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Meeting Seeks to Unite All Orthodox Christians in America

October 14th, 2010 2 comments

Utah meeting seeks to unify American Orthodox Christians
ENI-10-0693

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
Salt Lake City, Utah, 14 October (ENI/RNS)–If a group of Orthodox Christians meeting in Salt Lake City this week (Oct. 14-16) has its way, future generations of Greek, Serbian, Russian and other ethnic faithful all will worship together in a single American church.

A unified church would “honour and celebrate the multicultural Orthodox community here”, says Bill Souvall, president of the group Orthodox Christian Laity, Religion News Service reports. “It would give us a powerful presence in America. Spiritual seekers and searchers would find us.”

There currently are 14 Orthodox jurisdictions in America, and each has its own bishop in the country of origin and its own language, but the liturgy and doctrines are the same, Souvall says. “The churches of America should be American. They shouldn’t have all these separate archdioceses.”

Even so, this push for unity is not universally accepted.

Some bishops who look to Europe for leadership are not eager to displease their superiors, Souvall said. Older members also worry about losing their language, culture, identity and ties to their home countries.

Such immigrants built their American parishes “with their nickels and dimes”, says George Matsoukas, OCL’s executive director. They always have been “the force that guided the church.”

Each Orthodox group that came to the United States, looked to its home for ecclesiastical guidance. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Russian Orthodox Church split between those who left and those who stayed. By the 1970s, the Russian Orthodox Church allowed its American wing to go independent and become the Orthodox Church in America.

The OCL began pushing for greater involvement in church governance, and clergy and lay members have been talking about unity off and on ever since.

Last year, more than 60 bishops convened an Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America. They discussed, Matsoukas says, the spiritual and legal issues confronting a move to unify the diverse groups.

This week, those gathering in Salt Lake City hope to advance the conversation. They will consider what legal and structural obstacles to unity remain.

“Orthodox Christianity in America is at a crossroads,” Matsoukas says. “Our bishops may be stuck in a groove, but the young people are asking for this. We all need to work together – clergy, hierarchy and laity – in love and fellowship for the good of the church and of the
nation that we live in and are a part of.”

• Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for The Salt Lake Tribune [415 words]

(c) Ecumenical News International

Trouble in the Antiochian Orthdox Church?

July 19th, 2009 Comments off

OutlookThere have been a relatively small handful of LCMS pastors who have, very publicly, swum the Bosporus to join Eastern Orthoxy. A number of these converts have chosen the Antiochian Orthodox Church, for a variety of reasons, but I suspect one reason above all, even if they would not admit it, is the AOC’s eagerness to receive converts from other church’s clergy and lay membership rolls and make priests out of non-Orthodox clergy at a speed that would make a Baptist Bible college blush. It is a well known fact that the AOC has been very aggresive in pursuing members from other churches, clergy and lay members alike.

As part of the reasons cited for leaving, we heard former LCMS extolling the virtues of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, in what can only be described as starry-eyed naivete, even while they were severely criticizing their own church body, turning a blind-eye to what many of us warned them was no bed of roses in the AOC. Now however the simmering tensions and problems in the AOC have erupted into what now is even getting the attention of the media, never a good thing, to be sure.  Here is the story.

This is a tragedy for Christians in this church, and I hope and pray that those who were misled to think they were entering into some sort of ecclesiastical promised land are not so disheartened by all this mess that they leave the Church. We pray that Satan will not have his way with those who are discouraged by these events.

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

How to Recognize, and What to Do, When the “Orthodoxy Bug” has Bitten

March 2nd, 2009 20 comments

Insect_mosquito_aedes_aegypti_biting_human_arm
A friend of mine posted some remarks recently about the temptation some Lutherans feel to run off and join Eastern Orthodoxy. I won't reveal my friend's name since he may wish to say more, or something other, at some other time, elsewhere. But his remarks, posted below, are extremely wise and helpful. We were talking about the "EO Bug" and I told him I can spot those who have been bitten a mile away by now. I've watched over the years as men are bitten by the "Orthodoxy bug" and the symptoms begin, usually, with an unhealthy fascination with all things Eastern Orthodox, at the expense of neglecting their own Lutheran fathers and confessions. Incessant quotations from Early Church fathers, and usually Eastern fathers, and not uncommonly, the more obscure desert fathers, start filling their blog site posts. The only art you see them using is Eastern Orthodox iconography. You rarely see them quoting with praise and a positive attitude Luther or our Lutheran fathers. Suddenly Lutheranism is treated as merely a little "glitch" in church history. Next thing you know they are quoting, ad naseum, contemporary Orthodox theologians and gushing over the wonders of Eastern Orthodoxy. Then there develops a keen defensiveness when they are questioned about where they are headed. Passive-aggressiveness sets in and they even deny they are being tugged toward Orthodoxy, but they start blaming others and adopting a "I'm being picked on" mentality. At any rate, these symptoms are just that: symptoms of deeper problems to come. Here is how my friend put matters when asked what to do for folks who have been bitten by the "Orthodox bug."

"First, once one is bitten by the bug it is very hard to find ANY
inoculation. I know this from first hand experience. But if a person IS
willing to consider facts, it might be of help for them to read through
the Patristics for Lutherans section that Eric put up in the resource
section some time ago – in numerous ways, the Fathers stand closer to
Lutheranism than to modern Orthodoxy. Second, I'd encourage them to
look exactly at what the Orthodox DO in the invocation of the saints.
They will tell you what they have been indoctrinated in: we're only
asking Mary to pray to God for us. But the Orthodox do more than this.
I cite from the Antiochian Service Book, page 130:

"O all-holy Lady Theotokos, light of my darkened soul, my hope, my
shelter, my refuge, my consolation and my joy; I thank thee that thou
hast permitted me, unworthy though I be, to partake of the immaculate
body and precious blood of thy Son. O thou who didst bring forth the
true Light, give the light of understanding to the eyes of my heart; O
thou who didst bear the Fountain of Immortality, quicken me who am dead
in sin. O compassionate Mother of the merciful God, have mercy upon me
and grant me humility and contrition of heart, and humbleness of mind,
and deliverance from bondage to evil thoughts. And permit me, unto my
last breath, to receive, without condemnation, the sanctification of
these Holy Mysteries, unto the healing of both body and soul. Grant me
tears of repentance and of confession, that I may hymn thee and glorify
thee all the days of my life. For blessed and glorified art thou unto
all the ages. Amen.

"That is an idolatrous prayer; there is no other word to describe it. I
can't imagine that it would be pleasing to the Holy Virgin at all!

"Third, invite them to run it through the John 3:16 test. What happens
to John 3:16 under Orthodoxy? God so loved the world that He gave His
only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him (and is a member of the
true Church!) shall not perish (probably, but we make no guarantees -
that would be prideful) but have eternal life (provided that he has
suitable works).

"Finally, pray for them. This is in many ways a spiritual battle. And
the sad thing is where will their final confidence be placed in the
last battle – when they are facing death and Satan suddenly throws up
to their memory so many sins and evils. A friend of mine who is now an
Orthodox priest likes to tell the story of a priest begging for longer
life so he can do more penance, because he didn't even know if he had
begun to repent. Contrast this, please, with the comfort of God's Word
which allowed the great saints to depart in peace – not because of
their accomplishments in repentance, but in the certainty of Christ's
forgiveness and His victory over death and the grave for them."

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Pope? “Nyet!,” says Russian Patriarch. And there you go.

June 6th, 2007 1 comment

_39709215_aleksy245ap
Rome continues to claim that the Pope is the universal head of the Church, except of course that he actually is such only according to Roman theories on Petrine primacy. The Russian Orthodox Church has announced that there can be no compromise with Rome on this point. And if Russia says this, the other so-called "Patriarchs" in Eastern Orthodoxy will of course have to agree, or there would go the consensus that Eastern Orthodoxy. So, unless Rome relinquishes its claims about the Pope, there will be no reunification of East and West. And, of course, if Rome backs away from the claim that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the universal head of the entire Church and, by extension, of all Christians, whether they recognize him as such or not, well, that would mean the end of Roman Catholicism which derives its authority and unity not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but from Papal primacy (a major reason we had the little incident in the 16th century called the Reformation of the Church). And there you go. And so you see, this is not really, in the end, an argument about the Gospel, but who is the greatest and who is the boss.

Russian Orthodox bishop rules out ‘compromise’ on papacy
ENI-07-0430

By Sophia Kishkovsky
Moscow, 6 June (ENI)–A representative of the Russian Orthodox Church has ruled out any "compromise" with the Roman Catholic Church over the status of the papacy, which is one of the issues that continues to divide the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

“Orthodoxy”: Myths and Realities

May 25th, 2007 10 comments

Recently, one of the "ninety day wonder" priests ordained by the former Roman Catholic, turned Oral Roberts Bible professor, turned Orthodox bishop, so-called, has taken to agitating on several Lutheran blog sites, engaging in efforts at sheep-stealing. It’s important once again to make the following points.

What I notice in reading discussions between Lutherans and recent
converts to Eastern Orthodoxy, or those considering taking the plunge
to swim the Bosporus, is how hard they strive to assure themselves that
in leaving the Lutheran Confession and embracing Eastern Orthodoxy they
are in fact either completing what they started to find in Lutheranism,
or that they are discovering what Lutheranism leans toward, but does
not fully embrace, or perhaps most honestly of all, they say that they
have found the fullness of the Church that Lutheranism lacks.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

“Orthodoxy” or What you get when justification recedes into the background

February 28th, 2007 Comments off

I highly recommend that you pay a visit to Pastor Weedon’s blog site to read an excellent article by Dr. Steven Hein analyzing how it is that men who take vows to be faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions can walk away from those vows. Here’s an appetizer:

When the chief article of justification begins to wane in one’s
thinking as the chief article; when it becomes just one among all the
other articles of faith, the Devil can use whatever articles make up
one’s doctrinal passion (good in their own right) to replace it.

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Fenton’s Admission

December 2nd, 2006 7 comments

I just finished listening to John Fenton’s radio interview about his decision to leave Lutheranism and join the so-called "Orthodox" Faith. Several important things jumped out at me:

1) He had serious doubts and reservations about Lutheranism before he went to the seminary. He had visited an Orthodox parish and read Ware’s book on Orthodoxy and as he admits in his interview he had "considered dropping out of the seminary" several times, but did not. Here we have to be concerned that there was not a much more careful screening process at the seminary. Men who have these kinds of grave doubts and reservations about Lutheranism simply should not be permitted to continue in their studies. One should never be permittted to attend seminary as a way to work through such grave doubts and reservations.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

What’s wrong with these prayers?

December 2nd, 2006 14 comments

O
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most
pure Mother, of our holy and God-bearing fathers and all the saints,
have mercy on us. Amen.

O
good Mother of the Good King, most pure and blessed Theotokos Mary, do
thou pour out the mercy of thy Son and our God upon my passionate soul,
and by thine intercessions guide me unto good works, that I may pass
the remaining time of my life without blemish, and attain paradise
through thee, O Virgin Theotokos, who alone art pure and blessed.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

The Argument Between Rome and Constantinople

December 1st, 2006 Comments off

Dr. Holger Sonntag writes: It is really remarkable that the
argument between these two ancient churches to this day comes down to
the question of church order. The faith is mainly the same, with
different emphases, some of which are expressed in the greater or
lesser appreciation of St. Augustine. Certainly nothing "modern"
hermeneutics couldn’t handle. When pressed in the 17th century,
Orthodox theologians felt far greater proximity to Rome (despite their
grievances against the pope’s supremacy claims and Catholic
proselytizing in Poland and in the Ukraine in the course of the
Counterreformation) than to Geneva / Canterbury — Wittenberg /
Tuebingen had already lost out in the 16th century.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Luther on Rome and Constantinople

November 29th, 2006 1 comment

The pope’s visit to Turkey is quite interesting, and to whatever extent it can serve the purpose of aiding Christians who are in the persecuted minority in that country and help heal [meaningfully] the split between East and West we can certainly be grateful for that; however …

 

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Where is the Church?

November 17th, 2006 4 comments

Swap around a few words in this post and we have here a thoroughly Biblical retort also to Eastern Orthodoxy’s effort to make certainty of the Holy Spirit’s work coterminus with their communion And these comments lay to rest any notion that we Lutherans claim to be the alone-saving Church! A point apparently which even some Lutheran pastors seem a bit confused about, for when they hear that the Lutheran Church alone teaches the Gospel in its truth and purity [which is true!] they assume this must also mean that a person is declaring the Lutheran Chuch to be the alone-saving Church [which is not true!]. Thanks to Pastor Weedon for encouraging me to post this on my blog site.

To this day the papists seek to keep the people with their Church by telling them: “You know that we are the true Church. No matter what the Church teaches, if you want to be a true disciple of Christ, you must hear the Church. If the Pope decrees that he is infallible, or that Mary was conceived without sin, or that the saints must be adored, you must accept these dogmas. The true Church has set up these dogmas, and it cannot err. If you fall away from the Roman Catholic Church, you fall away from the true Church.” This is the bait with which they hook the people.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Thoughts on Orthodoxy

October 30th, 2006 15 comments

Ecath_1I first posted this message last February. In light of news received over the weekend that another Lutheran pastor has decided to leave Lutheranism for Orthodoxy, I thought it was both appropriate and important to post it again.

What I notice in reading discussions between Lutherans and recent converts to Eastern Orthodoxy, or those considering taking the plunge to swim the Bosporus, is how hard they strive to assure themselves that in leaving the Lutheran Confession and embracing Eastern Orthodoxy they are in fact either completing what they started to find in Lutheranism, or that they are discovering what Lutheranism leans toward, but does not fully embrace, or perhaps most honestly of all, they say that they have found the fullness of the Church that Lutheranism lacks.

Read more…

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

A Helping Hand?

June 18th, 2006 7 comments

The hand of John the Baptist has been restored to its proper owners…apparently the Russians. Now, tell me, you who have swum the Bosporus, will we read Holy Mother Church condemning this kind of nonsense? Or what precisely is the deeper spiritual meaning and reality that I, a poor benighted Westerner, just can not understand here.

Creepy stuff indeed.

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

A Very Good Question

March 4th, 2006 12 comments

Double_standard
Greg Chudy posted a very, very…very good question by way of a comment on one of the fasting posts below.

"What I find hard to understand is why we Lutherans are quick to attack this sort of legalism in the evangelicals/Baptists/etc. (e.g. all alcohol is sinful, women wearing pants is a sin, everyone must give exactly 10% of their income to the church or face divine wrath, and on and on) but we excuse it in the Orthodox just because they have a pretty liturgy and wear glittery vestments.

Why the double standard?"

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Listen to Mary: “Do whatever He tells you.”

February 10th, 2006 4 comments

Mystlumi02
Mary did not become Superwoman when she died. She has been given no
miraculous powers to hear the prayers of humans on earth. Our Lord told
us where to place our hope. Recall the time a woman cried out, nearly
in a swoon. " ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you! Blessed are the breasts that you sucked!" [Luke 11:27]. What did Jesus say? "Yes, blessed indeed and worthy of all praise, glory and honor. Beseech her kindness! Implore her mercy! Flee to her protection in the hour of your need!" No, rather, our Lord said, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!" [Luke 11:28]. The Dear
Lady who bore the Word of God, herself tells us what we are to do, "Whatever
he says, do it." [John 2:5]. Christ never said, "Pray to my mother" or "Put your hope in my mother’s prayers."
Let us truly honor Jesus’ mother by keeping our eyes fixed firmly on
her beloved Son! Forget her? Never. Honor her? Always. Remember her? Absolutely. Follow her example of devotion to Christ? Yes. But pray to her? Never.

The next time you hear a person who has embraced Eastern Orthodoxy, or Roman Catholicism, tell you that prayers to Mary are "no big problem" and suggest they are but expressions of devotion to Christ….well, here are several examples that refute that claim, these all happen to be from EO sources, but one can easily find hundreds of similar examples from RC sources as well.

First, a prayer at the Icon of the Theotokos.

Link

Prayer at the Icon of the Theotokos

Tenderness springs forth from you, O Theotokos, make us worthy of compassion. Look upon sinful people, reveal your power for ever as we hope in you and cry aloud: Hail! as did the Archangel Gabriel, Chief Captain of the Bodiless Powers. Amen.

Or…note this explanation of why the Orthodox pray to Mary. This is so patently absurd, it boggles one’s mind that anyone would confuse asking a fellow Christian to pray for you and praying to the Blessed Virgin, who is now enjoying her eternal rest, awaiting with all the faithful departed our Lord’s return on the Last Day, praying to her to save us.

Not that we think she or any of the other saints have magical powers or
are demigods. When we sing "Holy Theotokos, save us", we don’t mean
"save" in an eternal sense
, as we would pray to Christ; we mean
"protect, defend, take care of us here on earth," Just as we ask for
each other’s prayers, we ask for the prayers of Mary and the other
saints as well. They’re not dead, after all, just departed to the other
side. Icons surround us, in part, to remind us that all the saints are
joining us invisibly in our worship.

One can find dozens of examples of the heretical prayers offered to Mary by the Eastern Orthodox. Let’s look at one example, this from a book from the Russian Orthodox Church. Is this prayer "no big deal"? It is benign? Is it merely asking Mary to put a good word in for us with her son? Setting aside for the moment the assumption that Mary now has super-human powers, just look at this prayer and ask yourself if this is merely asking Mary to mention us to her Son.

With divine workings dost
Thou preserve and shelter from incursions of the enemy those that
lovingly celebrate Thine all-glorious (name of the event) and
call unto Thee: Thou art our strength and stablishment and Thy Son our
God is the God-becoming delight, Whom adoring we say: Jesu
all-powerful, save our souls as Compassionate One! To-day being divinely
gathered together let us praise the Theotokos. most holy Virgin, many
are thy grandeurs and abyss-full are thy wonders, for thou art holy
protection, praise and glory and source of healing unto us also that
celebrate thy holy
(name of the event); wherefore praying we say: O Jesu all powerful, save our souls as Compassionate One. Do thou, O most holy one,
with thy honourable supplications both shelter and preserve, and unto
the enemies — as fearful and unsubduable shew those that make a
festival of thy (name of the event), that we may call unto thy Son: O Jesu all-powerful, save us as Compassionate One !   [Glory ...Both now ...Tone 6.As with a most brilliant circle, with thy (name of the event),
O most holy Theotokos, the Church of God bath been surrounded and
shining for joy and secretly exulting doth to-day call aloud unto thee,
O Sovereign-Lady: Hail thou — O precious diadem and crown of God’s
glory ; hail — the only fulfilment of the glory and the eternal
gladness ; hail – the haven unto those that flee to thee, mediatrix
and the salvation of our souls.

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy