Monday, August 25. 2008
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Over the three years of this scandal, I've been somewhat amused, somewhat taken aback, and somewhat troubled by the thought of our charge being "to take the faith to North America" or something similar.
Not that I dispute the premise, mind you - but I am curious: Which America?
I'm not being at all facetious. As a "Child of the South" who has traveled to 47 of the 48 contiguous United States and three Canadian provinces, the only constant is our diversity, and our desire to be left alone, as individuals, to live our lives in peace.
We've seen what happens when 19th century Russian Orthodoxy is imposed. Yet, how can Orthodoxy be redeeming of a culture as diverse as ours? There is no homogeneity to North America. Simple differences from Alaskan to Californian, to Texan and Yankee.
Perhaps this whole scandal has diverted our attention from the real issue.
I was watching a series on the local public television station about Appalachia. Christianity, typically protestant and pentecostal or anabaptist, is the culture. Just as the Greek and Russian culture is Orthodox Christian, the Appalachian culture is Calvinistic, pentecostal Christian. How are we, as Orthodox, to embrace that culture and redeem it?
Watching the worshipers, primarily Scots Irish, in the mining communities of Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, and West Virginia, I couldn't imagine how they would ever embrace the Divine Liturgy.
Our ability to transmit, translate, and redeem our culture depends on our ability to communicate eternal Truth to a people without a 2,000 year history of Church. I think that communication begins with liturgical reform - making sure our liturgical life communicates faith and Truth.
While our liturgy may speak to the Slavic, Greek, or Arabic soul, it only speaks to a minority of western European, or "western hemispherian" souls.
The Roman Church has done a credible job in making the language of the liturgy, the language of prayer, resonant with the North American soul. We don't have the "flowery" language of the Greeks or Slavs. We don't have the ear for Byzantine or Valaam Chant, as beautiful as it is. Sure, we're capable of doing it - but it is not our natural way. It's like writing with your non-dominant hand: possible, but difficult and terribly draining.
Look at something like the Prayer of the Trisagion Hymn, said during the liturgy by the priest:
O Holy God, who rests in your Saints, who are hymned by the Seraphim with the thrice-holy voice, and are glorified by thy Cherubim and worshiped by all the heavenly Powers, and who from non-being have brought all things into being, who have created man after your image and likeness, ...
That introduction basically tells God who He is - a North American mind might say "He already knows. Move on."
The prayer in its entirety is a full paragraph, but the message is quite simple:
Holy God who gives us life, accept our prayer of "Holy, Holy, Holy" and visit us, forgiving us and sanctifying us, allowing us to serve You in holiness throughout our lives, as the intercessions of the Theotokos and all Saints request.
I'm not suggesting we dump St. John Chrysostom for the liturgical dance and puppets just yet. I am suggesting that the language needs to convey the truth and reverence of our faith to a North American culture in a North American way of communicating.
We need to understand which elements of the liturgy are indeed negotiable. I would suggest one is music - since we have so many diverse models of the Octoechos already. We have Valaam, Byzantine, Romanian, Bulgarian, - we cannot reasonably conclude that one melodic form is "more Orthodox" than another.
We will need to devolve our dioceses to meet the needs of the local community. You don't communicate with Southerners in the same way as Californians. We need bishops who first and foremost understand both being Orthodox and being American. I'm not sure most of our North American bishops can do that. Devolution seems to be a reasonable first step on this path, however.
These are just ramblings. But until we talk about these issues of how Orthodoxy communicates with our culture, we are doomed to be the ethnic Church that so many of us decry.
#1 Marty Watt on 2008-08-25 20:28
How could anyone attending the Town Hall Meeting at Holy Trinity Cathedral proclaim that Bishop Nikon is worthy (axios) of his episcopal position given what he has done and not done during his tenure? He continues to have confidence in the leadership of Metropolitan Herman, a man whose leadership is based upon the principles of the world rather than in the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Rather than helping protect the flock entrusted to him by Our Lord, the bishop continues to give comfort to one of the wolves attacking that same flock ... and someone claims that he is worthy of his calling. This is the true scandal of the OCA.
#2 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-08-26 04:18
Dearest to Christ Marty,
I cannot speak about the Christians of Appalachia but the Pentecostals at the center of Pentecostalism here in Springfield, MO are searching and finding the fullness of the faith. The Pentecostals of this area understand God not as a collection of written theology but rather as experience with the Divine. When listening to them they describe how God moves and acts in their daily lives and how He helps and guides even in the mundane things. If one listens to them, they themselves reveal the means to bring them into the fullness of the Faith. When they read about the "charismata " of the monastic Fathers they do not doubt it for a second but say "God sure was workin' powerful in their life"!!
With Roman Catholic this connection can be the Holy Tradition that they are longing to Practice. With the Lutherans a connection to their own dogmatic writings and confessions which relied heavily on Patristic sources is often revealed in conversation with them.
All of these connections to a people (americans - whoever they are and wherever they reside doesn't matter) that God has prepared for participation in the therapy that is Holy Orthodoxy. Their participation is mostly moot and stunted when our own leaders act as if they do not believe it because they themselves do not participate in it. One can do liturgical services all the time and never enter into Orthodoxy. The OCA (portions of her leadership) has acted not like the fullness of the Church that is here to help this people, that God has prepared to be incorporated into the Body of Christ, but rather like a cult that exists for the benefit of a few.
The above necessitates that the priest and community be in constant conversation with those outside the faith. I recently spoke to a priest from an established parish who said it was weeks since he had a in depth conversation with some one who was not Orthodox. This insular nature of our modern church life keeps us from engaging other Americans and allowing them to experience the faith that is to be revealed in us!!
#3 fr Andrew on 2008-08-26 05:23
You bring up a number of good points, I don't completely agree or disagree, so I'll just riff off them if that's okay. I hope I'm coherent.
Some Scots-Irish Appalachian Pentecostals have become Orthodox, so it's not impossible. But obviously it poses unique challenges, challenges that people who come from areas predominately Episcopalian/Lutheran can not begin to understand. I have noticed that generally that the regional inculturation is usually left to the parish priest. I must say that I have met any number of OCA priests who I found mildly shocking in their opinions/viewpoints but when I found out where they served I realized that they were actually a really good fit for the people they minister to. (Plug: generally people should be assigned to serve in geographic areas most closely related to their region of birth).
As for music/rites - yes, we should come up with a form of "American" chant, one which sounds familiar to ears trained in western scales and one which manages to stress the correct verb according to normal English word order (i.e. something other than the last syllable). Though one thing Slavic chant has going for it is that it has notes! And yes, there is no need for our translations of liturgical texts to be so completely wordy. A sentence which runs for an entire paragraph is simply not English, no matter how many English words make it up.
There needs to be a real understanding on all levels that simply having pews is not inculturation. Simply using a service book using English words is not inculturation either. We need to be able to step out to really meet people. I have noticed that most OCA churches, no matter the regional differences are pretty much all the same, white, middle-class, college-educated, suburban-leaning people who mostly wear clothes from Sears. There's nothing wrong with that, but we're missing a vast majority of America, an America which Orthodoxy has a lot to offer. Orthodoxy has done a great job bringing in converts from the traditionally white Evangelical world, but this has only homogenized us even more. There are highs and lows to every form of church polity, but one thing congregationalist polity has going for it is the freedom to really reach out and grab segments of people. I think Orthodoxy can be very attractive to Rocky Mountain Buddhists and New England Wiccans. Obviously these sorts of ministries would take a very special kind of person to lead them, but I don't think the freedom even exists in the OCA to undertake such a ministry. Simply, Rocky Mountain Buddhists and New England Wiccans don't fit into our idea of what departments at Sears look like, so we ignore them.
I'm not sure if I've tracked with you, but yes, I agree there are real issues which the OCA will have to deal with if we actually do want to bring Orthodoxy to America.
P.S. Rocky Mountain Buddhists and New England Wiccans are not, in fact, extreme examples. I'm being quite serious. Appalachian Pentecostals are serious examples too, but they are only a part of a bigger spectrum for me.
#4 Anonymous on 2008-08-26 05:37
While reading Mr. Watt's letter about what 'the western hemispherian' sees, I couldn't help but wonder what such a person thinks of grand old men and women of the town being fed by a man often less than half their age with a teaspoon after the younger man drinks from the cup himself. All this right beneath an great big icon of Christ freely sharing the dinner with both saintly and despicable men the service is commemorating. Then there is the thing about not showing your back to the bishop in the big hat sitting in the chair (being told to 'back away') while everyone else stands.
Since we are talking about the elephant in the living room, might as well talk about the whole thing. The visible activity is all anthropological human power and submission interplay, right beneath the visible instruction that it wasn't that way.
#5 Harry Coin on 2008-08-26 05:58
Finally, someone has said it. Thank you, Marty. Until there is liturgical reform (I prefer renewal), those attending our divine services will not pray with understanding. Most of us do not know the whys and wherefores of what goes on in our liturgical rites, but we should. What happens liturgically should be intuitive, even obvious. For example, in many parishes, the deacon proclaims the Gospel immediately in front of the central (royal) doors facing the Holy Table in the altar. It’s absolutely counterintuitive. The Gospel even during a non-hierarchal liturgy should be proclaimed from where the ambo would be or as they say in liturgical parlance, “in the midst of the assembly” facing the altar, so that there is great power in the proclaiming the Good News, a central act of the church on earth.
We need translations that are dynamic, not literal – modern, yet reverential; we need to rid the Divine Liturgy of repetitions in order to make the Liturgy shorter, so we can add lost essential elements to make it a bit longer again, e.g. suppress repetitive litanies and re-introduce a reading from the prophets (O.T.) before the Apostle. The psalm verses used for the prokeimena and alleluia verses should be expanded from the ridiculous abbreviations we now employ. We need music that is both quintessentially American and yet obviously Orthodox. And whatever we might do in terms of liturgical renewal, the results should always be beautiful; our corporate prayer to the Lord should be beautiful.
Let our bishops discard the secular sakkos; let them vest, always, as priests, except for the wearing of the long omophorion from beginning to end, without interruption; let them bless with their bare hands and please, no more of the silly eagle rugs.
I could go on, but nothing like this will happen, no more than we will ever have married bishops in the lifetime of anyone presently living on earth. We are mired in form, obsessed with ritual objects, with scant concern, it seems, for substance. The two bishops that we seen depart (+Tikhon and +Nikolai) were prime examples of this problem. Yes, how we serve our divine services is emblematic of how we see ourselves and how we present ourselves (i.e. communcate) to the world. None of what I am suggesting should present a problem vis-à-vis the Orthodox oecumene, because it’s been done before. But I can imagine the howls of protests that will ensue.
#6 Terry C. Peet on 2008-08-26 06:40
It is amazing almost to the point of devilish how Stokoe and Co. (Shellback, Tobin, Tatusko, Walker, Bobosh, Hodges etc…) are unknowingly destroying the very fabric that makes up the Orthodox Church which is its hierarchy, our Holy Synod and they say they are doing it in the name of prudence. “Excess of Prudence Is Wrong.” Gregory the Great: “To whom have you given counsel? Perhaps to him that has no wisdom?” To “give counsel to one who is foolish” is an act of charity. To give it to one that is wise is an act of ostentation. But to pretend to give it to Wisdom itself is an act of perversity. Those visitors, (read book of book of Job, O.T. New King James), who we have said are like those today who insist on their way, were by their mode of speech playing toward ostentation rather than usefulness. Thus it is further rightly added against Bildad, “and you have displayed your prudence overmuch.” One who is rightly prudent does not overextend oneself because according to Paul’s declaration he seeks “not to be wise above the degree that he ought to be wise. But to one who is excessively prudent, the result is imprudence. For when prudence is carried beyond due measure, it is made to turn off the path on one side or another. “Excessive” prudence becomes evident when one seeks to appear more full of prudence than anyone else. Those who do not have the art to be wise in moderation are prone to mouth off with foolishness. Congratulations Stokoe and Co., you have won this recognition.
On another point, I must disagree with the conclusion that forgiveness is one thing and reconciliation is another as the article seems to indicate. Yes, one is subjective and the other is objective, but saying and I quote from Hodges article, “Forgiveness is completely different from reconciliation” is sheer ignorance and a misunderstanding of prudence. For example in the case of the master when he beheld his prodigal son afar off, ran to meet him and forgave and reconciled him. Another example was the forgiveness of Christ on the cross reconciling mankind in one moment. My sincere prayer for you is that you pay attention to the services of the church, learn what they mean instead of criticizing every little thing that comes from our Most Holy Synod.
Praying for you,
#7 Anonymous on 2008-08-26 07:08
The first step is for our parishes to be truly live the faith in worship, community, outreach and local charity. In Applaichian Mtns first would be living among them like St. Herman of Alaska and serving them in teaching (a type of Peace Corps). The Orthodox regardless of jurisdiction have to be Orthodox first, then American/ethnic Russian, Greek etc pride last. First we have to be chrisitan in their own communities. The central administration was acting in a self serving manner; thus, the fruit of this was the financial scandal.
#8 cshinn on 2008-08-26 07:28
Thank God we're finally at the end of these "town meetings." An exercise in corporate venting leading no where. How appropriate that the last meeting will be held in "Mickey Mouse Land." As we all sit holding our breath waiting for "The Report," with info we have all known for years. It takes 10 years for all of this to come out and a report yet? What's wrong with this picture? Where are the civil suits? Why aren't the guilty in prison? Why do we STILL have a tainted Metropolitan in place? Has the MC been re-masculated? Will the bishops now REALLY act as bishops? Will REAL financial reports come out of Syosset, the seminaries and all church organizations? Will the Pitt-AAC be a pit or will it truly give hope to the OCA?
#9 Anonymous on 2008-08-26 08:12
IF YOU CANT SAY ANYTHING GOOD ABOUT SOMEONE "DONT SAY IT" UNLESS YOU KNOW ALL THE FACTS! WHICH NO ONE KNOWS! WHEN KONDRATIC WAS ASKED WHERE DID THE MONEY GO? HIS REPLY WAS "I DIDNT DO ANYTHING WRONG" HE WOULDN'T SAY WHAT HE DID WITH THE EXTRA TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH! HE CLAIMS HE HAD NO RECORDS! I CANT JUDGE A PERSON! AND NEITHER CAN YOU. LETS MOVE ON! AND LET GOD DEAL WITH IT. THE BISHOPS HAVE REMOVED HIM AS A PRIEST! WHAT MORE DO YOU PEOPLE WANT? HAVE A BLESSED DAY!
#10 Anonymous on 2008-08-26 08:39
Dear Mr. Watt,
Your comments (and mine) may not be exactly on topic, but they address the very issues Orthodoxy in the Americas should be considering and resolving, but can't, because of its present dysfunction. Sadly, many will not agree that our principal task is to free our witness from too much ethnicity in order that we may speak to the culture in which we must operate.
I am by no means endorsing all your proposed solutions. "Devolution" or decentralization may be desirable, but is otherwise meaningless if a "Bishop Nikolai" happens to be in charge of a diocese. Having seen, first hand, the disaster that liturgical reform can bring (just look at the the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches in this country), I am leery of conforming to the latest fads in this regard. As a convert, one of the greatest attractions of the OCA was its use of the Anglican liturgical tradition when producing an English language Divine Liturgy for North America. With all due respect, the translations used by the other Orthodox jurisdictions are insipid by comparison.
That said, we are in basic agreement that our witness has fallen way short of the mark our Lord must expect. I would place the emphasis on finding a hierarchy that will operate in a conciliar fashion freed from the the gnostic notions that lead it to believe it is "above" the mere "lower clergy" and unwashed laity. That probably means educated, native born, English as a first language clerics, who are not phony monastics or refuges from the "fever swamps" of cultic Orthodoxy. I refuse to believe that we can not find suitable candidates, if ALL of the appropriate organs of the Church are engaged in the selection process. If we can't, then I favor unilaterally abandoning the marital impediment to hierarchical consecration, thereby providing leadership, for once, to the rest of the Orthodox world.
Of course, there are many other steps that must be taken so that the OCA, and North American Orthodoxy of whatever stripe, can more effectively witness to the truths of our Faith. But the cultural and historical baggage of the past that has resulted in hierarchical autocracy must be jettisoned before any effective witness is possible.
#11 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-08-26 08:39
Bishop Nikon fully deserves AXIOS. He came to us from the Albanian Church to serve us and was never a part of the crimes committed in Syosset. And how do you know that he fully supports the Metropolitan? This practice of denigrating the hierarchs on the internet reveals how poorly catechized Orthodox people can be. It is perfectly possible to disagree, to speak the truth and to respect the Hierarchs as well. I am more disappointed by the state of our Orthodox lay people almost than by Robert Kondratick's crimes.
(Editor's note: As a point of fact, if the Synod notes are correct, the Bishop did affirm a vote of confidence in the Metropolitan as recently as two months ago. That would seem to indicate he approves of the Metropolitan's actions in general, if not it full. If that is not the case the Bishop should correct the Minutes, or more fully explain himself should he find the criticism unwarranted.
As for denigrating hiearchs, I a reminded of an patristic interpretation of the Fourth Commandment. This Father's comment was that it was not addressed to children, but to parents. Parents are commanded to make themselves worthy to be honored by their children. So if they are not, it is not the children's fault - but theirs. So, too, I think, with our Bishops.
But feel free to disagree.)
#12 Alice Carter on 2008-08-26 09:54
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Thank you for your constructive criticism of my reflection. I appreciate it. While we may disagree on what actions and words in this crisis are appropriate and prudent --on the part of hierarchy or on the part of laity-- I only want to respond to your second paragraph, about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Again, thank you for writing.
Perhaps the two biblical stories you cite might be good examples of the difference between Forgiveness and Reconciliation. The Father of the Prodigal forgave his son long before he ever returned, which is shown by his waiting and longing for him, but it was the son's acknowledgment of his wrongdoing in the form of "coming to himself" and humbly going back home, ready to recite his wrongs and ask for the lowest of places in the house, that brought about reconciliation. Though the Father forgave, it wasn't until the son humbly returned --and it was a long journey-- that reconciliation took place.
Jesus is teaching us about God the Father, His character filled with grace so much so that He saw His son's return and immediately welcomed him --even interrupting his rehearsed speech because he couldn't contain his joy! It reminds me of the scripture which says, "The angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents." Jesus is telling us that God eagerly awaits our repentance, just like the Father was eagerly watching for his son's return. But it still took the son's humble recognition of his condition and decision to return before he was brought back into the family.
Likewise, Christ's forgiving those who were crucifying Him shows us the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus forgave them (and us!), but for them (and us) to be reconciled to God takes our coming to Him. God has done His part, but it is up to each of us to accept that, to receive that forgiveness (which requires that we admit our condition and need for forgiveness), for reconciliation to be realized. As Father Hopko says, you have to "actualize" it. This later, mutual activity, is reconciliation.
Indeed, God in Christ has forgiven ALL sins --past, present, and future-- of ALL mankind without exception, because Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the whole world. But it takes our repentance to be saved; as our Liturgy says, God has "appointed repentance to salvation." This is why good movies like "The Passion of the Christ" could never begin to demonstrate the suffering of Jesus on the Cross. His suffering was so much greater than the sum of his physical pain! The Bible says He "became sin for our sake." We cannot imagine or ever fathom the depth of His agony on the Cross, because, being divine, His suffering was nearly infinite, having taken upon Himself every sin ever committed by anyone or anything that has ever lived, or ever will live. As St John writes, "﻿He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." ﻿
If we reduce the sufferings of Jesus to only what we can see or humanly perceive, it doesn't seem as great as the holocaust, or other tragedies. But, Christ suffered infinitely more than any human ever suffered or ever will, because His capacity for suffering is a divine (infinite) capacity. He took upon Himself all the evil and suffering of the whole world, throughout all time.
This means everyone is forgiven already through Jesus Christ, but their reconciliation with God depends upon their response. As Father Hopko says, "﻿The whole world is saved in Christ, but not everybody avails themself of that salvation." We are not Calvinists, who say Jesus shed His blood only for "the elect" ("Limited Atonement"). We say the whole cosmos was forgiven in Christ. As the Bible says, "God showed His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
However (and here is the key), we must respond to such a gracious gift of forgiveness. We must humbly admit our sins and receive the gift. It is for all. It is a done deal. That's the character of forgiveness. That's the beauty of grace. All has been done! ALL is forgiven! But for us to be reconciled to God we have to come to Him.
I think this is summed up best in St Paul's second letter to the Corinthians: "He died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised... Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
Forgiveness is something the forgiver does alone, in our hearts, without requiring anything from our offender. Just as God forgave us without any reason to, while we were turned away from Him, without merit. But reconciliation is synergistic. We have to say to God, "Yes, I am a sinner. I have done X and Y and Z. I accept Your forgiveness and will seek to live for You." That's the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and that's what those who have embezzled and defrauded us need to do, for us to move forward together.
I hope this helps clarify my reflection. Thank you for your prayers for me, I desperately need them. And for anyone else reading this, please pray for me, a sinner!
Nobody has EVER accused me of being too prudent before. Usually the complaint is I'm not prudent enough. Thanks!
Now, I'm not sure how that "prudence" shoe fits. Maybe you can help me. You see, Sam, I expect nothing more (nor less) from the Holy Synod than that they actually live what they profess to believe, even if, especially if, to do so may be humiliating, expensive, or otherwise difficult. I cannot see into anybody's heart, but I can see what people do, and what I have seen from the Holy Synod does not inspire confidence. Explain, if you will, how calling for congruence between word and deed indicates an excess of prudence. And stating, as you do, that the Holy Synod/hierarchy constitutes the "very fabric" of the Orthodox Church tells me that you, Sam, alas, suffer from the very blight of clericalism that, unchecked and unchallenged, has resulted in the shipwreck we now see. I don't know how you missed St Paul explaining that ALL OF US make up the Body of Christ, and, consequently, ALL OF US, together, make up the very fabric of the Church. It's not just the hierarchs, Sam. That's why priests cannot serve the Liturgy by themselves, as Fr. Matthew explained in last Sunday's homily.
Nobody serious is calling for an end to bishops. I would be thrilled to see the Holy Synod actually acting like shepherds and teachers. As it is, I find myself in the position of Christ's audience, when He said, regarding the Scribes and the Pharisees, "Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not according to their works, for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at the feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi." Matthew 23:3-8. Substitute "Master, Master" for the last two words in this passage to give it the genuine Orthodox flavor.
Now, as I have previously written, I have great hope that my bishop, Benjamin, will rise to the occasion and join with Abp. Job in shining some light into dark corners. I will state for the record that I have always found Bp. Benjamin to be personally warm, kind and generous, and also to be an apt teacher. I firmly believe that his heart is in the right place. (I know that this will provoke some of the hotheads around here, but it's true.) Admirable personal characteristics notwithstanding, though, it is clear that collectively our Holy Synod is an uncomfortably close match with the Scribes and Pharisees Christ describes.
One final word, Sam. Evidently we disagree, deeply. Thank you for your cilvility. It is refreshing to engage an opponent who thinks that one needs more than all-caps shouting or snarky personal attacks in order to make a point.
Thank you for your prayers. May God have mercy on us all.
#14 Scott Walker on 2008-08-26 10:35
You begin your remarks with a question:"Over the three years of this scandal, I've been somewhat amused, somewhat taken aback, and somewhat troubled by the thought of our charge being "to take the faith to North America" or something similar.
Not that I dispute the premise, mind you - but I am curious: Which America?"
It is, as you point out, quite true that the United States and Canada are not culturally homogeneous entities. Indeed, one could point out that there is concern -- in some quarters at least -- that what little homogeniety that there is being eroded. (For example, the disputes over what is the 'official language' and under what circumstances, etc.)
However, I would point out that with the exception of some relatively small Balkan countries (which were and are culturally homogeneous), Orthodoxy has been dominant mostly in political entities which were not at all culturally homogeneous. The Byzantine Empire at its most "Greek" -- and it was very Greek -- was probably less culturally homogeneous than the 19th Century U.S.A. That part of the world which coalesced into the Russian Empire of the 17th to the 20th centuries was a hodge-podge of disparate nationalities, yet Orthodox missionary endeavors successfully converted most of those peoples. To be sure it was not always successful. There were areas (in the Old Russian Empire) where Orthodox Christianity existed as a kind of veneer over an essentially pagan society and local paganism re-asserted itself when freedom of religion was declared. Yet there are just as many or more success stories such as that in Alaska. A brother priest who was serving in Alaska in 1968 when a large protestant denomination ceased its 'missionary' operations aimed at 'converting' Orthodox natives in the Aleutians, told me that the person in charge of the closing of the operation told him that between 1868 and 1968 this protestant denomination managed to make 2 'converts'. He further told how (and this was at a time when most villages did not have clergy for decades at at time and parishes were held together by village elders conducting readers services) a boat would be sent out to an island, and on the front of the boat there would be a large sign saying: "We come to bring you Jesus Christ." The 'missionaries' on the boat would notice that a small crowd of natives had gathered, and shortly the natives would also be holding up a sign. When the boat came close enough the 'missionaries' would read the natives' sign which said: "Thanks, but we already have Him." The same priest also told me that when children were being prepared to take the boat trip to Spruce Island to witness the canonization of St. Herman, it was necessary to explain to them that they would not actually meet him -- as many expected they would -- because he was with God in Heaven. St. Herman was so much a living part of their lives that most of them thought that he was still 'in residence' on Spruce Island. This conversion and its subsequent tenacity was not accomplished by accomodation to the culture, but by baptizing the culture so that there was no necessity to 'rewrite' or 'renew' the Liturgy in the style of Vatican II,(which is not to say that there was no liturgical evolution during all this time, but to say that such evolution as there was, was organic as people began to live it) but simply to show how it is the means by which we live the new life in Christ. I would dare to say that it is in this way that the United States, in all of its diversity will be converted. Put Jesus Christ and the new life in Him first, and the rest will follow.
#15 Archimandrite Melchisedek on 2008-08-26 10:36
I certainly always appreciate prayer, but it might be prudent of you to throw in a few for yourself.
God bless you!
#16 cmtatusko on 2008-08-26 11:44
Well Mark, one of the points of the healing and reconciliation process is change of heart, and that has been alluded to many times in the "town hall" meetings. Many of us who know Bishop Nikon appreciate the journey he has made in the last few years. Also, I, for one, have great respect for the work of the Preconciliar Commission because, from what I know, just to get the Synod to agree to the "town halls" was not a simple task, not to mention publishing a blog, including reports of all the meetings AND suggestions for the AAC, many of which are just rants having nothing to do with the Council proper. Also the Q&A session with the Synod on the agenda of the AAC - do you think this was an easy sell?
The level of transparency which we are witnessing in this process is unprecedented in the recent history of the Orthodox Church, not just the OCA. Yes, we are all indebted to Mark Stokoe for bringing "free press" into the musty shadows of the OCA high chambers, but wasn't the purpose to get everybody, beginning with our hierarchs, reconsider the ways they communicate with one another and with the church at large? Please consider being generous and giving credit where credit is due. For the participants in the Boston gathering, the pain and the love and the commitment were evident. Many of us went into the meeting with trepidation and doubts, and witnessed what was a very encouraging example of conciliar process, devoid of obsequiousness but also of animosity, and much of the credit goes to Bishop Nikon and Fr. Alexander, as well as the Dean of the Cathedral who started the meeting with Vespers service and thereby put it in the proper context of the church proceedings.
Sometimes when I hear such animosity I can't help wondering whether people are looking for healing or just blood?..
#17 Inga Leonova on 2008-08-26 13:58
I haven't kept track; has there been a "Town Meeting" west of the Rockies? The Diocese of the West (some of us, anyway) would dearly love to weigh in. I'm not too hopeful about how much would be heard (the Bishop likes his clerics to speak to the congregation through closed doors, mostly) but it would be grand fun to actually speak to him eye to eye and see him when he's not being clothed by subdeacons.
(editor's note: The San Fransisco Town Hall was held June 26th.)
#18 anon on 2008-08-26 14:37
Mark, I don't often disagree with you, but here I must. Criticizing the hierarchs and denigrating them are by no means the same thing. "Speaking the truth in love" is what we must do; calling bishops names and making hateful statements speaks ill of us, not of them. "Be angry but do not sin" is a very good one to remember...
(Editor's note: We don't disagree. Your distinction is well taken, and one I would hope that everyone takes it to heart.)
#19 Inga Leonova on 2008-08-26 14:49
I am sorry you are so down on the word Prudence. Prudence is a great quality to posess.
I think you are giving Prudence a bumb-wrap when you are trying to really define "self-righteous." What you are describing in your comments sounds like the latter, not the former. I am sorry you are mixing up your vocabulary.
I, for one, do seek Prudence, as much as I can, not the self-righteousness which it appears you are trying to pin on Prudence.
I don't think any of us are trying to be self-righteous. The dictates of Prudence and Wisdom do not really have room for such an activity.
I hope to see Prudence very hard at work at our upcoming joint meeting of the HS and MC when they receive the SIC report.
The SIC report will probably be one of the darkest reports published that the OCA will ever release, supposedly to us faithful.
What is Prudent, and what is Wise, is what many many people, including Fr. Tom Hopko, have voiced all along: allow +Herman to retire or resign. This can be done with great dignity and grace.
This act of resignation or retirement allows Prudence and Wisdom to finally have a voice in this sorry mess the OCA has been in. Self righteousness is getting pinned on the wrong people, Sam!
Long live Prudence and Wisdom!
I can't see any better hope for the OCA!
#20 Patty Schellbach on 2008-08-26 15:23
Please provide a list of the reasons why anyone should consider Bishop Nikon worthy of his episcopal calling at this point. What I see from a distance of his reign in the Diocese of New England indicates that a worthy archpriest lost his moral compass after his elevation to the episcopacy. A prime example: he persecutes a parish that has the courage of its moral convictions to protest the illegal, unethical, and immoral actions and inactions of the primate and the synod, but Bishop Nikon has yet to my knowledge to publicly call the primate to task for his lies and cover up or take his brother hierarchs to task for their aiding and abetting the primate in his unchristian behavior. All of that makes Bishop Nikon worthy to be called "His Grace"? Not according to the catechesis I received before I was received into Orthodoxy and tonsured a reader at the hands of a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate nor of any of the material covered in my late vocations program.
#21 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-08-26 20:34
I agree .. enough long term basing ofall in the Synod. Damage done very hard to repair, Did our parents teach us to act so? I remember my Dad at an annual meeting ... kind while presenting sad facts of poor leadership ... clergy & lay, but always with true respect and love! What are YOU bringing with YOU to Pitts. AAC ??
#22 anonymous on 2008-08-26 20:59
I perhaps wasn't as precise as I should have been in my initial posting - but I'm so thrilled to see the feedback it has received! It is, I think, a more important discussion point for a Church that seems to have it's eye firmly planted on it's navel.
I perhaps should have said "communicate with an eye toward understanding" rather than focus on translations as I did. I understand, and agree, that the Alaskan example is one of adaptation - yet as one who knows no Tlingit, or Aleut, I wonder if the liturgy in that language is as full of adjectives and adverbial phrases as our English translations from the Greek?
Thank you for your thoughts, Father. I do struggle with this, and appreciate all the feedback I have received.
#23 Marty Watt on 2008-08-26 21:14
Gee, All Caps Anonymous Guy, that's easy. What do we want? We want all the facts that you admit we don't have. And why don't we have them? it is because people in power have been covering them up. And why have they been covering them up? Same reason Adam tried to cover up. Pride. Not a good example from those who claim to be guides and teachers, is it?
#24 Scott Walker on 2008-08-26 22:33
I would just like to know where RSK stated this? I have never seen a word printed from him. Please advise.
#25 MP on 2008-08-27 04:06
It is all well and good to think about liturgical reform. Maybe we could change the melodies, maybe not. Before we do this, though, we first need to present Christ in our own midst, in our own hearts. St. Theophan said "If one man becomes holy, 1000 men around him will become holy". All this emphasis on the external is NOT what Orthodoxy is about. Orthodoxy is about one person becoming holy before God. One person repenting of sin and turning to God. When others meet that person, don't worry about evangelism. They will be drawn like iron to a magnet.
It is much easier to work up an "evangelism program" or a "new revised liturgy" than it is to become holy. But 2000 years of history tells us that it is only the truly holy men and women (very few) who ever made any difference at all in anyone's lives.
Do you want to present the Orthodox church to the USA? Strive to become who Jesus wants you to be. "Be ready to give an answer to EVERY ONE WHO ASKS". This presupposes that your life is so amazing that someone asks YOU what's different about you.
Of course, this is difficult when the ruling bishops are thieves and liars, but it is not impossible and it should be our goal to live like the Lord wants us to, regardless of the state of the hierarchs. I would not want to stand before God in judgement and say "Yes I stole the money, I saw the Bishops do it, so I just followed them". Somehow, I don't think that would work.
It certainly will never draw anyone into the Church.
#26 American Orthodox on 2008-08-27 06:56
Dear Mark, I know that you have the whole story about the vote of affirmation so I won't revisit that issue. I would like to say that at my age 79, after 20 years in the Church, I have a real sense of how long the road to redemption can be. And most of the bishops are my age so they may also feel burdened with all the cultural baggage the last centeury inflicted on us, as well as having been led astray by the former chancellor. ( As Father Garklavs pointed out everyone really enjoyed having the spotlight shine on the OCA through Robert Kondratick's efforts, seeing our Metropolitan with the American presidents etc.) I would encourage everyone to believe that Christ is at work in this crisis, at work in the hearts of the bishops and at work in us. None of us are beyond redemption including the Metropolitan. If Christ can accept, love and teach a sinner like me, why not the bishops?
#27 Alice Carter on 2008-08-27 08:23
Dear Mr. Pelican,
I must confess I do not understand the import of your words regarding "prudence." I suppose that I am stuck with Proverbs 12:15-17 (New International Version) which says:
"15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
16 A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.
17 A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies."
#28 Carl on 2008-08-27 08:30
Dear Fr. Mark, Thank you! I want to ask you for one more favor and that is that you go and do likewise as the Father especially toward our Holy Synod. I promise you that you will feel a million times better and our God will smile. Now I must humbly disagree with your turning the table with reference to our Lord’s crucifixion. For man it was not possible to reconcile himself to God. He needed a mediator. “Formerly Estranged, We Become Children.” GREGORY OF NYSSA: “He from whom we were formerly alienated by our revolt has become our Father and our God. Accordingly in the passage cited above the Lord brings the good news of this benefit. And the words are not a proof of the degradation of the Son but the good news of our reconciliation to God. For that which has taken place in Christ’s humanity is a common boon bestowed on humankind generally.” In other words Christ offers this without man giving anything. He asks that man simply repent. He has already taken care of the reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19: “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Fr. Hopko’s approach on synergy and general use of the term reconciliation—restoring relations is something of another topic. It is plain to me that forgiveness and reconciliation go hand in hand when understood in a true Christian way. Yours in Christ, Sam Pelican
#29 Anonymous on 2008-08-27 09:29
Dear Fr. Mark, Thank you! I want to ask you for one more favor and that is that you go and do likewise as the Father especially toward our Holy Synod. I promise you that you will feel a million times better and our God will smile. Now I must humbly disagree with your turning the table with reference to our Lord’s crucifixion. For man it was not possible to reconcile himself to God. He needed a mediator. “Formerly Estranged, We Become Children. GREGORY OF NYSSA: “He from whom we were formerly alienated by our revolt has become our Father and our God. Accordingly in the passage cited above the Lord brings the good news of this benefit. And the words are not a proof of the degradation of the Son but the good news of our reconciliation to God. For that which has taken place in Christ’s humanity is a common boon bestowed on humankind generally.” In other words Christ offers this without man giving anything. He asks that man simply repent. He has already taken care of the reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19: “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Fr. Hopko’s approach on synergy and general use of the term reconciliation—restoring relations is something of another topic. It is plain to me that forgiveness and reconciliation go hand in hand when understood in a true Christian way. Yours in Christ, Sam Pelican
#30 Anonymous on 2008-08-27 11:33
I would like to reply to a number of posters on this website whose ideas on the improvement of Orthodoxy I find particularly exciting. We are Americans and we should not have to suffer under a religion hopelessly bogged down by old fashioned and irrelevant rituals. To begin with, the language. It is flowery, incomprehensible , too long. People no longer read, and it really is presumptuos to ask people to give up their valuable time to have to listen to these long boring chants and readings. Why not commission professional television writers to red pen this endless twaddle so that the language in our services can be snappy and to the point. I couldn't agree more that the Liturgy is difficult and draining. How can we expect people to follow when the deacon proclaims the gospel facing the altar. For that mattter, why should the priest face the altar and not the people? We already have wonderful examples of Catholic priests facing the people, like the bartender at my local Killarney Rose. Now isn't that more cheerful than showing us his back ? The music too should be negotiable. All this old Byzantine chant stuff. So incomprehensible to Americans. Why ? When there are so many beautiful American hymns- "Amazing Grace", "the Battle Hymn of the Republic"? And what about something more modern? Count Basie, for instance. And certainly the bishops' vestments have got to go. All those omophorions and ridiculous hats and eagle rugs. Why not a simple and practical business suit? And the writers on the blog really hit the mark when they express their indignation at grand old men and women of the town having to take communion on a spoon (Ugh! How unsanitary . Wouldn't a simple wafer be much more practical ? And no mess.) from some young punk kid priest when he himself gets to drink from the cup. Absolutely outrageous, that a retired CEO of a major corporation or an attorney should have to play second fiddle to some imcomprehensible ju ju abut "Holy Orders" or smething called "The Holy Spirit". But why stop there. Surely onion dome steeples are something too foreign for an American to understand. Why not a simple steeple, so economical and so familiar. O f course this is all just preliminary, just a beginning. But the ideas are so exciting, so with it , so bold . I mean, one can hope, can't one ? Oh for the day, when we aren't encumbered by these long Byzantine liturgies(Boooooring), these oudated rituals(After all, all that matters is just the Scripture, right, it's just between me and God). For the day when we can all sit in our pews and sing "That Old Time Orthodoxy" . When churches aren't named after some long-forgotten Russian saints no one in America cares about like Sergius or Seraphim. But instead are named"First Reformed Orthodox Church ", "Second Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ, Scientist", etc. When we can leave the church after the services , say goodbye to Bishop and Mrs Bob on the steps, happy in the knowledge that no one can tell us what to do, because we are Amurican.
#31 Peter Von Berg on 2008-08-27 12:48
With all due respect, and I have the utmost respect for Inga and Alice, if I may presume to refer to them by their Christian names, since when is Bishop Nikon above criticism, even strong criticism? I think Mark Phinney's questions and observations are relevant--not a blood lust.
I still retain some positive memories of Metropolitan Theodosius, but can hardly defend his abdication of responsibility and other failings. It is hard to be critical of those we know and love, but when the future of your church is at stake personal considerations must give way to what is best for the life of the Church.
Bishop Nikon clearly is not in the same category as some of the other hierarchs. But that doesn't mean is leadership is beyond question or that he is fit to continue in his office, which, after all, doesn't belong to him.
#32 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-08-28 09:22
Dear Mr. Von Berg,
This is a very well done satire that points out what can happen if we approach this in an extreme fashion. Of course, it does not have to end up in such extremes.
IMHO, the trick is to discern the principle behind the practice and only then adjust the practice.
For example, I am not a musician but it seems to me that church music should have some basic traits: I am thinking of the music being conducive to worship, culturally appropriate (meaning NOT being musically jarring or offensive), well composed (in the sense that the words and the notes are complimentary), and easy enough for congregational participation.
Similarly, care should be taken to ensure that liturgical texts are translated so that they also are conducive to worship, not jarring (in the sense of evoking a reaction contrary to the original meaning), and understandable. I think it would help if you think of it as communicating and not declaiming (the burden of "getting it" should not fall on the listener).
Finally, it would help to hold on to three overarching principles:
1. On the one hand, our emphasis on Holy Tradition requires us to be extremely careful when we think about changing anything.
2. On the other hand, not all of our practices are Holy Tradition with a capital T: some are indeed just practices and thus candidates for change.
3. There are various facets to outreach; we should be as practical as possible while remaining true to Holy Tradition (with capital T).
#33 Carl on 2008-08-28 09:47
Terrific straw man, Peter! My congratulations. Oddly enough, though, I share your unease at the calls for liturgical reform. Our father among the saints, CS Lewis ;-), reminded reform minded priests of the Church of England that, "Christ's command was to "feed my sheep", not "teach my performing bears new tricks."" I knew coming in that I was going to be spending a lot of time standing up in church, listening to some complex theology expressed in mediocre translations of circuitous and sometimes endless Greek rhetoric. Becoming part of the Body of Christ and being able to receive His Body and Blood seemed to me to be worth any associated inconvenience. Those who call for simplifying or reforming the Liturgy need to look very carefully at the results of such tinkering in the Catholic or Anglican communions. Will the world end if we shorten the Liturgy a bit by eliminating a litany or two? Probably not. But I maintain that we are not in church for our comfort; we are there to worship God, and, to a large extent, MacLuhan was right, and the medium IS the message.
#34 Scott Walker on 2008-08-28 09:51
I'm sure you think you are very clever. But you miss the point entirely. The priest has traditionally always faced the altar - just as traditionally the Gospel is supposed to be read from the middle of the Church (where the ambo is actually supposed to be before some innovative people took it away). For that matter, Slavic chant sounds absolutely nothing like Byzantine chant, oh the tragedy of its innovation!
Let's think seriously about the theological, pastoral, and spiritual meanings of our actions, before we engage in clever knee-jerking.
#35 Anonymous on 2008-08-28 11:37
Oh no- Mr. Bill..you have fallen on your petard again! You are right about our not judging and that is why it is time to pick up the phone and turn this over to the proper authorities. God's Church deserves accountability and restitution. If it cannot be provided by those in charge then we should allow an outside entity to judge who is accountable and needs to make that restitution. Does that make any sense to you? May you find peace.
#36 Anonymous on 2008-08-28 13:50
Kenneth, I'll be happy to continue this discussion outside the forum. If you wish you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#37 Inga Leonova on 2008-08-28 20:32
Yes, in a certain sense, Forgiveness and reconciliation go hand in hand. You cannot have the latter without the former. But the unaddressed question here is whether reconciliation is simply passively imputed (a la Martin Luther) or whether it must be actively embraced by the one who, contrary to his deserts, has been forgiven as an act of grace, and, furthermore has been given the benefit of a new life in the renewed humanity of Christ. It is at this point that you have to ask the question: "What is this new life going to be like?" To put the matter concretely: If, at the Great Day of the Lord when He comes in Glory, you look upon His face and see the face of your worst enemy -- who is also made in His image and likeness, and for whom He also died, and whom all of us, in our particular situations, been commanded to love -- if you have not learned to love this enemy, if you have not been actively reconciled with him in this life, will this vision (for all of eternity) be heaven or hell? Will it be everlasting light progressing from Glory to Glory, or will it be a 'lake of fire'?
#38 Archimandrite Melchisedek on 2008-08-29 03:50
Where did I cross the line from allowed "[c]riticizing the hierarchs" to unallowed "denigrating them"? What in my comment is untrue? What do you perceive in my comment as "hateful"? I have no special animosity towards Bishop Tikhon or any of the other hierarchs. I think that each and every one of the hierarchs has betrayed his vows taken when he was consecrated. I hope and pray that His Grace, and each of the other hierarchs, is stung by the truth in my comments, for that would prove that he is not a lost soul and may yet repent of his sins connected to the scandals.
From what little I have read concerning Bishop Nikon's life, I have no reason to think that Bishop Nikon was unworthy when he was consecrated; I think that, on the whole, his behavior concerning the scandals shows that he is no longer worthy to remain a hierarch. If you think His Grace has shown himself worthy of his position in responding to the scandals, please show me where I am wrong.
#39 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-08-29 04:05
To which Mark are you responding?
#40 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-08-29 04:35
My experience here isn't vast, but most Evangelicals, of older generations at least, were brought up with the King James Bible. I haven't found anything in our liturgy where the language is more elaborate than that, or the vocabulary more obscure. And yet, people mostly know what words like "leasing" mean. They understand archaic usages like "holpen" or "shapen." Further, many Calvinist prayer services run to an impressive length. People do not stand, but church is an event! Even young people attend Bible study groups regularly, and are probably far more conversant with the language of scripture, and thus the language of liturgy, than some Orthodox.
All this is by way of saying I believe anyone is capable of being called by the Holy Spirit, and when a person is ready to hear, they will hear. I grew up in a high liturgical tradition, but I still needed plenty of help when I came to Orthodoxy. (I would have needed similar help had the journey been in the opposite direction.) Christ advises us in the parable to cast seeds widely. Some will fall on barren ground; some will sprout and do well for a time before wilting; some will fall on good ground and yield a good crop. Our task is to sow.
I believe a uniform liturgy would serve us more effectively than a "simplified" one, but that's probably a topic for another thread.
#41 Morton on 2008-08-29 06:06
We are not denigrating the bishops in any way, although you may think that so. What we are doing is making commentary on their actions and behavior. If this is seen as denigration in the eyes of some, then maybe their behaviors should change.
You must also take into account something I have felt, and something that Eric Wheeler said on another website this week: there is a feeling of being used. With that comes a lot of anger, anger, which has been used to expose and comment on the behaviors of those that have used us and an attempt to set it right. First and foremost have been the bishops. The bishops enjoyed a good time and did well before this all broke out. What we have been treated to since cuts to the very core of what it means to be Christian, let alone Orthodox. If we see a contradiction in terms of their behaviors and what they have done and what they preach and we comment on that, its not denigration, its the way we rid of ourselves of bad influences and cleanse our Church. No matter how sharply worded, or how much repeated, what we are commenting is a reaction to these behaviors. The people commenting, before this happened, afforded the bishops all the respect and honor they felt they deserved, it was only after they revealed to us their true character did people start commenting. We did not one day wake up and say “today we begin attacks on the bishops for no reason all at!” Why, we wouldn’t even have this website to do it if it wasn’t for their behaviors!!!
Bishop Nikon has been one of the more disappointing members of the Synod in this entire scandal. I won't go into all of his actions, but as one from afar who had no ill opinions of him prior, he has done a great disservice to himself, his diocese, and his Church with his actions and has only solidified his standing as an obstructionist as time has gone on. The longer this goes on, the longer he is party to the obstruction, the more solidified are negative opinions of him that are going to have a long half life. It was appalling to this writer when Ansonia didn't pay their assessments he went to get Syosset to strong arm them. That's just not right, its not good, its a cop out to deal with a problem. It wasn’t very bishop-like. And then, just two months ago, as Mark says, he gave his vote of confidence to Herman. I do not see how this cannot be a total agreement with Herman says and does. When a parish has a moral problem with what’s going on and takes a stand, he doesn’t work through that, he basically refuses to acknowledge they exist. What kind of a pastor is that? Tell me, if your father cast you aside and refused to acknowledge you exist every time you did something he didn’t like as a kid how would you take that and what kind of a lasting impact would that have on you? What would your feelings be towards your father? It’s no different here, my friend. In fact, in this case, the child did nothing wrong, but angered the father because the child could not go along with a contradiction between the Gospels and what is preached and the behavior of those doing the preaching. What kind of a father to his spiritual children has he been and is being? Think about it, seriously think about that because it cuts to the very core of the episcopal responsibility. As I said in a previous comment, he and his colleagues are spiritually immature.
Its a pity for people like him, but sadly for Nikon, that he's going to carry a lot of baggage when this entire scandal is done for and he doesn't realize the impacts that its going to have on his credibility and ministry when the central players that he has so blindly and completely followed are no longer on the stage or paying the severe consequences of their own actions. If he is toeing the party line and backing Herman because of payback, maybe for becoming a bishop, then the bishop needs to look into his heart and think about what he’s really doing and why he’s doing it when he drapes the omophor around him. What does that really mean to him? If he comes to the conclusion that its more because of him rather than for the work of God, maybe he needs to step aside and let someone in who has a more Christ centered view of their ministry.
#42 Anonymous on 2008-08-29 07:12
This morning I read the the article "Nationalism, Man and Orthodoxy" by Fr. Gibran Ramlaouli that was reprinted in the online magazaine Orthodoxy Today.org. It was orignially printed in the June, 1969 issue of the "Word Magazine". This article speaks more eloquently than I regarding where to place the emphasis Nationalism first or Orthodox Christian first. I would suggest that people read it for the first time, as I did, or re-read it.
Some newer parishes (regardless of jurisdiction), where they are they only Eastern Orthodox Church in a geographical area use a combination of the best from each tradition--music, customs, etc. They incorporate the best from the rich tradition of Orthodoxy throughout the ages. Perhaps the name for the Orthodox Church should be Eastern Orthodox Church of the USA.
#43 cbshinn on 2008-08-29 07:12
What do we want? Kondratick doing 20-25 years in a state or federal pen would be a nice start. Then while that's happening we can talk about restitution. Very simple.
#44 Anonymous on 2008-08-29 07:20
"My experience here isn't vast, but most Evangelicals, of older generations at least, were brought up with the King James Bible. I haven't found anything in our liturgy where the language is more elaborate than that, or the vocabulary more obscure. And yet, people mostly know what words like "leasing" mean. They understand archaic usages like "holpen" or "shapen." "
Alas, your own words describe an experience perhaps even less vast than you may realize-- "evangelicals of the older generations."
The church also includes both converts and cradle Orthodox of the working class, those educated in public schools dominated by the secular left, members of the text message generation, and immigrants with English as second language. The largest group of members we have in our parish are former evangelicals in their twenties who have been using the NIV all their lives. Even their parents have been using this translation since 1978. It's dreadfully misleading and reinforces evangelical errors about such things as sacramental theology, but it sure is easy to read.
And this is not just our parish. The NIV is THE bestselling translation. Regrettable as it may be, the King James Version has not been the cornerstone of education in our culture, even for Christians, for nearly thirty years now.
Personally, I am of a generation and education level that is perfectly comfortable with the KJV-- in fact, when I was in school in the sixties, a KJV Gideon New Testament was distributed to us in the public schools here in Canada, and most of us went to Sunday Schools that likewise used the KJV. I am a former Anglican, who managed to use the old prayer book. But even I am going to have to go look up 'leasing' to remember what it meant in the 16th Century.
Some of the worst problems with current translations are not even vocabulary or 'elaborate' language, but simply bad grammar because the translators who tried to produce a text in 16th Century English didn't understand how to match the verb form with the person.
We do not need to 'dumb down' theological language to make new translations clear and beautiful. But there is no need to cling to archaism for the sake of archaism either.
The fact that there are comments about the behavior of the bishops shows that we are good Orthodox being concerned with the state of the Church and those entrusted with her care. We have seen many times in our history when people blindly follow without questioning that bad things happen. We are called to be follows of Christ and walk in his path, not to be blindly obedient to the bishops when they are wrong. This Church will be stronger because people spoke out against the ills of the bishops against the church then it would have even been thought possible just blindly following them.
If you feel that's badly catechized, then I say people need to be taught that kind of bad more often!
#46 Anonymous on 2008-08-29 10:31
Why wink when you write 'our father among the saints"?
I believe St. Clive of Oxford has been instrumental in the conversion of many an American! I found his writing palatable during a time when, God forgive me, I thought Christianity had very little to offer.
#47 An anony-mouse American convert on 2008-08-29 13:08
As was pointed out, there was a Town Hall in San Francisco on June 26th, and were encouraged to send in an email which would be read at the meeting since the diocese covers such a large territory and many members wouldn't be able to come to San Francisco for the meeting (I live in Montana). I sent mine in.
Also, I have talked face to face with His Grace a few times. Last time he was in Billings (October 2007), at the banquet after the liturgy on Sunday, he sat at a table just like the rest of us (there was no head table). We were encouraged to come and sit at his table and talk to him, which just about all of us did. For the two days he was here, everybody had chances to have conversations with him more than once. I have found him to be very warm and friendly. I'm sorry that hasn't been your experience.
#48 Janice Chadwick on 2008-08-30 06:21
Marty Watt raises some important issues regarding the extent to which we are effectively representing Orthodoxy in our diverse North American culture.
I offer the following as examples of how that could be improved:
1. Instead of being known as the quirky church with the best pierogies in town, become known as the friendliest church in town. Invite people to an event that’s not a fundraiser.
2. That that sign outside your church – consider changing it from English and Russian to English and Spanish.
3. Have a summer Vacation Bible School that’s advertised and at which kids from outside the church are invited and welcome. Combine with the friendliness noted in point 1.
4. No more ethnic jokes. No negotiation on this one!
Now, regarding Mr. Watt’s comments on liturgical reform, one of the things that I appreciate the most about Orthodoxy is that, when I come to church on Sunday, I’m coming back to the “center” that is represented by the Divine Liturgy. No matter where I’ve been, physically, mentally, or spiritually, I can be sure that what I’m coming back to the right place.
The majority of readers might not consider this to be of particular significance, but I come from the perspective of being a convert to Orthodoxy. I have been Orthodox for 9 ½ years. (But the length of time doesn’t matter. In my church, I’ll never be referred to as simply someone who is Orthodox, but as a convert.) I came from a completely nonliturgical background. Every church service was different. What happened any particular Sunday was a matter of how the service would support the day’s sermon or of the decision of the worship committee.
So I very much appreciate the Divine Liturgy. I appreciate the prayers and their formality, their timelessness, their majesty. I appreciate that they have withstood the test of time. As someone who has come from a “liturgically challenged” background, I suggest that the issue of lack of comfort with the Liturgy is one of our needing to learn the proper worship of God rather than of adapting the Liturgy to the fleeting characteristics of our culture.
There is certainly an opportunity to adapt our musical compositions to the culture in which we find ourselves. But let’s not consider discarding the majesty of the heavenly worship of the Divine Liturgy that is our heritage as Orthodox Christians.
#49 Scott Benton on 2008-08-30 18:51
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