Friday, July 27, 2012
A Bumpy Ride on the Bosporus
You can read all about the battles and the final end of Metropolitan Jonah other places and I will not attempt to duplicate all the coverage here. Read it on GetReligion or a dozen other good sources.
What impresses me in this is how this shows the problems inherent to Orthodoxy in America. It is in many respects captive to its own culture and this resignation reveals much about the ethnic and cultural identities which work against Orthodox vitality and presence. It shows the fractures in the unity and difficulty with which the various Orthodox jurisdictions function in America. Finally it reveals that those who are attracted to Orthodoxy often find the same contradiction and paradox as those attracted to Lutheranism -- the theory of these churches is often different than the practice. It is this that has caused many disillusioned Lutherans to swim the Bosporus but when they get there they often find the same conflict between the church of the theologians and the church lived out in the parishes and jurisdictional structures. There is no church NOT in need of the reform which calls her faithful back to the sources and to reflect their core doctrine in their united practice.
I have a friend who left Lutheranism for Rome and he once admitted that what he missed most is the music of the church -- in hymn and anthem some of the greatest gifts to Christianity came from a Lutheran pen. The Church that gave birth to Bach may not be entirely comfortable with him today but the average Roman parish is even further removed from the gold standard of church music. Contradiction is all around us and you better think twice about swimming the waters of one faith or another in order to find a perfect place.
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Not about to get wet.
It is good to know you can swim out of a Fundagelicalism mostly devoid of theology, and with Church history beginning around 1890.
I guess you could call we Baptists-now-Lutherans "wetbacks?"
The claim made in Pastoral Meanderings that Metropolitan Jonah was "ousted from his office" because of his aggressive public stands against abortion, homosexuality, and other controversial moral issues..." is NOT in agreement with various news reports, with official statements of the Orthodox Church in America, and with a statement by Metropolitan Jonah.
In his July 20, 2012, Religion News Service report, "Orthodox Church in America head Metropolitan Jonah dismissed over alleged rape cover-up," David Gibson stated: "The Orthodox Church in America has announced that it forced its controversial leader, Metropolitan Jonah, to resign earlier this month chiefly because he had failed to remove a priest accused of rape... Jonah resigned last week and in a letter 'begged forgiveness … for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment.'"
A July 16, 2012, Orthodox Church in America "Statement from the Holy Synod Regarding the Resignation of Metropolitan Jonah" included these explanations:
"Why did we ask Metropolitan Jonah to resign?
"In slightly less than four years as our leader, Metropolitan Jonah has repeatedly refused to act with prudence in concert with his fellow bishops, in accordance with the Holy Synod's Policies, Standards and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct (PSPs), and in compliance with advice of the Church's lawyers and professionals in expertise in dealing with cases of sexual misconduct.
"The most disturbing and serious matter, indeed the final matter that caused us to ask the Metropolitan to resign or take a leave of absence and enter a treatment program, involves the Metropolitan's poor judgment in critical matters of Church governance, lack of adherence to the PSPs, and the risk of serious harm to at least one person...
"At some point after his enthronement as our Primate, Metropolitan Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and to others to be actively and severely abusing alcohol, which more than once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women...
"Finally the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other Orthodox juristictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there were no canonical impediments to a transfer."
Here is a link to Metropolitan Jonah's letter of resignation, dated, July 6, 2012, in which he stated, in part:
"As per your unanimous request, as conveyed to me by Chancellor Fr. John Jillions, I hereby tender my resignation as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and humbly request another Episcopal assignment.
"I had come to the realization long ago that that I have neither the personality nor the temperament for the position of Primate, a position I never sought nor desired."
Quote: The claim made in Pastoral Meanderings that Metropolitan Jonah was "ousted from his office" because of his aggressive public stands against abortion, homosexuality, and other controversial moral issues..." is NOT in agreement with various news reports, with official statements of the Orthodox Church in America, and with a statement by Metropolitan Jonah.
IF YOU READ THE BLOG you will see that Pr Peters said REPORTEDLY and therefore his claim was based upon information available at the time. Anyway, that was not the point of his post and the items listed by Dr. Strickert (Vehse is his pseudonym on this and other blogs and forums) do not substantially alter the points made in his final paragraphs.
IF YOU READ MY POST you will see I stated "The claim made in Pastoral Meanderings that..." I did not state Rev. Peters originated it. Furthermore, at Rev. Peters' suggestion, I did read what you called "the information available at the time" (over the last few days) from various news websites and the OCA site itself. There was no evidence in the many news reports, the posted OCA Statement, or in Jonah's resignation letter that even hinted at reasons other than Jonah's mishandling of the assignment of an accused rapist priest.
As for whether the facts "substantially alter the points made in his final paragraphs," Rev. Peters' final paragraphs are predicated on the unsubstantiated and misleading claim in the first paragraph. For example, the paragraphs include "this shows the problems...," "reveals much about the ethnic and cultural identities which work against Orthodox," "shows the fractures in the unity and difficulty with which the various Orthodox jurisdictions function in America," "the same conflict between the church of the theologians and the church lived out in the parishes and jurisdictional structures," "Contradiction is all around us," "in order to find a perfect place."
All of these phrases refer, not to a factual reason for Jonah's resignation, but to the alleged reason, given in the first paragraph, for ousting Metropolitan Jonah because of his public stand against liberal views on moral issues.
IF YOU READ THE BLOG you will see that Pr Peters said REPORTEDLY and therefore his claim was based upon information available at the time.
The information on the real reasons (failure to discipline bishops) for Metropoltian JONAH's dismissal provided by the OCA Synod has been available for SOME TIME now. There's no possible way Pr. Peters can hide behind that as an excuse. Even a cursory google news search can reveal that this information has been available for at least one week.
Secondly,with regards to what Pr. Peters wrote: Contradiction is all around us and you better think twice about swimming the waters of one faith or another in order to find a perfect place.
I'll be sure to tell that to the next person who is considering swimming the Rhine.
Third, so the Orthodox Church doesn't have Bach. We don't need him for our liturgies. And let's be clear: the Lutheran church gave birth to Bach, not THE CHURCH. We don't expect Lutheran churches to start using Byzantine chant (though that would be a great improvement over the "chant" which currently is used) so why do Lutherans insist that Orthodox should use Bach or Handel or Schutz? Can't have it both ways.
Fourth, bishops from small and large jurisdictions have been removed since Christianity began. Some were for political expediency, others for heresy, some for corruption, others for not being qualified. The Church's integrity is not guaranteed by the individual bishop (Don't even think about quoting Irinaios) but the by the office of the bishop. Even if a corrupt bishop were in charge, there is still the church. Irinaios would never have sanctioned a corrupt bishop staying just because he is a bishop. In short, this is one of the weakest arguments I've ever seen to tear down the Holy Orthodox Church.
Okay you can all settle down...I did this a couple of weeks ago and scheduled it to post and went on vacation. At the time I relied upon a report on GetReligion and a couple Orthodox blogs. Yes I could have updated it but I didn't. Quite honestly I forgot about it. I did say "reportedly " and last I checked that meant I did not know for sure.
"I did this a couple of weeks ago and scheduled it to post and went on vacation."
Ahhhhh, the risks of presuming a news story is, in Journalese, an "evergreen."
"At the time I relied upon a report on GetReligion and a couple Orthodox blogs."
Ahhhhh, I think it was a Quality Assurance auditor who said, "In God we trust; all others we verify."
Although there is truth to the fact that Mp Jonah resigned for many reasons, the reason posited by Pr Peters has not been proven to be one of them. It may not have been the primary one but it seems from some of my reads that it was not incidental.
You are completely wrong on Jonah's strong public stand against abortion having ANYTHING to do with his resignation. The OCA has been involved in the pro-life movement for years. Metropolitan Herman (Jonah's predecessor) regularly participated in the annual March for Life in Washington for years before Jonah became our Metropolitan. Students from the OCA's St. Tikhon's and St. Vladimir's Seminary also regularly participate in the March for Life. In my OCA parish whenever the priest finds out that a woman is pregnant, he adds her name to the public prayer list and prays for her by name and "for the unborn child" until the birth occurs. We are as solidly pro-life as the Roman Catholic Church and any suggestion that we aren't is not "putting the best construction on everything" as Luther's Catechism teaches.
Secondly, while the subject of homosexuality is more complicated and nuanced than that of abortion, Jonah's strong public stance against it is not what got him "ousted" to use your own words. I know of no OCA bishop or priest who teaches that homosexual activity should be encouraged or blessed. None. In fact, the OCA Synod of Bishops issued an Encyclical on "Marriage and Family Life" (back in 1992, I think), that stated that stated that "repentant homosexuals are welcome in the Orthodox Church along with all who struggle" and the therapy the Church recommends for that struggle is celibacy combined with frequent confession and partaking of the Eucharist. It is only with the grace and assistance of God that anyone can overcome the passion of homosexual urges.
Now having said that, there is some disagreement in the OCA, esp. among the laity, about how that should be put into practice. The OCA has a lot of converts and a lot of former evangelicals who were very much into the "culture wars" and polarizing politics of the American Right Wing when they were Protestants. Some of our converts were also Right Wing Catholics very similar to Pat Buchanan types. For such people, politics is often dogma. Most Orthodox, esp. those of us born and raised in the faith, are more mellow and tolerant than the converts. Boycotting, protesting, and damning others from the pulpit is just not the Orthodox way, by and large. Most of us prefer gentle persuasion instead. The Orthodox stance on various controversial issues can indeed be hard-line and uncompromising, but when it is applied to individuals it is often done with remarkable pastoral sensitivity and respect.
So some of the tension you see within the OCA comes from these two streams of people, those born and raised in the faith, who tend to come down on the side of mercy and the converts who want the letter of the law enforced on everybody.
However, neither one of those reasons was the real reason Jonah resigned. The real reasons for Jonah's resignation are complicated and can't be reduced to a sound bite.Some of them are:
1. He was a young and inexperienced bishop when elevated to Metropolitan.
2. He was viewed as a "loose cannon" by his brother bishops on the Synod because he would speak out on controversial issues without consulting with them first and then they'd have to engage in damage control. For instance Jonah did this in Dallas when he criticized the Ecumencial Partiarch, then when he suggested the OCA might give up its autocephaly, then when he unilaterally wanted to move OCA headquarters from Syosset, NY to Washington, DC and other things as well. It wasn't just one thing he did. It was three years of not being able to work well with his brother bishops on the Synod. His brother bishops UNANIMOUSLY asked him to considering resigning as Metropolitan and he did. If you want to find out what the Synod of Bishops said about why they asked Jonah to resign, you can read their words here:
Brother Boris, Thank you for your response. I wrote this a long time ago and set it to post while I was away and should have checked it but forgot about it (as I said earlier). But I did NOT pull this out of my hat.
Check the above for one early source that influenced my post.
Check also this post (also identified in the GetReligion story) which was my first read on the resignation/removal.
And finally, this also influenced my wording.
So, again, if I got it wrong, I got it wrong but I did not just pull this out of my hat. I should have kept up with the evolving story but I was away on vacation.
BTW much of this only adds to the point of my post -- that swimming one river or another seldom leads to the kind of calm and pastoral setting we too often look for in changing churches.
FWIW this is my last response on the subject.
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