October 24, 2014

Servants of Each Other

orrologion says it’s time to open the windows of our Orthodox house and let in some fresh air:

I for one am glad that these sorts of conversations are being had. They reveal us. Our creation myths can be challenged. Our skewed views of ourselves can be corrected. Greeks can hear how they are perceived; Russians and Americans and Arabs likewise. We’re all used to the smell of our own stink; we forgive our own pet sins, but not others’. We can see how our actions (and lack of actions) hurt others, and we can change (hopefully). We can compare and contrast our strengths and weaknesses, our love, our piety, our good works, patience, kindness. We can learn from each other and grow. We can live rather than simply preserve and grasp. We can see how Orthodoxy is not only what I grew up with, what ‘my’ spiritual father told, what Prof./Fr../Geronda/Vladyka said it was – we can see Orthodoxy is bigger than my family, my clan, my tribe, my culture, my opinions, my theological clique. Our laxity, our excuses, etc. can be revealed, and our shame can change us, we can be corrected. We are all in desperate need of having the windows opened to air out the house; and converts need their new homes to be lived in, to be used and filled, to become home.

Let us all welcome the opportunity to become the servants of each other. Let us compete to serve and sacrifice more than each other. When all sides do this, then will they way be clear to us all – God’s way and not our own. Let the OCA lay down her claims of autocephaly and sole jurisdiction, let the EP lay down its demands of obedience to primacy, let us all place Christ and His Church, the Orthodox faith, ahead of all things including language, culture and our pet ecclesiologies and theologies and forms.

Read “Sacrificing All” on the orrologian blog.

Comments

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    orrologion says:

    A few past comments may also be relevant to my thoughts in this blog post:

    Orrologion:

    I agree that the comments here and elsewhere – my own included – often betray anger and bitterness that can cross the line into disrespect. For that I – and all – should be sorry.

    At the same time, I think many ethnic Orthodox communities do not understand how ‘outsiders’, xenoi, ‘Americans’ and other ethnic Orthodox feel in these communities. We do often feel excluded, looked down upon, disregarded; it is often the case that a convert asks whether the line they have been fed about this being the True Church outside of which there is no salvation is true. It often seems as if an ethnic parish really is by and for that ethnic group alone – others are welcome to join in, but with the understanding that you are guests in a church that is by and for a specific people and to specific cultural (and religious, insofar as they overlap) ends. There is also just the simply cultural fact, right or wrong, in America that if people that can speak English choose to speak another language when everyone present does not speak it, that is seen as rude – especially if one’s organization claims a universal mandate and commission. I think many cradle Orthodox in other local churches do not trust that the Phanar works in Orthodoxy’s best interest but in its own, and that it does not respect other Orthodox languages and cultures and their witness (i.e., the Greeks, their language, faith and practice are the standard of Orthodoxy).

    I note these things not to take a swipe but to share what many feel when they attend ethnic parishes (there are particularities in each ethnicity, and these differ parish to parish across North America). Greater interaction at the parish level needs to happen for these misunderstandings and miscues based on differing cultural mores and norms – not Orthodoxy – to be addressed and resolved. It’s like marrying into your spouse’s family – they are different, better in some ways, worse in others, always strange, but a way of being family comes about. This is difficult to do when each group walls itself off from others through language and by not deigning to allow other Orthodox practices ‘because this is a _______ parish’ rather than a parish for all Orthodox Christians.

    (Personally, I think Sunday morning Liturgy and Great Feast should be primarily, but not solely, in English because this is the one common tongue for all Orthodox and all non-Orthodox in America. All languages in the parish and the language of its founders should be sprinkled throughout – primarily in those portions of the services that are highly repetitive like the litanies and exclamations. Extra services like Vespers, Matins, memorials, sacraments, etc. can be in various foreign languages, as needed pastorally. Sunday Liturgy should be about our unity of faith; serving in a language most Orthodox and non-Orthodox don’t know only serves to divide – and let’s be honest, most immigrants don’t understand Church Slavonic or the Greek of the services very well, if at all – even if they should and classes should be available to teach it. The Fathers wrote the services in a ‘high’ form of languages that were understood; they did so because what they had to say was important, because it taught the faith, out of obedience to the command to “pray with understanding” – they didn’t write for ambiance, for heritage, or as a vehicle for language immersion.)

    I wonder if the various ethnic jurisdictions and parishes are interested in serving everyone? I wonder if they believe the Orthodox Church is The Church outside of which there is no salvation? I wonder if they care about whether my American mongrel of a son is saved? I wonder if they care to know what the services and prayers of the Church say and demand? Actions speak louder than words. I do not share these thoughts or questions to attack or demean, but to share the honest questions and impressions some/many people have. I hope we can address these questions, perceptions, misperceptions. I want us all to be united in faith. I don’t want to feel excluded. I don’t want my non-Orthodox wife, and family and friends to think the Orthodox Church is only for Greeks, Russians, Romanians, etc. or those in love with those culture (e.g., Hellenophiles, Russophiles) – I don’t want to feel like I should agree with them.

    #

    Scott:

    …out of curiosity, what is the difference you have in mind? It seems to me that the EP’s claim to the jurisdiction over all the areas not given to other Churches is based on Canon 28. To me, that’s the crux of the issue.

    Why would Fr. Elpidophoros assert that the only canonical authority here in America is the EP? Why would he claim that the OCA is not autocephalous even though their Mother Church has granted them this status? Why would the EP interfere in the territories of other Patriarchates?

    I don’t see this as a small issue. It has the potential to become as big as the differences with Rome at the end of the first millenium.

    #

    Orrologion:

    Scott,

    I didn’t say they were small things, just different things.

    When folks at the EP hear of people wanting an autocephalous or autonomous church, or that refuse to even consider being under the omophorion of the EP they are hurt by what they feel as derision of this venerable Church. ‘Why do you want to break from us? Why don’t you want to help us?’ is what is often heard.

    Orthodox in America need to remember that we are all under a bishop and Synod, and that for much of Orthodox history the various Patriarchates were multicultural and transnational. It is only recently that monocultural local churches have become more standard. There is no canonical guarantee that each people or nation have their own local church. I fear that is something born of both the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and a Wilsonian political view of the self-determination of peoples. That is, it is not a purely Orthodox position.

    At the same time, the EP needs to understand that its modern understanding of Canon 28 has engendered and is engendering a great deal of ill will and animosity against it. It is also undermining its credibility as a reliable touchstone of unbiased, objective Orthodoxy. It comes off as trading on its past glories and unquestioned Orthodoxy for the sake of its own private concerns. It makes Orthodox around the world not want to help if all they are doing is propping up a would-be tyrant who will – as an institution, not a person – do anything to survive. Such has been question in the minds of Slavs since the Council of Florence; the Ottoman years did nothing to allay that suspicion given the corruption that went on between the various Phanariote parties as they jockeyed to get their candidates named Patriarch (at great expense).

    The Slavs fared little better than the Phanariotes under the Ottomans in the ‘purity’ of their hierarchs actions under the Soviet Union and its puppet states. That being true, it isn’t right and neither side should claim innocence.

    Also, the EP does need our help. We should be willing to help. We should not be afraid of becoming part of its territory, especially if that would help in its bid for survival. We should also be giving to it and other local churches in the same way the Apostle Paul gathered alms from his converts to bring back to Jerusalem.

    What needs to be gotten past is the idea that the Church is primarily concerned with only certain peoples and cultures, and that liturgical immersion in another language can somehow teach a language (not) or preserve a culture in a secular, multicultural Western world. (The situation under the Ottomans was different in that the Turks invaded and took over formerly Greek territory; they were preserving their indigenous culture. That is not the situation in the West where they are minority immigrants that are not segregated into special quarters.)

    What needs to be realized by the hierarchs and clergy is that each and every parish needs to be focused on meeting the needs of each and every Orthodox Christian in the region (regardless of culture or language; English will come to dominate because it will be the one common language shared by all the Orthodox here – French in Quebec, perhaps, Spanish in Mexico). Each and every parish also needs to focus as much on all the Orthodox and non-Orthodox that do not attend, do not vote, do not give as they do on the favorites, the rich and the voting. Right now each parish and jurisdiction tends to focus on who it thinks is ‘their people’ – Greek, Russian, American, Evangelical, Catholic, Byzatine Catholic, counter-culture, Arab, educated, etc. The Church has to be for all people, first, and then pastorally to the specific needs of particular communities (not constituencies).

    Because Americans – of whatever ethnic background, convert and cradle – do not see this being done in the GOA, they have little trust that the EP and his Metropolitans here will do this in the future. Once the GOA starts acting like the Orthodox Church, first, and not the Orthodox Church for Greeks and Greek-Americans in preservation of Greek culture then the EP will see a lot of the angst surrounding him evaporate. (And, after he stops the shenanigans regarding Canon 28 which just makes him look dishonest and legalistically untrustworthy).

Care to comment?

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