Thursday, September 24. 2009
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Someone asked if it is licit for Orthodox Christians to question their hierarchs. I would like to share what happened in the Diocese of Yekaterinburg in 1999 (based on my research in Russian-language sources).
There was a dispute in the diocese, exacerbated by allegations of moral turpitude. The diocesan, one Bishop Nikon, attacked his critics and subjected some to harassment. When the Holy Synod intervened, Nikon was deposed, and sent to the Pskov Monastery of the Caves to do repentance (where he still is, according to my sources).
How did Archbishop Vikenty Morar, Nikon's successor, treat the "whistle-blowers?" As far as I can tell, no one suffered as a result of speaking against the abusive actions of a hierarch. Therefore, there is actual and recent evidence from the lived practise of the Church that indicates that questioning a hierarch is not forbidden.
I cannot advise the people in the present situation... the information available is so sparse. However, if there is a superior body or individual to Philip Saliba, then, shouldn't an appeal be made to them? Or, am I missing something? (I could be, I am not perfect)
Nevertheless, bottom line: questioning the bishop is not wrong... sometimes its the only thing one can do.
I would like to thank Mr. Baroudi for this excellent and encouraging article. I was scandalized by the tone taken by the anonymous author of "The Real Problem." Just because we are scandalized by Met Philip and his cronies, and wish that the Patriarch would speak out against him, does not mean that we should attack the Patriarch and the Holy Synod with rumors and accusations based on questionable facts. Also, we would do well to remember that, just because something has happened in one or a few Archdioceses of the Patriarchate, does not mean that it is the norm for the Patriarchate.
Mark, I wish you had never printed "The Real Problem," but I'm very glad that you've printed this response.
(editor's note: I suspect your feelings are not singular, but widely shared by many readers of many articles over the last four years. One of the goals of this website has been to allow a forum for the exchange of perspectives and opinions, even when they differ.)
#2 Ferris Haddad on 2009-09-24 13:48
I would like to thank Mr. Baroudi for his article. I am one of the priest's that went to Syria this past summer and was interviewed by Fr. Joseph. Mr. Baroudi's representation of the Orthodox Church in the middle east very much reflected our experience there this past summer.
The church in Bosra Horan and Hums is going through a revival of sorts; thanks to their Metropolitains, priests, deacons and lay people. They are actively repairing old churches and building new ones. Their monastic communities are strong and growing. People make great pilgramages to holy sites and shrines. (It is important to remember that because they are in a Muslim country their weekend is Friday and Saturday... to go to church on Sunday is a great sacrifice. They have to take off half a day of work and school to attend services.) They have very active Sunday School programs and are interpeting many things for the faithful to read about the faith from: Greek, Russian & English. (In fact, they want to translate some of their own material and send it to us in America; to help us.)
The subject of inter commuion did come up because they had heard that some priests here in America were given communion to non Orthodox. When I said that I had heard of this but not seen this it; the Metropolitain I was speaking with went through the roof! He said such priests should be defrocked! He then told a story of how a group of Roman Catholics were visiting one of his churches. Before communion the priest thanked their guests for attending; then the priest gently reminded them that communion was only for Orthodox who had prepared. The Metropolitain then said half the church got up and left. He was sorry that the visitors left but glad that his priest had acted correctly.
Because of they are a minority in Syria (11%), they have a very special since of guarding the faith. As we visited one of the many ancient Byzantine ruins of the the Orthodox Church our guide the priest monk teard up. He then said, "that at one time this use to be all Christian as far as the eye could see...and now we are only a rement." He asked us all to please pray for them.
Our Patriarch was also interested how we as converts started new communities and built churches. When we explained that the local congregation raised their our own money for priest, land and building he was surprised; because usually in the Middle East the Archdiocese raises and gives money in part or total to the congregation that is building or repairing their church. He then smilied and said the church has more than just land, Halls and a Church temples. He said the real church also has monastries, hospitals, clinics, orphanages and schools.
I came away from this trip very impressed and with our brothers and sisters in Syria. They live in conditions we can not relate too and they are doing a great job. They have alot to teach us and share with us. And we have things to offer them. Their biggest concern is Protestant Missionaries that come to Syria to convert Orthodox to "Real Christianity!"
The Syrian Orthodox real desire is to be closer to us like a real family. My hope and prayer is that this will happen. Please keep these struggling Orthodox Christians in your prayers.
Fr. Matthew MacKay
St. Joseph Orthodox Church
P.S. They also follow the internet.
#3 Fr. Matthew MacKay on 2009-09-24 18:27
its finally good to see some positive and constructive criticism rather than read garbage. this is all getting a little too old. i personally am tired of the .... attacks i keep seeing and hearing not only on websites but what i see from people within my own archdiocese.
#4 michael ibrahim on 2009-09-24 18:39
I would very much like to thank you for sharing this with us - especially those such as I who have no direct experience of Church life in the Middle East The gracious tone of your reply warmed my heart.
Although I am among those who are extremely disappointed with the failure of our leadership in the Antiochian Archdiocese in America, it pains me greatly when the argument deteriorates into ethnic, jurisdictional, or cultural conflict.
Thank you again for sharing your experience in such a loving way.
#5 Brian Van Sickle on 2009-09-24 19:36
Well said Sir.
#6 Kevin Klein on 2009-09-24 19:55
Thanks for taking the time to write this. This was an encouraging read.
#7 David Feliciano on 2009-09-24 22:27
Sorry readers, error in name of Churches in Keserwan: St Nicholas and Holy Ascension (not Annunciation).
#8 Ziad on 2009-09-25 03:13
Thank you for publishing this response to "The Real Problem."
The anonymity of that original contribution was troublesome, because it claimed certain points of factual information.
It is one thing to cloak one's identity when expressing only personal views. "The Real Problem," however, was not merely the expression of personal views. It alleged, as facts, certain things that appear not to have been true. That is to say, it seems to have contained false testimony.
If someone is making an accusation based on allegations of fact, he really should use his name, don't you think?
One is hardly surprised that "The Real Problem" provoked so many negative and vehement responses.
#9 Father Patrick Reardon on 2009-09-25 07:08
Thank you Mr. Baroudi and Thank you Mark for posting this article which had a good and more accurate perceptives on the Orthodox world abroad. I look forward to reading more articles like these on your website..
#10 ephrem on 2009-09-25 10:45
Yes, Barbara, I agree that sometimes that is all we can do, but it is also what we must do. If we are walking down a road with God and with a clergyman, priest or bishop, and suddenly that clergyman drifts off to the wrong road, do we follow him and abandon God? Certainly not. We continue on the road with God, as He is our only salvation, our only allegiance and the only ONE we must obey. Hopefully that clergyman will get back on track,but he has that free will. I refuse to follow anyone leading me down the wrong road, and I am safe and secure that God loves me and all of us and will never lead us astray. It's time to wake up people and smell the coffee, as this is the reality of this whole mess.
I don't think you're missing something. I think you are right on the money.
#12 Gail Sheppard on 2009-09-26 00:37
Since 2004 bishop Nikon is serving as honorific rector in the Dormition church of Veshniaki, a suburb of Moscow.
He was decorated in 2008 by patriarch Alexei, on the 15th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.
When a Synodal comission intervened in Ekaterinburg in 1999 bishop Nikon's accusators were indeed sanctioned, and bishop Nikon got a simple blame for negligence. Only a large scale scandal (in addition to moral turpitude, bishop Nikon had publicly burnt book's by fr. Schmemann and Meyendorff) and strong pressure from the mass-media led to his voluntary resignation (not deposition).
#13 D.Struve on 2009-09-26 08:07
I doubt that our current problems lie with the folks over on the other side of the world. The sins of St. Ephraim's Prayer know no cultural barriers and while its easy to scapegoat a generic "they" somewhere far from us it's much more difficult to look ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility for the fix we're in.
Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
Thank you Mr. Baroudi.
The tone of your response is proof enough that the Patriarchate's ministry can produce rational and God-fearing people.
And of course I imagine that you have already forgiven the original author for his mis-information and probably have already lit a candle or prayed for him.
Please remember us in your God-pleasing Prayers.
#15 Delegate #1 on 2009-09-28 13:58
Please see the wonderful article written on the ochlophobist
28 September 2009
not enough byzantine chant and way too much stookey.....
The AOANA take on the recent meeting with SVS leadership....
Again we hear that the AOANA move of incoming seminarians from SVS and STS had to do with the lack of Byzantine chant, and they stress that the Matthewes-Greens stand firmly against negative comments on the internet, and then, well, why of course, according to the AOANA's own description of the meeting, it seems that ocanews.org and the evil Mark Stookey took up the bulk of the rest of the meeting.
In the initial statement made on the AOANA site about the transfer, it was stated that "there has been much speculation and incorrect information on the Internet." The statement then stresses that concerns about SVS and STS not being as "rooted in this Syro-Byzantine expression" of Orthodoxy as Holy Cross is, etc., were the reason for the last minute move. So far as I know, all internet "speculation" regarding the move of these students centered around the description of the meeting of SVS officials with Mark Stokoe in which they related to him +Philip's threat to pull students if Mark was not disciplined. With the unusually timed transfer of the students, if one assumed that Mark was telling the truth about +Philip's apparent efforts to silence him, it would seem that the only plausible motivation to move the Seminarians right before they were to begin seminary elsewhere was the ecclesio-politics involved, and not the secondary concern of liturgical matters.
This speculation was called incorrect, by +Philip and some of his followers. Now we read a surreal statement which makes brief mention of the liturgical concern, and admits that +Philip has been putting pressure on SVS and the OCA to shut down Mark Stokoe and ocanews.org.
Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this:
His Eminence expects the OCA to put a stop to the attacks against him from Mark Stokoe on his website, especially in light of the fact that Mark Stokoe is a member of the Metropolitan Council of the OCA. He has made this request already and nothing has been done about it. He made it clear that if a member of the Antiochian Board of Trustees behaved in this way toward Metropolitan Jonah, His Eminence would remove that member immediately. He made it clear that the financial situation in the Antiochian Archdiocese is not similar to the financial situation that existed in the OCA. His Eminence said that this Archdiocese reports its income and expenditures in a financial report each year. The suggestion to conduct an audit was made at the convention, and this suggestion will be raised with the Board of Trustees. Someone needs to stop Mark Stokoe for the sake of the people of the Antiochian Archdiocese and other Orthodox jurisdictions who are greatly upset.
WE HAVE AN HONORARY MEMBER OF THE ANTIOCHIAN BOARD OF TRUSTEES WHO HAS THREATENED TO KILL ANTIOCHIAN BISHOPS AND PRIESTS!!! But if he offended +Jonah, yeah, +Philip would discipline him. Immediately. Gotcha.
His Eminence indicated that the most important thing would be to train the students to be real pastors, and not to gossip and criticize the Metropolitan and the bishops.
Correspondent to the most important thing seminarians need to learn is to not criticize the Metropolitan and the bishops. Unless, of course, you are criticizing a bishop (and perhaps threatening to kill him) that has gotten under the skin of the Met.
Maybe when they finally get the AOANA seminary open they can have a class on pastoral issues which covers such things as excommunicating your parish treasurer when he asks you why you co-signed checks with a reposed woman.
His Eminence made it very clear that he expects the OCA leadership and the seminary leadership to condemn the actions of Mark Stokoe...
The actions of Mark Stokoe were instrumental in bringing about the current "leadership" of the OCA, in the sense that those actions brought about the end of the prior Metropolitan's reign. And not that anyone reasonably expects it to happen, but hell hath no fury like what would happen in the OCA should SVS condemn the actions of Mark Stokoe. Perhaps not every OCA skeleton has been brought out of its closet. Even now, the OCA struggles with various and sundry legal and moral ramifications of former scandals, and there still exists what falls somewhere between a continued crisis of rule or continued seemingly intractable problems, depending on whom one speaks with. AOANA observers might well note that the removal of a corrupt hierarch does not result in the immediate institutional sanity of a local church which has been systemically corrupt (at the national level and some local levels). In any event, the OCA, while in a tight squeeze from +Philip, is in no position to play ecclesial power politics with Mr. Stokoe, as he is the one man more than any other who saw to it that American Orthodox were publicly presented with the answer to +Job's blessedly persistent question.
This meeting summary given by the AOANA is a case study in that peculiar form of rhetorical irrationality late modern tyrants seem to never tire of. It essentially verifies the point that we "speculators" made on the issue at hand weeks ago, without admission as much, of course. Note that what makes people like Mark Stokoe wrong is that he says things about the Met which the Met does not like. Correctness is not connected to truth - an idea concerning the AOANA is deemed correct insofar as it pays homage to the hubris of the Glorious Leader. Nice. Mark wrote the truth about the pressure the OCA has received to shut him up. He wrote the truth about the connection of this pressure to SVS and seminarians. But that truth is not correct because it leaves in a bad light him who must not be questioned.
My favorite line:
His Eminence said that there may be some contribution from the fact that some of the students are coming from backgrounds which do not have a hierarchical structure, and they may not understand the concept.
Now let me get this straight, converts (whom +Philip seems to increasingly feel the need to speak condescendingly toward, at least whenever they are generically mentioned with regard to the current scandals), because of their backgrounds in Protestantism (or wherever) may not understand the concept of hierarchical structure. Perhaps this is true. So far as I can tell, one must always honor a bishop, unless you send plenty of money to the Met, and you want to attack a bishop who has in any way acted in a manner not pleasing to the Met or his sycophants, then it might be acceptable? Or is it that cradles can threaten to kill convert bishops, but converts cannot ask cradle bishops where the money is going? I am confused. I sure its my Baptist upbringing and everything would be clear as day if I had grown up in a certain parish in Troy, MI.
posted by The Ochlophobist at 4:03 PM
I find it interesting MP wants the OCA to hold ark Stokoe accountable.
To whom does MP answer?
To whom does Joseph Antypas answer or Walid Khalife?
Seminarians are not to criticize, but Board of Trustees members with fat wallets my threaten the life of one of their own bishops.
It is truly time for MP to step down. His gourd is empty!
#16 anonymous on 2009-09-28 19:23
The Real Problem
How can one lead others to Orthodoxy when they are not truly Orthodox themselves?
We do not need to point oversees.
The problem is in Englewood and those who are enable through this corrupt and abusive system.
Yes, the Holy Synod should protect its spiritual children from this abuse as there are those leaving Christ's Holy Church.
Yes, the Holy Synod has a responsibility to DISCIPLINE an erring brother.
Our LOcal Synod also has an obligation to say NO! to abuse.
to say NO to a usurper who continually undermines their legitimate episcopate and their Ecclesial Perogatives.
Our faithful have a responsibility to support their Bishops and priests to stand against this wickedness in high places.
How? Write to His Beatitude and members of the Holy Synod. Their addresses are on the website for Association of Orthodox Christian Attorneys.
How? The faithful may designate their funds on a local level. Designated funds must go to what it is designated for.
Constrict the cash flow to Englewood.
Send in the crosses from the Order of St Ignatius.
Give them to your local Bishop as a token of your support of his ministry.
Love your church and your faith enough to act.
#17 anonymous on 2009-09-29 06:52
Speaking of misuse of funds, the Archdiocese Website is advertising that Sunday, October 18, 2009, is Special Olympics Awareness Day. All Parishes are asked to take up a special collection to cover the costs of this wonderful week at the Village next summer, and it is certainly an admirable venture, one that helps children with disabilities have a free, fun and relaxing week at the village, being with other children who share the same trauma in life. The money goes to the Dept. of Youth Ministry, and then is allocated for the camp week. How do we know that our parishes are even sending in every penny, instead of keeping some for themselves? Without an audit, we don't know, and I question if my own parish is keeping some. Once the money gets to the Youth Dept., how do we know it all goes to the Archdiocese, since their Dept. Head is one of MP's former "SEMINARY DOGS" and thus forever obligated to him. Then how do we know, without an audit, that the Archdiocese is sending all that money to the village program for the Special Olympics Week? We don't, and we can't leave this to chance.
I suggest we send checks directly to Fr. Anthony Yazge at the Village and let him know that we are placing our trust in him to make sure this money goes for the week and nothing else. People donate money in good faith and in free will, assuming all of it will go to that worthy cause. Unfortunately, since there is so much opposition to the audit, which will reveal all the hiddenness, we must no longer rely on good faith and free will - those both went out the window a long time ago. Please spread the word.
Dear Father Matthew,
This quote really touched my heart:
"He said the real church also has monastries, hospitals, clinics, orphanages and schools. " (Patriarch)
It is very important for the Church to be the Church in these various ways of serving others, not just frequent assembly at closed-door services where most of the "outside world" has no idea what is going on inside, nor appear to be invited to encounter the Church in a significant.
Hopefully my observation is not universal, and the more common reality is indeed like what the Patriarch articulated.
#19 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2009-09-29 11:24
Thank you Mr. Baroudi. The more we gain a picture of those dioceses of the Patriarchate within its ancient bounds, the more I am glad to have found the Holy Orthodox Faith through our Archdiocese, present troubles notwithstanding.
The Fathers exhort us only to teach what we ourselves have experienced or put into practice. I will presume that the anonymous Antiochian clergyman who authored "The Real Problem" heeded that exhortation in composing his reflection. Which leads to the question: under what circumstances did the anonymous author visit "the Old Country", so that his experience was so different from that of Mr. Baroudi and from the impressions of conditions there which can be gleaned from reading Notes on Arab Orthodoxy (http://araborthodoxy.blogspot.com/)?
I very much hope that the only intentional actors in leading him to only visit parishes with such reduced liturgical practice as to create the impressions he reported, were the demons.
#20 Subdeacon David [Yetter] on 2009-09-29 18:06
I am very glad to read this letter. My thanks to Mr. Baroudi for writing in, and to Mr. Stokoe for publishing it. I had related my own (limited) first hand experiences in my reply to The Real Problem, and it is nice to see that I can still occasionally trust my own judgement.
#21 Anonymous Coward on 2009-10-05 13:15
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