April 18, 2014

Turkey and Religious Liberty

My interview with Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol was published today in The Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. Our talk focused on the prospects for greater economic and religious liberty in Turkey. Mustafa blogs at The White Path. Excerpt: Let's talk about religious freedom. There's a great tension between the modern secularist path of Turkey, going back to Ataturk, and the revival of Islam and its influence on politics. Will this be a winner take all battle, or is Turkey working out something a little more complex in the future? I say there will be room for all of these views, and Turkey will be more pluralistic than it used to be. Actually, right now, the battle is between the people who want to create room for pluralism and those who want to keep it homogeneously secular. Keep in mind that the founding idea of the Turkish Republic was very monolithic. It picked up the narrative of the French Enlightenment in that secularism would make the country safe from … [Read more...]

WCC’s ‘Homespun’ Economic Fallacy

The World Council of Churches, which claims to speak for most Orthodox Churches around the globe, has formulated a number of proposals to reform the global financial system because of its inherent "injustice." General Secretary Samuel Kobia sees the need for new transnational financial watchdog organizations that will "qualitatively regulate the growth in massive movements in capital." The problem here is that Kobia fails to understand that a global economy requires an international flow of capital -- along with an international flow of goods and services and, very often, labor (indeed immigrant labor). In cataloging a long list of ills flowing from the current economic crisis, and the "neoliberal economic myth" of efficient markets, Kobia neglects to mention -- or fails to see -- how markets work to create wealth, economic growth and jobs. These are not things created by, as he would have it, "democratizing all global finance and trade institutions" across international boundaries. … [Read more...]

Met Jonah: Vision for America

Rod Dreher over at Crunch Con believes the OCA has turned a corner: Amazing. Just amazing. And prophetic. This is a national religious leader who is right for the time. Listen to it here by clicking on the "Vision for the Future" audio link. Excerpts (forgive any transcribing errors, please): He talks about the need for Orthodox Christians to engage the world in service: Where are the Orthodox hospitals? Where are the Orthodox schools? Where are the Orthodox charitable institutions? It's a beautiful thing to build a medical clinic in a remote village in Ethiopia. But it's also a beautiful thing to build a medical clinic in a remote village in Kansas. More: The fundamental institutions of our culture are falling apart. ... [Traditional Episcopalians, for example] are crying out in pain. They see their church as having abandoned Christianity, and surely it has. If it endorses gay marriage. If it endorses homosexuality. If it endorses abortion. If it endorses euthanasia … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Jonah: ‘Ability and Humility’

Terry Mattingly has been following the news coverage (non-coverage?) of the election of Metropolitan Jonah to lead the Orthodox Church in America and flags a story from the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Reporter J.M. Brown offered this: Longtime friends from Santa Cruz County said the 49-year-old bishop has the ability and humility to serve the entire church, which means ironing out a well-publicized financial scandal involving misuse of church funds and bridging gaps between various sectors of the orthodox faith, including the Greek, Arab and Russian Orthodox churches. "His election points to a very strong determination to change the way things have been done in the past," the Rev. Mel Webber, the pastor of Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Cruz for 11 years, said in a phone interview from Pittsburgh Thursday. "He's got the skills to become one of the most enlightened leaders this church has seen in a long time." … [Read more...]

Ataturk: Immortal Leader and Unrivaled Hero?

In "Turkey Shocked by Chain Smoking, Raki-Swilling Atatürk," Spiegel Online reporter Daniel Steinvorth reports on the controversy over a new film released to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. ... Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül showed that the seven-decade anniversary can also be celebrated in another way -- one perhaps more to the liking of the Kemalist Thought Association. At a ceremony at the Turkish embassy in Brussels, he gave a lecture on the difficult formation of the Turkish State and the expulsion of Greeks and Armenians, a fact which Gönül described as a "very important step." At the end of the day, he said, modern Turkey would not be as we know it, "if Greeks still lived on the Aegean and Armenians still lived in different parts of Turkey today." In other words: the historical expulsion, deportation and extermination of the two population groups, as the thinking goes, are to be welcomed. Between 1.5 and 2 million Anatolian … [Read more...]

Obamakis and Bidenopoulos

Opa! Obama!

Political candidates follow a time-honored campaign strategy of reaching out to ethnic groups and religious communities, and Orthodox Christians have been courted this way for years. It works both ways, of course. Now, little more than a week after the election, we're getting a good look at how politicians and political operatives of Greek descent -- many of them prominent in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese -- have been working for years to promote President-elect Barack Obama and running mate Sen. Joseph Biden. The Greeks for Obama group, for example, developed this catchy slogan: "If you are Greek and love Obama, clap your hands." On Nov. 5, the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes told supporters that it had raised $500,000 for Obama's campaign just weeks before the election. (full message appended at bottom of post). Andy Manatos, a public relations executive who also chaired last summer's GOA Clergy-Laity Congress, led the effort for this group. "Moving the huge American … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Jonah to lead OCA

Metropolitan Jonah

The Orthodox Church in America announced that Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth was elected Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada today at the 15th All-American Council of the OCA. Ancient Faith Radio has Metropolitan Jonah's address to the council, where he offers insights about the nature of leadership in the Church. "Power corrupts and that power needs to be renounced," he says. Listen here. The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette said the 49-year-old Metropolitan "was chosen after two ballots and a vote by the synod of bishops." The following is the official statement from the OCA: PITTSBURGH, PA -- On Wednesday, November 12, 2008, His Grace, Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth was elected Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah was born James Paffhausen in Chicago, IL, and was baptized into the Episcopal Church. … [Read more...]

Obama Defeats ‘Social Darwinists’?

Bishop Savas of Troas

Update (11/19/08) -- In "Bush's record in Africa receives well-deserved praise," USA Today's DeWayne Wickham gives us this: This year, Bush signed a bill that authorized up to $48 billion to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — most of it to be spent in sub-Saharan Africa — from 2009 through 2013. Since 2003, the Bush administration has provided funding to increase the number of Africans receiving anti-retroviral drugs from 50,000 to about 1.4 million, Frazer said. -- End update -- Did God ordain an Obama victory? You get that impression from Sava on a Rolla, the blog of Bishop Savas of Troas. In a post titled, "This is the Day that the Lord has made!," the chancellor of the Greek Archdiocese celebrates the victory of President-elect Barack Obama in terms that can only be described as divine: Do I expect miracles from the President-Elect? Am I confusing the man with the Messiah? Of course not. But neither is he the Antichrist, as some of his opponents would have … [Read more...]

Another Brawl at the Holy Sepulchre

Maybe it's time to put these on pay-per-view, like they do for the cage fighters. Here's the report from AP on those brawlin' monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem: A bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead were both taken away in handcuffs after scuffling with dozens of riot police. Six Christian sects divide control of the ancient church. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene. Note to AP: The Orthodox Church is not a "sect." Note to monks: I teach my Sunday School class that Christianity is The Way of brotherly love, peacemaking, and mastery of the passions. You are not making my job easier. … [Read more...]

Interview with Bp. Hilarion of Vienna and Austria

Reflections on the American Orthodox experience by foreign leaders are often interesting. Sometimes they are even insightful. That's what we see in the recent interview with Bp. Hilarion of Vienna and Austria conducted by Dr. Peter Bouteneff, Associate Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York. Discussion ranged from the American jurisdictional divisions, proper ecclesiology, the failure of ecumenical initiatives, to Bp. Hilarion's musical compositions (The Passion of St. Matthew). Some highlights: Your Grace, as an archpastor and scholar, with experience both within the Moscow Patriarchate and globally, you have reflected on a vast array of topics, many of which are now of key importance to us in the Orthodox Church in America as we prepare to meet in council and elect a new primate. While we in America reflect on the origins of our autocephaly, the recent scandal in our Church, and the challenges we face, how do you see a way forward for us? I … [Read more...]

Fr. Hopko: A Spiritual Springtime for American Orthodoxy

Fr. Thomas Hopko, an advisor to AOI, delivered an address in late September for the 40th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Chapel at the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, a monastery for women in Ellwood City, Pa. Fr. Tom observes that while a "sprinkling" of Orthodox Christians in academic circles have been known to the wider American public, "hardly any other practicing Orthodox Christian has been publicly recognizable in American society in the past forty years." Among the clergy, the late Archbishop Iakovos is singled out for social witness in the civil rights movement. "Things are not much different today," Fr. Tom says. "But there are some notable exceptions." He opens with a sobering assessment and then explores the accomplishments of the Church in recent decades: A Spiritual Springtime for American Orthodoxy -- Reflections on the last 40 Years Membership in the Orthodox churches in North America in the past forty years has radically decreased. There … [Read more...]

New study: The Orthodox Church Today

The Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, based in Berkeley, Calif., has released what it is calling "the first national survey based study of the laity, ordinary church members, in the two largest Orthodox Churches in the United States: the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)." To a significant degree, PAOI said, the study reflects the profile of an entire Orthodox community in the United States. "The Orthodox Church Today" study addressed four broad questions: -- What is the "image" of the Orthodox clergy in the eyes of the "people in the pews?" -- To what extent do the social and religious attitudes of the ordinary parishioners reflect those of their parish priests? -- What do church members think about patterns of Church life in their local parishes? -- What do laity think about various issues dealing with "Democracy and Pluralism in the chirch," "Changes and Innovations in the Church," and "religious "Particularism' … [Read more...]