October 31, 2014

A Reflection on the Episcopal Assembly

by An Anonymous Priest | HT: OCANews

As of today, the final day of the Episcopal Assembly (EA) held in New York, we have only received a few official reports.* These reports have been in the form of addresses from bishops of the assembly. While it is nice to read the speeches and some of their poignant words, I am convinced that nothing dramatic will change. I am not one who is ‘connected’ and I have no sources and am not given over to conspiracy theories. I do not give thought to a take-over from Constantinople or Moscow. If this is attempted or happens, then I will give thought to such a scenario.

I was impressed by Archbishop Demetrios’ calm and reserved tone when discussing the situation we find ourselves in and some of the many abnormalities and difficulties that he laid on the table. I likewise was impressed with the fiery zeal and courage in Metropolitan Philip’s attempt to address some fundamental stumbling blocks the EA has to deal with. The other hierarch’s addresses were also well stated.

Granted, I have no idea what has gone on behind closed doors. All I know of is what has been publically and officially put forth. I put no hope in the chatter, fears, triumphs, speculation and the rest—this mostly rests in the realm of gossip. So why do I not think that much will come from the EA? Because there are fundamental issues that none of the speeches even attempt to address. Archbishop Demetrios spoke of the great building that none would go to the cellar to see its foundation. I am afraid that the bishops gathered in New York not only do not want to go in the basement but that there is an attempt to deny that a basement even exists. To take the Archbishop’s image a step further, it is as if they think the carpet that they are standing on is as far as the depth of the building goes. There is not even an attempt to look under the carpet. And what is lying under this carpet but fear, pride, self-interest, self-preservation, power, money, status, etc.

The foundation that should be built upon is not one of dialogue, organization, or even a true canonical order in America. All these things are another carpet, decorations in the magnificent building we call the Church. The Foundation to be built on is Christ, and what were Christ’s words to begin his ministry with? “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Nowhere in any of the speeches were the words, “I am sorry, please forgive me. I will do everything by God’s Great Grace to not sin against you and the Church any longer.” For the Church in America and for that manner, universal, these words need to begin every one of these EA where discord has been sown instead of love and peace. I would begin to take seriously the EA if their officially signed document was a pastoral letter by all of our collective hierarchs begging the people of North America and the world for the poor witness, un-Christian behavior, lack of charity towards all and for causing so much discord and enmity within the Church. For this I would have some hope. As it stands, this is just another document in a long list of many. And even if this EA were to bear the fruit of jurisdictional unity, its foundation would be shaky.

I have heard over and over again how difficult it would be for jurisdictional unity to occur. I refuse to see the great difficulty in this. Perhaps I am being a bit too naïve, but in order for a true unity to occur there has to be a true repentance and true humility (that includes all of us and not just those bishops and patriarchs we see as holding things up).

I pray that our gracious and merciful God Who has not abandoned us even now, give us and our bishops and patriarchs the Grace to look under the carpet—to go into the cellar and repent!

Comments

  1. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Michael Bauman says:

    That about sums it up. We each have to ask ourselves: 1) Do I really want unity? Will I be obedient to my bishop (whomever he is)? Will I love the Greeks, Lebanese, mongrel Americans, Russians, etc, that I now have no excuse but to consider by bothers and sisters.

    All of these are evidence of the foundation of Christ are they not?

    Will I forgive the people who do not/have not agreed with me?

    Or will I seek my own version of what it means to be Orthodox to the exclusion of others?

    I frankly don’t know the answers for myself. I hope to find out though.

    Still think the best solution is to lock all the bishops into a monastary for as long as it takes for them to reach a solution. Don’t let them out until they have forgiven each other, prayed and can honestly say…”It seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit to lay down our claims to power and submit to one another in Christ, we have elected Bishop… as our our leader and will continue to work with him and one another in brotherhood and love to heal the divisions we have created, to reach out to our fellow Americans… followed by specifics such as outlined in the post.

  2. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Michael, what I liked about this priest’s thoughts was how much more sober and realistic they were than what we’ve heard already. As feckless as SCOBA was, I fear nothing but the worst for the EA, especially since it doesn’t seem that there was any repentance.

    As much as I like and admire Fr Mark, I couldn’t help but be perplexed by his interview. When he said that this EA was important because he heard bishops say for the first time “nice to finally meet you,” I thought: these are bishops for Christ’s sake! They have the charisms of the Holy Spirit! Since we’re into diptychs and all that, read Eusebius and pore over the list of the first bishops. How many centuries elapsed before one of them died a natural death? I’m even talking about the popes of Rome, many of them died in the lead mines, doing the most menial work. And here, our bishops, most of whom have never known a hungry day in their lives, have never slept in a prison cell, or worked in the gulag, all they cared about was seeing if they could get along? Am I the only one who sees any incongruity here? What is going to happen when the persecution comes?

  3. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Scott Pennington says:

    “What is going to happen when the persecution comes?”

    George,

    Maybe that’s the problem. We live in a country which is no longer arguably Christian but in which also there is not (yet) violent persecution. Think of it as a transition period. Persecution tends to have a wonderful clarifying effect: “Whom do you serve?” That question gets muddled in our society, even among bishops. Also, persecution tends to refine a person’s appreciation for traditional practice. When there’s a complete break with the dominant culture (because the dominant culture is actively engaging in anti-Christian violence) it ceases to be a legitimate source of reference when it comes to how we behave as Christians – – no more “one foot in tradition and one foot in pop culture” (i.e., Desperate Housewives, boat rides to combat “Global Warming” etc.).

    Admittedly though, persecution is a steep price to pay for renewal. But we always had the choice to break with the culture voluntarily and convert it instead of capitulate.

  4. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Samuel says:

    How much of what we hear from Orthodox leadership is rhetoric? Do they portray the humility of Christ or are they caught up in a smoke screen to devert their focus from the great commission? It seems to me that unity in the church can only manifest when the common goal is reaching the community around us and then the world for Jesus. Why is this left up to the rest of the community of Christ and we are exempt because we can’t agree on what is proper protocal for the behavior of the clergy. The whole time they are trying to find common ground the world around us is being turned against a gospel they’ve never even been presented with yet.We as Ortodox christians are just as guilty because we wait around for them to decide what is good for us instead of leading us into the righteousness of God and his Kingdom. In Revelation 19:7 all of Heaven rises up to the decloration of the Bride of Jesus to proclaim that we are ready to be presented to the Bridegroom for our union with Him.All of the prophecies that the Lord Jesus left us with are manifesting before our very eyes and we sit around waiting for the leadership to decide if we should be in unity or devided as if this were acceptable at all. The Gospel of John shows us that Jesus himself prays that we are one as he is with his Father. what part of that do we not understand? As for persecution. I’m not going to wait around for it to come to me.I will lean totally on the Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me into all truth and I will enter Heaven and hear Jesus say well done good and faitfull servant

Care to comment?

*