Barbarians Among Us?

Fr. Gregory Jensen

Fr. Gregory Jensen

The Rejection of Tradition

On a post on my blog Koinoia (“An Editorial: Orthodoxy & the Public Square“), I wrote that whether or not I like Frank Schaeffer’s politics or his moral theology, or whether or not his support of abortion and gay rights are compatible with the tradition of the Church, the reality is that he is well within the mainstream of current Orthodox opinion in America. According to the PEW survey, the majority of Orthodox laity agree that abortion and gay marriage should be legal.  It may surprise you, then, that the problem isn’t Schaeffer – it’s us; specifically, it’s the clergy.  For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, we clergy are not effectively communicating the moral tradition of the Church to the laity.  Or, if we are, the laity aren’t listening –- which would imply that the clergy are willing to tolerate the laity ignoring the Gospel.

We see the same prevalence of pro-choice, pro-gay marriage positions among Orthodox politicians.  This kind of a consistent pattern of belief does not just happen.  As in the Catholic Church, we see in the Orthodox Church evidence of a significant pastoral failing.  This appears to be more than just a widespread lack of sound moral education for the faithful.  It appears to be an embrace of, or at least resignation to, the influence of secularism in our parishes. 

This is a very serious problem.  This isn’t a debate about the practices of potentially faithful followers – as can be the case when addressing, say, Old Calendar or New Calendar, or the issue of women wearing headscarves, or whether priests should have beards and wear cassocks, or whether we have pews or not, or whether to use an organ to lead the choir.  This goes much deeper – to the heart of Christian discipleship.  It seems that we have simply lost sight of the beauty and power of Christian virtue; perhaps worse, it seems that we have given over leadership to moral barbarians.

I know that sounds like a harsh judgment, but what else can one call it?  A barbarian isn’t a bad person. A barbarian isn’t likely to love his wife and children any less than you or I.  He isn’t necessarily an atheist or polytheist.  In fact, many barbarians believed –- and believe — in Christ, though for the same reason that they believed in the old gods: to secure power for their people.

John Courtney Murray writes in his introduction to The Civilization of the Pluralist Society that “the barbarian need not appear in bearskins with a club in hand,”  Instead he:

…may wear a Brooks Brothers suit and carry a ball-point pen with which to write his advertising copy. In fact, even beneath the academic gown there may lurk a child of the wilderness, untutored in the high tradition of civility, who goes busily and happily about his work, a domesticated and law-abiding man, engaged in the construction of a philosophy to put an end to all philosophy, and thus put an end to the possibility of a vital consensus and to civility itself.

In Murray’s view, the perennial “work of the barbarian” is “to undermine rational standards of judgment, to corrupt the inherited intuitive wisdom by which the people have always lived.”  He does this not “by spreading new beliefs” but,

…by creating a climate of doubt and bewilderment in which clarity about the larger aims of life is dimmed and the self-confidence of the people is destroyed, so that finally what you have is the impotent nihilism of the “generation of the third eye,” now presently appearing on our university campuses. (One is, I take it, on the brink of impotence and nihilism when one begins to be aware of one’s own awareness of what one is doing, saying, thinking. This is the paralysis of all serious thought; it is likewise the destruction of all the spontaneities of love.)

In the modern world, then, “the barbarian is the man who makes open and explicit rejection of the traditional role of reason and logic in human affairs. He is the man who reduces all spiritual and moral questions to the test of practical results or to an analysis of language or to decision in terms of individual subjective feeling.”  By this criteria, it seems that we live in an increasingly barbarian world – even in our own parishes.

Faith & Reason or Force & Fear?

Though tempting, we should not dismiss his argument as extreme.  Nor should we give in to the understandable desire to apply it to others but not ourselves.  In both cases to do so is to flee in the face of “Christian theological intuition” as well as “all of historical experience” both of which remind us that. both personally and socially, we live “life always more or less close to the brink of barbarism.”  The prospect of collapse into barbarism reflects the fragility of our world in both its physical and cultural dimensions.  At the same time he is clear that threat we face today arises from more than the usual challenges to our health and well-being posed by “physical illness” or “the disorganizations of mental imbalance.”  No, the real threat comes from “the decadence of moral corruption and the political chaos of formlessness or the moral chaos of tyranny.”However harsh this diagnosis might seem, I think that Murray is correct.  

In a civilized society Murray says, we “live together according to reason, embodied in law and custom, and incorporated in a web of institutions that sufficiently reveal rational influences, even though they are not, and cannot be, wholly rational.”  In a barbarous society, on the other hand, reason is no longer given its rightful place in human life and instead we “are huddled together under the rule of force and fear.”

Once force and fear come to dominate, as they do in the barbarous society, power becomes the key value.  Now, it is certainly true that civilized societies are also concerned with power—with acquiring it, exercising it and even extending it.  The difference is that for the barbarian, even the “Christian” barbarian, power is always an end in itself.
Murray’s observation from almost 50 years ago is as true today as it was then.  Looking around he saw the emergence of an increasingly barbarous society in which,

…economic interests assume the primacy over higher values; when material standards of mass and quantity crush out the values of quality and excellence; when technology assumes an autonomous existence and embarks on a course of unlimited self-exploitation without purposeful guidance from the higher disciplines of politics and morals (one thinks of Cape Canaveral); when the state reaches the paradoxical point of being everywhere intrusive and also impotent, possessed of immense power and powerless to achieve rational ends; when the ways of men come under the sway of the instinctual, the impulsive, the compulsive. When things like this happen, barbarism is abroad, whatever the surface impressions of urbanity. Men have ceased to live together according to reasonable laws.

You might well be asking at this point, what does any of this have to do with the life of the American Orthodox Church?
I would suggest that in American culture we are facing trends that will ultimately lead to a barbarious society.  This is not happening because this is a “Western Christian” society but because it is increasingly neither Western nor Christian.  However unintentionally, many Orthodox Christian have allied themselves with our society’s willful rejection of its own Western Christian foundations.  If we are not careful, we may find ourselves repeating the mistakes of “the eighteenth-century philosopher, who neither anticipated nor desired the brutalities of the Revolution with its Committee on the Public Safety” but who Murray argues, “prepared the ways for the Revolution by creating a vacuum which he was not able to fill.”

Painful though it is to acknowledge, many American Orthodox Christians find ourselves in the same position as traditional and observant Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews or other religious believers.  We are being attacked not only from the outside but we are increasingly being undermined from within.  Part of this occurs as a result of our own efforts to “kick down the barricades.”  It may be that this is done in the name of our specific concerns as Orthodox Christians, but it effectively serves the agenda of a pervasive and destructive barbarism that is beyond our ability to control or direct.  In the end, I fear that we will find that our anti-Western Christian rhetoric is simply self-defeating.

Bad Money Drives Out Good

An Orthodox polemics that would dismiss Western Christianity as rotten to its core does nothing to advance the cause of the Orthodox Church.  In fact – and I think the empirical evidence bears this out – rejecting the foundations of Western Christian culture and trying instead to create a Church that is thus divorced from the surrounding culture has undermined our ability to fulfill the mission of the Church.  To understand why this is NOT in the Church’s best interest, let me borrow an idea from economics: Gresham’s law

Named after the English financier during the Tudor dynasty Sir Thomas Gresham (1519 – 1579), Greshem’s law says that “Bad money drives out good.”  In the Church, the “bad money” is our indifference, if not outright hostility, to Western Christian culture.  The “good money” is not simply Western culture, but also the tradition of the Orthodox Church. 

Having rejected a variety of Western insights that were immensely important in the development of western society – such as the partnership of faith and reason, natural law, and the objective and universal character of Christian morality (to name only three insights that Schaeffer dismissively touches on in his essay), we have — however inadvertently — allied the Church with the cultural forces of barbarism.

Our alliance with barbarism has happened because we have rejected the Christian roots of Western culture in a misguided effort to (1) keep the Church “Greek” (or “Russian,” or “Arab,” or “Serbian”) or (2) to distinguish “True Orthodoxy” from “false Catholicism” or (3) because, like Frank Schaeffer, we are simply cultural-despisers who have found that the Orthodox tradition is a convenient cudgel with which to continue waging our political or cultural battles.  Whatever the reason, this amounts to a refusal to engage in any meaningful way with the cultural marketplace of ideas.  As a result, it leaves the public square utterly naked — even as we moan and complain about it privately.  Worse, it makes us the tools by which Nietzsche could proclaim that God was a non-factor (“dead”) in modern life.  It puts us in a position where we not only fail America –- to be salt and light for our neighbor and our country — but also Christ and ourselves.

We should instead look at Western Christianity, and especially Roman Catholicism, as an ally.  Yes, there are important differences that separate us and these differences should not be minimized. But neither should they be so emphasized that we find it impossible to work with others with whom we share a deep, common concern.  Pastorally, this means that the challenge for the Orthodox Church is to become American among Americans, and –- in our own particular way — Western among Western Christians.  This need not come at the expense of the faith — anymore than it did for the Fathers of the Church.  It does however mean that we must do here and now as we have done at other times and other places.
Like the Fathers, we must discern and nurture what is best in Western culture.  Our failure to do this, and more importantly, our apparent unwillingness to do this, has not resulted in a stronger Church here in America but rather one that looks increasingly like an Eastern-rite Mainline Protestant denomination.

The use of the vernacular –- a gift that the West has borrowed from the East –- must mean more than serving Liturgy in the spoken language of the marketplace.  It also means learning to faithfully express the meaning of the Gospel in the cultural life of our country.  While not without risk, it will – when done successfully (and we have Christ’s promise that we will be successful) – not only grow the Church, but transform the culture.

The spiritual genius of the Orthodox Church has always been the ability of the Church to take on and transform the dominate culture.  This means that just as Jesus was the authentic Jew among Jews, the Church has been – in turn – authentically Greek among the Greeks, and authentically Russian among the Russians, so too we must be authentically American among the Americans.  While have rarely done this perfectly, we have largely done this without sacrificing the Gospel or the communion of the various local or ethnic churches. 

Is there any reason, other than sloth or despair, why we think we cannot do this in America as well?

Rev. Gregory Jensen is psychologist of religion and a priest of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest (Orthodox Church in America). He blogs at Koinonia.

Christmas Appeal – 2009

December 18, 2009

Dear Friend:

Thank you for joining the rapidly growing number of people in the United States and abroad who have made the Web site and blog of the American Orthodox Institute a “must read” for news and analysis on Orthodox Christianity.

One grateful contributer writes:

“AOI is providing the kind of in depth analysis and commentary that is unparalleled in the English speaking world. We stand at a time of competing ideologies in the world, in America, and in the Orthodox Church. AOI has been a beacon of clarity, reason and faithfulness to Gospel principles in the midst of an age of sloppy sentimentality and murky darkness.” Fr. JR

The American Orthodox Institute has become the go-to site for some of the best and most timely analysis of events in the Orthodox world today. Where else do you find:

  • Critical reflection on the Ecumenical Patriarch’s collaboration with the global warming environmentalists?
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  • AOI was the first organization to warn that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s embrace of the UN Global Warming agenda was a risky position to take (read it here).
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Manhattan Declaration and Signers


For more information see

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

Drafted on October 20, 2009

Released on November 20, 2009


Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering. 

While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire's sanctioning of infanticide.  We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.

After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture.  It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country.  Christians under Wilberforce's leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible.  And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement.  The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.

Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good.  In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.  


We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.   We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image.  We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person.  We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions. 

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense.  In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right – and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation - to speak and act in defense of these truths.  We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.  It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season.   May God help us not to fail in that duty.


So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10 

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government.  The present administration is led and staffed by those who want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and who want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense.  Majorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.  The Supreme Court, whose infamous 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade stripped the unborn of legal protection, continues to treat elective abortion as a fundamental constitutional right, though it has upheld as constitutionally permissible some limited restrictions on abortion.  The President says that he wants to reduce the "need" for abortion – a commendable goal.  But he has also pledged to make abortion more easily and widely available by eliminating laws prohibiting government funding, requiring waiting periods for women seeking abortions, and parental notification for abortions performed on minors.  The elimination of these important and effective pro-life laws cannot reasonably be expected to do other than significantly increase the number of elective abortions by which the lives of countless children are snuffed out prior to birth.  Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as "the culture of death."  We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.

A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable.  As predicted by many prescient persons, the cheapening of life that began with abortion has now metastasized.  For example, human embryo-destructive research and its public funding are promoted in the name of science and in the cause of developing treatments and cures for diseases and injuries.  The President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer funding of so-called "therapeutic cloning."  This would result in the industrial mass production of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell lines and tissues.  At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons.  Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe.  Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave.  The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of "liberty," "autonomy," and "choice."

We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion.  We will work, as we have always worked, to bring assistance, comfort, and care to pregnant women in need and to those who have been victimized by abortion, even as we stand resolutely against the corrupt and degrading notion that it can somehow be in the best interests of women to submit to the deliberate killing of their unborn children.  Our message is, and ever shall be, that the just, humane, and truly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike.

A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination.  The Bible enjoins us to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to speak for those who cannot themselves speak.  And so we defend and speak for the unborn, the disabled, and the dependent.  What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear.  We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.

Our concern is not confined to our own nation.  Around the globe, we are witnessing cases of genocide and "ethnic cleansing," the failure to assist those who are suffering as innocent victims of war, the neglect and abuse of children, the exploitation of vulnerable laborers, the sexual trafficking of girls and young women, the abandonment of the aged, racial oppression and discrimination, the persecution of believers of all faiths, and the failure to take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS.  We see these travesties as flowing from the same loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life that drives the abortion industry and the movements for assisted suicide, euthanasia, and human cloning for biomedical research.  And so ours is, as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love and life for all humans in all circumstances.


The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man."  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24 

This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:32-33 

In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation.  In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself.   Marriage then, is the first institution of human society – indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation.  In the Christian tradition we refer to marriage as "holy matrimony" to signal the fact that it is an institution ordained by God, and blessed by Christ in his participation at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  In the Bible, God Himself blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem.

Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society.  Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits – the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live.  Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves.  Unfortunately, we have witnessed over the course of the past several decades a serious erosion of the marriage culture in our own country.   Perhaps the most telling – and alarming – indicator is the out-of-wedlock birth rate.  Less than fifty years ago, it was under 5 percent.  Today it is over 40 percent.  Our society – and particularly its poorest and most vulnerable sectors, where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is much higher even than the national average – is paying a huge price in delinquency, drug abuse, crime, incarceration, hopelessness, and despair.  Other indicators are widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate of divorce.

We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage.  Insofar as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce and remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage we repent, and call upon all Christians to do the same.

To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love.  We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce.  We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture.  It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law.  Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture.  It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life.  In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct.  We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward.  We stand with them, even when they falter.  We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God's intention for our lives.  We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness.  We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it.  Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners.  For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts.  Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to "a more excellent way."  As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

We further acknowledge that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage.  Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital.  They fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit.  This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being.  Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies.  The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit.  Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being – the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual – on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation.  That is why in the Christian tradition, and historically in Western law, consummated marriages are not dissoluble or annullable on the ground of infertility, even though the nature of the marital relationship is shaped and structured by its intrinsic orientation to the great good of procreation.

We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights.  They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being "married."  It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it?  On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand.  Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships.  Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships?  No.  The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage.  Marriage is an objective reality – a covenantal union of husband and wife – that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good.  If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.  First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized.  Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as "marriages" sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically non-marital and immoral.  Third, the common good of civil society is damaged when the law itself, in its critical pedagogical function, becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends.  Sadly, we are today far from having a thriving marriage culture.  But if we are to begin the critically important process of reforming our laws and mores to rebuild such a culture, the last thing we can afford to do is to re-define marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is.

And so it is out of love (not "animus") and prudent concern for the common good (not "prejudice"), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture.  How could we, as Christians, do otherwise?  The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God's creation covenant.  Indeed, the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and his church.  And so just as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.

Religious Liberty

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.
Matthew 22:21

The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous, but it is not a novel idea or recent development.  The nature of religious liberty is grounded in the character of God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ.  Determined to follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the Incarnation had taken place: "Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing fear and terror?  Not so, but in gentleness and meekness…, for compulsion is no attribute of God" (Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4).  Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God – a dignity, as our founders proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason. 

Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience.  Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience.  No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions.  What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law – such persons claiming these "rights" are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions.  We see it in the use of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.  After the judicial imposition of "same-sex marriage" in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century-long work of helping to place orphaned children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same-sex households in violation of Catholic moral teaching.  In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi-marital "civil unions" scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions.  In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality.  New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here.

In recent decades a growing body of case law has paralleled the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership, resulting in restrictions on the free exercise of religion.  We view this as an ominous development, not only because of its threat to the individual liberty guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her faith, but because the trend also threatens the common welfare and the culture of freedom on which our system of republican government is founded.  Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one's own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of.1  Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny.

As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority.  We believe in law and in the rule of law.  We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral.  The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust – and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust – undermine the common good, rather than serve it.

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel.  In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching.  Their answer was, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.  There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself.  Unjust laws degrade human beings.  Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience.  King's willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.  

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.  We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's.  But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.

1Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Drafting Committee

  • Robert George         
    Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
  • Timothy George 
    Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford ?University
  • Chuck Colson 
    Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, Va.)


Signers (as of November 19, 2009)

  1. Dr. Daniel Akin
    President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, N.C.)
  2. Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola
    Primate, Anglican Church of Nigeria (Abika, Nigeria)
  3. Randy Alcorn
    Founder and Director, Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM) (Sandy, Ore.)
  4. Rt. Rev. David Anderson
    President and CEO, American Anglican Council (Atlanta)
  5. Leith Anderson
    President of National Association of Evangelicals (Washington, D.C.)
  6. Charlotte K. Ardizzone
    TV Show Host and Speaker, INSP Television (Charlotte, N.C.)
  7. Kay Arthur
    CEO and Co-founder, Precept Ministries International (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
  8. Dr. Mark L. Bailey
    President, Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas)
  9. Most Rev. Craig W. Bates
    Archbishop, International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (Malverne, N.Y.)
  10. Gary Bauer
    President, American Values; Chairman, Campaign for Working Families
  11. His Grace, The Right Reverend Bishop Basil Essey
    The Right Reverend Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America (Wichita, Kan.)
  12. Joel Belz
    Founder, World Magazine (Asheville, N.C.)
  13. Rev. Michael L. Beresford
    Managing Director of Church Relations, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (Charlotte, N.C.)
  14. Ken Boa
    President, Reflections Ministries (Atlanta)
  15. Joseph Bottum
    Editor of First Things (New York)
  16. Pastor Randy & Sarah Brannon
    Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church (Madera, Calif.)
  17. Steve Brown
    National Radio Broadcaster, Key Life (Maitland, Fla.)
  18. Dr. Robert C. Cannada, Jr.
    Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Fla.)
  19. Galen Carey
    Director of Government Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals (Washington, D.C.)
  20. Dr. Bryan Chapell
    President, Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis)
  21. Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver
  22. Timothy Clinton
    President, American Association of Christian Counselors (Forest, Va.)
  23. Chuck Colson
    Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, Va.)
  24. Most Rev. Salvatore Joseph Cordileone
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Calif.
  25. Dr. Gary Culpepper
    Associate Professor, Providence College (Providence, R.I.)
  26. Jim Daly
    President and CEO, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  27. Marjorie Dannenfelser
    President, Susan B. Anthony List (Arlington, Va.)
  28. Rev. Daniel Delgado
    Board of Directors, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Pastor, Third Day Missions Church (Staten Island, N.Y.)
  29. Patrick J. Deneen
    Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Associate Professor and Director, The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy, Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
  30. Dr. James Dobson
    Founder, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
  31. Dr. David Dockery
    President, Union University (Jackson, Tenn.)
  32. Most Rev. Timothy Dolan
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of New York, N.Y.
  33. Dr. William Donohue
    President, Catholic League (New York)
  34. Dr. James T. Draper, Jr.
    President Emeritus, LifeWay (Nashville, Tenn.)
  35. Dinesh D'Souza
    Writer and Speaker (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)
  36. Most Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan
    Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America (Ambridge, Pa. )
  37. Dr. Michael Easley
    President Emeritus, Moody Bible Institute (Chicago)
  38. Dr. William Edgar
    Professor, Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia)
  39. Brett Elder
    Executive Director, Stewardship Council (Grand Rapids, Mich.
  40. Rev. Joel Elowsky
    Drew University (Madison, N.J.)
  41. Stuart Epperson
    Co-Founder and Chariman of the Board, Salem Communications Corporation (Camarillo, Calif.)
  42. Rev. Jonathan Falwell
    Senior Pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, Va.)
  43. William J. Federer
    President, Amerisearch, Inc. (St. Louis)
  44. Fr. Joseph D. Fessio
    Founder and Editor, Ignatius Press (Ft. Collins, Colo.)
  45. Carmen Fowler
    President and Executive Editor, Presbyterian Lay Committee (Lenoir, N.C.)
  46. Maggie Gallagher
    President, National Organization for Marriage (Manassas, Va.)
  47. Dr. Jim Garlow
    Senior Pastor, Skyline Church (La Mesa, Calif.)
  48. Steven Garofalo
    Senior Consultant, Search and Assessment Services (Charlotte, N.C.)
  49. Dr. Robert P. George
    McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
  50. Dr. Timothy George
    Dean and Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University (Birmingham, Ala.)
  51. Thomas Gilson
    Director of Strategic Processes, Campus Crusade for Christ International (Norfolk, Va.)
  52. Dr. Jack Graham
    Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, Texas)
  53. Dr. Wayne Grudem
    Research Professor of Theological and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary (Phoenix)
  54. Dr. Cornell "Corkie" Haan
    National Facilitator of Spiritual Unity, The Mission America Coalition (Palm Desert, Calif.)
  55. Fr. Chad Hatfield
    Chancellor, CEO and Archpriest, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Yonkers, N.Y.)
  56. Dr. Dennis Hollinger
    President and Professor of Christian Ethics, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, Mass.)
  57. Dr. Jeanette Hsieh
    Executive Vice President and Provost, Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.)
  58. Dr. John A. Huffman, Jr.
    Senior Pastor, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Newport Beach, Calif.); Chairman of the Board, Christianity Today International (Carol Stream, Ill.)
  59. Rev. Ken Hutcherson
    Pastor, Antioch Bible Church (Kirkland, Wash.)
  60. Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr.
    Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church (Beltsville, Md.)
  61. Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse
    President, American Orthodox Institute; Editor, (Naples, Fla.)
  62. Jerry Jenkins
    Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Moody Bible Institute (Black Forest, Colo.)
  63. Camille Kampouris
    Editorial Board, Kairos Journal
  64. Emmanuel A. Kampouris
    Publisher, Kairos Journal
  65. Rev. Tim Keller
    Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (New York)
  66. Dr. Peter Kreeft
    Professor of Philosophy, Boston College (Mass.) and at the Kings College (N.Y.)
  67. Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
  68. Jim Kushiner
    Editor, Touchstone (Chicago)
  69. Dr. Richard Land
    President, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC (Washington, D.C.)
  70. Jim Law
    Senior Associate Pastor, First Baptist Church (Woodstock, Ga.)
  71. Dr. Matthew Levering
    Associate Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University (Naples, Fla.)
  72. Dr. Peter Lillback
    President, The Providence Forum (West Conshohocken, Pa.)
  73. Dr. Duane Litfin
    President, Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.)
  74. Rev. Herb Lusk
    Pastor, Greater Exodus Baptist Church (Philadelphia)
  75. His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida
    Archbishop Emeritus, Roman Catholic Diocese of Detroit
  76. Most Rev. Richard J. Malone
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine
  77. Rev. Francis Martin
    Professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Detroit)
  78. Dr. Joseph Mattera
    Bishop and Senior Pastor, Resurrection Church (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  79. Phil Maxwell
    Pastor, Gateway Church (Bridgewater, N.J.)
  80. Josh McDowell
    Founder, Josh McDowell Ministries (Plano, Texas)
  81. Alex McFarland
    President, Southern Evangelical Seminary (Charlotte, N.C.)
  82. Most Rev. George Dallas McKinney
    Bishop, Founder and Pastor, St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ  (San Diego)
  83. Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns
    Missionary Bishop, Convocation of Anglicans of North America (Herndon, Va.)
  84. Dr. C. Ben Mitchell
    Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University (Jackson, Tenn.)
  85. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
    President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)
  86. Dr. Russell D. Moore
    Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.)
  87. Most Rev. John J. Myers
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
  88. Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, Kan.
  89. David Neff
    Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today (Carol Stream, Ill.)
  90. Tom Nelson
    Senior Pastor, Christ Community Evangelical Free Church (Leawood, Kan.)
  91. Niel Nielson
    President, Covenant College (Lookout Mt., Ga.)
  92. Most Rev. John Nienstedt
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
  93. Dr. Tom Oden
    Theologian, United Methodist Minister; Professor, Drew University (Madison, N.J.)
  94. Marvin Olasky
    Editor-in-Chief, World Magazine;  Provost, The Kings College (New York)
  95. Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix
  96. Rev. William Owens
    Chairman, Coalition of African-American Pastors (Memphis, Tenn.)
  97. Dr. J.I. Packer
    Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College (Canada)
  98. Metr. Jonah Paffhausen
    Primate, Orthodox Church in America (Syosset, N.Y.)
  99. Tony Perkins
    President, Family Research Council (Washington, D.C.)
  100. Eric M. Pillmore
    CEO, Pillmore Consulting LLC (Doylestown, Pa.)
  101. Dr. Everett Piper
    President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University (Bartlesville, Okla.)
  102. Todd Pitner
    President, Rev Increase
  103. Dr. Cornelius Plantinga
    President, Calvin Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  104. Dr. David Platt
    Pastor, Church at Brook Hills (Birmingham, Ala.)
  105. Rev. Jim Pocock
    Pastor, Trinitarian Congregational Church (Wayland, Mass.)
  106. Fred Potter
    Executive Director and CEO, Christian Legal Society (Springfield, Va.)
  107. Dennis Rainey
    President, CEO, and Co-Founder, FamilyLife (Little Rock, Ark.)
  108. Fr. Patrick Reardon
    Pastor, All Saints' Antiochian Orthodox Church (Chicago)
  109. Bob Reccord
    Founder, Total Life Impact, Inc. (Suwanee, Ga.)
  110. His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia
  111. Frank Schubert
    President, Schubert Flint Public Affairs (Sacramento, Calif.)
  112. David Schuringa
    President, Crossroads Bible Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  113. Tricia Scribner
    Author (Harrisburg, N.C.)
  114. Dr. Dave Seaford
    Senior Pastor, Community Fellowship Church (Matthews, N.C.)
  115. Alan Sears
    President, CEO, and General Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
  116. Randy Setzer
    Senior Pastor, Macedonia Baptist Church (Lincolnton, N.C.)
  117. Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo.
  118. Dr. Ron Sider
    Director, Evangelicals for Social Action (Wynnewood, Pa.)
  119. Fr. Robert Sirico
    Founder, Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  120. Dr. Robert Sloan
    President, Houston Baptist University (Houston)
  121. Charles Stetson
    Chairman of the Board, Bible Literacy Project (New York)
  122. Dr. David Stevens
    CEO, Christian Medical and Dental Association (Bristol, Tenn.)
  123. John Stonestreet
    Executive Director, Summit Ministries (Manitou Springs, Colo.)
  124. Dr. Joseph Stowell
    President, Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  125. Dr. Sarah Sumner
    Professor of Theology and Ministry, Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, Calif.)
  126. Dr. Glenn Sunshine
    Chairman of the History Department, Central Connecticut State University (New Britain, Conn.)
  127. Joni Eareckson Tada
    Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center (Agoura Hills, Calif.)
  128. Luiz Tellez
    President, The Witherspoon Institute (Princeton, N.J.)
  129. Dr. Timothy C. Tennent
    President, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.)
  130. Michael Timmis
    Chairman, Prison Fellowship and Prison Fellowship International (Naples, Fla.)
  131. Mark Tooley
    President, Institute for Religion and Democracy (Washington, D.C.)
  132. H. James Towey
    President, St. Vincent College (Latrobe, Pa.)
  133. Juan Valdes
    Middle and High School Chaplain, Florida Christian School (Miami, Fla.)
  134. Todd Wagner
    Pastor, WaterMark Community Church (Dallas)
  135. Dr. Graham Walker
    President, Patrick Henry College (Purcellville, Va.)
  136. Fr. Alexander F. C. Webster, Ph.D.
    Archpriest, Orthodox Church in America; Professorial Lecturer, The George Washington University (Ashburn, Va.)
  137. George Weigel
    Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center (Washington, D.C.)
  138. David Welch
    Houston Area Pastor Council Executive Director, US Pastors Council (Houston)
  139. Dr. James Emery White
    Founding and Senior Pastor,  Mecklenburg Community Church (Charlotte, N.C.)
  140. Dr. Hayes Wicker
    Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church (Naples, Fla.)
  141. Mark Williamson
    Founder and President, Foundation Restoration Ministries/Federal Intercessors (Katy, Texas)
  142. Parker T. Williamson
    Editor Emeritus and Senior Correspondent, Presbyterian Lay Committee
  143. Dr. Craig Williford
    President, Trinity International University (Deerfield, Ill.)
  144. Dr. John Woodbridge
    Research Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Ill.)
  145. Don M. Woodside
    Performance Matters Associates (Matthews, N.C.)
  146. Dr. Frank Wright
    President, National Religious Broadcasters (Manassas, Va.)
  147. Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl
    Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
  148. Paul Young
    COO and Executive Vice President, Christian Research Institute (Charlotte, N.C.)
  149. Dr. Michael Youssef
    President, Leading the Way (Atlanta)
  150. Ravi Zacharias
    Founder and Chairman of the Board, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Norcross, Ga.)
  151. Most Rev. David A. Zubik
    Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh
  152. James R. Thobaben, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Professor, Bioethics and Social Ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.)

Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies

By: George C. Mchalopulos

Several years ago when I was young and impressionable, I happened upon the Charles Laughton version of The Mutiny on the Bounty. What struck me – as near as I can recollect—was the climax of Lieutenant Bligh’s trial. Though acquitted of the charges against him, the president of the tribunal condemned Bligh’s character by saying that the Royal Navy had erred in commissioning him as he was “no Christian gentleman.” I remember how devastated I was by the indictment of Laughton/Bligh, delivered as it was in the crisp, no-nonsense, upper-class English accent. It became immediately apparent that the poor wretch would be hounded out of decent society for the rest of his life.

The reader may ask at this point: what would incite a reviewer of a book which is a vigorous apologia of the Christian religion to cite a little-remembered version of movie describing an event barely remembered today? Only this: that at one time, there was such a thing as a “Christian gentleman,” a man of culture and erudition who lived comfortably in the world but was resolute in his religious convictions. More importantly, this type of Christian gentleman lived in a society that was Christian and unapologetically so.

Now of course, the opposite is the case: obloquy is heaped upon Western Civilization and the Church. Christendom is castigated as the great engine of colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, and the heartbreak of psoriasis. No doubt, we will soon find out that we would be much better off if our ancestors had never read McGuffy’s Reader as children or the Confessions of St Augustine as adults. Instead, we would all be better off if we read Heather has Two Mommies or I, Rigoberta Menchu. In this abyss of ignorance in which we find ourselves. It seems to be the case that we have only two choices: the tyranny of tolerance or the horrors of Christianism.

Into this vacuum come the strident New Atheists, the Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harrises of the world. Though their books are vastly more intelligent than the bovine waste that comprise the feminist, homosexualist, or secularist “canon” of the typical Western university, they are not without their logical and philosophical problems. A few enterprising souls have risen to the fore to engage them on their own terms. Dinesh D’Souza for example, has done yeoman’s work in this regard, easily besting them, often in open debate as well as in print. However, the problem is not the New Atheists but the broader society, which has internalized a very ignorant, Christophobic dynamic. It is modern society and its “smelly little orthodoxies” (in Chesterton’s apt phrase), that has made the careers of the New Atheists viable. To decimate these pretensions, one could do no better than look to David Bentley Hart’s new book Atheist Delusions.

The New Atheism has found fertile clay indeed in which to sink its growing roots. The modern world has been softened up for some time now by the plows of materialism, Darwinism, and Freudianism. It is into this arena that Hart (an Orthodox Christian), has boldly advanced to do battle. He is certainly up to the task: like a confident gladiator he knows where his enemy’s weak spots are. His weapons are impressive indeed; besides the facts, he has a keen analytical mind and is able to spot fallacies and errors in logic. He sees what is there and often what is not there, the so-called dog that didn’t bark, and for this we can be grateful. Indeed, his prose is lively and entertaining, that alone is worth the price of admission. Moreover, he does not hesitate to pore through the evidence and footnotes (a tedious process if there ever was one), and is perfectly willing to call out eminent scholars (such as Ramsay MacMullen) for purposely distorting the evidence which they themselves used, in order to propagate a deliberate anti-Christian argument.

Hart dispatches the secularist critiques of (among other things) the Inquisition, the trial of Galileo, and the Christian burning of the famous Library at Alexandria. In the interest of brevity, I will only say that the Inquisition was set up by the Roman Catholic Church to stop the promiscuous torture and execution of people condemned of heresy and witchcraft by the state. In this respect, the Church largely succeeded. As for Galileo, Hart plumbs the historical record and proves that he was a prickly character who needlessly and with malice often provoked his many academic enemies. More to the point, his own astrophysical theories were not in themselves correct as his inquest pointed out. Indeed, the Church had no problems with his theories as they were essentially the same as Copernicus’, who some eighty years earlier, had received the imprimatur of the Church. And almost always left out of the modern secularist critique of the Church was the fact that he was a devout Christian, indeed more so than his great friend, Pope Urban VIII, who lavished upon him great accolades, pensions, and awards (thus further inflaming Galileo’s many enemies). More damningly, Galileo himself was not intellectually honest. He castigated competing astronomers such as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, more out of spite than conviction. Indeed, it is Kepler’s system of celestial mechanics which we use today.

As to the famous burning of the Alexandrian Library by supposedly superstitious and bigoted Christian mobs in A.D. 390, Hart destroys this myth with an alacrity that enlightens as well as educates us about the intricacies of the early Christian age. It is little known that the Library had in fact been burned down many centuries earlier, most probably – and inadvertently—by Julius Caesar’s legions, during the dictator’s war against Pompey in the year 48 B.C. This is a stunning revelation, as Caesar died in 44 B.C., a good forty years or so before Christ had even been born (and almost a good century before the creation of the Church). So how did this myth take hold? The answer lies in the internecine conflicts that took place between Greeks and Jews, and later between pagans and Christians in Alexandria, quite possibly the most cosmopolitan and most violent city in the Roman Empire.

The facts are discernable to anyone who wishes to pore over the earliest extant documents. On the grounds of the earlier Library stood a temple dedicated to Serapis, constructed a century after the first Library. The confusion arises because the Serapeum contained many scrolls scattered about its environs. The twelfth century Byzantine historian John Tzetzes for instance “claimed that Callimachus of Cyrene (c.305-240 B.C.) catalogued forty-two thousand scrolls in the library…but whether this is to be trusted…cannot be determined.” It is important to note that Tzetzes received this information second-hand; at any rate neither historians’ sources are extant. At any rate, the destruction of the Serapeum was one incident in the long, internecine conflicts between Christians and pagans. In this particular instance, some pagan gangs had kidnapped Christians, taken them to the temple, tortured and killed them, dumping their bodies in the adjacent pits where the offal of sacrificial animals was thrown. In the ensuing melee, the enraged Christians burned the temple and all its contents. Although a regrettably violent act, it is unknown at this time if there were indeed books and scrolls there. Regardless, the myth of the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria by intolerant Christian mobs arose out of the ashes of this great catastrophe.

It is because of Hart’s great historical knowledge that this book is well worth a leisurely read. His historical episodes are written in a lively manner, entertaining and often with a hint of sarcasm. However, the real jewel of this book lies in its middle section, when Hart beautifully describes the rite of Christian initiation, contrasting it with the benighted, and hopeless paganism that permeated the entire non-Christian world. The remorselessness that Hart catalogues –from the pagans’ own sources at that—describe nothing less than a severe existential crisis for Hellenistic civilization. Even the vaunted erudition and science of Greek philosophy had long degenerated into superstition and magic by the time the Galilean “had cast the world gray with His breath.” The Renaissance myth, that Greek learning was snuffed bout by an intolerant Church takes a well-deserved beating in these pages. Indeed, it was Christianity, with its insistence that Reason (logos) had permeated the world –indeed created it—which gave rise to the scientific method. True science did not begin with Aristotle, who disdained the laboratory as the denizen of slaves, but with the Franciscans of the High Middle Ages, who had no compunction about getting their hands dirty. The operating principle of modern science –reductionism—was the revealed to the world by William of Ockham, a Franciscan monk.

So where are we now? Clearly not in a Christian – or even post-Christian age — but more probably an anti-Christian one. It is equally apparent to some that this age cannot last. There comes a time when old paradigms must be cast away. Sometimes a good idol-smashing does this, or better yet, a nice book-burning. Hart describes one such book-burning which gave rise to the modern age. It was on June 24, 1443, when Paracelsus took copies of all the medical books written by Galen and Avicenna in his possession, and publicly burned them, thereby destroying the stranglehold of Aristoteleian pseudo-science on the Christian and Islamic worlds. Hart makes a convincing case that it was only by such an audacious act that the modern age of scientific inquiry could begin. At any rate, it was not the Church which burned pagan texts (indeed, quite the opposite), but it was the Church which created a new paradigm that allowed such a brave soul to take such action, thereby birthing the modern age. One could only look wistfully upon such cheekiness and wonder if the modern Academy would be better off if 90 percent of its “canonical” literature received a similar fate.

Be that as it may, the Christian society of the ages past is probably extinct. However if it were to ever arise again, it would need an informed intellectual vanguard. There is no doubt in mind that Atheist Delusions would be a welcome and necessary addition to a new, more confident Christian canon, one appealing to Christians of all stripes. If nothing else, for those who desire the appellation of Christian gentleman, Atheist Delusions is a necessary addition to one’s library.

George C Michalopulos, is a layman in the Orthodox Church in America. He was born in Tulsa, OK where he resides and works. George is active in Church affairs, having served as parish council president at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and as Senior Warden at Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church. Together with Deacon Ezra Ham, he wrote ‘American Orthodox Church: A History of Its Beginnings” (Regina Orthodox Press: 2003). He is married to Margaret and has two sons, Constantine and Michael.

Nationalism in Greek Orthodoxy

By: Sir Steven Runciman

Excerpts from “The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence.”

Sir Steven Runciman

Sir Steven Runciman

In the East money making has never, as it was in the feudally minded West, been considered to be incompatible with aristocracy. A moneyed nobility began to emerge among the Greeks, closely knit by common aim and interests and by intermarriage, but open to newcomers. These rich families were ambitious. Authority among the Greeks was in the hands of the Patriarch. It therefore became their object to control the Patriarchate. Calling themselves “Archontes” of the Greek nation, they built their houses in the Phanar quarter of Constantinople, to be close to the Patriarchal buildings. They obtained for their sons positions in the Patriarchal court; and one by one the high offices of the Great Church passed into lay hands. Their members did not enter the Church itself. That was considered to be beneath their dignity. The bishops and the Patriarch himself continued to be drawn mainly from bright boys of humbler classes who had risen through intelligence and merit. But by the end of the seventeenth century the Phanariot families, as they were usually called, dominated the central organization of the Church…. But the Patriarchate could not do without them; for they were in a position both to pay its debt and to intrigue in its favor at the Sublime Porte (pgs. 361-362).

It was good for the Church to have to meet an intellectual challenge; but the challenge was too abrupt. The strength of the Byzantine Church had been the presence of a highly educated laity that was deeply interested in religion. Now the laity began to despise the traditions of the Church; and the traditional elements in the Church began to mistrust and dislike modern education, retreating to defend themselves into a thickening obscurantism. The cleavage between the intellectuals and the traditionalists, which had begun when Neo-Aristotelianism was introduced into the curriculum of the Patriarchal Academy, grew wider. Under Phanariot influence many of the higher ecclesiastics followed the modernist trend. In the old days Orthodoxy had preferred to concentrate on eternal things and modestly to refuse to clothe the faith in trappings of modish philosophy. The Phanariots in their desire to impress the West had no use for such old-fashioned notions. Instead, seeing the high prestige of ancient Greek learning, they wished to show that they were, by culture as well as by blood, the heirs of ancient Greece. Their sons, lively laymen educated in the new style, were now filling the administrative posts at the Patriarchal court. As a result the Patriarchate began to lose touch with the great body of the faithful, to whom faith meant more than philosophy and the Christian saints more than the sophist of pagan times.

Above all, the Phanariots needed the support of the Church in the pursuits of the ultimate political aim. It was no mean aim. The Megali Idea, the Great Idea of the Greeks, can be traced back to the days before the Turkish conquest…With the spread of the Renaissance a respect for the old Greek civilization had become general. It was natural that the Greeks, in the midst of their political disasters, should wish to benefit from it. They might be slaves now to the Turks, but they were of the great race that had civilized Europe. It must be their destiny to rise again. The Phanariots tried to combine the nationalistic forces of Hellenism in a passionate if illogical alliance with the ecumenical traditions of Byzantium and the Orthodox Church. They worked for a restored Byzantium, a New Rome that should be Greek, a new center of Greek civilization that should embrace the Orthodox world. The spirit behind the Great Idea was a mixture of neo-Byzantinism and an acute sense of race. But with the trend of the modern world the nationalism began to dominate the ecumenicity. George Scholarius Gennadius had perhaps unconsciously, foreseen the danger when he answered a question about his nationality by saying that he would not call himself a Hellene though he was a Hellene by race, not a Byzantine though he had been born at Byzantium, but, rather, a Christian, that is, an Orthodox. For, if the Orthodox Church was to retain its spiritual force, it must remain ecumenical. It must not become a purely Greek Church.

The price paid by the Church for its subjection to the Phanariot benefactors was heavy. First, it meant that the Church was run more and more in the interests of the Greek people and not of Orthodoxy as a whole. The arrangement made between the Conquering Sultan and the Patriarch Gennadius had put all the Orthodox Church within the Ottoman Empire under the authority of the Patriarchate, which was inevitably controlled by Greeks (pgs. 377-379).

If any Orthodox Palestinian wished for advancement he had to learn Greek and entirely identify himself with Greek interests; and the Patriarch (of Jerusalem) himself spent much of his time at Constantinople or in the Principalities. The Greeks were not prepared to let this luscious plum fall into other hands. Yet it is doubtful whether in the long run the Greek nationalism that was being increasingly infused into the whole Orthodox organization was beneficial to Orthodoxy. It was not in the old Byzantine tradition. Though within the Empire itself a knowledge of Greek was necessary for any official position, there had been no distinction of race; and the Byzantines had encouraged vernacular liturgies and had been cautious in trying to impose a Greek hierarchy upon other peoples. But the Great Idea encouraged the Greeks to think of themselves as a Chosen People; and chosen peoples are seldom popular, nor do they fit well into Christian life.

This attempt to turn the Orthodox Church into an exclusively Greek Church was one of the outcomes of Phanariot policy. It lead also to a decline in spiritual values, by stressing Greek culture as against Orthodox traditions and seeking to turn the Church into a vehicle of nationalist feeling, genuine and democratic up to a point, but little concerned with the spiritual life. At the same time it place the Patriarchate on the horns of a moral dilemma. It involved the Church in politics, and subversive politics. Was it not the duty of the Church to render unto Caesar the things which were Caesar’s? Could a Patriarch justifiably jettison the agreement reached between the Sultan and his great predecessor Gennaidus? Could he abjure the oath that he had sworn to the Sultan when his election was confirmed? On a more practical level, had he the right to indulge in plots which if they failed would undoubtedly subject his flock to ghastly reprisals? The more thoughtful hierarchs could not lightly support revolutionary nationalism. Yet if they failed to join in the movement from a sense of honor or from prudence or from spiritually minded detachment, they would be branded as traitors to Hellenism. The Church would lose its hold over the livelier and more progressive elements of his congregation. The rebirth of Greece was to involve a gallows erected at the gate of the Patriarchate and a Patriarch’s corpse swinging thereon (pgs. 382-384).

Locality, the Episcopate, and Canonicity: Reflections on the Recent Pre-Conciliar Meeting at Chambesy

By: George Michalopulos

ABSTRACT: In previous essays posted on this forum, the present author analyzed the formation of autocephalous churches, the role of the metropolitan and its role within the episcopate, the canonical claims of existing patriarchates regarding primacy within the so-called Diaspora, and the current jurisdictional crisis within North America. As to the idea of a “diaspora,” certain issues need to be more fully developed. Specifically, which autocephalous church has the authority to evangelize within such an area? How is autocephaly to be proclaimed? Are parallel dioceses and/or multiple episcopal seats in one city evidence of schism? And can fidelity to the Gospel trump the claims of an already existing diocese? Parts 1 through 5 are primarily historical whereas the last two sections contain analysis and commentary based on recent events.

I. Introduction: The Bishop and the Church

One of the problems vexing Orthodoxy in North America has been a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the bishop. In all too many jurisdictions in North America, this ecclesial officer has been viewed as a subordinate to a national primate and/or a foreign holy synod. This same phenomenon is replicated in other lands whose Orthodox churches are the results of immigration. Rarely, if ever have episcopal appointments in these areas followed the authentic Christian practice of election or even popular acclamation. Worse, major ecclesiastical decisions involving dioceses, bishops, and even entire eparchies have been handed down by fiat, with almost no consideration for the subjects at hand or canonical protocols for that matter. Until very recently, diocesan seats themselves have been provisional in most jurisdictions.

What accounts for such arbitrary attitudes? Some would argue that such capriciousness is due to the minuscule number of Orthodox Christians in any given area; certainly financial upheaval in the Old World as well as the lack of qualified candidates play a part as well. Regardless, the net result has been that most of these bishops have been viewed as ecclesiastical bureaucrats with no fixed address and little loyalty to an admittedly fluid, diocesan structure.

Truth be told, the seeds for the bishop-as-bureaucrat were laid in the later stages of the Byzantine Empire. The authentic Christian attitude on the other hand, was the bishop as a locally elected presbyter, accountable to his flock and only his brother bishops in the regional synod. This structure began to attenuate during the so-called Pentarchy (ca. AD 500-1100), a time during which some regional churches began to lose the right of election of their metropolitans. In the West, the augmentation of the papacy of Rome was due in part to the ability of that city’s bishops to exercise the authority to consecrate the suburbicarians, bishops who presided over dioceses adjacent to Rome.

In the East, the metropolitans of three regions adjacent to Constantinople (Pontus, Thrace, and Asia) became subject to Constantinopolitan consecration thanks to the 28th canon of Chalcedon (AD 451). In neither case however, was the right of election taken from the people for their bishops. Still, this was a gradual process, so gradual in fact that during the latter part of the Middle Ages, Russian bishops could demand greater autonomy for their eparchy from Constantinople by hearkening back to the primitive practice of popular election and episcopal consecration of the metropolitans,2 which were still “on the books” canonically speaking. Indeed, the Russian bishops successfully petitioned the ecumenical patriarchate for greater autonomy in the selection of the Kievan metropolitans.

When all was said and done, the popular election of the bishop, the regional election of the metropolitan, and the institution of new dioceses and independent churches was clearly the ideal. That these processes exist today only in attenuated circumstances, does not mitigate against their authenticity but instead points to practices that the Orthodox Church today should willingly embrace. Moreover, in doing so, the Church would avoid needless controversies and more effectively spread the Gospel.

II. Eucharist and Catholicity: The Bishop and His Role Within the Church

The present scenario (that of bishop as assigned bureaucrat or administrator) was not envisioned when this office was created in the sub-apostolic age. In The Didache, an ancient Christian manual of discipline from the first century, we are told that one of the functions of the office of bishop is to manifest unity within a particular locality, unity of course being a hallmark of love (John 15:9).3 This is epitomized in its essence by the consecration of the gifts of the people into the Eucharist by the bishop of the locality.

This understanding of the episcopal office has been termed (understandably) “eucharistic ecclesiology.” The revival of this concept has been widespread. In addition to Orthodox eminences such as Georges Florovsky, Alexander Schmemann and John Zizioulis, who championed this concept in the latter half of the twentieth century, Roman Catholic and Evangelical theologians of great repute have come to similar conclusions as well.4 Indeed, in the Roman church, one of its prime advocates is Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, presently Pope Benedict XVI.5 Benedict in fact has made it a prime focus of his pontificate, especially in his dialogues with the Orthodox Church. He has chosen to view the papal office as the primary teaching office of the Christian Church, one that presides in love as opposed to that of a supreme hierarch who enjoys a special archiepiscopal charism that allows him to serve as the administrative head of a vast bureaucracy. (This in fact can be considered to be the Orthodox view of the papacy as described by Bishop Kallistos Ware in his book, The Orthodox Church.6) As to the equality of the episcopate, this is in fact the normative view of the Orthodox Church. That it has been largely forgotten by many of the laity does it not negate its reality.

The eucharistic understanding of the role of the bishop has tremendous implications for the Church today, up-ending centuries of a strict top-down hierarchy, not only in the West, but in the East as well.7 The emphasis on the Eucharist has even more bearing on the present reality. Among other things, it solidifies the liturgical participation of the laity in the life of the Church. It is no coincidence that laymen who partake frequently of the mysteries of the Church tend also to be involved in the life of the parish. This includes not only frequent confession, but in leadership roles as well. It is not too much to say that such laymen feel an organic connection to the universal Church as well as their own particular congregation.

But what does it mean to say, that the bishop’s primary role is “eucharistic”? Does this imply merely a liturgical role? What about his evangelistic mission? Is that secondary? The peremptory answer would be an emphatic negative. The ritual acts of the bishop and his deputies (the presbyters) were in fact kerygmatic. The kerygma was in its essence, the proclamation of the Gospel, which was not only a recitation of historical events or merely a code of ethics, but the proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven was “at hand” (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). Part of this proclamation was that the Church’s worship was eschatological, and in the Eucharist, we find that the eschatological notions of the Church were already realized to a very great extent. When Christians gather together to worship, they are entering into a mode of existence that is beyond time and space; indeed, partaking of a heavenly worship that is ongoing within the heavenly realm (Rev 14).8 In other words, the corporate worship of the Church in its locality, under the presidency of its bishop, “is the Church in all its fullness, not just a part of the Church…it is the basic unit on which all subsequent speculation must be based, the primary experience underlying all effort at definition.”9

When we consider the sub-apostolic age, we see that none of the above is controversial. According to Ignatius, we find that the bishop personified the unity of the local church.10 To stress this point, Ignatius said that the bishop “stood in the place of God.”11 According to modern commentators such as Zizioulis, this is to be understood to mean that the catholicity of the Church is manifested in its entirety within the diocese. This phenomenon is best explained in this way:

One church may be established by Peter, another by Paul, another by a missionary hundreds of years later. Yet all are equally and fully apostolic, just as they are one, holy and catholic. For the structure of the local church –the bishop surrounded by the college of presbyters, the deacons, and all the faithful—has a direct iconic relationship to the kingdom of where Christ stands surrounded by the apostles.12

This icon of the local Church as the “Catholic Church” leads inexorably to the conclusion that all bishops are equal. According to another Church Father, St Cyprian of Carthage, each bishop occupies the cathedra Petri or the seat of Peter, not just those bishops whose specific churches (such as Rome or Antioch) that were founded by this Apostle. Though Cyprian’s view of the episcopate was less theocentric than Ignatius’, the essential equality of all bishops was upheld. It was for this reason that a plurality of bishops was required to consecrate a new bishop. This was historically manifested in the concatenation of dioceses into a local, or regional synod, which operated under the principle of collegiality as explicated in the 34th Apostolic canon.13

Having said that, how did these bishops differentiate themselves? Was there a hierarchy among them? How could there be if all the bishops were equal? After all, we do know that there existed the office of metropolitan, usually the bishop of the largest or most important of the diocese within a regional church. Again, we need to turn to Ignatius who wrote in the “Prologue” to his Epistle to the Romans, that some bishops may “preside in love.” Erickson, takes this to mean that the presidency of the regional church was predicated on the belief that these bishops “more completely and perfectly share all that they are with the others.”14 The charisms were the same in each diocese, but the ability and willingness to share the Gospel were the deciding factor as to which bishop would preside within a given episcopal college. And quite apropos of the present discussion, these regional councils were autocephalous churches.15 The metropolitan was the president of the diocesan bishops when it met in council, nothing more. As stated in canon 34, he was to be informed of all major decisions by the bishops, and he in turn was required to inform all the bishops of any significant actions on his part.

The concept of episcopal independence transferred rather easily to the patriarchal level as well. As late as the ninth century, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople reacted vehemently to the activities of German missionaries in Bulgaria. Although his concern was specifically related to their insertion of the Filioque clause into the Nicene Creed (which at this time was still rejected by Rome itself), we can tell that Photius considered Bulgaria to be within the ecclesiastical purview of Constantinople.16 What gives this opposition special urgency was that Photius himself recognized the primacy of Rome within the Church and in other contexts submitted to Roman approval. Nor was this a prerogative of venerable patriarchates alone: the first patriarch of Bulgaria, Theophylact, prevented incursion from the Church of Constantinople into the new Bulgarian church, even though he himself was a Byzantine and owed his elevation to the Bulgarian throne because of the Byzantine mother church. The principle of diocesan autonomy legitimized Theophylact’s abruptness.

III. The Bishop and His Missionary Role: How Did He Go About It?

In reading the writings of several Church Fathers, one gets the decided impression that teaching was paramount. The vast canon from the ante-Nicene Fathers overwhelmingly concerns doctrine, not liturgy or even the Church calendar for that matter. Why is this so? After all, the written Gospels certainly existed by this time and the New Testament was well on its way to being closed. But what did the Gospel mean? What does it mean (for example) when Jesus says that the eucharistic elements were really His “body and blood,” or that the Kingdom of Heaven “suffereth violence”? Could any man exposit on it?

This is reflected in the many doctrinal controversies that rocked the Church from its inception. For example, in Acts 15, we find that an apostolic council was convened in order to resolve the issue of gentiles within the Church and to what degree they had to accept the Mosaic Law. Also in Acts, we find the curious career of Simon Magus, a sorcerer who sought to purchase the gifts of the Holy Spirit from the Apostles (Acts 8:18-24). These were profound doctrinal controversies, of the kind that would later consume the careers of Ss Irenaeus, Ignatius, Cyprian, Polycarp, and a host of others.

The celebration of the Eucharist is merely accepted as a given in comparison. Even the great gnostic heresiarchs such as Marcion and Basilides celebrated this central rite of the Church, the only difference being the principle underlying the meaning of the rite, whether it was really the body and blood of Christ or merely a “remembrance” In other words, the great polemicists of the Church were dealing with doctrinal differences rather than liturgical ones. We can see therefore the paramount importance of doctrine; adjustments to it could lead to liturgical differences (or at least differences in interpretation of liturgical practices), but it was the teaching behind any given liturgical rite that concerned the Apostles and their successors. It is for this reason that throughout the history of the Church, there existed a very real fear that even subtle differences in doctrine can result in dire implications, including the breaking of Communion –that is to say, schism.

How then does a bishop fulfill his role as a teacher? Is he the sole preacher within his church as well as the sole celebrant of the divine mysteries? The answer is an emphatic negative. Again, in turning to the Acts of the Apostles, we find how the Apostles were already stretched thin when the problem of almsgiving reached a breaking point. For this reason, they decided to delegate this authority to a new class of ordinands, men whom they called diakonoi (“servers,” also “ministers”). These men were charged with serving the needs of the impoverished Hellenistic Jews living in Jerusalem. In Timothy, we find another class of ordinands, men called presbyteroi or “elders,” who were tasked with authority over individual congregations. It is unclear whether these men constituted a separate class from the episkopoi (“overseers”) but we can surmise that as heads of congregations, it was they who presided over the Eucharist.

By the end of the first century, it is clear that there are men called “overseers” (such as Ignatius) who was most definitely a special kind of elder. What made men like Ignatius stand out? No doubt their evangelistic fervor and theological acumen played a significant role. At any rate, sometime in the later second century, the final cleavage between the office of presbyter and bishop seems to have occurred, no doubt probably because of the proliferation of house-churches within a given city. Therefore the concept of one bishop per church had to be relaxed. In time, other orders came into being, including lectors (readers) and deaconesses.

There was precedence for this. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he describes several of the offices then in existence. Among them are “prophets, evangelists, exorcists, those who speak in tongues,” etc. All of these existed within the first generation of the Church. Careful boundaries existed between them as we can tell by Paul’s exhortation that not “all were called” to be such. Perhaps it would be too hasty to say that a type of licensure existed in order to proclaim to the Church their respective competence, but the implication that they were ordained by the Apostles based on spiritual discernment cannot be denied. For our purposes, it is clear that boundaries existed between these offices.

The above foray into the inner life of the early Church is based on the consideration at hand; that is whether the bishop is the lone initiate into the mysteries of the Church. Clearly he is not. The above-mentioned charisms of the Holy Spirit were open to all believers but Paul’s emphasis was on “order” and how it proceeded within strictly defined parameters. Their existence leads us to more questions: who possessed these gifts and how were they transmitted? Could there be more than one evangelist within a congregation? Could one be both a prophet and a healer? These questions vexed the early Church as we can tell by Paul’s admonitory words. At present, answers to these questions remain unknown (at least to this writer). For our purposes it is merely enough to know that the ultimate enforcer of order within the local congregation was clearly the bishop. It was he who was its presiding officer and he alone who could ordain other officers within it. As for his own office, as already noted above, he received it from a multiplicity of other bishops, who in turn received it from earlier bishops in a chain going back all the way to the Apostles. (It goes without saying that all charisms come from the Holy Spirit.)

Therefore, in order to go about his duties, no bishop was handicapped. The concept of delegation of authority was well established. No doubt, the environs of his church kept him busy. In addition to presiding over the Eucharist, he was responsible for adjudicating torts, disbursing alms, maintaining order, and of course preaching the Gospel. (In some cities, the rectitude of Christian bishops was so pronounced that they were often called to act as judges in civil actions between non-Christian parties!) This presents us with a dilemma: if the bishop was responsible only for his locality, then how was the Gospel spread? For clearly the Church did not remain confined to its birthplace in Jerusalem. Even during the time of the persecutions of the Church, it is clear that it grew exponentially throughout the Greco-Roman world.

For the Christian, the growth of the Church is nothing less than a miracle. The number of the original Apostles was relatively small –Scripture tells us of the original eleven disciples and another seventy, men who are also confusingly called disciples and apostles. The names are familiar to even the most casual observers –Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, Luke, and Mark, for example. Most of these men (and a few women such as Thekla) traveled in small groups for mutual support and protection. In some cities, they found that the message of Jesus had already preceded them. In others, they founded local churches where there was already a sizable Jewish population; in fact, it was often from factions within these local synagogues that they drew their first converts. This of course explains the foundation of churches such as those in Rome, Corinth, Antioch and Ephesus, and appears to have been the template while the Apostles were still alive. Even Paul, a notorious “Hellenizer,” made much of the fact that he “went to the Jews first, then the Greeks” (Acts 14:1). After the death of the last Apostle (John ca AD 105), church planting did not stop. Thanks to the Council of Javneh (ca AD 85), which legitimized anti-Hellenistic attitudes among the Rabbinate, dialogue between Church and Synagogue came to an abrupt halt. It would be hard therefore to imagine that Christian evangelists could rely on the continued hospitality of the local Jewish congregations for either material support or converts.

And yet, the Church grew. This time, its acceleration within the non-Jewish world became more apparent, to the point where it became almost completely a non-Jewish phenomenon with only a few Jewish remnants. The fact that the Roman government recognized the claims of Judaism over and above those of Christianity certainly did not help matters any. Despite the destruction of the Second Temple, Judaism was allowed to spread and receive converts. This was denied to the Church, which remained a superstitio illicito; where it was allowed to exist, it remained largely conditionally and underground. Yet evangelism was taking place. The question is how? How were bishops who were consigned to one city able to take the message of the Gospel to a neighboring city? After all, there were perhaps less than a dozen cities whose churches could reasonably point to an apostolic founder, yet there were thousands of cities throughout the Roman –and even outside it—that had vibrant local churches.

Because of the scarcity of documents from this period, the question must remain rhetorical. What we do know is that it became a given that bishops of towns that were adjacent to unevangelized areas were responsible for all missionary activity throughout the immediate area. Such missionary activity took place even during the period of persecutions. It seems to have accelerated after the Edict of Toleration in AD 313. Once Christianity became a licit religion, the question of diocesan formation became acute. By the time of the Council of Carthage (AD 419), a canon was promulgated which stated that it was the duty of the nearest bishop to spread the Gospel to that area nearest him.17 From what we can tell, this was consistent with the prevailing attitude of episcopal autonomy. This was also in keeping with the Council of Sardica (AD 341), which circumscribed the Roman pope’s universal appellate authority to the calling of ad hoc regional councils for purposes of final adjudication. This cannot be stressed enough: within the local church, one bishop presided. He was responsible to only those bishops who were adjacent to him and the regional metropolitan. Within his diocese, he had a college of ecclesiastics over which he presided and who assisted him with his tasks, but ultimately it was his diocese and no other bishop, including the regional metropolitan, could exercise authority over it.

IV. The Gospel and Its Relationship to Episcopal Canonicity

In a previous essay, this writer explicated on the present supremacist claims of the ecumenical patriarchate regarding its supposed jurisdiction over lands not presently belonging to any of the Orthodox churches.18 This claim is supposedly mandated by canon 28 of Chalcedon, which surreptitiously gave the archbishops of Constantinople the right to consecrate the metropolitans of Thrace, Pontus, and Asia. This fabulous claim has been dealt with elsewhere and shown to be utterly without merit.19

As such, some in Constantinople’s camp have brought forth another, equally fantastic claim to buttress its supremacist claims, namely, that the Byzantine church’s founder was none other than St Andrew, the elder brother of Peter. This legendary founding has no historical foundation and was first promulgated centuries after Byzantium’s founding.20 Ironically, no recourse is made to the actual legitimate claims of Constantinople which were propagated by that church’s proponents during its heyday. In their eyes, a church’s legitimacy did not rest on its apostolic foundation (or lack thereof) but on its fidelity to the Gospel.21

That Andrew engaged in an evangelistic mission is not in dispute. His execution in Patras ca. AD 65 is based on a firm oral tradition. His legend and cultus among the Scythians in and around the Black Sea region is also well attested. It was so pronounced and ancient in fact, that the Scottish nobility –- who fancied themselves as descendents of these same Scythians — made an unambiguous appeal to his authority as the founder of their nation’s church to the pope in Rome. In their Declaration of Arbroath, Andrew is stated to be the preeminent member of the Apostolic college,22 second only to Peter. They also made the claim that the Scots were among the first nations to be evangelized; hence, their demand for independence from England was for them a matter of theological necessity.

In any event, the bishops of Constantinople never claimed him as that city’s first bishop or founder even during Byzantium’s agogee. Indeed, there was no need for such a special pleading. Constantinople’s preeminence was political and statutory. This was not controversial. Because of its cultural importance, it became the hub of Christianity and an intellectual beacon for Christians everywhere. Although its elevation to patriarchal status was not met with Alexandria’s approval, the statutory principle was well ingrained by then. After all, Alexandria’s precedence over Antioch was based on its own cultural superiority, not because of the merits of their respective apostolic founders –- after all, Antioch was founded by St Peter, whereas Alexandria’s first bishop was St Mark, a disciple of Peter. And of course Jerusalem’s elevation to patriarchal status came centuries after its own founding. (In fact previous to the Second Ecumenical Council, Jerusalem’s bishops were suffragans of the metropolitan of Caeserea.)

It is here that we get to the crux of the argument: Despite its past flirtation with Arianism (of which more below), Constantinople’s partisans claimed that its prominence now rested upon its doctrinal orthodoxy. One Byzantine proponent disdained the very idea of apostolic foundation as the sole, or best criterion for a church’s primacy. In this, he was correct. As already noted, it was the Gospel which trumped foundational claims of antiquity.23 After all, all bishops were equal, the charisms were the same in each diocese, but the ability and willingness to share the Gospel was the deciding factor as to which bishop would preside within a given episcopal college. In this respect, material resources and location certainly played a role, in addition to a church’s apostolic foundation, martyriology, and antiquity. Yet all of the above were secondary considerations. Of utmost importance was whether its presiding bishop “more fully” shared the Gospel; it was this characteristic which allowed him to “preside in love” over other bishops as Ignatius stated in his Epistle to the Romans. Kerygma and the willingness to uphold it was the trump, not the number of relics.

To be sure, such a strict adherence to doctrinal principles as opposed to apostolic foundation was a two-edged sword. One of Alexandria’s briefs against the elevation of Constantinople’s archbishop to patriarchal status was that for the better part of a century, that city’s bishops remained firm in their adherence to the doctrines of Arius. In this, the bishops of Constantinople were unfortunately following the lead of the Flavian descendants of Constantine, who were likewise committed to Arianism, this despite the fact that the First Ecumenical Council had anathematized Arius and his teachings. No matter, for the partisans of Alexandria, the line of Arian bishops of Constantinople had cast a decided pall over that see and no matter how prominent that city had become, it was not enough to purge it of its Arian past.24 Constantinople of course saw things differently. It could not reasonably be held to account for past transgressions; after all, Alexandria’s hands were not exactly clean either in this matter: Arius was a bishop from that city and St Athanasius, who was the champion of Nicaea, suffered exile at the hands of the Alexandrians on several occasions.

V. Territory and Ethnicity: The Historical Reality and Its Resolution in Canon Law

The Church of course grew in spite of the various heresies that roiled it. Its diocesan structure came to be ordered within the confines of the so-called Pentarchy, an arrangement of five venerable patriarchal sees that took on the presidencies of some of the independent metropolitan regions by consecrating their metropolitans. It should be remembered however that this phenomenon occurred within the boundaries of one nation –- the Roman Empire. The Orthodox concept of the national church was not yet in evidence. The first such church was that of Bulgaria which in a relatively short time, acquired autocephaly and its own patriarchate in AD 918. Serbia would follow this pattern some three centuries later. In both cases however, the idea that membership in the local church was only open to the members of a certain ethnicity was not in evidence. Both of the Bulgarian empires and the Serbian kingdom were multi-ethnic states and its patriarchs were the spiritual overlords of all Christian peoples residing within them.

Nevertheless, as the Middle Ages waned, the rise of the nation-state began to subvert the concept of Christian unity. Even in the West, where by this time the universal jurisdiction of the popes was a given and the concept of autonomous patriarchates was unknown, the French kingdom began to view its church as a semi-autonomous “Gallican” church sometime in the fourteenth century. The concept of the national church came to its full fruition in England during the reign of Henry VIII (d. 1547), who fancied himself the “supreme governor” of the “Anglican” church, that is to say, the Roman Catholic Church in England. When the full effects of the Protestant Reformation had subsided, all of the German and Scandinavian states had state churches whose territories were rigidly defined by the borders of their respective nations. Unfortunately, their independence was lost and their churches became wholly dependent bureaucracies. It was this regrettable model that Peter the Great of Russia found so appealing in his travels to the West and which he mandated for the Russian Empire. In Obolensky’s opinion, the subjugation of the Church to the state –wherever this occurred (in the West as well as in the East)—planted the seeds of totalitarianism in most all modern state, not merely in the former Soviet Union.25

With the ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire, both the Bulgarian and Serbian churches lost their autocephaly to Constantinople (1763). Regrettably, this was done by the armies of the Turkish sultan acting at the behest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It was thus understandable that with the decay of Turkey and the subsequent independence of their Christian subjects in the Balkans, the newly independent Christian kingdoms would look to the past as one of comparative glory. This made inevitable the quest of these nations for autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople, which was increasingly controlled by a chauvinistic faction of wealthy Greeks called Phanariotes. Ironically enough, it was the newly liberated Greeks who first demanded emancipation from the ecumenical patriarchate in 1830. In short order the Serbs and Bulgars would reclaim their autocephaly.

These new Balkan states however were not multi-ethnic empires but decidedly mono-cultural states with miniscule populations of Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. For all intents and purposes, they came to identify membership in the national church as the sole criterion for citizenship. The Church became the guarantor of the nation’s boundaries so to speak. Or put another way, it was membership in the local church that decided whether one was a “true” Greek (or Serb, or Bulgar). The Church and state became one and the former became decidedly dependent upon the latter for material support, not unlike the Lutheran churches of the Germanic lands.

As regrettable as this came to be, the idea of the local church being defined by the boundaries of the polity is not a novel one. Indeed, it was the accepted practice in the first millennium as Apostolic canon 34 makes this clear. The difference of course is that in the Roman Empire, the various political regions were not mono-cultural (for the most part). Rome as noted many before, was a multi-ethnic, multi-racial empire. Even in its diocesan subdivisions, the menagerie of races and ethnicities was apparent. That the Church understood this can be gleaned from Canon 28 of Chalcedon, which makes mention on several occasions of “barbarians” living in and near the three provinces in question. Thus, it would be wrong to view the modern Orthodox phenomenon of intensely nationalistic churches as inevitable.

Regardless, the question of nationalism came to a head in the city of Constantinople when Bulgarians living there demanded a bishop of their ethnicity in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The ecumenical patriarchate convened a council in 1872 which ruled against the concept of “phyletism,” calling it an abject heresy.26 Some of course would state that the Phanar was being self-serving, that by doing so, it was solidifying its power over Orthodox immigrants. Appearances to the contrary, this was not the case as Patriarch Joachim III readily granted a tomos of autocephaly to the church of the newly independent Serbian kingdom in 1873. Indeed, Joachim’s own words to this effect bear scrutiny. In an earlier essay, this writer quoted Alexander Bogolepov, one of the first proponents of American autocephaly. This particular passage bears repeating. According to Bogolopev, Joachim III granted autocephaly to Serbia when he came to the realization that local churches may be established:

…not in conformity with the historical importance of the cities and countries in Christianity, but also according to political conditions of the life of the people and nations.” Referring then to Canon 28 of Chalcedon and other canons…he reaffirmed: “The ecclesiastical rights, especially those of parishes, usually conform to the structure of the state authority and its provinces.27

Clearly, the idea of territoriality was not lost. Nations could order their churches according to “political conditions,” a principle which reinforces ancient canons, especially those canons which mandated that diocesan boundaries should follow “the municipal model.” Does Joachim’s assessment however leave open the possibilities of migratory incursions of different ethnic groups being granted a special waver? For example, a displaced population of refugees, should its needs not be met vis-à-vis a bishop of their own nation? After all, these things happen in the ordinary course of the lives of nations. Even in a situation such as this, where pastoral concerns must be taken into consideration, the danger of phyletism is so pronounced that an exception would ultimately be hurtful. Regardless, Joachim’s tomos was granted just one year after this particular issue came to a head in the city of Constantinople itself, when Bulgarian émigrés demanded a bishop of their own nation. What Constantinople found objectionable was the concept of tribal churches that catered to ethnic dispersions; not to churches of nations.

VI. Chambesy: Blueprint for the Future or More of the Same?

The present dilemma of course has to do with the lands of the “diaspora.” To their credit, the primates of the autocephalous churches which met in Istanbul in October, 2008, qualified this term by calling it the “so-called Diaspora.”28 Perhaps they realized how theologically untenable such a term is for a universal religion like Christianity, or at the very least how abrasive this term sounds to those Orthodox who are natives of the lands in question.

The primates at Constantinople appeared to understand the tenuousness of Orthodoxy in traditionally non-Orthodox lands; the issue of the creation of new autocephalous churches was to be the primary agenda items of the much anticipated “Great and Holy Council.” Nevertheless, they told the various bishops from these lands that they would not be welcomed during the pre-conciliar deliberations to be held the following June in Cyprus. The irony was astonishing: even though it was agreed that the issue of the normalization of the churches of the “diaspora” was going to be settled once and for all at this upcoming council, the concerns of native bishops could not be vocalized by the very bishops in question. Rumors abounded that the patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow were engaging in behind-the-scenes gamesmanship related to autonomous churches that the primates of these churches found problematic.29

Be that as it may, the conference was relocated to Chambesy, Switzerland and was presided over by Metropolitan John Zizioulis of Pergamum. Interestingly enough, this is the same Zizioulis — who as a recognized theologian of the first order — had a profound appreciation for the eucharistic role of the bishop and his equality among his brother bishops. Further ironies abounded: Zizioulis was now the titular bishop of a defunct diocese himself, despite the fact that he had earlier written about the absurdity of such a concept.30 As noted, none of the bishops from the so-called diaspora were invited to this conference, thereby casting a cloud over its very legitimacy in the eyes of many. Bickering in fact preceded it and in its aftermath, the Russian church threw cold water over some of it findings,31 thus raising the question as to whether anything of substance transpired.

This of course is unfortunate, because even with the above disqualifiers, the signatories at Chambesy stressed the correct nature of the episcopal office as it was understood in ancient times. Zizioulis for his part remained true to his earlier principles of episcopal equality and autonomy. Given its moribund nature in many non-Orthodox lands, some could reasonably say that the original meaning of the episcopate had in fact been revived. Moreover, the previous fantastic claims of the canon 28 enthusiasts were not even entertained. Instead, a process for convening episcopal assemblies in the disputed lands was formulated which objectively speaking, was non-controversial. It was decided that in any given area where there were bishops representing different ethnic migrations, the presidency of such a council was to follow a precedence based on the diptychs. In other words, the representative of the patriarchate of Constantinople was to preside as its interim chairman. Should no Constantinopolitan exarch exist, then a bishop from the see of Antioch would preside. Absent an Antiochian bishop, then chairmanship would devolve to a bishop from the Russian Orthodox Church, and so on (at present, there are no exarchates of the sees of Alexandria or Jerusalem in the lands in question, hence, no provision is made for any émigré bishops from these churches).

Equally important, it was decided that these erstwhile episcopal councils were to meet regularly and “normalize” church life within these lands as expeditiously as possible. The purpose (and hope) of such councils was to create a framework from which an autocephalous church could be created. This hoped for result seemingly put to rest claims of critics of Istanbul, most of whom castigated that see as wanting to aggrandize its own power over these lands in perpetuity.32 As such, Chambesy was viewed as a remarkable come-down from the supremacist claims of the Phanar that had been propagated some three months earlier by its Chief Secretary in a ill-received speech delivered at Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts.33 Despite the fact that no local churches of the “Diaspora” were invited, the framework of Chambesy could be viewed as providing something for everybody; after all, although it was agreed that the chairmanship of these councils were dependent upon the order of the diptychs, there was no guarantee that once a local church achieved autocephaly, that this same bishop would necessarily be its metropolitan.

Others however, were not as sanguine about the workability of the Chambesy formula. For one thing, the Orthodox Church had been down this road before. In a recently republished essay on the subject of Orthodox unity, it was pointed out that our collective memory was very short indeed. According to the author, the recent meeting in Chambesy — in almost all its particulars — was a mere repetition of earlier meetings that had transpired there almost twenty years ago. Then, as now, the ecumenical patriarchate had been the driving force in another pre-conciliar conference. Just as in 2009,

…as part of the preparation for the great and holy synod, convened an inter-Orthodox preparatory commission to take up the last and most difficult question on the synod’s agenda: the “diaspora.” Two meetings were held at the ecumenical patriarchate’s center at Chambesy, Switzerland, in 1990 and then in 1993. At those meeting, a plan was developed for organizing the “diaspora” very much like the present SCOBA, with the addition of an assembly of bishops that would meet regularly and for practical purposes function like a single holy synod. There was a timeline intimated for establishes the “diaspora” churches as first autonomous and then autocephalous.34

To quote Yogi Berra, the recently concluded pre-conciliar meeting at Chambesy was “déjà vu all over again.” This of courses raises several questions, the most significant of which is, why should this most recent meeting be taken any more seriously than the two previous “inter-Orthodox preparatory commissions”? Nor should it be forgotten that the Ligonier confreres took their cues for setting up such an American episcopal assembly not only from these two meetings in Chambesy, but from Patriarch Bartholomew himself, who was “the architect of these commission meetings.” Bartholomew’s intentions in this regard require special attention:

…the real reason for optimism was…Metropolitan Bartholomew of Chalcedon, now the newly elected Patriarch of Constantinople. Metropolitan Bartholomew was largely responsible for the very successful visit of Patriarch Demetrios to the United States in 1990, including the visit to the Washington Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America, where [Demetrios] spoke of the scandal of Orthodox disunity in the “diaspora.” In July 1994, just months before the Ligonier meeting, Patriarch Bartholomew sent Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy as his personal representative to the clergy-laity congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese [Chicago]. In his address to the Congress, he spoke to the “diaspora” question by saying that the Patriarch has focused his attention on bringing some resolution to the problem.”35

In fact, Spyridon received thunderous applause from the assembled delegates (most of whom were Greek-American) when he condemned the existence of “ethnic ghettos” in the United States. It was in this context of optimism that the overwhelming majority of American bishops convened in Ligonier, just three months after Spyridon’s speech in Chicago. Unfortunately — and inexplicably — Bartholomew vehemently rescinded his earlier sentiments. The new patriarch condemned the meeting in no uncertain terms and summoned the GOA bishops to Istanbul, where in a “rather medieval fashion” they were “forced to ‘repudiate’ their signatures to the Ligonier documents.”36 In light of the above, honest critics cannot be faulted for looking askance at the protocols derived in Switzerland earlier this year; whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in fact serious about the problem of church formation and autocephaly in the first place.

Other problems loomed over the horizon: the present Chambesy protocols allowed the various ethnic jurisdictions to continue in existence and to “rely” upon their mother churches. It was feared that the various eparchies could continue to vote en bloc. Russia for its part made explicit claims regarding existing jurisdictions (presumably its own) not becoming subject to Istanbul. North America presented its own unique set of problems. For example, no mention was made as to how to eradicate parallel dioceses or the scandalous multiplicity of episcopal seats in certain American cities (such as in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, or Los Angeles). More importantly, North America presented another problem which none of the other regions have; namely that it already possesses a local church, whose independence is recognized by five other autocephalous churches (including the largest Orthodox church in the world.) The encroachment of yet another layer of bishops onto its territory is thus problematic to say the least. Indeed, according to one well-respected monastic in the Patriarchate of Antioch, Fr Touma Bitar, the OCA is “the only canonical church in North America.”37

In any event, it is not at all clear that any of the ethnic jurisdictions presently want to meet in a continental assembly — the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese included. According to Fr Mark Arey, the general secretary of the Standing Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA), there are roughly “55 to 60 bishops in North America,” a relatively large number, that would make such a continental assembly one that is fraught with peril — at least for those exarchates who have no intention of breaking with their mother churches. More to the point, though Chambesy created a formula which ratified the primacy of the Greek archbishop in America (at least as its interim chairman), there is no guarantee that once situated, the overwhelming numbers of other bishops would accede to this jurisdiction’s perpetual presidency. The reason is because unlike other areas of the world, the bishops of the Greek-American jurisdiction would be outnumbered by at least five-to-one.

Moreover, this fear is justified in North America because of the experience of SCOBA. This organization, which began in the mid-1960s, was intended to draw together the primates of the existing ethnic jurisdictions, with the goal of eventual administrative unity. Instead, SCOBA has proven to be an inept organization with no canonical standing and precious little moral authority. Its fecklessness became apparent soon after its founding. According to one critic within the GOA, “frustrations with SCOBA [were] legendary,” the fault lying in the primates themselves, who “have consistently refused to take those decisions that would the church here closer, making themselves accountable to one another and to the whole.”38 Part of this problem was structural: its chairmen were to serve on a rotating basis based on jurisdiction. Although this rotating chairmanship mitigated against Greek triumphalism, it anticipated Chambesy (even going back to the first meeting in 1991) in many particulars. Especially in the insistence that the respective jurisdictions could still operate independently of one another and that the broader episcopal body could not impose its authority over them.

In any event, SCOBA’s official structure became ossified with the GOA archbishop serving as its de facto permanent chairman. As long as Archbishop Iakovos Coucouzis was alive, there was no problem with this as he had generated much goodwill towards him personally. Things started to deteriorate however with his forced resignation. At present, there is talk behind the scenes of SCOBA disbanding as its meetings are often desultory in nature. Though its ministries continue to gain in number and scope, the fact remains that they are by and large the ideas of laymen from the various jurisdictions. It is they who staff them, finance them, and provide most of the manpower needed for their operation.

The belief that the best days of SCOBA are behind it was on full display recently in Crestwood, where a historic symposium on American autocephaly took place. Two of the major speakers there — one an archbishop, the other a layman— were quite dismissive about its continued relevance, and said so on more than one occasion to Fr. Arey, who gamely tried to put the best face forward. What made such criticism stand out is that the layman in question (Charles Ajalat) has been one of the stalwarts of SCOBA for at least twenty years and is in fact the driving force behind the most recent SCOBA ministry (FOCUS).39

Other considerations mitigate against the longevity of SCOBA or the inception of a true continental episcopal assembly. For one, the widespread belief that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has absolutely no intention of emancipating its American exarchate (whether true or not) has deflated the hopes of many who seek administrative unity. To prevent the occurrence of such an event, Metropolitan Jonah welcomed the selection of Archbishop Demetrios of the GOA as its interim chairman — provided of course that once the episcopal assembly was convened, the election of a president should proceed forthwith.40 The implication is that should a free and open election not be held, then the worst fears of many will have been realized: the new episcopal council for North America would be nothing more than an expanded SCOBA, and like it would be nothing more than another bureaucracy created for the express purpose of permanently frustrating American autocephaly, appearances to the contrary. It would in fact be a continuous repeat of the previous episcopal assembly which convened in 2006 in which any talk of administrative unity was blocked by SCOBA itself. (Among other things, the purpose of the earlier assembly was to “coordinate” the creation of new missions so that they would not be placed near existing ethnic parishes.)

Be that as it may, even propagandists for SCOBA cannot gainsay when the first such episcopal assembly will take place or more importantly, when the putative Great and Holy Council which will supposedly recognize the autocephaly of the various episcopal councils throughout the “Diaspora” will transpire.41 In a recent interview, Arey himself admitted that he did not even know if “assistant” or auxiliary bishops will be invited to participate in such an assembly. The best he could say was that he was led to understand that only bishops with “pastoral authority” would be invited to join. Thus to put the eggs of administrative unity and American autocephaly in the basket of an “interim” episcopal council would be foolhardy indeed.

Perhaps this assessment is unfair, especially since Jonah spoke glowingly about Demetrios and his apparent goodwill, yet such a perception among almost everybody else has resulted in the retrenchment into the ethnic cores of many of the jurisdictions. Examples include the healing of the schism between the two Serbian jurisdictions and talk of union between the two Romanian exarchates into a “maximally autonomous” Romanian metropolitanate. Another indicator of growing ethnic chauvinism was the recent debacle in the Antiochian jurisdiction, a series of missteps and scandals that culminated in a contentious national church convention where the fissures between the native and convert contingents became exposed. At this event, Metropolitan Philip made it plain that he would come down on the side of unity at all costs rather than entertain a union with the OCA, which many in the Arab contingent refused to countenance. And rounding out this picture is the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, which exacerbated this entire morass when it sent a high-level functionary to pour salt into the open wounds of American Orthodoxy in the aforementioned speech at Holy Cross.42

VII. Conclusion: Is a Great and Holy Council Necessary?

The question therefore remains. Despite the absence of bishops from the “diaspora,” the ability of foreign patriarchates to order church life in traditionally non-Orthodox lands remains an open question. Some hold out hope that the upcoming “Great and Holy Council” will resolve this issue once and for all, especially since that is its stated agenda. A few of these critics have even gone so far as to say that the bishops of North America should make all haste to accept the Chambesy formula for unity lest a more onerous one be imposed on this continent by this council whenever it meets.43

However, this strategy quite possibly presupposes more than is warranted. For one thing, the Christian Church has had in place a method of evangelizing non-Christian lands from its inception. This method became codified in the Council of Carthage, when it was decided that this by rights belonged to the bishop nearest the city or region in question. In no way can it be understood that Canon 28 — which was confined to three metropolitan sees contiguous to Byzantium — trumped this protocol. At any rate, there is no yet firm date for a meeting for this council. Nor for that matter has a venue has been chosen. This is not an idle point: the pre-conciliar meeting that took place at Chambesy was originally scheduled for the island of Cyprus. No reason was given as to why it was changed almost at the last minute. Some may ask what guarantees are there that such a sudden shift will not happen again? Left unsaid is whether it can be considered Christian to “impose” a settlement in the first place.

Equally as important, the question of who can convene this council has not been resolved. In previous ages, it was the secular power which called the ecumenical councils. With the loss of the Roman imperium, all subsequent councils have been local ones; though guided by the Holy Spirit, they do not have universal application. Other churches may cite their proceedings for consideration but they are not beholden to them, unlike the seven ecumenical councils. Finally, it cannot be forgotten that in the ancient Church, all metropolitan regions were autocephalous and that it was the right of the constituent dioceses to elect and consecrate their metropolitan (and it was the right of the people to elect their local bishops). It was only through a gradual piecemeal process that this procedure fell into abeyance. In retrospect, it is hard to vouchsafe the present system of rigidly centralized national churches that incessantly interfere into the territories of other churches. Or churches that consider the Gospel secondary to national identity for that matter.

Most problematic of all is the concept of national churches. This phenomenon did not exist during the time of the ancient councils. This presents another unanticipated problem: during the first Christian millennium, there was only one nation whose churches for all intents and purposes were represented — Rome. The bishops who attended these conclaves were citizens of that nation and they represented the hundreds of dioceses throughout this vast unified state. Though it was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic empire, the concept of the emperor as the vice-regent of God and the only legitimate secular authority was fully ingrained in the consciousness of the people.

Indeed, as late as the fourteenth century, Patriarch Antony IV of Constantinople admonished Grand Duke Basil I of Moscow for removing the name of the Byzantine emperor from the litanies of the Russian church. “My son,” Antony gently rebuked him, “it is not possible for Christians to have the Church and not to have the Empire. For Church and Empire have a great unity and community; nor is it possible to be separated one from the another.” Although Antony did not believe that Byzantium enjoyed political sovereignty over the Russian lands, he justified this fantastic claim in theological terms: “The holy emperor is not as other rulers and governors of other regions are…he is anointed with the great chrism, and is elected baslieus and autokrator of the Romans — to wit, of all Christians.”44 With the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, such lofty sentiments were transferred to the Grand Duke of Moscow by Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople, who lauded this potentate with these words: “thou alone under heaven art now called Christian Emperor for all Christians in the whole world.”45

Admittedly, Byzantine bureaucrats were known for their excessive flattery. Yet even so, the sentiments behind these excessive words betrayed a theological reality in the collective mind of the Orthodox Church. Specifically, that only Orthodox emperors could “rule” over the Oecumene, that is, the Christian world. As such, only these emperors had the legitimate authority to convene ecumenical councils. It stands to reason that the 1200-year absence of an ecumenical council is therefore not as deleterious as some would have us believe. (In fact, given the monarchical mindset of the Orthodox Church, it may not even be possible to convoke such an assembly.) At any rate, no burning doctrinal heresies loom on the horizon either. This is no small consolation as there is a great dread among some Orthodox pietists that the erstwhile “Great and Holy Council” runs the very real risk descending into apostasy.46

Be that as it may, the new “local churches” are now national churches, each embodying the hopes and dreams of their respective nations (one could almost say races). Some of these nations — such as Serbia — are in peril. Like most Western European nations, the traditionally Orthodox nations are themselves in demographic collapse. Any recourse by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to mitigate this reality by invoking the 1872 council of Constantinople’s declaration against the heresy of tribalism could very possibly be met with skepticism if not outright scorn. After all, Constantinople ignored its own protocols when it set up Greek jurisdictions in the various lands of the “diaspora,” most famously in North America, which already possessed a local church. Such an action, coming as it did on the heels of the grant of Serbian autonomy, raised more than a few eyebrows. Perhaps the Ecumenical Patriarchate when faced with a fait accompli vis-à-vis the Serbs decided to put the best face on the situation, but when it came to émigré communities it decided to dig in its heels? This admittedly is speculative but it does comport with the reality at least on a superficial basis. Moreover, the Ecumenical Patriarchate continues to segregate Greeks, Ukrainians, Carpatho-Russians, and now Palestinian Arabs into separate ethnic eparchies on this continent.

Old habits indeed die hard: In Great Britain, Istanbul has set up another ethnic eparchy among Russian immigrants who are in schism from Moscow and even welcomed Bishop Basil Osborne (who was previously under Moscow) into its fold. Both actions were vehemently protested by Alexeii II, the previous Russian patriarch.47 In both England and Hungary, fights over church property between Constantinople and Moscow have been turned over to secular courts and in both instances, the Constantinopolitan exarchate lost.

Indeed, in his controversial speech at Holy Cross, Istanbul’s Chief Secretary continued to promulgate the view that the ethnic eparchies could continue to exist in North America provided that they “first submit to the first throne of Orthodoxy.” This was taken to mean that only a Greek metropolitan who was subordinate to the ecumenical patriarchate would be allowed as the national primate. Furthermore, any talk of granting this erstwhile “united” American church independence was quashed by this same speaker. This stunning declaration of bad faith only roiled the waters further and marshaled the forces of those already hostile to Istanbul in preparation of Chambesy. As already noted, it only added to the suspicion that whatever else it may do in Western Europe or Oceania, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had no intention of giving up its eparchies in the Western Hemisphere but instead was actively seeking to aggrandize its power even more. To be fair, Istanbul is not the only transgressor in this regard as most of the other Old World patriarchates have absolutely no intention of giving up their North American eparchies. Be that as it may, it is in fact most ironic that all of the Old World patriarchates now exercise a near-papalist “universal authority,” in that they feel it is their right to set up dioceses and exarchates wherever their émigrés choose to settle.

The future of course is unknowable. The Great and Holy Council may in fact take place. It may operate unimpeded and its deliberations may be robust, open, and in good faith. It may invite all canonical bishops to its assemblies and deliberations, including those from the lands of the so-called diaspora. Therefore any fears of a Chambesy-like embargo of these same bishops may be overblown. If on the other hand Chambesy proves to be the model, or — worse yet — only certain national primates are invited, then it will be difficult to see how it can be termed a “Great and Holy Council” let alone an “ecumenical” one. More importantly, it will be impossible to see how any such council would have the statutory authority to order the lives of local churches without their representation. In the final analysis, the temptation to adhere to a slightly augmented Chambesy model may prove to be too strong, since some of the patriarchates have problems with certain autonomous churches (as already mentioned).

What then is to be done? Given all of the above, the need to order the life of the North American church should proceed on its own merits and in conjunction with the direction of the already established Orthodox Church in America (albeit without its present ethnic exarchates which present the same canonical problems that the major ethnic exarchates represent). To give heed to those who counsel caution, that acceptance of the protocols established at Chambesy as the lesser of two evils, would therefore be unwise. In this writer’s opinion, such timorousness would only continue the present problems, one of which is an adherence to the heresy of phyletism; the other being the creation of episcopal assemblies which will never be allowed to congeal into true holy synods –all protestations to the contrary.


  1. John Meyendorff, Rome, Constantinople, Moscow: Historical and Theological Studies (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1996), p 16. These ten bishops coincided with the civil prefecture of the city of Rome itself. It was only these ten bishops that the popes had specific authority to consecrate as metropolitans. This right was granted by imperial authority as was the papal right to appoint special vicars to dioceses in Gaul and Thessalonica. Incidentally, the bishops in question were not appointed by the pope but could only be elected locally.
  2. Dmitri Obolensky, “Byzantium, Kiev, and Moscow: A Study in Ecclesiastical Relations,” Byzantium & the Slavs (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1994), pp 109-55; see especially p 133: “Canon law stipulated that a metropolitan was normally to be ‘appointed’ (i.e. both elected and consecrated) by the bishops of his ecclesiastical province, with the assistance of bishops from neighboring districts.” Even though this right was gradually lost in the East to the resident synod of Constantinople, “…the old canonical prescriptions, which gainsaid the current policy of ecclesiastical centralization, were never abrogated.”
  3. John Erickson, “Collegiality and Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology, The Challenge of Our Past: Studies in Orthodox Canon Law and Church History (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1991), p 75.
  4. Ibid., pp 73-89. See especially, pp 76-77.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin Books, 1993 ed.), p 28. “…on the whole, during the first eight centuries…the Roman see was noted for the purity of its faith: other Patriarchates wavered during the great doctrinal disputes, but Rome for the most part stood firm. When hard-pressed in the struggle against heretics, people felt that they could turn with confidence to the Pope.”
  7. Metropolitan Maximus of Sardis, The Oecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church (Thessalonica, 1976),.
  8. Erickson, Op cit., p 78.
  9. Ibid., p 75.
  10. St Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians 1.
  11. Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians 6.
  12. Erickson, Op cit., p 78
  13. Apostolic canon 34: “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and count him as their head and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish and the country places which belong to it. but neither let him who is first do anything without the consent of all…”
  14. Erickson, Op cit., p 75
  15. Erickson, “Autocephaly and How It is Proclaimed,” The Challenge of Our Past: Studies in Orthodox Canon Law and Church History, (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1991), pp 91-113; see especially pp 93-94.
  16. St Photius the Great, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit (Brookline, Mass: Holy Cross Press, 1987, Transl. by Joseph Farrell).
  17. Council of Carthage, canon 13: “If a bishop takes no pains to win over to Catholic unity those places which belong to his jurisdiction, he shall be exhorted to do so by the neighboring bishops. If he does not do so within six months from this warning, they shall belong to the bishop who wins them to the Church…”
  18. George C Michalopulos, “Canon 28 and Eastern Papalism: Cause or Effect?”
  19. St John Maximovitch, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, “The Decline of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” delivered at the Second All-Diaspora Sobor of the Russian Church Abroad, Yugoslavia, 1938.
  20. Milton V Anastos, Speros Vryonis Jr, Nicholas Goodhue, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium: Political Theory, Theology and Ecclesiastical Relations With the See of Rome (Variorum Collected Studies Series, 717m 2001). “Byzantium itself at first seemed not to be interested in the full exploitation of the traditions about Andrew. But by the seventh century, Constantinople was frequently described in Byzantine texts as an ‘apostolic city,’ without specific reference to Andrew, who was not named as the founder of the Church of Constantinople until the latter part of the seventh century, or the beginning of the eighth…”
  21. John Erickson, “Collegiality and Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology”, The Challenge of Our Past: Studies in Orthodox Canon Law and Church History (Crestwood, SVS Press, 1991), p 80-81: “Yet it was not completely forgotten that precedence and honor in the Church exist only in view of ministry and service.”
  22. Declaration of Arboath (1320). “They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian ea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage trives, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous…The high qualities of these people were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles — by calling, though second or third in rank — the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.”
  23. Erickson, Op cit., pp 75-80.
  24. Gregory Afonsky, “The Canonical Status of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church, March 24, 2009,
  25. Obolensky, “Russia’s Byzantine Heritage” Byzantium & the Slavs (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1994), pp 75-103, see especially, pp 97-100.
  26. Council of Constantinople (1872): “We have concluded that when the principle of phyletism is juxtaposed with the teaching of the Gospel and the constant practice of the Church, it is not only foreign to it, but also completely opposed, to it. We decree the following in the Holy Spirit: 1. We reject and condemn racial division, that is, racial differences, national quarrels and disagreements in the Church of Christ, as being contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers, on which the holy Church is established and which adorn human society and lead it to Divine piety. 2. In accordance with the holy canons, we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are foreign to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church are real schismatics.” (Emphasis added.)
  27. Alexander Bogolepov, Toward an American Orthodox Church: The Establishment of an Autocephalous Church (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1963), pp 14-15.
  28. “Statement of the primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches,” Istanbul, Oct. 2008.
  29. The ecumenical patriarchate has yet to recognize the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America while the Russian Orthodox Church refuses to countenance the claims of the Estonian and Ukrainian churches.
  30. John D Zizioulis, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Contemporary Greek Theologians Series, No 4) (Crestwood: SVS Press, 1991 ed), p 153, footnote no. 52.
  31. John Couretas, “Moscow Patriarchate Report of Chambesy Meeting,” June 30, 2009,
  32. To be sure, these criticisms have never gone away. Many critics still feel that Istanbul is acting in bad faith, that is that while it may allow autocephalous churches to form in Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and France, it will never relinquish its hold over the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
  33. Elpidophorous Lambrianides, “Challenges of Orthodoxy in America and the Role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” (an address given at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, March 16, 2009).
  34. Nicholas K Apostola, “How Much Unity? How Much Diversity,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review Vol 50:1-4, 2005 (Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 2005), pp 119-140.
  35. Ibid. p 123.
  36. Ibid. p 124.
  38. Apostola, Op cit., p 133.
  39. Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen, Archbishop Nathanial Popp, Charles Ajalat, et. Al., The Tomos and the Council: 20th Century Landmarks Towards a 21st Century Church, Jun 18-20 (St Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY.)
  40. “Interview with Metropolitan Jonah,” (Ancient Faith Radio), Aug 16, 2009.
  41. “SCOBA’s Fr Arey on Chambesy,” Aug 28, 2009.
  42. In The Orthodox Observer for example, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was stated to be “the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America.” (Feb xx, 2008). Such a clumsy locution implies that neither the Ukrainian nor Carpatho-Russian eparchies of this see are canonical.
  43. Nick Katich, “A Call to Gather Together as a Church: Reflections on IV Chambesy,”
  44. Obolensky, Op cit., pp 175-76.
  45. Sir Stephen Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 2004 ed.), p 331.
  46. Daniel Rogich, “The Life of our Father Justin, Abbott of Chelije,” St Pachomius Library (may be accessed at
  47. The Declaration of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church relating to the decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople concerning the reception into its jurisdiction of Bishop Basil (Osborne),” (


Rev. Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse, President

John Couretas, Executive Director

Chris Banescu, Chief Information Officer

Rev. Fr. John Schroedel, Research Fellow

Fr. John is a Ph.D. student, studying bioethics at the University of Chicago. His research is focused on the ethics of emerging technologies and Orthodox understandings of the human person. He is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, and assists at Christ the Savior Church in downtown Chicago. He also serves as the Orthodox campus chaplain at the University of Chicago.
J. David Price, Editor-in-Chief, Clarion Review

Benjamin Price, Managing Editor, Clarion Review

Unraveling Chambesy — Administrative Unity In Our Time

Presented by Ancient Faith Radio

Presented by Ancient Faith Radio

Our canons call for there to be one bishop in one place but here in America as well as other countries of the so called “diaspora” immigration and pastoral concerns have served to violate those canons. To address this issue, the leaders and representatives of all of the autocephalous Mother Churches were convened by HIs All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew first in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and later in Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland to commission certain Episcopal Assemblies who will in turn develop regional plans to correct this anomaly.

To help you sort through this complicated process, Ancient Faith Radio has produced a 2-part documentary featuring Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA (The Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America), Charles Ajalat, former chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese and long time champion of Administrative Unity, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and Nick Katich, an attorney who helped orchestrate the healing of the Serbian schism in the United States several years ago. We would encourage you to read the documents referenced on the SCOBA website.


In this first installment, John Maddex talks with Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) about past efforts at bringing about Administrative Unity, including the so called Ligonier conference in 1994. We will also hear from Charles Ajalat, Metropolitan Jonah, and Nick Katich.

Listen to Part 1:

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In this second part, we learn more about the actual process and related complications of unifying all of the Orthodox churches administratively. In this episode we hear from all of our guests in the first part plus Matthew Namee of the American Orthodox History podcast.

Listen to Part 2:

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The American Orthodox Institute Collaborates with AGAIN Magazine for a Special Issue: "Orthodox Leadership in a Brave New World"

NAPLES, Fla., (Oct. 1, 2007) — The American Orthodox Institute and AGAIN Magazine, published by Conciliar Press Ministries, announced the publication of a special issue titled, “Orthodox Leadership in a Brave New World.”

The Fall 2007 issue features a lead article by Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse, president of the American Orthodox Institute, that examines the contentious “culture wars” of recent decades in a new light.

“Every reader is familiar with the hot-button conflicts — teen sexuality, homosexual marriage, abortion, the Terri Schiavo dilemma — that have been fought in the public arena,” Rev Jacobse writes. “The political arena will always remain a venue for moral conflicts, but we sell ourselves short if we conclude that the political dimension is the arena where these questions will find their final resolution.”

Drawing on the Orthodox Christian moral tradition, which finds its sources in the Bible and patristic teachings, he called for a broader involvement in public life by the Church.

“If Orthodox Christians should understand anything, it is this: Salvation is a concrete, existential encounter with the living God,” Rev. Jacobse said. “Moreover, this Lord gives gifts, including wisdom, knowledge, insight, and courage — all the elements needed to confront the maelstrom of confusion in which our culture finds itself, and all meant to be applied in the work of daily life, whether as mother, researcher, mechanic, priest — whatever our vocation may be.”

Also in the Fall 2007 issue of AGAIN, Rev. John Schroedel looks at rapidly advancing medical technology and the ethical questions it raises in “Human Enhancement and the Quest for Perfection.”

Rev. Schroedel, a research fellow at the American Orthodox Institute, points out that even as Christians enjoy the fruits of new technologies, they should understand that the “real journey of transcendence” is not outer, material or technological, but inner, spiritual, and grounded in obedience and communion.

“Whether a particular treatment or application is appropriate will depend a great deal on where it takes us — whether it helps draw us closer to God or drives us away from Him — and what means are used to get there,” Rev. Schroedel writes.

The AGAIN articles by Rev. Jacobse and Rev. Schroedel have been published on the newly launched American Orthodox Institute Web site:

Visit Conciliar Press Ministries at

The American Orthodox Institute, based in Naples, Fla., is a research and educational organization that engages the cultural issues of the day within the Orthodox Christian moral tradition. AOI is non-profit, non-partisan and is supported by Orthodox Christians in all Church jurisdictions. Visit the AOI Web site at

For the media: To arrange an interview with Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse or Rev. John Schroedel, please contact John Couretas at (616) 813-8941 or jcouretas[at]

The Clarion Review and AOI Join Forces

The Clarion Review: A Journal for Life in the Body

The Clarion Review: A Journal for Life in the Body

The Clarion Review, "a journal for life in the body," is a lively review of contemporary cultural issues that features essays, opinion pieces, book reviews, fiction, and poetry. Clarion is an occasional publication of the American Orthodox Institute. Each issue has a theme (e.g., the body, dualism), and a new issue is released when the editors have collected material of a sufficient quality to best address a certain theme.

Editor-in-Chief J. David Price described Clarion this way:

As "a journal for life in the body," we espouse our two basic commitments. First, human life is embodied existence, and always will be. Second, the Christian message of embodiment in the Body of Christ is the fullest form of such existence — call it human flourishing. Our other commitments can be deduced from there.

And here he addresses the partnership with the American Orthodox Institute:

AOI is a think tank that engages the issues of the day from an Orthodox Christian theological perspective. The Clarion Review has, with much deliberation and justified enthusiasm, merged with AOI. While Clarion’s editorial bent is not explicitly Eastern Orthodox, in the confessional sense, there is a consistent phronema, or mindset, in the way the two organizations see the world. Practically speaking, this alliance allows Clarion editors to concentrate on what we do best: putting out a first-rate journal. AOI will manage Clarion’s business side, and work vigorously to help us grow. Offers of financial support for Clarion are always welcome, and they are now tax deductible!

Visit The Clarion Review website.