Gotta Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Because of all the news that has overwhelmed the OCA, I’ve dropped the ball on the Episcopal Assembly front. I read a release by Bp Demetrios Kantzavellas regarding our struggle but it was quite unmemorable. I don’t mean to single out His Grace for disparagement because the entire Assembly itself seems to be entirely beside the point so please don’t give me any grief.

I guess what I’m getting at is that is there anything at all that exercizes our episcopate? Do they even care about this country or anything outside their own particular ethnic concerns?*

Look at it this way, if somebody told the Serbian contingent on the Assembly that Kosovo should be cleaved from the Serbian heartland they’d come down on you like a ton of bricks. If you told the GOA bishops that we should call the country situated to the north of Greece “Macedonia,” the screaming would never stop. If an Antiochian bishop heard you say “Israel” instead of “Palestine,” you’d be called a Zionist warmonger. The list goes on…and on…and on…

We hear nothing about the Gospel, nothing about baptizing this nation. Nothing about what it means to be a real bishop. That’s why I was very gratified to read this comment from Michael Stankovich on the American Orthodox Institute. Dr. S and I have long sparred over various and sundry things, but he hits the nail right on the head.

Axios! to Dr. S.

Source: American Orthodox Institute

How to say this respectfully…

Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, perhaps you have forgotten that which moves are the words of the Psalms – the prayerbook of the Church – on your lips, and not your thoughts on politics and global economics. Perhaps there is a tremendous lesson for you in Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s recollection of his first visit to Cairo, where the service of Daily Vespers in the Pope-Patriarch’s packed cathedral lasted for hours; then, immediately following, Pope Shenouda himself, of blessed memory, brought a chair to the center of the church, with an old amplifier and microphone, and answered handwritten questions about the Faith, collected in a bowl passed among the young people who gathered. And I will add my own observation of Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) who, from a one-bedroom apartment, fashioned himself a chapel, a full recording studio, and a living quarters. From there, he managed to produce a sermon for the laity on living the Orthodox Faith that was broadcast into the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe everyday by the Voice of America for more than a decade. To this day, there are Orthodox faithful who consider Vladyka Vasilli their “spiritual father,” having never once met him.

The lofty instructions of our Fathers Ignatius and Chrysostom ring hollow in diocese so vast that the yearly (or less) visit of the bishop is no more reflective of “where the bishop is, there is the Church,” than one could expect of total – albeit “friendly – strangers. In reality, functionally, unless for some specific reason an individual parish “distinguishes” itself enough to be brought to the attention of the bishop, the “vexing issues of the faithful” are addressed by the parish priest. Or are they? Is, as Fr. Andrew writes above, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, ” and that simply because there is an absence of “speak” is not “necessarily an indication of inaction” true at this level as well? And how would we know? Am I hearing the “authority” of the bishop, of which Ignatius chastens presbyters & deacons they must never presume to supplant, OR is the priest’s Orthopraxy more attendant to Orthodoxy than the bishop? Somehow you have to guess that each and every individual we refer to as Confessor of the Faith experienced the moment of “existential nausea”: “My spiritual father fails me.” And despite having led them dutifully for forty years in the desert, “That great Moses,” said St Chrysostom, could not accompany them to the promised land because of his lack of moral authority.

When I was a kid, I would visit with an elderly Syrian widow (she was Sarah, and her deceased husband was Abraham!), sometimes for lunch. She once told me the story of how the Patriarch would visit the villages, sometimes accompanied by others, usually alone, in his cassock and riding on a beautiful white horse. He would pray in the church, visit the priest, pray in the cemetery, visit the sick, sit for coffee/tea, speak with the children, even chop wood for an elderly widow or two. He had a bag with little gifts, candies, beads, always something to give. The way she described it was quiet, warm, no paparazzi, no raucous laughter. “How often did he come?” “It wasn’t once a week, but he was no stranger.” Hmm.

It seems to me that our bishops need to realize that our Church needs Bishops. And these must be Bishops who in their person – as in the person of the Master – will look into the tree and call to us out of the crowd and today bring salvation to this house; and who can say, “to do so, I’m prepared to chop a little wood.”

*I’m not blowing smoke here. The committee tasked with engaging moral issues impacting the broader society (which headed by Met Savvas Zembillas of Pittsburgh), hasn’t even met yet. That’s three years and counting.

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Comments

  1. last weekend - Where is our Metropolitan thee days? Why, with other Metropolitans, of course:

    http://marinacavanaugh.com/Photography/ParishFeast2012/#DSC_1192.JPG

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  2. phil r. upp says:

    The problem isn't only with bishops, but also priests. Clerics need to be committed to their office as a way of life. They need solid examples of those to follow. Clerics are not serving their parishes or dioceses, but something else.

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    • Phil, I agree with you to a point. Yes we clergy need to be committed to our office but it is hard to do when we are not even paid a living wage in most of our parishes and in other we are treated like slaves. Lay people need to take some ownership with where the Church in America is as well. It is not just the job of the bishops and the priests but also the lay folks. We are all in this together.

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      • fatherpep@gmail.com says:

        Father- you are right. A priest has a tough time, what with the paltry pay and the poor treatment by parish councils, laity and others who should be backing them up. That's why, in answer to a previous question, I said that I would support my son if he wanted to be ordained, but if, and only if, he had an outside job (sort of like a tentmaker) from which he could derive his income, insurance, and (in general living). Not that he would then become a poor, thoughtless, self-centered priest. To the contrary, he could then concentrate on what mattered, preaching the Risen Lord, and not worrying too much whether the baklava was going to be ready for the glendi. (What bishop was it who said we should bet out the restaurant business?) I just came back from a clergy meeting and listened with sadness as they discussed what passed for health insurance for them. Me, a retired prosecutor, I get the same insurance as the President. Why don't parishes take care of their priests? It is has happened several times where other priests took me aside and told me "You did it the right way." What a shame.

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        • Fr. Peter and Fr. Pep, bless. The solution to insufficient clergy pay and benefits is two-fold: growth and generosity. Grow the parish to 200 persons (approx. 40 households) and encourage such households to tithe and the revenues would be 4x the parish median income--which ought to be sufficient to pay the priest such median amount with the remainder to pay for building, utilties, and other operating expenses.

          Growth comes by openly and diligently encouraging marriage and children and by unashamedly preaching Jesus Christ and Incanate, crucified, risen and ascended and the whole Orthodox Faith of right worship, right belief and right living and bringing in eager converts without fear that they may somehow pollute or distort the Faith. Also, by equipping the saints for the work of ministry and not restricting it within clerical ranks.

          Generosity, likewise, comes from preaching the Gospel of God's love in Christ, by encrouaging and rewarding service and demonstrating how it is more blessed to give than to receive--along with a sense of loyalty and duty to the Household of God and the Body of Christ of which we are members in particular and of each other.

          Christ is in our midst.

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  3. Thank you Dr. Stankovich!

    I picture Sarah probably hunched over, 4 foot nothing-nearly blind, in a pew wrapped in an overcoat. I see her surrounded by people that probably never bothered to tap into the depth of her spirituality, and sanctity. Our greatest loss is that generation, and its priests. Our greatest foe, the convert debacle, too many trying to teach with no understanding of what the Orthodox Church is, or what she stands for. The converts have zeal, but no love save people of their own poisonous cult. Without a serious education program, and years in the lay state-struggling in the vineyard, ordination should be withheld. His Beatitude Jonah is a perfect illustration of this, the man was unfit, though he was unjustly misplaced by the OCA Synod. Look at rocor, the mother and father of disobedience, the fool in regions dark and deep from whence all disobedience springs, no sir, no thank you! Come historic Patriarchates restore order. Come Jesus, restore the Holy Spirit to us.

    Our American bishops are carpetbaggers, patent medicine salesmen, and frauds.

    The Church is lost, only the power of the mother Churches can cure the tumor that American Orthodoxy has become.

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    • George Michalopulos says:

      Photius, all the wise things you said were obliterated beginning with your fourth sentence. To ascribe the problems of Orthodoxy on the "convert debacle" makes me think you're channeling Barbara Stan.

      I know whereof I speak. Eighty years ago, the GOA had close to half a million adherents just based on immigration numbers alone. Today that number is far below that. Certainly larger than the other jurisdictions combined but still only 125,000 financially supporting stewards. And this day and age, that means both a husband and a wife who also works outside the home. If we take the modern American norm of 1 husband + 1 wife plus 2 children, then that means half a million which is stasis at best. In reality how many are singletons? How many are widowed or divorced? It's no better in the other jurisdictions.

      Instead, how many converts are their in the ethnic jurisdictions? If it weren't for the mixed marriages, the numbers would be even more abysmal. The cradle phenomenon on its own terms has been a failure.

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      • Bruce W. Trakas says:

        Immigration numbers, George, would have the GOAA at 3 million plus. The OCL study of two decades ago was the first published study, to my knowledge, that brought some reality to the numbers the GOAA had been touting for decades; (upon the enthronement of each archbishop following +Athenagoras' archepiscopal tenure, the GOAA's news releases asserted that the primate served 1.5 million members). These numbers of the past decades, were bogus, based on immigration, which never equaled active membership numbers. The 125,000 figure you cite is from the infamous mailing list taken from the Holy Archdiocese in 1997. At long last the "Orthodox Observer" updated its mailing list last year (or was it in 2010), which constitutes the GOAA's national mailing list. It now has 165,000 households on it. The respected Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute study of a few years ago supports the near half million member figure you've noted for the GOAA, considering family size of individual stewards, if I recall correctly (it might have been 450,000). A 25% increase over 14 years or so isn't all that bad, a period of negligible immigration; and compares favorably with other ACOB churches.

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        • The problem with statistics and the GOA is that 1) Greeks tend to be members of multiple parishes and 2) they tend to count a lot of people who only show up once a year. The claim that the GOA is bigger than all other jurisdictions combined is a myth. What is true is that they have the most money but it comes at a price. My wife has commented that every Greek parish we have visited reminds her of the RCC she grew up in (that's in (in the negative sense).

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          • Peter A. Papoutsis says:

            Its not a myth the GOAA is the biggest. Bruce is correct. As to your wife's comment about GOAA parishes being like RCC parishes in the negative sense I do not know what that means other than you insulting two churches without any solid facts. Bad form buddy.

            Peter A. Papoutsis

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          • Bruce Wm. Trakas says:

            Andreas, Where are you getting this stuff?

            GOAA parishioners tend to be members of more than one parish? Not from my experience.

            Yes, the GOAA's statistics, their membership lists that I've cited earlier, are based on "stewards," faithful who have contributed to any extent financially to a parish, not-with-standing their frequency of attendance. Is there some other mechanism utilized by other jurisdictions to establish membership lists? The GOAA's membership lists are not composed of "members in good standing," necessarily, but to my knowledge, I don't think the other jurisdictions establish membership lists under any other criteria. I reside in an area where there are 23 (+/_) Eastern Orthodox parishes, I am active in Inter-Orthodox activities, I maintain friendly relationships with many of the parish priests and laity within these parishes, and I am familiar with how most of these sister parishes function. We typically exchange information to our mutual benefit.

            How is it that a GOAA parish reminds your wife of an RCC parish as opposed to any other Eastern Orthodox Church? I have never heard of such an allegation, never, from anyone. Other than the liturgical language mix and some minor variations of the two typicons used by the jurisdictions, a GOAA parish does not differ from an ACROD parish, an AOCANA parish, or an OCA parish, be assured. A GOAA parish is an Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, just like any other of the EO jurisdictions in the U.S. I find your wife's impressions quite odd and inconsistent with my experience. And my RCC sister-in-law would wholly disagree with your wife.

            The statistics I've cited earlier were from an independent study conducted by the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute (PAOI) which is associated with the General Theological Seminary, Berkley, California; see the report on their website. It has been favorably received by all the ACOB jurisdictions; none have criticized it. There is some merit to your comment about membership, in that the OCA's regular participation among its members, is higher than the rate of participation within the GOAA. The study includes member participation analysis, and membership numerical analysis. ACROD, by the way, has the highest rate of participation among its members.

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            • Regular attendance is the real metric of size, not names on a donation list, like I said the Greeks tend to be "members" of multiple parishes. Other jurisdictions tend to be a lot more honest. Regular attendence is the only true metric of church size. Anything else is playing games with numbers regarding who darkens the doorstep. People who are infirm or elderly are a different story but a minority.

              It's important to be critical of these statistics because they get used to justify Greek chauvanism.

              There are many problems with the GOA, which have been widely documented, and some of those problems infect other churches as well.

              1) Pews have had a distructive effect. They have turned the nave into an auditorium. Now I attend a New Callendar OCA parish and grew up in a parish with pews. I have also widely traveled and I can confidently asser that pews have no place in an Orthodox Church (or chairs I don't really care). I have seen the damage they cause at it is no wonder as they are an RC inovation.
              2) Most Greek Churches are Sunday only, kind of like th RCC
              3) Greek Churches have largely fallen for modern architecture. In the case of a tradtional building they opt for interior minimalism....just like the RCC
              4) Greek parishes have an institutional feel. Partly because of their size but also because of their ethnecism. You don't get the same thing in an ethnic Russian or Serbian parish.
              5) Many Greeks portray Pat. Bartholemew as their Pope, in a western sense.
              6) Organ. Need I say more?

              I could go on. Rather than hop around to different parishes I suggest you spend some time in them. There are two approaches to unity. One is to claim that we are all the same faith and any percieved difference is just a different tradition. That sort of thinking is wrong. It affords no discernment of bad practice or destructive habits. A better approach to unity is to dig deeper. Stand up for what needs to be fixed but bend for things which are truely local custom.

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            • FWIW, many Greeks I know who are active in church are often members of multiple parishes, e.g., the parish they grew up in, the parish their parents or extended family grew up in, the parish nearest where they live, the parish near a second home, sometimes also the Cathedral.

              Other Greeks may simply be members or involved with only one parish, but rarely attend.

              The recent Krindatch census is based on self-selecting criteria. Friends involved with the Palestinian Vicariate, for instance, note that the numbers provided simply reflect that community's tendency to count all Palestinian Christian immigrants in the area and do not reflect even a rare connection with the parish. The OCA seems to focus on a narrower definition of what it means to be a member or involved/attached and thus estimate lower.

              Such anecdotal evidence is difficult to nail down, of course, but the comment that "Greeks tend to be members of multiple parishes" is not something made up from whole cloth.

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      • George: I don't disagree with you, and I fully admit that the Church must convert. At this point, I just wouldn't ordain anymore until they have been allowed to rest and age in the cellar. Like wine, new wine in old or news skins needs time for all the elements to resolve themselves.

        I fully admit that there are those that may be ready sooner, while there are cradles that should never have been ordained, but the current system isn't serving us well at all. Cult is a real problem mostly amongst clergy of the 80's, and now more and more convert clergy. It is easy to see how this happened too as there was zero leadership, or leadership from odd bishops like BT and Job. They themselves were in no position to care for a flock, or instruct clergy.

        The Church here is too young, its taken a long time but I agree with HAH. Had the Russian Church not been prevented from carrying out her work here, had rocor and Metropolia remained obedient and loyal to its Mother, we would have a different Church now. I think that as shabby an organization it is off as, the AOBs is at its leadership, correct. You have the GOA, the AOCA and the MP at its head. Canonical order, Administration and the American problem can all be best dealt with by these three. The problem children, rocor and the Metropolia are members, but way down the table, keep them there please!

        Photius

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    • Lola J. Lee Beno says:

      A man who went on to graduate school in theology, was a choir director, founded a monastery and established three or four mission parishes is unfit? Surely you jest!

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    • Our American bishops are carpetbaggers, patent medicine salesmen, and frauds.

      Such a sweeping generalisation amounts to libel. And, George, I'm dismayed that you allowed it.

      Our own administrator, Bishop Irenee, is most definitely a good and godly man, genuinely devout, certainly a loving pastor, a sound administrator both gentle and firm, and someone whom the physically-and-emotionally-abused little boy who still lives inside me has actually come to trust...which constitutes no small miracle. And FYI, his ancestors came to Quebec in 1645; so he's about as native to North America as anyone of European ancestry can be.

      Then, too, there is Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada): not only academically learned but spiritually zealous. There's also his former teacher, Bishop Iov of Kashira (Moscow Patriarchate), administrator of the patriarchal parishes in Canada: a man shaped by the deep piety of the Pochaev monastery in which he was a monk.

      And have you considered Archbishop Tikhon of Philadephia? He laboured mightly to begin the process of turning St. Tikhon's monastery from an idiorrhythmic train-wreck into a proper coenobitic house; and he has quietly but very effectively shepherded the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania as a genuinely devout pastor while living his monastic vocation. And have you ever encountered Archbishop Joseph of Los Angeles (Antiochian)? He, too, lives as best he can as a true monk; he serves with such attention and devotion that one cannot help but pray the Liturgy; he's a wise pastor and, by all accounts, a good administrator.

      Bubba, you didn't really do your homework, did you? God deliver you from all the bile and venom infecting you!

      Fr. Philip

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      • George Michalopulos says:

        Fr, while Photius painted with a broad brush and was perhaps unfair to Messrs Irenee, et al, the problem remains. "One rotten apple spoils the bunch." With the current jurisdictional mess, we can honestly say that there are more than one rotten apple.

        Let me give you an example from the recent unpleasentness in the OCA. There are still some good, decent bishops (like Michael) on the Synod. Unfortunately, because they remained quiescent during the coup, they became complicit. When it comes to sin our Lord will be an absolutist on Judgement Day. Plea-bargaining and excuse-making will not be tolerated. Did you feed the hungry? clothe the naked? Yes or No. Did you bear false witness against your neighbor? Did you allow it to proceed?

        How many of our bishops here in North America really want to do the Lord's work? How many are in it for the perks, the pomp & circumstance, the glitzy soirees and fundraisers? How many are true monks who live in monasteries or at least are trying to make more monasteries where they can live as true prayer-warriors?

        A bishop is either an Apostle ready to suffer for his faith or he's a Carpetbagger. In this respect, Photius was 100% correct.

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        • macedonianreader says:

          Question, George. This was raised on the AOI blog as well. If Met. Jonah+ knew that he was being unjustly pushed away from his position and he himself stayed (and is staying) quiet. Isn't he complicit as well? If he knew he was being unjustly pushed out, isn't it his responsibility to speak out?

          Just a question.

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        • Perhaps i should have qualified my remarks to say that I was speaking of a certain type, the AMERICAN Orthodox variety of the beast. I would be the first to admit, that there may be a few good men serving here from foreign lands (Iov), and that even in rocor a few good men might exist (Jerome to name one). Of course, the jewel in the crown here is Archbishop Dimitrios, above them all, and a mind and heart for the ages. The rest? Deep six um!

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      • Fr. Philip's comments on Bishop Irenee are completely consonant with everything I know about him, though I've only met him once, this year, in Los Angeles. I learned he had been a classmate of Metropolltan Hilarion (Kapral) at Jordanville.
        However, one must not discount the great obstacle of not being an SVS alumnus that confronts any candidacy of Bishop irenee, Archbishop Tikhon, Archbishop Joseph, Bishops Job and Ilarion. Bishop Michael and Bishop Matthias.
        SVS alumni are: Archbishop Nikon, Archbishop Benjamin, Bishop Melchizedek.
        All Archbishop Nathaniel's formation was in the Byzantine (Romanian)Greek Catholic Rite division of the Church of Rome. He was received as a priest into the OCA from the Romanian Unia by Ever Memorable Archbishop Valerian.

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        • OK, maybe we should discuss all the bishops who might be put up for nomination to one see or another. Bishop Melchizedek is a St. Vlad's grad, taught successfully at St. Tikhon's Seminary,had a dozen years as pastor in Meriden , CT, spent some bishop time as locum tenens of the Bulgarian Archdiocese, has had some since, has the plus of having spent some time in monastic formation as the chaplain and hegumen at two monasteries.

          Only possible problems:

          1. Did he fail to speak out on behalf of Metropolitan Jonah because from his knowledge of individuals from Greece he could have spoken much about the truth.
          2. Has his attempt to speak out been squelched?
          3. There seems to be some problem with his release from the Church of Greece? Or release from his spiritual father from his former monastery? Has anyone researched these things?
          4. Would his former / present friendship with Metropolitan Jonah be held against him by the Synod?

          I admit to not knowing a lot of bishops of the OCA since I spent the majority of my life in another jurisdiction. And I have been scandalized by a lot of what i have read on this blog, gaining a poor opinion without meeting many of them. I realize that some of the scandals on this blog have been resident on ocanews.org and were previously on ocatruth website which I can no longer find online, but I tended to read neither because they seemed potentially hurtful to the Church beyond priests' commentary. The musing of varvara at wordpress are similarly skewed for different reasons. The Indiana List is mostly defunct and discussing other matters. I never joined the Orthodox Forum and have no concept of it. I feel that some websites become false ports in a storm for those of us who love our Church, and can become disheartening as well. Where are we sharing our joy?

          I feel that people did not give our Metropolitan a decent chance to succeed and that he succeeded despite the worst efforts of a Synod that had become used to complacency and a laity that had been numbed by ghastly scandals and cowed into complacency as well. I feel that the people who did not give our Metropolitan needed support is all of us. The one thing I heard people say who participated in his election was that they really felt that the Holy Spirit had directed what happened. Once we all met him here in D.C., we understood how this could have been the case, and then we all took him for granted and, I think especially those who were not at St. Nicholas, kind of stood around puzzled at why anyone else, like members of his own Holy Synod, would not absolutely love him. He took care of a lot of the scandals and raised us up to a new status. It seemed and seems like other bishops were used to having an inactive CEO and having a little adjustment problem. In D.C., we know the difference between the past three CEOs. We know who they brought with them, how often they deigned to come here, and even what kind of visitors they attracted. We know the level of their participation and how often they left the dais to sit among the laity. Jonah would help someone on the dais nad then sit among us, sometimes ignoring seats of honor altogether.

          We know how capable they were of attracting ordinary folks to the church, to their lectures and sermons, and even the level of pan-Orthodoxy they managed. I am afraid that with the loss of Jonah, we have put Orthodox unity back a few decades. I am afraid that we will lose even more children and grandchildren raised in the Church for the ease of protestantism and agnosticism in addition to other jurisdictions.

          I can think of no one equal to the Metropolitan.

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          • Bishop Mel's friendship with +Jonah??? What planet do you come from? With friends like that +Jonah doesn't need any enemies. Also, have you taken into account +Mel's insistence that the monastery of nuns in DC had to leave the country - because they know him too well? A monk that gets up and leaves his monastery in the middle of the night, because he is told he cannot attain to bishop if he is connected to his abbot and this monastery, (and take two other monks with him) - this monastery where he has sworn before God to stay and work out his repentance - is not someone I could trust. Yes - there are monks who leave - with the blessing of their abbot - that blessing BEFORE they leave. This one has an abbot who loves him, and gave him a blessing after the fact, and +Mel refused to take it - he would have needed to be humble. Having known and been around +Mel for almost 10 years I have never seen anything I could call humility.

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            • I agree, Bishop Melchisedek is no friend to Met. Jonah and never has been.

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            • Dear Anon,

              Add your comments to my "only possible problems" list.

              No Parma. Don't go. Don't go along with it. We already have a Metropolitan. There is no substitute.

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              • Disgusted With It says:

                Sorry LOH, I have to disagree. More people need to go to Parma and BE VOCAL. These bishops fear confrontation. Bullies fear confrontation.

                Here is a good short article everyone should read and realize how much it applies to the synod:
                http://www.lifeafteradultbullying.com/1616/index.html

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                • I read the article. It's great. HOwever, there is little on the what to do if you are bullied side unless I missed some aspect of the website. However, workplace bullying is not illegal in D.C. and there is no national program :) The most that could be said is that since part of the OCA is in Canada, best workplace practices should be developed to meet their standards

                  http://www.healthyworkplacebill.org/states.php

                  I've noticed that narcissistic bullies never really ask forgiveness and never say they are sorry.. They are also usually adept at pretend piety and a lionizing love toward a select few individuals, masking their behaviors.

                  When did situational ethics trump Christianity?

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    • Lance Hogben says:

      Photios, you need to speak to someone you can trust to get the toxic bile out of your (spiritual) system. The things you said above are just plain mean and nasty. Your straw-man argument, painting 'converts' so negatively betrays a very unhappy heart. I hope you can sort this out and come up with something more positive soon. God heals, trust Him.

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  4. The "moral issues" that are somehow being allegedly ignored by the ACOB is a false argument. The Orthodox Church teaching on these issues are clear. Should the ACOB make a statement that it is against murder, idolatry, covetousness, etc.? A lack of attention in official statements does not mean they are ignoring them nor promoting an agenda other than that of the Gospel.

    I understand and accept that the "moral issues" are front and center in the minds of some, but before the ACOB at this meeting is a most important challenge; how a united Orthodox Church here should be organized. As a Church here in North America there is no other single issue that is a stumbling block to our wider engagement with the culture. There appears to be little ambiguity on moral issues on Orthodox teaching in those lands where there is a single, organized local Church.

    Can we better evangelize this nation if we are one united Church? I believe yes, thus that is the most important first charge of this assembly.

    Will the ACOB be able to bring to fruition its charge to present to a Great and Holy Council a plan for how we would be a local Church? Only time will tell, but in the absence of anything better working towards this goal, I will give my prayerful support to the effort. The alternative is to get lost in the tall weeds of our own agendas which we believe (and not unjustly) should be the motivation of this group. Shall we allow the Holy Spirit to work and shall we give our prayers to this effort?

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    • Jane Rachel says:

      Ahem... er... AMEN, AMOS!!!

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    • Amos, if the moral teachings of the Church are so clear why do we have clergy and lay folks who support same sex marriage and who support abortion? If the moral teaching of the church is so clear why do we have clergy and lay folks who support capital punishment and many of the other things that we stand against. And if the moral teaching of the Church is so clear, who are our churches mostly empty on Sunday? My answer would be that moral teaching of the church is clear but it is not being clearly taught. Our bishops are the authentic teachers of our faith and they need to be heard. Why do we get statements on the economic situation in Greece but not one Orthodox bishop has written anything about the proposal to legalize physician assisted suicide in Massachusetts?

      Many of the bishops do write on issues that are issues in their diocese but we need a strong united voice from our bishops on issues that are important to the Church here in America. That is the issue at hand.

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      • fatherpep@gmail.com says:

        Father-you hit it right on the head. I went to clergy meeting (in New England)yesterday. I had previously sent an e-mail to some clergy noting the ballot question on assisted suicide. Kind of significant, I thought. Maybe the question could be raised of what a priest should/can do when he visits someone in the hospital, knowing full well that as soon as he is out the door the patient will be ordering up a fatal dose or morphine. Guess what-no discussion at all (let alone recognition of the matter.) But we did get around to talking about language lessons for the two or three kids in a parish who are forced to go by their yiayia. As our friends would say, Oy vey.

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      • Bless, Father!

        Dear Fr. Peter,

        There ARE priests who teach clearly what are the moral and theological beliefs of our Orthodox faith. I could not possibly speak, with accuracy, about the entirety of Orthodox priests and bishops in this country; I speak only of what I know in person and in experience. The clarity is there -- but only for those who choose to listen, understand, and accept it. Most of your post could have been written on a Roman Catholic message board. That Christian group's leaders present to the world a more tightly-knit "front" for their positions. Their flocks (clergy, lay people and some groups of "monastics"), however, frequently and openly flout those Catholic teachings. Orthodox people are no different. Part of our God-given free will includes the freedom to turn our backs on holiness and to embrace sin.

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      • Priest Justin Frederick says:

        Dear Fr. Peter, who is the 'we' who stand against capital punishment? While there are individual bishops who have taken a stand against it, I do not believe the Church as a whole has, and the biblical and historical record do not support your general assertion. It is certainly not clear in the way that adultery, same sex marriage, abortion, theft, etc. are clear.

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        • ATasteOfHoney says:

          Fr Justin is demonstrably right, both in Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy, both in our history and our Tradition, both patristically and scripturally, both in the early Church and today.

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        • Fr. Justin, putting aside the possibility, ever how remote, of killing an innocent person in the name of capital punishment, why is it OK for a "Christian" to support capital punishment?

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          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

            Because our earthly rulers "beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Rom. 13:4)

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            • Please continue as to what that means. I don't think it means all earthly rulers are ministers of God, as that would include a Hitler, Stalin, or rulers of Islamic states, etc.

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              • George Michalopulos says:

                All legitimate rulers are ministers of God if they restrain evil. If they unleash evil (pace Hitler, Stalin, Mao) then they will themselves be judged. Although I despise the concept of moral equivalency, there is a salient point that we can draw from this and that is that all rulers look evil to those who hate them. Jackson was harsh to the Indians but wildly popular to the Americans. Stalin exterminated millions of Ukrainians but defeated Hitler.

                After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jews came up with the "Noachide Laws," seven principles which if they are practiced by gentile societies, make them just even if they don't believe in Yahweh. One of these principles was the establishment of independed courts of law.

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            • Priest Justin Frederick says:

              Logan, God commanded it of Noah and Israel for the defense and respect of life. He authorized it, yea commanded it for murder. Why is it OK for a 'Christian' to set aside the Holy Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church to make such careless statements in the name of the Church?

              On what basis do we determine that it is more humane and God-honoring to shut a convicted killer in a cage for the rest of his natural life? In fact, you won't find any divine command in Scripture authorizing prisons at all. Perhaps we need to rethink a few assumptions....

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              • Fr. Justin, maybe we can pick this up when the topic is more related. I'm still scratching my head that perhaps it's a Christian duty to have capital punishment, and then I shudder when I read what constituted capital offenses in the Old Testament. Maybe a secular government is a very good thing . . .

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          • Peter A. Papoutsis says:

            Its not. Capital Punishment is part of the Church's teaching on the Sanctity of Life. The Church never denounced Slavery until it was in a position to do so. Moral clarity in terms of historical precedent comes gradually, but it is there. Case in point St. Paul's letter to Philemon. While not denoucing slavery outright St. Paul laid the ground work for its eventual demise.

            So, while the Roman Empire had the Right to Kill via Capital Punishment it is the Church not Rome that had and still has the moral clarity to denounce this anti-life practice. As a father I know that I would kill anyone that killed my kid, but I am mature enough to know that my actions would be wrong, not justice, but simply wrong.

            That's all I will say on this as its off topic to the current discussion.

            Peter

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            • Dear Peter,

              The right to life, womb to tomb, is not off topic. Our Metropolitan Jonah was the keynote speaker for the Right to Life movement and under his leadership, many Orthodox Christians and others came to understand the essential sanctity of life and the family. He helped increase Orthodox participation in the annual Right to Life March on Washington through his compelling speeches on the topic.

              One of the many reasons that Orthodoxy is opposed to capital punishment is simply that to judge and kill another human before his time would be to rob him of an opportunity for repentance.

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            • Priest Justin Frederick says:

              Dear Mr. Papoutsis, I'll not dwell on this, since, as you say, it is a bit off the main topic.

              We are, I think, obligated to make a vital distinction between the moral status of slavery and capital punishment. Slavery was never commanded in the Scriptures. It was tolerated; God gave Israel laws for its humane application, condescending, no doubt, to the human condition, with a view to its eventual demise. On the other hand, long before the Roman Empire came into existence, God did command both Noah after the flood and Moses to put to death those who took the lives of others unlawfully. It was part of the law of the Church of the Old Covenant, Israel. In one case we have tolerance of something we should better do without; in the other, we have a positive command.

              "Sanctity of life" is a term of recent coinage. I agree with its defense of the unborn, the aged, and the innocent, but that slogan or sobriquet is not the primary basis for our teaching: the Scriptures and the Tradition are.

              I, as a father, would not kill someone who killed one of my daughters after the fact. But it would be immoral for me or any father to fail to defend to the utmost of his ability his innocent dependents or any innocent party against someone threatening them with serious harm.

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              • George Michalopulos says:

                Peter, Fr Justin, et al, we also forget that when a crime is committed the victim is actually the state as well as the actual victim. Crimes are therefore punished by the state because (1) the state is a victim as well and (2) by having a third party exact vengeance then the victim's survivors will be restrained from doing so. If the survivors exact vengeance then feuds erupt and that can lead to anarchy. The State enacts judgment which is usually more restrained and dignified than mob action. Executions by the State are rarely botched but lynchings are always horrendous. If nothing else, an orderly execution allows a manner of dignity to the felon as well as allowing him to come to repentance. Again, the victim of mob violence is never given the chance to make things right with God.

                That's why even though the family of Sen Robert Kennedy forgave Sirhan Sirhan, and Pope John Paul II forgave Mehmet Ali Agca, these felons are still rotting away in prison. The feelings of the actual victims (in this case forgiveness) cannot override the mandates of the State.

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              • Peter A. Papoutsis says:

                Hello Father. I hope allis well with you and your family and that you are enjoying the last few weeks of good weather.

                In regards to my statement in regards to the very human reaction of killing someone that kills my daughter I stand by that. I am no saint, and if I caught someone hurting or even molesting my daughter, like the man down in Texas did recently, or saw the person who, God Forbid, killed my child, I am honest enough with myself to know that my passions would take control and I'd kill the SOB.

                Having said that I also know that my response would be wrong as well as that of the State's in executing the person. I live in the Metropolis of Chicago and have been influenced by the teachings of my Bishop, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, who preaches and teaches the Church's sanctify of life priciple. God and not the State passes judgment and being that Christ allows all to repent and obtain salvation Capital Punishment, as taught to us here in the GOAA Metropolis of Chicago, is a violation of God's message and work of redemption thus a direct violation of Christ's Gospel.

                "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matt.5:38-39 (RSV). We live under the New Covenant and under the New Repentence and Reconciliation prevail. THIS is the basis of our faith and of the Sanctity of Life teaching. Thus it has been with our faith from the very beginning.

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                • Priest Justin Frederick says:

                  Dear Peter, Thank you for your kind regards. For us in Texas, the good weather is only now just beginning!

                  Are you saying that it would be wrong to use violence to defend an someone under violent attack? I can embrace anyone making that choice for himself, but not for someone else. So do you call the police? Or does Bishop Demtrios call for the abolition of all police and military forces so that evil finds no resistance?

                  We do live under the New Covenant. Mercy does triumph over judgment. Every sinner, every criminal should be treated as a human person and given his opportunity for repentance. We certainly do not function that way in our system now. Much is amiss with it.

                  Yet neither you nor DOS Mark has addressed the positive command of God contained in the Scriptures that I cited. God himself has passed judgment on the convicted murder and given the state the authority to carry out the sentence of death. It is not a matter of angry retribution, but of obedience to a divinely given command. Carrying out that command may be just what is needed to bring the convict to repentance, and not him only but also others. Remember the thief on the cross.

                  Until those among us opposed to capital punishment in principle deal honestly with the full counsel of God revealed in the Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church, and particularly on what basis this particular command of God is negated, your position is on shaky ground. The Church of Russia's statement of Social Engagement (2000) deals with the subject. it says some things that you'll agree with, but several things that do not support your contention.

                  The death penalty as a special punishment was recognised in the Old Testament. There are no indications to the need to abolish it in the New Testament or in the Tradition or in the historical legacy of the Orthodox Church either. At the same time, the Church has often assumed the duty of interceding before the secular authority for those condemned to death, asking it show mercy for them and commute their punishment. Moreover, under Christian moral influence, the negative attitude to the death penalty has been cultivated in people’s consciousness. Thus, in the period from the mid-18th century to the 1905 Revolution in Russia, it was applied on very rare occasions. For the Orthodox church consciousness, the life of a person does not end with his bodily death, therefore the Church continues her care for those condemned to capital punishment.

                  The abolition of death penalty would give more opportunities for pastoral work with those who have stumbled and for the latter to repent. It is also evident that punishment by death cannot be reformatory; it also makes misjudgement irreparable and provokes ambiguous feelings among people. Today many states have either abolished the death penalty by law or stopped practicing it. Keeping in mind that mercy toward a fallen man is always more preferable than revenge, the Church welcomes these steps by state authorities. At the same time, she believes that the decision to abolish or not to apply death penalty should be made by society freely, considering the rate of crime and the state of law-enforcement and judiciary, and even more so, the need to protect the life of its well-intentioned members.

                  Thus the matter is not so clear-cut and unequivocal as you, DOS Mark, and Fr. Peter assert, and to make the sweeping generalization about the Church's position on the matter that all of you have made is not accurate.

                  I think we need to ponder our relation to the Old Testament. Some of us are all to ready to dismiss it as a barbaric relic of the past. The Fathers, however did not treat it that way. More attention, more nuance, more love for it is needed. For it is "according to the Scriptures" of the OT that Christ was crucified and is risen again.

                  A last bit for thought: we may recoil from death as a legal penalty. But what is the alternative? No where does God command imprisonment for Israel. No where! That should give us cause. And we should not blithely assume that we are so much more advanced and illumined that we can dismiss the penal code of the OT as having no validity or as providing no basis for serious reflection on the matter of crime and punishment. But I seriously ask: is it really more humane to lock a man in a concrete cell and cage him for the rest of his life with other criminals? Is this the best way to cultivate repentance, if that is what we are after? I'd think that staring a death sentence in the face three months out is as likely or more so to produce repentance than the other. Repentance, after all, is not dependent upon the passage of time, as the thief on the cross and the life of one harlot of the desert (Mary, niece of Abba Abraham, I think) shows.

                  I may be wrong, but I have yet to see a discussion against capital punishment that takes the full counsel of the Scriptures seriously. The Moscow Patriarchate's statement, which does, comes to a somewhat different conclusion.

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                  • Mark from the DOS says:

                    Fr. Justin -

                    I am no theologian. I can not debate what the scriptures say with a learned priest such as yourself. I can only relate how it appears to me. Under the new covenant, if we may all be made perfect through Christ and if even our most horrible sins may be forgiven, I am quite uncomfortable with man, or the thing we call the State, taking life in retribution for crimes. How are we to know who has been forgiven? How are we to know who has been cleansed? How are we to know that the command to kill is as of the Old Testament, and not a demonic delusion??

                    Given our weakness, I find opposition to capital punishment appropriate and consistent with Orthodox teaching. However, I appreciate what you have written and embrace more correction!

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                  • Thank you, Fr. Justin, for your nuanced exposition here.

                    I think you make a very good point about the relative humaneness of the death penalty (especially in certain cases) vs. long-term or life imprisonment (given the nature of our prison system, especially). That, it seems to me, highlights another of the problems with our legal system (and all human legal systems) on the ground. I do believe it is appropriate to understand from the Tradition that the state has the right under God to take life under certain circumstances, but I especially appreciate the added perspective that the state is not, thereby, obligated to exercise this right, and many Christians have chosen rather to show mercy as a reflection of the fullness of the gospel.

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                  • Peter A. Papoutsis says:

                    Hi Father

                    I agree that we need to use force to protect ourselves, but that is beside the point where the State holds the power of life or death in its hands. A power the State should never intentionally have. Now does the State or even an individual have the right to protect itself or him herself? Absolutety. However, a distinction needs to be made between what is justified and what is morally right and wrong. I may kill in self-defense and be justified in doing so but I do not have the moral right to do so therefore even though justified in killing I have still sinned and need repentance and absolution.

                    God alone has this right and this right is absolute. If we begin to say that this right of God's over life and death can be somehow delegated to the State then when did God give the State this right? What State should have it? Why can it not have I in Abortion and not Capital Punishment? Why not have Euthenasia clinics run by the State? Etc.

                    Further, what justice is served in Capital Punishment? None! Only revenge. Vengeance. What hope is there for repentance? To further compound our problem we add the lack of repentance to the co-opting of God's right ove life and death. This is not our faith nor the greatness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

                    Anyway those are my 2 cents. Have a good night father, and enjoy the coming Fall Season.

                    Peter

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Peter, these are wise words. However justice is not revenge. Revenge strictly speaking can only be exacted by the victim. The state is a third party; it's meant to be a referee in all aspects of social interchange, not favoring one party over the other. That's what made Jim Crow so odious.

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                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says:

                      Although I agree in theory that's what the State is in actual practice the State is exacting revenge on the part of the victims families. I have been privy to a number of "Family Victim Statements" that the family members of a victim are given theopportunity to write down their thoughts about the convicted Defendant (These statements are read at sentencing AFTER a jury verdict) and their statements are very clearly focused on revenge for what the "monster" did their son, daughter, etc. How their life was cut short and that the Defendant's life also needs to be cut short.

                      Further, being that this is the main motivation befind families seeking the death penalty any District Attorney or State's Attorney here in Illinois looking weak on the Death Penalty, PRIOR to it being banned in Illinois, was pretty much guaranteed a loss at the polls. Even today an SA must be viwed as "Tough" on crimes involving murder as we recently saw in the Peterson and Vaughn Murder cases.

                      The Christopher Vaughn case was especially horrific as he stop and killed his wife and three children one of which held her hard cover Harry Potter book to her chest to stop the bullet coming at her. I have feelings and I know that what I feel is nothing but rage towards this man for what he did and others like him. However, is this what our system of Justice should be based on? I do not believe so. So even though I want the SOB plugged into Ol' Sparky or the slow drip of death that's not justice that's vengence. As Christians and Civilized people we can and must do better even towards the Petersens and vaughns of the world and not for their sake, but for ours.

                      Peter

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              • Lance Hogben says:

                Fr Justin,
                Have you anything to say about the fact that capital punishment in this most violent of societies and nations, is meted out nearly exclusively upon poor people and those of color? How does that reflect the will of God in human law's prosecution? If you were not already convinced of your correctness, you might consider this steep bias against blacks, hispanics and the poor in states maintaining capital punishment as the abomination against the spirit of justice so obvious to many faithful Christians. And a lot of people who are not so faithful as well.

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                • George Michalopulos says:

                  Lance, it's meted out only to those who commit the most savage of crimes. As a rule, inter-racial crime is far more savage. Google the words "Wichita massacre," "Knoxville Terror," etc. They involved gang-rape, forcible sodomy, as well as savage beatings before the final shots were fired. And the majority of inter-racial crime is black-on-white.

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                  • M. Stankovich says:

                    Mr. Michalopulos,

                    To say that capital punishment is reserved for "the most savage of crimes," the worst-of-the-worst of crimes and criminals, is to necessarily admit subjective bias in a constructed jury, in any given community. The "tactic" of prosecutors threatening to seek the death penalty in hopes of "rolling over" suspects, eliciting confessions, plea bargains, and securing testimony against co-defendants is well know. Where actual aggravating circumstances are present, jury "consultants" scrutinize questionnaires and listen for "nuances" of speech and opinion in voir dire with the direct intention of eliminating objectivity, and forming an assemblage of as many "bots" as they can slip by the opposition. And because minority defendants are grossly over-represented, consultants "workshop" the "legal-speak" necessary to attempts to circumvent the Battson & Miller-El rulings. In other words, soothsaying has become science, it's a dirty little game, and to defend it with scripture is moronic and offensive.

                    What you are defending as pursuant to "God's law as reflected in the Scripture" is in reality nothing but. And I am happy to personally give a guided tour. Take off your presumptions and walk this way...

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Dr S, if I were to be consistent, I would say that any premeditated murder should be punished equally and without regard to the mitigating circumstances (i.e. torture, rape, savagely beating the victim before pulling the trigger, etc.) That's usually what obtained before the 1920s, when that odious SOB Clarence Darrow got Leopold and Loeb to be sentenced to life in prison instead of the noose.

                      Having said that, it is still a fact that since then, the death penalty has only been applied only for the most heinous of murders (e.g., the James Byrd atrocity in Texas). And it is also a fact that inter-racial murder is almost always more atrocious than the garden-variety gangland slaying over drug deals gone bad.

                      If you would like me to bring up a list of horrendous murders committed across racial lines, I will gladly do so, so you can compare for yourself the level of atrocity vis-a-vis intra-racial murders.

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                    • Too many of the Orthodox here in America scare the crap outa me, including many convert priests. Priests arrested in anti-abortion rallies, and they are for the death penalty?

                      Abortion NO! Death Penalty YES! ??????? Where in God's name are you people from?!

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      I'm from Oklahoma.

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                    • Dr. S., did you not mean to say:

                      'What you are defending as pursuant to “God’s law as reflected in the Scripture” is in reality [*anything*] but.'?

                      (This makes more sense to me in context.)

                      I think it is only possible to say what George says here about capital punishment when it is pure concept divorced from the realities on the ground. (Even there, for me, based on the story of the first murderer in the Scriptures, Cain, who is not executed, but even spared death and protected from it by God Himself in a foreshadowing of our redemption in Christ, it is suspect reasoning in light of the fullness of the gospel Christ reveals.) I pretty much held the same perspective as George, though, until I read "Dead Man Walking" by Sister Helen Prejean a few years ago. That brought home the full reality of what the death penalty means in concrete spiritual terms, given the human realities on the ground. I realized then the death penalty as practiced by mere fallen humans is not compatible with the fullness of Orthodox faith.

                      Photius, I understand what you are saying. Some Orthodox (particularly the ones that seem to resemble Calvinists in their understanding of the "law of God") scare the wits out of me as well!

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                    • M. Stankovich says:

                      Karen,

                      Thank you, yes, I intended anything but!

                      You make an interesting point regarding "human realities on the ground." Prison is a world where there is absolutely no benefit to honesty. In fact, the consequences - legally, financially, physically, etc. - can be devastating. It becomes necessary, then, to attempt to scrutinize and corroborate every single detail of every conversation you have with an inmate against the available objective records to establish "truth." It's maddening. I'll say directly, "Don't lie to me because I'm going to check your criminal record," and consistently, they look me in the eyes and lie to my face!

                      Without exclusionary DNA evidence, for example, Sr. Prejean - as many - is left to determine some semblance of "innocence" based on a combination of circumstance, intuition and "experience," and the assurance of the inmate. As I noted on my site in regard to the CA inmate of some notoriety whom I wanted to meet a week or so before his execution, his question, "Why would I lie about my guilt now?" as much as I hate to admit it, my immediate, cynical thought was, "Why not?" I suspect in far too many cases, we will never know the truth.

                      Texas and Oklahoma were the first states to promote the notion of "aggravating circumstances" (e.g. murder of children, multiple murders, murder for hire, murder committed within the context of another felony, etc.) in order to avoid a "capricious" application of the death penalty, but it has been a documented failure. While Mr. Michalopulos is correct that "the majority of inter-racial crime is black-on-white," the incidence of black-on-black murder in 2010 was 100 times greater, yet the application of the death penalty hardly reflected the discrepancy.

                      Without ever touching the "moral question," the state of CA has spent $4 billion to execute exactly twelve (12) individuals since the reinstatement of Capital Punishment in 1979. With a prison culture of dishonesty and an easily manipulated execution protocol, in many cases, we can no more reasonably assure anyone that justice is being served than simply flipping a coin. And then there is the "moral question..."

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                    • So, Photius, does that mean you're FOR abortion and AGAINST the death penalty? Not only is that illogical, it's uncivilized.
                      However, I agree with Fr Justin re the abominable shortcomings of the American justice system. But that is a matter of practice, not principle. Btw, Karen, if the death penalty is incompatibile with the fullness of Orthodoxy, does the Cross not strike you as incongruous? God permits the death penalty as a bulwark against the worst form of human violence: "Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." Paradoxically, God also used the death penalty as the means of salvation; indeed, God Himself, come in the flesh, suffered it.

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                    • Btw, Karen, if the death penalty is incompatibile with the fullness of Orthodoxy, does the Cross not strike you as incongruous?

                      The Crucifixion of Christ was a voluntary sacrifice by the Incarnate God under an unjust system. We are called to emulate that voluntary sacrifice, not the hand-washing of Pilate.

                      Executing the innocent is not compatible with even a shred of Orthodoxy. If anything the story is that we cannot wash our hands of innocent blood and content ourselves with our ritual purity.

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Nobody believes in executing the innocent, CQ.

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                    • "Nobody believes in executing the innocent"
                      Perish the thought.
                      But we do believe in the executed innocent, George.

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                    • Basil, obviously your comment has been a bit confusing to all here.

                      I would say my comment pertains to the ultimate end of the fullness of Orthodox faith which is about redemption from Sin and Death, not punishment for it. And in terms of the "death penalty" being incompatible with Orthodox faith, I was still thinking mainly in terms of how that is executed (pun not intended!) on the ground by sinful human beings. Hope that makes my point more clear.

                      I did not intend to question how *God* communicates His Law (so I accept that the death penalty commands in Scripture reinforce the value of the human life destroyed by crime, for example), but the truth remains that we are taught in Orthodoxy that "God does not desire the death of the sinner . . . " and that when it was up to God, not man, He spared the first murderer, Cain, and protected him through a mark placed on his forehead from assault by others, which I see as a prefigurement of the fulfillment and end of all God's commandments in the Redemption we received in the fullness of time in Christ. So in the sense that the death penalty at best provides only a temporal service to God's will (in limiting evil's influence and possibly promoting repentance), I don't see it as compatible with the *fullness* of Orthodox faith, which is rather expressed in God's Redemption of us from Sin and Death.

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                • Priest Justin Frederick says:

                  The administration of capital punishment in our land is an entirely distinct topic from the use of it in principle. The way it is applied in our land, and the way justice is often handled in our land, is abominable. What you describe is abominable. The law prescribes equal treatment for rich and poor alike: in our land, justice is often for sale. My defense of the principle of capital punishment should not be taken as a defense of our current criminal 'justice' system.

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                  • This is by no means an age of moral clarity, despite the beliefs of some, who seem to assume that modern Western humanity represents a higher stage of goodness and decency. In addition, as Orthodox Christians who are heirs to a long and great tradition of civilization (as well as theology and spirituality) we need to look at how matters have been dealt with in the past before striking out on moral crusades (such as one against capital punishment). I am by no means a historian, but from what I know, neither the Byzantine nor the Russian Empires banned capital punishment in a global and consistent manner, although there were localized times and places where it was not practiced. On the other hand, there was always (in both Empires, but especially in Byzantium, which preferred mutilation and especially blinding) a strong bias against shedding blood, which is always terrible and momentous in Orthodox moral theology, even when it is involuntary. I would like to hear from an Orthodox historian on this. And also hear what, if anything, the canons have to say. We are not, after all, free to just rationalize about this as we see fit, at least if we wish to call our thinking Orthodox. Meanwhile, it is worth pointing out that the belief that it is always wrong for the state to take a life originates not from Christian theology, but from a philosopher very skeptical of theological claims and legitimacy: the English Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who to my knowledge was the first to claim that life on earth was the highest "value."

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                  • Lance Hogben says:

                    Thanks, Padre. I'm glad you are not a cold-hearted type. But when we defend the principle of the right of the state to take lives, we have to own up that we are supporting its execution, which you agree, is biased against the poor and the dark of mien. Thus, we have to let go of our principle as it is impossible in this system of cruelty to make it functional. That's the gist of Constitutional arguments against capital punishment.
                    Also, I utterly reject George's canard about all the blacks on death row deserving it for their mayhem against whites. That assertion would be very hard to prove, and smacks of racial theory. Let's be honest: it's racist.

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Lance, I know you're not going to want to actually investigate our crime and punishment statistics because it would shatter your faith, but humor me here and go back to the archives and pull up the essays I did on Trayvon Martin. In them, you will find the FBI's statistics on crime. It's not a pretty picture. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

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                  • Photius says:
                    Too many of the Orthodox here in America scare the crap outa me, including many convert priests. Priests arrested in anti-abortion rallies, and they are for the death penalty?

                    Abortion NO! Death Penalty YES! ??????? Where in God’s name are you people from?!

                    I'm from Texas. We've executed 484 since the death penalty was re-instated in 1976. We lead the nation--sorry George, but Oklahoma ranks only third with 100. Oh, btw, the number of those executed who were innocent probably only amounts to a few here and there.

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                    • Priest Justin Frederick says:

                      Dear Photius, I "scare the crap outa me" too, when I reflect upon what I am doing standing before the altar. Pray for us 'convert priests', if you care about the Church. Pray that God will raise up more 'cradle' priests--and bishops--to keep us on the straight and narrow way.

                      Increasingly it seems that the word "convert" is used in opprobrium--though I'm not necessarily say you meant it in that way, though you may have. My own beloved Bishop of blessed memory was denied the office of Metropolitan because he was a convert.

                      We converts do bring baggage with us to the Church, much like the Gentiles brought much that was not kosher into the early Church. Perhaps we all need to reflect on the book of Acts to see how the problem was addressed then, to ponder subsequent Church History about the ongoing relations between Jewish and Gentile Christians, and all of us to stop using terms like 'cradle' and 'convert' as slurs.

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Photius, speaking as a life-long "cradle" Orthodox, I can honestly say that I need a platoon of stevedoers to carry my baggage. Let us be done with this "first class" or "second class" citizenship within the Church.

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                    • Deeply touched by your words.

                      Photius F.

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                    • George, doesn't "life long" and "cradle" Orthodox mean the same thing?
                      That kinda struck my funny bone when I first read it.
                      But I'm laughing with, and not at, you about that.
                      Also, since I'm in a congenial mood right now I'll add, it's "stevedores" and not "stevedoers" but I'd bet that's probably just a typo.
                      (Am I getting to sound like Bishop Tykhon (F.)?)

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            • I think this little book gives us a picture of an Orthodox approach to justice and murders. If I understand correctly, the court and penal system of (at least the later) Tsars were oriented towards the repentance of the criminal and his ultimate salvation (not that it likely worked that way the majority of the time, yet it was the ideal whether it was lived up to or not. In this story, it was lived up to…a system in search of justice, but not vengeance…and placable in the face of genuine repentance. http://www.amazon.com/Pascha-Transforms-Wolfman-Tom-Repentant/dp/0966700058

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        • Mark from the DOS says:

          I would think that the Christian who supports capital punishment and sees no theological impediment to the state killing men in the name of worldly justice, either denies or vastly minimizes the power of our omnipotent God to fully forgive, remit and cleanse a sinner. We pray, "create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me". I would not want to pull the switch or push the needle into the arm of the newly forgiven and stop the beating of his clean heart and remove his right spirit from this earth. Those who speak in terms of "innocent" life being sacred as a distinguishing characteristic between abortion and capital punishment are dealing in apples and oranges. Legal innocence and an innocent heart or innocent spirit are not, and can never be, likened one to the other. Not too put too fine a point on it, but the law has in it a presumption of a minimum age of legal culpability. Before that age, children are simply deemed incapable of committing crimes, from a legal standpoint. They can never be considered "guilty" at law. Yet I do not think the teaching of the church is that children cannot sin until they are old enough to be convicted of a crime. We need to stop this apples and oranges mixing of legal and religious concepts.

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          • Peter A. Papoutsis says:

            Agree. This is the Universal belief and teaching of our Church. Mark from the DOS is absolutely correct.

            Peter

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            • In response to Peter, Mark and Fr. Justin. The death penalty is a very difficult question. Repentance and forgiveness really are
              no hindrance to punishment. In the contrary, a truly repentant person should willingly submit to his punishment with humility. Throughout the centuries the Church never opposed capital punishment.
              However, the death penalty is NOT really necessary to adequately punish criminals and therefore should preferably
              NEVER be imposed. Empress Elizaveta Petrovna (reigned 1741-1761/62) abolished capital punishment in Russia. ( In those days in "your merry old England" for example, one could be hanged even for only minor theft.)
              Elizaveta was a deeply faithful and pious Orthodox and therefore reluctant to shed the blood of her subjects.
              ( Although, she was no ascetic, loved courtly splendor and luxury, could be short tempered and sometimes vengeful, she still was nevertheless a "good soul".) Catherine The Great reinstated the death penalty for
              offences against the state, such as treason and rebellion.( Pugatchev) However, severe corporal punishment was retained, such as flogging with knut or caning and branding and forced
              labor. I am in favor of corporal punishment, but am AGAINST the death penalty, because
              innocent people to often have unjustly been executed. The death penalty also may not give enough time for repentance. BUT PUNISHMENT MUST BE SEVERE ! For example, murderers and monsters like Gacy, Dahmer or Bundy should first be caned, then may be pinched with red hot pincers and then "shnip,shnip" ( you probably know what I mean, LOL) and then sent to a brutal labor camp or prison farm for the rest of their lives, BUT, NOT KILLED.
              As I said, a Christian society should NOT kill its criminals. SEVERE AND CRUEL PUNISHMENT, YES , but death, NO. Although some countries, such as Singapore,
              still practice caning, I realize that most modern nations such as the US probably never would reintroduce such corporal punishments, ALTHOUGH THEY SHOULD, because crime is a disease
              and diseases require strong and effective medicine. The Serbian saying: "Batina je iz raja izašla" meaning: "The rod comes from paradise" is very wise and true. The" Good Book" too, tells us not to spare the rod. ( Neither my parents nor my nanny spared it on me, L O L .) In today's politically correct and so called civilized society, parents are not even allowed to adequately discipline their children. The result : Most children have no manners or respect and they usually grow up to be willful, egotistical and capricious adults. In conclusion, I repeat, AS CHRISTIANS we should AVOID KILLING, whenever possible. ( A necessary exception to this rule are: pigs for charcuterie(cured ham,sausages, pates, rillettes etc.), and anything else that walks on four legs, or two, in the case of our feathered friends, and is good to eat, or fashionable and elegant to wear. LOL, I am sorry (rather not), I am a P E T A (People Eating Tasty Animals) member..........)

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              • George Michalopulos says:

                Taso, forced labor with corporal punishment may be the way out of this thicket. I know that this is going to piss off the modernists out there, but one thing that I agree with the Dominionists about is the Old Testament application of punishment:

                1. financial resitution for crimes involving theft (burglary, pickpockets, fraud, embezzlement, etc.),

                2. corporal punishment for crimes involving violence (assault, arson, etc.), and

                3. capital punisment for crimes involving premedidated homicide.

                In such a regime, there is no place for penitentiaries but only county jails where the alleged felon is held until sentence is meted out. Think of the cost savings to the taxpayers.

                To be true to the Orthodox concept of the sanctity of all life, perhaps the Orthodox view would modify the last one as intense corporal punishment with permanent exile in a prison labor camp. That way there'd be no capital punishment but murderers would suffer and be isolated from the general population.

                Since the ready application of the first two measures would decrease crime immediately, the creation of prisons would be unnecessary. And let's not forget what prisons are; bootcamps for criminals, ready at a moment's notice to go up in flames.

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                • The purpose of prisons, in theory, is to ensure that criminals will cease being a danger to society. The idea is to hold them apart from society for a while, during which time they are to be re-educated so that they do not repeat their crimes when they get out. In fact, the whole reason why things like restitution and corporal punishment were replaced with prison time in the first place was because restitution and corporal punishment did not stop repeat offenders. People stuck in a life of crime would simply take the punishment and then go back to doing what they did before, since that was the only life they knew. Prisons were invented to stop this.

                  Of course our currently existing prisons are a miserable failure in that regard, and actually make it more likely for criminals to be repeat offenders, rather than less. As you said, they have turned into boot camps for criminals. But I think the principle of trying to re-educate criminals instead of merely punishing them is a good one. It's just that we're not applying it correctly right now.

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                  • George Michalopulos says:

                    That's the purpose, however they've failed. Prisons have become boot-camps for hardenning criminals. Beat a good dog long enough and he'll become a bad dog. Case in point: the three white guys who dragged James Byrd to death in Texas were all ex-cons. The only thing they learned in prison was how to hate black people more.

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                    • Priest Justin Frederick says:

                      And consider the prisoner-on-prisoner violence, where the strong prey on the weak, that can turn incarceration into a living hell and punish someone far more than his crime deserves.

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                  • M. Stankovich says:

                    "The principle of trying to re-educate criminals instead of merely punishing them," first and foremost, must be paid for by taxpayers. In principle, no one wants to pay more taxes, and as I read in this thread alone, rehabilitation (or factually, "habilitation" in far too many cases) is secondary to any and all urges punitive. The California Dept. of Corrections (in 2005 or 2006, I don't recall) added "and Rehabilitation" to their title, and promptly began systematically losing all significant funding for education (e.g. GED, college core courses) and vocational training programs.

                    I have received significant "flack" from "affiliated" staff who cannot appreciate the ethic of my refusing to file federal applications for SSI that include the popular question "What do you do on an average day?" where the provided answer is, "Have breakfast, read the bible/Koran, visit my mother, and go to AA," when the reality is, "Get up at around noon, smoke a joint, and go to the park to watch kids." Mind you, I have no hesitation assisting those in need - and they are, in fact, numerous as our prisons have displaced the state hospitals we famously and righteously "boarded up." You simply cannot do years of time in CA like "back in the day." The CDCR is under federal mandate to reduce overcrowding; you'll do time, but nowhere near what you deserve. Why not teach them to read, or cook, or assist an electrician, whatever, while we have them early on? We will pay, regardless.

                    The last points, as to in-prison violence. In-prison violence is, I believe, a "multi-edged" sword in that while gangs rule prisons - and are notoriously vicious, brutal, intimidating, and punitive - they do maintain order. Ask custody staff and they will tell you: "We are outnumbered 5, even 10 to 1 at any given time. They allow us to be in charge." Likewise, gangleaders have the power to quell unrest immediately, if simply approached with "respect." As for the "little guys," it's anecdotal - purely limited to me - but plenty of the weak and vulnerable, many in tears, have told me that being punked on the streets, alone, was considerably worse than in prison. For what it's worth...

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              • Mark from the DOS says:

                My opposition to capital punishment is as much about the harm to the soul of the executioner as it is to the criminal.

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              • Michael Bauman says:

                I haven't read the book, "Dead Man Walking" but I did see the movie. It was clear to me that the only thing that compelled the murderer to repent was the prospect of loosing his own life.

                That being said, the lack of proper administration of the penalty leads me to the position that while I see nothing wrong with it in principal, it should not be used.

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                • George Michalopulos says:

                  I will say that the movie was very powerful and intellectually honest. It didn't show the savagery of Poncelet's crime until after he was executed. Although most Liberals in Hollywood engage in agitprop, Tim Robbins and his then-inamorata Susan Sarandon did a superb job.

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        • Priest Justin Frederick says:

          Dear Brethren, I regret getting caught up in this discussion. It is not my job to preach capital punishment, but Christ and Him crucified.

          My main intent in speaking was simply to challenge the contention that the Church's unequivocal position is opposition to the death penalty. Many people may hold that view, some bishops may teach that, a certain peace fellowship may assert it, but the Scriptures, History, and the Tradition do not support the contention that was made that this is THE position of the Church. Perhaps it should be. Perhaps it will be. But let us not make facile claims more likely the product of a political position or wishful thinking than hammered out by careful reflection on all our authorities.

          A very important question has to be answered: what is the relation of the OT Scriptures to the Gospel? The Creed asserts that Christ's death and resurrection were 'according to the Scriptures', by which it means the OT. Jesus said that He came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. How are we to understand this? Many distinguish between the ceremonial law which Christ fulfilled and is no longer binding and the moral law which still applies, but I am not certain such a distinction works adequately to determine in each case of OT law whether or not it applies literally, in principle, or not at all, being fulfilled or superseded in some way. The fathers spent a lot of time offering allegorical and spiritual interpretations of passages that to them were too barbaric for literal Christian application but which, being inspired, had to convey some spiritual message for all time. In all case, we all need to go more deeply into the Scriptures and the Tradition than we do.

          May God help us discern His will and good pleasure as we strive faithfully to proclaim His good news to this sinful world.

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      • macedonianreader says:

        Because Father. This goes back to the issue raised above about Priests being dependent on our donations for their lives (their families as well). Many of the folks who hold the anti-Church teaching beliefs also pay large sums of the priest's salary. If I were in your position, I do not know if I would be courageous enough to speak out against those who supplied my stipend.

        Just a observation. But perhaps it would be a good idea for priests to hold side jobs or ensure their spouses are working so that they could speak out more??

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  5. Archpriest John W. Morris says:

    I respectfully disagree. Even to get all the Orthodox Bishops in this country to meet together is a first step towards unity. The committees are made up of Bishops, but they are advised by clergy and lay consultants who meet with them and participate in the discussions. The Committee on Ecumenical Concerns has met and had a very complete discussion in May at Holy Cross. The Pastoral Committee met and has several sub-committees that have a very ambitious program involving the main committee and several sub-committees. That committee is planning to try to bring some uniformity of practice among Orthodox on all sorts of issues involving such matters as marriage, the reception of converts, transfer of clergy from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, discipline of clergy, reception of Roman Catholic Clergy. Give the Bishop's Assembly time. We have been apart for a very long time, it will take some time for us to come together.

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    • George Michalopulos says:

      Fr John, at best when we are talking about the ACOB the most we can say is that the glass is only half-full. One committee, perhaps the most important one, hasn't even met. That's nothing short than a travesty in my opinion. Worse, it further cements the idea that the entire ACOB was nothing but a ruse to ensure Phanariote control over North America. Even if I'm wrong, the optics look bad.

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      • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

        Whatever decision concerning the form of Orthodox unity in America will not be made by one Patriarch. Through the Bishop's Assembly, we will have input in the decision. Also, any decision will have to be approved not just by Constantinople, but by the rest of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches. I have full faith in our Bishops and in the Patriarchate of Antioch to look after the best interests of its American flock. If the rest or world Orthodoxy, including the Mother Churches of jurisdictions in America decide to put us all under Constantinople, we have no choice but to obey.

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        • George Michalopulos says:

          Fr, I agree with you. However the jackalope that was created at Chambesy has too many digestive tracts. The process of having to have every patriarchate sign off is a recipe for eternal stagnation. More worrisome to me is that the various jurisdictions don't really want unity. I sense a complete lack of trust and mutual respect. This is the third year running and there are fewer bishops at each gathering. If memory serves there were 65 bishops at the first and 53 last year. This year there were only 43. That's a very troubling metric in my opinion.

          Of course the greatest blame for future inertia lies with the OCA. Thanks to the grievous atrocity perpetrated against our Primate, the other bishops are rightly asking themselves if they want to unite with a jurisdiction that has bishops and functionaries that act in such a capricious manner. Even the GOA which treated Arb Spyridon horribly at least had the decency to give him a pension for the rest of his life. As I said in another post, at least when the GOA bludgeons somebody they have the decency to shut the door. The OCA on the other hand leaves the door open and brags about it.

          Don't get me wrong, I never sensed that there was any enthusiasm for authentic unity here in America in the first place. Especially among the episcopate (and probably among the majority of the people). But we can't ignore the fact that the OCA just handed a giant cudgel to the ethnic parochialists.

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          • Bruce Wm. Trakas says:

            George, Your post about the attendance decline intrigued me. I have a few explanations. I'm not sure of the sequence of the OCA's diocesan vacancies, but several of their regional dioceses are vacant, Washington, Canada, Dallas, Sitka, Chicago--temporarily, possibly, though Bishop Alexander of Toledo is an add on. I was looking over Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh's "facebook" page and he explained some of the absences, Metropolitan Constantine passed from this life; and two of the GOAA auxiliary bishops were absent, +Demetrios of Moskonisos (Chicago auxiliary and Chancellor) was at an ecumenical conference abroad representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate; the GOAA Chancellor, Bishop Andonios of Phasianni, was morning the loss of his father; ruling Metropolitans Evangelos of New Jersey and +Gerasimos of San Francisco were ailing; so is Metropolitan Phillip (AOCANA), 1st Vice Chairman, who has restricted his travel schedule.

            So there were 6 bishops who attended last year and didn't attend this year from the Ukrainian, GOAA and AOCANA churches. Plus, at least two fewer from the OCA who were not present and who did attend last year. Although, there may have been 3 more from the AOCANA this year, their new bishops, who didn't attend last year, had they? There may have been others with illnesses too. The attendance this year is still short, but this explains some of the difference, 5 down from last year rather than ten.

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            • George Michalopulos says:

              Thanks for adding some clarity to the issue of declining attendance Bruce. That still is some twenty bishops less than 2010 though.

              My gut instinct tells me though that nobody's heart is in this process. Otherwise they'd move heaven and earth to get even the little things done. As mentioned, Savvas' committee hasn't even met yet. I don't think they trust each other and I'll say this again, there's no clamor from their people for unity. It's the apathy that obtained under SCOBA in its last years, only this time on steroids.

              Like I said, if some Orthodox Congressman started calling FYROM "Macedonia" the GOA would convene a council in 2 seconds flat, attended by the Ambassador from Greece, etc. An Orthodox Congressman voting for partial-birth abortion --YAWN.

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        • Bruce W. Trakas says:

          Yes, and also Father, the Episcopal Assembly process calls for each episcopal assembly to design its plan for an administratively unified church within each region; the plan is not to be imposed from the Holy Orthodox Churches or the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I believe we can construct a legally sound, rock solid autonomous constitutional charter that enables church order to be exclusively locally governed, while maintaining respect for our mother churches needs both financial and otherwise. The North American jurisdictions have the clout to lobby their mother churches to support such a plan.

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          • George Michalopulos says:

            Bruce, I can't disagree with you one bit. The devil however is in the details. Where you say "respect for mother churches" others see continued dependence and subservience to said churches. My argument (and this was Fr Hopko's argument and Charles Ajalat's as well three and a half years ago) was that the intent was not pure. That still seems to be the case.

            Ultimately though, I don't think the laity as a whole wants unity. They would if they had stalwart bishops who could teach them about the fruits of unity but we don't. Plus our intrinsic tribalism prevents it.

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            • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

              It has been my experience that the laity do want unity, at least the Antiochian laity I know. You wold be surprised, most Orthodox are tired or being ignored by the rest of American society. If we were all together, at least at the top we could begin to make some impact in this country. As long as we do speak with one voice, we will have no clout in this country. As long as we let others define us as too ethnic for Americans, as the Anglicans love to do, we will not achieve the full potential of growth possible for us.

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              • The 'anti-unity' laity get their whole reality adjusted when their kids marry 'non ethnics' and they seriously consider leaving for good. If we could say to them that we're in transition to Orthodox norm of self governance and not Vatican-lite we could offer a future they'd understand.

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                • Disgusted With It says:

                  But why do they leave the Orthodox Church when there's an all-English, all-American OCA church in town where they can go if the "ethnic" part is a problem for them?

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                  • Why not then go to 'the oca church in town?' you whoever you are ask? Well, some do. I know of some myself. Most don't because there is no OCA church near enough to make it routinely.

                    The biggest reason is pretty obvious once you hear it: The 'other side' of the family often comes from some other tradition, and if one is going through the grief of leaving the church all gummed up in overseas ethnic concerns the next choice is likely to be whatever the spouse's former tradition was. Some will try the all English speaking church if they can find it.

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                    • Disgusted With It says:

                      So then these people aren't really abandoning their Orthodox Faith because of ethnicity and language, but because they take their Orthodox Faith so lightly that they'll just do whatever is most convenient?

                      I don't think that in today's day and age it is so difficult to find an English-speaking Orthodox church within a reasonable distance, at least in most parts of the country. Thirty years ago that may have been much different, but now it's much harder to use that excuse especially with the benefit of searching on the internet. Search "English Orthodox Church [your city]" and see what comes up.

                      If someone so easily walks away from their Orthodox Christian Faith as you describe above, then they simply weren't raised right. And the parents are first and foremost responsible for that.

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                    • What's this? All you're saying is that If people we're stronger in faith they wouldn't be as weak in faith. Well, good for you, got it in 1. Why not focus on the actual subject: Giving people to see other than what the faith teaches while calling it 'historic and authentic'.

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              • Lance Hogben says:

                Fr. John,
                "As long as we do [not] speak with one voice, we will have no clout in this country. As long as we let others define us as too ethnic for Americans... we will not achieve the full potential of growth possible for us."
                Every time the subject of Orthodox Christianity is brought up, I have much work at hand to dispel the false "Orthodox? Russian-or-Greek?" dichotomy and to describe the Church as Catholic & Apostolic – and whole. Every aspect of actual (by-and-large exclusively ethnic) parish life in this part of the US militates against this effort of mine. There is no popular image of a unified Church of the Eastern Roman Empire (history? forget it happened!) and the 'ethnic denomination' rule is absolute in Americans' imaginations. Does ACOB really understand how monumental the job of forging a trans- or post- ethnic unified Orthodox jurisdiction will be?

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            • Bruce Wm. Trakas says:

              I unfortunately agree with you, George, and Fr. John, that our laity, perhaps some clergy too, do not desire administrative unity as yet. But I would add, they don't know of what they are rejecting. I've been blessed to be a member of a GOAA parish that during its 46 year existence (of which I've been a member for 43 years), the three Presiding Priests throughout that history, have always welcomed non-GOAA Priests to substitute for the Presiding Priest during vacations, serve as Assistant Priests, and Liturgical Assistant Priests--Sunday and Holiday's only. Our founding as a parish was blessed by an OCA (actually Metropolia) parish which had just moved into their new church, and gave us their temporary altar accouterments, i.e. Holy Table, Icon Screen, etc., that we used for almost 4 years in an old city hall building. (By the way, that Metropolia church was the Orthodox Christian Church of the Holy Trinity, site of the 17th AAC!) Our first priest's closest clergy friends were an OCA and an Antiochian priest; our second priest's golfing buddy was an OCA priest. They participated in many of our parish activities. The Assistant Priests and Priests who routinely served us and substituted for our parish's Priests over the years have been Metropolia-OCA, ACROD (2), Bulgarian, Romanian, Antiochian (2), Ukrainian, ROCOR, Serbian--the current Serbian Bishop of Australia served as our Liturgical Assistant Priest for a time, prior to his episcopal ordination. So our GOAA people don't anymore say, "They're just like us," because "they are us," they see and experience that "we are one church,"
              "...This is the faith of the Orthodox...that has established the Universe."

              That's the topic of a letter I am writing to the Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis in which I reside. It is incumbent upon ACOB to immediately institute regional joint celebrations of the Divine Services, religious education seminars, youth and young adult activities, senior activities, altar boy seminars, etc. The interaction among our faithful and among our priests and bishops will create an environment for a natural progression to unified administration. Although, I feel for the foreseeable future, parishes should remain under the Typicon and the cultural flavor that they are currently, but there should be only "one bishop in each city," or in each state, more or less, if that's the way it works out. In my area, we already have a core of faithful who work together in our local IOCC Chapter and regularly attend joint celebrations of the Divine Services, sponsored by our inter-Orthodox clergy fellowship. And those regular attendees are both immigrants and American born faithful. I'm sure we're not an exception to such activities, at least in the large metropolitan areas.

              I have only seen positive results from such inter-parish activities.

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        • phil r. upp says:

          Fr. John,

          You couldn't be more wrong. Foreign bishops have no authority outside their immediate territory. Neither the Bishop of Moscow, Bishop of Istanbul, Bishop of Damascus, etc. have any authority in N. America. There is no diaspora as + Philip has even said. Local bishops rule over local churches. The Episcopal Ass. should just announce they are all now independent and autocephalic; choose the name of the new church (OCA was the name chosen by the early meetings of SCOBA for the American Church); then choose a head of their new Synod. Simple, done and canonical. The Orthodox Canons are clear that a local church has the right to organize and direct itself. Rule by foreign bishops is a Western, Roman Catholic idea.

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          • George Michalopulos says:

            Gee Phil, I wonder why nobody else every thought about saying something like this. Wait, hold on, I seem to remember a bishop not too long ago saying that the bishops of North America should declare their independence from the Old World and collect themselves into a synod with the Metropolitan of the OCA as its presdient. I think that bishop's name was Jonah and I believe that he gave that speech in Dallas in March of 2009, the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

            Huh, who'd a thunk it?

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            • another one says:

              George,

              If I might make one or two small corrections to your comments above.

              NO WHERE in that speech did he indicate that when Bishops in America come together that the Metropolitan of the OCA should sit at the head. In fact, some of the great abuse he has suffered in the last several years may be because he truly did not thirst to sit at the head of such an organization. +Jonah found the need for a single American Orthodox Church to be a much more critical need than any such self aggrandizement.

              Here's a quote from the transcript of the speech given by Met. Jonah on April 5, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in Dallas. Emphasis is mine.

              It is imperative for us to come together. Not for all the other churches, the Antiochians and the Serbians and the Bulgarians and the Romanians and everyone, to join the OCA, but to come together in a new organization of Orthodoxy in North American that brings us all together as one church, even just pulling together all our existing organizations so that all the bishops sit on one synod, so that all the Metropolitans get together on a special synod or something like that.

              That vision makes my heart sing, but I can see where it might strike terror into the hearts of the self styled big-fish-in-a-small-pond ("the OCA is such a small church") bureaucrats who might not be so important in American Orthodoxy as a single vibrant entity.

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          • American Orthodoxy is such a messy situation it seems the "norms" may have to be set aside citing economia. If our Synod can change their minds about the movement of the Holy Spirit regarding Met. Jonah, the Mother Church can use the same logic and change their mind about the OCA autocephaly. "We made a mistake."

            Unfortunately, the vision of Fr. Schmemmann was a viable real vision that seems not only dead but buried. If the current OCA vision is to have a "reformed" version of "American" Orthodoxy whose ethos actually resembles more certain Protestant churches, I say leave Orthodoxy and join them. The fact remains that the OCA could have really been something special. It's tragic that the "good ole' boy" powers that be in the OCA have not only missed the boat, but jumped the shark. As we've been prophesying, "it's all downhill from here." "God will not be mocked."

            The argument that we will somehow loose our freedom in the OCA if we return to the Mother Churches is absurd. Phil doesn't see that in the OCA we ARE currently in captivity! How is it freedom to be dictated to by egocentric power-playing clergy (and laity) who have laid off with tradition; who have created a " party line" that is about contemporary secular liberal politics and agendas; who have created one canon and unforgivable sin - disagreement with the hierarchy and ingrown OCA clergy; how is any of this ANY less oppressive than being under the big bad mother churches? We are already oppressed in the OCA - and it's tiresome! The difference is that we would be far cry closer to traditional Orthodoxy, than our current renovationism.

            Phil can't stand converts and he can't stand the cradle either, after all that's who the mother churches are, a bunch of "cradle Orthodox.". Seems like a personal crisis. Could it be that Phil has problems with authority, perhaps unresolved "father issues?"

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            • Just Guessing says:

              Thank you, Lord Save, for these lucid thoughts. I hope that everyone will have the opportunity to read them.

              I agree that the story of the OCA has become tragic. Like any dysfunctional family, they're clearly in denial. When we think of what the OCA could have been as opposed to what it is, it gives one pause. Maybe what is most tragic is that this all seems akin to a desperate person seeking the "right' spouse. The desperation is sad and pathetic, and the seeker never seems to get it quite right. Everyone can only look on and hope that someday they do find that right match, but knowing deep down they probably never will, because the appropriate time has already passed for marriage. No matter who gets this white hat, it's a bit too late for a fulfilling marriage. We probably need to come to understand why God is withholding His blessing and hardening the heart of the OCA's leaders.

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        • Fr. John writes: 'we have no choice but to obey' if everyone here gets 'put under' someone over there. Then people here, attracted by the authenticity and historicity embodied in the title 'Orthodox' will say 'that doesn't look like any real Orthodox church as we see elsewhere in the world, but it does look like the Vatican', and so deem us not what we advertise, and so not join. That would be bad, if growth is important anyhow.

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          • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

            I disagree. Even an autocephalous Church is accountable to the other autocephalous Churches of Orthodoxy. The last canon was passed in 787 and do not speak to the modern American situation. The first step towards autocephaly is national unity. That is why the OCA was never recognized by the rest of Orthodoxy as the autocephalous American Orthodox Church. In 1970, the Russians acted unilaterally without full consultation with the other Orthodox in America or the rest of the world. Had the Metropolia been the only Orthodox jurisdiction in America it might have worked, but it was not. In 1970 the Metropolia was only one jurisdiction not the whole American Orthodox Church. I suspect that the first phase of Orthodox unity in America will be a federation of the jurisdictions with real authority to make decisions and coordinate the policies and activities of the various jurisdictions, especially on the mission field. Too often one jurisdiction opens a mission in a town and then another jurisdiction moves in to compete with the mission of the other jurisdiction. That needs to stop. The only justification for two missions in the same area is when one serves English speaking Orthodox and the other serves the needs of recent immigrants whose native language is not English. We should not allow two competing English speaking Orthodox missions in the same area. That means that some people devoted to Russian traditions need to recognize that Greek Byzantine traditions are just as Orthodox as the Russian traditions, and that those devoted to Greek Byzantine traditions need to recognize that the Russian traditions are also Orthodox. What matters is Orthodoxy not which tradition the parish follows. Besides a parish can use a mixture of Russian and Byzantine music and thereby honor both traditions. Then we can work for more unity as we become one Church. Then we should seek autonomy after that works for a while then we can seek autocephaly but let us do with the approval of the mother Churches. If we do not we will have a divided Church between those who want an autocephalous American Church and those who still want to maintain ties to the mother Churches. The the last thing that we need is a division between those who have strong emotional ties to the "old country," and American born and convert Orthodox. American Orthodoxy has already had too many divisions between those who want local self rule and those loyal to the mother Church; Two Bulgarian jurisdictions, two Rumanian jurisdictions, two Albanian jurisdictions, three Russian jurisdictions, etc. We do not need further division with one group of Orthodox claiming to be the autocephalous American Orthodox Church and several other jurisdictions still under the mother Churches. We already have that and it does not work.
            Those who have an irrational fear of "foreign" Bishops need to grow up. The Church is above ethnicism, including American ethnicism. We need good spiritual Bishops who are pastoral and good administrators who understand the mixed nature of Orthodoxy in America with some Orthodox who are recent immigrants and have strong foreign ethnic identities and American born and convert Orthodox who see themselves as primarily American. It does not matter where the Bishop was born as long as he is a good Bishop.

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            • Archpriest John W. Morris says:
              September 19, 2012 at 9:00 pm

              "Those who have an irrational fear of “foreign” Bishops"

              and

              "American ethnicism"

              That's Mr. phil r. upp "in a nutshell."

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            • Here above you look back and the inside baseball of parish competition. Those considering leaving are looking forward. If they wanted overseas never married bishops they'd already be with Rome. Remember the reality that 'good bishops' you mention are so few and their 'multi state metropolis' (choke cough language dissonance) that most of them couldn't pick out who in a crowd are 'their priests' children much less cousins. We almost feel like in a theater where one suspends disbelief when faced with words that normally outside church would provoke a 'seen a dictionary lately?' response.

              Those considering joining measure whether what they see matches what they are told. If not, they won't stay, if they join at all. The right answer for the 'language issue' is for the pastor to look out to see who came to the service and then set the language mix to make for the most unified prayer. Those who have ethnic needs can pay to maintain them, nobody is ever going to 'upset baba or yiayia etc. etc'. And, most of the elders if you ask them would rather see their grandkids in church than hear the old language for two hours. Explain when some decision crunch comes that the big decisions are taken in Damascus, Syria, or Istanbul, Turkey, or Moscow Russia, then explain how these men of God for the last 100 years couldn't get along to the point of making a straight road here. Show them the pictures of the men involved, the big hats, the scraggly beards, what looks like dresses and mostly only in the modern era but not history never knowing marriage and family. Consider the nature of the invitation we offer. So many other churches managing their own affairs in less time, and without the benefit of massive Orthodox immigration bringing centuries of family lived Orthodox Tradition with them.

              We need to get out of our own way, and right soon while there are still enough people left here that care what assemblies of foreign answerable bishops decide.

              Plainly autocepahly or the ability to choose our own leadership and take our own major decisions doesn't lessen our need to maintain relationships as all other Orthodox churches do. It does however enable us to grow, to not have to distort decisions to accommodate usually locally incomprehensible offshore geopolitical events.

              What if the Russian church had to some degree to answer to those outside, or to us here? Those 'Pussy Riot' foul mouthed women wouldn't be in jail more than a few months, much less years. Unthinkable to the Russian churchmen to do less than they did, Unthinkable to those outside Russia they did what they did if 'Turn the other cheek' when insulted with words is part of that gold book carried overhead.

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              • George Michalopulos says:

                For what it's worth, the ROC didn't want the Pussy Rioters to be jailed. In this they were wrong. They not only should have been jailed but tarred and feathered.

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                • Your arguement is with the Gospel. When insulted it says tar and feather and jail them? No, it.does not.

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                  • George Michalopulos says:

                    The New Testament says nothing at all about allowing miscreants to misbehave. In fact quite the opposite: St Peter said "fear God, honor the king, and love your neighbor." St Paul said that "the king does not hold the sword in vain, but as a terror to the evildoer." Tarring and feathering is what I'd do to a felon who came into your house and ransacked it and threw pictures of your mother on the floor and called her odious names.

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                    • The need for the state to punish criminals is a consequence of this fallen world, a concession to the fact that we cannot avoid the taint of sin. It is a method to keep society intact. It is NOT in any way a good thing. It is something that we only do because we have to, and we should always do it with a heavy heart.

                      So, if we don't have to, we shouldn't do it. The ROC was absolutely correct here. Whenever forgiveness can be extended to felons without endangering society, it should be extended to them.

                      If a felon came into my house and ransacked it and threw pictures of my mother on the floor and called her odious names, I would try to find the strength to forgive him. In this I would probably fail. But at least I would try.

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      Brian, I never said it was a "good thing." Just a necessary thing which because it restrains evil, is not an evil thing in and of itself. It's not a "necessary evil." Evil can never be necessary.

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                    • I notice reference to the Gospel does not help your vengeance impulse, so you do not reference it. The path forward according to the Gospel when insulted by words, with no injury (not even a slap on the face), with no disrupted services, with no property damage, where the church was after they left in all ways just as those before would have found it, is to not exact vengeance as that is 'The Lord's' according to Christian thought, not to escalate the response by YEARS in jail, but merely ask for a month, a few weeks to cool off, less if repentance was expressed. And, to take responsibility as a church for endorsing persons in positions of civil authority opens the door for protest against that authority to occur in a church. The response was beyond measure and indeed fulfilled the dreams of the foul mouthed video makers.

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                    • Lance Hogben says:

                      Uh, excuse me, George, but tarring and feathering is basically a death sentence carried out by mobs. Kind of stuff moslems do nowadays, or like 'necklacing' with the burning tire. No matter how poor a reader, you don't get that out of OUR Gospel. MP was right to say Pussy Riot should walk.

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      I may be wrong about tarring and feathering but the MP was wrong about letting them walk. They are vandals pure and simple. They committed a crime and they should pay.

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                    • George, please notice that I did not use the term "necessary evil", for precisely the reason you stated (if it's evil, it's not necessary).

                      Now, as for the actions of PR (I prefer not to use their full name, which was almost certainly chosen precisely in order to make news outlets type out a word they don't normally use): What they did was not vandalism. Vandalism involves physical damage, and they caused none. As Harry pointed out, the cathedral was exactly the same after they left as before they entered. What they did was blasphemy and sacrilege. I've never thought about what might be the proper punishment for this, but, for this type of crime in particular, the forgiveness of the religious body that was being insulted should have a large influence on the sentencing.

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                    • George Michalopulos says:

                      OK, Brian, then I suppose you will come to the defense of the Aryan Brotherhood when they next go into a synagogue and read Mein Kampff or the Knights of Columbus when they go into a mosque and sing "Onward Christian Soldiers!" After all, they wouldn't be "vandalizing" anything.

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                    • What I actually said was that "forgiveness of the religious body that was being insulted should have a large influence on the sentencing". In other words, in the situations you listed, the opinions of the Jews and Muslims being insulted should be given a lot of consideration.

                      I also specifically said that PR committed blasphemy and sacrilege. Does that sound like I am "defending" them? To say that forgiveness is good (not mandatory, but good if it happens) is not the same as "defending" the actions of the people being forgiven.

                      When Christ commands us to love our enemies, is He "defending" them?

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                  • I agree 100 per cent with Harry Coin here.
                    Look at how an IRANIAN cleric handled two misbehaving girls:
                    CNN: They may be a far cry from their Western counterparts fighting for the acceptance to breast-feed -- or go topless -- in public, but two girls clobbered a cleric recently in a small town in Iran when he admonished one of them to cover herself more completely. The cleric said he asked "politely," but the girl's angry reaction and some pugilistic double-teaming with her friend landed the holy man in the hospital, according to an account Monday in the semiofficial Mehr News Agency.

                    Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti said he encountered the girls on his way to the mosque in the village of Shahmirzad for noon prayers in late August. He told one of the girls to cover up, the report said. "She responded by telling me to cover my eyes, which was very insulting to me," Beheshti said. So he asked her a second time to cover up and also to put a lid on what he felt was verbal abuse.

                    She hit the man of the cloth, and he hit the ground.

                    "I don't remember what happened after that," he said. "I just felt her kicks and heard her insults." Beheshti, who emerged from the infirmary three days later, said he did not file a complaint against the girls >>>

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              • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

                We Antiochians already chose our own leadership. We only need approval from the Patriarchate for the election of a new Metropolitan. Our other diocesan Bishops are nominated by the General Assembly representing the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese and elected by our local synod of Bishops. In the 32 years that I have been a priest, the synod always elects the person who got the most votes at the General Assembly. The Patriarchate does not interfere in the day to day administration of our Archdiocese. We also have a rule that to be a candidate for Bishop or Metropolitan a priest must have served in the Archdiocese for at least 5 years. Thus, we are not really under foreign control. When the Patriarch of Antioch comes to America, he serves in English. I wonder how many other Patriarchs serve in English when they come to America. As an American, I have no problem being under the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch. I also will obey any decision made by our Bishops with the approval of our Patriarch to place us under Constantinople or unite us with other Orthodox to form an American Orthodox Church.
                I can not accept the anti-foreignism that I find in some of the postings on this blog. We are talking about the Church not our civil government. The Church is international and above ethnic distinctions, including American ethnicism. I serve completely in English but recognize that recent immigrants need to be served in their native language. However, I oppose using a foreign language for an English speaking parish or for the purpose of preserving a foreign ethnic heritage when the bulk of the parish is English speaking.

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                • Come now Fr. John, you write as though Charles Ajalat resigned over nothing. Let's not overlook that all the bishops in the AOA are auxiliary assistants to the Metropolitan assigned as he decides from moment to moment. Not diocesan bishops, and the Metropolitan, as you write, is chosen overseas. So, really the whole magilla is chosen overseas. Probably worth making that plain.

                  And let's not confuddle 'anti-foreignism' with 'Pro-Orthodox tradition' of church boundaries following the major civil authority boundaries. How long is 'Antiochian' going to ring true when the decisions are being made in Damascus, Syria?

                  Plainly, Vatican - lite has no growth possibility if what attracts is historicity and authenticity.

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                  • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

                    I have not spoken with Charles Ajalat and do not know why he resigned. That whole incident was blown way our of proportion. It was simply a matter of growing pains, going from one Bishop to a synod of Bishops. The authority of the local Bishops had not been made clear in relation with the Metropolitan. Unfortunately people like Mark Stokoe and Bishop Mark made what was an issue that should have been quietly resolved by discussions among our Bishops and the Holy Synod into a major conflict. Now that the OCA has Bishop Mark OCA people should be more sympathetic to the Antiochians after Bishop Mark's unsuccessful ministry in Dallas and unethical use of e mails.
                    It is amazing how quiet things are in our Archdiocese after Bishop Mark left. I have noticed no change except for the titles of our local Bishops. The example of the OCA is certainly not one that I would want to follow. Your diocesan Bishop have too much power and not enough accountability to anyone. Your Metropolitan has too little authority.
                    When we need a Metropolitan, the General Assembly of the National Convention nominates thre candidates and the Holy Synod of Antioch elects one of them Metropolitan, so we have a say on who our Metropolitan is. Thus we are not dominated by a foreign Patriarch.

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      • Dear George,

        I would like to ask you a personal question. Why are you a member of the OCA and not of the Greek Archdiocese? What do you have against Phanariot administration of the Church? Would your views change if the Patriarchate of Constantinople would move to somewhere outside of Turkey?

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        • George Michalopulos says:

          Good questions. I was raised in the GOA and had many wonderful experiences there. Probably the wisest priest I ever met was the current priest there. I joined the OCA back in 2003 because Orthodoxy was growing in my town and even though my pastor was all in favor of opening up a mission, the logistics within the GOA proved well-nigh intractable. We were told that we needed $200,000 in the bank and fifty (50) families and/or independent stewardship units. And the language issue would always be there but probably not as aggravated.

          Well, what to do? A beloved mentor at the time (who has since gone to glory) told me, "If I were you, I'd get in my car, head south to Dallas and talk to Arb Dmitri." So me and a friend did just that. The joke at the time was that Dmitri could start a mission with "two old ladies and a hat." That wasn't too far off the mark.

          As for the Phanariote control of the GOA, that's most unfortunate because for the better part of the past millennium, the Greek-speaking churches have been very insular. The evangelical spirit of the first millennium has in my opinion been lost. All of the Balkan churches for that matter (Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc.) as well as Greece, Alexandria, and C'pole have lost the evangelical impulse for whatever reason. They've retreated into themselves, become a Synagogue rather than an Ekklesia. I can't blame them completely because as a Synagogue, they've been able to maintain their national identities rather well under the most horrendous conditions. That's what happened to the Jews after the First Jewish War (ca. AD 70).

          Forgive me for waxing overlong but the issue is not the placement of the See of C'pole in Istanbul, but institutional inability of most old world patriarchates to move beyond their national mind-set. Bartholomew to his credit seems to see beyond that but he can't fit the round peg of evangelistic mentorship in the square hole of pseudo-Hellenism.

          Personally, I do thing there is a place for the EP in setting in motion the creation of authentic local churches based on the territorial principle, I just don't think that this EP can effect it. The Episcopal Assembly process could have been a step in the right direction but it has been derailed, at least in North America.

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          • The reason for the insularity isn't hard to figure out: Those from the outside looking in just couldn't find common ground with never married leadership who inherit the ethnarch - dhimmitude mindset. Only those 'raised that way' don't find it odd, mostly because the leadership is almost never seen in daily parish life.

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          • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

            If you want to understand the evolution of the power and attitudes of the Greeks of the Phanar read Runciman's The Great Church in Captivity. He has an excellent chapter on the effects of Turkish rule on the Ecumencial Patriarchate and its supporters in Constantinople.

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    • Michael Bauman says:

      Fr. John, committees don't acomplish much of anything. People do. People who are motivated to lead.

      Unfortunately, our bishops as a whole, don't have a great track record for leadership.

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  6. Thank you, Dr. Stankovich, for this very moving exhortation and reflection. I pray our Bishops will hear you. (Thank you, George, for sharing it.)

    I'm truly grateful and humbled to be able to say that the Priests in my parish actually prioritize the care of their flock in an exemplary fashion like the Serbian Patriarch in the story related by Dr. S's widow hostess, despite what may be the failures of their Bishops. My heart goes out to those parishioners where this isn't so.

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  7. TheresAPlace says:

    OCL has joined the chorus of those criticizing the uncanonical ouster of Metropolitan JONAH:

    http://ocl.org/did-the-oca-bishops-lie-about-metropolitan-jonah/

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    • Having been in the OCL I can assure you that it is a forum for thoughtful voices. It is a mistake to think that a strong view on any subject published by the OCL represents a consensus of the OCL membership. Indeed it might, but unless it's in a press release voted upon at a big meeting it might not.

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  8. M. Stankovich says:

    Mr. Michalopulos,

    I am most honored that you have posted my comment here, and likewise applaud your statement to the effect that, while we have indeed "sparred," the issues upon which we agree are undoubtedly the most important. As always, you are consistently a most gracious host. Several comments:

    I emphasize that mine was a response to Fr. Ioannes, on his website. In my full comment, I noted that I had "stumbled" on his site approximately a year ago, and as I later recalled to myself, it was after reading an article he had written regarding an observation of A. Solzhenitsyn: the weight of one word of truth. You must read this article. Secondly, he openly made the observation that the bishops lack moral authority. If you are thinking "Duh, state the obvious," combine these truths, and you arrive at the astonishment that led me to respond as I did.

    I note that when I read Fr. Peter Preble's comment above, such that the teachings of the Church are by no means vague, but they are not clearly articulated, it made me think, "Now, why didn't I say that!" Yet, Amos' point - should the bishops address every moral issue - is well taken. What is missing from my original comment is my reference to the story of Zaccheus (Lk. 19:6 ff): in an overwhelming crowd, the Lord looks up and singles out one man - as the Fathers say, "He who is unapproachable by nature, makes Himself approachable." And so, we reach Sarah.

    Photius stopped me in my tracks because his description was so correct it was shocking. But the lesson she offered was that, while there was obviously a great respect and esteem for the Patriarch of Damascus as pastor and teacher, "he was no stranger," and from what I gather, he who will chop your wood is eminently approachable. And if you have never read A. Chekhov's short story, The Bishop, I highly recommend it. Apparently the elevation of a single step can be all the difference in the world.

    Having come full circle, I note a familiar theme: it is not my gift to be an "original" thinker - and I gratefully defer to the likes of Fr. Ioannes, I am honored, Mr. Michalopulos.

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  9. George Osborne says:

    I think the upcoming AAC in Parma needs a theme, or at the very least a slogan to clearly state the purpose and the intent of the meeting. You know, just to make sure everyone gets the message. I have a suggestion: "Mene. Mene. Tekhil. Upharsin." (Hint: check the OT for the interpretation.) In my very humble opinion, its a fitting epitaph, er, oh, sorry slogan for Parma.

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  10. How about "Tear up the Resignation!"

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  11. M. Stankovich says:

    As this is "Gotta Give Credit Where Credit is Due," I did repost the series The Science of Same-Sex Attraction in its entirety, beginning here; the series differentiating "inclination" from orientation here; and the series examining restorative therapies, sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion change ef­forts (SOEC) and the "charlatans" who practice it begins here.

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    • Michael,

      We read your "science" before, we don't need to be reminded of it again. Peddle your logismoi with Inga, Arida, Bobosh, Wheeler, Jillions, Vinogradov and more particularly with the gay bishops and clergy in the OCA. Oh, wait, you are not a member of the OCA. Peddle it in whatever jurisdiction you supposedly are a member.

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      • M. Stankovich says:

        Amos,

        I'm sorry you were unable to understand the articles. Perhaps you would appreciate some clarification? You have some questions? Or perhaps this is how they taught "criticism on merit and substance" in your trailer park? It would stand to reason that a skilled, grandiose defender of the Orthodox Faith - having read "my" science before - would be somehow more focused, perhaps painted up á la Braveheart, and be a touch more committed to "wiping that smirk off my face." Instead, you choose to lamely chum bait.

        What we are left with, Amos, is the issue of respect. I show no disrespect to you personally by publishing my opinions on a website, or making you aware, show you be interested, where you might find them. Period. I do not believe for a moment that you have read "my" science ever, let alone now, yet you feel entitled to sarcasm. Conclusion: you are a cowardly, disrespectful little man, seated at the computer wearing Hanes Spiderman Underalls, men's size small. Please go to bed.

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        • Disgusted With It says:

          I love it. A guy who lectures others on respect says: "Conclusion: you are a cowardly, disrespectful little man, seated at the computer wearing Hanes Spiderman Underalls, men’s size small. Please go to bed." At least it's entertaining.

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    • Dear MS,

      I tried to read your website. I was barely able to do so as you put mustard colored lettering or white, hard for people like me with limited vision to read. I was able to find, by blowing up the text again and again, only the part 5 of your thesis, which was related to various theories of familial same sex attraction. I noticed that this part V was available as a Pdf document. I apologize for literally having a hard time seeing your website and ask you to please post Urls of the Pdf files of all parts, however many they may be, so that I might download them and read them.

      I do have gay relatives and friends or siblings of friends in some cases, none of which were coerced through any kind of family pressure, nor marginalized within heterosexually oriented family structures so as to differentiate them. Indeed, I would say that within those families, the individuals marginalized within the family sets were not them but rather another sibling, nor is there any pattern for sibling placement, i.e. eldest, youngest, middle child, etc., and moreover, among those perceptibly homosexual in tendency from childhood, there seems little difference today form those who felt impelled toward declaring this tendency as adults.

      My own conclusions, which are not scientific, are that some natural tendencies exist and that some social situations are more promoting of sexual permissiveness than others. I wonder if , like the geometric rise of ADD and ADHD and Autistic spectrum disorders among individuals, far past even greater ease in diagnoses, whether there might be some environmental elements contributory, i.e. nature, in addition to the permissive stances that society and the media have somewhat concurrently introduced and reinforced in the past four decades, i.e. nurture.

      So, again, I would like to read your pieces, but cannot, especially if they discuss current scientific understanding.

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      • M. Stankovich says:

        The Science of Same-Sex Attraction Preliminary Comments.pdf

        The Science of Same-Sex Attraction Part I.pdf

        The Science of Same-Sex Attraction Part II.pdf

        The Science of Same-Sex Attraction Part III.pdf

        The Science of Same-Sex Attraction Part IV.pdf

        The Science of Same-Sex Attraction Part V

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      • loh says (September 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm):

        Dear MS,

        I tried to read your website. I was barely able to do so as you put mustard colored lettering or white, hard for people like me with limited vision to read.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        Because I've been afflicted with severely limited vision myself these last six months, I've learned a few things from Microsoft's 'accessability' protocols in Windows 7.

        One handy tool to solve the problem LOH describes here is a high-contrast display option.

        We hold down the SHIFT and ALT keys with the left hand, and then press the PRTSCR/SYSRQ at the top right pf the keyboard.

        A dialog box then appears asking us if we want high contrast. We click on YES, and then we see the same screen with colors sort of reversed, but much more visible.

        To end high contrast and return to ordinary display, we press the same keys. We hear a whimsical sound and things go right back to where they were.

        Of course, this might work only in Windows, or maybe even just Windows 7.. I don't know anything about Apple systems.

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        • Dear Monk James,

          Thank you very much. This is similar to what I am doing to increase size of text which is to hold control and + together and keep tapping the plus until I can see the text. I will try your high contrast trick.

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    • The Church essentially does not have a concept of hetero-or homosexual orientation or tendencies as such and
      condemns all sinful thoughts and acts. However, the tendency or predisposition to commit sin,
      any sin, is by itself not yet a sin. Psalm 50 says "in sins did my mother bear me" which simply means that
      we are born with the tendency to sin, which is a result of the fall. In the Orthodox understanding, we are not born guilty of sin, we are born innocent, but, with the INCLINATION, THE TENDENCY to sin. Because of free will, we have
      the choice of either giving in to our sinful tendencies or resisting them. The Orthodox Church rejects
      the roman dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, that she was exempt from original sin.
      However, the Orthodox Church firmly believes that the Mother of God NEVER sinned by virtue of HER OWN FREE WILL, PERSONAL HOLINESS AND GOD'S GRACE . The roman dogma is based upon their erroneous
      understanding of the fall and original sin, namely that all mankind also inherited Adam's guilt. WE ORTHODOX believe that through the fall our nature became susceptible to death and the tendency to sin. Modern psychology
      theorizes that some people are born with homosexual tendencies. Whatever, the Church is not really concerned with that.
      We all are born with different tendencies and if they are sinful we must fight them. Those sinful tendencies are, as the Church calls them, TEMPTATIONS...AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION....we pray. For example, someone might have the tendency to steal, but, if he has not yet stolen, he cannot be called a thief or be punished for theft,however, even if he only contemplates about stealing something he desires, he already commits the sin in THOUGHT and he MUST
      repent of that sinful thought, but as already stated, he is not yet a thief and with God's Help will never become
      one. It is the same with most sins, including sexual ones. If someone has, for unimportant what reasons, homosexual
      tendencies, but has never committed a sexual act with a person of the same sex, he, in the eyes of the Church, is not
      a homosexual. If he has such lusts and desires,and dwells on them, he is guilty of impure and lusty thoughts and must repent, but still is not a
      a homosexual(sodomite), in the canonical understanding of the Church. In ORIGINAL Scripture and the canons of the
      Church we don't find the terms "heterosexual" or "homosexual". The Scriptures and canons speak of adultery(sex with a married person, other then your spouse), fornication(sex with a person of the opposite sex) and in Greek, arsenokeitai(those who lye with men, muzhelozhniki in Slavonic). The canonical terms refer to the very ACT of committing a sexual transgression. According to the canons, if memory serves me right(too lazy to now look it up), a lay person who has committed any of these sexual acts is barred from communion for 15-20 years and can NEVER be ordained and clergy guilty of such acts are to be deposed. In other words, the canons "punish" ( the wrong word,
      but I can't think of another)THE VERY ACT OF SIN itself, but not sinful thoughts or tendencies. ALL STRUGGLE WITH DIFFERENT SINS AND TEMPTATIONS, it is called spiritual warfare. When it comes to sexual sins, the teaching of the Church essentially is very simple, summed up, ANY SEXUAL LUST AND ACT OUTSIDE OF CROWNED MARRIAGE IS SINFUL,
      EVEN in marriage, certain acts, that don't allow conception, could be considered sinful.
      So, for example, if a homosexual changed his orientation and became heterosexual and then began lusting for the opposite sex and/or having sexual relationships outside of marriage, he would still be in a state of grave sin. Christ said,
      "who looks at a woman with desire, already has committed adultery with her". Whether unmarried persons have hetero- or homosexual tendencies, they must be chaste,IF THEY ARE NOT, they may not receive communion until they have sincerely repented and lead a chaste life.( the canonical penances of 15 and 20 years are rarely or never imposed in our days.) However, they still cannot and should not ever be ordained.
      And, of course,celibate clergy must lead a totally chaste life, and married clergy be faithful to their wives.
      It is the very mission of the Church to preach against all sins and encourage the faithful to live a virtuous life.
      But,we must be careful not to become judgmental of others and try to "look" for sin. In all my long years in the Church back in Europe and now here in this to me foreign country, I have never heard that much talk about "homosexuality ,not until just recently. Although I am not pious, LOL,I love the Church and am very concerned about Her welfare in this country too and hope for peace and unity. I personally don't know most people who are posting on this blog, but I follow it, and others, because I find it interesting to learn about the thoughts and feelings of what I assume, are mostly converts in our Church. I have to confess that the "American way of life" does not appeal to me, although I have been here for many years. I don't believe in representative government. I find the American political process "funny" with its campaigns and TV commercials, where politicians make usually empty promises, while smiling like Morris the fat cat. But if that is what you like and makes you happy, fine, so be it. It's" the little things" that annoy me more. Americans put ice in most of the drinks, and drink sweet sodas, like coke, with their food. Everywhere the air condition is running full blast. I live in the Midwest, nasty, long, cold winters and when finally, it warms up, the AC is turned on. Everywhere I go, the Mall, Bank, Restaurants, it's freezing. Not only is that a waste of electricity, it's unhealthy. And, the food..........sweet baked beans, sweet potato salad, sweet sauce on so called barbeque. WHY SUGAR IN EVERYTHING??????????? But, despite their habits, I find Americans quiet charming and lovable, as long as I don't have to eat their food. LOL. I so hope peace and unity prevails in your local Church!!! P.S. My post really is not only to you, but rather general. By your last name, I assume you are Serbian. So let me say,
      " DA SMO SVI ZIVI, ZDRAVI, DEBELI I VESELI, meaning, that we all be alive, healthy, fat and happy, LOL.

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      • Michael Bauman says:

        Thank you very much for your thoughtful insights. Several months ago my son asked me why all the stuff being written and debated on homosexuality. Many of the ethical, moral and spiritual issues which are in flux in our country (they become political because we are a representative republic devolving into the paticipatory chaos called democracy), are anthropological in nature: Is the child in the womb human? Are people who are not able to work and produce economically human? Are human beings defined by their desires, sexual or otherwise?

        The big battle right now is over the belief that human beings are born homosexual, it is the way they are and it is simply not subject to change. Since it is inate, there is nothing wrong with the desire. Any attempt by them to regulate or not express their desire is doomed to failure, pshychologically and emotionally damaging. It is wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise and there should be no cultural or societal stigma of any kind against their inate desire to "love' someone of the same gender especially religious expressions of oppoprium.

        Unfortunately, there have been Orthodox who have begun to take up the cause of homosexual rights in opposition to Holy Tradition. A tradition which you expressed quite simply and quite well. The majority of the publically active concering this cause are in the OCA.

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        • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

          Even if it is proven beyond a doubt that a person is born a homosexual, that does not change the teachings of the Church. The data is corrupted because those who argue that homosexuality is inborn are studying humanity corrupted by ancestral sin. According to Orthodox theology sin is not natural, because we were made by God to be transformed by grace. There is no doubt that the Holy Scriptures and the other expressions of Holy Tradition teach that homosexual acts are sinful. For us that ends the discussion.
          Science can describe God's creation, but is not sufficient for moral decisions. Darwinism led to eugenics. In fact the eugenics movement, the idea of improving the genetic make up of society by limiting the reproduction of those considered to be genetically inferior, was very popular in America in the early 20th century. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood supported eugenics. She favored birth control to prevent the reproduction of those she considered genetically inferior. From eugenics it is just a short step to Nazism and the death camps to rid the world of those considered genetically inferior.
          Actually, the power of the pro-homosexual lobby prevents any serious unbiased study of the subject. Any scholar who questions pro-homosexual orthodoxy is immediately attacked. Recently at the University of Texas, a sociologists did a study that showed that children do best when raised by a mother and father. Since that was seen as a challenge to the right of a gay couple to adopt a child, an effort was made to have him fired by the university. He survived, but only after he had to defend himself during an investigation. My wife once taught American women's history at a local joint campus of Purdue U. and Indiana U. She taught through the history department, but the women's studies committee asked to meet with her and told her that her teaching lacked a sufficiently pro-lesbian orientation.
          Actually on the basis of science, which accepts evolution as the basis for the study of biology, it is clear that homosexuality is an abnormality. According to scientific theory the preservation of the human race is the major function of evolution. Homosexuality does not contribute to the preservation of the human race. A study of the body parts and their function also shows that homosexuality is an abnormal use of human sexuality. Thus the teaching of the Church is compatible with basic scientific principles. Besides, at most less than 10% of the population is homosexual, that in itself shows that it is abnormal, because 90% of us are heterosexual. Actually, recent studies have shown that the number of actual homosexuals is more like 3%.

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          • Archpriest John W. Morris says:

            I was thinking. Just because someone is born with a condition, that does not make that condition a good thing. I have hypoglycemia which means that like a diabetic, I must avoid sugar. During the coffee hour the brownies are extremely tempting. Why should I not eat them. I love brownies. It is not fair that I cannot eat them because of a condition over which I have no control. I did not ask to be hyprglycemic. Why should I not be able to eat the brownies if I want to eat brownies? It is discrimination against me that I cannot eat the brownies. The same logic is being used by homosexuals.

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      • This is a funny post that I agree with! The only line I wanted to comment on was,

        "But,we must be careful not to become judgmental of others and try to “look” for sin."

        From my experience "sin" was thrust upon us and for a great deal of time. Who was looking for it, or even wanting to address it? The problem is not that there are sinners amongst us (who is not a sinner and who is not well aware of it?) but that our leaders were trying to ignore specific sins or sneak them by or in and make them "normal". Some leaders really don't want to see same-sex marriage or the acts of homosexuality as a sin, but can't say it outright because they know opinion is not on their side within Orthodoxy (but they hope). Others feel you "love" the sinner by letting them partake of communion " for the healing of sins". Which it does say (my wording is not exact) in the Liturgy, but of course the Liturgy is set within our Tradition which explains it. If you are not aware of the Fathers or Councils or Canons or practices then you are left to interpret the Liturgy in the logical thinking of the day. It's like Scripture, if you don't have the Tradition interpreting the Scripture you can interpret it a thousand different ways. So to partake of Communion while living in or outright denying sin, is to condemn oneself. What could be more loving than to be honest about that? What could be more unfeeling or uncaring than to ignore that point or reinterpret it so you can make things easier? Wishful thinking does not Truth make.
        So to call people judgmental for addressing something which has been needing to be addressed from with in the Church for how long(??) is judging people who are acting in the interest of the Church because they love and respect both it's individuals and it's ways.

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  12. Poor Poor Stankovich,

    I read and totally understand what you wrote and what your proffer. But, what a wonder, you know my heart; did you also see me under the fig tree too?

    Simply, I reject your conclusions, thus according to your superior intellect, that would make me as you say, a trailer park, painted up savage. Quite the elitist are you! Quite the scientist too.

    It is such a pity that someone of your intellect is such a conflicted person? Good thing there was never a Mrs. Stankovich.

    Now, go back to your little world and deal with your subjects in prison who have no choice but to listen to you.

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    • Michael Bauman says:

      Amos, Mr. Stankovich always assumes that disagreement with him is evidence of unintelligence. That is why he is unwilling to engage at a level that calls into question the assumptions by which he selects, prioritizes and presents his so-called facts. He refuses to realize that his 'facts' are only 'facts' in a world that is alien to the Orthodox mind, i.e. the living heart of Tradition and why he can believe that nothing he utters is outside the Tradition of the Orthodox Church that he, and a few of his buddies learned directly from the Oracle of Schemman.

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      • M. Stankovich says:

        Mr. Bauman,

        Apparently my response to you was lost in the recent "housecleaning" that occurred.

        Enough of your personal, tiresome, unsupported skittles, so I suggested a remedy: you hold your bishop in great esteem, and I hold your bishop in great esteem; I told you previously, I have known him since I was 17 years-old. Above, you will find links to my "so-called facts," and I propose you print them and submit them directly to the hand of Bishop Basil without comment, understanding that he too, was instructed "directly from the Oracle of Schemman (sic)."

        If he tells me directly that I am in contradiction to the Scripture, the Patristical Writings of the Fathers, to the Canonical Writings, or "alien to the Orthodox mind," and Tradition of the Orthodox Church, Mr. Bauman, I will repent. If he tells me there are aspects I must correct, I will correct them. This not about me being RIGHT, Mr. Bauman, it is about being CORRECT, and it has nothing to do with me. Consider this, Mr. Bauman, eagerness to engage at a level that calls into question my assumptions, priorities, and facts. Got it? I am neither oppressive, superior, arrogant, or prideful. I am confident, and confident enough to transparently submit to an objective, pious, respected evaluator that even you respect. And if you have an "issue" with these terms, then you need to shut up.

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  13. M. Stankovich says:

    Amos,

    Please, you read nothing I wrote and don't even play me. What, please, is my conclusion, if you would be so kind? As to what is distressing so to you about this issue is... Pardon me, Amos, I'll be right back... OK, Amos, I'm back. That was my wife, a well-respected social worker at Rady's Children's Hospital here in San Diego, asking me about a "comparable" expected weight gain with VPA as opposed to Risperidone in a 12 year-old boy ("He loves cookies!"). I said I would predict less with VPA. What do you think? Where was I? Oh! I was about to revize my initial conclusion: I no longer believe you are a Haynes Spiderman Underalls men's size small, but rather a boy's size large.

    Seriously, I cannot imagine why you are making these comments in the first place. Unlike prison, you do have a choice.

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