July 30, 2014

Reviling Our Parents

Fr. David Hudson sent this along for posting.

By Fr. David Hudson

Fr. David Hudson

Here’s another convert priest piping up, whether “in season or out of season”. Assuming that my right to speak is limited, please allow me address myself only to other convert priests.

As a Protestant Evangelical, rooted in the Bible, I learned that God does not bless those who revile authority. St. Jude says, in verse 9, that “Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”

When Noah became drunk and lay naked in his tent, his son Ham dishonored him, but his sons Shem and Japheth protected his honor (Genesis 9). Ham was cursed, but Shem and Japheth were blessed.

There are many kinds of parents in this world. Some of us have had parents we considered “good”, and others of us have been perhaps more disappointed in our parents. Some have dysfunctional and abusive parents. But which of us, when suffering under an abusive parent, would go on national media and revile them?

St. Paul tells St. Timothy, a bishop (for himself and those under his care), “Do not rebuke an elder (presbyter), but exhort him as you would a father…” (1 Timothy 5:1). If we love our father, who might be dysfunctional, abusive, or simply wrong or questionable in a particular action or decision, we may speak to him, directly, personally, confidentially, lovingly, respectfully, maintaining in humility our proper position as a son or daughter. We do not speak to him as an equal, nor do we revile him nor speak down to him. If our dysfunctional parent acts harshly, or even abusively, to our brother, we may quietly comfort and support our brother, without publicly reviling or embarrassing our parent.

If our parent needs an intervention, then there are discreet, respectful, and loving ways to go about it. The Prophet David would not revile or attack King Saul, even though Saul did everything in his power to destroy David. David said, “May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you” (I Samuel 24:12).

The Lord taught us about due process in the Church in Matthew 18: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The Lord did not say that we should go and discuss our brother’s sins on blogs. Let alone our father’s sins.

I believe the Scriptures are sufficiently clear in showing us that when we harshly and publicly rebuke our parents, we are shaming ourselves, and will not be blessed.

I am neither condemning nor excusing any hierarch, nor any other spiritual parent. I have no first-hand knowledge of most of what is being publicly discussed. I have my own personal experience in my own family, as well as my own personal experience in Protestant Evangelicalism, and now as an Orthodox priest for almost 11 years. Those who know me can testify that I am certainly no paragon of measured speech, wisdom, or diplomacy. But in spite of my own tendency toward rashness and impatience, I recognize that there is a better way and admire those who are more mature in it.

St. Paul says that those who are spiritual ought to gently restore those who err, but infers that in doing so there is danger of being tempted oneself (Galatians 6:1). I believe this is the way of the Church. “Decently and in order”, not like a Tea Party. This is not American politics, brothers; this is the Kingdom of God.

Fr. David Hudson
Descent of the Holy Ghost Romanian Orthodox Church
Merrillville, Indiana

Comments

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    Mickey says:

    As an ex-Protestant Evangelical layman reading this, the first verse that came to mind was, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children (or provoke your children to wrath).” Eph. 6:4

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Mickey, that was in my mind as well. It seems that in dysfunctional systems, only “rights” for one party are held to be paramount without the attendent “obligations” that form the other side of the coin.

      This obtains even in the political sphere. I have a right to own a gun, but an obligation to not go about firing it at will (or pointing it, even if it’s unloaded at other people). I have the right to criticize a person but an obligation to expect correction. I have to the right to worship as a I please but an obligation to accept pastoral care from my priest. Etc.

      Likewise, bishops have the right to discipline their priests but a moral duty to act justly and be brought to task if they fail to meet that standard. It’s not all “I’m the bishop, do as I say (not as I do).”

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr Hudson’s essay is brilliant. If I may however, the need to “reprove” a father in Christ presupposes an internal ecclesial mechanism which allows such reproof. The tyranny that is currently in force in the Antiochian jurisdiction is evidence that nothing of the sort exists at present within that jurisdiction.

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      Wesley J. Smith says:

      Well, I’m pretty new to all of this. But when I converted, the OCA was aflame with scandal. Now, through the Holy Spirit, that has been resolved–and in an entirely Orthodox manner. But for the problems surrounding + Herman, there would be no + Jonah, it seems to me from this side of controversy.

      I think the OC has a lot to learn from the USA and its converts. But I also think we Americans have a lot to learn from Orthodoxy, particularly about individualism and the need for humility.

      It is my understanding that none of us has a right to serve the Church in the manner in which we want. Sometimes, martyrdom is necessary to healing, and that may, as we all know, be in ways that does not involve literal bloodshed.

      Turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, giving up the cloak, submitting to the authority of those whom God has placed over us–so long as the authority doesn’t order us to sin–are the ways of the Christian.

      I am not Antiochian. But it seems to me that there has been no order to sin here.

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        Grant Medich says:

        The AOCANA archbishop has ordered his former fellow-bishops (who he now treats as mere staff members) to support his meddling efforts in the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest. I consider that to be not only sinful, but also an order to sin.

        It is akin to any uncle who would seize my father’s house, expel him, and demand the complicity of his remaining brothers while reducing those brothers to mere household servants tasked with keeping the children under control by providing an appearance of normality. Not only would I refuse to call such an uncle, “papa,” but I would do what I could to drive him and his brothers out of the house, so as to restore it to my rightful father.

        Unfortunately, my allegory cannot help solve the present situation. Neither will the lack of transparency and accountability in the AOC.

        I pray for Bishop Mark daily, and wish that his path did not so closely resemble that of our beloved St. Mark of Ephesus.

        I also pray for Metropolitan Philip. I pray for him especially because I cannot find any comparable defender of the faith who he resembles in any way.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          Grant, I cannot let this blog become a discussion forum on Met. Philip or anyone else. I’m skirting the line as it is publishing Fr. David’s piece, but I ran it because it compels us to look beyond our anger to the will of God. I can’t say I know what God’s will is with any absolute certainty in this situation but, like Fr. David, I am required to seek it. Part of that responsibility is to seek the irenic way.

          I am going to let your comment stand for two reasons: 1) it’s an honest expression of frustration; 2) it’s an example of how anger may lead to rash decisions (no reflection exclusively on you here; I think many people are reacting in the same way).

          You should also know, Met. Philip was very good to me in a recent circumstance I faced. Strong leaders can be complex men and sometimes contradictory in their actions. Still, I counsel patience. More may be going on than what you or I perceive. May God’s will be done in all things.

          To the readers: If this discussion turns personal and cannot remain on the level that Fr. David asked us to engage, I am going to shut down the thread. There won’t be any discussion about this (a prerogative I hold as blog Czar).

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        George Michalopulos says:

        Wesley, I completely agree with you up to the last sentence. As bad as the uncanonical demotion of bishops to auxiliary status is, what is worse, was countermanding +Mark’s directive to his errant parishes to execute an external audit. This counter-directive is clearly “an order to sin” in that it is implicitly a criminal act. That is, the covering up of outright criminality. In other words, had +Mark not resigned, he would have been complicit in the cover-up.

        I’m not a lawyer, but it is akin to a defendant (or his accomplice) committing perjury in a court proceeding or willfully lying to police in order to escape justice. The appearance of criminality at the parishes in question is not proof of course that actual felonies occurred there but the refusal to allow an audit certainly is prima facie evidence of such actions. If it is found out that embezzelment occurred, then this act by +Philip is evidence of witness tampering.

        Chris Banescu, perhaps you could correct me if I’m wrong.

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          Wesley J. Smith says:

          George: I don’t know those details. What I am seeing, admittedly from afar and not following every detail, seems to be a very unfortunate struggle over authority. If someone is being asked to lie and cover up wrong doing, that is different. But even so, it seems also a jump to conclude that there was criminality. Sometimes where there is smoke, there isn’t fire. Something that is “implicitly” a criminal act isn’t, it seems to me, “clearly an order to sin.” If the intent is to prevent wrongdoing from being discovered, that will come out in due time.

          I am a neophyte, so forgive my forwardness. But here is what seems true to me: Throughout Orthodox history, as I have read in my studies, there have been scandals. There has been outright cruelty and tyranny, as in what happened to St. Maximos the Confessor. But the Holy Spirit always rights the boat. We should deal with these issues as Orthodox Christians, in an Orthodox manner, which is somewhat different than in an “American” manner. That can be frustrating and time consuming, but it is also faithful. We can stand for truth unequivocally, and still remain in the spirit of Fr. David’s essay.

          I think this sad breach between + Mark and + Philip also illustrates why we need a unified Orthodox Church in our country. Fr. David uses the metaphor of “reviling our parents” in urging a less caustic course in the present controversy. It is a call to be family and respect those God has called to authority, and whom God will judge in how he served the Body of Christ.

          But there is another lesson here: It is in these circumstances in which the jurisdictional mess we have in the USA is particularly destructive because moving–or being sent–to another house can provide the “easier way out.” That which we are called to solve as a family that will always be family, is solved instead by breaking up. If there were nowhere else to go–or to be sent–perhaps we would be less disposed to “punt.”

          Once we have a fully integrated American Church, there will be many equals in the episcopate that can help deter abuse of authority.

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            George Michalopulos says:

            Wesley, you are most definately correct. Perhaps I overstated the case. Let us for the sake of argument state that I did so. Given what we know about the Toledo diocese forces reasonable men however to conclude that the Christian standard of “blamelessness” was not met.

            Having said that, I do question your analogy about “smoke” and “fire.” Usually in my experience, the former is almost always indicative of the latter. However in modern American jurisprudence, the bar of evidence has been raised to such an extent that prosecution of indictable offenses very often fail (think O J Simpson).

            Forgive the above tangent. You are 100% right that much of this is due to the jurisdictional mess that has obtained for over one century. It would be wrong to suppose however that mere unification (real or otherwise) is going to prevent these things fom happening. Or should I say the type of unification envisioned by the Lambrianideses of the world: unity under an Istanbul-based metropolitan. If there’s one thing that the recent OCA fiasco taught us is that it’s that only a Holy Synod of American bishops beholden only to an American Church, completely free of the meddling/interference/control of Old World patriarchates can rectify internal problems.

            We see an example of this presently in the scandal of the Astoria monastery, wherein a metropolitan who was once the bishop of a city but was unexplainedly transferred to auxiliary status some years ago is leading the “investigation” at the behest of Istanbul. Further, we see that the alleged miscreant (Paisius) is stripped of his post (good) and sent to Istanbul for questioning (also good), but then is not returned to the States to answer to the secular authorities (not good).

            I don’t mean to go off on this tangent because it’s off-topic, but the penintential discipline of the Orthodox Church does not absolve one from the justice of the state (which is also ordained by God). Why is this happening? I don’t care to speculate but merely to come back to your original point, and that is that in an American church (like the OCA), criminal acts can’t be hidden from secular justice because there is no recourse for miscreants to escape to Moscow to be “investigated” by an extra-national hierarchy.

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            Wesley J. Smith says:

            George: I am commenting under my own comment because the reply button didn’t appear under your comment for some reason.

            I think we are in agreement. And of course, by American unity, I mean full autocephaly, with our own hierarchs, deemed equal to every other canonical bishop in the world, and with our own first among equals. (Would a truly American Church that united all jurisdictions here be a patriarch?) I know that’s going to be a tough slog, but I am hopeful.

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            Wesley, I think we are in complete agreement. Only an American church, beholden to its own Holy Synod and its own people, can even begin to try to deal with its own problems.

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    John Pappas says:

    It doesn’t exist in the GOA either. I know priests who were removed overnight not for any pastoral or moral failings, but because rich people in the parish gave money to the Metropolitan. One priest ended up in bankruptcy court because of it. I like what Fr. David has to say, but intervention only works when there is accountability. In fact, intervention is a way of forcing accountability. But when there is no one left to intervene, the “father” can become an unchecked tyrant. What do you do then?

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      Isa Almisry says:

      I’m afraid the situation might turn out resembling Bernie Madoff, who was turned in by his own children, IIRC, because they recognized he was tying the family business in behavior that the authorities were not going to overlook.

      We don’t need the occasion for law suits.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    There is much truth in the saying that “we get the leaders that we deserve”. If we were holy, those who scandalize people with their sins or apostasy would notice us, straighten themselves and seek advice from us. St. MATRONA OF MOSCOW is certainly one of our modern day prophets. She performed countless miracles, healed people, rescued the possessed, and foretold the future. Even Stalin, the tyrant, came to her for counsel and his attitude toward the Church (slightly) changed.

    We need spiritual wisdom, humble faith, and genuine love in order to avoid confusing and alienating people, and to enable them to pass unharmed through the layers of sin and falsehood. If we focus on the sin or apostasy of a few, while millions other Orthodox go on in faithfulness, we harm the Church. We are commended to pray for our enemies, because they do not know what horrible torments they unleash on themselves through their hatred and foolishness. We must be very careful that we too may not be counted as His enemy. Our only solution is to follow the Saints and be aware and terrified that ‘there are last which shall be first’, and ‘there are first which shall be last’.

    In order to be able to stand on the side of Truth we must assimilate the essence of what a Christian should know and do. The Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven — by Saint Innocent of Alaska

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    parinteledavid says:

    I’m not excusing or condoning any “alleged” sins of any parents. But one error does not justify another. I’ve experienced a little suffering and lot of disappointment also.

    Speaking again as an ex-Protestant Evangelical, I learned (and still believe, even if I don’t always practice it) that those who are directly involved in an offense (who own either the problem or the solution) are the only ones justified in passing judgment and taking action.

    Most of us are passing judgment on offenses which are not ours, and which we personally do not have the right nor the duty to correct. I fear that the spirit of the “Tea Party” infects many of us in the Church.

    Is there no appeal system in the Orthodox Church? And if there is, and it is faithfully and humbly followed (not introducing new sins justified by the original ones) — and still there is no resolution, then it is my understanding that at that point God gives grace to those suffering for righteousness sake (on their way to theosis). Do we prefer some kind of earthly justice, earned at a high cost to the Church?

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    Elder Paisios Against Zionists And Cowardly Orthodox

    If you anger when you yourself are offended, your anger is unclean. But if someone is offended in the service of holiness, that means the zeal of God is in him. Indignation can be righteous when it’s indignation for God’s sake. That’s the only justifiable kind of indignation in a person. It’s unseemly to become angry in one’s own defense. Resisting evildoers is another matter, however, when it’s in defense of serious spiritual matters, when our holy faith, Orthodoxy, is concerned. Then it’s your duty. To think of others, to counter the blasphemers in order to defend one’s neighbor — this is pure, because carried out in love.*

    ~~~ ~ † ~ ~~~

    Evil lies within us. There is no love in us, so we don’t feel all people to be brothers and are tempted by [the knowledge of] their sinful ways. But it’s not right when moral failings become known to all. The injunction of the Gospels to “tell it unto the Church” (Matt. 18:17) doesn’t mean that everything has to become known to everyone. By exposing the moral failings of our brother we arm the enemies of the Church, give them another pretext to escalate the war against Her. And the faith of the weak is shaken in this way too. If you want to help the Church, then try to mend your own ways, rather than others’. In straightening yourself out you straighten out a particle of the Church. If everyone were to do that then the Church would be in perfect order. But today’s people attend to everything under the sun, only not to themselves, because it’s easy to teach others, while mending one’s own ways requires effort.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Eliot, I’m not sure what Elder Paisius is saying here regarding Zionists, but I agree with the general premise: it is up to all true Orthodox to correct grievous sin within the Church, even if it is perpetrated (especially if it is perpetrated) by bishops. The cause for scandal is too great. We laymen have just as much right to protect the fullness of the Faith as do the bishops.

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        George:

        What worries me is that if we focus only on what is wrong, we might end up driving people away before they get to know the fundamental truth of the Christian gospel: Christ is Risen! He is the Conqueror of death.
        Righteous people perfected in faith and prophets like those presented in the Bible lived in the 20th century. A multitude of people witnessed miracles like the ones described in the Bible. We certainly cannot look indifferently upon people’s vices. These righteous people denounced sins and prayed for the sinners with tears, for they had always the Last Judgment in mind.

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          Eliot, I’m in complete agreement with you. The nature of the kerygma is the strongest force in the universe. And it’s 100% good and uplifting (and salvific). I despise the fact that we are confronted with things like this that take our minds away from that which is good. No matter what scandal we’re talking about, it’s the devil’s work I tell you.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Anger will not prevail into righteousness. The main reason for anger is simply our own will being twarted. Bishops have often been criticized on this blog and in many other places for failure to lead decisively. Are we not placing them, and us, in a no win situation when we jump all over any actual decision they make because it doesn’t statisfy us?

    Look at a bigger picture. I do not believe that the current situation in the Antiochian Archdiocese is unique or especially egregious. Quite painful and confusing, but it is certainly not without historical precedent generally speaking. Anger does not serve. Hyperbolic thinking and poetic comparison to various saints is almost as bad as maintaining anger. No one involved in this struggle has yet to demonstrate, to me, obvious incidents of sanctity but that is not for us to decide anyway especially if it is just to bolster ‘our side’ of the argument.

    There will continue to be upheaval in the various ways we Orthodox have choosen to order ourselves here in the United States because as everyone has acknowledged, we are not cannonical. Such an order, or multiplicity of orders, cannot stand. Despite the recognition of the lack of cannonicity, each of us is vested in a particular dysfunctional, uncanonical order that we will not easily let go of.

    Regarding Fr. David’s admonition to go to your brother privately…I wonder what would happen if I requested such a meeting, in humility. I wonder if anyone outside of the usual folks has ever tried such a thing. I know that the laity (and me personally)have, out of apathy, selfishness and self will contributed significantly to the disorder we see all around us.

    Changing ‘jurisdictions’ won’t help a bit either. We are one Church, we are all facing the same problem in different guises. We bear one another’s burdens even when we try to run away.

    Refusing the temptation to anger does not mean giving in to error, it simply allows the truth greater access to our hearts and minds. All things work for good for those who love God.

    When we pray, pray with intensity and fervor and faith; when we fast enter into the humility fasting demands; when we give alms and tithe do so with liberality and love; when we face our own sins know that they are greater than those of our brother. Then, God willing, we may speak and act in accord with God’s will which will create peace and healing.

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      Grant Medich says:

      Fr. Johannes certainly surprised me when he saw anger in my posting. I guess many people have a hard time telling the difference between strong words and angry words. My reply was merely strongly worded.

      George’s comment had led to Wesley stating that he was unfamiliar with most of what was happening, but that he saw no evidence of anyone being ordered to sin. While I did not want to redirect this thread by providing a short history of recent events, I wanted to help him understand a bit of the context of the situation on which he decided to comment.

      With regard to hyperbole, none was intended. I am not trying to declare Bishop Mark a saint – by no means whatsoever! I simply wish his path was not so difficult.

      As for Met. Philip, I sincerely do pray for him daily. I am also glad that Fr. Johannes included my comments because I think this point is very important. Even though nothing could convince me that Met. Philip’s recent actions have been anything other than unsound and harmful, I accept them as the status quo at this time. They are only as dust in the wind (looking at the big picture, Michael). Although I definitely do not consider him an enemy of any sort, his opinion on these recent matters are certainly adversarial to mine.

      This is why I must pray for him. Although I will probably never have the opportunity of confronting him with St. Matthew’s four step process, I can always pray for him. So, I do.

Care to comment?

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