Welcome & Overview.
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This post is simply an overview to give the reader a “lay-of-the-land” so to speak. This page is not a substitute for the meaty articles contained herein. Please read them.
We are a group of faithful Orthodox Christians who happen to be in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta region. We have all been affected by, what we believe to be, an unhealthy emphasis on monastic and ethnic matters. This site purports to call attention to these activities that miss the mark of wholesome and correct Orthodox Christian life. We do not want this to be a source of unfounded gossip. We want first hand testimony of the subject matter we are speaking about.
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.
One of us on our team has had their marriage severely compromised by the teachings of Fr. Paisios and Fr. Ephraim. Specifically what caused this marriage irreparable harm is the teaching that sex for married couples is ONLY for procreation. One spouse wanted to abide by that; the other did not. They are now getting divorced.
We have heard numerous accounts of Orthodox people being told that the reason they have cancer, or that their child has some grave illness, is because they married a Jewish person. While we believe people should get married in the Church, we feel it is wrong for any monk, priest, or laymen to tell someone this. This is anti-Semitic and beyond unpastoral. We protest that this is allowed to continue. Yet reports continue to illustrate that this continues to emanate from supporters of Elder Ephraim.
There is a grave concern about parish priests that over-emphasize the monasteries of Elder Ephraim. There are numerous reports of parish priests that believe that they get some kind of spiritual atonement and blessings for directing people to become monastics. This is certainly a conflict of interest. What is that priest’s concern: getting brownie points, OR, the wellness of that vulnerable soul that came to him for guidance?
There is a grave concern about parish priests that direct people to have confession at the monasteries because they “do not want to take on that person’s sins”. This seems like an abdication of pastoral responsibilities. People throughout this great country, and even here in our very own Metropolis, have gone to the monasteries for inspiration and guidance – only to come back devastated because they were banned from Communion for an extraordinary long period of time for something that does not seem to warrant this.
While we are a canonical Church, we also recognize 2 things: first, there are some canons that are simply dated. We as a Church body do not observe all canons as relevant and absolute. Some were issued to address concerns of the time. Take for example the canon that teaches we should “not roast marshmallows to the Theotokos.” This may not be an issue in modern contemporary society, but apparently it was at some early time in the Church’s history. This brings to mind that of course our Holy Synod has the right to select which canons can be emphasized and which can be “not emphasized.” For example, there is a canon that states that a man cannot be ordained a priest unless he is at least 30 years old. There is a great deal of wisdom in this canon, but we know from the ranks of our beloved clergy, this is not being followed. We do not disagree with the use of “Oikonomia” as expressed by the bishops of the church, but rather we are illustrating a point. That point being the canons are not absolute prescriptions for each and every human situation. Those that view canons as a sort of codification seem very western and perhaps lack the true understanding of the eastern church’s pastoral dimensions of the Holy Canons. We refer those people to Dr. Lewis Patsavos’ book entitled The Spiritual Dimensions of the Holy Canons.
In addition to this idea that we should all live like monks, we are also concerned about the over emphasis on ethnicity and Greek language. We feel this may impede the evangelical mission that the Church is commissioned to fulfill. We see how Constantinople’s focus was (and remains) crystal clear when Cyril and Methodios brought the Orthodox Faith to Russia in the mid 900′s – and an entire country was transformed. But in America, we feel that this focus has been obscured.
We have seen dynamic priests throughout this great Metropolis, treated deplorably, and have gone on to other Metropolises. Some of these highly respected priests have even left the GOA and have gone to the AOA. What we seem to be getting is an emphasis on old world “culturisms” so much that it beckons the question if we are being socially engineered in order to mimic a village from another time in another place.
We are third and fourth generation Americans of Greek Heritage – that we are very proud of. We believe our spirituality is just as legitimate as those who live in a monastery. We are not monks. They are not laymen. The analogy we present is the difference between a soldier and a citizen:
A soldier obviously trains in a more rigorous and difficult manner than a citizen does. Soldiers are supposed to protect the citizens. Soldiers do not use their influence to compel citizens to train as they do. Good Soldiers are to be commended. Good citizens are to be commended. A citizen can become a soldier, with an uncompelled free will decision. But it must be a free will decision. One cannot lay hold of the title “reasonable and logical” if they expect a citizen to be compelled to train as a soldier.
Please, do not respond with “we are all soldiers for Christ”. Yes of course we are. But that is another context that totally misses the mark of the earlier illustration. There are many good heroes and role models of course that are/were clergymen, monastics, and laymen. All are equally important.
It seems that our Church is in a crisis. This is fundamentally because we still do not understand who we are as the body of Christ. To use a part of a well known illustration: the foot does not criticize the hand for not doing what it does, and vica versa. Rather, all the different members collaborate in a harmonious manner for the good of the Body.
Our prayer is that our efforts will illustrate that we cannot be compelled to model a community of another time and culture; nor to be molded into a monastic way of spirituality. We are here and now. We are educated people. We are not monks. We are Americans of proud Greek, Russian, Antiochian, and other Heritages. We want to live as good Orthodox Christians. We want our priests and bishops to love us for who we are. We want them to challenge us in “healthy ways” not the distorted images of some individual’s monastic delusions.
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.
Do Something. Be a part of the solution. Write to the Archbishop and the Patriarch!