Tuesday, October 6. 2009
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I appreciate Mr Rhodes' comments on the married episcopate, and I too agree that married bishops would be a good thing, but I do not agree with his reasoning.
Firstly, limiting the episcopate to monastics is not a matter of dogma but rather of praxis: the Church has chosen to impose this on herself of her own choice. While some have come to interpret the bishop as 'married' to his diocese, this is an interpretation of the current discipline, not the teaching of the Church. The point to be made on this canon is not if it is valid or not, but rather why has it been imposed: once we understand the 'why', we can then approach the 'if' of reform. I am not in a position to answer the 'why', but it needs to be answered if we are to look again at the married episcopate.
Secondly, while the Apostle does indeed say of a bishop that he should be the husband of one wife, this has never in the Church been interpreted as excluding the celibate episcopate.
Finally, the author talks of those who “desire the office of the bishop”. While there may well be some or many bishops ordained who have desired the office, this is not the traditional position of the Church. A man is chosen by the Church to be a bishop, not himself choosing whether he will be a bishop or not. In my view, someone who desires the episcopate would not be a good candidate for it.
I remember hearing of a monastery where if a monk was seen swinging a censer, he would not be ordained – it was not seen as appropriate for a hieromonk or hierodeacon to 'want' the office. Ordination is not a decision of the man but of the Church. It is not for the man to push himself forward but to be called by the Church[#].
As I said at the beginning, I am in favour of the married episcopate, but we must first discuss why was the decision to have exclusively celibate bishops, then if these reasons still apply and only then if they should be reformed or even removed.
I ask forgiveness if I offend any.
[#] Obviously we need men to 'put' themselves forward, offer their service to the Church, but not those who 'push' themselves: the difference, though, between these two cases can be difficult to see.
#1 Alex Haig on 2009-10-06 23:01
I disagree wholeheartedly regarding the proposal to institute a married episcopate. It is clear that by the second century married bishops were a thing of the past. It is too convenient to confuse the Roman Church prohibition against married priests due to the problems of the fudal era with the realities of the whole Church from early on.
I would rather suggest that celebate priests first serve some years in the parish, then choosing the monastic veil show spiritual maturity in that vocation before being raised to the episcopate. On the other hand, widowed priests should not be excluded from consideration after sufficient time proves their adherence to chastity in their post-married life.
The only 'serious' call for a married episcopate I have ever heard came in the flattering of certain married archpriests who tended to act as though they were bishopricks unto themselves anyway.
Men who marry before ordination are making a conscious decision to serve only in the parochial capacity. Those who choose to seek ordination without marriage are only allowing the possibility that some future situation might call them to higher office.
The argument that one must experience marriage to have compassion and understanding of the married state is like argung that a doctor must have experienced an amputation before he is qualitified to perform an amputation or treat an amputee.
#2 Anonymous on 2009-10-07 04:17
I would just add a word of balance to this argument for married bishops. The episcopate, when formed of priests truly and deeply grounded in genuine Orthodox monasticism, would do much to alleviate the problems mentioned. Certainly my experience within the Russian Church has demonstrated a real and abiding spiritual quality among her bishops, all formed within the monastic life.
As to the required administrative ability, neither marriage nor celibacy nor monasticism is any guarantor of that.
I have often remarked, only half humorously, that one of the best means of anchoring a floundering bishop in truth and common sense would be a strong Orthodox wife! But then one remembers the wife of Bishop Proudie in Trollope's Barchester Towers -- the autocratic "She-Bishop" as she was called. No one wants that!
Certainly these are matters that the Orthodox Church at large should not simply rule out of court, but prayerfully ponder them and see where prayer and pondering may take us.
A married episcopate is not, given the way Orthodoxy works, imminent. But there is nothing in the meantime to prevent us from choosing not merely unmarried men, but men positively and properly formed and grounded in the monastic life. It seems to work where it is done.
Those North American jurisdictions with a weak or non-existent monastic life could do worse than consider building up such a tradition.
It's not a panacea -- given the fallenness of our nature, nothing will be.
#3 Fr. James M. Deschene on 2009-10-07 05:14
Dr. Rhodes complains---justly, in my opinion---of excessive worldliness in the Orthodox Church.
Somewhat later he suggests that the Orthodox Church may want to consider restoring the married episcopate.
This is an unexpected inference, given St. Paul's argument (1 Corinthians 7) that marriage encourages worldliness.
#4 Father Patrick Reardon on 2009-10-07 06:46
I am against the idea of a married episcopate for the following reasons:
-The practice of using Bible texts to undermine the Tradition of the Church is a Protestant game, and Orthodox Christians shouldn't play it. If we are going to base our form of Church government on what we can intuit from reading the New Testament in isolation from the life of the Church as known in history, let's just become Presbyterians and be done with it. (The Calvinist churches all have as their raison d'etre to be "Reformed according to the Word of Truth.")
-The author tries to show that the Church is violating a divine command by not having married bishops, but this is unconvincing. True, the texts quoted in the article seem to presuppose a married man being made a bishop, but it seems a stretch to say they command it. They mention the good management of a household, but say nothing about its composition.
-In a culture as obsessed with sex as ours, it's important to keep celibacy front and center.
-Making this change would only bring more division and uncertainty, not things American Orthodoxy needs right now. That's to say nothing of how it would affect relations with Churches overseas.
-Why in particular should a married man be any less liable to the sins of avarice or ungodly ambition than a monastic? Temptation to these sins are the common lot of humanity. You could even make a case that married men might be more liable to these passions, since they have a family to provide for.
-Yes, the earliest Church would ordain married men to the episcopate, but some practices die out for a reason.
#5 Mark Chaffee on 2009-10-07 16:35
A very well thought out and written article! With some good suggestions. And I agree very much with the conclusion that there IS a systemic problem within the Church, that is deep seeded, and the cause of most of the corruption within Orthodoxy. I agree that this systemic problem is something (or a number of things) that have become part of "Holy Tradition" and yet is not part of Apostolic preaching; in fact I agree with most of this observations and conclusions put forth, with the exception of one thing, that being the main "reform" that is necessary is a married Bishopric.
Indeed, I think we should go back to that as an option for Bishops, for certain. I just disagree that this one issue (or if not the one, then even a BIG issue among many) that is the cause of the Church's systemic corruption. The systemic poison within the Church IMO goes far deeper and is not as easily solved as that. Indeed the Church is turned "traditions" of men into "Holy Tradition", but to me the issues at hand are one of power, authority and "obedience" far more than they are of whether or not Bishops have families. A person can be just as much a dictator in a family setting as they can be as a single man.
The underlying problem as I see it is that the good monastic ideals of obedience, authority, submission, etc have been twisted over the centuries into something they were never meant to be. They've become burdens and ways of controlling people. How many times have we heard various clergy and Bishops this past couple of years toss out the "obey your Bishop" line of reasoning? As if we're all supposed to say, yes indeed, to obey a man is to obey Christ, that canons say it, that settles it! Far too many. The idea of obedience to one's close and trusted confessor (who in a monastic or even a parish settting with a spiritual father is one of absolute TRUST, in the same sense one might trust their spouse)...this idea, which is a good one, has been turned into a belief of obedience in ALL things no matter what. A Bishop tells you to jump off a bridge you do it because that's obedience. They've taken out the close, personal and emotional ties the fathers of the desert and monastics assumed was there when they wrote about people obeying their confessor, or in the case of their Bishop, the assumption that the Bishop was a good shepherd, and ripped the word "obedience" out of it's context, and now attempt to apply it as a blanket statement for the entirety of the Christian life under all circumstances and conditions. I suppose one could argue a married Bishopric would "fix" this by not have as many monks in the heirarchy, but the problem I see is that most of our bishops AREN'T monks and so this "trust" issue is missing from the Church's theology of obedience. (ie: they aren't monks in the real sense that they've actually lived many years in a monastery under an abbot before their ordination, though they may "technically" have been tonsured a monk at some point, most have only lived "in the world").
To me, this whole extreme version of "obedience theology" is what is one of the major systemic issues within the Church. And it is an issue because people want power. And once people get power, they keep it by making everyone "obey" their rulings in one way or another. I just don't see a married episcopacy correcting this power problem. I'm not saying it wouldn't fix many other problems, because it probably would. And I'm all for having the option of a married episcopacy. I just don't connect it per se with the corruption and scandal within the Church. it's a power issue, which "obedience theology" which has become part of Holy Tradition helps increase.
It's funny though that I do agree with almost all the other points made in this reflection, and only really disagree with the causal being a celibate episcopacy. Maybe it is a bigger issue than I think, but being married doesn't stop people from seeking power. In fact we can NEVER stop that....but what we can do is cut off the means they use to impose power. And to me, the biggest means used today is extreme obedience theology.
Finally, before anyone says I'm want the Church to be a democracy, no, I don't. Obedience, submission etc are all good things. But like all good things they can, and have been twisted over the centuries for wrong and selfish purposes. This time though, what I see as "extreme" obedience theology has become a part of Church "doctrine" (not dogma) and is taught not only in some seminaries, but even by certain Patriarchs, and even in popular books. It's part of an Orthodox "mindset". Perhaps historical events have simply lead to this, and it just sort of happened with no ill intentions then or even now, but to me, this is the heart of the issue. But who knows, perhaps from a practical perspective a married episcopacy would be quite effective in damping down this problem. Or maybe I'm just being too cynical? But a great reflection none the less, and it has given more much to ponder.
#6 Chuck Shingledecker on 2009-10-08 08:32
Perhaps I’m missing the obvious, but this is how I’m reading some of his arguments. Based on the writer’s interpretation of 1 Tim 3.5, it sounds like he’s implying that a celibate bishop cannot manage his own household. Isn’t the term household to mean one’s affairs in general?
Secondly, in the ‘must be the husband of one wife’ commandment isn’t the emphasis on the word “one” rather than on “must be the husband”, meaning that the bishop could not married to more than one woman?
Lastly, I thought councils were recognized as being ecumenical after the fact, i.e. you don’t schedule them.
#7 GB on 2009-10-08 17:38
I have seen and heard this argument made from all levels of education and involvement in church life, although seldom with this much transliterated Greek used to support the position. I do not disagree with the point presented by the author that there was a period when there was a married episcopacy in the Orthodox Church. This is unfortunately a red herring in the present discussion of the endemic corruption in the major jurisdictions of Orthodox Christians in the United States.
The only evidence I will call upon to demonstrate this is to examine the origins of the crisis in the OCA. Just imagine that we had adopted the proposed reform in the 1980's. Picture in your mind the episcopal consecration of Metropolitan Robert Kondratic! What if all the power-hungry hatchet-men that position themselves around our bishops as deans and chancellors could just be bishops themselves. I can assume that no one reading this would think of this as an improvement.
Perhaps the problem is with the "normal career path" for clergy in the OCA. We seem to have difficulty telling people who are selflessly sacrificing for the good of the church from people who are biding their time and waiting for a position of power. All of the best personnel we have in the central administration of the church in recent memory seem to be the ones that have had the responsibility thrust upon them by surprise, whether they are bishops or administrative functionaries. Perhaps it's not the issue of celibacy vs. marriage but rather one of insider culture and cliques cultivating corruption.
#8 Michael Lopushok on 2009-10-08 20:30
Just curious..., when Paul says "must be" does that mean that they have to be married? Also, were Peter and James married? What about other first and second century bishops? Was it the "norm?" And what about Paul's exhortation to remain unmarried? And finally, since we didn't have bishops and priests like we do now, were all priests bishops and all bishops priests?
I think there's enough mud in the water to say that married bishops were a universal Apostolic Tradition... but I've been wrong before.
Why not better training for bishops? What about all the fabulous (Saintly) single bishops? What about all the priests that knew marriage was best for them but not the episcopacy? By the way, who is the author - most reflections have some indication as to their authority on a particular subject...?
#9 Anonymous on 2009-10-08 23:17
thoughtful, challenging and positive points made with genuine concern for the state of the church.....I find myself seeing things much the same as you do....
#10 Pat on 2009-10-09 05:05
These articles were sent to me this morning as an example of rebuttal against the insights here at ocanews
#11 Antionymous on 2009-10-09 07:51
You may not consciously want the Church to be a democracy, but I think the positions you take in this forum tend to lead in exactly that direction, intended or not. I give you kudos for using your real name and I really like the reflective tone at the end of your message - the reform post has indeed given people a lot to think about.
And ultimately a lot, I hope, to reject. There is so much peddling of panaceas here (that ill-conceived and essentially unsupported anonymous reflection a few weeks ago being one of the chief examples - about how the Old Country episcopate was the real problem and getting rid of our ties to those bishops would be just the fix we need!). Or the idea in this current reflection - that married leaders automatically will be less likely to be bad leaders, or more likely to be good ones, than celibates.
In reality I think this reform reflection was largely an exercise in essentially evangelical Protestant (Reformational) methodology and presuppositions in the use of scriptue inescapably leading to a foreordained conclusion: return to married bishops as a panacea - or at least something closely resembling one. And as a graduate of Columbia Bible College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I think I know that method in action when I see it.
And in the end, doesn't that reform reflection and a lot of the rest of the chat here turn out to be little if anything more than crypto-Americanism (a. reforming others, b. positing quick-fix diagnoses and solutions, c. using confrontation and literal or figurative force to press the "crusades" and "reforms" we believe in, and d. the ultimate, creeping or triumphant return of drug dealers, Viet Cong, poverty, ingnorance, prostitution, alcohol, the Taliban (or whatever we are crusading against at the moment) in Orthodox disguise, with more or less the same bad guys and activities returning as soon as the dust settles and the Big Push is over?
#12 Fr. George Washburn on 2009-10-09 14:19
My usage of the term ‘worldliness’, as I’m confident most readers took it, implies involvement in the world in ways not befitting those baptized into Christ. This is quite different from what Paul indicates in 1 Cor 7. For there he uses the phrase merimna ta tou kosmou (for which, by the way, 'worldliness' would seem to be a poor rendering), and then follows that with pos aresei te gynaiki, which, apparently, gives the specific semantic value he is associating with the concept ‘the things of the world’. If this is all that Paul intends, I don’t think there are any grounds for affirming that a married man’s desire to please his wife is in any way consonant with, or even analogous to, being involved in the world in ways not befitting those baptized into Christ.
#13 michael craig rhodes on 2009-10-09 20:48
It seems to me that, in the OCA at least, the development of the sufficient number of monks with the necessary depth in the monastic life to provide an appropriate pool of candidates for the hierarchy will take a minimum of a generation, although more likely three to four. How do you suggest the North American Church deal with the need for hierarchs during the intervening period? The overall quality of the hierarchs that have "served" the OCA, the jurisdiction with which I have the most intimate knowledge, seems to indicate very significant systemic problems in identifying and choosing hierarchical candidates over the past 40-50 years. Following the same or similar methods will most likely produce similar results. Can the North American Church fulfill the Great Commission with more of the same heirarchs?
#14 MArk C. Phinney on 2009-10-10 03:22
Married Bishops in the Orthodox Church
If a man desire the office of a Bishop, he desires a good work. A Bishop
then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ...ruling well his own
house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.
[1 Timothy 3:1-4]
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the
things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city as I had
appointed you; If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having
faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.
Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother
lying sick with a fever.
But Simon's wife's mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about
her at once.
Now He arose from the Synagogue and entered Simon's house. But Simon's
wife's mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him
First, we must establish the Biblical and thus traditional position of
the Orthodox Church regarding the issue of married clergy. Secondly, we
must be against the allegations made by (some) Orthodox that the
consecration of married men to the office of bishop is supposedly
"uncanonical", somehow "unorthodox", or even worse, "heretical".
St Peter the Apostle
Undoubtedly, St. Peter and virtually all Apostles were married. Their
marriage clearly did not nullify being chosen as Apostles by Christ.
There is no reference to any children of the marriage, before or after
the call as an Apostle. There is a clear Orthodox tradition that St
Peter dedicated himself completely (lived celibate from that time on) to
Christ from the time of his call. This can be seen in the following
words of St Clement of Alexandria:They say, accordingly, that the
blessed Peter, on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of
her call and conveyance home, and called very encouragingly and
comfortingly, addressing her by name, 'Remember the Lord'. Such was the
marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition towards those
dearest to them. Thus also the Apostle says, 'That he who marries should
be as though he married not', and deem his marriage free of inordinate
affection, and inseparable from love to the Lord; to which the true
husband exhorted his wife to cling on her departure out of this life to
the Lord. [p.541, Book 7, The Stromata, Clement of Alexandria, Ante
Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2]
Evidence of Married Bishops in the early Church
The father of the Cappodacian Saints was a Married Bishop. The elder
Gregory was converted by the influence of his wife, Nonna; and soon
after his conversion was consecrated to the bishopric of Nazianzus
[p.187, Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7]
(Note: This is Gregory the elder, not his son St Gregory Nazianzus).
Note that, There are two lines in his poem of St Gregory Nazienzan on
his own life which seem to indicate clearly that his birth took place
after his father's elevation to the Episcopate... [p.188, Prolegomena,
Sect. 1, Vol 7].
Basil left before him and returned to Cappadocia; and as soon as he
could follow he went to Constantinople, where he met his brother, who
had just come there to practice and return with his brother to
Nazianzus. They found their parents still living and their father
occupying the Episcopal Throne. From this time onward Gregory divided
his time between his parents and his friend; living partly at Arianzus,
and partly with Basil in Pontus, in monastic seclusion. [p.191,
Prolegomena, Sect. 1, Vol. 7].
Gregory,...felt very strongly drawn to the monastic life; but as
retirement from the world did not seem to him to be his vocation, he
resolved to continue to live in the world, and to be a help and support
to his now aged parents, and especially to his father in the duties of
his Episcopate, but at the same time to live under the strictest ascetic
In 374, Gregory the elder died, and his wife also, and thus our saint
was set free from the charge of the diocese. [p.195, ibid.]
Early Tradition on the marriage of St Gregory of Nyssa
Here it is usual to place the marriage of Gregory with Theosebeia, said
to have been a sister of Gregory Nazianzus. Certainly the tradition of
Gregory's (Nyssa) marriage received such credit as to be made in after
times a proof of the non-celibacy of the Bishops of his age. [p.3, A
Sketch of the Life of St Gregory of Nyssa, Second Series, Vol. 5]
St John Chrysostom on married Hierarchs
'A Bishop then,' he says, 'must be blameless the husband of one wife.'
This he does not lay down as a rule, as if he must not be without one,
but as prohibiting his having more than one. [p.438, First Series, Vol.
13, St John Chrysostom, Homily X, Homilies on Timothy]
If then 'he who is married cares for the things of the world' (1 Cor.
7:33), and a bishop ought not to care for the things of the world, why
does he say 'the husband of one wife'? Some indeed think that he says
this with reference to one who remains free from a wife. But if
otherwise, he that has a wife may be as though he had none (1 Cor.
7:29). For that liberty was then properly granted, as suited to the
nature of the circumstances then existing. And it is very possible, if a
man will, to regulate his conduct. [p. 438, ibid.]
'Having his children in subjection with all gravity.' This is necessary,
that an example might be exhibited in his own house. [p.439. ibid.]
Verse 6: 'If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful
children, not accused of riot, or unruly.' Why does he bring forward
such a one? To stop the mouths of those heretics who condemned marriage,
showing that it is not an unholy thing in itself, but so far honorable,
that a married man might ascend the holy throne; and at the same
reproving the wanton, and not permitting their admission into this high
office who contracted a second marriage. For he who retains no kind
regard for her who is departed, how shall he be a good presider? [p.524,
Works of St John Chrysostomos, Homily on Titus, Homily 2, First Series,
'Having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.' We should
observe what care he bestows upon children. For he who cannot be the
instructor of his own children, how should he be the Teacher of
others?...But, if occupied in the pursuit of wealth, he has made his
children a secondary concern, and not bestowed much care upon them, even
so he is unworthy. For if when nature prompted, he was so void of
affection or so senseless, that he thought more of his wealth than of
his children, how should he be raised to the episcopal throne, and so
great a rule? [pp. 524/5, ibid.]
St Athanasius the Apostolic:But I have also thought it necessary to
inform you of the fact, that Bishops have succeeded those who have
fallen asleep. In Tanis, in the stead of Elias, is Theodorus. In
Arsenoitis, Silvanus instead of Nonnus. In Bucolia is Heraclius. In
Tentyra, Andronicus is instead of Saprion, his father. In Thebes, Philon
instead of Philon, etc. [pp.538/9, Letter 12, Sect. 2, Letters of St
Athanasius, Second Series, Vol. IV, Athanasius]
For we know both bishops who fast, and monks who eat. We know bishops
that drink no wine, as well as monks who do. We know bishops who work
wonders, as well as monks who do not. Many also of the bishops have not
even married, while monks have been fathers of children; just as
conversely we know bishops who are fathers of children and monks 'of the
completest kind'. [p.560, Letter 49, Sect. 9, ibid.]
St Ambrose of Milan
And so the Apostle have given a pattern, saying that a bishop 'must be
blameless', and in another place: 'A bishop must be without offence, as
a steward of God, not proud, not soon angry, not given to wine, not a
striker, not greedy of filthy lucre.' For how can the compassion of a
dispenser of alms and the avarice of a covetous man agree together? I
have set down these things which I have been told are to be avoided, but
the apostle is the master of virtues, and he teaches that gainsayers are
to be convicted with patience, who lays down that one should be the
husband of a single wife, not in order to exclude him from the right of
marriage (for this is beyond the force of the precept), but that by
conjugal chastity he may preserve the grace of his baptismal washing;
nor again that he may be induced by the Apostle's authority to beget
children in the priesthood; for he speaks of having children, not of
begetting them, or marrying again. [p.465, Chapters 61 & 62, Letter 63,
St Ambrose, Second Series,Vol. 10]
The Marriage of Church Dignitaries: But, while dealing with the passage,
I would say that we will be able perhaps now to understand and clearly
set forth a question which is hard to grasp and see into, with regard to
the legislation of the Apostle concerning ecclesiastical matters; for
Paul wishes no one of those of the church, who has attained to any
eminence beyond the many, as is attained in the administration of the
sacraments, to make trial of a second marriage. For laying down the law
in regard to bishops in the first Epistle to Timothy, he says, 'If a man
seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop,
therefore, must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate,
sober-minded,' etc.; and, in regard to deacons, 'Let the deacons,' he
says, 'be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own
houses well,' etc. ... And, in the Epistle to Titus, 'For this cause,'
he says, 'I left thee in Crete that thou shouldest set in order the
things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city as I gave
thee charge. If any one is blameless, the husband of one wife, having
children, that believe'. Now, when we saw that some who have been
married twice may be much better than those who have been married once,
we were perplexed why Paul does not at all permit those who have been
twice married to be appointed to ecclesiastical dignities; for also it
seemed to me that such a thing was worthy of examination, as it was
possible that a man, who had been unfortunate in two marriages, and had
lost his second wife while he was yet young, might have lived for the
rest of his years up to old age in the greatest self-control and
chastity. Who, then, would not naturally be perplexed why at all, when a
ruler of the church is being sought for, we do not appoint such a man,
though he has been twice married, because of the expressions about
marriage, but lay hold of the man who has been once married as our
ruler, even if he chance to have lived to old age with his wife, and
sometimes may not have been disciplined in chastity and temperance? But,
from what is said in the law about the bill of divorcement, I reflect
whether, seeing that the bishop and the presbyter and the deacon are a
symbol of things that truly exist in accordance with these names, he
wished to appoint those who were figuratively once married. [pp.509/10,
Book XIV, Origen's Commentary on Matthew, Vol. X, Ante Nicene Fathers]
Councils of the Church
Canon V of the Canons of the Twelve Apostles (Apostolic Canons):Let not
a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of
religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he
persists, let him be deposed.
Canon LI of the Apostolic Canons:If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or
any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or
wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them,
forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male
and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected,
or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman.
In conclusion, the Apostolic Canons represent the very early Canon Law
of the Church, that the Canons which make up the collection are of
various dates, but that most of them are earlier than the year 300, and
that while it is not possible to say exactly when the collection, as we
now have it, was made, there is good reason for assigning it a date not
later than the middle of the fourth century.... There can be no question
that in the East the Apostolic Canons were very generally looked upon as
a genuine work prepared by the Holy Apostles. [p. 592, Vol.XIV, The
Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church
Quinisext Council (Fifth-Sixth)
[sometimes called the "Trullon Synod"]
Canon XII:Moreover, this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa
and Libya, and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those
parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration,
thereby giving scandal and offence to the people. Since, therefore, it
is our particular care that all things tend to the good of the flock
placed in our hands and committed to us - it has seemed good that
henceforth nothing of the kind shall in any way occur. And we say this,
not to abolish and overthrow what things were established of old by
Apostolic authority, but as caring for the health of the people and
their advance to better things, and lest the ecclesiastical state should
suffer any reproach...But if any shall have been observed to do such a
thing, let him be deposed.
Commentary by Aristenus:The fifth Apostolic canon allows neither bishop,
presbyter, nor deacons to cast forth his wife under pretext of piety;
and assigns penalties for any that shall do so, and if he will not amend
he is to be deposed. But this canon on the other hand does not permit a
bishop even to live with his wife after his consecration. But by this
change no contempt is meant to be poured out upon what had been
established by Apostolic authority, but it was made through care for the
people's health and for leading on to better things, and for fear that
the sacerdotal estate might suffer some wrong.
Van Espen:In the time of this Canon (of the Apostles) not only
presbyters and deacons, but bishops also, it is clear, were allowed by
Eastern custom to have their wives; and Zonaras and Balsamon note that
even until the Sixth Council, commonly called in Trullo, bishops were
allowed to have their wives.
Canon XLVII:The wife of him who is advanced to hierarchical dignity,
shall be seperated from her husband by their mutual consent, and after
his ordination and consecration to the episcopate she shall enter a
monastery situated at a distance from the abode of the bishop, and there
let her enjoy the bishop's provision. And if she is deemed worthy she
may be advanced to the dignity of a deaconess.
On the Marriage of the Clergy
The doctrine and practice of the ancient Church in the East can be
fittingly quoted in the words of the Rev. John Fulton in the
introduction to the Third Edition of his Index Canonum [p.29, NY, 1892].
He says, Marriage was no impediment to ordination even as a Bishop; and
bishops, Priests and Deacons, equally with other men, were forbidden to
put away their wives under pretext of religion. The case was different
when a man was unmarried at the time of his ordination. Then he was held
to have given himself wholly to God in the office of the Holy Ministry,
and he was forbidden to take back from his offering that measure of his
cares and his affections which must necessarily be given to the
maintenance and nurture of his family. [p.365, Vol. XIV, The Seven
Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church.
St. Demetrius the Vine Dresser (Egyptian Patriarch)
The Coptic Orthodox Synaxarian records one of the early Patriarchs of
the Church of Alexandria as being a married man. The record states he
had lived a celibate life since the beginning of marriage and it is not
known whether this is a later redaction to cover the obvious conflict
that would ensue otherwise. In any case, the fact of his enthronement
again confirms that the tradition of the Church at that time did not
consider marriage to be a bar to even hold the highest office of the
The Byzantine Church
In 1990, an article from The Orthodox Observer, a Greek Orthodox
Archdiocese of North and South America publication, states, At the 1992
meeting of the clergy-laity conference of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
of North and South America (Archbishop Iacovos), held in New Orleans, a
formal resolution was sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
Constantinople 'to consider returning to the practice of ordaining
married priests as bishops as was done in the early church.' ... Earlier
in December 1991, the Greek Archdiocese stated that it was the original
practice of the Church for a married Episcopate. Please also note that
Archbishop Iakovos promoted the return of married bishops to worldwide
Orthodoxy and agreed that individual jurisdictions could retain the
Apostolic tradition of the Early Church.
Various Practices Regarding the Episcopacy
 Celibate/Monastics Only: The majority position amongst the Eastern
Orthodox which has a large well of monastics to draw from. Also the
position amongst the Oriental Orthodox, who, like their Eastern
brethren, have a vibrant monastic community. Many of these Churches,
having had married bishops in the early Church, did however draw from
their monastics for over one thousnad years (Armenians seemingly being
the exception). However, it is noted that even amongst the Eastern
Orthodox it is not unusual to elect a Priest to the Episcopacy whose
wife has reposed first. Evidence is overwhelming that in the Orthodox
Tradition marriage is not a bar to consecration. Economia and the will
of the Orthodox Christians in the traditional homelands do not lend
themselves to changing this current practice, which has served their
churches very well for centuries.
 Married but dedicated Celibacy: The traditional position regarding
the Apostles (St Peter, for example) and many of the married men that
have been elevated in times past (St Demetrius the Vinedresser amongst
the Coptic Orthodox, for instance) is supported by the Canonical
authority of the Fifth-Sixth Council (Canons 12 and 47-see above).
However, if the dedicated celibacy was due to the heretical view that
marital relations were not honorable (sinful) then a clear rejection of
the fifth and fifty-first canons of the Apostolic Canons would apply
placing the rejector under anathema. This is an acceptable position when
the Church is in a missionary situation as it was in the days of the
Apostles and early centuries (and currently amongst the Western
hemispherre), but is not as needed when a large pool of spiritual
monastics is granted to the Church by God. The practice is that the
married couple live celibate from the time of dedication or
consecration, usually with the wife also entering into monastic
lifestyle or a community and frequently being received as a dedicated
 Married but not dedicated Celibacy: Perhaps the least controversial
position due to the fact that the Bishop has not lived or promised to
live a celibate life from consecration. Those who reject this position
outright often bring the following verse to bear: "He who is married is
concerned for his wife and the affairs of the world", alongside St
Paul's words that it is 'better' to remain as he was, i.e. celibate.
There are also references (see above) of married bishopes that bore
children in lawful Christian marriage after their consecration (although
far less frequently and often alongside later attempts by writers to
re-write the facts of the matter). The Biblical references relating to
the bishop being married and having in submission his children does not
imply that the children came after the elevation to the Episcopate.
However, the lawful Christian state of marriage itself determines that
the married but not celibate Episcopate has not committed any sin that
would prevent him from consecration. Of course not all things that are
'lawful are also expedient' and thus, this third position causes much
confusion and consternation amongst some Orthodox. The Canons of the
Fifth-Sixth Council direct all married bishopes to seperate from their
wives and live a dedicated life and these are often quoted by those who
deny the correctness of this position. However, the earlier Apostolic
Canons direct the exact opposite that one was not allowed to put away
ones wife. Obviously this matter falls well within the oiconomia of the
bishops in a particular Synod to determine the married epicopate for
Various Objections Raised Regarding a Married Episcopacy
The Church decided in later centuries to change to monastic bishops only.
At a number of question forums where the laity have a chance to ask
various Bishops for their response to why the Church no longer has
married Bishops (as Holy Scriptures allow and the Church Fathers attest
to) we found that the common answer is often:The whole church decided to
change the practice in the third century. The response from the blessed
bishops is somewhat ill-informed and assumed to be the case, rather than
defacto is the case:
[a] The Universal Church made no such declaration in the 3rd
century nor the centuries immediately following that time.
[b] The exact opposite actually occurred. At the 1st Ecumenical
Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the Western (Roman) legates attempted force
Canons requiring celibacy of all clergy. These attempted amendments
however failed, and a large part of their failure were the words of St
Paphnutius of the Church of Alexandria, a Saint and miracle worker who
was famed and respected across the empire, even receiving admiration
from the Emperor himself. What made St Paphnutius' words even more
immpressive is that he himself had been a celibate monastic since
entering the life as a teenager. Here a strictly ascetic monastic argued
against the enforced celibacy of any rank of the Church's offices (cf.
Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, Volume 14, The Seven Ecumenical
Councils:"Proposed Action on Celibacy"):
that too heavy a yoke ought not to be laid upon the clergy; that
marriage and married intercourse are of themselves honorable and
undefiled; that the Church ought not to be injured by an extreme
severity, for all could not live in absolute continency. In this way (by
not prohibiting marrital relations) the virtue of the wife would be much
more certainly preserved (viz. the wife of a clergyman, because she
might find injury elsewhere, if her husband withdrew from the marriage).
The intercourse of a man with his lawful wife may also be a chaste
intercourse. It would therefore be sufficient, according to the ancient
tradition of the Church, if those who had taken holy orders without
being married were prohibited from marrying afterwards; but those
clergymen who had been married only once as laymen, were not to be
separated from their wives.
This discourse of St. Paphnutius made so much more of an
impression, since he had never lived in matrimony himself, and had had
no conjugal intercourse. St. Paphnutius had been brought up in a
monastery, and his great purity of manners had rendered him especially
celebrated. Therefore the Council took the serious words of the Egyptian
bishop into consideration, stopped all discussion upon the law, and left
to each cleric the responsibility of deciding the point as he would. We
must conclude that a law was proposed at the Council of Nicaea in the
same way as the one which had been carried twenty years previously at
Elvira, Spain. This coincidence would lead us to believe that it was the
Spaniard Hosius who proposed the law respecting celibacy at Nicaea. The
discourse ascribed to St. Paphnutius, and the consequent decision of the
Synod, agree very well with the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, and
with the whole practice of the Greek Church in respect to celibacy.
Both, the Greek Church as well as the Latin one accepted this principle,
that whoever had taken holy orders before marriage, ought not to be
married afterwards. In the Latin Church, bishops, priests, deacons. and
even subdeacons, were considered to be subject to this law, because the
latter were at a very early period reckoned among the higher servants of
the Church, which was not the case in the Greek Church. The Greek Church
went so far as to allow deacons to marry after their ordination, if they
had obtained permission from their bishop to do so. The Council of
Ancyra affirms this (Canon 10). We see that the Greek Church wishes to
leave the bishop free to decide the matter; but, in reference to
priests, it also prohibited them from marrying after their ordination.
While the Latin Church exacted of those presenting themselves for
ordination, even as subdeacons, that they should not continue to live
with their wives (if they were married), the Greek Church gave no such
prohibition; but if the wife of an ordained clergyman died, the Greek
Church allowed no second marriage. The Apostolic Constitutions decided
this point in the same way. To leave their wives from a pretext of piety
was also forbidden to Greek priests; and the Synod of Gangra (Canon 4)
took up the defence of married priests against the Eustathians.
Eustathius, however, was not alone among the Greeks opposing the
marriage of all clerics, and in desiring to introduce into the Greek
Church the Latin discipline regarding this matter. St. Epiphanius also
inclined towards this side. The Greek Church did not, however, adopt
this rigour in reference to priests, deacons, and subdeacons, but by
degrees it came to be required of bishops and of the higher order of
clergy in general, that they should live in celibacy. Yet this was not
until after the compilation of the Apostolic Canons (Canon 5) and of the
Constitutions; for in those documents mention is made of bishops living
in wedlock, and Church history shows that there were married bishops
(for instance, Bishop Synesius in the fifth century). But it is fair to
remark, even as to Synesius, that he made it an express condition of his
election to the episcopate, that he might continue to live the married
life. Thomassin believes that Synesius did not seriously require this
condition, and only spoke thus for the sake of escaping the episcopal
office; which would seem to imply that in his time Greek bishops had
already begun to live in celibacy. At the Trullan Synod (Canon 13) the
Greek Church finally settled the question of the marriage of priests
(First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, Proposed Action on Clerical
Celibacy, Second Series, Vol. XIV, pp. 51/2)
 The Church enforced celibate Bishops to stop Nepotism: This
explanation perhaps gives us the clearest reason why the Church moved
away from married bishops. Nepotism is where the ecclesiastical dignity
is passed down from father to son and becomes a sort of family empire,
something that the Church can never be. This phenomen can be seen today,
for instance in the Billy Graham and Pat Robertson enterprises and other
ministries where the sons are effectively taking over as the inheritors
to their fathers. While this may not always be a bad thing or
necessarily against the will of God, it does lead to the confusion of
the laity who would begin to see an element of family empire building in
the making. In order to end the passing of ecclesiastical properties as
inheritance to sons, the Church began to choose men who were never
married, and thus no claims for inheritance could be levelled. This
perhaps was valid during the days when the bishops held all property and
legal deeds, and incorpartions did not exist. Nowadays, at an age of
public disclosure of banking and financial accounts, with lay treasurers
and financial committees etc, there is little to no chance of such to occur.
 The need of an Ecumenical Council to change back: This is
seemingly a valid statement made by those who reject the married
Episcopate. They assert that since an Ecumenical council declared the
matter closed, then it requires another Ecumenical Council to change
that. This argument is flawed in a number of points: First, an
ecumenical council did NOT declare the matter closed. On the contrary,
The Council of Nicea refused to implement this discipline. Secondly, the
Fifth-sixth Council did NOT ban married bishops, but implemented a set
discipline upon them. Thirdly, there has not been an Ecumenical Council
since the schism of the Church and there is not likely to be one in any
foreseeable future. We no longer have Christian Emperors who can call an
Ecumenical Council, let alone the fact that the whole Roman Church would
obviously fail to attend any Council called by the East. Amusingly, the
answer (of needing another Ecumenical Council to settle the matter)
really does not deal with the issue but 'passes the buck' to some
indefinite, improbable future event. Such would not be acceptable from a
theological or cannonically viewpoint, since oiconomia has always
allowed the bishops to determine how to enforce or interpret the Canons
in their particular circumstances. Recently allowances in matters of
ecclesiastical discipline have been observed in a number of
jurisdictions, including priest's being able to remarry, bishops being
transferred to other dioceses, "Coadjutor" type bishops in dioceses that
are not under their authority, monks leaving their vows being allowed to
marry, more than one bishop in one city, etc. - Yet none of these recent
matters were left to a futuristic Ecumenical Council.
We believe the above information and the facts of history stand for
themselves and do not need a defence. It is rather the other side in
need of defence, from a Scriptural, Patristic and canonical point of
view. Additionally, the western hemnisphere is not like the homelands of
Eastern or Oriental Orthodoxy which had two thousand years of resources
to draw from suitable monastics availble for consecration. Though the
earlier Canons are believed by Orthodox tradition to come directly via
Apostolic authority, the later ones by an assumed one-size-fits-all
decision by the Fifth-sixth Council. Canonical commentators have not
been able to resolve the obvious differences other than simply to note
them. Oiconomia is the only way this issue should be resolved in the
Orthodox faith, as it always has. For one jurisdiction to use one set of
Canons against another jurisdiction's interpretation or oikonomia is
neither appropriate nor Orthodox!
[Source: Very Rev. James Scully, Australia]
#15 Anonymous on 2009-10-10 07:18
Clearly the current and historical failures of all to many of our bishops stems from the lack of accountability. Perhaps the requirement to receive at least a 67% "axios" from the faithful every few years should be a requirement for continued service as a bishop.
#16 Marc Trolinger on 2009-10-10 09:08
Widen the pool. The OCA should drop its delusion of headless-chicken autocephaly and get back into deeper communion with the wider Orthodox Church around the world which has true monasteries and the true monastics that she so desperately needs. The OCA has suffered long enough from its largely self-imposed "big fish in a little pond" syndrome. Need real monastics? Widen the pool. Get out of the shallows.
(editor's note: ROTF. How does one "get back into deeper communion" than being in eucharistic communion with someone? And to slam all OCA monastics as "unreal" is a bit harsh - rather like slamming all Greek monks for the recent public misdeeds in the Jerusalem Patriarchate or Athonites for Vatopedi. And as for the OCA being the shallows - you are correct, we are a young church with much to learn. You can walk through the deeps of some men's souls and not get your feet wet, as the old joke goes. On the other hand, I don't think anybody who met, spoke, studied or prayed with Frs. Florovsky, Schmemann, Meyendoff, Borichevsky, or with Metr. Leonty, or has visited New Skete, Ellwood City - or anyone of the men and women who have built parishes where none existed before - could really call such people "shallow". I would suggest there are indeed depths to the OCA - as, friend, there seem to be to your prejudices against her.)
#17 Anonymous on 2009-10-11 10:03
FatherJames,WELL DONE!Thank youvery much.
#18 Abbuna Habib on 2009-10-11 17:51
Michael Lopushok said 'I do not disagree with the point presented by the author that there was a period when there was a married episcopacy in the Orthodox Church. This is unfortunately a red herring in the present discussion of the endemic corruption in the major jurisdictions of Orthodox Christians in the United States'.
I'm confident that many have a similar feeling as that expressed here by Mr Lopushok. A charge of not maintaining and passing on Apostolic Tradition, however, is no 'red herring in the present discussion of the endemic corruption...' It is rather an effort at diagnosing a (not the) cause of the corruption. It may be wrong, but it is not 'a misleading clue or distraction', which is what a red-herring is. For, if the Church is in any way not maintaining and passing on Apostolic Tradition without addition or subtraction, then the Church is engaged in behavior diametrically opposed to what is supposed to be the case. Moreover, if the Church is engaged in any way in subverting Apostolic Tradition, then we can certainly expect 'endemic corruption'. It is the case that for the past 1300 years the Church has not been maintaining and passing on the Apostolic Tradition of a married episcopacy. Rather what has been received and is being maintained currently by Orthodox Christians in the United States, as well as those throughout the rest of the world, is the false tradition of celibacy of the bishopric. Moreover, as most seem to agree, there is indeed (and has been) a problem with ‘endemic corruption’ in the Church. Therefore, the issue of a married episcopacy is very relevant to ‘the present discussion of the endemic corruption…’
Now, I agree that consecrations of Kondratics would not be an improvement. But obedience to Apostolic Tradition would. The problem is not celibacy of the bishopric per se, but disobedience to Apostolic Tradition. As was the case with Jonah's disobedience, I tend to think that we have gotten ourselves in the belly of the fish, as it were. So there may well be some undesirable times ahead. Jonah, you recall, had to endure the undesirable experience of being vomited up!
#19 michael craig rhodes on 2009-10-11 23:06
Dear #12 Anonymous,
This is a good little compendium. Thanks for posting it. Any idea when Fr James put it together?
#20 michael craig rhodes on 2009-10-12 08:40
I don't see how accountability of clergy would make the Church a democracy. Did the Church become a democracy when the laity refused to accept the Council of Florence and Union with Rome? There is a vast middle ground here you might be over looking. The "slippery slope" argument you make about my position could be used in the other direction as well. The slippery slope of giving the Patriarchs too much power will eventually lead to an Eastern papacy, even if that is not the intended position.
The Church is not a democracy, but it's also not a pseudo dictatorship that it has become either. We don't "obey" the clergy just "because they say so" . . . this is not an "American" point, nor a Reformation point of argument, but goes back to the ancient Church.
For clarification, (as often times people use the same words to mean different things) when I think of the Church becoming a democracy, I'm thinking of what goes on in some Protestant Churches where people "vote" on everything; worship styles, what to do for Christmas, and even morals and theology in some extreme circumstances. But accountability is not a democracy. And questioning authority doesn't make the Church a democracy. Whether we like it or not, the Reformation, particularly early on, did get some things right, even if it botched up a bunch of stuff later on.
In the end, what I stand against is a blatant "obedience theology" that the laity just have to bow down and do whatever the clergy tells us simply because they are clergy. If this questioning makes the Church a democracy then so be it. Bishops have authority but not absolute authority. This is my bone of contention as too many Bishops today are claiming an absolute authority (administratively) which disturbs me as seriously medieval.
I will agree with you however that I don't think there is any one magic fix to the Church's problems, and so we'll probably have to agree to disagree on the whole authority vs democracy issue.
#21 Chuck Shingledecker on 2009-10-12 08:52
The failure lies in charity. Part of the governance is to work together so resources are pulled and needs met for those who minister. In the present system a need as simple as a utility bill or medical need even under $1000 takes an approval of a hierarch or top level administrative to say there is "no money". Yet the same so called leader or hierarch does nothing to steer resources when people or churches decide to spend thousands of dollars on iconography.
There is little assurance even in iconography that funds are not skimmed or redirected from cash receipts to help those who have caused victimization in abuse.
If we were serious about charity in every sense, the leadership and community to execute these resources could be women, married men or celibates, monastic or whatever mix.
His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II when he first came to America
in 1992 saw the first goal of the church out of Communism was to be able to develop charitable means of distribution of resources for which he felt the American churches (not Orthodox) had positive elements of organizational features to be modeled to the Orthodox.
When a church takes in over a million dollars, and gives less than $10,000 in charitable needs and does not attend to the
needs of its very own people in some real way it is functional and less Biblical than any local country club.
When people engage in truly helping their neighbor and giving and of their time talent and resources, everything changes.
The Orthodox have lost this pathway in America because they continue to deny the effects of Clergy Sexual Abuse.
Thus the church is an unsafe church and can't bring to fruition
the seeds planted under this blanket of terrorism. There is no hope for reform until denial of Clergy Sexual Abuse
is an issue which is openly given at least the attention of a line item in the budget.
The abuse of power will continue as long as the modus operandi is to protect abusing clergy at all expense to
any other calling.
I believe Fr. Scully has reposed in the Lord. The article is several years old.
#23 Anonymous on 2009-10-13 07:56
Thank you for your comments.
About your first point, I am aware that most Orthodox hold that celibacy of the bishopric is a matter of discipline and not doctrine. The person of the bishop, however, is too central in Orthodox ecclesiology for this to be a justifiable position, in my judgment. Moreover, Orthodoxy has an ecclesial belief system that includes the topic of the hierarchy, a sub-topic of which is the office of the bishop; and part of what is believed about the office of the bishop is that only celibates can be consecrated. Thus, at present, this is not a mere practice that might be otherwise (nor has it been for the past 1300 years), as is the case with various other canons, but rather a practice and a belief for which there is no room for episcopal discretion.
Next, I’m afraid your second objection does not address anything I have argued, as I have not maintained in any way that celibates should be excluded from the bishopric.
Lastly, the terminology of desiring the office of the bishop comes is from Apostolic Tradition, not me (cf 1 Tm 3.1). The term Paul uses is oregetai; it means ‘to long for, desire’.
#24 michael craig rhodes on 2009-10-13 21:23
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