Our church in schism: Russia vs. EP

I’ve waited to write about this as I gathered information on what it means, and as I waited for my priest to get his instructions on how to proceed.

The schism between the Russian Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarch is very grave.  While here in the Diaspora, we’re half a world away from this and have nothing to do with it, we still are affected by it.

There are many repercussions in America to being told that Russians can no longer commune or share any other sacraments with those under the Ecumenical Patriarch (EP; includes the Greeks in America).  The following is taken from how my priest explained it, along with my own thoughts:

Here, we are of a minority faith, so the members of all the different Orthodox jurisdictions come together.  Maybe we have Greek churches, Russian churches and the like, but we also have Pan-Orthodox churches and services, such as an annual Vesper service in this region.  And a Russian is welcome to come into a Greek church and commune, and vice versa.  Which is especially necessary because many communities have only one type of Orthodox church for miles around.  I read about churches which have members from all over the place: Russians, Greeks, Serbians, etc. etc.

The schism is not because of dogmatical differences, as my priest says, but because of two hierarchs disagreeing.  It’s the biggest schism since the Big One in 1054.  He sees it as a great tragedy.

The EP, from what I understand, has not broken communion with Russia, though Russia has with him.  My priest says that Russians are welcome in our church, even if they don’t take communion with us.

The trouble is that Russia has said that its members are not allowed to share any sacraments or even services at EP churches.   And ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) supports the actions of the Russian patriarch and has also separated from the EP.

In my own church is someone from the Crimea who loves our church.  She’s too far from churches of her own jurisdiction to go there often.  A few weeks ago, she could come to our church without any hindrance or feeling like it’s a sin.  Now, she’s being told she can’t.  Not by US–we tell her we want her to keep coming, and Father will also let her keep coming–but by Russia.  And her mother.  Our church members told her this is men arguing, and that what matters is what’s in her heart.

And we’re just one church.  Just the thought of how many people this is going to affect, all the disruptions it will cause in the Diaspora, people who can no longer commune with their own families (ie, Russian married to Greek), people who no longer have a church to go to, breaking of Pan-Orthodox events…. When the split happened, I read on an Orthodox forum about someone who was supposed to be a godfather in a few days.  Now all of a sudden, he couldn’t do it.  Imagine the scramble to find a godparent, and after the parents had already decided they wanted him to do it!  Imagine the honor which was ripped out of his hands.

As one person said last week after the service: And they wonder why church attendance is dropping!

 

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From Orthodoxy in Dialogue: Trouble in American Orthodoxy

The blog Orthodoxy in Dialogue recently criticized the standard conservative Christian response to legal abortion.  The more I read this blog on various issues which are big in politics and religion today, the more I see kindred spirits:

For a while, back in the early 00’s, I was becoming more and more liberal.  But I also wanted to find out what the original Church believed about various theological issues and practices.  That led me to Orthodoxy, which led to a period of time in which I was much more conservative about many things.

But then I realized I was, in a sense, being brainwashed:

First there was the very persuasive and charismatic person who first suggested Orthodoxy to me: Richard.  He was a convert from the Foursquare Church; time eventually revealed that he’s also a narcissist.  Not sure if he’s malignant or not, but a lot of those narc traits are there.  He did a LOT of talking to me about Orthodoxy: not just about its beauty, but about the many things which the local church did wrong because it wasn’t “Orthodox” enough, and how I was wrong for not being “Orthodox” enough.

Then there was the constant presence on the Net (where, in the early days, I spent most of my time with Orthodoxy) of “Netdoxy” and “Ameridoxy.”  Orthodoxy has been getting a lot of converts in recent decades from American Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches.  I wanted to get away from Evangelical/Fundamentalist influences, but many are bringing them into Orthodoxy.

OID’s most recent post,  Notes from Underground, describes this phenomenon as a peculiarly American “mob mentality,” where you get attacked for disagreeing with the prevailing views of the group you’re in.  You see it in politics; you see it in discussions on social issues; you see it on narcissism forums; you see it within Evangelicalism; you see it on Orthodox forums on the Internet.  This is one reason why I stopped going to such forums some years ago.

Anyway, I finally began to break away from Netdoxy and, with it, away from the conservatism which had been pulling me back in.  I began to move back toward liberalism.

But by this time, I had already become a full Orthodox Christian, so it wasn’t as if I could just pick up and leave.  I still saw many things in worldwide Orthodoxy (as opposed to Ameridoxy or Netdoxy) which were refreshing and did not hold to American Republican politics.  For example, the Ecumenical Patriarch actually believes in climate change and working to get along with Catholics, Muslims, and others.  But the more I examine issues such as abortion and gay marriage, the more I agree with liberals–which means a huge disconnect with official Orthodox positions.

This has made me wonder if I should’ve stayed in a liberal Protestant church all those years ago.  I’ve often wondered if I’ll be allowed to stay Orthodox, if at some point I’ll be excommunicated for my views, especially now that I’ve discovered an Orthodox friend is LGBTQ–and I sympathize rather than telling this person to change.

But finding OID is reassuring.  Finally, I feel like, if there’s room for the writers/editors of OID, there’s room for me in Orthodoxy.  Maybe I can still stay in, rather than leaving all the richness of Orthodox tradition.

Anyway, OID also has insightful posts on abortion and how the usual “Right to Life” response does nothing at all to stop abortion, while pro-choice policies have actually caused a huge decrease.  In the past I posted a link to a blog post by someone who is now atheist and made the same points, but I suppose some Christians may not give her any credibility because she’s an atheist.  Well, here’s a Christian saying many of the same things.

Basically, that money on marches is wasted, when it could be spent on helping women afford contraception or afford to raise a child, leading to fewer abortions.  That when abortion is against the law, women die along with their babies from backroom butchers and coat hangers.

The response OID received to these posts was enlightening–but, sadly, not surprising: Orthodox women were grateful.  Orthodox men were furious.  And Netdoxy attacked it as well.

Chew on that for a bit.

Here are the posts on abortion:

Abortion, Contraception, and Christian Faith

Another January, Another Celebration of our Moral Superiority

 

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Neo-Nazis Infiltrating Orthodoxy

“Why is a symbol of my faith being used alongside Nazi and White Nationalist symbols, and what is American Orthodoxy going to do about it?”

This question was asked by Arthur Hatton after taking a picture of a rock painted with neo-Nazi–and Orthodox–symbols.  It’s published in this post–WHITE SUPREMACY IN THE AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ASSEMBLY OF CANONICAL ORTHODOX BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA–by Orthodoxy in Dialogue.

Neo-Nazi and Confederate sentiments have been making their way through the Orthodox Church, a small but disturbing minority, going directly against everything Christ ever stood for.  OID wants the leadership of Orthodoxy in America to clearly condemn white supremacy and racism before this poison does any more damage.  And anyone can still sign the open letter by e-mailing OID.

And of course, the neo-Nazis have responded with a post by Matt Parrott of the Traditional Worker Party.  (The name draws from the original German name of the Nazi Party.)  In a hate-filled post, he makes himself and other white supremacists in Orthodoxy into some kind of martyrs for the cause, puritans fighting the heretics of “Ameridoxy.”  You can read it on the OID website here, along with OID’s response.  That’s better than linking you to the original post, which is on a Nazi website.  😛

For example, Parrott writes,

The Toronto School of Theology’s vibrant and very ecumenical community is calling on Orthodox clergy to go on a hysterical witch hunt for absolutely any and all clergy who may have the slightest anti-globalist or pro-Southern sympathies. Co-signatures are reaching into the hundreds as layman and clergy alike scramble to get their name on the list of people less likely to find themselves strapped down to the lynch mob’s cucking stool.

And also,

May the first man who attempts to deny communion on account of race be excommunicated.

Hold up. Wait a second. That stupid list [ names signed to the OID letter ] actually is a handy list of folks who are guilty of precisely that. Start with excommunicating and defrocking them. … The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests and bishops, and I will stomp on each one of them on my way to hell and back to win this war for the universality of Christianity in the West.

Apparently, this TWP group would find my feminism and desire to see equality for LGBTQ in Orthodoxy to be much, much worse than their racism.

Their words made me want even more to sign OID’s letter.

The TWP even has the crazy idea that Confederate symbols weren’t seen as “super racist” at all until a couple of years ago.  Er…..I’ve seen Confederate symbols as “super racist” as far back as the 1970s/80s, when I was a child.  And so have countless others.  In fact, I’m amazed that it took so long for Southern states to wake up to how many people see the Confederacy as “super racist.”

I see this stuff popping up here and there, and start wondering if my ex-friend Richard, the guy who led me into Orthodoxy, has anything to do with any of it.  He’s only half-white, so hopefully the other half and his mixed-race child keep him from joining the racists.  But I can’t be sure, because I remember how he became militant Tea-Party in the last year or two of our friendship, back when nobody had heard of the Tea Party yet.  I remember how he hated Obama, and how his militancy strained our friendship until it finally broke in 2010.  I wonder if he’s a Trumper now.

I hope he has nothing to do with these “Orthodox” neo-Nazis, but who knows.

And of course, it’s because of Trump that these neo-Nazis are so bold these days.  They think they have a chance to take over American sentiment now.

 

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Reblog: The Adoration of the Konvertsky

From Second Terrace’s The Adoration of the Konvertsky:

I will deal more ethically with the reflexive irony. How go the konvertsky — that famous (or infamous) influx of unlikely American Anglicans and distraught establishment Protestants, and even more unlikely mishmash of “free church” Evangelicals and Charismatics — that immigrated into that patently odd jurisdictional ambiguity of the American Orthodox Church?

I hope that the majority of those who have left their own heterodox “Ur” and entered the Orthodox nave of Canaan have stayed. I hope that they and their families have continued along the eternal path of becoming, and have tasted the first fruits of theosis. I hope they have learned of the Church’s tradition and “theoria,” and have become wise in responding to the foolhardiness of this contemporaneity. I hope they have become adept at fighting the passions, and fending off the feints and wiles of the loathsome powers.

…There are, as you might expect, anecdotes, as far as data is concerned. I am aware of several narratives of ex-protestants who tell stories of disillusionment after five to ten years in Orthodoxy. The first apprehensions of beauty have worn off, and the frustration of relationships and disappointments have set in.

Other, more extreme, narratives include the exposure to egregious ecclesiastical misbehaviors. Some converts have seen Bad Things — and some of these converts have had Bad Things done to them. Some of them have seen persons in the Church not only ape the patterns of the world (“world” in its negative, not John 3.16, sense) — but have seen churchmen actually surpass the world in worldly behavior. Some converts have seen the Church replicate the marketplace DNA, having given religious preference to the term “entrepreneur” and have adopted the management-by-objective procedure and newspeak of corporate America.

…You take Communion differently now, and Chrismation is a one-way seal. You never experienced those things before — but the other part of deification is a providentially-ordered sequence of burden-bearing and grace-sharing. The disappointments from other people are such that God has elected you to bear that particular burden, and to bear His Grace to those particular people.

Yes, they hurt your feelings, but in our hurt feelings is His strength made manifest, and through our hurt feelings do we find the sufficiency of His Grace.

The entire blog post is here; it goes into the various kinds of converts–from the former Evangelicals and fundies, such as me, to former mainline Protestants–and various reasons why we can get disenchanted with Orthodoxy.  It includes the political right-wingers and left-wingers.  It goes into reasons why we should stay put and work on our own judgmentalism (wherever we fit on the spectrum of converts).

 

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