Hierarchal Assembly – Dn. Panagiotis Hanley – Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey | June 27, 2010 | HT: Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL)Protodeacon Eric Wheeler’s editorial was mind-boggling and quite surprising. His conclusions and arguments were all over the map and quite inaccurate. That old world mentality, which he spoke of, is what has kept the Orthodox Church throughout the world from becoming a protestant church. Fast food spiritually is what I call it. Get in, get out, and get Jesus! That old world mentality has kept Orthodox Christians throughout the world away from that pit fall; with some exceptions of course, that I am sure my critics shall point out. That old world mentality is what we call Tradition in the Orthodox Church with a capital ‘T’. This is a mindset that has served Orthodoxy well since the Church was founded. It is found in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts, as well as throughout the Holy Scriptures, and is so ancient in fact; it has its roots in Judaism, where Christianity originated from, and then grew in to the True Faith. It is not something to simply be discarded because we are in the United States. That idea, if it can be called that, has always baffled me.
I am not sure if this first meeting of Hierarchs of the Church was historic or not. To be honest I think we should let the Hierarchs do their job, meet, and put their plans into action, before we jump on the pessimistic band-wagon, and declare that after one meeting the “solution” is all wrong, or seems wrong. How ridiculous is that!?! The solution is all Byzantine they say! Well, if that actually were the case, then someone will have to point out what is wrong with that to me. The Byzantine Empire in all actuality was the most successful period in the Church’s entire history! This is a historical fact! There is no debating that point! We could learn a great deal from the Byzantines if we actually studied their history, instead of bashing the Greeks, to include: their society, their culture, their language, and most importantly the Orthodox Faith. Prot. Dn. Eric should also take note of the life of the Church in Russia under the Tsars who followed the Byzantine example, and saw enormous growth in the Church of Russia under their rule. Eventually, their efforts would nurture the growth of the Russian Fathers of the Church who spread Orthodoxy to America in the first place, and began what eventually became, the OCA. But we could not possibly benefit from a Byzantine solution could we?
Prot. Dn. Eric then begins discussing the American Colonists and how we are a ‘can do people’. I agree whole heartedly! The Americans are second to none throughout the world, but the people who fought the American Revolution and the people who spread Orthodoxy in America were in different universes. During the revolutionary period in America, the American colonists that took up the flag of a fledging country against an unjust nation, the people who forged the American Spirit, had advantages that Orthodox immigrants were never even allowed to dream about. Centuries of oppression under Ottoman Turkish rule and later 70 years of Communism suppressed Orthodox immigrants much more than the original American colonists. The suppression is where the difference lays. The connection Prot. Dn. Eric makes in his editorial is tenuous at best. Who we are today, and how Orthodoxy arrived in this country with immigrant pilgrims are two very different things. The mostly Protestant Christian believers who fought the revolution against England in my mind cannot be compared to the Orthodox immigrants who came to settle this country much later on. In many instances the ethnic diversity that Prot. Dn. Eric speaks about has not always been celebrated in this country in such a benevolent manner; as many people erroneously believe. Not that the celebration does not exist, but often times it is romanticized more than it should be. The Jews, Irish, Italians, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and other Latino peoples, as well as others have often had a difficult time in establishing themselves in this country.
Finally, I would close with two particular items. Prot. Dn. Eric speaks about the faculties of our seminaries jumping in a playing a role to prepare documents of canonical roles and so forth. I will say that our seminary faculty members should concentrate more on training young men to be good priests, than involving themselves in this particular matter. The Orthodox Christian Faith is not a democracy; and never has been –regardless of what Americans may want it to be, or to become. The Orthodox Christian Faith is hierarchical and therefore, calls for us, all those who call themselves Orthodox Christians, to be obedient to those we elect and ordain as hierarchs, priests, and deacons. Prot. Dn. Eric’s comment about the OCA hierarchs being ‘finessed’ into the proceedings that took place is simply wrong. Obedience in the Orthodox Faith has always been something, which all the Fathers of the Church, have taken very seriously. To say that one is to be commended for circumventing a directive from one’s hierarch is heretical and simply has no place in the Orthodox Faith. The Holy Scriptures, the Philokalia, and other writings of the Church Fathers all stress the fact that obedience is not a negotiable virtue. When we begin to applaud each other for ‘cutting corners’ and ‘finessing’ our way through our Christian journey in this life I truly fear the road we are starting to travel down. We must always remember it was a single act of disobedience that brought sin and death into the world. If this is the road we are going to take then all the Episcopal meetings and establishment of Autocephalous Churches will become a moot point; because we will have lost what it means to be Orthodox.
I have a responsibility to the Church as a clergyman to carry out my role within the Church. To help ensure that others are able to carry out their roles as well, so that the Church can not only survive but thrive and grow. Christ told the 70 in the Gospel that they should not rejoice over the fact that they had the power to cast out demons, but rather that they should rejoice because their names were inscribed in the Book of Life. (Luke 10: 20) We should not rejoice over meetings or Autocephaly rather as Christ said, we should rejoice over salvation. Perhaps if we focused more on our salvation and spreading the Gospel of CHRIST; problems of jurisdictions and Autocephaly would be easier to handle, just perhaps…