Monday, January 12. 2009
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I understand the various criticisms that have crept in after the euphoria engendered by Metropolitan Jonah's surprise (and IMO providential) election. If I may inject some change theory and transformational leadership concepts, may be we can put the recent developments into perspective.
According to Stephen Hacker, successful organizations spend about 80% of their energy on standardization, 15% on continuous quality improvement (mainly incremental process improvements), and 5% on transformational changes (or big leaps forward). The most important elements in transformational change are a "burning platform" (or a really compelling reason for BIG change) and a visionary leadership. Other elements are thinking outside the box; meeting people where they are; working as a team (where leadership is situational depending on the situation and not necessarily hierarchical ); and flexibility.
According to change theory, resistance to change is normal (inertia IS a very powerful force) and people react to change according to a bell curve, where pioneers and nay-sayers are in the opposing ends and the great middle is occupied by folks who range from early adopters to "show me" types.
If you look at what has happened so far, we do have the burning platform, the visionary leadership, the beginning of real teamwork at central administration and Metropolitan Council, and some flexibility in the approach to the strategic plan. I suspect the natural inclination of the Metropolitan, who has experience as an Abbot, will be to meet people where they are and thus use various approaches with different people. Both theories counsel patience and perseverance, as well as data-driven decision making.
On the other hand, we see evidence inertia in two opposing camps: those whose valid criticism in the past has continued unabated into the present, and those who persist in behavior that is no longer appropriate (more than likely because of inertia or habit). That is normal because it has been such a short time since the change started.
Under the circumstances, the existence of this site, under the measured and responsible leadership of Mark Stokoe, is absolutely needed. I strongly support the "trust but verify" approach taken by Mark and welcome people like Reader Nilus who bring to our attention developments that merit questions and concern. I do pray and hope that folks generally take a longer and wider view and be patient before they make a final decision on where they think this Holy Church is going.
I would add that, no matter what we perceive the "burning platform" to be, the Lord knows it and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will know it too. The Holy Spirit is the trump card in all the above theories, as shown (for me) in the unlikely selection of the Metropolitan Jonah. Another way that the Holy Spirit can trump organizational and behavioral theories is by changing people from inside out so that they may see what has happened, what is happening, and the way ahead with greater discernment and clarity. Finally, there is one thing that all of us, regardless of where we stand, can do: pray for our leaders no matter what the rank or position.
#1 Carl on 2009-01-12 20:13
....Vicar bishops are ancient indeed and occur throughout the canonical tradition. They are not a Western innovation by any stretch of the historical imagination. Some of Nilus' points are very good, but they are undermined by incorrect historicity.
#2 Not that important on 2009-01-13 09:11
Actually, I want to comment on Nilus's reflection, which I find to be substantive, provocative, and very well argued and written. I agree with most of it, though there are a few points where I differ, or have a slightly different perspective.
I also think vicar bishops are a terrible idea, though a Metropolitan and Primate holds the one office which could perhaps justify their use, because of the burdens and many duties of his office. But if the reason given is because of the unwieldy size of the diocese, then split it or return it to its former boundaries, as Nilus has suggested. New York and Washington should each have their own bishop, selected in the manner the Metropolitan himself has endorsed. Any Suffragan or Coadjutor Bishop (i.e. Vicar) should also be selected and approved in the same fashion.
On the matter of Father Basil Summer, I am not an unbiased party. He was my rector and mentor, and I hold him in the highest regard. If there is to be a vicar bishop, he would be an excellent choice for the Metropolitan and a man who would have the right vision--completely in line with the Metropolitan's expressed views. Despite his age, he has always had the energies of a much younger man and only left his parish ministry because he was called/ordered to serve as head of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards, no doubt because of his charismatic and eloquent speaking abilities.
The one point on which I completely disagree with Nilus (no surprise to anyone who follows are past comments) is on the importance and necessity for a monastic background. I will not revisit those arguments.
All in all, as one would expect from Nilus, a jolly good effort!
#3 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-01-13 09:16
I had to smile at the comment in "First 100 Days" that Syosset is "far from any civli, religious, or geographic center." Come on! It's roughly 30 miles from Manhattan, and it is as close to two major airports--LaGuardia and JFK--as one would be if headquarters were in Mid-town. Visitors should be quite thankful they don't have to negotiate Manhattan traffic or Manhattan parking.
As to the "superfluous" chapel, would Reader Klingel really expect the primate to celebrate liturgy in a parish church 20 minutes from his residence? (To say nothing of how those two parishes would feel being taken over by the liturgical demands of headquarters.) Having a chapel on-site seems eminently practical to me.
Whenever I read things like this, it reminds me of Einstein's maxim that things should be "as simple as possible--but not simpler." Get rid of the panagia; maybe think again about having an octogenarian auxiliary bishop; keep the chapel.
#4 Morton on 2009-01-13 12:05
I do not pretend to be as theologically or canonically versed as most of the readers, let alone the writers, of these comments.
But with all due respect to Reader Klingel, he has obviously never met Fr. Basil. Fr. Basil is extraordinarily strong, charismatic, intelligent, and energetic even in his retirement. We should all be so lucky to be half as blessed at half his age.
Every day of his ministry would be a gift indeed.
#5 Paul Dean on 2009-01-13 13:14
Let Fr. Summer stay retired. Surely better choices than this can be found. If we can't find good, YOUNG, celibate candidates who are well-educated and people are still resistant to married bishops, then let the senior archpriests run a diocese. ...
#6 Anonymous on 2009-01-13 13:20
I really do know the difference between "are" and "our," but apparently my aging brain doesn't!
#7 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-01-13 13:36
Why does the new Metropolitan need a new Panagia set? Surely there are enough left over from Theodosios and Herman who do not need them anymore! Send it back and use the $13k for mission work.
Why all the discussion about Vicar-Bishops? Wasn't Metropolitan Jonah consecrated just such a Vicar-Bishop prior to his election as Chief Hierarch? Do we not have numerous parishes where we have Rectors with Assistant Priests because the work load is too much for one man?
The comment about the Chapel at Syosset is irrelevant as all Heads of Autocephalous churches have their own private chapel at their residence!
Let us prayerfully let our new Metropolitan 'get his feet under the desk' and pass no judgement(who are we to judge anyway) because few of us have to bear the burden of reponsibility that lays on his shoulders!
#8 Archpriest Ian P. Hammett on 2009-01-13 13:48
I agree completely with Reader Nilus on 2 points:
Now is not the time for ridiculous expenditures on
episcopal jewelry - I think that Theodosius and Herman
should be deposed for their crimes, and then there are
2 sets available for use!
Secondly, I have said for ages that Syosset needs to
be sold,and indeed, should have never been accepted in
the first place for anything but re-selling immediately.
The Metropolitan's HQ should be in Washington, DC or
its environs - as is called for by history and precedent.
The Metropolitan belong's in the country's capital city!
Return the jewelry and get Syosset listed for sale!!!
#9 Pauline Costianes on 2009-01-13 14:35
You are absolutely right. Vicar bishops have become a necessary reality for the Church, and there is nothing uncanonical about them seeing as how they too are given sees, even though their names may be only commemorated in one parish as was the case with Met. (then bishop) Jonah. They are still the bishop of a particular city. Also, I don't think that the obamamania that Nilus is talking about has anything to do with people thinking that Met. Jonah simply being in office will change things over night. The OCA is a screwed up place and probably will be for some time, but measures are being taken to fix things and for the first time in a long time we have people in place who actually care. That's the reason why people are so excited. Met. Jonah is a good, moral, upright Christian man. That is more than can be said for either of the last two Mets. or the people they surrounded themselves with. For most people, that is enough for now. That and simple trust in God that things are going to get better.
#10 Anon. on 2009-01-13 15:26
Very well said, Carl.
I have also learned about change theory and agree with your comments. As you said, however, the Holy Spirit can be, and should always be, our trump card!
#11 Patty Schellbach on 2009-01-14 09:55
Thank you all for your constructive replies to my reflection. I am so happy to see the responses have all been civil and thoughtful.
I'd like to make a few short responses...
1. I have never met Fr. Basil, and hear from those who know him that he is a very kind and a wonderful man. That is not the reason why I think he shouldn't be consecrated. My reasons are listed in the reflection, and are irrelevant to his personality or kindness.
2. My comments about Vicar-bishops being Western influences are not mine, but rather, a direct quote from Metropolitan John Zizioulas, in a book published by SVS Press. Metropolitan John is a well respected scholar of Orthodox history, and I am inclined to accept his analysis. The practice of vicar-bishops may be old, but it is by no means cohesively integrated into Orthodox ecclesiology, and raises all sorts of pastoral concerns. There are many things in Orthodoxy that are old, but also spiritually negative. I.e., infrequent communion. Precedent alone does not provide enough legitimacy to continue a Tradition or tradition.
3. I do not think the National Headquarters should be moved to one of the nearby parishes. The National Headquarters should be in Washington DC, the Seat of the Metropolitan See. Not off on the North Shore of Long Island. If Syosset must stay, the chapel should be private, as Archpriest Ian suggests. The problem is that currently, the chapel is not private, and thus invites a para-ecclesial gathering of parishioners, creating a quasi-parish, with all of the liturgical benefits of a parish, but without any of the struggles or difficulties of life in a parish community.
#12 Rdr. Nilus Klingel on 2009-01-14 10:58
To follow up on Father Ian's post,
Let us suppose that Wikipedia is correct in the following:
"Vicar means "a representative, anyone acting "in the person of" or agent for a superior (compare "vicarious" in the sense of "at second hand"). In this sense, the title is comparable to lieutenant, literally the "place-holder".
"In the early Christian churches, bishops likewise had their vicars, such as the archdeacons and archpriests, and also the rural priest, the curate who had the cure or care of all the souls outside the episcopal cities."
"In the Russian Orthodox Church and some other non-Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Churches that historically follow Russian tradition vicar (Russian: vikariy / викарий) is a term for what is known as suffragan bishop in the Anglican Communion or as auxiliary bishop in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church."
We know from our history and ecclesiology that each parish priest is in essence the vicar of his bishop. Indeed, the organizational principle has been expanded geographically to deans of geographical subdivisions. Functionally, we have deacons to assist priests and bishops at every level. The point is that in each case the assistant, lieutenant, representative or the vicar is usually selected and appointed by the principal.
I am aware of past instances where auxiliaries or vicars were appointed to bypass the normal nomination and selection process. However, if the appointed Vicar-Bishop is not forced on the diocese as a replacement of the principal, I see no harm and much benefit.
#13 Anonymous on 2009-01-14 14:04
Here we go again. The old SELL SYOSSET thing again. The property at Oyster Bay is a significant asset. It is a fine piece of property and if the OCA wanted to buy such a place they could not. It also has history.
One of the problems in the OCA is that history has no place. If it isn't some dumkopf convert priest ripping out pews and throwing out books in Slavonic, it's bishops selling properties, or old guard clergy not maintaining local historic assets on the parish level.
ROCOR has a sense of history, so does just about every other group in the US. Look at the Ukrainians and their place in So Boundbrook NJ. They have done a marvelous job in preserving their history. It is true that the OCA has an archives dept, but it needs lots of funding.
The problem is that many out there probably have zero knowledge of the OCA before 1980!
#14 Anonymous on 2009-01-14 17:28
If, Anonymous, the people of the parish do not speak nor understand Slavonic, what is the point of those books? Perhaps Sts. Cyril and Methodius should have adopted your way of thinking and compelled those "dumkopf converts" to learn Greek. And I would have to disagree that, "the problem is that many out there probably have zero knowledge of the OCA before 1980" With respect, anonymous, what does that have to do with the Gospel? I would assert that the problem is that we are all fallen and in desperate need of Christ...much more than in need of Slavonic service books or pews. Let us worry about our failure to love God and our neighbor. And, yes, let us sell the white elephant on Long Island. Let us use the money to serve God and man, not to puff up our vanity. In my own case, had a sense of history been my first priority, I would have stayed a Protestant, which I guess makes me a dumkopf convert. Thanks for that.
#15 Scott Walker on 2009-01-14 18:18
here I go...
I don't have a lot of strong opinions about vicar bishops, or locations of hq's. In fact, I don't care at all.
I have been taught through the Orthodox Church that spending 13 grand on jewelry isn't a Christian principle or at least that's what I've understood, but I'm sure I've sinned on an expensive watch that cost 600 bucks and my wife's wedding ring cost 5x that plus some, and it was conservative for the most part. I understand vestments are expensive, but wasn't former Fr. Kondratick involved in shady liturgical item sales, too? It seems like the new Metropolitan ought to think long and hard about the 13 thousand dollar jewelry. It is quite easy to excuse though as the money spent annointing Christ's feet could have also gone to the poor.
The Gospel has all sorts of tricky opportunities in it.
Perhaps that panagia could be a stick of wood. After all, a stick of wood could represent a humble Metropolitan and would permanently etch Jonah in the stone of humility (what a pun). Otherwise, for those of us that feel compelled to do so, when we get a chance to speak to the new Metropolitan, might I suggest, "How's the new jewelry?".
But don't blame the Metropolitan fully. His children are the ones that are lost. Whether he can steer them through the valley is an entirely different story. He is young, he will err. The panagia, though, is out of step with the Teachings of Christ, I think.
Even a nicely carved wooden panagia would cost at least a grand or so. I'd expect a monk working a month on it to get paid at least that much.
That's all I got...
#16 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-01-14 20:08
Not true about people having no knowledge of the history of the OCA prior to 1980. The history of the OCA is the history of the American church going back to the original Russian mission in Alaska in 1790(?). ROCOR is the new comer to US soil.
Regarding Syosset, the OCA Strategic Plan should give a good direction as to what should and shouldn't be done with OCA assets. A wise decision may be to sell Syosset; move the OCA archives to SVS Library and move the Met. to the Bronxville residence of the NY/NJ Diocese. Furthermore, the plan may indicate that two seminaries are not needed. St. Tikhon's should remain a monastery; clergy retirement center & camp.
#17 Anonymous on 2009-01-14 20:48
What is it that a vicar (or auxiliary) bishop adds to the diocese that a priest cannot? Only two things come to mind. He can ordain, and he can add ceremony. If a diocesan bishop is too busy to ordain the clergy that will assist him, there are major problems at play. If the parishes in the diocese are longing for more of the pomp and ceremony so often surrounding an episcopal visit, there are major problems at play.
If I remember correctly, Met John Zizioulas wrote, "The Church is the bishop, surrounded by his flock, in the Eucharist." As a ship has only one helm, a diocese has only one bishop. He is assisted by priests and deacons, but THE bishop is the diocesan shepherd, not just any bishop. THE bishop's role is not ceremonial. It is the pastoral care of immortal souls.
If the appointment of vicar bishops diminishes THE bishop's direct involvement with each soul in his flock, then it is detrimental to the Church as we hold it. If the appointment of a vicar bishop is to allow more hierarchical ceremony, then the understanding of the Liturgy and Eucharist is diminished.
From afar, one does question whether the OCA actually experiences and understands the centrality of THE bishop in the life of the Church. The regular and routine practice of leaving diocesan sees vacant for years is a symptom. Bishops who were rarely, if ever, present in the parishes of their diocese is another.
Might I humbly suggest that your Metropolitan be granted a diocese of a size wherein he he can effectively function as THE local bishop as well as your primate. If that is simply five or six parishes in the environs of Washington, DC, then so be it. What is gained by making him the ceremonial bishop of a large diocese, and then denying his flock the pastoral presence of a real bishop? It is detrimental not only to the flock, but to the bishop who is not spiritually close to that flock.
#18 Overseas Observer on 2009-01-15 01:41
Having worshiped in St Sergius Chapel for 12 years while an employee and as a priest attached to her altar, I can tell you first-hand that it was and still is primarily a chapel for those who work at the chancery office or who are attached as clergy to that chapel. It has never been promoted as a parish to be "used" by people instead of them being part of a diocesan parish.
Nonetheless, a handful, maybe a dozen people, have been praying at St. Sergius Chapel, some for the past 40 years. I ask you, what would you suggest be done, for example, to one family, of which the husband and wife are in their 80's or the aging mother of another that is nearly 100? Who should tell them the chapel they have prayed in all that time is superfluous to their spiritual needs? The father confessors who they confessed to at the chapel for 4 decades were superfluous.
St. Sergius Chapel is the most important space at the chancey office of the Orthodox Church in America. The relics of the saints that bless the chancery are a constant source of strength and grace for those working there and those handful of people who live in the neighborhood who worship there. Superfluous? A chapel is superfluous? I think not.
#19 Anonymous on 2009-01-15 07:48
Or look at the beautiful Old Ritualist church in Erie. Absolutely stunning!
Instead of selling Syosset, why not make it a retreat center? It seems like it would be perfect for that. I can't see that the church would get anything like the real value if the property were sold at this time, but the parishes in the NY metropolitan area could use a retreat facility. And as a stand-alone entity, such a center could be self-sustaining, so the church would be freed from the cost of maintaining it.
#20 Morton on 2009-01-15 08:17
Dear Pauline, +CHRIST IS BORN!
I agree with you. Met. HERMAN, by himself has enough panagia, crosses and vestments to (quite literally) outfit the entire Orthodox episcopate of America...AND have leftovers for many of the Orthodox bishops of Europe! HERMAN needs one set of panagia (to be buried in)---and that's it. Since he owes so much to his Church, he might be constrained to begin paying back by 'donating' all of his vestments (save ONE SET for burial) and other 'gems' to the Church and that could be followed by generously donating houses, property, bank accounts and other holdings to the Church in reparation and in atonement for his past sins and errors. Just a thought.
In His Holy Name,
Fr. Pius, priestmonk
#21 Anonymous on 2009-01-15 09:06
It's tragically funny that some should be concerned about such things as "our place" or "our sense of history." I don't recall Jesus telling us we had any "place" other than the Kingdom of God, neither do I hear us extol anything in our services of historical significance outside of Christ "Who is wonderful in His saints."
I say it's tragically funny because it once again highlights our misplaced priorities (notice the absence above to any reference to the proclamation of the gospel or even of Christ) and I also say it's tragically funny because if we had any sense of "history" we would know that the Syosset property (like all things of this world) is destined to be a pile of rubble just like Metropolitan Herman found waiting for him when he visited the sites of the great Ecumenical Councils in modern Turkey. As the Thomas Wolfe novel is titled, You Can't Go Home Again or we say in the Midwest, "There is no 'there' there."
While an opulent Chancery et al. might command the respect of the other Orthodox Churches, I would venture a guess it does nothing for the soul seeking after God. Buildings don't save. Self congratulatory auto-hagiographies will never bring a single soul to the font for Baptism; in fact such vanities may well repel them!
By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Church is the place where the divine and human intersect in Christ: in the Divine Liturgy, through the proclamation of the gospel, by faithful teaching, and in the priestly lives of the faithful in sacrificial service to others.
While some may see ROCOR and the other jurisdictions as models to be emulated or ideals to be sought after, they are but vain shadows. What we should seek after--what we MUST seek after--is to conform to the image of Christ alone as sacramental partakers of the divine nature in Him.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if instead of being recognized for the opulence of our Chancery or the aesthetics of our buildings and services, the Orthodox Church in America was known as the place where those in need would be lovingly helped and suffering souls could always find mercy, hope and healing?
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be." --Matt. 6:21.
I'm not as knowledgeable about our history as most of the people on this site, so please forgive me if I'm mistaken. But wasn't it Patriarch St. Tikhon who moved the headquarters from San Francisco to New York?
In the age of the Internet and e-mail, I don't see why it matters whether headquarters is in New York or DC. Headquarters could be in Weed, California, and I doubt it would make a truly significant difference. (And Weed could use an Orthodox church!) I mainly wish we could get back to focusing on issues that define us as Orthodox Christians. I know organization is important, even St. Paul spent a fair amount of his time dealing with it. We've just been stuck on it for such a long time.
#23 Morton on 2009-01-15 10:41
Many of the Orthodox parish churches in the United States before 1940 had no pews. Pews in our parishes, whether Greek, OCA, Patricharical, ROCOR, etc. The pews and "organs" were introduced into "American" Orthodox parishes because our children of immigrant parents wanted their churches to be similar to other churches in American. Also, their immigrant parents needed seating. Pews in America do hinder Orthodox worship especially during lenten seasons and other services where the congregation can gather in a particular location of the church. Pews keep people at a distance from the liturgical worship, baptisms, panihidas, etc. The OCA formerly the Metropolia has traditions, music from the Carpathians, carpathian chant, Great Russian traditions, Alaskan traditions. It is true, many of the converts are not aware of these traditions, but they do have a great thirst for theological knowledge, and wanting to know the traditions of the church. The OCA has a history and an excellent book detailling this history is the "Orthodox America 1794-1976." This is book may be out of print, but it is valuable whether you belong to an OCA parish, Greek parish, or an Antiochian parish, etc. The problem with the archives at Syosset is that they are not readily availble to theological students at SVS or St. Tikhons or any other seminary. Digitazing the archives would be a major project worthy of being funded. Regarding books in slavonic, how many people in the OCA can read and understand slavonic? It is a liturgical language which is useful if the congregation understands this language and if one is traveling to a European Orthodox Church where it is being used. I grew up in a Metropolia parish and church slavonic was used predominately, but thank goodness my children grew up in a mission where English is extensively used, freguent communion is a norm. Many of the children whom I grew up with are no longer Orthodox and their children and grandchildren are no longer Orthodox. Orthodoxy is alive and well and the faith is spreading to those Americans who never heard of Orthodoxy in their childhoods.
#24 cbshinn on 2009-01-15 10:43
from a 'dumkopf convert priest':
Having a sense of history is well and good ( I am a trained historian myself); but the OCA has to look to the FUTURE in concrete ways. How is keeping Slavonic books (and I presume, using them) looking to the future? Why is the removing pews (a part of our history that has to do with our aping of Protestant churches once the Orthodox came to North America--pews are an aspect of an ongoing "Western Captivity" that just won't let go) a negative thing? If anything it restores the historical mode of Orthodox worship, which involves the use of our bodies unencumbered by the 'box' of a pew. Some of your points are well taken, but why the snyde comment about 'convert priests', as if they are the cause of the Church's trouble. I suggest you take a look at the rosters of seminary classes over the last few years and see how many historically Orthodox persons are attending seminaries these days. You will find that the vast majority are "dumkopf converts." Like it or not, these dedicated men (many of whom go through unheard of sacrifice and suffering in their service to God's Church) are the recent past history of the Orthodox Church, and they are also its future.
#25 Fr. Walter Smith on 2009-01-15 10:56
I suppose that if all of us spent as much time praying for the new metropolitan as we do writing about him, we might actually be helping him. But, I suppose beating people over the head with words is a proven way of changing minds and hearts.
What was Einstein's definition of insanity?
#26 Anonymous on 2009-01-15 15:15
Forgive me, but I did not say any of what you are implying. I did not say that the chapel's "parishioners" and their spiritual needs were superfluous. I did not say the clergy attached there were superfluous -- although, I think you would be hard-pressed to justify why there are 14 attached clergy at Syosset.
What I am mystified by, Anonymous priest at Syosset, is how you can not only justify, but even encourge these parishioners' decisions (however longstanding they may be) to forgo life in a parish, to instead come and enter into the sacramental mystery of Christian life at the Metropolitan's "private" chapel.
Perhaps a sacred space is essential to the sanctification of our central administrative offices. I can see that. When the headquarters are moved in/at/near the National Cathedral in Washington DC, the relationship and responsibility to the body of Orthodox Christians in America will be more fully manifest. More fully manifest than a psuedo-private chapel at a posh Long Island estate, at least.
(There was a reason Metropolitan Jonah was enthroned in DC, not in Syosset.)
Your unwillingness to consider the benefits of this possibility makes me wonder if "Syossetism" is more entrenched than previously thought.
#27 Anonymous on 2009-01-15 16:41
Agreed! The desire for an auxilliary bishop stems from an unhealthy desire for more pomp and ceremony. "We want more beautiful hierarchical liturgies."
The beauty of the hierarchical liturgy is that the church is finally manifest in its fullness. All of the ranks of the clergy are finally present - the laity, the readers and subdeacons, the deacons, the priests, arrayed around their bishop.
What sense is there in a hierarchical liturgy (beyond superficial ritual) when the bishop is not present, but rather, a sub-bishop sent in his place?
Vicar bishops are poor solutions to grave problems in a diocese. If the need for one arises, the diocese better pause and consider what (and why) grave problems exist.
(editor's note: I think you meant to say that "The beauty of the hierarchical liturgy is that the church is finally manifest in its LITURGICAL fullness.")
#28 Rdr. Nilus Klingel on 2009-01-15 16:49
Dear Overseas Observer,
I like your idea of having the +Jonah live and work in a small diocese as DC so that he can become known and loved as its bishop, as you say, so they can get to know "the pastoral presence of a real bishop."
I have never really known to well any of our bishops! Our priests do so much to be the representative of Christ that any visit by the bishop remains as a ceremonial and remote gesture of presence, but I never really understand who the man is.
In my Orthodox life I am instructed by the scriptures, by the wonderful Orthodox liturgics and the ancient old meditations that form its bases, by pious examples of living as well as past Orthodox saints, and by the good word and example of my local parish priest, along with the sacraments. (Who's the bishop?)
It would be a very nice act of pastoral humility and presence to become known to a few parishes in a diocese as the Overseas Observer has pointed out.
#29 Patty Schellbach on 2009-01-15 19:52
An excellent post. I think the only possible issue you might have overlooked is that so many Orthodox enjoy the status quo. That is, keeping things as they are... In fact, the root definition of the word Orthodox is unchanging.
Change, then, in of itself, seems radical. And this is a challenge that goes well beyond what most Orthodox are willing to embrace. Especially the leaders [sic].
I have stood on both sides of the argument as to where the base of operations ought to be, but one lesson we all must take to heart is that the shininess of the OCA is the essence of the scandal.
Someone ought to do a reflection on humility. I don't deserve to be that author, but from the distance I have been standing, it is easy to see that our leaders sorely lacked it.
#30 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-01-15 20:20
Throwing out liturgical books (no matter what the language) is a mistake. The people of the parish may not understand Slavonic (or Greek or Romanian or whatever), but the current priest or his successors might, and conceivably could find those texts useful for checking the accuracy of translations or, indeed, for making translations of propers not yet in English. In my own case, I found in one English translation of the Octoechos a reference (not flattering) to "Moslems;" but the original text reads "Hagarenes." And those who prepare our "official" translations might want to consult those Slavonic texts to discover that "Prosti!" does NOT mean "Let us attend!" They might also discover that the Prayer of the Ambo should be translated (if one wants to be faithful to the text), NOT as "every good and perfect gift," but as "every good giving and ever perfect gift," thus distinguishing between the way God gives and what God gives.
Sorry; but throwing out books is not too far away from burning them.
#31 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2009-01-16 06:15
Christ is born!
This question is directed to anyone who might know: What ever happened to the diamond set that +MT wore and said had come from Czarist times brought over by one of the emigre bishops (I don't remember offhand which one) and had been handed down from First Hierarch to First Hierarch. Does +MT still have it? Does +MH? Where is it?
#32 Alexander Ivsky on 2009-01-16 07:10
In the time to come the Church will for the sake of necessity move from its present and not very functional Byzantine understanding of diocese,Bishop and local church. Blessed Polycarp on his way to martyrdom was describing a structure of the Church very different than what we are trying to keep functional today. The Bishop was very simply the senior Pastor or Shepherd of a particular local.
What the Church will return to in the future will be what it had in the beginning. There will not be a decrease of number of Bishops or a making of large and larger dioceses. There will be simply a recognition that the senior priest of that city standing at the Altar, who presides and administers the Holy Things, is the Bishop. One is not really exercising the fullness of pastoral oversight when he cannot make it to a particular local no more than once every other year or two. For the church to be evangelistic, to make it through a persecution, to grow despite all cultural currents against it, there will a a return to the first three centuries of Ecclesiastical structure and the understanding of the role and function of Bishop as the local head of the Church.
When this happens, we will stop asking the meaningless question "is the man celibate/married or not"? We will ask the meaningful and Gospel question "is this man is qualified or not?" This is the way Holy Scripture speaks and represents the purest stream of the Holy Tradition.
I am not desiring to sound provocative but to make the observation that the Byzantine innovation of large dioceses, with the pastor removed and isolated from the flock, not accountable to the people or the people to him, is a far cry from the intimacy that Jesus had with His apostles and those who followed along with them. It is far removed from the intimacy that Polycarp was speaking of with the people gathered around and close in to their Bishop every day!!
I would further contend that many of the contemporary difficulties that Orthodoxy is experiencing world wide is directly connected to this particular Byzantine novelty. This novelty is not a sin it is just not very practical or functional and therefore not the greatest benefit for the salvation of all.
#33 fr Andrew on 2009-01-16 08:05
from one convert priest to another I say well said Fr. Walter! I hope you are doing well! From your former co-struggler and classmate of 81.
#34 Fr. Walter's Classmate on 2009-01-16 09:49
So, is a $13,000+ panagia a piece of jewelry??? - I shake my head in disbelief!!!
If His Beatitude Met. Jonah is the spiritual leader of all the OCA parishes, why couldn't the cost of that panagia have been spread out over all the OCA parishes? Then it would be a relatively small amount from each parish. Lets for the sake of discussion state that there are 700 parishes and the panagia costs $13,500, the sum would be around $19.30 from each parish.
just my $0.03 cents worth...
#35 Vladimir Bogolyubov on 2009-01-16 14:46
Several eparchies have been vacant for months. Most are so large and with so many parishes that people see their bishops once in a blue moon. Why do we not have smaller eparchies and more bishops? Are the reasons merely financial or is there, perhaps, a preference for this among priests or the bishops themselves? Finally, how are the laity to understand the nature and the proper role of the episcopacy if they see their bishops only in framed photographs hanging in their parishes? I would really appreciate if someone with an insight and information could address this.
#36 Karina Ross on 2009-01-16 15:59
Dear Father Andrew,
I believe your observations to be very insightful as the Overseas Observer! I hope we do get to know our bishops as we do get to know our parish priests.
#37 Patty Schellbach on 2009-01-16 16:52
There are probably a collection of causes, dating back to Orthodoxy's first days in North America, when there not enough faithful nor parishes to "support" more than one bishop for a vast geographical area. With THE bishop so physically removed from his flock, one might expect administrative responsibilities to consume more time than direct pastoral relationships.
If dioceses are seen as "administrative" units, then there is no need for the Orthodox concept of THE bishop as pastor. Anyone can administer an organizational unit. Thus, you find temporary administrators and vacant sees.
If THE bishop is seen as, and functions as THE shepherd, the leader of the Eucharistic community, then there cannot be a vacant see for any significant period of time, as that results in an incomplete Eucharistic community.
Our local bishop pastors some 40 or so parishes. More often then not, his visits to a parish are informal. The first indication is that one notices another cleric in the sanctuary in simple monastic dress. Hierarchical Liturgies are served when he has a hierarchical duty to perform or when celebrating a feast day. Otherwise, his actions during the Liturgy are much like a visiting priest. He will always give a spiritually beneficial sermon. Following the Liturgy, he circulates amongst us, rather than sitting "enthroned" and "receiving" us. At the recommendation of the priest, he offers private spiritual help for those in need. His actions continue the actions of his predecessor. In short, they are the norm, and fitting for a pastor. At least in our diocese.
Contrast that with one experience I had while living in the US. Our OCA parish experienced a seven year gap between visits by our diocesan bishop. And, these visits were simply ceremonial. Swoop in, be met at the door to the church with the proper protocol (he was really big on this), serve a hierarchical liturgy, sit at the head table at the luncheon following the Liturgy, make a speech and disappear. Hardly a feeling of having a pastor around whom you gather in the Eucharist.
As I think back upon my Orthodox education and experience, I realize that THE bishop should be a member of the parish, not a visiting dignitary. If he is THE pastor, he is part of the parish community. While he has been ordained and consecrated to carry certain duties and responsibilities that are uniquely his within the community of believers, he is still a member of that community.
#38 Overseas Observer on 2009-01-17 00:43
Letter to Metr. Jonah
Dear Master bless!
With deep respect to your pastoral needs, and in response to the dioceses who are crying for help to fulfill the Panagia Effort, I am sending you mine--for I cannot bless my househod with two hands, anyway.
I bought this in respect to the image of the Theotokos, on ebay from a poor family, which needed to make a couple of bucks.
It has no jewel, no gold, but contains a truthful and loving image of the Theotokos. A true image will perfectly fit a truthful Hierarch of the Church and its faithful--if you are that One.
When I was ordained, having no money for the Cross, one priest out of the several who served that day, the poorest one, offered me his old and simple cross for my own ordaination. I was grateful, because I had been called "stupid" for having come to my ordiantion being unable to afford to buy the Cross.
In the middle of the Liturgy, right before the Ordinations were to start, a Jewish man knocked on the Altar door, with a Jerusalem handmade Cross given him in Jerusalem by his father, who somehow knew a priest would need it. He traveled with this Cross, and I was ordained with it.
I wish you to accept my Panagaia, and God will give you another one in His time.
With love in Christ,
Fr. Alexei Kalyuzhny
#39 Father Alexei on 2009-01-28 11:53
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