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Fr. I liked your piece and I agree with much of it, but…then I think I disagree with some of it. I agree that for the higher ups, much of it I am afraid has to do more with power than with truth. That may be so. Over that, baring prayer, I have little or no power. So I don’t worry about it much.

But for people like myself and my wife, autocephaly in so far as it eliminates phyletism would be a great blessing. It will be to those who are treated like second class members of the church, who are asked fairly routinely, “If you’re not Greek, why are you here?” Or “Why aren’t you Protestant (or Catholic)? Or who are told to go "somewhere else" since you're trying to "change our Greek church." Or whose children are excluded from summer camps or other activities, because of their ethnic background. Frankly I am sick of “Hellenism” and I am rather tired of clergy who can’t seem to find the body parts they were born with to confront their members with the falsities of Hellenism or American moral liberalism, but rather sit back and smile as people openly flout the teaching of the church. You couldn't preach openly about abortion in my parish without an open revolt I'd wager. I don’t know if they are afraid to lose money or what, but I can tell you this much, they are declining already and a lack of discipline isn’t going to plug that hole. Nor will building bigger buildings. They'e already lost an entire generation and they can't figure it out. duh you preached culture and cultural taste and not the gospel.

Honestly, I never thought I’d have to worry about what my four year olds would hear in Sunday school in the Orthodox Church, but given this Pascha, their being told by a life long member that Jesus really didn’t “come back in his body but the disciples just saw his ghost” after ten years, I am at my limit. But hey, we can’t remove Sunday school teachers because that might offend someone and after all, they’re “Greek.”

Do we really have that many parishoners that can’t understand English that we have to have the Liturgy in Greek? Really? Sorry, I am not buying it. Rather its exclusionary and meant to be. I see it every year when I do the church tours. The impression is given and received that this is the *Greek* Orthodox Church regardless of what I may say in the tour. Frankly, this whole idea of “Greek = Orthodox” has got to go. God can make these stones…I don't give two poops if my sunday school kids are Greek or not. I care if they love Christ or not and if they have a decent grasp of the truths of the faith or not or if their faith is going to survive college or not. I mean look at how these people give. When I was in grad school I was number 12 giver in a VERY large parish. That means only 11 more people gave more than moi and I was poor. They work at the festival so they don't have to give at all. Or they to a Protestant evangelical church during the week and come to the Orthodox Church and partake on major fast days, without any church discipline at all. How about weddings and baptisms? Cut a check and its ok that you haven't been to church in twenty years or that you probably reject Christ. Phyletism won't go away without some church discipline.

So I don’t think that phyletism will go away with successive generations. The Orthodox have been here for 200 years and still we have phyltism. Why? Because the institutions protect and project it and they won’t stop until enough non-Greek or non-Arabs get into the hierarchy to make them stop and slap them silly with a bit of reality by getting them to recognize that Jesus was **Jewish** and that God really doesn’t care about your ethnicity. And it won’t go away by itself because people want their ghetto away from home. They want that tinge of the old country and aren’t there really at all for the religion. They are there for the Greek country club. If you started preaching the truth in a good many parishes, these people would go or kick the priest out or both.

I'm in it for the faith and not for someone's Gyro's.

Father as to your proposition, I would agree.

As to how/if theosis would produce unity, a case will need to be made for this. Simply stating it won't suffice.

"Fundamentalist tree-hugging Orthodox." Thank God I found you on this blog-I was beginning to think that I was the last, near-extinct, representative of this small group.

Yes, Robert, theosis would certainly "produce" unity -- a true, ecclesial unity.

But my proposition remains: such an ecclesial unity may not at all be produced by an apparent "jurisdictional unity."

Yes, the Gospel divides. It is dividing right now.

Father, burden of proof aside, my question is if indeed a case can be made that theosis would produce unity and such. I truly don't know. It's an honest question. I can see it both ways: the Gospel unites and divides. No?

I'm afraid we agree far more than either of us would admit.

Just to show how generous I am, I will take your point about the evangelization of certain countries before the souring of Rome.

Okay, so neither of us are really that sanguine.

Nothing is said about megachurches, which, you must know, I am the first to excoriate as something that Arius would find repugnant. I have done my share of small-minded sniping: I quite enjoy it, truth be told. I have no alternative strategy. I am sans strategy: and I'm not too sad about this. Sorry.

I do not shun any priest. I get along quite well with Greeks, OCA, Antiochians, Serbians, ROCOR-ians.

The only outreach I believe in is the deification of our members who then let their light shine before men. I float advertisements and even web pages now and then, but I don't put much trust in mortal princes.

I do not complain about my salary. My bishop gives his humble salary away, completely. I do complain about the salary of my brother priests, and have made myself unpopular with not a few.

I raise my voice when I preach, and I think my parishioners look at their watches, but they don't complain. I gesture, not wildly, about sinfulness -- my own and everyone else's.

Zeal? If you have to ask, you haven't encountered it.

Horrible non-Christian environments? Let's see: Germany, Lithuania, France, etc. I don't think anyone would dispute that these countries were successfully Christianized, until, of course, Old Rome went sour. I count as horrible all environments in which Christian (Orthodox) missionaries were martyred by pagans prior to successful conversion.

No one martyrs Christians nowadays in Western countries, and our hierarchs should have a easy time of evangelization.

Sanguine? I doubt it. What have the Bishops done about the megachurches? I've seen small-minded clerical sniping online, but no alternative strategies. Our priests shun priests of competing jurisdictions. Our parishes generally have zero outreach (GreekFest doesn't count). We pay our married priests squat so we can buy icons with gold leaf.

During my readings, I came across a story that some secular authorities in pre-Soviet Russia forbade clerics to gesture and raise their voices during sermons. Apparently, priests got excited enough about folks' sinfulness that they gestured wildly and shouted their rebukes. How often does that happen now?

I've witnessed a couple of strongly-voiced rebukes, but how much zeal do we generally encounter?

This is all understandable if we step back. Who of us really, truly prefers to be Orthodox? The sacrament of confession is proof we all, often, prefer to be non-Orthodox. We prefer self-will and disobedience, we prefer excuses for our weakness, we prefer not to give blood and not to gain the Spirit (or, at least, we prefer to gain something else we like to then call 'Spirit'). It should be no real shock that we prefer ignoring these canons, too. It isn't just an ethnic thing, or a political thing, or due to money or government influence, etc. - though these are all in play, too, mind you - it's a sin thing. As you say, it's due to "Passion... Doctrinal failure... [and] Boredom with theosis" and, you know, Orthodoxy.

I'm having a sort of flashback to the lesson behind Dostoevsky's parable of the Grand Inquisitor.

Well said, Orr.

All these "non-requirements" that you point out are the very things that are said to be required, and used to support the proposition for unification.

I may be obtuse, here, but for the life of me, I do not understand what jurisdictional ambiguity is obstructing me now from communion with other local Orthodox parishes, that are of other dioceses. We program together, go to each other's banquets, and pray together.

But you're right, of course: what is required is one bishop in my city and all cities, and a metropolitanate structure so that the episcopacies in the outback know which cathedral to look to, and to appeal to.

The lost sheep are those who are not being fed, those who are not being immersed in Holy Tradition. That, as you pointed out, includes the non-churched, but also the heterodox and, perhaps, many of our own people.

But I doubt whether you'll hear "lost sheep" applied to the heterodox: how could you, if you are a "member denomination" of the NCC -- which is inherently committed to "heterodoxy"?

In my reading of the push toward autocephaly by the Metropolia, they were initially looking for a way to maintain communion with Moscow while also protecting itself from Soviet interference. The Metropolia (or, at least the voting members at the Sobor) were looking for a sort of radical autonomy rather than full and complete autocephaly. ROCOR, by comparison, had completely cut itself off from the MP by that time. I don't think it is beside the point to note that autocephaly was the purpose of the 1946 Sobor that broke ties with ROCOR to reach out to Moscow - note the year (Russia was still an ally, the Cold War had not yet started, ROCOR was rather pro-Nazi [anti-Soviet, really] at the time, and the Church in Russia had enjoyed relative freedom during the war).

However, the reasons for autocephaly seem to have changed between 1946 and the granting of the Tomos by Moscow in 1970. Perhaps this was due to Schmemann's influence and vision for Orthodoxy on this continent, perhaps this was Moscow's doing (on behalf of the KGB?), perhaps it was part and parcel with an attempt at union that Iakovos and Philip then balked at, perhaps it was an attempt to honestly fulfill the initial vision of St. Tikhon. Who knows?

Regardless, it is clear that the canons do not require autocephaly, they do not require that local church and diocesan boundaries conform to political borders, they do not require we have our own Synod here because the Mother Churches are so far away, they don't require a bishop or Synod of our own culture(s). They do require one bishop in each city and that the bishops know who is the first among them in their region and they do not allow for overlapping dioceses based on ethnicity such as we find in St. Tikhon's vision, the OCA and the EP. I'm not sure 'separate but equal' or 'apartheid' (in the academic sense) style dioceses are the answer, especially in North America. The 'answers' to the jurisdictional problems are intractable only because we refuse to live and pray together - we refuse to love the other, even when they are others of our own, small Faith. We prefer our petty kingdoms of one and we refuse to acknowledge that the 'lost sheep' of the parable are the non-Orthodox, not just 'our Orthodox' that don't come to church.

Well, Robert, I think the burden of proof lies rather with those who are proposing autocephaly. Your conversion of terms assumes an equivalency that does not exist.

It turns out that ascesis actually does help with true unity -- an ecclesial unity that should exist with or without the explicit sort wrought about by jurisdictional chess-piecing.

Mystagogy, however, if it is faithful to Holy Tradition, may end up working against autocephaly if the latter is not faithful to Tradition. In such a case, mystagogy will not help with autocephaly, nor should it.

Why not turn the tables?

Prove to me that mystagogy will help autocephaly.
Prove to me that ascesis will help with unity.

Brother Bruce,

Your name is like good news.

Martin, you are asking my questions, and they are answered by a hollow echo.

Seek the Table, and the prayers in this noisome time.

There is no other St. Gregory than the one who was and is.

Pax, Martin.

I'm glad to find someone who is more sanguine about Orthodox mission than I am. Tell me about these horrible non-Christian environments that have been successfully evangelized.

You are tempting me to say something about the deficiencies of hierarchical kerygma. I cannot for now.

Blessings, V.

Speaking of theosis and ascesis, what are the Hesychasts and God-bearing Elders of our times saying about this Assembly and possibility of a Council?

Will there be another St. Gregory Palamas to champion and vindicate the path of theosis and ascesis?

New York can't denounce corporate greed, hyper-finance, and pension plans without defining what it's denouncing.

"When ever before has Orthodoxy arrived on the shores of a culture so thoroughly secularized in its denatured and national Christianity? When ever before has Orthodoxy developed in so lay-oriented, even anti-clerical manner?"

Come on now. Orthodoxy managed to evangelize and flourish in horrible non-Christian environments. Perhaps Orthodox hierarchs who believe that our culture is Christian, albeit secularized, sow the seeds of their own paralysis. Relatedly, the hierarchs would have to figure out why they're content to lay back and let Pope Ben and Billy Graham do their talking for them.

Orr, I would bow my head gladly under the Kartveli, for they know life over death.

You are right about the non-necessity of autocephaly for united witness. Everything in history is being rolled back.

It is probably also worth noting that autocephaly is not required for a united witness in North America. We would be just as 'united' as a diocesan exarchate of Jerusalem as we would as an autonomous church under Tbilisi.

I also agree that phyletism and jurisdictionalism is a symptom of the deeper problem, not that deeper problem's cause.

Thanks for this: "If this work. . .will seek to prepare the American Orthodox community for the Day of the Lord, I'd feel a lot better."

Oh, Christopher, one more thing:

You wrote "... or the theosis of the millions of souls who will not receive the Apostolic Tradition because the Orthodox Churches, who claim that tradition, do not see it as their job to give it to them? And the reason for that, make no mistake, is phyletism."

I really hope that it is not so that American Orthodox Churches "do not see it as their job to give it to them." I think that there are at least some American Orthodox who in fact take that job seriously.

I wish, really wish, you were right in that the reason for the failure of "giving Apostolic Tradition to them" is phyletism.

But despite my wishes, and your claims, this is not so.

If phyletism were the main problem, then we could simply sit back and wait for the immigrant characteristics of our conclaves to fade away.

Phyletism is an eminently sociological problem that will go away in a succession of generations and assimilation. It will go away by itself, fairly soon in a historical case.

But the real problem will remain.

James, "Mature Orthodoxy" must always -- as you know -- exist as a goal, as in "be ye perfect as your Father is perfect." Nevertheless, in today's modernist, demotic idiom, "mature Orthodoxy" is usually dismissed as a meaningless impossibility, which has no moral or deifying effect upon the soul.

Thus, the term "mature Orthodoxy" permits me the critique of saying that we are not nearly where we should be, and that we are deficient, while stipulating that while perfection will not be arrived at, yet it is still possible.

It permits me also to complain that we have not even demonstrated a bona fide attempt.

Christopher, I do not deny that phyletism is problematic. Not only is this so, but it is heretical. I stipulated, from the beginning, the deplorable morass of dividing up the American Orthodox community into ethnic categories.

I do not even deny the possibility that autocephaly will happen, and that it might even be a good thing at some point. I question, however, the irrational and inordinate hope placed on autocephaly, and upon the aftermath of jurisdictional correction. As a former protestant, I harbor a low view of denominational centralization -- and I recognize too much protestant denominational thinking in the current push for Orthodox centralization.

"Prove to me that American autocephaly will help with theosis"


Whose theosis are you talking about? Your own, and that of the faithful who stand at liturgy in your parish? or the theosis of the millions of souls who will not receive the Apostolic Tradition because the Orthodox Churches, who claim that tradition, do not see it as their job to give it to them? And the reason for that, make no mistake, is phyletism.

"Autocephaly" is not the answer. But that does not mean that phyletism is not the problem.

Regarding Leadership 100, see www.l100.org, which states the following:

"In 1984, under the guidance of Archbishop Iakovos, Leadership 100 was created as an endowment fund of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese through which Greek Orthodox leaders were asked to commit themselves to offer $10,000 a year for a total of $100,000 each to maintain the life-sustaining ministries of the Church.

Today, Leadership 100, renamed The Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund in recognition of Archbishop Iakovos’ vision, is a separately incorporated endowment fund supporting the priority needs of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, but broadly dedicated to advancing the Orthodox faith and Hellenic ideals in America.

Leadership 100 disburses grants ranging from scholarship funds for individuals studying for the priesthood, building an information infrastructure and Internet ministries for the Archdiocese, promoting the National Ministries and providing assistance to emergencies such as September 11, Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes and medical needs.

With the initial membership of 100 soon surpassed, Leadership 100 “raised the bar” and grew progressively to 300, doubling its membership to 600 in 2000 and now to more than 825 members as it marks its 25th Anniversary in 2009. The membership includes a broad spectrum of Greek Orthodox leaders, men and women of all ages from every field, as well as Leadership 100 Partners, young professionals who join at an affordable level as they progress in their careers.

Leadership 100 is a driving force to seed and nurture new programs that advance Orthodoxy and Hellenism into the 21st Century."

Thank you for this.
Not sure what a fundamentalist tree-hugger is... but maybe you have something there.

I wonder about the location... and whether it is conducive. I am not certain about the chicken-egg dichotomy... aka in contemporary parlance as "the chicken egg situation", as to whether resolution of these issues marks progress towards theosis or away, whether it strengthens voices or weakens them that would direct us rightly. I would agree that the motivation to play a role at the political power table that is oft voiced on some sites not in the name of power but in the name of informing debate... can readily lead to captivity of a different and unconstructive sort. And yet I am not sure whether we are blessed to be under the radar screen in the present arrangements (in some ways "yes") or bedevilled by the same in some sort of assumed unaccountability. And so one wonders whether an autocephalous church would add or remove this aspect?

I am encouraged by your comments regarding Archbiship Demetrios, and wonder whether our immaturity lies in fact in a sense of lack of self-confidence and self-assurance that the Greeks for one reason or another do not suffer... and whether this is in fact a virtue or vice... as the balance is very difficult to maintain. But mostly I agree with your comment regarding the surplus of passion... which I would simply wonder whether it's not of uncertain origin and yet certainly imbued in our culture as it is in many.

I do not know what "mature Orthodoxy" is... and maybe that proves your case, but seems to me that all our Orthodoxies (Russodoxy, Grecodoxy, Syradoxy) suffer in some way... only here it remains legitimate to question it and navel gaze about it in ways perhaps less common abroad?

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