Church of England to push ahead with plan for women bishops

The (liberal) Anglicans won’t quit until their Church becomes completely unrecognizable.


Undoing Henry VIII?

Women bishops could be in place by 2012

The Church of England is to go ahead with the plan to create women bishops without giving in to demands from traditionalists for a separate structure of bishops and archbishops untainted by the hands of a woman.

Traditionalists oppose women bishops because they argue that Jesus had no women disciples and that the apostolic succession of bishops, passed down by the laying of hands at ordination, should therefore be male.

Traditionalists warned last night that the decision, to be announced at the General Synod today, will trigger an exodus from the Church of England of many thousands of priests and lay people.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, will tell the synod at Church House, Westminster, London, that the revision process he is leading is not finished yet, and as a result the debate that was hoped for this month is delayed until July, when the synod meets in York.


  1. Given this, I suspect that–in the long run–it was a good thing for SVS to reach out the ABC.

    When there is conflict in a family, I counsel people to ask themselves, when all of this is over, when your loved one comes to his or her senses, what kind of relationship do you want? I think that something like this should be our game plan now. The Anglican Communion is tearing itself apart and we need to keep our eye less on their current struggles and more on what kind of relationship we want with those who, when all this shakes out, are driven out of the Communion. We need to build relationships with as many Anglican bishops, lower clergy and laity as we can and not worry about labels like “liberal,” “conservative” or “traditionalist” that won’t mean anything when the Communion collapse.

    In Christ,


  2. Didn’t Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary just recognize the Archbishop of the Church of England, Archbishop Williams, with an honorary doctorate!??

  3. I followed you until your last sentence. Liberal, conservative, and traditionalist are perfectly serviceable terms in this context and others. They describe (with acceptable precision, though not perfect) the reality of the Christian situation in the west. It also will not be the “liberal” Christians with whom any relationship will bear the most fruit – in will be the “traditionalist” (with the conservative being in the middle). This is not to say a “relationship” on personal levels can or should not exist, but it does bear on whether institutional and “hierarchical” relationships can and should exist…

  4. Michael Bauman :

    I will be somewhat surprised if those in the Orthodox fold who desire women’s ordination don’t use the honorary degee as some sort of justification for women’s ordination. I am concerned that the ill-advised action will still produce some bad fruit for we Orthodox. God grant that I am wrong.

    • How Big is the women’s ordination movement in American Orthodoxy? Honestly, I think the number of activist women who are promoting and working on women’s ordination is no larger than the number of people who can ride is a very large mini-van.

      These women may get interesting press here and there. They may speak at a SCOBA meeting and caste themselves as progressives, But Lets be honest the group may be squeaky from time to time but they do not do much. The St. Nina Quartely website seems to have no current material at all. Likewise the Orthodox WOMEN network lists no events since 2006. Conferences, activities and publications seem to be very scarce these days.
      Just how many women are part of these groups? Do these groups function at all?

      You can certainly make the argument that outside of a small circle to who the cause of women’s ordination is more a hobby, women’s ordination is not on the radar of that many men and women in American Orthodoxy.

      Maybe the vast majority of Orthodox Women in America do not consider women’s ordination an important issue at all?

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Gregory, being a pastor gives you insights into such things that we laymen (no matter how well-meaning) cannot possibly have. I have a feeling that you are on to something.

    As for the those who think that this honorary doctorate will embolden the smattering of feminist malcontents within Orthodoxy, I would say perish the thought. The only way that such a movement can gain any traction is if we continue along an orthopractic trajectory. (Loss of sacramentality, organs, pews, interfaith gatherings like the NCC/WCC, etc.)

    One of the fears I have of not uniting here in America is that one or more of the jurisdictions will travel further along this liberal path.

  6. The Orthodox Church and the other churches were heavily infiltrated by modernist renovationist agents, clerical or lay. They slowly bring novelties along, patiently waiting for people to accustom themselves to them.

    Most of these agents are only naive pawns of those who consciously promote modernist heresies, all inspired by western humanism. This is the same old story: the evil ought to masquerade good.

    We must pray for their salvation – they are not conscious leaders of their apostasy.

    Orthodox parishes are not free of these modernist influences. By encouraging very frequent communion, some clergy/lay refuse to recognize the monthly problems of women. At this time they can not receive Holy Communion nor come close to the altar.

    Our duty as Orthodox Christians is to take a stand against novelties and not turn away from ancient and ineluctable truth. A turning away can be dressed up in any type of ‘clothes’, but it leads to one thing: delusion.

  7. George Michalopulos :

    Eliot, my quibble with you is that Orthodoxy is susceptible to “modernist heresies, all inspired by western humanism.” Although there is truth, let us be honest and admit that bishops within the Church have been promoting heresies before western humanism came to the fore. Things like Gnosticism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Iconoclasm, etc. All of these were before the Great Schism and hence, humanism. Indeed, some, like Iconoclasm and Gnosticism were anti-humanist.

    • George, I am talking about the spiritual decomposition of 20th century ‘Orthodox’ theology.

      The 2nd Vatican Council was meant to destroy the remaining vestiges of Orthodoxy in Roman Catholicism.
      Anglicanism and all ‘ism’ denominations, are the offspring of Roman Catholicism.

      Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary recent action (Archbishop Williams receiving a honorary doctorate) shows that theology is a mere intellectual game.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Eliot, I fear you are right. Far too many theologians forget what it’s like to serve in the trenches (i.e. parishes). Don’t get me wrong, we need well-educated academics instructing our future priests but I would expand the quantity of retired parish priests in the professoriate to perhaps on a 1:1 ratio.

  8. George Michalopulos :

    P.S. regarding the whole women episcopate thing, I feel that this was inevitable given the ordination of priestesses in ECUSa back in 1976. For reasons I can’t quite place my finger on, I believe that ordaining women to the priesthood necessarily leads to a total breakdown in Orthodox doctrine.

    For this reason I caution our brethren in ACNA to take a long, hard look at those parishes within their newly created province that continue this practice. If this is not resolved in a traditionalist manner, then within another 20-30 years ACNA will be swimming in the same swamp that they’re abandoning presently.

    The question I as an Orthodox ask is: why should we care? After all, aren’t we in the Church? I wish it were that easy. The loss of doctrinal rigor in other denominations leads to a breakdown in cultural morality. I think if we were honest with ourselves we would see that doctrinal and liturgical laxity have infected American Orthodoxy. This comes from the general cultural malaise IMO.

    • Michael Bauman :

      George, I agree with you. We must be careful not to attempt to replace genuine doctrinal and liturgical rigor with mindless, heartless legalism.

      The ordination of women leads to a breakdown in Christian doctrine because it is anti-incarnational and iconolastic. Its fundamental assumption is that the priesthood is a human position of power within a human organization.

      The female priesthood is a pagan institution, not a Christian one. Thus those who advocate the female priesthood are advocating an earth-based mystery cult whose object it is to propitiate cosmic forces in an attempt to gain control over them, at least temporarily.*** Sexuality in all its forms often dominates such cults, thus it is not surprising to see homosexuality, fornication and other sexual sins be encouraged.

      Already there are many comments over on from folks who are claiming that opposition to granting Dr. Williams an honorary degree comes from anacronistic homophobes who will eventually loose their rear-guard promotion of out-dated sexual mores that are really non-Christian.

      So, women’s ordination may be currently a dead issue in the Church, but its companion–homosexual clergy and the homosexual agenda are not.

      Granting the degree to Dr. Williams is an act of, at best, myopea that only emboldens the enemies of traditional Christian anthropology and the enemies of the Incarnation who are within the Church.

      Now, the Church should have all of these folks within her, how else are they to be healed. However, we must be careful to bring healing rather than condemnation alone. We must also make sure we take our own strong preventative measures so that we don’t catch the disease too. We must be prepared to give substantive answers in a loving manner when the questions arise. We must not leave it to the clergy alone or the bishops alone.

      Maybe, the granting of the degree is a blessing to help us realize what the challenge is before we become boiled frogs.

      ***For a fascinating look at such topics Alice Lindsey’s blog, Just Genesis is a mind stretcher. Ms. Lindsey is a former Episcopal priest, but now is a member of the Church. One can also find some discussion of the entire issue of blood guilt and uncleaness which Eliot raised.

      • Now, the Church should have all of these folks within her, how else are they to be healed. However, we must be careful to bring healing rather than condemnation alone. We must also make sure we take our own strong preventative measures so that we don’t catch the disease too. We must be prepared to give substantive answers in a loving manner when the questions arise. We must not leave it to the clergy alone or the bishops alone.

        I thought that paragraph deserves to be stated again.

      • Touche, Michael! Your description of priestesshood is the first I’ve read here approaching the historical and anthropological scope the topic merits. Especially worthy of mention is the anti-humanist/anti-incarnational implication thereof. Volumes can be written in the subject – perhaps you could proffer a short bibliography.

        I joined, stayed in and sought orders within the OCA partly because herein I have found an Orthodox church where ideology takes a far back seat. The Anglican Communion is a church fast becoming a vehicle for the pursuit of feminist ideology rather than the life in Christ. The linkage between modernist feminism and the embrace of lifestyles counter to Orthodox ethical and moral teaching seems intuitively clear: divorced bishops; women bishops; gay bishops; gay cohabiting bishops; bishops with two spouses; bishops with no recognizable link to traditional lifestyle – and the flock following happily down the path to perdition.

        It ought to be obvious that these weird times require of church leaders a sterner application – informed by true Christian incarnational Love – of asceticism and self-sacrifice in the face of militant atheism, along with the cultural threat of Islam, What the Anglican church is now doing is counter intuitive: Abp. Rowan’s church is becoming unrecognizable by the majority of devout believers preferring instead to align itself with a minority ideology. To describe the practical implementation of that ideology would require the imagination of a fiction writer such as Ursula LeGuin or Marion Zimmer Bradley.

        • Fr. John, thank you for the compliment. The only bibliographic source I can give you is St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation. It ought to be required reading in all catechesis. An absolute masterpiece that deserves reading again and again.

          Ms. Lindsey’s web site is a potent source, but it is really directed at fellow cultural anthropologists so it can be a little daunting if one is not extremely well versed in the topic.

          I remember a Wall Street Jouranl article of about 25 years ago that was a discussion of the inclusive language debate hot at the time. The WSJ interviewed a woman from one of the churches that had ‘coverted’ to the inclusive language. She flat out said, “I started out as a Christian, now I’m a pagan.”

          The rest comes from reading the Scriptures over the years, especially the Book of Job; participation in the life of the Church; on-line debates with non-Orthodox proponents of the idea and conversations with several folks in my parish who are refugees from the Anglican communion.

  9. Scott Pennington :

    I used to be an Episcopalian so I know whereof I speak. During that time, I followed closely developments within the Episcopal Church and to some extent in other mainline Protestant churches and in the Roman Catholic Church.

    It starts with doubts over doctrine and laxity in morality. It moves forward to a clamor for women’s ordination, irregular women’s ordination and regular women’s ordination itself. It progresses to pansexuality. It is the slow march of apostasy.

    It was a serious mistake for SVS to honor Arch. Williams as it did. But that is only a symptom of the fact that SVS is travelling down the aforementioned road – – ever so slowly.

    Here is an example from one of our hierarchs, Bishop Kallistos (Ware) who, in recent years, seems to be turning into the same type of “hairy lefty” as Rowan Williams. For example, he serves on the advisory board of the OPF and has called for admitting “higher criticism” into Orthodox biblical study:

    From “An Interview with Bishop Kallistos Ware” by St. Nina’s Quarterly:

    T.: Many women now serve as readers, chanters, church musicians, and yet they are not blessed to do so. Should the Church formally bless them to fill those liturgical functions?

    B.K.: In my view, yes. First of all, we should try to go ahead with the revival of the order of deaconess. That has been discussed for many years. Some people were already discussing it at the beginning of this century in the Orthodox world. Nothing has yet been done. The order of deaconess was never abolished, it merely fell into disuse. Should we not revive it? If we do, what are to be the functions of deaconesses? They should not necessarily, in the twentieth or twenty-first century, be doing exactly what they were doing in the third or fourth century. The order may be the same, yet shouldn’t we rethink the functions that the deaconess might have? On my understanding of the evidence, they were regarded as ordained persons on an equal footing as the male deacons. (There is some dispute in the Orthodox world about that, but my reading of the evidence is quite clear—that they have not just a blessing but an ordination). Let us go beyond that, however. The minor order of reader, cannot that be conferred on women? It wasn’t done in the early Church (as far as I know), but why shouldn’t women now be admitted as readers because, as you say, that is what they are doing. In the early Church that was not so except in the women’s monasteries. Those are two, as I understand it, fairly noncontroversial possibilities.”

    The reference to function in the quote is interesting because in the early church, deaconesses were primarily tasked with catechizing women and assisting in their baptism. Elsewhere he has seemed to open up the door to at least the “study” of the question of whether women can be ordained to the priesthood. This, of course is how the process started in the mainline Protestant churches.

    The only difference in this regard between Orthodoxy and the RCC and liberal Protestants is where we each started from on the road and the speed of the advancing decadence. The Western Liberal Culture is like an acid that destroys traditional Christianity. It is overtaking and will overtake most of American Orthodoxy.

    The only way that I can see this not happening is if progressive liberalism is decisively politically defeated here and in Western Europe. That could happen. The Bolshevik nightmare only lasted for three generations. Perhaps liberalism will die a similar death. I’m not betting on it though. It may take several more generations to die, and that’s a real shame. It’s death is eventually inevitable because of the feminist component. Feminism is so anti-life in many ways that it kills its host if the host doesn’t reject it.

    What is entirely possible – – probably as likely as not – – is that there will be a schism that forms along calendar usage lines. Calendar usage is very often (almost always, really) an indicator of whether a jurisdiction holds to orthopraxis in other areas. I do not suggest that Old Calendar churches are immune from the advancing decadence, just that they are not nearly as far along the road to apostasy as the New Calendarists. I’m not saying New Calendarists are heretics or apostates. I’m saying that their ecclesiastical immune systems are weaker because of modernism.

    And this isn’t something we really need argue about either. Everyone can see it happening. All we can do is pray that conservative and traditional minded people wake up and get tired of standing astride the tracks of “progressive” history saying “Stop!” (which is a losing battle) and either blow up the tracks or build a detour and lead the train onto it.

    The wise thing for SVS and for Metropolitan Jonah to have done would have been to reach out to the Continuing churches. These are Anglican churches, almost all Anglo-Catholic, who rejected women’s ordination back in the mid seventies and broke away. They are almost indistinguishable from Western Rite Orthodoxy in their practices. They are the Anglicans we can most likely reach.

    Reaching out to the ACNA is probably pointless for two reasons: 1) they are decidedly Protestant minded and operate on assumptions far removed from Orthodoxy. 2) they allow the ordination of women. To get to the point where you seriously consider ordaining women, you have to pass through a fairly thorough shedding of any respect for tradition, including explicit admonitions in Scripture.

    • I disagree with your characterization of ‘modernist’ church organization as tendentious and unprovable. Modernism itself is the principle driving neo-traditionalism everywhere: aggressive, militant, simplified, strident, ideological. I would not look to schismatic old calendarists to ‘save’ Orthodoxy from ‘hairiness’ as they don’t possess any solutions but rather express the flip side of the problem.
      The idea that liberalism as a viable cultural project itself will eventually pass is more cogent. But it will likely continue to run its course for some centuries. One really strong counter-movement to liberalism is conveniently found in Islam. Modernist though the impulse of Salafism, etc. is, it provides the foil against which a future Christianity must certainly strive. And to successfully oppose modernist Islam, Orthodoxy must remain true to its Christ-centeredness and not deviate into ideological squabbles.

      • Scott Pennington :

        Fr. John,

        I don’t think my characterizations of modernism are tendentious, but they may be unprovable depending on the standards you require. I don’t think that one can seriously argue that a jurisdiction wherein it is rare to see women with their heads covered is not more susceptible to feminism than one where headcovering is the norm. Feminism has already done its work in the former. I’ve never heard any serious debate about women’s ordination within the Russian Church, but it is emerging in the Greek Church (see the work of Dr. Valerie Karras, Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald, et al.). My own Presvytera laments that fact that a number of her Church school girls didn’t know that abortion is wrong. Anecdotal evidence is all I have to rely on, but it is overwhelming.

        As far as neo-traditionalism and all the rest, I simply don’t buy the whole characterization you are suggesting. If Old Calendarism – – no pews, nor organs, division of the genders and womens headcovering, etc. – – is “neo-traditionalist” and the “flip side” of the problem of liberalism, then you would have to conclude that Orthodoxy prior to the twentieth century was also “neo-traditionalist” and problematic. I’m not willing to go there. I welcome the advance of technology and medicine we have witnessed. But the evolution of our social mores is often lamentable.

        As to Islam, I also don’t buy into the idea of “Islamism” as an ideologicalization of the religion of Islam. There is some debate within the Islamic community about the permissibility of suicide bombing; however, the idea of jihad (i.e., the “lesser jihad”) is a firm staple of classical Islam and is even called a sixth pillar. The truth is that the “Islamists” are simply faithful Muslims who have revived the “fulness” of their religion from centuries of dormancy.

        Now, I believe we need to defeat them. But I am under no illusion that what we are fighting is not real Islam. Real Islam is the problem. The less seriously a Muslim takes his religion, the safer are all the rest of us who do not wish to convert, live in dhimmitude or face the sword (it seems those pesky Islamists are peppered throughout Muslim history).

        I was not arguing in favor of schismatic Old Calendarism. You may not be familiar with the fact, but the majority of canonical Orthodox on earth are . . . that’s right . . . Old Calendarists. Most of the Slavic Churches are and they make up a majority of the faithful.

        Now, as to solutions, you need not agree with me on anything, of course. However, if you seek to restore the Church to a more Christian set of norms regarding family life, the role of women, stability of marriage and higher birth rates, then Old Calendarists do offer solutions. However, they will take time – – probably at least a few generations – – to change even a predominantly Orthodox country like Russia.

        There is a tendency which animates modernist, relatively-conservative Orthodoxy which might be called “neo-Orthodoxy”. It’s basically that Orthodoxy somehow needs/needed to be updated for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to jettison those parts of “small t tradition” that are an embarassment to modern people living in a modern society. It takes modernity as the norm, as if this age were an authority of Tradition. It ignores those parts of Scripture or canon law which seem “outdated” according to modern conservative sensibilities. It is basically just conservative Americanist Christianity, Byzantine rite.

        That is not to say that it is all bad. There is much good in this neo-Orthodoxy since it contains much Orthodoxy. But it also contains unwise compromises with the dominant culture.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Scott, if I may, I believe the question is ultimately the classic chicken-or-egg conundrum: is it modernism that’s driving the liberalization of the Church (or certain jurisdictions) or is it liberalism that’s in the driver’s seat? My own suspicion is that it’s just plain laziness. Anyway, you bring up some excellent points, all of which unfortunately make me even warier of the upcoming Episcopal Assembly.

          I known I’m in danger of becoming a Johnny One-note in this regard but please indulge me: unless the bishops of the ethnic exarchates repent of their decades of slavish devotion to non-America and nostalgia-worship, I just don’t see how we’re going to come to grips with resolving any of these issues (i.e. modernity, family life, modesty for women, etc.)

          • Scott Pennington :

            I must confess that I’m more concerned about orthopraxis than I am unity. I do not see GOARCH, as part of a unity deal, taking on the practices of the Greek OldCal’s. What I believe would happen is that practices would either, on the whole, liberalize (because the largest jd is Greek) or be left to local option. Neither idea is appetizing. The first is a step back; the second, at best, status quo.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Scott, as am I. I used to be obsessed about unity but given the laxity of some jurisdictions, now…not so much.

          • Scott Pennington :


            I’m glad you have a sober attitude to this question. I see practical problems with unity that make it more of a long term goal than a short term, “Let’s get it done this year!” type thing.

            A large part is money. It is true, as far as I can tell, that the “old world” patriarchs use America as their ATM machine. It’s difficult to battle Mammon. It must be done, but it isn’t easy.

            I think that perhaps GOARCH and AOCNA could unite without a lot of controversy over praxis. The same could be said about OCA and AOCNA. There is a significant distance however, on average, between practice in GOARCH and the OCA. There’s a world of difference between GOARCH and ROCOR (as well as some conservative OCA parishes).

            Also, of course, there is the ethnic thing. In my experience, most people are much more enlightened in conversation and rhetoric then they are deep down at gut level. And gut level is ultimately where such decisions are made. Greeks want to maintain GOARCH as a Greek thing. They feel comfortable that way. They would never want to become a minority in “their own church”. To ask that seems unfair to them and they would look at it as a betrayal of the sacrifices of earlier generations of Greek immigrants. They are the big fish in their pond and want to keep it that way. The same could be said, to one extent or another, of the other ethnic jurisdictions.

            I don’t really believe much will come of the new episcopal assembly(EA). I see it as a small side-step and a delaying tactic. I don’t think that much of the work – – the real logistical stuff – – can be done until the American Church is allowed to (or dares to) declare autocephaly. My reasoning is that the really dicey stuff involves which bishop gets which diocese, what practices will prevail, the whole ethnic structural thing, etc. While we remain in different jurisdictions, this stuff can only be planned theoretically. Neither SCOBA nor the new EA can shut down an Antiochian diocese, make its current bishop an auxilliary and place its clergy and laity under an OCA bishop or a Greek bishop.

            Whether we end up with an American Orthodox Church that has ethnic, non-geographical jurisdictions (as began to form under the ROC before the revolution) or we go the straight route of ignoring ethinicity altogether (except, perhaps, at the parish level), there are formidable tasks ahead.

            Really, if they wanted to and had permission of their Patriarchs and Synods, Arch. Demetrios, Met. Phillip, Met. Hilarion, etc. could sit down with Met. Jonah and hammer out a structural agreement that makes immediate only those decisions in leadership at each level that are necessary for functional order, leaving the question of which of the non-diocesan bishops retire, which become auxilliary or missionary, etc. to later. That might take a few weeks and a lot of good faith. Then an American Orthodox Church could be proclaimed and recognized immediately (assuming good will). It could happen practically over night if the will was there. In fact, the thing that would take the most time would be finaincial restructuring.

            I’m not holding my breath.

            For those who want a united American Orthodox Church quickly, Fr. Thomas Hopko, in my opinion, had the best solution. The bishops could simply defect and make it happen. It would involve a betrayal of vows of loyalty to their respective sees. However, you have to ask yourself which is more important, a vow of loyalty to a see that is, in itself, supportive of uncanonical division or canonical order itself? Put another way, does God really want these bishops to honor a vow that is, in its effect, a sin?

  10. Michael Bauman :

    The path that +Kallistos seems to be traveling is sad. Too much time spent in the world of cloistered secular humanism, the mental institutions of the academe I suspect. (Which is not to say that scholarship is not valuable and valid in the right context, but in the vast majority of cases, the right context was long ago abandoned).

    • The following interview Bishop Kallistos gave at Lambeth also raises eyebrows:

      • Scott Pennington :


        Yes, he starts off with this:

        “Well, most obviously it signifies that we are conscious that we are all members of one Body in Christ. There are visible divisions separating Christians, but we know that on a deeper lever we do share, in a real sense, membership in one Body. Its expression is incomplete, imperfect, but it is nonetheless a genuine reality.”

        . . . and ends up making some criticism of recent Anglican liturgical development.

        It is very common for those involved in the ecumenical movement and in academic settings where they interact with the heterodox to, explicitly or implicitly, endorse the Anglican Branch Theory. Bp. Kallistos’ quote actually echoes somewhat from the Anglicans new theory of the “baptismal covenant” as well as the general modern Protestant idea of the Church as the community of all baptized believers. This, of course, is not-Orthodox-teaching (to avoid the H word which annoys some here). We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. This has always been understood to be a visible unity. He actually does not leave much room for doubt in this quote, if it is accurate. The Church is known as the Body of Christ (as well as His bride). I’m just wondering why he bothered to leave the Church of England. It appears as though it was for liturgical reasons.

  11. Scott Pennington :


    Sometimes I think it’s just the fruits of the personal dynamic within academia or ecumenical contexts. No one wants to be scorned, disapproved of, ostracized or condescended to by people with whom they associate. If those Orthodox who are engaged in academia feel as though others are going to look down at them or consider them to be Neanderthals, then that disapproval might often be enough to get them to slowly rethink their commitment to tradition.

    That is the real danger with ecumenism and academic interaction with those not committed to Orthodoxy. “Bad company corrupts good manners.” That is why in Scripture we are told to take other Christians and give warnings if a Christian falls into error. If these admonitions do not work, we are to ostracize the person. It’s not done from meanness but out of the utter necessity of preserving the Orthodoxy of the Church herself.

    The same with ecumenical discussians with the heterodox. Patriarch Jeramiah’s correspondence with the Lutherans was an example of healthy ecumenism. Several exchanges where teachings are presented and explained and, if it appears fruitless in the short term, suspension. The Patriarch could have let it drag on indefinitely as ecumenical discussions do now. However, the danger is osmosis, even unconscious osmosis – – the accumulation of unorthodox attitudes simply by exposure and as a result of the emotional interaction with the other side. It’s a very real danger.

    • Scott,

      Your observation about the desire to belong is a good one. It is a dynamic that is present not only within academia and in ecumenical discussions but also in all human societies including the Church. We all of us desire to be accepted and affirmed by others and yes it is a danger.

      All that being said, it is important to emphasize that this dynamic, and its danger, is just a likely to be at play in this thread.

      In Christ,


      • Scott Pennington :

        Fr. Gregory,

        Yes, emotions and the desire to fit are at play everywhere there is human interaction. And it is true that it is just as likely to be at play in this thread. But of course, most, if not all, the posters here are Orthodox.

        My sentiments regarding Orthodoxy are probably considerably more conservative than the average here. I can’t confess to being deeply touched by a desire to fit in.

        On occasion you find people who post here whose Orthodoxy is very shallow, perhaps no more than an expression of ethnicity. But the general tenor of the blog does not allow open her*sy to go unchallenged nor does it work to undermine Church doctrine (although praxis is a different subject). That cannot possibly be claimed of academia or the ecumenical movement.

      • Please expand. Do you believe that “traditionalists” and our assertions of Orthodoxy vs. modernism/liberalism within and without the Church rest more on unconscious “group think” and the innate need for social approval than on a more objective reasoning about these issues?

        As someone who believes “traditional” and “liberal” and the like are simply caricatures and buzz words (thereby not having any real meaning in this context), would you say you have a perspective that stands above them and therefore takes in the situation in a more true and right way? If so, please explain this transcendent perspective.

        I to am wary of explaining the liberalism within Orthodoxy (e.g. “hairy lefties” such as Ware and professorship at St. Vlad’s) as in the main a symptom of a group think or culture. I think a real intellectual assent and of the heart is at work…

        • Christopher,

          It isn’t clear to whom you are addressing your question but let me say that I think we always need to be on guard against “group think” and this is especially important the more one finds oneself–intentionally or not–on the far edge of the community.

          The anthropologist Mary Douglas makes an interesting observation on this point. She argues that those on the margin (left or right) tend to be always in a state of crisis while those in the center tend to be complacent. The social genius of Orthodoxy (and for that matter Catholicism) is the ability to hold together those on the margin and those in the center.

          In Christ,


          • Interesting. Would you say then that I am incorrect in attributing to you the belief that your particular perspective “stands above” left/right/liberal/traditional perspectives? It appears that on the one hand you accept these distinctions as real and meaningful, and on the other you believe that they don’t really matter as they are all swallowed up in the Catholicity of the Church. OR perhaps I am more correct in my first assumption in that you are typing our thinking with your own Orthodox version of Fowler.

            Also, Douglas/yourself has it exactly backwards (as is often the case in the social sciences) in that the “group think” more aptly applies to the complacency of the middle than the self consciousness of those on the edges.

            What is wrong with the psychological perspective of all this is that it does not take either the left or the right seriously. It ultimately subsumes both sides concerns and perspective into an essential symptom of a larger (and mostly unconscious) philosophy of the mind. Thus, a Saint Maximus stand against monothelitism (to the point of having his tongue cut out by the other side) becomes a victim of group think and someone that needed moderation back to the middle (as well as the other side). This is a perversion of Catholicity, the mind even in this fallen world (where we see through a glass darkly), and of the truth (revealed and otherwise)…

          • Michael Bauman :

            Were not the Cappadocians and St. Athanasius and a few others originally “on the margins” of the community in the early stages of the fight against the Arians?

            My reading of the history of the Church does not reflect the same dynamic you see Fr. Gregory. If I understand what you mean by “those on the margins”, at least. Are they (whoever ‘they’ is) marginally morally, Christologically, anthropologically, culturally? Who decides the criteria? How far does one have to go before “they” loose contact altogether with the reality of the Church? One could interpret what you say as syncretistic (I don’t believe you are even remotely suggesting that), but there is a danger of going there without further definition. IMO that is exactly what the Anglicans have done become syncretistic.

            For me the center is expressed in the person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Lord, the communion with Him in the Holy Mysteries and the theological foundation of the Creed, the witness of the Saints and the Holy Scriptures. These are the criteria interpreted pastorally, but not to be bent doctrinally, that allow the fullness of the Truth to be experienced and expressed.

            The Church has done a better job of holding to the center and calling people to the center than most of western Chrisitanity. One way she has done that is by explictly and unapologetically declaring what is beyond the pale in terms of belief, practice and yes, thought. I think it is most difficult for we moderns to come to terms with the fact that there are certain thoughts and patterns of thought that cannot be entered into and remain a Christian.

            IMO it is quite difficult to express a pastoral approach in a general manner. The economia, compassion and even a certain fuzziness necessary to healthy pastoral care can often impinge on the requirements of a clear witness to the truth. Of course, I say that as a man who needs a good 2X4 between the eyes every now and then even pastorally.

            BTW, if you meant to imply that Christopher is “on the margins” my experience with him over the years would indicate otherwise. Perhaps he and I are on the same margin together?

          • Scott Pennington :

            Fr. Gregory and Christopher,

            I assumed Christopher was addressing Fr. Gregory. As to crisis versus complacency, I’m not sure which is worse; however, instead of the anthropologist Mary Douglas, I’d prefer to take the advice of the theologian, St. John the Evangelist:

            “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:16.

            Unfortunatetly, in some generations, being on the far edge of a community is wise. St. Athanasius in his time was part of a small minority. Yet that minority alone continued to hold the Orthodox faith. We live in an Age of Apostasy. It began perhaps in the 19th century and continues on today. Making peace and meeting modern secular culture half way, as many Orthodox do, is not wise. It is very, very tempting to want to fit in to this culture – – to take ones assigned place as a layman or cleric of one denomination among many in the Americanist religion. To be engaged in all the fashionable things that Americanist clergy find trendy and cool (whether of the RCC branch or the OC branch or the Episcopal branch). And to rationalize it all by whatever means necessary.

            The center we should strive for is the center of traditional Orthodoxy. What has Orthodoxy been like across the ages? How have the Orthodox worshipped? What has been their morality? What has been their attitude toward the heterodox? Unfortunately, one who strives to find this traditional center, this timeless center, may well find himself on the far edge of the values of this age.

        • It might be handy to flesh out our labels by looking at some research such as Alexei Krindach’s 2008 PAOI survey of Orthodox lay people. He describes 4 strong tendencies among American ORthodox which span the spectrum.

  12. Michael Bauman :

    So, assuming there are those currently within the Anglican communion who want to find a more traditional home within the Church are we not faced with an heculean cathechical challenge if they come enmasse so to speak?

    • Scott Pennington :



      But the key phrase there is “if they come en masse”, which I do not believe is likely. Mostly what is left within the Anglican Communion are liberals and evangelicals. They are each hostile to Orthodoxy for different reasons. Our only common cause with the evangelicals is in terms of general morality, not doctrine, ecclesiology, etc.

      I think it would be possible to receive some significant part of the Continuing Anglican Churches as Western Rite Orthodox parishes. Many of them already accept the seven councils, the sacraments/mysteries, and much of the rest of Orthodox teaching. They would have to leave behind the idea that marriage is absolutely indissoluble, that the RCC, the Orthodox and the Anglicans are three brances of the One Church, and a number of other doctrines. However, for them, the journey would not be so far as for Roman Catholics or more protestant-oriented Anglicans. The ACNA is essentially evangelical, with a few bones thrown to a minority Anglo-Catholic presence. They would have to unlearn a lot and would probably have to just learn Christianity all over again differently.

      My only concerns with Metropolitan Jonah’s speech were that he opened up by leading prayer in a non-Orthodox forum and that he led them to believe – – and given the language he used, it is impossible not to get this impression – – that there might be intercommunion between the two churches while Anglicans retained their identity as Anglicans. This implies that they would not have to accept, in toto, the Orthodox faith.

      My suggestion was that we might make better progress by making overtures to a group, the Continuers, who are less likely to trample on the pearls cast before them.

  13. Mr. Pennington,

    in reference to your comments on the political / cultural situation and modernism, I have a slightly different speculative take. IMO, Europe will is lost. It will be “Islamicized” in 2 or 3 generations. Both the modernists and the Christians will be living in a ghetto which will increasingly be brought under dhimmitude.

    I am not sure about America (and Australia/New Zealand). I do believe we will have a strong Islamic influence here also, but I think it will be more of a 3 way tie (with traditional Christians and modernists being the other two groups) for a longer period. I think the modernists will continue to sit in judgment over politics and culture as they do now.

  14. Christopher,

    I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand what you are asking. Terms like left/right/liberal/traditional can have a limited value relative to each other. I’m not sure I stand above or outside these terms–mostly cause I’m not sure that–until the coming of the Kingdom of God–there’s any place “outside” to stand. Again, these terms only situate us relative to each other.

    As for Douglas and group think, you are simply wrong. Whether one is on the (relative) margin or in the (relative) center of a group, there is always a temptation to minimize conflict through capitulation to others.

    Finally, Douglas wasn’t positing a over Mind and I’m certainly not. It’s just a way to help us understand social dynamics.


    Marginality is a construct to help us understand social relationships. It does not speak to the theological validity of say St Maximos’ teaching on to his position relative to others at the time. People move back and forth between the margins and the center all the time. A priest, for example, in his parish is typically at the center of the community. When he goes to a diocesan gathering, however, he may intentionally or not, move to the margin of the group.

    None of this, your right, is meant to imply syncretisticism. It’s just a way of understanding social groups and how we find our place within them.

    Why does this matter? Well in one sense it doesn’t at least not in any absolute sense. But again it can help us understand how we relate to each other. If it isn’t something that you find useful that’s fine.

    In Christ,


    • Michael Bauman :

      Oh, a sociological/psychological construct. I see. The problem with sociology is that in most hands it is a tool for the deconstrution of traditional values and the imposition of the dominant worldly mind of whatever cultural mores the sociologist decides is the correct one.

      A decidedly unhelpful approach to the matters at hand–totally irrelevant in fact because it is wholly out of the context and therefore meaningless. The meaninglessness of it was why it caused so much confusion BTW as the human mind searches for meaning at every opportunity, even assumes meaning where there is none.

      For those evoluntionary biologists out there: why do we do that if there is, in fact, no meaning?

      • Michael,

        A point of clarification, Douglas was an anthropologist not a sociologists. Far from being an assault on traditional values, her work was generally viewed as being at their defense. Now, here way of understanding relationship in social groups may irrelevant but it is not a work of sociology nor a work hostile to the faith of the Church.

        At the same time, I would ask people to consider if Douglas’s might not point out things that people find uncomfortable and would prefer to pass over in silence?

        In Christ,


    • No, your wrong 😉 “liberal” and “traditional” as we are using them here in this context are not simply psychological or even fallen/sinful positions relative to each other and thus unrelated to Truth Revealed. Frankly, this is an insult to myself as a “traditionalist” and to the liberal Anglican who fully believes in God’s androgyny. At some point you are going to have to step out of your psychological perspective and deal with the substance of these perspectives. You describe the priest in the room. I understand, such psychological typing helps you (at first) size up your audience, pick language and imagery that helps you be heard, etc. But it does not address the substance of the persons beliefs themselves. When you don’t move forward and stay in the psychological typology it causes you to say something as nonsensical as:

      We need to build relationships with as many Anglican bishops, lower clergy and laity as we can and not worry about labels like “liberal,” “conservative” or “traditionalist” that won’t mean anything when the Communion collapse. (quoted from you first post).

      As far as Douglas, again your talking about a psychological tendency and I am talking about a substantive, self conscious philosophical and/or theological position.

      • Christopher,

        Forgive me but we are not speaking about anything substantive. If we were, we wouldn’t be having a chat in a comment box would we?

        You say we must move beyond psychology, fair enough. So since you want to speak substantially, when you say you are a “traditionalist” what does this mean? Are you on the Old Calendar? Are you in one of the traditionalist jurisdiction? Whose your priest? and whose his bishop?

        Again what do you mean when you say you are a traditionalist? In my experience that’s a term that means almost nothing except that the person is unhappy with how things are going in SCOBA.

        You’ve been very clear about why Metropolitan JONAH, the SVS faculty, the Anglican Communion and I are all wrong on this or that point. But from you, nothing positive about what you believe. You offer a great deal of criticism but what concrete steps have you taken to show us the right way?

        Look forward to hearing from you soon.

        In Christ,


        • Michael Bauman :

          Fr. Gregory, please. Your response and question are mere sophistry. It is a “when did you stop beating your wife” form of question designed to stop genuine debate. Such an approach indicates a clear refusal on your part to actually engage in substantive conversation. I don’t believe it is worthy of either you or the office you hold.

          In the process your question/response becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since it prevents anything actually postive from occuring. In following your previous behavior on other posts, here and your own blog, I’ve noticed a pattern. If your ideas are challenged, rather than actually responding to the challenge, you often give into the temptation of an ad hominum attack. Again, you are better than that. In my probably arrogant opinion, we would all be better served if you were to increase the quality of your rhetoric. It is advice that has served me well in recent days. Advice for which I am grateful.

          If the internet is of no substative value as you claim why do you spend the time to post here and run your own blog? It would seem you could make far better use of your valuable time.

          The questions asked here and the comments made are not often mere intellectual pursuits but a genuine attempt by the posters to engage the modern mind from the standpoint of our faith and membership in the Orthodox Church. It has severe limitations to be sure, but if we are misguided or over-zealous at times, it reflects the vacume in which we live: leaders who won’t lead or engage in tyrannical beat-downs of anyone who dare question them even in the most respectful way; leaders who, by our understanding of Holy Tradition, are engaging in dangerous spiritual activity by the manner in which they seem to be engaging the world. Leaders who are effectively unaccountable to anyone in the Body because there are no functioning Synods except within the OCA. (While some would dispute my assertion, I do believe it is functioning but can be greaterly improved with greater episcopal connections to the parishes they serve).

          Father, your approach at times seems to partake of the spirit of Alfred E. Newman (the “What, me worry” kid of Mad Magazine fame) rather than the irenic spirit of the Church. One can be irenic without being lukewarm. One can identify, attempt to evaluate and even criticize ideas, behaviors and thought patterns of leaders without being a ‘critic’. In fact, in my opinion it can be an action of great love. A genuine call to repentance spoken by the Holy Spirit through the Body. Only time will tell us.

          One thing I do know, you can do better.

          • Michael,

            Thank you for your observations.

            I don’t think I have made an ad hominum argument here but if I did, I do ask forgiveness for any I have treated unjustly.

            To argue though that an individual does not have the education, professional or pastoral experience in a matter is not ad hominum but raise a question of fact. An ad hominum argument attacks the character of the person or judges the validity of an argument based on irrelevant personal characteristics. I haven’t done this but asked for a demonstration that critics have the competence to make the arguments they are making.

            In Christ,


        • Michael said most of what needs to be said. Since your curious, I am a member of an mission parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox of the USA . My priest is a ‘hairy leftist’, who had a “clergy for Obama” sticker on his car (something I think is unconscionable given the Party of Death’s unrepentant support of the culture of death) and is a seminary professional (he teaches at St. Sophia’s). Still, I count him as a friend and certainly have no problems with his pastoral care of myself and my family. Of course, I am the type of guy who would confess the devil himself if some bishop were to ordain him. I go to the closest Orthodox church in town, which means I have been in GOA, Antiochian, OCA, and now this little jurisdiction that has been “irregular” in the past. I suppose that makes me a liberal. I would no longer be part of the OCA for safety reasons. That makes me an outlier but contra Douglas very much against the group think. I would probably prefer to be in ROCOR (I’m a traditionalist) but have no interest in a calendar that is different from a civil one (liberal again).

          So yes, I can see a point in not overloading the terms “liberal” and “traditionalist” but in the context of this thread, and most of the time in the context of this blog, the regular posters are using them with more than the evening news precision. In the context of this thread, they mean very specific things.

          As a small town boy form Oklahoma, I am particularly interested in American culture and political life. Despite our non-Orthodox origins, I believe there are many redeeming and worthwhile qualities in American culture steming from it’s puritan beginnings, the protestant consenses that broke down after WWII, and even at times the “liberal” culture we have when it operates from it’s classical liberal background. I am particularly interested in how the Orthdox Church is going to blend and meld with this culture (taking the good and rejecting the bad) – and stop being a foreign church in America. I am not interested in walking into my local parish in by boots (as I do every Sunday), taking off my Stetson, and having some fill_in_the_blank ethnic community look at me as if I a foreigner who just walked into Greece, Syria, Russia, etc. I am not interested in my little girl growing up in a Church who’s bishops spend their time lobbying for the EP or Copt’s or Kosovo. I believe it to be their Orthodox Christian duty to be lobbying for the our life, our traditional morality and beliefs in an increasingly hostile and secular culture which is obviously going through a significant change for the worse.

          Why is it when I here a leader from say the Southern Baptists he is almost always discussing the religious situation from a traditional Christian and moral perspective in a constructive way, where as our leaders seem very unsure as how to do this? Well, we both know why. Mr. Pennington is right to point to the “Americanist” doctrinal and polity errors, but these Americans have their positive side also. As our culture breaks down we are going to need both – Orthodoxy and the positive qualities of our culture as we are in it and stuck with it. We can spend our time fiddling with anachronistic patriarch’s or we can get serious about our life here and now. If this seems “negative” and deconstructive to you so be it. It necessarily has those aspects in that there are many more wrong turns than correct ones to reach this destination.

          I tire of “moderates” and “liberals” who accuse “traditionalists” of only speaking from authority, of misusing terms, of relating to our fellow Orthodox and non orthodox neighbors as a “school yard bully”, saying there are not substantive differences between liberal and traditional, and otherwise viewing us in a “fundamentalist” and “sectarian” light. I can assure you when you do this I will point out this error every time I see it – you are dead wrong about this.

          I do think that Mr. Pennington may be right and real split in Orthodoxy in America might be occurring and become a schism in my lifetime (I pray it does not happen). IF this occurs I have little doubt you and I will be on opposite sides. That said, if you and I were to sit down and have a beer (with or without the president 🙂 ), I am sure there is more we would agree on than disagree.

  15. Forgive me, I hit return to early.

    I wanted to point out as well, that part of the difficulty here is that–and forgive me for being direct–an number of commentators feel comfortable arguing that +MJ et al have taken the wrong course of action and that they, unlike +MJ et al, understand the tradition of the Church and what is pastorally prudent better then the Metropolitan or the seminary faculty.

    Sorry but if you tell me +MJ and SVS faculty are wrong, you need to demonstrate why I should listen to you and why you understand the canons, Holy Tradition and the situation of the Anglican Communion relative to the Orthodox Church better than the Metropolitan and the faculty.

    In Christ,


    • Forgive me but I haven’t seen any arguments from Tradition. While I am willing to grant you an argument from prudence, but part of a prudential decisions is the authority to make that decision. In the end, prudence also requires that we defer to those who have the authority to make the decision. This is what I do with my bishop and what I do with my spiritual children. I respect the authority they have to make decisions within their proper sphere.

      As for the rest of your comment, I am not trying to cram Jung or Dewey or any such other things down your throat or anyone else. That you take offense at my profession is something over which I have no control.

      Finally, in my case Christopher, the honorific is Father not mister. I will pass over in silence your suggestions that I open my eyes and ears and stuff my attitude and simply point out that such language is not blessed by the tradition of the Church.

      In Christ,


      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Christopher, you are better than this. If you want, I’ll delete the post and remove it from immediate memory. Moderators get to do this — it’s kind of life having the power to forgive sins (but not quite).

        Seriously though, everyone (I am not trying to surreptitiously send a message to Christoper) has got to take a step back and recognize again that: 1) passions (not the bad kind) run high here, and 2) human affairs can get messy sometimes. Be generous in your patience with others. They feel things to the same depth you do.

  16. George Michalopulos :

    Christoper, there is no way that I can consider your characterization of Fr Gregory as sober. We all appreciate a hearty debate but from my own experience on this blog, I’ve never met anybody whom I would consider to be wrong-thinking, Ortho-tribalist, or a theological liberal. Speaking for myself, I would hope that you would reconsider your most recent post. After all, if you could have a “hairy liberal” for a priest, then humility demands that you extend similar courtesies to Fr Gregory (whom I suspect is anything but a liberal).

  17. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    You’re done Christopher. Sorry. You have no idea who you are insulting and the price he’s paid for the faithfulness you say he lacks. I’m not interested in defending my decision either. Take it somewhere else.

  18. Scott Pennington :

    I think Christopher did cross a line in his 9:49pm post yesterday and afterward. That is unfortunate.

    We all know what Scripture says about how to correct or ostracize error. Hopefully, we all know that there are at least two canons, one directed at clergy and one at all believers forbidding us to pray with schismatics and/or heretics. I’m on very solid ground in my criticisms of Met. Jonah and SVS. Nonetheless, it is vital that we be civil in discussing these things. I hope Christopher regains his composure and at some time is allowed back.

  19. Scott Pennington :

    Sorry, the first line in my last comment should read . . . in his 8:59pm post . . .

  20. Michael Bauman :

    Christopher you did cross the line. Forgive me if anything I posted contributed to your loss of composure.

    Forgive me all if anything I’ve posted incited emotion rather than thought.

    We must be cognizant that what is said here is easy to mis-interpret because of the limitations of the medium. Electronic media such as this, strip much of how we normally communicate and exacerbate the negative. This is especially the case with attempts at irony and gentle scarcasm. What we say must be carefully said lest we do tempt others to sin as well.

    To my regret I have occasionally crossed that line. When I have I have been brought back by the patient correction of others.

    At the same time, anyone who posts in this type of medium must be prepared for challenges to one’s thoughts and be prepared to clarify, restate and occasionally defend with more complete information.

  21. Well said, Michael. As you know, I post fairly often on Fr. Gregory’s blog. I have also known him for over twenty years. I have met very, very few people whose insight, analysis and judgments I trust as much as his. (Actually, almost none.) Being someone who needs to see it for myself and who is probably too fond of critical analysis (when it is done well), I don’t typically grant more than provisional courtesy until trust has been warranted. With remarkable frequency and consistency, he has earned that trust time and again. Indeed, it was his careful, considered – and faithful – reflection that SO often corrected my own tendency to over-react (about which I referred elsewhere). Reading the interactions above, I can see how tensions rose. Yet, the latter posts lead me to wonder exactly what was behind the comments, since the request for the basis for a given position wouldn’t seem to warrant the virulent response given.

    You are exactly right about the limits of this medium and it has led me on numerous occasions to consider focusing my attentions elsewhere. When frustrations set in, this medium (and radio) all too readily incite emotions that seem to quickly descend into personal attacks. (We have witnessed that more than once when discussing controversial topics here.) I have read the above thread over many, many times and, as always, that shift seems to occur when a given commentator begins to ascribe motives to the other (which we can not know and which are almost never generous) or focus on the assumed personality of the other rather than ask for clarification or remain focused on content. At such moments of confusion or irritation, I have almost always found that waiting and reflecting yielded more fruitful results than when I reacted. When I reacted and wrote immediately, I have almost always regretted it (which has also happened more than once on this blog).

    That said, this site is invaluable and heartening. If our sinfulness occasionally shows up, so too does our love for God. I have been tremendously encouraged to find here so many like-minded people who seek to truly love Christ and His Church. While it is saddening to see this happen among brothers who share a commitment to the Orthodox faith, it reminds me of how much work I have ahead of me to conform my life and heart to Christ’s.

  22. Everyone is correct, I did cross the line. I Should have slept on it.

    Fr. Gregory, I apologize to you for my personal attack and insults. These are indefensible, please accept my apologies.

  23. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Good to have you back Christopher.

  24. Yet, the latter posts lead me to wonder exactly what was behind the comments, since the request for the basis for a given position wouldn’t seem to warrant the virulent response given.

    My error is that I had not checked the homepage until after I had boiled over. I mistook Fr. Gregory’s comments as a rhetorical and personal ploy in return for my requests for an explanation of his position. His position is found here:

    I now better understand how he is using “substantive” and his psychological typing (it’s not Fowler). After I get the taste of my foot out of my mouth I will comment further 😉

  25. I can only repeat Fr. Han’s response: I am delighted you are back. Many of us have been there and your willingness to “own” your response and yet to continue wrestling with the question at hand speak are both a joy.

    As you wrestle with Father’s thoughts, my experience may (or may not) be helpful. Much like Pope Benedict XVI (not sure if that is helpful or not), his positions are usually carefully considered and nuanced – and beneath them you will find a concern that places the Gospel and Christ at the center. This doesn’t always lend itself well to this kind of medium – too much that is important can be lost or misinterprested as a result of the need for brevity. (Of course, I just ignore that rule.) But it is worth the effort to wrestle through it. Again, it is great to have you back.

  26. Both Fr John & Christopher mentioned the PAOI study and I think that study (and if I may my own article on the matter which I’m told they are reading at SVS :)) bears on at least part of the current discussion.

    The difficulty with using terms such as “modernist” and “traditionalist” is that while they may be very rich to someone personally, they strictly speaking have no objective theological content. Or at least, they do not have the same theological content as “Orthodox Christian” does within Holy Tradition.

    One of the things that the PAOI study makes clear is that a term like “traditionalist” functions to distinguish–and sometime separate–one Orthodox Christian from another. Besides this being a potential sin against charity, the term itself is a self-designation. In other words, I choose to identify myself as a traditionalist and do so according to my own standards of what does, and does not, matter. This is markedly different from the Tradition of the Church which simply knows those who are Orthodox Christians and those who are not.

    Beyond this, these terms only tell me how someone feels about themselves or how they feel about other Orthodox Christians. But again, there is nothing theologically objective here. Am I really saying something true when I identify myself as a “traditionalist”? At minimum the truthfulness of this term assumes that I understand the tradition, that I give the appropriate relative weight to the various elements of the tradition and that in my personal practice I am faithful to the tradition.

    But again, all of this is HIGHLY subjectivistic and tells not so much something about the Tradition of the Church but how the individual understands himself relative to the larger community.

    None of this, let me conclude with this, is to say that there is no content to the Tradition. It does however, challenge us to reflect on the terms we use.

    In Christ,


    • Scott Pennington :

      Fr. Gregory,

      I agree with you, in a way.

      I looked through the survey. First of all, respondents self identify (apparently not based on any concrete practices or doctrines) whether they are:

      Liberal – I am willing to initiate and promote new developments in Church

      Moderate – I accept new developments and changes in Church depending on local circumstances

      Traditional – Any changes in the Church should be evolutionary

      or Conservative (also labelled as “Fundamentalist” early in the study) – Orthodox Church should avoid changes in its life and theology

      I will use myself as an example of why these terms, unless they are specifically defined, are utterly meaningless:

      Liberal – I myself am “willing to initiate and promote new developments in Church”. I began reciting the Our Father in Slavonic for those of our parishioners who are Slavic (I’m a member of a GOA parish). I have helped to develop our Matins Choir so that we do more than just read most of Matins. We are currently working on a pan-Orthodox Sunday of Orthodoxy vespers service where all the church choirs in our area will combine to sing.

      Moderate – I also see nothing wrong with this perspective, depending on what it means in practice. For example, if for some reason a united American Orthodox Church, or the OCA as it presently exists, wished to create an American Orthodox chant and American Orthodox music tones based, for example, upon the 8 modes of Western music, I think that would be fine and dandy. If women wished to cover their heads with bonnets, as was done in earlier American history, that would be fine too. I can think of many such local innovations that would be acceptable.

      Traditional – “Any changes in the Church should be evolutionary.” I have no idea what this means, if anything. One would have to define what is meant by “evolutionary” for this to be intelligible. I am guessing it means “slow” or “gradual”.

      Conservative – I don’t know what is meant by avoiding changes in “life”. Orthodox doctrine cannot be changed. It is not a question of the will of the laity, the clergy or even a Great and Holy Synod. The function of a Great Synod is to declare, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what Orthodox doctrine is on a novel question which divides the Church, not to change settled doctrine.

      Secondly, the categories are mislabelled. Traditional Orthodox are more conservative than conservative Orthodox. The survey apparently uses the label “Traditional” to validate a moderately conservative perspective (perhaps together with “Moderate”) as the norm, “Conservative” being considered a bad word, like “Fundamentalist”. (Tendentiousness anyone?)

      But the survey, with its assumptions, says much about the state of American Orthodoxy. First, it reveals that most Orthodox think that Orthodox doctrine can be changed. Second, it probably shows that many Orthodox are willing to rationalize any change that seems appealing to them on the basis of “local circumstances”; i.e., this is how it’s done by mainstream America so we ought to do it this way too (without asking whether it’s orthopraxis). Thirdly, it reveals that most Orthodox, all but the Conservative/Fundamentalists, are willing to allow just about any change, doctrine, morality or practice, so long as it is evolutionary (which I am guessing means “slow” or “gradual”).

      In short, it is a snapshot of an Orthodox populace who have either not been taught the faith or who feel entitled to ignore it at will. But we already knew this, it’s not shocking.

      So, how could the survey be better? With objective definition.

      We use the terms Liberal, Moderate, Conservative (with the caveat that we are using “Moderate” and “Conservative” in relation to the American religious spectrum, not that of World Orthodoxy and not Orthodoxy through the ages) and Traditional.

      You could say that Liberal Orthodox are those who are fine with women’s ordination, interfaith services (including, perhaps, intercommunion), are pro-choice, etc.

      You could say that Moderate Orthodox are those who think headcovering for women should be optional, who might support the revival of deaconesses with expanded roles, but not female priests, who have pews but not organs, who are also on the New Calendar, etc.

      You could say that Conservative Orthodox are those who think that the parish or diocese should be able to decide the Calendar issue, that women should be encouraged to cover their heads, that are careful to educate their children abour traditional morality including the evil of abortion and homosexual activity, etc.

      You could say that Traditional Orthodox are those who practice the faith as it was understood from Pentecost to the 1920’s; i.e., no pews, no organs, women cover their heads as a rule, genders are separated, heterodox baptisms are not recognized except through economia, confession mandatory sometime in the week before receiving the Gifts, etc.

      That would at least give some objectivity to the definitions and thus help us clarify our respective perspectives.

      That being said, I think, in general, when an Orthodox person uses the term “traditionalist” to describe himself, he means that he believes that the innovations in Orthodox practice that have developed in the 20th century are invalid and ill advised.

    • While these terms may often be imprecise and almost always contextual, they are quite useful and describe real, substantial differences. In the context of these discussions a modernist, and not a traditionalist, would accept the idea that “God is an equal opportunity employer” and the androgyny that lies behind it. A modernist, and not a traditionalist, would describe the Body of Christ as Bishop Ware does (post 12). A traditionalist sees the core anthropological issues in Christian categories that are internalized, a modernist first thinks of them in modern/secular categories, and if he is a practicing Christian may or may not try to “baptize” the secular categories (thus twisting the meaning of the Christian ones) or end up in a conflicted and incoherent mix.

      I don’t see how recognizing these real and substantial differences is uncharitable. The reality (and the separation in though/practice) that these terms identify go well beyond “self identification”. In your essay you describe a system of typing these differences which reduces them to mere psychological content, “emotivism” as you put it, and they are summarily dismissed (as they should be in your system) as not having any substantive content. They become a psycho spiritual problem to be solved, not indicating anything beyond a twisted psycho/spiritual state of “egoism” that someone that has allegedly transcended can help the sick “traditionalist” or “modernist” out of through pastoral care. Fr. John’s assertion that these two terms describe the flipside of the same problem is of the same species as your explanation.

      IMO this way of looking at this is a step backwards. I think part of my overreaction is analogous to how our wives would react if we said something like “oh, your just being emotional”. Your take on these terms denigrates the real and important content they contain within most contexts. It simply is not true to reduce the modernist or traditionalist to this psycho/spiritual system that looks at both in a wholly negative light.

      I understand why pastor’s want to “solve” this problem (though I think there is too much “unity at all costs” in the air) but a correct accounting of the problem and why traditionalist/modernist crack exists (and is widening) is first necessary. At the core these terms indicates the person’s anthropology, even if it is intuitive and not articulated (which is perhaps why it appears to some as a mere emotive state)…

      • Michael Bauman :

        Perhaps it can be said the one prays to be changed in order to be unified with Christ while the other changes Christ to be unified with man–the root of all major heresies. One has, intuitively or explicitly, an incarnational, therefore traditional anthropology while the other has a modern, therefore humanistic and ultimately nihilistic anthropology.

        There is no compromise between the two. One is life, the other death. However, while it may appear otherwise, the inflexible legalism that many who call themselves traditionalists exhibit does not come from an incarnational approach, but neither does the ideas that demand that we accomadate the spirit of the world, neither does the spirit of fear and anger.

        We cannot afford to be glib about the challenges we all face. The fact of the matter is that we are all trying to figure out what it means to be an authentic Orthodox Christian in the midest of wholesale hedonism, apostasy and nihilism that each in their own way denies the very existence of the reality of God with us.

        Part of the frustration exhibited here, IMO, stems from a real desire to be obedient to the Holy Tradition while at the same time not knowing whom we can trust to lead us. We certainly do not trust ourselves to be faithful without authoritative teaching. Another point of demarcation between the real traditionalist (lack of trust in one’s own self alone) and the modern (we can figure it out on our own–even if that means a psuedo-monastic aping of one’s idea of a 19th century Russian monk.

        What say you and others?

        • We all face the greatest temptation of all: to trust ourselves, our abilities our actions. I see here very long comments which I find useless (I don’t even read most of them). I do not mean to offend anyone, please forgive me if I do.

          What we really need is the wisdom and discernment of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise sooner or later we’ll get tricked by the devil, no matter how good and well intended we are. We tend to jump into action and forget the prayer.

          I found a very realistic description of the state of the world. It does not look realistic to the unbelievers, to those who do not believe in the demonic. Somebody said that “if you don’t believe that the devil exists, he’s got you!”
          I quote Fr Andrew Philips

          Lack of prayer is to blame. Without communion with God, the human being goes mad, because where there is no prayer, the demons invade. These young people who go berserk and shoot ten or twenty people, are possessed by demons. The demons are killing. Demons have no bodies, they need bodies to operate through them. This is why they possess people. It is very easy to do this now, because so many people, especially among the younger generation, are not baptised. The modern world is calling up all the demons from hell. Soon, if this continues, God forbid, hell will be empty, for all the demons will be on earth.

          The world is advancing rapidly to its end, but this ‘advance’ can also slow down. The end may still be far off. To slow down can only come though repentance. There is only power that I would like because there is only one power which can really change anything. And that is the power of prayer. Sadly, my prayer is very, very weak. To be a king for a day or to pass laws is useless. Politicians are only manipulated themselves. Only prayer, the force which does not depend on this world, can change anything in it. Only prayer sets an example. Words are weak. With prayer you can send back the demons to hell, where they belong. Without prayer, this is impossible and the demons wander all over the planet, creating destruction, suicide, misery.

        • Michael,

          I don’t see the “inflexible legalists” in quite the same way you do. While they are mistaken and fall short, I think their errors are far less damaging and insidious than those of the “liberal”. This is in part a function of the age. What is the danger of and spirit of this age? The liberal is in tune with it, while the inflexible legalist is not.

          Besides, for every actual ‘inflexible legalist’ I find in the wild (both culture at large and with Orthodoxy) I easily find 10 or 20 liberals. I also notice that the ‘complacent middle’ very easily recognizes and rejects the ‘inflexible legalist’. On the other hand, the ‘complacent middle’ does not recognize the liberal and is easily (almost naturally) attracted to the liberals way of thinking…

  27. Michael Bauman writes:

    Perhaps it can be said the one prays to be changed in order to be unified with Christ while the other changes Christ to be unified with man–the root of all major heresies. One has, intuitively or explicitly, an incarnational, therefore traditional anthropology while the other has a modern, therefore humanistic and ultimately nihilistic anthropology.

    I would agree with this in general. For myself, I am unwilling to write off the modern world and its humanism all together. Yes there are problems and yes we confuse freedom and license but when has it not been so? One of the reasons I find St John Chrysostom’s sermons so valuable is because he reminds me, well, it has always been the case that many people don’t fast during Pascha or pay attention at Liturgy or prefer entertainment to prayer. TO be sure, technological changes have added a level of complexity and danger–how fast we can fail with computers–but this reflects new blessings and opportunities–this conversation being an immediate example.

    Having read, and re-read the passage from St Nina’s Quarterly, I don’t see where His Eminence has said anything in appropriate. If I understand Christopher correctly, the concern is that somehow Metropolitan KALLISTOS is erasing the distinctions between the sexes in purposing the restoration of the order of deaconess. Do I have this right?

    If he is, I think this is a proposal well within the authority of the Church. I’m not a patristic scholar or an expert in liturgical history, but Fr Emphrem Lash has argued in his own work:

    The ordination takes place at the same point of the Liturgy as that for male Deacons and the role of the diaconate as the minister of the Chalice is stressed by the giving of the Chalice to the newly ordained woman Deacon. This clearly indicates that the newly ordained was admitted to the Sanctuary and stood near the Altar. The 14th century canonist Matthew Blastares notes that, ‘except for a few things, the ordination of women deacons is to be performed like that for male deacons’. He notes particularly that ‘she is brought to the Holy Table’. The rubrical details in the older books are few and the actual formula of ordination is not given in full. As a result we do not know how the candidate was described or what her ecclesiastical status was before ordination. I do not think the fact that she only bows and does not kneel has any theological signifance.
    Woman Deacon (

    But even if we assume that this was not an ordination, the testimony of Acts 7–and this is not my opinion but Chrysostom’s–is that the Church has the authority to establish new orders within the Church. Chrysostom argues that there were not deacons ordained by Christ; this was an order that the Church established in response to the needs of the Church.

    Now one can argue that there is no need for the restoration of the female diaconate–or that if there is, that this need does not extend to liturgical service. But I think the argument that the Church does not have the authority (exousia) is on shaky ground. If the Church could establish the order of deacons, it can establish the order of deaconess.

    This then brings me to Scott’s definition of a traditionalist is one “believes that the innovations in Orthodox practice that have developed in the 20th century are invalid and ill advised.” There are contained here two related–though substantially different–arguments; one prudential the other dogmatic. One may argue that this or that practice is imprudent, or as Scott says is “ill advised.” To claim however that the practice is an “innovation” and “invalid” is to make not simply ah historical argument but a canonical and indeed dogmatic one as well.

    The instances he sites as illustrations of a traditionalist position, “no pews, no organs, women cover their heads as a rule, genders are separated, heterodox baptisms are not recognized except through economia, confession mandatory sometime in the week before receiving the Gifts, etc.” reflect this convergence of prudential and dogmatic arguments.

    On the prudential level, I like pews and organs–I just don’t want them in an Orthodox church. But I can live with them and can see some value in them. In any case, these do not touch on the faith as such and so I will leave them aside. Likewise his concern for headscarves and a separation of the sexes at prayer. These are prudential or pastoral matters and not dogmatic and one ought not to identify them with HOLY TRADITION or at least not do so without qualification.

    Moving from this to the question of confession and its relationship to Holy Communion. For the early Fathers, the model of confession sketched out above would have been horrifying. In the first centuries, confession was limited to very serious sins–fornication, adultery, apostasy and murder. The current practice in some local Churches of one confession/one Communion, is itself an historical novelty, that is, it is not the unchanging practice of the Church since Pentecost.

    This brings me to Scott’s point, that “heterodox baptisms are not recognized except through economia.” This is, at best, a matter of disagreement within the Church. While it is a theory that has become popular in some circles, it is not the historical or universal practice of the Church. For example, the Church of Russia–save for about 30 years–has always accepted Catholic (and most Protestant) baptism as valid pure ans simply. That is to say they are not accepted by economia (and in fact, according to strict Russian usage, Catholics are to be received by confession alone).

    I think Fr John is correct, traditionalists and modernists are two sides of the same coin. Both bring an ahistorical view of the Church to the conversation. This allows them to pick and choose what in the life of the Church they want to accept and what they wish to reject, modify or ignore.

    But since my main conversation partners here are arguing a traditionalist stance, let me say, while it is certainly true that the faith of the Church has not changed since Pentecost, this cannot be said of the practice of the Church–and this even in the areas that have been ennumerated here.

    In Christ,


    • Fr. Gregory, your response: “I would agree with this in general. For myself, I am unwilling to write off the modern world and its humanism all together” indicates to me that you have not yet grasped what I was attempting to say. I supposed part of that lies in whether you and I have a common understanding of humanism.

      Some speculations:

      One of the few things I would give a limited approval to is the tendenacy to more personal freedom. However, personal freedom comes with a heavy price. Without a strong anchor in Christ it has rarely been handled well. We tend to exchange the tryanny of the king or oligarchs for the tryanny of individual passions which are then writ large in society. A process to which you allude. It also speaks to the need the Church has felt for more frequent confession of less serious sins (either that or we have fallen prey to a shallow theraputic model of the mystery of repentance).

      It is pure romanaticism to honestly propose a return to a Christian emperor or to assume that monastic strictness in parish life is the answer or that the monastic ethos will be our salvation. As important as the monastic calling is to the life of the Church, there are other vocations we need as well, vocations that are sometimes denigrated by the monkaphiles.

      Paradoxically, the advent of more personal choice IMO demands a more authoritative (as opposed to authoritarian) response from our bishops, a more prophetic stance from the Church than what we normally see; a more intimate, personal and pastoral episcopate. It also means that a greater effort is demanded from everyone else to form and maintain living, healthy communities. The centrifical force of the modern mind is quite destructive to genuine community. The crucial anthropological debates we face can only be properly faced from within such communities. Dogma and theology alone are insufficient, but they always have been. Making disciples has always been personal and intimate. The official acts of the Church frequently the seal and confirmation of a love and union already in place.

      Even though the ‘personal revolution’ has been going on for centuries, the Church, it seems, has just begun to respond the fruit of our long captivity to Islam and Communisim. We must learn to respond in the context of what is actually going on now, not what we wish were occuring. Blind reliance on old formulas is insufficient. Blind acceptance of modernity is even worse. Our present must be informed by our past, not held hostage to it. We must reject the tendancy too to read the past only from our present felt needs and cultural pressures. In any case, our efforts alone will avail nothing.

      What do you think?

    • I suppose you could even throw St. Paul in with your point about authority:

      1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

      It’s only in a limited technical sense that any bishop of the Church has the authority to create a women deaconate, or anything else. I say create because the argument cuts both ways – if it fell into disuse then providentially there is a reason. What is the (good) reason for recreating it?

      Contrary to what Fr. Gregory stated above I disagree that no one can argue against the need for recreating the women deaconate. I have never seen an argument for it’s recreation except those that flow from presumptions of modernist anthropology (equality, convenience, etc.). It would be the exact wrong thing to do in this age where the Christian anthropological understanding is what is what everyone including the Orthodox are most confused about.

      I also think Fr. Gregory is taking a strangely narrow view of Tradition: claiming that others are seeing what they want to see in it (personal preference) while at the same time seeing what he wants to see in it (apparently an openness to almost any anthropology in any age). I have not made a study of it but the Pope of Rome argued that he does not have the authority to create priestesses.

      I would have never believed it 15 years ago, but I think it possible and even likely that a Bishop Ware or someone similar will appoint alter girls or a female deacon in my life time, and the crack in the Church will become a visible break. Fr. Gregory you will no doubt defend it from authority, and claim anyone opposed to it is acting out of fear, is modernist and not obeying Christ (who is acting through this bishop), it’s only a “practice”, etc. We quivering traditionalists of course will recognize the anti-Christian anthropology behind the decision not that we will be listened to because there is no substance to these observations, no Tradition, nothing of God, only fallen and broken psycho spiritual states that never rise above the level of “egoism”

      I have to be blunt: Fr. Gregory’s philosophy is ugly and divisive…

    • Scott Pennington :

      Fr. Gregory,

      St. Paul commands women to cover their heads in scripture. If Scripture is not Tradition, there is no such thing. As to confession, it is my understanding that in the early church, people confessed openly in church and that later this was changed. St. John of Shanghai emulated this type of confession as well more recently. But his laity could be described as almost semi-monastic. I’m not sure where you got the information that confession in the early church was rare (or that early Christians were murdering and commiting adultery on a weekly basis, if you are maintainting that confession was frequent) but I’d be interested to see that source (not being critical, just genuine curiousity).

      I can see you buy into the idea of big “T” and little “t” tradition. I have to respectfully distance myself from that view.

      “To claim however that the practice is an “innovation” and “invalid” is to make not simply an historical argument but a canonical and indeed dogmatic one as well.”

      Pews are an innovation. Prayer in both the Old and New Testaments is described as standing, kneeling, bowing, etc. Sitting I don’t find. Unfortunately, this is, as far as I can tell, a novel question. Modernists seem to use “small t tradition” as an excuse to change practices that were never addressed since the question was not asked. The purpose, of course, is to make themselves more like the Western heterodox; i.e., to be seen as more normal. This is dangerous in a society where abortion, divorce, single motherhood, etc. are “normal”.

      From the very beginning of the Church, women covered their heads and the genders were separated, just as in synagogues and in the Temple. The reasons St. Paul gives in Scripture are for the sake of modesty and to show that the women are under authority.

      I do concede one point though, with reservations. You are correct that there was considerable debate regarding the reception of converts and it appears to me that the grounds for allowing reception by chrismation are not well defined. It may be by St. Basil’s reasoning which attributes this to charitableness (or economia), or not.

      Moving right along to Metropolitan Kallistos and the ordination of deaconesses. To me, what is more important than whether deaconesses were ordained at someplace and some period, is a) whether this practice was widespread throughout the Church over a long period of time; i.e., catholic, and b) what was their function? If the church wishes to resume the “order” of deaconess in order to reintroduce separate catechism classes for males and females, or for the deaconesses to assist in female baptisms, then I can’t get too upset about that.

      However, if the idea is to “throw feminists a bone”, which it almost certainly is, then I think they have been thrown enough bones already.

      “I think Fr John is correct, traditionalists and modernists are two sides of the same coin. Both bring an ahistorical view of the Church to the conversation.”

      I will concede this point when you show me the pews from ancient churches, the commentary that decribes the mixing of the genders in worship, and the commentary that describes women appearing in church uncovered. Until then, we’ll just have to disagree.

      What is certain and obvious is that the modernists have changed, rather abruptly, things which have been of longstanding usage and that they have done so to become more like the heterodox in their worship and sensibilities.

      Unfortunately, over the last few days have provided me with far too much free time. I wish I could continue this discussion but I’m sure nothing of consequence will result out of it since none of us have the power to change the practices of our respective jurisdictions. What this exhange has left me with is an even stronger feeling that modernism and traditionalism, in the long run, are irreconcilable and that eventually these two views will not be able to live in communion.

      Peace to all,


      • Scott Pennington :

        In my post 26.3 above, the first line of the last paragraph should read, “Unfortunately, over the last few days the snow has provided me with far too much free time.”

  28. Michael mentioned upstream that Fr. Gregory resorts to ad hominen and sophistry when his ideas are challenged. Sophistry is more accurate. He is employing his training and resorting to what psychologists believe is a sort of creative destruction. Following his pschological typing we each fall into a type, which is a prison of our own ego. Our ideas are but poor shadow’s on the wall. He is talking with us, he is talking at us as he sits above us. He recognizes our limitations and bedevilments where we don’t. This would be insidous enough (it is highly impersonal in that it’s intent is to destroy what a person is to get them to “grow”, “mature”, etc.) out of a clinical setting (in a clinical setting both therapist and patient have agreed to this process), but when you take it to into the spiritual realm it is even worse.

    Fr. Gregory, I don’t consent to your idea of me or my beliefs, experience, my relationship to God or my neighbor (liberal, traditional, or anything else). Until you repent of your psycho-spiritual typing of me and my liberal/traditional neighbor, we are about as far apart on these issues as two people can be…

    • Christopher,

      I wasn’t talking about you personally but about ideas and general types. I’m sorry for the confusion my lack of clarity may have caused.

      Forgive me but you seem to me to be positing intents of me that I don’t have. I’m sorry you feel that I am engaging in “psycho-spiritual tying” of you and others but that’s your perception of me.

      If you don’t want to have a conversation with me, that’s certainly fine, the don’t respond to what I say. Your call for me to repent, however, is inappropriate.

      In Christ,


      • Your incorrect – your whole stance vis-a-vis this issue is one of repentance, formation, etc. You explicitly say in your essay and have several time on this thread that traditionalist and liberal have no content (or rather subjective and fallen content only). What vision of the human being do you have that enables you to so inorganically separate a “stance” from the rest of the person? It’s a rhetorical question as yours is a very modern psychological one. I call again for you to turn away (repentance) from this impersonal view and relate with the traditionalist (and liberal) as persons

        I also turn your suggestion around. IF you don’t want to have a conversation with a traditionalist then don’t have one. You came on this thread in the very first post with your negating philosophy suggesting we don’t “worry” about “labels” (Fr. Johannes used the term liberal – correctly and with substantial meaning). If you don’t like your philosophy/stance being discussed then don’t make suggestions from it…

    • Scott Pennington :


      Don’t get flustered again. It can be frustrating dealing with someone who compares you to someone with whom you vehemently disagree. You must keep in mind that this is only a tactic, there is no truth in it or behind it. There are those who, for emotional reasons, are simply more comfortable in the “sensible center”. It’s not a rational decision but an emotional proclivity. Bear in mind that the sensible center between Orthodoxy and Monophysitism was Monothelitism. Also bear in mind that although the Fathers may not refer to the categories we use today, they could be frank about “wolves within the Church and sheep without”. I’m not saying that Fr. Gregory is a wolf, God forbid. What I’m saying is that the modern distinctions we make are valid.


      • Thanks for reminder. This guy is a ton of bricks is he not 😉

        • Scott Pennington :


          You must remember something about the clergy in jurisdictions like the GOA, AOCNA and OCA. Their synods have decided to go down the road of modernism [I’m not using the term pejoratively, just descriptively] with all it’s trappings (some OCA parishes kind of split the difference though). These clergy likely went to a modernist seminary, their brothers in the cloth are modernists and, if they were to come to the conclusion that modernism was an unwarranted departure from tradition, their lives would become very complicated. It’s not the same as being a layman. They have a salary, a pension, families to support. If they write, lecture, etc., then they have cultivated their reputations in modernist circles. They’re company men – – dug in – – and committed.

          As the old saying goes: It’s like ham and eggs. The hen that lays the eggs is involved. The pig is committed. [That is not to compare modernists with pigs (again, God forbid), it’s just a saying that conveys the seriousness involved]

          What all that means is that, to them, to actually take traditionalism seriously or be tempted to be persuaded by traditionalists is unthinkable, regardless of the soundness of the arguments. It’s a matter of self preservation. Do you know what the average ROCOR priest makes? How comfortable would someone of Greek or Romanian heritage feel in a Serbian or Russian Orthodox Church? There are a number of factors behind the scenes that influence these types of discussions that usually never get mentioned openly. And since even canonical traditionalists do not think that the modernists have lapsed into heresy, the question does not seem to be one of salvation.

  29. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Note 26.3. Scott writes:

    If Scripture is not Tradition, there is no such thing.

    Actually, scripture is both the source and judge of tradition. The common Orthodox apologetic that equates scripture with tradition is wrong. It’s merely the modern Evangelical corruption (they misunderstand Luther’s teaching of Sola Scriptura) in reverse: Tradition, not scripture, is the final authority in all matters Christian.

    Scripture is the final authority (Luther was right). Why? Because scripture contains the apostolic word — the word that, when preached, reveals Christ. Scripture is the record of the word of the apostle — the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which, like the prophets of old, was a word received directly from God. Orthodox tradition confirms this.* No one is an apostle apart from Twelve and the Seventy. Even the great Fathers — Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory,– were fathers in the faith, not apostles. The closest anyone gets to being called an apostle is Equal to the Apostles, but even then the distinction is clear.

    *(It’s also confirmed in the Liturgy. The scripture comes out in procession first, is read before the Eucharist, sits on top of the antimension. If no scripture, then no Eucharist. If scripture is just another segment of tradition, why not process with the Philokalia, or an icon or relics of a saint?)

    The apostles are first, St. Paul tells us, and after that are pastors, teachers, etc. But everyone who follows the apostles gets their Gospel from the apostle — not from God. And that Gospel is given to us through scripture.

    What then of Tradition? Tradition emerges in the community called out by that Gospel — the ekklesia-ones called out — to the measure that it lives in that Gospel, or as St. Paul defines it, in the Spirit. To the measure that the tradition partakes of that Gospel it too can be said to hold apostolic authority, although the authority is derivative, not primary. The apostle, or more specifically, the apostolic word, is primary, which is to say scripture because scripture holds that word.

    Going back to what I mentioned at the outset, the Orthodox apologetic that equates the authority of scripture with tradition (it relatives the apostolic word with the words of all others) is bound to the same categories that inform the Protestant apologetic it seeks to overthrow. It simply is not, well, in keeping with the Orthodox tradition. How do I know? The Fathers themselves saw scripture as the primary authority. This is what Luther discovered as well in reading the Fathers and what he meant by sola scriptura.

    • Scott Pennington :

      Fr. Jacobse,

      I’m not sure I understand you. Christ called the Twelve. One betrayed Him. That one was replaced with St. Matthias. Christ conveyed his teaching to His apostles and they were confirmed by the Holy Spirit. The source of Apostolic Tradition is the Apostles and, ultimately, Christ Himself.

      I did not say that Tradition, and not Scripture, is the final authority. What I did is include Scripture as part of Tradition. I do not dispute with you that there is a hierarchy of sorts within Tradition: The Gospels being paramount (in terms of sacred writings), the rest of the New Teatament and Old Testament, the decrees of Great Synods and the writings of the Fathers, etc.

      Although I am aware that the Fathers often spoke of Scripture and Tradition (or, sometimes, “divine law” as another name for Scripture), it never occured to me to think that Scripture is not Tradition. For example:

      St. John Chrysostom:
      “[Paul commands,] ‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter’ [2 Thess. 2:15]. From this it is clear that they did not hand down everything by letter, but there is much also that was not written. Like that which was written, the unwritten too is worthy of belief. So let us regard the tradition of the Church also as worthy of belief. Is it a tradition? Seek no further” (Homilies on Second Thessalonians [A.D. 402]).

      Although I’m sure this and other passages could be read to suggest that Scripture and Tradition are (or are not) two different things, it seems to me such passages are suggesting the there are two sources of Tradition: that which was written by the Apostles and that which was handed down by them and perhaps put into writing at some later time (or present in the teaching authority of the Church). All things come to us from the Church.

      Regardless, I don’t think Tradition contradicts the scriptural command for women to cover their heads, which was my real point.

      • Scott Pennington :

        Here’s another quote that seems appropos:

        St. Basil the Great(A.D. 329-379), Bishop of Caesarea, writes:

        “Of the dogmas and kergymas preserved in the Church, some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the tradition of the Apostles, handed on to us in mystery. In respect to piety both are of the same force. No one will contradict any of these, no one, at any rate, who is even moderately versed in manners ecclesiastical. Indeed, were we to try to reject the unwritten customs as having no great authority, we would unwittingly injure the Gospel in its vitals; or rather, we would reduce kergyma to a mere term” (Holy Spirit 27:66).

        St. Basil’s tone here though is a bit more combative than mine. I do not think you are essentially wrong, Fr. Johannes, in your observation, but I’m not sure you are right in every detail.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        In the quotes you gave, the primary and final authority is the word of the apostle — Chrystom quotes Paul’s word given to us in scripture. The ground of authority then is the apostolic word, that is, scripture since that is where we encounter it. Tradition, as I wrote upstream, is authoritative — it can even claim an aposotolic authority (which is what Chrysostom is claiming here) — to the measure that it conforms to that apostolic word, but that authority is derivative, not primary. If it were otherwise, Chrysostom’s recourse to scripture would not be necessary.

        I’m not challenging your post, I was just using it as a jumping off point to clear up some confusion by the apologetic that weighs scripture and tradition as equal. We “hear” this as saying that tradition has no authority. That is not what I am saying. I argue that weighing them equally elevates the authority of tradition in order to counter the polemics of the Evangelicals who have corrupted Luther’s sola-scriptura teaching to mean that the scriptures are privately interpreted. IOW, the apologetic is built on Protestant categories and will in the end diminish the authority of scripture among the Orthodox too, just as it has among some Protestants.

        • Scott Pennington :

          “In the quotes you gave, the primary and final authority is the word of the apostle — Chrysostom quotes Paul’s word given to us in scripture. The ground of authority then is the apostolic word, that is, scripture since that is where we encounter it.”

          I’m not sure I can go along with you 100%, Fr. Johannes. I don’t think it is only in Scripture where we encounter the Apostolic word. If you mean words written or dictated for writing by the Apostles themselves, then I see your point. However, the oral teaching of the apostles was also conveyed, only by a different means. A word is not a word because it is written down. There is nothing magical about the written word as a means of transmission.

          If we do not trust the bishops to transmit the Apostolic teaching orally or by later writing it down, why should we trust them to establish the canon of Scripture or to transmit it intact? It is true that Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. But I do not think you can conclude that other Apostolic teaching is not. At the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem, the decision of the council was announced as, “It seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit . . .” I agree with you that Scripture has a particularly high place, and I would agree that within Scripture itself there are books that occupy a higher place than others – – the Gospels, for instance. But the faith is the Apostolic Tradition, delivered by any number of means.

          In the quotes I mentioned above:

          “. . . it is clear that they did not hand down everything by letter, but there is much also that was not written . . .” from Chrysostom, and

          ” . . . some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the tradition of the Apostles, handed on to us in mystery . . .” – from Basil

          These Fathers seem to be saying that Scripture is the earliest written testimony of the Apostles, but the Apostolic teaching was also passed down by word of mouth in the line of Apostolic Succession through the bishops, etc. Some of this was later written down, but all of it is the “apostolic word”, since all of it is Apostolic teaching.

          The same bishops who transmitted the Scriptures to us transmitted the teaching of the Apostles, written or not. The final authority is the teaching of the Apostles, however it reaches us, through the Church. I do not suggest that Scripture does not have a primary place. Nor do I suggest that it is not true that all teaching must be in harmony with Scripture. I neither wish to diminish the status of Scripture nor of Tradition. They cannot possibly contradict one another because they come from the same source – – the teaching of the Apostles.

          “Tradition, as I wrote upstream, is authoritative — it can even claim an aposotolic authority (which is what Chrysostom is claiming here) — to the measure that it conforms to that apostolic word, but that authority is derivative, not primary.”

          Here we disagree. You posit the possibility that Tradition might not conform to Scripture. This is not possible. Either it is Tradition; i.e., apostolic teaching passed down through the Church, or it is not. The real question is, “who says so?” Anybody can make an argument that something in our Tradition is contradictory to Scripture and or not in accord with it. But by what authority? Christ gave His apostles the authority to bind and loose. He transmitted His teaching to us through them. The bishops, in a Great Synod, are charged with the responsiblity and authority to weigh whether a teaching is part of Tradition by weighing it against all prior manifestations of Tradition, most importantly Scripture. So Tradition cannot possibly contradict Scripture in the eyes of a Synod that has the authority to make that determination. Otherwise, it’s not Tradition.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            You posit the possibility that Tradition might not conform to Scripture. This is not possible. Either it is Tradition; i.e., apostolic teaching passed down through the Church, or it is not.

            Not all tradition comes directly from the apostles. That would be impossible. Nevertheless, many things in tradition are authoritative because they conform to the apostolic word — the scripture.

            Scott, it is not only “teaching” that is passed down. That’s only part of it. What is passed down is the word of life, the words of grace and truth that proceed from God and have an intrinsic power because they come from God.

            Grace and truth in this context refer to concrete, existential, realities appropriated through the concrete, existential, encounter with the Risen Christ, who first approaches us through the hearing of His word, mediated as it is through the words of the apostles. And this word can change the world. It has power.

            And it is out of this concrete, existential, encounter with the risen Christ that the tradition emerges. In this emerging some men rise above others and their word too becomes authoritative, but only with an authority derived from the word of those who first received it directly from God — the apostles. That’s why the scriptures are the source and ground of authority.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Fr. Johannes,

            I don’t think we’re getting anywhere and you’re losing me in the ether. It has been a fascinating conversation though (sincerely).



      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        One more thing, just for clarification:

        Christ conveyed his teaching to His apostles and they were confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

        Sort of. Think of it this way: The words of Christ (the word of the Word), are the words of grace, power, and truth — so much so that they created the universe out of nothing. It is not so much that his words are the primordial “teaching,” but that they flow from the mouth of the Creator. They are transformative in and of themselves, which is to say that no one who hears them is left unaffected (repentance or judgment).

        That’s why Paul said the gospel has to be “preached” (spoken so it can be heard). The Gospel reveals Christ. We have to hear in order to see, and the transformative potency of that word is so great as that it can create something out nothing and transform men’s hearts through the hearing of it.

  30. Michael Bauman :

    Some thoughts on pews:

    Certainly a modern accomodation. Is it harmless? I think not (although, please forgive, I am quite used to them).

    Pews prevent us from worshiping with our bodies fully in space thus tending to restrict our worship to the mind only

    Pews tend to support the idea that the congregation is a group of passive spectators rather than a potent and important participant

    In both cases, the existence of pews tends to support a non-incarnational point of view and a view that tacit supports the authoritarian conception of the hiearchy.

    How does one ‘go boldly before the throne of God’ if one is regimented and controlled by pews?

    These are my considered thoughts and I submit them for comment and critique. It could be that there is no actual theological or anthpolical content to the lack of pews other than scarcity of building materials, cost of labor and other such things in the ancient world. Thus the lack of pews is merely a anacronistic circumstance that need not be considered as inherently part of the faith and worship. Trouble with that approach is that once the nose of the camel is under the tent, the tent is soon over turned. Is not the belief in a male-only priesthood just another anacronism, a resisidue of the patriarchally oppressive culture which gave rise to the Church anyway?

    These logical steps are not far removed from one another are they?

    • Scott Pennington :


      The real problem with pews, and my church has them too (although I avoid them by singing in the choir and chanting), is that there a many places in the different services where one is supposed to make great reverence, prostrate, etc. This is made physically impossible by the pews.

      I once received a book about the divine liturgy written during the 70’s, during the liturgical renewal frenzy. It was written from the Greek Orthodox perspective. It rightly lamented the fact that many Orthodox feel like church is an unbearably boring chore. Passive torture.

      The book was very good on explaining the parts of the liturgy and their significance, order, and how to think of them as pearls on a string, etc.

      However, it assumed that the then currrent Greek practice was normative: When you hear the litany, you don’t sing along (the choir does that) or do anything – – you just stand/sit there. So the book suggested that when the priest/deacon says, “Let us pray for . . .” that you make up your own prayers for that subject and say them to yourself.

      Now, this seems quite reasonable from the perspective of the movement then current. But it is quite strange from a traditional perspective. In fact you could make an argument that you are forsaking the assembly by making up your own prayers during its course.

      Traditionally, the choir leads the people, so one should sing or say, “Lord, have mercy” or “Grant this, O Lord” with the choir. This is how the laity pray regarding the subject of the petition. Moreover, a person should cross himself at the end of each petition and, at times, cross and bow.

      All of that had been forgotten in the Greek community to the extent that it didn’t even occur to this fellow to suggest it. Or maybe he thought that was too conventional – – who can say.

      The main problem with pews, besides the lack of respect conveyed by sitting for considerable portions of the service, is that they get in the way of the “work of the people”; i.e., the liturgy.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Scott, you say, “The real problem with pews, and my church has them too (although I avoid them by singing in the choir and chanting), is that there are many places in the different services where one is supposed to make great reverence, prostrate, etc. This is made physically impossible by the pews.” — exactly what I meant by “Pews prevent us from worshiping with our bodies fully in space thus tending to restrict our worship to the mind only”

        • Scott Pennington :


          When you’re right, you’re right. I got distracted by the stuff you wrote further down and then just started writing myself. Looking back, I do see I was echoing you.


          • Michael Bauman :

            No problem, I just wanted to make sure I had made myself clear.

            The idea of making up one’s own prayers is not new to me, but I’ve not heard it in a long time. I actually tried it once the first time I heard it–once only.

            I know what the the Bible says about head-scarves. I have trouble making the same type of case for them that I do for the pews. Can you help Scott?

            The separation of genders seems to me to be primarily one of modesty and focus. Do you agree?

          • Scott Pennington :

            1 Corinthians 11:3-10:

            3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9 † Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 10 For this cause ought the woman to have powerb on her head because of the angels.

            The “angels” may be a reference to bishops, as in Revelation. I.e., “Don’t distract the celebrant.”

            That St. Paul commanded it and it is a usage that goes back to Judaism is enough for me to accept it without reservation. Additionally, however, it demonstrates female modesty and submission (which elsewhere is commanded by the apostle). Women can be a distraction in church, depending on how they dress. Focus, as you say, is part of it. Also, removing an occasion for sin (fantasizing or lust) during a particularly holy time.

            As you know, I have a bone to pick with feminism, even very moderate feminism. I could recount the sins that result from this noxious ideology, but you already know them. They all stem from the notion that women should be equal in authority – – in the family, in society, etc. – – to men. St. Paul elsewhere stated that he did not put women in authority over men. I take it as axiomatic that any woman who would not cover her head in church would never consider assuming the role that Scripture and Tradition assign to her.

            The real question is why would one change this rule? What would be the motivation? I can think of none other than feminism. Most women are simply too proud and bold to be capable of the humility and submission it takes to cover ones head. And the clergy are either sympathetic to feminism or are too afraid that they would lose parishoners, money and volunteers if they actually followed this practice.

            The bottom line for me is that we had a lot of problems under the patriarchy, but nothing at all compared like to what we have in feminist society. St. Paul’s words on this seem very strange to us – – us being those of us who have lived in the last 50 years or so. But there was nothing particulary controversial or objectionable about these words for most of Christian history.

            Another story: I started out in an OCA parish close to the town in which I live. The priest there, who was ex-evangelical (or maybe not so ex-) and I had a few discussions about the role of women and family life. Finally, exacerbated, he told me that the only place that I was going to find people who shared my viewpoint was in ROCOR or Islam. I replied to him that that might be so, but he should ask himself: “Would anything that I said have even raised an eyebrow in any Orthodox church in the world 100, 500 or 1000 years ago?

            Dead silence.

            Why do so many Orthodox think that there is some particular chrism of wisdom bestowed on the last three generations?

            All I can say is that Western society has become a dramatically compelling force for corrupting Christianity.

          • Scott Pennington :



            The link above is one which I just now discovered. Rather than testing the patience of those here who might not agree with us, I decided not to copy and paste but just refer you to it. On the front page is a list of quotes as long as your arm from the Fathers on women’s headcovering. Very interesting.

            Coincidentally, I actually know the woman who runs this site, Alana. She went to the OCA parish I mentioned but has since moved.


    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Yup. Pews rationalize worship too much. It becomes an exercise in linearity, everything is a straight line — up/down, side/side. One reason it is easier for priests to do long services is because they move around all the time. If I were forced to stand in one place and just stand up and sit down, well, it would wear me out.

      • George Michalopulos :

        One reason I hate pews is that make people passive. And they unnecesarily lenghthen the services (esp. the sermons).

  31. Dear friends in Christ:

    I am sorry to have been away from this very interesting and informative discussion. As you may recall, I am a Priest of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). In its Constitution, ACNA has made clear that one must be male to be consecrated Bishop. Some of our Dioceses do “ordain” women, but I hope that we will follow the lead of the Anglican Mission in America (now a constituent part of the ACNA) who did a searching and fearless study of the issue, and concluded that to “ordain” women priests was in error.

    I am pleased to say that his Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah and His grace Archbishop Robert of the ACNA have restarted the ecumenical dialog between Anglicans and Orthodox (OCA) which were suspended with the Episcopal Church (TEC) when that body began to ordain women. Indeed, the ordination of women has not brought forth the blossoming of church attendance predicted by its proponents.

    On the liturgy, Scripture and Tradition: I believe them to be so interwoven and knit together as to defy our attempts to separate them — Thanks be to God! In TEC it is the “movement of the Holy Spirit” which is used to justify all manner of innovations and doctrines contrary to the witness of Orthodoxy. I think this is a direct result of the attempt to separate the three streams of the great river of orthodox faith and praxis.

    Of pews: I agree with the critics. to what has been said, I would add that the encourage a kind of theater goers approach to liturgy — rather than the shared work of the people of God, it tends to put the laity in the role of passive observer.

    My apologies to all for the alphabet soup of trying to understand Anglicans in 2010!

    In Christ,


  32. George Michalopulos :

    Scott, re post #10 above, you are correct. It requires bishops acting in good faith and generating good will. we should not hold our breath.


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