We are Orthodox Christians. We have concerns. We are not going away.
We love our Church. We are proud and grateful to the Lord for His holy Church. We affirm every line of the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Creed. We promote our Church’s beliefs: sacraments, scripture, holy tradition, canons, parish life, monastic life. We respect, love, and support our leaders: our beloved Patriarch, Metropolitans, Bishops, Priests, and Monastics. And we also try to have a sense of self respect for the gift of who we are as well: respectable laypeople of the Body of Christ.
We do not expect our leaders to be perfect. We realize that we are not perfect either. The lessons we glean from Saint Peter and Saint Paul are important. In spite of their differences, they were able to build the Body of Christ. Peter insisted on emphasizing certain things that Paul proved to be a stumbling block for bringing people to the fold. We look up to these saints and ask for their guidance, together with the prayers of the Holy Virgin Mother, that we may build the Church of Christ, together. We have logic and reason at our disposal too. These are God given attributes that we believe God wants us to utilize in a respectable manner. We will do that.
There is a growing fundamentalist movement in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese that we vehemently object to. This has nothing to do with any of our ethnic backgrounds. But it has everything to do with a type of monasticism that is spreading extreme fundamentalism which is affecting clergy and laity alike. In many reported cases, it is militant. This is also affecting other Orthodox jurisdictions. We are not monastics. We have nothing against monasticism. But the fact of the matter is that mimicking a monk is not a litmus test for how sincere our commitment to our Faith is.
The problem is that there are those in the Church who insist on promoting the idea that holiness only resides within monastic circles. This undercuts the very nature of the Church and her sacramental life. We honor and respect monasticism as another way of life, but it is not the Church. We all are. Together. There is no exclusivity. We are not aristocratic elitists.
Who We Are & What We Believe:
We have families. We are married. We have husbands, wives. We enjoy our sacred time together in every way. We respectfully challenge anyone legislating the details of our intimate time together. We respectfully challenge the arbitrary and abrupt carnal voyeurism that is masked in the form of unilateral and capricious questions from a confessor who asks for explicit details regarding this.
We are a legitimate part of the Body of Christ. We pursue theosis and holiness. We will respectfully do everything we can to properly coagulate the voice of the laity in America. We will respectfully bring our concerns to the forefront. We believe we are better and stronger together in a spirit of consensus, rather than voiceless souls laden with the deafening silence imposed by the unhealthy yoke of absolute and blind obedience. We believe in financial transparency and accountability in every area of the church. We look to our leaders to be shining examples of a godly life. We are grateful to those who lead by example.
We worship and glorify Jesus Christ with our words and deeds. But we strongly object to the non-Orthodox teachings of Aerial Toll Houses that are creeping into the forefront of our faith. We believe that upon the final consummation of all things, that we will stand before the fearsome judgement seat of Christ, as is stated in the Liturgy, and NOT in front of demons to be tested. We vehemently reject the notion that upon our death our souls must pass through various spiritual toll houses where we are tested by demons. To combine this teaching with “absolute blind obedience” being a “free pass” through the toll houses, is abhorrent and can spell manipulation and exploitation. We believe that all of us are sinners, and as such are ultimately doomed. However we also believe in being acquitted on a technicality – the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This divine grace is our hope and joy for salvation; divine grace which is evidence of the love of God. We do not take this grace for granted, and we believe in living a Christian life. This toll house teaching evolved from Egyptian and ancient Greek paganism. Unfortunately it has influenced some ancient Christian writings in that they have pondered it. Perhaps it has served as a motivator – fear can be a motivator. But love is a better motivator. Aerial Toll Houses have never been accepted as a bona fide teaching and belief of the Orthodox Christianity. It is not in the canons, nor in the scriptures. Those that allege it is referenced in Ephesians are illustrating an incorrect and non-universal interpretation of scripture, which has no consensus. The “spiritual powers and forces” that we contend with are in the here and now. Furthermore, the story that Jesus taught about the rich man and Lazarus clearly illustrates that immediately upon death we go to our ultimate reward. The non-Christian teaching of aerial toll houses makes a mockery of the salvific and atoning sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. This is why it has never been accepted, and never will.
We ask for everyone’s help, and especially everyone’s prayers. Our Church has many challenges from the world. Let’s first address the challenges that are from within us that have blurred the vision off of Jesus Christ. The question is beckoned: We are forgetting who we are. Or: Do we know who we are? As Orthodox Christians we have so many beautiful treasures and benefits at our disposal. Our call is to be a light to the world. Constantinople was able to bring the message of Orthodox Christianity to Russia, and an entire country was transformed. The world still needs the message of Orthodox Christianity. But the correct, and “healthy” message of Orthodox Christianity, and not one articulated by someone’s superficial pipe-dream of yesteryear. We are called to be the light of the world. We are the light of the world. But we put our light under the bushel of egos, elitism, arrogance, pride and insensitivity.
The time has come to bring everything out into the light; the light of Christ.
We must be relentless. We will do this.
As mentioned earlier, we will respectfully do everything we can to properly coagulate the voice of the laity in America. We will respectfully bring our concerns to the forefront.
Thank you for your participation and your prayers.
P.S. We have seen this fundamentalist attitude manifest itself in militant fashion. We are very concerned about the slander, libel, and character assassinations that have already been perpetrated by this element. Former followers of this movement have told us of this tactic as well. For this reason, we have utilized aliases to protect ourselves, and our family life, from this base component of humanity. We believe that the issues themselves are self-evident enough to illustrate truth. Still, the reader beware of wolves that mask themselves as angels of light that use a pseudo sophisticated gnosis (knowledge) intended to mislead. There are no secrets to salvation. The fundamental message of the gospel is to love God with everything you have, and to love your neighbor as yourself. As Orthodox Christians, we want to grow in the image of Jesus Christ. We have the sacraments and prayer life to assist us. We also have “healthy” spiritual fathers there to help us as well. We applaud and admire our leaders who lead by their example. Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation motivates us to grow more and more in His image and likeness. As also mentioned in scripture, “By Grace are you saved through faith.”
What You Can Do Now:
Write to your Metropolitan but send copies to the Archbishop in New York, and our Patriarch. This will ensure your concerns do not get lost in the shuffle and are actually dealt with.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
8-10 East 79th St. New York, NY 10075
Tel: (212) 570-3500 Fax: (212) 774-0251
His All-Holiness BARTHOLOMEW
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
342 20 Fener- Haliç
Tel.: +90 212 5319670 – 6
Fax: +90 212 5349037
Thank you for your witness. Remember to pray for our Church. There is power there.
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