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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Why We Left...Where We Went

Why We Left The Antiochian Diocese
And Where We Went
by Nathan Lee Lewis

Grace be to you in the name that is above every other name that is Christ Jesus our Lord and Master and the Savior of our souls.

This letter is to communicate to all who may or may not have heard of our family’s decision to leave our local Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Antiochian diocese. It is our hope that such a written statement may defuse misinformation that may arise concerning our departure. Our decision to leave is based on a measured, prayerful and lengthy evaluation of the purpose and will of God for our family and a desire to be rightly aligned with His One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church- the Orthodox Church. This is a personal account of our journey and not intended to be an argument or proof text, therefore, not all quotations are sited. We trust that all who desire to verify the documentation contained in our account will search out the easily accessible facts for themselves. Please know that we have great love and gratitude in our hearts for those who long for the truth and the fullness of the faith and who struggle as we do to find it. It is not our intent to cast judgment or indictment on those we are leaving, however, due to the conclusions that have led to our decision, we are aware that it may be formidable to expect that none will take offence at some of the content of this statement. Please forgive us, for we are sinners.

In 2006 my wife and I and our two daughters, entered the gates of the Orthodox faith at our local Antiochian Orthodox Church. We were received by economy through Holy Chrismation having been baptized by single immersion in a Southern Baptist Church. At that time we voiced concerns about the method of our reception by chrismation only. Our concerns revolved around the fact that the Southern Baptists did not consider baptism a sacrament, but simply a symbol or ordinance. They also did not consider baptism as being salvific and the list of other unorthodox Southern Baptist doctrines and practices were numerous. We did have a basic understanding of the Orthodox belief that there is neither salvation nor sacramental grace outside the church, so we struggled to understand why we weren’t being baptized. Though we had questions concerning the validity of such a reception, we accepted the word of our priest, believing him to be more knowledgeable than we concerning such things. Two years after our chrismation and the question troubling me still, I raised my concerns once again to the priest via this letter,

Father Bless,
I find myself many months after my Chrismation questioning the validity of what I have come to learn is called Baptism of Economy. One of the questions I put to you during my catechism was how, if the Baptist church is not the Church and how, if I had not been immersed three times (trinitarian) as is canon, how could I be received into the Orthodox Faith without being Baptized? Your response to me has always seemed inadequate, though at the time, by faith, I received it as one not having learned. You stated that the Chrismation "completes" or makes right my baptism and that my baptism is accepted because the church "says it is". After limited study I have strong reservations of the validity of what seems to be a new and unorthodox practice. I need clarification for my peace of mind and the salvation of my soul. Not attempting to tell you how to respond, I would ask that the preferred way to respond is to refute the contents of this *statement from Mount Athos concerning convert Baptism. I am opened to see what I am not seeing.

Father Bless,
Nathan Lee Lewis
A Sinner

[* I provided the priest with the link]

The priest’s e-mail response to my inquiry sent us into despair.

“Nathan, I pray that there has not been a gross communication in your preparation for chrismation. I never heard you say you had not been baptized by immersion three times; that historically has been the way the Baptist church baptizes. I always question someone as to whether their baptism was a triple immersion by Trinitarian formula…”

(I later realized that the priest was right in that I had never mentioned triple immersion at the time of our catechism, however, since the subject was whether or not we should be baptized at all, the mode of baptism never came up and we didn’t know at the time to inquire about it.)

Based on this communication from the priest and our concerns being confirmed, my wife and I immediately ceased to partake of the Eucharist and my wife, being a chanter, ceased her participation at the chanter’s stand. We scheduled a meeting with the priest to discuss the issue. In the meantime we receive two communications from the priest. One was via e-mail,

“…I have given you the impression that three-fold immersion by trinitarian formula is the required form for baptism prior to being chrismated. This is not the case: it is baptism with water in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the position of the Antiochian Church and other major bodies of Orthodoxy…”

Being a striking contradiction to his previous e-mail, this sent us into confusion and further despair. Subsequent to our scheduled meeting, the priest handed me some photocopied pages of a book at Coffee Hour. The pages had neither reference of authorship nor the name of the book. The content contained the writer’s view as to why converts could be received through chrismation and not baptism. The writer credited “most modern theologians” as being in agreement. The pages did not reference the question of converts who had not received a triple immersion baptism nor did it mention any method.

My wife and I met with the priest a few days following. Again, deferring to his pastorate and the fact that he was more learned than us, and that we are also given to the constraints of human frailty, we initially accepted his claim when he said, regarding his first e-mail,

“I don’t know what I was thinking”.

That, together with the fact that he had shown his customary humble and self-depreciating attitude in the second e-mail,

Again for the confusion I have caused, I am sorry; I am so muddled in my speech sometimes I feel like a Moses in need of an Aaron”,

satisfied us enough to return to the life of the church.

In subsequent weeks, however, I set about to sort out the confusion of the event. The priest had graciously extended to us the liberty to do so when he wrote regarding his baptismal explanation,

“Of course, you will have to decide if you accept that.”
One question I could not get away from was,

“Why, if triple immersion is not required for entry into the church, would the priest find it necessary to ‘always question someone as to whether their baptism was a triple immersion by Trinitarian formula…’?”

Another question was,

“Why, after 20+ years as a priest, would the priest be confused about something as vital as the proper mode of baptism in relation to converts?”

There seemed to be something more in play here than a simple momentary lapse in communication. With a desire to

“Be diligent to present yourself approved unto God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”,

I sought out answers through research sources and materials which consisted of the writings of the Early Church Fathers, the Canons of the church, the Ecumenical Councils, statements from all major Orthodox jurisdictions concerning baptism, personal and written communication with priests of the Antiochian jurisdiction and other jurisdictions and not least, the Holy Scriptures. Without exception, not one source could be found which condoned or even mentioned the mode of single immersion as a valid Orthodox baptism. In fact, I found the opposite to be true. Triple immersion was almost always specified using the word “triple” or “triune” followed with the word “immersion”, as the standard, proper, Orthodox mode of baptism and is used synonymously with the term “Trinitarian Formula”. Further, single immersion is specifically condemned in the canons and in the history of the church as often and as vehemently as is sprinkling,

“If any Bishop or Presbyter does not perform three immersions (literally,“three baptisms”) in making one baptism (literally “one initiation’), but (sc. only) a single immersion (literally, “a single baptism”), that given into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed (sc. from office). For the Lord did not say, “Baptize ye into my death,” but, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

“…concerning the three immersions…without them not only is a Baptism incomplete, but it cannot even be called a baptism at all.”

The priest had also explained in his letter to us that the practice of not Baptizing or of accepting the Baptism of Southern Baptists was

“…based on canons borne out of the Donatist controversy in the early church.”

In looking at the Donatists controversy, I struggled to see how it had led to the current “…position of the Antiochian Church and other major bodies of Orthodoxy…” as the priest had proposed. I learned that the Donatist controversy revolved around the apostasy of believers under the Roman persecution. Under persecution, the believers had renounced their faith. Once the persecution subsided, they wanted back into the church. The Donatists took the position that the apostates were no longer believers and thus should be baptized, their first baptism being of no account. Others said that they were fully baptized believers and should be allowed into the Church through confession, repentance and chrismation. In either case, the Donatist controversy dealt with those who had already been correctly baptized into the Orthodox Church and were returning to the faith. It had nothing to do with heterodox who had never been baptized by, into, or in keeping with the mode the Church. The interpretation of the Donatist controversy to conclude that a single immersion baptism by a Southern Baptist Church was acceptable, raised the obvious question,

“How could the practice of not baptizing heterodox be ‘borne out of the Donatists controversy, and why had this interpretation seemingly been considered only recently in the history of the church?”

I recalled another thing the priest said to me in a conversation in his office. As he held up a copy of the Canons he said,

“Don’t read this, it will just confuse you.”

Desiring to know if the priest’s own confusion concerning the sacrament of baptism was a result of the “confusing canons” and wanting to discover why the Canons of the Church would be confusing, I set about to research. While I found that some of the Canons were considered guidelines with moveable interpretations based on the necessity of economy and an individual Bishop’s discernment in their use, and opinions varying greatly from parish to parish, there were others having to do with doctrine and the application of the scriptures, sacraments, and safeguards against encroaching apostasy, that were unmovable. I saw for the first time that some in the modern Church considered flexible even that which was not historically flexible. I sought to find the answer as to why this was so. It was at this time in my study that I was introduced to the concept of Ecumenism in relation to the Orthodox Church.

Ecumenism: “A movement promoting worldwide unity among religions through greater cooperation and improved understanding.”

On its face, the definition of Ecumenism seemed to be a diplomatic way for the Orthodox Church to, “as much as possible be at peace with all men”, in cultures and countries across the world in an ongoing effort to evangelize, bringing all men to the Faith of the Fathers, the Orthodox Church. I was startled, however, to learn that there was actually an organized Ecumenical Movement which included all of the major religions of the world, both “Christian” and “non-Christian” and that the “unity” being promoted was not a simple attempt at cultural and national peace among human beings but a clearly defined goal of legitimizing all religions as equal paths to God. The participation of the Orthodox Church in Ecumenism over the years had ultimately brought them to issue an edict which forbade the evangelization or “proselytizing” of any non-orthodox person or group for the sake of this Ecumenical “unity”. Concurrent with that was the evolution and eventual promotion by participating Orthodox Hierarchs, of the ideology that the use of the words “God” and “Spirit” by all religions had merit in truth and were in fact synonymous with the Orthodox meanings of the words, and that the ultimate result and destination of all religions was equal to that of the Orthodox faith-salvation and eternal peace with God. The evolving ecumenical language and practice of these “Orthodox” participants in the Ecumenical Movement made clear that they no longer believed the words of Jesus,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father except he comes by Me.”

Rather, the Orthodox Ecumenical participants say,

“Brothers and Sisters, the watchword of the Holy Orthodox Church today is unity…we must pursue unity with all the children of God…Roman Catholic and Orthodox, Protestants and Jews, Muslims and Hindus, Buddhists and Confucians: The time has come not only for rapprochement, but for alliance and joint effort. We have within our grasp the vision of the Psalmist, ‘Behold how good and pleasant it is or brethren to dwell together in unity!”

“Because we have seen and experienced goodness, truth and holiness among followers of other paths and ways than that of Jesus Christ…, we find ourselves recognizing a need to move beyond a theology which confines salvation to the explicit personal commitment to Jesus Christ.”

With volumes of public speeches and documents of “Orthodox” participants of the World Council of Churches, which I discovered was the hub of the Ecumenical movement, it was not hard to discover which groups within the Orthodox Church were in “full communion” with this ecumenical, unorthodox, and unscriptural ideology. Because of their concerted effort to move toward a One World Church by their membership in the World Council of Churches, all member churches of SCOBA had the distinction of belonging to, what non-ecumenists Orthodox referred to as, World Orthodoxy.

Since entering the Orthodox Faith, I have often heard the phrase “in full communion” and felt satisfied that I was in one of the “major” or “official” Orthodox jurisdictions that were in ‘full communion” with the others. The other groups that called themselves “Orthodox” were thought of as schismatic, troublesome, second-class or heretical but most often were referred to as “uncanonical”. In my continuing research I found that a subtle redefining had occurred concerning the concept of canonicity. I found that the current, common use of the word canonical had been influenced by ecumenical ideology that had involved to an emphasis on a hierarchical structure mirroring that of papism. Rather than individual Bishops pastoring their churches in their regions and united in effort by a local Synod, Ecumenism stressed that if you did not comply with the wishes and dictates and authority of a certain hierarchy, you were considered un-canonical. It mattered not that you were an authentic bishop, perfectly adhering to the scripture, the canons and the faith; you were uncanonical, out of communion and held to a minimum of disdain and a maximum of threats against life and property. I found a glaring example of this in my extensive research into the Moscow Patriarchate. Those Russian churches and Bishops who refused to submit under the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow, installed by the atheistic communist government of Stalin, were derided, politically oppressed, confronted with violence, had their properties seized and were forced to go underground. The same occurred in Greece to those who refused to alter the calendar of the Church that had been used for 1600 + years, when one influential Greek Bishop decided to change it. The full force of the Greek government was released on the Orthodox Bishops who refused to change with the ecumenical times and they were denounced as heretical and uncanonical.

Along with the attack on those deemed uncanonical by the Ecumenists, I discovered that the rulings of the 7 Ecumenical Councils were also under attack. Church Fathers, who participated in them, were referred to as being “out of touch”, “behind the times”, or simply having ruled in ignorance and prejudice. I discovered this to be the justification used by those such as Patriarch Ignatius of Antioch as he rejected the decision of four of the Ecumenical Councils which condemned as heretical the Monophisites, who deny the dual nature of Christ. Advancing the belief that the Monophosites were just misunderstood and the problem was semantics, the leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Church issued an encyclical allowing concelebrating with those whom the church as a whole had consistently called heretics. The same was true on other fronts as I discovered that the World Orthodox Churches have been in official communion with the Roman Catholic Church for years, having dropped the 1054 anathemas and ignoring major unresolved doctrinal, ecclesiastical and canonical differences, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople saying,

“It is the ‘fundamental ecclesiological truth’ that Orthodoxy and Papism constitute the two lungs of the Body of Christ.”

“Our Churches are recognized mutually as Sister Churches responsible together for the preservation of the One Church of God…We exhort our faithful Catholic and Orthodox to strengthen the spirit of brotherhood, which derives from a single Baptism and participation in the sacramental life.”

When I discovered the depth of this form of Ecumenism that has had 80+ years to develop, my concerns about other matters were validated. Metropolitan Philip Saliba’s consistent promotion of the belief that Islam is a friend to Christianity was consistent with Ecumenical ideology that says,

“We are deceived and we sin, if we think that the Orthodox faith came down from Heaven and that all [other] creeds are unworthy. Three hundred million people have chosen Islam in order to reach their god, and other hundreds of millions of Protestants, Catholics and Buddhists. The goal of every religion is to improve mankind.”

As early as 1989 Patriarch Parthenios of Alexandria stated publicly,
"Mohammed is a prophet and an apostle and man of God,"

and that

"those who speak against Islam and Buddhism are not in agreement with God."

Not one Orthodox bishop of the World Orthodox Churches, including Metropolitan Philip, spoke out to demand a retraction. The resulting application of the evolution of the Ecumenical ideology is that,

“We respect an individual’s choice with regard to his or her faith, and we do not proselytize anyone, nor do we participate in dialogues between Christians and our brother Muslims in order to convince them to accept our faith.”

And further,

“We remind all that every form of proselytism…is absolutely condemned by the Orthodox. Proselytism, practiced in the nations already Christian, and in many cases even Orthodox…poisons the relations among Christians and destroys the road to unity.”

I was raised in the fear of God. My father, who was a Southern Baptist Pastor, taught me from an early age to love the souls of men. Old hymn stanzas such as “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying” and “We’ll work ‘till Jesus comes...”, promoted what we referred to as the Great Commission given to us by Christ Himself,

“All Authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth, go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

According to Christ His admonition to “make Disciples of all nations” was the only “road to unity” that mattered and it was exclusive,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”

One of the things that inspired me as I entered the Antiochian diocese was the story of the reception of over 2000 converts in the 80’s by Metropolitan Philip Saliba. It is said that he issued this challenge to the Converts,

“Now, teach us how to evangelize.”

Realizing early on that the numbers of Orthodox of all jurisdictions on the North American continent was often grossly exaggerated, there being only around a half a million rather than the six million often claimed and only about 55,000 Antiochians, I have been ever aware of the need to evangelize. What I did not know was that simultaneous with Metropolitan Philip’s exhortation, he was actively working with the Bishops of the World Orthodox Churches to deliberately move the Orthodox churches, clergy, parishioners and converts under their pastorate, to a new World Church concept where all religions are equal and where there is no need for any evangelism,

“The Orthodox Church does not seek to convince others of any one particular understanding of truth or revelation, nor does it seek to convert others to a particular mode of thinking…”

“If the diverse peoples of a culture look to the memories of their faith traditions, whatever they may be, they will be sustained, they will be fed the food of God’s spiritual knowledge…Orthodox Christian and modernist, Protestant and modernist, Jew and modernist, Catholic and modernist: however we worship, as long as we abide in our faith and unite it to our works in the world, we bring the living and always timely message of Divine Wisdom into the modern world.”

As my wife has read the statements and research along with me, she has been astounded and exclaimed, “It is just so blatant!”. Even our teenage daughters have been astonished and disheartened by what we have discovered. All of us have wanted to believe that we were not seeing what we were seeing and took great care to make certain that we were not taking things out of context or reading in meanings that the hierarchs didn’t intend. As we searched as a family for the truth, it was not possible to come to any other conclusion than to believe that these were clearly not isolated statements but an entire body of public evidence some 80 years in the making. We thoroughly digested the lengthy books The Battle For The Russian Orthodox Church by Vladimir Moss and The Struggle Against Ecumenism- The History of the True Orthodox Church of Greece from 1924-1994 by The Holy Orthodox Church in North America, Boston, Massachusetts.

Careful not to be influenced simply by the authors’ opinions, we paid particular attention to the documentations, letters exchanged, official Synod files, encyclicals, and government statements. It was not difficult to ascertain the blatantly open existence of an all out aggressive, anti-Christ attack against the Orthodox Church from within and a massive falling into apostasy which eventually included all major jurisdictions of Orthodoxy as represented by SCOBA- The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas.

Having discovered this apostatized body of World Orthodoxy which had left the original faith of our Fathers, we also discovered True or Genuine Churches under Bishops who had suffered persecution to preserve the simple formula:

Julian (old) Calendar +
Holy Tradition +
The Seven Ecumenical Councils +
The Holy Scriptures +
The Holy Fathers =
Holy Orthodoxy.

Placing history in a nutshell, the True or Genuine Orthodox Churches in Russia were those Bishops, priests and parishioners who refused to bow to the Soviet State and the state-installed Moscow Patriarch. These True or Genuine believers went underground in fear of their lives and became the modern equivalent of catacomb Christians. They only surfaced, with bishops and parishes intact, after the downfall of the Soviet Union, only to be persecuted again by the existing Moscow Patriarchate backed by the new Russian Federation. In Greece, the True or Genuine believers were those who refused to accept the decision of a single patriarch (who was given a full Masonic burial at his death) to change the calendar by which the entire Orthodox Church had worshiped for centuries. These True or Genuine bishops, priests and parishioners were violently attacked by the Greek Patriarchate and the Greek government. Liturgies were raided, chalices thrown to the ground and stomped upon, priests arrested and parishioners beaten and killed. They were then legislated out of existence causing them to go underground. They were only recognized by the Greek government after some 40 years of endurance and persistence. Eventually the New Calendar innovation, which coincided with the Roman Catholic Church and the entire West, infiltrated all Orthodox jurisdictions splitting the church in two and setting the groundwork for Ecumenism and the One World Church.

These True and Genuine Bishops and their churches exist in America and all across the world. My research into the True and Genuine Churches, however, was not without difficult and disheartening discoveries. In fact, there was a period in our endeavor that was nothing short of despairing as we discovered ample disagreements, divisions, politics, and ecclesiastical maneuverings of some of the True and Genuine Bishops. I recently had a friend, who is aware of our journey, use the old adage “when you find the perfect church…”. Unfortunately, he used it with a sarcastic intent to show me the error of my ways so as to encourage me to stay with Antioch. I am aware that perfection will not be found where humans are involved but I am also reminded of the promise of Christ that,

“On this rock will I build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The visible evidence as to where that church exists has been spoken of by the Church Fathers,

“Where the Bishop is there is the church.”

This must mean that such Bishops still exist and that I can realistically find the Bishop or Bishops who hold to the true and genuine faith of our Fathers. This must also mean that I can and MUST choose between the adherents of the false and the adherents of the true,

“Those who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel, dismissing the True Orthodox Christians because of merely human failures [not doctrinal or against canons] yet excusing the heretical activities to the ‘official’ Orthodox jurisdictions, might well bring into mind Winston Churchill’s criticism of democracy-the worst form of government except for all the others. Certainly when one considers the open betrayal of the Orthodox faith that one witnesses in the official statements and actions of bishops and clergy of ‘World Orthodoxy,”’ the divisions among the true Orthodox Christians, though lamentable, are truly “the secondary issue.”

Saint Basil the Great spoke of the viability of this action,
“A Church pure and untouched by the harshness of our times is not easily found and from now on rarely to be seen-a Church that has preserved the apostolic doctrine unadulterated and inviolate!...Beloved brethren, we are small and humble, but we have not accommodated our faith according to changing events.”

My wife and I have become convinced that as a result of the “blatancy” of their own words and actions, not one of the Bishops of World Orthodoxy can say what Saint Basil the Great said-not one. Therefore, not one priest or one parish in communion with those Bishops can either, as evidenced by the fact that they have strayed from the application of scriptural and canonical baptism and can commemorate heretical Metropolitans and Bishops in each Liturgy among other things, and still consider themselves “orthodox”.

I am also convinced that the “all churches have problems” argument, is subterfuge and smokescreen to prevent sincere believers from seeing the reality of the apostasy of the church. In a separate conversation with my priest concerning the Antiochian Hierarch’s support of Islam, he distanced himself and therefore his parish from having to face the issue of the apostasy and ecumenism of World Orthodoxy by saying,

“I need to be concerned with the people in this little valley.”

Thus another question I cannot get away from is,

“If the chief shepherd of the people in the ‘little valley’ is the Bishop and the Bishop through his heresy, has become a wolf in sheep’s clothing, is not that a matter for the utmost concern? Will the Bishop/wolf, with his larger staff, not eventually lead his sheep to graze in his heretical pasture?”

One of the most disturbing and yet hopeful dichotomies of our journey is the fact that most of the sheep do not know what the shepherds are doing. It is disturbing because if the sheep remain blind to the nature of the Bishops’ apostasy and their priest’s complicities, it will be to their spiritual destruction. It is hopeful, in that if they are enlighten as to the real nature of World Orthodoxy they may give heed to the prophetic scriptures which warn,

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”

“But we command you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the traditions which he received from us.

With our decision to withdraw from those who are bringing destructive heresies, there follows the judgment of some who, rather than seeing the approaching danger, see only the comfort and familiarity of the church in which they have so long dwelled. So, rather than consider whether or not the danger is valid, they ask the “are you saying” questions.

“Are you saying that we are heretics?”
“Are you saying that you know more than we do?”

Then comes the “you must” statements.

“You must be upset over something.”
“You must have bitterness in your heart.”

The challenge in answering the “are you” and “you must” questions and statements is that the presenters have already dug themselves in to a conclusion. They are dealing in rhetoric and do not really want an answer. They, mistakenly focus on the messenger. I discovered this prior to our decision to leave Antioch, when I made the mistake of assuming a friend at church, with whom I had had many previous discussions over the years, would welcome knowing about the World Council of Churches. When I related to him my dilemma of not knowing if I could be in communion with any group who did not believe that Jesus was the “Only way, the truth and the life and that no man can come to the Father unless he comes by me”, he responded by pointing at the temple and saying,

“Nathan, I will always be at this church…”,
and then pointing to the church cemetery,

“…and I will be buried in that cemetery.”

It was a nerve that I had not intended to hit but it was a nerve none-the-less that runs deep. I discovered in a subsequent letter from my friend that the nerve was not just one of intense loyalty, but one which had at its root a much more disturbing core. The friend wrote,

“As for all of the theological and ecclesiastical issues that you present, I don’t believe that Christ is calling us to solve all of these problems. There had always been corruption, dissention and political posturing in the Church, and I don’t think this will change while we are here on this earth. The essence of the Orthodox faith is Truth, and God will deal with those that have other agendas. There are issues that may appear to be monumentally important, but if I chose to focus on these things while sacrificing my life in Christ, I am straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

The core of the friend’s resistance to see the reality of the apostasy of the Church was an ideology not birthed in loyalty but, rather, in jaded cynicism. His position was based in the belief that there is no imminent danger enough to warrant a reaction. This is based on the idea that the issues are out there somewhere, they don’t directly involve us and that others will deal with them. I recognized this ideology as being in harmony with the priest’s “little valley” statement. I have not been Orthodox very long, but even I recognized this as a most unorthodox position. The walls of the Orthodox temples are lined with the martyrs of the faith, who, if they had taken that stance, would never have earned their place among the great cloud of witnesses. It is inconceivable that they would take the position that Christ had not called us to “solve all of these problems” and how could we leave the solving to the hierarchs since it is the hierarchs who are the problem? I also could not justify the fact that during the Liturgy we venerate the martyrs of the faith, while at the same time honoring Bishops who teach and believe the opposite of what the Martyrs died to preserve, saying that all religions are equal paths to God!

My friend suggested that to focus on these things would be ‘sacrificing my life in Christ’ The question that follows is,

“What surer way is there to sacrifice your life in Christ than to ignore the heresy of your Bishops?

The ideology presented by the priest and my friend that says, do not “focus on these things”, is reminiscent of the scenario where a beautiful, peaceful valley is about to be flooded to make a lake. In this case, however, the people have heard the rumors that the water from the dam may be released but they remain where they are leaving their fate to the powers that be. It is also reminiscent of a scene from my favorite movie, Sergeant York. In the valley of the Two Forks in Tennessee in the early 1900’s there is one community store where all the townsfolk gather to talk and commune. One of their age-old traditions is to have the one newspaper they occasionally receive, read aloud to all gathered. As the aged reader picks up the paper, he turns immediately to the Community Page to get right to the “important stuff.” The boldface headline the reader has turned past reads, “War Breaks Out In Europe”. Little did they know that that war, miles away, would reach into their little valley and change their world.

So, “are we saying” that the people in the valley are heretics? No. “Are we saying” that we know more than those who have been Orthodox longer? No. Although those things may be deduced by the reasons we have presented, we are saying only one thing,

“As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

To illustrate this point we carefully tailored a letter that was sent to the priest upon our departure,
Greetings in the name of the Holy Trinity, Christ is Risen!

It is with great hope for the future that we tell you of our family’s unified decision to leave the Antiochian Diocese and thus [our local church]. In our continued journey to orthodoxy and the theosis of our souls, we have found some significant differences between what is taught and believed in the Antiochian Diocese and the other Orthodox Churches who adhere to more traditional practices and doctrines of the faith. We have come to the conclusion that our hearts and beliefs are more in communion with the latter and so we must go where our conscience calls us and obedience leads us.

We are grateful for the years we have spent at [our local church] and will forever value the friendships we have made. We trust that none will perceive our leaving as an indictment of the clergy or the good people of [our local church] or a result of some interpersonal conflict for there is no motive or reason for our leaving other than that which we have here stated.
We will pray often that our Lord will “complete the good work that He has begun in you.”
In His Hope and Theosis,

The Lewis Family

So “are we saying” that the Bishops who make up the hierarchy of the World Orthodox Church and that those clergy who willingly and knowingly remain in communion with them are heretics? Yes. But as to when, how and if those clergy become so, is not for us to determine.

So what of the “you must” questions? My friend who said that I should not focus on these things also gave a thorough list as to why he thought I was doing so. He suggested in his letter that you must be “prideful”, in “deep bitterness”, personal “turmoil”, “thinking too highly of yourself” and that this is causing me to enter a “troubling transition”, whereby I am in “danger of losing my way” and going “down the wrong path”. To my friend, it was my spiritual weakness that was causing me to focus on the wrong things and to judge others.
There is a common misunderstanding of the term “judge.” We hear often quoted the scripture,

“Judge not that ye be not judged.”

This is erroneously used in circumstances to which it does not apply in order to silence or cast dispersion on any who would speak out against heresy, when it actually refers to pointing out the individual shortcomings of a brother and murmuring against him out of lofty arrogance and pride such as,

“God I thank you that I am not like other men…”

Was Timothy judging when he gave a list of sins that were prevalent, saying that some had a form of godliness but denied its power, that some were always learning and never coming to the truth and that,

“From such people turn away?”

The fact is that acknowledging and recognizing where sin is and where it isn’t is appropriate scriptural judgment. We are commanded to always judge in matters of faith and truth. Paul exhorts us to

“…flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the cup of communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”

We must judge that if anyone has left that one communion saying that there is another way other than the blood and body of Christ, he is given to idolatry. But it is actually through one’s own actions and not the attitude of another that they are judged, for they judge themselves,

“It is necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first: but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”

We are to separate ourselves from those who refused to follow that faith. Were Paul and Barnabas being “judgmental” in this statement or were they acknowledging where the truth was and where it wasn’t, who embraced it and who didn’t? Do we any more judge when we recognize and acknowledge when a Bishop or a church or and individual has left the faith to follow another gospel? Was my friend unscripturally judging me when he listed what he saw to be my sins? I think not, for he was humbly sincere in his intent and his judgment was this scriptural kind, albeit based on a flawed assessment.

So, we are quick to rightly judge concerning the greater heresies such as atheism, but is the heresy of denying that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the only way to heaven, any less a heresy? Is this not the heresy of heresies? Is not the incarnation of Christ the very catalyst for the gathering of the Seven Ecumenical Councils? The fact is sure that there exists absolute truth, that it is preserved in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church under faithful and obedient Bishops, and that we are commanded by God to judge as to the adherence or the straying from that truth. To judge in this manner is Orthodox. To fail to judge in this manner is to adhere to the modern Western philosophy of relativism, the heresy of Ecumenism and follow a false road to unity that leads to destruction.

It is our prayer and desire that all who are in communion with the bishops, priests, or churches who have become apostate and part of the World Council of Churches, who adhere to the unscriptural tenants of Ecumenism and who have sided either knowingly or unknowingly with those who have split the church with the New Calendar innovation, either depose their hierarchy or remove themselves from them. This is scriptural. This is Canonical. This is Orthodox. Thus, to the Antiochian Diocese, all members of the World Council of Churches all participants in Ecumenism, all members of SCOBA, all local priests, deacons and parishioners, I offer the same exhortation and proclamation that Saint Maximus the Confessor did to Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea in Bithynia. It is as relevant today as it was then. Only the names have changed,

“Let these offences, introduced by Ecumenical Patriarchs Sergius, Pyrrhus and Paul into the Church, be removed; let those who have introduced them be deposed; and then the path to salvation will be cleared of all barriers, and you will walk on the smooth path of the Gospel, cleansed of all heresy! When I see the Church of Constantinople as she was formerly, then I will enter into communion with her without any exhortation on the part of men. But while there are heretical temptations in her, and while heretics are her bishops, no word or deed will convince me ever to enter into communion with her.”

One final question follows,

“Was Saint Maximus the Confessor being “uncanonical”?

Neither are those today who withdraw from heretics, for such are the True, Genuine and canonical Orthodox Christians, The Orthodox Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against them.

“Illumine with the light of awareness the apostates from the Orthodox Faith, and those blinded by pernicious heresies, and number them with Thy Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church.”

With a desire to remain free of unreasonable accusation, my wife and I and our daughters unanimously decided to leave our local church and the Antiochian Diocese only having delivered by mail, the brief departure letter. We made no public or private announcements, have not engaged parishioners, distributed information, nor attempted to encourage others to join us. We will, however, from this point on, preach, teach and practice that which has been handed down to us encouraging all within our voice to join one of the faithful groups of True or Genuine Orthodox believers and their Bishops. For where such a Bishop is there alone is the canonical church.

May God have mercy on our souls and forgive all our trespasses even as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

Nathan Lee Lewis

72 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:10 PM

    Mr. Lee,
    I do not comment here to disparage your difficult decision to leave the Antiochian Diocese of the Orthodox Church. I have absolutely no doubt that you have carefully thought through the issues before you.

    Although I call myself a Christian, I am not Orthodox. But I have an extensive knowledge and some understanding of Orthodoxy.

    I have been reading your blog posts for several months and time and again I come away with the same perception our your articulated thoughts. So what I want to tell you I do so to encourage your growth, and not to judge you in a hurtful tone.

    I observe that you still think like a Baptist. I know, because I am one. May we both grow into the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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  2. Anon,
    Thank you for your thoughtful tone. I am opened to know how it is that I "think like a Baptist." I invite you to expound on that point.

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  3. Dear brother Lewis,

    I am saddened to hear that you are leaving the AOA. If you won't be relocating to another official Orthodox jurisdiction, I pray that you will join a place where there is true spiritual health.

    Although I disagree with some of their theology, I would suggest you look into a parish of the AMIA or CANA. You may disagree with some of the things they believe, but I truly believe they are spiritually healthy. My family and I spent a few years with them before our conversion.

    I, too, began my Christian journey as a Baptist many years ago. I started out as a Independent Baptist, spent some time in the BBF, the GARBC, and finally the Conservative and Southern Baptist Churches before journeying to charismatic, Anglican and then Western Rite Orthodox faith.

    I have high hopes that the CEC parishes which have joined the Western Rite of the AOA will bring a deep zeal for the Lord with them.

    I'm sorry it didn't work out for you with us. I believe, however, that many Orthodox bishops and priests are holy men. I would recommend Bishop Basil and Metropolitan Isaiah as prime examples, as well as Bishop Johah of the OCA.

    A local Greek Orthodox priest here in Denver is an incredibly godly and kind man, as is Fr. Stephen Freeman, which I'm pretty sure you are familiar with.

    There really is no perfect situation anywhere in this life, even within the Church. We are sinners and we usually mess things up.

    "Here we have no continuing city, we look for the one from above."

    Blessings in the Holy Trinity,

    Columba Silouan of Saint Marks in Denver

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  4. I commend your desire to work out this vexing matter. I wonder, however, if many facts while individually true, have led you to an incomplete conclusion.

    Certainly some have done and said things scandleous and there are others who have not publically denounced them and others who have not openly called for such denunciations. This is unfortunate, but not the end of all whom they touch, there is no apostacy taught in my parish.

    Did you speak personally with your Bishop before taking this action? It seems that would have been a step prior to leaving his house.

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  5. Tentmaker and David Dickens, Firstly, thank you for the concern and grace expressed in your words. I realize that this post is lengthy as it is 15 pages when printed on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, so I wonder if you took the time to read all of it before commenting. The reason for this question is the fact that I covered all of your points in the post. If you will read or re-read, whatever the case may be, you will find a successive reasoning based in thorough fact and deduction. It would be of greater benefit to you and to me if you would refute the conclusions individually. Tell me specifically where I have erred.

    However, to clarify and reiterate:
    1. I have left AOC not Orthodoxy. The phrase "official Orthodoxy" is semantic and is covered in the post under the discussion of the definition of "uncanonical". What makes one officially Orthodox? The suggestion that I go to a non Orthodox group is the antithesis of the truth I have embraced. The reason I have left the AOC is because they are non-Orthodox in their teaching and commune with heretics. So to suggest that I go directly to a heretical group is unthinkable.
    2. Bishop Basil and Metropolitan Isaiah both are in communion with the World Council of Churches and the Ecumenical Patriarch who deny that Christ is the only way to heaven. What you must answer, and what I answered in my post, is whether or not remaining in communion with them and those like them is scriptural or canonical. I have concluded it is not (see the scriptural documentation and quotes from the Fathers). So to suggest that your parish does not teach heresy while commemorating Bishops who do, relates to the "this little valley" illustration (did you read it?). A parish is the Bishop. If the Bishop is heretical so goes the parish. We are commanded to depose them or removed ourselves from them. To do nothing is to acquiesce to their heresy.
    3. I also addressed the "There really is no perfect situation anywhere in this life..." proposition. I called it subterfuge. There IS perfection in this life-it is called absolute truth. It is promised by Christ that the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church. There is perfect doctrine and faith and it is preserved in this promised, unadulterated Church. The question addressed was whether or not the AOC has compromised the faith. I concluded it has and am headed toward the Genuine or True Churches, who are more "official" in the faith than are the World Orthodox Churches.
    4. So, who is the Bishop of this region of the AOC today? We ceased commemorating Bishop Antoun a while back and started only mentioning Metropolitan Philip. There is turmoil and questions in that regard and the Bishops have been called to Damascus to discuss it. I have on a prior occasion attempted to contact Met. Philip by letter (since that is the only stated way allowed to talk to him). I have yet to receive a reply. And what would I say? "Why do you not believe and teach that Christ is the ONLY way and why do you consider Mohammad a prophet of God"? I don't think that line of discussion would be allowed. After all, I am just a lone parishioner. Also, since I have not been baptized, I am not Orthodox and I have no Bishop.

    To both of you with sincere hearts toward God: What about the reasons for my leaving the AOC. Will you address them? What about the WCC, the lack of canonical baptism, the Ecumenical heresy? Are these valid? And if they are, why are my conclusions wrong? Your words are kind but your exhortations are not based on the content of the post. I welcome you to address the elements I have presented.

    Again, thank you for this honest discourse and concern.

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  6. Forgive me.

    It's far too easy for me to allow my personal feelings (some of which are naieve) to cloud better judgment, but let me offer some thoughts.

    I am a new convert myself and cannot predict what course I would take in your place. I know that the issues of "World Orthodoxy" are of little importance compared to the pastoral relationship between my Bishop and myself.

    Given the additional complications with the AOC, your situation becomes grave indeed.

    I would, I think, still meet with my Bishop (I am no scholar, but I would *not* consider Met Philip in this sense) in person. I would do that even if I had to sit on his front steps to do so. And I would do so in humility and obediance up to the very moment when humility was all that was left to be because I could no longer obey.

    The one comment I can offer you about the problems of "World Orthodoxy" is that I believe many different sins are involved here, not all of which are based in malice, cowardice or heresy. Some folks are naive and others misinformed. And there may yet emerge other explainations.

    I came from a tradition that was absolutely sure that it had corrected the errors that all others were clearly and deliberately ignoring. I cannot support that line of thinking. It is not that I no longer believe in the Truth, but rather than the Truth is a person, the 2nd person of the Trinity, our Lord Jesus the Christ.

    Accepting Islam as a sufficient means of salvation is dramatically different than what day Pascha falls on.

    As for Canon law, like the Sabbath, man was not made to serve it, but it to serve man. In my mind this is different than openly declaring your disagreement with the Nicean Creed.

    I do not envy your position and I do not criticise your chosen resolution. I only offer my love and prayers and what little good my limited insight brings.

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  7. Found your blog via the Eastern Orthodox New Media Award blog. You have written a thought provoking post. I will need to read it several more times to absorb all you have written but what I can say off the top of my head is that I agree with much of what is written.

    May our precious Lord have mercy upon us all. May He continue to guide you and your family.

    Kyrie Elesion!

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  8. Dear Brother Lewis,

    I'm relieved to hear you plan to join another Eastern Orthodox jurisdiction. The recent troubles with the AOA bishops has been discouraging, but I have hopes that Patriarch Ignatius and the Holy Synod will get to the bottom of it and that through the Holy Spirit, Godly decisions will be reached.

    I believe the Church is infallible, but that we are not. I also believe that sometimes the heterodox Christians are more faithful than Orthodox Christians, especially in the area of evangelism. In that regard, the Anglican Mission in America is doing a better job than we are.

    Because of the adage "We can be sure of where the Church is, but we cannot be sure of where it is not" I believe whole parishes and large majorities of groups outside of canonical Orthodoxy are parts of The Church, albeit imperfectly.

    That is why I mentioned the AMIA or CANA as an alternative for you and your family, not realizing your intention to stay within Holy Orthodoxy.

    I think in many ways they have more of God's grace than many of us enjoy. This is why I wish the whole AMIA would discover the truth of Holy Orthodoxy and convert en-masse.

    Did you discuss your situation with your fellow converts from the CEC? Here I'm thinking of Father Ken Devoe in Massachusetts? The converts from the CEC seem to be really solid.

    Anyway I'm sorry the disobedience and inconsistency of some of our leaders is causing you grief. It's hard enough to realize that the churches you've been a part of all your life are in error. It's harder to make the journey to Orthodoxy, only to run into more problems when you get there.

    I pray you will find a peaceful and fruitful parish and jurisdictional home soon.

    Pax Christi,

    Columba Siluoun

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  9. Hmmm. To attempt to respond to some of these points . . .

    Since I'm part of the Western Rite, I think regarding Baptism that "Triple Immersion" is a Byzantine tradition, while being baptized, either by immersion or by sprinkling, is a part of the Western tradition that the AOA allows for. Of course, we're always baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. That goes without saying.

    My whole parish was once an Episcopal Church. The AOA allowed us to keep some of our cultural expressions intact.

    I thought that the AOA withdrew from the WCC, or was that another Orthodox jurisdiction. At any rate, it's not possible to be "In Communion" with them, since they are not a church, but a para-church organization made up of many member churches,

    I find it hard to believe that Bishop Basil and Metropolitan Philip believe there is any other way to God but Jesus Christ, the absolute God.

    Now you may be thinking of books like The Mystery of Faith, which posit the possibility that people can be saved after they die, but that is a mainstream Orthodox belief found in all of Holy Orthodoxy.

    I would encourage you to discuss these concerns of yours with Fr. John Connely of Saint Marks here in Denver. I'm sure he would have many good things to say. I also know that he has a very dim view of Islam.

    Anyway, I hope you get to the bottom of God's will for your life. And when you do, put these vexations behind you and simply seek to know Him.

    It's all too easy to get weighed down by the controversies of this temporal world. I see this happening with one Frank Schaeffer,who although I like him in many ways, has completely gone off the deep end politically speaking.

    In his case, I wish he would just cease to focus on politics altogether. I think that arena just robs him of peace.

    Pax Christi,

    Columba

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  10. this was so interesting

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  11. Debbie Espen Said<
    Did I miss something? I do not see "where you went". Did you find another Orthodox Church to go to? I expect you will seek three fold baptism as well as chrismation again. I also note that you are a purist Nathan. I can relate though in a different way for myself. I always wanted to discover original religion, going deeper into history than original Christianiy-but that is a different story

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  12. Deb , We are heading toward the Genuine or True Orthodox Churches and are in dialogue with one in particular. Yes we will be baptized and chrismated as is scripturaly proper,

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  13. Dear Brother,

    I have just read your latest post in the blog on why you left the Antiochian Archdiocese and I cannot help but agree wholeheartedly with your decision. I have found that the Antiochian Archdiocese even in Australia, are the biggest compromisers and worldly minded churches I have come across. In fact, this is why I never attended Antiochian Archdiocese in Australia and chose other Orthodox Churches due to excessive compromise and ecumenism. In fact, it is even more disgusting to see hierarchs participating in such a disgraceful thing as the World Council of Churches (really World Council of Antichrists and Panheretics).

    Another disturbing factor which you pointed out and I have noticed also is the compromise that is often made with Islam on the part of the Archdiocese. In fact, it gets worse to the point of open compromise with actual Islamic terrorists themselves not to mention consistent peddling of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories along with Israel-bashing at every opportunity.

    It is disturbing to say the least, but I knew of one devout Orthodox Christian man from Syria who chose to leave the Antiochian Archdiocese and seek a more traditionalist minded church, because (to use his words) the Antiochian Archdiocese was: "trying to be modern".

    Whilst I do not attack genuine Orthodox Christians caught up in the Archdiocese, I would urge them also to either make their voice very loud and clear to their hierarchs in the hope of repentance, or else leave altogether for a more genuine Orthodox Church.

    By the way, even the Russian Orthodox Church is facing the same problem as what has just been described. With the merging of ROCOR with Moscow Patriarchate along with other foolish moves including peddling of those silly conspiracy theories, we are in no better shape.

    We genuinely need a unique Orthodox Church in America, Australia and U.K that does not pander to ecumenism nor to silly conspiracy theories. We need one that is based on the Truth of Christ our God, not ethnic identities.

    Pray for me a sinner for I am in a similar predicament to you.

    Yours in Christ,

    Timothy Kwoh

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  14. Dear Nathan,

    I don't really have time for a lengthy reply, but I did read all of it a few times and you do make alot of valid points. I respect yuor decision, and given the current situation with antioch, I can't say I blame you.

    However I think you're going to be really disappointed when you finally get to know these "True Orthodox". I find them to be bitter, phariseacal megalomaniacs who are so conservative they wouldn't change their socks if they didn't have to. I've had many a run-in with them online at places such as odox.net and they strike me as the kind of people St. Nicholas would slap. According to these fanatics, one can't eat at an Indian, chinese or any ethnic restaurant that would have a statue, brush your teeth before communion, be circumsized, be with your wife on certain days (that REALLY doesn't make my trophy wife happy) and constantly call me and my trophy wife liars when we tell them what Catholics and Lutherans don't believe, like when Copts keep telling till they have no breath left that Eutchyes is not a saint in their church!

    They make me question Orthodoxy because there are constant power struggles and hierarchs all over the world care more about keeping their flocks scared and under their thumbs. There is no order! They can all prove that they are the true church too.

    I hope you're not considering ROAC or that break away sect of Met. Vitaly. Because here is what jurisdiction jumper Gregory George has to say: http://www.trueorthodoxy.info/

    I like you Nathan and I certainly wish you well. Let me suggest Met. Joseph of Bulgaria. He's not a new calendarist, he's not in the WCC and he's not a fanatic, and he has St.Isaac of syria skete under his wing, whose Abbot Hieromonk Simeon is a great man.

    IMHO I'd run away from anyone who thinks ROCOR is too liberal.

    Your Friend,

    VSO

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  15. Thanks Vir, I spoke to your point of concern in my post with the illustration "[The Genuine and True Orthodox] are the worst form of [Orthodox], except for all the others." In stating that our decision was well researched, that would include considering the points you have made which have to do with ecclesiastical maneuvering and personalities, not doctrine. It is unfortunate that you have been confronted with "bitter, Pharisaical megalomaniacs" in your on-line discourse. I am not sure I would use those experiences in that forum to definitively sum up an entire body of believers. I especially would not defer to Bishop Gregory of Colorado who, in my estimation, is the most bitter of all in his attacks on other Orthodox and non-Orthodox groups. If I am not mistaken, you have quoted him prior to this. If you deem this maverick Bishop to be above the rest in his credibility, would it not also be fair to defer to his credibility in his attack on Catholics whom he says "finds a leading place on the list of heresies on this website"? I have found in my personal discourse with the Genuine and True that, though they are dogmatic and certain in their course, how they express that varies. Though I have steered away from one group partially because of personalities and the seeming instability of their communion, I have found others to be honest, forthright, helpful and kind. "One bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch", but it sure can destroy your appetite.

    Whether or not ROCOR is too liberal is a secondary issue now that they have entered communion with the heretical Moscow Patriarchate. They have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. They have become what they condemned. So my running way from them is based on the demands of scripture and canons not conservative leanings.

    As always, I appreciate your input, even when I am the sole subject of criticism on one of your BLOG posts! Somewhere along the line you learned the art of respectful argument. That is to be commended.

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  16. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Dear Mr Lewis,
    I am a pastor in a protestant church, and I have a growing interest in the Orthodox Church. I attended a few services in a Russian Orthodox Church which really touched my soul. I also explore the world of silence and the Jesus prayer. Therefore I enjoy reading the Orthodox Blogs. Your testimony about why you decided to leave the Antiochian Orthodox Church gave me a fright! It is scary. Is it really so important to be immersed three times and not once? Is the grace of God confined or limited to the number of times you are immersed when baptized? I think I understand that you want to be as obedient as possible, but I think that in your striving to be obedient you are getting strangled in side-issues. Even the whole matter of ecumenism. I've read a bit about John Meyendorff and Alexander Men and how their ecumenical spirit and activities made them unpopular with the purist orthodox christians, but whose personal lives were an example of holiness. Just a few remarks from an outsider...
    Yours
    Barry - who also sees only dimly through a mirror!

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  17. Pastor Barry, Please call me Nathan. You are obviously a man after God's own heart to be seeking in the areas that you are. The Russians were the keepers of the faith for over hundreds of years. Find the Russians who have remained genuine in doctrine and practice and you have the pure faith. The same can be said about the Greeks and other groups.

    The things I pointed out in my "testimony" are not exclusive to the Orthodox communions that I named. I don't know of what protestant denomination you are a part, but chances are they too are part of the WCC. Go to the WCC site and look at the list. It would be "scary" if it was unexpected, but the scripture tells us that there will be great deception, a great falling away, and a false "Oneness" authored by the spirit of anti-Christ. Our lasting hope is that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. That Church is still here after 2000 yeas of assault and it is found where there are faithful Orthodox Bishops.

    Rather than go into the doctrine of Baptism, let me give the brief answer: Yes,it is important to be immersed three times as has been the confirmed practice of the Church since the beginning. Anything other than that is the aberration. No, the grace of God is never confined or limited. This is why the Orthodox mind is careful not to say God can't do something and why at times and in certain circumstances allowances have been made outside the normative Baptismal practice. But since the Church is here in visible ecclesiastical form as the Body of Christ, we move and exist as a unit. The idea of individual religious practice and doctrinal interpretation is a western deviation and the reason there are thousands of protestant denominations.

    The issue of Baptism is certainly not a "side issue" for it is the entry into salvation and the Church itself. The mode of triple immersion has up until recently been a given. The mode or single immersion or sprinkling has been consistently condemned. Ecumenism by pseudo-Orthodox participants is a heretical aberration outside of the practice of that which has been "believed by all, in all places, at all times."

    It is a conundrum to see those we deem to have personal lives which are "examples of holiness" commune or embrace heretics, but the fact remains that if they stray from the truth or embrace those who do, they too have left the faith.

    God forbid that you or I should succumb to such no matter what the temporal cost for the spiritual cost is much greater.

    I am always excited to hear of new journeys such as yours. As you look at Orthodoxy I would hope that you would focus on the Genuine and True communions and not the World Orthodox communions. I haven't yet made public to which communion we are going, but I would be happy to talk to you by email if you want more info. Please keep me up to date on your journey and I will try to be a support for you in my feeble and limited way.

    Also, please read some of my earlier posts especially the ones on Authority and The Church.

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  18. Dear Fr. Lewis,

    I guess I just have one final thing to say. It would appear from your conclusions that the entire Western Rite in the AOA is not an option for a person who truly wishes to be Orthodox.

    Triple Immersion is not mandatory in our parishes. Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity is, and any convert who has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity is not forced to be re-baptized.

    If the "true" groups are so adamant on this point, there surely is no room for any of our other Western Rite practices among them, either.

    So out goes the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon, out goes our entire musical tradition, and out goes all of our other cultural expressions and treasures.

    This doesn't do much to generate sympathy for their point of view for those of us who are looking for our own cultural expression of Orthodoxy.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Columba Silouan

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  19. Nathan9:03 AM

    Regarding baptism, this article claims to present the teaching of St. Basil, which you may or may not find to be relevant to your situation. Blessings on your journey.

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  20. Anonymous5:06 AM

    Dear Fr. Nathan,

    I was very interested to read your story, which reminds me of my first years in the Orthodox Church. In 1974 I joined the Moscow Patriarchate in London from Anglicanism through chrismation. Having learned the falsehood of the MP, we joined the Russian Church Abroad in 1975, being received through confession only. Feeling the need for the threefold immersion baptism we had never received, we petitioned our bishop. After a week's thought, we gave his blessing, and we were baptized in 1976. There were strong reactions against this from various quarters, but we never regretted our decision. We now belong to the True Orthodox Church of Greece under Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens. Do viist my website at orthodoxchristianbooks.com, and contact me at vladmoss@aol.com if you want. May God strengthen you and guide you!

    Vladimir Moss

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  21. Tentmaker,
    If you will look in the JTO archives, you will see that I have been very supportive of the validity of the WR. The Gregorian Liturgy predates the Byzantine. Having now discovered that the WR is predominantly promoted by those in the throws of the influence of Ecumenism, i.e. the AOC, I have had to take another look. I honestly don't know how the Genuine Churches view the WR other than the fact that it is not commonly embraced in the same way that women deacons are not embraced. Both are scriptural and canonical but are not commonly practiced. Perhaps the WR will be a part of the Genuine mission effort in the future, but in any case, it is not he Liturgy or the Western forms, but rather the false doctrines and the communion with heretical Bishops that are the greatest concern.

    I believe you err in saying that triple immersion is not mandatory in your parish. It may not be mandatory for a convert, but anyone who is Baptized (child or adult) in your parish is Baptized by triple immersion. In this you have hit on the point. Why is it right for one and not the other? It has not always been so and this is the evolving , modern influence of Ecumenism that has engulfed the AOC.

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  22. Brother Vladimir Moss,
    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I have sent you an e-mail.

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  23. Just a note to all. Please call me "Nathan". I will even humbly accept "Mr. Lewis". But I have not received Holy Orders and thus am not "Fr" or "Father." I was licensed in 1978 and ordained in 1980 by the Southern Baptist Convention, but have set those aside as I deem them now to be invalid.

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  24. Dear Vir,

    I'm sorry that you have met negative True Orthodox before. I had also met several negative ones that caused a delay in my conversion to Orthodoxy (of course I also met many New Calendar Orthodox who had a great deal of hatred for Roman Catholics, which I was at the time).

    However, the things you say are quite judgmental and are themselves negative and stereotyping. I hope you realize that most of us are just your average people struggling to live a pious life as best as we can. It was ultimately the example of great love coupled with the example of people just living the traditional Orthodox life that convinced me where to go, which was the Greek Old Calendar Church.

    in Christ,

    Fr Anastasios
    http://www.gocraleigh.org
    http://www.holytheotokosgreenville.org

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  25. Nathan, I read the article you have linked. There is wisdom in Bishop Basil's words having to do with the economy of reception of converts. In that such economy adheres to canon and tradition it is good. The problem in Ecumenism today is the fact that economy has become a smorgasbord of receptions without Baptism which has no basis in history. The result is thousands of converts being accepted without being baptized. Why does this matter? Because Baptism is salvific! The question I had to deal with is, when did the following change and who changed it?

    “If any Bishop or Presbyter does not perform three immersions (literally,“three baptisms”) in making one baptism (literally “one initiation’), but (sc. only) a single immersion (literally, “a single baptism”), that given into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed (sc. from office). For the Lord did not say, “Baptize ye into my death,” but, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    “…concerning the three immersions…without them not only is a Baptism incomplete, but it cannot even be called a baptism at all.”

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  26. Good Evening, Nathan, it's Tentmaker again.

    I can speak about our parish, Saint Marks in Denver.

    We have a new Baptismal Font in the new addition to our parish building. From the looks of our baptistry, I would say it is quite impossible that anyone could be immersed in it unless they were an infant.

    Perhaps our parish holds baptisms outside of our building in a river somewhere, but I've never heard about it if they have.

    To be honest, I have been disturbed by your allegations about mainstream Orthodox jurisdictions. Even my own parish priest sometimes complains about some of the liberal tendencies in the seminaries and of certain Greek Orthodox theologians.

    I think I will ask the "genuine orthodox" group here in Colorado a few questions. Since I live in Colorado, I am physically very close to this jurisdiction you've mentioned. I've even bookmarked their website.

    I would like to see all legitimate Orthodox practices done in the Western Rite, too. A big one would be the "Forgiveness Sunday" tradition, which we don't currently have in the Western Rite. I think our fasting practices might also stand some tightening up.

    This is difficult and frustrating for someone who has travelled so far to get here, escaping the clutches of ECUSA and the fragmentation of Protestantism, only to run into more problems like these.

    I've always been a very conservative person, generally, and these groups you speak of seem to be good in that respect.

    Worldwide liberalism and relativism are enemies across all denominational and jurisdictional lines and it seems that there is no place untouched by these controversies unless it be in a Monastery somewhere.

    I would hope that the "Genuine Orthodox" would be very interested in evangelism and church planting and church development. The AMIA, CANA and members of the North American Anglican Province are very good at this, in spite of their flaws.

    I'm sure if we as Orthodox Christians get in the way of Christ's work, He will look to others to get the job done. He's done that in the past, and I see no reason why He won't stay true to form and to it again.

    I will ask some questions of these people you've referenced. Again, I think Bishop Basil is a Holy man and a holy Bishop, but there might be more problems in Antioch than I've realized.

    If we falter and fail, maybe Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA can pick up some of the slack. I've heard many good things about him.

    Blessings in the Holy Trinity,

    Columba Silouan

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  27. Dear Nathan,

    It is with great interest I have read this post and followed all the comments.

    It just dawned on me that I have the following on my blog related to reception into the Church via Chrismation only vs. Baptism and Chrismation. The photographs speak for themselves.

    http://molonlabe70.blogspot.com/2008/02/pics-3.html

    God bless you on your continuing journey. You wrestle with questions and issues which greatly distress me as well so I understand your decision.

    Your brother in Christ and fellow struggler,

    Sophocles

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  28. Dear Nathan,

    Well, I wrote Archbishop Gregory and asked him about his views about the Western Rite. Here is what he said:

    "Dear Silouan,

    Greetings in Christ!

    Thank you very much for your e-mail.

    As far as the Western Rite is concerned, we believe that it is a dead
    tradition and that it should rest in peace. We have received others
    from the Western Rite and they have learned the true richness of
    Orthodoxy that God has permitted to be handed down to us in the
    Eastern Rite. I think you would do good for yourself and for those
    with you to abandon this form of Orthodoxy. The fulness of the Church
    can be found only with those who are confessing true Orthodoxy and
    holding the traditions handed down to us.

    I and Bishop John invite you to come out to the monastery to
    experience the tradition first hand."

    So unfortunately, there is no future for the Western Rite in at least this jurisdiction of the Genuine Orthodox.

    I found that to be disappointing, but I appreciate the kindness and frankness of his answer to me.

    Blessings on your journey,

    Columba Silouan

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  29. Brother Columba Siloua, The Bishop Gregory that you contacted is a break away of the ROAC in America. He was formerly a Bishop in communion with Bishop Valentine. He set out on his own over personality and jurisdictional disputes, claiming that he is the only Genuine Bishop in America. He has a relatively small communion in the USA and most of his Churches are in Africa. I only say this to point out that, though his views on the WR might be shared by others, I don't know that I would trust him to hold the definitive view on the matter as he seems to answer to no one but himself. He does have a very nice setting for a monastery though.

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  30. Anonymous4:00 PM

    We will miss you and all your family. I understand how you came to this decision, even though I am also convinced you are wrong in the action. I put my family through this same type of rebellion and they suffered for it.

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  31. Anon, What a confusing dichotomy of support and rebuke! I rate this as the first negative comment I have received since leaving...and from a former fellow Church member.

    Rebellion? Rebellion to whom or to what? God? No, since we have not left Him. The Orthodox Church? No, since we have not left it. I have indeed rebelled against Ecumenism and Heresy and that right so.

    Unless you left Ecumenism, heresy and became a faithful member of a Genuine or True communion, our stories don't compare enough to suggest that we are going to "suffer" as you have. I am sorry that your own actions caused your family to suffer. I hope you have found peace. Please pray for us.

    I do welcome you, ANON, to point out how we have been "wrong in the action."

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  32. Anonymous11:40 PM

    Nathan,
    Anon commented that you 'still think like a Baptist' and you asked him to expound upon that statement. Strangely, enough, after reading your blog, I had exactly the same thought...because I have been where you are now. In your hyper-zealous state, you may think you have all the answers, but you are still holding on to your rigid Western legalism. Orthodoxy is dynamic yet it has never strayed from its eternal truth; Western Christianity (both Roman and Protestant) is rigid, and yet it flails about endlessly. As one who is relatively new to Orthodoxy, you have not yet had the time and experience to rid yourself of this Western thinking, though, I have no doubt that you think you have - that's why your thinking is so disordered right now. Despite all of the reading that you may have done, you are still an Orthodox neophyte. You hide behind pious statements like 'it is not our intent to cast judgment' and then you right ahead and judge others. You have besmirched the name of our beloved parish priest with your rhetoric - a man who has more love in his heart than either you, Cynthia, or I will ever hope to have - a man who, as far as I know, showed you nothing but love. Shame on both of you! As for your impertinent comments regarding the Metropolitan: while I might not always agree with everything the episcopacy says or does, I'll not speak against Metr. PHILIP - he made a way for us to embrace Orthodoxy when everyone else turned us down.
    Wherever you end up (I believe you never mentioned where you ended up, despite the title of your blog - or did I miss it?) it is my hope and prayer that you and your family can get past this disordered thinking that will ultimately disappoint.

    David Oxley, MD FACS

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  33. David,

    You have dissected our motives, actions, character and what you deem to be our ultimate future, but like the "friend" in the post, you have seemingly refused to consider the issues the post raised.

    What of the validity of the issues, David?

    Baptism
    Ecumenism
    Doctrinal Heresy
    The Forgotten Canons
    World Council of Churches
    Masonic Origins of the New Calender Innovation
    Concelebrating with Roman Catholics
    Concelebrating with Monophysites
    World Orthodoxy
    True and Genuine Churches

    I thought my discussion on these topics was based on reasonable and well ordered thinking and not the disorder you have suggested. You have an opportunity here to show me the error of my thinking and perhaps pull me back from the brink of destruction, if that is indeed the intent of your heart.

    What of the validity of the issues, David?

    Once we have discussed that we can discuss the validity of my conclusions.

    Before we begin, however, there is one point of clarification" In Orthodoxy a neophyte is an adult convert who has been in the Church less than one year. By that standard, I ceased being an Orthodox neophyte three years ago.

    However, since I have not even been baptized and thus am not Orthodox, you are welcome to consider me as less than a neophyte.

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  34. Anonymous3:23 AM

    As to the 'neophyte' issue - I am aware of its Orthodox usage but was I was using it in a more colloquial way.

    As to your many issues, I have long shared your concerns. For instance, I would like us to be out of the WCC.; I am in no wise 'ecumenical'; I have deep concerns about the Western Rite (both its legitimacy and its lack of Orthodox praxis), and many other things. I cannot respond to all of them here, but I am not unaware or unconcerned about them. Perhaps you would like to discuss them face to face sometime.

    Let me try to briefly address the baptism issue because, as I have said, I had similar concerns when I was chrismated. Let's consider that the Orthodox Church, in its two thousand year history, has only had to really grapple with this issue of whether or not to baptize converts for a few decades (certainly not more than the last 100 years at any significant level). The Church is still trying to find Her way on this issue - I myself have long believed that the day will come when the Church will, indeed, baptize all converts. But, at this time the Church, which is led by the karisma of the Holy Spirit, is not clear on this issue - that does not make the Church's current position illegitimate. (I really cannot make this point as effectively as I would like on this blog.)

    The difference between you and me, Nathan, is that I can see that with all our problems and all the individuals who err in our Orthodox Church of Christ, there is still a constancy of truth. For instance, I have long been aware of the Masonic infiltration into the Orthodox Church, but I choose not to spin my head off about it because that is not helpful to me or to the issue at hand. In fact, I think I could probably triple the length of the list you provided in your response. You see, what disturbs me is that you and Cynthia made a decision to leave our parish and our archdiocese, a decision that I and many others deeply regret: but you could not go quietly. Now that you have left, why do you feel the need to be critical of the rest of us? Would it not be better to simply go on your way rather than leave this trail of destructive criticism in your wake? You have hurt a number of people at our parish with your rhetoric - you may not choose to believe that, but I am still there and I know that it is true.

    At the end of the day, Nathan, what saddens me the most is that, as I peruse your blog, I see lots of theological and philosophical arguments presented by you for why you are right and the rest of us are wrong (and, apparently, heretics, schismatics, and apostates); but I really don't see much of anything that expresses the love of God. I can assure you that I pondered your issues, gnashed my teeth, and worried about them over ten years ago. But, I finally discovered that the people I encountered at our parish and the other parishes I came in contact with were genuinely Godly people who were seeking the truth, loving each other, and doing their best to walk in righteousness, all of which is the path to theosis. As a local parish, we are by and large, doing the best we can to love and serve God and each other. What else would you have us do?

    DDO

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  35. I have written a lengthy response to your Comment that won't fit here. I'll look for an alternate way to get it to you. Perhaps we can meet face to face as you have so graciously offered.

    For now, let me see if I can accurately sum up what you have presented here:

    You agree with my positions on the heretical, uncanonical, unorthodox practices in the Antiochian Diocese and in fact "could probably triple the length of the list" that I provided.

    Yet, the thing that "disturbs" you most is not the issues on the list, but rather the fact that we left the Diocese and then offered a critical analysis as to why we left rather than being "quiet" about it. In this you have determined that it is we who have caused "harm" and been "destructive". Am I understanding this correctly?

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  36. In this on-going dialogue concerning this post I have made every effort to not allow the issue to be sidestepped. The issue is not our leaving but where we are going. My precious wife illustrated this very well yesterday when she exclaimed with great passion, "Don't they understand? We just want to be baptized! They wouldn't baptize us!" Thus, we are going where we might follow God, be a true part of His Church and enter the gates through Holy Baptism. Unfortunately, this has become a foreign concept in the Antiochian Diocese and most in communion with it. So we have left there to go where this is still believed and practiced- The True and Genuine Orthodox Communions(Google them).We have not yet said to which specific communion we are going so as to prevent us from being subjected to the myriads of uneducated, shoot-from-the-hip, unsolicited opinions many would offer in that regard.

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  37. ...But as for those who...severe themselves from communion with their president, that is, because he publicly preaches heresy and with bared head teaches it in the Church, such persons are not only not subject to canonical penalty..., but are worthy of due honor mong the Orthodox. For not bishops, but false bishops and false teachers have they condemned, and they have not fragmented the Church's unity with schism, but from schisms and divisions have they earnestly sought to deliver the Church. (Canon XV of the First-Second Council of Constantinople)

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  38. I'm not gonna judge you, but I do know that the move you made is a lonely one. I have a friend who is part of the old greek church....or something like that.....but she's lonely.

    I also know that legalism is gonna be a problem where you are going. So be careful.......I hope that one day you will see what ROCOR saw.......you are still thinking like a protestant in some ways.

    Be careful.......maybe in few years you will change your mind.








    Jnorm888

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    1. Jnorm-- still not lonely. Still haven't changed my mind about the truth. Am connected with the Bishop of the largest communion of Original Calender Orthodox Churches in the world. Am now a Reader. Have started a mission. Just updating you. How are you? Do you have the joy of the Lord?
      3/21/14

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  39. jnorm, I appreciate your sincere concern for my well being. From your links I see that you are African American. It seems that the course that you have taken to become Orthodox is a minority one. So, you have chosen to become a minority- minority. There are very few African American Orthodox. I would presume that you made that choice based on your desire to follow truth. This is not unlike what we have done. The loneliness that you have suggested that we will experience is no more than what you may experience. African American Orthodox parishioners make a concerted effort to communicate and get together once a year at the African American Ancient Faith Conference which I have had the pleasure of attending. So do Genuine Orthodox communicate and get together whether they be Greek, Russian or other. Also, since my wife and I are mission minded, we don't wait to be served or entertained, we spend our time concerning ourselves with the souls of the pagans and protestants. There is no loneliness in that. J, the taint of protestantism is why we left the Antiochian Diocese. It is called Ecumenism. It seems they are the ones who are "still thinking like a protestant in some ways." Also, is legalism anything like Orthodoxy? Does that mean they stay to the Canons and don't promote fellowshipping with those who compromise the faith? If so, then let me be Legalistic!

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  40. Mr. Lewis
    I was surprised to hear of your family leaving the church, and had no idea you were even considering it. My astonishment aside, I have always thought highly of your entire family and therefore care a lot about all of you and the choices you make. I have read your entire post, as well as more than half of the comments and responses now(combined they are actually longer than the post).

    Some of the issues you have brought up do in fact bother me as well, but are new news to me. Issues such as our Metropolitan's acceptance of Islam or Mohammed, and the acceptance of salvation outside of Jesus Christ our savior. The information you offer on these topics is still rather vague and I will have to do my own research before I can take your word that those are the beliefs of our church leaders.

    As far as the calendar goes, we do practice Pascha on a different date than the contemporary Eastern one, and we recognize that the December 25th date for the Nativity is incorrect, simply symbolic. For me, and many others, that is enough. I don't think that my salvation is resting upon what day I celebrate what holiday, there are a lot of more pressing matters(such as my daily sins) that may keep me from heaven.

    Baptism, on the other hand, is a more pressing issue. When our Lord said, "Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." He did not then say "Make sure you immerse the baptized in water three times or it doesn't count." This has been common practice, but not cannon from what I understand. In Matthew 3:13-17, we hear the story of Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist. Although I am sure we will all agree that the salvation of Jesus Christ was never in question, we use his life on Earth as a guideline for our own. When He was baptized, Matthew simply states that, "When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon him." (Mt. 3:16) I want to call attention to the statement "Jesus came up immediately from the water". None of the four Gospels state anything about him being immersed three times. You may say, "Well, thats Jesus Christ, it wasn't necessary for him." But then I'd like to call your attention to the story of St. Thekla, patron of our church camp where I just returned from last night.

    If you want to read her entire story, a copy is online at http://www.antiochian.org/1440/
    To make this already-lengthy post as brief as possible, I will summarize the part relevant to our topic:

    After leaving her family, her fiance, and all her wealth to follow Christ, St. Thekla was tortured without avail and then released (This was shortly after the death of Christ during the time that the book of Acts records). In a second city, she refused to respond to a wealthy suitor's advances and was captured for more torture and they planned to kill her. She miraculously escaped multiple attempts on her life in an arena, and finally she dove into a water tank full of animals to be baptized by Christ. After she is released and meets up with Paul to recount her story, he confirms the baptism, even though she was only immersed once. It was not even an issue.

    I think Mr. Silouan(The Orthodox Tentmaker) may have been correct is saying it may be an Eastern custom to baptize thrice. It fits well with the service, but one immersion for each member of the trinity should not be any better for your salvation than one immersion for the trinity. They are three and one of course.

    In Christ,
    John Meese

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  41. John, The Orthodox faith is one of Scripture AND Tradition. Right or Straight teaching is never a matter of our opinion or what we feel is right. If that were the case we could just remain Protestants protesting what does not seem right to us. Having said that, I would recommend that you determine first what the Church has believed at all times in all places and then determine if the jurisdiction you are in is in communion with that heritage. If they aren't then ask yourself why. This is the process that led us to the awareness of an ever apostatizing World Orthodox Church that is influenced by Ecumenism. Google "Ecumenicism". The related information you find will cover all these topics and give you the documentation you are seeking. God bless you on your journey.

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  42. Anonymous6:38 PM

    Dear Nathan: Many years to you and your family!

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  43. Thank you Subdeacon Joseph! Your words are encouraging. Pleas pray for us.

    I enjoy reading your blogs.

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  44. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Thanks-- by the way, the Russian Catacomb Church (RTOC) has parishes in America under Bp Stefan of Trenton as well-- http://rtoca-trenton.com/

    I just put the directory back up but it needs a couple of corrections to parishes.

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  45. Anonymous10:17 PM

    Having grown up in your uncle's church, I recognize the Lewis tenacity at here. It is an attribute that I have always trusted. My heart is heavy for you in a way that I can't quite explain, particularly coming from one (as you know) who is not orthodox. I'll be praying for you Nathan as I know God is faithful. Pray for me as well.

    shalom,
    Mike

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  46. Mike, Let not your heart be troubled! There is a peace that passes all understanding especially in the face of adversity. To come to the truth in the face of persecution is the way of EVERY Christian. Just look for those groups that are then most persecuted and you may find those who are close to the truth. In Orthodoxy it is those who are NOT associated with the World Orthodox Churches. I remind myself and my family often that the very worst that "they" can do to you is kill you...and that is gain. "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." I welcome your prayers as we fight the good fight for the souls of men. I also invite you to join me.

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  47. Mike, PS, My uncle was adopted :)

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  48. Anonymous11:12 AM

    ;)

    .....Mike

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  49. I understand what you say about my arguments being based upon feeling rather than tradition. However, the issue in debate is not something that the Orthodox Church did. If we were debating a practice of the Orthodox Church you would be correct. The quotes you gave spoke against Orthodox Priests performing anything but triple-immersion baptism, but does not say that recipients should then be re-baptized. The quotes you gave decry the priest who performed your baptism, but so do your Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ because the Priest has not found the true faith. He's a Baptist. The issue is the Orthodox Church recognizing that baptism. It may be considered acceptable, if not canonical. I am no Priest or Theologian so I may be wrong there, but that is how I see it as justified.

    On a side-note: A friend of mine is the daughter of a Western Rite Orthodox Priest, and according to her it is practice to baptize by triple-immersion. Mr. Silouan (The Orthodox Tentmaker), you might want to check with your church.

    Our Parish Priest had a good homily today, in it he said something which actually relates to this discussion. "One of the distinguishing facts about the Orthodox Church is that it is neither Congregational nor is it Papal," He said, "The Church has long believed that the Holy Spirit is best interpreted in the assembly of the collected [church]." I'm not sure what word he ended that sentence with, "Church" was the closest word to what he meant that I could think of, pardon my memory loss.

    I think it is important to emphasize the fact that we, The Orthodox Church, are not "Papal". We have church leaders, hierarchs, etc, yes. "But without the influence of the laity they're words mean nothing, and without the leadership of the hierarchy the laity is powerless" (A very loose quote from the same homily). Even if Metropolitan Philip is speaking heresies that are against the Church, that does not compromise the religion as a whole because we embrace his humanity. We do not treat him like the Roman Catholic Pope, in that we expect him to be wrong sometimes, to be led astray, and there is never a reason to follow him blindly.

    I am not condoning the actions or words of our Church hierarchs, let it be noted that they are not all speaking such blasphemies as calling Mohammed a "Prophet" or "man of God". I simply think that leaving the church is not the right course of action, there we differ in strategy.

    At http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/athos_bal.aspxyou can read a letter from the Monks of Mount Athos to Patriarch Bartholomew. The main issue in the letter is compromises with the Catholics, but many issues of "ecumenicism" overlap. The letter actually addresses in protest the idea of Mohammed being a prophet of God. This, I feel, is the true way of protest. The Monks of Mount Athos have not left the church, they simply protest and defend the True Faith. I find their strategy the wiser.

    In Christ,
    John Meese

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  50. Sorry, that link doesn't work because I forgot a space. http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/athos_bal.aspx

    In Christ,
    John

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  51. Mr. Lewis,
    After talking to a friend and mentor of mine, as well as thought and prayer, I apologize. I know that the move your family is making is one that clears your conscience, and to follow your conscience can be nothing less than a noble act. I suppose I was stunned enough when you left the Church I love that my first reaction was to defend it valiantly. There is no need, I see now. And my actions could be deemed foolish. You took the time to let everyone know of you're reasons for leaving to fulfill any curiosities or wondering, and I took it as a theological attack on the church. You are welcome to your opinions, and please do not feel obligated to respond in debate fashion to my last comment. In the case that you do, I do not think I will respond with a counter-argument... We have a difference of opinion, a difference of priorities even, but that does not mean that I should treat you as anything less than my brother in Christ.
    Again, please forgive me. Your family is in my prayers, that God may lead you on your journey towards the truth and that you may keep an open mind to his influence. If that brings you to another church where you find peace, so be it and may God bless you. But please know that if in the future you feel that God has changed your path, you are always welcome back into our church.
    I respect your decision, may God's will be made clear to you.
    Your brother in Christ,
    John Meese

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  52. The following is an excerpt from an e-mail I received from a parishioner of the local church we just left. It is an example of what one might expect when leaving the Antiochian Diocese. Fortunately, the good and encouraging remarks outnumber this type.

    "Who the (expletive) are you to say…? You're the one not going to church because apparently (local church name) and the whole Antiochian Archdiocese just aren't up to your standards. You are a sick control freak and I'm glad you left the church so that the nice people at (local church name) don't have to put up with you anymore…And I know that you think you're wise and all-knowing, but you're not. And I know you'll decide that I'm a horrible person for talking to you this way, blah blah blah. I don't care what you think of me…Don't bother responding, I don't care what you have to say. Your reasons for leaving (local church name) have proved to me that your way of thinking is clearly deranged and irrational, and I will have nothing more to do with you."

    Lord I pray for those who spitefully use me and say all manner of evil against me falsely for Thy name sake. Forgive those who hate me and forgive me a sinner.

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  53. Lucian3:39 AM

    It has to be triple immersion, and the (non-modalist trinitarian) formula from the Gospel has to be used. Or, with condescension from the strictness of the canons, triple pouring (as it was done to the elderly, sick, infirm, or dieing). And You don't have to re-baptize people who come from EVERY other heresy (the ancient canons required for members of certain heresies to be rebaptised, and for others not, depending on the formula being used, as well as their understanding of God).

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  54. It may seem unseemly to reveal the seemier side of unseemliness, but for the reason of revealing what those who would leave the wide world of World Orthodoxy have to endure, here is the latest name-calling and and accusations that have come my way. These by way of an Antiochian Priest who has attempted to convince one of my daughters that I am misleading her:

    1. "I know you are only doing what you have been made to understand. So I certainly don't fault you...."

    2. ..."this separates you from the Canonical Orthodox Church-very serious."

    3."It is a major mistake."

    4. "I know of these teachings. It is way too narrow. Prelest is what they are overcome with."

    5. "Phareseeism pure and uundiluded."

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    1. Update 3/21/14: This priest is now divorced. Closed his church and is no longer an active priest.

      Delete
  55. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Well... a few things spring to mind, having read your initial post. First off... revealing the contents of a private e-mail online for whatever purpose without the express approval of the other party is questionable behavior. As for your obsession with right form...well... "once a fundamentalist, always a fundamentalist. You have simply traded in your baptist cloak for a "genuine, true-blue" Orthodox one. The mind, however, is still a fundamentalist mind and I'm not the least bit surprised that you are opting for one of the fringe Orthodox groups... the sort that wraps itself in righteous robes and condemns all others (i.e. too ecumenist, too liberal, too Sergianist, too modernist...etc etc etc). Fundie Baptists do the same and you're following the pattern to a fault.

    Actually, I feel a little sad for your family. They're forced to follow in your Pharisaic path. I would predict that when they're old enough, they'll bolt. I would also predict that at some point you will become disillusioned with the lunatic fringe Orthodox group and either see it as too compromising and move even further afield or leave Orthodoxy altogether.

    In truth... you never were Orthodox. Oh... you went through the motions but your heart never really changed (and it still hasn't). It would be better for you had you never known the truth as presented by the Antiochian Church. But that, of course, is something you steadfastly refuse to believe. I think the path ahead for you is not going to be a very pleasant journey. I'm saddened by your decision. Lord, have mercy.

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  56. Anon, Your second comment is an expansion of the first, so my response is to repeat what I already said, "Your response is yet another example of an anonymous blogger offering no substance to the issues presented, but, rather, ignoring them to launch a personal attack and commentary on the messenger. So, Anon, what do you think of the Bishops being shoulder to shoulder with the Mason's and of the Patriarch giving a Christ-Denying Q'ran to a Muslin cleric? You do know that all World Orthodox Churches are reunited with the Romans now don't you? Is that okay by you? Does truth matter?" Your judgment on the state of my future can only have validly if you discount the reasons we left World Orthodoxy. Absent of that. your words are useless, emotional diatribe. By the tone of your comment, and the personal accusations, it seems clear to me that you are not "saddened" by my decision, as you say but, rather, you are maddened. Since you have no substance to offer, you remain still anonymous.

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  57. Anon, A final point; Something is askew when you so quickly come to the defense of "e-mail etiquette" but ignore the violation of holy scripture and canon that the Antiochian Metropolitan, Antiochian Patriarch, and the Ecumenical Patriarch commit in promoting that Jesus Christ is NOT the only way to heaven. I will expose heresy and deception wherever it is, as did Christ, and the Apostles, and the Church Fathers before me. I will shout it from the rooftops for the salvation of men. What will you do? Ignore it, and continue to shout Pharasee!, Pharasee!, to those who clarion the truth?

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  58. Anonymous12:02 AM

    An old thread, I know, but one observation, if I may. Living under the thumbs of Islam in the Middle East, it seems that no Christian church can say what they really think about Islam without serious repercussions. Even Middle Eastern groups here, including AOC, dare not reveal the truth about Islam without Christians living in the Middle East paying for it.

    The martyr saints make it clear that there are worse things than physical death. Stories abound of folks denying pagan worship and in the process making martyrs of their families. But it would seem irresponsible to deny Islam at the cost of others' lives.

    In Christ,
    Mary

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  59. Dearest Mary! Christ said, "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." If you believe it is "irresponsible" to deny anti-Christ and to proclaim Christ even unto death, you will not be in heaven..period. This Sunday, stand before every icon in the temple and tell each Martyr you see that they were irresponsible. Mary...are you even a Christian?

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  60. Mary, Also, for what good is it to gain the whole world but to lose your own soul?

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  61. Anonymous5:33 AM

    Interesting article. I hope you find peace of soul. How do you explain the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church, under the Patriarch of Moscow, received former Roman Catholic priests by simple vesting (not even by confession, let alone baptism) for centuries before the modern ecumenical movement, since the Moscow Council of 1655? Were they in schism from Orthodoxy even then? God bless. Stephen.

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  62. Anon/Stephen, I don't explain it. Perhaps you have an answer?

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  63. I got a little lost in the acronyms and thought I'd just ask- what is your view of the state of the Serbian Diocese, west. or the Greek Archdiocese in America?

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  64. Jacob, I have no opinion. Perhaps you do?

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  65. Anonymous8:05 PM

    Brother Nathan - I've read most of your article and some of the many replies. I am not an Orthodox, though my wife is of Russian birth and an Orthodox at heart. My spiritual heritage is conservative Evangelical - sharing much in common with Baptists. I do not share many of your views, but I deeply respect your honest pursuit of truth and purity. Ecumenism is nothing more than slaying truth on the altar of unity. Our Savior made it clear that the way to God is narrow, in powerful contradiction to the teaching of ecumenism. It is the way to perdition that is broad. Heaven help any preacher, priest or bishop that teaches contrary to the words of Christ.

    May our gracious God and Savior lead you into all truth by His blessed Holy Spirit, and bless your precious family with His protection.

    Scott

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  66. Scott, Thank you for your encouraging and gracious words. I extend them back to you. With you "being in common with Baptists", I have an idea of the views you might not share, however, I am curious as to what your criterion for defining Ecumenism might be. If "Ecumenism is nothing more than slaying of the truth on the altar of unity", who gets to say what truth is? It is this question that led me into Orthodoxy, the original Church, and out of the myriad of the innovative psuedo-churches that look and believe little like the Church Christ established and his Apostles died to preserve. See my post "Authority. It's Huge! Huge!"

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  67. I don't know when the last comment was, but I will make one anyway. I am encouraged by your words and actions, because I am in the same situation with GOAA and am fortunate enough to have a Mission Church of HOTCA in town!

    Congratulations on the truth!

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  68. Daniel, You are welcome to post a comment on any article. It is always relevant. I am so glad that you have a place to continue your journey to orthodoxy. I hope you also find a place soon to put away the negative experience, so as not to allow bitterness to infiltrate your soul. The risk in finding the narrow way is that one's whole focus becomes what is wrong with the church rather than what is right with loving our Lord and living in the joy of His presence. Come back often. Keep me updated. Also, please drop me a note if you like: journeytoorthodoxy@gmail.com

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