Monday, May 09, 2011

My One-And-Only Post on the Late Unpleasantness in the Orthodox Church in America (A Mild Rant)

Back when I was working on my graduate degree, I remember an anecdote from one of my history professors. In mock seriousness, he asked us if we knew why infighting within academic departments was so vicious. We were all a little intimidated of him, so no one answered. After a long pause, he replied because the stakes are so small. That's kind of how I feel about the latest sideshow within my particular Orthodox jurisdiction, the OCA. I do not mean to imply that one's salvation is small stakes, but as one commentator wryly noted, there are more model train enthusiasts in America than there are members of the OCA.

I have heretofore refrained from addressing the situation. Mine is not an "Orthodox blog," so to speak, but one where I may occasionally express my own Orthodox slant on contemporary happenings. I avoid publicly addressing "issues" within the Orthodox community. Also, I know I have visitors to this site who are outside Orthodoxy, to whom recent events would seem nigh incomprehensible. Well, hell--it should be equally incomprehensible to any right-thinking Orthodox. But with so much going on, it seems perversely head-in-the-sandish not to acknowledge the situation.

Let's just say there has been a little something for everybody in this year's imbroglio: attempted coups and counter-coups, plots within plots, machinations within machinations, leaked e-mails and stolen emails, dueling blogs, pettiness, jealousy, more plotting, occasional appearances by our royal family trying to keep everyone in line, de facto governance by blog post, sordid sexual allegation upon sordid sexual allegation complete with hierarchical condo hide-a-ways, formerly respected priests throwing their reputations away in vicious attacks, demonization on all sides, etc.

The world of the OCA is a small one. Basically, we all know each other. So it is not unusual that I would have some familiarity with a few of the parties involved, and why I find objectionable the cheap allegations and demonization against those I love and respect. I have been taken aback, as well, by the glee some take in all these troubles. But the Synod has met and decreed. Entrenched mediocrity has been confirmed, and the status quo ante affirmed. On our diocesan level, things are still roiling down here as perhaps the OCA's most vibrant parish, just for good measure it would seem, has been thrown on its back. I am convinced more than ever that the OCA's days are numbered, its vaunted autocephaly an increasingly impolite fiction--whether there is a Great Council or not. But God is still on His throne, and Orthodoxy, thankfully, is far larger than our little OCA. Back in my Protestant days, I saw "church problems" destroy the faith of some. And I have seen it in previous scandals within Orthodoxy. In a strange way, this has done nothing to weaken my faith. Any reality-based reading of Church history clearly shows the faithful plodding on, while bishops may plot and scheme. Simply put, if the Church were not what she claimed to be, such behavior would have sunk it centuries ago. This is all the more reason to keep my head down and tend my own garden here on the parish level. But in doing so, I am reminded of the line from Fiddler on the Roof, which has some applicability to our present situation:

May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us!


Anonymous said...

Nominated for best blog post on the subject.

elizabeth said...

I appreciated your post and I appreciate that you don't go into whatever is going on...

Yes, the church thank God is bigger than all of us.

I like Fredrica's recent podcast where she said the goings-on (in my words) don't pertain to her and so she avoids it...

721 said...

Keeping my head down, as well. My wife and I are still officially considered "inquirers", but we've already seen God's power in our and our children's (aged 10 - 23) lives from our regular attendance over the past few months. I notice that many "orthodox" blogs come around regularly to the subject of humility, stressing its importance to a Christian. I believe that I have more important things to concern myself other than "Who's on first?"(apology to Abbott and Costello). Thank you as well for staying out of the fray.

Kirk said...

Good post, T.

I've calmed way down on the subject of this recent unpleasantness, though I follow it closely. When the conflict erupted back in February, I was downright shocked, and my faith was shaken. My attitude could be summed up in two words, "Screw this." And so I didn't participate in the fast for the first time in four years, to my detriment.

I am actually encouraged by the reports from the latest gathering of the Synod. It appears from my limited perspective that the grown-ups will win the day. Time will tell.

Of course, I am not privy to any developments taking place in the DOS, other than blog-comment hearsay. May God have mercy on us all.

Mr. G. Z. T. said...

Yep. I find it rather surprising the convictions people draw and the vehemence they have on the basis of so little fact. Like, minor administrative changes in Syosset are a complete coup over the Metropolitan by the pro-gay-marriage forces within the Synod. Er, what? Let's wait a couple years and see what happens, then talk...

The Singular Observer said...

As an outsider who, at one time, followed all of this, I would agree with your take on the matter. Infighting and ecclesiastical buffoonery has always been part of the history of the Church. The temptation for converts are that they expect to find the "one true church" which they converted to, to be above all such unpleasantness. And when they discover it to be not so, they either pretend no to notice, or they bolt somewhere else. And the cycle repeats.

No, we are a sinful people, and reality is always far from the ideal. Be faithful, love, and stick to your vocation.

John said...

Hang in there--its worth it. I notice you are in TX as well. What part of the state?

I wasn't shocked, exactly. I've got a few years on you and don't shock as easily as I used to. But I was disappointed. Are you able to visit any at the church in Colorado Springs?

Mr G.Z.T. and S.O.,
Good advice for us all.

s-p said...

Ditto David/Nothing Hypothetical.
I generally don't follow archdiocesan follies and when I do, I don't care in general what is going on. Even if everything was hunky-dory in River City, I still can't fast and pray like I should. Mp Jonah and all the "players" have their issues that come with their territories, I have mine. They all boil down to ego, power/control and passions. I thank God I'm not fighting the demons in their arena and I choose not to be a spectator of their gladiator-ship.