GOA Deacon responds to Dn. Eric Wheeler

Hierarchal Assembly – Dn. Panagiotis Hanley – Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey | June 27, 2010 | HT: Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL)

Dn. Panagiotis Hanley

Dn. Panagiotis Hanley

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…


  1. What Dcn. Pan doesn’t seem to realize is that there is a multitude of faithful Orthodox Christians in American that feel precisely as Protodeacon Eric does. He is expressing what many are thinking.

    This is entirely lost on Dcn. Pan, the GOA hierarchy, and the EP too.

    They no longer know the minds and hearts of their own flock, and are attempting to foist their own intellectually dishonest version of history.

    Yes, the Byzantine experience was excellent for the Church – but what followed has been disastrous. I’m not talking about the fall of Constantinople, I’m talking about the “Universal Hellenism” talk borne out of an attitude of dhimmitude and ethnarchy that the Greek church has not yet freed itself from.

    The GOA still attaches itself to the Greek nation. For those of you still in denial and who still don’t believe it, ask yourself:

    Which national anthem will be played first at the upcoming Clergy Laity Congress – that of Greece or that of OUR nation – the United States of America?

    Actions speak louder than words.

  2. American Housewife :

    “That old world mentality, which he spoke of, is what has kept the Orthodox Church throughout the world from becoming a protestant church.

    “That old world mentality is what we call Tradition in the Orthodox Church with a capital ‘T’.”

    To compare or equate Holy Tradition with “Old World” mentality is patently absurd. What most people are talking about when they say “Old World mentality” (and I believe that this is what Pro. Dn Wheeler is talking about) is Byzantine intrigue, Byzantine quid pro quo, and the all time favorite “pray, pay and obey”.

    Holy tradition has nothing to do with “Old World” mentality. “Old World” mentality has to do with cultural customs that are not American customs. Holy Tradition, the capital “T”, has to do with the whole body of teaching regarding God and Salvation. There are also little “T” traditions which have more to do with cultural customs and expressions of the Faith, which can change over time.

    I do get tired of hearing that the Church will become protestant if it is Americanized. Please show me one church that is filled with primarily American converts that has “protestantized” the Church. I also get tired of hearing that America has no culture except a bad culture.

    • Dn Eric Wheeler :

      I think what we have to recognize (and if you are ueber-Orthodox and have a weak heart, please do not read further) that we Orthodox are no different than the Protestants with their pendulum swing of conservative churches and liberal churches. Difference is, all our flavors are a valid expression of the same Orthodox faith. And, as America has seen a growth of the conservative movement, so too has our Orthodox Churches in America moved closer to a more conservative manifestation of the peripheral elements of our faith. And, unfortunately, some have taken this ultra conservative presentation of our Orthodoxy to be the more perfect way – the more holy way – if my beard is longer, and my hat is taller, I am a better Orthodox Christian.

      While I am not happy that the church I grew up in has been hijacked by the conservative element that has crept into our Orthodox Church, I do believe that the long haired, bearded, cassock waving and hat wearing conservatives are still a valid expression of our Orthodoxy. But, I ask that you not condemn me for the lack of a beard of substance, my preference for one hour-fifteen minute liturgies, the need to have a pew in front of me so I can sit down when I am bored, my dislike for wearing a dress even though I am ordained and my aversion to hats. I am after all just as Orthodox as you! And, being in America, I have the opportunity to find a parish which does in fact reflect my flavor of Orthodoxy.

      I love the statement of Bishop Kallistos Ware where he states “Christ did not tell us that nothing should never be done for the first time.” As we adapt our faith to that which is good within our American culture, we will do things for the first time – if it is worthy of a blessing, it will last, if not, it will fall away. I honestly do not understand this great fear of (shudder) Americanizing our Orthodox faith. If we do not strive to adapt our faith to our given culture, we will die a slow death – we will become nothing more than a museum relic. And, come on now, by so doing, we are not becoming Protestant — hey, I am as Orthodox as apple pie — oops!

      Our family had the opportunity to get to know Matushka Elizabeth Ozolin during the time she was painting the frescos at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Over dinner one evening she told us of a heated discussion she had with Leonid Ouspensky. It seemed that Matushka used the method of mixing egg tempra paint with acrylics when painting the frescoes at St. Vladimir’s. When she explained this to Ouspensky, he admonished her for not following proper tradition of using only egg tempra. With her fiery spirit she shot back “If the early masters had acrylic paint available to them, they would have used it!”

      Point is our culture today avails us many opportunities that were just not available or accessible to our Church in years past as we seek to firmly plant our Faith in America. Let us not be afraid to do things for the first time. In the end, no matter what our views on how to dress, or how long our hair is, or if we have pews in our parishes, or if we are able to pull off a one hour liturgy in the summer, we all partake of the same body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And that, finally, is the only thing that really matters!

      -Deacon Eric

      • Dean Calvert :

        Dear Deacon Eric,

        I was very sorry to read about the passing of your wife…may her memory be eternal.

        Re: “If the early masters had acrylic paint available to them, they would have used it!”

        And St. John Chrysostom and St. Photios would have been on Larry King Live…given half a chance!

        Much of this unwillingness to change, I’m convinced, stems from our lack of knowledge about our history. Let’s face it, for most of us, the Byzantine Empire was covered in about four pages as a footnote to Classical Greek and Roman civilizations.

        That’s a shame, because the environment that our Church grew up in, what i call the Church of the First 15 centuries – was an environment not unlike the modern USA in many many ways. Think about it…there was one superpower on the planet (Rome then, US now), there was a currency accepted the world over (the gold solidus [bezant] then, the US Dollar now), one language was the lingua franca, the citizenry was educated, the country was an economic colossus surrounded by midgets, ethnic diversity was the norm…etc etc.

        That’s why that quote from Matushka Elizabeth caught my eye..she was right on the money. Or, as Met. Philip likes to say, “Our church was not meant to be fossilized in the 10th century.”

        Orthodoxy has followed two grand strategies in it’s 1800 year existence. One, the colonial model, was followed in the Middle East – and led to the loss of the entire area to Islam. The second, the national model, led to the adaptation of Orthodoxy to the cultures of the various peoples of the Balkans and Russia. It may be called the secret weapon of Orthodoxy.

        …and it’s as correct for America today..as it was for Russia 1000 years ago. We should never forget that the same tactics which some have tried here…keeping the faith hidden, married and controlled by one ethnic culture…these were all attempted in Russia 1000 years ago. The result was the Russian Grand Prince throwing the EP’s metropolitan in jail, the writing of this letter (below), and the election of Metropolitan Jonah as the first home grown (Russian) metropolitan.

        “We beseech your Sacred Majesty not to think that what we have done we did out of arrogance, nor to blame us for not writing to our Sovereignty beforehand; we did this from dire necessity, not from pride or arrogance. In all things we hold to the ancient Orthodox faith transmitted to us, and so we shall continue to do until the end of time. And our Russian Church, the holy metropolitanate of Russia, requests and seeks the blessing of the holy, oecumenical, catholic, and apostolic church of St. Sophia, the Wisdom of God, and is obedient to her in all things according to the ancient faith; and our father, the Lord Iona, metropolitan of Kiev and all Russia, likewise requests from her all manner of blessing and union, except for the present recently appeared disagreements.”

        Source: Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth

        Matushka Elizabeth doesn’t know how right she is…the masters would have used acrylics…and the Church Fathers would have been blogmasters!

        While we can and should never forget the roots of our cultures – that make up the tapestry of Orthodoxy in this country…we also have a responsibility to future generations..and without acclimating to America..just like we acclimated to Russia..the church will become as extinct as the dinosaurs on this continent.

        Best Regards,

        • Geo Michalopulos :

          Deacon Eric, I second Dean’s condolences to you: may her memory be eternal.

        • Dean:

          and without acclimating to America..just like we acclimated to Russia..the church will become as extinct as the dinosaurs on this continent.

          What is Orthodoxy without the lives of the Saints?
          It is an Orthodoxy without flame in the heart. An Orthodoxy of the mind. There is way much more room for ascend.

          St. John Maximovitch was officially glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad on July 2, 1994.

          Troparion to St. John Maximovitch

          Glorious Apostle to an age of coldness and unbelief invested with the grace-filled power of the saints of old. Divinely illumined, seer of heavenly mysteries, feeder of orphans and hope of the hopeless. Thou didst enkindle on earth the fire of love for Christ upon the dark eve of the day of judgment. O Holy Hierarch John, pray now that this sacred flame may also rise from our hearts.

          Saint John The Wonderworker


          • Dean Calvert :

            Dear Elliot,

            I didn’t for a moment mean to neglect, exclude or slight the saints – which is why I mentioned St. Photios and St. John Chrysostom in my comment – our job is to 1.) understand them and 2.) emulate them.

            The problem, in my mind, is that most of us have a very poor appreciation of history – which in turn leaves them wide open to a bastardization of that history by people (hierarchs included) with an agenda. they simply have no basis for discerning the truth.

            For example – it was a personal epiphany when I realized, thru the reading of history, that for all the attachment to and emphasis on Greek in this country – our Church, St. Photios in particular, had decided to send Sts Cyril and Methodios to the Slavs in the ninth century. Later, reading about the two brothers’ disputes with the Trilingualists in Rome, I was struck by what this implied…

            Here we are…1000 years later in America…attempting to preserve (at the cost of thousands of souls) the language of the Old Country – when the most brilliant patriarch to ever occupy that throne had settled the issue 1000 years earlier – deciding to send the brothers to Moravia with a new alphabet with the natural result of using the local language…1000 years ago!

            It is part of our responsibility, as Orthodox laity, to learn these things, and, once learning them, insist on a continuation of these practices…whether that means talking to other laity, the local priest, or informing the local bishop or patriarch. It makes absolutely no difference whether the guy wears gym shoes or an episcopal crown.

            And I could not agree more – reading about the lives of the saints is a GREAT place to start!

            BTW – People in this country might want to pay particular attention to St. Raphael of Brooklyn…who was under censure at one time by three of the four of the ancient patriarchates for supporting the return of the Antiochene patriarchal throne to local (ie non Greek) control.

            Best Regards,

      • Deacon Eric:
        When clergymen and pious had to prove their faith in blood, Saint Luke of Simferopol and Crimea went to scientific presentations wearing a cassock. He wore his bishop’s cassock in the operating room, refused to perform surgery without an icon and preached incessantly against the perils of the heretical “Living Church”. The later were promoting short services, changes in clergy vestments, and generally changes of the tradition.

        We have to keep up the standards to prompt people to reach higher. There is no doubt that in a church there are people with different “spiritual levels”. Lowering the standards is not a solution. The quality of education in the US did not improve when using the ‘get a star or a sticker for trying and everybody has to be a winner” strategy.

        People are free to come later or leave earlier (though not recommended to encourage it) to services. To hear that clergy get bored during services is quite disturbing. There are shorter services in the Catholic church, they do not grow out beard neither do they wear hats. Catholic church offers ballet performance for bored people.

        BTW, in heaven, we will sing praise songs along with all the rest of God’s creation ( Revelation 5:13). If we do not learn to enjoy long services here on earth we may not enjoy heaven either.

        St.Luke refused to operate under any circumstances without the Icon of the Mother of God. His results were outstanding. Despite the dangers from the Lenin regime, he fearlessly attended theological discussions arranged by Archpriest Mikhail Andeev. At this time when clergymen and pious would prove their faith in blood, providence led the Archpriest to invite Valentine to the priesthood. For two years, this exceptional individual was active not only in his pastoral work but in public and scientific activity.

        As a Bishop he preached incessantly not only about the need to live Orthodoxy but against the perils of the “Living Church”. The latter was a defiled heretic sect propagated by the communist regime. He is credited with 1250 sermons over thirty-eight years of priesthood and episcopal service, of which 750 were preserved in twelve volumes. When he practiced surgery from this point on he wore his bishop’s cassock in the operating room and refused to perform surgery without an icon.

        This period of time was extremely difficult for the Russian Orthodox Church, as they were constantly being assulted from the right (zealots and schismatics) and from the left (the atheist government and their heretical “Living Church”). Because of St. Luke’s confessions of faith (and despite his immense medical and scientific achievements), he was imprisoned, tortured, and exiled for 11 years in total, to Siberia, and other treacherous locales. Besides persecution from the government, he had to deal with heretics from the “Living Church” who masqueraded as Orthodoxy and drew people away from the Church, and schismatic individuals who also caused unneeded harm in those turbulent years.

      • Scott Pennington :

        Dn. Eric,

        Respectfully I have to take issue with much of what you wrote above.

        While I agree with you that we are no different than the Protestants regarding liberal and conservative “expressions” of our faith, I would also add that the liberal expressions in Protestantism are not only not Protestant but not Christian. In Orthodoxy, it is not a question of apostasy (usually) but lack of orthopraxis usually does go along with a creeping movement away from Tradition. You quote Bp. Kallistos as saying, “Christ did not tell us that nothing should never be done for the first time.” But this is a red herring. Traditionalists aren’t saying nothing should be done for the first time. Both you and Bp. Kallistos know this. What they are saying is that what we do must be rooted in Tradition and observe its bounds. Bear in mind, this is the same Bp. Kallistos who suggests that we study the possibility of womens ordination, incorporate “Higher Criticism” into our view of the Bible, and who refers to those outside the Church as being “part of the Body of Christ.” He proves my point.

        The whole matter of beards or hair being longer, hats being taller, etc. misses the point. These are inconsequential matters. Pews, the length of services, and clerical dress are not.

        It is sad to see a member of the clergy speak about “pulling off” a liturgy in an hour and fifteen minutes, especially considering that the word liturgy itself means “the work of the people”. Done in a sober, deliberate fashion, St. John Chrysostom’s liturgy should last about 2 hours. It is, in itself, an abbreviation of earlier liturgies. It doesn’t need any further shortening. Racing through the liturgy because you have more important things to do indicates a lack of faith that there is Someone on the other side of the altar to Whom worship is due. Pews inhibit the faithful from traditional orthodox demonstrations of piety. If we have no intention of doing the work of the people in worship, we shouldn’t pretend we are Orthodox.

        “While I am not happy that the church I grew up in has been hijacked by the conservative element that has crept into our Orthodox Church, I do believe that the long haired, bearded, cassock waving and hat wearing conservatives are still a valid expression of our Orthodoxy.”

        How generous of you. In fact, they have a much greater claim than their liberal counterparts to legitimacy. They’re just doing what’s always been done. If you had gone to almost any Orthodox church on earth 100 years ago you would describe it as traditionalist. It’s nothing new and it hasn’t “crept in” anywhere. It is only shocking to those who over the last several generations have learned to equate Orthodoxy with the modernist neo-Orthodoxy that has taken hold in the Western world during the twentieth century.

        “I honestly do not understand this great fear of (shudder) Americanizing our Orthodox faith. If we do not strive to adapt our faith to our given culture, we will die a slow death – we will become nothing more than a museum relic. And, come on now, by so doing, we are not becoming Protestant — hey, I am as Orthodox as apple pie — oops!”

        Actually, if we adapt Orthodoxy to modernism (which is what is usually really meant by “Americanize” – – after all, we’re not talking about women covering their heads with bonnets as was done in earlier eras in America, but about them not covering, which was foreign to most churches in America before the middle of the 20th century), then we will no longer have a Church worth bringing people into since it will not be Orthodox. The whole discipline of the outward demonstratives is as much a part of Orthodoxy as assent to the Creed and feeding the hungry. If it were not, the outward things would have been discarded long, long ago. What Orthodoxy has largely compromised its integrity over is feminism and aping Protestant attitudes – – not becoming more “American”.

        “In the end, no matter what our views on how to dress, or how long our hair is, or if we have pews in our parishes, or if we are able to pull off a one hour liturgy in the summer, we all partake of the same body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And that, finally, is the only thing that really matters!”

        So get rid of those expensive icons, vestiments, ornate Gospel books, censers, and the church buildings themselves. Go to your kitchen table with a bottle of wine and some Wonderbread, recite the words of institution and do “the only thing that really matters.”

        If you wish to discard or dramatically abbreviate the things we do to worship God, what’s the point?


        The heart of the movement to “get back to basics” and discard or reduce outward expressions of piety to God originates from a lack of faith that there is a God who desires our worship. It is a rejection of Orthodoxy, not an “Americanization”.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Deacon Eric, condolences to you on the loss of your wife. May the blessing of the Theotokos be with both of you.

        I am far from being “uber-Orthodox” but I shudder when I see that word in print because what almost always follows is a reductioninst argument for less of everything. I am disappointed that you did exactly that.

        As I said in an earlier post, I’m not happy with the reply to your original statement, but I am not happy with your’s either. I am not bored in Litrugy, I am in physical pain most of the time yet I do not wish to have them shortened. It takes the human mind and heart time to turn away from the world and to enter into the Kingdom; allowing the cynicism and utilitarianism of the world to drop away in order that it might be replaced with reverence. As much as I use them, pews are a nuisance. It is they that lead to a spirit of boredom and the spectator mentality.

        There is a an ‘old world mentality’ that is not appropriate, but just because it is ‘new world’ does not make it improved, or even necessary for us to have our own flavor of genuine Orthodox Christianity.

        • Dn Eric Wheeler :

          I am in no way advocating a reductionism of our Orthodox faith and worship — but what I see is a disconnect between the production of the liturgical service and our daily life. We have inherited a system by which most of the Orthodox world during the past century was under a yoke which allowed them to perfect the liturgical service and not much more. Add to this our colonial understanding of Sunday being the Lord’s day, and we have a separation of our worship from day to day life. The liturgy continues into our coffee hour and into our Monday mornings back at work — it should fill our entire life. While I am the first one to say things must be done in good order, I see an extraordinary amount of energy placed in the rubric, with seekers and newly chrismated wanting to know what the rules are instead of understanding the tremendous freedom of expression in the Orthodox Church within the context of our canons. By becoming a slave to the rubric, our living church will become a lifeless museum relic.

          We call ourselves a missionary church, but we must take a hard look at how we are presenting ourselves within the land we find ourselves in. What may be beautiful and quite normal to us may be an obstacle to some seeking a faith.

          My wife’s funeral was like Pascha — the priests in white, the choir beautiful and the preaching from the heart from my dear brothers and friends. Over half the congregation had stepped into an Orthodox Church for the first time. I expected comments afterwards about the beauty (which did come), but the overall response was — “What’s up with the hats and beards?” I opted for a burial service instead of the Eucharist (which we did the day before for the family on the Feats of the Nativity of John the Baptist) so that the service would be no more than an hour. Another comments was “The last time I was in an Orthodox Church it was a two hour wedding. Thank God this was shorter.” Nothing was left out, but I did tailor the services based upon who I knew would be in the congregation.

          I am not advocating shorter services — I am advocating knowing our potential audience.

          When I first left seminary, I was of the mindset, that if you serve the services in all their fullness, they will come! Well it did work because you will always get the handful of faithful who show up for everything. But, as I got older (I was a choir director for many years and worked very closely with the priest) I found that holding services of reasonable length, brought far more people into the church on a regular basis — weekday celebrations included. Let’s face it, American’s do things at a much faster pace than the rest of the world.

          Point is, emphasis should be on living our liturgy within our entire lives and not just focusing on the liturgical practice on Sunday morning. And, I am rooted enough in my Orthodox Tradition not to become an innovator or reductionist!

          -Deacon Eric

          • I found that holding services of reasonable length, brought far more people into the church on a regular basis — weekday celebrations included. Let’s face it, American’s do things at a much faster pace than the rest of the world.

            Yes, I would agree Father. When I was single, I was one of the handfull. When I got married, and then had young kids, I couldn’t be there every time for hours on end, and when I could, it wasn’t the same because, the family not being there, I wasn’t all there. I also, however, always insisted the children come to Pascha (with a pillow and blanket for when they fell asleep) etc. (my oldest’s first Pascha lasted 5 hours, and yet he stayed up for the entire service).

            As for the American’s being faster, the whole world is faster now that we are on the clock. Time zones and clocks with second hands only came into being during America’s foramative years, but they have had their effect worldwide.

          • Michael Bauman :

            Dn. Eric,

            Thank you for your more complete statement on your views.

            Some questions: Is it not one function of the divine services to re-conform us to living in a different sort of time?

            Should be not be careful in adapting our life to the culture that we are not conformed to it?

            Is not part of the disagreements that occur centered around whether a change is a legitimate adaptation or an illegitmate conformation?

            Is it a wrong thing to offend the prevailing culture?

            The last Orthodox funeral I attended was for a close and dear friend. There were many non-Orthodox in attendance. One gentleman who had never been to an Orthodox service and with two massive hearing aids remarked as we were leaving the temple area: “I couldn’t hear much of what was said, but they DO SOMETHING!”

            People who are caught up in the ‘hats and beards’ in either direction just aren’t paying attention. I don’t give much attention to their opinions.

            Since there are not a few elements of our vestments that are remnants of the Turkish yoke, I would be in favor of some simplification.

            Yet, clerical dress outside the altar has a profound impact on people. It can easily reveal their heart for good or for ill. It is a good thing for Orthodox clergy to be distinctively Orthodox in their attire. Cassocks fill the bill quite admirably, but there could be other forms that would function just as well. The hat’s, well, I’m not so sure, they are modeled after the Turkish fez. Beards are nice if the person has the DNA to grow one.

            My brother, a priest, does have the DNA–his beard is magnificent(nickname in college: The Beard or just Beard), he even manages to pull off the hat. He is profoundly comfortable in who and what he is.

            In addition to being a witness to others, clothing also has an effect on the person wearing it. I was always rather amazed when I was acting how much difference finally getting into the costume of my character meant to my performance. There is a whole way of thought and feeling that comes with clothing that we deny at our peril. All of us need to be quite careful that our dress actually reflects the Church. Clergy need to be especially cognizant.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Dn. Eric,

            First of all, my condolences on the loss of your wife. May her memory be eternal.

            The rest of what you’re saying is really a reiteration of your post above. It is not our “colonial understanding” that Sunday is the Lord’s day. It simply is. No doubt that that should not keep us from practicing Christianity the rest of the week. But that is beside the point.

            Yes, spoiled children like quick services. Yes, you will please those whose attention span has been formed by our MTV culture by having abbreviated services. But you really are doing their souls a disservice.

            Teach them about the meaning of each part of the services and that it is meant to be heaven on earth, and let those who have ears to hear, hear. The reason they prefer 75 minute services to two hour services is that they don’t enjoy or appreciate the service to begin with and thus a shorter sentence is more endurable. If you change their appreciation of the service, time won’t be a big deal.

            What you are in fact advocating is allowing modern American culture to transform the Church. Your priorities are backwards.

            As this culture proceeds down the toilet, there will be more and more Americans open to traditional services and practices. Yes, many of the ethnic Orthodox who are there because they are Greek or Arab or whatever will disparage longer services. They wish to be more “American”; i.e., more spoiled. That’s really not your job. What you’re effectively saying is that no matter how watered down and lazy Americans get, you’re willing to meet them half way in order to preserve market share.

          • Geo Michalopulos :

            Deacon, I hear what you’re saying. I think though that the “slavery to the rubric” is all-too-often an escape into the colonial mindset, that is, to not have to be a missionary church. Having said that, in some jurisdictions, the rubric barely exists so what we wind up with is the worst of both worlds.

            I fervently believe that if we had more bishops, and that they were elected from among the priests within the dioceses, we’d have a more missionary attitude and that this would be reflected in far more orthopraxy than is presently the case.

            As a Greek-American, I can say that one of the great fallacies that we have fallen into in the GOA, is that we think that as long as the Liturgy is done in Greek, then we’re still “traditional” or “conservative.” This has presented a false sense of security, allowing rot to seep in almost every area of Church life. I know I’m painting with a broad brush, but the loss of the rubric is so profound that when I compare the typical GOA liturgy with ROCOR/OCA ones, it’s almost like two different religions, not jurisdictions. (This is why I suspect, that the Athonite monasteries have taken off like gangbusters in the States. Even though their liturgies are exclusively in Greek, the differences in orthopraxia between modernist GOA parishes and them is night and day.)

          • Dn Eric Wheeler :

            Some questions:
            Is it not one function of the divine services to re-conform us to living in a different sort of time?

            Yes, but it is also intended to sanctify all time.

            Should be not be careful in adapting our life to the culture that we are not conformed to it?

            We are not adapting our life to the culture, but rather adapting that which is redeemable in the culture to the Christian way of life. The Christian Church took the pagan feast of the winter solstice and made it its own in the feast of Christmas which is clearly evident in the pre-feast hymnography.

            Is not part of the disagreements that occur centered around whether a change is a legitimate adaptation or an illegitmate conformation?

            That is where time and the wisdom of the church come in. Not all things will last, but if it is to be blessed, and worthy of a blessing it will become part of the life of our Church.

            Is it a wrong thing to offend the prevailing culture?

            We reject that which is not worthy of a blessing and adopt that which is redeemable, but as far as linking the faith with the culture, it has proved to be a failure for the great Byzantine Empire as well as the Russian Empire. I am not a supporter of an American Orthodox Church, but rather an Orthodox Church in the Americas.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Dn. Eric,

            In precisely what sense are putting pews and/or organs in our churches, having women not cover their heads, shortening services (yes, you are advocating this if you talk about “pulling off” an hour and fifteen minute liturgy), etc., “adapting that which is redeemable in the culture to the Christian way of life”? – – especially considering that pewless churches, womens headcovering, etc. are not only the traditional practice but have crossed cultures for many centuries. What you are doing in reality is adapting Orthodoxy to modern American Protestant (and Catholic) practice. There is no need to adopt modernist practices since they conflict with orthopraxis as it has existed internationally for a very long time. Orthodoxy changed the way that the Greeks, Russians, Romanians, Syrians, Palestinians, etc. worshipped.

            It’s nothing more than a rationalization for incoporating heterodox practices which, sooner or later, will affect orthodox belief. The motivations are 1) not wanting to be classified as an old fashioned stick in the mud but as a dynamic innovator (i.e., being loved by the right people) and 2) crass pursuit of market share regardless of the quality of product.

            But, have it your way. If you’re in GOARCH, the bishops wouldn’t tolerate traditional worship anyway.

          • Scott Pennington :

            Dn. Eric,

            Ignore the last paragraph of my post above. From the attitude I sensed you might be in GOARCH but I looked back at your article and see that you are OCA.

          • Dn Eric Wheeler :

            Dear Scott,

            I have often wondered what the Greeks said when word first reached them that the sacred dome of the Byzantine Church now looks like an onion in the barbaric land of Russia.

            And those Russians, lacking any ability to create beauty, invited the Italians to paint their frescoes, compose their music and cover their iconography with metal covers.

            While these were innovations of their day, they became, and are a valid expression of the Russian Church.

            I do not know if you have ever visited Alaska, but the Orthodox Faith, which has existed there for over 200 years, has found a native expression in its worship, music and liturgical customs. There is even an eight tone system of hymnography that is unique to Alaska — again a valid expression of our Orthodox Faith.

            Unfortunately, due to many different historical circumstances, our expression of faith in America has been stuck in an old county redux. We are in no way becoming Protestant by finding and discovering an American expression of our faith in America. I have heard the Cherubic Hymn set to many different melodies, so what (shudder) would be wrong with an Aaron Copland melody?

            While this may be in the extreme, I think that we are already making the transition to an American expression — if you have ever visited any OCA parishes, you will see that the worship is quite different than your tradition Russian of Greek services. And as far as the 1 1/4 hour liturgy, I worship at the chapel of the OCA Chancery — we do not cut anything from the liturgy, the priest preaches for about 15 minutes, we have choir of about 6-8 people that sing everything quite simply and beautifully, the 20 people in attendance all take communion and yes we are done in a reasonable amount of time. While I have always said that the liturgy is part theater, there is no reason that it has to be done in such an elaborate manner if there is no major reason fro celebration or anniversary. I also do not want to reduce the worship to Sunday — Vespers are held before each feast last about 35 minutes, and morning liturgies are held for lesser feast days at 7:00 am.

            I grew up in a church where the “real” liturgy was in Slavonic, and the pro-liturgy (obednitsa) was in English — kinda like Orthodoxy lite for the white boys — all those American guys that married our Russian girls after the war. I get the impression that this is where a number of parishes in the GOA still exists; if it is in English it is OK to look and act Protestant since it is not the real church. Fortunately, the majority of the OCA parishes are light years ahead of where our church was 40 years ago. We are and have been moving towards an American expression — it’s just my opinion and my aggressive nature that we are just not moving fast enough to capture the searching people of this great land.

            And, Scott, if you met me, you would see I am about as Orthodox as they come — I just happen to be a white boy!

            -Deacon Eric

          • Scott Pennington :

            Dn. Eric,

            You wrote:

            “But, I ask that you not condemn me for the lack of a beard of substance, my preference for one hour-fifteen minute liturgies, the need to have a pew in front of me so I can sit down when I am bored, my dislike for wearing a dress even though I am ordained and my aversion to hats.”

            If you are backing away from your previously stated preference for short liturgies, then I’m encouraged.

            As for tones, languages and architecture, I agree totally. I have no objection whatsoever to creating an 8 tone system based on familiar American patterns, or on the Western modes (Ionic, Aeolian, Dorian, etc.). I just think you’re changing the subject. Those things that have largely remained the same throughout the Orthodox cultures over the centuries up until the twentieth should remain as they have been. Innovation away from those common elements is the Protestantization I was referring to.

            An Athonite monk came to visit my old parish a few times. He was having his pacemaker adjusted by a doctor in a nearby city. The first time he visited, the priest was visibly worried about what he would think of the church. Of course we had an iconostasis, but no icons on the walls. We had pews and the genders mixed and there was not a covered female head at any of our services.

            The priest was worried the monk would take one look, think he was in a Protestant church and turn around and leave. Luckily he was quite polite. There were some food issues but that was about it. Of course, I may have missed something since he didn’t speak English.

            Everyone, on some level, knows how far we have fallen. It’s just that they’ve gotten used to it and can’t bear the thought of returning to what they once were.

      • Deacon Eric: What is your wife’s baptismal name?

  3. We could learn a great deal from the Byzantines if we actually studied their history, instead of bashing the Greeks…

    Does Dcn. Pan not know that the Byzantines were not Greeks, but Romans? They called themselves Romans. They spoke Latin and kept their official documents in Latin for hundreds of years?

    Perhaps a little more history – with unhellenized glasses – is in order.

    No one is bashing Greeks, only the attempt to make everyone in Orthodox history ‘Greek,’ past, present, and future, which is ‘intellectually dishonest’ (I’m quoting a Greek priest here) at best, and outright lies about Orthodox Church history at worst.

    • George Michalopulos :

      John, the intellectual laziness of Dn Hanley’s piece is the offspring of the historical ignorance that I am forced to believe is being taught at HC. The overall picture I get is that education there has been reduced to pietistic propaganda + lack of critical analysis. (If anybody can prove me wrong, I will gladly revise my critique.)

  4. This comment from Dcn. Panagiotis is a bold-faced distortion of truth and the actual history of the Christian Church full of saints persecuted many times by heretical bishops.

    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.

    There is no such thing as “blind obedience” in the Orthodox Church. We owe absolute obedience ONLY to Christ, to GOD, and to the Truth, not to a person, regardless of the rank or authority of that hierarch.

    As a matter of fact, the history of the Orthodox Church evidences the exact opposite point that Dcn. Panagiotis made. Many saints were actually persecuted, tortured, and killed for standing against the established hierarchy who supported heretical teachings and distortions of the Christian Traditions. Very surprising that the good deacon doesn’t know this. You can discover this simple truth by listening to just one talk by Fr. Thomas Hopko!

    The Orthodox have always been a minority within a minority; misunderstood, feared, ridiculed, rejected and persecuted by spear or by sneer (as Dostoevsky once put it). This was so in the earliest church, they say, when the Orthodox were a small group within the “Jesus movement” surrounded by gnostics, legalists and fundamentalists of various sorts as witnessed already in the canonical New Testament scriptures.

    This was also true in the “Constantinian” age when Orthodox fathers and saints usually departed this life defeated and dishonored while heretics, apostates and plain evil-doers ruled the Christian empire. It was true in Ottoman times and in Holy Russia, not to mention the Marxist horror. And it is true today. So, some say, things were never really any different than they are now.

    We don’t even have to go that far in the history of the Orthodox Church to have examples of bishops who forsook their allegiance to Christ, persecuted their priests and their flocks, and abused their authority and power for personal gain and in support of their pride. The recent massive OCA financial and spiritual crisis exposed the abuses, corruption, and dereliction of sacramental duties by bishops Herman, Tikhon (retired of the West), and Nikolai?

    Have four years of seminary education not made Dcn. Panagiotis aware of such important facts? Just what exactly does Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary teach its students?

    • George Michalopulos :

      Chris, John, et al, your last question says it best: “What exactly are they teaching at HC?” Probably what we see in The Orthodox Disturber: the Official Party Line. The absence of critical thinking (to say nothing of manifest historical ignorance) in Deacon Hanley’s piece is profoundly disturbing to me. There is no way Orthodoxy is going to go anywhere in this country if this is the level of intellectual rigor that comes out of HC. People naturally run from institutions that possess no credibility.

  5. Frank Dancer :

    These discussions between deacons and frankly even posters need love, humility,and balance.

    What good is a united Church if we cut each other down with words in the process?

  6. Yes, they need Love and Truth.

    But not one without the other.

  7. We do not have to create anew the Church of the Apostles.
    The Orthodox Church is there join and to accept. It is not made with hands or heads by “can do” people. It was created by Christ and sustained by the pillars of the Truth: Saint Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, , St. John the Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. Anthony, Arethas, St. Ephraim the Syrian, St. Isaac the Syrian Saint Mark Evgenikos, Metropolitan of Ephesus, St. Luke Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea the Surgeon and many, many others (please forgive my ignorance).

    All we need to do is to receive the joy of Communion as a gift.

    “Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars. 2. She has killed her beasts; she has mingled her wine in a bowl, and prepared her table. 3. She has sent forth her servants, calling with a loud proclamation to the feast, saying, 4. Who so is foolish, let him turn aside to me: and to them that want understanding she says, 5. Come, eat of my bread, and drink wine which I have mingled for you. 6. Leave folly, that ye may reign for ever; and seek wisdom, and improve understanding by knowledge. ”

  8. George Michalopulos :

    No one is saying that the Church of the Apostles needs to be created “anew”. God forbid! If anything, the normal canonical precepts were completely ignored when the novel ethnic exarchates were created. This was not joining an already established diocese, but creating new dioceses based on colonial models.

    I must say however, that in order to be consistent, one must also condemn the relatively new teaching on the universalist jurisdiction of the patriarchate of Constantinople (since the time of Meletius Metaxakis).

  9. Dn. Pan’s writing is an excellent example of a certain ‘beat’ or ‘riff’ or ‘tone’ for which I wish I could think up a descriptive name.

    Over against reasoned discussion in response to one point or another, the theme starts off with a blanket emotional response against ‘them and all their works and all their sadly defective thoughts’ making it clear that anything less than total agreement with the author’s agenda and seemingly –but not actually specific –yet emotionally severe dysphoria will result in conflict.

    In short, here we find only invitation to personal conflict– no living search for perspective, no application and discernment of how to bring the spirit that informed previous decisions into the present situation. Absent is the humility in the possibility the author has at least some fraction of it less that totally right and the thing complained about something between random confused thinking at best and more probably demon-spawn.

    As one ‘old hand’ at all this always asked: “What does that do?” I suggest the answer is that folk who aren’t about reasons, folk who seek protection from stronger in exchange for loyalty, folk who want to think they’ve got ‘mom and apple pie’ on ‘their side’ without actually checking whether it’s real or a cardboard picture– these will be attracted. The people it takes to actually make a go of all this: not so much.

    If Dn. Pan’s attitudes were adopted by those during the Byzantine history he upholds we’d reject the people’s support of Mark of Ephesus– he would have found himself under the Pope’s tiara supporting ‘obedience’ — to wrongdoing superiors.

    At the heart this sort of ‘riff’ or ‘beat’ there is a requirement to accept that obedience to wrongdoing is not disobedience to Christ. Once that happens, we are in cult-land, not Church.

  10. Michael Bauman :

    Harry, the term for what you describe is demagoguery. I have not analyzed the two statements side by side yet as I intend to do, but they both strike me a little that way. I’m not initially comfortable with the tone and position of either.

  11. George Michalopulos :

    My take is that it’s difficult to critique Dn Hanley’s screed because there’s “no there, there.” It’s mostly emotion with hardly any reason or fact. It’s not that he’s not right, he’s not even wrong. I could just as easily say “if only squirrels were taller goats would taste like ice cream.”

  12. George and Michael: Back when then Abp. Spyridon fired seminary professors for expelling a gay Greek archimandrite who sexually molested an undergraduate boy, I ran a website initially dedicated to getting them their jobs back. It turned out that simple justice required an effort of such magnitude and results of such increased scope as I never imagined going into it all. I was so ‘green’ as to church human foibles in high places it amounts to an insult to ‘greenness’.

    I mention this because during the course of operating that website, only very slightly figuratively speaking, I read only slight variations on ‘the music’ in Dn. Pan’s letter several hundred times over.

    Central to it is the leading off with an announcment of an attitude or conclusion, a fair helping of direct or indirect personal derision on the person or persons thought to hold another view, references to perfectly true but dubiously applicable items. Rarely without the equivalent of writing some disfavored phrase in blood on a black balloon, amplfiying it beyond all recognition and blowing it up to near breaking, then capering in rhetorical glee after popping it.

    The repitition became boring, really. I often could prediect the content of letters of that sort almost in my sleep it was nearly formulaic. I always put items of that sort near the top of the website because nothing I wrote was more effective than that mirror was.

    But even so, even now, why is there yet so much of that sort of thing, who is it that is attracted? These people do as they are schooled, as they see done. It must be ‘their leaders’ who deem that manner of doing wise, who pat them on the head and tell them ‘well done’. I think ‘their leaders’ have a trait common historically to another group in history.

    I remember another ‘old hand’ at all this relating as apropos the history of a Greek military figure Kolokotronis. He was able and got locked up for it by mediocrity in authority until the enemy was literally at the gate. At which time the minions, fearful of being blamed for the failure they had presided over and which was within a week of happening, deemed it wise to release the imprisoned general and put him ‘in charge’. I actually had an occasion to go into his prison cell in Greece years ago– nobody coming out of that little space could be in charge of standing up straight or walking much less being in charge.

    I feel such a deep parallel between so many of those ‘ordained young and never married’ who currently hold the title bishop and the few able to sense what’s needed to recognize what’s Orthodox ‘the same today and always’ is the Orthodox spirit informing all the decsions apropos for days gone by to today. Not pretending or feeling the requirement to preserve the decisions apropos for old days, but instead the spririt informing them — that’s what’s ‘the same today and always’.

    What to do. What to do. We don’t have long to get it right.

    • George Michalopulos :

      One way to begin Harry, would be to create distinct, non-overlapping dioceses, incorporate them according to civil laws (as are parishes btw), and have only the presbytery, dedicated laymen, and true monastics located within said borders serve as candidates AND electors. Perhaps they could nominate three men, whose names are submitted to the Holy Synod (the real Holy Synod, a college of American bishops, not the the “eparchial” synod) for final election.

      • George– Your keyword in all that is ‘true’. If we are organized like that then if any are not ‘true’ the damage is limited to their part of the world and the rest are not afflicted. Nobody is going to listen to such as small group as we ‘on the national stage’ anyhow and so we should concentrate on getting our local house in order along the lines you suggest.

        Key to that success is that we have to have a lay group that actually has the resouces, professionalism and discretion to be investigate allegations of wrongdoing that fall within the gap of ‘not a violation of civil law’ -that’s for the police, but a violation of the higher standards required to keep clergy rank. And these people, these people cannot be themselves clergy or in any other ‘self serving’ capacity. They can bring evidence to the parishes if the bishops don’t act, so that the people on parish councils will know what’s what.

        Without that ‘true’ is just an empty word that might get unsuspecting folk to donate — once. No volume of high sounding policies and rules on paper — rules that don’t investigate actually and credibly — will matter.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Harry, of course, the laity must be involved. I even propose that they sit on the Holy Synod. But the laity in question must be devoted and faithful servants of the Gospel themselves. At the very least, they must:

          1. regularly partake of the sacraments (esp Confession),
          2. tithe (that means a real 10%),
          3. attend the services regularly, and
          4. be discreet, discerning, and knowledgable about Scriptures

          And that’s just for starters. In fact, in proposing combined lay-clergy election/nomination of candidates to the episcopate, I think Elector status should be reserved only to those laymen (and this means women too) who abide by these strictures.

          They can’t be the “big shots” who every now and then write a big check for a wing on a parish hall with their name on it and otherwise live worldly lives. Oherwise, we just end up with more of the same –worldly laymen and worldly bishops scratching each others’ backs, with priests caught in the middle, trying to figure out who’s going to screw them next.

  13. Could someone explain to me what the Byzantine Solution would entail? How does a something like, say, and EMPIRE translate into helping Orthodoxy in America? What of Greek culture will save us? Loukoumades? Zorba? I don’t hate the various immigrant cultures (I think it’s great to have ties to heritage) but why we can’t just find an amicable solution is beyond me. It’d be awesome I think to see all of the cultures get along. But I wish some of these folks would find a new drum to bang.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Tom, you hit the nail on the head. This shows the intellectual bankruptcy in the Colonial/ghettoist argument that is being clung to (desperately I might add) by the CreationMyth wing of American Orthodoxy, unlike the Missionary/local=American wing.

    • Dean Calvert :

      Dear Tom,

      See this link if you really want to know what the Byzantine solution is.

      It hasn’t changed much in 10 years…or in 550 for that matter.

      …but the package it comes in seems to have changed colors.

      “What’s our is ours..what’s yours is debatable”…that’s the strategy of the EP and all those supporting it.

      It’s time for the rest of us to wake up and smell the Turkish coffee.

      Best Regards,

    • Hi,

      I’m new here…not sure it’s a good idea, but this thread caught my eye, and something about your comment motivated me to respond.

      I don’t know what the ‘Byzantine Solution’ is, or what exactly the problem we’re having in America is either. One thing I do know as a scholar, though, is that the Byzantine Empire has a lot to teach us about how to be what we’re trying to be.

      The Byzantine Empire was, and always understood itself to be, the Roman Empire. Though its borders no longer contained the Roman West after the fifth century, the idea of the ‘Byzantine’ empire is more or less the creation of modern historians in a post-Gibbon world. Byzantine Christianity, like Byzantine politics, was an entirely natural and organic continuation of Roman Christianity. Roman Orthodoxy, for a careful scholar, begins to look a lot like Byzantine Orthodoxy, and even modern Orthodoxy around the 4th Century. In this period, it was, profoundly, an Imperial religion.

      For modern Americans that probably sounds like some kind of insult, but when one picks up the works of the great intellectuals of that Imperial religion (I’m thinking St. Basil, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Athanasius here, among many others) one realizes that there is something important to be understood about their approach. In a world of total Empire, culture suddenly stops meaning anything at all…it becomes something that nobody ever thinks about. Nationalism disappears, for an empire is the sum of many nations. Ethnicity disappears, for an empire is populated by many peoples. In a world in which politics and power transcend nation and culture, nation and culture stop meaning very much. What is left to think about, for a thinker, is the Truth.

      Imperial Orthodoxy, Roman Orthodoxy, Byzantine Orthodoxy were all expressions of the faith which existed without culture. Or, to be much more precise, without conscious culture, which is what we are fighting about here. They were forms of the faith lived out in a world in which the idea of a truth triumphant was possible – a world without borders in the minds of the empire’s citizens – a place where the next frontier only represented one more nation whose customs, politics, and religious traditions would soon become part of the greater whole, not merely by subjection, but by cooperation.

      The Imperial solution is the Church beyond culture. For us here today, in what amounts for Orthodox faith to the far distant provinces, but which is at the same moment the capital of world power, this is not good news. It means that both sides are right, and so neither side can win. Much worse, it means that both sides are wrong, and so both will bicker and grow angry, quite justly, at the flaws of the other. We cannot create an Orthodoxy – we can’t make a Church, if we want it to possess the cultural freedom of the Church of the Empire. We can’t force the Church to be Greek or American, and we can’t sit still and just let it be. The Church beyond culture is what we are all longing for, and that will be a Church that is as American as souvlaki – foreign and yet so familiar, comfortable and yet out of place.

      There is no solution…there is only us – we are here. We are the players and the thinkers, and the narrative will only look clean and complete when our grandchildren look back at what we chose to do. We cannot orchestrate these things.

      We ARE the American Church – this is Americans being Orthodox, reaching forward, fighting things out, trying to be – trying to understand how this thing we have, this Truth, can belong to us – trying to translate it into the language of our own hearts. From history we must learn to forget time. From Empire we must learn to forget culture. If all of us can become the saints of tomorrow – if we drink great drafts of the truth and it bursts forth from us in light, then our children will look back and say ‘There was the American Church – there was Orthodoxy with a Detroit accent – look, the Truth can spring forth even from our culture!’ And they will be able to rest in a way that we cannot. But they too will need to translate and try and understand.

      We are the St. Lukes (the evangelist). We are left scratching our heads, wondering how this thing that seems so obviously true can mean anything to us – how this faith which is only for Jews, which is followed by only Jews, can possibly mean something to a gentile. And our solutions will forever be as convoluted as the struggles of St. Paul, himself a Jew, as he wrote to the Romans (9&11). We will be reaching forward, KNOWING that Orthodoxy can be American, but never knowing exactly how until we see it in the rear-view mirror.

      We all must begin by being citizens of the (Byzantine) Empire – by letting everything fall to the wayside which isn’t the Truth. Those ancient Imperials had the luxury of an Empire to help them hone their minds on what mattered. When culture is natural, never conscious, one need not wonder how the Truth can be expressed in that culture. When Greek or Latin is the universal language, one need not wonder when and how to translate the liturgy. One can worry only about what is True. We do not have such luxury. We have only ourselves and our prayers. But, through the Grace of God, we can return our minds to the Truth if we choose. And when that Truth grows in us and in our lives, that will be the very moment that it is perfectly expressed here, in this culture, and on this soil, just as effortlessly as it was for the ancient Imperials.

  14. Dean:

    I take issue with the “acclimating to America” thing. To emulate the saints … that would be something! We are very spoiled children constantly complaining about how uncomfortable this and that makes us. How long worship services are, how exhausting the fasts… BTW, did you know that more than half a year are fasting days?

    I thank God for the saintly men and women of every age. Through their lives of constant struggle, penance, sacrifice and martyrdom they preserved the faith such that I found it here when I came to my senses.

    A time will come when we’ll understand much more and say “I was so stupid, so lazy, what was I doing?” It might be too late… May the Lord have mercy on us!

    Regarding the preservation of the language of the Old Country issue: where can I find these:

    O Trisagios Ymnos – The Thrice Holy Hymn (Mount Athos Version

    O Virgin Pure-Orthodox Byantine Chant

    in English version? Something similar at least?

  15. Dean Calvert :

    Hi Eliot,

    I do not understand why you automatically equate “acclimating to America” with obliterating Orthodox tradition and practice.

    Don’t you think the Syriac monks might have made that same argument before heading to Greece…and evangelising the Greeks? Or the Byzantines, before sending missionaries to Russia?

    I’m sorry…but I reject the idea that “acclimating to American culture” automatically means “Protestantizing” – the two are not synonymous in my book.

    When I listen to Rachmaninoff vespers, or hymns by Tchaikovsky, or Georgian hymns or even those in use in Kenya now – I am amazed at what the Holy Spirit did once those countries were evangelized. Are we so different in America? And how many of those saints that you want to emulate came FROM those countries – to which Orthodox Christianity also “acclimated”?

    Frankly, speaking as an American, and given the complete hodgepodge of practices currently in existence in America (pews,no pews, organs, no organs, new calendar, old calendar, fasting rules which range from no fasting at all to fasting and confession before every communion) – I’m more inclined to say “Why don’t you Orthodox get your act together first…then you can lecture us (Americans) if we want to change it!” But in order to have that conversation – there must be a consistent STANDARD – which currently does NOT exist. I actually had a Greek bishop tell me one time that he continued to use Greek because it was the only standard service that he had – all the English versions were different! To which I thought (but uncharacteristically did not say), “Yeah..and whose fault is that?”

    I know that sounds harsh – but given the reality “on the ground” in America, I think it’s accurate – which is why I’ve ALWAYS supported Orthodox unity in America – with “unity” defined as “locally elected bishops, sitting in synod”. That is the ONLY way we will ever move to consistent practices. And like another bishop, one that I admire, said, “Dean – if we don’t unite in this country, twenty five years from now – we are not going to have 15 different “jurisdictions” – we are going to have 15 different “denominations”…each with their own, quaint eastern practices.” I think that is the bigger issue here.

    Finally, your choice of hymns is interesting to me…I grew up singing both of them in a GOA church…IN the junior choir. The second one was always a favorite of mine.

    Unfortunately, we sang them in Greek – which I will be the first to say is breathtakingly beautiful – but it took my leaving and going to an OCA parish before I had any appreciation of WHAT it was I had been singing for 40 years. I mention this because this story represents the result of “not acclimating”. I have guys in my parish who converted 5 years ago, and know more of the hymnology (and therefore “theology”) than i do…me, a 33 generation Orthodox. Is that what you want more of? I’ve had people in my old Greek church, on the feast day of the Dormition, wonder out loud “which icon is he talking about?” because the icons were all in Greek.

    I guess the bottom line is “what is the definition of acclimate”? My definition would be to do exactly what we did in Russia, the Balkans, and what the Russians did in Alaska – adapting the hymns and liturgy to the local culture…so that Orthodoxy can take root and blossom there…and so that the participants do not feel like foreigners in their own church.

    It would appear to me that all of the things you are worried about, have a lot more to do with a lack of a consistent standard, in which case I’d suggest you get behind my definition of Orthodox unity in this country. Until we have a real synod of bishops, locally elected and working as a synod – we will NEVER be in a position to address the concerns I have heard you express.

    Hope that helps. To be honest, I doubt you and I have much of a disagreement on any of this.

    Best Regards,

    • Yes, you are right we don’t have much of a disagreement on the state of American Orthodoxy.
      All I’m advocating is prudence. Orthodoxy cannot blossom while taking roots. The danger of overgrown weeds is quite real.

      • Michael Bauman :

        I’ve been contemplating the parable of the wheat and the tares lately. We cannot expect to have all wheat, there will be weeds. We need to be prudent as Elliot says, but we do need to expand the field so to speak or rather take the fences down between our fields.

        When the Church is adaptive, saints are the fruit.

        • A tiny fraction of Orthodoxy worldwide is infected by certain politically correct and secularist tendencies. These ‘innovations’ are introduced by powerful and wealthy pseudo-Orthodox individuals. They do not even have a basic understanding of the universal Orthodox Tradition. When one worships money then he can easily believe that everything, Church included, is for sale.

          The devil is a good strategist. He attacks not only from without (Fascism, Communism, Freudism, feminism, modernism, and so on) but also from within. He is playing on our weaknesses and most of all on our ignorance. Most of all on our ignorance! Ignorance is the biggest threat, heavily exploited by the evil-doers.

  16. Vote in the National Herald Poll! The folks over at http://www.thenationalherald.com are running a poll at the bottom of their website. It asks the question: Should the Ecumenical Patriarch move from Istanbul to the USA? I encourage AOI readers to vote in this poll.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Andrew, thanks for alerting us to this poll. Looks like it’s three to one against. This is yet more evidence that the Phanariote view of American Orthodoxy is no longer working. In taking a gander at The National Herald, I couldn’t help but notice that Kalmoukos’ reportage of the inner workings of the GOA shows it to be a Potemkin village. What astounded me was that at the Clergy-Laity Congress of 2008 in Atlanta, only 150 delegates were there. In the past, there were usually at least 1,200. If true, this is one of the bitter fruits of the great patriarchal charter controversy in which the laity were driven out of meaningful church administration.

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