Ecumenical Patriarch Decries Turkish Property Seizures

AsiaNews is reporting that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has “announced his intention to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg over violations against the Orthodox community and its foundations, unjustly expropriated of lands and buildings by Ankara’s Direction for Religious Foundations.”

Speaking to faithful in St Georges’ Parish, close to the Byzantine walls of Istanbul, the Patriarch affirmed that the decision to go to the Strasbourg court was made by the Synod:

We have and you have come here to celebrate this religious ceremony in a parish that is facing many difficulties. Unfortunately it is not alone. The problem is that this parish and its community, as is the case with many other’s of the Church of Constantinople, have been abusively declared mazbut (occupied) by the Direction for Religious Foundations. This means that we cannot claim any rights to the management of the properties of this community, nor proceed with the election of its administrative board. As a result of this we have no right to manage that which was left to us by our forefathers. The only thing we are allowed to carry out in these places are religious functions. Unfortunately this is fate of this parish and many other parishes of the Church of Constantinople.

The Patriarch added that, in the courtyard of the Church where he spoke, a building which once housed the community’s school has been turned into a private gaming hall with the approval of Turkish authorities.

Read the backgrounders on the crisis threatening the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Web site of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle.

Comments

  1. This is no doubt this is a tragedy and violation of the most basic of freedoms and natural law.

    However, A Patriarch who coddles Fidel Castro and ignores prisoners of conscience, cruises on a yacht, and is more interested in omogenia issues rather than Orthodox issues does not exactly have the moral gravitas to lead on this issue. The Turks are simply taking advantage of the Constantinople’s desire to appease rather than lead in the spirit of Christian Truth. More EP appeasement equals more Turkish human rights violations.

    Martin Luther King, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pope John Paul II showed us the meaning of truth and they suffered for it. Is the EP willing to fight the good fight in the spirit of these historical figures?

    I am huge Phanariot critic. I think the EP has lost its way and the GOA and EP leadership has been hollowed out.

    If Patriarch Bartholomew undertook bold and vocal Christian leadership on this issue, if he showed the world the loving face of Orthodoxy by undertaking genuine Christian leadership and resistance, if showed he was absolutely willing to teach, suffer, and get tossed in jail for the truth and his flock, then I would shout support from the rooftops and write a check to support the cause.

    The Catholics of Poland were a Church in Captivity under the Communists. Yet that Church in Captivity under the leadership of Pope John Paul II helped free millions of Orthodox Christians from the yoke of communism

    Constantinople is a Church in Captivity today and the question the GOA and EP is simply this:

    Are they willing to suffer for the truth and be an example for world or do they simple prefer appeasement and the accolades of being accepted by the secular political establishment?

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Strong words Andrew, and absolutely on target. If the Ecumenical Patriarch would recover his proper role as moral leader of the Orthodox world, the outcry against the Turkish injustices would ring hundreds of time louder than it does today. When the Gospel is subsumed to ethnic ideology however, and the moral standing and resources of Orthodox Christianity put into the service of such things as the political interests of the Greek state or winning the accolades of politicians, the Patriarchate, as you correctly point out, becomes more vulnerable to Turkish aggression.

  3. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    Father Hans and Andrew,

    At what point do you eventually put partisanship aside?

    Can you not even accept that the EP is being persecuted because they are Christians without having to attatch a holier than thou caveat (which by the way is based purely on your own perceptions and not on any fact)?

    Is your contempt for the EP so great that you cannot even have any compassion for a martyred Church?

    “Is the EP willing to fight the good fight in the spirit of these historical figures?”

    Apparently confiscation of property, restricted personal rights and multiple assasination attempts, threats and conspiracies are not enough suffering?

    Might as well pile on the self righteous smugness of us (we?) American Orthodox who know so much better.

    I have not posted inthe last few days because I believe that dialogue on this site is really not productive. Everybodys ideologies and agenda run to deep to look at each other honestly and give the benefit of the doubt as to motives. There really is no dialogue here, just sort of a point-counterpoint. At some point it just becomes a sort of (as one person I know calls it) mental masturbation.

    But when I read these two posts, I could not contain myself. There seems to be little good will amongst the posters on this site. Just one more place for angry people to throw rocks at the biggest kid on the block.

    These two posts remind me of the comments of many europeans after 9/11 when they said that the US would not be victim of terrorism if our middle east policy was different. That was BS and these two posts are BS.

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    It’s not partisanship Tom. I take no pleasure in the persecution of the EP and I will defend the Patriarchate against Turkish aggression any way I can. Wasn’t this latest round of persecution brought to your attention (and many others) by a posting on AOI?

    My point, which ought not to be construed as not defending the Patriarchate is this: If the Ecumenical Patriarchate would embrace his role as moral leader of the Orthodox Christians of the world (the true definition of primacy) instead of chief ethnarch, international support for the Patriarchate would grow. This is indisputable.

    If the current program is followed however, and we continue to see the energy and resources of the Ecumenical Patriarch and also the GOA directed to the furthering the interests of the Greek state, the feting of Greek politicos at the expense of a clear moral witness to the rest of American society and the like, the moral stature of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will diminish. This too is indisputable.

    Moral leadership is what the world needs Tom, and it falls to religious leaders to provide it. (Secularists know this even better than we do; that’s why the attempts to marginalize Christianity in the West are so aggressive.) Politicians cannot do it. It falls outside of their purview for this reason: religion, not politics, is the wellspring of culture. Thus, when religious leaders compromise the moral witness they are called to uphold, not only is the Church weakened, so is society in the end.

  5. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Here is an example of moral leadership:

    Pope in Bethlehem endorses Palestinian homeland

  6. Michael Bauman :

    Fr. Hans, how is that moral leadership? Seems more like buying into the PC of the day.

  7. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    Fr. Hans,

    First of all, I don’t see that as moral leadership. Perhaps if the Pope had said, “Stop the suicide bombs, stop the rocket attacks, stop the terrorism and then perhaps there can be a solution” that would moral leadership.

    Secondly, I believe that your comments above (#2) and Andrews (#3) are indeed partisan and at best lack Christian love. You base your criticism on your belief that the EP has subsumed the Gospel to ethnic identity. I realize that in the US there are some instances where parishes and hierarchs seem to place a priority on ethnic identity over the Gospel, and in some isolated cases that may be true. I believe that was your experience in some cases. However, just because you believe the EP has done this, does not make it true.

    Frankly, the abundance of criticism leveled at the EP/GOA on this site from you and others while at the same time there being little or no criticism of the AOCA and the canonical mess that Met. Philip has created all because he wants to maintain his influence and continue the flow of money to Antioch, is proof of the partisan nature of the criticism.

    I realize that many in the OCA and AOCA have problems with the EP and GOA for a number of perceived and perhaps real reasons. However, I would have thought that people who profess to have such concern for the well being of the Church would still have compassion on the suffering of a “martyred Church”.

    What clear moral witness would you expect to see from the EP that has not been shown? Does merely meeting with the president (no matter how morally reprehensible many of his the presidents positions are) constitute a lack of moral leadership? Should the Abp and the EP not have met with President Bush because he supported capital punishment, something which should also be abhorrent to Orthodox Christians as much as abortion and stem cell research?

    The institution of the EP and the few remaining faithful are suffering at the hands of the Turkish State. It is not their own fault, as some seem to imply by their posts. And even if some of the accusations are true, do the EP’s mistakes or shortcomings negate the Good works and do they give us a right as fellow Orthodox Christians to sit back and say “Well, you know, if you had done a better job on the issues I think are important we would support your plight more than we do”?

    Do we write of the great works of Martin Luther King Jr. because he was a womanizer and adulterer? Do we ignore the great works of Pope John Paul II because he lived in expensive surroundings? Do we pooh pooh the great works of Solzynitzin because many believe he was anti-Semitic and some believe he was a KGB informant?

    So why are so quick to write off the EP because we don’t like the way he is handling the situation of the Church in the US. Because lets be honest, that is the biggest complaint against the EP. If the EP were promoting an autocephalous American Church, we would hear very little of this criticism.

    It really makes me question the motives of critics when they criticize nearly every move the GOA and the EP make. I notice there is very little criticism of the fact that 70% of the budget for National Campus ministry comes from the GOA. Similar numbers hold true for IOCC and OCMC. All three of which are outreach to all Orthodox and even non Orthodox. Not bad for a group that only cares about perpetuating ethnic identity.

  8. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Note #6. Michael, I knew posting that comment would get me into trouble :). It’s not a point I am prepared to give a lot of time to, and I can understand why others would disagree. I am just going to let this one go.

  9. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Tom, I don’t equate criticism of the Patriarchal agenda as outlined by Fr. Elpidophoros with abandonment of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The ideas Fr. Elpidophoros expressed, if implemented, have tremendous ramifications for the American Orthodox Church that will touch every believer in any number of ways. Further, some of those ideas employ a very questionable historical analysis. If such leaders as Metropolitan Alexi, Metropolitan Philip, and Metropolitan Jonah have raised questions about them, why shouldn’t they be discussed?

    As for moral leadership, I would like to see the EP (and by extension the GOA) start talking a more vigorous stand on social issues. I am beating a dead horse here, but again, it seems like the coddling of Greek politicos is more important than clear moral leadership on some very crucial moral issues in American society.

    The EP could take the lead here. Greece is on a course of demographic suicide. It has a negative growth rate and the highest abortion rate of any nation in Europe. Where is the religious leadership decrying the practice — even on practical grounds?

    So why are so quick to write off the EP because we don’t like the way he is handling the situation of the Church in the US. Because lets be honest, that is the biggest complaint against the EP. If the EP were promoting an autocephalous American Church, we would hear very little of this criticism.

    No one is “writing off” the EP, Tom. I am saying, as many others are, that if he continues on the road of “Chief Ethnarch” (remember, the rationale was laid out by Fr. Elpidophoros), his moral standing in the world will diminish. If he recognizes his role of primacy in moral, rather than ethnic terms however, the Orthodox world would embrace him even more.

    Now maybe I am misunderstanding this. I don’t think so but maybe I am. In that case, recourse to history, the canons, even the current policies and practices of churches under the EP among other things, are even more needful. And I don’t see why this approach should be construed as a threat to the honor and standing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Finally, your sentence: “If the EP were promoting an autocephalous American Church, we would hear very little of this criticism” is true. But the current crisis (and it will probably develop into that) was put into play not by the critics, but by Fr. Elpidophoros as the legate of the Ecumenical Patriarch in his speech at Holy Cross. But you can’t unring the bell, and it is too bad that the goals of the EP were not expressed in a more judicious and conciliatory manner.

    Look what it has spawned Tom: three conferences this summer alone on Orthodox unity. This horse has left the barn, and largely by the efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself. It rang the bell.

  10. To Andrew

    In fairness to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its primates and Bishops have suffered, and continue to suffer.

    The present Patriarch has done both good and bad. The bad consists of the divisions he has contributed in Orthodoxy with such acts as ordering the forcible removal of the Monks of Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos, the disputes with the Patriarch of Moscow, and the divisions within the Church in America.

    On the other hand, through his increasing visibility he does serve the Church by being a visible representative of the Church. His book Encountering the Mystery was a very good introduction to Orthodoxy for non-Orthodox.

    The Patriarch has been the target of six assassination attempts which include bombings at the Patriarchate, and his forced appearance in a Turkish court several years ago owing to his appearance at a Bulgarian Church in Turkey.

    I have been glad to see him most recently taking a more critical stance against the Turkish government. While it does not seem he has been outspoken as the late Pope was against the Communists, the Patriarch has made some criticisms and this is why fanatics have attempted to kill him.

    Theodoros

  11. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    Fr. Hans,

    “The ideas Fr. Elpidophoros expressed, if implemented, have tremendous ramifications for the American Orthodox Church that will touch every believer in any number of ways.”

    What are the ways it will touch every believer?

    “Finally, your sentence: “If the EP were promoting an autocephalous American Church, we would hear very little of this criticism” is true.”

    How sad is that. If the EP were handling things the way we would like him to, we would overlook all of the other (supposed) short comings. Father, do you not see the hypocrisy in that.

    It is all about perception. And therein lies the partisanship. You have your opinions as to the motivation and actions of the EP/GOA and I have mine.

    “Greece is on a course of demographic suicide. It has a negative growth rate and the highest abortion rate of any nation in Europe. Where is the religious leadership decrying the practice — even on practical grounds?”

    First of all, I am not quite sure what that has to do with the EP, but let me answer by saying do you know for a fact that the church leadership in Greece is not speaking out against this. It is my understanding from family there that it is.

    Additionally, your statistics regarding Greece having the highest abortion rate in Europe are incorrect. Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria all have higher abortion rates as do a number of non traditionally Orthodox countries.

    The Chief Ethnarch accusation rings hollow as well especially when we see how the UOC and ACROD function under the EP without any problem. Fr. Elpidophoros suggestion that the logical place fro unity is under the omophorion of the EP is right on target and that is what upsets the OCA and AOCA. They know that the EP/GOA are the only ones with the resources and ability to lead a unity movement. I only wish we would take the issue by the horns more agreessively and run with it.

    There could be 50 unity conferences this summer and it would not result in unity. Met. Philip will not join with the OCA. He won’t take the step. Grandstanding is one thing, actually doing something is quite another. NOTHING is stopping the AOCA and the OCA from uniting and leaving the EP/GOA in their dust. But we both know that willnot happen for two reasons:

    1. Met. Philip is loyal to Antioch and will not break, especially when he can continue to blame the EP/GOA for the lack of unity.

    2. They need the resources and organization of the EP/GOA but they don’t want what they see as baggage.

  12. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    How sad is that. If the EP were handling things the way we would like him to, we would overlook all of the other (supposed) short comings. Father, do you not see the hypocrisy in that.

    No, I really don’t. And it is not because I am somehow against the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I’m not. In fact, I recognize the universal character of Hellenistic ideals, I understand how Hellenism has shaped Christianity (Pope Benedict articulated this brilliantly in his Regensburg Address), I even see the Hellenistic ideals expressed in the American Founding. I also accept the universal primacy of Constantinople, and have defended this on numerous occasions.

    What I don’t accept is the conflation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the ostensible preservation of the Hellenistic ideals and Hellenic self identity that arises in some quarters of the Orthodox world. This, in my opinion (and not only mine), channels the work of the Church into narrow political interests, the examples of which I have recited numerous times.

    My words are not alarmist. Read these words by Christos Yannaras to see what I mean: Renowned Scholar Christos Yannaras Lectures during his Visit to New York. I like a lot of what Dr. Yannaras writes, by the way. I’ve read his “The Freedom of Morality” through five or six times. Yannaras warns against the subsuming of the Hellenic ideals to the interests of the Greek state, and correctly so. I’m not sure it is avoidable however.

    However, when the Gospel is conflated with Hellenism (which is what Fr. Elpidophoros came to Boston to argue), the stakes rise considerably. Does the Hellenistic character define the content of the Gospel? Is Hellenism the cradle which holds it? Is being a Hellene synonymous with being a Christian? As I read Fr. Elpidophoros, the answer is yes. I’m not so sure.

    So yes, “If the EP were handling things the way we would like him to, we would overlook all of the other (supposed) short comings.” But that we don’t does not necessarily indicate hypocrisy on my end. Instead, I worry about American Orthodoxy being subsumed to the interests of Hellenism as it currently defined by Fr. Elpidophoros, that is, in terms that can only be defined as nationalist. If that happens the American Church will, by necessity and inevitability, end up serving the interests of the Greek state. Yes, I understand that in theory the conflation of Hellenism and the Gospel is not nationalist. The actual practice however, is something different, hence the criticism of the White House visit, the silence of pressing moral issues, and all the other complaints I’ve listed that reveal just the opposite.

    This not to say that any of us are without sin. But no one else, as far as I know, is making the sweeping claims we hear from the Hellenic side of the aisle. Further, the appellation “Chief Ethnarch” isn’t meant as a pejorative. It makes sense if the conflation between the Gospel and Hellenism is indeed real. Then too, promoting the Hellenistic ideals would indeed be moral leadership. If the conflation is illegitimate however, then the dichotomy between and “Chief Ethnarch” and other functional titles appears and nothing can reconcile it.

  13. George Michalopulos :

    Tom, here’s how “these ideas, if implemented will impact every believer”: The subsuming of the Christian message to any old world ethnicity/nostalgia programs will leave us all in the dust. There is no way that thousands of people (much less millions) are going to join Orthodoxy if it means kowtowing to foreign leadership and mindset. I’ve used the phrase “byzantine nostalgia society,” and I’ll stand by it. (You can substitute Serbian/Tsarist/Arab/etc/ nostalgia society if you want.)

    The Christian Church originated in Judea but it is universal because it’s Founder was the Second Person of the Trinity, that is part of the Godhead Himself. It’s so easy for many of us to overlook this simple fact, to get drawn up in canonical/jurisdictional/typikon/etc. wars. Unless there is repentance on the hierarchical level (and I saw an example of that 48 hrs ago in a nearby city btw a GOA hiararch and OCA hierarchs) then any unity will be a forced unity completely devoid of love. Kind of like Ferrara-Florence II: the mass of American Orthodox simply won’t stand for it.

  14. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    Fr. Hans,

    “What I don’t accept is the conflation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the ostensible preservation of the Hellenistic ideals and Hellenic self identity that arises in some quarters of the Orthodox world.”

    I guess I just do not agree that your premise is actually happening either at the EP or as a esult if their actions. As a result, I do not think we will ever agree on this issue.

    Again I ask what tremendous ramifications will each of us feel if Fr. Elpidophoros’s ideas are implemented?

    I just do not see the sinister plot in Fr. Elpidophoros’ speech and no one has pointed out any tangible problems. Oh we have heard that Canon 28 is being misinterpreted ad nauseum, but each side has it’s own opinion on that and honesty each side has a horse in the race so they have incentive to “spin” it the way they wish. We’ve also heard accusations of rampant Greek nationalism in the speech, but frankly it is just not there. In fact, he has given a more pragmatic approah to the Greek language in worsship and parish life than I have heard from some hierarchs and priests. i really think that the comments about Mets Jona and Philip are the burr under the saddle for most people on this site. I don’t see those comments as much of a problem because I think the comments are essentially accurate.

    “If the EP were handling things the way we would like him to, we would overlook all of the other (supposed) short comings.”

    The reason I think this is hypocritical is that what you are saying by agreeing to this is that all the other supposed shortcomings of the EP (being an ecumaniac, being more concerned with national issues than the Gospel, not speaking out enough on moral issues etc) would not really be an issue if only the EP saw the governance issue OUR WAY.

  15. George Michalopulos :

    BTW, I just read the article about Yannaras. Thanks for the link. Stupendous. A true Hellene. I’m glad to see there’s someone else out there who looks with dismay upon our debased chant and architecture here in America.

  16. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Again I ask what tremendous ramifications will each of us feel if Fr. Elpidophoros’s ideas are implemented?

    The effort of the Church to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is understood and comprehended in our Orthodox faith to the American nation will be muted, most likely subsumed to promoting the political interests of the Greek omogenia.

    Oh we have heard that Canon 28 is being misinterpreted ad nauseum, but each side has it’s own opinion on that and honesty each side has a horse in the race so they have incentive to “spin” it the way they wish.

    You dismiss it too hastily Tom. The reading of Canon 28 is one of the foundation stones on which the claim of jurisdictional supremacy rests. That’s why it is receiving the attention that it does, and why such leaders as Patriarch Alexi, Mets. Philip and Jonah, and others including notable scholars in the field address it. It’s not a matter of “spin.” It’s a matter of clarifying the historical record.

    The reason I think this is hypocritical is that what you are saying by agreeing to this is that all the other supposed shortcomings of the EP (being an ecumaniac, being more concerned with national issues than the Gospel, not speaking out enough on moral issues etc) would not really be an issue if only the EP saw the governance issue OUR WAY.

    No, that is not what I mean. My position is that the policies we see are the natural outgrowth of the conflation of the Gospel and Hellenism. If the conflation did not exist, the policies would inevitably be different and thus the need for this type of criticism would not exist.

    I am also convinced that if the Ecumenical Patriarch adopted stronger moral leadership, his support would grow, and the Hellenic ideals that he seeks to preserve (which, I believe, need to be preserved, and the preservation of which could also contribute to the moral renewal of America society) would stand a much greater chance of preservation.

  17. George Michalopulos :

    Excellent analysis Fr. The sine qua non of any claim to leadership (I know: broken record here) is pastoral care based on love, servanthood, and fidelity to the Gospel. From this true moral authority flows. Pope John Paul II had it and Benedict XVI have it. Martin Luther King had it (even though he was a moral transgressor). Even non-Christians had it: Gandhi and the Dalai Lama for example. Playing canon roulette and stating things like “the First Throne of Orthodoxy” or “Chief Archpastor,” or “Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne” don’t cut it (even if they are true). People see right through such grandiosity and are rightly turned off by it. Even the immediate predecessors of the present EP –and their exarchs–never (or extremely rarely) used such high-handed language.

    Be moral, leave off the homogenia stuff, stop carrying water for foreign governments, care for the “diaspora,” address the eternal issues, and real prestige will follow.

  18. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    Fr. Hans,

    Re: #16

    “The effort of the Church to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is understood and comprehended in our Orthodox faith to the American nation will be muted, most likely subsumed to promoting the political interests of the Greek omogenia.”

    I believe that this concern is speculative at best and is not borne out by the facts. Especially when one looks at the other groups (UOC and ACROD) which are under the EP in the US. There is absolutely no reason to believe that it would be any different if all the Orthodox were united under the omophorion of the EP. There is nothing in Fr. Elpidophoros comments which indicate anything to the contrary.

    As someone else mentioned (I forget who) I think it would be better in the US if the UOC and ACROD hiererachs were also on the eparchial synod and I hope this will some day be a fact. That would be an even better model for a unified Church under the omophorion of the EP.

    Sadly, I think comments such as yours above, create unwarranted fear (in some cases that is not intended, but in others it is intended).

    On a second note, I don’t dismiss the discussion of canon 28 too easily. I merely accept the reality that hierarchs and theologians are on both sides of the issue. If these QUALIFIED individuals are not in agreement with the interpretation, then clearly it is not a done deal. I have seen no one on this site better qualified to decide and thus we end up with each side spinning it their way. Just as some accuse the EP of having a vested interest in their interpretation, likewise the OCA, AOCA and MP all have a vested interest in their own interpretation.

    I think, in general, many on this site are too quick to assign motives based upon their own agendas and opinions. Perhaps I have occasionally done the same. This makes everyone more willing to vilify the “other side”. Very sad.

    “I am also convinced that if the Ecumenical Patriarch adopted stronger moral leadership, his support would grow, and the Hellenic ideals that he seeks to preserve (which, I believe, need to be preserved, and the preservation of which could also contribute to the moral renewal of America society) would stand a much greater chance of preservation.”

    I do not think this would be the case. I believe in a fairly substantial portion of the OCA and AOCA there is resentment towards the EP/GOA for many reasons, (some perhaps valid but most not valid) that would not vanish. I think this is evidenced by the fact that on this site (and others like it) EVERYTHING the EP does is criticised or interpreteted through filters whuich question the motives. I think, years ago when the EP was weaker and did not exhibit such a high profile in the world, there was no need for such animosity and concern. Now, the more exposure the EP has, the more the critics attack every little thing.

  19. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I do not think this would be the case. I believe in a fairly substantial portion of the OCA and AOCA there is resentment towards the EP/GOA for many reasons, (some perhaps valid but most not valid) that would not vanish. I think this is evidenced by the fact that on this site (and others like it) EVERYTHING the EP does is criticized or interpreted through filters which question the motives.

    This is too easy an explanation Tom. It doesn’t address the issues raised by Fr. Elpidophoros, i.e.: Canon 28, the conflation of the Gospel and Hellenism — all the issues we have discussed. I am not arguing that no people have resentment. Some people probably do. It is also probably true that people of resentment exist on both sides.

    But I don’t think this point is particularly relevant to the discussion. Nor do I think that because some people argue both sides of Canon 28 (although I think it is fair to say that the new interpretation is less compelling than the traditional one), that the historical record is murky. I’m not so sure it is.

    I don’t think these arguments are going to go away. I can respect your position (and I do respect it), but I think the alarm generated by Fr. Elpidophoros’s talk is stronger than you might believe. That was my point about three conferences on Orthodox unity being held this summer alone. I mentioned them not to score a polemical point, but to show that a shift has occurred in the culture of American Orthodoxy. Something is simmering, and I think Fr. Elpidophoros’ talk, unwittingly most likely, increased the heat.

  20. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    One other point:

    Just as some accuse the EP of having a vested interest in their interpretation, likewise the OCA, AOCA and MP all have a vested interest in their own interpretation.

    Well, yes, but…

    Everyone has an interest because the different interpretations have different ramifications. American Orthodoxy will be profoundly affected whether it takes the road Fr. Elpidophoros proposed, or whether it unites towards eventual autocephaly or whatever decision is finally hammered out. These ideas about the future of Orthodoxy in America are not neutral. That’s why they need to be discussed.

    Again, it’s the way we Americans do things. Talk is loud and raucous, especially about things we hold important, but once the decision is made we settle in. And this is a cultural characteristic Fr. Elpidophoros’ did not understand, which is why so many people took offense as the heavy-handed tone he took. Speaking in terms of tactical persuasion alone, the talk was a blunder. It obviously was meant to close the question of autocephaly, when in fact it opened it even wider. Ironically, the bare revelation of Constantinople’s interest brought the other interests into sharper focus. So let the debates continue. It’s the American way. We’ll sort it out.

  21. George Michalopulos :

    Fr bless,

    As for the road that Orthodoxy will take should Lambrianides’ vision prevail, I know where it leads: to extinction. Again, the phrase “Byzantine Nostalgia Society” is not mockery nor excessive in my opinion. It’s essentially no different than a Renaissance Fair. That’s why I took the time to respond to it as I did several weeks ago.

  22. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    Fr. Hans,

    I guess we are going to have to disagree on this one. I just do not see the things you see in Fr. Elpidophoros speech. In fact in so many ways I see the exact opposite of the so called confluence of Orthodoxy and Hellenism. I guess everybody sees things through the filter of their own opinions and experiences. How the canon is interpreted, whether the GOA is more concerned with Hellenism than the Gospel, what is the best path to unity in the US. We clearly will not agree.

    I do know one thing for certain, if we do not find some way to constructively address these issues but rather continue to use tactics of attack and criticism, then we will never see unity in the US.

    People fear what they don’t know and I believe that there is a great deal of lack of knowledge by many posters here about what really goes on in the EP/GOA parishes. They see superficial things (like a meeting with the president on March 25) and then they also hear things from sources which are not always reliable or knowledgable themselves (often former GOA faithful who have their own agenda). This creates a certain expectation among them. Then they hear a speech that has some things in it they find (or are told are) disagreeable and it sort of takes on a life of its own from there.

    Many people are all too willing to post things about which they have little or no actual knowledge. Let me give you an example. A few days ago, George Michalopoulos wrote a post (#138 in a thread entitled “Met. Jonah to old world bishops…”) in which he stated the following:

    “I’ll be glad to provide you some context: In most OCA/ROCOR parishes, the ratio of Vespers attendees to Liturgy attendees is 1:3 or 1:2. Also, I see a higher percentage of people showing up before the Gospel rather than after the Great Entrance (i.e. just in time for Communion). I don’t want to make this a comparison game, just trying to point out some irregularities in your arguments.”

    I remember thinking to myself “hmmm, and George knows this because…..he has visited most of OCAs 650 parishes and ROCORs 150 parishes?”

    You see, comments like this are intended to leave an impression in the context of a larger discussion. Now unless OCA and ROCOR keep statistics such as these which can verify the comment (and I doubt they do as they are not on their website) then the comment is really quite silly and of no real value. But, as I said before, it does leave an impression in the context of a larger discussion. Then George had the nerve to accuse the GOA of making up its account of Abp Dimitrios meeting with the ROCOR synod becasue it was different from what was written on ROCORs webdsite, not contradictory mind you, just different.

    Instead of people looking for themselves beyond the sound bytes and editorials of people (some more accurate than others) to see what is really going on, they believe what they are told and take it at that. I cannot do that. Either from the GOA or from those posting here. If I believed for a minute that the fears some put forth regarding Fr. Elpidophors comments were real, I would be right beside you. But they are not. If I believed for a minute that the GOA was more concerned about Hellenism than the Gospel I would be right beside you, but they are not.

    Just look at the GOA budgets (budgets which I might add are much easier to find than for the OCA or AOCA, how’s that for transparency) and see the resources dedicated to Youth Ministry, Religious Education, Marriage and Family, Outreach and Evangelism, Communications etc compared to what is dedicated to Greek education.

    So Father, fogive me if I do not see the comments Fr. Elpidophoros makes to be so frightening or if I do not accept that the GOA places more emphasis on Hellenism than the Gospel. I respect you and your commitment to the Faith a great deal. I respect your opinions on a variety of matters and agree with them on most. But in this case, I think you are perhaps adding to unsubstantiated fears. Of one thing I am certain, I believe that your motives are sincere and that your only prayer is for what is good for the Church and Her faithful and what will help us bring the Gospel to as many people as possible. I am not certain that this is the case for everyone.

    Warmest Regards,

    Tom K

    PS: What was the name of that book we spoke about tyhe other day regarding organizing ones self (see how much I need it).

  23. George Michalopulos :

    Tom,

    Christ is risen. No, I haven’t been to anywhere near that number of parishes. It’s 98% anecdotal. A lot of it is second and third-hand, from people who e-mail me. I can say that I’ve been to way more GOA parishes about 50% in my life, and –again, this is a random sampling–attendance at Vespers is spotty. A lot cities I’ve been to, don’t even have Vespers. Again, that’s not all, I never said that, it’s just a stereotype, based on a random sampling.

    There are lots of stereotypes about the different jurisdictions. For example in OCA, I’ve heard that it’s mandatory for women to wear scarves, that Confession in ROCOR is mandatory before EACH Communion, etc.

    I know you think I have an agenda. I don’t, or rather, I do: true administrative unity, but one based on love and fidelity to the truth, not to any ethnic agenda (save American, that’s canonical as we are in America). The reason I’ve been unduly harsh on bishops like +Demetrius is because White House stunts diminish the perception of our faith. If +Jonah did the same thing, I’d be disappointed as well. As a Greek-American, I’ve always felt that it was incumbent upon us to spearhead the drive to unity and evangelism. Greek-speaking people did it in the Middle Ages, I don’t see why we can’t do it again.

    Read Lambrianides’ speech again. Carefully. See if you see anything in there about creating a Local Church, one that is American and that will outreach to Americans. Instead, all we get is Byzantine nostalgia, and historical half-truths.

    And don’t think I haven’t put my intellectual money where my mouth is: I’ve taken the time to draft a comprehensive blueprint for craeting a united American Church which Fr Hans was good enough to publish on this website. It takes into considerall ALL bishops here and gives pride of place to NO jurisdiction. I can’t get any more dispassionate and devoid of an agenda than that.

    in Christ, Geo, a sinner

  24. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Fair enough Tom. I appreciate your candor and irenic tone. Let’s revisit this a few months down the road to see if anything has changed.

  25. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    Thanks Father. I would point out the origin of the word irenic, but that might start a whole new thread. ;)

    PS: The title of the book?

  26. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    It’s called “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. Google “GTD” — lots of stuff on the net, but make sure to get the book. (Allen’s site.)

    Another gizmo I use (very helpful in conjunction with GTD) is http://www.jott.com. Voice to text for email reminders to self (no more endless scraps of papers), voice to google calendar for appointments, voice to http://www.xpenser.com to track expenses and mileage, etc. etc. — all through a phone call. I have jott hot-keyed on my Blackberry. Very simple. $3 or so a month. Definitely worth it.

    Anyone wondering what I am talking about: There are two ways to organize: top-down, or bottom-up. Top-down (Covey and company — start with goals and work down) never worked for me. Bottom-up (Allen and company — clean the clutter and free you mind for more creative stuff) works for me, and many others it seems. Lots to say here but Allen’s promise was that if you adopt (and adapt) his system, the constant psychological pressure of “open loops” (remembering unfinished tasks) would lift opening up new avenues of creativity, etc. Goals would emerge from that. Well, it works for me. Plus I get of ton more stuff done.

  27. Tom Kanelos :

    Truly He is Risen!

    George,

    I have read Fr. Elpidophoros speech again, and my opinion is unchanged. I think he is right on target. I think your assesment that all it contains is byzantine nostalgia and historical half truths is at best simply a false statement.

    While I have posted in the past that the EP/GOA has perhaps not done enough to lead towards unity in the US, I think the EP is doing its best to do so now.

    Jurisdictional disunty has not prevented any jurisdiction from placing more emphasis on evangelism. This lack of effort is a separate issue and is indeed a failure.

    However, I am happy to see that you finaly realize that your critricism of some hierarchs (such as Abp Demetrios) is unduly offered.

  28. George Michalopulos :

    Well, Tom, I guess if you feel that the EP is now acting in good faith, that is, that he truly wants an autocephalous, administratively united American Church, then I welcome his contribution to the debate. I won’t even ask why he put the kybosh on it 15 years ago because that would be ungracious of me.

    I’d like to ask you a question specifically about Lambrianides’ critique of the GOA: do you agree with him that it’s become too westernized (choirs with robes, organs, priests wearing Roman collars, etc.) Do you also agree with his harsh assessment of the Athonite monasteries? Do you also agree with him that too many of the parish priests in general are married? These are specific criticisms of his and I’d like direct answers from those who think his speech was the cat’s meow.

    Just so you know here are my responses to his critiques:

    1. Yes, I agree with him: I don’t particularly like choirs with robes and organs.

    2. I prefer priests in cassocks (although I’m not too hopped up one way or the other).

    3. I completely disagree with his anti-Athonite views.

    4. No I disagree with him: I think parish priests should be married. All things being equal, it is unconscionable to place a celibate man in a parish setting, as it could play havoc with his own salvation. (This actually is the traditional Orthodox view btw.)

  29. Dean Calvert :

    Dear Tom,

    Christos Anesti!!!

    Re:I have read Fr. Elpidophoros speech again, and my opinion is unchanged. I think he is right on target.

    I’m wondering if you are using the Greek version of the speech, or if you are just reading it upside down…

    Try reading left to right…top to bottom.

    It will make a big difference.

    Best Regards,
    Dean

  30. Tom Kanelos :

    Alithos Anesti!

    Dear Dean,

    Don’t give up your day job.

    Warmest regards,
    Tom K

  31. Tom Kanelos :

    Christ is Risen!

    George,

    First let me correct your reference to what I said (as I usually have to do). I did not say that the EP “wants an autocephalous, administratively united American Church” I said “in the past that the EP/GOA has perhaps not done enough to lead towards unity in the US, I think the EP is doing its best to do so now.” That being said, your question about putting the kibosh on it 15 years ago is not ungracious just inaccurate and irrelevant.

    That being said I will address your questions.

    1. I like good, a Capella choirs more so than chanters. It is my preference. I do not like organ music in the church nor do I like those little organ like instruments that keep a note for the chanter (I believe it is called the eeson note).

    2. I prefer that priests wear a cassock (anderi) and a beard. I think an Orthodox priest should dress like an Orthodox priest. Does the robe and beard make the priest? Of course not and I know MANY good priests who wear roman collars and are clean-shaven. The problem is WHY many priests started dressing that way years ago. They did so because they wanted to fit in, they did not want to be different. That is not a good reason.

    3. One of the biggest problems we have in the US is that for too long, the Church only existed in a partial form I the US. The presence of monasteries was sorely absent in the GOA and some other jurisdictions. Sadly, this was largely due to the late Abp Iakovos (whom I knew well and loved a great deal). This was perhaps one of his biggest mistakes in his 37-year tenure. That being said, I don’t believe Fr. Elpidophoros views were anti Athonite. He commented on some monasteries in the US with certain peculiarities. I have been to several of the Fr. Ephraim monasteries and some places I found peace, spirituality and love while in others I felt what I considered to be a strange type of mind control aura. Not all monasteries are the same and I don’t believe that there was a blanket anti-Athonite view put forth.

    4. Again, as I so often have to do, I must correct your reference. Fr. did not say “too many of the parish priests in general are married? What he said was “It is particularly saddening that the crisis in priestly vocation has decreased dramatically the number but also the quality of celibate priests…” There is a difference between the two statements. Fr. Elpidophoros statement is indeed true.

    Here is one more answer to a question you did not ask:

    5. I think it was a mistake to change the calendar. I don’t believe one calendar is more sacred than another as tall time is created anyway so it really does not matter. What is wrong, largely because of Pat. Meletios Metaxakis, we do no0t all celebrate the feast days together. That is sad and should not have been done unless the whole Church agreed.

  32. George Michalopulos :

    Tom, I appreciate you answering my questions. First of all, I pretty much agree with you on issue #2. As for #1, a a capella choirs and cantors pretty much go hand-in-hand. They’re not game-changers for me. As for #3, his speech spoke against “monasteries of an Athonite” presence and used the word “ultraconservative” to describe them so, I can’t let you off the hook on this one. Lambrianides’s speech did not allow for such nuances. (I do wholeheartedly agree with you about them and how salutary they are to American Orthodoxy however.)

    However, let us be honest. My first point stands, and that’s what’s really criminal: the EP does not want a united, autocephalous church. It’s OK for Albania, and even autonomy is OK for Estonia, but the USofA, that’s where the money is.

    Now, let me tell you why I asked those questions: because the Phanar doesn’t care one way or the other about them either. All it wants is to make sure that the GOA never becomes part of an autocephalous American church. And it will never do anything to rock that boat. Consider, where was the Phanar all these years when things were going down- hill liturgically-wise in the GOA? And now that the monastic movement is taking off, why is it pouring cold water over it? Am I overstating the case? I’ve seen priests and even bishops cower like schoolgirls before the secularists elements in the typical GOA parish. (Let’s leave aside the fact that more than a few bishops have thrown priests under the bus in order to placate these same secularists.)

    I like to cut through the BS, and 95% of those things that I find distasteful about Orthodoxy in America (organs, pews, worldly priests, anti-monasticism) are found overwhelmingly in the GOA, not the OCA/ROCOR. I know, +Philip also disparages them as well, the difference is that he’s losing control of his jurisdiction and more priests in the AOCA look like traditional Orthodox priests. (Plus, to give credit where it is due, it is only his jurisdiction that has opted out of the NCC.)

    So, when all is said and done, we’re back to where we started from: an unserious (about Orthodopraxy) Phanar deadly serious about only one thing: no united, autocephalous American Orthodox Church. And the tragedy is that the people in the GOA are going to allow it to not happen, and then complain like they always do.

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