Thursday, October 07, 2010

On Orthodox Demographics

In a post of American Orthodox demographics, here, there is the following comment by Christopher Orr:


Abba Poemen,

...we haven't proven we are a viable long term entity given the rate of apostasy by cradles and converts and both their children. That isn't because of innovationism or traditionalism, language use (English or non-English), conciliar or monarchical, etc. It's something deeper and more dangerous, and we haven't yet come to terms with it.


The deeper and more dangerous is the many forms of idolatry we set up in the Church in place of the Church, Antichrist. For some, the idol is ethnicity and culture, this is sometimes tied up with politics - all this is possible for converts as well as immigrants and their heirs; for some, the idol is byzantine pomp and playacting, the desperate psychological need to retreat to Empire uber alles, pre-Islam, pre-Communism, pre-modernism and post-modernism - retreat to a time without struggle, which is really just a flight from the Cross and to each of the Devil's desert offers (cf. Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor"); for some, the idol is esotericism bordering on a gnostic bifurcation of the elect and the plebes - prizing academic learning and honors in the Academy are a more worldly form of this; for some, the idol is being alternative, purposefully not mainstream, so the exoticism of Orthodoxy is attractive as a distinctive; for those born to the faith or who have long sojourned in her, the idol is comfort and riches and the American dream - this leads to laziness in prayer, fasting, the virtues, struggle with the passions and our children learn that however much we vociferate about Orthodoxy (and its accoutrement), in reality we do not believe and do not care; for some, the idol is the benign, deistic neglect of God the Clockmaker or perhaps an assumed liberality in God that will overlook all and accept all regardless - yes, it's crypto-watered down Protestantism of a certain kind.

In short, we are dying for lack of saints and an abundance of strange gods.
(emphasis mine)

I agree.

45 comments:

Kirk said...

With numbers that low, it shouldn't be hard to do an in-depth study of converts and fall-aways.

There's got to be a better answer than more Greek festivals.

John said...

Kirk,
You are right about that. You will be interested to know that the total number of adherents, in all the jurisdictions is just over 1 million in the US...which puts us right about even with the CoC figures.

Apophatically Speaking said...

So the question then is how to raise up saints and do away with our idols. Any suggestions?

John said...

Well, for starters, I could turn off this laptop, and step away from the television.

Kirk said...

As an outsider looking in (and about to step on toes), I think the American Orthodox churches (of whatever jurisdiction) ought to examine all of the traditions which are ancillary to the faith, and do away with many of those which are not more than perpetuations of national, cultural superstitions. I could give a few examples, but I'm afraid it would be received by accusations that I was trying to westernize or "fix" the church.

Apophatically Speaking said...

John,

I observed the conversation there moved from demographics and numbers to deification. Whether it is significant or not, I am not really sure. Nor do I really know what it means. But it would seem to me that our commentary on the state of Orthodoxy is really a call for living the true Christian life. But what is that if not attending DL, serving, giving, etc? Aren't we making it all too complicated, becoming too self aware, too reflective?

Apophatically Speaking said...

Kirk,

Oh no! Already been there, done that. :)

John said...

Kirk,
Well, it just doesn't work that way. And Thank God it doesn't! I know that is not what you are saying, but your line of thinking is not far removed from the cherry-picking that occurs when some evangelicals approach Orthodoxy. I know I approached it that way at first--if I could just graft this or that aspect of Orthodoxy onto my church...I realize that that is not what you are saying at all, but you are advocating the stripping of those traditions found to be messy and inconvenient. But these "national, cultural superstitions" may only appear that way from the outside looking in.

John said...

Apo,
I try to steer a mid-course between angst over the state of American Orthodoxy on the one hand, and pollyanish triumphalism on the other. As I said in my comment on the post in question, I am not at all discouraged or disturbed by these figures. I never had any illusions that Orthodoxy would carry the day, or at least not in the U.S. Were our numbers 10 times what they are, it would not make any difference in how I have to live out my Orthodox life, as you say, in "DL, serving, giving."

Kirk said...

John, the idea that Orthodoxy must be weighed down by all of the ethnic accoutrements, well, that's just another idol to be added to the list. That's unfortunate, since one of Orthodoxy's great strengths was its ability to meet a new culture on its own terms and in its own language.

As you know, I've been attending Orthodox services for over five years now. Yet, there are still practices which I cannot understand or master, and which make me feel like an outsider, no matter how hard I try to comprehend and fit in. And if I feel ostracized when I am so sympathetic, how can the Church ever hope to spread the gospel to the greater culture?

John said...

Kirk,
Give me an example of what you are talking about. As you well know, it was all completely new to me as well--but I don't feel weighted down by any of it.

s-p said...

Hi John, You hijacked Orr's quote that I was going to cut and paste on my blog too. Great minds.... nah, let's not go there. :) Anyway, Kirk's comment kind of inspires an orthographic kind of thought. Some folks begin as a "Christian", they encounter Orthodoxy and get enamored with the "accoutrements" then after a few years they begin to realize that they want to be a Christian again, then they either leave the Church or they realize that it IS possible to be an "Orthodox Christian". It is a blessing if one can see Orthodoxy as a "Christian endeavor" from day one. Part of the issue is EVERY church has a "culture", its just that "culture" is like fish in water or air, we don't think about it, it just "is". Orthodoxy in that sense can't be stripped of its culture because well, Christ became flesh and tented with us. There is no such thing as "disincarnate Christianity". Christianity went to the Gentiles as a Jewish religion with all of its culture. Gentile Christianity spread to the world and gradually was assimilated into various cultures but each culture kept something of the original Jewish origins and culture. What we see is the outcome of millenia of weeding, dropping and adding from all over the world. That alone should give us pause that we as newcomers and outsiders don't have the tools to know what is an appendix and what is the heart. Just some thoughts.

Kirk said...

John, you've put me on the spot (rightfully so), and right now I can't come up with more than a few examples. I'll post more as they occur to me. Here's a few--

1. The priest's wife. I can never remember--is she the Khouria or the Matushka, and how do you pronounce it? Isn't there some English word we could use?

2. Nativity Baskets. I can see why people from the old country would each bring their own basket, but hey, this is the South. There is one thing that is universally understood and loved in the South, and that is the pot-luck dinner (aka the "covered dish"). I understand the tradition that we placed aged cheeses and sausages, but can't we make room for the green bean caserole? Maybe the french-fried onion rings on top could represent the stone rolled in front of the tomb or something. Alternatively, I'd like to see a giant barbecue-pit-on-a-trailer.

3. The music. Don't get me wrong, the music is gorgeous (when done right). But it is so hard to sing! As it stands, each jurisdiction has its own musical style. The Russian-based music of the OCA is different from the style of the Greeks is different from the style of the Antiochians. Can't we have more western-style? (I'm not talking about the Bakersfield Sound, s-p.) Leave all the words the same, but insert a melody that Isaac Watts could have written. Or Bach. More major keys and fewer minor.

I could go on. (Don't even get me started talking about Pierogis.) Most of the things that I'm talking about are those practices which vary across jurisdictions. You shouldn't have to be a Russophile to join the OCA.

s-p said...

Kirk, Good calls. Actually at our Mission we do the "Pascha baskets" and every year and at 2AM we have a potluck and everyone shares ribs, wings, lasagne, biscuits and gravy (REALLY!), prime rib, and bottles of scotch, vodka and wine. We do barbeque on feast days. Our congregation is mostly converts but we have some Greek, Russian and Romanian folks too and they love it. You don't have to be a goofy "ethno-phile" to join up, though some converts take on ethnic affectations when they do. But that's a psychological problem IMO. The use of the Greek or Russian or Arab terms for stuff is kind of like flashing your union card around for some people, but in some cases its kind of like "Spanglish", when you're hanging with the homies you drop a few words here and there to fit in. I call our priest's wife "Joanna" because that's her name. :) Orthodoxy in America is already acculturating to American sensibilities. The nuns of St. Paisius monastery and St. John's men's monastery have a unique blend of a more "American" sound that still has their foundations in traditional tone structures. So its all happening, but it doesn't happen overnight and maybe it won't be playing in a theater near you soon, but there are places it is.

John said...

Kirk,

I am not saying your complaints are totally without merit—back in the beginning, when I was driving to the Greek church in Dallas, I never understood why we observed Greek Independence Day. If that is the sort of thing you are troubled with, then I get it. But to you specific examples, below:

1. You left out “presbytera.” To your two-part first question, the answer is “it depends,” and “it depends.” As for your last question, I sometimes just say “Christine” or “Christie.” In short—it is no big deal.

2. I assume you mean Pascha baskets. Let’s leave the green bean casseroles at home. Ugh. In my previous life, I’ve had enough of them to last a lifetime. But I love this new tradition (for me.) In recent years, I’ve brought tamales or Natchitoches meat pies—which have been a big hit. You just can’t get any more Southern than that, and now, in our parish, it is both Southern and Orthodox. And besides, who wants barbeque at 2:30 in the morning?

3. Hard to sing? First I’ve heard of it. As to the different musical styles—why should they not be different (in style, that is.) As to Isaac Watts….umm, no.

4. I don’t think we’ve ever had pierogis down here. Fr. John may have brought some one time, as something of a joke for us. And no, you don’t’ have to be Russophile to join the OCA.

Kirk, as you know, I’m having a little fun with you on these questions. But I sense that your over-riding concern to be that the Orthodox Church is not American enough—or in our case, not Southern enough. That may be true—but I do not see that as a problem for the Church at all. The Kingdom is worth a green bean caserole.

Kirk said...

John,

"But I sense that your over-riding concern to be that the Orthodox Church is not American enough..."

Turn it around--too foreign. But don't start calling me Tim James.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qe-W4K6JVAw

John said...

Kirk,

Tim James--too funny.

But are you really setting it up as a choice between our country and the Church? To use a Tim Jameism, if the Church seems too "foreigny" is that a problem for the Church, or is it a problem with us?

Steve Hayes said...

As a friend of mine once said, what we need is not more good men, but more holy men.

And I should spend more time praying, and less commenting on blogs.

James the Thickheaded said...

Ah... but Steve... we ALL have that resolution... only, well..

I find the idea that a study of "US" and the numbers causing discusion quizzical. One of my favorite GOARCH priests always said, "It's not a numbers game." And it's not. 'Nuff said. God cares about us one at a time. We care about God... maybe if we cared more about him and less about ourselves, we'd not have a numbers problem.

That's a thought...

Now here's another one: IF Goarch is famous for it's Greekfest and it's links to the Greek Embassy... and no, that's not to SAE, FIJI, Sigma Nu, Phi Delt, Kappa Alpa or any other American "Greek".... then what are the rest of us to do... REALLY? Okay. The answer is to request an "American Festival". Right. I think of this as BBQ and a good R&B, Rock'n'Roll band or whatever. The problem with Greek festivals is probably that even the "real" Greeks would be embarassed: "Dancing like 200 or 300 years ago? Are you kidding me?"
Yeah... so what I fear in an American "Festival" is Square Dancing. Like in Fourth Grade.

So what I think is that all this carping about Greek stuff is just jealousy: They got this thing they do... we don't even know how to Brake Dance... I mean do we really have to go to Midas Muffler to get'er done? Or do we Gator? Do we table dive? Bump and Grind? Yes Houston, we have a problem. So y'see.... the Greeks got this thing... and the rest of us are just trying to figure out: "Now back in Greece... is what you're doing condemned or what?" It's like we don't even know and they've got the secret handshake and everything and we're still making it up.

melxiopp said...

I'm a big fan of a tradition inaugurated by a friend of mine and recent convert: he orders a Domino's meat lovers pizza to be delivered to the church as late as possible. They call him on his phone and he puts it in the oven. We converts all make Pascha baskets, but all sorts of stuff gets put in them. Some try to make traditional baskets, others don't, we all share.

The Greek tones are very hard to learn because they are based on modes (and different scales). However, St. Anthony's monastery has arranged English texts to the Byzantine tones using the modes themselves (which change based on the number of syllables in a word, so the Greek and English tones are different for the same hymn in different languages) in Western and Byzantine notation. Russian Obikhod is easy to learn.

As to more liturgical traditions, Metropolitan Georges [(Khodr) of the Archdiocese of Jbeil, Batroun (Mount Lebanon)], said, “Orthodoxy is not made by knowledge or theology only, but also liturgy, icons, and worship.” Part of the tradition of the faith - all of which is in some way inspired by the Holy Spirit - is found in these other things. They are the frame to the painting, the layout and binding of a book, etc. They are the context within which one can better understand the 'more core' aspects of the faith. To those less textually oriented, they can be more profound expressions of the Gospel itself - in fact, all these traditions are the footsteps of the faith in the world.

I've likened such Orthodox traditions to learning a foreign language. Yell all you want, but there is a contextual accent to that language. It doesn't matter what it sounds (or feels) like to the one learning the language. That being said, as a language 'spreads' throughout the world and becomes indigenous (as English, Spanish and French have, as Bantu and Mandarin have, Arabic, too; in the past, Greek) local colors to that language emerge. As much as one might try, it is difficult to fully eradicate one's accent or to fully adopt the root accent of that language. This is natural, but the 'right' and 'correct' way is to learn the language as fully and accentless as possible. (The real complexity comes when one learns an old fashioned or local accent of a language, which is assumed to be one's own foreign accent by modern or majority speakers. Ecclesiastically, Russians learned Orthodoxy from different Greek, Bulgarian, etc. centers; those centers often evolved over the centuries while the Russians tended to be highly conservative in their retention of their received tradition; this led to the Russians being seen as having 'innovated' or not properly learning the faith, ironically.)

Kirk said...

I've got a bit more to say on the subject, if anyone is still listening. I am thumb-typing on my smart phone, so bear with me.

Since my last comment I have been back to Vespers and listened to s-p's recent series. (Weber?) Also, I would like to add that I have attended EOC services at a dozen different parishes and several jurisdictions, so my comments about my experiences should not be construed to refer to John's church alone.

This" foreign-ness" of Orthodoxy doesn't refer to it's American-ness, per se. Rather, for those of us who did not grow up in Orthodox countries, it refers to the way that Orthodoxy is completely different than anything we have experienced before.

When I first attended an Orthodox service, it seemed like I was on another planet, it seemed so different than anything I had experienced before. I can understand the statement, "we didn't know if we were in heaven or on earth." I easily could have run screaming from the sanctuary, but I didn't because I had already studied the faith, and so I was willing to be patient with the form.

More in next comment...

Kirk said...

Now then, I have long decided that I want to convert. (Lord willing.) What hampers me I'll discuss in a moment, but some of you already know what that is. However, as I attend Orthodox services, I am sometimes struck with the notion that I don't belong there--that I should return to my Campbellite faith tradition and make the best of it. At these times of doubt, I feel like... well, you could say like baby Mogli among the wolf cubs. It just doesn't feel natural.

I know that part of that uneasy feeling has to do directly with The Orthodox Faith itself, and will have to be dealt with. However, some of that unease is exascerbated by the added traditions (little "t") which have accumulated over two millennia--those that have attached themselves to the church like barnacles to a ship, but which are not essential to The Faith "once for all delivered to the saints."

Continued ...

Kirk said...

If it were just me, I could deal with these doubts and learn to live with the cultural additions. The thing that frustrates me most, however, is that I have family who do not feel at all comfortable in the Orthodox Church and may never be able to get over it. This is my reluctant spouse and family, and my reason to wait to convert. I want them to see and experience The Truth as I have, but all they may be able to see is ancient and cultural traditions. And so that is why I am frustrated that the Church seems so foreign.

What I think the Church needs is fewer holy men, actually--at least fewer men in beards and cassocks and more Regular Joes.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Kirk, the Christian faith is very strange, quite foreign and alien. Full of strange people, events, some miraculous, some outrageous, and not a few scandalous. This is not a license to make it more so, to triumph in weirdness if you will, but it is to take a sober look at what the Christian faith is. It is also to take a hard look at what we stand to lose when we fail the pearl of great price, when we turn back in sadness clinging to our comfort riches. What the Orthodox has to offer is the ancient Christian faith, it is there for you, for your family and your posterity. It is that which you are called to embrace. It is rough, hard, a difficult ascetic path. But it leads to life. The small traditions as you call them, you will learn to side step those. That is a skill necessary in life. The Lord is good.

melxiopp said...

I know it seems like a cop-out, but it all seems far less 'foreign' over time. If you think about it, it's a lot like getting over the shock that your in-laws are so different, or that people from another part of the country are so different, or that another part of the country is not like the America you know, or that foreigners are just so foreign.

I think American Christianity has gotten so used to denominationalism that it assumes a certain kind of homogeneity among its members - and that g can be a sort of purposeful diversity, too, so this isn't a comment solely on class or race or language or ethnicity. Orthodoxy in America has absorbed that, too, such that many/most (though not all) Orthodox parishes are built for some and not others. However, the real Orthodox tradition is far more about a certain catholic, oecumenical diversity - one sees this even with single local churches and the diversity between practices in this or that area of the country, in this diocese vs that diocese, etc. Orthodoxy is like that line from Joyce about the Catholic Church: "Here comes everybody" - included the great unwashed and the too fastidiously washed.

My experience in American Orthodoxy has been of great diversity. Perhaps it takes time to pick up on the cues. The typical Westerner, whether Christian or not, will not pick up on differences among Orthodox except for trappings and music - they won't pick up on the import of whether the third antiphon is chanted, whether the Litany of the Catechumens was intoned, whether a Subdeacon intones the Great Litany, whether the priestly prayers were said aloud or not, etc. It takes some familiarity to see. Some experience heaven as joyful, awe-inspiring light, others see it as a consuming fire - much the same is true of our experience of the Divine Services.

A priest I know once said that worship in the Orthodox Church takes a certain amount of spiritual maturity. This takes time. Sometimes before we run we have to walk, we have to crawl before we can walk, and sometimes we just have to be carried or just lie there. The same priest recently noted that conversion is often something that takes place over years following one's first experience of Orthodoxy. He noted that the first impressions were negative, alluring but foreign, and sometimes drive people away. However, over 2, 4, 8, 12 years one is allured back and faith is conceived and grows. My first exposure to Orthodoxy as a religion rather than as a footnote to the mini-series on "Peter the Great" was fully 7 years before my reception into the Church - and 2 years before my second exposure to Orthodoxy.

Time, prayer, humility and love allures others - not recreating the True Faith in our own image.

melxiopp said...

For the record, I am neither holy nor do I have a beard.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Ahh No beard not holy. In that case we will completely ignore your comments. Thanks for the warning. :)

Apophatically Speaking said...

Ahh No beard not holy. In that case we will completely ignore your comments. Thanks for the warning. :)

s-p said...

Kirk, actually I trust your "conversion experience" more than I do someone who gets all googly-eyed over the cultural trappings and starts speaking with an accent and wearing peasant clothes etc. I can appreciate the culture within Orthodoxy and that actually gives me hope for the future of the Church in America. The Russians started out being evangelized by Greeks. Now we have Russo-philes in America. American Protestanism didn't just show up on the shores looking like what we see now either. So all in all its about being a Christian first and figuring out what to bring for potluck second. :)
Not holy/with beard.

John said...

Kirk,
I have been busy this week and have not been checking in as I normally would do. Glad to see that this conversation has continued. Thank you for sharing your impressions and concerns. We all come at Orthodoxy from different places, and often think our own experiences are normative. In many cases, they are only applicable to our particular situation. You have received good advice from melxiopp and s-p who have addressed your concerns. I really do not have much to add, but that has never stopped me before.

The “foreignness” of Orthodox worship never bothered me. And I never felt like I did not belong there. Why that is, I do not know. Early on, when I attended the big Greek church in Dallas, I sometimes felt awkward at coffee hour. As a new convert, I was at the Cathedral in Dallas for Pascha. Afterwards, I remember feeling out of place because everybody had Pascha baskets and knew what was going on—and I did not. But those are the only instances I recall. Worship has always felt natural to me, and I always believed I was right where I belonged—and more importantly, where I needed to be. But this apparent ease on my part has blinded me, somewhat, to those like yourself who do not naturally take to it.

And I certainly sympathize with your desire for your wife to see the Faith as you have come to. That is something I still pray for in my situation, as well, but I fear the prejudices run too deep, and that I badly mishandled things on the home front in becoming Orthodox. But then, there is part of me that thinks that had I held off until my wife came along as well, I would be in the same place you are now—or not even that far along. If I recall one of our past conversations, you mentioned that one thing that bothered your wife was the ornate vestments worn by the priest. Were my wife ever to attend an Orthodox service, she would probably recoil in horror at that, as well. To them, I’m sure this would be one of those inexplicable “foreign” elements. But as you well know, there are liturgical reasons for the vestments. In this example, the problem is not with the perceived “foreignness” of Orthodoxy, but with the stripped-down, sterile approach to worship that our wives would perceive as normative. There is no solution to this, other than overcoming our own cultural presuppositions.

The best advice I received along the way was from a priest who told me that you become Orthodox when you can no longer NOT be Orthodox. That is the point I reached back in 2005. Like Mexliopp mentioned, it really is the pearl of great price. While I realize I could have handled things better, I have never looked back or regretted my decision.

s-p said...

John and Kirk, One of the things that struck me while reading John's last comment on the ornateness of the Orthodox worship... in the pared down Protestant traditions there is no prohibition (in fact it is expected and encouraged) to THINK of the glory of God and IMAGINE heaven, the presence of God, etc. Nature (a created thing) is extolled as "proclaiming the glory of God" (rightly so, its in the Bible), but so is the handiwork of men. But that said, I think the "American" problem with Orthodox worship is also along the lines of removing our radical individuality from us... we're no longer absolutely free to imagine what we want, but we have put before us someone else's "vision" that we are expected to engage as "real and authoritative".

John said...

Oops. Left out reference to Apo. in previous comment, and it was his comment about the pearl of great price I mentioned. Sorry about that!

Anonymous said...

Let me make a first-time comment..

What I think North America needs is a genuine vision (theoria) of the faith as it's lived by holy people.

When I had met a few people with a genuinely Orthodox Spirit it was a 'Eureka' moment. I think it would cure North American Orthodoxy of it's strange gods.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Anonymous,

I agree with you, but would like to add the following clarifications: this "genuine vision" is something that has to be sought out, it is not something that is clear for all to see and it is often hidden - one has to have eyes to see and ears to hear. For it to be genuine and lasting we have to desire it, look for it and be willing to forsake those "strange gods" you reference. This is to say we cannot be force this on folks. Furthermore, we cannot systematize or make a program out of it. This cannot be paraded about. This is a slow, organic, living process - a synergy with God - which will take time.

Anonymous said...

AS: I'm in complete agreement.

If anyone is interesting in a book that bears relevance to this topic, read "Beauty for Ashes" by Stephen Lloyd Moffet. It is a beautiful example of what genuine spiritual vision can do.

http://www.amazon.com/Beauty-Ashes-Spiritual-Transformation-Community/dp/0881413410/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287615098&sr=1-1

Apophatically Speaking said...

Anonymous,

I just ordered the book, on your recommendation. Thank you kindly!

Kirk said...

I am going to take back every statement I made above and replace it with this: If Orthodoxy is to spread in America, it must be purged of all scandal. Period. End of statement. Apparently, there is something that happens to a man when he starts wearing the big jiffy-pop-popcorn hat and everybody kisses his ring (or whatever)--he eventually starts believing he personally deserves all of the accolades and that he has become infallible. Well, you might be able to get by with that in some backwards backwater of a country where this system represents business as usual, but here in America we expect accountability, honesty, forthrightness, integrity and transparency. In short, for Orthodoxy to survive there are going to have to be changes, and those changes must come from the top. The OCA has made huge strides with the installation of +Jonah. Will the other jurisdictions follow suit, or are they too concerned with maintaining thier own dynasties to clean up their acts?

s-p said...

Kirk, Amen. Mp. Jonah has said several times it is no wonder bishops and clergy get corrupted... you put a man in the middle of the Church, dress him like a Byzantine emperor and sing to him that you hope he lives forever....
But the trappings of Byzantium or the Tsar are just Orthodoxy's particularity of the same issue every minister has: if he has an ego, he'll start believing he's "all that" as soon as the praise begins, and once he's all that, he believes he is above it all. Orthodoxy doesn't have a corner on the market of egos, power, corruption and scandal.

Kirk said...

S-P, you are certainly correct that Orthodoxy isn't the only church with these problems. However, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect more from the (earthly organization of the )Orthodox Church--to hold her to a higher standard.

s-p said...

Kirk, no arguments from this bleacher of the peanut gallery. You're exactly right, St. Paul held the Jews to a higher standard because of their heritage and history as the "people of God". Pedigree isn't privilege, it's responsibility.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Kirk,

"...and those changes must come from the top. The OCA has made huge strides with the installation of +Jonah."

It must not be forgotten that due to no small part of lay folks this change was brought about. For a body to be healthy, ALL parts need to function well. Top heavy ecclesiology or clericalism far from being a solution, is often the cause of scandal. It requires a strong laity... (yet another reason to convert) :D

melxiopp said...

It's fascinating reading about the history of the Orthodox Church in the various empires within which it has sojourned. The symphonia of Justinian is obviously the ideal, never to be achieved, but that balance of focus and power was different at different times, under the Mamluks, the Ottomans, the Mongols and Moscow, and under Ankara and Athens today.

What is especially interesting is comparing the influence of the laity (including the Emperor) over the Church prior to the fall of Constantinople with the influence of both the Sultan and his court and the Phanariotes (rich lay Orthodox Greeks) on the Church under the turkokratia with the influence of the laity on the Church in Russia. One can identify positive and negative influences from these different power centers.

What is clear regarding the Antiochian Archdiocese (and the OCA until recently) was true limits of power over the bishops. The whole despota thing was always balanced out by an equal, distinct lay partner across the way - whether friendly or not. Referring to the canons is only referring to the rule for one team in the game, the clerical; we are missing the rules and rights of the temporal side to balance out, in a practical way, the unfettered power of the bishops, the Synods and whoever pulls their strings (the governments in Athens, Damascus and the KGB, er, Moscow, etc.), the preferences of those writing the checks (e.g., the modern-day Phanariotes, er, Archons; drug dealers and money launderers; etc.) The messiness in the OCA was balanced by a highly delineated but real voice for the laity and lower clergy. They didn't have any real power, except that of the bully pulpit, but it was enough to agitate for common sense questions, answers and results. It isn't perfect, but it diagnosed and dealt with problems that are simply kept under wraps in other churches, to their long-term detriment.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Anonymous,

FYI I finished Beauty for Ashes and posted a short review of the same on my blog. Very good book, thanks again for the recommendation. There are many truths to be learned from Bp. Meletios' life and work. We would do well here in America to heed them.

http://apophatically.blogspot.com/2010/10/imperishable-life-of-jesus-christ.html

Apophatically Speaking said...

Here is the link to the review

melxiopp said...

Two selections from Beauty for Ashes are posted here:

http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2010/07/he-would-offer-no-strategic-plan-or.html

http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2010/07/on-afania-holy-obscurity.html