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.

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Author: Rebecca

Orthodox Christian. Writer. SAR K9 handler-in training. All three of those are deeply related.

10 thoughts on “Not leaving”

  1. Lord have mercy! I’m very sorry to hear you are going through such a difficult situation as you described. Despite that fact I only know you through blog-commenting back and forth, I have no doubt that you made the right choice. I can only imagine how heartbreaking and difficult this must have been for you. I will keep you and those that left your parish and those that remained will be in my prayers.
    Take care and God Bless.

  2. Radoje–Thanks for your prayers and kind words.

    Goodness–yep, it does sound like some Baptist churches. My late grandfather, a Baptist minister, was run out of more churches than should be possible, and for no other reason than preaching Christ.

    The problem with the Church, and Christianity, is it is filled with fallen human beings, and complaining about it is like going to the hospital and griping because there are sick people there.

  3. Hi Bec,
    I just happened to check out your blog and Lord have mercy. About half of our Antiochian mission parish split over just the opposite problem, the priest was a misplaced mismatch for a convert parish and decimated the spirit and numbers in the Mission. There were other issues too with the “powers that be” in the Council that supported him because he supported some of their agendas. The non-empowered did everything by the book, talked to the Council and the Bishop for 3 years etc etc. to no avail. We all finally packed up and left. After everyone left the Council figured out the Mission was going no where with him at the helm and forced him out by cutting his salary. Several of our closest friends are all scattered now to 3 different parishes and 4 of our families have begun a new mission under a different archdiocese. May God bless you all. You have a rough road ahead of you.

  4. I wish the best for you and the rest of those who left your former parish. I don’t know what parish situation is like in Fort Wayne, but here in Terre Haute there is only one parish that is also of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

    I’m an enquirer into Orthodoxy and just had my first enquirer’s session with the local priest, so I don’t know what it’s like to be Orthodox or be involved in a parish yet. I can only imagine that such an even would be heartrending.

  5. Bec said…

    “it is like going to the hospital and griping because there are sick people there.”

    I know I do not know the situation but is this not what those who are leaving are sort-of doing.

  6. Goodness:
    Thanks again for your comment, but I think you missed my point. What I am saying is that you cannot complain about the presence of sinful people within the Church. I am not saying you don’t take a stand when that sin is tacitly or even explicitly condoned or ignored.

    There ARE sinners in the church–the laity, the clergy, and the hierarchs all struggle daily to reign in passions, to become more like Christ, and to love others the way we are supposed to love. Sometimes we succeed. Most often we fail. No Church is sin-free, because all churches have people in them. (Though I do believe, obviously, that the Orthodox church is best equiped to handle the sin within its midst.)

    There’s a line from the movie “Hoosiers” that seems appropriate. “There’s two kinds of crazy in the world. The first is the guy that gets drunk, gets naked and goes outside in the snow and barks at the moon. The second is the guy who does the same thing in my living room. The first you can ignore, the second you kind of have to deal with.”

    That’s what this is. We know there is sin anywhere. But when that sin damages other people, or directly stands in the way of our abilities to do the right thing and to worship the way we are commanded, then you have to do something.

    There’s a difference between complaining and a matter of conscience. This was, most definitely, the latter.

  7. I’m sorry to hear about all this, Bec. Of course, I know almost nothing about the situation, but is it at all possible that the actions of the bishop were justified? It’s a serious thing, even as a layperson, to rebel against one’s bishop, after all. And in that article he’s right about the proper understanding of conciliarity, of course. Sometimes bishops have to take unpopular actions without fully explaining themselves, for the better life of the Church. Sometimes offering full explanations will only make a situation worse. At some point don’t we have to ask ourselves: who are we trusting ourselves to? To our priest? To our own judgment on matters? Or to the Church, which is governed by bishops? Remember St Ignatius’ words about the place and role of the bishop in the local community. Can we justify rebellion against our bishop for anything less than heresy? Can you really say that heresy is involved here?

    I’m sorry to play devil’s advocate, so to speak. Like I said, I really know nothing about the situation, and I’m more than willing to admit that. But when things like this happen, I wonder if we’re sometimes too easily tempted to come to our own conclusions. I’m reminded about certain situations that arose when I was in college. Two of the professors I really liked -and who were loved by the students- were separately fired. The administration would give us no straightforward explanations. We protested and protested. We invaded the Provost’s office. We published the scandal in the student paper. The professors in question, in each case, even tacitly approved of our tactics and encouraged us in them. Still the administration wouldn’t budge, and wouldn’t provide us with an explanation. So we started coming to our own conclusions about the administrations actions, their bias, about their bigotry even. I even knew of a couple students that left the school over one of the incidents. It was only after I graduated and was a bit older that finally learned the real reasons behind the firings, and that they really were TRULY justified. I understood then that it wasn’t the administration that was victimizing us as we thought, but as students we had been manipulated by our own outrage and by the professors themselves.

    I’m not suggesting anything improper of your former priest, not in the least. God bless him. I know nothing about him or the whole situation. It’s just such a tough, tough call to make. What would you do if (and may God make it so) there were only a single Orthodox jurisdiction in the US? Where would you go? To another parish under the same leadership? Doesn’t this multiple jurisdiction situation just give us excuses in cases like this to act like Protestants and split?

    It’s just heart-rending to hear about things like this, Bec. Forgive me to asking the question I have. I guess I’m trying to put myself in your shoes. I hope I never have to go through something like this. Please know it’s not my intent to judge your actions or your bishops actions in this case. I just have questions. You and your (former) parish and priest will be in my prayers.

    -Doug

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