Saturday, July 14, 2007

New Discussion Group

I have started a discussion group for those interested in having a more free flowing conversation about many of the issues I touch on here. The group (currently hosted on Yahoo, but I will probably move it to Google after it get up and running) is titled Eastern Orthodoxy & Character Formation and can be found on the web here:

I describe the group this way:

This group is dedicated to examining questions of character and character formation in light of the tradition of the Orthodox Church. It is open to all interested Orthodox Christians (clergy and laity) as well as those friends of Orthodoxy from other religious traditions (or no religious tradition) who are supportive of the basic aim of the group.

Given the checkered history of online discussion groups, polemics, rudeness or insulting language will not be allowed. After two warnings violators will be suspended; after two suspensions, they will be permanently banned.
If you are interested and moved to do so, please surf over, take a look and sign up.

My hope is that, by generating conversation and awareness of issue of character, we can begin to bring about the real renewal that is necessary in the Orthodox Church here in this country and overseas.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?

The following is a copy of my recent post on the Orthodox-Forum on Yahoo. I believe the content of the post makes clear both the immediate and more generally contexts that moved me to write what I wrote.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Dear Father James,

Thank you for your post regarding the recent statement by the Church of Rome of various questions of ecclesiology. Why people, and especially Orthodox Christians, are upset about this statement is simply beyond me. I think Metropolitan Kyrill of the MP said it best when (and I'm paraphrasing here) he observed that what Rome says of herself, the Orthodox Church would say of herself. What the Church of Rome would say of the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church would say of her. And both the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches hold to the same view of those communities that arose as a consequence of the Reformation: they are not Churches in the patristic understanding of the word.

I am uncertain what concerns me more about the posts on this thread: the bad manners of the Orthodox authors or the general poverty of their theological reflection. For the former I apologize (and certainly if Orthodox clergy and laity can speak for me without my permission, I can return the favor); for the later, well, I am simply sad.

If recent events in the GOA and the OCA have demonstrated anything it is that we in the Orthodox Church are failing in our mission to evangelize, catechize and reconcile to Christ not just the world, but even our own faithful (clergy and laity). While there have been notable, and ill-received exceptions, we have for years turned a blind eye to our own spiritual, pastoral and administrative shortcomings and flat out failures. And even when the fruits of our lapses are splashed all over the media, we still point fingers at each other rather than call for repentance and beg God with hymns and prayers for the renewal of His Church. Our internal scandals and divisions here in America, our triumphalism relative the the rest of Christendom, our bad manners both among ourselves and with visitors, all point to the fundamental lack of faith in Jesus Christ not only in our laity, but among our clergy and our hierarchs.

My brothers and sisters! Are we not able to be better than this? We lack nothing from God. All that is missing is our repentance, our tears. Why do we call others to repentance and ignore the call among ourselves?

People who believe in Jesus Christ simply do not behave as we behave and do not (as has been pointed out by many on this list) tolerate the malfeasance that is seen among us. While my own sinfulness does not compromise the integrity of Holy Tradition, it does compromise the integrity of my understanding of the Faith and it compromises, possibly, the integrity of my witness.

I think in the main, the Orthodox liked, but did not respect, Pope John Paul II. We were suspicious of his irenicism and jealous of his popularity. With Pope Benedict XVI, I think we do not (in the main) like him, but we (and especially the MP) respect him. While neither man could be called a fool, the current pope is tough and will in fact call us on our foolishness.

So again, my dear brother, Fr James, thank you for your posts and your patience.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory