Wednesday, October 29. 2008
Your comments on the culture, budget, or the process, are welcome.
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With respect to your many years as a planner, I have no doubt that your expertise have helped many a business run more effectively. But with respect to your view of the role of bishops in the "new culture" of the OCA your episcopal representation simply "misses the mark" in the true sense of the phrase.
Are you saying that in the OCA "new culture" that a bishop expressing his thoughts and having the ultimate responsibility for the life of his diocese is "pulling rank" if he does not agree with clergy and laity? Certainly this model may have worked for the SIC but that does not translate to the life of the Church.
I will agree that it is always best to build consensus, to have open input, to try never to make a stand just for the sake of confrontation, or "pulling rank" as a show of power, but there will be times and there are times when the bishop or the priest, MUST stand firm and do what he believes is best for the salvation of a person in particular or his flock in general. And, that decision whether by a priest, bishop or the Synod may not be popular, but bishops are not called to be popular in the worldly sense, but defending the Gospel of Christ, which will not be popular as our Lord reminds us, "If the hated me, they will hate you also."
I am sure you would agree that being unpopular at times, and for a Christian, even being hated, is one of the prices paid, especially by one who leads.
I certainly hope that the impression you leave in your reflection is not one that in the "new culture" you propose that bishops are simply liturgical window dressing leaving the "business" decisions of the church to the likes of Metropolitan Councils. I certainly hope not because if that is the conclusion then there is only one word for the your "new culture" -
In closing, thank you for your stewardship on the SIC and the MC.
(Editor's note: In your hurry to cry "heresy", I think you missed the point of the last three years. No one here, on the MC, on the SIC, or in the parishes and pews is challenging the Bishop's authority to defend the Gospel. The challenge for all of us is how to question the Bishop when he is defending his own bad behaviour, not the Gospel?
You seem to argue the Bishop cannot be questioned, or held responsible, ever. And I would suggest that is one reason we ended up where we did . A second reason is that members of the former administration, like you, encouraged them in that thinking. If we are to move forward, and not just move on, we need to move forward beyond 19th century attitudes of anti-clericialism and 20th century attitudes of hyper-clericialism. Why not try conciliarity, which was recommended by one of our own local saints, since it hasn't been done before?)
#1 Anonymous on 2008-10-29 07:30
Amen, Dr. Solodow. Changing the culture is paramount, and you provide some good examples of what that looks like. For such culture change to take root in the OCA, it needs to be constantly iterated from the very top. That's why our choice for metropolitan and bishops for the open sees are so critical.
The corporation I work for is headed by a woman of vision. Her oft repeated criteria for organizational behavior and decision making are "brave, imaginitive, and decent." These criteria are employed and actively discussed throughout the organization. It's the culture, it empowers everyone, and it works. If a secular organization can live out such goals, surely the OCA can with the right leadership.
#2 James P. on 2008-10-29 07:53
Congratulations to Dr. Solodow's reflection. Accountablility, in the minutes according to Parliamentary Procedure, is necessary in any org. whether religious or civil. Thorough minutes not watered down, or as the sec, wishes to account them. are an absolute must to have transparency. Accurate minutes were encountered and challenged by Fr. Swaiko and a secretay of a parish of Nepa in the late sixties, when the minutes were challenged, The minutes were in a bound book , kept according to parliamentary procedure and he challenged them. So for 40 years, keeping of accurate records meant nothing to his reign. , as you can see the results of what you now have.
#3 annonymous on 2008-10-29 08:07
Decisions were made by majority vote, with the bishop voting only to break a tie.
In my work consulting with nonprofit organizations, a nonprofit executive noted that while the state Board of this international conservation organization had no fiduciary (official) rights, they were treated as if they did. This was done because this organization understood that they had no right to expect anything from these volunteers, especially when it came to their financial contributions.
This is an important aspect for us to remember when discussing the role of Synod, bishop, clergy and laity. While the ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church are clearly episcopal and leave little real power or authority to the lower clergy and laity, our bishops must remember what sort of a world we and they live in.
It is very easy to turn the awe-some responsibility of a diocesan or metropolitan Orthodox bishop into an awe-demanding right with no reference to pastoral care. In a secular society where no one is required or forced to give for the support of the Church, where no one will be shunned by family for apostasy, where religion is not an inalienable part of culture, where other jurisdictions are available, and where it is so easy to lose one's soul, leave the Orthodox Church, Christianity or faith of any kind at all... a bishop has to be a shepherd and pastor; he must be a light to us, a holy, humble and devout man himself, a healer of souls with a bedside manner to match. This is more important to the internal and external evangelism required of an Orthodox Christian bishop than it is to jealously guard the prerogatives and right to whim of a bishop that was, in past times, required to be strong enough to represent the State of which he was an employee (Russia from Peter I to 1917); to keep the Emperor on his side of the 'symphonic' divide (Byzantium) or to protect and rule one's millet within an religiously unfriendly state (Ottoman Empire). In North America, at least, there is respect and support cannot be assumed; a congregation cannot be assumed. A shepherd is not a shepherd without sheep, and even sheep will wander from a shepherd who ignores them.
So, while this comment by Dr. Solodow points toward the right goal - conciliarity - we must be careful to maintain the canonical, episcopal structure of our Church. While the laity must remember its place in the Orthodox Church and not demand rights that are normally and usually reserved for the bishops, our bishops must also remember that the shepherd paradigm must take precedence over that of despot. The laity and lower clergy do not have canonical rights, but they must be treated as if they do so as to bring them along, to bring them to understanding, to lead and have followers.
While Americans will ask a million questions up front, once you have won them they will wholeheartedly follow, they will sacrifice, the will co-struggle with you - but they won't just take orders; Americans will "not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (I John 4:1).
What is required is an organization-wide agreement on where we are going and on the leaders consistent modeling and rewarding of the behaviors necessary to get us there.
As the Russian proverb goes: 'The fish rots from the head'. The reverse is true, as well. In Christ, we are re-fashioned and re-created from the Head. So, too, must we be refashioned from our ecclesial heads, our bishops.
In my work interviewing heads of Human Resources and Human Capital Management, those that were succesful in changing the cultures of corporations and organizations of all sizes, shapes and purposes are in agreement on what is required: consistent modeling from the top with consistent rewarding and enforcing of values from the top down. That is, if the most successful salesman refuses to behave according the values of an organization (e.g., he isn't a team player; he screams and yells at subordinates), he faces a series of opportunities that increase pressure on him to conform: he is informed of the problem, he is trained, he is coached, his bonus is cut, he is not given a raise, he is not promoted, he is demoted, he is fired. The same goes for the CEO and the Board, the same goes for the lowest middle manager. No one is too big too fail, or too little to be rewarded.
In the OCA, required managerial, administrative and pastoral behaviors and values must be clearly enunciated. Those that meet them must be rewarded; those that do no meet them must face increasing pressure to change - a call to repentance and growth. While we must all forgive, we must forgive only those that repent, and repentance with forgiveness is not the same as assessing a persons capability to hold a role - even a role in Holy Orders or as a member of the Holy Synod. This accountability must be shown first by the Holy Synod, collectively, and by each bishop, individually. The Holy Synod must not protect its own members like a gang protects its members. Bishops must call each other to account and hold themselves to a higher standard; bishops must not be afraid to resign to a monastery or to return to parish ministry if they are found incapable of the diocesan episcopacy. If this is done transparently, for rational reasons and according to public standards, then trust will be built between clergy and episcopacy. Consistency is a necessary component of trust, and trust is necessary for love and care, a secure faith in a relationship - and such faith in our bishops is as necessary as the faith of a child in their father, both of which is how we come to understand the reliability and faith of God Himself. Actions speak louder than words; actions speak louder than ceremony. How can we proclaim the Christ of the Holy Gifts when we refuse to proclaim the Christ in our neighbor, when we hear of or see the arbitrary, thoughtless mistreatment of priests and laity by bishops, people that sacrifice for the Church? If the Holy Synod refuses to self-govern, the laity will have no choice but to assume that the bishops do not believe what they say they believe; the laity will likely cease giving of their time, talent and treasure; many will likely just fade away, join other jurisdictions, other faiths or simply drop out of 'organized religion' for 'spirituality', agnosticism or atheism. Truly, the role of bishop is serious and dangerous - a great weight and responsibility, one lower clergy and laity do not carry and will not be called to account for; the bishop needs his people to call him back when he has lost sight of his essential role in the Church: icon of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who is both a 'despotic' Pantocrator that must be obeyed as well as a 'kenotic' Suffering Servant co-suffering with us and bearing us up.
We must remember that the principle of conciliarity is not each bishop, each priest, each parish or diocese gets to do what they want and everyone else has to respect it. Conciliarity is, instead, a self-limiting principle whereby I refrain from actions that will offend other Christians, which will commit me to a unilateral course of action not shared by other Orthodox churches. It is very easy to turn Fr. Schmemann's "meaningful storm" surrounding the granting of autocephaly to the OCA into an excuse for a unilateralism tending towards Reformation, for offense, for becoming proud know-it-alls based on our own, local understanding of what Orthodoxy 'really is' and what the Divine Liturgy is 'really' for, 'really' was, etc. This tendency is a lay, lower clergy and academic/seminary form of the despotism from above that is being called into question. If we wish for a role in the Church greater than 'pay, pray and obey' then we too must restrain ourselves from calling for such unilateral, un-conciliar, idiosyncratic positions as married bishops, intercommunion with Copts/Ethiopians/Eritreans, audible priestly prayers, abridged or expanded liturgical services, etc. There is a difference between repentance and Reformation; many a good idea in Church history was tainted and delayed due to those that started calling for repentance and renewal, but ended as Reformers or schismatics (e.g., Living Church).
Nothing new here. The "culture" issues are the hierarchs acting as "rulers over the people" and not reflecting Christ and "serving the people." Who wooda thunk that Metropolitans would abuse their office? Who wooda thunk the Chancellor would turn into a common thief? Who wooda thunk that lies and cover-ups would become the norm rather than truth + transparency? WHY? Because the Metropolitan Council and SOB's didn't do their jobs. There were no checks and balances. When those in power have the full trust of everyone, they can take advantage of their situation. And HOW did this happen? By putting the hierarchs on pedestals and those in the central church admin and letting them rule without checks and balances. WE CREATED THE CULTURE BY OUR OWN ATTITUDES TOWARD THE LEADERS OF THE CHURCH. They are men and they are FALLIBLE!
We must remember the old Russian saying (they knew something about human nature) that Ronald Reagan used:
"TRUST, BUT VERIFY!"
#5 Anonymous on 2008-10-29 10:16
There is no one standard way to "take minutes." A group can decide what type of minutes work best for their organization. If minutes are to reflect approved actions, then the process of how they got to the decision is not as important. If a group wants minutes to be a record of the process of the decision-making then they should be agreed upon as such and be minuted accordingly.
To say that the minutes of the past in the OCA were an attempt to distort decisions is a rather biased point of view. The minute takers focused on what decision was made so that the minutes could then be used as a action plan for implementation and not a civics lesson on group dynamics.
There is nothing stopping the MC from moving from one system of minute taking to another. Better yet, use a tape recorder and create a transcript. Then everyone can know exactly who said what and why. Now that is transparency!
(editor's note: "To say that the minutes of the past in the OCA were an attempt to distort decisions is a rather biased point of view" is not accurate. In fact, Minutes were created in such a way to cover-up dissent in the past. I was there in 1999 and experienced it myself. As did others.)
#6 Anonymous on 2008-10-29 10:28
I am sorry but your recollection of that MC meeting in 1999 was not a deliberate attempt to cover up objections. The objections were noted. They simply did not carry the day. And, to reiterate, the minutes were, and apparently continue to be a record of actions taken. They have not been in the past a record of every statement pro and con on an issue.
However, having said that, I believe that the only way that the actions of a meeting, in this case MC, are to be open to anyone's interpretation is to have a transcript. That way the only thing open to debate is the inflection of the voice.
(Editor's note: Nice attempt to re-write the past, but you are wrong, and I have the official minutes to prove it. The official minutes report a statement from the MC was approved unanimously. It was not.
And as all can now see, the old culture still has its defenders, and power, if not the respect it once had....)
#7 Anonymous on 2008-10-29 12:04
I believe several of the above posts missed the point. The point is that the culture of the OCA was to demand cash and expect it. It wasn't to respect Bishops and now disrespect them.
The new concept is to develop a plan involving everyone and blessed by the Bishops (this is the critical part that maintains the churches hierarchical order) and based on that plan to develop a budget. I've been saying this ever since the 50 dollar thing happened with DoM.
What's missed by the great reflection is that there isn't time to develop a strategic plan. Just isn't time. Given that there isn't time, it should be important to maintain the status quo for the time and develop new budgets based upon this new idea. What is the status quo? Its more of the same type of spending but for the Kondratick excess.
For the AAC to suggest a strategic plan and adjust the financing at this time would be nothing short of irresponsible.
I ask for people to reflect on the wise words and adjust for the certain problems with timing.
And to fast track the strategic planning so that the decisions of the AAC allow for adjustments to the plan as soon as the 2010 budget, but not the 2009 budget.
#8 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-10-29 12:14
We have more of a conciliar church already than most Orthodox Churches in the world. We have implemented many aspects of the vision of Archbishop St Tikhon in many ways already. So to say we have not tried conciliarity or given it a chance is not accurate.
And to say that the former administration promoted the idea that bishops should not be questioned is simply not true. Bishops were questioned all the time, and they didn't like it much. Kondratick did get in their faces and did challenge them. To the degree they should have challenged him more is a topic open and still being written. Bishops were routinely questioned and admonished.
Fr Alexander Schmemann certainly challenged the bishops of his day. One only need read his diary.
If there was one person who changed the "culture" of the Holy Synod it was the late Archbishop Peter who distorted the vision of the Synod into thinking and acting that the grace of conciliarity rested only within the Holy Synod and not amongst the rest of the "clergy and lay rabble."
And I don't really think I have said that we should simply "move on" from things. I guess I am more concerned as to what we are "moving towards" and to that, I will continue to speak up.
(Editor's note: LOL, Father, LOL, that you would suggest Fr. Schmemann's private diary thoughts as an expression of the existence of conciliarity! I will agree though, that Archbishop Peter's lent credence to the hyper-clericalism we suffered from. Our task, which I think we can both agree on, is that moving forward, rather than just on, requires finding a new balance that gives weight to both episcopal and conciliar authority. We have no popes, although many think we do, and no protestants, although many suspect their brethren of such, so there is no reason we have to re-fight their fruitless battles. Orthodoxy has always been the middle way. Let us walk those little used paths again....)
#9 Anonymous on 2008-10-29 12:29
"What is required is an organization-wide agreement on where we are going and on the leaders consistent modeling and rewarding of the behaviors necessary to get us there."
In a nutshell. Well put.
How any of the commenters can take this to be anti-hierarchy is beyond me.
This particular quote is not, but the idea that a bishop merely casts a tie-breaking vote when lower clergy and laity can't agree is. Issues surrounding the codification of lay and lower clergy rights over or alongside of episcopal rights and responsibilities is dangerous. The bishops can't of their own accord undermine traditional Orthodox theology and practice - this is anti-conciliar. Our Holy Synod can't unilaterally among the local churches, for instance, decide that married bishops are ok, that female clergy are ok, that we allow all Copts to the chalice no questions asked, that bishops only cast tie breaking votes while the lower clergy and laity run everything otherwise. Being an autocephalous church is not carte blanche to reimagine Orthodoxy as we and our seminary professors see fit apart from the historical guidance of the Holy Spirit and the practice and consent of the other local churches - to do so would be anti-conciliar.
I heartily applaud the discussion, however, and fully expect that some will overstep, others understep, and still others step right off the path. We are searching for a solution and for agreement, all while remaining Orthodox in word, deed, thought and canon. This is difficult stuff and we all come to it with differing levels of understanding, differing assumptions and levels of sophistication - with emotions, passions and self-preservation all mixed in. God help us.
I agree with both statements of Mat. Donna Farley: Dr. Solodow's Reflection is, "in a nutshell, well put," and the Reflection is certainly not anti-hierarchy. In fact, if the various "Anonymouses" would read what was said carefully, they will discover that Dr. Solodow did say, "The SIC itself was an example of how the new culture, *which respects and balances hierarchy and conciliarity*, can work." (emphasis added). This, again, is part of the old (Soviet-style) culture that the Reflection addresses: misquoting, half-quoting, and mutating the message to deflect to an erroneous accusation (in this case, anti-hierarchy or anti-clericalism). Mark Stokoe, in his parenthetical editorialisms, said it well, "we need to move forward beyond 19th century attitudes of anti-clericalism and 20th century attitudes of hyper-clericalism."
A subtle but essential key to understanding where we should be, conciliarity, is shown in St Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. In chapter 3, verse 28, he says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male and female. For, you are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul uses "nor" to compare things that are opposites, that is, opposed to each other (Jew and Greek [that is, Gentile], slave and free). However, for comparing "males" to "females," he uses the conjunction "and". This shows that, contrary to what the fallen world proclaims, male versus female or male opposing female is not in our nature. Maybe we should start realizing that when it comes to clergy and laity, hmmm? As Mark said, and as I've said previously, anti-clericalism and hyper-clericalism are just two sides of the same mutated coin of ecclesiology that the old "culture" promotes. As Dr. Solodow states, the new "culture" is one that combines hierarchy with conciliarity, clergy and laity as two complementary aspects of life in the Church. This is what is being proposed by so many in the Church today, and let us pray that God grants it to us, so that we may work together for His glory and Kingdom!
#12 David Barrett on 2008-10-29 14:36
For the most part, bravo until the end. Certainly, as always, an intelligent and articulate argument from a very traditional prospective.
I would not equate advocacy of any your illustrations at the end of your post as heresy or schism. To label calls for intelligent change or reform as anti-conciliar is unfair, although questioning a unilateral or clearly non-Canonical action is not.
While I don't totally accept your definition of the powers of the Episcopate, I applaud your eloquent description of how those powers should be exercised. I hope someone is listening. One thing is for sure, the consequences are as you describe, if they are not.
#13 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-10-29 18:08
While we are discussing reassement of the culture of the OCA, it will be well to ask, does the OCA want to be ONLY American, or does it desire to become North America, and include Canada (surprise, surprise! we are a sovereign and independent nation) and Mexico. If so, the structuring of everything from the name used in daily affairs, and the name of these Council meetings needs to be changed to All North America Council. If the OCA wishes to be only American, then perhaps Canada and Mexico should look elsewhere for a home?
What is required is an organization-wide agreement on where we are going and on the leaders consistent modeling and rewarding of the behaviors necessary to get us there.
While certain worldly functions of the Church "corporation" may be adaptable to handle the business functions of the Church, the basic structure of the Church is hierarchical and must remain so for the Church to be The Church. The OCA's problems of the past 40 years have not so much been the structure and statutes as it was the behavior of the men you elected and/or tolerated to pastor the Church, raising a hue and cry only when the abuses became millions of dollars. The acquiescence of the majority of the Church to poor pastorship set the standard that resulted in poor pastorship. Long before the money issue was raised, selected hierarchs of the OCA caused wide and deep spiritual suffering, but only those who suffered ever raised their voices, only to be trampled down by indifference or opposition from their Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Episcopal neglect became a virtue, as it keep the bishop out of the parish's "business".
Yes, the OCA needs to define the administrative roles and missions of the national Church and the Dioceses for the current Church, and, hopefully, a larger and more robust Church in the future. For now, the OCA is too small, it's dioceses far too small, to decentralize many of the functions centralized at the National level. Our diocese has the same churched population as the OCA and does not attempt the kinds of functions some have suggested to be delegated, let's say, to the Diocese of the West with it's 2,000 to 3,000 members and a land area four or five times greater than the entire country where I live.
It seems, at times, as if there are some who think a whole new approach to Church polity is in order, while others think the answer is to blindly mimic the Russian Church, as they fuzzily perceive it. Probably, the structure and procedures you officially had were suitable. That you failed to enforce those standards regularly and routinely is more likely the root cause of the crisis you have faced. Why not live the life of the Church as your current statutes and the Canons require, to the letter, and see what happens? Where do you get the notion that rules and traditions that have never been observed and enforced are the problem? There really were no rules or standards, for all intents and purposes. A standard not enforced ceases to be a standard.
I would suggest you do some soul searching and ask what contribution non-compliant behavior made to the mess you now suffer. For those who couldn't care less about the pastoral and administrative qualities of your diocesean bishop, or the one next door, as they had no impact on you, I suggest you consider that your acceptance of no standards created a culture of no standards. For those who only wanted their bishop to be around for your parish's patronal feast, to fatten the collection and banquet dinner ticket sales, consider if you got what you wanted, a ceremonial ornament associated with greed.
To requote the opening words: What is required is an organization-wide agreement on where we are going and on the leaders consistent modeling and rewarding of the behaviors necessary to get us there. Might I suggest that the OCA had statutes, Canons and traditions from the outset. All too many of you (myself included while I was living there) simply agreed not reward those exhibiting the required behaviors, and, up until now, not discipline those whose behaviors were counter to the standards and best interests of the Church.
You are on a good path for a new beginning. You are starting to demand better hierarchs that will live according to the local statutes and the centuries old standards the Church has established. Before you toss out all your local standards, statutes and structures, which to date have been untested as a result of everyone's laxity, low expectations and indifference, give your hierarchs, clergy and laity the challenge to live up to the standards already in place and see how that works. You might be pleasantly surprised.
#15 Ovseas Observer on 2008-10-30 07:39
Could it be that there was an error in the minutes that you objected or many others did also. And could it be that when the next meeting takes place that the minutes are not approved until corrected?
Let it be duly noted that, you, as an MC member better make sure that the minutes reflect your recollection of the meeting. Minutes, taken by the human hand are always open to defect because the memory is also defect.
BTW, who was taking the minutes back at that 1999 meeting?
(Editor's note: There was no error or memory defect. And trust me, the person taking notes did not overlook my vote. I have a way of making sure I am heard. That being said, I was not allowed to attend the subsequent meeting and was thus not able to correct the Minutes. But that was another problem, which has been discussed, resolved, forgiveness sought and joyfully given. And finally, I don't remember who took the minutes at that meeting nine years ago. Sorry.)
#16 Anonymous on 2008-10-30 08:30
It is time for Canada to have its own Church. It is time for Canada to stand on its own and unite with other Orthodox Churches in Canada. As the GOA set the Greek Church in Canada go, so too the OCA. Canadians are different than Americans and as soon as Mexico is able to stand on its own feet, it too should go its own way.
The USA has enough cultural diversity within its borders to be concerned with. Let Canada deal with her own unique issues in spreading the Gospel.
I think this should be part of any future planning for the OCA.
And, speaking of a strategic plan, the rewriting of the OCA Statute should be the blueprint for the strategic plan. Rewrite the Statue and the strategic plan will be clear.
(Editor's note: That would be to answer the question before it is even asked. That was the usual style of the former regime(s), though, and I guess continues to be so. Little changes unless we continue the fight for change. )
#17 Anonymous on 2008-10-30 08:38
I wonder if the desire for a specifically Canadian church stems more from a Wilsonian desire for political self-determination mixed with the seemingly ever present phyletism in Orthodoxy than it does with a real need - pastorally or ecclesiologically - for a solo Canadian church. Sure Canadians are different, but so are New Englanders when compared with Midwesterners or Texans. I would say that the commonalities between us all faw outweigh the differences.
For the record, I don't necessarily think we need a specifically American church either. Not that I don't think it would be a good idea, it's just that the canons don't require such 'self-determination'. The most important thing for us to focus on is episcopal unity ('one city, one bishop') in North America and all traditionally non-Orthodox lands from western Europe to Australia and the Far East. The canons require this. (The only other issue is a committment to Church as Church, rather than Church as defender and representative of cultures past and present, i.e., Church as Mission. Autocephaly and autonomy are not the only ways to achieve this goal.)
Another way to get at the perceived need for a more Canadian or local pastoral flavor is for the Holy Synod to consider a dramatic increase in the number of bishops. Why not have a bishop far more involved in weekly, local parish work? Why not make each current deanery into a diocese with its own bishop who is also the pastor of a parish? Costs would be cut, the bishop would be more involved locally, and one doesn't need to find monastic candidates with far more than pastoral ability - which is why, presumably, we have already put them in charge of a parish. All of Canada wouldn't then have to look to a single, far off hierarch; her faithful could look to the largest parish in the region for their chief shepherd. Bishops could then return to being shepherds instead of managers of shepherds (or the manager of the manager of shepherds).
Concerning "audible priestly prayers," please note that certain places in the OCA are not alone in so doing. The Holy Synods of both the Church of Greece and the Church of Serbia are moving (admittedly, not without opposition) to restore the practice across the board, especially with regard to the Anaphora. Returning to the ancient usage may not happen with all the local Churches in lockstep with each other, but that does not invalidate it, all the more so since the "silent" Anaphora was condemned some 1500 years ago as an intolerable innovation.
By the same token, however, your point is well taken about flat-out refusing to be stampeded by any form of absolutism and/or elitism, including that of academe. Our Latin friends discovered that going that route at the hands of the "Bologna school" led to the deconstruction, discontinuity, and woeful dumbing-down of the venerable Roman Rite and its cognates (Ambrosian, Mozarabic, etc.), in turn necessitating an on-going and painful "reform of the reform." And we've got enough on our plates already, without that particular agony.
#19 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2008-10-30 14:45
Dear Vladiko Lazar,
Your point is very important to consider. In the course of the history of the Church, those of us in the New World of North and South America have a shared and unique experience of Orthodox Christianity.
Although some of us come to the Western Hemisphere from traditional Orthodox Christian countries, many of us are born into the Faith here, or are converts to the Faith. Among the Faithful here in the West, many deeply desire to share the joys and blessings of Orthodox Christianity through our missionary calling.
God has blessed us with the opportunity to be free of past ethnic and governmental associations to reach out to those that are truly seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the New World. We will all be judged by how we seize this opportunity.
Your brother in Christ,
#20 Marc Trolinger on 2008-10-30 14:57
You asked the good Dr. "Are you saying that in the OCA 'new culture' that a bishop expressing his thoughts and having the ultimate responsibility for the life of his diocese is 'pulling rank' if he does not agree with clergy and laity?"
If you have to ask if that is what he was saying, then you didn't read the reflection very carefully, since that was so NOT what he wrote.
Good grief! You ascribe to the writer an broadly extrapolated meaning concerning his words describing a very specific matter, and then denounce him -- for YOUR OWN interpretation -- with a cry of "heresy." What up wit dat?
You might do well also to note that this "heretical" approach proved to have worked out in a collegial, brotherly/sisterly way, bringing about as well the beginnings of a workable solution and that for the greater part brought the MC and SOB together, acting with in one mind, even after some emotional discourse. Hardly the fruit of heresy.
#21 Anonymous on 2008-10-30 15:34
As we work to change the climate and culture of the OCA, we should remember that conciliarity and consensus are not the same thing. Conciliarity means accomplishing things through the use of councils which might use cooperation, compromise or coercion to achieve their goals. Conciliar in not the same as conciliation, though a council might use conciliation to bring about closure, but then again it could use coercion to bring closure but not consensus. Consensus is achieved using particular methods in which the opinions and positions of all community members are given serious consideration, and then a long and hard process of coming to a mutual agreement is engaged. Consensus building goes hand in hand with community building and is concerned with relationship as well as with results. Conciliar decisions can be brought about by a simple majority vote and the losers are out of luck and might even quit the community. Consensus works to maintain the community and is concerned about even the peripheral people. The OCA is conciliar (ANAC, MC, Synod, Diocesan Assemblies and Councils, parish councils and meetings). Whether we are willing to invest enough time and energy into developing a common vision and to admit our weaknesses and need for each other and have a willingness to care for one another - that will determine whether we work for and achieve consensus. And even hierarchical organizations can use consensus and conciliarity to achieve their goals. Having hierarchy does not mean there can be no conciliarity or consensus. It means however that the hierarchs must be committed to consensus building - they must be more concerned with their flocks then with themselves.
#22 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2008-10-30 18:49
You don't remember who took the minutes yet you have total recall of other events nine years ago? Ok. I will take your word for it!
#23 Anonymous on 2008-10-30 19:39
Agreed, Father, regarding us having enough on our plates already.
I tend to think it most prudent, spiritually, that the least of the autocephalous churches (and one not recognized as such by most of the others) not take it upon herself to lead the way and take upon itself the mantle of teacher. We should not be teaching Athos and Jerusalem, Moscow and Constantinople on the proper way to serve the Divine Services, but taking a deferential attitude especially since they are not all under Communism or pastoring undeveloped nations anymore.
It seems as if we should also take into account a conciliarity that goes back in time, too. While 'early' practice may have been against inaudible priestly prayers (well, spoken aloud, just not proclaimed) it became common, universal practice a long, long time ago. The argument for audible priestly prayers would therefore be an argument against any other practice that has developed in the meantime (e.g., Proskomidia and Holy Week practices in their current forms).
It isn't that these issues can't be resolved, it's just that the little OCA shouldn't think that being autocephalous means we can do whatever we want as long as we have some serious sounding reason regardless of history, the assumed guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit on the practice over time, the practices of the rest of Orthodoxy today and the fact that the OCA isn't truly 'autocephalous' but merely a self-governing jurisdiction among many jurisdictions in North America. If the OCA is seen as innovationist and proud vis a vis traditional practices, then preservation of traditional religiosity became an additional driver in keeping the Orthodox in North America separate - i.e., while a Serb may want to see unity in NA, he does not want to give up Serbian traditions in favor of an academic, 'Americanized' Orthodoxy that has been created rather than received.
Here's where we part company. Moscow may not be under the thumb of Communism anymore, but it still shows plenty of signs of being under the thumb of other "isms" such as Putinism. Those Orthodox Churches operating in Islamic cultures also have plenty of pressure from the secular and other authorities.
But in a way, that is beside the point. Our little, so-called unrecognized, OCA functions in a society where it is completely free of and protected constitutionally from the state, as do the other jurisdictions. That freedom is the God-given right of every human being on the planet, though rarely enjoyed or exercised by most of humanity. That puts us, through no special merit of our own other than a natural aversion to a slave mentality, in a superior position to our other brethren not so blessed. While it doesn't give us "carte blanche," it does give us the right to move forward on our own without cow-towing to every potentate in the East on every little article of religious polity and practice.
So please, cease and desist from figuratively referring everything to Rome!
#25 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-10-31 12:13
The hand doesn't go off on its own simply because it is more agile than the liver. I am not deferring everything to Rome, but having been a Protestant (perhaps you have too) I am wary of deferring everything to 'our' seminary (the one 'I' and 'mine' agree with), 'our' leaders, 'my' priest, 'my' spiritual father. This is the kind of proto-factionalism St. Paul warns about. We are to bear with the weaker brother, not go off on our own so as to show him a better way. We are not infallible, and our political and social freedom can easily morph into a slavery to our own passions, addiction to our own whims, and infatuation with our own opinions.
This isn't to say that you have fallen into this trap or that any particular position is an example of such a failure. I am also no arguing that 'audible priestly prayers' are wrong. I am arguing that we must bear with the weaker brethren when we think we are right and always remember that we are not in a position within the Orthodox world where we should presume preeminence. We are known for many good things, but we are not known for many better things, too. If our monasteries were overflowing and vibrant, if we properly balanced evangelism to 'ethnic Orthodox' as well as to Americans, if we were energized in supporting missions around the world, if we had kept our purity, if our Orthodoxy was unquestioned, if we were 'fathers to ourselves and mothers to others' when it came to the canons and fasting and preparing for Communion, if, if, if, then, perhaps we could hold ourselves up as lights to the rest of the Orthodox world. But, to push oneself forward into such a position is spiritually dangerous, as dangerous as grasping after ordination and the episcopacy as if it were something other than an obedience and podvig requiring humility. We must remember the parable of the banquet and not take the first seat; we must wait to be called to the first seat after taking the least.
Such deference is not kow-towing, it is simply honor and respect. It is also not adopting liturgical and academic fads without their being 'tested' and 'tried' over time, i.e., much of the liturgical reasoning and historical proof behind more 'modern' practices have been undermined and overturned in the intervening years, but the 'renewed', 'resurrected' practices they produced persist. If they are true and worthy and blessed of God, then such practices will be renewed and resurrected. Perhaps such activities in Greece and Serbia will continue and be 'accepted' by the people of God, the Church Universal (cf. the response of the Eastern Patriarchs to Vatican I); to do otherwise risks the dangers of prelest and pride similar to that which led to the Great Schism, the Old Believers Schism, the Protestant Reformation and the creation of the Living Church.
Well, your right about one thing, we both come from Protestant backgrounds, though as a former Anglican (Episcopal Church in the USA) of Anglo-Catholic persuasions, I considered myself more a reformed Catholic with nascent Orthodox inclinations.
#27 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-10-31 15:32
Governance does not always a strategy make. The Statute, by its very nature, should not fully determine what course the church takes. However, its fair that the Statute and the strategy need to be aligned.
Using a bizarre example, you couldn't suggest we were going to grow the church by 10% a year or 70 parishes and then only allow 10 priests a year to be ordained under the Statute. I realize this is a bizarre example, but the point should be clear. The rules the church uses must support the strategy and the strategy must fall within the rules, but the strategy doesn't define the full set of rules. A strategy to grow the church and the statutory requirement that audits be done by a third party on all church acounts are somewhat mutually exclusive, although that could be argued in the context of what happened here.
Hope I haven't offended you. I can be a nit, but I think its an important point.
#28 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-10-31 16:18
As usual Fr. Bobosh, your comments are always intelligent and insightful. In particular, your concluding line pretty well sums it up. When the majority of our hierarchs humble themselves and come down off their pedestals, we might actually witness some healing and reconciliation. Official pronouncements are a poor substitute for genuine acts of humility and care for the flock.
#29 Rich Kendall on 2008-11-01 12:58
One must agree that the present "culture" is severely deficient. In fact, one must not undermine the ACTUAL authority of the hierarchs, but rather encourage them to start exercising it. We have priests in the OCA who have created literal "cults of the personality." Patriarch Alexei has responded to such perversions and put a stop to it in Russia, but no-one in North America has done the same. It is up to the hierarch in whose diocese this occurs to stop it immediately, and educate the laity away from such things. The laity are not the puppets or possession of the parish priest. We have priests who are forbidding their parishioners to even visit another Orthodox Church without a "special dispensation" from the cult leader-priest. Such priests also "forbid" any parishioner from going to confession to another priest. This has the appearance of the priest attempting to cover up for some misdeed or untoward behaviour on his own part. We have clergy insisting that a parisioner must have a "canonical release" in order to change parishes. Dealing with such perversions of the faith and of the priest/parishioner relationship is one aspect fo the lawful authority of the bishops that is not being exercised. Our hierarchs are simply not paying enough attention to the spiritual welfare and education of the "royal priesthood," the laity of the Church. We ought not to be undermining that lawful authority, but encouraging the hierarchs to begin fulfilling it. They could even just reprint and endorse Patriarch Alexei's pastoral statements about it.
Remember that lawful authority can come from God, but power comes from the devil. That is why Christ, on the mount of temptation thrice rejected power but then exercised His lawful authority over the powers of the earth, from disease to the weather.
In Christ, Vladiko Lazar
I couldn't agree with you more! Why hasn't this issue been brought forward more often and more critically? It is just as the Archbishop describes--a gross perversion.
A large segment of the OCA has fallen prey to the "slave mentality syndrome" and this is one of the principal reasons for our current distress. Of course, your parish priest and diocesan bishop are entitled to deference and respect, so long as they return that respect by treating you as an intelligent human being--or in Orthodox terms an icon of Christ. When they start acting as cult leaders or marionettes, they should be confronted and challenged to return to the path of our Lord--not the ways of Satan.
The laity are not dumb sheep to be controlled by priestly overseers and their even more "exalted" overlords. This model was never anything but a carbon copy of Hell's governance, that often mirrored the secular environment in which the Church operated. As so many on this site have said, it should be dead and buried, along with the mentality which allowed it to hold sway for so long.
Archbishop Lazar is to be commended and praised for speaking the truth with regard to this issue. The bigger question, for me at least, is why this bishop is not part of our Synod?
#31 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-11-02 11:30
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