Monday, December 21, 2009

You Can Get The Evangelical Into Orthodoxy But Can You Get Orthodoxy Into The Evangelical?

 I had a conversation over the weekend with a church member of our former Antiochian World Orthodox Church. This member is one of the founding members having been part of the church for 30-plus years. I was stunned when he pressed the point that there is no connection to what a bishop does and what the local church does. The conversation was particularly focused on the possibility that one's bishop may fall into heresy and a local parish and members have a responsibility to react to such a happening. At every turn in the conversation, the member refused to consider the possibility that the local church, or he as a member, was effected in any way if their Bishop were to become heretical. I brought to his attention that he commemorates the Bishop in every service, that the Bishop is the local Church and that the Liturgy is done in his name. Still he refused to consider that there was any effect at all on a local parish. In other words, if the Bishop is heretical, it is okay to do nothing. Just keep on keeping on. This long-time member's limited understanding that the Orthodox Church is corporately and mystically "one", was revelatory. Having left that communion this year to become part of the Genuine Orthodox Church of America, I am seeing more clearly, from this vantage point, that, not only did our former church not adhere to Orthodox teachings, but it was not even in unity with its Antiochian roots. It is a parish of its own making, influenced by its easy, no obligation, acceptance into the Antiochian diocese by its current metropolitan. No one was required to be baptized to enter the church, and today that is still the practice. For years after becoming Antiochian, this former evangelical religious commune, located on acreage several miles in the country, still used guitars in its liturgy. Even though they eventually replaced their guitars with Byzantine chant, today the church's individual tweaking of the Liturgy includes the elimination of the entire reading of the canons during Matins- to "save time." It is no surprise that the member, with which I had the conversation, holds the opinion that he does. It seems it was easy to get the evangelical into Orthodoxy but it is not so easy to get Orthodoxy in the evangelical.

For the sake of this member I have included here the Orthodox practice which he denies is relevant:

"During the Divine Liturgy, the name of the local prelate is commemorated aloud by the deacon during the Litany of Peace at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy and at the Litany of Fervent Supplication after the Readings, before the Divine Eucharist, when the Catechumens are still present with the Faithful.

After the consecration of the Divine Gifts, the priest officiating commemorates the local bishop in whose name he is conducting the Divine Liturgy and under whom he remains canonically, as does the whole of the Eucharistic Assembly. Should the bishop himself be at the head of the Eucharistic Assembly, he commemorates at this point the primate of the eparchy, the metropolitan - “First of all, remember, Lord, our Archbishop, NN., and grant that he ...” - with whom he is in sacramental and therefore canonical communion and under whose chairmanship he serves."

commemorate- to call to remembrance
remembrance- an act of calling to mind

If a church or a member commemorates a heretical Bishop they too partake in the heresy. Remove the Bishop from the church or remove your family from the Bishop, lest you become a Frog In Boiling Water.


  1. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I can sympathize with the difficulties you experienced in your last Orthodox church, but you've been Orthodox all of what -less than 1 or 2 years now? And already whenever you speak to other Orthodox you tell them that they are not "really" Orthodox based on how they were received into the Church? Just be careful in the way you speak to people because from what I've seen of your blog, you seem to have a rather limited experience of Orthodoxy. Many years ago I had serious questions about the same issue (i.e.-reception into the Church by holy chrismation), and in addition to doing much historical research into the issue (which I'm sure you have already done) I sought out respected and well-known fathers and monastic elders, including an Athonite Abbot and confessor, as well as ROCOR priests, a Romanian priest (now departed) who many many Romanians and others consider to be a Saint, and a holy father of St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai... and not one of them instilled doubt into my mind about my reception into the Church, instead they affirmed the ability of an Orthodox bishop to exercise either akriva or economy depending on the circumstances (even when triple immersion was not the exact form of the former heterodox baptism). After all, St. Mark of Ephesus favored receiving Latins by the economy of Chrismation even when it was well-known that they weren't doing triple immersions; and Patriarchs of Constantinople had received Latins in the 14th century even when it was known these Latins had been baptized by single immersion. Even though canonical exactitude is the guiding norm, it doesn't take away a bishop's or a holy synod's ability to apply pastoral economy where they desire. I too would like to see the bishops receive more converts by the akriva of holy baptism, yet it is not for me or anyone else to go around sowing doubt into the minds of simple people. I've been to multiple Orthodox churches and monasteries in Egypt, Greece, Romania, Lebanon, Syria, and the Holy Land, including the very zealot Mar Sabbas Monastery in Palestine where they still live exactly like the Desert Fathers of old, and not one monk or father anywhere ever questioned my true Orthodoxy even though I'd been received into the Church from former Protestant heresy by Holy Chrismation. Perhaps it's true that this Antiochian parish is not where they need to be in terms of Orthopraxis and in forming a traditional mentality, but leave these simple people in God's hands, and in the meantime gain a broader experience of Holy Orthodoxy by visiting some monasteries and seeking out monastic Elders. There a number of Elders still around who have been direct disciples of Saints (like the disciples of Elder Sophrony in Essex, England; or Elder Joseph the Hesychast's disciples on Athos and one in America; or Elder Cleopa's abbot-disciples in Moldova, Romania) humble advice is to go speak to some of these fathers before you go around and pronounce on who is and who is not Orthodox. I'm not trying to be combative, but it's a serious thing to sow doubt into the minds of simple people.
    Thanks brother,
    Aglaios from TX

  2. Anonymous9:51 PM

    to follow the last comment... I do realize that the main point of your last post was not the reception by Chrismation issue per se, but it seems like something you seem to constantly write about, and already you are quite convinced that "World Orthodoxy" is completely compromised on this issue. My first comments were framed around that issue because it seems to be a constant one that you bring up on your blog.
    And really my underlying basic point is that you ought to seek out some Athonite Elders and their advice before continuing with these Old Calendarist groups. Also there are still ROCOR priests and bishops who were taught by St. John of ShangH. and San Francisco... why not seek spiritual guidance from them instead of listening to these Old Calendarists on every issue?

  3. Aglaios,
    I was about to write a response to the first comment when I noticed you had sent the second for clarification. Thank you. I appreciate your thoughtful counsel. Please forgive me if I do not give you your due respect. I don't know if you are layman, deacon, priest or bishop. I do not know if you are Orthodox or are outside the church. In any case, though your tone is one of exhortation, you do take on the role of counselor, one which I don't know that you have earned here. Do you claim that role because you are older than I or because you have been Orthodox longer? Both of those criteria are useless unless one has truth. You also have a theme going here, that of assuming I have not done my homework or that my conclusions are because I have limited myself to listening to the wrong folks, i.e., Old Calendarists. You are also not the first to suggest that I have no right of comment on what is or is not Orthodox by virtue of my relative newness to the faith. Why is there a presumption that I have been on a deserted island with no bible, books, or internet...then was rescued and found Orthodoxy and had to learn to think. I am 53 years old. I am not a newborn. Paul told Timothy not to despise his youth. David, the boy shepherd, was chosen king of Israel, yet you, along with others on this blog suggest that I have no right or ability to discern truth, read the canons, read history or think rationally, because I have not been Orthodox long enough. And yes, you have skirted the issue of the post. "Heretics". Do you agree with my friend in that the heresy of a bishop does not effect the parishioners who commemorate him? The word "economy" has been used as license to adulterate the faith. Bishops DO NOT have the right to stray form the canons or deny the scriptures just because they "desire." History is full of those who did and they were condemned. Would you deem me mature enough in the faith to say that someone who denies that Jesus is the only way to the Father is NOT Orthodox? If not, would you tell me how many years must I be Orthodox before I can state such things?

  4. Anonymous11:22 PM

    On the issue of the heresy of a bishop and his relation to the parish, I agree with you.

    Perhaps it is foolish of me to take the tone of a counselor, especially as I am a young Orthodox layman. Forgive me for sounding that way. I am no teacher myself, but what I am trying to offer is what's been told me in the past by monks, priests, and bishops.

    I don't know you of course, but it just seems that you came to some very quick and extreme conclusions (i.e.-all of "world Orthodoxy" has supposedly apostasized), without having visited some places you need to visit first.

    There are many zealot and traditionalist fathers who understand the compromises of certain current hierarchs and priests, but they say it is not yet the time to sever communion from the holy patriarchs. It is very easy and possible to be joined to a bishop and a local church that is Old Calendar, anti-ecumenist, and that baptizes all converts without having to leave the communion of the ancient patriarchates.

    I understand the unfortunate and horrible compromises within some parts of the Church, but I listen to my monastic friends who are under an Athonite abbot here in the U.S. who say "look to what the Sacred Community of Athos does; when they bolt then it's time to bolt, but those times are not now."

    We are talking about Abbots of the Holy Mountain who have attained to pure prayer and illumination. Why would you so hastily sever yourself from them just because they continue to commune with their Patriarch (even though they constantly send rebukes to him for correction and admonishment)?

    It just seems that you are rashly castigating so much of the Church, yet based on my experience it is not so black and white in large parts of the Church (i.e.- there are very zealot parts of the Church you could seek counsel and guidance in without having to leave the canonical communion of the patriarchates).

  5. Anonymous11:31 PM

    Also, I didn't mean to say that you don't have a mature understanding of Orthodoxy simply because you are relatively new to the Orthodox faith. I'm sure that you've read tons of history and doctrinal works, and the works of the fathers.
    I'm just saying that there's something that you can gain (that you'll never gain by reading or by talking to a few Old Calendarists) by visiting various traditional monasteries in the U.S. and abroad. You will find zealot and traditionalist Orthopraxis in these places without having to get involved with Old Calendarists.
    For example we are talking about monks and nuns that are the spiritual grandchildren of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, as well as spiritual grandchildren of St. Silouan the Athonite.
    I'm just saying you would benefit greatly from talking to these before taking the final step into Old Calendarism.
    It's not necessary to go into a group that may have a handful of parishes here in the U.S.
    Please, find a Greek Archdiocese monastery for example, or a ROCOR monastery, and see for yourself before getting too deep into your Old Calenarist group.

  6. Nathan,

    Greetings in our Lord.

    I have been crazy busy and have not had not much time for Internet interaction but have viewed your journey with great and warm interest.

    Quickly now as I have to hit the sack, I agree with so much of what you say and even sympathize almost to the tee with your position but I think Aglaios made some very good points. I have some of my own I would add if time permitted, but I cannot right now.

    But to let you know my spiritual father is at St. Anthony's in Florence, Arizona and I visit there as often as I can. I well understand what you're going through and do not wish to in any way confront you or your choice. Please consider what has been written by Aglaios and if God permits, you and I will continue this conversation after the New Year sometime.

    Do know, however, that I am yours in Christ, dear brother.


  7. Sophocles, I always welcome your perspective and conversation with you. Thank you for realizing that I am on the "other side" of the journey as I am now part of the Genuine Orthodox Church of America. I purposely did not announce publicly where where we were headed because I knew there would be myriads of people with as many opinions attempting to "help us". My family and I feel such a sense of completeness and community that we never felt in Antioch. I am enjoying hearing from Aglios, but have yet to ask him, in all of his travels and contact with the people on the list he has presented, who among those are Old Calendarists? Perhaps now that I am one I may give a first hand commentary on the real life and works of this fully-Orthodox group and dispel the many false rumors that circulate concerning them/us. I hope you know that I am not a push-over and am always striving for truth, despising contradictions and inconsistencies. I have found the Bishops of the GOC to be of the same heart. I enjoy keeping up with you on FB.

  8. Aglaios, Keep in mind, for further discussion, that I have already taken the "final step" into the Genuine Orthodox Church of America" as I was baptized on November 29th. So, if you hope to ward me off from such...too late :). The GOC's "handful" of parishes currently includes 10 states in America. It is the oldest and largest of the Old Calendar jurisdictions and is very active in mission efforts. I have every intention of getting "deep" into the GOC. Why wouldn't I? In fact, I will hope and pray to establish a mission effort in Tennessee for the sake of the lost souls in this area. God forbid that, in the midst of all our jurisdictional discussions, we forget that our commission from Christ Jesus is to reach lost souls. The GOC is not about pointing out what is wrong about other jurisdictions, but about proclaiming what is right about Christ. Our websites and communications reflect that. It is one of the main things that initially impressed me about the GOC. Unfortunately, many lump all the Old Calendarists into the same pile and direct criticism that is not warranted.

    We will release a GOC Tennessee Website very soon which I hope will reflect what I am saying.

  9. Anonymous9:32 AM

    During the Arian heresy almost all the patriarchs, almost all the bishops and almost all the priests remained with the Arians. During the Monophysite/Monotheletism controversy almost all the patriarchs, bishops and priest remained in communion with these heresies. In the end all those patriarchs and all those bishops and all those priests were found to be heretical while one lone monk who refused to be in communion with heresy was found to be in the right and is still veneratated as St. Maximos the Confessor. The idea of remaining in communion with heresy just because many others do and just because many who seem to be spiritual say it is ok is a strange way of determining truth. Even saints can err. The Holy Scriptures tell us to have no communion with those who do not continue in the apostles doctrine. St Paul pronounced anathama even against angels if they preach another gospel so how can we justify remaining in communion with heresy just because some monks who seem to be spiritual tell us to stay and submit to another gospel? Those who remain cannot point to one Father or one Canon that tells us to remain in communion with heresy but many tell us to flee. The monks who tell people to remain fill their publications with the teachings of the Fathers but I have yet to see an issue on what the Fathers said about fleeing from communion with heresy. If it has been done, I have not seen it. There is a strange silence at this point. Fr. Seraphim Rose, for all his quotes from the Fatherss, was also strangely silent at this point. One of the saits warned us about these last days saying woe to those monasteries that are dependent on much money from wealthy donors.

    Joseph Bragg

  10. Anonymous12:28 AM

    well, I'll consider this later, as it is our christmas celebration. we had a great service tonight.....

    I gotta tell Nathan, your beard looks GREAT!.....


  11. pstrmike,
    Merry Christmas! Thanks for the compliment on the beard, although I am not going for a fashion statement. I guess It is in the eyes of the beholder. My Southern Baptist pastor father says I look awful. I carry a photo of B.A. Carroll (Founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Dwight L. Moody (the Evangelist), two of his heros, in my wallet, just in case the topic comes up in family circles again. They both had beards longer than mine. Make sure you read the post on beards and the Orthodox reason behind them.

  12. This comes as no surprise to me, Nathan. There is a marked difference between a corporate realignment with a different church on the one hand, and actual conversion of heart, mind, and will on the other. Too often we see the effects of the former. Parishes which have moved together to be under an Orthodox bishop having little experience of Orthodox life outside of their own group, and so carrying with them many of the assumptions of the past. These are reinforced as there is simply a situation of the one-eyed leading the blind.

    I have seen it. I know Orthodox clergy who change the Liturgy to conform to ideas that they have picked up due to the Catholic vs. Protestant arguments from their past - arguments in which Orthodoxy never had any part. The result from an Orthodox standpoint is sacerdotal clericalism but because they are viewing the situation from within their ex-Protestant communities rather than from the vantage point of an Orthodox perspective, they cannot see it, and no amount of reasoned discussion will open their eyes until they reach the point of exposing themselves to wider Orthodox life: to those people who may not understand the academic reasons behind why we do things the way we do, or how the Liturgy came to develop the way it did, but who have simply lived it for their whole lives, and who have absorbed it into the way they perceive and understand their place in relation to the Church, to Christ, and all of creation, allowing themselves to learn and be moulded by that experience. This is true conversion. That doesn't come through changing the sign outside the church to say "Orthodox" and commemorating a different bishop.


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