Sunday, August 31, 2014

How To Prove You Are A True Orthodox Church

The best way to prove you are a true Orthodox Church is not by offering public apologetics, historical ecclesiastical tracking, and attempting to discern the heart and intent of the actions of jurisdictional Bishops at a moment in time, so that you might compare yourself to them, saying, 

"I thank thee, oh God, that we are not like that Jurisdiction over there!" 

Rather, the best way to show you are a true Orthodox Church is to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God thus exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit and the dunamis power of ministry. 

"By their fruits you shall know them."  

In this way the presence of God among you will be noised abroad.

The lack of such demonstration is to

"Have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof," 

thus proving you are not a true Orthodox Church.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Yes! A Quality Feature Film! Orthodox Subject!

As a film producer, I am thrilled to see such quality work. No subtitles available on this clip and no other information as to the producers, but the fact that a film based on the life of a Russian Orthodox Saint has been made, is VERY encouraging. 

If you have a desire to see these types of films produced and have the means to financially invest in projects with Orthodox subjects, please go to My company, Rocky Top Pictures, is entering the investment phase. 

Where are all the Film Investors?

UPDATE: Note: Films, such as those produced by Rocky Top Pictures LLC. including Moses The Black are NOT financed through donations. Only qualified investors who are able to show their fiscal viability are legally allowed to invest and that under contract. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

JAILBIRD - A Riveting New Novel By The Sister Of JTO Author- UPDATE

UPDATE: Doing brisk sales! Order yours today...

What do John GottiTimothy McVeighKarla Faye Tucker and Omar Abdel-Rahman (also known as the Blind Sheik) have in common? My sister, Rebecca Lewis, was their chaplain. Read this riveting novel from this 30-year veteran of the county and federal prison systems. Available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five Reasons Demons Attack

"It is said that God allows the demons to attack us for five reasons.

The FIRST is that, through being attacked and fighting back, we should learn to distinguish virtue from sin.
The SECOND is that, having acquired virtue by struggle and labor, we should keep it firm and unalterable.
The THIRD, that progressing in virtue we should not think highly of ourselves, but should learn humility.
The FOURTH, that having experienced in practice, the wickedness of sin, we should hate it with a perfect hatred.
Finally, the FIFTH and most important is that having been freed from passion we should not forget our weakness and the strength of Him Who has helped us."

St Maximos the Confessor. Second Century on Love, Text #67. B#9.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Treat One Another

One should reflect first what one is going to say, and then give it utterance; be courteous when addressed, amiable in social intercourse, not aiming to be pleasant by facetiousness, but cultivating gentleness in kind admonitions. Harshness is ever to be put aside, even in censuring. -St. Basil the Great, PG, Vol 32, Epistolae, II

Or how canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seest not the beam in thy own eye? Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thy own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to take out the mote from thy brother's eye. -St Luke 6:42

Thanks to Father Joseph Gagliano of Saint Lawerence Mission - from his Sunday bulletin.

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Reason Why Rocky Top Pictures Exists

This is one of the main reasons why my Rocky Top Pictures exists. I loathe "Christian Films." By the way, Protestants still think they are the core of Christianity. They really need to get out more. 

Has anyone heard of Orthodox Christianity? It is the original Christian Church founded by Christ and His Disciples. It is still here. My apologies to Hollywood for the junk some have been presenting in the name of Christianity and for a pseudo-Christianity that is far removed the original in doctrine and practice. Rest assured, help is on the way!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Right Attitude Toward Those In The "Charismatic Movement"

"As for those caught in the web of the charismatic movement, 

under no circumstances are we justified if we condemn them. 

Those who imagine themselves saved by all of this are victims of a demonic arrogance which blinds them to true evangelical humility, which often serves certain personality deficits, and which, more often than not, convinces them inwardly of their own salvation—indeed, a dangerous thing. 

We must reach out to these people with charitable words, 

constantly assuring them that the Orthodox Church has a fullness which is not yet realized in America. Within that fullness, we must tell them, rests a true spiritual treasure, not a dull stone glimmering with the polish of deceit and emotionalism. And then, to be sure, 

we must set about restoring the fullness of the Church's traditions, admitting readily that WE, not the Church, have lacked fullness!"

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. I, Nos. 4&5, pp. 29-32.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Were Saint Symeon the New Theologian and Saint John of Kronstadt Charismatics?

Both saints moved in the charisms. prophecies of the future, words of knowledge, visions and dreams, seers into the heavens, purveyors of the direct mysteries of God for specific current situations to individuals and churches. They are only two of the saints of God who did so. Were they charismatics? Is Christianity charismatic? The word charism is a greek word meaning "grace". "mata" means "gifts", i.e., chrismata means "grace gifts." Does God gift his church with gifts that are beyond the natural realm? Is the church supernatural? Is the Holy Spirit limited to only the natural? Is the church? Is not all of the body Christ gifted with charisms? If not, then is Christianity just like any other idealistic philosophical belief system?

The word, charismatic, has been usurped by the modern Montanist-influenced movement predominately seen in the protestant world.  Unfortunately, some Orthodox believers fail to understand that the word belongs to the church. It is scriptural. It is Orthodox. To be charismatic does not mean that one is part of the Charismatic Movement, which includes spiritualism, demonic influence, false prophets, satanic visions and manifestations, and false doctrines, promoted by men and women who are not under the authority or umbrella of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. To be charismatic means that the orthodox church is infused with the Holy Spirit and operates in the heavenly realms. In this way, and in this way only, will "the gates of hell not prevail against it."

First and foremost, salvation, being born again of spirit and of water, is charismatic. Indeed, all of the sacraments are charismatic. "The holy mysteries or sacraments in the Orthodox Church are vessels of the mystical participation in divine grace of mankind. In a general sense, the Orthodox Church considers everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical." 

So, too, the church, through it's individual members, operates in the charismatic gifts of ministry.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:"

Were any of these charisms temporary? Are any of these gifts void today? Only if the following has been accomplished...

"...Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

Some Orthodox believers, do wrongfully use the word, charismatic, as a curse word to indict other Orthodox Christians. They are uniformed and deceived, when they assume that because an Orthodox person is graced with one of the more demonstratively supernatural ministry gifts, that they must be part of the satanic Charismatic Movement, or are in prelest and deception. They unwisely resist and even attribute such works to the devil. Such knee-jerk reaction is a perilous thing akin to blaspheming the Holy Spirit Himself. Safeguards are given to the church through it's Bishops and those with the charism of Discernment of Spirits, to root out false gifts, but individuals who, out of ignorance, pride, or other such fleshly persuasion, speak such judgement, are in danger themselves of judgement. Saint Symeon and Saint John were subject to such attacks as were other saints. Even Christ was accused: 

"This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

He replied with this warning:

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."

If you are an Orthodox Christian, then, yes! You are charismatic, though it is advisable in the Western culture not to preface it with "I am a", lest the uniformed misunderstand. Rather, acknowledge that the Holy Spirit resides in you and it is through His charisms, indeed, in Him alone, that you live and move and have your being.

I am not permitted, nor do I desire to be identified with a specific ministry gift with which I am graced. I am satisfied, and so should you be, to know that He is the gift and all that He is is in you, and He has promised that "Greater things will you do than I have done."  I am also ever aware that I am a sinner and my soul is in constant need of redemption, healing and forgiveness. In my early days as an Orthodox Christian, I was ignorant of the ethos and culture which includes specific verbiage and semantics. I was surprised to learn that the words such as "Clairvoyant" and "Seer" were acceptable words when referring to related gifts, but the word "prophet", though it is as Orthodox a word as the former, carried with it connotations and provoked much misunderstanding. I was also unaware that such gifts are deemed by some to be rare. The rarity of these gifts may or may not be true. It is more likely that they are instead, rarely talked about by those who are thus gifted, because of contrition or fear of rejection. In any case, some have relegated these charisms to only cloistered monks and saints of old, and this is not true. My mistake came in creating a blog called Orthodox Prophets, as an outlet for those with such gifts to speak to the world. Rather than accomplish the intended purpose, the blog was perceived by some as a self-promotion. No one, bishop, priest, or laymen, friend or critic, ever spoke to the content of the posts because they could not see through the fact of the very existence of the blog. Out of deference to those to whom the blog was a stumbling block, I removed it from public view. God does not need me. He does not need you. He does not desire sacrifice, but a broken and contrite spirit, he will not despise. None of us are the saviors of the world. Salvation has already come and He is Christ Jesus. It is amazing, it is glorious, that He takes these mortal vessels, cleanses them, fills them with Himself, then pours out His ministry to the world. We have become partakers of His mysteries, His charisms, His charismata, for indeed, without his unmerited favor, none of us would subsist.

Oh... and yes, Saint Symeon and Saint John were charismatics!

Related Articles

You're So Vain

I marvel at the perceptions individuals have in discourse on the internet. Some participants see a post and take it to heart so much that they actually think JTO has some inside info and is speaking directly to them--and they respond with great offence! My suggestion is, if a JTO blog post pierces your conscious negatively, perhaps you should ask God if he is trying to show you something. But know that JTO, though it is relatively small as blogs go, receives thousands of readers and many comments a month. You are not the only one. Is it possible that it is your own heart that condemns you and not JTO? This reminds me of the chorus of an old sixties Carly Simon song. Please forgive my edits:

You're so vain. 
You probably think this post is about you. 
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this post is about, 
don't you, don't you, don't you?

As always, you are welcome to bypass the comment section and talk by e-mail,, to clear up any misconceptions.

Psalm 5

1Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
2Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
4For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
5The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
6you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.
7But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple.
8Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
9Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
10Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
11But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Friday, August 08, 2014

My Thanks And Appeal To My Attackers -Through The Words Of Saint Symeon




"...from your Symeon, who is in exile and being persecuted because of you... behold what grain the fields of your efforts and your words on God's behalf have yielded! See what glory and joy they have granted me, what crowns they have caused me to win, with what happiness they have filled me! For they have led me up to the summit of knowledge and have planted the feet of my intellect on the rock, and have caused me to be clothed in this rock [Christ] itself, from which I have the living water gushing forth in me, moving and speaking and encouraging me to write to you. This fills me with every delight and renders me completely unaware of the deadly trials around me. Like the three boys whom it kept from being burned in the furnace, it has thus also hidden me in its shelter and preserves me from grief and misery. For this I thank you and will never cease from thanking you and praying for youSo if you can do anything else to increase the happiness and glory of those who love you, please do not hesitate to do it, so that your reward may be multiplied and your recompense from God, who has set out the laws concerning these things, may be more abundant. Farewell."



"My good master...[you have] once again added more noble crowns of victory that I already have. How can I repay you for all that you, in your goodness, have done for me, your humble servant, for all that you continue to do, and that I know you will do again? For you have been my benefactor everyday for seven years already. How can I make amends to you when you are so zealous in these matters and know how to endow your friends so munificently with your sweet remedies? But, I beg you, do not halt your plans, do not give up your work! Add to them, if you will, things that, by their intensity, will make my sufferings even sweeter. For you have increased for me the light, the joy, the sweetness, everything that gushes forth in me in such a marvelous way in peace of my thoughts through the ineffable gladness of the Spirit. Please go on increasing these by all means, and, continuing to do what you do, unite me more swiftly with my beloved God, on whose behalf I willing bear everything and because of whom, as you see, I am enveloped by you in the chains of exile. Farewell. ...[Y]our Symeon, who, because of you, is in exile, stripped of all my possessions."

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Blogger Troll Confesses To Criminal Record- "Big deal"

[JTO Editor's Note: I write this article in the Third Person, hoping that it not be perceived as a personal defense of myself or anything that has occurred to me. For my part, I am content to allow God to use persecution to buffet my soul and have posted my view on such HERE. But, for the cause of Christ and His Holy Church I come to the defense of God's people who are the targets of an enemy who "roams to and fro, seeking whom he may devour."] 

A blogger troll has confessed to his criminal record. In a Comment posted to the JTO blog, Minas Michael Christie of St. Petersburg, Florida, admitted to a criminal history that includes drug possession and criminal trespass. Public records show that Mr. Christie was arrested for and charged in three separate offenses in 1983, 1986, and 1997.

"Both the pot cases were in the 80's and the felony charge was dropped to a misdemeanor", Christie said in a correspondence with JTO. "If you must know, I bought $10 worth in a sting operation, received a $100.00 fine and that was it. The trespass charge in 97, was over a domestic dispute with an ex girlfriend, the cop ordered me to leave and when I didn't fast enough to his liking. I was charge with trespass after warning, jailed over the weekend and released with time served. Big deal."

Now, all would agree that if we repent, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but an obvious, arrogant, rebellious, and lawless sense of entitlement seems to characterize Mr. Christie's conduct still today. "Quite frankly, I am not in monastic obedience to anyone...", Christie said.

JTO first learned of Mr. Christie four years ago when he began to attempt to post comments on the JTO blog. The vitriolic and false nature of the comments, laced with name calling, sarcasms, and profanity, did not warrant posting. JTO's refusal to publicly post his comments, brought a barrage of accusations from Christie of "censorship!"

JTO subsequently learned that Mr. Christie had previously been removed as a writer on the Orthodox news site, News From The Underground (NFTU), allegedly for his conduct toward the readers and commentators there. According to public posts, Mr. Christie then proceeded to launch a public campaign against the administrator of NFTU, even to the extent of publicly criticizing the physical appearance of the administrator's wife. A recent post by the editor of the NFTU website, exposes the story behind his removal from the site. Elsewhere, Christie has also attempted to publicly post a comment criticizing the physical appearance of a 9 year old Orthodox boy as looking "like a little girl with that hair and the clothes he is wearing."

One might think, by his conduct, that the internet troll, Minas Michael Christie, is anything but an Orthodox Christian, but, as of this time, Mr. Christie is listed on his Blogger Profile as an administrator of three Orthodox blogs: Rocor Refuges Read More, ROCOR Refuges, and Remnant ROCOR, all three operated by Joanna Higginbotham of Oregon. Ms. Higginbotham, whose site says she is part of "ROCA under Vladyka Agafangel", has repeatedly joined Mr. Christie on various blogger forums in personally attacking individuals, including the JTO editor, with the aim to discredit them and cast dispersion on their character. In fact, one of the features on the side bar of her Remnant ROCOR directs the reader to avoid authors and blogs she deems to be "safe" or "unsafe", prompting one Orthodox clergyman to sarcastically retort to another besieged blogger, "I am so glad you linked Joanna's blog. Now, after all of these years I know who is "Ortho-safe and who is not." Another orthodox blogger has referred to them as "very angry people."

Several of Higginbotham's posts have appeared denouncing and ridiculing individuals by name as being demonized or in need of salvation, and include invitations to other bloggers to join them in their denouncements of individuals. One Higginbotham post includes two photos of an individual standing in what appears to be a liturgical setting. Under the photos are the tag words, "parasite" and "subhuman psycopath" with a detailed description of her target's other perceived sins. 

More recently, Higginbotham posted a doctored photo of JTO author Nathan Lee Lewis, which was apparently lifted off of a FaceBook post. The heading says, Narcissism in the Church. Over the face, is pasted the face of another man. In the comment section below the photo, Higginbotham says, "The face is Sam Vankin, a self-realized diagnosed psychopath." The caption says, "BACK HOME I USUALLY WEAR MY BLACK ROBE. BUT IN HOLLYWOOD I JUST FLASH MY 100-KNOT PRAYER ROPE." In the Comment section, Minas Christie adds, "Looks like Sam Hollywood to me."

The original photograph of Lewis (at right), also an Orthodox Reader and a film producer, was actually taken by Lewis' wife as they sat in a quiet outdoor Virginia cafe on their 33rd anniversary trip. Through inference, one can only assume that both Higginbotham and Christie are of the opinion that Orthodox Christians in the film industry, or at least this one Orthodox Christian, is a two-faced psychopathic hypocrite. In any case, where does public defamation of character, libelous statements, slander, sarcasms and mockery, such as those posted by Higginbotham, and supported by Christie, fit into the Orthodox Christian ethos? What can be said of an Orthodox BLOG or person that promulgates such?

Although Higginbotham's blog contains disclaimers that, "This is a privately owned blog. It is not and has never been an official organ of any ecclesiastical organization", Metropolitan Agafangel's name and jurisdiction are still predominately displayed. The high profile of her blogs in English have the de facto effect of being the American voice for the jurisdiction that is predominately Russian speaking. The tone and posts of some of her blogs refers to "enemies" of the church, which include almost anyone outside of Agafangel's jurisdiction. Is it any wonder, then, why Higginbotham so endorses the likes of Christie, who shares in and even often leads the vitriolic and destructive charge to publicly discredit individuals and orthodox jurisdictions whom they don't favor?

Christie and Higginbotham's techniques of public, personal, character smears are not limited to the lower ranks of Readers or Orthodox Filmmakers. Their focus goes beyond defending the faith or simple commentary concerning the authenticity of a Bishop's succession or the validity of an Orthodox jurisdiction. Without foundation or evidence, they use the technique of raising questions as to the character and integrity of Church leaders, posting captioned photos laced with fictitious quotes and mocking sarcasms. Another recent Higginbotham post focuses on Metropolitan John LoBue. Both the captions on the photo and the comments between Higginbotham and Christie below the post, infer that this faithful bishop and monk, defender of the Faith, and Metropolitan of a major Orthodox Old Calender jurisdiction is a liar. Using conjecture alone, both Christie and Higginbotham have a public conversation between themselves in the Comment section, with one brave blogger adding a comment, telling them, "Cut it out."

Although Higginbotham lives in Oregon, she claims Father Gregory Williams, of Holy Annunciation, Liberty, Tennessee, as her priest. When asked about his relation to Higginbotham and to her claim that he was her priest, Father Gregory affirmed that it was true. It was only after many months of correspondence to Father Gregory by JTO, and written appeals concerning both Higginbotham's internet conduct and her relation to Christie, that Christie's name disappeared from her blog, and inflammatory and personal indictments toward the JTO blog and JTO author Nathan Lee Lewis were also deleted. The new doctored photo post of Lewis would infer that she only temporarily heeded the words of her priest. A recent written appeal to Father Gregory concerning the current activity of his parishioner, Joanna Higginbotham, went unanswered, but in a prior response, Father Gregory stated, 

"I've known Joanna for a very long time. She lived here for quite a while (maybe more than a year; I've forgotten), had me up on a pedestal within a few weeks, left in a rage when I wouldn't take her orders to baptize her future son-in-law while he was living "without benefit of clergy" with her pregnant daughter, then marry them. For several years I was public enemy #1 so far as she was concerned, with endless letters to bishops, other clergy, you name it. After a few years of getting no "satisfactory" response, she went on to someone else. After the marriage (accomplished quite uncanonically & resulting in a reprimand to the offending priest from the bishop) collapsed in disaster and the defection of most of our brethren to the MP, she changed her mind. I have little or no control over her activities, either by e-mail or blog (of which she also has many). Before setting her sights on you, she engaged in a war with [another parishioner]... If I thought it would do any good, I would issue a "cease and desist" order." 

Most of the attacks by Mr. Christie and Ms. Higginbotham, sometimes joined by a Reader Daniel, have been toward Orthodox clergy or laymen who are in good standing with their various Bishops. In the midst of Christie's abusive internet conduct, Ms. Higginbotham has commended him, "Minas has a good solid reputation in our Church. He is not a convert, all his known ancestors are Orthodox", Higginbotham said. It is not known whether or not Higginbotham knew of Christie's criminal background when making this endorsement.

While Ms. Higginbotham works in the open, providing e-mail and biographical information, address, phone number and photos, Mr. Christie has attempted to remain in the shadows, providing no contact information, e-mail, or biographical profile. Even his Blogger Profile has only the name "Minas", with no other personal information. The irony in Christie's stealth methods is the fact that he has clearly expressed his intent to expose others who decide to have anonymity on the internet. Christie recently prided himself in his ability with an attempt to "expose" an Orthodox blogger. This blogger did not operate an orthodox blog, dealing specifically with religious issues, but rather, was an Orthodox Christian with a blog sharing his various personal interests. Still Christie attacked,

"[name omitted], your (grammatical error is Christie's] not very good at protecting your secret identity on Facebook. As ex star [again grammatical error is Christie's] reporter for a internet [once again, grammatical error is Christie's] Orthodox news clearinghouse, which shall remain anonymous, I feel it my duty to report on this breaking news. You are [name omitted] and your trophy wife is [name omitted]...I think it's time the world needs to know just who [omitted] is..."

This attempt brought the blogger's ire toward Christie and Higginbotham, when he told them to "get a life" and provided a link to the Irish drinking song, "Bugger off You Bastards Bugger Off!" The blogger "excommunicated" them from ever again posting comments on his blog.

Mr. Christie's harassing tactics includes cryptic suggestions that he is privy to information such as private Facebook photos, that he has copied and pasted even deleted posts and other materials, with the inference that he intends to use them to embarrass or discredit the subject. This type of intimidation, along with, likening people to apes, calling them liars, accusations that one has paid money in order to be tonsured, and profanity-laced tirades, are common tactics. It is important to note that these attacks are not doctrinal in nature, nor matters of the church, but personal character assassinations in which Mr. Christie is engaged. Saul Alinsky would be proud as Christie faithfully follows his rules, especially:

1. "Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon." There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. 
2. "Keep the pressure on. Never let up." Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.  
3. "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Ms. Higginbotham shares in these tactics under the guise of some self-proclaimed, spiritual mandate to protect what she deems to be the authentic church. Regarding a barrage of internet attacks on an individual, in which she was participating, Higginbotham encouraged others to join her, "If we love Orthodoxy and truth, we will not permit a brother to remain comfortable in delusion",  Higginbotham said. The take-away from that discourse is that Higginbotham, Christie, and their associates, are the "we", and deliberately intend to inflict continual discomfort on those they publicly attack. Although there is no "Saint" Alinsky,  his bible, Rules For Radicals, is certainly their guide. In an early e-mail exchange between JTO author Nathan Lee Lewis and Ms. Higginbotham, in which Lewis encouraged her to follow the biblical guidelines (Matthew 18) in dealing with a brother she deemed to be in sin- to not deal with it in public- but first go to him privately, then take two more witnesses- then as a last resort take the person before the whole church--and always done under the guidance of the bishops- Higginbotham replied, "Don't you Bible thump or Bible-bully me, Nathan. Remember that WE wrote the Bible and it is not open to your interpretation for you to twist into your imaginary justification for your erroneous ideas." One wonders which of the words of Jesus, Higginbotham finds erroneous. In addition, Higginbotham asserted that because she had consulted her "we" group, and had sent Lewis e-mails, pleading with Lewis to "repent", that she had fulfilled the scripture and was thus doing the work of the church. One blogger, coming to the defense of Lewis after a public attack stated, "If the way people treat him on his blog is their idea of being an Orthodox Christian, then I don't want to be one."

JTO has refused to post comments from Mr. Christie (or Higginbotham) for four years. In those four years, JTO has not responded in first person to Mr. Christie, though the conduct of Mr. Christie and Ms. Higginbotham have been the inspiration of several blog posts- their identifying names never used, until now.  Mr. Christie is right in one thing that he attempted to post in the JTO Comment section, that a blogger is in the public eye and must expect to be attacked. His own conduct has partially been the catalyst for the recent establishment of at least two Orthodox blogs specifically designed to push back on Christie and Higginbotham's abhorrent conduct in the body of Christ. See HERE and HERE. It is true that "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again", and both Higginbotham and Christie are now being isolated by the righteous indignation of those they have attacked, and former associates are distancing themselves from them.

Although it is an embarrassment to the body of Christ for such discord to be displayed publicly to a perishing world, the non-Orthodox looking in on this event should know that good Orthodox Christians will not stand for the unchecked conduct of those who sow discord among the brethren and will speak to it- privately if at all possible (as JTO has attempted for four years to do), but publicly if necessary. Even Christ picked up a whip when he needed one.

What Mr. Christie did not know is that JTO has been researching the whereabouts and conduct of Minas Michael Christie for those four years. That research includes publicly available information, various internet activity, and a background check. A Florida attorney, specializing in internet libel and defamation, has also been consulted concerning Mr. Christie's alleged personal threats and intimidation to JTO author Nathan Lee Lewis and others. So, when Mr. Christie attempted recently, after several months of relative quiet, to post on JTO another comment, laced with false accusations and profanity, and with his comments on the new doctored blog photo posts, it seemed time to shine light into Christie's shadows. In response to Christie's recent attempt to post a comment on the JTO blog, JTO simply posted a link in the JTO Comment section for the Dade County Criminal Court. Mr Christie arrogantly shot back with his "big deal" comment. What is not included in his confession above is Mr. Christie's attempt to divert attention to himself by defaming another fellow blogger and promptly sending JTO (via the JTO Comment section) a link to a criminal court on another site. The link was complete with the mugshot and stats of a female perpetrator. Mr. Christie claimed it was the wife of a fellow orthodox blogger. Mr. Christie was wrong. JTO has confirmed that Christie's tit-for-tat claim was blatantly false. The name was wrong, the state was wrong, the person was wrong--it was not the wife of the blogger. Christie's actions, in writing, were libelous, slanderous, and defamatory. The blogger has been notified of Mr. Christie's slanderous actions toward he and his wife.

JTO needs not comment further on the despicable actions of someone who would stoop so low as to publicly attack the family members, including wives and children, of good Orthodox Christians, not to mention faithful Orthodox clergy in good standing with their Bishops, and the Bishops, themselves.  It is JTO's editorial view however, that Minas Michael Christie should see the light of day shine on his destructive deeds. Sowing discord among the brethren is a tool of the devil and Mr. Minas Michael Christie has proven himself to be as "Minas the Devil". Indeed, he has seemed to thrive off of the attention. This post will no doubt give him more fodder, but at least all will be in the light and his desired anonymity- gone. Father Gregory Williams and his Bishop, Agafangel, should also shine the light of day on Higginbotham and her vitriolic internet conduct toward individuals and churches. Not only is Agafangel's name displayed, but for years, Father Gregory's name has appeared as a contributor on Higginbotham's blog- along with Minas Christie. Others on this list would do well to disassociate themselves from bloggers such as Higginbotham who are the catalyst and enablers for such destructive discourse.

In an Alinsky-type communication, Higginbotham has published a public statement that is the antithesis of what she and Christie are actually doing. The tactic is to accuse others of the very thing you are doing so as to disguise your own tactics and divert attention. We see it often in politics. Unfortunately, we also see it in this case. Higginbotham writes:

In the words of the Prophet Nathan, when confronting the sin of King David, "Joanna, thou art the [woman]!"

Early efforts of JTO to communicate with Christie by inviting a private e-mail conversion were all rejected. Appeals to priests connected to both Higginbotham and Christie have also failed to fully curb both of their appetites for public destructive discourse. They have presented themselves as the public gatekeepers of what and who is holy and orthodox, though there is nothing holy or orthodox about their conduct. Non-Orthodox who are considering a Journey To Orthodoxy, must know that these two nor their "we", do not represent the Orthodox Faith and are under no-one's authority. They are islands unto themselves, propagating a personal agenda. Their conduct has also been a tool to prevent Old Calender True Orthodox jurisdictions from finding a place of communion. Bishop Agafangel would do well to curb Higginbotham's and Christie's, public, negative representation of the church he pastors. They are indeed despised by many in the orthodox world and by association, so is His Eminence Agafangel and Father Gregory Williams. Brethren, this ought no so to be!

Expect to see a flurry of public vitriolic activity directed toward JTO and author Nathan Lee Lewis as a result of this post and others who are now speaking out. More lies, conjecture, insinuation and libelous statements are sure to come. Christie has even attempted to do JTO author, Nathan Lee Lewis, personal and financial harm with fabricated accusations regarding his business and livelihood. Through his company, Rocky Top Pictures, Lewis is currently producing a pro-life feature film, and a feature film on the life of Saint Moses The Black, among others. Now, Higginbotham seemingly has joined Christie in this effort to slander Lewis' character and thwart these efforts. Such conduct brings to mind the words of Christ, "Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and render unto God that which belongs to God." To engage in public slanderous and libelous statements is illegal - and in this case, appeal to Caesar, is a viable option. For four years JTO has followed the principle, "Do not answer a fool in his folly, lest you become like him" , but there comes a time when one must push back on those who would, as a matter of deliberate practice, harm the cause of Christ by intentionally harming his children, or anyone for that matter. Lewis' business is Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) and is represented by an Entertainment Attorney who recently was successful in getting the New York Times to retract false information concerning Lewis that they had posted. Christie and Higginbotham's attempts at attack-journalism certainly do not rise to the literary skill or readership volume of the New York Times, but the same law applies to both. Neither Christie nor Higginbotham are above the law, nor are they beyond the reach of litigation designed to protect the interest of an LLC.

Ms. Higginbotham should guard her own reputation and that of her blogs. Google has recently censured her for Copyright Infringement. Her response was to proudly post all correspondence between her and the owners of the material she illegally posted and the Google letter. Her own sense of entitlement would not allow her to repent, even when publicly rebuked by Google for her illegal activity. Copyright infringement is a federal crime.

Accordingly, Mr. Christie might consider the hypocritical irony of exposing the splinter in his brother's eye when he has a very large criminal log in his own.

Enter Minas Michael Christie to see the full PUBLIC criminal record.

But, of course, to Mr. Christie, his own sins are no "Big deal ".

One question for Christie and Higginbotham concerning those whose reputations -their chosen enemies -that they seek to diminish: Does the scripture teach us to hate our enemies or to love them, to condemn them or to pray for them? The answer to this question will dictate what their future actions should be in the body of Christ. Yes, we must stand for the truth, but the public personal destruction of individuals is not the way of Christ. For JTO's part, both Higginbotham and Christie are prayed for everyday by name as we are commanded to do.

One request for Christie and Higginbotham: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart soul and might and your neighbor as yourself. Tend to your own life. Guard your own soul and leave the souls of individuals you deem to be "enemies of the church" to God.  At the very least, talk to your "enemies" PRIVATELY, especially when they invite you, and plead to them for their soul's sake. At the very most, contact their Bishop or priest. In this, you may secure their salvation. What you are doing now accomplishes the opposite.

One comment for Father Gregory Williams and Bishop Agafangel: You have a maverick female blogger engaged in independent vitriolic discourse under the banner of your ministry. She is causing discord among the brethren undermining the very church you seek to defend. She has become your de facto spokesperson to the world via her several blogs. She enlists the aide of men, not under your pastorate to assist her in the personal destruction of the characters of godly men. She is accountable to no one, not even you, as she speaks to jurisdictions and Bishops as one of your members. To do nothing to curtail this Jezebelian activity is to endorse it. For, indeed, Joanna Higginbotham is influenced by a Jezabel Spirit and Minas Michael Christie is her Ahab.

A word to all who have been similarly attacked by Higginbotham, Christie, and their "we":
Take heart. Both Higginbotham and Christie are entering a time of isolation. Their deeds are being exposed. Good men are rising up and prophesying against them, and their time for freedom in vitriolic expository conduct is coming to an end. And, like Jezabel and Ahab of old, watch as these words are fulfilled before your eyes:

"Because you have been a divider, God will cause division among you. You will be cut off- isolated- alone. Strife will fill your days and peace will be far from you. You will be cast down and the dogs will feast on your flesh."

Monday, August 04, 2014

Legitimacy of Pre-Schism Western Orthodox Services

Father Joseph Gagliano- JTO Guest Contributor

The last 100 years have witnessed an increase in the use of “Western Rite” services in the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, many of these “western rites” are not Orthodox! There is a difference between the abuses of “western rite” and what is legitimately “Western Orthodox” – the latter being the service texts in use in the Patriarchate of Rome long before the great schism of 1054.

As an example, the Book of Common Prayer is commonly passed off as a legitimate Orthodox prayer book in the Antiochian Archdiocese of America, via the Lancelot Andrewes Press. In our Metropolia, we follow the guidance of the Holy Fathers. Our Western service texts are not “Western Rite,” but are properly “Western Orthodox” – a much needed distinction, as our texts date back to the 8th and 9th Centuries (roughly).

If the west was truly Orthodox prior to the great schism of 1054, then it stands to reason that these services can be used by Orthodox Christians today; i.e., that they are Orthodox. The Eastern Churches had no problem with them before the Schism, as evidenced by the Fourth Council of Constantinople:

Every Church has certain old usages which it has inherited. One should not quarrel and argue about them. Let the Roman Church observe its usages; this is legitimate. But let also the Church of Constantinople observe certain usages which it has inherited from old times. Let it be likewise so in the Oriental sees. . . . Many things would have not happened if the Churches had followed this recommendation in the past. - Fourth session, Council, 17, 489 - Council of Constantinople IV, 879/880

Unfortunately, in our era, the error called “phyletism” blinds many members of the Eastern Churches. The argument against Western Orthodox services goes like this: “It’s not Orthodox” – and when asked why, the reply is: “It’s not Eastern.” Because it’s not Greek, or Russian, (insert ethnicity), then it isn’t Orthodox?

The question remains valid, and the answer is likewise valid: were the Western Christians, prior to 1054, Orthodox or not?

The mercy and peace of the Lord be always with you!
+ Fr Joseph 

[Father Joseph Gagliano is priest at Saint Lawrence Orthodox Christian Mission in Alabama where both Eastern and Western practices are observed.]