Monday, November 15. 2010
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Point well recieved, Fr. David. I wonder however if the point of many of us, is that our parent, our father in Christ, our bishop has been usurped and kicked out of the house by an abusive step dad. Our agitated reactions are a response to how our fathers in Christ have been treated. Loyalty is not a vice.
#1 Antionymous on 2010-11-15 07:24
When a "father" sins openly, when the abuse of spiritual authority is blatant, well-known, and continuous, when people are scandalized and embarrassed, when the "father" is distant and appears to respond vindictively even when people say they are confused by his actions, when people are afraid of their "father," how then are they to cover his nakedness? There are honest mistakes that fathers can make, but these are quite different from scandal, spiritual abuse, and behaving in a way which is contrary to Christ's Gospel, the holy canons, and the tradition of the Church. I think it is unfair to expect people not to talk about it, to keep things inside. People who are abused need to seek recourse--first in God, and then in their brothers and sisters. We have many examples from the history of our Church where people did not sit quietly and take abuse.
#2 John Maximov on 2010-11-15 09:22
As was said elsewhere, "As an ex-Protestant Evangelical layman reading this, the first verse that came to mind was, 'Fathers, do not exasperate your children (or provoke your children to wrath).' Eph. 6:4"
#3 Makarios on 2010-11-15 10:01
While I agree with Fr Hudson that nastiness, name-calling, and cruelty have no place in these blogs, I pray that he is not suggesting, through his analogy of parents, that we are to refrain from publicly acknowledging sin, when it really is sin, on the part of our Church leaders. Even the revered Apostle Paul would not let problems be "swept under the rug." After being publicly arrested in Philippi, when the magistrate sent the police to privately release Paul and his party, the Apostle said, "They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now cast us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out." (Acts 16:27)
To return to Fr Hudson's analogy regarding parents: In our classes on the Old Testament at seminary, Fr Tarazi, in explaining the culture of the Ancient Near East, told us that within that culture parents are not the ones who sired or gave birth to you, but were the ones who raised you, loved you, and taught you the right way of living! I, too, had a horrible parent: one who abandoned my mother and myself when I was six months old! It would be wrong to refer to him as my "father," since this would be an insult to all the genuine fathers who stood by their families and, as they say in the 12 Step Programs, "did the next right thing!" Therefore, bishops and other Church "fathers" who betray their calling should lovingly (I agree) be called to task for that!!!
#4 David Barrett on 2010-11-15 11:09
Good points, Father David. However, equally good points are how the Bible tells parents to treat their children:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger" (Ephesians 6:4).
"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they lose heart" (Colossians 3:21).
Those are two directives that every bishop and presbyter ought to bear in mind. Obedience and respect aren't required only from below. They are required in exercising spiritual fatherhood "from above" too.
#5 Gregory on 2010-11-15 11:57
Very well said ! Abuna Habib
#6 Abuna Habib on 2010-11-15 15:21
A thoughtful, well argued, well written, and copiously documented Scriptural treatise on the need for appropriate respect when interacting with our divinely appointed leaders.
And yet it seems a majority of the comments so far have amounted to, Oh yeah, Fr. David? Well, when Fathers are really bad %$^&'em!!!
When we pray for the President and other elected officials, we are only putting a modern cast on a prayer that the Church prayed, for the Emperor, even when the Emperor was persecuting the Church. Justin Martyr informs the Emperor Antoninus Pius of this fact in his Apology.
So if we prayed for the Emperor who was burning us at the stake, how do we, by coarse talk, call for the heads of our own Church authorities?
No, folks, Fr. David is making a point that is as valid as it is hard to hear. We do not serve God when we think, by pouring public venom upon leaders whose actions we do not accept, we will thereby create the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
I have read vile vituperations here beneath the dignity of any civil discourse, let alone Brothers and Sisters in Christ discussing successors of the Apostles.
And yes, most of the worst of it is performed by those drive-by shooters known as "anonymous."
Again, the most ridiculous of them are those who, while being anonymous, want us to still grant their thoughts greater weight by the fact that they call themselves "Anonymous Priest," "Anonymous Reader," "Anonymous Parish Council President," etc.
Fr. David has offered a careful and important corrective about how we should behave "in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the Truth" (1 Tim 3:15).
The worst experience any of us has had at the hands of the worst father in human history does not normatively define the appropriateness of insubordinate behavior toward our leaders.
There is always a temptation to proof text, to listen to scripture for justifications for ourselves and condemnation for others. If the topic at hand is a scolding of the abused children of the Antiochian Archdiocese, none of these are advocating abuse of parents or a Maoist "cultural revolution" against authority. We do learn something when we hold up our lives to Scripture. What can be said about glorious leader when he *struck the rock twice*? He will not enter the promise of an American Orthodox Church.
Perhaps MP thinks we are murmuring against him and stiffening our necks while longing for leeks and kibbi. He needs to decide if he is moving with the people through this Red Sea passage or if he wishes to remain in Egypt as a dual minded Pharoh. One thing I will say for myself. I do not long for parenthood from a Syrian church in Damascus that is in open communion with Muslims. This sounds more like a Masonic rite than Liturgy. No wonder there are those resentful of our departure with the treasure of Egypt, which is no more than the Holy Orthodox Faith, upon our backs. I hope I honor and serve the Holy Orthodox Church but obsequiousness, denial of abuse, and false humility masking anger are not the Way.
I hope that the Holy Synod of Antioch is scrambling to disassociate itself from this failed ecclesiology we have seen regarding trading on the ambiguity of the word "auxiliary". If we discover, belatedly, in a new flip-flop, that MP once again, forged documents and misrepresented the judgment of the Synod, pardon me if I remain skeptical until our enthroned bishops are treated as diocesan bishops for a few generations rather than a few months.
For those shaking your fingers at those who post here, St. Athanasius had much to say about this marriage between bishop and the laos so don't hold up offended dignity to silence honest criticism when you find yourself to be ordering or enabling his banishment once again.
#8 Monologistos on 2010-11-15 19:47
I sympathize with Father Hudson's words, though in this case I fear they have missed the target. Sadly, it appears that the personal, private, approaches that Father calls for have been tried, and failed. Only fathers who have ears to hear can, in fact, hear the loving pleas of their daughters and sons.
It is hardly unknown in our Holy Orthodox tradition that "fathers" in God have been called to account when they have behaved towards their children more as wolves than shepherds. Indeed, we glory in the role of the faithful in rejecting mistakes of the hierarchy such as the Council of Florence. So, when private pleas, loyal opposition, and appeals to councils of shepherds have all failed, then it is time to "take it to the church." The Patriarchal Synod has shown itself unable or unwilling to intervene in a constructive manner. What is left? The faithful. And God forbid that they should also abdicate their responsibility for the well-being, credibility, and witness of the Body of Christ. Glory to God for those clergy and laity who, having no other recourse left to them, speak out (even if anonymously, out of a fear that has been shown to be all-to-well founded).
But let the words we speak and write be shared in humility, respect, and fear of God who alone judges the human heart. Let there be genuine sorrow in our hearts that we find ourselves having come to this. Let there be prayer for those whom we honestly believe to be sowing tares in the Lord's field, or harboring goats in the Lord's sheepfold. None of us is without sin. None of us is infallible. None of us can plumb the depths of our own hearts, let alone that of another person.
I hope we can heed Fr. Touma's advice, and fast and pray. The arm of the Lord is not shortened, and He will fend off the wolves while leading his flock to safe pasture.
#9 Schema-monk on 2010-11-15 21:01
The idea that I could have called Metropolitan Jonah and complained to him about his failure to support the decisions of the 10th AAC during the health care debate is intriguing, but unrealistic. And my dialogue here also may make others review the decisions of the 10th AAC for their own benefit.
If I'm wrong, why didn't he contact me personally when I complained publicly? I'm in the white pages..
Or going back further, when John Kozey didn't sign unaudited documents and was excommuned, what good did it do him to not publicly complain from the mountaintop? Oh yeah, OCANEWS wasn't here, yet.
Public rebuke has its place and if leaders can't handle the rebuke, they ought to think carefully about the sides they take on issues, and especially sinfulness.
Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.
#10 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-11-15 22:00
Yes, Fr David does give us something to think about. But isn't he also assuming things about hierarchs that they are proving over and over again are not true? Like being open to hearing a dissenting opinion? Or being questioned as to their motives, or being called on what they are doing as un-Christlike, or worse? And while the internet is definitely NOT the best way to go, would abuse be brought to light without it? Given the pride and other shortcomings of our hierarchs, I doubt it.
That is why I remain...
#11 Another anon on 2010-11-16 06:21
The problem with prooftexting:
1 Timothy 5:19-20 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
Now what? Do we rebuke in private, like Ham should've done to Noah, or do we rebuke our elders in public, like Paul commands Timothy so that the rest of the church may fear (and presumably, repent).
Prooftexting is not the answer.
Fr. Christopher Wojcik
#12 Archpriest Christopher Wojcik on 2010-11-16 07:40
The bishops have been so good at giving a scorpion or a rock when one asks for an egg that they can no longer tell the difference. If a priest mentions that a rock doesn't taste as good as an egg, he gets dismissed from a parish. Philip and bishops elsewhere (assuming they are bishops and not auxiliary) sorely wish they had the ability to do that with any layman. All the one-liners or multi-liners about fathers assume they are fathers and not hirelings. Save them for happier days.
#13 Bob Koch on 2010-11-16 11:06
Here's an interesting thought recently penned here:
"And while the internet is definitely NOT the best way to go, would abuse be brought to light without it?"
Was it ever?
How did the Church survive for 2000 years without the Internet?
How did the Church manage to limp her way through centuries of persecution at the hands of the pagans and make it all the way to the year 1995 (the year I knew about the Internet) without the ability of anonymous accusers, jurors, and judges to convict our divinely appointed rulers of acting contrary to our wishes?
Those raised in the Protestant tradition, such as myself and Fr. David, were trained to believe that "prooftexting" is an important tool of any theological argument. Rather than declare it vacuous, go read your Church Fathers and see that they engaged in this questionable behavior themselves.
Why does it matter?
You don't state that Jacob is Abraham's father if there are verses that will invalidate your claim.
And you don't declare that the Bible is ambiguous about showing proper respect to our parents and our Church leaders if there is a cogent collection of Scriptural citations that form a cohesive theme invalidating utter rudeness.
Reread Fr. David's treatise. And this time, rather than scoff every time he quotes Scripture, consider that humility and gentleness are our calling.
It is noteworthy and a good lesson.
The problem is we have had several years of teaching otherwise, so it won't be overnight for any of us to believe it worthwhile to contact a hierarch.
And none of us would contact a hierarch that is not our own, so if we doubt or question their actions, it will only be publicly.
One other problem with your post is there have been many terrible church leaders in the past. To suggest the internet is only hurtful is not really accurate. In the past, the great difference is it was easier for unjust hierarchs to get away with their injustices.
I think history will judge the internet as an improvement to the church.
Again, your points are heard and I'll take them to heart.
#15 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-11-16 20:21
Humility and gentleness are not just our calling. They are also the calling of those who exercise spiritual fatherhood as bishops and presbyters in the Church:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger" (Ephesians 6:4).
"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they lose heart" (Colossians 3:21).
As Matthew 7:9-10 reminds us, what kind of father, when his children ask him for bread, gives them a stone? Or when his children ask for a fish, he gives them a snake?
We mustn't forget that the Bible also says a bishop must be above reproach, sober, sound in judgment, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, and gentle -- not quarrelsome, violent, hard-drinking or money-loving -- with a good reputation even among those outside the Church (1 Timothy 3:2-7). "He must be blameless -- not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined" (Titus 1:7-8).
#16 Gregory on 2010-11-16 20:27
I am a former conservative Protestant as well, and I have to say Fr. Christopher beautifully and succinctly illustrates why this teaching Fr. David presents is false (when used in this context). I am sad to say that in my decades as a Christian, I have only seen these verses pulled out in this context and connected to present this sort of emphasis in order to justify an authoritarian, top down, power-oriented use of “spiritual authority” that, even in its most benign forms, is profoundly alien to the true Spirit of the Tradition. The result is at best a flock of spiritual children in various states of arrested spiritual development, and at worst, a flock full of Pharisees who can "toe the line" and are full of vainglory and delusion on the one hand, and, on the other, the carnage of those who could not perform to standard and have been "invited" in various ways to shape up or ship out. I have belonged to both groups. From experience, I can tell you that those in the latter category will have lifelong struggles to not despair of the goodness and grace of God, and many of them have despaired and left the Church. Hopefully, they can find somewhere a "better doctor" as St. John Climacus counsels us. Fr. Touma, Bp. Mark, Fr. Christopher above, Fr. Oliver Herbel, Fr. Paul, and Fr. Elias, Bp. JOB of blessed memory, and Met. Jonah and many others blessedly give me hope that more expert doctors can indeed still be found within the Church to be agents of true healing. I and loved ones have seen too much and have been wounded too deeply by this error for me to remain silent about what I see.
Schema-monk has spoken more rightly in response to this situation than has Fr. David.
Forgive me, a sinner.
#17 Karen on 2010-11-17 08:49
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