity that I had not otherwise found in America. I believe that one of my early pastors was probably a saint, certainly he was a new confessor, and it was the old Russians and Eastern Europeans who, by their lives, "gve me" Orthodoxy, much more than books or disussions on church life. (Yes, this also was the OCA.) With the passing of these traditional Russian and eastern European priests and parishioners, however, many parishes have moved into an American “freedom-loving” mode that increasingly tries to excise links with Orthodox tradition that we perceive in our convert wisdom to be unnecessary.
Orthodox practices have begun to fall by the way in some of our OCA parishes, or are minimized to the point that not only ethnic customs, but fundamental Orthodox practices and teachings we had always held to in the Metropolia and early OCA, such as confession before communion, are more and more being sidelined. For many years, I have told myself “These are just isolated incidents, things will come back around..." but I'm not sure now that they will. I bring up three random examples, that do not finger individuals, but are indicative of progressively nontraditional attitudes in our jurisdiction that are undermining our claim to speak of ourselves as fully Orthodox.
1) In one Canadian OCA church, when I asked a well-educated professional who had been “catechized” and Chrismated several months before, and who attended church regularly, when confessions were heard, his response was, “Confession? What’s that about?” He honestly did not know.
(Yes, many OCA priests encourage confession, but there are also parishes in which this basic sacrament is being side-lined. I believe that this lack has to do with an influx of American converts (myself being one), and that not enough of our American OCA laity or the clergy have immersed themselves in traditional Orthodoxy or stretched beyond their comfort zone to discover what world-wide traditional Orthodoxy is. It has become increasingly possible in the OCA to retain our former Protestant or secular mindset, and choose for ourselves those traditions we want to follow and those we don’t, while adopting a veneer of Orthodox belief.)
2) A few years ago, I met a young Protestant convert to Orthodoxy who told me that after three years of involvement with his OCA parish, he decided to study theology. He visited all of the Orthodox seminaries in the U.S. before making his choice, although his preliminary decision was for St. Vladimir’s. At each seminary, he attended a few classes over three or four days: Holy Cross, Jordanville, St. Tikhon’s, St. Vladimir’s. His first class at St. Vladimir’s was a New Testament class for seminarians, in which the discussion was about one of the Lord’s miracles. At the end of the class one of our future (now presumably ordained) OCA priests asked the professor, “Do you think this really happened?” The professor’s answer was, “Your guess is as good as mine.” The visitor left the campus immediately, not even staying the night.
3) Some years ago I attended a west coast OCA parish for several months in which several of the male choir singers were homosexual, and who, after the service, would sit at a separate table in the trapeze, often making jokes about “breeders”. This was completely ignored by the priest and the other parishioners, and I was asked not to “make trouble” when I said that I did not think that this was appropriate or Orthodox.
Granted these are isolated incidents, each of which may have since been completely rectified (one hopes!) – but I bring them up as three small examples among hundreds of what I increasingly see as our growing drift from traditional Orthodox practice into what we perceive as our “vision of an American Church”, which is more alarming to me than the proven financial abuse, because they strike at the heart of Orthodoxy. Our questioning of ourselves must go far beyond the behavior of our hierarchs. We need to ask what the OCA is and how it came about.
How many of us have ever asked ourselves if our existence as a “separate” body is even pleasing to God? I have pondered this for decades, even as I supported and attended my local parishes, and I have never felt that I had a truly satisfactory answer to give to other Orthodox Christians who question our purpose.
How many of our new converts know that our autocephaly was granted by the Moscow Patriarchate during a Soviet period that no one would consider free, and that Fr. Alexander Schmemann himself admitted to not knowing what was behind it. Nor has it ever been officially recognized by any of the Orthodox patriarchates worldwide, except for the Moscow Patriarchate. Even numerically, our claim to be THE Orthodox Church in America doesn’t hold water. If we are house-cleaning, let’s start by taking an honest look at our own foundation. Could the present scandals just be fruit of a mistaken root?
At http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/bookrev_woerl.aspx . there is a dated but revealing review of a book by former OCA Bishop Gregory of Alaska, copies of which were sent to all of our parishes in the 1990’s to explain our foundation and history. The review is not by an OCA member, but it does raise legitimate questions and provides historical perspective that I had not seen before. It also points to a possible cover-up by our own hierarchs about our very foundation. Does anyone have a real answer to these objections? Isn’t this where we should start?
Finally, I have to say that I have been saddened several times this year by an ambivalent attitude towards the long-awaited Moscow Patriarchal-ROCOR reunion. We should be rejoicing with them over their unification, but instead I’ve been told by several OCA clergy of their worries that “they” (as opposed to “us”??) will “encroach on our territory” and “steal our parishioners.” Your surprising tone about the departure of our Romanian parishes, seems to echo this, Mark. Why, otherwise, are you against these Romanian parishes finally reuniting with what they see as their Mother Church. We should be grateful that we were able to serve our fellow Orthodox by offering them a temporary shelter during a difficult period in history, rather than begrudging them their homecoming.
More power to them, if the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanians, or any other traditional Orthodox patriarchate can awaken souls to the real world-wide Body of Christ, and the depth of spirituality that is still so rich in those cultures, that we as American converts need to learn from. Perhaps they can save the legacy of St. Herman and St. Innocent in Alaska that has been so abused by the OCA and its hierarchs.
If the Truth will set us free, let’s get at it, beyond the worries about financial transparency. Let’s go further than this sanitized “vision of American Orthodoxy” that we repeat like a mantra, and define ourselves in a way that can be accepted by all of the canonical jurisdictions of world Orthodoxy – the Body of Christ of which we claim to be a member. Until we do, we are fooling no one but ourselves.
(Editor's note: Writing from Moscow, there is no doubt that the view of the OCA looks different to you than to me. You raise many, and often difficult, challenging questions that should and must be addressed in the coming years. However, you make several false assumptions. First, is that "homecoming" entails leaving the Church in America for an old world Patriarchate. For many of us, America is home. Moscow or BUcharest is just a tourist destination. It is not, nor ever will be " home". Secondly, the OCA has done nothing but publicly, and to the extent I have witnesses privately, rejoiced at the end of the ROCOR schism. That some may grouse, for the reasons you mention, is more evidence of their lack of vision that 300 million Americans await the message of the Orthodox Church, than disapproval of the reunion. And while I am among the first to encourage people to read and study the spiritual writings of our many Russian, Greek, Romanian, (and Finnish!) fathers and mothers, to be fair and accurate you must admit that those same Russian, Greek, Romanian and Finnish Churches read our OCA theologians ( from Florovsky to Schmemann to Meyendorff to Hopko to Behr....) for instruction and guidance as well. We all have much to learn from each other; and are impoverished when any are denied or belittled.)
#42 Anonymous on 2008-05-26 07:26
Ironic. It seems the way to Orthodox unity in the United States is paved in the re-unification of outside churches to their mothers. Just as our own bishops continue to fail to understand finance and public opinion and politics, so to do those patriarchs and metropolitans of the "Old See" and countries, who would rather divide the churches to save their own status than unite it, create a new church and become a powerful political force in this country and abroad. I find it so sad. Christ did not have apostles and disciples on top of one another. Bishops overlap bishops in our church in our country, and those bishops, including the Romanians, waste their resources and finances, believing ultimately that they as individuals act alone for Christ. It's sad.
This is the first Memorial Day our church did not run a bus to St. Tikhon's. Instead, and wrongfully in my opinion, it runs bus trip to Atlantic City. Apathy has firmly set in, and Metropolitan Herman, with his slush account as acknowledged in the last treasurer's report, refuses to get it.
The consequence of it all is me and someday my children potentially not worshipping in an English speaking Orthodox Church, the real reason why I am a member of the OCA. I am an American. I speak English. I value my ancestry, but I am distinctly American. The Catholic Church understands this. Why not our own church?
MH - Please remove yourself before the fall.
#43 Anonymous on 2008-05-26 13:51
before we can speak of an american church we must determine what american means.american is NOT ONLY white anglo-saxon,american embraces all ethnicities and cultures.when it comes to the church,that means that russian,greek,serbian etc.traditions and culture ARE american.native,african and hispanic americans preserve their heritage and are completely american.therefore a TRULY AMERICAN orthodox church must embrace all ethnicities.in the church an individual cannot "make up" or invent new ritual or prayers without the consensus of the whole church.in the church we all must abide by the traditions.few oca parishes predominantely are great russian,many are basically little russian(ukranian,ruthenian,lemko etc.),some are ethnically mixed.the oca's difficult task is to be everything to all.when it comes to the liturgical services,i see nothing wrong in combining and using greek,russian,serbian etc. uses and chants in the services,according to the need of the parish.no oca bishop or priest should ever "fanatically"adhere too or insist on one liturgical practice,but should be open to all orthodox liturgical traditions.actually, i see the american orthodox church as the church that combines all ORTHODOX traditions,so that all ortodox can feel "at home".i do oppose the so called western rite,because most orthodox would not feel "at home"at a western rite church and because the eastern rite is much richer and more beautiful but i think we should add more western orthodox saints to the diptychs and compose troparia for them and include them in the services.THE MOST IMPORTANT THING for all orthodox of all jurisdictions in america is to preserve and cherish the eucharistic union and concelebration amongst each other because the UNITY OF THE CHURCH IS IN THE CHALICE!!!MAY THE RISEN LORD KEEP US TOGETHER IN HIS LOVE AND UNITY and may be ,,some day there will be ONE local american orthodox church headed by a patriarch.ethnicity is good,it IS american.ethnicity only is bad when it becomes divisive.some greeks will never go to a russian church or vise versa,the "mine is better then yours"attitude of many orthodox,truly damages the church.in the big cities we should go to each others churches,once a month every orthodox should attend an orthodox church other then his own parish in order to witness to that unity of the faith.
#44 Anonymous on 2008-05-26 20:04
Explain to me, kind anonymous, why the OCA lacks vision for trying to keep the American church "American"? Isn't it the Romanians who lack vision?
#45 Michael Strelka on 2008-05-27 04:57
Christ is Risen!
Please post this material as requested by # 8 Anonimous writer ... 2008 - 23 - 05 ... 18 : 11
I hope nobody can be a better translator than the Romanian theologian / priest ... vvvvvvvvvvvvviiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssiiiiiiiiii
The Chancery of the Holy Synod
04011, Bucharest, Sector 4 – Str. Mitropolit Antim Ivireanu nr. 29
Tel 021.337.08.37; 021.337.08.30; Fax: 021.337.08.22. email: Cancelaria@patriarhia.ro
Nr. 964 Date: March 11. 2008
To His Eminence Archbishop NICOLAE of
The Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas
As you know, the working session of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church was held at the Patriarchal Residence in Bucharest between 5-7 March, 2008 at which you participated representing the clergy and laity of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas.
As a member of the Holy Synod you took the floor during the debates for examining the issues which, among others, included the solicitation of the Romanian Orthodox Exarchate in America to be accepted in canonical communion with the Romanian Patriarchate as well as the results of the Joint Dialogue Commission between the representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America and those of the Romanian Patriarchate that met in Bucharest between 25 – 27 February, 2008.
In this context, the Holy Synod took notice with appreciation of the results of the discussions unfolded in Bucharest and of the project of the Joint Declaration issued by the Joint Dialogue Commission through which the representatives of the Romanian Episcopate of America, of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas and those of the Romanian Patriarchate have acknowledged that the hierarchs and faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church, both in the old country and in America, have endured much and have struggled with difficulties during the harsh historical conditions and without precedent of the communist persecution and that the actions of the then Romanian communist government were the cause of many sufferings through which have gone the two Romanian Orthodox Eparchies in America together with their hierarchs of blessed memory: Bishop Policarp, Bishop Andrei, Archbishop Victorin and Archbishop Valerian, confessors of Romanian Orthodoxy who were persecuted and marginalized.
At the same time, the members of the Holy Synod took notice with joy of the mutual forgiveness expressed on behalf of the predecessors by the participating representatives in the Joint Dialog Commission, as well as their sincere desire to achieve the unity of the Romanian Orthodox on the American continent in an autonomous Metropolia that would include both Romanian Eparchies in America in direct canonical relationship with the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Whereas, the Holy Synod is convinced that you have in your heart all of the above and that, according to the aspects that were examined in the Holy Synod, have observed the desire for the realization of Romanian unity in direct canonical relationship with the Romanian Patriarchate,
The Holy Synod charges you to send an invitation to the representatives of the Romanian Orthodox Exarchate in America in view of integrating the priests and faithful of its parishes within the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas until the beginning of July, 2008.
At the same time, the Holy Synod charges you to restart immediately the dialogue between the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas and the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America in view of realizing the unity of Romanian Orthodoxy in America in direct canonical relationship with the Romanian Patriarchate in the sense of what has been discussed at the Romanian Patriarchate between 25 – 27 March, 2008, sending the proper invitation in this regard.
Please take notice that the postponement of the dialogue and not solving properly the request of the Romanian Orthodox Exarchate in America until the date of the meeting of the Congress of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas at the beginning of July, 2008, will determine the Romanian Orthodox Church, in accordance with its Statutes for organization and function, to exercise its canonical duty of accepting under its protection all the Romanian Orthodox in the USA and Canada who wish to reestablish direct canonical communion with the Mother Church.
With the assurance that you will find the ways toward communion and unity, desired during all times, of which our predecessors were also animated, we brotherly embrace you in our Lord Jesus Christ.
President of the Holy Synod,
Archbishop of Bucharest
Metropolitan of Muntenia and Dobogea, Locum-Tenens of the throne of Caesarea in Capadochia and PATRIARCH OF THE ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Secretary of the Holy Synod
+ Vincentiu Ploiesteanu
He is Risen indeed!
Identity to be known within the near future.
Anonimous = ANONIMESCU ... 5 - 27 - 08
#46 TRANSLATOR = TRADUCATOR on 2008-05-27 08:34
I do attend a Roumanian church in my city here and I am tired of people bashing something they don't know about. My priest is involved in the discussion group and he has been open and honest with us at our church council meetings keeping us updated on the situation. Do not get me wrong, I think everyone respects OCA too, but as I said, we are not happy with all the politics apparently going on. This is something for our Roumanian churches to struggle with and it would be nice if everyone shows some respect for those involved.
(Editor's note: There is no disrepect shown in stating the facts, of which you do not disagree. Or are you saying I have misstated the facts? If that is so, please point out the errors.
That being said, to have shared the details with your parish council, but not the Episcopate Council, let alone all the parishes being asked to transfer jurisdictions, is hardly being open by reasonable any standard.
#47 Adam M. on 2008-05-27 08:43
Can we all please stay above making this "ethnic" against "non-ethnic". I would be saddened to think that people would consider my family members who converted into the Orthodox Church to be any less Orthodox than anyone else. Ethnicity does not make anyone better or more justified.
#48 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 09:05
Sts Cyrill and Methodius were Slavs from Thessaloniki, not Greeks. See Archbishop Alypy (Gamanovich) Grammar of the Church Slavonic Language
(Editor's note: I once attended a conference on SS. Cyril and Methodios in Europe several years ago in which the Hungarians claimed they worked in Hungary, the Czechs in Bohemia, the Slovaks in Slovakia, the Greeks claimed they were Greek, and the Russians claimed they were Slavs, while the Catholic observer claimed they were both good Catholics; and all had the "evidence" backing up their claims. I think the brothers themselves would be the first to suggest that all of the above was meaningless if it did not bring one closer to Christ and his Church. )
#49 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 09:12
As the writer of the original post you quote, I am sorry that I am unable to sign my posts with my real name. It's just not possible for me to do so at this time.
What needs to ethnic Orthodox faithful have?
Let's start with clergymen who are willing to utilize liturgical languages other than English. I have encountered more than a fair share of OCA clergymen who adamantly refuse to use languages other than English, even if they have the ability to read Slavonic, Greek, Romanian, Albanian, etc. I've even encountered a well-known OCA bishop who did the same, simply because he thought that it wouldn't be prudent, evangelically, to use Slavonic in a funeral service. Read Fr. Schmemann's published journals to see the prevailing source of this attitude, as in the 1970's he describes seminarians at St. Vladimir's who, "become hysterical when they hear one hymn in Russian." (page 168) These seminarians are now clergymen in the OCA. Is it surprising that there is an almost paranoiac fear of Slavonic in much of the OCA?
The OCA has perpetuated a culture of English, leaving faithful with little or no choice but to adopt it. Look at the OCA liturgical music downloads page. Aside from Pascha and a small number of other major feasts, you will not find a single download in anything but English. When was the last time the OCA issued a Slavonic service book? I think if you were to look in the libraries of most priests who utilize Slavonic in their liturgical life, you'd find a Jordanville imprint on the first page.
Yes, it is true that other ethnic jurisdictions (MP, ROCOR, etc.) utilize English in their services, but I think it is also true that they do not make the use of other languages in their liturgical services as prominent of a point as the OCA does. Look at most of the parish entries on the OCA parish directory-- in most every one, on the parish worship schedule area, the first line is almost always "ALL SERVICES ARE IN ENGLISH," as if a visitor would need reassuring before coming to worship that the parish only uses English. You don't find that in any other jurisdiction. This is also why, in many older Orthodox communities with multiple jurisdictions present in close proximity to each other, you will find that immigrants from the former Soviet Union don't gravitate to the OCA. The rigidity and stubbornness one finds within the OCA in relation to issues of language, and especially that ridiculous and infernal "Big T/little t" argument, grows tired.
So, yes, there are different needs for ethnic Orthodox as opposed to the convert, and it is not without merit to say that there are many cradle Orthodox who resent the fact that clergymen seem to care more about catering to the convert than they do about catering to the cradle. Yes, there is an implied mission in Orthodoxy to evangelize the world. But is there not also an implied mission to not abandon the flock while you try to add to it?
#50 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 10:07
If we take "ethnic" to mean "immigrant," the ethnic's pastoral needs are exactly the same as and yet differ rather greatly from the native-born. Firstly, in Confession, on-going catechesis, spiritual direction, pastoral counseling, etc., the ethnic needs a priest who speaks the ethnic's native tongue. An immigrant (depending on his/her age) may learn English quickly and well enough to articulate his/her needs &c. at the grocery store, the doctor's office, and the other ordinary and relatively superficial encounters in life. But when it comes to things less superficial? Recently I served a wedding where the bride's immigrant father (a highly-educated man working very successfully---in English---in a multi-billion dollar industry) simply could not express in English all he wanted to say to his little girl at the speech-stage of the reception; so he switched to their native language. How, then, is such a person to be able (in Confession or counseling, for example) to disclose the deepest recesses of his soul in a language not his own? Most ESL courses don't even include the basic vocabulary for that!
Secondly, the ethnic immigrant is very much a person in transition, someone straddling two worlds, two cultures. That can be, at times, terribly disconcerting and quite lonely. Hence, the need for a parish community which, by including elements from both of those two worlds and cultures, makes the transition easier or at least less scary.
I remember back a zillion years ago to my first and distinctly ethnic parish. It used to drive me nuts that, with Matins at 9:00 and Liturgy at 10:00, the old ladies (largely post-war immigrants) would start talking at 8:30 and not shut up till 12:00 o'clock. I was too young, too stupid, too arrogant, and too imbued with a zeal for "North American" Orthodoxy to realise what was happening. As they and their children had prospered, they had moved out of the old neighbourhood to the 'burbs or at least to "better" parts of the city. So these old folks had to spend their week immersed in what to them was still a foreign culture, in a foreign language, with "English" neighbours with whom they had little life-experience in common. Their parish was the only place left where they could be truly themselves and feel genuinely "at home"...which is rather what a parish should be for all of us, yes???
Like it or not, as long as there is immigration to North America, there will be a need and a duty in Christian love to minister to those immigrants in their own language and within the parameters of their own cultures, as well as provide for worship and church life in what would become their children's and grandchildren's native language---English. And that, if I'm not mistaken, was pretty much the vision St. Tikhon had for the Church in North America.
Whether or not the OCA's current set-up of "ethnic dioceses" is the right way to go is certainly open to debate. The RC model of what we would term "ethnic parishes" within the territorial diocese seems to work reasonably well. In my neighbourhood, for example, the aboriginal RC parish and the Vietnamese RC parish are a block away from my house (and directly across the street from each other), while the Italian parish is six blocks away, with one of two Polish parishes about eight blocks away. But the point is that amid all the "English" parishes in the city, the need for these and the other "ethnic" parishes remains and can be accomodated for as long as the need remains.
Hmmmm. The RCs are living out St. Tikhon's vision, while at least some Orthodox seem to want to ditch it. Weird.
#51 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2008-05-27 11:10
"Haluski, Lamb, Pitas, Mamaglia, Hot Dogs and Apple pie."
You forgot the poutine. And the organic vegetarian slow food
#52 West Coast Canadian on 2008-05-27 11:12
I admit, I don't know all the facts. I appreciate the reporting of stories on this website as always, but I assume this information is passed on from second-hand sources. Maybe it is 100% correct, or maybe not. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of different opinions. I am just reserving final judgement until the official information is released to us.
(Editor's note: Feel free to suspend judgement. If current trends continue though, I can guarantee this from first hand experience: you will only be given the facts after the decisions have been taken. )
#53 Adam on 2008-05-27 11:20
This is all so ridiculous! To put this in perspective, this is like any English speaking American Orthodox going to any country and insisting the Orthodox Church there have English services and be American in nature. Insane! Why can't people understand that this ethnic thinking is just a "power grab" by foreign bishops to take American money. WAKE UP! Orthodoxy in America is weakened by the "divide and conquer" mentality. There is strength in unity; there is death in division!
#54 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 11:39
"Yes, there is an implied mission in Orthodoxy to evangelize the world. But is there not also an implied mission to not abandon the flock while you try to add to it?"
The mission to evangelize is EXplicit-- "Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations." On the other hand, though I wouldn't say people should be left without pastoral care, the Good Shepherd does leave the ninety-nine to seek out the one lost sheep. Food for thought.
However, there is a third mission-- for the faithful to evangelize their own children. This, sadly, falls by the wayside when there is a tug of war between preserving the language of immigrant cultures and evangelizing non-Orthodox in English.
What is needed in such cases is the vision to move by stages but not too slowly to a fully English service, and to integrate new immigrants into a predominantly English-speaking and-serving parish, so that all of their children may be raised in the faith with the language of the predominant culture. To keep the life-giving Liturgy encased in the ancestral language at all costs has already resulted in lost generations. There are parishes that woke up to this disaster when it was already almost too late, and started moving toward more English, making converts, and keeping their children in the faith. Sadly, some of these parishes are now in retrograde motion as they give in to new waves of immigrants (often only nominally Orthodox and uneducated about their faith) who demand the liturgy in 'their' language.
Those who complain that too many of today's clergy are converts and blame them for the ills of the church had best think about why it is that the proportion of vocations from amongst the self-defined 'ethnics' is so low.
#55 Valentine on 2008-05-27 11:46
What if you live in a predominantly Hispanic area? Would it be justifiable, so that you can work with the Hispanic community, to use Spanish? I suppose that one could say the same for any other language group: Russians, Romanians, etc., etc. Remember Jesus commanded his disciples to first preach to His own people. Greek-Americans, Russian-American, Romanion-Americans, Arab-American, in my opinion, have the right and resposibility to minister to their own first. How can they reach out to people on the outside when their own house is being left disolate? To be sure, you can visit any number of "ethnic" parishes around the country and find more than a handful of American converts.
Oh, but, from the tone of your comment, am I amiss to guess you are of the belief the United States should be an English Only country? What a boring place that would be. Did you know that in the Revolutionary War there was at least one German speaking regiment that fought on the side of the colonies? The Articles of Confederation, the governing document of the U.S. from the end of the Revolution to the signing of the Constitution, was written in French, English and German. In Pennsylvania and other regions with large German populations, public schools were bilingual: English and German. America has never been an English only country, nor has it ever been, nor shall it ever be. That is the reality, on the ground. This notion of English only, is a fantasy, and monochronistic one at that. Let us sing Xristos Anesti, Xristos Voscrece, Cristo ha resucitado, and the rest. As Americans and Orthodox people have the right to keep their own cultures and customs. We don't have to assimilate into the paleness and blandness of "americaness".
Also, from my experience, there are very few Orthodox parishes in the USA that do everything in a different language. But, again, those parishes that do, have large non-English speaking populations. Those that don't offer services in English should offer some services in English for the English speaking people. Even so, those "ethnocentric" churches still attract converts. I have in mind the Greek monastery near San Antonio, TX. All the services are in Greek, but that has not kept young American men from enlisting in their ranks, nor has it kept other non-Greek speakers from finding the faith and a spiritual home. Pay it a visit on their feast day, or even any sunday for that matter. You'll find Greeks, Arabs, Russian, Ukranian, Romanians, African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asians, and then the more complicated hyphenated people: Latin-Russian-Americans, Greek-Arab Americans, etc., etc., etc.
Bottom line: give people the freedom to be who they are. The Holy Spirit, despite our unworthiness, will work and does work, even through Russian, Arabic and Greek. Serving more services in English does no necessarily guarantee more converts.
#56 Bautista Cabrera on 2008-05-27 11:47
I find it odd that you recount an anecdote about an encounter in a Canadian parish and then blame a perceived lack of emphasis on confession on American Protestant convert priests.
I do not know which parish you visited, but I know many Canadian clergy who happen to be converts who are excellent catechists and pastors, and whose parishoners are taught to take confession and all aspects of their personal spiritual life with the utmost seriousness.
At the risk of continuing more of this ethnic vs. convert wrangling, I have to be honest and say that in my experience, it is more often "ethnic" priests at "ethnic" parishes who don't know what to do with would-be converts and who chrismate them without adequate instruction about the Faith. I know of more than one enquirer who found the catechumenate at the "English" parish too demanding and went instead to an "ethnic" parish to be fast-tracked for reception.
#57 West Coast Canadian on 2008-05-27 11:59
All right then, I'm an ethnic Orthodox, I'm a born and bred Irish-American Orthodox. I have a need, I need to attend liturgical services in Irish (Gaeilge). Though, quite sadly, absolutely no Orthodox church near me offers anything in Irish, not even a little litany! There are no after church Irish lessons, and no ceili dances on weekday nights in the church hall. I'm floundering, and if I don't have my Irish needs met I may just go down to the closest Catholic church where the priest has Celtic crosses on his stole and knows how to mutter out a few Irish blessings after church.
Yes, I'm being facetious. Look, I've traveled the world and attended Orthodox services in many different countries in many different languages. When in Germany, I expect to attend a liturgy in German. When in Georgia I expect to attend a liturgy in Georgian. When in America...who knows? I think it's sad that churches have to say that they have services in English. That should be the *default*. If you want services in other languages that's fine, but they should be the exception, not the rule. While you're at it, you should also try to offer services in Spanish, Hispanics will outnumber all of us in a few years, I bet a lot of them would show up at our churches if we offered services in Spanish. The Pentecostals are really good at this, but I suppose that's just fine, because who cares unless the Hispanics want to worship in Slavonic?
By the way, St. Vladimir's offers courses in Church Slavonic. Like most of these courses, it is little more than knowing how to sound out Slavonic syllables in a somewhat presentable fashion. So yes, St. Vladimir's can and does turn out priests who can serve in Slavonic, though they themselves don't know what they are saying. I hope the people who do the typesetting for the Jordanville books are doing a good job, otherwise who knows what our priests could be saying in Slavonic!
The OCA can not simply be Russian, anymore than it can be Romanian or Greek or WASP. I envision an OCA which, in good American fashion, mixes together all the best that the old ethnicities and ancient patriarchates have to offer, taking the rites, customs, and traditions of all and bringing all of us together in the service of Christ our God. The OCA has, as you have pointed out, been too long bound to Russianisms (really, Carpatho-Rusynisms from the Melkite past) and hasn't really let them go. Why would the Antiochians want to join with the OCA if all the OCA does is call the differing Antiochian rites "wrong"? If we want unity in America, we all have to come together and leave ethnicity behind, including the OCA, not just the Romanians.
#58 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 12:11
reply to Matt Karnes #35
God bless you and your family for continuing to support Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco! I grew up there. So did my husband. Our grandfathers served there. We're still around and still Orthodox-- our son and his son too! We have retained our ancestral background and our 'American' way of life. Yes, Matt, you are correct, many of our people have left but fear not, the majorty of our peers are still around: they are still Orthodox. They are just no longer at Holy Trinity even if they live in the Bay Area. Some are in suburban parishes, but most Matt, are in ROCOR. Perhaps that should raise the question, after all the blood, sweat, and tears of their families which were poured not only into HTC, but St. Eugene's, the women's monastery in Calistoga, etc. WHAT HAPPENED? Mat. Yelena
#59 Matushka Ellen Gvosdev on 2008-05-27 12:52
Orthodox bishop shares Communion with Catholics
Orthodox bishop shares Communion with Catholics
Timisoara , May. 27, 2008 (CWNews.com) - A Romanian Orthodox bishop
has shared Communion with Catholics, causing a sensation in a country
where Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox have a history of tense relations.
At the consecration of the Queen of Peace parish church in Timisoara
on May 25, Orthodox Metropolitan Nicolae Corneanu of Banat asked to
share Communion. The Orthodox metropolitan approached the altar and
received the Eucharist from his own hand.
Romanian Catholic Bishop Alexandru Mesian of Lugoj was the celebrant
of the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Catholic church; Archbishop
Francisco-Javier Lozano, the apostolic nuncio to Romania, was also present.
Although Orthodox and Catholic bishops often join in ecumenical
services, and occasionally participate in each other's liturgical
ceremonies, they do not share Communion-- an indication of the breach
in ecclesial communion between the Orthodox churches and the Holy
See. In Romania, tensions between the Orthodox Church and the
Eastern-rite Romanian Catholic Church have been pronounced, adding to
the surprise created by Metropolitan Corneanu's action.
With some Orthodox believers outraged by the metropolitan's sharing
Communion with Catholic bishops, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Romania
issued a statement saying that at the next meeting of the Orthodox
synod, in July, Metropolitan Corneanu "may be asked to give an
appropriate explanation" for his action.
The statement from the Orthodox patriarchate went on to say that
ecumenical relations with the Catholic Church, "already quite
fragile, cannot be helped, but are rather complicated," by sharing in
Metropolitan Corneanu-- who was one of the first Orthodox bishops to
admit that he had cooperated with the secret police under the
Communist regime-- has a record of friendship with Romanian
Catholics. He was among the few Orthodox leaders prepared to return
church properties that had been seized by the Communist government
from Catholic ownership in 1948 and handed over to Orthodox control.
#60 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 13:20
"The OCA has perpetuated a culture of English"
DUH! What language should we perpetuate?
#61 Michael Strelka on 2008-05-27 13:49
Dear Anonymous from Moscow,
Such examples you have chosen to demonstrate the "progressively nontraditional attitudes in our jurisdiction (OCA) that are undermining our claim to speak of ourselves as fully Orthodox"!!!!
I think your examples are red herrings or straw horses that can be knocked down easily for you rhetorical purposes.
Your first example was laxity regarding confession. As a cradle born Orthodox who has attended all kinds of Orthodox churches over the years and many countries, I think you turned the truth on its head: ethnic parishes did not do regular confessions, it was the OCA churches and the convert priests that started to emphasize regular confession to go hand-in-hand with regular communion. The Antiochians followed soon thereafter. I doubt that the ancient patriarchates had done this for centuries as they were either under the Sultan or of the procurator. Certainly not under the Communists, when anybody foolish enough to confess could find himself in the Gulag pronto. (the converse was also true when many Priests were martyred by refusing to rat on their parishioners). Bottom line: either you don't know what you are talking about or you are telling tales.
In your second example, you attempted to portray an academic situation as emblematic of faith and theology. The poor convert was so shocked that he left immediately! Oh my; such tragedy , such laxness, such liberal education, such heresy! I cannot believe that you are so naive as to take the story on its face. For one thing, seminaries are where the professors are supposed to challenge the students. This is where the future priests are either formed or weeded out. This is no place for rote learning. I again find your analysis of this situation is to be so shallow that it beggars one's imagination.
Your third example dealt with homosexual choir singers in a West Coast parish. Such a sin!!! Such a huge, noteworthy, blameworthy sin!!! Your reaction reminds me of the crowd that urged our Lord to stone the adultress. Don't you know that a sin is a sin is a sin? You picked this example because you expected a certain reaction.
I don't know who you are Mr. Anonymous from Moscow. I don't think that I want to know either: you seem very calculating and determined to hurt the OCA, all the while using fine sounding words and sentiments. In short, a wolf in sheep's clothing.
#62 Carl on 2008-05-27 14:30
What happened? I will not repeat what so many others have so eloquently delineated in earliers posts, but will sum up what happed as thus: The OCA has dropped the ball. In order to become more American, it has adopted the spiritual ethos of America which is Protestantism. Matushka Ellen, as you have observed other Orthodox Christians who are unashamed of their Orthodoxy have picked up the ball and run winningly with it and Orthodox convert and cradle and pre-converts have noticed. Everyone loves a winner, no more so than in America. Be honest, folks, which is more attractive: the battered yet victorious Russian/Romanian/Old Country Churches who have produced hundreds of thousands if not millions of New Martyr Saints in the 20th Century alone, or the whinging, spoiled, protestant-wannabe OCA who have produced (how many?) Saints during the same time period? These same Old Country Orthodox Churches in America have also quietly taken up the evangelical slack left by the OCA by providing full English or part English services and catechesis for American Orthodox and potential American converts. A lot has to happen in the OCA before it becomes something other than a legend in its own mind, before the mention of OCA draws other than a blank stare or a "wha?" outside of America. As for the OCA's witness in America, OCAers should heed the words of America's greatest combat general, General George Patton: "America loves a winner, and will not tolerate a loser..." The OCA is not a winner.
(Editor's note: Without in anyway disparging the new martyrs, it should be pointed out as a historical fact that it was the spiritual culture of the "holy old countries" in which Communism flourished, creating those martyrs and millions more victims around the world. It was your "Protestant" America which created the material conditions through embodying Western values ( most notably Christianity) through which communism was eventually defeated. Using the former to criticize the latter is rather a double edge sword, no? Nevertheless, I agree the OCA has dropped the ball in many ways. But as in good ole American football, one can always recover one's fumbles, and the game is not over until all 15 minutes of the fourth quarter are through - and even then you can't end on a penalty. You would be wrong to count any NFL team out until the final whistle - and wrong to count the OCA out because of our current woes. Have a little faith.)
#63 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 16:20
Mr. Stokoe, re your: "I was asking the question as to whether the scandal-plagued Metropolitan in South Canaan still cares about America, the OCA and its founding vision, or just about increasing pilgrimage attendance through using relics and borrowed icons?)."
About that borrowed icon...the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, besides being the protector of the Russian Orthodox Diaspora is associated with many, many miracles. One miracle of note has to do with St. Seraphim of Sarov, himself. When he was a child, he became ill to the point of death. His faithful mother brought him before the Kursk Root Icon and he was miraculously healed and went on to become the very living ICON of Orthodox Christianity who lived out his own admonition, "the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God." It was truly meet and right for Metropolitan Herman to ask for the presence of the Kursk Root Icon and the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov at the Memorial Day Pilgrimage. The OCA needs healing and through the prayers of the Holy Mother of God and St. Seraphim of Sarov that healing may, God willing, come soon. It is very sad that the moderator of this discussion board sees these glories of the Orthodox Church as "borrowed," as if they are not the heritage of the OCA and all Orthodox Christians, as if the OCA was somehow disconnected from the lineage of the Kursk Root Icon and St. Seraphim. ..... Even so, I choose not to believe that these miracles are merely "borrowed" but are gifts from God to his faithful in the OCA.
(editor's note: Great story. But seriously, get real. You know exactly what I meant by "borrowed". )
#64 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 16:55
Mr. Stokoe, I agree with your: "You would be wrong to count any NFL team out until the final whistle - and wrong to count the OCA out because of our current woes. Have a little faith."
I'll be looking for (and praying for) that miraculous "Hail, Mary" play that will win the game for the OCA.
#65 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 18:32
This discussion proves one thing -- the whole set of issues revolving around ethnicity, converts, an American church, etc. requires much more open, honest discussion.
One poster somewhere further up in this thread made a comment in response to something Mark wrote to the effect that too many folks in the OCA want to get past the mess so we can get on with our triumphalistic vision of an American church. Maybe we need to get past this mess in order to sort out this other mess -- a mess that we've never fully engaged with in an honest way. Clearly there are open wounds and differing viewpoints. How do we fulfill our mission as Orthodox in America in a flexible, imaginative and sensitive way so that we can sort out the differing needs and viewpoints articulated here?
Clearly not dealing with the financial and leadership mess isn't doing anything to move us along the way to dealing with this other mess. At least this other mess has the advantage (?) of being the honest, organic result of complex history and forces.
What we need is an institution that is flexible and sensitive enough to reach out to people "where they are" [whether that's a recent immigrant looking to the Church as a bulwark of personal and cultural identity, or to an unchurched American seeking he knows not what], yet grounded and steadfast enough to take that person out of their personal preoccupations and focus them on Christ and living out His will. And as individuals [ethnic, convert, or anything in between] we need to be willing to give up, or at least try to mitigate the influence of, our baggage and see the Church as a vehicle for our conversion and repentance, rather than as a bolster to our worldly sense of identity.
#66 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-05-27 20:01
This story is from a Catholic press source. Please provide verification of the Patriarch of Bucharest's words from a Romanian Orthodox source.
So often stories and words are distorted by a slanted press.
#67 Lydia Kowalyk on 2008-05-27 20:08
Valentine, I largely agree with you, but you called to mind a recent article I read:
By Fr. Aris Metrakos
Scripture separated from its context can be confusing, misleading, and even destructive. Take the well-worn Bible college criticism of the way Orthodox and Roman Catholic faithful address their clergy, Matthew 23:9 (call no man father). The literal application of Mark 16:19 (snake-handling) is downright scary. Women's southern summertime fashions being what they are, I'm grateful that no one is advocating an exact application of Mark 9:47 (if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out).
The ripping and twisting of scripture is not the sole domain of the folks who think that mega-churches are "non-denominational" and that the Orthodox Church was "founded" in the 19th century with the rise of nationalism. We Orthodox also know how to play the game of "Bible pick and choose." My favorite contemporary Orthodox exegetical distortion is Luke 15:4: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?"
America's Orthodox Christians look at the beautiful image of the Good Shepherd returning home with the lost little lamb around his neck and say to themselves "Let's find all of the people who have ethnically Orthodox last names and get them 'back' in the pews!" Behold, another Lost Sheep Committee is born.
For all of the Lost Sheep Committees that have come and gone, this is an evangelical paradigm that has yielded little or no fruit. Why? Persons with "Orthodox" last names who don't live the life of the Church do so by choice. They are sheep who have fled the flock -- if they are even sheep at all. More importantly, Lost Sheep Committees don't work because they are based on faulty exegesis. Luke 15:4 must be placed in the broader setting of verses four through seven:
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Emphasis added.)
Jesus uses the image Luke 15:4-7 to tell us that He is the good shepherd who calls each human being to repentance, and to remind us that His redemptive ministry is focused not on maintaining the status quo of the righteous but on the reclamation of the fallen. If we are to follow the words of the Lord, then we must go after the lost sheep. We just need to make sure that we know who those lost sheep are.
Who the Lost Sheep Aren't
Igor Czht came to the United Stated from Slobovia when he was in his early twenties. After spending a couple of years working for his cousin in Chowderland, USA at the Chowderland House of Pottery (Slobovians are renowned pottery makers), Igor moved south to Countryland, USA. Twenty years after arriving in America, he operates the lucrative Countryland House of Pottery. He spends Saturday evenings consuming copious amounts of Slobovian brandy and playing cards and passes his Sundays fishing on his pontoon boat. He last sat through Liturgy two years ago, when his mother was visiting from the old country.
When Igor is asked why he doesn't come to church, he answers with no hesitation: "They're too judgmental."
"But the priest, Father Boris, is energetic and hard working."
"He's the worst. He hates all Slobovians."
"Have you talked to him?"
"I don't need to. I've heard all about him at the Slobovian Men's Club."
"But Father Boris' dad was Slobovian and he speaks the language. He even co-authored the book "Slobovian Pottery and the Major Feasts of the Church."
"Look," says Igor. I don't need to go to no gee-dee church to be no gee-dee Christian."
Igor might be described as a certain four-legged animal with three letters in its name, but he is certainly no lost sheep. He has never been part of the flock and has no recognition of his need for repentance. Yet, Orthodox churches around the country spend countless hours wringing their hands over the fact that the Igors of the world could care less about the Church.
Am I saying that Igor doesn't deserve a phone call, card, or a visit? Of course not. But wasting too much of the parish resources on getting Igor "back" in Church is irresponsible. Worse than Igor's not participating in the life of the community would be Igor's hanging around the parish with the destructive attitude that he harbors. Instead of reclaiming a lost sheep for Christ, the parish would be deliberately introducing a disease into the flock.
Who the Lost Sheep Might Be
Panagiotis and Panagiota Pappas moved to Countryland three months ago. For a long time they had no idea that there was an Orthodox parish in their new city. The Slobovian parish has a one line listing in the white pages and their website has been under construction since the days of dial-up. When Panagiota finally found the number for the parish, someone answered the phone "Slobovian Church."
Undaunted, she and Panagiotis drove to Liturgy the following Sunday. They drove past the church the first time (the sign is three feet by three feet). Then they drove around the block twice trying to find the entrance into the parking lot. After walking into the narthex, they were shown which were the "one-dollar" and which were the "five-dollar" candles. After the Liturgy, the priest made a point of welcoming "Mr. and Mrs. Panagiotis" and invited them to come next door for coffee hour-where no one spoke to them.
The Pappas' are sheep in search of a flock. Meeting their needs requires only a little more money and a little less parochialism. Instead of placing their light under a bushel, the Slobovian parish needs to spend some money on a decent phonebook ad and Web presence. Dare I say it? Even an occasional radio spot would be nice.
Get some signage that helps people find the church. Do something about the parking lot traffic flow. At least pretend to be happy to see visitors. And please, please, please stop calling yourself the "Slobovian Church."
Who the Lost Sheep Are
Jane and John Whitebread live in a 2800 square-foot house in a gated community. Both are educated and have good jobs. Jane was raised Baptist, but hasn't set foot in church for years. John's folks were never part of a faith community.
The Whitebreads work hard. Like most Americans, they enjoy creature comforts that antiquity's royalty couldn't even dream about. John goes through a bottle of scotch per week, and Jane is into retail therapy. Weeknights they fall asleep on the couch and love seat watching cable news. Saturday evenings are spent having gin and tonics with the neighbors.
They wake up with headaches Sunday morning. John stumbles out to the curb and retrieves the Sunday paper. A pot of coffee and a crossword puzzle later it's time to think about mowing the lawn and getting caught up on the laundry.
Meanwhile, the Whitebread kids carry out their Sunday morning ritual. Their 13-year-old son IM's his friends while checking out porn sites. Their nine-year-old daughter is glued to the TV. The six-year old plays video games.
Jane and John feel like something is missing in their lives. They wonder if it might be religion, but abandon the idea. They can't relate to the fundamentalists that are always preaching to them at PTA and neighborhood association meetings. They think preachers in golf shirts and khakis look silly. Pithy church signs, services that start at 4:48 p.m., simplistic answers to complex questions, and moral stances that seem to accommodate society's trends leave John and Jane cold. "Isn't there a religion that offers a set of practices and beliefs that doesn't require you to throw out half your brain or agree that gay marriage is a necessary step in cultural evolution?" they wonder.
The Whitebreads are America's lost sheep. They don't even know it, but they're the reason that God became man. They have a life of comfort that is anything but abundant. What will we Orthodox do to help them out of their stupor and into the light of the Kingdom? This is the defining question for American Orthodoxy.
I don't pretend to know the answer to this question. But I do know that fulfilling the Great Commission means that we must stop squandering our time and energy on going after ornery pottery makers and start going after the real lost sheep. Along the way we might want to make ourselves more visible and accessible.
And if a visitor wants to pay one dollar for a five dollar candle, it's cool. The church pays less than a quarter for them in the first place.
Rev. Aris P. Metrakos is a Greek Orthodox priest and pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia, SC. A former Naval Aviator, he spent seven years on active duty prior to attending seminary.
#68 Anonymous on 2008-05-27 23:38
I would not be so quick to laude the praises of good ole " Protestant America. America was supposedly fighting communism in Central America from the 1950s onward. And what did good ole Protesant America do? It set up and materially supported corrupt and violent regimes in Nicaragua (Samosa 1936 - 1979), El Salvador (the coffee oligarchy), and Guatemala (Efrain Rios Montt, for example).
Rios Montt, now there's a great example. A bonefide Protestant's Protestant, he carried out some of the most vicious campaigns against the Maya, putting them in concentration camps where they were prohibited from speaking their native language and practicing their Catholicism in favor of a Protestant Evangelical form of Christianity. Such a good Protestant Christian was he that prestident Reagan, God rest his soul, said of him: "President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. ... I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice." All that and apple pie at the expense of American tax dollars.
Oh, but this was all done in order to keep communism from reaching our borders. This was all done so we (U.S. citizens) could be free and worship at the alter of Western Values. The cost of that freedom was the freedom of the Maya in Guatemala and the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Having deprived them of their freedom through our support of "anti-communist regimes" we deny them entry into our "freedom", these illegals, drunkards and misfits. Apple-pie anyone?
Have I gotten of topic? I don't think so. So many Americans are so quick to disparage,belittle and point out the errors of the the cultures of others and presumptuously demand that we submit to the American way, most vocaly in their "English Only" matra Theirs is a romanticized America, and leads some to say without the slightest bit of shame: "It was your "Protestant" America which created the material conditions through embodying Western values ( most notably Christianity) through which communism was eventually defeated."
Really, Mark, the naivite of your comment is astounding!
If peoples and cultures refuse to completely assimilate into Americaness, I can only venture to say, as an immigrant myself, that is because they see beyond the hot-dogs and apple pie and see that America is not the "pure virgin" or "savior" some delude themselves into believing it is. It is just another place to live, work, and survive. It is a land, as all lands are, full of contradictions and hypocracy. What gives color and joy to their soujourn here cannot be found in hot dogs and apple pie, but in the best of the riches of their home cultures, which is preserved and passed on primarily through their language and customs. In our case, Romanian, Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Georgian, Serbian, etc.
(Editor's note: You read far more into my comments than intended. My response was only that - a response to the claim good "ole Protestant America" had few values to offer the world vis-vis the saints of Russia. I was not then, or now, defending American foreign policy in general, or in any specific region or area, or as you point out, its often unfortunate messianic overtones. Let's try and keep politics out of this. There are plenty of other forums for those important issues. I apologize if I led you into temptation.)
#69 Bautista Cabrera on 2008-05-28 07:40
Right Lydia, I'm sure it's a bogus press release - get real! Most of these bishops in foreign countries have marginal Orthodox theological education. To this fellow, apparently he doesn't know why the Orthodox and RC's aren't in communion - sad, very sad! Let's all go run to the foreign Orthodox bishops who most the time, don't know their left hand from their right. Let ROCOR be dominated by the ROC which has reverted to 18th century Orthodoxy influence by Peter Mogila (Western theology). Fools! The foreign bishops just want American money!
#70 Anonymous on 2008-05-28 07:55
I recently visited an Orthodox church, an OCA church, but with "Russian Orthodox Church" on its sign. It has a sign above its door that says "Christ is Risen" in English. And Slavonic. It's located smack in the middle of a neighborhood where the signs in the store windows are in Spanish.
Perhaps we might not see the lost sheep placed in our midst who speak with a different accent than is heard in our seminaries.
#71 Scott on 2008-05-28 09:56
I dare say that you are confusing the ethnic customs with Orthodoxy. Further, you are confusing late Russian practices with Orthodoxy. To the example you pointed to, confession before communion, this issue was dealt with by SCOBA in 1972, see http://www.schmemann.org/byhim/confessionandcommunion.html . If you want to complain about the OCA following that SCOBA decision that's fine, but you're a few decades too late. Frankly, I don't see any need to continue practices here in America which are spiritually destructive just because that's the way they "used to be done" in Russia once upon a time. Is any of the "new" liturgical practices of the OCA contrary to the Church Fathers and the liturgical texts themselves? If not, then stop trying to compare them to what "used to be done" in Russia in order to call them wrong.
1) I have a different view. Most converts, especially ones from Protestantism, are the ones who are most fanatical and fundamentalist in their Orthodoxy. The "Protestant mindset" that most converts come from is not lax in the least. Most of our converts come from Evangelicalism, which has their own subculture, and most converts try to continue this subculture into Orthodoxy, most notably by trying to be more "Russian" than the Russians (or more Greek than the Greeks, etc.) I have been around a number of online Orthodox discussion forums, and for the most part the most fundamentalist members are converts. One example of a poorly catechized convert isn't enough to outweigh my own experience with converts. Sounds to me like the problem isn't with the convert's "Protestantism" or with the OCA, the problem is with the priest who simply isn't paying attention to his job.
2) How do you want to historically prove that a miracle happened? You can't. You can believe that it happened, and believe what that says about who Christ is, but that is a faith statement. I'm not going to go down the road of Protestant verbal plenary inspiration and I'm glad at least one OCA seminary doesn't either. VPI is a Modernist category anyways, and paints one into a historical corner which lacks theological meaning. Best to leave it alone, and simply accept Scripture as Scripture.
3) Does having homosexual attraction make one unfit to sing in the choir? Really?
Finally, I would not rely on orthodoxinfo.com as a source. Or, as I like to call it, orthodoxMISinfo.com. It is slanted and biased.
#72 Anonymous on 2008-05-28 09:59
Hearing confessions in one's native language is important. In my travels I have always tried to find a priest who knows English well enough to hear my confession. Usually, however, I end up confessing to a priest who knows English as a second language, normally quite fluently, but it still occasionally leads to awkward misunderstandings and other difficulties.
Hearing confessions in Russian, however, is quite a bit different from insisting that services must be held in Slavonic, a language nobody understands. Moreover, the needs of a largely multi-ethnic parish must be considered over the desires of a few to "enjoy" hearing some Slavonic in the liturgy. There are numerous examples of parishes where there was a multi-ethnic community happily worshiping in their shared vernacular, then a new Russian immigration occurs, and they look at the parish, sniff condescendingly, and then inform the priest that they want to attend an Orthodox church, so he simply must include Slavonic in the services. He wants to accommodate them, so he obliges, but more and more Slavonic is demanded, until finally the original members are left standing in church with absolutely no idea what is going on, while the ones who insisted on the Slavonic are downstairs drinking tea. I'm not being facetious here, this (or a similar occurrences) has happened, and is happening. If you want to know why "American Orthodox" fear Slavonic, this is why. Because in the end, if they don't fight tooth and nail for English, it will become subsumed under the All Holy Slavonic very very quickly. And once that happens there is little they can do to end it, because everyone knows that Slavonic is Orthodox, and English isn't.
If you want to have parishes for immigrants that's fine, but it should be understood that these are missions , meeting the spiritual needs of the present members with the eventual goal of integrating them into the larger Orthodoxy of this country. This is what Catholics do, including all the ethnic Catholic parishes you mentioned. What I see instead is that these immigrant parishes start insisting that they are "better" because they are Russian, and because they are Russian they are more Orthodox, and we Americans "just don't get it" with Orthodoxy because we are American and not Russian like them. And goodness knows, anything we do different from them is "Protestant" or "Catholic" or somethings, whatever it is, it's not Orthodox, because they don't do/think that, and since they are Russian they know what is Orthodox and what isn't. Just look at any number of the comments here, and you'll see that this opinion is widely manifested. It is this religious superiority which grates us "Americans". It is hidden within pious pleas of "preserving" Slavonic and "helping" immigrants from the Old Country (who may or may not be even Christians in the first place), but it is little more than religious superiority, and I will not bow down to it.
#73 Anonymous on 2008-05-28 12:03
good article. The particular lost sheep I was thinking of in my post are English speakers, whether or not they are married, parents and professionals with a 2800 sq. ft. house. Even most English-language, mission-minded parishes have a long way to go to fulfil the Lord's command, as currently our converts come mostly from other Christian traditions. There are Buddhists, Sikhs and Muslims in North America in need of the True Faith. Like Orthodox immigrants, many of them are behind a language barrier, but the second generation will grow up speaking English.
#74 Valentine on 2008-05-28 13:02
My feeling is that people are people, and to make general stereotypes is not a wise thing to do. There are rude and un-Christian "Russians/Greeks/whatever", just as there are rude and un-Christian "Americans". I have see it go both ways. We must be careful to judge specific instances and not to cast a bad image on an entire group of people because of the actions of a few.
As for parish life, if the priest in the parish is strong enough to stand for what is needed (language balance), and the bishop is strong enough to support him, then the parish shouldn't fall into being a so-called "ethnic ghetto" and there should be nothing to be afraid of. But if the priest is afraid of "ethnic" from the beginning, I could see how that would most likely lead to problems. Perhaps the seminaries should include (if they do not already) at least one class on the issue of dealing with many cultures in a parish - be it Russian, Greeks, Mexicans, Chinese, or whatever. The Orthodox Church must do everything it can to evangelize to all people, not tell them to "get used to it or go somewhere else".
#75 Anonymous on 2008-05-28 14:02
Politics. That's just the thing, with this "This is America, we should shed our 'ethnic' identities and become 'American'" business. I understand, and would insist, on churches being more sensitive to their environement, which, by and large, most parishes are doing. But, if people are having conniption fits about prayers being sung/read in a language other than English, or that people are being too "ethnic" (which essentially means being unAmerican), it, from my experience, is many times an expression about their political views.
I think, Mark, politics has long been apart of this discussion, we just like to compartmentalize our lives and say this is my "spiritual life", this is my "church life" this is my "political life", not realizing that they are all connected and feed off of one another. Our "political life", conciously or unconsciously is a factor in this discussion about "American Orthodoxy". Inevitably, when I've had this discussion with people who are angry and indignant about non-English services and prayers, they also believe that America is for Americans, which means English only, hot-dogs and apple-pie. And all those who wish to be truly Americans must make English their first language and assimilate into the American culture.
You can be sure, Mark, politics has long been a feature of these comboxes, whether we like to admit it or not. Your sound bite comment was pregnant with political beliefs and assumptions not less than my comments. We would do better to re-evaluate our assumptions and be more critical about what we mean by "American". Then we might be able to have a fruitful discussion about American Orthodoxy. Until then we're left with the deceptively innocuous hot-dogs and apple pie America we're so comfortable with.
Any takers? What does it mean to be American?
#76 Bautista Cabrera on 2008-05-28 14:30
Perhaps you are being a little unfair.
I am not sure what is the importance of the fact that the poster, who has identified himself as an American convert (and who writes as fluently as one would expect of someone natively American) is posting from Moscow. He has informed us that "my work requires me to relocate periodically." I would think that some experience of living in Russia, on the part of someone who states that he has spent decades in the OCA, would raise interest in what he had to say; though to you and Mark it raises only suspicion.
ethnic parishes did not do regular confessions, it was the OCA churches and the convert priests that started to emphasize regular confession to go hand-in-hand with regular communion.... Bottom line: either you don't know what you are talking about or you are telling tales.
What the OCA did was to encourage, not "regular" communion but frequent communion. Confession as typically practiced by Russians was just as regular as communion — indeed, Fr. Schmemann criticized the perceived iron bond between them in his report to the Holy Synod on the matter in 1972 (it is available online). The problem was that "regular" for many Orthodox had come to mean once, or perhaps four times, a year. Reading his report and the decision of the synod based on it, one can see that Fr. Schmemann is quite strict on the question of which Orthodox may receive communion, and also that the practice of "general confession" he encouraged was not intended to replace the sacrament as traditionally practiced. (Indeed, it was "only for those and those alone" who regularly confessed, something that was to take place "not less than once a month.") Unfortunately, whatever the merits of his proposal, it has not always been well-implemented — one error, rare communion, being traded for another, careless communion. I don't have to deny the positive experiences you have had in order to suppose that Anonymous is also speaking from experience, especially since he also acknowledges the "many" OCA priests who do encourage confession.
I cannot believe that you are so naive as to take the story on its face. For one thing, seminaries are where the professors are supposed to challenge the students.
If (if) the story is accurate, it's a problem. "What do you think?" or "Not according to Dr. GermanGuy" are challenging answers. To wrap up with "your guess is as good as mine" would be identified by all the fathers as blasphemy — though it would be perfectly common among heterodox academics. There are, as I know from experience, educated Orthodox clergy who think like this, and there is no reason to suppose that the professor, whoever he or she was, did not think like this as well.
Your third example dealt with homosexual choir singers in a West Coast parish. Such a sin!!! Such a huge, noteworthy, blameworthy sin!!! Your reaction reminds me of the crowd that urged our Lord to stone the adultress. Don't you know that a sin is a sin is a sin?
To quote Fr. Alexander once again (specifically, his journals, p. 175), there are a lot of "unnatural" sins — greed, for example — and every table in every parish trapeza is filled with sinners. But I think you're not attending to Anonymous's point. What if it had been a table occupied each Sunday by wife-swappers joking about people in normal marriages, or drug-dealers joking about people with regular jobs, or gay-bashing skinheads joking about Matthew Shepard? Someone visits this parish for several months and tells you that this weekly clique meeting "was completely ignored by the priest and the other parishioners, and I was asked not to 'make trouble' when I said that I did not think that this was appropriate or Orthodox." Now do you see the problem?
Finally, with respect to particular sins, it has never been true that "a sin is a sin is a sin." The Church's canonical tradition makes it perfectly clear that some sins are more damaging to the soul than others, as does St. John the Theologian, who speaks of sins "unto [lit. towards] death" (1 Jn 5:16), contrasting them with other, lighter ones. (I think we all know this, anyway. Would you really equate killing a child with cutting in line at a theater?) There are considerably worse sins than sexual ones, of course.
#77 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-05-28 14:47
very well said,thank you.america is a multi-ethnic,multi-cultural and diverse nation and the church in america should be that too. a truly american orthodox church should have,according to need,russian,serbian,greek,etc. and mixed parishes,but NOT dioceses,in order to avoid overlapping dioceses,which is so uncanonical.we want to be the AMERICAN church,not the english-orthodox church,which would be for england.we need to bring more hispanics and blacks into the church,both have a deep spirituality,they are a fertile soil were the seeds of orthodoxy should be planted.the problem is,that deep down,many anglo-saxons and other northern europeans regard themselves as superior and want to suppress everone else.that must not be in a truly american church.IN THE CHURCH WE ARE ALL ONE PEOPLE OF GOD ! on a lighter note,hot dogs did not originate in the usa,but in germany and austria (the original frankfurter being short,thicker and slightly smoked,while wieners are longer,thinner and not smoked)apple pie "aint"american either,being made in northern european countries long before the mayflower arrived.IT TAKES CENTURIES for a local church to spiritually grow and mature.we must have patience and love to build up the church.CHRIST IS RISEN.
#78 Anonymous on 2008-05-28 15:10
Imagine one Orthodox Christian Church in the United States (and one in Canada), where, in sync with the Quinisext Council, in which church organization is to overlay civic models, each state (or province) is a smaller and thus more manageable diocese with its see in the capital city and one bishop at its head. Each diocese is divided into deaneries, geographic or "ethnic," as needed in that state or province (Arab, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Rusyn, French Canadian, Greek, Hispanic, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, etc.), headed by a protopresbyter (for parishes) or an archimandrite (for monasteries and convents) who answers to the single bishop of the state or province. The canonical requisite for unity while accommodating diversity would thus be achieved. The primate, chair of the synod of bishops, would reside in the capital city of each country. The national church would maintain ministries for each ethnic group to produce uniform liturgical and catechetical materials in their particular languages for use across the dioceses.
Proud as many of us are of our religious and ethnic heritages, honesty demands that we realize most of us are not part of a diaspora. We haven't been dispersed from anywhere -- we were born in America -- and we have no intention of returning, as exiles in a homecoming, to someplace we've never been in the first place.
#79 Gregory Orloff on 2008-05-28 21:21
Are you kidding??? Maybe during communism it was true about the bishops not being totally qualified, but now it looks like it is pretty much the norm for the bishops to be at least doctoral candidates if not holding a doctorate already. Let's not kid ourselves, they "ain't no dummies" over there.
This bishop in question is over what, 90 years old? Until we learn the facts, let's not be so quick to write him off as some kind of idiot and show some respect. Maybe there is a legitimate reason to at leat explain why it happened (perhaps some kind of alzheimers or something, who knows).
And as for the money, when you see many of the palaces in which the bishops in Russia or elsewhere live, don't you think that if they saw the OCA Chancery they would just say "gee, it could make an okay guest house"? Aside from the Greeks, and perhaps the Antiochians (but I am not sure how much is sent other than money for the seminary there), what other patriarchates get such large sums of American money to add to what they already have? Now that is a list I would really like to see - a list of how much money each patriarchate received in 2007 from its jurisdiction here in USA/Canada (and likewise, how much was sent from overseas to here either in cash, salaries or other support). I regularly see people referring to the foreign bishops taking money from here, but I have never seen the facts taken from actual financial reports.
#80 Anonymous on 2008-05-28 21:49
I agree that we must all work together and we must reach out to people of all backgrounds. The fact that some wish to gather into parishes with strong ties to their national traditions, while it may seem foreign to some of us, is at least good in that they stay with the Orthodox Church and not leave it or simply become Christmas and Easter seasonal Orthodox Christians.
One factual point however, which is related to this page's topic, I believe that the Romanian diocese of the OCA is the only OCA diocese to show a steady growth over the past 10-15 years. Or if it is not the only one (perhaps at least one other diocese showed some growth), it certainly shows the largest gains. (If I am factually wrong, someone please correct me.) And there is little doubt that this is due in large part to the immigrants. Now, the certain challenge is how to retain the next generation, which we all know is no easy task in and of itself.
#81 Anonymous on 2008-05-28 22:11
Maybe the statement: "anglo saxtons and northern europeans regard themselves as superior and want to suppress everone else" is too harsh and probably unfair. It certainly does not describe all of the members of the Church who are of European extract. Arch-Bishop Dimitri, for example, has spent years working with the Hispanic community in Dallas and translating liturgical texts into Spanish. Even now, at 84, he holds one Spanish Divine Liturgy a month, which he himself serves and preaches at, in perfect Spanish. He also brings in Slavonic speaking clergy to serve a Slavonic liturgy once a month for the rather large Slavic community. I dare say, that if he had a large enough Greek community he would bring in someone to serve in Greek, and if none could be found, he would serve it himself, as he is no stranger to Greek either.
It would be great to see his attitude shared by all of us. If we loved the people around us genuinely we would seek to meet them where they are and do everything in our power to serve them, even at our inconvenience. Alas, many of us suffer from the iChurch syndrome. We want Church our way and if it is not done our individualistic way, in our case "American way" (whatever "American" means), we make the huge illogical, irrational leap and say the Church is not true. Again, we must re-evaluate what we mean by American and come to grips with that.
#82 Bautista Cabrera on 2008-05-29 06:55
Hello again Fellow Orthodox Christian,
I must admit I was in a cranky mood when I started on "Anonymous from Moscow." It was wrong of me to highlight where he wrote from; I guess I not happy at all with the MP/ROCOR deal or with the direction of the Russian state.
If my comments were a bit harsh, would you consider yours to go too far in the opposite direction? My overall point was that "Anonymous" had carefully chosen the three examples that would cast the OCA in the worst possible light. Regarding the specifics:
Point 1. While technically "frequent" would have been a better adjective than "regular," I gather that you do not dispute my point that the problem does not reside with the converts. I agree with you that "unfortunately, whatever the merits of (Father Alexander's) proposal, it has not always been well-implemented — one error, rare communion, being traded for another, careless communion." I do wonder, however, if you are correct in implying that the previous practice of rare communion somehow resulted in less careless practice. I suspect the sacrament of penance did not regularly precede that of communion in the "old countries" or in ethnic parishes. In fact I personally have witnessed ethnic Orthodox objecting to frequent communion and regular confessions as alien, Roman catholic practices. I have heard on more than one occasion (again from cradle born Orthodox) the sentiment that the details of the confession should be kept confidential between the penitent and God. Bottom line: Differentiating between mere customs/habits and the true faith can result in defective Orthodoxy. Again, I appeal for the application of Holy Tradition so that the various elements of Holy Tradition are considered in their proper order and perspective.
Point 2. In your attempt to correct my unfairness, is it possible that you went too far the other way? I completely disagree that "What do you think?" or "Not according to Dr. GermanGuy" are challenging answers in context. These are what I would call leading answers but not challenging ones. The issue is not textual analysis (where there may be an intellectual challenge posed by your examples) but one that is central to the integrity of the priestly calling: Do you believe in the Holy Scriptures (or if you like, in the Holy Orthodox Tradition) even if your senses and your intellect cannot assent? C.S. Lewis, the greatest modern apologist for Christianity, maintained that the Gospel is either completely idiotic or completely true (I am paraphrasing of course). May be it is a personal preference but I am convinced that seminarians must go through the refiner's fire to become good priests, Academic challenges are not enough; core beliefs must be challenged so that the seminarian must decide to go one way or the other.
Point 3. While you are right of course (as you usually are) on the technical merits, I still think that "Anonymous" purposefully stacked the evidence.
#83 Carl on 2008-05-29 07:03
It is not about 'meeting needs'. That's just psycho-babble. It's about becoming Christian, i.e, loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourself, by striving for union with Christ. We have to be in THIS world not the world of some Orthodox golden age (which never occured), but not of it. Right now, we are of the world, but not in it.
My own impression is that most of us spend more time trying to be "Orthodox" than we do trying to be Christian. The fact of the matter is that as wonderful and helpful for salvation as all the Orthodox stuff is, it is not God, yet we tend to make it God. Also, it has been my observation that, on the whole, we tend not to give a damn about the United States and her salvation. The United States (that means us folks or most of us) is too uncouth to really be Orthodox, too Protestant, etc., etc.. Gag me! Until we love the Untied States and the 'west' we will not be able to do our job and we will stay in our ethnic bunkers despising each other and eventually our own Lord.
Every culture with which the Church has interacted in the past has been hierarchical (either tribal or monarchical). The U.S. is not that way. We are more rambunctious, factious, irreverant and iconoclastic than any other culture the Church has encountered before. Applying legalistic, hierarchical rules will not work. For the genuine hierarchy of the Church to 'take' here requires getting in the trenches, Bishops awake, go forth. St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. John of San Francisco, both Bishops, didn't hide in their Chanceries issuing edicts and collecting assessments.
In a sense we are all a bit like St. Thomas--we have to see for ourselves. That, however, is not a bad thing. St. Thomas was the one Apostle who founded the Church in a totally alien culture cut off from all that he knew in the 'old country'. That's because he was livng in our real home.
#84 Michael Bauman on 2008-05-29 07:25
I really like your inspiring vision; it is workable no matter which way one may look at it.
I do have couple of considerations that I submit in the hope that it would add to the discussion.
While I agree on the necessity of having a central administrative office, I am not sure that it must be in a nation's capital. Modern means of travel and communications have "flattened the world" so to speak, making it unnecessary for national bodies meeting in person except on rare occasions. The other reason for not having to locate the central office in the national capital is contained in the following observation on the Primate.
In the matter of a Primate, the position does not have the same importance in North America as it has elsewhere. In most of the old countries, the Orthodox Church has been, and in many ways continues to be, a critical part of the national identity and structure. In the United States and Canada, we are significant in the polity at election time only and only if the concentration of our numbers put us on the political radar. So, it seems to me that the primary role of the Primate is to preside over the Holy Synod as a first among equals and to represent the Church to the outside.
I wonder if it may be a good idea of rotating this office every 7 or 10 years. Such a mechanism would reinforce conciliarity and servant leadership; emphasize the concept that each Bishop is co-equal; and impose a degree of protection against the occasional bad Primate. While it would be unusual, I think a case may be made for it from a theological perspective.
#85 Carl on 2008-05-29 07:29
"Are you kidding??? Maybe during communism it was true about the bishops not being totally qualified, but now it looks like it is pretty much the norm for the bishops to be at least doctoral candidates if not holding a doctorate already. Let's not kid ourselves, they "ain't no dummies" over there."
You are naive at best! "Doctoral candidates?" From where? Doctorates from most of these so-called seminaries is equal to an 8th grade education in the US. Consider the "academies" in Moscow - they are a joke! The blind leading the blind with theological books from 1800 with strong Western influence.
Anyone thinking that putting their trust & church in the hands of foreign bishops haven't done their homework. ROCOR puts up a nice front, but it's a shell of a church lost in 18th century Russia - backward, backward and more backward.
The REAL problem here is SCOBA not fulfilling their promise when formed to become a united, Orthodox Church in North America. Here, almost 50 years later, we still have these stupid ethnic discussions and divisions dividing the American Orthodox.
There is no "going home" - EVER! You can never really go home and home is always a perception and rarely a reality of what one perceives. WAKE UP, people! The real hope for Orthodoxy in North America is here with us, not foreign bishops. If we've screwed things up, let's get up, make things right and continue. Building anything is never without glitches - it's the devil who will continue to try to divide us - don't fall to despair thinking hope is over seas. There is no hope there!
#86 Anonymous on 2008-05-29 08:11
Amen! Amin! Amen! Simple and very Orthodox. Time for a velvet revolution. Let the voice of the people ring out! We want UNITY! We want it NOW! We are not interested in EXCUSES! Hierarchs, check your egos at the door and lets get busy! It is simple. St Patriarch Tikhon, pray for us! Met LEONTY of Thrice-blessed memory, pray for us!
#87 Fr Michael Spainhoward on 2008-05-29 10:09
The Greek Archdiocese is, by and large, the biggest barrier to Orthodox unity in the Americas. For the smaller Orthodox jurisdictions, including the OCA and AOA, to fracture into still smaller jurisdictions, each with their own "metropolitan" (hah!), only strengthens the GOA's hold on SCOBA.
#88 John on 2008-05-29 11:11
I should like to comment briefly on "point 3" since I think I'm personally aware of the place, people and occasion mentioned by "Anonymous from Moscow."
He makes it sound like some little seperatist band of sinners tolerated by a lazy priest. In fact, each of those persons (including me) are dealing with "the cards they have been dealt" -- to quote Fr.s Schmemann & Hopko -- in the best manner they know. It is unfortunate that it was being dealt with in that manner at that time, but that time was quite limited, and the priest's wisdom in not maintaining a "my way or the highway" approach has allowed several people -- including me -- to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," not on our own but in the context of the Holy Church.
Another time, "don't judge by outward appearances but by true judgment."
I personally apoligize for the rather untoward remark you overheard by a close friend of mine. I abhorred it then, and I abhor it now. You wouldn't have heard it again, as I doubt it's been made since. It represented a certain frustration at a certain time made in the presence of understanding ears...or mostly.
But I can vouch that most people in that group that day are persons of prayer, honesty and penitence. Pray for us.
Anonymous now, though not so usually
#89 Anonymous for this one on 2008-05-29 11:14
I know that as a thoroughly "American convert, " what Gregory has described is what I thought I was getting in to! I have no desire to be a part of a national church that doesn't honor, in spirit and in deed, it's "ethnic" heritag-es.
While my parish is quite "American," and all-English, I know that my spiritual patrimony lies with the Church of Russia, and as a person who grew up in the '70s and '80s, that is quite humbling for me.
I'm not familiar with this detestation of things "ethnic." Our parish has always been multi-ethnic, and so no ethnicity holds the parish's attention much. But I would certainly welcome a unified church in which the various ethnicities are honored, ministered to, built up.
That's what I thought we were heading toward.
Rdr. T. J.
#90 Rdr. T. John on 2008-05-29 11:39
"Imagine one Orthodox Christian Church in the United States (and one in Canada), where, in sync with the Quinisext Council, in which church organization is to overlay civic models, each state (or province) is a smaller and thus more manageable diocese with its see in the capital city and one bishop at its head. Each diocese is divided into deaneries, geographic or "ethnic," as needed in that state or province (Arab, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Rusyn, French Canadian, Greek, Hispanic, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian, etc.), headed by a protopresbyter (for parishes) or an archimandrite (for monasteries and convents) who answers to the single bishop of the state or province. The canonical requisite for unity while accommodating diversity would thus be achieved. The primate, chair of the synod of bishops, would reside in the capital city of each country. The national church would maintain ministries for each ethnic group to produce uniform liturgical and catechetical materials in their particular languages for use across the dioceses."
That's the most fantastic solution I have ever read. It is both Orthodox and Traditional, sensible and logical, and absolutely practical. It would save us a boatload of money in Administrative costs. Really, the clegy/laity ratio in the OCA is quickly becoming economically unsustainable (while other diocese's here in America are hurting for priests). By collapsing together the top level administration, and caring for the various ethnicities on the deanery level, we may end up having enough money to actually do things, like sponsor more Missions, for example. In fact, I dare say that we would have so much money left over that we could allow each parish to allocate a certain amount of their assessment to be sent as a gift to a "home patriarchate" of their choice. The amount of money being sent "back home" would probably increase substantially under this model. Moreover, most importantly, by having one bishop for one state (or two, some of the New England states could be collapsed into one because of their geographical smallness) bishops could actually visit their parishes more often. As it is, most of the main jurisdictions each have a bishop who covers just about all of the western states, a formidable geographical area to cover. How concerned can a bishop in Kansas be concerned with a small struggling mission in Montana? He can't, even if he wants to, it's really not that feasible. By reducing the geographical size of each diocese by getting rid of overlapping dioceses, we would really strengthen Orthodoxy all over this country.
We may not need 56 (?) bishops at first, or even need that many, but if you count all the bishops of the OCA, GOARCH, Antiochians, Romanian, Bulgarians, etc. I think we presently have more than enough to get started with this project. Granted, it would take massive reorganization and the letting go of preconceived categories (even the OCA) but it really is the best way foward.
#91 Anonymous on 2008-05-29 13:06
"The ROCOR produced Hilarion, the OCA produced Herman, isn't that telling?" line of thought isn't very convincing. If that's the yardstick one wants to measure churches by, one would have to flee the Church of Russia, which, at the dawn of the 20th century, was infested with Rasputin appointees among its episcopate, or the Church of Constantinople, where the patriarchate was bought and sold from Muslims in the 19th. Let's not even mention the subservient or lethargic behavior of many bishops under communism in Eastern Europe. Yet those churches still produced their share of saints despite this, by God's grace. There's wheat and weeds, good fish and bad, in the Church in every age and location (Matthew 13).
#92 Gregory Orloff on 2008-05-29 15:02
well,i did not say ALL anglo-saxons and northern europeans, i said MANY,which unfortunately is true,but,many others like archbishop DIMITRI ,truly embrace everyone.he should have been the metropolitan.our oca would be in good shape now because he has the right vision for the church. he got the popular vote in 1976,but the "good old boys"gave it to THEODOSIUS instead,because they didn't want a convert and this time again,SERAFIM got the popular vote,but, "they" gave it to HERMAN.i have nothing against either metropolitan,THEODOSIUS or HERMAN,GOD bless and preserve them for many years,but they did NOT get the POPULAR vote.so why have an ALL AMERICAN at all,when at the end "they" don't listen to the people.why then should we waist our money and go to pittsburgh if our votes don't count.i am an old priest (from europe)and remember 1976 and to this day i can't understand why they picked THEODOSIUS,while DIMITRI was by far the more qualified candidate who got the popular vote??? well,the illustrious count fr.schmemann might have been involved,anyway,GOD rest his soul,he wrote some wonderful books and had a truly orthodox theological vision and thus was one of the most influential orthodox theologians of the 20th century.he was the pride of our church.but,he had his faults, as we all do. the oca has the difficult task to be all things to all people of all ethnic backgrounds,thus," english only "is as bad" as "slavonic only".it depends on the individual parish,you serve in the language people in the parish UNDERSTAND.if you have russians in the parish who don't know english,you serve some slavonic if you know it and understand it.i am AGAINST priests just reading slavonic without understanding it,that's blablabla and truly blasphemous,we cannot pray if we don't understand what we are saying.that's why in parishes with a large percentage of new russians ,priests should be bilingual,if possible.but you cannot force a convert priest to learn russian and most americans are not "good" with languages.in ethnically mixed parishes,where you might have greeks,rumanians,serbians,russians etc. you have to serve in the commonly understood language,english.you may always add some LORD HAVE MERCYs,or CHRIST IS RISENs or some feast day troparia in other languages,but the basic language in an ethnically mixed parish must be english or spanish, if in mexico or south america ,that is logical.the oca should never be exclusive.the greatest danger to orthodoxy in america is the protestant ethos that has permeated some churches.american is not really an ethnic notion but a philosophical and political one which is based upon masonic and at the same time protestant principles,some of which are contradictory to the teaching of the church, such as religious relativism,the idea that all religions are the same,or the pursuit of happiness,meaning the strife for wealth and earthly goods.that's why some of these mega churches that preach the gospel of wealth are so successful,they teach the american philosophy of life. the gospel tells us that we must enter through the narrow gate.selfdenial and humility are at the core of orthodox spirituality.both,american secularism and political correctness at one hand and a protestant fundamentalist puritanism at the other,are not acceptable to the church.THE CHURCH IS FOREMOST THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN my kingdom is not of this earth,said THE LORD.someone else posted very wisely that our task is not to make the church american,but to make america orthodox.only when the majority of all americans accept the true church,will it be the american orthodox church,until then it can only be the orthodox church in america.WE HAVE WORK TO DO IN ALL FIELDS.all orthodox in america of all jurisdictions should use ONE COMMON ENGLISH TEXT OF THE SERVICES(besides their own languages).this could be accomplished by SCOBA.we should have all the service books in english the same way they are in slavonic and greek,priest's servive book containing the three liturgies and vespers and matins(sluzhebnik),book of hours(chasoslov),book of eight tones,etc. not to name them all.hymnals containing the eight tones of the major chants of the orthodox church,byzantine,serbian,russian znamenny and kievan etc.and the liturgy in all traditions put to english text,then the typicon combining the different but almost identical traditions,all PRINTED ON NICE THICK PAPER AND BEAUTIFULLY BOUND.this could be done if all the liturgical and musical scolars of all jurisdictions in america got together and got busy.some might think it not important,they are wrong,the divine services are the very life of the church,in the liturgy we communicate with THE LIVING GOD.presently, we have so many different translations,it is difficult to memorize anything.all english speaking orthodox must have the same text of services so that with one mind we may confess.a single text would be an expression of orthodox unity in america.then,all orthodox in america should get together to create ONE SUPER WEBSITE,similar to what the greek archdiocese already has,but even bigger,geared towards potential converts,cradle born who want to learn more and youth and children with lots of pix,vids and chant.we should have a tv station.the holy rollers and the catholics have it,why can't we.i am sure there are many rich greeks who'd help finance it.how can we expect americans to come to the church when they don't know about it.we must make use of the modern media of mass communication,internet and tv.we have to show the world the beauty and richness of orthodoxy.if we truly believe in our church,we cannot do otherwise.the bickering and jurisdictional pride must stop,or we'll never accomplish anything and we'll be judged for it.CHRIST IS RISEN!!!
#93 Anonymous on 2008-05-29 17:06
I am sorry, but I do have to respectfully disagree with you still. Your comment was:
"Most of these bishops in foreign countries have marginal Orthodox theological education.... Let's all go run to the foreign Orthodox bishops who most the time, don't know their left hand from their right."
Now, do a couple questionable "academies" in Moscow constitute the entirety of Orthodox Theological education throughout the entire "foreign" Orthodox world? To degrade the centuries old institutions in Roumania, Greece, the Middle East, Serbia, Russia and elsewhere in this way is simply ignorant and seems to be done in spite.
What about St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris? (Many clergy throughout Europe, including bishops, have degrees from there also.) Are you saying that Fr. Schmemann and others came over with no better than an 8th grade education and didn't "know their left hand from their right"?
Are our seminaries in North America superior to the others just because of where they happen to be located, but forgetting how they started? Who founded these seminaries here? Who were the first professors, teachers and chaplains? I can't believe they were built-up into the strong institutions they are today having been founded and built by a bunch of "foreign" theologians with no better than an 8th grade education. They were respected, educated theologians from equally respected theology schools in Europe.
So please, if you have a problem with an individual case, voice that specific criticism. But don't show hate and contempt for anyone or anything just because they or it are "foreign."
#94 Anonymous on 2008-05-29 18:12
As for the Romanian Church, it is already here in North America through its Archdiocese and its Archbishop on SCOBA. Isn't it more promising and more "Christian" to work with them, hand in hand, to bring them closer to a united church in America, rather than sit around just calling them sinners? I'd much rather be a publican than a pharisee. Let's wait and see the proposed details before passing judgment.
#96 Anonymous on 2008-05-29 18:26
I don't know where to find the numbers, but there is no question there has been tremendous growth, numerical and otherwise, in the Archdiocese of Canada during this period.
#97 West Coast Canadian on 2008-05-29 18:55
Who in the Russian episcopate was appointed by Rasputin? Names, please ...
(editor's note: "The New Synod (of 1917) forcefully retired twelve Rasputinite bishops and appealed to the Church to conduct popular elections of bishops as diocesan assemblies. The electroal principle proved a success. Thus, Tikhon, the future Patriarch, was elected Metropolitan of Moscow; Veniamin, a very popular young bishop was elected Metropolitan of Petrograd; and Germorgen, an uncompromising critic of Rasputin, was elected Archbishop of Tobolsk. All three later joined the ranks of the new martyrs: Patriarch Tikhon indirectly, the last two directly."
taken from "The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia: by Dmitiri Pospielovsky (SVS. 1998)
#98 Anonymous on 2008-05-30 14:00
Well, I suppose I could have been more critical. What made me sympathetic to the post was that it addressed something that I think is a genuine issue.
a tendency in some parishes, and more recently on this website, to think of ourselves as an “elite” group, that “should, would, could” guide Orthodoxy in America –(If only we could put these financial problems behind us and everyone would recognize our good sense and allow us to lead them into a better, brighter future!!! )
I too have been bothered by this attitude, on this site and at the parish level. Maybe there's a problem with the vision, and not just with its execution? Why don't we see real consideration of that — say, in the "Reflections" section? It's not so outrageous: isn't a tree known by its fruits? Instead, in one reflection, the author pins the blame for the "madness" that Mark has lamented on the Dionysian corpus! "So to those other Orthodox who stand on the sidelines gloating at the OCA’s downfall… your turn will come." No, this couldn't possibly be an OCA problem....
For example, is it so certain that receiving autocephaly from the MP was the right thing to do at the time, considering the circumstances? As I've said before, one could doubt or even deny this, and still think that the OCA should retain autocephaly today. But either way, this is true:
Healthy autocephalous national churches come about after many centuries of forming themselves on their Mother Churches
Mark pointed out that we have plenty of American Orthodox Christians, and I agree. But we are nowhere near the established national churches spiritually. It's not that everything is so right in them — there's a lot that is wrong, and their low-points are no better than ours. Their high-points, though — that's what we're missing. Schmemann and Meyendorff, though they were hardly formed in an American Orthodoxy, have obviously been hugely influential on Orthodoxy as it exists in America today. And, yes, our Orthodox brethren in the old countries read and benefit from them right alongside their own academic theologians, such as Staniloe and Mantzaridis.
But the holy men and women these countries have produced, even just in the last half-century — have we seen anything like that arise yet in America? I've spoken with Orthodox who were personally acquainted with some of these people; for example, Elder Paisios and Elder Porphyrios in Greece, and Elder Cleopa in Romania. I am simply dizzied by the sanctity that God made manifest in them, through their spiritual counsel, the brilliant theology they taught (despite being, often, unlettered) and the literally thousands of miracles they performed. Their lives read like something out of the synaxarion, the only difference being that there remain countless living witness to it all.
We are Americans who are Orthodox, and, however little some like this fact, that makes us American Orthodox. But let's not get too carried away with what this means right now. The formation of a national tradition is something organic rather than being principally intellectual, and it therefore takes a long time. This will only be extended in our case, considering the absence of a single mother Church to guide our spiritual development in a deliberate way, and the lack of interest in this task in any event on the part of many in the old countries.
many parishes have moved into an American “freedom-loving” mode that increasingly tries to excise links with Orthodox tradition that we perceive in our convert wisdom to be unnecessary.
To pick some matters at random: fasting, pews (as opposed to seating for the elderly and infirm), where men and women stand in church, baptism by immersion.... Of course, there's so much more to Christian life than such things. And not all Orthodox do things just the same way. And a person can keep all the lesser things and neglect what's most important in God's eyes. All this goes without saying. Still, I doubt many patristic references can be found to support the constantly repeated statement that there are "little-t" and "big-t" traditions — the latter being ours to change or dispense with at will. And, if such matters as these seem insignificant, consider this one instead: why is there virtually no monasticism in the OCA?
As to Anonymous' examples: 1) As I understand it, mandatory confession before communion was a regular Slavic practice. Certainly, it was taught as the norm — after all, it is this teaching that Fr. Schmemann was objecting to. There are, definitely, plenty of cradle-Orthodox who don't confess; so I'm not sure where Anonymous was coming from with that. It is, however, worth noting that these cradle Orthodox usually have not been taught anything: their attitudes are usually the fruit of pastoral negligence. A convert, on the other hand, has usually been taught about the Church in a systematic and deliberate way. If converts, having gone through that, still don't value confession, then they've been catechized in something less than Orthodoxy — their attitude is the fruit of deliberate, but erroneous, instruction. (For example, I have heard a priest teach that confession is only necessary if a person had committed a sin such as literal murder.) I don't of course, blame them for that. 2) Let's substitute: The student asks if the Resurrection really happened, and the professor wraps up class by replying, "Your guess is as good as mine." I can't really see that as useful pedagogy (not that I know much about pedagogy). But, if that had been the comment, I'd agree that it had to have merely been intended to challenge the student — or something. That's because I can't imagine a St. Vladimir's professor actually being agnostic about the Resurrection. But I can imagine one being agnostic about whether a given miracle of Christ took place, and that's why I'm not writing off the author's interpretation of the account. 3) Sure, it was a shocking example. Maybe other ones he might have used weren't so compactly open-and-shut. Or maybe he really was just being a scheming rhetorician — I don't know.
In any event, he says his accounts are "three small examples among hundreds." Are there really hundreds, all so striking? I doubt it. But I think there is enough, in the post and all around us, to call for a radical examination of the OCA and her original vision, rather that merely an examination of her administrative practices.
#99 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-05-31 15:59
I'd appreciate it if you'd capitalize and space your posts according to normal English conventions. I don't say this to be a grammar pedant (I hate that!) but I find your posts really, really hard to read.
american is not really an ethnic notion but a philosophical and political one which is based upon masonic and at the same time protestant principles,some of which are contradictory to the teaching of the church, such as religious relativism,the idea that all religions are the same,or the pursuit of happiness,meaning the strife for wealth and earthly goods
Pluralism and tolerance are not the same as relativism. Some of our founders were Masons, but this does not mean that they imposed on the nation a Masonic philosophy of religion. For my part I've never associated relativism with an American ethos; and I doubt most of the protestants you mention would say that all religions are the same.
Nor do I think that "the pursuit of happiness" refers simply to the pursuit of material possessions. In this regard, it is notable that early drafts of the Declaration used the phrase "the pursuit of property." This phrase, in its proper Lockean philosophical context, has a considerably broader meaning than it first appears to. In any event, it is not an accident that it is not what we ended up with in the end. Of course, a lot of people in America think that material goods bring happiness, but that is true all over the world, and — as we see from scripture — it always was.
#100 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-05-31 17:18
I had never thought of doing things on a deanery level. That might actually work - if people let it work.
I do have a question, though: how do we arrange for bishops to oversee the ethnic deaneries? I think the reason things have been done at the diocesan level has been to get past the problem of one bishop trespassing on the diocese of another. Romanian parishes in California are not "in" the Diocese of the West, though they geographically stand on its territory. If things were done at the deanery level, how could this be worked out? Perhaps a little pastoral oikonomia? I suppose that all ethnic parishes could be stavropeghial and the primate could have ethnic auxiliary bishops, in which case, the ethnic deaneries would actually be deaneries of the primatial see.
Somehow, I suspect that your idea was that ethnic parishes would have to live with having local bishops of different ethnicities, and ideally, that would certainly be the model to move toward - not just "live with" but embrace. I thought some time ago of having ethnic auxiliary bishops in dioceses known to have large ethnic populations. Thus while there would be one ruling bishop of Chicago, there could be a Serbian, Albanian, or Greek aux. bishop. The problem with this idea, obviously, is where to get that many bishops - especially sane, normal, level headed, straight, bishops.
I think I saw a posting by "Carl" suggesting a rotation. This might be done at the diocesan as well as the primatial level, so that the diocese is not always run "Greek" or "Russian" or "Serbian" or "American" style.
#101 Mark Harrison on 2008-05-31 19:46
About your "random examples" - it has been my observation that it has been "cradles" who have been at the forefront of "Americanizing" Orthodoxy. From the time of St. Tikhon many Orthodox parishes installed pews, largely in the old Carpatho-Rusyn parishes of the Rust Belt. Most converts don't really care for pews (I hate them with a passion) but it is impossible to get rid of the pews in these parishes, they were bought with so-and-so's grandfather's hard earned money. And it is normally the most ethnically closed parishes that have an organ, etc. It seems to me, though this is just my observation on the East Coast and Rust Belt, that most of the immigrants tried very hard to simply be Russian or Greek or Serbian (whatever they were) versions of the Anglican Church. As I was bluntly asked once when I went to a Greek Orthodox Church, in not so many words, "Why are you here? There's an Episcopal Church across the street." On the West Coast I don't believe there has been such an "aping" for things Anglican, which is why Orthodox churches there still look so "Orthodox". Therefore, I really don't think this issue can be divided between "cradle" or "convert" camps, or even between "ethnic" and "American" camps, it is an inter-immigrant issue. Blaming the "other" as being "Protestant" is a handy ad hominem attack, but I don't think it is really accurate.
#102 Anonymous on 2008-06-01 05:47
All of this back and forth about cradles v converts and which tradition is the Authentic Expression of Orthodoxy makes me very tired. The bickering back and forth on these entertaining but trivial issues reminds me of children playing at the beach, squabbling over whose bucket is the prettiest while ignoring the incoming tide. Do you eloquent people not understand that millions of your fellow citizens are going to die without Christ? That there are sick people who never see a visitor, poor people who need to eat and some warm clothes to wear, old people dying in loneliness and isolation? And you waste your time b#tching at each other about Slavonic? (And I waste my time reading it? May God forgive me.) Time for a news flash. They don't speak Slavonic any more. Anywhere. Except, that is, for the quaint museums we Orthodox like to call churches. Go ahead if it makes you feel better. Wrap yourself in your piety and hurl imprecations. Do not be surprised when nobody darkens your door, except perhaps out of curiosity. Did Christ call us to be comfortable in our religious ghettoes, Old Country or Apple Pie American, it doesn't matter, is that what we're about? If so, I think I might meander someplace else, where being a Christian is more important than playing ethnic politics or the perfect performance of obscure rubrics. I thought that I had found the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Instead, it appears that to many of my fellow Orthodox, what we really are is a bless-me club, where we may wrangle for hours over nothing that matters as our nation slides closer to hell. Father Seraphim rose was fond of saying, "It's later than you think." It is. Do not think that "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin" is only written on Babylonian walls.
#103 Scott Walker on 2008-06-01 21:03
Thank God you are unfamiliar with things "ethnic" when it comes to your experience of the Orthodox Church. Just last week I sat with a visitor from Austrailia who attends a very Greek parish, in a city where the Russian and Serbian traditions are also represented. In her experience, she had to pick her martyrdom. Not one of the three welcomed her and her family. Two of the three clergy approached for catechesis turned them down flat. The Greek priest gave them some books and scheduled a chrismation, did the deed and handed them a pack of envelopes. No one spoke to them, welcomed them, or would even accept their offers of assistance at parish functions. Her family has since stopped attending church. She alone continues to attend.
Now comes the chorus of, "Oh, come on, it can't be that bad..." and similar comments. Oh, yes it can! Many of us have experienced it to one degree or another.
So many are afraid that a truly American Orthodox Church means the purposeful destruction of ethnic customs. Nothing could be further from the truth. It means that although such customs are preserved and nurtured, they come in a distant second or third to the building up of the Orthodox Church in our country, and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Hell is paved with the skulls of ethnocentrics!
#104 Fr Michael Spainhoward on 2008-06-02 09:01
IT HAS BEEN THIS WEBSITE THAT HAS CONFUSED MANY MEMBERS IN THE OCA, BY GIVING OUT FALSE INFORMATION ABOUT THE LEADERS IN THE OCA. ANYONE WHO READS THIS "GOSSIP" WEBSITE COME AWAY THINKING THAT THE OCA HAS NEVER DONE ANYTHING GOOD! ASKED THE AUTHOR STOKOE? THATS HIS AGENDA! ALONG WITH A SO CALLED DYSFUNCTIONAL BISHOP JOB! WHO HAS NO BACK BONE IN DOING AWAY WITH A GOSSIP WEBSITE IN HIS BACKYARD! NO FACTS! NO POWER! JUST SPREAD THE GOSSIP TO HURT THE CHURCH! FOOLS THAT BREED MORE FOOLS! YOU PEOPLE ARE FOLLOWERS OF JIM JONES OR IS IT STOKOE? HAVE A GREAT DAY!
(Editor's note: Welcome back ALL CAPS GUY. You claim that I give out false information. Please cite me one example. That's all. Just one. Finally, I would hesitate calling all the people who read this site FOOLS with NO POWER. If that was so, why do you bother writing? )
#105 Anonymous on 2008-06-02 19:28
Hell is paved with the skulls of non-ethnocentrics (Amerocentricts) , as well; priests, even; even well intentioned priests; even well intentioned non-ethnocentric American priests. Hell makes no distinction, it is a equal opportunity employer, underwhom many of us are dilligently employed.
#106 anonymous on 2008-06-03 08:52
GEE THATS EASY! EVERYTHING THAT IS CENTERED AROUND ST TIKHONS SEMINARY YOU ALWAYS MAKE NEGATIVE COMMENTS! ABOUT MET HERMAN NEGATIVE COMMENTS! THESE HURTFUL COMMENTS ARE YOUR DOWN FALL! THESE ARE YOUR OWN WORDS "(editor's note: It takes a particularly tendentious reading of my remarks to infer I was making "poo-poo" of the Kursk Icon or relics. A less tendentious reading would suggest that I was asking the question as to whether the scandal-plagued Metropolitan in South Canaan still cares about America, the OCA and its founding vision, or just about increasing pilgrimage attendance through using relics and borrowed icons?)
I KNOW FOR A FACT WHAT YOU WERE THINKING! STOKOE! MONEY!!! DID YOU GO SEE THE ICON? DID YOU MAKE THE TRIP TO ST TIKHONS? LETS BE HONEST! THE ANSWER IS NO! AND YOU DONT LIKE MET HERMAN BECAUSE HE IS A GOOD PERSON! YOURE TRYING TO BE A SOMEBODY! WHEN IN FACT YOURE A NOBODY! AND YOURE NO FRIEND OF MINE.
#107 Anonymous on 2008-06-03 08:58
Dear A Fellow Orthodox Christian,
I wholeheartedly agree with this: "I am simply dizzied by the sanctity that God made manifest in them, through their spiritual counsel, the brilliant theology they taught (despite being, often, unlettered) and the literally thousands of miracles they performed."
I would amend this only slightly with: "...the literally thousands of miracles they performed and are still performing."
#108 Anonymous on 2008-06-03 18:05
Dear Anonymous, You are absolutely right, of course. Leaving aside the fact that the two terms, "ethnocentric" and your's, "Amerocentric", are not mutually exclusive, the real objective is "Christocentrism", is it not?
#109 Fr Michael Spainhoward on 2008-06-04 08:28
Exactly. Laying the blame on "ethnicity" is wrong. Laying the blame on Slavonic, Greek, or even English or whatever langauge is wrong. I think many comments posted here confuse the issues and demonize the small "t" traditions and customs of people. Mr. Walker hits it on the head in reminding us that we should be about the Lord's work, in evangelism, church planting and building, charitible works, hospitality, loving each other, etc. The incident with your friend was not the fault of ethnicity, it was the lack of Christian love. I have been in parishes where they were unmistakably Russian or Greek and proud of it. Yet, that did not keep them from welcoming me and making me feel apart of that community. In fact, I've been in Greece and Russia, traveled all over, and not once did I feel like I did not belong. My most memorable experience was being on the island of Patmos and visiting the cave where St. John the Baptist received the revelation. They were serving the liturgy and I approached to receive the Holy Communion. The priest did not ask me if I was Greek or any other nationality. He simply asked me if I was Orthodox. I was recieved even in this remote part of the Greek world with brotherly love and invited into the most intimate communion that can exist among Christians. Their "Greekness" was not an obsticle. But, it was their Christian love that brought me in.
So let me reiterate once again: The culprite is not ethnicity. It is lack of love. Lets not confuse the issues.
#110 Bautista Cabrera on 2008-06-04 13:18
Mr Stokoe are these your words "editor's note: I must disagree with your opening statement. It would be my hope that those attending would make your second point clearly - given his actions in the scandals, Metropolitan must resign if we are to move forward. Thirdly, the MC does have all the power it needs! WHAT IT HAS ALL THE POWER IT NEEDS? IT HAS NO POWER! CAN IT MAKE A BISHOP RESIGN? NO! IT HAS NO POWER! IS THIS WHAT THEY TEACH YOU AT ST VLADS? WHAT A STUPID STATEMENT! YOU SENT TRICKY DICK FROM AKRON WHO MADE A FOOL OUT OF HIMSELF TELLING MET HERMAN TO STEP DOWN! TELL THE TRUTH! IT TAKES 100% OF ALL BISHOP TO MAKE THE MET HERMAN STEP DOWN AND SO FAR YOU HAVE ONE MAYBE THE DYSFUNCTIONAL BISHOP JOB! AM I RIGHT!
#111 Anonymous on 2008-06-04 15:39
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