An Open Letter to the Bishops from One of Our Readers

It is my great pleasure to offer the following piece on the challenges that face the Orthodox Church in North America submitted by one of Monomakhos‘ long-time contributors, Michael Bauman.  We here at Monomakhos have always prided ourselves on being an open forum and from time to time, we have published important essays from thoughtful people.  Mr. Bauman is one such reader.  We hope you all will give Michael’s thoughts the serious consideration that they deserve.


I have been a student of American History since high school and considered making history a life’s work until God led me in other paths.  Nevertheless, my appreciation and wide reading of history has always been significant in my life and my thought. Consequently, I have always tried to look at the Church historically especially in how the Church can impact North America in a positive and loving manner that resonates with the best we are as a people. There have been many objections raised concerning the governance of the Church here over the years, many of them justified.  However, what has been in short supply is a positive alternative.  Due to several conversations over the last year both here and in person with many people, I think I have a starting point.   I have sent this to several bishops already but, I want it to have wider distribution.  It is not just for the bishops but for all of us.

I especially want to thank Gail Sheppard, Tim R Mortis, Fr. Alexander F.C. Webster and my brother, Fr. Stevan Bauman for their input into what follows.  

An Open Letter to the Orthodox Bishops of North America

The United States and Canada each have a unique history.  We are two countries which were consciously and thoughtfully formed, not from ethnicity, nor language1, nor religion nor by a monarchical dynasty but from a common commitment a set of principles and ideas.  While each country has struggled and often failed in the application of these ideals in a political and social sense that is because they can only truly be fulfilled by life in the Church because they are derived, ultimately, from our Lord’s Incarnation.  As such they offer the key components that the Church in North America can accept and through the Holy Spirit transform and transfigure so as to reveal God in this land. The Church could move forward, Christianizing the land as she has done many times before in other lands.

The three keys are: 1. Freedom; 2. an active acknowledgment of the merciful, bountiful providence of God; and 3. a desire for union under God to the benefit of all human beings.  In today’s nihilistic world each of these components is obscured, twisted and seemingly forgotten. Nevertheless, they remain. I offer a brief explication of each component from my understanding of American history, my life in the Church and what I know of the Church through history.  

Freedom, “the ability to work out one’s own destiny within a matrix of law and virtue” Such an ideal was expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”  When Jefferson2 wrote those words, he thought of happiness in a manner reflective of the ancient Greeks as a self-controlled, ordered life built on the acquisition of virtue.  He was not thinking in modern terms of happiness as the unrestrained indulgence of one’s passions.  Jefferson’s idea corresponds quite nicely to the Scriptural admonition to work out our salvation in fear and trembling while acquiring the virtues (Phil 2:12).  The fruition of such a life can only occur by the grace of the Holy Spirit as we live the life of the Church.  The civic virtues of which Jefferson was quite fond all too easily descend into a hypocritical moralism.  Perhaps that is why John Adams famously said that the government designed by our Constitution is only suited to a Christian people, that “it was wholly unsuited to any other”.  Importantly, the English tradition of Common Law–from which comes much of the approach to law here in the U.S and Canada–has strong roots in the Justinian Code. Protestants and Roman Catholics have tried and failed to fulfill the promise the founders saw.  Only the Orthodox Church remains to take up the task of making us a Christian people. Contrary to modern ideas, there is a lot here to work with.

Providence- “the recognition that a good God gives us not only what we need but gives us all good things, pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Lk 6:38).  As a political principle, the idea of Providence has often been bastardized and truncated into an expectation of entitlement, but the reality is still there in our spirit of hope and willingness to share with others.  As with freedom though, it can only be learned in fullness within and through the Church and her Sacramental Life where we “taste and see that the Lord is good, filling all things” and learn to give alms in humility with a merciful heart.

The opening line of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution is “In order to form a more perfect union…”.  That is a succinct expression of both the idea of political union and the mystical union of our country under God both personally and corporately. Many of the founders and the political leaders who followed had a yearning for that mystical union and its righteousness.  Our seventh president, Andrew Jackson wrote eloquently of that union as a foundation of our freedom and the virtue that secures happiness.  That comprehension of a union transcendent over simple political union gave rise to his famous rejection of states’ rights and is reflected in Daniel Webster’s oration in which he proclaimed it was “liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable”. 

In practice, the idea of a federal political union alone has led to great excess that has approached tyranny at times.  Only the union with Christ we proclaim in our baptism allows the real union that is genuine freedom both spiritually and existentially.  The Orthodox polity of having a confederation where there is a first among equals much better reflects the dynamic tension our Founding Fathers sought to engender in our form of government. Today’s politics regardless of party are in opposition to the Founder’s hope.  However, such a polity can be realized in the Church. It is a natural fit in many ways.

The original confederation in the United States, prior to our Constitution, was scrapped because it was felt that our new country could not defend itself against foreign enemies quickly enough: it could not command soldiers nor impose taxes easily. So, we elected to go with a federal union rather than a confederation.  Canada took another way and is still more of a confederation than the U.S., but that is fading under modern ideology.  The Church has no such worries. She has no need to defend herself, collect taxes or levy armies. Our history has shown the less centralized polity works quite well even as it appears to modern eyes disorganized and chaotic at times. The Church attempts to follow the Biblical model given to the twelve tribes of Israel before King Saul. A model that would fit well in North America 

The somewhat tortured history of the Church in North America has followed the pattern of our political founding.  We were a new land to Europe although with an indigenous people who had a culture of great wisdom.  Various nations came on voyages of discovery: Spanish, French, Russian, English.  Each, in turn, sent settlers who brought with them their own customs and language. Indeed, the first Christian Martyr was a priest with the Coronado Expedition in the 16th century in my home state of Kansas, Fr. Juan Padilla.  Ultimately, the various disparate cultures began to come together but none were eliminated, and the attempted hegemony of the British was rejected.  The Orthodox Church came from Russia, Greece, Syria, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania each with its own language and customs.  Even so, the early Russian missionary saints of Alaska recognized, dignified and began the process of transfiguration of the Native American culture and peoples in Alaska to complete their inherent knowledge of God they had.  Unfortunately, we have thus far failed to follow that example in Canada and the rest of the United States. 

Each discreet set of Orthodox believers has tended to remain encapsulated in much the same way as the early European settlers did.  We are wary of each other despite the natural affinity we have for one another that the European settlers did not have.   It is time, I think, to mature beyond the early encapsulation  to allow God to build an Orthodox Church here in North America in which there is neither Greek, nor Russian, or any other such dichotomy but a holy and Apostolic Church that allows for the flavor of each of the disparate elements, dominated by no one except our Lord, as we reach for a common expression that fits us all but still honors, respects and maintains familial ties with the Church in the old countries from which many came, always grateful for the tremendous gift we have been given through each of them.  Rising above both the ideological politics of the world and our own temptations to accede to the world. 

I hope and I pray that the Church in this land finds such a path and that our bishops are enlivened by the Holy Spirit to seek it and work with the grace of God for that realization together. It need not be a revolution but rather an organic fullness that welcomes and celebrates each and all in a type of continuing Agape Vespers in service to God and man in the shadow of the Cross and the light of His Glorious Resurrection. 

If the Church here were to take up such a vision it would be a tremendous strength and advantage to all the original Patriarchal Sees.  Such a united Church would be far stronger and more supportive of our mother churches.  It is a better course than to remain separate with each group trying to impose a foreign hegemony here resulting in continued squabbling and wasting resources.  Frankly, the people of North America will never accept any such hegemony.  It goes against all the principals of freedom, providence, and union. Even in our worst moments our dedication to Freedom, the appreciation of Divine Providence and the quest for Union under God is not far from us3

Only the Orthodox Church allows for the fulfillment of those longings so embedded in our national soul.  Indeed, in my opinion, it is the providential mission of the Church in North America to foster such a fulfillment even if it ends in what appears to be failure.   The question is: are we going to step out of the boat in the midst of the terrible storm we see raging around us as did St. Peter; trusting in our Lord so we can become a Church where there is neither Greek, nor Syrian, nor Russian, nor Albanian, nor Bulgarian, nor Serb, nor Romanian, nor Ethiopian, nor Copt, nor African, nor Afro-American, nor Tlingit, nor Aleut  but all of those – one Church, under God, with liberty and justice for all in union with Jesus Christ and in communion with one another.

As a friend of mine recently said: “Conservatives treat the past as important, Tradition treats the past as if it is still present.” Holy Tradition is not conservative; it is a living presence and remembrance.  It is the job of the Orthodox Church to Baptize this land and make our unique character fully present in Christ

If the people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (II Chronicles 7:14).

“All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail”, wrote the educator Dorothea Brande (1883-1948).

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

In Christ, Michael Bauman



  • English is the dominant language, but it has never had the unifying effect of Greek or Arabic or any other language of the Church. In fact, George Bernard Shaw quipped the British and Americans are two people divided by a common language. English is an extraordinarily flexible language containing components of many other languages and styles, even if maddeningly imprecise at times. 


  1. The founders of the United States came from many different religious backgrounds and beliefs, Protestant, Deist, atheist, and Roman Catholic. There was even a Virginia gentleman of close acquaintance with many of the founders who was a convert to the Russian Orthodox Church, Philip Ludwig III.  Perhaps the “seed that fell into the ground unknown until it was time to flower.


  1. In writing this essay, I have come to have a renewed sense of appreciation, hope, and thanksgiving about my country, her history and we Americans as a people. It has been so easy and fashionable to see only the bad, distorted rocky soil with little hope in my heart that there was any good soil in which the Church could take root and grow bringing forth abundant fruit to our Master in due season.  The sentimental longing for the old, but not living Tradition often gripped my heart or worse bore a hint of despondency.  No more by the Grace of God and your sincere question. 


The lineage of the ideas and hopes I outline here is quite deep in the American experience.  In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was expressed in political dialog as well as in the nascent literature of our country.  Among the political leaders were George Washington, John Adams, James Monroe, James Madison, George Mason and the writers of the Federalist Papers.  Their legacy lead to Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.  With the failure of the ideas in the Civil War, political leaders stopped being primary in the annunciation of the core.  The task moved to authors such as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, carrying into the 20th century with John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Conner and Alice Walker. Historians too, took up the task to provide a cultural memory:  Henry Adams, Fredrick Jackson Turner, Francis Parkman, Daniel Boorstein, Alan Nevins, Carl Becker, Dumas Malone, and Paul Johnson to name some of the best.  Currently, there is the historian/commentator Mark Levine who, like many of his predecessors were in their times, is strongly influenced by modern ideological warfare. Yet, he can still effectively reach back through learning and scholarship and bring forward the core of our culture in a valuable way. 


Because of the way I came to the Orthodox Church, I know that the Church is for all in this land.  I was just a Kansas boy attending a small, insignificant liberal arts college in northern Illinois.  Halfway through my sophomore year in 1968-69, I was in an existential crisis deep enough to walk up a hill that I loved to go to because it was away from the rest of the campus, beautiful and quiet.  Looking at the sunset over the town, I cried out that if Jesus Christ were real, I needed to know.  He responded.  Suddenly, I was aware of a man standing about 30 feet away off to my right a bit.  He did not speak, nor did I see him in the normal sense, but I knew who, what and where He was.  I have never doubted the reality of Jesus since that moment.  In retrospect, it is also the moment He began to guide me closer to Himself.  Over the next 19 years, He led me where I would go but each step was closer to Him and to His Church.  Along the way, I was introduced to Mary, the Mother of God and the services of the Orthodox Church.  Eventually, I walked into St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wichita, KS.  Two things became immediately evident when I entered the Holy Temple: 1. Mary was calling me from the icon on the wall beyond the altar to come and be with her son; 2. During the Great Entrance, the person who introduced Himself to me 19 years before on that hill in northern Illinois was walking with the priest yet His presence stronger and more vibrant.   Although I knew I was home at that moment, my wife and I had to work through some ideas in our heads before we could commit.  Nine months later my family and I were received into the Church on the Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing Women.  Jesus wants me in the Orthodox Church and if He wants an ordinary Kansas boy whose father helped settle the territory of New Mexico starting in 1905 and whose mother took part in early years of the cultural explosion of dance that broke the standards of ballet and created a whole new art form, an art form that while new, is still inextricably linked to ballet from which it came. If he wants me, it is a good bet He wants a lot more folks like me even better than me. I am rather uncouth at times have little money and no capacity for learning any of the traditional languages of the Church. I have little to offer except my sinful soul.  Somehow that is enough. 


  1. A thoughtful article – much needed in our time.
    It never ceases to surprise me how folks speak about a “North American” Orthodox Church, then move on to cite only the founding documents of the United States – as if Canada and Mexico don’t even exist, or as if the latter two countries have the same history, laws, and political system as the USA.
    The “ethnic” jurisdictions which depend on immigration (notably the Greeks and the Ukrainians), and which (demographically speaking) have not passed on their faith to their children (their FAITH, that is – not their food festivals) are at the point of disappearing as we speak, so much of this discussion is moot. They will further decline if and when the current Schism is in full swing.
    Orthodox Christianity in North America will only continue to flourish in places where people put their faith first – full stop. It is simply getting too hard for most people to push back against 5–hour work weeks, Sunday-morning sporting events, media and smartphone obsessiveness, and LGBTQ-everything, all the time.
    The chaff if already falling away.
    Those who hang on to the Orthodox Church as some subsection of a greater, dearer loyalty (such as their ancestry) just ain’t gonna stick around.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Northodox, I do not know Canadian history at all well.  There are similarities.  Right now the Bishoprics include the US and Canada.   I suspect that Canada and the US ought to have their own Church.  I would love to see someone who knows Canadian history write something from a Canadian perspective.  
      Frankly, I rather like the Canadian approach to be independence from the British crown more than the US approach.  Revolution is not in accord with Church.   I think Ligonnier was too revolutionary.   

  2. Ronda Wintheiser says

    Thank you, Michael. 🙂

    • Michael Bauman says

      Ronda, I would love to see any comments you have of action steps that could be taken. I know you are quite good in that way.

  3. GoArmyBeatNavy says

    This is all well and good, but the message needs to be a simpler , less academic, one:

    Bishops–for your churches to thrive and grow, you have to LOVE AMERICA and you have to commit to being AMERICAN. It won’t work any other way.

    If you want a omogenic, diasporic, imperial, Byzantine Hellenic and Muscovite slop stew of “we are X but happen to live in America” nonsense, then you will have exactly the results you have now. Zero everything.

    Say it simply–the bishops are, for the most part, just not American. It shows and Americans respond accordingly by staying away.

  4. Michael Bauman says

    Go, your contributions to that task are welcome. My essay is not a blue print for action. It is a statement of what could be the core principles of any action along with prayers to the Theotokos for her intercession and help. My essay reflects the way I think and, as noted, writing it helped create and peace and joy and hope for the Church in North America that has been absent from me for a long time.

  5. Very thoughtful article. Using the term Orthodox Church in North America made me think that this is how we should divide the “diaspora lands.” Rather than having the Orthodox Church in America have the Orthodox Church of North America, Asia, etc. at least until each country is mature enough to have its own Church. This would hopefully solve the jurisdictional issues that plague us. I of course cannot speak for the hierarchy, but, it truly seems that they are fine with the status quo of this mess in NA and the diaspora, scandalizing the faithful and disobeying the cannons of the Church, which is unfortunate  because the true mission of Christ’s Church will never flourish until we are united and can  provide a united front against the evils of the world. Instead, we in the diaspora suffer because of squabbles among grown men over a Patriarchate that, let’s be honest, really only exists on paper. 
    If there are any Bishops/Metropolitans/Patriarchs that read this blog, please, for the love of God Almighty, listen to the flock. If the Church is to actually grow in NA (and elsewhere) we HAVE GOT to drop the ethnic monikers. I am Sicilian/English by birth and was Roman Catholic before I became Orthodox and joined the Antiochians precisely for this reason. They did not have Antiochian on the sign, used all English, and focused on being an American Church. I would suggest looking at the Copts in America, I know that we are not in communion, but, they have been here less time and are already light years ahead of us in terms of being a Church for Americans.
    The reason why so many on this blog criticize GOARCH is because it is the worst in terms of “ethnic club” Orthodoxy and caving to secularism. Please note that this is a broad generalization of GOARCH because there are many, many parishes within it (monasteries included) that are filled with the love of Christ and genuinely live out the Orthodox faith. But, there is clearly something wrong when the majority of Greek Americans no longer identify as Orthodox and the youth attrition rate in GOARCH is terrible. Being the largest jurisdiction, they should be lighting the way for Orthodox unity in America and be a beacon for drawing non-Greeks into the fold of the Church. Orthodox unity will either happen when GOARCH gets on-board, or, sadly they will be left behind as they have been traditionally the biggest stumbling block to unity in NA.
    Orthodoxy has been in the U.S for centuries and look at us, we are still a negligible minority. Non-Trinity (non-Christian even) sects like the Mormons have been here LESS than us and they have much larger numbers. Why do you think that is? 
    Those parishes that focus on ethnicity and drawing people in through the “come and see” or “food festivals” approach are going to die on the vine, and, as much as I hate to say it that may be for the best. When Christ gave the Great Commission He did not say “come and see” or “taste our food and convert” He told us to go forth and preach the Gospels and convert people. Can you imagine if the Apostles has taken the approach we take in NA?
    We have lost our way, and yes even the hierarchy, or else we would not be in this situation. We need to pray, fast, give alms and beseech Almighty God to help and save us. 
    In Christ

    • Michael Bauman says

      Menas, one of the reasons that the Mormans and others have larger numbers is because it is far easier to sell a lie than the truth. However, another reason is that the Orthodox have failed to really understand the history of us and embrace it. The Russian missionaries to Alaska understood that history of the indigenous people.

      Let me ask, how many of the historians I mention have you read or have you simply accepted the pabulum that is taught as history in our schools. If anyone wants to start somewhere, start with Daniel J. Boorstein.

      Understanding our own history and appreciating it is a step of action.

      To any and all Canadians, I ask you to recommend Canadian historians and source documents so I can become more educated about Canadians.

  6. George Osborne says

    Nice message. Great vision. Truthful observation. But it ant gonna happen. Let me share a story. My spiritual father was a fairly well connected Archimandrite who happen to speak fluent German. He and Archbishop Mark of Germany became acquainted and were speaking about the time the Synod reunited with the MP.  The question was asked why do you want to reunite?  Look at the missionary activity in American. The growth of English-language missions, etc. The reply was basically, Yes, all that’s true and we would be canonical but we wouldn’t be Russians any longer!  Regardless of how you slice the cake, ethnocentrism is the heart of practical Orthodoxy in NA and it will take the very hand of Almighty God to change that. We have been asleep too long.  As regarding bishops read St Symron the New Theologians epistle on the theology of confession. What he said about hireling bishops in the 11th c. is just as true or perhaps even more so today. 

    • George Michalopulos says

      God has more than one way to pull back the veil so that we can see things in more black-and-white vision.  He can allow persecution to befall us.  That will separate the wheat from the chaff in no time.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mr. Osbourne, and yet the Church persists here. A boat in the midst of a hostile and raging sea. You do not mention where you live, but I would bet it is on the east coast. Only God knows what will happen and before I began writing the essay, I felt exactly as you do. Yet there are pieces here and there which indicate a different path, a different reality. My favorite is the work of Father Paul Abernathy in Pittsburg. There is a great deal on the internet about his work which I encourage everyone to seek out. Here is my favorite. A TED talk on Trauma Informed Community Development: Frankly, what he is doing could only be done in the Church.

      He has stepped out of the boat.

      I do not expect the bishops to lead in any of this, they are both hamstrung and confused in the current ecclesial confusion. So are many priests. That leaves the laity and younger, non-ethnic priests.

      The main point of my essay was that we all need to know and honor the history and character of this land.

      • Paul is a good man. He has a good Bishop. I worked with him for serval years at FOCUS. He works with a tough group. We need more men like him.

    • George, that’s peculiar thing for a non-Russian to say. Archbishop Mark is a German himself, so will never ‘be Russian.’ I don’t think that eccentric approach is how ROCOR really thinks – their most recent episcopal consecrations and nominations have mostly been non-Russians.

  7. Gail Sheppard says

    There are many great pearls here but mostly what Michael has written fills my heart with joy!  The visual image of having to step out of the boat in the midst of a terrible storm, “trusting in our Lord so we can become a Church,” is powerful.
    The people who say North America is lacking in maturity, or that we are too much this or too little that to unite, are mistaken.  Michael reminds us that with God’s help, we don’t need anything else.  If it were a matter of having everything in place to succeed, where would Gideon have been?  How would a handful of men have been able to spread the Gospel around the world?  And how could those who seemingly have everything in place, repeatedly fail?  The determining factor in each example is the degree to which God embraced it.  Without the Holy Spirit, nothing is possible and with the Holy Spirit, everything is possible.  It is for this reason, Michael repeatedly reminds us to pray; always pray.

    Finally, Michael lists the reasons why the Orthodox landscape in North America is one of the most colorful and one of the most difficult to navigate.  And yet, our bishops still manage to maintain unity.  How?  Because God has written in their heats.

    Last February, I witnessed one of our ROCOR bishops viscerally wince with pain over not being able to celebrate at a Greek monastery which often serves as his home when he finds himself in TX.  God bless this man because during the service he still stood with his brothers in Christ in silence.  And God bless the Greek monks who surrounded him, allowing him to stand there among them.  That’s the kind of unity we are capable of in North America even under the most trying of circumstances.

    Both Metropolitans Tikhon and Joseph warmly received Archbishop Elpidophoros.  They didn’t care how he came to be here.  In spite of everything going on around him and who was commemorating whom, our bishops embraced him solely because he became part of our North American Orthodox family.  This shows anything BUT a lack of maturity .

    As for us, we are like pastoral dogs who guard, herd and drive on behalf of our shepherds.  That our shepherds pay attention to what is written, separating the wheat from the chaff, bodes well for the future of our North American Church, even if some people fail to recognize it.  Our bishops and priests have no compunction against reaching out to us to say this is wrong, this is right and this is ahead of your time, all in an attempt to help us navigate the twists and turns and remain vigilant with respect to protecting the Church.
    As Michael said, let us each act as if it were impossible to fail, using all the gifts God has seen fit to imbue in our American hearts due to our unique history, so we can reach that point of organic fullness of the Church.  And let us pray . . . always pray

    • Michael Bauman says

      Gail, it also filled me with joy. Bless you for seeing that and thank you for all you contributed to the formation of what I wrote.

  8. r j klancko says

    yes, but is there a north american orthodox family,,,,we almost had one in the teens,,, ethnics under moscow and moscow beginning an engish mission with a focus of remaining here in america and having an american faith identity,,,then due to the russian revolution this prematurely failed,,,,,,,,we then had the federation – bashir/benjamin/and athenagoras,,,this went along but eventually failed,,,they were seeking an american faith  identity ,,,,then came scoba,,there was qausi unity, with iakovos with mlk on the cover of life magazine there was another overture on becoming an american faith,,,,since then it has truly fallen apart, we are now more divided than ever,,,,,,both the people and clergy do not want to give up their ethnic identites and this is sad.  until all of our bishops are american born, american educated, widowers, with no accents and stop looking like vestages out of midieval times this will nevwer happen. why do we always streess the externalitites and forget that it is the internalities, which is the faith that counts.  we are our own worst enemies.

    • Michael Bauman says

      r.j. Families are built, not given. Until we really step out of the boat, i.e., move our of our parents basements, there will not be a real, full family. However as Gail says far better than I, the template for a family is here already. She also acknowledges that nothing is fully formed.

      What does our Lord say? Read Ephesians 5.

      One of the moments of recognition that I had in writing this essay was that the OCA is best equipped to lead us in a way that the more ethnic bishops are not. Frankly, that shocked me, but it was there nevertheless.

      The hard part is stepping out of the boat is it not?

    • Linda Albert says

      What do you mean by “looking like vestages out of midieval times?”

      • Long unkempt beards, foreign accents, no appreciation of the the country in which they reside, put old ways before christian ways , show a lack of brotherly love,, if they followed the teachings of Christ we would have an American church with millions of members,,,,but we all choose to live in the 1800s,,,,,we have no faith in our faith

        • Tim R. Mortiss says

          I left some things behind when I departed the Presbyterian church.
          I’ve only belonged to two churches in my life– not two ‘denominations’ but two local churches. I was baptized in, went to Sunday school and youth group at, returned to, had my five children baptized at, was ordained a deacon and elder at, buried my grandfather and grandmother at, married my three daughters at, and buried my mom and dad at–Immanuel Presbyterian Church. Then I joined St. Nicholas [Greek] Orthodox Church, at 66. So- two churches only. That’s pretty conservative (small ‘c’). Immanuel is 4 city blocks from my house. St. Nick’s about 20.
          The church my wife was raised in, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, is two blocks down the street from Immanuel. We were married there.
          So, I left the church of my fathers and mothers. I won’t have my funeral services there, unlike my parents and grandparents, and innumerable old friends. It’s a really beautiful small church, with priceless painted Tiffany-type windows, etc. Many, many old friends. I left it behind. (They are still my friends!)
          But I see many in the Greek church who come precisely because they want to return to their ‘roots’; they, though third generation, want the ethnicity as much as the Faith. But there are many converts there to be found now.
          It’s time for everybody to leave the ‘family tradition’ behind.

  9. I don’t see anything especially wrong with the OCA. Sure you can complain that it isn’t comprehensive of all the foreign-headed churches but who is to blame for scotching Ligonnier? A certain Turkish gentleman by the name of Demetrios Archontones may have some connection with that sad debouchment…

    • George Michalopulos says


    • Michael Bauman says

      Claes, nothing wrong with the OCA at all.  The realization as I wrote of what a central role she has just surprised me.  More a comment on me than the OCA.  
      The boat I had been in included a plank that said the OCA was irrelevant.  I was apparently wrong. 

      • Michael,
        It’s a testament to the power of introspection (not to mention the Holy Spirit’s promptings) engaged while writing seriously that you may have come to a new appreciation of the role and place of the OCA. I feel that the derision received from GOARCH etc. betoken its embodiment of Christian ecclesiastic principle, that it shares in the despisal suffered at the hands of evil men by Christ, and praised in his Beatitudes, “ blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.”
        There may be readers even here who do not yet know how the OCA in particular is targeted for calumny from GOARCH clergy, emanating from their Head in the Fener, invested as he is in suppressing the growth of a local American Church. He whom we have been calling Black Bart since before I joined the OCA half a lifetime ago is the specific malefactor who forced Abp. Iakovos to remove his signature from the Ligonnier statement, precipitating the collapse of the consensus it expressed. 
        The Tomos of Autocephaly given The OCA by Patr. Kyril in 1970 is the single biggest threat to the Fener’s existence: of the OCA is recognized by GOARCH as the Local Church which it is by Tomos, then GOARCH has to join with the OCA and leave the shadow of the Fener’s skirts to take its place alongside the 14 other autocephalies as a sister — not daughter — Church. Indeed, there are no daughter autocephalies, this is entirely a new Fener ecclesiastic concept.
        It is difficult to overstate the extent of GOARCH despisal of the OCA and the harm it produces. To this day, virtually no one who attends a Greek Orthodox Church, no matter how disappointed or chagrined by things they may encounter in GOARCH parishes, will consider even visiting an OCA Parish. Many have left Christianity altogether rather than look for an expression of Orthodoxy outside GOARCH. I know George who authors this blog is one of the few who made the transition, but his class is vanishingly rare.
        I know very well of the manifold faults of the OCA’s institution. Its witness to an Orthodoxy virtually without foreignness, a nativizing and local expression of Tradition remains attenuated and sparsely established.  Because of the continued presence, in contravention of the very Tomos it gave, of two jurisdictions of the Russian Orthodox Church, a harm to OCA mission comparable to what GOARCH does is effected even by Moscow. Apparently the State Dept. prefers the Fener and its polemic to Syosset and we remain marginal and unrecognized in our own country, after more than two centuries’ continual effort. Yet the OCA perdures, pace gross unsubstantiated rumors published elsewhere on this very blog by the OCA member who ought to know better. He indeed joins the Fener mob throwing stones at his own church; hopefully he will repent. 
        The continuing under-assessment of the OCA even here reminds me of the vote at the rue Daru the other day. Even faced with a potent threat of dissolution, the body of the church in Paris could not muster faith in its own mission adequate to moving forward to greater autonomy in a new affiliation with its only alternative to the Fener. Orthodox people here in America complain about the status quo and see the OCA only as a feature of an unsatisfactory religious landscape. Rather than embrace the explicit role of the OCA as Local Church and add their strength to it, they slump around in doubt, harkening the jealous lies of the Fener and wondering if somehow GOARCH could achieve autocephaly. OCL has this outlook in spades. They’ve internalized the derision heaped on the OCA by agents of the Fener and will not consider its legitimate claim to embody Local Church. This is a tragedy we all suffer under, that we fall into the doubt that was concocted to poison our joy in Christ that ought to move us forward together as a unified Local Church. Ligonnier expresses that confidence. That moment will not come again soon  

  10. Michael Bauman says

    Kansas has taught me a lot over years.  From the time of Fr. Juan Padilla to today.  The Kansas motto is indicative: Ad Astra per aspera.  

  11. No doubt that it is a matter of when and not “if” such a vision will be realized. The Russian Church was a metropolitanate  under Constantinople for some 500 years until achieving autocephaly but achieve it they did as did many other Patriarchates over time. The clock and world move much faster today then they did in the middle ages so its reasonable to believe that after 300 years or so we too are ready to obtain our independence. There are too many good reasons to do so, many articulated by this thesis, and almost none for opposing it. Yet its wishful thinking to believe that our hierarchy will do it on their own. As often has happened in  Church  history only the will and actions of the people, grass roots laity and clergy,  led by the Holy Spirit and strengthened and guided  by Providence, can move the immutable senior hierarchs  of our Church. That or crisis and disaster -but let us hope it does not get to that. North American autocephaly done in a cooperative and collegial and loving manner is a win-win for Orthodox Christianity everywhere.  If its done in crisis mode or in a combative manner it is the mother Churches that will have the most to lose. 

  12. Christopher says

    Thanks for taking the time to put the “American and Orthodox” question in just this sort of way.  Here is my feedback:

     1) From the outside looking in, which is to say from the perspective of the ancient autocephalous churches to the ‘diaspora’, there is no formal “canonical” structure/process or informal experience/history with anything like NA or the last 125 years of ethnic ‘diaspora’ Orthodox church planting.  Short of ecumenical council of all the old world patriarchates who have footholds in NA and elsewhere, how would they ever come to a meeting of the minds and a practical “solution” to the modern world in general, and on this particular subject, jurisdictionalism?  They only have what they have, which is a collection of ethno-national churches and an formal “canonical” structure from a different time and place (i.e. a long dead Empire) applied ad hoc to the modern situation.

    2) From the inside looking out, that is from an organic and natural American religious and cultural landscape, your right to focus on what it is that makes us “American” and how the Church can be expressed by us.  Your right to look for and identify an “American soul” that is a part of us and thus organically expressed in our Christianity and Orthodoxy.  That said, I don’t need to tell you that America might not have a “soul” as such, or at least one that can truly “take” Christianity.  Is our soul really just a collection of souls – a truly “multi-culture” culture, one whose unity is really just based on geography and economic contrivance/ convenience?  Is our soul really and truly “secular”, such that it is a kind of anti-Christian soul?  Is our culture and civilization, and thus our soul, truly dying as some believe, and because of this the ground simply is not fertile and no Orthodox culture can truly “take” – at least until this dying is done and whatever culture that is to rise out of the ashes is actually born?

    3) Last, I would note some “optimisms” (to choose a word) in your thoughts.  Why would a truly autocephalous and organic NA church be “more” supportive of the ancient Patriarchal sees, it seems they would be less so, at least in the pragmatic matter of $receipts$, political support, etc.?  If America is a culture of multi-cultures (one that is organic and self-sustaining), why would the current status quo of multi-ethnic based jurisdictions not quite naturally be a help instead of a hindrance in evangelizing this land?

    I hope you take these thoughts in the constructive sense I intend them!  Again, I appreciate your distinctive approach here!

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      Did the Roman Empire, east and west, north and south, have a ‘soul’ that could “take Christianity” before 325? Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Lithuania, Ireland? Novgorod, Kiev? Armenia?
      I have never gotten this national soul stuff.
      Orthodoxy’s problem in North America is the same as in Western Europe, South America, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa: it’s up against stiff competition and it has never figured out how to meet it. So it retreats into its enclaves.

      • Michael Bauman says


      • George Michalopulos says

        Ouch! But not untrue.

        Folks, we need to reread our history. The vaunted Moravian Mission of Ss Cyril and Methodius was probably no more than a few hundred souls by the time of their death. It’s easy to conflate the baptism of the Bulgars, then Serbs, then Russians into one grand historical narrative (which we should) but we should also not be wary of looking at history as it played itself out. We are talking about a grand, historical Slavic narrative that took about three centuries before it became solid.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Tim, your comments on the English and the Scots were quite evocative to me of a certain national soul and we’re a  significant impetus in writing what I wrote.  I think you know more about it than you think.

      • “….Did the Roman Empire, east and west, north and south, have a ‘soul’ that could “take Christianity” before 325? Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Lithuania, Ireland? Novgorod, Kiev? Armenia?….it’s up against stiff competition and it has never figured out how to meet it. So it retreats into its enclaves.”
        What is the nature of this “competition”, is it different than what was to be found in the Roman Empire and the rest of your list 2000-1000 years ago, if it is different then how is it different?
        The one word answer is “secularism”.  None of those cultures which you list were secular, which is to say a culture that was once pagan, then became a real and true Christendom for at least a millennium, and then turned away from Christianity and embraced another religion/ism.
        On national soul:  what you are and how you think is not nearly as individualistic as modernity has you believing – that is indeed part of its myth.  You are shaped by your culture, in body, soul, and mind, to a very large degree.  This is something Michael rightly sees and he is right that until Orthodoxy in America finds a way to *be* American, it is always going to be an “enclave” on the one hand, or a secularized Orthodoxy – a kind of eastern rite Episcopalianism on the other. 

        • Michael Bauman says

          Christopher, it also involves we Americans becoming Orthodox.  Really searching deeply our own hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us in the context of the Church

          • I hear you Michael  – the ground is real as of course is the Holy Spirit – the “supra-rational” basis in each of us including those of us here in America and its cultural circumstances.
            I admit to being wary of saying much about “the activity of the Holy Spirit”, mostly because He has become a kind of placeholder for everyone and their preferred philosophy.  For example, those in the Orthodox Church who argue for homosexualism, women’s ordination, and the other anthropological reforms claim the Holy Spirit and His activity for themselves.  The more people talk about the Holy Spirit, the more it becomes evident that they don’t know Him.  Telling you what you already know,  there is a ‘hiddenness’ to the Holy Spirits Self revelation and work – which is of course part of your point.
            Still, I think we can be honest about all this.  It is not necessarily popular to frame the current ontology and state of health of Orthodoxy in America in realist terms.  We much prefer a church militant positive thinking attitude (“…they did it in Rome in the early centuries – so can we!”) , or a ethnic ghetto readout (“…we Americans are immature – only fill_in_the_blank traditional village-mother church ontology can save us now!”), or the compromising/secularized hybrid that the Fordham boys and much (most really – at least the english speaking) of Orthodox intelligentsia.  Too few are framing the state of the culture on one hand, and the state of the Church in modern/western/American culture on the other hand, in realist and accurate terms.
            I really like how you are forthrightly identifying the character of an American soul and thus of the American Orthodox Church in the terms you did (i.e. Freedom, Providence, and Union), even if I have questions about around the ‘if’ and ‘how’ of a future of such a soul.  Your angle here is a humanizing one – an angle strangely absent in most of the talk within the NA Orthodox scene around jurisdictions, canonicity, and governance.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Christopher, you have the point. Your expression of the point is better than I could have done. Thank you.

              As far as the Holy Spirit goes I know two things:
              1. He blows where He wishes thus is always a surprise
              2. He will not go against what the Father has revealed in and through His Son to be true. Thus that invalidates any claim that goes against the revealed teaching of the Church on such matters as homoerotic behavior, serial marriages, abortion, etc.

              The manner in which the truth is seen and expressed however can change quite a bit to fit the ears of those that hear.

              That being said, I did not think up this essay although the ideas have been rumbling around in my heart in one form or another since high school. It took “coincidence” to allow them to coalesce into a coherent whole. Once it did, it kinda poured out of me. Most of the time was spent in making the expression more grammatical and easier to read.

              The more I began to comprehend what I was writing, the more joyful I became in my own heart. I began to see hope where I had not before.

              The solution is human, not organizational. Organizations almost always end up serving group think vs real humanity. God became man, not an organization. Any subsequent organization’s primary purposed is to serve the human beings who have gathered together to worship Him. We are not here to serve the organization, if you understand.

              Monasticism has always understood this, indeed is an organic response to that need and a counter balance to the ossification of the Church. At the same time, those that really step out of the boat and serve directly in communities of high need also remind us of the same thing.

              Last year there was a scheduled event in our parish on “outreach and evangelization” The pitch was to bring in more people like yourself. It was so disgustingly “white, middle class, and Protestant” on the surface I seriously thought about attending it with my dear Afro-American friend and simply asking the presenter–“What about people like him?” In the end, I decided it wasn’t worth it, and I don’t think the event ever actually occurred. I hope not. Whatever it was it was not evangelization.

              Nevertheless, there is fertile ground here. Still have not heard from any of the Canadians out there on what historians and documents I need to read to improve my knowledge of and appreciation of Canadian history.

  13. Michael Bauman says

    Christopher, everything you mention is real and a block.  However trying to solve them in a linear fashion won’t work any more now than it has in the past.  All that the approach has accomplished is to entrench the attitudes and leave behind a residue of pessimism and despondency.  
    There is reason to be optimistic.  It is a supra-rational optimism but it is there.   For me it lies in the activity of the Holy Spirit and the realization that we in the Americas have a lot more fertile soil than I used to think.  
    True, it appears different than what the Church has experienced, but it is not.

  14. E M Cimmins says

    And Now Time for a Little Meat.
    I’ve been doing this Orthodox life for thirty years now. I’m 60. Glad to have had it, wouldn’t have had it any other way.
    But this American Orthodoxy isn’t the Church I fell in love with, the Church I love. I found it in Poland and Ukraine, in the small villages and in the humble, capable priests, in the magnificent cathedrals packed with people all bowing as one nation to Almighty God, in endless services where even the concept of time is forgotten.
    We in America live in a rapidly desacralizing nation. Not only do I not recognize the country of my childhood, I don’t even recognize the country of my 30s.
    I constantly see and hear this push, this eagerness for an American Orthodox Church. It’s usually justified by the noncanonical nature of what we have here now, followed by sweet hopes and frothy appeals. I’m tired of this diet of candy. These castles in the sky are unmoored from the reality of our situation.
    Forgive me, but is there any awareness out there that this might just be the way God wants this now?
    These American Orthodox, by that I mean ordinary Americans not from an ethnicity traditionally Orthodox, are still suckling milk. And milk is sweet. They think within a generation or two to imprint themselves upon the Orthodox faith to feel proud of themselves, to gain some sort of legitimacy, to make it their own. From what I’ve seen in the churches of mostly converts being led by mostly convert priests, is this: ignorance and immaturity following wayward paths by mostly well-meaning people wishing to appear and be regarded as Orthodox. Here’s a clue: national and cultural imprints upon Holy Orthodoxy takes centuries. What I see happening is not Americans applying themselves to Holy Orthodoxy, but Americans wanting to change Holy Orthodoxy to make themselves comfortable within it. God is right to reject this, and our predominantly ethnic (or otherwise traditional) bishops are wise in taking this slowly, or not at all.
    I worked boats as a younger man; fishing boats, tugboats, tenderboats, you name it. Once, while aboard a sinking seiner in Alaska after a storm, we called frantically for assistance and was rescued by a little tender in our area. We had the same experience of a religious nature while amongst an all-convert parish, led by a man who in his heart drifted far from the Ancient Faith, and back into his evangelical/pentecostalist/materialist roots, but he kept it to himself. It ended badly. The parish and the man devolved into imperiousness, sanctimoniousness, and WASPish blindness. This isn’t Orthodoxy.
    Is it truly prudent to think such people, people in this early generation in American Orthodoxy, with plainly enormous growing pains ahead of them, are in fact wise enough to know what is best for themselves? I think not. It is clear at least, continent-wide canonicity will not cure what ails them.
    The process of becoming Orthodox requires us not just to challenge our vices and sins, but to challenge every one of our preconceived notions and prior belief systems root and branch, lest they trip us up. One of these has to be American exceptionalism. Another has to be an awareness of how truly lacking in spiritual maturity we are. This clamor for a quick canonicity is evidence of this. A third challenge is to see how deeply Protestantism still affects each one of us. I have come around to believe it can take a lifetime to undo this damage, and another lifetime to grow into the fullness of the Faith.
    A fourth would be whether we would choose to be Orthodox or be American when values collide. It is naive to think they can truly be rectified. One is of the world, and one is not.
    If I’ve learned anything about my culture, it’s that rights of exclusivity fall before rights of inclusivity every time. We’ll be shut down when we don’t bow before gay/trans marriage. It’s ‘hate’, you see. And already we have voices within the Church here for abortion and multiple marriage by clergy. Why would a good God allow a great ark to be built, knowing it will be dashed upon the rocks of our tempestuous and militant society?
    And look at what’s now happening in Europe. Think the Phanar isn’t coming for dominion here, after their misbehaviors there?
    In the end, we swam over and were received as refugees into the ethnic parish in our area after the convert parish broke down. We were warmly received, and still are. I thank a merciful God that there are so many stout little independent ethnic parishes out there, crewed by tough ethnic men and women, to rescue the naive Americans when they venture headstrong into unknown waters. The more rescue boats out there in a storm the better, I say.
    E M Cimmins

    • “The process of becoming Orthodox requires us not just to challenge our vices and sins, but to challenge every one of our preconceived notions and prior belief systems root and branch, lest they trip us up. One of these has to be American exceptionalism. Another has to be an awareness of how truly lacking in spiritual maturity we are. This clamor for a quick canonicity is evidence of this. A third challenge is to see how deeply Protestantism still affects each one of us. I have come around to believe it can take a lifetime to undo this damage, and another lifetime to grow into the fullness of the Faith.”
      All very true Mr. Cimmins.  I have experienced just this type parish that is mostly convert, led by a convert priest – all of whom are in reality only half converted (at best), poorly catechized, and have in the end simply laid an Orthodox formalism and shallow praxis on top of a Protestant and/or secularized heart.  Such a situation is an obvious failure, but we know these communities fail.
      I think your missing the reality of the ethnic parish/mindset in that this too is a failure.  Yes, they can serve a conservatory function – their natural conservatism preserving something too easily lost in the storm around them. Yet, these communities fail as well.  As all the “museum” parishes (of all jurisdictions) on the east coast and in the midwest witness, they too fail to pass on the faith at times.  Also, those who push for a secularization of Orthodoxy as often as not come from an a very ethnic background – the Fordham program for example is led by men whose ancestors come from just such the villages you describe.
      As Fr. Schmemann described years ago, the ethnic path is as much a failure as the secularized one.  You might have this excellent little essay in your literature stand at your church:

      • I would be in favor of mass baptisms in America, just as they occur among African youth, just as they occurred in Russia. Can someone again please relay the story of the Russian monarch choosing Orthodoxy rather than Islam because Orthodoxy permitted alcohol? We could accuse him of being poorly catechised too; but look at the fruit of his baptism! Similarly, we should expect imperfection as American converts to Orthodoxy practice Orthodoxy, and as Orthodox immigrants practice Orthodoxy while integrating their new American identities. What a gift to have something to strive for!

        • As an Orthodox Christian, I never heard that about St Vladimir and if I did, I would never repeat it. 
          Regarding mass baptisms, I believe that they are performed out of necessity due to the small number of priests for a given population. I don’t see that there is anything to be in favor of or not. Whether one is baptized by himself or along with 100 others is no different. The sacrament is the same.

        • That story is from the Chronicle of Nestor, if I am correct. See here:

        • Also, this: “Although the ambassadors of Islam had been planning their mission the longest, it turned out that they didn’t stand a chance converting Vladimir. No matter how well chosen their words were, the ruler of the Kievan Rus didn’t like the idea of circumcision and giving up pork and alcohol. His scouts abroad confirmed what the prince already thought, as they reported that during their visits to Muslim territories they noticed that people seemed to have very little fun in their lives. So Vladimir dropped Islam as an option with the legendary words: “Drinking is a joy to the Russians, we can not do without it.” Truth be told that the Kievan Rus were nothing like the stereotype Russian drunkards we know today. Vodka, or any distilled drink, wasn’t around yet and the normal people could only get a little buzz from kvas, a beverage with an alcohol percentage below 5. Vladimir and his noblemen on the other hand used to drink medovukha, a honey drink with an alcohol percentage between 5 and 25. It’s likely that the prince of Kiev himself didn’t want to give up this “nectar of the gods” for the sympathy of one Allah.”
          Not as bad as it comes across, I suppose. The quote is from here:

          • George Michalopulos says

            Indeed.  The baptism of Kievan Rus’ took place a good half a millennium before the invention of distillation.  Whatever alcoholic beverages could be manufactured were solely by fermentation and the alcohol content is notoriously weak for such drinks.
            The traditional drinks for the Norsemen were things like mead and kvas.  I’ve had kvas and it’s barely 3% alcohol.   Mead starts at about 3.5%.  I imagine since mead comes from honey whereas kvas comes from bread, that that explains the difference, miniscule as it is.

            • “The traditional drinks for the Norsemen were things like mead and kvas.  I’ve had kvas and it’s barely 3% alcohol.   Mead starts at about 3.5%…”
              These would qualify as a “non-intoxicating beverage” in Oklahoma then… 😉  I understand this distinction went the way of the dodo in 2018 – I look forward to a good ale when the next time I visit 🙂

              • George Michalopulos says

                Call me! I’d love to hoist one or two with you. We have a delightful Irish pub here as well as a very trad English pub. I like to hang my hat at both places.

    • Amen.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      I wonder how those second and third century Christians ever made it, without centuries of Orthodoxy behind them. Or the first ones!
      I don’t expect to live for a single century, or even close to it. As for ‘maturity’, well…
      Believe me, about the only change this convert even seeks is a sign on the church that says St. [take your pick] Orthodox Church. I.e., not qualified by a foreign name. That’s it. Other than that, I’m reasonably humble. Too old to be anything else…it has taken time to learn!
      But what a terrible prospect for an Orthodox church in the West: immature converts!

      • Michael Bauman says

        Tim, great comment. Of course, the step you suggest is almost impossible for some. It takes a real change of heart to be able to change the sign. Of course, I still get the occasional person who when I say I am Orthodox thinks I am Jewish. Thus, when the sign at my own parish was changed many years ago from Antiochian Orthodox Church it became Orthodox Christian Church and, ultimately, Orthodox Christian Cathedral. Even so, some folks still ask, Oh, are you Greek?

        The Greeks will always be with us and that is a good thing. The martyrs of the Middle East that sustain and inform the faith of the people there from which my parish sprang will also always be with us as the incredible testimony of endurance and victory through the Cross that the Russian and other Slavic communities have strengthens all of us.

        We, here, have few red martyrs, not even a handful. Yet the hatred the world shows Christians is as our Lord told us recorded in John 15. We bear the Cross regardless.

    • Dear E M Cimmins,
      Thank you for this post. I am of the same mind.

  15. Antiochene Son says

    I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: The droll Orthodox meme of “America’s best kept secret” will be levied against us at the Dread Judgment. 

    Paganism is exploding in recent years. Our national Christian soul (such as it is) is so dead from the Prot/RC paradigm that demonic worship is awakening the primal human need to worship something.

    There are people going to hell because we Orthodox are not there to offer them what their souls desire.

    • Son,
      This is so true. As an Orthodox convert with a strong interest in popular culture (more precisely subcultures) I see the recrudescence of occult and specifically satanic symbolism on all fronts. Avant-garde performance art and music so frequently assume liturgical forms that it cannot be mere coincidence. But as most participants are liturgically ignorant, unchurched, they  can’t even describe what they are seeing in appropriate terms: ritual, worship, exaltation, catharsis and bonding. What goes on in performance spaces and mass gatherings like Burning Man is a more or less inchoate expression of basic needs of humans to stand in the presence of mystery.  There are many practitioners of art who are conscious of the liturgical worship they are presenting. Their is even a band (not sure which subgenre) called Liturgy. 
      When Metr. Jonah was just Fr. Jonah he used to say that all we have to do is be Orthodox in public without apology and we will exert more attraction among people because Orthodoxy is beautiful. When I see Greek etc. clergy dress like Protestants I know they are intimidated by public exposure and want to tone down their traditionalism. Whatever — we have to keep engaging popular culture and subcultures without being ashamed of who we are as Christians. I don’t see any point in ‘meeting them halfway’ when that means clergy assuming the persona of heterodox clerics. 

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        I am a member of a GOA parish with a convert priest (from Hinduism no less). There is no doubt he is Orthodox!
        And I’ve never seen him without tunic (rasa?) and cross, and he never goes anywhere without Orthodox clerical garb.
        Moreover, he has always for years now maintained a full schedule of services during the week, liturgies, orthros, vespers; one or another nearly every day. And this is a one-priest parish, though once in awhile he has some assistance from an OCA priest part-time.
        I’d say that the parish is around 1/3 convert; guesstimate.

        • That’s awesome to hear. GOARCH is not all bad, they are just the worst among jurisdictions in America when it comes to secularism. That’s why I do my best to not hate on the GOA bc every parish I have been to is amazing (I’m guessing the issue is geographical?) 

        • Monk James Silver says

          Good, and God bless that faithful priest!
          The wide-sleeved black outer garment worn by monastics and clergy is called a rason in Greek, English  plural ‘rasons’.   In Russian this robe is called a ryasa, which we occasionally hear in America, but I prefer to keep the original terms in Greek if we’re not going to translate them, rather than use an intermediate language on a word’s way into English.  Think of ‘Theotokos’ or even ‘thermometer’. 
          I also try to avoid words borrowed from other religions, such as ‘cassock’, which probably ought to be filed with ‘chasuble, alb, stole, chalice, and paten’.  In comparison to our own Orthodox terminology, all these terms  mean somewhat analogous things in their own proper context, but they’re just not our words.

          The narrow-sleeved robe worn under the rason is called an endorason or anteri in Greek;  ‘inner rason’ works well here to distinguish it from the wide-sleeved robe which is sometimes called an exorason (‘outer rason’) instead of just a ‘rason’.
          I hope this helps a little.

  16. Joseph Lipper says

    It takes the blood of martyrdom to really create an identity for a national church.  We have on American soil the martyrdom of St. Juvenaly, but alas he is considered Russian and part of the Russian colony.  The martyrdom of St. Peter is also an excellent gift to North America, but alas he is still viewed by most as something of a foreigner, as most Americans don’t identify with Aleuts.  
    Just as martyrdom is a gift from God, so too is a sanctified national identity.  So, when I hear people complain about encroaching paganism, the secular agenda, the gay agenda, abortions, etc., I want to say to people:  be strong, stand firm, be Orthodox, and rejoice!   Rejoice, because nothing can separate us from the love of God in the Lord Christ Jesus, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come.”  Perhaps the day will come again that God will bless this land with new martyrs.

  17. Michael, this is beautiful, especially your personal story at the end.  Thank you so much for writing and sharing this.  
    My father’s father’s Dutch family settled the lake where I live in the 1600s.  Similarly, my mother’s mother’s family have been here since they began assigning place names:  I take a walk or a drive and the city roads and country hills bear my family’s name.   I grew up Revolutionary War re-enacting.  My best childhood friend was a Seneca Indian (Mott).  I worked for the NPS, extensively traveled my beloved country, explored its remotest wilderness, and, like so many others, I discovered God in the American landscape itself. 
    John Muir and Thomas Cole preserved it in America — the revelation of the sublime — but it’s not limited to America.  In Anna Karenina, Konstantin found God in fatherhood, in the community of the peasants.  There is something about peasant life, about the simple life, about quietude, that allows us to encounter the Truth.
    Anyone who thinks that the simple life no longer exists in America spends too much time on his phone.
    I admit that I thought of this the other day:  whom would I better trust — whom would I call in case I had an evening emergency at my house?  My beloved Christian friends from Church, or the Marine-veterans-turned-farmers that I rode the school bus with, who love their grandmas so much that they will always do what is right by me because our grandmas are best friends?  
    It’s a perennial question we American peasants have when city folks move to the country.  But frankly, I don’t think integration is a problem, because we American peasants come from immigrant families, too.  So when I go the ROCOR, yes, I do have to hide my cowboy boots, but I do so gladly.  Integration on my part encourages integration the other way around.
    All those Marine farmers have asked about the Church.  Everybody asks.  Most Americans were raised right:  outdoors, with Mamas who told us to listen to our conscience.  This is good preparation to receive the Good News.  And Orthodoxy is a treasure that I wish I could abundantly share.
    But how to make it more accessible to Americans?  Great question.  One I’ll have to think more on.  I know personally, when I say my evening prayers I always pray for Russia first — but then I say those parts again, for America.  And this second suggestion might sound a bit iconoclastic (I certainly do not mean it to be!), but I think of Christianity as being a very urban religion, at least in the early days… and you know, I just wonder… did the desert fathers ever celebrate Liturgy outside?  Baptisms in creeks, Theophany in the lake, that kind of thing… those are popular features of American Evangelism, and beautiful traditions of Orthodoxy, too.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Michelle, thank you for your kindness. The features of the American character that I named are found everywhere to a certain degree. However, they have a unique place and quality here. The beauty of it is that these traits are already fully part of the Church, indeed as I tried to point out they exist because of our Lord’s incarnation so, in a sense, they already flow from the Church.

      Forming community of the type you mention is quite difficult these days. Our culture actively discourages genuine community in many ways. Urban settings can give the impression of being a community. However, genuine community is only built on the foundation of communion.

      What the Church has, IMO, failed to realize is that the ethnic situation is immaterial.

      I marvel at the fact that there are families in my parish (100 years old) that trace their Christian ancestry back to the time of the Apostles as they first began spreading out from Jerusalem. But that is the point, they spread. They found good soil and planted.

      All I am saying is that there is good soil here too, despite the appearances to the contrary. Before going through the process that led to my writing my essay, I did not believe that.

      Now I do. I may not be correct in the particulars at all, I am not trying to downplay the existential difficulty of acting in a free, providential and unifying way, but so what?

      Writing the essay has uncovered a providential freedom and a more open heart to other Orthodox than I had before.

      Even though I call the essay and open letter to bishops, frankly they are not the ones who need the message the most.

      For all of the complaints and impossibilities and difficulties—each of them existentially real, there is a deep and inexhaustible well of hope, mercy and joy just waiting to be tapped. The real living water.

      My essay is academic, without action suggestions, overly optimistic, impossible, won’t happen, etc., etc., etc. And all I can say in the immortal words of Rhett Butler: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

      Or, to quote the playwright/poet, Christopher Fry: “What is deep, as love is deep, I’ll have deeply. What is good, as love is good, I’ll have well.”

  18. I just took a lunchtime walk and had a missionizing idea.
    This morning, I opened the local paper and saw that a 32-year old man died from an opioid overdose on his birthday.  This is the 3rd young man this month (and there are very few young people around here, very few people in general).  
    Seemed to me to be a good idea to attend the funeral, or at the very least, to pray for him and to send a card.  Seems to me a good idea to start some sort of initiative to send a condolence card to every local family of someone lost to an opioid overdose, signed by everyone at the church.  Doesn’t need to be preachy, just sincere.

  19. Dear Michael,I studied your post with great interest.
    It is evident you want the-best-there-is for the U.S. of A.: Christ and his Church.I congratulate you for the obvious time you have taken to present this promising text.

    Having said that, I think you may want a more substantial comment:
    What you write is indeed the ideal target. My comments have to do with some parameters which must be taken into account in their realistic value:

    I’ll devote this first post on Ethnicity:
    We can look at Ethnicity as a special “large” case of the generic concept of collections/groups of people.The whole spectrum of groups of people may have a size of billions or smaller, indeed much smaller numbers.Start with huge China or India and try to find always a smaller ethnicity, or formally a group of people.You may end up with, maybe a tiny remote island in the middle of the ocean with (almost) a single family.Indeed, the groups of people reach a maximum size called ethnicity (from Ethnos=Nation), and go down to smaller sizes with other names, e.g state or province, city, town, village, settlement, friends, and ultimately family. The smaller the size, the greater the bond. Maybe I should have started with the ultimate largest group, the whole Human race on this planet because Christ loved the whole human race and visited us with a human form.

    In the family paradigm Christ has said:He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat.10:37)

    The implication here is thatto get assistance from Christ we must keep his advice.If we love our son more than Christ, or if we love our country more than Christ, we are not worthy of his help.It sounds paradoxical but it is true:If the citizens of a country want the best for their country, then they MUST NOT LOVE THEIR COUNTRY MORE THEN THEY LOVE CHRIST!

    An applied example of this is the Greek war of liberation from the Ottomans(after 400 years of slavery).General-in-chief Theodoros Kolokotronis said: “we shall fight for the Faith first,and then for the country.”

    And now a few words about the Greeks in America.

    My personal impression from talks with random Greek immigrants to America, Canada, Australia, etc, has not found the slightest evidence that Greeks emigrated there to preach the Gospel. They went there because the were very poor.Period.
    What I write is no official proof, but by the Statistical Science, it is a reasonable random sample.
    Mind you, SOME of these Greeks, AFTER finding a job and settling down, they developed real interest in the Church!

    But, make no mistake!. Other Greeks do go abroad to teach the Gospel, but that is almost exclusively to Central African countries, and sometimes to the Far East.
    Now, GOA leaders and Fanari know the situation in America, and that is why they put a lot of emphasis on ethnicity.They kind of win the majority of Greeks.
    GOA Bishops however, in their ordinations, have promised priority to Christ, not Ethnicity. The devout Orthodox flock must remind them.

    (to be continued)

  20. Greetings, Michael,
    Your essay seemed to me to convey a “tone” and “savor” of a gestating Orthodox America. That very name was the masthead of a seminal publication initiated by Fr Seraphim Rose, and brought into being by Fr Alexey Young.
    How interesting to me are your thoughts, as a year ago, I completed my three year pilgrimage to over thirty of the nearly one-hundred Orthodox Christian Monasteries of North America. Ironically, with only a couple of exceptions, these monasteries are, each in their own way, uniquely American*, and are organically connected with their neighbors and surrounding villages and hamlets. They each are embedded in their immediate surroundings, bearing witness to the Orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    * Even the ones which are not “uniquely American” and which emphasize their rich origins from Russia, Greece or wherever, are still embedded in their surroundings, and are bearing witness to the universal nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Lord said, “Wisdom is proven right by all her children.”
    It has been my belief for some years now that Orthodox “unity” in America will occur in large measure due to our monastic presence. Consider that in the OCA, you have a bishop who was tonsured a monk at a Greek Orthodox monastery which is the only GOA monastery to use English in its divine services. Or this: a convert priest, whose wife has recently died, travels across Russia on pilgrimage. He returns to America and is tasked by his bishop – Serbian Archdiocese – to found a monastery in northwest Missouri, modest driving distance from several large cities. English language, convert superior, missionary presence…  I could go on, but such gentle examples exist all across the continent, and you get the idea. 
    It has often been said that the health of the Church in any particular area can be discerned from the health of its monasteries. This bodes well for us and for our various jurisdictions, both separately, and in union with one another.
    May it be blessed.
    Ralph Sidway
    North American Thebaid

    • George Michalopulos says

      I must agree with you Ralph. In my younger days I would have given short shrift to the idea that monasticism is the way to baptize America but now no longer do I believe that.

      If I may riff a little here: one of the silver linings to the whole inertness of mainstream American Christianity in general (as evidenced by the apostasy of leaders like Joshua Harris) is that for the first time in long time, Orthodox parishes in America no longer have to “compete” in the entertainment industry that is now mainstream Christianity. Not that we ever could but we tried. Now that it is obvious that Joel Osteen is the face of modern American Christianity (when it used to be Bishop Fulton J Sheen and Billy Graham), it’s like the mask is finally off. Rod Dreher calls this “Therapeutic Moral Deism” (MSD) and it’s barely even that. \

      Regardless, MSD is inert. It can’t stand up to the spirit of the age. It’s gotten so bad that a professional soccer game in Salt Lake City (of all places!), a couple was asked to leave the stadium because they had the Colonial (“Betsy Ross”) flag which they waived proudly. If you can’t defend your religion (and Americans don’t) and you can’t defend your history, then basically it’s over for you as a country.

      Think of it: why would anybody want to send their sons to die in the deserts of Araby for “muh democracy” when we’ve thrown every vestige of Americana out the window here and worse, humiliate those who still bitterly cling to their “God and guns”?

      Anyway, these monastic communities may be what Dreher is talking about when he talks about the “Benedict Option”.

      • “Anyway, these monastic communities may be what Dreher is talking about when he talks about the “Benedict Option”.”
        Yes and no – excellent question however.  Yes, in the sense that monasticism is a proper and legitimate “response” (not such a good word) or more accurately ‘ontology’ for a Christian in modernity – a culture that is anti-Christian and dying.  No, in that monasticism is not the only way to be (ontology) Christian in modern (or any other kind) anti-Christian culture.  Most of us will never be monastic’s, so most of us have to find a way to be Christian in a family and community context.  Dreher rightly focus on this truth the most.
        So much could be said about this.  For example, one of the way’s to fail to be Christian in modernity is MTD (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism), and Dreher’s book is an excellent primer on this and deserves to be read by everyone – and not merely wrongly criticized for being a prescription for a “retreat” into an Amish style ghetto.  Another way to fail is to be Moralistic Therapeutic Theists, in that secular/progressive style of the Fordham boys and much of Orthodox intellectual and parish life.
        Dreher, despite his limitations, is doing what so few in Orthodoxy are doing – framing the secular context into which all these other questions – monasticism, evangelization, governance, etc.  – naturally fall.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Totally agreed. Monasticism is one way to be “authentically Christian” but outside of heterosexual matrimony, it is the only other viable option.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Ralph, thank you for sharing your experience. It is good to hear of the positive occurring in the Orthodox Church and there is much more than we typically know. The theatrical events of the GOA seem to suck all of the oxygen out of the room distracting us in the process.

      My own parish has a school that will eventually be a K-12. I think it is up to 5th or 6th grade now. Plus a couple of women from the Orthodox Community here founded the Treehouse some years ago.

      Thank you for reminding me about Holy Archangel Michael and all Angels Skete in Weatherby, MO. Given the name alone, I should go there. I really need to go there for a retreat. It is only about a 3.5 hour drive from me. It should be known that Fr. Alexii, before becoming a monk, founded a true inner city Orthodox community in the middle of Kansas City. Forgive me but I do not remember his monastic name.

      On your journey did you touch base with the Serbian monastery in Indianapolis and Mother Katherine? She is a long time friend of mind and quite a lady. Her monastic presence is deep and peaceful.

      Indeed the clergy brotherhood of Indianapolis is a really good example of how we should work together as fellow Orthodox. Indianapolis has at least one parish from almost every jurisdiction in the US. In the greater Indy area there are two Greek parishes, two Antiochian parishes, two Patriarchal Bulgarian parishes, a Serbian parish, an OCA parish and a couple of more I am likely forgetting. The clergy brotherhood meets regularly, the serve in each others altars and have programs that are coordinated between and amongst the various parishes.

  21. Joe Perdicle says

    James Paradise, from Sparta, Greece, advised jefferson and Madison in the writting of the Constitution. The first governor of Russian Alaska was a Greek named George Delaros.

  22. This just in from Orthochristian:
    Once again Zelensky shows himself to be the capable leader Ukraine has been needing for so long. God Bless him!

    • George Michalopulos says

      God bless him!

      • The pain could be heard in their voices, when a Ukrainian grandmother presented Zelensky with the traditional Slavic bread and salt, saying:
        “We are happy to welcome you to our land of Rivne. We baked this bread with our own hands. We beg you to protect our Church and to support us, because we have no one else to turn to for protection. We were thrown out of our church. We serve on the streets.”
        Zelensky took the bread with his own hands and asked the people not to cry, and to share their contacts, information, and stories.
        “I ask you to please not cry. You just write to us your problems, and we’ll sort them out,” the Union of Orthodox Journalists quoted him as saying.
        In this situation, Zelensky very clearly looked the suffering people of Rivne in the eyes and made a promise to work out their issues.”

  23. Pope ‘on path to allowing worship of spirits’

    Tom Kington, Rome
    September 7 2019, 12:01am, The Times

    Pope Francis is perceived by many to be too liberal

    The Pope is paving the way for Vatican approval of spirit-worship in a desperate attempt to tackle a shortage of priests in the Amazon, critics have claimed.
    A synod planned by Pope Francis for next month has provoked the fiercest clash yet between the pontiff and his conservative critics.
    The council is due to discuss the dearth of clergy in the Amazon as well as the fires affecting the region.
    However, Walter Brandmüller, a German cardinal, has claimed that a document prepared ahead of the synod is “heretical” because of its respect for indigenous faiths and their veneration of nature.
    “In the context of the call for harmony with nature, there is even talk about the dialogue with the spirits,” he complained in a scathing…


  24. Michael Bauman says

    Ioannis, if true, the Pope’s action is the opposite of what I see and the reverse of what the Alaskan Missionary saints did. The direction that the article says the Pope is considering embeds sin in the people. What is necessary is to see the good, acknowledge it and show the way in which the good can be completed and fulfilled in the Church through a sacramental life in Christ. That would also give a reason for more folks to become priests.

  25. I have been chewing on this idea since I read the above report.  Still having trouble even putting it into words.   Here goes. 
    The current organization of the Orthodox Church seems to me to be based on what I call an Emperor form of government.  It seems that sometime in history bishops, who were first called overseers,  became emperors of their dioceses.  And among other things started dressing as such. And acting.  
    Which from my point of view has corrupted the role of bishop, making him basically untouchable.  
    Has anyone explored another form of church government that might be more compatible to the original form than the current one?  What form of church government are we looking for in an American Orthodox Church?
    To the best of my knowledge Jesus didn’t tread this earth in royal robes,  expecting to be bowed down to and called His Holiness.  The doxology states that Jesus alone is holy.  Why do we preempt his holiness and think it is now ours?  We humans certainly don’t act like him.  Why do we apply the word holy to people, to synods?  I have never thought that ordination makes one holy automatically. Holiness is a work in progress for all of us.    Synods are composed of sinful people.  What makes a synod holy?  
    Actually we Americans have no idea what it means to live under a Lord.  Perhaps one might think of a boss as a lord at work some days.  When we say Jesus is Lord,  or Lord have mercy, do we have any concept of what we are saying?    Or do we just go off and do our own thing afterward?
    Words have meaning and sometimes we get so used to them we forget what they mean.  

    • Michael Bauman says

      Lina, you are right we really do not have a good idea of what it means to be under a Lord.  What ideas we have are probably wrong.  It seems to me the closest approximation is that of slave or indentured servant.  A lord has the authority to demand from us what ever he wants.  A just Lord will not do that capriciously, a loving Lord is much more like the head of an hierarchial family.  Democracy has no clue.
      As to form of government I strongly lean, as suggested in my essay, toward a confederation.  Although the Biblical confedertion was tribal in origin, ours need not be.  
      A Bishop has genuine authority to order and set the rules but they need not be monarchs although St. Ignatius of Antioch clearly thought they should be.  
      A confedertion allows all bishops to be true equals with each other.  
      To make such an arrangement work we need many more of them, they need to come from and be organically attached to a parish community or local monastary.  Married men who’s children are grown and who’s wife is 100% OK as well as widowers and true monastics (at least 15 years of genuine monastic formation prior to being consecrated a Bishop).  If a Bishop is foreign to a specific diocese, he needs to have been in the diocese as a missionary or other laborer for the flocks. No one appointed without a true Axios from the diocese.
      Most of all the man should be as St. Paul outlines in the Epistle of Timothy.  Mostly he must love God above all else, know the Holy Scriptures with his heart as well as his mind.  
      To find men, we must become such men even if we happen to have insurmountable cannonical  impediments being the husband of two wives–having remarried when my late wife died.
      Makes me think harder about Monk James strong suggestion to learn Biblical Greek.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      ” And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”  Luke 18
      One answer to “Holy” this man or that (at least until sainthood)!

  26. George Michalopulos says

    Michael, this is rather late, but one of the true gems of your essay was what you said about Jefferson and how he understood “happiness” to be pursued via virtue. I completely agree. In our modern debased understanding, “happiness” means something entirely superficial and transient.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      I take Michael’s point, but I don’t think our ordinary daily understanding of the word ‘happiness’ is ‘debased’. And while such happiness may be transient (what in this world is not?), I don’t think it is ‘entirely superficial’. I can of course only speak from my own experience.
      It might have been helpful if Jefferson had used the word ‘virtue’!

  27. Michael Bauman says

    Tim, the people who signed the Declaration knew. They were quite knowledgeable about that kind of thing. The context in which the words were written made it quite clear to them. Some of Jefferson’s early drafts used the phrase “life, liberty and property”. I have read that, later in life, he expressed regret that he did not go with property after all.

    I wonder….

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      His choice of words has often been commented upon. ‘Life, liberty, and property’ would indeed have been the ‘standard’ proposition at the time. 

  28. Jonas Fadina says

    Good luck finding a Jewish Service in English. Learn something.