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thank you, dude

Father, Thanks. Thanks for the post. I was worried you'd forever forsworn blogging these last few weeks, and that I would be hence without my often cranky, sometimes inscrutable, but always edifying & entertaining prot-convert Orthodox presbyterian fix.

I am so very glad it is not so.

I think what must necessarily be injected into the list of "Opiate mantras", is "Honoring Diversity". This relentless force feeding of honoring many gods instead of one, has gone beyond the simple idea of having respect for other cultures and ideas to that of your being intolerant if you don't. From a Orthodox Christian point of view, honoring diversity can only result in an erosion of ones faith since honoring diversity is an end in itself, and prohibits an individual from rising above respecting other peoples and cultures to seeing that our end is the Kingdom of Heaven, and not attaching ourselves to secular and earthly achievements of others. Honoring diversity clearly forces Orthodox Christians to think of themselves as being on the same spiritual footing as any other belief, and causes an erosion of one's own sacramental understanding of salvation. Orthodoxy has diversity in all it's churches, but our end is Christ and not the diversity of it's members.
Children in public schools are constantly asked to examine themselves if they are being tolerant of other cultures and races and accepting of their beliefs, which causes the person to question their own faith, since belief in Christ may be, and will be, inconsistent with other religions(yes I know, strictly defined, Christianity is not a religion). What could be worse for Orthodox Christianity than to not protect our children from ideas such as these? Unfortunately, I don't see much protection being done, which I'm sure amounts to a rather monumental task at the least and a significant challenge to our clergy. Thanks for your posts, and thanks for listening.

I don't think we need ever fear a rush of converts, as Orthodoxy can never be so popular. Neither do I think that ethnic jurisdictions are so stumbling, as some of the very ethnicity that we converts complain about serves, or helps to serve, as a providential brake upon our imported protestantism.

Diocesan boundaries are what is less meaningful. The diocese, as the pastorate of the bishop, remains significant.

Jeremiad instead of lampoon. I knew I should have gotten a B.A. instead of a B.S.

Maybe the "confusing" and "divided" ethnic jurisdictions that I get thrown in my face at times (I've yet to meet a Protestant scandalized by two Bishops in a city, per se) are more rationalization than rationale for not becoming Orthodox. And sometimes, recovering Calvinist that I am, I muse that insofar as ethnic jurisdictions are a stumbling block, they might persist as a providential brake on what otherwise could become a mad and unassimilable rush of converts to Orthodoxy.

Thanks for the reply. Your thoughts about the relative meaninglessness of "diocese" today are entirely new to me, and will require some reflection.

No, I am not suggesting that the current state of affairs is good. But I do not think that it prevents Orthodox Americans from becoming and doing what they ought.

I think the term phyletism has been thrown too freely at the present ecclesial disarray. I think that the reason why there is a multiplicity of diocesan administrations is not only because of regrettable ethnic divisions, but because of pronounced differences in the needs of various Orthodox communities. There is also a need for as many Orthodox bishops as there are in America, and the pastoral need is probably for many more.

More than ever, we need more bishops who are righteous, filled with the Spirit, having attained purification, illumination and communion so that they can proclaim the theoria of doctrine from personal experience. Nothing less is required when the West is falling.

In the disarray of modern culture, which is no longer meaningfully marked by geographical boundaries as once was true when the term "diocese" had secular, as well as ecclesial, meaning, I do not think it is damaging in the least to have bishops residing in the same area. Nothing now is restraining the Orthodox Church from its proclamation, ministry or spirituality -- certainly not the presence of more than one ecclesiarch. There is no real secular power, rich administration, or geographical territory to fight over. We are in the catacombs: diocesan boundaries have been meaningless for quite some time. The handwringing about phyletism is anachronistic at best.

It is not a "neat" system, but it is also not a status quo that suppresses the Spirit. Such suppression comes from lack of belief, failure in dogma, unrepentance, and sinfulness. Those things, not phyletism, are what is hampering Orthodoxy in America. That is certainly one intent of my "dig" in this piece, and I don't think it is an extreme.

Besides, the form of this piece is a jeremiad, not a lampoon.

The current "mess" of Orthodox jurisdictions is regrettable, and will doubtlessly grow simpler over time. But the attempt to either establish an independent unified administration, or to pursue self-rule as a "good" is certainly fraught with peril. The American religious history of independence, as you and I both know from our protestant experience, is marked by constant ecclesial, if not doctrinal, corrosion. I think that recent history in American Orthodoxy has also shown this to be so.

"Self-determination. Auto-cephaly. A single American jurisdiction. ... [I]n America, a centralized ecclesial administration will always tend toward a heretical departure from Christianity: first from traditional ecclesiology, then Incarnational ethics, and then finally from Trinitarian faith. "

Father Jonathan:

Well, nobody can say you're afraid of swimming against the stream.

Are you suggesting that the current ethnic jurisdictions and multiple bishops in a city/territory are good for us? That Americans are uniquely unfit for canonical polity? That we're better with phyletism (sp?) than with a polity that for Protestants has manifested the power of entropy as a metaphor?

I confess that I'm a convert from "low" Protestantism and am rather tone-deaf about some things. I also confess that I've not been looking to a single jurisdiction as a panacea, and so may have missed some extreme that you're lampooning. But I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out what your intent is in this dig, and how you think Orthodoxy in North America should be structured.

Thank you for this post and for the warnings it contains. Your comment about John Chrysostom not having fun reminds me of the start of his homily on Phil. 3:18-21:

"Nothing is so incongruous in a Christian, and foreign to his character, as to seek ease and rest; and to be engrossed with the present life is foreign to our profession and enlistment. Thy Master was crucified, and dost thou seek ease? Thy Master was pierced with nails, and dost thou live delicately? Do these things become a noble soldier? Wherefore Paul saith, “Many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Since there were some who made a pretense of Christianity, yet lived in ease and luxury, and this is contrary to the Cross: therefore he thus spoke. For the cross belongs to a soul at its post for the fight, longing to die, seeking nothing like ease, whilst their conduct is of the contrary sort. So that even if they say, they are Christ’s, still they are as it were enemies of the Cross. For did they love the Cross, they would strive to live the crucified life. Was not thy Master hung upon the tree? Do thou otherwise imitate Him."

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