Ephraim & St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona
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To recap, our church is in a crisis….. our parish Priests feel great pressure from their Bishop/Metropolitan and their congregation (that must be a very lonely place for our Priests), the Laity feels spuriously controlled or condescended to by the Clergy, the Metropolitans may feel their Priests don’t listen to them or are inept, and that the lay people do not really know the faith. Additionally, if parishioners do not like what is happening, they hold back money. Some feel disconnected. Inevitably, financial pressures come upon the priests and hierarchs. What a landscape! All of these demographics (laity, priests, hierarchs) start polarizing, and the unity of the community of the faithful becomes handicapped.
Then comes an alleged beacon of hope. In this context that took decades to evolve into a perfect storm, someone comes onto the scene that embraces our estranged and isolated priests, that subsidizes our Metropolises with gifts that form grandiose monasteries, someone that inspires the disenfranchised parishioner, someone that is billed as our own alleged Saint! Could the soil not have been more fertile for this to happen?
Now the message of Orthodoxy has become austere. So much that “seeking the sheep that was lost” has been replaced with “if you are not serious about being Orthodox, then go away.”
America is only now beginning to witness the manifestation of Greek Orthodox Monasteries. The mysterious “other worldliness” of them is compelling. Monasteries innately carry with them a message of peace and spiritual connectedness. They offer the legitimate idea of a spiritual retreat for pilgrims that can get away for a short period to recharge themselves. This is the ideal and the hope for those isolated, disillusioned, and even disenfranchised. But it appears these monasteries have a hidden agenda to promote their understanding of a monastic mode of spirituality upon America’s Orthodox faithful.
Additionally, there is an attempt to disarm any form of criticism under Ephraim’s self-proclaimed prophecy of “I am going to be persecuted.” In the Orthodox Church that we know, it is okay to ask questions – especially if allegations of abuse of power, or lack of financial transparency exist, as they do. It is okay to examine actions. To many of us, it seems reasonable that a true saint would understand if any of his actions were undermining the peace of the Church, and proactively do all he or she can to rectify it. Unfortunately, this is not the case.