To Grow, A Hard Task

Ed. Harry Coin, an occasional commentator on AOI published this editorial on Orthodox News recently.

By Harry Coin | July 6, 2009

The people who consider the church a ‘home near home’ come with the expectation that it is a place where the right thing happens most of the time, and the higher the authority the more often the right thing happens. If that isn’t the case, then even if people come at first, they won’t stay or come consistently since we all know the sort of experience where the wrong thing happens takes much less work to find, or finds us whether we want it or not.

Nobody older than 14 expects any gathering of people to get it all right all the time. The whole matter of survival much less growth for our Orthodox church turns on whether there is or isn’t a tolerated culture of leadership misdoing, while accepting the expected individual stumbles.

The historical time is over when the leadership can put on grand clothing and be accepted as if they lived as they would have people think during visits and occasional services. Much as in the days of the village where everyone lived so closely with one another they knew the main points of the truth of matters, the modern cell phone cameras and internet and so on has closed the ‘anonymity and impersonalisation gap’ opened during the 1900’s. No more will the future support ‘rock star’ bishops who gain moral authority only by their seeming during infrequent visits.

The leadership to date appears to be very reluctant to right its own course, favoring increasing control over populations free to leave. As survival strategies go, that one is a loser. As growth strategies go, that one doesn’t even cross the starting line. The days of governments paying dubious church leadership in exchange for political support are drawing to a close. Support must come from within, or not at all.

There are some efforts at ‘cultifying’ Orthodoxy pretending to be growth avenues. We see the present adventure of guru-pseudo monasticism. History’s example here shows these to be as balloons, there always appears to a ‘pop’ at the end then little remains, while draining resources elsewhere. (For those with eyes to see…)

What is the answer? We must accept the distasteful job of quietly and effectively policing our leadership ranks, so that those who know beforehand they will continue to live other than as the job requirements set forth will do everyone a favor and choose to contribute as they can in other ways than connivance to leadership postings. And that those who nevertheless obtain leadership postings living other than as the job requires will be made to depart church leadership. The present leadership must recognize that unless they help in this change history will record them as presiding over the last of the faith as a viable organism. We must fail if in this social context of ‘ gay marriage’ debates we defacto only allow the shrinking pool of ‘ordained young never married’ people to be decision making bishops. Senior ’empty nester’ priests must be allowed to be considered as bishops, and the size of diocese must be reduced so the parishes feel actual local cooperative efforts will work out well.

Harry Coin


  1. Michael Bauman :

    Mr. Coin is right. The old saw that the American Orthodox are not mature enough to govern ourselves is simply that–an old saw used by tyrannts and cowards who refuse to take the Gospel mission of the Church in the United States seriously. Fortunately, we have quite a number of faithful who reject such betrayal of our Savior.

    The OCA was blessed with being the first Orthodox body to begin to address the issue (perhaps that says more than anything else where the Holy Spirit is leading us). The AO
    CA obviously is now facing similar issues. If our ‘General Assembly’ goes off as normal,i.e, a Met Philip extravaganza, the AOCA is dead. If +Basil comes out publically for change in leadership, we have a chance.

    The various Slavic bodies have to decide whether they will go forward of backward. If they really want a podvig, what greater one could their be than plunging head long into the American morass. I question the tactic that Joe alludes to, remaining aloof to protect one’s own holiness.

    Unless the GOA changes direction, they will be a millstone around the neck of the Church, getting all of the media attention while providing little real substance.

    The Church will likely appear to grow smaller during this time, but she will grow stronger. I mean, who but a crazy person would choose to join such a dysfunctional group, or one called by the Holy Spirit?

  2. What is “guru-pseudo monasticism?”

    Can you give specific examples?

  3. Michael Bauman :

    Joe, guru pseudo-monasticism, involves situation in which lay Orthodox attach themselves to supposed Orthodox monastics without guidance from their parish priest or bishop. The monastic then becomes their ‘spiritual’ father (usually) Often the lay person is directed to ignore the parish priest and anything he may say because no parish priest is ‘spiritual enough’ to give authentic guidance.

    The upshot is that susceptible lay Orthodox are effectively taken out of community and give the impression that they are superior to anyone else because they have such an exalted ‘spiritual father’.

    What I describe is not hypothetical. I occured in my own parish. Fortunately, it was not wide spread, but I have heard similar situations described in other parishes.

    I suspect it happens rather more often to converts who have been exposed to eastern pagan religions and the erstatz mysticism popularized the the proponents of such systems prior to coming to the Church. It is yet another fruit, IMO however, of the lack of ecclesial order in the United States: frauds are given free reign, genuine spiritual formation is ignored or parishes are too large to allow for any. The spiritual disciplines are not really taught, particularly confession.

  4. Michael,

    How does what you describe fit into this preface: “There are some efforts at ‘cultifying’ Orthodoxy pretending to be growth avenues.”

    “Growth avenues?”

    Which jurisidiction or jurisdictional body is using “guru-pseudo monasticism” as an avenue for growth?

  5. Which jurisidiction or jurisdictional body is using “guru-pseudo monasticism” as an avenue for growth?

    Harry, Michael, if you know who these people are, then tell us because we’ve got to get the word out about these evil people!

  6. Michael Bauman :

    Joe, I have no idea what the whole sentence means, it makes no sense to me either. Genuine monastacism is important and necessary for the growth and the maturity the Church. In the specific case to which I refer, I never learned the monk’s name that was giving the advice, that was a closely guarded secret.

  7. I suspect that Coin’s “guru-pseudo monasticism” is a straw man of his own creation that he used to highlight what he believes is his own wonderful spiritual discernment: “For those with eyes to see.”

    It is only one small step downhill for those who can take it on faith that Coin indeed has the right kind of “eyes” to then buy into his amorphous attack on the Orthodox “Old World.”

  8. But then again Coin may be referring to the OCA with its monasteries like New Skete, Protection of MHT (of “Murder at Holy Cross” infamy) and vaudevillian monasteries filled with monastics who parrot the words Schmemann and Hopko to their pilgrims.

    BTW, the vaudeville part of “vaudevillian” comes from OCA Church Father, Fr. Alexander Schmemann who wrote in his Journals: “More and more often it seems to me that revising the monasticism that everybody so ecstatically talks about–or at least trying to revive it–can be done only by liquidating first of all the monastic institution itself, i.e. the whole vaudeville of klobuks, cowls, stylization, etc.”

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