A brief response

“Doug” commented on my earlier post about leaving the Antiochian church with some valid concerns. I can’t and won’t go into any kind of detail in all this but I will try to in a specifically vague way, address some of those concerns.

Were the actions of the bishop justified? No. There were no allegations of misbehavior. There were no concerns about his priestly function or abilities. And the issue is not that the bishop moved the priest. That is certainly within his rights and even responsibility as a bishop. The issue is that he moved the priest above the strenuous and unanimous objections of the parish council without any explanation OR comment. Had he said something like “Father’s talents would be better put to use somewhere else” we would have been fine with that. He ignored and disrepected those who are charged with the governance of that parish body, for no reason, for no cause. The assignment given was, to say the very least, absurd. There was no physical way for our priest to financially support himself or his family, and while there were other parishes available to transfer him to, he was effectively banished.

The canons say that if a bishop fails to meet the physical needs of the priests within his care he is to be excommunicated, and if it continues he is to be removed. We could not get those higher than the bishop to hear us, so…

The reasons behind the decisions to move this priest are good, ol’ fashioned Simony. Acts 8:18-23.

Would a single Orthodox jurisdiction have made what we did/are doing impossible? Yes, but it would have also made it unnecessary. Had there been more parishes, more bishops, more archbishops, and one patriarch all available to weigh in, I do not hesitate to think this would not have happened. If all the links to the “old country” are meaningless, if the influences of “old country” money and loyalties are balanced out and voided, then there are greater chances of other voices being heard. And before this comes up, we are not solely a group of converts. We are an equal mix of converts and “cradles”, of all ethnic varieties.

Please don’t refer to us as Protestants, though I know that is tempting. We are not reinventing the faith. We are not nailing our thesis to the doors and demanding the church change to our interpretations of Scripture and Tradition. We are defending someone who is defenseless. We are trying to protect the faith, and our churches, from the threat of the highest bidder.

Not leaving

I am unsure of how to address this issue, but for the sake of honesty to my few readers I feel I must. My friend TMatt forced my hand in his comment on the previous post. It’s probably a good thing. I do not want to hide any aspect of my journey in this faith.

I left the American Archdiocese of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. I was not alone. I have not left Orthodoxy. I would never leave Orthodoxy. But I have left the Antiochian Church.

The reasons are numerous, and tragic. And it was not an easy decision for those of us who left. We could no longer stand by and watch those with power destroy those with none. We could not be silent as our priest was slandered, abused, and removed. And we could not contribute financially any longer to those who did the slandering, abusing, and removing.

The closest analogy I can come up with for this situation is a teacher having trouble with four or five students in a class of 25. Unable to get them to comply or their parents to care, the teacher asks the principal and superintendent for help. The administrators go to the classroom, watch the misbehavior, and then decide to remove the teacher rather than sanctioning the students.

I can’t study in that classroom any more.

Other parishes in our community have offered to help those of us who left, recognizing that we have not left Orthodoxy. This was not some silly split over the color of carpet in the foyer, but the necessary action in the face of obscene injustice. The Church is not without examples of laity standing in the face of corruption or guarding the faith in the face of capitulation to outside influences.

To those who still remain at my beloved church, I wish you well, but I have little hope for any change apart from a miraculous work of God. That church has had nine priests in 25 years…that’s not a great batting average. Those guilty of the slander and Simony do not want to change, and without pressure from above (which has shown no signs of coming) or Divine Intervention, they will not change.

To those “in charge” who are not willing, for whatever reason, to stop feeding the beast of ego and greed: beware, it will ultimately bite you too.

I do not believe that our struggles were isolated. I know of other parishes with similar struggles, and I know of other priests abused for doing nothing more than preaching the Gospel of Christ and administering the Sacraments.

It is not my intention to spark debate, though I am sure that will likely follow our action. I only post this because I desire to be transparent, particularly to those who are studying Orthodoxy, which while possessing the fullness of truth, remains the home of sinful people. And I am no different.

Right now, I travel. I am visiting other parishes, worshiping with the other Orthodox Christians in my community and alongside these who left–the godly men and women of our parish council, my fellow converts, my cradle brothers and sisters, my Orthodox family. I will blog a bit about this journey, dispatches from other stops along the Orthodox Way.

I will keep blogging about this faith, if for no other reason than to remind myself of its Holy Truths and its eternal beauty.

An interesting take on this

The Parable of the Prodigal Son according to penal substitution

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.“

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; yet at the same time his was furious and wrathful at the offences his son had committed against him. To rebel against the Father in such a way deserved death and hell – yet the Father was torn because he did still love his Son.“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t forgive you. You underestimate how serious your sin is. It would violate the entire moral law of the universe if I were to forgive what you have done, you deserve death and hell. What I will do however is send your brother out to work in the fields to take the punishment that I should by rights be dishing out to you, when he has worked himself to death, I will be satisfied and restore you to fellowship in my household. In the meantime go back to the pigsty you came from, for I cannot tolerate sin in my presence.

So the older son, though he had done nothing wrong, was made to work night and day as punishment for what his younger brother had done. Eventually bearing the load overcame him and he died. Upon hearing that his oldest Son had died, the Father was pacified and resolved to be reconciled to the rebellious son and sent a messenger to the pigsty to tell the prodigal son he could come back home again. The prodigal came home and was reunited with his Father, who gave him everything that used to belong to the older son. He also remembered the the older son hadn’t actually deserved to be punished to death so he resurrected the dead son and then they all were friends again and lived happily ever after.

Yeah. What he said…