Nobody Expects the Protestant Reformation

This was written by Rod Dreher who is a contributer to this blog. I especially appreciate the reference to Barbara Tuchman, who first developed her thesis on the arrogance of elites with her seminal book The Guns of August. It was a brilliant retelling of the events that led to the outbreak of the First World War. I’m not sure that the rot described by her has totally consumed the upper echelons of the OCA presently, but they are definitely on their way.

From: Real Clear Religion, April 7, 2011

Why didn’t the Renaissance popes see what their tolerance for corruption, in themselves and within clerical ranks, threatened to do to the Church — both to believers, and to the institution? The late historian Barbara Tuchman analyzed their self-destructive foolishness this way:

Their three outstanding attitudes — obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status — are persistent aspects of folly. While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship.

In other words, folly of this sort is part of human nature, and it will always afflict governing elites. Wise leaders will be aware of this weakness, and will not only remain vigilant against it, but also act to remedy manifestations of it before they can metastasize into threats against the very viability of the institution.

In Philadelphia, where I live, Catholics are reeling from a recent grand jury report revealing that the archdiocese left in place a shocking number of priests it believed had been credibly accused of abuse — this, even though church officials had previously pledged to have cleaned house. Upon hearing this news, a New York Catholic priest said to me the idea that any diocese would still behave so recklessly after events of the past decade beggars belief. Alas, it probably would have surprised Tuchman not one bit.

In my own church, the Orthodox Church in America, the bishops of the Holy Synod are advancing a vicious, highly politicized dispute with the primate, Metropolitan Jonah. The apparent reason has to do with administrative concerns, but many believe there are deeper ideological issues in play. Whatever the case, having suffered through two successive corrupt Metropolitans who, in Jonah’s words, “raped the church,” the spectacle of the OCA’s governing class (bishops and lay leaders) behaving with indifference to the church’s real interests is sparking deadly despair among many of the faithful.

On the pro-Jonah website (which is run by friends of mine), one reader wrote to say that he was finally fed up, and had left the OCA. Another wrote to report that he has decided to shelve thoughts of seminary, saying it would be too risky to put the future of his family in the hands of such an unstable church.

Similarly, among Catholics, Father Richard Davis, a former vocations director for the Franciscan order, told religion columnist Terry Mattingly that the sex scandals in his church have young adults who are considering vowed religious life wondering if they’ll be safe from sexual harassment if they visit a monastery. In my own case, realizing that solely because of institutional corruption, I would not want my sons to become priests in my own church was a catalyst for my own departure from Roman Catholicism.

Jesus himself said that the tares grow among the wheat, meaning that there is no such thing as a church of the righteous. This is a counsel against despairing of sin in the church, but too often it is taken as an excuse for complacency on the part of those charged with leadership. Besides, they may correctly judge that the sins of men, even priests and bishops, do not obviate the theological truths the Church proclaims.

What they miss, though, is that folly and corruption in the clergy make it difficult for ordinary people to take those truths seriously. In the past, religious leaders could have depended on certain factors to keep the sheep within the fold regardless of their own clerical follies. Much scandal remained safely hidden, and even when it stumbled into the public square, theological conviction and social pressure kept most believers within the fold.

Nowadays, though, changing mores and ubiquitous online media make it hard to suppress scandalous news. And as recent studies by Pew and by a team co-led by Harvard’s Robert Putnam have documented, nearly one-half of all contemporary Americans have changed religions. Plus, as Putnam and his Notre Dame colleague David Campbell reveal, young adults are leaving organized religion in unprecedented numbers. It’s clear that in the near future, the only Americans who will be members of churches are those who have actively chosen to be.

If this does not wake up bishops and other senior church leaders, and call them to repentance and responsible leadership, nothing will. When a culture of corruption comes to dominate churches, which depend heavily on moral authority to fulfill their mission, these institutions are in danger of failure. Bishops and other leaders who remain oblivious or indifferent to the effect their actions have on the faithful, who stupidly assume that they are at the center of the church’s real business, and who think that they can afford to reform at a leisurely pace because God won’t let their church die are dangerously deluded.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est — the Church is always in need of reform, said the early Protestants. Though one can dispute the radical theological lengths to which they took reform, it is impossible to argue that the ecclesial decadence against which they reacted was urgent and real. As the march of folly through history shows, established leaders often don’t recognize the seriousness of the crisis until it’s too late.


  1. George Michalopulos says

    As a post-script, we should remember that the Borgias didn’t just “sieze” the papacy for themselves. They were elected into this office by cardinals who had imbued deeply the spirit of the age.

  2. Rod Dreher says

    Thanks for posting this George. Just so that people don’t misread me about the OCA situation, I am *not* saying that the situation in the OCA is as bad as it was, and in is, in the Catholic Church, or the situation in the Catholic Church is remotely as bad as it was under the Borgias. What I’m saying is that there is among the governing elites a sense of unreality about the real challenges facing the institution, and, of course, themselves, such that they pursue foolish policies, heedless of what truly threatens them and the institution they are pledged to lead. I believe, by the way, this is also true of the US governing elite, as it was true of the private-sector elites governing the US financial system. As Tuchman points out, this is a recurring problem in governance.

    My complaint about the OCA is not that Met. Jonah is without fault, but that the Synod, egged on by Stokoe and others on the MC, for reasons that are not clear to me, are grossly exaggerating his challenges to justify removing a man who alone among his peers, in my estimation, has the charism to revive this dying church of ours. What I can’t figure out is where the evidence is to justify such an extreme act. Absent that evidence, I judge the Synod’s actions to be folly of a particularly destructive sort. I am open to being persuaded otherwise.

  3. Chris Plourde says

    …the bishops of the Holy Synod are advancing a vicious, highly politicized dispute with the primate, Metropolitan Jonah.

    The viciousness and politicization is not being advanced by the Bishops, is it? It’s being driven by lay bloggers Mark Stokoe, an anonymous pair at OCATruth that Rod knows, George and others.

    There’s no doubt that OCANews weighed in first and foremost, and then came OCATruth dedicated to “fighting fire with fire”, and then the fires spread to here, there and everywhere.

    But as Deacon Brian noted on another thread, both the Bishops and Metropolitan themselves have been both restrained and more largely in agreement with each other than the lay blogs are willing to acknowledge.

    Mark Stokoe’s leaked e-mail claims knowledge of the positions of four Bishops, but it has not been demonstrated that it was sent to them or sent with any of their approval. The assumption by those who claim Stokoe has no shred of integrity is that he’s telling the truth, which seems a contradiction.

    OCATruth asserts that it is just a couple of guys not connected with anyone.

    You, George, treated us to a post of “What I didn’t hear” from one Bishop who returned your call, asserting you’d promised not to reveal the conversation, but then in a later comment you revealed what you did hear, so either you either misled the Bishop or us.

    So unless Rod knows that OCATruth is, in fact, a sock puppet, and unless that you know that you’re in fact speaking for a Bishop, and unless we assume Stokoe is speaking for the Bishops he listed (and I’ve seen scant love for him in the Hierarchy, at best grudging acceptance) then how is it that the Bishops are driving this?

    Which is not to say that our Bishops aren’t engaged in folly, but the assertion that they’re advancing a vicious and politicized dispute seems, well, folly.

    Is there any evidence at all to back up this assertion? Out here all we see is speculation and rumor, and all of it generated by laymen.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Chris, thank you for your fair assessment. I too have long remained skeptical about the vociferousness and the depth of the anti-+Jonah feelings of the OCA and the Holy Synod (for that matter). I have stated so. Also, the criticisms of HB in certain areas has likewise been admitted by OCAT and myself.

      Your balanced assessment, as well as ours (OCAT/Monomakhos) has never issued from the anti-+Jonah partisans, has it?

      As to the four bishops, I can only speak about the one who spoke to me and I promised not to divulge his words or identity. You must believe me however that the picture of good will which you paint of the Holy Synod is not universally shared. It saddens me to say this.

    • lexcaritas says

      Well, said Christ, and thank you for bringing these facts back to our attention.

      Christ is in our midst.


  4. Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

    Dear Rod,

    You wrote:
    “a man who alone among his peers, in my estimation, has the charism to revive this dying church of ours.”
    What experience of bishops of the OCA have you had other than with Abp. Dmitri and Met Jonah?

    You wrote “but that the Synod, egged on by Stokoe and others on the MC, for reasons that are not clear to me, are grossly exaggerating his challenges to justify removing”
    Why are you convinced that the Synod is bent on removing him? I am not at all convinced of that, in fact quite the contrary.

    When you writs, “for reasons that are not clear to me, …” Allow me to qualify the question. OCATruth and others speak of canonically removing or deposing Met. Jonah, and then deal with the problems with “It isn’t a good enough reason for deposition”.

    What if the question is, actually “reason enough for the Synod to be concerned”, or even “gravely concerned”.

    On 8 April, Fr. Deacon Brian Mitchell posted a “list of accusations”

    Do you think he actually and substantively gives the problems alleged about Met. Jonah in that list?

    I would also invite you to read the following especially on concerns relative to the Autocephaly.

    How would this situation look to you if you were not convinced the Synod wanted rid of the Met, and would you possibly imagine that the chancery officers, SMPAC report, and autocephaly are things that the whole Synod in an Orthodox Church should be concerned with?

    Thank you.

    • skeptical says

      Fr. you ask Rod “I would also invite you to read the following especially on concerns relative to the Autocephaly.”

      I will not speak for Rod, but I could not disagree more with your assessment of this wonderful and necessary speech. Met. Jonah was not offering a plan to get rid of Autocephaly, he was explaining what Chambessy means to it.

      Again, OCAT, despite their anonymity, seems to be level headed about this.

      I think more careful reading of all things would help quell indignation on both sides, with that at least I think agree with Chris.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Fr, when it comes to Christian leaders, Southerners (such as Rod and myself) instinctively know who “has it” and who doesn’t. The South is still a deeply traditional and Christian land, we value preachers and are good at spotting those who walk the walk as well as talk the talk. And even though +Jonah isn’t from the South, he has resonated with our ways to an extent that surprised me. That’s why he so quickly became the rock star that even the secular media picked up on it immediately.

      If you would be so kind as to let me expand:

      I mean no disrespect to your bishop or the ones back East, but +Dmitri was the gold standard for American bishops. More than a few GOA priests complimented him to my face, wishing that their own bishops could preach the Gospel in his simple but forceful cadences. It helped that he had an East Texas accent with a deep, sonorous voice. (And his knowledge of Scripture is non-pareil.) When he announced his retirement two years ago, many of us were crushed, not only because we were losing a beloved grandfather, but we were concerned about who would take his place. His shoes seemed impossible to fill.

      +Jonah’s speaking style certainly suffers by comparison. Yet the eagerness in his voice, his boyish face, and his earnest expression have endeared him to all who met him. Even though he was primate at the same time, his pastoring of our vast diocese calmed our fears. We view him as a worthy successor to Vladyka +Dmitri.

      Let me go further:

      Some of +Jonah’s critics like to complain that the OCA has always been conservative and traditional. Bishop +Tikhon’s letter stated so in an awkward fashion. The fact that he had to write the letter appeared petulant to many. (Personally, I don’t think he wrote the letter but was handed to him by Kishkovsky, it’s language was not from the heart.) But yet not one came forward to preach the Gospel to those denominations which are hurting. Not one saw fit to write a letter to Congress asking them to not repeal DADT. Not one told the EP to “back off” America. If they believed these things, then why didn’t they?

      Perhaps HB was imprudent or hasty. Perhaps he was even foolish to engage every issue that came down the pike. But at least he did it. I simply can’t envision any other bishop in the OCA (and certainly not in the GOA) who would be, could be, as bold as +Jonah.

      What I’m trying to say is that non-Orthodox Americans see this. They sense in their gut that +Jonah is something different and refreshing. Hence the laudatory story in the WaPo, the invitations to +Jonah from Protestant churches, his speeches at Catholic universities and so on. Please understand, I’m not trying to be scabrous, but someone either “has it” or he doesn’t. +Jonah’s “got it.” In our time, the only other Orthodox leader of his stature and command presence was the late +Iakovos.

  5. Priest John Wehling says


    After reading your piece and Fr Yousuf’s reply, I simply wish to reiterate that the real issues between the synod and the Metropolitan have to do with the OCA’s autocephally. It is not just a question, as some on OCAT would imply, of being close to the Russian Church: it is a question of whether the OCA remains self-governed. The Metropolitan, fearing (and for good reason) that the OCA is going to get left out in the cold by the Ec. Patriarch and others in the formation of a united OC in the USA, has unfortunately acted independently of the Holy Synod in a way that has caused many to wonder of he is “giving up the farm.” This is the real issue. I care not one whit what OCAnews says nor am I a supporter of that website. But the Metropolitan must involve the synod in whatever process or discussions he engages in with Moscow. He must lead, absolutely, but leadership involves and implies taking others with you: convincing, not coercing; or in other words, mutual submission and obedience. He is not a Pope (in the RC sense) nor are the synod to be rubber-stamps. This is the difficult but essential role the Metropolitan must play as such a leader. (And I would add that, all speculation about the motives of the Synod or members of it aside, this is the reason given in the minutes from Santa Fe for the Synod’s concerns: mutual obedience).

    Your characterization of the synod vilifies them and makes them out to be a good-old-boys club that are hopelessly out of touch, moribund, and, what’s worse, you imply that their motives are malicious. How many of these men do you know? Or even met? Speaking personally, I can assure you that Bishops Tikhon and Michael are men of excellent Christian character, good pastors, and men of prayer. I believe Bishop-elect Matthias of the Midwest to so as well, but I simply do not know him as well yet as the other two I mention. When you and the persons behind OCAT, therefore, vilify them, I can only conclude that either you don’t know them. or that you have some agenda driving your vilification. I certainly do not want to believe the latter. Could it be that you have too easily lumped all of the Holy Synod in with those whose opinions are found at OCAnews? Or that some paradigm of “visionary leadership” is preventing you from seeing the real issues?

    Rod, please, please be careful with your words.

    In Christ,
    Priest John Wehling

    • Harry Coin says

      The OCA ‘left out in the cold by the EP’? If those oceans away are disposed to act in that fashion– it might be ‘the cold’ will turn out to be warmer than the alternative.

      Suppose the oca is ‘left out in the cold’. Either the other churches will one day be autocephalous here, or they won’t. If they are, the OCA can join them because ‘they’ will be ‘us’. If the whole thing over there are dreams of relighting an empire (and the ‘joining them’ is like ‘hotel california’– seems nice but you can never leave); or organizing matters so a ‘return to rome’ can happen legally without consent of the bubbas in the parishes (the school days of the ‘ontologically different’ having their effect) — well the OCA would do well to stay clear of it and provide harbor.

      I just can’t see any downside to being ‘left out in the cold’ by those consolidating authority there of doings here. Either they’ll figure it out or they won’t. Why should the OCA step backward? Why would that be a good idea? Pining for Pirogis?

      In fact the existence of the OCA would be a huge threat to any shenanigans in their plans, providing a serious alternative for folk should those overseas impose/overstep or otherwise whack-ho. And if their plans result in good progress and so forth then the OCA’s existence wouldn’t matter. One day being autocephalous so the rest of the ethnics can catch up to the OCA and we can join. Makes sense.

      I just can’t see what if anything would leave people in the parishes or elsewhere better off if governed from afar. Perhaps the synod has discovered Met. Jonah’s decision making has been compromised along those lines. Said all the right things, got support and then– oops, the synod didn’t buy it. Yet if that was the case, why not then simply vote ‘no’ and that’s that? He wanted to bail, they didn’t, the vote happened and the church survived. Why hide it? Big news and so forth, but it doesn’t fit what we see.

      The only answer that makes any sense to me is that the synod must have become worried that somehow, Met. Jonah is, as the phrase goes, ‘owned’.

      Does anyone, anywhere really think that the church here has a future if united and run defacto from over there?

      • George Michalopulos says

        Harry, if you’re so concerned about the possible loss of the OCA’s autocephaly (I guess because +Jonah is “owned” by the Russians), then why don’t you join the OCA?

    • George Michalopulos says

      Fr John, your criticism is well-taken. And I take you at your word about the genuine Christian character of the bishops you speak about. Having said that, then why don’t they put an end to this divisiveness that is tearing apart ouf Church? One well-placed sermon, with a stern admonition to those who clearly despise +Jonah would not only prove their Christian charity, but end this madness in a trice.

      As for the autocephaly, I see that you are aware of the machinations of the EP against the OCA and give HB some credit for navigating these shoals. As do I. However, the actions (or inaction?) of the HS of the OCA which is aggravating this crisis makes it seem inevitable that our autocephaly will become a moot point.

      • Harry Coin says

        George, I start to think by your writing you’d like an end to OCA’s autocephaly if it will leave +Jonah nominally in charge, you know, for a while. If it came down to Met. Jonah in and a mooted synod and no autocephaly, or Autocephaly and Met. Jonah having to do that whole bothersome ‘Orthodox sobornost and synod’ thing– where are you in that?

        • George Michalopulos says

          Harry, far from it. An end to the OCA’s autocephaly would be a disaster. I’ve said that on many occasions. And let’s be honest, it’s not in the cards. That’s a red herring. The HS doesn’t want it, +Kirill doesn’t want it, and neither does HB. If that’s all that’s driving this debate, it’ll be over in a nonce.

          I truly believe in sobornost, by all means! I would love for the other bishops to join HB in his eagerness to engage the culture. What’s holding them back? Is their chrism lacking?

          But since we’re going down the hypothetical route, I would revolt if the OCA used its autocephaly the way that ECUSA uses its autonomy within the Anglican Communion –as the tail that wags the dog. Autoecephaly can never be used as an excuse to preach heresy or to make insidious accommodations to the increasingly depraved American culture. At that point, our autocephaly wouldn’t matter because the Holy Spirit would abandon us and we would be extinct within a generation.

          • Chris Plourde says

            An end to the OCA’s autocephaly would be a disaster… If that’s all that’s driving this debate, it’ll be over in a nonce.

            But the mutual suspicion stirred by everyone online will live on…and on…and on.

            • George Michalopulos says

              No it won’t, not on my end at least. If those few(?) bishops who are against HB come to their senses and repent, then it’ll all be peachy-keen. We’ll have an authentic American Orthodox Church that is willing to engage the culture, preach the Gospel, and baptize this nation –the last great hope of mankind on earth.

              If on the other hand “conciliarity” is used to neutralize any bishop from doing the Lord’s work, then we’ll all be in the same boat eating the bitter fruits of a moribund ecclesial body. (And paying reperations to innocent victims).

              You see, it really is black and white at this point.

              • Fr Simeon Johnson says


                We always need to be on guard lest the desire to create an “American” church becomes an end in itself.

                From my experience, this desire is part of the problem we’re dealing with as everyone wants the church to look like “their” America. And, while I agree that there is much to be proud of in our country, I have to say that “Americanism” of this type is a threat to sobornost.

                It is a threat to sobornost because it becomes an attempt to smash all of the varying cultures of this nation and their very different styles into one mold, which may not fit other places. In Seminary, one of my favorite means of teasing a dear Southern friend of mine when he called me a Yankee was to remind him that I was by no means a Yankee. I am a westerner, and we didn’t make any differentiation between northeasterners and southeasterners coming to “civilize” us. When they got out West, they were just “busybody easterners” that we didn’t like.

                The American experience must shape each church on a local level, but our spirituality and theology must all lead to one thing, purification from the passions, illumination of the nous, and theosis. Anything less, no matter how American it is, will leave the American church divorced from the spiritual traditions of the Orthodox Church and rip us from the spititual unity that true sobornost requires.

                Fr Simeon

    • lexcaritas says

      Fr. John, bless. I was unable to thank you for this last night. Not so timely now, but you have reminded us of important things and your caveat is appreciated.

      Christ is in our midst.


  6. “having suffered through two successive corrupt Metropolitans who, in Jonah’s words, “raped the church,” the spectacle of the OCA’s governing class (bishops and lay leaders) behaving with indifference to the church’s real interests is sparking deadly despair among many of the faithful.”

    I happen to like and support Met. Jonah–just as, incidentally, I like and support my own bishop Melchizedek– but something that has left me deeply confused over the past year has been Met. Jonah and his brother hierarch’s invitation and concelebration with former Metropolitans Herman and Theodosius at the 2010 St. Tikhon’s pilgrimage:

    Of the lapses in judgement that Met. Jonah is accused of, why is this one never brought up?

    Yes, we should and must forgive the former Metropolitans and “move on” as Met. Jonah has also said, but forgiving rapists and then inviting them over to dinner a few years later is just heartbreakingly bad judgement. One needs to protect one’s family/flock.

    • How did it endanger the flock to allow them to concelebrate Liturgy?

      I understand your concern about forgiving people too quickly, but remember that neither Metropolitan was suspended or deposed by the Synod. They are both rather old, and in terms of physical health, neither is in very good shape. Perhaps learning to repent for what they did by serving the people they betrayed is exactly what their souls need. And as for the St. Tikhon’s community, perhaps being able to look at the retired metropolitans as Christ’s servants again is helpful for them, too.

      Metropolitan Jonah was very clear that forgiveness is not about excusing sins committed against you, it’s about keeping the indignation and anger you feel because of it from turning inward and making you bitter. He had strong words for those who had “raped” the church, but at the same time admonished those who had booed the Synod earlier in the council, and warned them of the dangers of allowing their hard feelings to take over their lives. His spiritual fatherhood was shown by the fact that he cleaned the dirt out of our wounds even though it caused us some pain, rather than just salving those wounds with words we wanted to hear.

      If Met. Jonah had made one of the retired metropolitans the new Chancellor or put them in positions of administration, that would be a different story. They are the OCA’s prodigal sons; they will never regain the share of their father’s wealth that they squandered. But don’t be like the elder brother and begrudge them the opportunity to regain their sonship in the household.

      • Christopher says

        How did it endanger the flock to allow them to concelebrate Liturgy?

        Because it smacks of the cultural insensitivity that Mr. Dreher is talking of. It’s the bad side of “clericalism” and I see no reason they could have not done something different

    • George Michalopulos says

      Poole, I too am shocked to see both of these two former metropolitans allowed to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy. However, it appears that the entire Holy Synod was there. If this was as shocking a proposition to them as it is to you and I, then why didn’t they disinvite them? It is wrong to blame +Jonah for “acting unilaterally” while excusing the other bishops from not acting at all

    • Harry Coin says

      Because they weren’t defrocked. So long as we accept the idea of ‘retirement and a monthly kiss in the mail after serious misdoing’ then this is what’s going to happen as the canons call for it. I just don’t see this one as being either pro or anti Jonah material.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Harry, then do you agree with me that no reasonable person can single out +Jonah for particular blame? Shockingly, especially in light of what these two men were accused of, why wasn’t Stokoe sounding the tocsin of war when this happened? Why weren’t the bishops outraged enough to refuse to attend?

  7. I have listened patiently to all ‘sides’ (How I hate to see this word used!) of this argument since its beginning, attempting in vain to glean some semblance of truth.

    Before proceeding, allow me to state for the record that I have always tended to share George’s political views, which is to say that I lean strongly toward the conservative side of the spectrum. My bent toward financial conservatism is purely a temporal matter of what seems (to me) to ‘work’ in this fallen world. My bent toward social conservatism is more an acknowledgment of the truth of human nature as created in the image of God than it is a political statement. It is my belief that while Christian morality cannot be legislated, the law is nevertheless pedagogical. This is amply demonstrated by the overall success (in terms of changing hearts) of laws against racial discrimination (on the positive side) and laws allowing for such evils as abortion (on the negative side). But I am loathe to equate conservative views directly with my Orthodox faith, though some correlation exists. For the Kingdom of God comes not with outward signs, though they be genuinely good cultural improvements, nor is it intended to be utilitarian (for the good of society) though this is always a byproduct. “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”

    Let me also state that I am not a member of the OCA. My interest lies in the fact that I have always admired the OCA – not for her perfection (God knows), but for the fact that although the OCA may often fail to live up to the Canonical standard, there is nevertheless general agreement among her members that such a standard exists and ought to be followed for the good of the Church – unlike other jurisdictions (such as my own) that simply choose to ignore them arbitrarily when it seems expedient to the powers that be.

    Now to my comments.

    With regard to Mark Stokoe: I have always appreciated his work. He has long reported the news with admirable accuracy. Granted, there is a bit of editorial spin; but he makes no secret of the fact that his motivation is accountability and transparency. Still I have to admit that in the past he simply reported the news and posted peoples’ comments while interjecting very few of his own editorial remarks in response. However, since the +JONAH controversy erupted he has let very few comments go unanswered, and this is certainly uncharacteristic from the standpoint of his historical practice. He obviously does have strong feelings, and he has not hesitated to make them known. Yet the truth is that none of us knows with any certainty why this is the case with him. Commenting on his supposed lifestyle is neither relevant to the truth of the Metropolitan’s interaction with the Synod of the OCA, nor is it Christian.

    With regard to His Beatitude and the Holy Synod: The truth, again, is that none of us knows the motivations of either His Beatitude or any of the other members of the Holy Synod. It is sheer divisive (and even demonic) folly to speculate or to ascribe nefarious motives to action or inaction, words or silence from any member of the Holy Synod including His Beatitude. This is true regardless of which ‘side’ is speaking.

    Where there is smoke there is usually fire – no doubt about it. Something somewhere does indeed appear to be amiss. But again, none of us knows precisely what. We can speculate all we like. I certainly have engaged in speculation in my own mind – “it could be this; it could also be that.” But until we have hard facts rather than things we only pretend to know, we should keep our speculation to ourselves. I am not suggesting a pray, pay, and obey, hide our heads in the sand attitude. By all means stay informed and stand fast in the truth. But for Heaven’s sake let us have patience until we know actual facts and not fan the flames of divisiveness in the meantime, for we are brethren in Christ.

    See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

    Let us douse the flames of our own passions and with sincerity of heart pray,

    “Oh Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, lust for power, and idle talk.
    But give rather the spirit of chastity, patience, and love to Thy servant.

    Yeah, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge by brethren, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      Brian, thank you for your very thoughtful reply.

      Please let me state for probably the thousandth time that I am not here to judge Mark Stokoe’s lifestyle. (Lord knows, I am the chief of sinners!) However it is clear that he has allowed his choices to clearly cloud his judgment. His unreasoning hatred of +Jonah, I dare say, is directly related to HB’s open willingness to challenge the homosexualist agenda that is currently crippling our nation.

      Perhaps you are new to this controversy, but he has advocated in the past that the Church take a position of “tolerance” towards these sins bordering on sanction. This is archived in the AOI, when about two years ago, he lauded the the Orthodox Church in Finland which was having a symposium on homosexuality.

      Again: not my business.

      However, since then, he has stated that he had knowledge about the inner workings of the OCA that allowed him to defy +Jonah (who was admittedly carrying water for +Philip).

      This is simply unacceptable. And it wouldn’t matter if the rebellious man was homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual.

      That alone is the extent of the revulsion I feel about this entire mess. It is simply unacceptable that an unrepentant sinner could serve openly and defiantly in a position of authority in the Church.

      • “However it is clear that he has allowed his choices to clearly cloud his judgment. His unreasoning hatred of +Jonah, I dare say, is directly related to HB’s open willingness to challenge the homosexualist agenda that is currently crippling our nation. ”

        Well, George, you may be correct – just as any of our speculations may be correct. Nevertheless, it is quite possible there are other ‘reasonable’ reasons for his position, and I, for one, would prefer to wait and see. It is only “clear”, as you say, if motives are ascribed. You seem like a reasonable man. I would simply caution anyone against ascribing motives to anyone in this controversy. Words are dangerous things, for they are impossible to unsay and can cause irreparable harm.

        He who answers a matter without hearing it first, it is a folly and a shame to him. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I am simply saying, yet again, no one knows at this point in time.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Brian, I am a fair man. And as I’ve said a hundred times by now, I was a big fan of Mark’s in the past. But like Will Rogers said, “all I know I read in the papers.” All I know about this entire affair is what I read in OCANews. And the leaked e-mails. In other words, Stokoe’s own words on this matter. If I’m wrong, I’d like to correct the record.

          But I’ll make it simple. There are three questions I’d like to ask Mark:

          1. Is +Jonah wrong to preach against abortion?

          2. Is +Jonah wrong to preach against the homosexualization of our culture?

          3. Is +Jonah wrong to speak against the federal government trying to restrict freedom of religion?

          BTW, these are the three planks of The Manhattan Declaration which +Jonah “unilaterally” signed and which seem to exercize the soborstniks out there.

          • Christopher says

            I too believe it to be more than *speculation* conscerning Mark’s very, how do we put it, liberal statements on these matters. The cultural does seem to be leading in on this issue.

            When I was entering the Orthodox Church some 15 years ago, I was told by a friend that Orthodoxy in america was about 50 years behind the Episcopalians. I used to think it nonsense, but now I am wondering out loud if he was simply off by about 25 years or so. Is our bishop Pike in the foreseeable future?

            • George Michalopulos says

              Heaven forbid! Although I believe that there are few “little Pikes” on the MC at present.

      • Anonymous since it's all the rage says

        You been listening in on confessions, George? What do you know of his level of repentance? In fact, you know nothing of it, just as you know nothing of his sins.

        And do you, like the folks at OCATruth, call for the defrocking of Bobosh for communing him? Because that would be great. We could then defrock +Jonah for communing him at the Divine Liturgy that begins every MC meeting. It’d be like trading a pawn for a queen.

        Sounds reasonable and productive, yes?

        • Heracleides says

          Actually, it’d be like trading a Queen for a Knight… Sorry, couldn’t resist.

        • And do you, like the folks at OCATruth, call for the defrocking of Bobosh for communing him? Because that would be great. We could then defrock +Jonah for communing him at the Divine Liturgy that begins every MC meeting. It’d be like trading a pawn for a queen.

          I see a big difference between being communed by one’s parish priest, and being communed by a hierarch who sees that person twice a year. Metropolitan Jonah doesn’t hear their confessions, their parish priest does. Metropolitan Jonah doesn’t bless their house at Theophany, their parish priest does. Metropolitan Jonah couldn’t be expected to know the details of the lifestyle of one person on the Metropolitan Council who lives a few hundred miles away, while their parish priest knows them and sees them at least once per week. It’s not hard to figure out where the lion’s share of the responsibility lies.

        • George Michalopulos says

          No, I don’t have supersonic hearing, but my eyesight is still pretty good, as is my command of the English language. Please go back and read what Stokoe said to +Jonah when he defied him two years ago.

          Then again, you could be right. That was two years ago. He could have repented within that time. But then again, nothing within the last five weeks would lead me to believe this. Please let me know if I am wrong.

          • Wait… Stokoe defied +Jonah? Or +Jonah defied Stokoe? I don’t understand what this is a reference to. Can you please explain, George?

            • George Michalopulos says

              when Stokoe defied +Jonah. (Remember, the piece you highlited about 3 weeks ago?)

              • I figured it out. Thanks, George. This thing has so many dimensions, it’s hard to remember them all now. 🙂

  8. Fred C. Dobbs says

    After shoveling though this mountain of dung, I believe I see a horse.

    Basically, this whole furore appears to be nothing other than a power struggle between the liberal wing of the OCA that wants to establish an autonomous American Orthodoxy that accepts active homosexuality as normal, and the Orthodox Christian wing of the OCA represented by +Jonah, that wants to practice traditional, orthodox Christianity as passed down to us by the apostles and the saints.

    If +Jonah– earnest and naive rookie that he is– succeeds in molding the OCA along traditionalist lines, as he intends, his opponents will all be forced to turn in their epitrachelions and go join the Episcopal Church. Therefore, Jonah must be deposed.

    Am I correct? It’s the only thing that make sense.

    Let these people, instead of transmogrifying the Creed and slowly eviscerating the faith, conform themselves to God’s will, or go. Let them leave Eastern Orthodoxy alone.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I’m afraid that you are correct. ASIATR may think that you need to keep shovelling, but the reality will turn out as you say. I really think that he believes that this is merely a procedural argument between two conservative factions of a conservative Church. One that is, was, and always will be traditional. However, this is delusional: once a church starts making its accommodation to the world, then there’s an ECUSA in their future.

    • Amen Brother….

  9. Anonymous since it's all the rage says

    Am I correct?

    No. Keep shoveling.

    • Fred C. Dobb says

      I was being rhetorical.

      • No, you weren’t rhetorical, you are correct….

        “Let these people, instead of transmogrifying the Creed and slowly eviscerating the faith, conform themselves to God’s will, or go. Let them leave Eastern Orthodoxy alone…”

        Most of us faithful in the OCA are praying for that….

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