My Fall 2013 Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR)ii newsletter Light of the East President's message should be understood in the context of St. Paul's instruction to the Romans (12: 4-6). "For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us." These comments should also be looked at in terms of the petitions in the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, as said in the Eastern Churches: "Be mindful, O Lord, of the Priesthood, the Deaconate in Christ and every priestly rank, [and by implied extension to the laity as well] and put not to confusion any one of us who stand about thy holy Altar." The proper teaching role of the Churches is for those specifically ordained to teach, the bishops and the priests in union with them and the laity, as Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov (1998, p. 226)iii writes, do so as "defenders of the Faith." We each have our own part to play.
At this point in time it has to be acknowledged that there are different ecclesial models of Church governance, among the Apostolic Churches. These models range from the papacy and magisterium of the Catholic Churches to the conciliar model of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. We fervently pray that the International and National official dialogues under the guidance of the Holy Spirit bring about a common ecclesial understanding, practice and full unity of the Apostolic Churches. It may even be possible that at such a time a single voice may 'reflect' the mind of the entire Church, which would only help in strengthening Christ's message. Disunity weakens the message of Christ, broadcasts hypocrisy and fosters disparagement and even worse total disregard of Christ and His Church. In psychological terminology disunity nurtures oppositional behavior.
Until, God willing, the disease of disunity is healed, it is so important that we be undivided in the core teaching of Christ and His Church and proclaim these core principles either by our gifts as ordained teachers (the bishops and priests) or baptized "defenders" of Christ. Christ Himself warned: "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." (Mk 3: 25) How unfortunate to see the media report division among some who claim to be members of one of the Apostolic Churches on core issues such as abortion, female ordination or same sex marriage. Even more egregious, some so called 'members' of one of the Apostolic Churches, individuals in public life, proudly endorse and promote programs contrary to Christ's teaching.
At the very least, our SSJC members (and all those baptized into the royal priesthood of Christ) can pray for and vigorously prompt those whom they encounter around them (be they hierarchs, clergy, laity or non-Orthodox) to rise to the gifts they have been given to use and not bury them. Let us recall the Parable of the Talents, as told to us by St. Matthew, to the person who squandered his gift: "But he that had received the one, going his way digged into the earth, and hid his lord's money," (25: 18) and the dire consequences of this waste: "And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (25: 30) Let us all use our gifts with one undivided voice. Some of us as teachers and healers, all of us at least as defenders of the fullness of the mind of Christ and His Church.
i Edited for Orthodoxy Today (http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/archive/morelli) and the Archpriest George Morelli Ph.D.'s Facebook page
iii Evdokimov, P. (1998). Ages of the spiritual life. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
He is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is also Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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