Bureaucratic Church and Imperial State

In response to comments here on this blog about whether the Byzantines will one day “save” the American Church, the answer to that, as has been observed, is that there are no Byzantines remaining to save us. What’s more, there would be little support among American Orthodox Christians for the sort of deep involvement by the state in Church affairs that was typical of Byzantium. The American Founders, in their wisdom, went to great lengths to make sure that the state would not establish a Church nor would the state control its life.

The following excerpt is from “Church Structures and Administration,” by Michael Angold and Michael Whitby, in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies.

In their broad outlines the administrative structure of the Byzantine Church as systematized under Justinian survived without radical change down to the end of the Byzantine Empire. This was testimony both to Justinian’s administrative and legislative abilities and to the Church’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Justinian saw to it that the structures of the Church were established by imperial legislation (Myendorff 1968). In his famous preamble to Novel VI Justinian enunciated an ideal of harmony between emperor and priesthood, for he singled out prayer for the spiritual well being of Christian society as the latter’s prime duty, while the protection of the Church was the most serious of imperial responsibilities.

This meant in practice that the administrative structures of the Church came under imperial supervision. It is for this reason that the term ‘Caesaropapism’ has been coined to describe the Byzantine emperor’s role in ecclesiastical affairs. This has been the subject of continuing debate between those who reject the notion, because it does not do justice to the spiritual autonomy of the Byzantine Church, and those who defend its validity on the practical grounds that the Byzantine Church was largely regulated through imperial legislation (Dagron 2003).

By the twelfth century the emperors had taken the title of epistemonarches or regulator of the Church. By doing so they made clear that the ultimate responsibility for the organization of the Church lay with them (Angold 1995). The assumption of this title was not a claim to decide matters of faith. This in the end was the work of a council of the Church which, it has to be added, was presided over by the emperor or his representative. As an institution the Byzantine Church enjoyed relatively little autonomy before the fourteenth century. The final choice of a patriarch lay with the emperor, who was able to depose patriarchs as well.

When in the early seventh century the patriarch Sergios (610-38) reorganized the personnel of the patriarchal church, it required imperial approval in the shape of a novel of 612 issued by the emperor Herakleios (610-41). It fixed the staff of Hagia Sophia at 80 priests, 150 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 70 subdeacons, 160 readers, 25 cantors, and 100 ushers. Their main function was to mount the lavish round of church services celebrated at Hagia Sophia. In addition to these there were supernumerary positions, filled by the administrative rank and file, 88 in total.

There is not yet any mention of the major officers of the patriarchal church. It seems to have still been a question of groups delegated to deal with particular functions. Hagia Sophia had, for example, nine oikonomoi, with a large subordinate staff. At some stage these would be placed under the Grand Oikonomos, who was responsible for the administration of the incomes and property of Hagia Sophia. It soon became an imperial and not a patriarchal appointment.

Next in seniority was another imperial appointee — the Grand skeuophylax, was was the treasurer of the patriarchal church. At the head of the patriarchal notaries was the chartophylax, yet another imperial appointment. Control of the archives and notarial organization, numbering some forty members in 612, gave the chartophylax both power and responsibility.

Another distinct group within the patriarchal administration were the ekdikoi, created by Justinian to run the ecclesiastical tribunal known as the ekdikeion. By the seventh century they were headed by the protekdikos. The patriarchal administration therefore evolved into a series of bureaus each with its own head. The precedence and hierarchical ranking of these officers within the patriarchal church was formally recognized in the eleventh century […]

The chief officers of the patriarchal church were ex officio members of the Endemousa Synodos or patriarchal synod. Its membership was otherwise increasingly restricted to the metropolitan bishops and autocephalous bishops. Its origins certainly go back to the mid-fifth century when the term is first attested.

Most important matters relating to the Church were likely to come before it. It served as a court of appeal, but for a long time it met only on an extraordinary basis. By the eleventh century, however, it had become a more or less permanent body (Hajjar 1962). This produced considerable problems. Only those metropolitan bishops of sees situated relatively close to Constantinople could hope to attend its sessions on a regular basis. Very often these metropolitan bishops also enjoyed precedence at the imperial court. It meant that a group of ‘political’ prelates with strong connections to Constantinople began to form an elite within the Church which dominated the patriarchal synod. It also meant that the synod was able to deal with a great deal more judicial business than had been the case in the past. As a result, the boundaries between ecclesiastical and imperial justice began to become blurred (Tiftixoglu 1969). This was very clearly the case with marriage suits. In the past, such cases were more likely to be dealt with by imperial courts. In the eleventh century they passed increasingly to the ecclesiastical courts. Patriarchs began to legislate on marriage law (Angold 1995).

It was left to Alexios I Komnenos to deal with the uncertainties that were the result of overlapping jurisdictions. He reclaimed marriage law as an item of imperial legislation, but agreed that cases involving marriage would normally go to the ecclesiastical courts. He took charge of heresy cases. He intervened in the organization of the patriarchal church. He defined the rights and responsibilities of the chartophylax, who was recognized as the patriarch’s deputy (Nicole 1894).

In 1107 he proceeded to reform the patriarchal clergy. He thought that they had failed in their duty to carry out their pastoral duties among the people of the capital, whence the serious outbreaks of heresy. He gave his approval to the creation of an order of preachers (didaskaloi) attached to Hagia Sophia. In the provinces, it was the duty of the bishop to see to the pastoral needs of his flock (Gautier 1973).

It is not clear that an order of preachers ever materialized. The danger from heresy soon passed. Instead, these preachers became teachers. A series of teaching posts was created within the patriarchal church at the head of which was the didaskalos of the Gospels. The intention was in all likelihood to improve the quality of the patriarchal clergy. Before this initiative there is no sign that the patriarchal church had an educational function. The purpose of the creation of these teaching posts was in the first instance pastoral, but increasingly their holders were expected to compose speeches to celebrate patriarchal and imperial occasions. There can be little doubt that the creation of the didaskaloi strengthened the organization of the patriarchal church (Angold 1995).


  1. Robert Fortuin :

    Shoot pal. You have this uncanny ability to shatter people’s dreams, don’t you?

    My epistemonarchial miter will have to remain in the closet a little while longer. 🙂

  2. George Michalopulos :


    the original statement was so laughable that its absurdity was there for all to see. If any sober-minded people are interested in a historical analysis of how the Phanar put the kibosh on American unity –and why they have absolutely NO intention of ever letting the GOA go–please go to http://www.ocl.org. There is an excellent piece by a GOA priest that was actually printed in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review. Yes THAT one. in 2005. In Brookline, Mass.

    This means that this was not put out by GOA-critics like me but by the GOA itself.

  3. The Byzantines are the only hope for Orthodox Christians in America. What they have to offer goes over and beyond the bureaucratic schemes proposed out by many American Orthodox Churchers.

    What to make of the amorphous dream of “administrative unity” that combines the dreaded Byzantine Imperial (an American Patriarch in the form of the OCA Metropolitan) combined with lay control (in the form of votes) of the bishops, including the American Patriarch?

    Plucked from Panaghia’s Garden (http://www.inathos.gr/athos/en/MonkOffer.html):

    “The Orthodox monk is the quardian and the living proof of a long standing and holy Tradition. In the Orthodox monasteries Byzantium lives for ever as an environment of devotion and a special way of worship…

    “Furthermore, Byzantium and the particular tradition we inherit from it (mainly through the Monasteries), constitutes one of the main components of our national identity as Greeks and Christians. In other words it is one of our deepest roots.

    “In other words Mount Athos, is one of the main bearers and guardians of orthodoxy today, it constitutes a tower of strength, spirituality and morality for the Orthodox people everywhere.”

    The MONASTERIES will save the American Orthodox Church.

  4. Robert Fortuin :

    A more convincing case will need to be made that monasteries=byzantium

  5. Who am I to argue with the Agion Oros, who by the way, still flies the double-headed eagle flag of the Byzantine Empire?

    We have 17 Athonite monasteries here in the U.S., the seeds of Orthodox greatness for this country.

  6. I echo Robert’s skepticism concerning monasteries=Byzantium.

    This romanticizing of Byzantium has to end because what it really is with its emphasis on omogenia, greek language etc is just an excuse for Christian mediocrity.

  7. Robert Fortuin :

    Dear Joe,

    Yes I wholeheartedly agree with you that monasteries are absolutely crucial to the life of the Church.

    But it doesn’t follow that monasteries are Byzantium. In fact I would argue the very opposite. The life of the Church (whether in monasteries or elsewhere) does not consist of any worldly empire, political system, race, language or culture. It transcend them all, as it is the very Kingdom of God which is our life. Truly it is the Holy Spirit, God in our midst.

    We must not conflate creation with the Creator.

  8. Robert Fortuin :

    I should hasten to add that I don’t mean to say that empires, race, language etc. are meaning or worthless.

  9. nomail@nomail.com :

    I agree that any evangelical effort will require solid monasteries, but I’m not sure the Athonite ones here in the US understand that.

    Sure would be nice if these monasteries from Mt. Athos would actually care enough about the people here to do services in a language we understand.

    Wait a minute…I forgot, even they don’t understand the language they are doing services in. No one speaks Koine Greek.

    Not only is this ridiculous, but it won’t rescue the American Church from it’s problems – it will exacerbate them.

    I think St. Paul had something very specific to say about this.

    “What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.” 1 Cor. 14:15

  10. Michael Bauman :

    To echo Mr. Fortuin:

    My understanding from the Holy Scriptures and all of the other sources in the Church, it is Jesus Christ who saves.

    Salvation is personal and intimate, not an impersonal grand scheme.

    Hierarchies don’t save; Imperial/Episcopal power doesn’t save; ethnic origins don’t save; monasteries don’t save; religio-philosophical constructs don’t save; economic systems don’t save. While each has its place, if we look to them for salvation, they have become idols. We have lost worship, communion, Christian fellowship and the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens in love as we submit ourselves to the love of Jesus Christ in the Church. Pray, fast, give alms, repent–loving God with all we are able, then we will enter the Bridal Chamber.

    As long as we insist on divergent legalisms attempting to define the one, genuine, true, complete, actual, fully Traditional, uncorrupt Holy Orthodox Church, we miss the boat. It is the dead stirring up the graves of the dead.

  11. Re: “It is the dead stirring up the graves of the dead.”

    “Dead?” Who’s dead?

    “In the Church, the past is contemporary; and that which is present remains so on account of the living past, since the God-man Christ Who is `the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8), continuously lives in His divine-human body by means of the same truth, the same holiness, the same goodness, the same life and establishes the past in the present. Thus, to a living Orthodox understanding and conscience, all the members of the Church, from the Holy Apostles to those who have recently fallen asleep, are contemporary since they continuously live in Christ… For the Orthodox Christian these are more real than many of his contemporaries.”
    — St. Justin Popovich

    Three-quarters of the Saints of the Orthodox Church are monastics.

    Mount Athos continues in the same Saint-making tradition.

    There are 17 Athonite monasteries in America.

    These the seeds of Orthodox greatness in this country not the paltry schemes of “administrative unity.”

  12. Robert Fortuin :

    Dear Joe,

    A hearty Amen! to St. Popovich’s quote. Thank you for pointing that out.

    I believe you may be misunderstanding something however.

    The “dead” Michael is referring to are not the Saints (they are contemporary after all as St. Popovich rightly points out). The “dead” are the worldly political systems, that which belongs to the current age.

    Not given to ecumenism/administrative unity myself (I am much too much a realist), I don’t see why the “seeds of Orthodox greatness” and administrative unity have to be mutually exclusive.

  13. Michael Bauman :

    Joe, unless we enter into Christ, we are.

  14. Michael Bauman :

    Joe, I’ll accept your figure of 3/4 of the saints being monastic but with the addendum ‘recognized’ saints. Of course, that could merely reflect a monastic bias in the recognition of saints. In any case, it is not monastaries that make saints, it is the person entering into communion with God through repentance, prayer and fasting.

    If the path of state sponsored martyrdom opens up in this country, we might see the scale tip a little bit (or not).

  15. St.John Maximovitch wrote before his repose”What happened in Russia and China will happen in America.” The martyrs of this age are coming…because the confessors are already here!

  16. cynthia curran :

    The only major lesson that we can learn from the Byzantines is that of their last ruler, Constantine XI, who actually died for his people. Now, I wonder if many of us will do that.

  17. “What began in Russia will end in America.”

    –Elder Ignatius of Harbin (+ 1958)

    Re: “…the confessors are already here!”

    Will individual or groups of Orthodox Christians in America become collaborationist or “catacomb” during this time of trouble?

    Only then, will the true Confessors of the Orthodox Church be revealed.

    It is presumptuous to predict, “I will be a Confessor…I will be a Martyr.”

    Even worse to say, “the confessors are already here.”

    My thoughts say that we can only pray, “May God give me the grace to endure to the end.”

  18. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Tigger, I heard somewhere (don’t know how accurate it is) that St. John Maxomovitch said that the Orthodox in America will achieve unity, and that we will experience a flowering of Orthodoxy, and then the persecution starts. Do you anything about this. Do you know if he even said it?

  19. Re: “I’m not sure the Athonite ones here in the US understand that.”

    I’m not sure you understand what has been sown here on American soil.

    Let’s take a look a one delicate “flower.”

    Big, bad Troy Polamalu (a Somoan-American, former generic non-denominational Protestant) of the Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, not only converted to Orthodoxy (the Greek Orthodox Church) but has become a spiritual son of Elder Ephraim.

    And what a son! Polamalu named his son, Paisios, after Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain.

    Pittsburgh Magazine recently interviewed him:


    Some choice bits:

    Q: How would you define the spiritual struggle you referred to earlier?

    TP: It’s the struggle of good and evil, and with that comes the struggle with greed, jealousy, materialism, sexual morality, pride, all these types of struggles that we face every day, in every second of the day.

    Q: Your faith continues to evolve. In the past few years, you formally converted to Greek Orthodox. Where do you worship?

    TP: My wife and I go often to a Greek Orthodox monastery in Saxonburg [Nativity of the Theotokos], a monastery in Arizona, and several parishes in Pittsburgh. We like the monastery because it’s most serene there and we can talk to the monastics. To see their daily struggles really fascinates me.

    Q: What intrigues you about the monastic life?

    TP: For me, faith is to be simple in this way. If anybody believes in God and believes in the Holy Bible, how can you be in any grey area? I’m talking about myself here, how can “I” think one way and do another way? To me, Christianity is very black and white. Either you take it serious or you don’t take it serious at all. The monks’ example to me is that they take salvation seriously in every facet of their lives. This is a model for me as a Christian and for my family on how to live our lives.

    Q: Can you give an example of what inspires you?

    TP: There are so many, and I don’t mean to imply that everybody needs to live like a monk in order to be saved. For the Greek Orthodox monks, examples would be: they wear beards to cover their face so they’re not vain; they don’t have mirrors because they don’t want to look at themselves from being vain; they wear black because black is humility; they seldom talk because they don’t want to be proud or arrogant; they keep their eyes down because they don’t want their eyes to wander; they pray constantly.

    The struggle between good and evil is very materialized with them. A lot of people have an understanding of this but it’s really just an oral proclamation that there is good and evil. To the monks, it’s hard as rock. It’s something they grasp daily. This is what I see in them and it amazes me: they’ve taken their struggle so seriously and in turn there’s so much grace in it. When you sit down with these monks, so much peace and love exudes from them.

    Q: Their faith is their passion. It makes me wonder if some day you might have that same calling.

    TP: I don’t think that everyone is meant to be a monastic. There are people who are meant to be married and those who are meant to be monastics. However, they are examples to us of how to live a pious life.

    Q: On my own spiritual path, I’ve felt at times that there’s a certain allure to that serene, sequestered lifestyle.

    TP: Yes, but I think it’s an understatement to say that their struggle is more intensified because their path is more intensified. There are tons of stories about these monks who have physical battles with these demons that fight them. It’s like, oh my goodness. In turn, they live in God’s grace so much that you think, no way, how can they have such angelic lives? Like the monks on Mt. Athos in Greece – this place is heaven on earth, there’s so much grace there. For 1,500 years, this place has been devoted solely to Christian spirituality. It’s untouched. Not even women are allowed there.

    Q: This is the place you visited two summers ago while on a pilgrimage?

    TP: Yes. There’s an amazing monk who lives in Arizona – Abbot Ephraim, my spiritual father. He’s the epitome of Mt. Athos brought to America.

    Q:What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from him so far?

    TP: That you cannot have an experience of God without humility.

    Polamalu understands in a big way. He has humilty, therefore he has experienced God through the ministry of his spiritual father, Geronda Ephraim and Gerontissa, and the monks and nuns in life.

    It is the opposite of humility that prevents others from understanding and experiencing the Life in Christ that is presented to us in the monasteries of Elder Ephraim in our midst.

  20. Fr. Johannes,

    I think you might be confusing St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco with Fr. Seraphim Rose and also conflating the prophecies concerning Russia with the future of the U.S.

    Excerpts from:
    The Future of Russia and the End of the World
    by Fr. Seraphim Rose

    Starets Anatole the Younger of Optina, in the very first days of the Revolution, in February 1917, made a prophecy in the form of a vivid picture of the future of Russia: “There will be a storm. And the Russian ship will be smashed to pieces. But people can be saved even on splinters and fragments. And not everyone will perish. One must pray, everyone must repent and pray fervently. And what happens after a storm? …There will be a calm.’ At this everyone said: ‘But there is no more ship, it is shattered to pieces; it has perished, everything has perished.’ ‘It is not so,’ said Batiushka. ‘A great miracle of God will be manifested. And all the splinters and fragments, by the will of God and His power, will come together and be united, and the ship will be rebuilt in its beauty and will go on its own way as foreordained by God. And this will be a miracle evident to everyone.” [Orthodox Russia, 1970, no. 1, p. 9].

    Elder Barnabas of the Gethsemane Skete spoke before the Revolution of the disaster coming upon Russia and the cruel persecutions against the Orthodox Faith. He said: “Persecutions against the faith will constantly increase. There will be unheard-of grief and darkness, and almost all the churches will be closed. But when it will seem to people that it is impossible to endure any longer, then deliverance will come. There will be a flowering. Churches will even begin to be built. But this will be a flowering before the end” [private letter from N. Kieter].

    Schema-monk Aristocleus, not long before his death in August 1918, said that “now we are undergoing the times before Antichrist, but Russia will yet be delivered. There will be much suffering, much torture. The whole of Russia will become a prison, and one must greatly entreat the Lord for forgiveness. One must repent of one’s sins and fear to do even the least sin, but strive to do good, even the smallest. For even the wing of a fly has weight, but God’s scales are exact. And when even the smallest of good in the cup overweighs, then will God reveal His mercy upon Russia. Ten days before the end (of his life) he said that the end would come through China. There will be an extraordinary outburst and a miracle of God would be manifested. And there will be an entirely different life, but all this will not be for long” [Orth. Russia, 1969, #21, p. 3].

  21. Fr. Johannes,

    St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco did give a sermon on Cheesefare Sunday (1956) where he spoke extensively about the Antichrist and the End Times.

    Reading this blog entry (“Bureaucratic Church and Imperial State”) reminded me of this line from his sermon:

    “First of of all the forces preparing for his [the Antichrist’s] coming fight against lawful monarchial rule.”

  22. Fr. Johannes,
    I will research that point on St.John you asked for…time does not allow me yet. But to say that”the age of confessors is presumptuos” is nonsense. Todays clergy and laity, who even speak about the issue you mention here (some in hiding,some open indicates that is somewhat true) Your right:no one asks to be a martyr or confessor,that’s sheer insanity! But,in todays confused priorities(anything other than right faith and right worship)people do suffer for speaking,sometimes at cost of position status even friends for standing firm in This Faith. Some of us are even made examples of “refusing to toe the Line”. But to say it is “presumptuos” implies first hand knowledge of confessing. People can confess and suffer silently,without public broadcast. Aside from morals or theology,how many clergy,laity and monastics are put out for what they confessed to be true?

  23. Tigger,

    The Orthodox Church has various traditional Saint titles.

    When the Church speaks of a “Confessor”, this is a Saint who suffered for the faith but was not martyred outright.

    One should be a (little “c”) confessor daily in life, but the tile “Confessor” is given by the Church only to those who have already finished the race, the course of there lives, – and won.

  24. Fine. But these hidden “confessors”(note small c)are real,are suffering and ARE HERE! These are are the ones the Church notes are hidden. Practically,only if you experience this can you fully understand without wanting or waiting for a title. The Greeks have an expression “den variesse”(sorry for bad translation)which roughly means “who cares!?”. What the Lord cares should be the only criteria,and maybe they will finish and gain their official title. But don’t berate for what they suffer for Christ in the here and now!!!!

  25. Joe

    I’m very familiar with the Troy P. story, and it is a wonderful testimony.

    I guess I forgot that such stories never happen outside of Elder Ephraim’s monsteries….oh, wait, they do.

    In fact, they are a tiny minority of such stories and testimonies. Not to discount the work of the Athonite monastery, but they are not missionary focused like, say, St. Patrick’s or St. Benedict’s – going to places where there were few Christians and evangelizing the local populace. They are doing their thing and people desiring a deeper monastic experience find them – and thank God for it.

    But they aren’t the only monasteries in the US.

    They are the best funded though. Gotta hand it to those Athonites.

  26. Re: “Gotta hand it to those Athonites.”

    No, rather give glory and thanks to God!

  27. Robert Fortuin :

    OK. Glory and thanks to God for those Anthonites! There, I said it. :>)

  28. Amin!

  29. Re:”… the Orthodox in America will achieve unity, and that we will experience a flowering of Orthodoxy, and then the persecution starts.”

    A nightmare scenario (cf. his 1956 Cheesefare homily) that St. John of Shanghai and SF described is the apostasy of many in the Church who will turn to the antichrist, because the enemy will allow services to continue and even support the building of churches. These apostates will point to the high “position” of the Church in society, i.e. the support of the antichrist, as evidence of his goodwill and interest in mutual beneficence.

    Does this mean that these apostates will use the support of the antichrist to consolidate their position in the U.S? Will they denounce those who will not join them? Join the persecutors? Will this antichrist-approved Orthodox body become the “official” Orthodox Church during this evil time? Will “foreign” Orthodox Church bodies (e.g. Russians, Greeks) be expelled or liquidated? Will the antichrist fullfill the dreams of many for a united and truly American Orthodox Church?

  30. Joe

    Your last post seems to indicate that you either fear an American Orthodox Church, or you believe it will persecute the “real Orthodox” Church – which, of course, will do nothing in English.

    While I agree that the leadership of the Church is too easily manipulated by yearnings for political power, it is precisely that which will be prevented by an American Orthodox Church.

    Besides, even Cyprus has churches that do everything in English. No one is crying “Antichrist” over it there.

  31. Michael Bauman :

    It has seemed to me for some time that there are many “Orthoodx” who simply believe that the U.S. is not worthy of salvation. We are too barbarian, too aggressive and will automatically contaminate the pristine glory the faith and the Church have achieved in other places and times.

    Granted the Greeks, the Slavs and the Syrians each have a whole boat load of saints (thank God!) and we don’t. Ignored is the fact that the ideal to which these people look never was as ideal as they believe (there were not saint around every corner). Never mind that the cultural and demographic reality of the United States is so vastly different than any kind the Church has faced before so that old models of holiness based on a village/agrarian social system simply won’t work (it is simply another utopian idealism). Never mind the fact that the myopic ghetto mentality is as far from Christian as one can get.

    If we Orthodox cannot or will not build vibrant communities within the context of our society and culture, the Church is not really the Church or we have failed utterly to understand what the Church is.

    There is certaily a lot of work to do in order to really take on the reality of the Church so that we can evangelize in a prophetic manner, but it is unlikely that we will be able to do that while arguing about turf and who is more Orthodox than whom. Fact is, none of us are and all of us are.

    To those who seek the truth in humility the Church will be revealed. To those who want to exclude as many folks as possible from the Church, darkness will hide the truth from their eyes.

  32. George Michalopulos :

    Michael, well-said. You are right, there are too many pietists in America who truly disdain America and Americans. They think that the scabrous words of Rev Lambrianides are what Orthodoxy is really about.

    In reality, his words represent an effete (dare I say it: effeminiate?) folderol that’s fobbed on us as authentic. Little or no Gospel and a lot of little “t” traditions.

  33. Let’s not forget, either….

    these people is us.

  34. Michael – exactly right! Very well said!
    There are indeed too many who believe that holiness is SO “other” that its primary characteristic is exclusion. While such folks recognize that all have fallen short, they seem to focus mostly on how none “measure up” to their particular ideal. George is right: disdain for worldliness (or whatever group one wishes to criticize) carries no value if it is not deeply moved by wholehearted love for those in the world. What seems to be missing is the recognition that TRUE holiness is produced entirely by our participation in and synergy with the divine energies which are essentially characterized by love. Not the wishy washy, sentimental affection of popular imagination – but honest, gentle, humble, self-giving (they all go together, per I Cor. 13) love. Those who seem most intent on the purity of their practice too often seem to be so focused on doing it “right” that they miss that the purpose and true measure of “doing it right” is God’s love. If we possess even so much as a mustard seed of the life-giving love that flows from the inner life of the Trinity, we will inevitably build a vibrant community. If we do not see such fruit, we must ask what it is that is animating our community, because it may actually have very little to do with God.

  35. Robert Fortuin :

    I must be missing something (the secret hand shake?) but to whom are these last few messages directed? Where’s the boogey man? Let’s be careful not to demonize those we disagree with. Extremists on both sides can be easily found.

  36. cynthia curran :

    Well if God could use the Byzantines or Eastern Romans who have more in common with us than we sometimes believe, then he certainly could use us or the country we live in. I was reading an article about child abuse in the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. The article pointed out that like us they also had strong civil laws and church practice against such a thing but had that problem just as we do. We also have laws against it and all christians churches oppose it.

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