Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Psychology Roots of Jurisdictionalism-Part II

Jursidictionalism Avoidant Personality and Our Broken Sense of Self . To expand on the egoism of jurisdictionalism, let me offer an illustration drawn from psychotherapy. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ( DSM ) of the American is a Psychiatric Association includes a personality disorder called avoidant personality disorder . The diagnostic criteria for describes avoidant personality disorder as a "pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  1. Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection

  2. Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked

  3. Shows restraint initiating intimate relationships because of the fear of being ashamed, ridiculed, or rejected due to severe low self-worth.

  4. Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations

  5. Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy

  6. Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others

  7. Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing.”

I would argue that, mutatis mutandis , this summarizes the situation that we now face as a Church both here in America as well as worldwide.

Personality disorders typically reflect a damage sense of self. For all that we must respond with compassion to those who sense of self is damaged, our compassion ought not to blind us to the kind of damage that can be done to self and others by someone who responds out of their broken sense of self.

For all of our theological scholarship, I would suggest that in all levels of the Church, we have failed to translate that theology in such a way that it fosters in people a healthy sense of self. Absent that healthy sense of self, it is difficult to bear up under the suffering that is coming our way as we try to reconcile the cultural and linguistic estrangements that we have enshrined, and made rigid, in our overlapping jurisdictions.

To put the matter another way, for all that theology matters, we must not neglect the fact that our challenge as a Church is fundamentally psychological. As such not only is it resistant to a theological solution, it is grounded in our emphasizing theology at the expense of a careful consideration of the sociological and psychological dimension of the Christian life. Our problem is psychological not theological. We know what we believe about the Church, but we cannot find it in ourselves to live what we believe, at least beyond a certain point.

Just as a failure in psychology lead to the Great Schism (in the sense that we East and West were not only psychological estranged but also defensive in the face of the evidence of that estrangement) 1,000 years ago, so to today, we face also an similar failure to appreciate the power of our psychological differences. Add to this the way in which the surrounding culture exacerbates these differences and we are facing a crisis point every bit as serious as what we faced in the 11 th century.

This brings to an end my reflections on the current jurisdictional controversy facing the Church in America. I thank you for the kind gift of your attention, comments, questions and criticisms.

As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Recent Webinar on Leadership Now Online

For those interested, the slides and a recording of the webinar I did yesterday (Tuesday) for the Diocese of the Chicago and the Midwest (OCA) on the psychology of leadership are now both available online.  You can find them here: Diocese's Webinar Project.  You can find the link to my presentations, as well as an upcoming webinar on religion in America by Fr Basil Aden, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Illinois' Rock Valley College, in the center right column.

If I may ask a small favor, if you do review the slides or listen to the webinar, would you please direct any thought you have about the presentation to Joseph Kormos who direct of the Parish Health Ministry for the diocese and to me.  Joe's email address is available here: Diocesan Administration.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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The Psychological Roots of Orthodox Jurisdictionalism-Part I

While I think it is always intellectually dangerous to argue sociologically from psychological data, I do think that it can be done if we are careful. Given the importance of character and personality for not only the style of leadership but also the decisions made by leadership but personally and corporately, I think it is worth reflecting on what (potentially at least) how personality and character contribute to the pastoral situation of the Church here in America.

I will conclude this series of reflection therefore with an admittedly informal look at what I am calling here the psychological roots of Orthodox jurisdictionalism.

Egoism & Our Fractured Visible Unity . Whether we call it pietism or moralistic therapetic deism, it is not only Western Christians, but also the vast majority of Orthodox Christians in the United States, who have come to embrace a radically individualist approach to the Gospel. Ironically, it is as true for those self-professed adherents of “traditional” Orthodox as it is for the main body of Orthodox Christians (whether cradle born or convert). Surveying the Orthodox Christian landscape in America, I see this not only in the sadism and masochism of those who make pain the sine qua non of the Orthodox faith, but also in the current jurisdictional controversy that we now face in the Orthodox Church in the States.

Before I continue, let me make a theological observation. The lack of administrative or visible unity of the Orthodox Church in the United States (and indeed in South America, Western Europe, Asia and Australia) does not to my mind invalidate the fact that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The failure of Christians to live the Gospel fully does not mean the Gospel isn't true. “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Chesterton's observation is true not only about the Christian ideal, it is also true for the struggle for jurisdictional unity in the Church in America and in the other parts of the world where overlapping jurisdictions have simply become accepted as how we do things. We know how we are to live, we know what we are to do because we know what we have been given, but it is hard and we do not want to suffer it.

The historical reasons for our overlapping jurisdictions are well know to most Orthodox Christians (and observers of the Church as well). What worries me is that, fueled as they are by pietism and moralistic therapetic deism, if we are not careful the Orthodox Church will find itself facing schism. In the more irenic telling of the events that lead up to the Great Schism in the 11 th century, the growing cultural and linguistic estrangement between the Latin West and the Greek East is often sited as a prime cause of the division. This is not to minimize the real theological and pastoral difference between the two communities. Rather it is to highlight that the lack of a common spoken language and shared culture made reconciliation in the face of these more substantial difference difficult and indeed impossible.

To suggest a similar situation is growing in the contemporary Orthodox Church might seem alarmist, but having served in both the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America, it amazes me the lack of real contact and understand between the clergy and faithful of both communities. The political freedoms and material wealth that the Church has in America has allowed us (and not only the GOA and OCA, but all the Orthodox jurisdictions) to go our own separate ways.

Oh, we do get together now and then—mostly on the Sunday of Orthodoxy—b ut that's not a real encounter. It is more like neighbors who wave to each other over the fence in the morning on their way to work getting together for a block party once a year. We enjoy seeing each other, eating each other's foods, but, well, ya' know, beyond that we get, uncomfortable.

This uncomfortable feeling, I would argue, is the sign that our different jurisdiction our a matter of our own individual and collective egos writ large. For no doubt understandable reasons, and whether we were baptized in the Church as infants or came later in life, we have used the Church and the Church's tradition to shore up our own rather frail sense of self (and again, both individually and collectively).

I will post tomorrow the conclusion of this series with some unapologetically psychological thoughts on why we personally and corporately, resist the establishment of an administratively united Orthodox Church.

As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

American Christianity and the Ascetical Ideal

Back to my series on suffering, pain and the thoughts about the Orthodox Church here in America.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

American Pietism and the Ascetical Ideal. In the approach that has come dominate in American Christianity, moralistic therapeutic deism, suffering not only has no place it is the enemy and the sign that I have failed. For many contemporary Christians I should not suffer. Contemporary Christians, and again this includes Orthodox Christians, the Gospel (in the words of the study authors)

is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of sovereign divinity, of steadfastly saying one's prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God's love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, et cetera. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.

All of this flies in the face not only of the idea that suffering is part of the Christian life but also the idea that asceticism is an essential element of our life as disciples of Christ.

As an aside, until very recently, even the most dedicated Christian proponent of salvation by faith alone would have held to at least a broadly ascetical vision of the Christian life. If nothing else, there were simply things that you did not do if you were a believer. While traditional Christian asceticism is not really a matter of not drinking, smoking or dancing, the emphasis on these in some Christian circles kept alive at least a vestige of the ascetical life.

Asceticism is important because, as Christos Yannaras reminds us in his own work, it shifts the locus of my life from my virtue as mine to the life of the Church. Or, to use my earlier language, as virtue as something I choose as expression and satisfaction of my own ego and virtue as a gift that I receive. As a mode of pietism, moralistic therapeutic deism assumes that

It is not man's dynamic, personal participation in the body of the Church's communion which saves him despite his individual unworthiness, restoring him safe and whole to the existential possibility of personal universality, and transforming even his sin, through repentance, into the possibility of receiving God's grace and love. Rather it is primarily man's individual attainments, the way he as an individual lives up to religious duties and moral commandments and imitates the "virtues" of Christ, that ensure him a justification which can be objectively veri. fied. For pietism, the Church is a phenomenon dependent upon individual justification; it is the assembly of morally "reborn" individuals, a gathering of the "pure," a complement and an aid to individual religious feeling. (“Pietism as an Ecclesiological Heresy,” chapter 8 in The Freedom of Morality. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY: 1984, pp. 119-136. Available online at the American Orthodox Institute .)

American Christianity, or maybe more accurately, the American approach to Christianity has become markedly individualist and is likewise, markedly devoid of any theological and ascetical content beyond the what is allowed by pietism that dominate our cultural conversation about religion.

I will post today the first of a two reflection on the psychological foundations (and risks) of the Orthodox Church's jurisdictional disunity here in America.

As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Psychology of Leadership II: Applying the Research to the Parish Webinar

In this the second of two webinars we will look at how we can foster styles of leadership that are strength based, collaborative and appreciative.

He will explore leadership that values collaboration/cooperation between clergy and the laity.

This will be contrasted with approaches built around competition and/or collusion.

We will look a a strength based approach to parish leadership that makes appreciative use of the unique our talents and gifts that God has given the lay people and clergy who make up the parish community.

Sponsored by the OCA Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest, you can register for the webinar here:

Date: Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Time: 3:00pm - 4:00pm

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

What has Aleksandr Lukashenko told Benedict XVI?

Potentially interesting, and from my point of view hopeful, developments in Orthodox/Catholic ecumenical relations.  Russia Today is reporting online that the president of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, is (in the article reports) said "he was going to present the Pope with a number of questions from the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kirill. Talking to the Pope, he also expressed hope that Benedict XVI would come to Belarus."  What makes the potential visit of the Pontiff to Belarus is part of the "canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church."  Evidently, according to the article, Lukashenko,"wants to play a role in organizing a historical meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch on Belarusian territory. That was what he proposed to Patriarch Kirill while in Moscow this spring."

"The idea to bring leaders of the two branches of Christianity together in Belarus is not a new one."  In fact, 
Aleksandr Lukashenko proposed it as early as in 2002. However, today it has taken on an interesting twist: Kirill already met Benedict XVI several times as a head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was also often criticized for his ecumenical policies, as he advocates for deeper cooperation with the Catholic Church. All this makes the possibility of a meeting between the leaders of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches greater than ever. And if Lukashenko's proposal is accepted, Belarus will play an important role as a conciliator and a peacemaker. In this sense, Lukashenko is doing a great job, improving Belarus' image on an international level and doing a favor for Kirill who, according to all indications, would like to meet the Pope.
While it is to early to say what, if anything, will come of Likashenko's plan, it is an interesting development.

You can read the rest of the article here: "What has Aleksandr Lukashenko told Benedict XVI?"

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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American Religious Culture

A continuation of the series I began last week on the Church in America...

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity—and I would include here contemporary Orthodox Christians—have lost the sense that suffering is an essential part of the spiritual life. In its place, as I said above, we have substituted some form of moralistic therapeutic deism. Let me explain what moralistic therapeutic deism is and try and contrast it to suffering and the Christian ascetical tradition.

In a piece that appeared in the Christian Post on April 18 2005 (“ Moralistic Therapeutic Deism--the New American Religion ”), R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, reports on the work of “Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” Smith and his colleagues “took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers” and “ found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

Following Smith, Mohler goes on to describe moralistic therapeutic deism as a belief system that centers on beliefs such as these:

  1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth."

  2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."

  3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."

  4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."

  5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."

While the study focused on adolescents, the findings are more generally applicable to American Christianity including American Orthodox Christianity (for confirmation of this second point, see my posts on the 2008 Pew Charitable Trust US Religious Landscape Survey). As Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton put the matter in their “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers,”

To the extent that the teens we interviewed did manage to articulate what they understood and believed religiously, it became clear that most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to believe, or they do understand it and simply do not care to believe it . Either way, it is apparent that most religiously affiliated U.S. teens are not particularly interested in espousing and upholding the beliefs of their faith traditions , or that t heir communities of faith are failing in attempts to educate their youth, or both ."

In place of a firmly held and clearly articulated faith, many of us (and again, not just teenagers) hold to the informal moral relativism that Smith and Denton call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. MTD "is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. It teaches that central to living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person. That means being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, responsible, at work on self-improvement, taking care of one's health, and doing one's best to be successful."

I will post tomorrow a brief comparison between Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and the Christian ascetical ideal, an ideal I would argue that was until recently common to all (or at least most) Christian communities in America.

As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thomas Sunday

Sunday, April 26, 2009: ANTIPASCHA. 2nd SUNDAY OF PASCHA — Tone 1. St. Thomas Sunday. Hieromartyr Basil, Bishop of Amasea (ca. 322). St. Stephen, Bishop of Perm (1396). Righteous Virgin Glaphyra (322). St. Joannicius of Devich in Serbia (13th c.).
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Christ is Risen!
Christos Voskrese!
Christos Anesti!
We heard most of this morning's Gospel last Sunday at Agape Vespers. Unlike last week, however, the Gospel reading stopped at verse 25 where Thomas, having just heard from his fellow disciples the news of the resurrection says: "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
There is, as there was the case with the final Gospel ( Mt 27:62-66) that we heard at the end of both the Twelve Passion Gospels at Matins on Great Holy Thursday evening and at the Lamentations Service that is the Matins service for Great and Holy Friday evening at Lamentations, something stark about the Gospel reading for Agape Vespers.
Especially because I know the story I expect the Gospel to come (in both cases) to a successful conclusion. I want to move quickly past that moment when the Jews “ sealing the stone, and setting a watch,” ( Mt 27.66) and to the moment when “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary,” encounter with an angel and announcement of the Resurrection in Matthew 28. And likewise, I want Thomas' challenge to be answered, I want the Risen Lord Jesus to appear to Thomas as Jesus appeared to the women disciples and eventually to the disciples.
In wanting to hear the proclamation of the Resurrection, I'm desiring something that good. There should be no question that in wanting this I want what is good. The problem is not so much, or so it seems to me, what I want to move toward as what I am so anxious of leaving behind.
In one sense the story of Jesus' last week is far from humanity's finest hour. Religious faith and the laws of civil society are both bent and twisted to serve the ravenous desires of the human ego for power and control. And as much as the events of Holy Week are a chronicle of sin in high places, of the ways in which those charged with the common good in the religious and secular arenas are willing to betray the trust of their office, it is also a very intimate, homey story of sin. It is not only those who a great who betray Jesus. He suffers betrayal and abandonment at the hands of those who He loved and who loved Him.
And it seems that at first not even the news of His Resurrection can undo humanity's commitment to our self-defeating life of sin.
And even when there is faith, even when the news of the Resurrection is received, it is reception isn't pure. Human ego and our desire to dominate one another is still present, mixed in as it were, with our faith. It is worth remembering that the same men who in John's Gospel proclaims the Resurrection to Thomas are inclined (in the words of Luke's Gospel) to dismiss the women's proclamation “as idle tales,” that did not believe (24.11).
St Mark sketches out for us a bit more of the “apostolic” disbelief in the Resurrection.
Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe ( 16.9-11).
The story of the Resurrection, like the events of Great and Holy Week that precede it, is also not humanity's finest moment.
St Peter Chrysologus, the fifth century bishop of Ravenna, describes the Apostle Thomas “a sleuth” and “a little too clever” for his own good. Rhetorically, he asks about Thomas
Why does the hand of a faithful disciple in this fashion retrace those wounds that an unholy hand inflict? Why does the hand of a dutiful follower strive to reopen the side that the lance of an unholy soldier pierced? Why does the harsh curiosity of a servant repeat the torturers imposed by the rage of persecutors? Why is a disciple so inquisitive about proving from His torments that He is the Lord, for His pain that He is God, and from His wounds that He is the heavenly Physician? (“Sermon,” 84.8, quoted in ACCS , NT vol IV b, p. 367)
Why, in other words, can we (like Thomas) not leave sinfulness behind?
Peter explains that Thomas' questions are asked in anticipation of his “going to preach” the Gospel “to the Gentile.” And so Thomas takes on the role of a “ conscientious investigator” so that through his careful examination “he might provide a foundation for the faith needed for such a mystery.” And Christ, in anticipation of the Gospel which was to be proclaimed, “kept His wounds . . . to provide evidence of His Resurrection.”
Like it or not, the path to faith must, necessarily, proceed along the way of doubt and disbelief. Not because, as some would have it, because faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin. No, I must walk the path of unbelieving because that is my beginning point. All the ways in which we say humanity fail during the events of Great and Holy Week are not simply history, they are my story as well.
And, just like Thomas, my faith is weak and demands proof. And, again like Thomas, my need for proof is so strong that I am willing to be cruel if cruelty is what it takes to undo my disbelief.
To stop here, to see only the depth of human sinfulness and more deprivation, is to tell only half the story. If the events of Great and Holy Week reveals the depths to which human beings can sink, they also make clear the heights to which we can ascend. If Holy Week is our darkest moment, it is also in Christ and in those who did not abandon Him, Mary the Theotokos, “His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, . . . Mary Magdalene [and] the disciple whom He loved” (Jn 19.25, 26) our finest moment. If in Adam we betray Him, in Him and in the faithful few who stand by Him, we are faithful.
The temptation though is to imagine that some how I can separate in myself Thomas from John (to name only two disciples), that my own unbelief and cruelty are themselves something other than faith and love misdirected and undeified. It is so easy for me to blame Thomas and praise John.
Curiously, the Apostle John does not blame Thomas, he does not begrudge his brother apostle his questions and doubts. In fact, at the end of his life, the Beloved Disciple looks back to the events he records for us and remembers Thomas' challenge: "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
And remembering those long ago events, he writes to the Church:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. ( 1 Jn 1.1-4)
My brothers and sisters in Christ, our doubts, or little (and not so little) acts of cruelty and betrayal are the signs that we have not yet been transformed by divine love. But that transformation cannot happen if I deny the presence of doubt, or cruelty, or betrayal or any other sin in my own heart.
To borrow from St Romanus the Melodius, human sinfulness is part of “the bramble which endured fire” which, though “burned” is “not consumed.” The Fire of God's love does not destroy, it heals what is ill and transfigures what is earthly. And once deified, “To many who had a little doubt” Thomas is able to “presuade them to say, 'Thou art our Lord and God.” (“Kontakion on Doubting Thomas,” 30.1-3, ACCS , NT vol IV b, pp. 371-372).
But none of this comes for me any more easily then it did for Thomas and the others. It requires that I pause and reflect not simply upon my own sinfulness or God's mercy. Rather I must see both together and then, like Thomas, reach out to the God Who again and again comes to find me who does not even know I am lost.
In Christ,
+Fr Gregory

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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Anthropology of Suffering

Suffering Isn't Suffering Unless It Hurts. When I was a student my confessor was a Cistercian monk from Hungary name Fr Chris (I may have mentioned him before). One of the things he would frequently remind me of is that the one thing Christ promises His disciples is that we will suffer in this life. “And,” he would conclude, “suffering isn't suffering if it doesn't hurt.” Father's counsel to me came to mind this morning as I thought about the current controversy taking shape between Metropolitan Jonah and the Orthodox Church in America on one side and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on the other side.

The importance of suffering in the spiritual life is often overlooked. Rather than tell people that suffering is simply part and parcel of our life in Christ we pass over the issue in silence. Sometimes instead of looking squarely at the truth we substitute what some have called moralistic therapeutic deism for a clear discussion and preaching on the anthropological non-negotiable elements of the Christian life: asceticism and a willingness to suffer the first stage of the spiritual, purification, on the road to illumination and eventual union (or theosis to use more traditional Orthodox terminology).

Asceticism and purification are not only necessary to our life in Christ, they necessarily require from the person a willingness to suffer. But this raises two questions: First, what is it that I mean when I say we will suffer? What, in other words, does it mean to suffer in Christ? And second, what does this have to do with the current controversy we see in the Church?

What It Means To Suffer . There are subgroups within the Orthodox Church for whom suffering plays a central role in how they understand the Christian life. For these individuals, the absence of suffering in a person's is suspect—really Christians are in pain. This approach the spiritual life is, in my view, an aberration and reflects a mis-reading of monastic literature.

At its core it confuses suffering with sadism and masochism (and not infrequently there is a sexual component to these groups, but that is for another day). Sadism and masochism emphasizing as they do human pain are, I would argue, pseudo-forms of suffering. When, as often happens even in otherwise healthy persons and communities, they inform especially a our understand of asceticism and the three fold path of the spiritual life, they can lead to any number of aberrations in the spiritual life and the life of the community.

The problem here is this: Unlike suffering, sadism and masochism are psychologically and often behaviorally active. The sadist seeks to inflict pain; the masochist seeks out the infliction of pain on him. In both cases, pain is the object of the ego's desire, a way of maintaining the illusion of one's own power and control in the face of the mystery of being (and Being for that matter). Neither the sadist nor the masochist suffer, neither is passive in the face of the mystery of being (and Being) who bear up under the weight of this mystery, but actors who seek to impose their own ego onto the mystery and shape its expression according to their own desires.

Let me qualify what I said a moment ago about the passivity of suffering. Suffering in the spiritual is passive in the sense that I do not choose suffering, it is not the object of my decision as is, for example, the fact that I am writing this essay. I do not choose suffering, I do not move toward it either physically or psychologically. Suffering chooses me, suffering comes to me.

The passive character of suffering does not preclude activity on my part. While I may not, and indeed cannot, choose suffering, I can exercise my will bear suffering, to not flee from it. Again, suffering is not something I choose but it is something that, when it comes to me, I accept.

I will in my next post look (on Monday, 4/27/09) at what seems to me to be the dominate theme in American Religious Culture, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Thinking About the Church in America

Over the next few days, I want to reflect with you on the current controversy facing the Orthodox Church here in America. The flash point of this has been the very public exchange of views over the last few weeks between Metropolitan JONAH, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and various representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In what follows I argue that these differences point to more fundamentally cultural, pastoral and psychological challenges facing not only Orthodox Christians but American Christianity in general (and insofar as American culture has come to dominate in many parts of the world, this is not simply an American or Christian problem.)
Beginning today, I will offer a serious of reflections that I hope will provide if not solutions, at least a general frame of reference for discussion and debate as well discern together what God would have for His Church here in America. The topics are, in order:
  1. The Anthropology of Suffering
  2. American Religious Culture
  3. The Ascetical Ideal
  4. The Psychology Roots of Jurisdictionalism
I will post today a reflection on suffering.
As always, your comments, questions and criticisms are not only welcome, they are actively sought.
In Christ,
+Fr Gregory

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Archbishop Gregory (Afonsky): The Canonical Status of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church

Christ is Risen!

Fr Symeon of St John's Hermitage, has posted an excellent by the late OCA Archbishop of Alaska, Archbishop Gregory (Afonsky), on the canonical status of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church. (You can find the original article here.) Given the growing, and I think inevitable, controversary, that is now brewing in the Orthodox Church here in America, I find the work of Archbishop Gregory timely. It is a bit long for a blog post, but well worth reading.

My emphasis and comments are marked in the text.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

The Russian canonical school of the 19th and 20th centuries studied the question of the Patriarch of Constantinople' s canonical status in the Orthodox Church with care and diligence. For the most part books and monographs on the subject were well-disposed, explaining the Patriarch of Constantinople' s exceptionally high position in the Church both during the Byzantine and Turkish periods as a result of particular historical circumstances. During the Byzantine era the Patriarch of Constantinople, as the hierarch of the imperial capital and bishop of New Rome, received not only the primacy of honor but secular privileges of authority as well. During the Turkish period he became the Ethnarch of all the Orthodox subjects in the East, exercising both secular and ecclesiastical authority. However, almost all Russian canonists attributed only the canonical primacy of honor to the Patriarch of Constantinople and in no event any primacy of power over all the Orthodox East.

An attempt by the Russian canonist and historian T. Barsov, to unite the historical and canonical basis in a "symphony" as a justification of the Patriarch of Constantinople' s primacy over all other Eastern patriarchs called forth an opposite reaction from the well-known canonist A. P. Pavlov who, while recognizing the historical reasons for the Patriarch's enhanced status, categorically rejected the idea of his canonical power over the whole Orthodox Church.

Furthermore Pavlov, in analyzing Barsov's assertions that precisely "in the question about the Patriarch of Constantinople the substance of the ecclesiastical structure in the East is resolved, i.e. the gradual expansion of the Patriarch of Constantinople' s prerogatives and his exceptional elevation with respect to other patriarchs, as well as the primacy of his see in the Christian Church of the East, as the oldest representative of the Orthodox Church", calls such an idea as nothing less than a "theory of Eastern Papism." [While often used pejoratively by Orthodox authors, I think that the development of the modern notion of the papacy represents an understandable response of the Roman Church to the increased contact of local churches in the contemporary world. While theologically we ought not to see the Church as one large diocese, experientially it is difficult to avoid doing so. Because of changes especially in techonology, we are ever and ever more aware of what happens in other local churches. Coordination among the churches in I think a more pressing existential and pastoral need. The problem is, I think, that we tend to dogmatize our solutions. This happens in two ways: we assert the primacy of the local church at the expense of the universal church (the Orthodox reponse) OR the primacy of the universal over the local (the Catholic response). Neither response seems to me to be working.]

Professor Pavlov bases himself on a strict canonical foundation with respect to Constantinople: "A characteristic mark of canonical legislation which elevated the Bishop of Constantinople to the patriarchate, shows that he is always placed in comparison with the Bishop of Rome, the most senior hierarch in the Christian world, and his see, being that of the empire's new capital, is recognized as the second one after Rome." [I wonder if reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic churches might not be the practical effect of both communities internal ecclesiological struggles?]

It was only in the beginning of the 20th century that the question of the formal and canonical status of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church became more acute and viable in connection with the new theory of Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis of Constantinople who raised the question of the submission of the entire Orthodox diaspora found beyond the borders of the autocephalous churches to the Patriarch of Constantinople, basing this new theory upon the canons of the Universal Church. One of the last Russian canonists, S.V. Troitsky, respectfully but firmly and with the full knowledge of the subject, came out in opposition to this novel theory.

Although Constantinople, in accordance with Emperor Constantine' s designs, was to be a Christian city and the center and foundation of the newly established Christian empire, nonetheless as Professor Bolotov writes: "The Church of Constantinople could not pride itself for being either of an ancient lineage or of an Apostolic foundation." Consequently, writes Bolotov, in purely ecclesiastical terms, Constantinople had no such privileges, as were the rights of other Eastern churches. The preeminence of Constantinople was based solely upon its political status as the new capital of the Roman Empire. According to St. Gregory the Theologian there were few Orthodox in Constantinople in the 4th Century and it was predominantly Arian.

Professor A. V. Kartashev, himself being in the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, characterized the status of New Rome (Constantinople) during its foundation as follows: "It cannot be said that the Orthodox reputation of Constantinople' s hierarchs was so splendid from the time of its appearance in history as the capital, since Eusebius, the leader of the Arians immediately subjected Byzantium, along with the palace, under his influence. Rome and Alexandria struggled for half a century with Constantinople' s Arianism and its emperors. Rome and Alexandria saw themselves as guardians of universal Orthodoxy against the impious thrusts of Constantinople and against its insignificant bishop who was subject to the Metropolitan of Heraclea. It had neither a past nor any achievements before the Church or Orthodoxy. Only annoying pretensions to become some kind of an unwelcome head of the Church and a tool of imperial power. In 381, under the protection of Theodosius the Great, at the Second Ecumenical Council, the reigning city, having not as yet cleansed itself from the stain of Arianism, was proclaimed to be, in the ecclesiastical sense, second in honor after ancient Rome."

It was during the reign of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great that those sees which were in the major cities of the dioceses received special privileges over other Metropolitans and the hierarchs of those sees were called archbishops, exarchs and finally, patriarchs. The First Ecumenical Council (Canon 6) acknowledged the higher administrative powers of the three main cities of the empire: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, subjecting whole dioceses to the territories. The same Council granted the Bishop of Jerusalem (Aelia), as the cradle of Christianity "the honor which flows from his position while the dignity proper to the Metropolitan of the city is safeguarded. "

It was the Second Ecumenical Council (Canon 3) which equated the Patriarch of Constantinople with Rome and other Apostolic Sees. The literal meaning of that canon granted the prerogative of honor to the Patriarch of Constantinople, putting him in the second place after the Bishop of Rome. The Council granted a special place of honor to the Bishop of New Rome but no power: the Bishop of the new capital continued formally to be subject to the Metropolitan of Heraclea.

Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council reads: "As the bishop of Constantinople, let him have the prerogatives of honor after the bishop of Rome, seeing that this city is the New Rome."

We can see in Canon Three of the Second Ecumenical Council only that the Patriarch of
Constantinople, as the bishop of New Rome, must have the prerogatives of honor after the Bishop of Rome. However, this canon says nothing about the supremacy of Rome or Constantinople or about the administrative or judicial rights with respect to those patriarchs.

Nonetheless, the Bishop of Constantinople acted in such a way that the literal interpretation of the canon soon became impossible, since the bishops of the capital began to exert their factual authority far beyond the environs of Constantinople.

According to Pavlov these prerogatives of honor for "both hierarchs (Jerusalem and Constantinople) little by little evolved into the prerogatives of power over ordinary Metropolitans: by way of custom for Jerusalem and by imperial legislation for Constantinople. " Thus the laws of Emperors Honorius and Theodosius granted the bishop of the new capital the rights of final decision with respect to disputes between bishops of neighboring territories --Illyricum, as well as over the dioceses of Asia, Pontus and Fracia, which was confirmed by the Council of Chalcedon (Canons 9 and 17) which granted the right of appeal either to the diocesan exarch or to the bishop of the capital city.

Canon 28 of Chalcedon speaks of the acknowledgment of inequality of honor of two named hierarchs (that of Rome having the first place and Constantinople the second), however, according to Pavlov, it equated them in terms the rights of power, i.e. it granted three dioceses to Constantinople with the right to ordain the metropolitans for those dioceses as well as to consecrate bishops for members of different nationalities (barbarians) of those dioceses. This canon became the cornerstone in the matter of the elevation and prominence of the see of Constantinople.

As the third level in Church, matters of its dioceses including judicial authority (canons 9 and 17 of Chalcedon) the Patriarch of Constantinople in principle and according to canons stood on an absolutely the same level with his other brother-patriarchs. However Canons 9 and 17 opened an alternative for the Patriarch of Constantinople, i.e. as a rather far-reaching possibility to interfere in the affairs of other patriarchs as well as an extension of his authority over them.

Thus the Council of Chalcedon established the patriarchs as a third administrative and judicial level within the Church: equal in authority but of different ranks of honor: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Canon 36 of the Council in Trullo ranks the patriarchs in the same sequence with respect to honor but completely equal in power.

The last word in canonical legislation about the place of the Patriarch of Constantinople can be Canon 1 of the Council of Constantinople of 879. This council, says Pavlov, expresses the basic canonical principle that the clergy and laity of one Autocephalous Church (Roman or Constantinople) no matter where they live, are the subjects of only the authority of their own Autocephalous Church. It means that one Autocephalous Church cannot interfere in life and authority of another Church in accordance with the 8th canon of the Third Ecumenical Council.

In theory and according to canons, all five patriarchs were recognized as equal in authority among themselves. But this was not so in practice. Already in the 4th century the Bishop of Rome begins to proclaim his pretensions of supreme authority over the whole Church, basing this on the imagined primacy of Apostle Peter over the other Apostles. In his turn, the Bishop of Constantinople, thanks to the political significance of his city, received certain prerogatives over the three Eastern patriarchs. [There is some comfort, I guess, that our problems are old problems!]Because of his close proximity to the seat of imperial power, the Patriarch of Constantinople accrued a position of an intermediary between the emperor and other patriarchs who, upon arrival in Constantinople, could approach the emperor only through the intercession of the capital's patriarch.

As a sign of these prerogatives and in distinction from other patriarchs, the bishop of the new capital already in the beginning of the sixth century, assumed the title of "Ecumenical" to which Pope Gregory the Great objected. In time, after the Muslims captured Jerusalem (637), Antioch (538) and Alexandria (641), the Patriarch of Constantinople remained in fact the sole spiritual head in the Christian East and this to a certain extend equated the "ecumenical" Patriarch with the Pope of Rome. [Again, it seems to me that the East, like the West, elevate what is historically contingent to the dogmatic. For Rome this makes sense because of the idea of the development of dogma. This idea being absent, and indeed rejected, by most Orthodox theologians puts us in a bit of a theological pickle. How are we to make dogmatic sense of changes that arise because of historical contingencies?]

The Patriarch of Constantinople retained his position of primacy among the Eastern patriarchs which came about as the result of New Rome's political significance. This was done with the help of the "Household Synod" (synodos endimus) which assumed all the authority of the previous Ecumenical councils. This synod, under the chairmanship of the Patriarch, consisted of bishops and metropolitans who happened to be at the capital in connection with matters of their own churches, and such hierarchs would not infrequently remain there for a number of years enabling the Patriarch to assemble a synod at any time with a sufficient number of bishops.

Thus, according to Ostroumov, Constantinople becomes the central point of Church life in the East and the Patriarch of the capital, with his "Household Synod", acquires a governing position in Church matters and exerts strong influence upon the other patriarchs and thus becoming the de facto highest level of appeal with respect to them.

During the time of Patriarch Photius an attempt was made to elevate the Patriarch of Constantinople over all the other patriarchs by way of secular legislation by means of an epanagoge of Emperor Basil of Macedon. In this document the Patriarch of Constantinople is distinguished from other Eastern patriarchs in that he is recognized as the first among them with the right to resolve any disputes in the other patriarchates. However these epanagoges in
general, remained only on paper and did not acquire the force of law.

Nonetheless attempts were made to justify and affirm canonically the prominent status which the Patriarch of Constantinople occupied in fact thanks to the advantageous, for him, historical circumstances. Thus the position of primacy among other patriarchates, not excluding the Roman bishop, was based on the theory of New Rome or "the scepter's transfer" but the privilege of his authority was extrapolated from a novel interpretation of Canons 9, 17 and 28 of Chalcedon. All this, when combined with the epanagoge, resulted in the creation of the theory of Eastern Papism. [Polemics aside, it seems to me that the modern notion of the papacy is an understandable development not unknown in the East, albeit applied not to Rome but Constantiople. If the Orthodox Church is to continue to reject the contemporary understanding of papal authority it seems to me we must make better sense of our historical practice that tends it a like direction. We are in as much need of resolving the question of the Universal Church as Rome is of resolving the question of the local Church. How doe these relate in a way that does not subsume the local into the Universal or marginalize the Universal in favor of the local?]

On the basis of canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council the Byzantine canonists created a precise theory of the transfer of all the highest rights from the Roman bishop to Constantinople and the preposition "after" (meta) in the canon was interpreted in the chronological sense, i.e. the Bishop of Constantinople doesn't occupy the second rank after Rome but the first rank, only that he received it later in time.

As a result, by combining the theory of "the scepter's transfer" and its primacy in the East, it appeared that the Patriarch of Constantinople is the legitimate and sole bearer of all the privileges and the primacy of the Roman pope and could thus receive appeals not only against the Eastern patriarchs but against the Roman pope himself. Thus, writes Ostroumov, thanks to the perverse interpretation of the canons of Chalcedon and the linkage with the theory of "the scepter's transfer" the idea of the "pope in the East" or "the theory of Eastern Papism" was born. [Wait for it...]

The theory of the "Byzantine pope" however, stood in opposition to the theory of the "five senses". According to this theory as proposed by Peter of Antioch, "There are five patriarchs established in the world by Divine grace: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Just as in the human body, governed by one head, five senses are active, so it is in the Church, the Body of Christ, governed by one Head, Christ Himself, five Patriarchs are established to govern various nations."

It is interesting to note that in this comparison of the patriarchs with human senses, there is already a concept that all patriarchs are equal in authority and are not subordinate one to another but together are subjected to the one Head of the Church - Christ, thus they are completely equal in authority among themselves. According to the canonist Balsamon, "...thus the first Patriarch is not above the second, nor the second over the third: but as five senses are part of the one head and are not divided, so are the heads of the Universal Church have equal honor in all cases".

However, with the falling away of Rome from the Universal Church, the primacy of honor went over to the Patriarch of Constantinople, thus the theory of the five senses, excluding the theory of Eastern Papism, does not exclude the fact that the primacy of honor belongs to the Patriarch of Constantinople in relation to the other patriarchs and that he holds the authority of chairmanship but not in the sense of the Roman monarchical authority but simply in the sense of the Savior's Evangelical teaching: he who wishes to be first, will be the servant of all.

The Patriarch of Constantinople retained his high status as Bishop of the capital even after the fall of Byzantium and the occupation of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. Mehmet II, Byzantium's conqueror, recognized the then Patriarch Gennadios as head of all the Christian subjects in the Turkish Empire.

Later, the patriarchs, during the Turkish yoke, not only preserved their authority within the Church but in the Berat of the Turkish sultans, as ethnarchs received secular authority over all Orthodox including the other Eastern patriarchs. Inasmuch as the dividing lines between Church and secular competence were not firm in Byzantium and were nearly nonexistent in the Turkish monarchy, this expansion of the Patriarch of Constantinople' s authority was reflected in purely ecclesiastical mutual relationships in all of the Orthodox East.

Prof. Troitsky summarizes the historical reasons which served to elevate the Patriarch of Constantinople over the other Eastern patriarchs:

  1. The elevation of Constantinople as the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
  2. The action of the Byzantine emperors, granting the Patriarch of Constantinople administrative and judicial rights within the whole empire.
  3. The presence of the "Household Synod" in Constantinople in which other patriarchs also participated and whose decisions were implemented by imperial authority.
The action of the Turkish sultan, making the Patriarch of Constantinople "millet-bashi" not only as the spiritual but the secular head of all the Orthodox subjects not excluding the other Eastern patriarchs as well.

The Patriarch of Constantinople' s title as "Ecumenical", which evolved by way of custom, but which of itself does not grant the Patriarch of Constantinople any kind of jurisdiction beyond the borders of his patriarchate, but merely a temporary expansion of that patriarchate in the epoch of the extension of the Byzantine Empire.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Church of Constantinople once again made an attempt to resurrect the idea of its authority over the whole Orthodox world, developing this trend on the basis of a newly conceived theory about the mandatory and exclusive subordination of the whole of Orthodox diaspora throughout the world to the Church of Constantinople.

In 1922 Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis of Constantinople (1871-1935) raised the question of the subordination of the whole of the diaspora in Europe and America to his authority. This included the subordination of the Russian Eparchy in America. He opened a new eparchy in Europe. There began an intrusion into the ecclesiastical matters of the Orthodox churches in Poland, Estonia, Finland and others.

Prof. Troitsky writes that according to this theory, the jurisdiction of all autocephalous churches ends at the borders of the States in which the given Church is located. Only the Ecumenical Patriarch, on the supposed basis of Canons 9, 17 and 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, can extend his jurisdiction over the whole diaspora, i.e. over the Orthodox eparchies and parishes scattered throughout the world but which are outside the State borders of autocephalous Churches. Thus this theory deprived the remaining Churches of the rights and responsibilities for missionary endeavors given to them by the Lord Himself.

The Russian canonist, S. Troitsky protested in print against these pretensions of the Patriarchs of Constantinople and in defense of freedom of the autocephalous Churches and the attempts to "interject a smoky arrogance of the world into the Church of Christ".

However, the Orthodox Church in North America (now the Orthodox Church in America) in 7/22 May 1922, was the first of all the Churches to reject Patriarch Meletios' demands for submission.

The Council of Bishops, having heard the Order of the Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios of 1 March 1922 about his jurisdiction over all the existing Orthodox Churches in Europe and America excluding the autocephalous ones, and that this Order extends to the Russian Eparchy in North America, RESOLVED:
Inasmuch as the Russian Eparchy in North America remains a part of her initiator, the Russian Orthodox Church, to affirm: "that the Russian Orthodox Eparchy in North America remains an organic part of the Autocephalous Church of Russia, and thus the Order of the Ecumenical Patriarch does not apply to our Eparchy".
Soon however, the Russian Orthodox Church itself almost became a victim of meddling by the Patriarchs of Constantinople in its internal life. At that time, i.e. in the twenties of our century, when the Russian Orthodox Church found itself subject to cruel persecution by atheistic State authorities, Patriarch Meletios of Constantinople, deviating from the majority of the world's Church leaders, did not support the imprisoned Patriarch Tikhon and expressed support for the bolshevik-inspired Renovationist schism.

His successor Patriarch Gregorios VII, through his Moscow representative Archimandrite Basil (Dimopoulo), expressed his desire that Patriarch Tikhon divest himself of the government of the Church and that the Patriarchate in the Russian Church be abolished.

In his response of 6 June 1924 Patriarch Tikhon wrote to Patriarch Gregorios of
"In no small measure we were shocked and surprised that the Head of the Church of
Constantinople, without any prior consultation with us, the legitimate representative and Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, would interfere in the internal life and affairs of the Autocephalous Russian Church. The Holy Councils recognized the primacy of honor alone as the prerogative of the Patriarch of Constantinople and did not, nor do not recognize any primacy of authority."[So the problems in America are not the first instance of interference by the EP into the affairs of another local Church. I say interference because the EP was not invited in nor was there a clear canonical issue that would legimate his action.]
In connection with the novel theory of Patriarch Meletios (Metaxakis) about the subordination of the Orthodox diaspora, not only that of the Greeks but all the Orthodox wherever they may be, there is presently a question about the correct interpretation of Canons 9 and 28 of Chalcedon. This is not only of academic and scholarly interest but it has a practical significance "inasmuch as the erroneous interpretation of these canons leads to the erroneous understanding of the structure of the Orthodox Church and it can lead to a disruption of the canonical mutual relationships between the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches."

As proof that the Patriarch of Constantinople never had nor does have authority over the whole diaspora on the basis of Canons, Professor S. Troitsky brings out interpretations and commentaries on Canons 9 and 28 of Chalcedon as found in the Pedalion (the Greek Rudder), the official compilation of canons, and he arrives at the following conclusions:
  1. The Patriarch of Constantinople does not have judicial authority outside the borders of his patriarchate in the territories of other Orthodox Churches. (Interpretation of Canon 9 of Chalcedon)
  2. The administrative jurisdiction of that Patriarch never extended over the wholeOrthodox diaspora, but only on the diaspora of a few adjourning barbarianterritories. (Interpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon)
Furthermore, Troitsky points out, not a single canon speaks about the primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Such canons do not exist since the Bishop of Rome is considered to be the first. Furthermore "the foundation of the high rank of the Patriarch of Constantinople must be found in the concurrence of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches which are guided by the teaching of the primacy of the Church's Founder, Jesus Christ, and that the Churches see no need to change the old order until such time as it is demanded for the benefit of the whole Church."

Finally, according to Troitsky, the right of the Bishop of Constantinople to the title "Ecumenical" and "of Constantinople" rests upon the same general consent of the Autocephalous Churches since today no basis for such titles can be found in the Canons.

How new Churches were established in non-Christian or barbarian lands is explained by Bishop Ioan of Smolensk in his commentary on Canon Two of the Second Ecumenical Council: "Pastors of the ancient Churches were active in the establishment of Churches among pagan people, which sent them preachers, ordained presbyters and bishops for them and undertook the responsibility for their administration. In general, whichever Church baptized the indigent people, at first the hierarchy and the form of administration was received from that Church. The newly-established Churches could not all of a sudden receive the ability for self-administration . But with the passage of time, they became independent."

From this, Professor Troitsky concludes:
All the Orthodox Churches have the same right and responsibility to send their bishops and clergy for missionary work everywhere outside the boundaries of other Autocephalous Churches. It can be said that this is not only the responsibility of the Church but it is Divine law, since the source of this is the commandment of the Founder of the Universal Church, Christ given to the founders of local Churches, the Apostles: "Go teach all nations" (Mt 28:19), and to impede that right of whatever Church means to forbid the successors of the Apostles to continue their work "by the shielding of secular arrogance under the guise of Church activity."
In disputes arising from the jurisdiction of two or more Churches, existing on the same territory of the diaspora, the decisive principle must not be the significance or seniority of one or another Church in relation to others but simply the right of long-standing.

In 1996, in connection with the intrusion of the Patriarch of Constantinople upon the immemorial territory of the Moscow Patriarchate in Estonia, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church considered it their duty to remind Constantinople that "Each Local Orthodox Church is self-administering and does not depend upon the Patriarch of Constantinople in matters of jurisdiction", and that:
We would not have recalled all these sad events of the past and about the activities of the Patriarchate of Constantinople if similar acts had not been done at the present time. It is to our profound regret that the events taking place around the Orthodox Church in Estonia demonstrate that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has not learned the lessons of its tragic past and continues to exploit the opportunities for the expansion of its influence upon the canonical territories of other Churches, bringing about painful shocks to Church unity. (Statement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, 1 March 1996)
Today when throughout the world the separation of Church and State is a given fact, the only thing remaining for the Church are her Canons. Troitsky says:
In a normal situation of any Autocephalous Church, i.e. with the preservation of its Orthodox dogmatical teaching and canonical structure, the Canons do not allow interference on the part of any other Church in her administration, including the Church of Constantinople and specifically the Canons do not foresee any appeals in connection with administrative and judicial matters of its [the local Church's] supreme authorities.

The interference of one Church in the life of another can take place at the request of the supreme authority of the latter Autocephalous Church as well as in case of need when one of the Autocephalous Churches deviates from Orthodox dogmatical teaching, or it does not have a sufficient number of bishops for its canonical independence.
The late Professor Protopresbyter John Meyendorff makes the following suggestion on how to view the future canonical status of the Patriarch of Constantinople:
The Orthodox Church, without a doubt, is in need of a world center for unity but not for authority over Churches. We will hope that the coming Orthodox "Great Council" will find boldness and the ability - with the help of the Holy Spirit - to move away from the long-obsolete system which was worked out in the Byzantine Empire and which still nominally determines the organization of world Orthodoxy. It must move in the direction of a realistic and permanent path assuring that of which the Church is in need: freedom, oneness and love.
Archbishop Gregory Afonsky
(Translated by Alvian N. Smirensky)
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

METROPOLIS OF SAN FRANCISCO: Letter from Metropolitan Gerasimos

Christ is Risen!

Evidently Metropolitan JONAH's apology on Great and Holy Friday was insufficient for some in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Metropolis of San Francisco banner

April 22, 2009
+Bright Wednesday

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you,
and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward
in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:11-12)

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Christos Anesti!

The Church of Constantinople, tracing her apostolic roots back to St. Andrew the First Called of the Apostles, continues to preserve the integrity and sanctity of our Christian Orthodox Church. The apostolicity of the Throne of Constantinople is further acknowledged by the historical fact that the Apostle and Evangelist John preached in Asia Minor.

For over 2000 years, faithful Orthodox Christians have kept the Church in Constantinople alive. This is especially true of the last 556 years, since the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. Each day the faithful of the Ecumenical Throne, both clergy and laity, live their lives witnessing to our precious Faith in a Muslim world. Their world is one of sacrifice and persecution that comes from outside the Church.

Recently, we have been saddened by a homily given by Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America (formerly known as the Russian Metropolia). In his speech, Metropolitan Jonah attacks the Ecumenical Patriarchate and, in reality, all the ancient Patriarchates, calling them “Old World.” The Metropolitan ignores the canonical and ecclesiological understanding of that which is recognized in the diptychs of all canonical Orthodox Churches, namely, that the Ecumenical Patriarch is the first to be commemorated. Whether Metropolitan Jonah realized it or not, his words were an attack on the apostolic succession, which is derived through the ancient Patriarchates.

The 28th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which convened in Chalcedon, not only affirmed, but completed that which had been understood by the Second Ecumenical Council, namely, that the Ecumenical Throne was granted “equal privileges as those of the Church of Rome.” To this day, for example, only the Ecumenical Patriarchate possesses the ecclesiastical authority to act judicially in the appeal process regarding clergy outside its jurisdiction (Canons 9 and 17).

Moreover, the spiritual authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch is not “papal” in its expression, spiritually or administratively. To say so is an argument without understanding of Christian Orthodox ecclesiology. One must remember that the Ecumenical Throne has jurisdiction over the Church in many countries throughout the world. Along with the land of modern-day Turkey, the Patriarch of Constantinople oversees the work of the Holy Gospel in Northern Greece, Mt. Athos, the Islands of the Dodecanese, Crete, Australia, Great Britain, Western Europe, Southeast Asia, Albania, Carpatho-Russia, and the Western Hemisphere (especially among the Greek Orthodox and the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches). There may be contention from other jurisdictions challenging the responsibilities of the Ecumenical Throne—although these responsibilities are supported in Canon Law—but it supports the same pretext of the Turkish government.

Metropolitan Jonah, despite a weak attempt to reinterpret his statements, has shown us that the Ecumenical Patriarchate must now concern itself not only with attacks by those outside the Church, but also from within the Church, as well. It seems that the Metropolitan has ignored the fact that today’s world is moving towards globalization in every aspect of life, as evident in our ability to communicate with one another instantly.

I appeal to Metropolitan Jonah to reconsider his position, especially during this holy season, as we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection, and come forth with a sincere apology to our Mother Church of Constantinople.

I beseech all God-loving Orthodox Christians to realize that we are all the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This unity is expressed by the truth that we all partake of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. As a Eucharistic community, we offer the prayer of the Holy Anaphora during the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, “…unite us all to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and the Cup in the communion of the one Holy Spirit. Grant that none of us may partake of the holy Body and Blood of your Christ to judgment or condemnation, but that we may find mercy and grace with all the saints, who through the ages have pleased You: forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith.”

With Love in the Risen Lord,

+Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco

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