Friday, September 29. 2006
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Thank you, Fr. Hopko, for sharing this perspective.
I have one question: In your reflection you mention supporting "only the daily needs" of the central church.
Can you elaborate on what those needs are? I'm not sure, and given the current administrative state, suspect I'll never be sure.
What support does the Metropolitan receive from his Diocese, as opposed to the central church?
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#1 Marty Watt on 2006-09-29 08:16
The first section of Fr. Hopko's reflection actually provides a very, very important clarification of his earlier comments and letters.
He says we need to concentrate on doing good in our own parishes and lives, but he also says (which was either only implied or not emphasized before) that we need to continue to ask questions and press for answers. For me this clarification makes the difference between the sort of grudging acknowledgment that he's probably right, but I'm not ready to go there, which I felt in response to his earlier comments, and the whole-hearted agreement that I feel in response to his current reflection.
#2 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-09-29 08:20
What can we, the laity, do right now? I know it is your opinion I am asking for, but I have such great respect for you that I would value any suggestion you have.
I am in dispair ,but not one to just "turn a blind eye". Other than pray, what can I do?
Linda Eilzabeth Weir
Sr. Mark, Bethesda
#3 Linda Weir on 2006-09-29 08:52
There is (at least according to group dynamic thinkers) a temptation which all groups face when the group becomes bogged down in serious problems to keep stepping back from solutions because in fact change is painful, at times risky, uncertain, and may introduce a whole new set of (unanticipated problems). At such times, groups tend to resort to "restating the problem" rather than to actually solve the problem. Restating the problem is safer - you get to walk over familiar turf, no change is necessary, and you have the "safety" of known problems rather than the unsettling prospect of the unknown. However, when a group finds the problems so unsettling and the solutions agonizing, it may choose to stay frozen in restating the problem rather than in actually trying to solve or heal what ails the organization.
I for one agree with almost the entirety of Fr. Tom's restatement of the problem as in his example of the role of the bishop and his visit to the parish.
I don't agree that as long as some of the identified leaders are in stalemate that we can do nothing. We certainly can demand a three bishop panel to attempt to resolve the differences. We could ask for an ecclesiastical court to deal with the allegations. We can pressure our Metropolitan Council members to actually do the job they are given the competency to do in the Statutes. We can apply a great deal of pressure on the Synod of Bishops, MC, and Syosset, by simply not giving any more money to the central until they formulate the process and begin the process to break the stalemate. We can in effect say we will not pay for the insanity.
These things we can do while continuing our spiritual lives of love for God and neighbor, charity, prayer, liturgical and sacramental participation, scripture study, repentance, seeking forgiveness and fasting. These aforementioned practices are in no way in opposition to or in place of our responsibilities as the stewards of God's varied graces including the life of the Body of Christ.
It is not in opposition to the spiritual life for all of us to actively participate in the life and administration of the Church, and to call for and work for change - metanoia - in one another as well as within the OCA.
#4 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-09-29 09:48
This time, Fr. Hopko accurately and imaginatively described the root of the problem. In this case, financial mismanagement, scandal, and deception are the results of bad, non-Orthodox ecclesiology. In one sentence, the episcopate is estranged from the rest of the Church, and such problems will persist in every Orthodox Church - for those who think the view will be better in another jurisdiction - until the Church commences honest work in articulating and then practicing an Orthodox ecclesiology. Hopefully this new ecclesiology will NOT engage the nauseating exercise of romanticizing an Orthodox golden age, whether that is 19th- century Russia, or 6th-century Constantinople, that cannot be authenticated. We need an ecclesiology based on the New Testament and tradition to be exercised by the entire Church, and one that does not make ridiculous claims in demonizing everything Western, since we happen to live in the West.
I'm a proponent of best practices. But best practices are, in fact, only one small piece of a much larger puzzle that is currently in great disarray. May God Himself rebuild, reconstruct, and renew us into His Church.
#5 Dn. Nicholas Denysenko on 2006-09-29 09:59
I must say that my response to this most recent reflection from Father Hopko is quite similar to my reaction to his last posting, which I pondered at length, but to which I did not respond. I recall that Father Hopko offered his previous reflection in a spirit of godly debate, so I want to take the time now to reply to his comments.
While I can certainly understand Father Hopko’s point that we must all work to comprehend the varied historical influences on our modern Orthodox Church, I do not believe that our deep confusion over these issues is at the heart of our current troubles in the OCA. My greatest frustration with his reflections centers on what I would consider a reduction of our Orthodox Christian history—a reduction that could lead us as a Church to spend decades trying to ferret out gnats while we swallow the proverbial camels.
Our Orthodox Christian history did not begin in the Byzantine period, or even in the era of the Early Church. It began “In the beginning,” when God created the earth, and it most definitely includes the giving of the Decalogue to Moses—the moral law from which I doubt any Orthodox Christian would suggest we are exempt. After all, didn’t Christ, the new Adam, come to inaugurate a new humanity—to give us the possibility to become, through our cooperation with His grace, like God?
As such, it doesn’t matter what powers and privileges we have come to bestow on our Bishops (or what powers and privileges they have assumed over time). They, like all of us, are still accountable to the highest moral laws of the Kingdom of God. Indeed, they are to be the shepherds leading their flocks on this path. (And regardless of all of our contemporary models for “Leadership,” it is safe to say that the model Christ Himself introduced was that of the Servant Leader.) We as the Church are to hold each other accountable to the moral laws of the Kingdom, and rather than turning blind eyes when we see wrongdoing, we are to lovingly and gently correct each other and restore one another to holiness of life. When there is a refusal to confess and repent, we are charged with turning such individuals out of the Church (in the hope that they will finally see the matter clearly and be granted the grace to repent). The notion that we can neglect this admittedly difficult task and still be in obedience to Christ is wholly incompatible with true Christian teaching.
We sometimes want to see such “tolerance” as the high virtue of love or even detachment, when it fact it is often nothing more than mere indifference—or worse, a refusal to be inconvenienced, or to take up our cross and follow Christ. To speak out or to take corrective action is to accept the cross—and in our current troubles only a disappointing few have appeared willing to do so. As we ponder where the Church must go from here, and what our clergy and lay members are called upon to do, let us reflect on the much-quoted phrase: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men ____.” Is there anyone reading this post who can’t complete the sentence?
Prayerfully in Christ.
#6 Cathy Tatusko on 2006-09-29 10:41
Your comments are indeed full of truth, discernment, and true Orthodox Tradition (with a capital T). Such eloquence and discernment are indeed a gift from the Lord and complement the reflections and wisdom of so many other laymen/laywomen and clergy who have weighed in on the issues.
Your last paragraph especially is a great summary. It's so important to emphasize it that I'm re-posting here again since it's eloquence and truth is right on!
"We sometimes want to see such “tolerance” as the high virtue of love or even detachment, when it fact it is often nothing more than mere indifference—or worse, a refusal to be inconvenienced, or to take up our cross and follow Christ. To speak out or to take corrective action is to accept the cross—and in our current troubles only a disappointing few have appeared willing to do so. As we ponder where the Church must go from here, and what our clergy and lay members are called upon to do, let us reflect on the much-quoted phrase: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men __.” Is there anyone reading this post who can’t complete the sentence?"
AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I totally agree with your post. The root is a spiritual one , and not just ecclesiological, that pseudomorphs truth and light into deceit and coverup. A distorted ecclesiology along with psychological dysfunction can only aggravate and facilitate the problem as it is kept secret and in denial.
The problem I think is shame and fear of embarassment that the Church family may be exposed as less than perfect. We need spiritual doctors (men filled with the Holy Spirit) and pastoral psychologists as well as church historians and theologians to look into this mess. This is my opinion.
#8 Karen Jermyn on 2006-09-29 12:16
It pains me to disagree with Fr Thomas' thesis; but I must. The idea that the crisis in our modern Orthodoxy is the result of some psycho-social transmogrification is just wrong.
The liturgical practices and the social manners pertaining to Orthodox bishops have been around for centuries; and we never had this level of dysfunction in the old days.
Perhaps I'm looking backward with rose colored glasses; but I don't recall the older clergy acting like self absorbed potentates. I remember my first entrance to an Orthodox church, when Archbishop John of San Francisco came for the consecration of St Peter and Paul church in Phoenix. My parent were a mixed marriage, not even blessed in the church. We didn't even attend church. When we were brought before the Archbishop, he first blessed us and then gave each of us a bear hug ! I remember Fr John Karateew, who radiated kindness like the sun. Archbishop John of Chicago, was very practical and no-nonsense; but simple and kind.
The suggestion that some "psëudomorph" is responsible for the current catastrophe is a cop-out. Each of us is who we are; because of the choices we make. The fact that we dress the bishops like Barbie dolls; does not obligate them to act like prima-donnas. Nor, does it excuse the mis-use or misappropriation of the sacrificial offerings of the faithful. If the responsible parties will not correct themselves; then let them be corrected. One might suggest they read the story of Heli and his sons in the Book of Samuel.
In a previous reflection, Fr Thomas asked, why has the church has lost half its membership. Anyone of my generation, could answer that. It's because 90 % of our children turn 18, go to college and are never seen again. When they are asked why they left, the usual answer is: "the church had nothing for me" or "I don't get anything out of church".
If you want to know why; just click on the links and go to the "Orthodox Christianity" Indiana listserve web-page. On the September, Week 4 page you will find a post from an OCA Bishop. While the OCA is collapsing, Bishop Tikhon feels the need to express his consternation at what "those Greeks" are doing to the Feast of the Holy Cross. Their crime ?
To hold an Aghiasmo three days after the feast , with a diving-for-the-Cross contest, and, horror of horrors, a family barbeque !
It is precisely, this kind of self referential, liturgical nincompoopery; with the express disdain for families that has driven away three generations of our young people. That's why the church is shriveling on the vine.
Day after day, postings on this web-site, complain "what can we do ? ". It's really quite simple. Any member in good standing of any OCA parish would have legal standing to file a civil, if not criminal, complaint regarding the misappropriation of funds. Bank records of the church, and of the individuals implicated are on computers. A forensic accountant could delineate the money trail in a matter of days.
What is most worrisome is the current rumor that the OCA is finished, and that the various parishes and dioceses will adhere to the Moscow Patriarchate or another jurisdiction. Autocephaly ? There are some who consider it a historical abberration. I have often observed that the OCA was far more respected by those outside it, than by those within it. Let us all hope that the vision that Fr Schmemann bequeathed to us - of a united Orthodox church in this land will not die.
#9 Francis Frost on 2006-09-29 18:38
I have read Fr. Hopko's latest reflection, and Cathy Tatusko moving response to it, with great interest.
While this latest reflection is a great improvement over the last one, it does seem to skirt around the fundemental problem of corruption and sin which is at the heart of the OCA crisis, and which, unfortunately, like the poor, will always be with us. How Fr. Hopko, if he has been following this site, can contend that there is no "concrete evidence" or complain that no "formal" charges have been made, mystifies and confounds me?!
I do believe, however, that his historical analysis is right on target and relevant to our existing problems. Our current inablility to address and deal with this crisis stems from the nature and structure of the Episcopate, as it exists and functions today, and from the lack of accountability that flows from this present structure. In a sad and perverse way our bishops seem to have become like the Grand Inquisitor in the Brothers Karamazov--just like their Roman Catholic brethern!
I wish Fr. Hopko had offered more insights as to where we go from here, but at least he recognizes the nature of the beast.
#10 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-09-30 07:34
Dear Fr. Tom,
My sincere request to you and our other theologians: use your educated perspectives to start presenting a vision of the future for the Orthodox Church in a pluralistic culture. The endless analysis of the past by our seminaries is good, but please start drawing conclusions and making recommendations. If not you, who? If not now, when?
I am frankly worn out with hearing all the haranguing of our American culture by Orthodox people. Orthodox seem chronically nostalgic. We need to commit to our time and our place and fall in love with our people. Our Lord surely expects this of us.
Your Reflection was very helpful. Thank you.
#11 Anonymous on 2006-09-30 08:19
Francis,thanks for your being so open and to the point on Fr.Tom's reflections
FR.Tom was the DEAN at ST. Vlad's for approximately twelve years. He could have suggested the implementation of some of the nine points in his reflections.
To make it easy on the hopeful converts we should eliminate much of the imitations, and symbolism's in our church services.
ST James--Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO.
#12 Anonymous on 2006-09-30 15:32
I find Francis Frost's reference to bishops' vestments making them look like "Barbie Dolls" extremely offensive. While aesthetics and outer appearances is perhaps only a minor issue, this kind of wise guy attitude and lack of kindness is something I am beginning to find more and more disturbing in many of these posts.Not that the church doesn't have problems, and not that there isn't need for reform.But this kind of Freudian slip seems to harbor a Protestant Puritan attitude that may actually go deeper than mere surface image. What next? Icons ?
#13 Peter Von Berg on 2006-10-01 13:21
An elder had a very un-diligent monk amongst his disciples, one who never improved in spite of much exhortation. Then he died, and the elder prayed to have the state of the man's soul revealed to him. He saw a river of fire, and the brother up to the neck in it. "Did I not warn you ?" he asked him. "Yes," came the reply, "and it is thanks to you that my head is not suffering. Due to your prayers, I am standing on the head of a bishop."
The moral of this story? Attend to your own salvation.
#14 Joe on 2006-10-02 15:44
If Father Hopko had limited himself to stating that the life of the church today is the result of a “ ‘pseudomorphosis’ produced by confused interpretations and perceptions of church life” OCAnews would have had a useful Reflection.
As Fr. Hopko mentions, the term “pseudomorphosis” was coined by Fr. Georges Florovsky in (but not only) his “Ways of Russian Theology.” For those who are not familiar with this seminal work the author sets out to show, among other things, how Orthodox theology lost its moorings to Scripture, Liturgy and the Fathers.
To understand “pseudomorphosis” based on Fr. Hopko’s Reflection is to risk being misguided. The “confused interpretations and perceptions of church life” have little to do with clerical dress and liturgical pomp. Father Florovsky, whose name continues to give St. Vladimir’s Seminary its academic cachet, is himself, an example of an Orthodox priest decked in Turkish attire. Fr. Florovsky’s great inspiration, Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow together with his protégé and successor Metropolitan Innocent Veniaminov were products of the reforms of Peter the Great. Yet, this did not hinder Metropolitan Philaret from emphasizing the need to translate and study the Greek Fathers. Nor did it prevent Veniaminov from being one of the great missionaries and apostles of Christendom.
Like his letter to the Synod of Bishops and his last offering to OCAnews, Fr. Hopko’s current Reflection uses wide brush strokes to attempt to get at the heart of the matter only to end up where he began. The letter to the bishops stated the obvious. Who would disagree that bishops, priests and laity need to speak with each other? The two Reflections posted on this site are not only simplistic in historical content but divert attention from getting to and dealing with the real issues which are crippling the life of the OCA. These issues include hubris and dishonesty on the part of clergy and laity. Unless these can be confronted and rooted out, eliminating the vestiges of the Turkish yoke, the Church reforms of Peter the Great and the Scholastic mindset will only result in keeping us bound to the same place as we perpetuate a corrupt and corrupting ecclesial system.
As for stating that there is no concrete evidence surrounding our crisis, one has to wonder where Fr. Hopko has been for the last decade or so. If he had not held such a high profile in our small church his naiveté would be understandable. As dean of the OCA’s largest and prestigious seminary, perhaps Fr. Hopko was unaware that his school was not receiving its portion of the church wide Seminaries Collection. Perhaps he was not informed by the Seminary rep to the Metropolitan Council that that body was being reduced to an advisory board. Perhaps he still does not know of the ongoing investigations being paid for by the OCA which to date have revealed missing monies, bequests, special collections and financial records requiring the church to take out a 1.7 million dollar loan. All this is in addition to the packet of information presented by Protodeacon Eric Wheeler to the Synod and the Metropolitan Council.
What more convincing evidence is needed to tell us that wrongdoing has occurred?
#15 Fr. Robert M. Arida on 2006-10-02 17:15
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