When Orthodox Bishops Spoke Boldly

banescu-1It seems like ages ago, doesn’t it? Does anybody think that the Assembly of Bishops will put out anything with this clarity (if they put out anything at all)?

Please take the time to read this courageous essay by Chris Banescu. Chris found an encyclical put out by the OCA Synod forty years ago and decided to offer his perspectives. For myself, I look at the culture, where we were then and where we are now. As always, we offer up this blog for our readers’ perspectives as well.

When Orthodox Bishops Spoke Boldly: Clear Teaching on Marriage and Family

Source: Orthodox Net | Chris Banescu

The current societal moral collapse and the intensifying attacks on traditional marriage and the family were foreseen by previous generations of bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Approximately 40 years ago, the Holy Synod of the OCA issued an Encyclical Letter on Marriage warning their flocks of the dangers posed by an increasingly secularized world and re-affirming the traditional, biblical, and orthodox teaching on marriage. The clarity of their teaching, boldness of their condemnation, and prophetic dimensions of their preaching are undeniable.

These shepherds saw the “signs of the times.” They discerned the growing darkness and corruption all around them and the seriousness of the cultural battles to come. They forewarned the faithful that the “moral foundations of society are collapsing.” They understood the ultimate consequences of a society that abandons its moral principles, abuses its freedoms, embraces the evil of abortion, is indifferent to the murder of millions of unborn children, and glorifies corrupt sexual behaviors.

We find it imperative to address you on an issue of crucial importance for the Christian life. An increasingly secularized world tends more and more to neglect the traditional biblical understanding of marriage and family. Misunderstanding freedom and proclaiming the progress of a humanity supposedly too mature, sophisticated and scientific to follow Christ’s Gospel, many have abandoned its moral demands. The consequences are plain for all to see: the family is disintegrating, legalized abortion is killing millions of unborn children, corrupt sexual behavior is rampant. The moral foundations of society are collapsing.

These bishops showed no apathy, timidity, or confusion in speaking publicly on key moral issues. They were not silent or complacent in the face of danger. They denounced evil and challenged the growing corruption in the culture. They genuinely loved and cared not only for the welfare and salvation of their flocks, but of all men. They taught and preached about the importance of the family and the full meaning of marriage from an Orthodox Christian understanding. They bore witness to these timeless truths before the entire Church and the whole world.

We, the bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, therefore proclaim anew to you, the flock entrusted to our care, the great and holy vision of marriage that is gloriously preserved and manifested in the doctrine, liturgy and canonical tradition of the Church. We do not make this proclamation in the name of an outdated conservatism or because we consider our present society intrinsically more corrupt than the past generations.

We speak because we are concerned for the welfare and salvation both of you, the members of our flock, and of all men. We speak of “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes … concerning the word of life” (John 1:1). We speak because we know the Truth of the Gospel of Christ to be the eternal Truth, the one needful thing, the good portion (Luke 10:42) for all men, in all times and places.

These Christian leaders encouraged others to also speak out, offer guidance, and help Orthodox Christians in “all matrimonial matters.”

We therefore appeal to all of you who are responsible for the life of our parishes and for the future of our youth to make a common effort to provide appropriate guidance and help to all in matrimonial matters, both through your own personal examples of pure and upright lives and undefiled marriages and also through words of exhortation and explanation, “knowing how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6), and through programs of education.

The Encyclical Letter on Marriage highlights the universal and natural dimensions of marriage. From the very beginning God created the man and the woman to be mutually complementary and reflect in their love, union, relationship, and common activity “the very image and likeness of God.”

From the Old Testament Scriptures we learn that God created man “in His own image,” “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27), and, since that beginning, “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Man and woman are mutually complementary, and this complementarity, expressed in their union and common activity, reflects the very image and likeness of God. This spiritual basis of marriage clearly transcends, without suppressing, the fleshly union of the bodies. Fleshly relations when separated from spiritual ones are depraved; they must be woven into the pure and total love between a man and a woman united in marriage.

Furthermore, the full Christian dimensions of marriage and God’s critical role in uniting one man and one woman in matrimony are revealed. As Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior proclaimed, marriage is a unique and unbreakable union of husband and wife joined by God Himself: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). God unites husband and wife in body and spirit, and mind and heart. The two become one!

In the New Testament Scripture, from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we learn that marriage is a unique and unbreakable union of husband and wife joined by God Himself: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). The Marriage Service likewise makes it clear that the bridegroom and the bride are united not by themselves, but by God: “For by Thee is the husband joined unto the wife” (Marriage Service). …

In a Christian marriage husband and wife manifest in their own lives the union between God and His beloved people; between Christ, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride (Ephesians 5:32). God accompanies husband and wife, bringing them into a unity which will be revealed as perfect and eternal in His Kingdom, and filling their lives with the Holy Spirit so that selfishness and division may be overcome. He sanctifies and purifies their total relationship. According to the prayers of the Marriage Service, God communicates to those being joined in unity and love, faith and oneness of mind, holiness, purity and chastity, joy and glory, and the possibility for eternal life. He unites them in body and spirit, heart and mind.

The hierarchs concluded their exhortations by proclaiming the “incomparably more exalted” Christian ideal of family and marriage and warning the faithful about the “totally erroneous ideologies” of the world; ideologies that “reduce the meaning of human life to the satisfaction of sexual appetites, material security, or to other such limited functions and desires.”

The Christian ideal of marriage and family, manhood and womanhood, is incomparably more exalted, balanced and fulfilling than those broken, one-sided or totally erroneous ideologies of today’s world which reduce the meaning of human life to the satisfaction of sexual appetites, material security, or to other such limited functions and desires. In Christ man is revealed as son and friend of God. He is able to become a member of Christ in soul and body. In the Christian marriage, he is able to achieve an eternal, unique and total union in love.

Nearly a half century old, these stern warnings and solid teaching on morality, marriage, and the family make the recent statement of the OCA Holy Synod addressing the assault on marriage look timid and lukewarm by comparison. One is struck by how much bolder, stronger, and clearer the older preaching is. The older bishops had righteous fire in their hearts and great conviction in their words. They spoke with the authority of Christ and did not shy away from fighting the good fight in the public arena. They not only proclaimed the moral teaching of Christianity to their flocks, but to all men.

The signs of our times confirm that the spiritual battle between good and evil in our society is intensifying. Growing darkness, corruption, and delusion threaten the flock and endanger the innocent. It’s unmistakable that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10).

banescu-2In the face of this danger, those who see and understand the stakes and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, must “put on the full armor of God, so that” we can take our “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). We must cling to Christ and “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes,” we may “be able to stand” our ground, and stand firm, with the “belt of truth buckled around” our waist, “with the breastplate of righteousness in place,” and with our “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:13-15).

The duty of every Orthodox Christian preacher, teacher, and leader is the same since Jesus Christ brought us the Good News and established His Church. We are compelled to proclaim and defend the Christian faith as taught by Jesus Christ, preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs, embodied in the writings of the Saints, and expounded by the Fathers. Like so many others before us, we also have to pick up our cross and “take up the shield of faith,” with which we “can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one,” and “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13-15).

For those of us who now fight to protect the moral foundations of our society and defend the right teaching, theology, and Moral Tradition of the Orthodox Christian faith, it is reassuring to know that we are not alone. Bishops and priests from just a generation ago fought the same evil and corruption that’s threatening us today. We are indeed “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). It is not just the great Fathers of the Church who fought these important battles. In every generation, faithful and true Orthodox shepherds and leaders had to rise up and step unto the spiritual battlefield to preach the truth and protect the innocent; thus proving their allegiance to the One True God. It’s our turn now.

NOTE – There is no exact date provided for this Encyclical Letter on Marriage located on the OCA website. I surmised that it must have been written sometime in the 1970s, since it was signed by Archbishop Ireney of New York, as Metropolitan of All America and Canada. Research indicates that Metropolitan Ireney was Primate of the OCA from September 23, 1965 through October 25, 1977 when he retired. Since the OCA received its Tomos of Autocephaly on April 10, 1970, this Encyclical Letter was most likely released between April 1970 and October 1977. If anyone can identify the exact date of publication please let me know and I’ll include that information.
Encyclical Letter of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America on Marriage

”. . . the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We find it imperative to address you on an issue of crucial importance for the Christian life. An increasingly secularized world tends more and more to neglect the traditional biblical understanding of marriage and family. Misunderstanding freedom and proclaiming the progress of a humanity supposedly too mature, sophisticated and scientific to follow Christ’s Gospel, many have abandoned its moral demands. The consequences are plain for all to see: the family is disintegrating, legalized abortion is killing millions of unborn children, corrupt sexual behavior is rampant. The moral foundations of society are collapsing.

We, the bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, therefore proclaim anew to you, the flock entrusted to our care, the great and holy vision of marriage that is gloriously preserved and manifested in the doctrine, liturgy and canonical tradition of the Church. We do not make this proclamation in the name of an outdated conservatism or because we consider our present society intrinsically more corrupt than the past generations. We speak because we are concerned for the welfare and salvation both of you, the members of our flock, and of all men. We speak of “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes … concerning the word of life” (John 1:1). We speak because we know the Truth of the Gospel of Christ to be the eternal Truth, the one needful thing, the good portion (Luke 10:42) for all men, in all times and places.

Many – Orthodox, non-Orthodox, and even non-Christians – admire our beautiful Marriage Service. Our task is to show them the vision that this Service reveals, a vision of marriage as an icon of the Trinitarian life of God Himself, and to indicate the responsibility and commitment that this vision of marriage implies.

We therefore appeal to all of you who are responsible for the life of our parishes and for the future of our youth to make a common effort to provide appropriate guidance and help to all in matrimonial matters, both through your own personal examples of pure and upright lives and undefiled marriages and also through words of exhortation and explanation, “knowing how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6), and through programs of education.

From the Old Testament Scriptures we learn that God created man “in His own image,” “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27), and, since that beginning, “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), Man and woman are mutually complementary, and this complementarity, expressed in their union and common activity, reflects the very image and likeness of God. This spiritual basis of marriage clearly transcends, without suppressing, the fleshly union of the bodies. Fleshly relations when separated from spiritual ones are depraved; they must be woven into the pure and total love between a man and a woman united in marriage.

In the New Testament Scripture, from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we learn that marriage is a unique and unbreakable union of husband and wife joined by God Himself: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). The Marriage Service likewise makes it clear that the bridegroom and the bride are united not by themselves, but by God: “For by Thee is the husband joined unto the wife” (Marriage Service). For this reason the Orthodox Marriage Service is devoid of any oaths or marriage vows on the part of the couple. Their desire and freely given consent are certainly necessary for the marriage, for sacraments are not acts of magic that eliminate the need for human cooperation. Yet no vow or oath can possibly join a man and a woman together in the gracious and absolute way called for in Christian marriage. The true Christian marriage is effected by God Himself. In such a union, described by St. Paul as “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32), human love and desire for companionship become a love pervaded and sanctified by divine grace: water is transformed into the good wine, as it was at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. In a Christian marriage husband and wife manifest in their own lives the union between God and His beloved people; between Christ, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride (Ephesians 5:32). God accompanies husband and wife, bringing them into a unity which will be revealed as perfect and eternal in His Kingdom, and filling their lives with the Holy Spirit so that selfishness and division may be overcome. He sanctifies and purifies their total relationship. According to the prayers of the Marriage Service, God communicates to those being joined in unity and love, faith and oneness of mind, holiness, purity and chastity, joy and glory, and the possibility for eternal life. He unites them in body and spirit, heart and mind.

Obviously, Christian marriage will never find its ultimate fulfillment and happiness in this world. Like all things in Christ, marriage too must pass through the cross, through temptation, suffering, trial and finally death, before coming to its ultimate consummation in the Resurrection and the Kingdom of God which will come in power at the end of the ages. All this Christian couples experience as they strive to realize in their own lives the great gift given to them by God in marriage: “Thou hast set upon their heads crowns of precious stones; they asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest it them” (Psalm 21, the Prokeimenon of the Marriage Service). For those who fight the good fight as good and faithful servants, the crowns become their eternal reward as witnesses to Christ and the wedding garments are transformed into robes of salvation and eternal glory.

Marriage is the most perfect realization of love between a man and a woman: two become one. Love unites in such a way that two lives become one life in perfect harmony. This love, sanctified by God, is the great source of the happiness which is sought in marriage, and in it lies a power that transforms both those who love and those who are loved. Because of this transforming power of love, all the difficulties and defects in family life can be overcome. True love never ceases, whether in this world or in the age to come. Faithfulness and confidence must reign in marriage, for there can be no deception in love. When husband and wife are united by love, they share a common life and help each other in everything they do, for their love for each other expresses itself in mutual help and support.

Such love implies a relationship in marriage which is total in character. Husband and wife must live not for purely individual gratification, but for each other, for such is the meaning of true love. Marriage must be offered to God continually and consciously, and it must always be rooted in the life and teachings of the Church. Husband and wife can achieve their final glorification in the age to come only by self-sacrifice for the sake of one another in this life unto the glory of God. Christian marriage is a specific application of one of Christ’s fundamental teachings: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39).

The greatest miracle of this divinely sanctified love of marriage is the procreation of good, fair and holy children. In the image of God who brings forth life in love, the Christian marriage, a unity in love established by God, brings forth holy and good life (1 Cor. 7:14).

The perfect marriage can only be one, single and unique. The prototype of marriage, the unity between Christ and His Church, excludes multiple marriages: Christ has only one Church; the Church has no other Christ. Even death cannot break the bond of perfect love. Therefore, the Church does not advocate second or third marriages, even for widows or widowers; rather, they are tolerated as condescension to human frailty and weakness, while fourth marriages are totally forbidden.

The crowning which takes place in the Marriage Service reveals the bridegroom and the bride to be a new community in Christ. The husband is the head of this community, as God is the head of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3) and as Christ “is the head of the Church” (Ephesians 5:23). His headship is not a power over his wife and family, but a divinely-given responsibility, to be discharged after the image of Christ, the perfect man. “. . . a man approved of God among you” (Acts 2:22). His headship is a service of love and sacrifice. He is to nourish and cherish his wife and family “as Christ does the Church” (Ephesians 5:29). The wife is the helpmate of her husband, his beloved companion for life, his source of joy and wellbeing. In Eve, the mother of life, the fullness of life was revealed, for without her Adam was alone and had no companion fit for him (Genesis 2:18). As the bearer of life in the conception of children, the wife has an immediate concern for life and its quality. It is she who gives content to the life of her husband and family: purity, kindness, peace, gentleness and the concern for others. Her true adornment is “the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4).

To live up to its high calling, the Christian family must be firmly established in the Faith. Husband and wife must strive to learn more about the Faith and to accept its teachings as the law of their life. It must become for them the authority, against which all else that they read, hear or see is tested and evaluated. It is especially important that the Christian family participate in the life of the Church; by praying at home, by coming to the church services, by participating in the sacraments, by observing the Church’s fasts and feasts and by keeping her traditions. It is also important that the Christian family participate in the general life of their parish and have as friends those distinguished by a firm personal faith and purity of life.

Each Christian must seek the advice and guidance of the pastors of the Church. Especially before entering into marriage, Orthodox men and women must contact their pastor, so that he might explain the true nature of marriage in the Church and help them better to understand all the demands of a truly spiritual and moral family life. Each family likewise must continue to live under the guidance and with the help of the Church and her pastors.

With the help of God all the difficulties and misfortunes which are inevitable in life will be overcome, because what is impossible for man is possible for God. With faith in God, the husband will be truly capable of leading the family in the way of salvation toward the Kingdom of God, loving his wife and his children more than himself. With the help of God, the wife will be capable of being a source of purity, holiness and love for the entire family. And the children born for God in such a family from the beginning will be brought up as Christians. Such a family will be a beautiful model and source of faith, goodness and kindness for all those around it.

The Christian ideal of marriage and family, manhood and womanhood, is incomparably more exalted, balanced and fulfilling than those broken, one-sided or totally erroneous ideologies of today’s world which reduce the meaning of human life to the satisfaction of sexual appetites, material security, or to other such limited functions and desires. In Christ man is revealed as son and friend of God. He is able to become a member of Christ in soul and body. In the Christian marriage, he is able to achieve an eternal, unique and total union in love.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: be true men and women. Be faithful to the Christian ideal of marriage and family. Let our Christian families be united in mutual love and concern. Husbands and wives: love each other; love your children. Children: respect your parents. “Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). “Mortify immorality, impurity, evil desire … on account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5-6).

Archbishop of New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Archbishop of Montreal and Canada
Temporary Administrator of the Church

Archbishop of Chicago and Minneapolis

Archbishop of San Francisco and Western United States

Archbishop of Brooklyn

Archbishop of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania
Secretary of the Holy Synod

Archbishop of Detroit and Michigan

Bishop of Pittsburgh and West Virginia

Bishop of Hartford and New England

Bishop of Sitka and Alaska

Bishop of Edmonton

Bishop of Wilkes-Barre

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  1. It would have to date between 1975 and 1977.

  2. Trudge at SmartVote says

    A good find by Chris Banescu. Another interesting fact is how many more bishops there were in the OCA back then.

    But it brings up the question, how did Orthodoxy in America, in particular the OCA, get from there to where we are now if we take this statement as a sign of strong leadership? What happened to the disciples of the former bishops?

    A written statement no matter how strong, clear and beautifully worded is in itself insufficient for guarding and shining out the light of Christianity, then or now.

    The bishops we have now are their sons, coming of age in the 60′s when the pandora’s box of liberation from the past and its moral restraints was pried fully open.

    As then, unless the youth and the people are fully catechized in a statement such as of the former bishops on marriage, so that it takes root in the youth and in the parish, and the youth are not given over to the devil for their education for the sake of good careers, and the Christ and the judgement to come are portrayed in all their reality, and the Scriptures, Fathers and lives of the Saints, and asceticism and the universal Church are breathing in all their vitality in the life of the parish, the youth will be led astray and become the future, even weaker bishops.

    • Michael Bauman says

      No matter how good the catachesis each person must have a heart for God. Each person has to lean from the resources available. Reading the Scripture first above all. Not always listening to the mind of the world.

      !hat chance do our children have when they are prisoners of the idelogical propaganda machine called public education?

      • Trudge at SmartVote says

        I could not agree with you more Professor Bauman.

        In “handing our children over to the devil for the sake of careers” I meant public education.

        Then the duty of the bishops is to clearly state the dangers of public education to the souls of our youth, make it an encyclical, and spearhead the means for Orthodox youth to be educated separately like the Roman Catholics have (but learning from their mistakes!)

        • Michael Bauman says

          Even better: establish Orthodox schools around the classical model or some other traditional teaching model rather than mindlessly propagating the Prussian model imported by Horace Mann with the specific intent of destroying the hold of Christianity on children and making them into good little minions of the state.

          As with most modern tyrants, the people behind the ‘public education’ movement were quite open and honest about what they intended to do. Horace Mann hated God because his brother died a young and in a tragic manner and the comfort given him by a local Christian minister made Mr. Mann even more angry. Mr. Mann therefore resolved to wrest children away from the evil of the Christian way.

          In a similar manner, the folks behind the “critical thinking’ mode of education (which has some good things in it) use as a premise the rejection of all “supernatural” explanations or modes of thought. Only the material and the “rational” are allowed.

          I used to have a copy of the 8th grade graduation exam for schools in Salina, KS circa 1870. I couldn’t pass it. There are modern 8th graders who couldn’t even read the questions or begin to understand them.

          The new core curriculum standards being propagated by the powers that be include in the reading standards a liberal supply of bureaucratic nonsense produced in official documents of various regulatory agencies.

          Even if we are unable or unwilling to homeschool or find adequate private schooling, we still, as parents, teach our children well, guard their hearts, minds and souls and equip them in the faith. That is a task that never ends, no matter how old our children are.

      • Will Harrington says

        Being an out of work history teacher, I would gladly teach at an Orthodox high school, but seriously….Your children are not prisoners of public education. That is where Orthodox parents choose to leave them because the alternatives cost to much or take too much time. If you want Orthodox schools, get cracking!

        • Trudge at SmartVote says


          As for the parents of the children, if people have the fear of God and hatred of evil, they will have power that will propel them to change to a better path that will require sacrifice. That is why leadership from the deacons, priests and bishops is essential, to engender the proper fear in the people and to use their time and energies to do what is most necessary for the salvation of the souls under their care.

          The awareness of the peril of their children will help motivate the parents to desire a better path.

          I am sorry that you are out of work. But I see in your situation a motivation to band with others to open a new opportunity for a better approach for educating our children.

      • Trudge at SmartVote says

        Professor Bauman,

        As to modern Orthodox and the Scriptures.

        One priest told me that Christians are to be passive when it comes to politics and the conflict of good and evil, and instead to focus exclusively on their own salvation. It was not his intent but it ends up resulting in something like the “wise passivemess” of Wordsworth, where we do no hard work of the mind or of risk to ourselves, but are in reality “dreaming our time away.” (Expostulation and Reply).

        Or another priest just recently said in his sermon we should only pray and nothing else. This is the position of extreme pietism that has been so destructive to the vitality of Orthodoxy, and it is contradictory to the Scriptures and the Fathers.

        Unfortunately, no one seems to be catching this because the Orthodox I am among do not peer into the Scriptures. Peering into the Scriptures is not promoted in modern Orthodox parishes.

        Also I have seen that only new converts are catechized, but not the children. How did this come about?

        To counter this doctrine of passivity (which is really laziness):

        I am myself terrified of those three giants of the devil about whom St. Mark the Ascetic has written: laziness, forgetfulness and ignorance, and I am afraid of my own unawareness of my limitations… –St. Peter of Damaskos, Active Spiritual Knowledge, Philokalia Volume 3

        It is good to be reminded of certain things frequently. St. John of Damaskos affirms that the bodily virtues are essential, for without them the virtues of the soul cannot be acquired….After ascetic practice we need spiritual knowledge, total devotion to God in all things, and careful study of the divine Scriptures; for without these things no one can ever acquire virtue. –St. Peter of Damaskos, The Bodily Virtues as Tools

        • Michael Bauman says

          Trudge, I am not a professor. I am by avocation a historian who loves to write, by vocation a husband and a father who loves the Church in Jesus Christ, by necessity an insurance agency manager who has to digest massive sums of data, regulations, lawyer-speak and the basics of contract law, functional psychology and have enough knowledge of medicine, disease, morbidity and mortality and construction regulations and costs to function in my job as well as keeping up with constantly changing policy types from over 100 different insurance companies, attempting to herd fractious agents and largely confused clients with simplicity and (sometimes) grace. All of that means that I am an educator.

          My late wife and I homeschooled our son in a homeschool friendly state but under the protective umbrella of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and the local homeschooling association because the vicissitudes of the bureaucratic overreach from the public school establishment are never safely underestimated. We homeschooled to provide our son a place where we could tradition him in the faith and keep him safe physically (from the pervasive gangs in the Wichita schools where we first lived and later from the teenage redneck unholy trinity of alcohol, cars and sex in the small rural community in which we spent most of his school years)

          By the Grace of Jesus Christ my family and I are alive, free (so-far) to not only worship as we wish, but express our faith as we wish with few consequences. That will change, IMO, as my son while attempting to matriculate at a local junior college was constantly challenged to defend his faith in class. His grade in introduction to biology suffered because the ‘professor’ tested on such questions as same sex marriage, abortion and devotion to the scientistic tyranny of ideological Darwinism. His English Composition instructor routinely instigated in-class debates on similar topics in which the class split down the middle between those who were Christian and those who were atheist/secularists.

          [By his report] He was always chosen spokesperson for the faith side because of his ability to think clearly about his faith, his knowledge of the subjects and the ability to articulate all of it in a reasonable but unflinching manner. In the process he had to teach the other side some basic logic as they did not even know what a premise was let alone how to think except to regurgitate (with feeling, always with feeling and fairness) the propagandistic nonsense they had been fed in public school and the secular world. In the process he argued the secularist side better than they did.

          The teacher after first being surprised that anyone would object to the secular agenda, stopped the debates when they always came down to a weak demand that my son (and the others) stop thinking like a Christian. His reply was that he could not do that because being a Christian was not something he did on Sunday, it was who he was. Oh, and he prays, attends Divine Liturgy, evangelizes, helps out folks as he is able and teaches Okinawan karate as a black belt while he tries to find his way in an increasingly hostile world.

          As far as I am concerned, the type of pietistic quietism you describe is not Orthodox and, IMO, tends toward Gnosticism. It certainly seems to go against the spirit of Jesus instruction to us to “be in the world, not of it”. What you describe has always seemed to me to be an attitude that was of the world, not in it. At the very least it is a thoughtless surrender to the bifurcation of the human soul that the secular/humanist philosophy seeks to impose. At its worst it is a full blown denial of the Incarnation of our Lord and therefore of the possibility of salvation. I won’t live my life that way. That’s the world I left when I came into the Church and I’ve seen the destruction that such beliefs causes in people’s souls

          • Trudge at SmartVote says

            Mr. Bauman,

            I confused you with this Michael Bauman, Professor of Theology at Hillsdale College http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Bauman , whom I had read elsewhere and assumed converted to Orthodoxy. But my blundering led to learning about the bracing story of you and your son.

            It is good to hear such courage in the face of the loss of your wife and in confrontation with such dedicated enemies of Christianity and basic American principles – you have taught your son well.

            As for me, I am just your basic nobody, coming out of a literary background and making a career in the IT field.

            Sadly, I am confronted often with the gnosticism I hear in many “Orthodox” sermons or I see in disengaged parishioners and clergy that is actually little different at the core from what you will see and hear in a protestant gathering. I was protestant for a long time before coming into Orthodoxy and this state of dumbed-down standards without any acknowledgement of the problem is devastating.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            When I taught history on the college level, I made an effort to keep my personal politics and religion out of the classroom especially after I became a priest and taught part time at colleges near my parish. Once when I was teaching a course that covered American colonial history, I went into great detail on the beliefs of the Calvinist Puritans because in order to understand the history of America, one must have a knowledge of Puritanism and the Calvinism upon which it is based. I was accused by a student of trying to convert my students to Calvinism. As we all know, Calvinism is just about as far from Orthodoxy as one can get while still calling one’s self a Christian. However, in every school where I taught, students told me that they felt that other professors graded them on the basis of their agreement with their liberal ideas. I found the atmosphere at Kent State University very oppressive and hostile towards anyone with traditional Christian or politically conservative views. Even the office of the campus ministers association had a large poster supporting gay rights. I joined the association of campus ministers at Iowa University so that I could do work with the Orthodox students on campus. I finally stopped going to the meetings, because I grew tired of hearing the women campus ministers constantly arguing for lesbianism. At one university where I taught they used a Western Civ. text that accepted Boswell’s argument that the Orthodox blessed same sex unions until modern times as true. Once my wife, also a PhD in history taught women’s history at a nearby college. She taught through the history department. The women’ studies committee asked to meet with her and criticized her because she lacked a sufficiently pro-lesbian point of view. Thus, from personal experience, I can testify that what Mr. Bauman wrote is absolutely true. The power of political correctness has destroyed academic freedom at many American institutions of higher education. I should add that both my children were home schooled. Now both have Master’s degrees and my son is finishing his dissertation for his PhD.

            • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

              Thanks, Father John, for shedding light on the intellectual and moral darkness that has descended upon so many institutions of “higher” education in this country.

              George M: perhaps a new thread on this website might introduce readers–and especially the parents of prospective college students–to the often inhospitable reception awaiting those young scholars from too many faculty, administrators, and fellow students, as well as (here’s the good news) ways of surviving an undergraduate experience and even living a worthwhile and meaningful Orthodox life in the academy.

              I would, from my own personal experience, have a number of horror tales and encouraging tips to share!

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                I mentioned in a past thread that my second granddaughter is beginning college at a large public university this September. She will be living at the “Christian House”, which is actually a small group of houses owned and operated by a consortium of conservative Protestant churches. It is close to campus, on the leafy streets of “Fraternity Row”.

                We are very encouraged that this is available. I’m given to understand that such things are becoming more common, to give help that was perhaps less vital in the past to new college students. Orthodox students and parents should look into the opportunities that these might afford; there are not likely to be Orthodox institutions of this kind!

                • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

                  As it happens, Tim, there has been such an Orthodox residential house for the OCF at the University of Illinois (Champagne-Urbana) since 2004:


                  Kudos for that wonderful precedent!

                  Have other OCFs managed to follow the lead of the Orthodox Illini?

                  (I tried to establish an Orthodox Christian “Living & Learning” floor in one of the undergraduate houses at the University of Pennsylvania when I served as Orthodox chaplain at my alma mater in 1998. Alas, I could not persuade enough students to go for the idea at that time.)

  3. Chris,

    Thank you for this. Wow what a change. Where have all the cowboys gone??
    Anyway-We are going to have to work over time with our kids if we are to teach against the tide. Being in a good church that is clear about topics all around this issue is very important. Possibly alternatives to Public Education . . . still working on that one.

    ” In every generation, faithful and true Orthodox shepherds and leaders had to rise up and step unto the spiritual battlefield to preach the truth and protect the innocent; thus proving their allegiance to the One True God. It’s our turn now.”

    Yes it is.

  4. Chris,

    Very nice job! How wonderful it would be if the episcopacy of the OCA would follow the path of their predecessors.

    On a different note, did anyone pick up on the fact that the Chancellor’s blog was taken off the OCA website? Just curious.

  5. Tim R. Mortiss says

    George, I’ll put this here, because it is the most recent topic.

    For the last three days, when I open your topics here, I start to get audio news and ads. Can’t figure why and don’t know how to stop it.

    I thought it might just be my computer, but it has also now happened on a completely separate computer I have access to.

    Hasn’t happened on any other internet sites I’ve gone to. Has anyone else been having this happen?

    • Solution says

      Had the same problem. You have to go into the topic Do As I Do, Not As I Say: Bloomberg Edition on the Monomakhos, go to the video on there, literally turn it off, and then proceed with the rest of the blog. Mr. Bloomberg’s video ads are on autoplay

  6. M. Stankovich says

    Mr. Banescu pulls this out as an indictment of the current Synod of bishops – weak men with no “constitution” or inclination for expounding on morality; spineless and disinterested in, as Jimi Hendrix put it “raising a little sand.” I read this statement, look at the time period in which it was written, look at the individuals who signed it, and I will bet money that it was written by Frs. Schmemann & Meyendorff. With all due respect, half the signers barely spoke English, a few more were literally incapable of writing at such a level, leaving Bishop Dmitri – although assuredly capable – was “untested” and only earning his voice among the Synod and SVS. My point is that this is an unfair comparison – “Ah, mourn the day when the cowboys left…” – and a grandiose presumption that this statement reflected the strength of the Synod of Bishops, rather than more accurately reflected the fortitude of the fathers of our generation. The benefit of context and history, Mr. Benescu, is that you spend significantly less time mopping up. I certainly agree that this statement serves as a worthy pastoral message and a fitting and timely recollection of the unity of the Orthodox position. But there was no need to demean the message by attempting to employ it yet another “tactic” of embarrassment and abasement.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Dr Stankovich, you’re probably right, that it was authored by those two worthies. Regardless, it was signed and assented to by the entire OCA Synod at the time. That’s all that matters to me in the final analysis. Regardless of the actual authorship, Banescu’s essay reveals the chasm that exists between then and now. (I realize that I unfairly lump in the OCA Synod with the rest of the Orthodox, do-nothing episcopate on this matter. At least the OCA did something.)

      However, we can examine the glaring anomaly between then and now. Then, the OCA was guided by enlightened and bold protopresbyters who at the very least formed its brain-trust. Today, we have what exactly in the place of such gallant men? Non-entities like Jillions and Tosi? Pseudo-psychiatrists like Hopko? Or well-traveled ecumenist-gadabouts like Kishkovsky?

      Compare the earlier encyclical with the most recent one delivered in November which stated that we needed to “radically reorder” our economy along –what–Marxist? socialist? agrarian? distributionist? anarcho-capitalist? lines. This latter document was so juvenile it could have been written by Rod McKuen and Dr Phil.

      • Trudge at SmartVote says

        It seems that over time modern Orthodox bishops, perhaps also in parallel with their loss of spiritual powers, have reverted to function largely as a weak diaconate.

        The office of deacons was created in Acts 6 by the Apostles, the first bishops, for the administration of and for resolving conflicts within the Church, in order to free the Apostles/Bishops for continual spiritual work. This freedom was used for communion with God in prayer to energize and enlighten them for their apostolic responsibilities of accurate preaching (proclaiming the Gospel in its fullness) and teaching of their spiritual flock, and to strengthen them for spiritual combat.

        For example, St. John Chrysostom had his deacons Serapion and Olympias (female).

        It is notable that among the first deacons appointed, St. Stephen, had extraordinary spiritual powers, seen in the miracles that were performed through him, his spiritual wisdom and knowledge, his courage, and humility in his martyrdom. In this he also demonstrated gifts of an apostle/bishop.

      • Fr George Washburn says

        Hello friends:

        What we see in Mr. Banescu’s piece, George’s rejoinder, and even a bit in Dr. Stankovich’s comments, is greater or lesser measures of that well-known but illusory paradigm so categorically rejected by St. Paul in scripture: “I am of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, :etc.” It reminds me of a commercial jingle from my media-worshiping childhood: “My dog’s bigger than your dog” because “my dog eats Ken’l Ration” For the kids in my neighborhood, who as I recall all feared they were lesser than others, being able to identify with a dog bigger than other people’s was a most desirable state of affairs indeed!

        Rather than creating a false nostalgia for the bishops of 40 years ago, whose warts it is convenient to overlook if one is trying to set up a simplistic comparison unfavorable to contemporary hierarchs, we ought to be focused on what **really** makes men good, strong, wise kind, courageous in Christ and actually promoting the same in the real times and place where we live instead of passing off facile and “Ain’t it Awful” comparisons of questionable factual accuracy as healing, uplifting wisdom.

        Are we lesser men than our fathers? Measured by me in comparison to the best, of course. Measured by an actual comparison between me and the flawed characters of any other bygone age? Perhaps not so much. But as St. Paul himself wrote, in Romans, wasn’t it, comparing himself with other humans was a counterproductive activity in which he tried not to engage?

        And really, folks, these comparisons really can’t be made accurately by anyone but God, can they? It only seems to me to stimulate false pride in the critics and condemners of present day leaders, and/or other states if mind in all of us readers and participants which produce little godliness, and not a little of what we *claim* not to want.


        Fr. George

        • Michael Bauman says

          Father George, I rarely find myself in agreement with what you post, not so on this one. Thank you.

          Maybe we could put together a Fantasy Synod on-line game, have draft bishop parties to choose the ones on our team. Set up different kinds of leagues to see who scores the most points.

          • Alexander says

            We have a trade to announce.

            St. John Parish of Hooterville trades the first pick of the 2013 Episcopal Draft to St. Margaret Parish of Brownsville for a box of candles, one prayer bracelet, and future considerations.

            (AP – Syosett) – Like Tri-Annual All American Sabors, Church Peoples’ Assemblies, and other generally pointless gatherings of ethno-centric church “leaders,” it appears that the 2013 Episcopal Draft was a complete waste of time and money.

            Unable to identifty a quality candidate without skeletons in his closet, St. Margaret Parish unsurprisingly forfeited its rights to the first pick.

            Indeed, all bishops in the draft were unselected, leaving each of them as undrafted free agents available to sign with a diocese that would care to have them. There were no immediate signings.

            St. Margaret, the parish that forfeited the first pick, was fine with the outcome. A parish council representative authorized to speak on the issue said that it was happy to help St. John’s fledgling bookstore by providing the box of candles and prayer bracelet. “There was one prospective draftee that clearly met our needs and expectations for a spiritual shepherd, but the machinations in the Commissioner’s office in Syosett would not allow us to select Metropolitan Jonah. For a few candles and a bracelet, we thought we’d give it a shot.”

            The largest episcopal agency that represents most of the undrafted free agents, the Lavender Mafia of Oyster Bay, had no immediate comment on why none of their clients were selected. A representative suggested, however, that the Chancellor’s Diary may address the issue after his series on fishing trips is complete sometime in 2017 or 2018.

            According to many who consider themselves faithful, the credibility of the Church leadership remains impaired.

        • Chris Banescu says

          Maybe Fr. George and those who directly and indirectly continue to support silence, ignore destructive secular progressive ideas, and promote a lukewarm attitude in the face of the moral crisis decimating the Church and engulfing American society should read what Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote (paragraph breaks and emphasis mine):

          But then, what about the “majority”? What about the Orthodox “establishment” – hierarchial, ecclesiastical, theological? Here, precisely because we deal not with some sectarian deviation from but with the Church herself, the situation seems to me to be even more serious. The attitude of this “establishment” is that of a simple denial, conscious or unconscious, of any significant crisis.

          Someone has once half-jokingly remarked that our Greek brothers still do not know that in 1453 Constantinople was taken by the Turks and since then has been called Istanbul. Mutatis mutandis this remark can be extended today to an overwhelming majority of Orthodox people everywhere. It is as if the radical changes mentioned above were but passing “accidents” with no specific significance for, or impact upon, the Church’s “business as usual.”

          This attitude is best expressed and illustrated by the rhetoric which has become virtually the only “official” language of the Orthodox establishment, rhetoric made up of a mixture of unshakeable optimism, obligatory triumphalism and amazing self-righteousness.

          Those who do not use that language, who dare raise questions and to express doubts about the state of the Church in a rapidly changing world, are accused of disturbing the peace of the Church, or provoking troubles and, in a word, of undermining Orthodoxy. The very function of that rhetoric lies in its remarkable power to conceal reality by replacing it with a wishful “pseudo-reality,” and therefore simply to wipe away the questions which the “real” reality would unavoidably have raised.

          ~ Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Church, World, Mission, p. 11-12

          Fr. Alexander On the Progressive Surrender to Secularism Inside and Outside the Church:

          The Orthodox “establishment” and the vast majority of the Orthodox living in the West do not realize that the “heritage” which they claim to preserve is not that only heritage which is worth being preserved and lived by: the vision of God, man and life revealed in the Orthodox faith.

          It is not even the rich and many ways deeply Christian culture which grew up from that vision and which would force us to discern and to face the challenge of the West, but a miserable reduction of the heritage to a few superficial “symbols” which, by creating the illusion of faithfulness to the “faith of our fathers,” masks the progressive surrender of “real life” to the great, and indeed “Western” heresy of our age: secularism; the surrender not only of “secular” life, but of the Church’s life as well, of her approach be it to faith and liturgy, to parish administration and pastoral ministry, or to education and mission. …

          Hence the tragic nominalism which permeates the entire life of the Church and prevents her from fulfilling her essential mission, her task of judging, evaluating, inspiring, changing, transforming the whole life of man, of generating that creative tension between herself and the world which makes her into “the salt of the earth.”

          ~ Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Church, World, Mission, p. 13-14

          • M. Stankovich says

            Mr. Banescu,

            Most sincerely I thank you for continuing to bring the message of those I have insisted are the “architects” of our Church in America. In my opinion, apart from the treasure that are the comments of Fr. John Peck and Fr. Alexey Karlgut – positive, creative, forward-thinking, and visionary individuals that I encourage Mr. Michalopulos to feature as guest writers here – the writings of Frs. Schmemann & Meyendorff, Profs. Verhovskoy, Bogolepov, and Arseniev seem to be met with such disdain and resentment, yet nothing – and I repeat nothing – of any substance, character, or plan is suggested. To see the intimate hopes and dreams of these architects – and I emphasize that it was the mission of this cadre of men, of which Alexander Schmemann was the most prolific – again studied and considered is edifying.

            But having rendered the diagnosis, then what? I have been suggesting for months that we should now be convinced of the insufficiency of simply issuing “official statements” from the Synod of Bishops, or once-a-year organized “Marches for [insert issue]” Certainly these are essential, but insufficient. On the AOI site, a person is peddling the notion that Alexander Schmemann believed in and actively encouraged political intervention on the part of the Church. It never happened. He did not mention it in class; he never preached such a thing; he never mentioned this in private conversation; and it is not to found in his writings. It is an absurd notion.

            So what was his solution? I posted it here last week, and I post it again:

            The spiritual restoration consists therefore in an absolute and total priority of religion in the parish. Its secularistic reduction must be counteracted by a real religious reduction and it is here that the priest must recover his unique place and function. He must literally stop playing the game of the parish, he must cease to be the “servant” and the “organization man” of secular interests and become again what he was when people considered it bad luck to meet him, what he eternally is: the man of faith, the witness of the Absolute, the representative of the Living God. “It is his (the priest’s) faith that the world needs”—wrote Francois Mauriac—”a faith which does not wink at the idols. From all other men we expect charity, from the priest alone we require faith and not faith horn out of a reasoning, but a faith born from the daily contact and a kind of familiarity with God. Charity, love we can receive from all beings; that kind of faith only from the priest.

            It is striking and ironic in a thread falling all over itself with three=cheers for the leadership of the bishops, Fr. Alexander knew that the “return” was in the microcosm of the parish and its pastor. Imagine! And if you are saying to yourself, “But Fr. Alexander is clearly>/i> and succinctly calling for action and even militancy, you are correct, but not, Mr. Banescu, as you are apparently suggesting in your opening comment:

            The parish as parish, i.e., as Church has no other task, no other purpose but to reveal, to manifest, to announce, this Living God so. that men may know Him, love Him and then, find in Him their real vocations and tasks. Once more it is for the sake of the world that the Church, i.e., the parish, must be different from and even opposed to, the world and its cares, and this means that its proper and unique function is purely and exclusively religious: it is prayer and sanctification, preaching and edification, it is, above everything else, communion with the Living God. The tragedy is not, as some people affirm, that Churches and parishes were too religious, too detached and thus “lost” the world. The tragedy is that they let the world in, became worldly and set the “world” and not God as their basic “term of reference.” And thus they lost both God and the world and became a vague and indeed “irrelevant” religious projection of secularism and an equally irrelevant secularistic projection of religion. Of this double betrayal the modern parish is the very “locus” and expression.

            In the end, Mr. Banescu, it is like accusing St. Seraphim of Sarov of “minimalism” for teaching Motovilov,”Save yourself and hundreds around you will be saved,” rather than, “Let’s go to Pathmark Grocery Store and torture everyone coming out to sign a petition.”

  7. Michael Bauman says

    My friends, while I share much of the frustration expressed here and have echoed that frustration in some of my comments, I must caution not to allow the frustration and impatience and desire for leadership to give us tunnel vision.

    I was blessed yesterday to have a long conversation with my bishop, Bishop Basil, the Secretary of the EA.

    He educated me on the real, continuing effort that is going on in the EA to forge workable policies and form a unified mind and heart within the assembly. We all know that that work alone is both needed and difficult. Keep in mind that any decision that the EA makes is made by consensus. While that consensus is not unanimity it is close to that. There are 66 bishops in the assembly. Any action requires 61 of them to agree.

    While that seems ponderous and does not lend itself to quick action there are two reasons for it:

    1. In the long run, it fosters a unity of purpose and a unity of mind which is absolutely essential to the long term success of what they are doing. It is not being approached with a spirit of political compromise and deal making.

    2. The process of consensus maintains a parity between the large and the small jurisdictions. Bp Basil made it quite clear to me that none of bishops want any one jurisdiction to dominate.

    The EA was not established to be an instrument of prophetic witness to the world. It was established, in part, to make us stronger so that we can become that prophetic witness to the world by bringing us into concord with the canons of the Church and with each other. As such it, it is largely an internal organization at this point.

    As to the statement on marriage there was one prepared and ready to go the moment the decision was announced (actually two depending on which way the decision went). Five of the bishops did not want it released, some because they thought it was not strong enough, some because it was too strong.

    Bp Basil’s suggestion: talk to your bishop (with proper respect) and to any of the ancillary people involved if you know them. If you know Met. Savas or any of the other bishops on his committee talk to them about how important it is that they meet. Don’t just complain have well thought out questions and suggestions. Pray for them.

    The overall impression I came away with was that there is real, substantial work going on and despite the challenges, progress is being made. They passed the By-laws and, save one, all of the committees are working on their assigned tasks and producing.

    Another point, there are many folks in the pews who are blissfully unaware that the EA even exists let alone the need for it. If knowledge of its existence and purpose and work is to grow, that is up to us. The Bishops can only do so much and right now are not particularly motivated to go into PR mode because that would distract from the work they are doing which, according to Bp. Basil, is taking most of his time right now to maintain the communications and to motivate to action.

    Above all, I would caution saying such things as “these are weak men”. Some may be, but many are not . They are in uncharted waters and striving for the light and direction needed to get to where we all want to be.

    We need to, at least, hold our cynicism in abeyance if we cannot be hopeful or supportive.

    • Trudge at SmartVote says

      Thank you Professor Bauman for meeting with your bishop, and I respect the caution you have given to us.

      It is good to hear that work is being done at the high level to facilitate better episcopal oversight.

      However, these points are dismaying:

      1. A statement was ready to be issued but because of nearly impossible voting standards it was not.

      2. Prop 8 and the dishonoring of the California vote has fundamental bearing on the will of God for mankind. It is a case of the teaching of an anti-Christian heresy and had been in the works for a number of years before coming to the Supreme Court. During this time Orthodox leadership at all levels passively waited for an unknown law firm to carry the burden of its defense without offering their assistance to the firm or to their flock in providing moral instruction in the face of this threat – instruction that the Apostles and Church Fathers would have provided.

      3. The sexual revolution has been in the works for over 100 years, with many erosions previous to the outcome of this case, so with the traceable developments over the years in this area of life this case not should not have been a surprise. In fact, it may have been prevented if Christians were forceful in countering moral threats as our forebears had been rather than allow revolution to dominate the air for decades.

      There is no spiritual mandate for deacons, priests or bishops to withhold assistance in a moral crisis by clearly proclaiming the Gospel. St. Stephen, a deacon, did not wait for his bishop’s approval before countering how he and the Gospel were being maligned by his opponents.

      I think we are forgetting with all the bureaucratic layering the chief role of a priest and bishop to be a shepherd to his flock. A good shepherd does not wait for permission to leave the 99 for the one when the sheep are facing moral threat. As St. Stephen and other priests and bishops did in the past, they were willing to take personal risks for the Gospel.

      This reminds me of Boys Town, a 1938 film noir with Spencer Tracy and James Cagney portraying the work of Father Flanagan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boys_Town_%28film%29 It was filmed during the era of the National Legion of Decency when Christians understood the potential threat films had for moral standards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Legion_of_Decency

      I have definitely seen the work of a number of priests bringing their concern before their parishes, but I am not experiencing this in my area.

      There are some problems that deserve a pastoral comment, there are others that demand in-depth and continuing teaching and catechesis. The sexual revolution is one of these.

    • George Michalopulos says


      thank you for your insights (and inside knowledge) on this issue. There is much for those of us who are ACOB-skeptics to ponder.

      Unfortunately, His Grace’s observation about the inability of the ACOB to come to a conclusion about SCOTUS’ DOMA decision may prove my point in an unwitting fashion. It has long been my contention that that the ACOB was nothing but a false front, one which was designed to move sideways (as another poster said), fooling the people into thinking that something was going on.

      It was further my contention that the presence of even a few modernist/ecumenist bishops on said Assembly would be enough to dilute a strong Orthodox witness. Bp Basil’s observation to you that there were five or so bishops who thought that the proposed statement wasn’t strong enough while there were five or so who thought that it was too strong proves my point: the liberals essentially derailed any statement from going forth. This is the dynamic which is currently in play in the GOA btw. Now it is simply writ large in the Assembly.

      I will take up other points on the thread devoted to Dn Danilchick’s interview on AFR. And of course, I invite others to contribute there as well.

  8. Trudge at SmartVote says



    Reading your quotes from Schmemann mental snapshots kept surfacing as I recalled some of my experiences over the last months during Divine Liturgy seeing entire families looking detached and not participating, others laughing among themselves during the symbol of faith, or a child playing with a smartphone and fondled by her mother throughout the service.

  9. Fr George Washburn says

    If Mr. Banescu goes bak and reads my comments more carefully I think he will see that I am not actually arguing *for* the status quo or the continuation of bad practices, ignorance of scripture, deference to “the spirit of our age,” or any of the other actual problems of the Church. I am rather arguing *against* facile comparisons and generalized public trashings of bishops that seem to be as common as they are unhelpful in these quarters.

    I don’t think I ever see here any appreciation at all for just how impossible a job it is for present-day N. American Orthodox bishops. Sure the bishops of the past had a role in causing and/or perpetuating the conditions which bind us in so much futility and unrealized potential, and current bishops are making their share of mistakes too. I do NOT personally believe it has been a mistake on their part to have chosen not to more vociferously engage the world, flesh and devil in a rearguard action over DOMA, however.

    As St. Paul wrote, we have been redeemed from the futile ways of living handed down from our ancestors. There are many such futile ways of thinking and living indeed, and escaping them is the work of a lifetime, isn’t it? I think that perhaps one of those futile ways is viewing the ancestors in a falsely rosy light by contrast with those present day figures we choose to blame with **words** for our plight instead of staying real focused, as Motovilov was told, on the hard **work** of salvation.


    Fr. George

    • Alexander says


      Orthodox episcopacy is an impossible job, here or anywhere, now, in the past and in the future. So is the priesthood and diaconate. And being a layman ain’t exactly easy. We are all called to martyrdom.

      Here’s the problem, the turd in the punchbowl: there’s rampant, open, complete and utter immorality among the bishops. Not just in the OCA, but in all of Orthodoxy — here and elsewhere. It’s not just the debauched sexual perversions. There are all sorts financial and ethical issues as well.

      The problem is compounded by the abject failure of the few of their tituar peers who are not perverts, theives or otherwise compromised to call it out and address it responsibly. This is more than a “mistake”; it is wilful and purposeful aversion, a sin of omission. (Cf., e.g. what the SOC has done/not done vis a vis a child molester, Pahomije, and a child molesting pedarist and open homosexual, Basil of Tuzla. As to Basil — ITS ON VIDEO!)

      Those who can — and should — say and do something are not.

      If history is tinted by rose coloured glasses, nostalgia, secrecy, or flat out ignorance — which it is — this does not justifiy or exculpate the present failures.

      I’m not a big fan of the Romans or their current pontiff. But, even if it is all a made for the masses public relations stunt show, he’s starting to call ’em like he sees ’em, exposing the short comings and at least on some grossly superficial level do something about it.

      Our guys, not so much. In fact, our guys, not at all.

  10. We live in a postmodern, secular age. As such, it is not uncommon for members of our society to view marriage as a human construction that has evolved through social consensus. It is also not unusual for members of our society to place a positive value on marriage so long as it serves to enhance their emotional, social, economic, and psychological well-being.

  11. Invitation - Y'all come says

    A Reel Progress Screening and Discussion

    July 25, 2013, 7:00pm ET – 9:00pm ET

    RSVP to attend this event


    Shane Bitney Crone, Executive Producer and subject of film
    Bishop Gene Robinson, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

    Maya Rupert, Policy Director, National Council for Lesbian Rights

    Winner of the Audience Award at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, Bridegroom is a documentary directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that tells the emotional journey of Shane and Tom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship — a relationship that was cut tragically short by a misstep off the side of a roof. The story of what happened after this accidental death – of how people without the legal protections of marriage can find themselves completely shut out and ostracized – is telling, poignant, and enraging. Following the Supreme Court’s decisions to strike down DOMA and Proposition 8, what does the future hold for couples like Shane and Tom, and what legal protections can LGBT couples now expect to receive?

    Please join the Center for American Progress’ Reel Progress film series for a screening of Bridegroom, followed by a brief panel discussion and audience Q&A.

    July 25, 2013, 7:00pm ET – 9:00pm ET

    Space is extremely limited. RSVP required.
    Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis and not guaranteed.

    Landmark E Street Cinema
    E Street between 10th and 11th Streets, NW
    (entrance on E Street between 10th and 11th Street)
    Washington, DC 20005
    Map & Directions

    RSVP to attend this event at http://www.americanprogress.org/events/2013/07/19/70151/bridegroom-2/?evlc=rsvp

    For more information, call 202-682-1611.

  12. Archpriest John W. Morris says

    As I predicted the Antiochian Archdiocesan Convention passed a resolution condemning same-sex unions with no opposition. Thus we have spoken boldly on the issue.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Ah, but Fr. John we are neither Greek nor Russian so it doesn’t matter since our Metropolitan is too “papal”.

      At least that is the way it seems even though we have the strongest jurisdiction in the country.

    • George Michalopulos says


  13. July Observer on DOMA says

    See article ‘Throwing Stones’ by Steven Christoforou on page 15


  14. Trudge at SmartVote says

    Below is a pull of the Throwing Stones article noted by July Observer on DOMA.

    I would like to comment on it later, but I asked myself while reading it, are the thought processes any different than that of a modern episcopalian, but for stopping at the point of endorsing same sex marriage? What does it say about the thinking in the air as the product of a 2013 graduate of Holy Cross School of Theology? Is there no wisdom in the rest of the Scriptures and the Church Fathers learned in this program that shapes the language and thought processes of our theology graduates?

    Throwing Stones

    by Steven Christoforou
    No conversation happens in a vacuum.
    Words spoken long ago continue to echo
    in our minds long after they’re articulated.
    When I speak to you today, you’re not
    simply hearing me and my words: you’re
    rehearing words uttered by mouths long
    silent. Thanks to our broken nature, and
    our poor choices, that context tends to be
    terrible. Our interactions are judgmental,
    hurtful, violent. Even a loving, peaceful
    gesture can trigger a flood of dark memories.
    I may approach you hoping to offer
    a comforting embrace, yet you may see in
    my outstretched arms the memory of abuse
    suffered long ago.

    It’s difficult enough growing up and
    making sense of ones sexuality. It’s tragic
    that we add layers of shame, judgment,
    condemnation, and even violence to that

    For some reason, we love dividing the
    world in two: Democrats and Republicans,
    saints and sinners, good and evil. We do
    the same in matters of sexuality: we label
    people as good and wholesome on the one
    hand, vile and deviant on the other.
    We see the world as divided between
    the forces of darkness and the forces of
    light. “We,” naturally, are the good guys.
    “They” are not. “They” are the problem.
    That kind of thinking is the problem.

    The responses to the US Supreme
    Court’s recent decision in the Defense of
    Marriage Act case have been emotionally
    charged, in both directions. Some see it as
    the day a community, long discriminated
    against, finally received a level of respect
    and acceptance. Others apparently see it
    as the end of the world.

    Before we attempt to critique this
    decision, let’s be honest: as a society,
    we have a terrible record engaging with
    homosexuality and the gay community.
    Our “arguments” have usually been
    judgment, contempt, and even violence.
    The fruits of our “ministry” have been
    depression, promiscuity, drug addiction,
    and suicide.

    Some will respond that Christ was
    very clear about sin, and that so should
    we. It’s true, He didn’t shy away from
    telling sinners to “go, and sin no more.”

    But we have to remember that Christ had
    a credibility that we lack. When a crowd of
    people wanted to stone a woman caught in
    adultery, Christ took mercy on her.
    He disarmed the angry mob, saying
    that he who was without sin should throw
    the first stone. The crowd dispersed, dumfounded.
    With no one left to condemn the
    poor woman, He addressed her directly
    and gently: “Neither do I condemn you; go
    and sin no more.” (John 8:11).

    Yes, we need to be clear that the
    Church will not bless same-sex marriages.
    That would be incompatible with our
    Christ-centered understanding of who we
    are and what our salvation is. (To be sure,
    we should say more about this, and we will,
    though it will have to wait for a later post.)
    All that said, have our dealings with
    LGBTQ people been compatible with
    our understanding of human nature and

    Have we joined in the condemnation
    of the gay community, expelling them
    from our community? Do we joke about
    them behind their backs? Do we revile
    them to their faces? Even if we don’t, are
    we sensitive to the cross they bear, to the
    dehumanizing effect of the hateful words
    they have endured? Are we aware that their
    families may have disowned them? Do we
    care that they may have attempted suicide
    in their despair?

    I once heard a great story about the
    remarkable late 19th/early 20th century author,
    G.K. Chesterton.
    A newspaper asked several famous
    writers to offer their thoughts on what was
    wrong with the world. Chesterton provided
    the most succinct answer of all: “I am.”
    We read the same in our Communion
    prayers, and acknowledge that Christ
    “came into the world to save sinners, of
    whom I am the first.” Not you, not him or
    her. Me.

    So, how are we supposed to respond
    to the DOMA decision or discussion of
    same-sex marriage? We should do what we
    should be doing anyway: praying, fasting,
    giving alms, loving our neighbors. Maybe
    we’ll be able to have a deeper conversation
    when the world looks at us Christians and
    sees the genuine love of Christ.
    Until then, I’m what’s wrong with the
    world. Forgive me.

    Steven Christoforou is the Youth Protection/
    Parish Ministries coordinator for
    the Department of Youth and Young Adult
    Ministries of the Archdiocese. He is a 2013
    graduate of Holy Cross School of Theology

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      Exactly my thoughts when I read it. I am not just unimpressed, I am discouraged. Oh well, onward, and (I hope) upward……

    • George Michalopulos says

      Folks, hate to brake it to you, but this type of thinking coming out of the seminaries is why we’re probably going to lose this battle. I give us 10 years, tops before one of the jurisdictions is completely open about communing openly gay couples. 20 years before he have a liturgical rite solemnizing such couplings. The “separation” will come about between those jurisdictions who uphold the Tradition and those who are “sensitive.”

      This may be why the EA process is going nowhere fast. And thankfully so.

      • Michael Bauman says

        He is right in line with the Pope who now says that he will neither judge nor marginalize homosexuals.

        Right now the Antiochians seem to be standing alone.

        • I think what the pope said was blown out of proportion a bit but it reminds me of the standard observation about Catholicism: They are always just one bad pope away from becoming the Episcopal Church.

          As to us Orthodox, the division is coming, and rightly so. There are at least two distinct Orthodox faiths within the Church at the moment. We have seen this in the Protestant churches and even in the RCC. The RCC decided to take a split the difference position, adopting elements of the left and the right in order to maximize the number of people retained and thus Peter’s pence. So we get opposition to the death penalty, social justice, female euchristic ministers, etc. as well as opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

          Nonetheless, apart from Traditio, etc., they have abandoned their old way whereas the more traditional varieties of the Orthodox have not. But some of the Orthodox are on the same page as the Catholics, even the more liberal Catholics. The survey of Orthodox attitudes done by the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute should be all you need to confirm that.

          Two things are driving this among the clergy. The first is that unfortunately, many of the clergy think that “modernization” is the way to go and that the past attitudes of the Church are regrettable. That is, they have lost their faith.

          The second is that, regardless of their personal views, they are scared of losing parishioners and their money. That is, they have lost their faith.

          These combine to militate against traditional Orthodoxy.

          This is why I welcome the coming split and reduction in size of the Church. Smaller and more committed vs. salt-which-has-lost-its-taste. Not a hard decision.

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            One problem with your last observation is that it won’t be anything like that simple for the people who have to live through it, particularly our children and grandchildren.

            We should be careful what we wish for. The growing split between society and even the basics of the faith is not a good thing, and it’s not getting better.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Misha, while I agree the split is coming, it saddens me. It will not be clean and not all good will be on one side. God does not will anyone should be lost.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Michael, since we’re not administratively united it can’t really be a “split” can it?

              • Oh, really we forget that the Russians in the 20th century and the Greeks in earlier centuries suffered through much worse. Part of the Church will persevere and part will fall to the wayside. It’s already a reality, just not formally delineated with a breaking of communion, which is what will make it a “real” split in the eyes of some. To me, the bishops sometimes are the last ones to acknowledge reality. Already you have “walling” in the “canonical” Old Calendar jurisdictions: practices can be exported but not imported. The MP never had any power to cause ROCOR to join the OCA. The actual document that makes ROCOR a province of the MP guarantees they don’t have to join with anyone against their will. Do you believe ROCOR would have broken communion with the Old Calendar Greeks had not the OC Greeks done so first? Recall that the Serbs and Jerusalem were pretty steadfastly in communion with ROCOR even during the period when a number of other jurisdictions were not. If you look at the work recommended by Mike Meyers which Fr. Schmemann wrote back in 1964, he questions the whole “canonical/uncanonical” dichotomy based on being in communion with this or that patriarch. This was, of course, before the OCA received its tome. Thereafter, a different tune was on his lips.

                I don’t see a reason to take any of it that seriously. These macro-issues will sort themselves out. Better to be navel gazers and mind our own business, parishes, souls.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Has little or nothing to do with “administrative unity” . Our priests administer the same sacraments. The split will occur when there is a wholesale difference on who should be communed, married, etc.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            I do not know who you mean when you state that many clergy want to modernize Orthodoxy. I certainly have not met any who do. I just spent a week with my fellow Antiochian clergy and do not know of any Antiochian Orthodox Priest who believes that modernization is the way to go. I know of no clergy who favor changing the moral and doctrinal teachings of our Church or who want to make any changes in the way that we worship. I do not know any OCA or Greek clergy who want to change the teachings of our Church. I have not read any writings by any Orthodox theologian who advocates any departure from traditional Orthodox teaching. I know that our Antiochian Bishops oppose any compromises of the moral or doctrinal teachings of our Church. Nor do they favor any changes in the way that we worship.

        • You must be getting your news from the NYT or HuffPo, Michael. 🙂 Read Pope Francis’ entire statement and in context. He did not say anything that is in opposition to what orthodox Christians (both in the east and west) have held since the beginning.

          • Trudge at SmartVote says

            My heart is sinking further over Pope Francis.

            From Rod Dreher’s blog (that contains video of Pope Francis offering the beach ball):

            The pope returned from Brazil, went to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and offered a beach ball and a Brazilian sports jersey to the Virgin on the altar. My traditionalist Catholic friends are digging in for a long papal night.


            • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

              Lord, have mercy! If I did not see the YouTube video clip, I would not have believed the claim that Pope Francis offered a Brazilian beach ball and sports jersey on the high altar in a Roman Catholic cathedral in Brazil.

              I hope that kind of kitsch does not augur a return to the “informal” Eucharistic liturgies in the late 1960s in radical chic Catholic communities (at least in the New York area where I lived) where popcorn and Coke were offered in lieu of bread and wine.

          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            Even in context, the best that can be said of his statement is that he has stupidly bought into the gay-friendly notion that only homosexual acts are wrong and therefore homosexual attraction is nobody’s business. That in itself gives away the store by putting homosexual attraction on the same moral level as heterosexual attraction and by increasing to the burden of proof to an unrealistic level such that homosexuals must be caught in the act before the Church can do anything to protect itself from being taken over by them.

            The worst that can be said of his statement is that, in the broader context of statements calling for a democratic revolution by young people against their bishops, it’s another indication that his election was a leftist coup.

            • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

              Several prominent traditional Roman Catholics have hastened to assure us that the screaming headlines do not truly reflect what Pope Francis actually said. Perhaps, but I’m still troubled by the new mantra that there is nothing wrong or sinful about homosexual “orientation”–which would appear to contradict, by the way, Section VIII of the Vatican’s Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (i.e., a short but influential pamphlet) issued in 1975 (italics added to highlight that text in this online post):

              At the present time there are those who, basing themselves on observations in the psychological order, have begun to judge indulgently, and even to excuse completely, homosexual relations between certain people. This they do in opposition to the constant teaching of the Magisterium and to the moral sense of the Christian people.

              A distinction is drawn, and it seems with some reason, between homosexuals whose tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable; and homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.

              In regard to this second category of subjects, some people conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, in so far as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.

              In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society. Their culpability will be judged with prudence. But no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God.[18] This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.

              Thus Pope Francis’ predecessors—at least since Paul VI in 1975—clearly labeled any homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered” and “serious depravity” and described the “condition” (although I and some other Orthodox and Roman Catholic moral theologians would question the excessive reification of a passion or unnatural desire as an “orientation”) in unflattering terms: “their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society” and either “not incurable” or “a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.”

              Christian leaders including the Pope of Rome (and, of course, our own Orthodox hierarchs) must be as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” [Matthew 10:16, RSV] when speaking off the cuff to a Fourth Estate that usually seeks to uncover dirt about traditional Christians or press a radical political-social agenda intended in part to undermine traditional Christianity.

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                I shall continue to hope for the best. Getting used to the press is always a problem for modern popes.

      • Fr. Peter Dubinin says

        Only some of our seminaries. Let me put in a plug for St. Tikhon’s Seminary here; previous unfounded allegations made by some on this site notwithstanding. As an alumnus of the seminary very familiar and acquainted with the faculty, this kind of “squishiness” expressed in this Observer article would never be approved for publication let alone receive a passing mark as a required essay. I do not know any clergy within my circle who would advocate such a “mushy” approach to pastoral care of the faithful. Life is tough; get a helmet – struggle with/against the passions and the suffering which ensues is our lot in this world, but praise be to God who by His grace is able to make that suffering redemptive and cleansing. Though we should be saddened by our pitiable condition as creatures continually battered about by the storm of life (i.e., the passions) in no way shape or form can this ever be justification to accept as normative what God has clearly communicated with us and which we can know innately as wrong and a very clear manifestation of our brokenness. What would be our opinion of a doctor to whom we go to set a broken bone which we attempted to set/heal ourselves and all we were to receive was a Rx for 800mg tablets of motrin? We would sue for malpractice. Doc, I broke my arm a couple of weeks ago, thought I’d try to fix it myself…. In order to properly treat the broken bone, the doctor would need to re-break it and then set it and put it in a cast; once the cast came off physical therapy would be in order. And the analogy goes on…. If I go to a doctor and because he feels badly for my condition and because of that fails to provide what I need to recover… that is a worthless doctor.

  15. Michael Bauman says

    From classicalchristianity.com :

    St. Ignatius of Antioch ca. 50-117
    Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, (1 Timothy 1:3, 1 Timothy 6:3) fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet Who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet Who became passible on our account; and Who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes. (Letter to Polycarp, 3)

    To withstand the false teachers in the Church one must:

    1) stand firm like an anvil

    2) expect to be wounded

    3) bear all things

    4) be more and more zealous

    5) weigh the times carefully

    6) look for Christ

    Don’t seen anything in there about closeting ourselves. Interesting: Homosexuals are coming out of the closet and want us to go in.

    The author of the DOMA comment above(Stephen the Greek) makes a big mistake, the assumptions on which he bases his comments are false: 1. Anyone who does not want homosexual behavior normalized, hates them; 2. That we want them out of the Church; 3. that all the homosexual jihadists want is to be treated nicely and left alone.

    Of course he make an obligatory bow to not marrying homosexuals as an after thought of no real consequence.

    Neville Chamberlin would be proud.

    A much better perspective is provided by this posting on Glory to God for All Things a few days ago responding to another poster:

    “I am asking because (as a psychologist), I hurt for people who come to me who: did not choose to be homosexual, have found someone they love and want to spend their life with AND want to live their lives in communion with God.”

    I am an Orthodox Christian who struggles with the homosexual passion, which I did not choose and was not caused by any of the common canards that are often bandied about (abuse, absent father, overbearing mother, etc.)

    I do not identify myself with my passions, because those passions are not “me”. Thus it is easy for me to reject these desires that apparently cause great pain and suffering for other homosexuals to reject.

    You cannot live in communion with God AND reject his commandments. You have to choose obedience. And speaking from my own experience, as soon as you let go the feeling of entitlement—that I am entitled to be married to someone of the same sex, because “emotions”, “love”, etc.—it is shockingly easy to move on.

    In other worse, when people give up what they want in favor of what God wants, they will be surprised at how fulfilling God can be. But of course, most would rather be fulfilled by anything but God.

    That is no more and no less than is asked of all faithful Orthodox Christians. No discrimination, no hate, nothing but working out our salvation together. I’m grateful for people like this in the Church. They encourage me to be more faithful.

  16. Paradigm for Life says

    August 2013

    Mother and Child: Paradigm for Life

    Rev. Father Michael Sitaras, Proistamenos
    Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church
    Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California

    A while ago, there was a panel of atheists interviewed on the radio. One claimed that we were all non-believers at birth, born to believe in nothing. I asked myself, how did he know that? Was he able to ask a newly born infant if it believed in God? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to say that an infant believes in its mother? The baby trusts its life to her. The child does not ask if God exists. It intuitively knows it through her. The mother is the spiritual, emotional, and material life source for her child.

    This model was given to us as a paradigm for all of life. In the Orthodox Church the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child is the symbol of the incarnation, the Word of God made flesh. In the Gospel according to St. John we hear, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines into darkness and did not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).

    The entrance of the Son of God into the world was therefore, the entrance of a new life. The incarnation is the symbol of that new life – a recreation. The child discovers who God is through its mother. We are born to believe that there is a higher power. The mother, therefore, becomes that higher power to the child.

    Why does the Lord give us this paradigm? God could have just as easily created us void of a mother where we would not even need her at birth or in development as are so many animals. He could have created us as He pleased. Why then do we go through this process of life? Why do we struggle with our childhood, adolescence, and adulthood? Where does the joy and exhilaration of life originate? Why the learning and strife? Why ask so many questions? Well, because we want answers. They are the great commodity of this information age. Everyone has answers but answers are usually led by questions. So to get the right answers we need to ask the right questions.

    These atheists touted themselves to be free thinkers. One panel member was even a pastor of the “Church of Free Thought” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The implication being, of course, that no one who is a free thinker can possibly believe in God. That is pretty free. Right? However, Scripture tells us that God gives us free will. In other words, God gives us the freedom to act, believe, or think in whatever way we choose, even to not believe that He exists. We can ask any question. The Lord wants us to be free thinkers. So then where is the discrepancy between what God wants for us and what the atheists say? The believers and non-believers each call themselves free thinkers. Each asks a different question. The atheists ask, how can you be a free thinker and believe in God? The faithful ask, how can you be a free thinker and not believe in God? The discrepancy here is that there is no value in free thought unless we are set free by it. There is a painting depicting the imprisonment of John the Baptist. The scene shows King Herod’s face from the view point of St. John. Herod looks into the jail cell holding the bars as if he himself were the one being incarcerated. The artist begged to ask the viewer to think about who was really behind bars. Christian free thought in the midst of tribulations is as a candle lit in darkness. As darkness is overcome so are the tribulations turned to a deeper spiritual meaning. Who was freer than St. Paul? Who, while locked in his jail cell, he wrote the most beautifully sublime letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians?

    A man once passed by my former parish in Florida and happened to see me standing outside. He drove into the driveway and asked me what time it was. I thought he was going to ask for money but he seemed just to show an urgency to simply talk. Standing with just shorts in front of his beat up car he told me all the things he did wrong in life. It reminded me of the icon of the man who, at confession, regurgitated a dragon out of his mouth in front of his father confessor. Within a matter of twenty minutes I found out that he was abused as a child, he was a fugitive from the law, clean from heroine for at least a week, couldn’t keep a job and was currently living out of his car because his girlfriend had kicked him out. I asked if he believed in God. He replied, “no” but yet he sought me out, a priest, in front of the Church. He complained that a black cloud seemed to follow him around and he didn’t know what to do. Before he left we prayed that the Lord would forgive his sins and with God’s help he could put his life together. This pitiful jailed soul was seeking peace of mind. Did he understand that real peace could only come from God?

    Freedom is peace through love. If we do not feel peace and love for Christ, we confine ourselves to the most oppressive prison. As adults, we continue to have the same need for protection. St. Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God because we are continually fighting spiritual warfare. As infants, our earthly mother protected us and shielded us from harm while simultaneously nurturing our spiritual development giving us a model from which to transition into adulthood. From August 1st through the 15th, we contemplate the wonder and the love of the Virgin and Child relationship as a paradigm for life and salvation. Let us keep the fast these fifteen days and participate in the services which culminate to the celebration of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin Mother of God. Mother and Child is the paradigm for life.

    From: http://www.stsconstantinehelen.com/files/vine/Vine_August_2013_Final.pdf

  17. Victims of broken marriages are to be counseled to repent of the evils which caused the failure their original marriages, and to seek God’s mercy and guidance in transforming the defeat into spiritual victory. Widows and widowers are to be counseled whenever possible, particularly in the absence of small children in need of care, to remain faithful to their departed spouses who are alive in the Lord, maintaining the nuptial unity of love to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God for which they were crowned as husband and wife. Widowed and divorced persons who remarry do so not as their right but as recipients of a special gift of God’s mercy to be accepted with repentance, gratitude and the firm intention faithfully to fulfill all that belongs to married life.

  18. M. Stankovich says

    Today marks the the 27th anniversary of the falling asleep in the Lord of Professor Serge S. Verhoskoy professor emeritus of Dogmatic Theology and Ethics, and Provost of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary from 1955 until his retirement in 1981.

    He was born in Sarzha Russia in 1907. He left Russia with his parents and sisters in his early youth following the Bolshevik Revolution. He completed his secondary education in Prague, Czechoslovakia before moving to Paris, France. Greatly influenced by Fr. Georges Florovsky, while studying at St. Sergius Theological Institute between 1932-36, he became known for his passion for Orthodox Tradition, grounded in the Patristic Fathers and the Holy Scripture, and he was an open and vocal critic of the popular “Russian ėmigrė intelligentsia,” to Paris. By the early 1950’s he was recognized as an important theologian and writer, and was invited by Fr. Florovsky to join him in NYC in the forming of SVS.

    Prof. Verhovskoy always seemed to live “beneath the radar,” until it was necessary for someone to step forward to speak the Truth, which he always did without hesitation – an issue for which he continually chided students. And when Fr. Alexander Schmemann expressly and adamantly responded to the “Sorrowful Epistle of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), “I trust people like… Prof. SS Verhovskoy,” he might well have duly cited him in his description of the role of the theologian:

    The theologian has no rights, no power to govern and to administer that which belongs exclusively to the hierarchy. But it is his sacred duty to supply the hierarchy and, indeed, the whole Church with the pure teaching of the Church and to stand by that truth even when it is not considered “opportune.” It must be admitted that much too often our official “academic” theology has failed to accept this “obedience” and preferred quiet complacency. It has thus become accomplice to many deviations and distortions from which the whole Orthodox Church suffers today. But again, it was not so with the Fathers. Almost to the one, they suffered from the various “power structures” of their days for their refusal to opt for the compromise or to accept silent obedience to evil. And the fact is that ultimately the Church followed them and not those who, then as today, have a thousand excellent reasons for avoiding the “abstract principles” and preferring the “demands of reality.”

    And like many great men, he was a character. He loved the “Motown Sound” and he borrowed every one of my original blues albums – from Muddy Waters to Howlin’ Wolf – and he loved nothing more than to have a student drop by for tea and discussion, day or evening. At the end of his life I had arranged a very small favor for him, and he called my busy office just to say, “Well, my dear, I don’t know, but you are somehow angel.” Me, Prof? It was like the life affirmation you had always wanted, and the warmest hug you never expected! Memory eternal and may his soul rest with the saints!