More on the Clergy Laity Congress

The heavy work starts today with the plenary sessions. There are proposed changes in the functioning of the parishes that should correct problems encountered in the past. It’s dry stuff.

Last night there was a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where GOTelecom previewed their new film on the Byzantine Exhibit that ran there last month. It’s a good program which basically reviews the exhibit with the curator of Early Christian Art at the Met providing a lot of the commentary. They opened the Greek, Early Roman, and Byzantine galleries for us. It really is a great museum.

I signed up to take at team to Calcutta, India next summer. It’s been on my mind to do this for several years and now is the time to do it. We have a large social service operation (I guess you call it) there run by a monk formerly from Mt. Athos. I will work with him and the people that go along on my team.

If anyone reading this is interested in joining, contact me. They say Calcutta is a tough tour so you may be vetted a bit to make sure you understand that it might be difficult. You would be required to pay your own way, but raising money for this kind of service is relatively easy. Get more information at Orthodox Christian Missions.

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WCC , like the NCC , offers mea-culpa

In dealings with Cold War dissidents, former WCC leader rues failings.

Imshausen Germany (ENI). The former general secretary of the World Council of Churches says the organization failed to give sufficient recognition to dissident movements in the then communist countries of Eastern Europe such as Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. “While being aware of the situation and basically sympathetic to their struggle, the WCC gave priority attention to the struggles against racism and for justice and iberation in the southern countries,” said the Rev. Konrad Raiser at a conference in Imshausen, central Germany, on the church and dictatorships in the 20th century. [554 words, ENI-04-0460].
__________

Jacobse: It’s a dishonest apology. Criticism of the WCC (and their American counterpart the NCC) during the Cold War covered precisely these failings. The truth is they were too busy castigating America and the free world and arguing that America was responsible for the world’s tyranny. Communism fell, the archives were opened, and the liberal religious organs were exposed as the useful idiots that they were. Here’s the rub: the people that ran the organizations are the same that run them today. What is needed is not more moral posturing, but an examination of how these organizations contributed to the suffering of the victims of tyranny.

One other point. These organizations never offend their liberal constituency. They follow the path that takes no moral courage. Just consider: Solidarity rises in Poland and the free world stares in astonished disbelief. I was in college at the time. I remember it clearly. It was nothing short of a miracle and every clear-headed person with an eye on the world understood this. Yet the WCC did what? — it remained silent! Sorry, but a two sentence apology doesn’t absolve it of its failings.

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Petition to allow adoption from Romania

I received this memo from a member of Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). Craig and Victoria Goodwin are Orthodox Christian missionaries serving in Romania.

I hope you do not mind that we are forwarding this petition to you, on behalf of the Romanian orphans who have now been condemned to grow up without loving parents – thanks to the law banning International adoption, imposed by the European Union & Baronness Emma Nicholson, and approved by the Romanian government.

Please take a few minutes to sign this petition, addressed to the European Union and the United States government. The voice of advocacy, on behalf of the motherless children of Romania, must be heard!

We hope you will also consider passing this petition along to those you think might sign it.

http://www.petitiononline.com/2004rom/petition.html

With special thanks,

Craig & Victoria Goodwin

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Interview with the Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar of NCC

Using the Orthodox as political cover. From the article…
http://www.christianpost.com/dbase.php?cat=church&id=1013

First, we are not only politically active, but we are spiritually active. Fifty years ago, we published the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which was the first major English language translation of the Bible since the King James Version. We have 11 of our 36 member communions that are Orthodox, both Eastern and Oriental; seven that are historically African American; others that are “mainline” and “living peace” churches and we work to understand each others’ theologies. We operate with five commissions: communication, faith and order, interfaith relations, education and leadership, and justice and advocacy. So we are a very complicated and large ecumenical body doing spirituality, theology, social action and social justice.

We often get misunderstood and get thought of as that “liberal” group. But I don’t think we’d call Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox liberal. I don’t think we’d call the historic black churches liberal. We have the Quakers and the Brethren who are the living peace churches. We have churches like the United Churches of Christ and others that are very progressive. So we like to think of ourselves as not liberal or conservative, but as a collection of Christian communities that would like to improve the quality of life on our planet.

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Pope Welcomes Orthodox Leader at Vatican

VICTOR L. SIMPSON
Associated Press Writer
June 29, 2004

Sitting side by side, Pope John Paul II and the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians made passionate appeals Tuesday for unity among their faithful, while acknowledging serious obstacles remain.

With Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople saying the joy of the occasion was clouded by “disappointment” over lack of unity, the pope assured him that Roman Catholics are irrevocably committed to mending the historic rupture between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity.

These efforts “cannot be abandoned,” said the pope, urging all Christians to intensify them.
[Read more…]

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Orthodoxy in DIXIE

Father Joseph Huneycutt http://www.orthodoxnews.netfirms.com/126/Orthodoxy%20in%20DIXIE.htm

I’m a Southerner. I was born and reared a Southern Baptist; educated as an Episcopalian, and converted to Orthodox Christianity a decade ago. Since then, I’ve been struggling to be Orthodox. As a missionary priest, I’ve also struggled to bring others to Orthodoxy in the South. More than anything, I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn. I’ve also concluded that Orthodoxy, in its plethora of jurisdictions, will have to learn some things, appreciate some things, about Southern Culture before ever being truly successful in bringing Southerners to the Faith.

I was reared in a small town near Charlotte, North Carolina. Growing up, I never met a Jew, much less a Muslim. Lutherans were rare enough in my hometown, much less Roman Catholics. Basically, we were Baptists and Methodists, blacks and whites. I’d never even heard of Orthodox Christianity until I was on my way to the Episcopal seminary in the 1980’s. Come to think of it, I’ll bet most folks in my hometown still have never heard of Orthodoxy.

No Orthodox jurisdiction ever sent missionaries to the South. Most Converts have stumbled upon the Faith only after many years of searching. If this were different, perhaps more progress would be apparent in bridging the gap between East and South. Like St Innocent who helped convert the natives of Alaska by “Incarnating” their native faith thereby bringing them to Christ, would that someone had intentionally helped the South to grow out of its native Protestantism into the fullness of the Christian Faith. Instead, many of the “ethnic churches” resemble Protestant churches with icons and the assimilation, at least with church practices, has moved away from traditional Orthodox practice toward Protestant norms. Such a vacuum allows Converts to flounder toward the Kingdom while accumulating various practices from the smorgasbord of Orthodoxy in America. It also lends itself to parish and/or jurisdiction hopping in hopes of finding the fittest vessel, the most correct iconography, the willing guru, etc.

I have heard that the seminaries in Russia are bursting with future priests. We have a priest shortage in America, they may soon have a glut in Russia. It wouldn’t surprise me if they sent some of those men to this country to evangelize. That would certainly wake us from our jurisdictional squabbling and anti-Christian stupor! Maybe our constant judging and nitpicking would be tempered by some honest to goodness evangelism?

Face it, the smorgasbord of Orthodox jurisdictions makes absolutely no sense to most Converts. Finding the True Faith is encumbered by also finding a dozen administrative bodies claiming to be really it! I was once told by a monk “All monks are in communion with each other.” Though said in jest, very much like a tightly knit ethnic community which fellowships within its own ethnic world, the same can be said of Converts — the majority of which are in the South.

We Southerners have many weaknesses. Paramount is our ingratiating spirit. We deliberately set out to gain others’ favour by winsome actions. Hopelessly people-pleasing we are! Being “cut from this cloth,” we also have a weakness for taking a man at his word. If you tell us that you’re going to do something, more often than not, we expect you’ll do it. If you don’t, there’s a good chance that you’ll lose our trust, permanently. This behaviour will differ between Southerners and Southerners and Southerners and Outsiders. Like any ethnic group, we trust our own a while longer. Yet, to a Southerner, duplicity appears rampant in American Orthodoxy. Arabs, Russians, and other cultures are accustomed to hubris and other blustering within daily discourse. In the South, we expect it of politicians. We discourage it in decent folks. Integrity, in the South, is expected of church leaders. Having found the True Faith we’re confused by contradictory words and actions which often emanate from the various jurisdictional hierarchs.

When I first became Orthodox in the Antiochian jurisdiction, someone suggested that I read a book entitled “The Arab Mind” to get a sense of my newly adopted church culture. The book claimed that, in Arabic, the root word for eloquence and exaggeration is the same. An Arab may exaggerate to show machismo. For instance, a man may shout across a street corner to another “I hate you.” The other man replies, “I not only hate you, I’m going to kill you!” The man retorts “I’m going to kill you and your family!” Etc. These same men may later be found sharing a friendly meal together. Words fail me in describing how this same dialogue might have ended in the South. Put it this way, funeral processions still stall traffic in these parts.

Contrary to outsiders’ perceptions, Southerners do not put on airs. Though we may be hospitable, friendly, and civil, what you see is what you get. If we share openly with you, it means we trust you. Once you break that trust, it may be irreparable. All are welcomed here. Yet, we are easily offended. If offended, the offending party will be cut off till reparation. Our people-pleasing nature lends itself to over-sensitivity. It just comes with the territory. In the South, admiration comes easy, respect is earned over time.

Like all those outside Paradise, Southerners gossip. In a region where being idle is considered a virtue, idle talk ain’t far behind! I don’t mean the kind of vindictive gossip popularized by Soap Operas and other media. (Though we have that too.) Rather, Southerners carry on conversations in a way that others might view as gossiping. And, God help us, at times it is. Yet, often this is a manner of couching subjects within an engaging tale. It’s the way we talk around here.

Southerners are self-effacing. We can take criticism if it’s properly couched in civility and/or humour. For us, if direct confrontation is necessary, things have already gone too far! Sometimes our neighbors to the North skip all the niceties and cut right to the chase. (Northern aggression continues.) And, since all the Orthodox jurisdictions hail from a different culture with the “home offices” up North, this element of cultural war persists within church dynamics. Brutal honesty is not only unwelcome but most often rejected in the South.

Before attending my first gathering of Clergy and Church Wardens in the Russian Church, I was asked about the nature and agenda of the meeting. I said, “Well, they’ll probably argue and yell at each other for a few hours and then we’ll have lunch. After lunch, they’ll argue and yell some more then we’ll kiss each other goodbye and go home.” I’m no prophet, but boy was I ever on the mark with that prediction! In such a setting you can recognize the Southerner — he’s the one with his mouth shut. If asked, were he honest, he’d say “I think you all are crazy.” But, “don’t ask, don’t tell” has always been policy where I’m from. Being slightly dishonest in the name of civility is considered a virtue.

You yell at a Southerner and it may have eternal consequences. When we speak, all that’s required of you is to listen politely until it’s your turn. We don’t take kindly yelling, interruption, jeering, or public ridicule. We may not break bread with you until there’s resolution. You don’t have to agree, mind you. But, you must behave in such a way that assures civil discussion and debate. It may be that we take things personally. But, we operate on the assumption that you do to. Therefore, quite selfishly, the Golden Rule applies no matter what your rank or station.

Northerners are most often defined by their family’s nation of origin. This type of identification is foreign to the South. Here, folks are identified by their family name and/or their religious affiliation. I’ve often heard Northerners speak of someone as being Italian, Ukrainian, German, etc. Along with this description is the implied religion of those being described (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, etc). This is not the case in the South. Here, folks are defined by their religion: Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Charismatic. So it is that Northern Orthodox are often amazed that Christians would intentionally convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. What an idea! Can you convert from Italian to German?

Folks in the rural South usually attend the church nearest their home. In the country, you’ll find mostly Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals. Towns will have Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches. And, here and there, you’ll find Lutheran pockets and an occasional Roman Catholic church. Latins and Lutherans may have a bit of a drive or live within a “family burb.” However, Presbyterian and especially Episcopalian churches are populated with many who have “worked their way up” to that denomination. Your particular brand of Christianity may be a status symbol in the South.

Unfortunately, viewed from such binoculars, Orthodoxy can seem a step down. Forgive me, but to a proper Episcopalian, Orthodoxy can seem down right barbaric!

When expected, don’t be surprised if a Southerner shows up early and leaves late. We don’t understand “Orthodox People Time.” If you tell a Southerner that something starts at 6:00 pm, he’ll most likely arrive at 5:45. We don’t want to miss a thing! We’re not only unaccustomed to the Orthodox habit of being late, we find it rude and uncivilized. Also, Southerners usually don’t leave without saying Goodbye, many times. This process of departing may take 30 minutes or better.

Southern culture is, at least, as relevant as other forms of ethnicity — whether “Orthodox” or not. We Converts appreciate the foods and festivities of our adopted culture. But, must we discard our norms and ways and replace them with those of traditionally Orthodox lands? Fund raising’s fine, but what about tithing? Lamb’s good, but so is pork barbecue. Pascha and kollich is festive, but that first bite of pecan pie is just as heavenly. Can such Southern gatherings as Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, family reunions, BBQs, and oyster roasts be “baptized” into Orthodoxy? It’s too early to tell. Orthodoxy is new to the South. And it’s yet to be seen whether the two can melt into one God-pleasing flavor.

Converts have lots of extended family and friends that remain Protestant. Thus, most find themselves in awkward situations. Wednesdays and Fridays may not be as difficult to negotiate as is the Peter & Paul Fast or fasting for Easter and Christmas. I baptized a man who, for years, had hosted the family pig-picking on July 4th. Of course, that’s often a fast day. But that was his one big family obligation. I remember a couple that I’d chrismated and had moved away. The next major fast to come along, I called to see how they were doing. They, in jest I suppose, replied “Oh, we’re doing fine. We’re just eating over at our [non-Orthodox] friends’ each evening!”

The pendulum may swing otherwise. You’ve seen them: the “Orthodox Taliban.” The man grows long hair and beard, forgets how to smile. The woman covers herself from head to toe — her modesty smothers her dignity. They both stop bathing. There’s no visible joy in their life. Their wrists are covered with wool knots. They eat only broccoli; tofu is reserved for feast days. They begin shopping for a home — preferably a tent or a lean-to — out in the woods, sans the burden of electricity. These things may not be harmful in and of themselves. Yet oftentimes, when Converts confuse such “asceticism” with Orthodoxy, it can have dire results.

Through Catechism, reading of the Fathers, and other instruction, Converts fashion an ideal Orthodoxy toward which to struggle. Then, they might get to know some of the “Cradle Orthodox” only to be turned off. This can develop into a dichotomy leading to judgmentalism, Pharisee-ism, and a sort of Convert-Superior-Orthodoxy which is, needless to say, far from the ideal! We must all struggle toward the ideal in humility. Thanks to the lackadaisical piety of some Cradles, this can present a great challenge. To the eyes of the beginner, many Cradles seem lax in piety, dress, service attendance, fasting, and Orthodox zeal versus ethnic identity. These can be a great temptation.

So, what’s a Southern Orthodox Convert to do? Assimilation with the Protestant milieu is not an option. Been there, was that. Christianity plus icons and Typicon is not the answer. Why bother?

Becoming a dirt-eating-tree-hugging Druid is not the way. I mean, really. Then again, these options are all alive and “well” within the Church. And that may be okay, as far as God’s concerned, but it comes close to grits without salt for a Southerner.

Thanks to the War Between the States and Reconstruction, Southerners have a strong distrust of outside authority. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” There’s an underdog thread that binds us together. Yet when asked to perform a task by those in authority, one can bet it shall be done. We are teachable. However, all things must be in accord with proper respect. Our experience teaches that there’s virtue in losing when done graciously. Nevertheless, we have strong suspicions regarding authority. Those in positions of Orthodox leadership would do well to familiarize themselves with the norms of Southern behaviour and expectations. After all, if you are serious about evangelizing another land, which the South definitely is, you would do no less!

This is not to say that the South should secede from the ethnic Orthodoxy of the North. Rather, Southern Orthodoxy should be allowed to flourish with its own personality and character with proper hierarchical oversight. Any community that can appreciate this and encourage Southerners toward the Kingdom within their own Southern culture will do well in making solid Converts to the Faith in Dixie.

Father Joseph Huneycutt is pastor of St Raphael Orthodox Church in Hendersonville, NC and is the author of the “blog” titled, “Orthodixie.”

Visit him at http://southern-orthodoxy.blogspot.com/

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The Splendors of Byzantium Illuminate a Radiant Exhibition at the Met

Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 20, 2004; Page N01

NEW YORK

Visualize an ancient Egyptian pharaoh by his pyramid. Now imagine Caesar and the Roman Forum. Now a Viking longship with its raiding party. And now conjure up Constantinople in its heyday, as the emperor, escorted by his most trusted logothetes, greets a company of cataphracts just returned from battle.

Unless you’re a scholar, that last historical vignette is probably not calling much to mind — no stirring visions, I’ll bet, of a purple-clad monarch attended by a flock of long-robed civil servants and triumphant heavy cavalry.

And this is strange, considering that Constantinople had one of the most important empires in Western history, lasting more than a millennium and deeply affecting every culture that ran into it, from Swedish vikings to Muslim Turks

Read the entire article on The Washington Post website. Free registration required.

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An Orthodox Reflection on Truth & Tolerance

Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou
http://www.goarch.org/print/en/ourfaith/article8075.asp

Orthodox Christianity is committed to the truth claim of the Christian Faith. This claim includes the Biblical truth that all human beings are created by God in His image and that Christ is the only Savior of the world.

Consequently, Orthodoxy is strongly committed to Christ as the Messiah and to the tolerance of other religious expressions. In this double commitment lies the source of a creative tension for Orthodox Christians involved in the interfaith dialogue and attitudes of the non-Christian religions.
[Read more…]

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Orthodox Christians Face Modern Mores

GARY STERN THE JOURNAL NEWS (Original publication: June 23, 2004) http://www.thejournalnews.com/newsroom/062304/b04w23marriage.html

GARY STERN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: June 23, 2004)

The age-old notion of Christian marriage between man and woman is under siege by loosening sexual mores, commonplace divorce and the reality that homosexual relationships will soon be commonly recognized, several Orthodox Christian scholars agreed yesterday.

Speaking at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, these scholars wrestled with how to reconcile traditional church teachings with a culture that they say is often well-meaning, but losing touch with basic Christian beliefs.

*[Read more…]

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Patriarchate to lift sanctions

Athens News
04 June 2004

Bartholomeos set to restore communion with Christodoulos and recognise three
northern Greece bishops
By George Gilson

The expanded Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is meeting to restore
communion with Archbishop Christodoulos of Greece after the full hierarchy
of the Church of Greece backed down and recognised the patriarchate’s rights
over its New Territories dioceses in northern Greece. The patriarchal synod,
comprised of about 40 Metropolitans and Archbishops from Turkey, Europe and
America, was also poised to recognise three new Metropolitans elected to New
Territories dioceses without the patriarchate’s consent in March. A similar
patriarchal synod had declared those elections null and void on April 30.
[Read more…]

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Turkey’s ancient Christians seek to resettle villages

Syriac archbishop: ‘It is our pleasure to have our people back from different parts of the world’
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Turkey: The ancient Syriac Orthodox monastery outside this southeastern city is praying for a brighter future as Christians, forced out of their ancestral lands by economic hardship and an armed Kurdish insurgency, start trickling back to their villages.

“It is our pleasure to have our people back from different parts of the world,” said Archbishop Filuksinos Saliba Ozmen at the Deyrulzafaran Monastery, which dates back to the 5th century and sits on a bluff overlooking an extensive plain.
[Read more…]

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Turkey hints Orthodox seminary could reopen

ISTANBUL

TURKISH Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on May 7 said his government was not opposed to the reopening of a Greek Orthodox seminary in Istanbul, seen as an important gesture in Turkey’s efforts to boost its EU bid.

Turkey is racing to meet the European Union’s political criteria before the end of the year to win a date from the bloc to begin accession talks sometime next year.
[Read more…]

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