We at Monomakhos have mentioned before one joy about hosting this blog is that a growing number of our readers not only provide new ideas and content but often do a significant percent of the research as well.
This latest essay was generated thanks to the diligence and arguments of one such correspondent who goes by the name of Andrew. He pointed out that the Episcopal Assembly’s funding seems to have dried up. Judge for yourself whether they’re rattling the tin cup or not.
We’ll leave alone for the moment the subtleties inherent in this admission of failure but for the moment I would ask the readers to allow me to get a preliminary dig in if you don’t mind: many of us predicted that the uber-wealthy among the Archons would soon tire of funding this clunky contraption that the foreign patriarchates desperately hobbled together in Chambesy some three years ago. Of course the economy has something to do with this. It hasn’t recovered and this means that the portfolios of the lay elites of the GOA haven’t probably haven’t either.
But there’s more to it than simply dollars and cents. Funding from the vast majority ordinary Orthdox Christians could ensure solvency for the Episcopal Assembly. However there is no desire nor enthusiasm among the ordinary Orthodox Christians to open up their pocketbooks and do so. This it becanse ovious from the outset that there was neither leadership nor vision coming from this body.
Loss of Vision is Due to Loss of Moral Certitude
This loss of vision has dire consequences, not only for the Church but for society. John Couretas, one of Orthodoxy’s leading opinion-makers, eloquently pointed out the cowardice of our bishops in a recent essay. It certainly gave me new insights that I hadn’t considered before. In retrospect, my only criticism of his fine jeremiad is that he didn’t go far enough.
In reading his analysis, I couldn’t help but think that the bishops who make up the Episcopal Assembly are little more than agents of influence for foreign powers. Their concern for bolstering Greek foreign policy makes them no better than AIPAC (and certainly far less effective). Instead of addressing the moral collapse facing our nation, they spend the precious few resources they do possess on position papers concerning the burning issue of what to call some breakaway republic in the Balkans that are less than meaningless. If this is all we can expect then we could reasonably ask what are our bishops for?
Clarity is called for. Loss of vision is due to loss of moral certitude. Our nation suffers from this, but why should our Church?
Though the charge of foreign influence cannot (thankfully) be laid at the door of the OCA (my Church), triumphalism on our part would be wasted as it was hobbled by moral failures that almost called into question its very legitimacy. As is well known to readers of Monomakhos, the OCA recently confronted several crises, all of which were due to abject moral failures on the part of leaders and decision-makers within our Church.
Among them were secret conspiracies to topple the Metropolitan, renegade priests who bore false witness him, and rogue “journalists” who used their inside knowledge of the inner workings of the central Church administration to control its machinery for the benefit of a few. There was even a disinformation campaign by the some of these same actors to hide the salary of the disgraced former Chancellor in a slush fund.
And if this wasn’t enough, there was a concerted effort by some theologians and priests to overturn the Orthodox Church’s moral tradition in favor of homosexuality. One such cabal operates openly under the auspices of Fr Robert Arida at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Boston, while the other operates in a more discrete fashion under the leadership of Fr Denis Bradley at the Cathedral of St Nicholas in Washington, DC.
Fortunately, this deceitful coup against our Metropolitan was stopped. The Holy Spirit protected His Church. The same cannot be said for our nation however. The forces of licentiousness are still gaining the upper hand in our civilization. What was once unthinkable is now acceptable, even lauded. Our Secretary of State is forcing the homosexual agenda on Islamic countries. (Is it any wonder we are hated by that civilization? Perhaps Ron Paul does have a point.) Even Christian chaplains in the Armed Forces are openly worrying about what accommodations they are going to be forced to make in the future. And the Obama adminisration is doing everything in its power to force the Catholic Church to overturn one of its fundmental doctrines.
Sounding the Alarm
Things are dire indeed. Nevertheless, all is not lost. Presently, several hundred Christian ministers, priests, and bishops are sounding the alarm. They are pushing back, especially in regards to the erosion of freedom of religion which is being forced on their respective denominations by the dictates of Obamacare. Unfortunately, not one Orthodox bishop has joined the fray. The silence from the Episcopal Assembly is deafening. And embarrassing. Is it possible this is because the Orthodox Health Plan we provide to our priests includes elective abortion? Only one courageous priest (Fr Peter Preble) who serves on the committee that the Assembly has tasked to speak to cultural issues has dared to criticize his colleagues for their timidity.
Make no mistake: this is not because of the traditional ethnic ineptitude that has traditionally plagued our jurisdictions but because of a simple lack of moral clarity. Indeed, one could go further and state that it is because there is no moral concensus among the fifty-five bishops that comprise that body regarding these fundamental issues of human sexuality or the sanctity of life.
In previous essays and in endless back-and-forth correspondence on this and other websites, we have noted that there is very little uniformity among the various jurisdictions regarding some essential canonical questions and liturgical practices. Left to themselves this is bad enough, however given that the Episcopal Assembly functions as a type of de facto American Orthodox Holy Synod, this silence is amplified exponentially. Orthodox moral teaching is being “dumbed down,” appealing to the least common denominator.
Orthodox Moral Teaching is Being ‘Dumbed Down’
Part of the reason for this of course is that some of the bishops on this Assembly are morally compromised men themselves. The various Lavender Mafias that exist in our Church as well as the society at large knows who they are. As long as they keep silent, they get to keep their six-figure salaries. Most of the rest are not so compromised. But in any conciliar body, it is rather easy to steer discussion away from sensitive topics. There are many subtle ways of doing so but one “principled” and vocal way of is to trot out the old hobby-horse of political neutrality. This tired old chestnut tells us that getting involved in cultural issues would violate it and make the Orthodox Church a vehicle of the Republican Party.
Let us dispense with this canard forthwith: moral issues cut across party and ideological lines in more ways than the Progessive punditocracy would like for us believe.
For example, in 2008, when Sen Barack Obama won 53% of the popular vote, he carried California by 60.94 percent. That’s a stunning politcal landslide by any measure. Yet in that same election, a proposition which would ban same-sex “marriage” in that state passed by a significant majority as well. It would have gone down to defeat if it were not for the African-American and Latino populations who voted for it 70% and 54% respectively. (Only a minority –49%–of Asians and Caucasians voted for it.)
This means that blacks, who gave 96% of their votes to Obama made a concerted effort to vote in landslide proportions the other way for a traditionally conservative proposition. This is a staggering consideration. Besides showing surprising political sophistation among African-Americans, it gives the lie to the thesis that liberal voters are blase when it comes to matters of cultural import.
Can we not see that? Of course the issue of pastoral discretion and the Orthodox Church’s traditional premium on mercy are valid. One of our strengths is an aversion to legalism and Bible-thumping. But the private considerations worked out between a priest-confessor and his penitent spiritual child are just that –private. They cannot be used to politicize the personal.
Nor can they be universalized and then used as a hammer to work out a new moral code. That this is not readily apparent to some of our bishops and leading theologians is troubling to say the least. Given such circumstances, it is hard to overstate the moral complicity of our episcopate in the assault on our fundamental values.
Some of course may counter that the Assembly is hobbled because it is dominated by the GOA, perhaps the least orthopractic of the jurisdictions –an arguable point. The leaden foot of Istanbul, poised as a jackboot on the neck of American Orthodoxy, is a reality that must be taken into consideration. But even this cannot restrain the Gospel from being preached.
Recently, Bishop +Demetrios of Mokissos, an auxiliary bishop in the Metropolis of Chicago, gave a thoughtful homily at Vespers for the Sanctity of Lfe, which was celebrated in a GOA church with bishops and congregations from other jurisdictions. It was a tour de force.
He has also teamed up with Bishop +Matthias of Chicago (OCA) to support OCLife, an Orthodox ministry dedicated to helping unwed mothers. This is not small feat and it speaks well of both men that they would reach across the jurisdictional aisle to work together for such a wonderful cause.
Where is the Resolute Leadership?
We laymen have been waiting for such resolute leadership. The words of +Demetrios’ homily were not the thin gruel that we are used to getting. Other examples of boldness took place the very next day, when at the annual March for Life in Washington, Metropolitan +Jonah was invited by the Roman Catholic bishops to give the opening prayer. To our mind, this wiped away the tears of the past year, when his antagonists tried their best to remove him.
They tried, but they failed. The Hand of the Lord was upon him as it will be on all Orthodox hierarchs who preach the Word in Truth. As for the Catholic bishops, their invitation was not an empty gesture but was carefully planned out. The Roman Church knows what it is doing and it was signalling to all concerned who they believe to be the premier Orthodox ecclesiarch in North America. Having gone to the well and needing nourishment for the moral struggle, the Catholics know which wells have water and which don’t.
Is there a lesson in all this? Clearly few in the Episcopal Assembly have the stomach for the fight. It would be uncharitable to force them to enter the arena when they are not equipped to do so. Let us then propose this modest solution: let the Episcopal Assembly meet, see who shows up and who doesn’t and then after a few months, just let inertia take over and put it out of its misery.
In the meantime, those bishops (of whatever jurisdiction) can go on doing what their Graces +Matthias and +Demetrios are doing in Chicago and +Basil is doing in Wichita. Who knows? They might like it.