The Rebaptism Question
There are two rites that one may participate in to gain full entry into the Orthodox Christian Church (in some cases, subsequent to proper instruction): Baptism, and Chrismation.
Within the context of the sacrament of Baptism, there are actually 3 sacraments administered: the Baptism per se, Holy Chrismation, and Holy Communion.
The other avenue wherein one may gain entry into the Orthodox Christian Church is via the holy sacrament of Chrismation. This is seen as an act of dispensation (economy) and also an acknowledgement of a common understanding of the Holy Trinity. When a convert comes to Orthodoxy from another Christian confession and has previously been baptized in the Orthodox understanding of the Trinitarian Formula (“in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”), that person may be received into the Orthodox Church through the sacrament of Chrismation. Afterwards that person can receive the Holy Eucharist. On the other hand, when a convert comes from a Christian confession that baptizes with a different fundamental understanding other than the Orthodox Trinitarian formula, (for example in the name of Jesus only (like you would see in the Oneness churches), or from a completely different understanding of the Trinity (like the Mormon teaching for example), or from one that does not practice baptism at all (such as the Salvation Army), baptism is then a mandatory prerequisite for Chrismation. The use of dispensation (otherwise referred to as economy, or economia) is at the discretion of the local bishop.
There is a different understanding of the mainstream Orthodox Christian (cross jurisdictional) belief (as mentioned above), with the fundamentalist, aka “traditionalist” teaching perpetuated by groups that follow Elder Ephraim of Arizona, and others.
The “Brotherhood of St. Poimen” is a group out of Phoenix, Arizona, that supports and is loyal to Elder Ephraim and the mission of St. Anthony’s Monastery. They propagate materials that go against the current practice of the mainstream Orthodox Churches (such as CD’s of various retreats led by Greek Orthodox Clergy that are loyal to Ephraim.) In one of these retreats, a GOA priest clearly teaches that Chrismation is NOT good enough. He openly challenges the current practice of the GOA, and every Orthodox jurisdiction, of allowing converts (the ones with the accepted Trinitarian formula as mentioned earlier) entry into the Church via Chrismation only. This includes Roman Catholics.
He is not the only GOA priest to do so. There are a small number of Greek Orthodox Priests throughout this great country that also teach that Chrismation is not enough. These GOA priests are telling their Roman Catholic (for example) catechumens that they must be rebaptized. In some instances, they are even telling their catechumens NOT to tell anyone, because if their Metropolitan were to find out, they would get into trouble. This brazen “dis-obedience” is typical of those who are self-professed to be more Orthodox than our Metropolitans, and even the Patriarch himself – whom they openly criticize as being guilty of the “great sin” of “Ecumenism” (in their definition of “ecumenism” they allege that Holy Communion is given to non-Orthodox in the name of unity, even though this is NOT the case at all).
In doing so, the self-proclaimed “traditionalists” are in fact being “dis-obedient” to their presiding hierarchs. Even though they tout “obedience” they openly compromise it with the rationalization that our Hierarchs, and even the Patriarch, are heretics. In so doing, they give an indication of leaning towards a fundamentalist and fanatical perspective that is not universally accepted in the Orthodox Church.
By questioning the validity of those only accepted by Chrismation, they also inadvertently question the subsequent validity of those converts that went on to become Orthodox Christian Priests. By doing that, they again inadvertently call to question all the sacraments that those priests have done. The consequences of this fundamentalist fanaticism are far reaching and disrupt the peace of the Church.
Please report any activity like this to your respective Metropolitan, but ALSO copy it to the Archbishop and the Patriarch.
As Orthodox Christians, yes, we have the complete, and perfect (if you will) theology. But we ourselves are certainly not perfect. Whoever says they have the perfect church community – run away! No one is immune from humanity. This boils down to a basic issue of our inescapable humanity. It’s just that some are honest about, and some are not. The words of an ancient non-Christian leader come to mind “I would be a Christian, if it weren’t for the Christians.” Similarly, we hope that others do not turn away from Orthodox Christianity because of some Orthodox Christians.
Our prayer is that we, as Orthodox, can be shining examples of the Gospel, and of Love. Adherence to what our dogmas are, as taught by the consensus of our bishops and clergy, is important to us. So is the litmus test of what Jesus taught which truly shows we are His disciples – that we love on another.
Spread the word.