by C.J.S. Hayward
There have been many saints that although they lived a distinguished life of sincere piety, humility, and love for God and their fellow man, this in and of itself does not make them authorities on all matters. Like, for example, Aerial Toll Houses, or as in this case, a six 24-hour day creation.
Here, Hayward reflects on the fundamentalist phenomenon of the Orthodox Christian Church and concludes that Protestant Fundamentalism should not be imported into Holy Orthodoxy. The article provides a nice insight into his book The Seraphinians: “Blessed Seraphim Rose” and His Axe-Wielding Western Converts, which addresses the “Elder Ephraim” brand of Orthodox Fundamentalism. As Hayward mentions, “If you are Orthodox and have been uncomfortable or concerned with the “Blessed Seraphim Rose and Elder Ephraim” crowd, and especially if you want to put a finger on why but can’t pin it down, this book is very much written just for you.” We endorse this book. But for now, here is the article below:
Greek Orthodox Christian Clergy Laity – A new site that includes polls and a verified email signature of petitions signed by known concerned Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Members. This petition has caught the eye of the Patriarch! Please visit, vote, and sign.
Who has the courage and conviction to speak up? We have such Heroes in our Church today. In spite of the difficulties that heralding Truth might cause, Truth is the only thing that can help our Church, and help us as individuals as well. Truth gives us our bearings and protects us from delusions and fantasies.
Recently, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Greece, wrote a powerful article titled “Healthy and Sick Monasticism”. While viewed as a supporter of some Ephraimite ideals, Metropolitan Hierotheos broke ranks with the Ephraimite status quo by excommunicating one of these fundamentalist-type monasteries in Greece: Holy Transfiguration, in Nafpaktos. In addition, the Metropolitan wrote this article and was well translated by Mr. John Sanidopoulos. It is available on his well-known web blog called “Mystagogy”.
Finally, we deeply commend and appreciate the courage of Metropolitan Hierotheos. We are encouraged that he stood up for the wellness of the laity that he is the defender of. Although we disagree with Metropolitan Hierotheos believing in the Aerial Tollhouse fallacy, we admire his conviction in standing up for what is right. We deeply appreciate his proactive leadership, and not simply remaining silent about serious issues. Remaining silent cannot be a status quo methodology for dealing with serious issues. “Defending the faithful” – what a wonderful example for Hierarchs to follow.
Elder Ephraim’s book “A Call From The Holy Mountain” was published in 1991 by Sarov Press (Blanco, TX). Since then it has been taken off the market reportedly because of the remarkably controversial teachings that are documented in this text. We have obtained a copy and have written a report identifying what these items are. Click here to see for yourself. In a word: shocking.
(Please click above paragraph to view article. Don’t forget to click “Like” on the Facebook link below. Thank you.)
Click here to read this insightful online dialogue with 2 followers of Ephraim, and 2 who do not. This exchange gives good insights as to the methodologies of arguing from followers of Ephraim. Routine emotion is one typical response. Labeling and dismissiveness is another. Both of which have a concluding statement of “please forgive me” as if to make it more palpable. We do believe that these people are genuinely good. But they have had their good and naive nature exploited by the fact that they had a good experience at the Monastery. The are not all aware of all the facts. But for some reason, they do not wish to even consider that it is okay to investigate questions that are raised by people throughout the United States and Canada. Their emotions unfortunately seem to compromise their objectivity. Reading this dialogue takes the “heat of the moment” emotion out of the equation and leaves the reader a clearer understanding of the issues.
Click here to read this comparison of Mainstream Athonite Monasticism as compared to the Ephraim Fundamentalist brand. Although Ephraimite Monasteries seem to bill themselves as truly representing all Monasteries of Mt. Athos, it is clearly not the case. This article will clearly lay out the differences and bring the reader up to speed on this Ephraimite Fundamentalist phenomenon.
Powerful article by A.P. Cromidas.
Today is June 22nd 2012. After midnight on June 11th former monk Scott Nevins dies of a gunshot near the St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery gates in Arizona. He was 27 years old. Nevins was a novice monk there from 18 (or 19) through 26 years of age. He left a year ago under curious circumstances. He allegedly returned to pick up an expensive retainer that he had left. Initial reports are referring to it as a suicide. Whether it is a suicide or not, does anybody really care? For that matter, does anything else going on there matter to anyone?
Legal authorities from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office state that the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office must refer the case to them in order for them to pursue investigating what led to this. However, in the state of Arizona, suicide is not a crime, therefore the Pinal County Attorney’s Office will not perform an investigation unless the Sheriff refers it to them. We hope that the County Attorney’s Office investigates this. We have no reason to doubt the work of the Sheriff’s Department. We are just comfortable with a “checks and balances” system for something so controversial that legitimately calls to question the credibility of the influential monastery leadership.
On June 14th the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco had a statement issued from Metropolitan Gerasimos announcing the death of Scott Nevins. He shared his condolences and stated that the Metropolis will be investigating this matter. We are sure the Metropolis will do this. We are not sure how – inasmuch as the Metropolis does not typically investigate deaths of any types. Will the Metropolis retain the services of professional investigative firms? We certainly hope so.
As of yet, there is no statement from the Archdiocese. The Archdiocesan Charter clearly indicates that Metropolitans are responsible to the Patriarch and the Archbishop. This being the case, we are confident that the Metropolis of San Francisco promptly communicated this to the Archdiocese and the Patriarchate of Constantinople. As of yet, there is no statement from either. Is it too soon?
We hope that the severity of this warrants an investigation on behalf of the Archdiocese as well. We prefer this not simply for the “checks and balances” aspect of it, but rather because a young man died at one of our monasteries. This is no small thing. We expect thoroughness – even if it is redundant.
Every one of us can help accentuate the need for a multi-level investigation by writing our Archdiocese and Patriarchate as well. We are very much afraid that this will be swept under the rug if we allow it to be.
By calling attention to this, the focus will indeed turn to the leadership of the monastery. What kind of spiritual direction are they teaching there? This must be part of the investigation. We cannot be afraid to ask these questions. If we are afraid or arrogant enough to not ask these questions, that would hypothetically be no different than blaming the victim of a priest molestation case.
It is certainly no secret that the Ephraimite monasteries have been controversial and raised a number of eyebrows over the years. Their fundamentalist methods and their presentation of an austere form of Orthodoxy that insists on practices that are not the norm in this Holy Archdiocese of America have incited much controversy and debate. It is no secret that this movement which labels itself as “traditionalist” has been accused of attempting to remake who we are, implying (subtly or overtly) that our Church in America has compromised the Orthodox Faith. As a rule of thumb, this is certainly not the case.
If ever there was a time to do something, it is now. We cannot sit idly by, like frogs in a pot of water that is beginning to simmer. We must write to the Archbishop and the Patriarch. You, the reader, must write and express your concerns.
A young man is dead. If it was indeed a suicide, we must not leave any stone unturned and investigate what led to this, with the full force of our complete attention and resources. A young man is dead. A former novice monk. He was one of our sons.
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
by Charles Shingledecker
How many times throughout history has the Church required its members to rise up and speak out against immorality, corruption and false teaching? One? Two? Hundreds? The numbers don’t really matter. What matters is that when the need arises, there are those who are willing to rise up and speak out against whatever problems may be infecting the Church. While we Orthodox believe the Church to be the perfect mystical body of Christ, we must always remind ourselves of the fact that the Church is also made up of a very human element which is far from perfect. The existence of human imperfection within the Church is the very reason it has always and will always need people who are willing to speak out against distortions of the Orthodox faith.
Of course a great many of us feel that “speaking out” and calling for a balanced interpretation of our faith is an inappropriate task for the laity. We often feel as though such actions are the sole prerogative and responsibility of the hierarchy, theologians, and other such “elites” within the Church. But in fact, if we use Church history as our example, this responsibility has fallen upon the laity as much as it has the clergy. This was certainly the case during the Iconoclastic controversies of the 8th and 9th centuries when the Christian laity rose up in protest against the extremists who called for the destruction of the Holy Icons. As we all know, after a long and difficult spiritual struggle, the Iconoclastic movement was defeated, but had the people – the laity – not stood up and spoke out against this movement (which appealed to the antiquity of its beliefs as evidence for its “truth”) the Orthodox Church of today wouldn’t be – well, Orthodox.
Unfortunately in the 21st century, there is a great deal of hesitation on the part of the laity to speak out against the problems with which the modern Church struggles. Many of us are fearful of being disobedient to our priests, bishops, the Church, Tradition, and most importantly God. There is of course much wisdom in struggling to remain obedient to the teaching authority of the Church and Holy Tradition. Yet we must not confuse the dogmas proclaimed by the Creed and the Ecumenical Councils with – well, everything else.
We Orthodox toss around the word “tradition” an awful lot. The older the tradition the better, right? Well, no! As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware writes: “Not everything received from the past is of equal value, nor is everything received from the past necessarily true” (The Orthodox Church, 1997 p. 197). There is a distinction to be made between big “T” and small “t” tradition. Unfortunately, determining which is which, can at times be a rather difficult task. This has become increasingly clear in light of the re-popularization of the Toll House doctrine which an increasing number of people claim is a part of big “T” tradition.
As its adherents rightly claim, the doctrine is very ancient. Of course, that’s because it finds its origins within the first and oldest Christian heresy: Gnosticism. The fact that a few monks throughout Church history have maintained this “theory” proves absolutely nothing about it’s truthfulness. For as Metropolitan Ware points out: “many traditions which the past has handed down are human and accidental – pious opinions (or worse), but not a true part of the one Tradition, the fundamental Christian message” (Ibid). In other words, just because something is old and was believed by someone in the 5th century doesn’t make it true. Yet the Toll House doctrine is not the only issue which should concern modern day Orthodox. In addition to the Gnostic doctrine of Toll Houses there are a number of other issues with which we should be concerned, all of them interrelated.
For starters there is a creeping fundamentalist/ultra-traditionalist movement which loudly calls for a far more strict adherence to Calendars, Canons, and the letter of the law. This movement is not to be confused with your typical Old Calendarist who simply wishes to remain faithful to what was handed down to them. No, this new movement doesn’t simply want to do things as they have always done them – they insist that you do them too! Then there is the Ephraimite movement: a form of fundamentalist monasticism, which has attempted to impose some very unhealthy monastic disciplines upon non-monastics. In both examples, people can be (and have been) damaged emotionally and spiritually. Contrary to some naysayers, these are very real issues with very real consequences.
So what is the Church to do when confronted with such problems? Whose responsibility is it to speak out and question such things? The bishops? The clergy? Well yes, but it is also our responsibility. The fact is “the guardian of the faith is not the episcopate alone, but the whole people of God, bishops, clergy, and laity together” (Ibid p. 250). We cannot simply wait around for the hierarchy to take action because guarding the faith is as much our job as it is theirs. Nor can we take false comfort in an often repeated belief that if we simply “give it time” the Church will solve all its own problems. Again, where would we be if Christians had taken that attitude during the Iconoclastic controversy? The Arian controversy? Did St. Athanasius believe the Church, if given enough time, would magically work out its problems with Arius? Of course not! He knew that we are the Church and unless we do something, nothing will be done.
None of the issues of today are nearly as dangerous or heretical as Arianism and Iconoclasm, but then that’s not the point. The point is that every thing we do or don’t do makes a difference; one way or the other. Even if we don’t have the abilities of St. Athanasius or the authority of a bishop we must nevertheless do something. For most of us, that something will be to simply ask questions, speak out, and make our voices heard. Of course when we speak out on Toll Houses, fundamentalism, excessive cultural, ethnic and national pride, and radical monasticism, their adherents will demand to know who it is that we think we are by questioning their ideologies. Who are we to question the “t”radition (or as they see it, “T”radition) of the Church? Who are we to question the “truth” which they have so readily attained?
The answer is simple: we are Orthodox Christians. And as Orthodox Christians, if and when we see excesses and distortions of our Orthodox faith – be they theological, financial, moral or Liturgical – we have the right as well as the responsibility to speak up and make our voices heard in whatever way we can. Talk about it. Pray about it. Write a letter. Participate on websites such as WeAreOrthodox.com. Do whatever it is that you can do no matter how insignificant it may seem. For nothing done for Christ can ever be insignificant. Least of all answering the Church’s call to speak out against distortions which have injured our brothers and sisters. Let us speak out for those who have been injured; let us speak out for those whose faith has been severely tested and above all let us speak out for Christ – for as Orthodox Christians we can do no less.