TOUCHSTONE Editor criticizes conferral of Doctorate on Rowan Williams

Fr. Reardon is an advisor to AOI. H/T: Directions to Orthodoxy

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Although the scholarly publications of Dr. Williams may be cited as adequate reason for his lecture at the seminary, news of the plan to honor him is already prompting a popular consternation and even scandal.

I write only to satisfy my conscience that a grave moral duty has been met — to wit, the obligation to warn fellow Christians that they have embarked on a path that will lead only to scandal and disgrace to Holy Church. Indeed, this scandal is already in play.


The Very Reverend Patrick Henry Reardon
Archpriest and Pastor
January 17, 2010

The Most Blessed JONAH
The Orthodox Church in America
PO Box 675 Syosset, NY 11791-0675

Your Beatitude,

I beg your pastoral blessing, please. You receive this letter as President and Chairman of the Board of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and I send it as a friend of the seminary.

I write to complain of the seminary’s decision to confer an honorary degree on Rowan Williams later this month.

Although the scholarly publications of Dr. Williams may be cited as adequate reason for his lecture at the seminary, news of the plan to honor him is already prompting a popular consternation and even scandal.

Outside of academic circles, this individual is chiefly known for his public support for sexual perversion within the Anglican Communion.

I write on behalf of two groups of people: First, I speak for the simple faithful who worship in our Orthodox parishes, those friends of the St. Vladimir’s who feel betrayed by the seminary’s decision with respect to Dr. Williams.

Second, I speak for thousands of loyal and believing Anglicans, in this country and around the world, for whom the public policies of Dr. Williams have been a source of pain and distress during the past seven years of his unfortunate tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Some of these Anglicans, in fact, have been pursuing a path toward membership the Orthodox Church. The seminary’s resolve to honor Rowan Williams is causing them to reconsider their hope to join the Orthodox Church.

I learned of an instance of this as recently as this afternoon. Indeed — if I am permitted a personal note — let me mention that in those dark days, a quarter of a century ago, when I was a struggling Anglican trying to find his way to the Orthodox Church, my weak faith could not have sustained such an offense.

If a major Orthodox seminary had conferred such an honor on such a man as Rowan Williams back then, I likely would never have joined the Orthodox Church.

Your Beatitude, I suffer no illusion about the seminary’s strength of resolve to honor Dr. Williams. I am confident, rather, that no contrary plea from me will be taken seriously.

I write only to satisfy my conscience that a grave moral duty has been met — to wit, the obligation to warn fellow Christians that they have embarked on a path that will lead only to scandal and disgrace to Holy Church. Indeed, this scandal is already in play.

I beg the forgiveness of your Beatitude if I have expressed myself intemperately. This is likely the case, I suppose, for this situation is truly heartbreaking.

Kissing the Sacred Omophorion, And seeking your Beatitude’s paternal benediction,

I remain,

Your faithful son in Christ our Lord,

(Very Reverend) Patrick Henry Reardon

cc: Metropolitan PHILIP Bishop Mark
Bishop Basil Father John Behr
Father Chad Hatfield
Father Thomas Hopko
Father Robert Munday
Father Wilbur Ellsworth
Mr John Maddex

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon is a well-loved Orthodox pastor, homilist, writer, and teacher. He is pastor of All Saints’ Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and a senior editor of Touchstone Magazine. In the past forty years, Fr. Patrick has published more than 500 articles, editorials, and reviews in popular and scholarly journals, including Books and Culture, Touchstone, The Scottish Journal of Theology, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Pro Ecclesia, and St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly.


  1. Gotta love Fr. Pat,

    He may be right, he may be wrong…but there’s never any doubt where he stands.

    And he speaks as a true friend of St. Vladimir’s…who I’m sure will sit up and pay attention.

    How refreshingly honest.

    He’s got my proxy anytime – we need a lot more like him.

    Best Regards,

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    We sure do need a lot more like him Dean. Integrity just might save this Church. No one has got it right all of the time but if integrity exists, we can figure out where we need to go. Reminds me of the verse: The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them (Proverbs 11:3).

  3. Sincere Orthodox Christians need to stop acting like pacifists, and start mobilizing against those those who betray the true faith.

  4. St. Anthony the Great

    The Great Anthony confronted the great and educated literary men and philosophers of idolatry with indisputable argumentation, himself being illiterate, leaving them speechless and astounded. […] The Saint did not know everything the way they did, he did not possess worldly knowledge, but he knew the Bible and the teachings of the Saints and above all he was God learnt and God inspired.

    Faith is not an issue of great knowledge and learning but humble submission not to the prevailing knowledge but to the truth of the Church, timeless and eternal. If one does not strip oneself of self wisdom and display of self-knowledge and humbly become embodied in the spirit of Christ, of the Church, of the Saints and Church Fathers which opens the spiritual horizons, then one will always wonder and second guess the certainty of Faith and self knowledge of even the simple faithful and he will accuse them as all knowing and selfish, lacking humility.

    However, humility does not mean one has to accept the prevailing opinion but the knowledge of God and of the Saints because frequently many align with the lie and empower the lie with their majority. If the acceptance of the majority opinion when it disagrees with the truth constituted the acceptance criterion, then not only the Bible would have been acceptable, being supported by the few Apostles nor would the Church had survived in a flood of unfaithful and heretics.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    I’ve already written about this on another post, but upon reading Fr Pat’s leader, and careful thought, I feel compelled to change my position. I would humbly add my voice to those who seek revocation of the invitation and of course, the conferral of the honorary doctorate.

  6. God bless Fr. Patrick for his public stance for truth and righteousness. I am greatly encouraged to see his reflection regarding this unfortunate decision by St. Vladimir’s Seminary.

  7. It’s quite simple… the invitation to Mr Williams and the Nashotah House agreement are perplexing to traditional Orthodox Christians. Didn’t some of the signatories to that agreement convert from Anglicanism in the first place? It does make one wonder concerning the depth of their conversion.

    When I compare such people as this to Prof Osipov of the MDA and Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev, I can only shake my head. The OCA does itself no favours by its cosying up to the Anglicans. As someone who translates daily from the Orthodox press, I can say that they are out of step with grounded Orthodox in the home countries. What gives?

    • As tempting as it is to question to reality of the conversions of the Orthodox converts in involved, I must defend Fr Chad immediately. I worked with him far to closely and too long to suspect his of ecclesiastical treason.

      No, the fact remains that the Schmemann lecture is primary an academic event, not an ecclesial event. In my first year at SVS we had one Uniate who said some very peculiar things. I myself pinned him down on this double-speak about Filioque. Let’s see what the current crowd of students bring up.

      Because this is an academic event – Rowan Williams is not totally unqualified to speak. He does hold academic stature, if not pastoral. Neverthless, realities are that in the non-academic community, the invitation can hardly help but shock and offend. Williams’ leadership of the Anglican Communion has been anything but laudable unless you are a tried and true, fence-sitting, fork-tongued Anglican.

      What will be critical will be for SVS students to prepare themselves to ask tough questions of Lord Williams. I was applauded for doing so in my day when Louis Bouyer spoke and Fr John Meyendorff was there. There are ways to ask forceful, uncompromising questions in a way that expresses academic respect as due, without sendng false messages of ecclesiastical leaderhip.

      With the grace of God, Rown Williams speaking at SVS, could be a watershed for him, and ulimately for the entire communion.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Fr. Deacon, I abhor the false dicotomy that is inherent in your response. We should strive to avoid such splits of humanity as academic/ecclesial. To me that is a way into a breaking of the hypostatic union of our own being and eventually a denial of the Incarnation.

        Academics are a tool of deceit, destruction and apostasy if they are not always informed by the higest standards of the faith and our own repentent life.

        Mr. Williams words don’t matter, because he does not have the spiritual or moral authority to speak truth about the Holy Tradition because he does not live it. He is a false pastor who brings discredit to the faith at the very time we need to be strongest.

        He won’t even defend the faith against Islam and participates every day in the secular attack on traditional Christianity.

        Ideas matter, thoughts have consequences. His thoughts are all about making peace with the worldly mind. He cannot help but interpret the Fathers of the Church in any other mindset than that they must be revised and reconsidered in light of modern thought.

        The English academics, even the Orthodox ones, are so steeped in institutional moral and spiritual eqalitarianism that comprimises are made that should not be made simply not to offend their fellow academics.

        The silence of the leaders of the OCA and SVS on the extent of Mr. Williams departure from traditional Christianity means that they, at some level, consent to that departure as being OK. Silence means consent.

        The only way to fix the mistake is to cancel the event and apologize to all that have been offended.

      • P. H. Reardon :

        Subdeacon Mark Harrison writes: “I must defend Fr Chad immediately.”

        This defense is unnecessary, because Father Chad Hatfield does not need it.

        I remain a loyal friend and robust supporter of Fr Chad, and nothing I have written should be understood to imply otherwise.

        • The aspersions upon Father Chad Hatfield were being cast by Barbara. That’s who Sdn Mark was defending Fr Chad against, not you, Father Patrick. Take note of the post number.

          I don’t recommend reading Barbara’s blog, but if you do, you’ll see she is quite critical of Fr Chad, and does not accord him the respect he is due as a priest of the Orthodox Church.

  8. Why is this guy NOT teaching at our seminaries?

    Anyone? Anyone?

    • John,

      I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Fr. Pat, through our work at St. Andrew House. His the the priest at a little, unassuming converted Methodist church in Chicago, All Saints.

      Out of that little, unassuming building have come Ancient Faith Radio, Touchstone Magazine, missions to Albania and Romania, just to name a few things. Of course, Fr. Pat is a distinguished scholar in his own right..having authored scores of books and hundreds of articles.

      I’m sure Fr. Pat is doing exactly what he wants to be doing…in Chicago.

      But your point is well taken, he could teach at any seminary he wanted…tomorrow.

      He’s an absolute treasure of Orthodoxy – and I would encourage anyone in the Chicagoland area to drop visit All Saints. It’s quite a place.

      Best Regards,

  9. I don’t think you can say this is an isolated “unfortunate decision” by St. Vlad’s. This is simply a continuation of a trend that has been going on for years. I became aware of a worldliness and cultural leftist sympathies by the seminary in the 1990’s through Fr. Hopko and others defense of the NCC/WCC. Certainly when most of the seminary staff – and all of the big names (including Hopko)- signed the Orthodox Pacifist Fellowship’s “Plea for Peace” the writing was on the wall for all to see. I stopped $supporting$ the seminary years ago. I would suggest to others here that they should consider this as well.

    I was discussing this very subject a few months ago with a priest friend of mine who teaches at another Orthodox seminary. He put it this way, that while Orthodoxy prevents the professors and staff at St. Vlad’s from accepting cultural and religious liberalism “carte blanche”, they were certainly culturally liberal and religiously liberal in areas where they can. This from a man by the way who agrees with them for the most part (e.g. he signed the “Plea”).

    One of two men I have met in my lifetime who truly impressed me with their raw intelligence (how many academics have we all met who thought they were gifted but were in truth only average), told me in the 1990’s that Orthodoxy in America was in danger because it was on a similar trajectory as the Episcopalians, only 50 years behind. I still believe this is overstated but there is much truth in it. More than I like to normally admit…

  10. Roger Bennett :

    I fear that St. Vladimir’s Seminary is being seduced by the siren song of academic respectability. Rowan Williams is a major scholar as well as Archbishop of Canterbury. It adds mainstream cachet for him to speak at St. Vlad’s.

    Unfortunately, it scandalizes the faithful for the reasons Fr. Reardon notes. My dear, sincere, young friend who left our SCOBA parish for a Synod in Resistance parish two states away will no doubt clip and cherish the articles about this as more evidence of the “pan-heresy of ecumenism.”

    It also reminds me of when John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas sucked up to a rich oilman, named Wendell Phillips, I believe, who had a hobby of biblical archeology. They gave him an honorary doctorate and time in the pulpit for a chapel, where he proceeded to deny basic elements of the Christian faith. They never to my knowledge admitted it was a mistake, and tried to muzzle faculty who objected. I objected then and to St. Vlad’s I respectfully object now.

    Abp. Williams is too smooth to deny Orthodoxy at St. Vlad’s, but any affirmations will be, ahem, equivocal.

  11. cynthia curran :

    Well, this liberalism as everyone points out prevents people from not just orthodoxy but the high churches among the protestants and some catholic parishes. This is probably one of factors not the only factor why while some evangelicals disagree with some or all of evangelical theology, they stick wit it because the more sacarmential churches are culturally liberal on the whole.

  12. George Michalopulos :

    I too have wondered about the liberal drift or “academic correctness” for quite a while. The only good thing to come out this imbroglio is that it will cause them to think twice before doing something like this again.

    I love and treasure St Vlad’s and have supported it financially in the past and have friends there now studying for the priesthood, so why I am going to say I say with a heavy heart: I will suspend all future donations for one year in order to see if things have straightened out. One can be academically rigorous and traditionalist at the same time. They’re not mutually exclusive.

    I think a likewise (temporary) abeyance in donations is called for. Again, I say this with a heavy heart but the liberalism has got to go. Williams will not edify the faith but instead will bring scandal upon it.

    • The professors and staff ARE liberal religiously (to the extant they can be in Orthodoxy) and certainly culturally. They have been this way all their adult lives.

      While I would welcome a one year “recovery program” of sorts, I don’t see how this would correct the fundamentals. Short of retirements and the like, the institution will be what it is for short and medium term.

      Only a concerted effort by the Bishops responsible to appoint men of distinction (such as Fr. Reardon) when replacing these men would the character of the institution change. This can only happen in the long term (short of a purge). Since there appears to be no real awareness of the fundamentals I don’t even see this happening…

  13. Roger Bennett :

    Maybe I’m delusional, but this discussion seems to me to be turning into a place to air pet peeves. I’m not sure I exempt my own former post.

    For instance, the theory (tacit) they they invited Rowan Williams because the St. Vlad’s faculty is “liberal” makes no sense to me apart from my academic respectability theory. His positions are to the left (religiously) of anyone on faculty at St. Vlad’s.

    I suppose they would also fit my young Synod in Resistance’s “pan-heresy of Ecumenism” theory, but I don’t think I buy it. I just don’t think there’s anyone on St. Vlad’s faculty adhering, for instance, to an explicit “branch theory” ecclesiology.

    I’m also not convinced that “liberal” explains evangelical aversion to Orthodoxy, either. The most religiously liberal Orthodox spokesman is more conservative religiously than most evangelicals. Evangelicals may not believe that, but since many of them have a heretical dispensational premillenialist test of right doctrine, I’m not too worried about what they believe. And God forbid that all our faculty should have to prove that they are conservative politically.

    Maybe it would be helpful if someone could link to whatever justification the Seminary has floated for this lamentable decision. For now, we all – myself included – are speculating about motives.

    • One does not need to be part of the “Synod in Resistance” to see a pattern. In your view, the invite was (perhaps) a simple lapse in judgment or perhaps a submission to temptation of academic respectability. In my view, the invite is not surprising and indeed similar invites are to be forthcoming in the future. The pattern of past behavior (e.g. signing “the Plea”, defense of NCC/WCC) and novel theology (e.g. “lesser evil” philosophy) is there for all to see. What is your explanation of this “liberal” trajectory? If not the (often unconscious) religious/cultural sympathies that most often go by the term “liberal” what is it then? Are the Bishops instructing them to take these positions (against their better judgment)?

      • Roger Bennett :

        I did not deny that the St. Vlad faculty is relatively liberal, bless their hearts (a calculated southernesque colloquialism). I wrote that “the theory (tacit) they they invited Rowan Williams because the St. Vlad’s faculty is “liberal” makes no sense to me apart from my academic respectability theory.” I stand by that.

  14. Truth Unites... and Divides :

    I agreee with Fr. Reardon’s letter, and upon reading it, it reminded me of the many letters written to the President of Notre Dame, asking him to rescind the invitation he made to President Obama to speak at their commencement address.

  15. All said, the reason why St. Vlad’s invited Williams is that as an academic he runs in the same circles as Fr. Behr and maybe a couple other St. Vlad’s people run as academics. So, that this kind of professional back-patting would go on isn’t too surprising. While my first reaction to hearing about this was to plan to go and heckle, when I really think about it, it’s not that big a deal, and it’s hardly the most scandalous academic thing at SVOTS– Fr. Paul Tarazi’s books, which are neither Orthodox nor academically respectable, would take that prize. Even last year’s speaker, the always-obnoxious and quite hostile to Orthodoxy Robert Taft should have elicited more complaints, had any non-specialists been familiar with his writings and personal reputation. Williams is at least tactful and classy and has some respect for the Orthodox tradition. Unlike Taft, we should not be worried that he will use his speaking opportunity to preach to us about how we could ‘improve’ our faith…

    Williams actually has done a lot to bring attention to Russian Orthodox thought among non-Orthodox Christians and his recent book on Dostoevsky has been well-received, even by Orthodox. This hasn’t been without its problems as well, though — they are part of the reason why many non-Orthodox think that Soloviev/Bulgakov/Florensky are normative in Russian Christian thought. . .but, he was early to the show in terms of bringing attention to the intellectual importance of Russian Christianity. For what that’s worth. But, separating Williams the fairly decent scholar from Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury is quite a difficult one to make for a lot of observers, I would guess.

    It should also be noted that Williams (and the Church of England itself) is actually rather more conservative than the ECUSA and shouldn’t exactly be identified with it. While he has publically stated his more-or-less approval of the idea that homosexual relations can be blessed, he has hardly tried to promote them in the ways that even ‘moderate’ ECUSA clergy now automatically do. He has even made quite a few public statements reminding people that he does, in fact, believe in the doctrinal tenets of Christianity — the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, etc. Only the most quixotically conservative ECUSA bishops would do that in this day and age. I can’t imagine Katherine Schori being all that pleased with Williams’ visit.

    So, while it’s definitely problematic, I’m not sure why this particular invitation would be the specific scandal that would lead one to stop donating to SVOTS. . .if one is looking for reasons (which I would not at all encourage), there are much better ones. If anything, the idea of Met. Jonah having a few minutes to speak with Williams is an entertaining enough image to maybe make it worthwhile.

  16. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    After thinking it over for a while, I believe the decision to grant Dr. Williams an honorary degree has more to do with academic culture than any implicit endorsement of homosexuality or any other moral question tearing the Church of England apart. Granted, conferring the degree carries the appearance of an endorsement, even tangentially, but I see this as due to the differences in academic and parish culture. I think it would be a mistake to conclude that these differences, while real, imply a softness on the part of St. Vladimir’s Seminary toward the moral prohibitions of Orthodox tradition.

    My hunch is that if the SVS faculty has realized the consternation granting the degree would raise, they might have held off giving it. I would not be surprised if the response troubles them. I hope they will address it.

    Having said that, I think Fr. Reardon’s criticism is entirely appropriate because the appearance of any tacit endorsement has to be addressed, not only to clarify where the Church stands for Orthodox believers, but especially for the Episcopalians who have been battered these last decades by the apostasy of some of their Bishops. It would be very easy I think, for many of the faithful Episcopalians to conclude that Orthodoxy might be traversing the same path the Episcopal Church has walked these last twenty years. Fr. Reardon’s letter (which has a very respectful tone towards the seminary), gives assurance that their worries are heard. Give SVS some time to respond and lay these worries to rest.

    Academic institutions (and I am speaking of the institutions who still practice honest inquiry — and I think St. Vladimir’s does) sometimes lose sight of how immediate the pressing questions are to people outside the academy. It’s not that they aren’t aware of them. Rather, it’s that people don’t have the resources (time mostly) for the long-term reflection that an academic culture appropriately fosters. Sometimes, the seemingly insignificant (and even respectful) decisions like granting a degree are interpreted differently in the academy than outside of it. This might be happening here.

    If I were on the committee deciding whether or not to give Dr. Williams an honorary degree, I would have voted no because I know how those outside of the academy would interpret it. From the other side, I think that impugning bad motives to the faculty of SVS is a conclusion we should not draw, not yet anyway. Give them some time to digest the criticism and respond to it. They simply might not have understood the response it would generate.

    I’m not trying to steer a middle course here. I think that granting the degree is a mistake. However, you have to cut people some slack, even on the hot-button issues, because not every clash is the result of nefarious motives. Give this a little time to settle. Fr. Reardon has addressed the immediate concern in clear and irenic terms. Now give St. Vladimir’s some time to respond.

    • How can they respond except as you have laid it out here – a “mistake” in judgment as to how such an honor would be perceived “at the parish level” and an honor in no way met to endorse the apostasy of the honoree?

      Respectfully, you ARE steering a middle course in that you are granting the possibility that this is an isolated mistake – one that can be explained as an isolated occurrence.

      Yet, you yourself have been critical of them for years over things such as their consistent support for NCC/WCC and almost the whole seminary staff for siding with the moral sentiments in the OPF’s “the Plea”. How have they responded to these “mistakes”?

      Geez, can we not follow our Lord and forgive without sticking our heads in the proverbial sand…

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        I’ve been critical of the GOA and OCA for their support of the NCC and I would throw SVS into this too by association. I still stand by that. (See: The United Churches of Castro; A Faith Based Case for Gulags.)

        On the Orthodox Peace Fellowship’s “Plea for Peace,” I argued that it could be read in two ways: the elevation of moral equivalency as a tenet of Orthodox moral thinking, or as a statement against the war in Iraq (the “Plea” reads like it was written by a committee). The first is inexcusable I argued; the second justifiable (reasonable people can reasonably disagree about the war in Iraq) but even then the document should not have been signed because of its internal ambiguity. (See: “A Plea for Peace” Flawed by Moral Equivalency.)

        The upshot was that the Antiochian leadership quit the NCC. The OCA leadership at the time was corrupt and not capable of providing any substantive direction. My hunch is that you won’t see Met. Jonah building bridges with them today. The GOA leadership, well, they still labor under the illusion that proximity to power and influence determines their standing in the larger culture.

        The “Plea” thankfully fell back into the pit of irrelevance that OPF first drew it from. The signers who presumed the document was a statement against the war and did not see the moral equivalency that informed it should have removed their names. They didn’t, but neither did they utter a word in defense of it afterwords.

        Those signers who really bought into moral equivalency tried to defend it. However, since the doctrine is essentially indefensible, they could only offer ad-hominen attacks, moral posturing, and all the other tactics that characterize the defense of indefensible ideas. It didn’t amount to much. (See: Responses to: “A Plea for Peace” Flawed by Moral Equivalency).

        I didn’t really expect a public mea-culpa from any signer even though I called for it. My purpose was to make clear how terribly flawed the document was and I think I succeeded. No one took the “Plea” seriously after that and OPF ended up preaching only to themselves.

        The Williams imbroglio doesn’t rise to this I think. There is no endorsement of the Anglican descent into cultural deconstruction implied by granting the degree as I see it. There is certainly the appearance of an endorsement which indicates that some other things might be at work, perhaps that St. Vladimir’s has a more prominent role in the larger Orthodox world than its faculty realized. But I think you have to give them some room to respond before concluding that they are fellow-travelers with those who seek to overthrow the mediating institutions of Western culture.

        I’m counseling patience here. Give them some room to respond. Sometimes mistakes happen.

        • Ok, I have thought about this and here is my take:
          To believe that there is even a possibility of a “mistake” as you have outlined it here is to believe that the SVS faculty is truly unaware of the cultural situation generally and of the particular relationship/history of Orthodoxy with disaffected Anglicans. This is beyond belief. Honestly, I don’t see how yourself or anyone else can seriously suggest it.

          No this decision was made with the Anglican reality in mind. Any response will be philosophical defense of “dialog” and the like.

          I don’t expect a response. At most you will have this or that faculty member (possibly Hopko as well) saying a few words in an interview. Anything written will be short and sparse – nothing that actually address the important concerns of Fr. Reardon.

    • However, you have to cut people some slack, even on the hot-button issues, because not every clash is the result of nefarious motives.

      What is this really supposed to mean? That they are not responsible for their obtuse understanding of the current religious / cultural situation because they have innocent motives?!? Can we not extend this to Mr. Williams himself, for I am sure he in no way feels his apostasy is “nefarious”.

      What ever the EXPLANATION, what would a “response” from St. Vlad’s add? Your not really expecting some sort of repentance are you? Fr. Reardon is under no such illusions:

      “I am confident, rather, that no contrary plea from me will be taken seriously.”

      I have to ask – is AOI getting some pushback from those deemed important in Orthodox circles??

      • Roger Bennett :

        What is so difficult to understand about “cut people some slack … because not every clash is the result of nefarious motives”?

        I think they are “responsible” because the scandal of this invitation was foreseeable. But I can still cut them slack on the assumption that their giving of scandal was negligent, not intentional.

        I lived through the 1950s, and I recall (probably from recountings in the 60s, when I was coming of age) Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, accusing Dwight Eisenhower of being a “conscious agent of the communist conspiracy” because Welch thought Ike’s policies played into communist hands and apparently was so bereft of imagination and appreciation for political complexity that he could only postulate conscious conspiratorial motives. (For such idiocy, my very conservative and godly Protestant father rejected repeated personal invitations to join the Birchers.) Must that attitude color Orthodox perceptions of other Orthodox?

        Are you suggesting that “cutting some slack” for Rowan Williams is a slam-dunk reductio ad absurdum? Is it our job as Orthodox to exercise economia or acredia toward Anglicans?

  17. I don’t think of “cutting some slack” in terms of economia or acredia. If I am understanding what you and Fr. Johannes mean by the phrase (in this context) correctly, then I find it naive. As Roger said:

    I think they are “responsible” because the scandal of this invitation was foreseeable. But I can still cut them slack on the assumption that their giving of scandal was negligent, not intentional.

    During the 1990’s Fr. Hopko defended his participation in the NCC (and other seminary staff for which he was responsible for) in a way in which he explicitly acknowledged “the scandal” – and thus was intentional – but which in his mind was outweighed by the benefits of, to quote him directly “talking to witches and lesbians”. He fervently believed that through the NCC/WCC process he was evangelizing and that any scandal to caused by this to believers (including those such as Fr. Reardon who were seeking the Church from dysfunctional Protestantism) was acceptable.

    IF St. Vlad’s response is “gosh, we did not know this would be a problem – we never thought of it this way before” then it will be a lie. I won’t believe it for a second and neither should you. However I don’t expect them to say any such thing.

    So their response can only be something along the lines of Fr. Hopko’s fifteen years ago, possibly with a little academic back scratching as a twist in the “pros vs. cons” calculation.

    In this sense I think Fr. Reardon is more attune to the thinking and culture of St. Vlad’s than the assumptions behind “let’s wait for a response”.

  18. George Michalopulos :

    In the final analysis, I hope that the SVS faculty come to their senses and not pull a stunt like this again. It was certainly a scandal. Perhaps a public statement recognizing their obtuseness would be a wise move. It would certainly reassure me. (At the very least, I hope for no grand pronouncements heralding their proximity to power as we would usually find in The Orthodox Distuber.

    Enough of academic correctness. It might be wise for some of their faculty to cycle out of academe for a while and get into the parochial trenches, where honest, God-fearing people are subjected to real problems. They and their priests have no time for academic superciliousness. Then after perhaps 5 or so years of trench warfare, they can reclaim their lofty perches. I appreciate their brilliance, but like the wonks that populate the newsrooms of America, they are at a remove or two from everyday reality. This is never a good thing.

    • Roger Bennett :

      I’m not even sure it is “academic correctness” if by that you mean arrival at correct opinions (or at least at relativism about one’s incorrect opinions).

      I think the academic world understands that we are oddballs and are not going to adopt their positions. But there is a certain respectability in playing by the same rules as the rest of the Academy, even if we reach oddball positions.

      Truth be told, however, I don’t think we do play by the same rules – at least not when we are at our best. The Academy, as I understand it, rewards doctorates only for some original contribution to the discipline. When the discipline is theology (in the academic sense), that tends to invite innovations and cleverly argued heresies. We don’t even understand true “theology” in that academic sense.

      (1) Theology as an academic discipline that could theoretically be mastered by a complete infidel, coupled with (2) incentives to innovate in that academic theology. Maybe even (3) tenure for apostates who remain technically competent in the discipline. Need I say more about the incompatibility of that essential outlook with the Orthodox mindset? Some degree of acquiescence in those rules is what I had in mind at number 10, above, when I referred to “academic respectability.”

      That’s not to say that George’s prescription isn’t right.

  19. I think a lot of the controversy over this invitation can be chalked up to misapprehension of what it all means.

    An honorary degree is conferred when an institution wishes to honor a specific person’s contributions to a field. In this case, they want to honor his work studying Orthodox theology and increasing its visibility in the wider world. St Vlad’s is not giving a wholesale approval of Rowan Williams’s theological teachings or opinions, nor a wholesale approval of Anglicanism, by giving him an honorary doctorate.

    The point of asking someone like Rowan Williams to come speak at St Vladimir’s isn’t so he can pour Anglicanism into the seminarians’ ears and indoctrinate them in liberal Christianity. I’m sure St Vladimir’s seminarians would be very offended by the insinuation that they can’t tell heresy from Orthodoxy. Give them a little more credit than that.

    No, the point of asking Rowan Williams to speak is to start a conversation, to thoughtfully consider a different perspective and work out a way to respond to it as Orthodox Christians. St Vladimir’s isn’t there to shove the Orthodox party line down anyone’s throat, whether they are seminarians or guests from the public.

    I have to say my personal sympathies within Orthodoxy lie much closer to Jordanville than Crestwood-Yonkers. That said, I regard St Vladimir’s well, and appreciate their work on behalf of the Church. Although I’m not a fan of Rowan Williams’s personal theology, I was surprised to learn how much Williams had studied Orthodox theology, and pleased that little St Vladimir’s had managed to attract the attention of someone as widely known as he is.

  20. Lets be honest the argument can be made that if Rowan Williams wants to bring his bag of Fashional Fundamentalist Shenanigans to SVS and lecture then it is ok. I hope in the spirit of Robust and honest dialogue that the student body and faculty will encourage questions and grill him with direct questions and ask for direct answers from this fashionable fundamentalist. No topic should be off limits.

    However, giving Rowan Williams an honorary doctorate is not acceptable. It is an honor that is undeserved based on his past statements. Rowan Williams needs SVS to maintain his phony image but SVS does not need Rowan Williams plain and simple. You cannot compartmentalize Orthodoxy.

  21. Yeah, I agree with Andrew.

    The doctorate is not really acceptable, BUT (and this is the good part) the SVS students – the STUDENTS – ought to nail him and rake him over the coals for his ridiculous and stupid non-Christian statements.

    We are Orthodox. Let the chips fall where they may. Maybe the SVS faculty will even get some spine – and speak, tactfully, of course, to make him defend his statements before a group of people that don’t believe his bull for one single moment.

    SVS faculy and students, he should not forget to whom he is speaking, and that we know what he is saying and doing elsewhere.

    He’s a big boy. He can take it…or he shouldn’t show up to get his prize.

  22. I would like to point out that any hierarch, clergy, dean or adminstrator who uses his authority to prevent the honest and mature questioning of Rowan Williams by those in the audience is abusing their authority and stunting the growth of the student body. The actions of Met. Jonah and the seminary administration in this regard will reveal much.

    On another note, AOI readers who live across the country can do the SVS community a favor by posting to this blog examples of questions to be asked of Rowan Williams. I am sure we can come up with some good ones.

    • “prevent the honest and mature questioning of Rowan Williams”???

      If I were a student I would ask if the attendance is mandatory.

  23. George Michalopulos :

    Well, I guess we could hope for an honest and robust debate. At the very least I should expect that our students be allowed to ask any question they want (respectfully of course). It seems to me that if the faculty at SVS are true to their calling of free inquiry that should be obvious. Of course, as in so many venues of higher learning today, a true liberal education is not the point, but indoctrination and the inculcation of Hesperophobia. I pray that this is not the case with SVS.

  24. “…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 3-4

    “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” 1 Corinth. 5:9-11

    “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” 2 Peter 2:1-2

    I am not that familiar with Mr. Williams, so the above scriptures may or may not apply to him, but if he is following the way of liberal Anglicanism by advocating non-biblical sexual standards, then it is clear that true followers of Christ should not associate with him as St. Paul mentions above.

  25. Ellen Latanzi :

    I will be very impressed and hopeful if St. Vladimir’s would dis-invite Mr. William. We must stand rooted in our faith and belief of pure sexual relationships between a man and a woman, within the sacred vows of holy matrimony.

    • Considering that Metropolitan Jonah and Fr Chad Hatfield were among the original endorsers of the Manhattan Declaration (, it should be abundantly clear that Metropolitan Jonah and SVS support real marriage and the fact that it is between a man and a woman, regardless of Rowan Williams’s opinion on the issue. Speaking invitations and honorary doctorates don’t constitute a blind endorsement of everything the honored individual has ever said and done.

      • Pobre, you are confused. An honorary doctorate HONORS a person. SVS is honoring someone who has caused great spiritual harm and confusion to Christians around the world. One look at his statements and it is evident that The man has clearly mislead people. He is welcome to speak and be questioned but to be honored crosses the line. If Rowan Williams had one thread of humility he would decline the honorary doctorate out respect for the Orthodox Church and the positions he holds that are at odds with its Tradition. This would be the mature thing to do.

        The question we should all ask is what is honorable in the witness of Rowan Williams that one of America’s leading Orthodox centers of learning should bestow on him such a high honor?

        • Andrew, I think you’re the one who’s confused. They stated explicitly in the press release that they are honoring Williams for the work he has done in Orthodox theology. “St Vladimir’s Seminary will [confer the degree] in recognition of his contribution to the academic study of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality.” It would seem they wanted to make it absolutely clear why they are granting Williams an honorary degree.

          And aside from mentioning the fact that he’s the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Anglican communion, they don’t really mention anything else Williams has ever done. After all, he’s a hierarch of a non-Orthodox religion, and St Vlad’s is an Orthodox seminary. Their paths can only converge so much, and it looks like SVS is well aware of that.

          Furthermore, you’re not qualified to judge Rowan Williams’s humility or lack of which. But it should be readily apparent that Williams does respect the Orthodox tradition, considering the nature of the work he’s done that led to him being honored to begin with.

          Maybe a lot of this mess and controversy would have been averted if people had read the press release more carefully in the beginning, and approached the situation from a position that gives SVS the benefit of the doubt, instead of a position from which one is culling for problematic words and sentiments.

  26. Dear Brothers and Sisters:

    A comment from the Anglican side. I am a priest of the Anglican Church of North America. As Father Pat has noted, this invitation to Dr. Williams is troublesome to those of us on the Anglican side who are committed to an orthodox understanding of Christology, Scripture and Church. Dr. Williams has not spoken out for any of us, and has in fact done all he can to protect the Episcopal Church in its trajectory away from the traditional understanding of these basics.

    However, His Beatitude Met. Jonah has been a source of strength and a beacon to us as he has spoken the truth in love. I would commend his address to the opening convocation of ACNA (see: Metropolitan Jonah speaks to Anglican assembly) to those who think he is “weak” in his proclamation of the saving work of Christ — or his teaching of the Orthodox faith.

    Please pray for us in Anglicanism who work and hope for our reunion with Orthodoxy.

    • Unfortunately, this invite demonstrates that the same titanic forces that are at working the culture are just as prevalent in Orthodoxy (of course, this is a truism as we live in the same culture). These forces express themselves most pointedly and obviously (I would even say “honestly”) at institutions such as seminaries. It’s not simply that you have a sort of “tenured radical” take over of these leading institutions. You also have otherwise very sincere Orthodox who are ‘thinkers’ and get caught up in the cultural trends and influenced by the thinkers at other institutions who speak the same language.

      If Orthodoxy (or any other Christian tradition) were smart, we would pull our seminarians out of these institutions. Be a priest/pastor is more of a “vocational” enterprise, and as such an “academic” preparation is not nearly as important as a practical preparation. With such a separation then our academics would be allowed to follow the secular model of inquiry without the burden of other commitments. Of course they would also have a harder time making a $living$ as much of their funding would dry up.

      Of course, some will deride this as anti-free inquiry , “fundamentalist” and the like. Still I don’t think those who will can convincingly explain what the secular academic model, let alone controversial things like NCC support, this invite, etc. has to do with priestly formation…

      • George Michalopulos :

        Oso, I am very sympathetic to the Anglican tradition and would welcome your input into this debate and other likeminded Anglicans such as yourself. I pray for your journey into the Orthodox faith.

        • George:

          Thanks very much for your very generous invitation. I am composing what i hope will be a thoughtful response, and hope to have it posted tomorrow.


      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Christopher, not trying to beat up on you or anything, but why the separation between “academic” and “practical”? In reality it does not exist. You have to learn about the faith in order to practice it, and priests in particular, as teachers in the parish, need to know more than their parishioners. That is one reason why men who intend to be priests go to seminary.

        Frankly, if all that were required to become a priest was a year long course in censer swinging, we wouldn’t have some of the good priests we have. They would be doing something else.

        I am a grad of St. Vlad’s and I was grateful for the education I received when I graduated around twenty years ago, and I’m still grateful today. Did it have problems then? Of course it did. Does it have problems today? No doubt.

        But SVS is not the hot bed of secular liberalism you seem to think it is. My suggestion is to check the place out for yourself. Take in one of their lecture series sometime.

        • Michael Bauman :

          There should not be a separation between the intellect and the heart. Only working together in faith do they produce good fruit. Unfortunately, what this conversation indicates, IMO, is that the bifurcation of the human being so prevalent in western thought since at least the ‘enlighentment’ still has an effect on us.

          Jesus Christ calls to wholeness. What I am anxious about is that the more St. Vladimir’s pursues the course of being an academy in concert with worldly academy, however the more the false dualism of modern thought will permeate and distort the work of spiritual formation with which they are charged.

          One of the toxic consequences of the mind/heart dualism of modern thought is the tendency to remove God further and further from us so that even those that believe can be thrown into a state of functional atheism where we profess with our lips what we deny with our heart and soul. Certainly those at SVS are not to that point and I do not mean to suggest they are. The fruit of Dr. Williams tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury seems to indicate he may well be in that state.

          Inviting Dr. Williams is an indication of just that fall into dichotomy which is simply not Orthodox,i.e., the praise for his scholarly work while ignoring the apostasy of the communion he leads and his own support of “sexual perversion” as Father Reardon phrases it. Honoring him will only reinforce that. It will do more damage to him than SVS or the Church. The honor validates his apostasy.

          The message it sends has the potential to be far more insidious than even Fr. Reardon suggests. It makes it seems as if all is permitted as long as someone says nice things about us.

          Are we that vain? Are we that insecure in who we are and the trust we have been given? I hope not.

          The invitation to Dr.Williams was a conscious decision whose purpose and rationale totally escape me. Unfortunately, as ususal the response of our leaders when questioned, no matter how respectfully is silence. That troubles me even more.

          In the atmosphere of silence speculation and even gossip have the upper hand. May our Lord have mercy on us for the hardness of our hearts and the vanity of our minds.

      • Unfortunately, this invite demonstrates that the same titanic forces that are at working the culture are just as prevalent in Orthodoxy (of course, this is a truism as we live in the same culture).

        IMO this is a “global” truth. This is why we hear so very little about the 20 millions martyrs of communist Russia. Met. Jonah mentions them in Metropolitan Jonah speaks to Anglican assembly while the EP is concerned with dead corals and stones (see: Transgressions Against Gaia):

        The service started, dozens choristers from around the world carried three things down the aisle and to the altar: pieces of dead coral bleached by hot ocean temperatures; stones uncovered by retreating glaciers; and small, shriveled ears of corn from drought-stricken parts of Africa.

        Moving on…

        but why the separation between “academic” and “practical”? In reality it does not exist.

        Something to prove the above quote (see: The martyr of Christ Nun Heruvima ):

        And when she told them her conclusion from above, concerning the Holy Fathers, they told her: “No, it’s not like this. Think it over. We pay you to prove something, and you must do it.

        I believe Psalm 2 Psalm 2 tells the whole story ….
        1 Why do the nations rage, and the people plan vain things?
        2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh, and against His Christ, saying,
        3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast away their yoke from us!”
        4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh: Yahweh shall have them in derision.
        5 Then shall He speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His fury.

    • Dear Oso,

      First, I’d like to make sure you have seen the Colloquium on Orthodoxy for Anglicans programs, recordings of which are available at Personally, I think it was one of the finest programs ever offered by St. Andrew House in Detroit – and one in which Fr. Pat participated.

      More importantly, I’d love to hear your opinion on what should have been done here? I’m a fan of the seminary (AND of the new metropolitan), and it pains me to see St. Vlad’s make mistakes of this magnitude….I think the same would be said by Fr. Pat. It’s pretty clear that the venue and the honor selected by St. Vlad’s was a blunder, however well intended.

      Please put yourself in the shoes of the St Vlad’s dean, give yourself the proverbial “magic wand” and tell me what you would have done.

      Just honestly curious, and just trying to generate some constructive ideas to help our friends at St. Vlad’s in the future.

      And, to my Orthodox friends – Let’s not allow a well intended mis-step to diminish our support for an institution that is clearly one of the jewels of Orthodoxy in this country.

      The only way to avoid all criticism is to sit there and do nothing…we’ve certainly had enough of that in Orthodox circles in this country. It’s obvious Frs. Chad and Behr are NOT going to be guilty of that.

      In any case, I would simply encourage everyone – we need to help them, not tear them down.

      Thanks in advance,

      Dean Calvert

      • Dean:

        Thanks. I hope to respond to your invitation to use my magic wand in my repsonse as well.


      • Dean:

        Forgot to mention that yes, I have listened to the coloquium on Ancient Faith Radio. I would also commend the presentations “in the Footsteps of Ticon and Grafton” given at Nashotah House — I believe these are also linked via AFR


  27. P. H. Reardon :

    Permit me to express my agreement with this exhortation of Dean Calvert.

    It would be great perversion of my intent if anyone should try to retaliate against or penalize either the seminary or those who govern it.

    Let us not turn a misfortune into a tragedy.

    • I respectfully disagree that it is a “retaliation” to withhold support from this institution. Of course, I made my decision years ago after what I believe to be their tone deaf support of NCC/WCC and their silly political activism (the stuff one would expect from the secular academy).

      Perhaps Fr. Reardon will explain how this invite can be a “misfortune” and “mistake” as some have described it here. To suggest this is to presuppose that the professors and staff at St. Vlad’s are not aware of converts and the situation of Orthodoxy vis-à-vis Anglicanism and mainline Protestantism. Such a suggest is beyond credulity, especially given the fact that now more than half of the students are converts and many of the professors have written and lectured explicitly on the subject.

      One could argue that they took this into account but somehow thought it would not have an impact. That begs the question then about basic qualifications to teach and represent Orthodox thought. Surely a minimum of a resignation of the dean to at least acknowledge level of incompetence is called for.

      No, what you will find in the response (if there is one at all) is a principled defense, one that relies heavily on the liberal/secular faith in “dialog”, and the like. I suspect that Fr. Reardon has already received such a response privately and unofficially of course…

  28. P. H. Reardon :

    Christopher writes:

    “No, what you will find in the response (if there is one at all) is a principled defense, one that relies heavily on the liberal/secular faith in “dialog”, and the like. I suspect that Fr. Reardon has already received such a response privately and unofficially of course…”

    Respectfully, Christopher, is it appropriate to say such a thing on the basis of a mere suspicion? Isn’t this how gossip gets started?

    In fact, your suspicion is completely without ‘fundamentum in re.’

    Not a soul has contacted me—directly or indirectly—from either the seminary or the Metropolitan’s office. Indeed, except for Father Wilbur Ellsworth, I have heard from none of the individuals originally copied in that letter. I have not a whit more information than I did when the letter was written.

  29. As far as a response I stand corrected.

    My history with the OCA financial scandal taught me how much non transparent, unofficial chatter goes back and forth ‘in the ranks’ so to speak.

  30. I have been asked to “wave my magic wand” and suggest how St. Vlad’s conferring of an honorary degree on the Archbishop of Canterbury might have been handled differently from the orthodox Anglican point of view. I must first acknowledge that there is much I do not know about what behind the scenes contacts might have taken place between the hierarchs of the OCA, leadership of the seminary, and His Grace Archbishop Duncan of the ACNA prior to the decision to invite Dr. Williams. If there were not such contacts, I would be very surprised. In his remarks to the ACNA assembly in Plano, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah signaled his desire to reopen the OCA Anglican dialog with the ACNA which had been suspended with the Episcopal Church. In addition St. Vladimir’s has entered into a Covenant relationship with Nashotah House (an orthodox Anglican seminary).

    By way of background, I wish to associate myself with those who have posted to the blog arguing that the intellectual cannot be separated from the spiritual. In my view, we can talk of the formation of Christian souls by the acting of the Holy Spirit within the Church. It was the writings of Fr. Alexander Schememann (may his memory be eternal) that it is the constant liturgical witness of the Church which is the fundamental crucible in which this takes place. Theology is the servant of the Church’s witness, not its master. It can deepen our understanding or it can further separate us if the theological task is divorced from the underlying reality of the Church’s call to know Christ and make Him known through its sacramental reality. It seems to me that it is Orthodoxy’s insistence on the inseparable oneness of Trinity and Church, thosis and intellect which makes my heart long to be at one with it.

    Do Dr. Williams’ life witness and example bear witness to this formative reality? To be sure, there is much to be admired. His work on Dostoyevsky has been mentioned in other posts. He authored The Dwelling of the Light—Praying with Icons of Christ and Ponder These Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin. If his writing were the totality of his life’s work, we would probably not be having this on line discussion. However, Dr. Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury, accorded a primacy of honor within the Anglican Communion. And it is here that we begin to understand him not as a unifying figure, but as one who is tragically broken.

    IMHO, He has been unable to speak with certainty about the underlying truths of the Christian faith, pulled by the currents of culture to accept radical revisions of the Christian faith, and trying to be a moderator of theological debate rather than a leader. In many ways he seems to embody the tensions which are pulling the Anglican Communion apart.

    With others, I find myself puzzled in trying to understand the conferring of an honorary degree on Dr. Williams by St. Vladimir’s. I doubt that any seminarians or faculty will be harmed by hearing him speak – I trust in their formation in the faith and their discernment in parsing his address. However, what message does it send to the faithful – Anglican and Orthodox – to confer the honorary degree? Perhaps the invitation could have been extended without the honor. I think I would have been less troubled by such an approach.


    • Dear Oso,

      Thanks for your thoughtful, discerning comments.

      It occurred to me as well, that the invitation might have been extended without the corresponding honor – in which case it might have been more along the lines of “a dialogue”…something St. Vlad’s would quite naturally be expected to be at the forefront of.

      And your comments about Dr. Williams’ “moderator” status accurately describe the predicament…I am reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s classic line, “Leadership is NOT followership.” I don’t envy his position or his situation. Healing the Anglican Communion is something which will ONLY occur with the help of the Holy Spirit.

      But these comments…

      re: By way of background, I wish to associate myself with those who have posted to the blog arguing that the intellectual cannot be separated from the spiritual. In my view, we can talk of the formation of Christian souls by the acting of the Holy Spirit within the Church. It was the writings of Fr. Alexander Schememann (may his memory be eternal) that it is the constant liturgical witness of the Church which is the fundamental crucible in which this takes place. Theology is the servant of the Church’s witness, not its master. It can deepen our understanding or it can further separate us if the theological task is divorced from the underlying reality of the Church’s call to know Christ and make Him known through its sacramental reality. It seems to me that it is Orthodoxy’s insistence on the inseparable oneness of Trinity and Church, thosis and intellect which makes my heart long to be at one with it.

      It never ceases to amaze me…how many times people outside the faith see it more so clearly than those of us inside it. I’m not even worthy of responding to those comments..but they certainly touch me.

      Thank you again…and good luck in your journey.

      In Christ,

  31. Fr. Johannes says:

    “But SVS is not the hot bed of secular liberalism you seem to think it is.”

    Well sure, you put it like that it sounds ridiculous. We have a disagreement here obviously. I am connecting the dots. IMO you are at once de-emphasizing the dots and considering them in isolation (as a series of unrelated mistakes). Behind my thinking lays the an understanding (I believe it to be more than a theory) of how most of the significant institutions of mainline Protestantism and Catholicism in this country became the real hot beds of religious liberalism they are. It starts not with outright apostasy, but more of an almost unconscious receptivity and sympathy to modes of thought that have their origin in secular thinking. They of course are “baptized” but their root and thus their end is a “progressive” way of being “religious”. Long before you had witches and lesbians teaching at Episcopalian seminaries, you had men like Bishop Pike.

    Also I did not mean to imply that academics had no place in priestly formation. What I am trying to suggest is that you don’t have to accept the modern secular form which puts it’s interests first (which is what you, Roger and others believed happened here). You also don’t have to accept a model of priestly formation that places over emphasizes academics to the detriment of other methods. Certainly throughout most of Christian history the vast majority of priests did not have a modern academic preparation. Apparently they managed just fine.

    Finally, I believe it was this thread where I mentioned I did attend a lecture at St. Vlad’s in the mid nineties. If I recall correctly it was an “open house” event. Despite the lecture being on an unrelated topic, Fr. Hopko used the occasion to complain bitterly about those who were critical of the SVS/OCA participation in NCC/WCC. I immediately recognized the bunker mentality, the arrogance (why would anyone question them for they know better because they were theologians after all), and the “progressive” sympathies. It was disturbing to say the least. I had been Orthodox for less than a year if memory serves. If I had attended this event before my chrismation, I would likely be Roman Catholic today. When Fr. Reardon said this:

    “If a major Orthodox seminary had conferred such an honor on such a man as Rowan Williams back then, I likely would never have joined the Orthodox Church.”

    He might have well been speaking for me and many many other Orthodox Christians how came from Episcopal backgrounds in particular, and liberal protestantism in general.

    I don’t know what your background is Fr. Johannes but I would strongly suggest you refrain from recommending a St. Vlad’s lecture series to your inquirers who are seeking refuge from a liberal protestantism. Even if they can’t articulate it, they will likely intuit a “feeling in the air”.

    I have spoken about this before and had folks tell me I am projecting (and similar pop-phychologism’s), I have an “unconverted” mindset, I must be part of the synod in resistance and the like. What can I say, I disagree. Perhaps Fr. Reardon will be listened to…

  32. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Your assessment of reasons for the decline of liberal Protestant and some Catholic seminaries is accurate. You’ll get no argument from me on this.

    As far as Fr. Hopko’s frustration with critics of the NCC, well, change comes hard. As far as I am concerned, he was wrong. Maybe I was one of the people who frustrated him, who knows?

    Look, I think what you are defending is the point that SVS is not sufficiently aware of how direct the challenges are to O(o)rthodox Christians outside of the academy. If so, I agree with this.

    I am less willing to grant the implied point that the conferral of the degree to Dr. Williams indicates that SVS may be deconstructing the Orthodox tradition.

    It could be that this is just a mistake, one that arose because of the differences in academic and parish cultures. That’s why I am counseling patience. I’m holding back from drawing any hard conclusions until the dust settles a bit.

    • Yes “deconstructing the tradition” is too strong. Yet, the history of Protestant and Catholic institutions reveal that a direct deconstruction and other such frontal attacks only come in the last stage. There was always at least a generation or two of much more subtle weakening around the edges and indirect attacks. I do take the Williams invite to be a look or turn in that direction – even if unintentional. Certainly in this age and present cultural we can not afford to be lapse and inattentive with this. Everything is pushing you in this direction, and hardly anything is countering this seduction (not that I am saying anything you don’t already know). Honestly, even if this is unintentional (and as I have said I really don’t see how it can be) then that simply reveals a glaring weakness of the staff. Such a whole in basic competence might have be OK in other times, but not ours. Not today. Again I don’t believe it for as Mr. Michalopulos notes below Fr. Chad appears to actually have a clue about the cultural situation…

    • As an aside, I wonder out loud (don’t know the answer) if the “lesser evil philosophy” is not a twisting of the tradition – something invented to justify pacifistic and “progressive” predilections of the supporters. It does appear to have been thought up by seminary professionals and is rejected by David Hart among others. I would add Saint Clive Staples Lewis as someone who would have rejected it.

  33. George Michalopulos :

    In the interest of charity, let us concede that there has been a disconnect between the invitation of Williams (potential for scandal because of his liberalism) and the reality on the ground. I believe that although there has been a general liberal drift at SVS going on for many decades (towit, the support of its faculty for the odious NCC/WCC), I cannot look at the facts on the ground as of late and make that same assessment. What facts am I talking about? For one, the fact that Fr Chad Hatfield, the Dean, was a prime mover behind The Manhattan Declaration. I can assure you that such a bold move in favor of Christian orthodoxy and traditionalism is not something a liberal would do.

    Indeed, I am sure he is being castigated for this by intellectuals throughout the academic world. He and its signers have already been derided by certain Orthodox priests and although it cannot be said that the GOA bishops are similarly dismissive, their complete silence in this regard can be most definitely viewed in a negative light.

    Perhaps what can be said is that with the election of the new Metropolitan (God grant him many years!) and an almost complete turnover in the Holy Synod, we are witnessing a strengthening of Orthodoxy at SVS. Let us not forget that the entire Holy Synod was present at the annual March for Life, and SVS suspended classes that day, encouraging its students to attend. (Again, the silence from 79th St. was deafening, and the absence of Brookline’s Best was apparent to all. Perhaps Greek-American glitterati from Hollywood should have been invited?)

    Having said that, let us hope that this was an unfortunate incident that occurs when transitions take place. Let us also pray that the invitors take this present imbroglio to heart and carefully consider in the future upon whom they shall confer honorary degrees.

    And let us not forget, the one person in this thread who has been most scandalized by this, Fr Reardon, has called for no retaliation against SVS, which as Dean said, truly is “one of the jewels of Orthodoxy.” We would be remiss if we did so. Prayer and tact is called for; sobriety, not anger.

    • George,

      When you put the list together as you do (Fr Chad & The Manhattan Declaration, turnover, March for Life, etc.) I concede these are very good signs.

      That said, just like the financial markets these trends are never linear (ups and downs within a larger general trend).

      I still reject the notion that a considered judgment of these trends and withholding of support is “retaliation”, any more than not joining Green Peace is “sectarian” 😉 We all have our limits. SVS surpassed mine before this latest silliness. No doubt this invite is the tipping point for some. For others, it will something else…

    • George,

      You put it brilliantly.

      I don’t know about you, but I was proud of my metropolitan this morning when I heard those petitions – there was no middle ground…words like “evil”…finally!

      This is a guy who is going to engage the culture…

      He’s going to make mistakes…anyone who does anything will…but “better to ask forgiveness than permission” has always been a pretty good strategy when you’re trying to change things, if you ask me.

      And, for those who are paying attention, you are right – it has NOT gone unnoticed that Fr. Chad Hatfield is generally right there, by His Beatitude’s side…putting the prestige of SVS on the line on more than one occasion… Pretty courageous stuff – Manhattan Declaration, last summer’s St. Vladimir’s conference, working with OCL, and others.

      They are going to make mistakes, we all do. But that generally means they are DOING something in my book.

      Fr. Hans put a finger on it at the recent OCL conference at Ligonier – “These are signs of growth”. He was absolutely right. Orthodoxy is no longer an irrelevant relic, frozen in the 10th century. It’s out there…shaking things up…just like St. Photios and St. John Chrysostom would have us do.

      Anyway, very nicely put.

      Best Regards,

  34. The bottom line is that at the very root, the decision to invite Dr.Williams was not an unintentional mistake. I believe that every prominent institution (political, cultural, religious, etc) is the nest of “venomous serpents”. They are regarded as very respectable people/professionals who behind the scenes influence many events. This explains general drifts, going on for many decades.

    The way it works is to put together on the list good and plain bad, destructive things, and watch if people are swallowing it. If they don’t, reduce the bad component and try again.

    The comments here indicate that the decision on the conferral of the degree to Dr. Williams was meant to bring confusion among those seeking refuge in Orthodoxy. The main target are those who have been long struggling within the Anglican Communion.

  35. George Michalopulos :

    I could very well be wrong, but in my considered opinion, I do see a positive traditionalist trajectory coming out of SVS. It is going to take some time, but let us be honest, what else is there? Who else is engaging the culture? The AOCA? No, they made a conscious decision to retrench into their Arab ghetto. The GOA? They never left the Greek ghetto.

    Let me put this in more personal terms. About seven years ago, when we were looking to set up a mission, we staked our claim in the OCA. There were many reasons, but for some of us from the GOA, ROCOR, and AOCA, there were certainly difficulties. About 2 years later, we heard ruminations of whiffs of scandal in Syosset. Gradually these whiffs became aromas then finally stenches. But our original decision was never in vain. Why? Because the OCA is a canonical, local, autocephalous church. Its dioceses are autonomous and beyond the reach of a central national administration.

    There were other reasons: we didn’t have to worry about some old-world patriarch jerking us around, the language issue was resolved, etc. What is my point? By choosing a church as opposed to an eparchy and other intangibles, things came out right in the end. I believe that this will happen to SVS. The academic culture still has embers of a more liberal time but these in time will go away. Otherwise, SVS will crumble into irrelevence. Again, I can’t see this happening with the new Metropolitan and the moral courage displayed by Fr Chad. It would be churlish of me to get all purist here and kick him in the teeth, especially when he’s done something far more important and right. In the final analysis, I don’t think people will remember the degree conferred upon Dr Williams.

    • P. H. Reardon :

      While I never intended my modest letter on the ‘res Cantuariensis’ to reflect badly on St. Vladimir’s Seminary—much less the OCA—it was probably inevitable that the ensuing comments on this thread would raise various appraisals of those two institutions.

      In this respect, I am especially impressed by the observations of George Michalopulos, whose assessments of the American Orthodox scene, down to the smallest detail, are a perfect expression of my own.

      I also share his hope that this unfortunate business of Dr. Williams will soon pass from memory.

    • Allow me to express a counter point to the opinion expressed by both George and Fr. Patrick Reardon on the OCA in particular and the American Orthodox scene in general (setting aside SVS for a moment). The stench tore our OCA parish into two. We were a relatively young parish with many young couples with children. Those of us with children came to the conclusion that had the scandal been the health and safety of our children as opposed to a few million dollars (as it was in the Roman church) the reaction would have not been substantially different. Of all the bishops, only Bishop Job reacted with anything resembling a proper response – the rest were old world to the letter. Our own bishop put a gag order on the priest and all but ordered the rest of us to forgive without transparency of what happened let alone forgiveness. Half of us left the OCA – most of us for a local start up GOA parish!

      The OCA is the only “jurisdiction” I have ever left for its own sake and my family would not attend an OCA parish today. In spite of the very real and positive signs and people that George refers to above, it is wishful thinking to believe that there is not a very large contingent of dry rot in the OCA. This rot will remain until either a very visible mass conversion/repentance (a very real miracle) or the older generation dies out. This means I will not attend an OCA church nor accept a unified American Church of which it is a part for the rest of my adult life. This is a prudential decision that concerns the real spiritual and physical health of my child (God willing soon to be children!). Those of you that are a part of the OCA that find offense in my perspective and decision I beg your forgiveness and understanding. My family is not the only one who has come to this conclusion.

      Please, when discussing these issues let us not overlook the substantial negatives and over emphasize the positives for appearance sake or any other reason…

      • The above sentence should read “let alone repentance“, not “let alone forgiveness”…

      • This means I will not attend an OCA church nor accept a unified American Church of which it is a part for the rest of my adult life. This is a prudential decision that concerns the real spiritual and physical health of my child (God willing soon to be children!)

        This is a bit too much …

        On the Priesthood + (From the Book: “The Truth of our Faith, Vol. 2, By: Elder Cleopa of Romania)

        Elder Cleopa: Yes, it is a fact that many priests are not at all what they should be, and neither do we say that they are saints. However, they are not all as guilty and sinful as they are generally accused of being. And yet who can claim to be holy and irreproachable? God alone knows the state of each soul. Why should we rush to judge others? (Matt. 7: 1-2). In addition, we should know that the validity of the Mysteries is not dependent upon the merit of the priest, but on the grace of the Holy Spirit, which he received through the mystery of ordination (! Tim. 4:14 and 2 Tim.1-6). […] This answer can be given to all those who accuse the priests of immorality, yet are unable to see the plank in their own eye. (Matt. 7:3-4).

      • Michael Bauman :

        Christopher, while I can sympathsize with your concern, I too have to say you might be over reacting. That is easy to do and Lord knows, I am prone to it as well, especially where the safety of my children and other loved ones is concerned. But consider, every Christian tradition, jurisdiction, denomination, what have you has been hit with the sexual abuse cases. Not a one is free of it, not a one has dealt with it forthrightly and in a manner that is fully Christian.

        While I think PROKOV is a little overboard too, they do have a lot of information of the problems in the Orthodox world–here and abroad.

        It is not the jurisdiction that is the problem, it is the lack of a deeply Christian approach to the sexualization of culture and the animalistic anthropology being promoted by media, marketers and politicians and tacitly accepted by many Christians.

        I have no doubt that Satan is using our distorted view of our sexuality to attack the entire Christian world. Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox or any sub-group within those traditions, it dosen’t matter. We have to be on guard where ever we go–guarding our own thoughts and actions especially. No one is immune.

        Lord have mercy on us.

        • I agree with you. That said, I think some Christian groups are better able to react correctly because they have a culture of administrative/management competence, and a body of believers with higher expectations.

        • It is an irony that those who over-react tend to foster reactions that warrant and justify further over-reaction. Hence our need to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Others may indeed wound us (and there is more than a trace of this in some posts in this thread), but the wounds we inflict on ourselves when we capitulate to the passions are far more hurtful and lasting. What seems clear to me, despite the issue of the moment, is that God is zealous for His Church and is always at work within it. This – not our virtue – is the only genuine basis for hope and the endurance of the Church. Even in the midst of the worst human failings, grace will continue to produce glory for God through the always under-valued channel of humility.

          • God works however He wants, even through unrighteous or unfaithful people. The only thing He can’t do is evil, says Fr. Hopko. Acquisition of the Holy Spirit

            In the midst of the worst persecutions in communist Russia, miracles occurred. At midnight, people would see the roof of a church ablaze, and gather in panic as it burned. In the morning they would see the roof transformed from a dusty, dark-gray color into a bright, gold shine. Old icons would refresh themselves, the faded paint regaining it’s original brightness and luster. These and many other miracles occurred and were kept under silence (easy to do so back then). The ‘scientific’ explanation was ‘a chemical reaction took place….’

            An Elder said that the time will come when great miracles will happen, and people will beg to be told about Christ. We live in a time of widespread confusion. It is difficult, close to impossible, to find the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. We should pray for miracles to the Glory of His Name.

          • In His Providence, God will indeed work through whomever He wishes. Yet if we hope to abide in His grace and glorify Him in our lives, the passions must be purged through sacramental asceticism, and the human heart ordered properly through humility.

            Thanks for the information about the faith in Russia. So long as it is comprised of fallen people in need of salvation, the Church will be be rocked from within by scandal or from without by persecution. God, however, never fails, and despite the distress of the moment, the gates of Hell will not prevail.

            Thanks, as well, for your reference to Elder Cleopa. What a beautiful life and inspiring elder, lived through one of the most oppressive countries in the 20th century. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more – especially in those who offer themselves to God and become the abode of His Spirit.

          • When it comes to the physical and spiritual health of our children, it is clear that in our culture (as evidence by the Roman, Protestant, and Orthodox sexual and pedophile scandals) the tendency and error is not over reaction, but under reaction. Michael points to one of the reasons – I point to lazy mismanagement concerning the “institutional” aspects of the Church.

            Perhaps part of the reason for this mismanagement is a certain self congratulatory (and thus false) humbleness on the part of some of in the Body, such as Chrys post here.

          • “Perhaps part of the reason for this mismanagement is a certain self congratulatory (and thus false) humbleness on the part of some of in the Body, such as Chrys post here.
            I am not sure if you are accusing me of promoting a “self congratulatory (and thus false) humbleness” or supporting my statement that (genuine) humility is necessary for the well-ordered soul. It appears to be the former. If I am wrong, however, please show how this is the case rather than merely claim it is so.
            Since I was not sufficiently clear, I was, in fact, reflecting on Michael’s comment as it reflected on my own experience. These are issues that I know “from the inside.” I can attest to my own experiences of heated reactions that have often created the very tension that worsens rather than helps the situation. It takes real self-command NOT to react when accused, but to respond to one’s enemies with love.
            In case you think I was referring to the issue which drove your response, I was not. For that, I apologize.
            Regarding that issue, I can not abide any hint of fraud or the abuse of power; these inflict scandalous wounds on the Body. (As I noted on other threads, the unrepentant perpetrator is hanging a millstone around his neck when he harms so many little ones in Christ.) Those in power bear enormous responsibility along with their privileges, though power (or resentment) seems to regularly blind the holder to this fact. Indeed, I believe that our leadership would benefit enormously from suitable professional training (business, management, economics, etc.) and the kind of accountability structures that make American businesses much more transparent and reliable (for all their faults) than one finds elsewhere. As I have noted elsewhere, I think this may well be part of America’s contribution to Orthodoxy.
            Thus, please accept my apologies if you felt accused. I failed to be sufficiently clear about the focus of my response. I hope this explanation has corrected that mistake.

          • Yes, I thought you were responding to my decision. Please accept my apology for misreading you. I agree with everything you said, particularly the contribution that America can make to the more mundane institutional/management aspects of the Church. I suppose God has a use for our culture yet!

  36. Two interesing observations:

    1) The SVS website says the following:

    The lecture is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m., and will be followed by a Question & Answer session; questions to the archbishop may be written on cards provided to the audience.

    Sounds to me like questions are going to be screened if not pre-selected for Rowan. The academic glitterati will no doubt toss out some softballs for Rowan to hit while more serious questions of accountability will be set aside. Some questions are more equal than others you know and God forbid some “fundamentalist” Orthodox Christian ask the wrong question.

    2)There is a timing issue here: The Schmemann Lecture is scheduled to start at 12:30 PM on Saturday January 30 with questions and reception to follow. How long is this going to run???? if you look at the World Economic Forum Blog there is a problem:

    Rowan Williams is scheduled to be in Davos Switzerland to lead the closing session at about 11:30 AM Davos Time on January 31, 2010. Now I guess you could make the argument that Rowan can hop a jet and make it just in time but this is a very tight schedule. Delays, bad weather, a traffic jam, or someone getting a case of the sniffles can cause the whole thing to fall apart.

    My bet here is that Rowan will deliver his lecture, take 2 softball questions that are pre-screened, claim his sheepskin and then there will be an announcement that Rowan cannot hang around because he has an urgent meeting in Davos. He will then be whisked off to JFK or hey maybe this leading proponent of Green living has a private jet waiting for for him like the EP does.

  37. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Patrick, words fail to describe the honor I feel by your kind words. I am most unworthy.

  38. George Michalopulos :

    Chris, I trust you will be comforted in your GOA parish. Truth be told, I’m surprised that a start-up parish happened in the GOA. I honestly don’t know of any but I’m gratified nonetheless. (In trying to start up a GOA mission, I was told that the metrics would be prohibitive. I hope that wasn’t the case with you all.)

    On another front, I don’t mean to be sarcastic (and I’m not), but it’s quite possible that you jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Most of the pedophile scandals that have occurred have been in the GOA. Indeed, the recent orphan scandal only highlighted the entire issue: as another poster stated (I believe it was Andrew), the GOA came rather late in the day to these poor waifs’ rescue (and I don’t know how or if it’s being resolved) but they were working the phone banks overtime to raise money for the claims of the abuse victims. I’m sorry, I just can’t square that circle. (To say nothing of the fact that +Theoliptus roundly castigated +Demetrius for doing the same thing that the GOA glitterati did for the EP when he was in the US recently.)

    • To clarify this was two (and more) years ago. Now that my wife has completed her training we are putting down roots (God willing – we are tired of moving) in a smallish New Mexican city. We are part of the only Orthodox church in town, a Ukrainian Orthodox mission.

      By the way, my priest had a “Orthodox Clergy for Obama” sticker on his car (Abortion alone makes this a square circle) and is one of the original signatories of “the Plea” 😉 So no Donatist sympathies here. That said, I do not sense the old world (mis)management style so I cam comfortable with my child in Sunday school…

  39. cynthia curran :

    Well, people are entitled to their politcal beliiefs but I think the attraction for some orthodox for Obama is the old Byzantine emperor thinking. Obama like liberals in general uses the state to deal with problms. Take Basil the 2nd, that took property from some rich byzantines and gave it to poorer ones and made the poor less poor and some of the rich poor. Orthodox like the emperor or president taking from the wealthly and giving to the poor. Anyway, the real rich in Obama’s adminstration like Soros or Buffett have trust funds so their taxes will not go up while those around 250,000 in states like Ca and New York are not really rich but are upper-middle. Just my opinion on the subject.

  40. George Michalopulos :

    Cynthia, this type of pandering towards the state always ends up in servility. Regarding being poor but not reliant upon the state, there’s an old Serbian saying: “It is better to eat vinegar as a free man than to eat honey as a slave.”

  41. Orthodox like the emperor or president taking from the wealthly and giving to the poor.

    Wow! I am speechless on this one. Count me among those Orthodox who DO NOT like the emperor taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor.

    Cynthia, might I refer you to the work of Nobel Laureaute Milton Friedman at It can be argued that no person has helped lift people out of poverty more than Dr. Friedman. You should read his stuff.

  42. cynthia curran :

    Well, I was trying to explain why some orthodox like taking money away from the rich and givng to the poor. I use Basil 2nd as an example. I stated like it wasall orthodox and I meant some,my mistake. Anyway, Basil would not be a hero with modern liberals since he was a warrior and of course was brutal, he blinded thousands of Bulgarians.

  43. Thanks, as well, for your reference to Elder Cleopa. What a beautiful life and inspiring elder, lived through one of the most oppressive countries in the 20th century.

    Here is some more, about the nine stages of prayer:

    Elder Cleopa on Prayer

    Quotes by Elder

    If you want to go straight before God, you need two walls. Not of brick or stone or earth, but two spiritual walls. Have fear of God on the right, because the Prophet Daniel says, ‘With fear of God, man is diverted from all evil.’ On the left have fear of death because the Son of Sirach says, ‘Son, remember your end and you will not sin.’ These two good deeds — fear of God and remembrance of death — deliver a man from all sin.

    Elder Cleopa Ilie (+1998)

  44. Lets remember this, in just two days one the leading if not premier institution of Orthodox Learning in America will present its highest honor to an individual who mocks the Orthodox Christian Faith. Orthodox Christians of common sense should just say no to this fashionable fundamentalism.

    For those in the audience, I believe the most polite way to be heard to is take one the special notecards being used to control questions by SVS staff and write “Not Worthy” on it and then hand it back.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Too harsh Andrew. Dr. Williams does not mock the Orthodox faith. In fact he has a certain regard, even respect, for it. As for the notecard idea, we declare axios at an ordination, not at a speaking event. You get the picture.

      You’ve got to be clear here. Your argument is with SVS, not Dr. Williams. I hope they respond, and if they do, any reply has got to be deliberate and fair. If they don’t, well, it will undermine confidence in the institution, unwittingly perhaps, but undermine it nonetheless.

      • Father, I deeply respect your criticism. One thing I cannot understand is how one can have a regard for the Orthodox Faith while lending support to sex outside of marriage? What message does this send to the many people out there struggling to live chaste lives both in and out of marriage? Does chastity take a back seat to academics?

        I also wonder what the difference is between the GOA honoring Paul Sarbanes as an Archon and SVS honoring Rowan Williams with a doctorate?

        I apologize if my words are harsh but I believe that the questioning of Church leaders is an important part of growing as a Church. The GOA does not get a pass for honoring an advocate of abortion and holding him up as an example of the faith and SVS does not get pass for bestowing a high honor on an theologian whose message is sex outside of marriage is acceptable.

        We all want SVS to succeed. We all want American Orthodoxy to succeed but no matter how much SVS tries to manage and spin this event there can be no question it has been damaging. What is worse is that the faculty and staff feel no obligation to answer the questions of the faithful whose donations pay their salaries. Is there not some sense of accountability? This certainly leaves an elitist taste in ones mouth.

        As for the notecards. There is no reason men and women of common sense and good will should feel ashamed of this silent and polite protest. Not worthy written on the notecards at the lecture is a simple way to send a mature message of dissent while respecting the decorum of the event. Why not let the person screening the questions see for themselves?

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Oh, I missed the note-card idea. I thought you meant holding up little placards, like people do at auctions. You meant passing notes to the moderators as a kind of protest.

          My only point is bringing it up was to make sure we make the proper distinctions across the board. Dr. Williams was invited, so your frustration is properly directed at the seminary, not Williams.

          And yes, this is damaging but whether it was intentional or not, and whether they answer the criticisms or not, will go a long way to determine how damaging it finally will be. Most people probably don’t know who Williams is, but the Anglicans sure do, and those Orthodox who do have a lot of influence over Orthodox life in America. So a response is entirely appropriate.

          Give them a chance to respond. If they don’t, well, you are right, they will unfortunately distance themselves from the laity, many of whom want to support them. But I know they have been working hard to bridge that gap so again, let’s wait and see.

        • Andrew inquires:

          “I also wonder what the difference is between the GOA honoring Paul Sarbanes as an Archon and SVS honoring Rowan Williams with a doctorate?”

          The difference, I believe, is material, not formal. They are formally the same thing. They differ only degree.

          That is to say, the honor bestowed on Mr Sarbanes is vastly more reprehensible than that received by Dr Williams.

          Dr Williams has at least a track record of serious scholarship.

          The political track record of Mr Sarbanes cries to heaven for vengeance.

          • Michael Bauman :

            I have a genuine question: What is the value of ‘serious scholarship’ if the entire spirit of the material purportedly studied is twisted and/or ignored?

            When I was studying history I was always taught to look for the truth, go where the evidence led me, don’t impose my own views on the evidence. That is one of the ways that Jesus used to lead me to the Church.

            How can scholarship be ‘serious’ if it is merely an intellectual antiquarian exercise or a conscious attempt to find ‘evidence’ to fit one’s own persuppositions and apply the odious method of presentism to one’s interpretation.

            Isn’t that why the Church has always reserved the formal title of Theologian for those who actually experience communion with God and are able to describe it within the context of Holy Tradition and the revealed truth of Holy Scripture?

            What worries me most is that the invitation to Dr. Williams indicates, perhaps, an approach to the training of priests at SVS that is overly intellectualized and antiquarian in nature.

            Our rite of baptism proclaims the Chrisitan life to be a rejection of the ways of Satan, union with Christ, and obedience to the teachings of the Church. How does Dr. Williams in his scholarship and in his leadership demononstrate those charateristics?

          • To add to Michael’s question: You are much closer in work and disposition to the academic than the political. I am only familiar with your more ‘popular’ works (such as Christ in the Psalms) so I don’t know of your more serious academic works (pardon my ignorance) – but the connection is still there. I wonder if in work and disposition you were more sympathetic to the world of practical politics than the academic if you would be drawing such a distinction in the material (honest question)?

            In any case I have a harder time with it because it is men like Dr. Williams who provide some of the intellectual ground for men like Mr. Sarbanes (who in any case are only representing the wishes of those whom elected him and if it was not him it would be someone else). “Serious scholarship” is really besides the point. Or, rather, ‘serious scholarship’ simply reveals the turning upside down of value at SVS. If ‘serious scholarship’ is not subsumed under higher values (in this case the Orthodox Christian mission of priestly formation of SVS – at least that’s what I take it reason for being is) then it means nothing.

      • Politely asking for permission to express the way I see the whole story: The argument can’t be with SVS alone. I would say that the “certain regard, even respect” that Dr. Williams appears to have for Orthodoxy is being used to lure us to impiety. Dr. William is a knowledgeable person, a professor at one of the famous “hot bed of atheism” universities. Now, add the fact that he has personal view on ‘lifestyles’ identical to those promoted by the Hollywood film industry.

        What part(s) of Orthodoxy does he respect? The martyrs, the saints, the fathers? One has to have certain respect for those who were ready to suffer persecutions, exiles, tortures and even death for the sake of the truth, and for those undefeated by the many generous favors of the rulers. SVS appears to have been defeated by Dr. Williams’ generous favor to … have a look at Orthodoxy.

        Do we (still) seriously consider the fearful judgment? I pray that God, Who foreknows and foresees, will straighten the fallen and illuminate the way of the blind.

        • Eliot is correct. This is why it can be argued that if Rowan Williams really respected Orthodoxy he would decline the invitation recongizing his presence and opinions would cause too much scandal for the Seminary and Church. Instead he is going to show up and stir the pot at SVS and then jump on his plane to Davos to solve the world’s problems.

          I think its pretty obvious SVS has painted themselves into a corner. Any response they give will raise more questions or make them look silly. The only thing they can do at this point is hope the event blows over and the damage from the storm is manageable.

          In the meantime the elites at SVS certainly have given us this impression that studying Orthodoxy is more honorable than trying to live an Orthodox life. In the face of a challenge the seminary leadership folded. This is the real tragedy and then we are left with the question:

          What happens when everyone is done congratulating themselves?

  45. Michael Bauman :

    Father Gregory Jenson on his blog makes the following comment:

    The blessing of the present moment is that we now see that, a common Creed and Chalice are not enough for our shared life in Christ. Our life must also be shaped by practical expressions of love and mutual respect. We must talk to each other if we ever hope to be who are prayers say we are already.

    I would say that we must talk with each other especially on the matters on which we may differ. Anger and suspicion are always fostered and fester in silence.

    If I am not mistaken, the Holy Scripture commands us to always be ready to give an explanation of what we believe in gentleness and respect. If someone asks me, I feel duty bound to give a response appropriate to the situation. There is no cannon, Scripture or ecclesial reason of which I am aware that indicates our priests and bishops should not follow the same command.

    Certainly, if a fellow believer, priest or bishop inquires of me why or questions the spirit behind my actions, I am compelled by my own conscience to examine myself more deeply and respond.

    We need to ask more often, in gentleness and respect. We need to expect real answers. Genuine obedience and spiritual renewal will come of such work.

    When considered in the light of Matthew 5:23-24 “23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

    There are many who are deeply greived by the decision of SVS to invite Dr. Williams and confer an honorary degree on him. Matthew makes no mention of whether the greivance is justified or not, merely that the greivance exists. The humility to act in obedience to Matthew’s words is often difficult, but what about the Christian faith is easy?

    Of course, we should work just as hard not to give offense unnecessarily by working to control our passions. That’s not easy either, but it is the work to which we are all called.

    May the joy of our Lord be with us now and in the coming Lenten journey.

  46. Good day to all:

    First, I have found myself moved and enlightened by the tone of civility of the posts of the past few days.

    If I may offer an observation from the Anglican side, we have found that a persons’ willingness to vest as a Bishop, use incense or even profess the Symbol of Faith at Consecration does not equate with orthodoxy of belief. I would also note that Dr. Williams’ obvious appreciation of ccons and the Orthodox ethos does not equate to acceptance of or respect for the orthodox (or Orthodox) faith and praxis.

    For example, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have repeatedly called for an end to litigation for the properties of the parishes in the Episcopal Church or Anglican Church of Canada which have been compelled to leave for reasons of conscience, usually because the clergy and faithful are under pressure to conform with the Bishop’s toeing of the party line on christology and human sexuality. He has not brought the immense moral authority of his primacy on honour to bear on TEC or ACofC to cease this legal persecution. I agree with Fr. Johannes that he is indeed a scholar of note, but has he used his scholarship to “banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine” as the Book of Common Prayer requires?

    I respectfully suggest that he has not, and there lies my dilemma with the conferring of this degree.


  47. My feeling is that the invitation has much more to do with who was on someone’s dissertaion committee than anything else; the Ware/Behr/Williams connection is a very close one. Having noted that, these three and any others can get together for sherry in a paneled room any old time without any scandal at all.

    In the meantime, I ask anyone going to the talk to ask Williams a question if they can; it was said in the announcement that written questions were welcome. On about Page 65 (I think) of Vl. Lossky’s “Mystical Theology”, he says “Between the Trinity and Hell there lies no alternative”. Since Williams did his D.Phil dissertation on Lossky, I wonder if he agrees with his master? Perhaps ask if he, like the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in Washington State would have a Muslim/Episcopalian layman (Ann Redding) receiving communion?

  48. P. H. Reardon :

    Christopher inquires (of me):

    “You are much closer in work and disposition to the academic than the political. . . . I wonder if in work and disposition you were more sympathetic to the world of practical politics than the academic if you would be drawing such a distinction in the material (honest question)?”

    Goodness, I know absolutely nothing of scholarship and perhaps less of politics.

    Let me see if i can clarify my intent:

    I did not intend to distinguish between scholarship and politics (which would be, surely, a formal distinction: qualis).

    I wanted to suggest, rather, that the difference between the honors bestowed on the two men (Sarbanes and Williams) is only one of magnitude: quantum. That is to say, the two honors are formally (qualitatively) the same; they differ only in quantity.

    In other words, both awards are ill conceived. One, however, appears to be worse.

    I suppose I might confound things further by declaring that Sarbanes and Williams look exactly alike . . . especially Sarbanes!

  49. Heard the talk. Dear me, this man should listen to Fr. Hopko on Ancient Faith radio for how to get a point across if there IS a point. I still can’t tell if there was one, but I’m certainly not going to waste another hour on that talk and those questions, not to mention the oooooooozing introduction. It will be soon forgotten.

  50. joseph godleski :

    dear sir i take much offense from the opf and the way they are trying to hijack the eastern orthodox church in the name of so called peace these people are ignorant of the truth and should feel ashamed of their actions they say we should not have been in ww2 my grandfather fought the german and italians in europe and my great uncle fought the japs in the south pacific and i have a great uncle who fought in ww1 and a uncle in korea and a relative in the spanish american war even thought i am not a supporter of the war in iraq or afganistan and vietnam we have people fighting in harms way and it is disrepectful to critize a war we have people dying in every day to support freedom and democracy dont these people know that every memorial day all parishes in the u.s and canada have a ceromony to honor the brave who fought and served in our great nation dont these people know the eastern orthodox have chaplins in all of the branches of the armed service to help those serving for our great nation this orthodox for peace was founded in holland a liberal progressive nation of gay rights and pot smokers what will the opf say next that the orthodox church should have women priests and bless gay marriages the opf should be condemed by all the bishops of the cannonical orthodox churches and all members should either leave the opf or be excommunicated by the church


  1. […] Fr Patrick Reardon is the balanced voice among those who disagree with the decision.  In an open letter to His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and President of St […]

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