April 16, 2014

Metropolitan Methodios: Urgent Need for a Missionary Effort

Thoughts for the New Ecclesiastical Year

By Metropolitan Methodios

As we begin the new ecclesiastical year, I urge you to reflect upon the theme chosen for the last Clergy Laity Congress, “Gather My People to My Home.” It is critically important for us all — clergy and laity — to respond to the call of the Church to undertake a Missionary effort in our parishes. We must to open the embrace of every Community to welcome the sojourners of life to quench their spiritual thirsts at the well of Orthodoxy. We must welcome brethren to dialogue – to discuss their concerns, their questions, their visions and yes, their complaints and disappointments with the Church.

Opening our embrace and welcoming our brethren does not mean sitting in our offices or Parish Council meeting rooms. It means finding all those not connected with the Church wherever they may be — in their homes, where they work, where they spend their time. We have to feel the same imperative that Jesus had when he encountered Zaccheus at the sycamore tree. He urged him to climb down “quickly” for he had to stay at his house that day! There was no time to lose, for the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. That particular day, the lost sheep was Zaccheus.

We must feel the urgency to undertake this missionary effort immediately. There is no time to waste. Just look around you the next time you are in church — not so much to see who is there, or when they arrived, or where they chose to sit. Notice rather those who are not present for a sundry of reasons — your family members, your friends, your acquaintances. And then do something! Stop “brainstorming” about what needs to be done and begin doing it.

Comments

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    Andrew says:

    Your Eminence!

    How about showing some humility and leadership and healing that rift with the OCA that you brought on by your own inflated desire to be the head byzantine in Boston? (Is that problem resolved?) How about some support for American Orthodoxy (as you did once before you flip-flopped) instead of demonizing American Orthodox Christians?

    Your words may say one thing but your actions tell a completely different story.

    Why would I want to be gathered home to a community where words like omogenia (same race) are used? Why would I want to be gathered home to a community that often worships in a language nobody speaks anymore? How can these realities be considered missionary?

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    peter says:

    You talk about welcoming our brother but after 50 years of celebrating together you made it possible for the Orthodox in Worcester to not be able to celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy because you do not know how to get along with other people.

    And you continually worship with the Catholics of Worcester but the orthodox of Worcester can no longer worship together because of your sinful ego. Shame, Shame, Shame.

    It is time for your humility to take over and admit you blew it and take away the excommunication of the OCA. Who do you think you are anyway?

    May God have mercy on you!

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    Chrys says:

    I appreciate the Metropolitan’s words and the urgency. It may be overdue, but it’s a good start in the right direction.

    One line in particular caught my attention:

    It is critically important for us all . . . to undertake a Missionary effort in our parishes.

    It must be intentional, but the implications are damning. How is it that our parishes have become mission-fields unless the gospel has not been proclaimed nor lived as it should?

    So far as his assessment is correct – and I fear it is widely true – we are all (those of us in the GOA) at fault for this failure. If my brother is not “saved,” judgment falls on him for his choice and on me for my failure to follow Christ and be any kind of a credible witness.

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    John Panos says:

    Chrys

    Absolutely. Better late than never, though.

    If Methodius is serious about evangelism, he can start by preaching the Gospel, and living it as a bishop of Jesus Christ. What do I mean by this? Well, for starters….

    Let him renounce his order that Greek priests will not concelebrate with OCA priests, who have at least tried to inculturate into America.

    Let him inspire all his clergy to celebrate in the language his people can understand (4th century Greek is, therefore, out), so that they can understand their own theological tradition.

    Then, he’ll have tens of thousands of supporters to back him up when the Hellenizers try to punish him for his daring.

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    Greg says:

    RE Let him renounce his order that Greek priests will not concelebrate with OCA priests…

    So much for all Orthodox people share the same faith.

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    orrologion says:

    …look around you the next time you are in church — not so much to see who is there, or when they arrived, or where they chose to sit. Notice rather those who are not present for a sundry of reasons — your family members, your friends, your acquaintances. And then do something!

    I think this is a wonderful sentiment. It is exactly this that must be seen in the GOA if the EP has any serious thoughts of being a unifying factor in Orthodoxy abroad. To date, it has either been focused on Greeks or on providing a separate but equal opportunity for canonicity, i.e., everyone gets their own exarchy (no need for unity except at the top)!

    I, too, note the rather vague terms that could as easily be taken as saying, “Reach out to the lost sheep of the Greeks; let us go to the diners and bring back our (Greek) family members, (Greek) friends and (Greek) acquaintances to the Church” as it could be saying to reach out to all the non-Orthodox (most of whom are, obviously, not Greek, not Russian, etc. I pray he meant the latter; more importantly, I hope the faithful of his diocese heard it as the latter.

    I would like to hear the Metropolitan’s suggestions of what ‘something’ should and could be done. This would also elucidate what he meant. What is to be done to reach the non-Orthodox – whether Greek or non-Greek? How does this affect the language used in the services in his parishes? How does this affect the celebration of culture or cultures in his parishes, i.e., is it possible for the Greek festivals to become ethnic festivals representing all Orthodox peoples and their cultures (including American, Mexican, Alaskan, etc.)? How does it affect the fact that Orthodox parishes seem to fragment based on the cultural demographic they choose as ‘theirs’? How are we going to break down the walls between these various cliques and camps? What practical steps will be taken by him, his chancery and his priests? What is he asking of others, other jurisdictions, other clergy and churches?

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    George Michalopulos says:

    I think prayer is what is called for here. “Metropolitan” Methodius (where are his suffragans?) is not a serious man.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    One of the reasons this call to action falls flat is that it employs the vocabulary of scripture (makinging the essay sound “religious”) but recontextualizes the words to mean something the scripture does not say. For example:

    We must to open the embrace of every Community to welcome the sojourners of life to quench their spiritual thirsts at the well of Orthodoxy.

    Overlooking the pretentious terminology for the moment (sojourners of life, etc.), note how a powerful word in scripture — “thirst” (both John and Isaiah used it), is divorced from its proper context by replacing the object that quenches the thirst — “Christ”, with something else — “Orthodoxy”.

    Someone will make the argument that Christ can be found in Orthodoxy and so the meaning still ought to be clear. But this is compelling only if you already know the proper context from which the term “thirst” is borrowed and that only Christ can quench it. The argument that “Christ” and “Orthodoxy” can be interchanged presupposes that the hearer already knows the context and can make this conceptual jump.

    But these kind of jumps are complex, often subjective, and don’t serve evangelism. They certainly fail to reach the level of clear teaching.

    Evangelism has one purpose: to preach the Gospel of Christ. When the Gospel is preached, Christ is revealed, and when the revealed Christ is encountered, the Lord adds to His Church.

    The Gospel, in other words, constitutes the Church. And it constitutes the Church from one generation to the next. The Gospel, then, must be preached continually both within and outside of the Church from generation to generation.

    And it must be preached responsibly, using the vocabulary of the received apostolic message preserved for us in scripture with great precision. We are not allowed to borrow terms and attach them to different objects. We cannot substitute “Orthodoxy” for “Christ” in the way that the essay does.

    The essay (and scold) is not a call to evangelism, not really. It does not rise to what the term “evangelism” really means. It’s merely the kick-off to a membership drive.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr, thanks for clarifying that. I’d like to think that +Methodius’ “call to evangelism” is based on +Demetrios’ keynote speech. However, in re-reading it (and your critique), I realize that it’s nowhere near the same ballpark. this leads me to two conclusions:

    1. +Methodius is confused about evangelism (i.e. just another membership drive), or if it’s in line with the keynote, then

    2. +Demetrios’ own understanding of evangelism is flawed (which I don’t think, btw).

    Of course, there’s a much deeper problem in the GOA, and that is that homogeneia-uber-alles concepts that have anitmated the EP’s eparchies for almost half a millennium now, are embedded in its ruling elite’s DNA. Read Runciman’s scathing assessment of the Phanariotes. What’s sad is that there are hundreds of GOA clergymen and probably a majority of the bishops who understand the problem but the guys that hold the purse-strings don’t “get it.”

    Of course, there’s a third conclusion left unstated that just popped into my mind: and that is that things aren’t going all that swimmingly in New England for the GOA. Methodius’ plea is an admission of weakness. The GOA/Phanar axis doesn’t usually talk like this. Witness The Orthodox Observer, it’s all happy-face, like the old Soviet news programs which showed abundant harvests in the Ukraine even though people couldn’t find toilet paper in the grocery aisles. The secular elites don’t like to hear bad news, if it gets too bad, then hierarchical heads start to roll.

    Forgive the strained metaphors.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Another article by Metropolitan Methodios:

    An Eyewitness to Orthodox History

    By Bishop Methodios of Boston

    (as originally published in The Hellenic Chronicle, 12-15-94)

    I pen these thoughts on the airline flight returning to Boston from the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, where I attended the first assembly of Orthodox hierarchs from throughout North America (click on the link below to view the video A NEW ERA BEGINS).

    It was the very first time that I visited the Antiochian Village. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese are to be congratulated for offering to Orthodoxy this magnificent complex, which includes a state of the art conference center, comfortable hotel-style guest rooms, a beautiful chapel and museum, as well as a camp facility which is home to hundreds of youngsters during the summer months. The hospitality extended to the hierarchs was most gracious. The entire staff of the Antiochian Village provided their services in a most professional manner.

    My trip to the Antiochian Village afforded me the opportunity to meet for the first time Orthodox hierarchs form other jurisdictions whom I have not previously met. We prayed together, shared fellowship with one another and studied together the state of Orthodoxy in North America. Every hierarch called to mind and reflected with great respect upon their mother churches and ecclesiastical superiors. Together we prayed for our venerable Patriarchs and Primates and discussed with much concern the problems our mother churches face with courage and conviction. Each of us reflected how blessed we are to have such men of faith leading their churches at such critical times.

    Each of us also thanked God for the spiritual children entrusted to our care in America, i.e., our dedicated priests and deacons and the laity that faithfully live their Orthodox faith, providing sterling missionary witness of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” in cities and towns throughout the United States and Canada. These Orthodox Christians are not “Diaspora” Christians seeking to return “home”, but men and women born here who have raised families in lands that thirst for Orthodox witness and presence.

    We began our Episcopal Conference on the Feast of Saint Andrew, the first called Disciple of Christ who was the first “missionary” of the Truth of the Gospel, who first shared his great discovery that he had found “the Messiah” with his brother, Peter and then throughout the world – Cyprus, Greece and in Constantinople, where he established the Church which today continues to be blessed by a Patriarch imbued by his exemplary visionary faith.

    We Orthodox in the Americas, whether we are of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Alexandria, Antioch, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia or under the spiritual jurisdiction of primates of autocephalous churches, have a sacred responsibility to emulate the example of Saint Andrew. He was the Protokletos, first to be called to discipleship. We too are called to discipleship, to an American missionary effort to share our faith, our discovery of the “Messiah” in the land where we live, with our brethren who live in our midst, who seek to drink from a modern day Jacob’s well the refreshing drink of Orthodox Theological Truth.

    During our three-day conference, we had the opportunity to hear well prepared presentations and agreed upon two thought provoking statements, one on Mission and Evangelism, and the other on the Church in North America, both of which should be carefully studied by all Orthodox Christians.

    The Statement on Mission and Evangelism stresses the need for us as Orthodox to re-evangelize our own communities with the truth of Orthodoxy. This is very important if we are to be effective missionaries of the Faith. It is sad to admit that many of our priests are anything but “Orthodox” in their polity. We all agreed that we need to combine our missionary programs to avoid duplication of effort and train tommorow’s priests and laity in the vital importance of mission.

    The Statement on the Church in North America should also be studied by all clergy and laity with prayerful reflections. Orthodoxy has matured and come of age. The hierarchs gathered in Ligonier seek from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other heads of Orthodoxy their guidance and blessing to continue the process of working effectively towards administrative unity of Orthodoxy in the United States and Canada, which has already begun by the International Orthodoxy Preparatory Commissions on the Diaspora. Our venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the ranking Church in the Orthodox world, has a critically important guiding role to play in the life of the Church.

    Throughout history, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always exercised a primatial role amongst the other Orthodox churches. It is, therefore, ecclesiologically her right to exercise leadership in guiding and inspiring the Orthodox churches in North America to future administrative unity. We anxiously await the directives of our beloved Patriarchate, so that we may progress in canonical order to the administrative unity we all seek.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    I guess he was “for unity before he was against it.” Just like Senator John Kerry. There must be something in the water in old Beantown.

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    Dean Calvert says:

    Yeah…or, let’s just hope that His Eminence’s recent “discovery” that a need for Evangelism exists lasts longer than his dedication to Orthodox unity.

    Do ya think His Eminence might actually begin by resuming concelebration with his fellow (OCA) Orthodox in Boston?

    Probably way too much to ask huh?

    If ya made this stuff up…no one would believe it.

    Best Regards,
    Dean

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Dean, was it Marx who said that history repeats itself, once as tragedy, then as farce? (I hate to quote Marx, but even a blind sow finds her acorn every now and then.)

    I encourage everyone to go to http://www.ocl.org and read Fr Apostola’s essay “How Much Unity, How Much Diversity?” In it he writes about the exact same scenario that was played out in Chambesy recently, occurring twenty years EARLIER. In other words, the more the things change, the more they stay the same. What’s the point?

    Let me close by using another pithy maxim: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

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    Andrew says:

    How about this from OCN via the GOA e-bulletin. Notice the wording…. what is a “responsible and knowledgeable understanding of American Orthodoxy?”

    Come and listen as OCN reporting brings you up to date in a responsible and knowledgeable way.

    OCN NOW – Special Report – Unity In American Orthodoxy – What does this actually mean and how will it take place?

    Watch for special reporting over the next several months from people in the know concerning the historic meeting in Chambesy and its ramifications for the Orthodox Christian Churches in America. The issue of unity of the Orthodox in North America has been on the lips of many people. Come and listen as OCN reporting brings you up to date in a responsible and knowledgeable way.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    OCN offers a good mixture of education and entertainment but it cannot offer any commentary that contradicts GOA/Constantinople policy. For this reason, the promise that its reporting of Chambesy will be “responsible and knowledgeable” is, well, self-serving.

    Instead, look at the OCN effort as an attempt to influence the debate. OCN would not enter these treacherous waters absent approval (orders?) from above. Constantinople defines unity as centralization and is staking its future on hegemony over the American Church (see: Ecumenical Patriarchate: American ‘Diaspora’ must submit to Mother Church). OCN must spin the story in ways favorable to centralizing the American Church under Constantinople.

    There is nothing wrong with entering the debate of course, but we should remember that OCN’s subservience to the Constantinopolitan view necessarily drives programming decisions. Entering the debate now indicates that the GOA/Constantinople policy-makers sense the tide might be turning against them. Is a public relations offensive in the works?

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    John Couretas says:

    I remember listening to Archbishop Demetrios’ keynote speech at last year’s Clergy-Laity and wondering: How do you go “home” to our diaspora?

    In his speech, the archbishop described a “serious problem with the youth” drifting away from the Church. Were all of those Greek and Cypriot ambassadors and Greek lobby operatives arrayed across the dais at Clergy-Laity working on that one? Or are foreign “national interests” more important to them? Take one guess.

    And the archbishop told us about reaching out to the “unchurched” in America. Will the unchurched one day be able to express the zeal and philotimo [sense of honor] that is so typical of the Greek Orthodox, as was described by the Ecumenical Patriarch in his letter to Clergy-Laity? And what of the “progress that you present in every sector that brings honor to you both as the Omogeneia and as the Body of the Church, a cause for which your countrymen rejoice” that the patriarch described. Countrymen?

    What’s more, should we also warn converts — before they are received into the Orthodox Church — that they are about to join a faith community that is “immature” in the eyes of the Mother Church? Isn’t that what we’ve been told, with the approval and consent of both the archbishop and Ecumenical Patriarch?

    And how does this omogeneia work? If converts don’t have the proper bloodlines, will they disparagingly be referred to as the xenos in our parishes? Even after chrismation?

    I’m afraid we Greek Orthodox have painted ourselves into a corner with the diaspora-Omogeneia narrative that has remained so serviceable as the party line for so long. These continuous appeals to ethnic pride (Patriarch Bartholomew: “You are both the heirs and the envoys of the Holy Greek Orthodox Tradition and of a brilliant civilization thousands of years old, a civilization that is deeply honored throughout the American continent”) won’t easily be scrubbed from our outreach. Generally speaking, people who inquire into the Orthodox Church as seekers first do their homework.

Care to comment?

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