Saturday, August 30, 2014

Prayers asked for Bp. Daniel

By all accounts Bishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is one of the country's most beloved hierarchs. He's a tireless worker both in this country and in Ukraine. You can see his most recent trip abroad to care for refugees here.

He has just been released from the hospital after having complained of chest and arm pain. More tests are scheduled and he is resting at home.

O Christ, Who alone art our Defender: Visit and heal Thy suffering servants, delivering them from sickness and grievous pains. Raise them up that they may sing to Thee and praise Thee without ceasing, through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind. Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Josephus on the Execution of John the Baptist


1. About this time Aretas (the king of Arabia Petres) and Herod had a quarrel on the account following: Herod the tetrarch had, married the daughter of Aretas, and had lived with her a great while; but when he was once at Rome, he lodged with Herod, (15) who was his brother indeed, but not by the same mother; for this Herod was the son of the high priest Sireoh's daughter. However, he fell in love with Herodias, this last Herod's wife, who was the daughter of Aristobulus their brother, and the sister of Agrippa the Great. This man ventured to talk to her about a marriage between them; which address, when she admitted, an agreement was made for her to change her habitation, and come to him as soon as he should return from Rome: one article of this marriage also was this, that he should divorce Aretas's daughter. So Antipus, when he had made this agreement, sailed to Rome; but when he had done there the business he went about, and was returned again, his wife having discovered the agreement he had made with Herodias, and having learned it before he had notice of her knowledge of the whole design, she desired him to send her to Macherus, which is a place in the borders of the dominions of Aretas and Herod, without informing him of any of her intentions. Accordingly Herod sent her thither, as thinking his wife had not perceived any thing; now she had sent a good while before to Macherus, which was subject to her father and so all things necessary for her journey were made ready for her by the general of Aretas's army; and by that means she soon came into Arabia, under the conduct of the several generals, who carried her from one to another successively; and she soon came to her father, and told him of Herod's intentions. So Aretas made this the first occasion of his enmity between him and Herod, who had also some quarrel with him about their limits at the country of Gamalitis. So they raised armies on both sides, and prepared for war, and sent their generals to fight instead of themselves; and when they had joined battle, all Herod's army was destroyed by the treachery of some fugitives, who, though they were of the tetrarchy of Philip, joined with Aretas's army.. So Herod wrote about these affairs to Tiberius, who being very angry at the attempt made by Aretas, wrote to Vitellius to make war upon him, and either to take him alive, and bring him to him in bonds, or to kill him, and send him his head. This was the charge that Tiberius gave to the president of Syria.

2. Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.

AFR has a new call-in show
(AFR) - Ancient Faith Radio is pleased to announce the debut of its third live call-in program. Titled “Faith Encouraged Live with Fr. Barnabas Powell,” the program will replace “Ancient Faith Today” on the second and fourth Sundays of each month beginning September 14. Kevin Allen, host of “Ancient Faith Today,” retired on August 11, ending his show’s two-year run.

“Faith Encouraged Live” will have a slightly different format and focus from “Ancient Faith Today.” While still featuring interviews with prominent Orthodox individuals on contemporary topics, it will also contain reflections and commentary by host Fr. Barnabas Powell, as well as readings from Scripture and the Church Fathers.

“The show will be much more varied and eclectic than ‘Ancient Faith Today,’” says Bobby Maddex, Operations Manager of Ancient Faith Radio. “The interviews will represent only a small portion of ‘Faith Encouraged Live,’ and what occurs on the program will change from broadcast to broadcast. We knew we could not replicate what Kevin Allen did with his excellent program. Fr. Barnabas has his own unique strengths, and this new show will play to them. It’s going to be a different sort of radio call-in program, but just as insightful and entertaining as ‘Ancient Faith Today.’ We couldn’t be more excited about its premiere.”

Fr. Barnabas Powell is priest at Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene Greek Orthodox Church in Cumming, Georgia, and the host of the Ancient Faith Radio podcast “Life Encouraged.” He will also soon host the podcast “Life Encouraged Daily,” likewise on Ancient Faith Radio.

Listen to the debut of “Faith Encouraged Live with Fr. Barnabas Powell” on September 14, 2014, at 8/7c on Ancient Faith Radio’s streaming talk station.

Questions for the Assembly of Bishops

Let me preface this by saying that The Sounding doesn't like it when I post entire articles (their original post by Andrew Estocin entitled "Ten Questions for the Assembly of Bishops" here), but to answer these questions I can't do so without posting the below. Sorry.

(The Sounding) - In all of God’s earthly creation, only the human person has the ability to ask questions and seek answers. Asking questions reflects the fact that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. Asking questions is also part of the gift of reason and therefore needs to be cultivated with virtue and compassion. In America’s highly charged political climate, every question asked is considered suspect for its motives. However, questions in the Orthodox Christian Tradition are not viewed with suspicion but are instead welcomed with open arms.

Orthodoxy does not view posing a question as an act of disobedience but as an act of fidelity to the Church. Questions are part of a healthy faith. Orthodox Christians are faithful to their inheritance when they ask questions and seek truthful answers. Jesus Christ himself learned by asking questions: The Gospel of Luke tells us that “Three days later they finally discovered Jesus in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.” (Luke 2:46) Throughout his earthly ministry, Christ responded to questions from all those around him with love, often using the questions of others to teach eternal truths (John 9:1-5). A healthy Orthodox Faith is not one of mindless obedience, but one of endless loving inquiry. Questions about our faith know no bounds because God in his love knows no bounds.

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America will be holding a question and answer session on Monday, September 15, 2014 in Dallas, TX as part of their annual meeting. America’s bishops will be present for this occasion to respond to the questions of their spiritual children with paternal guidance. This event is a blessing, for it is an opportunity to collaborate with our hierarchs and grow the Church in America. It is also an occasion to more deeply discover our vocation as Orthodox Christians and answer the call of Christ to “Go and make disciples.”

In the spirit of this invitation to ask questions of the Church, here are ten questions on the subject of work of the Assembly of Bishops and the historic Great Council of the Orthodox Church that will be held in 2016.

1) Does the Assembly’s vision of Orthodox Unity in America include ecclesiastical autocephaly or an alternative vision of unity such as the possibility of all jurisdictions uniting under a single mother Church? This has been pretty well answered. The Chambésy process is very explicit. What has been equally explicit is a contrary answer by ROCOR and others that oppose this process. Does that mean that the rest of Orthodoxy in America will keep moving on separate from the opposition. That is to be seen.

2) Does the canonical planning of the Assembly include establishing a diocese for the majority of member bishops? In the future, will bishops of one ethnicity govern parishes of a different ethnicity? This has also been answered. There are three separate plans on the table (one of which is an ethnocentric model, one is regional, and the other a hybrid).

3) What challenges do the changing marriage laws of the United States present to the Church in America? This was answered in 2012 (see here) and multiple times using similar language by many hierarchs (e.g. GOARCH and OCA). 

4) For the purposes of understanding a variety of contemporary human life issues: When do human rights/human personhood begin? This has been answered (see here) and is repeated every single year in speeches and declarations.

5) In areas where parishes are extremely close geographically and efforts are often duplicated, does the work of the assembly include merging parishes much like the case of the Holy Trinity and Holy Resurrection parishes in Tennessee? That doesn't seem to be happening right now. Jurisdictions are still building missions almost right across the street from each other all over the country. Your question two will inform how this progresses I would think.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Utah continues creeping towards polygamy

(Aleteia) - The cast of “Sister Wives,” a hit television show featuring a polygamous family, has something to celebrate today. On Wednesday, Federal Judge Clark Waddoups finalized his December order striking down a key part of Utah’s statute banning the practice of bigamy.

Kody Brown, his four “wives” and their 17 children are Lehi, Utah, residents and members of the Apostolic United Brethren, a fundamentalist Mormon sect that continues to practice polygamy, which in 1890 was formally eschewed by the official Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). That decision was critical to the recognition of the Utah territory as an American state in 1896. The ban on polygamy is written into both the Utah Constitution and statutory law.

In 2010, the television network TLC began broadcasting a reality show that examined the lives of the Brown family. The day after the program debuted, Utah Attorney General Jeff Buhman directed police in Lehi to investigate the Browns for a possible felony violation of the state’s bigamy statute. A criminal case was never brought, but the Browns hired celebrity lawyer Jonathan Turley and sued the state on the grounds that the investigation had violated their constitutional privacy and religious rights.

At issue in Brown v. Buhman was a key provision of Utah’s bigamy statute. In the Brown family there is only one legal marriage license, the one between Kody Brown and his original wife, Meri. According to the family, the other three “marriages,” while not legal contracts, were validated according to the rites of the Apostolic United Brethren and Mormon tradition. Though “spiritual,” the family claims, they are no less marriages than the legal one between Kody and Meri.

The problem is that the Utah statute anticipated these sorts of claims by polygamous families. In addition to obtaining multiple concurrent marriage licenses, it includes those who “purport to marry” or “cohabitate” with multiple partners as bigamists and therefore felons. It was on this basis that Utah defended its statute, and it was also on this basis that Judge Waddoups ruled.

In his 91-page judgment, Waddoups notes “the incongruity between criminalizing religious cohabitation but not adulterous cohabitation, or rather selectively prosecuting the former while not prosecuting the latter at all, demonstrates that the cohabitation prong is not narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest.” In other words, the state has no real interest in cohabitation apart from marriage, or else it would be investigating and prosecuting all couples who live together. Instead, the state only acts when cohabitation is practiced as marriage in a religiously-motivated polygamous family...
Complete article here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Diocese of the Midwest to hold assembly for new bishop

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, OH (OCA-DMW) — The 53rd Assembly of the Diocese of the Midwest will be held at Archangel Michael Church here on Tuesday, October 7, 2014.

Immediately preceding the Assembly, a Special Diocesan Assembly will be held for the sole purpose of nominating a candidate for the vacant See of Chicago and the Midwest. The name of the nominee will be presented to the Holy Synod of Bishops for canonical election. This Special Assembly will be followed by the regular Assembly, during which the business of an annual Diocesan Assembly meeting will be addressed.

Regular, special Diocesan Assemblies to convene Tuesday, October 7, 2014It is suggested that delegates from outside the Cleveland area arrive on Monday evening, October 6. If possible, return flights should be scheduled no earlier than 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 7.

A block of rooms has been reserved at a group rate at a nearby hotel. Detailed information concerning hotels, the schedule and agenda, registration, and related matters will be posted on the diocesan web site in the coming weeks.

On Monday, October 6, the Bishop’s Council will meet at noon, while the Diocesan Council will hold a dinner meeting at 5:00 p.m. On Tuesday, October 7, the opening Service of Prayer will be celebrated at 9:00 a.m., followed immediately by the Special Assembly, as noted above.

Why you need a confessor

Monday, August 25, 2014

Salt Lake City divisiveness ends in... division

I've been following (and posting on) this story since it first hit the newspapers. I did not foresee the way forward for a parish that couldn't meet its current financial obligations would be to make another parish. To call it "church growth" is also a bit of a stretch. Maybe "church mitosis."

MURRAY (Deseret News) — A group labeling itself "progressive" voted Saturday to create an additional parish in the Salt Lake Valley.

A little more than 100 people gathered at Hillcrest Junior High, 156 E. 5600 South, to create the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish Saturday. The majority voted in the affirmative.

"This is your chance to do it right, to do what you've learned over the years and to do it with a fresh start," Father Luke Uhl, chancellor for Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, told those gathered.

If contentions arise, "Resolve them in love," he advised, possibly alluding to the strife that has cropped up in the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake in recent years.

The parish will function under the Metropolis of Denver, distinct from the current Salt Lake parish meeting at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, 279 S. 300 West, and Prophet Elias Church, 5335 S. Highland Drive.

“People of goodwill have come together and expressed themselves as faithful Christians and expressed themselves as people united in love, in harmony, in oneness of mind and heart. That can’t help but inspire all us,” he later told the Deseret News.

Eleven members of the new parish were called to serve on a parish council, six until December 2015 and five until the end of 2014. An interim priest or priests will fill in until a full-time priest can be appointed by Metropolitan Isaiah.

“We want to focus on the Orthodox faith and growing in our faith together. That’s our sole purpose. We’re not complaining. We’re not griping about anybody or anything. Sometimes you know, you have to be forced out of your comfort zone to go do something that becomes a good thing later,” said Charles Beck, newly elected parish council president.

How many loaves is too many or too few?

The number of loaves used in preparation of the Gifts is a debated topic that is often oversimplified. The blog Classical Christianity has presented the below in an article entitled "On Multiple Loaves for the Divine Liturgy." Even the shortest study of the topic will show that the number of loaves used, the organization of the particles, and the prayers said have gone through alterations in different times and in different places so that it is impossible to trace a single "pan-Orthodox" process that would be agreeable to all. "Five loaves is the ancient process" doesn't hold up under any scrutiny but neither does proclaiming a single loaf as the truest form while disdaining the use of five loaves show respect for natural changes that permeates Orthodoxy.

In our Russian Church, we use five Prosphora loaves for the Proskomide [the Service of Preparation, or Prothesis, also called Proskomedia, and despite the clear derivation from the Greek, ("proskomizo") or "to offer," Prokimidi and Proskimidia]. In other traditions, they use one with five seals on it. Also, some use two layers for the loaf, others one. Can you explain this?

The use of more than one Prosphoron (plural, ta Prosphora) (loaf) for the celebration of the Eucharist is not the very ancient practice of the Church and departs from the Scriptural symbolism of the “one bread” in St. Paul’s commentary on the Divine Eucharist (1 Cor. 10:16-17). Nonetheless, early on in the liturgical texts we find references to a number of Prosphora, as in the fourteenth-century Diataxis of Patriarch Philotheos. St. Symeon of Thessaloniki (+1430), the noted liturgical expert, also describes the Proskomide service in some detail, noting that “one” of the loaves on the Table of Preparation is used for the initial blessing service (St. Symeon, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, Ta Apanta, Thessaloniki, 1983, p. 110) — though there is no indication that more than one loaf was actually used for the Eucharist. Nonetheless, the use of a number of loaves is part of what some scholars call a clear development from about the tenth century on. (See, for example, Father Lawrence Barriger, “The Legacy of Constantinople in the Russian Liturgical Tradition” [Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Vol. 33 (4), pp. 387-416], whose curious view of such things as the “Litany of the Catechumens” may, however, impugn his general expertise in Orthodox liturgical matters.) Others see this trend as the result of a possible confusion among less-educated clergy of the Proskomide with the blessing of the Five Loaves, or Artoklasia. On Mt. Athos, the Eucharist is usually celebrated with two Prosphora, the triangle honoring the Theotokos and the particles for the Saints and other commemorations coming from the second loaf...

Complete article here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

When the baby is evidence... get rid of the evidence

An article by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig entitled "How Tennessee incentivizes abortions: We need legislation that protects pregnancy and mothers, not just unborn infants." This is an important trend that I fear will have implications for the unborn around the country.

(The Week) - August has witnessed a bombardment of bad news for America's most vulnerable mothers and babies.

First, lawyers for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a breakdown of the pregnancy discrimination cases they handled in 2013 — and the big finding was quite distressing. Women in low-income jobs — like food service, retail, and manufacturing — are the most likely to seek help dealing with pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, they found. That's especially alarming when you consider that low-income workers tend to need their work the most, a reality made more grave by pregnancy.

Second, there's already been an arrest in Tennessee under a new law that turns newborns addicted to or harmed by drugs during pregnancy into evidence in their moms' prosecution for assault. Despite the fact that there is little evidence to support the idea that such a measure would dissuade drug use during pregnancies, the law passed with overwhelming support from the Tennessee legislature.

What these two scenarios — the absence of solid labor protections for pregnant workers and the Tennessee punitive legislation — have in common is that they both unintentionally form push factors that make abortion an attractive option.

If fair accommodations for pregnant workers are not legally guaranteed, then women have a great deal to lose from pushing employers to provide them. When a low-income pregnant worker loses her job, she very suddenly loses access to any number of supports, chief among them insurance and income. Faced with these repercussions, it is not hard to imagine how abortion begins to look better than carrying a child to term with no way to care for it.

The same abortion-incentivizing result can be found in Tennessee's law. The possibility of imprisonment for giving birth to a drug-addicted baby basically encourages women in dire straits to pursue abortion instead of carrying their babies to term. If ultrasounds are imagined to be a substantial enough nudge to put women off of abortion, then surely the prospect of jail time — or poverty and lost insurance — is substantial enough to do the opposite.

And that's the problem with current thinking about abortion: A culture of life — one that is truly hospitable not only to the birth of children, but to pregnancy, motherhood, and family life — must be outfitted with legislation that protects pregnancy and mothers as strenuously as it does infants.

Our policy regarding abortion cannot rest on punishment; each mother that is thrown in prison represents one child bereft of a natural parent, a circumstance antithetical to the purpose of a culture of life. Instead of threatening to imprison pregnant women who use drugs, it would be wiser to provide free and reliably accessible health care to treat addiction and the problems that give rise to it. Likewise, rather than presuming companies produce family-friendly cultures on their own, legislation protecting the rights of pregnant workers seems an intelligent investment in moms and their infants.

When Pope Francis remarks on abortion, he often speaks of a "throwaway culture" that "wastes" human life. I believe this to be an equally accurate assessment of the social circumstances that turn abortion into a grim but ordinary reality. It's not only infants whose lives are thrown away by cultures that provide insufficient support for pregnancy and childbearing, but mothers' and would-be mothers' lives as well. A culture of life that prevents the throwaway tendencies Pope Francis rightly condemns should recognize that the relationship between mother, infant, community, work, and care is a thick and irresolvable one. To support infants, we must support mothers in all their capacities, from healthcare to work to child-raising itself.

Friday, August 22, 2014

California *shock* persecuting Christians

(One News Now) - Romanian Christians are familiar with persecution in their home country but they didn't expect to encounter it in America.

The Holy Resurrection Romanian Orthodox Church struggled to find a place to worship in California. After finding a place in the Rio Linda area of Sacramento, church members discovered their biggest stumbling block is city government.

Brad Dacus, founder of Pacific Justice Institute, says one reason Sacramento gave for refusing permission was the location was near a bar, so the location might not be compatible with the neighborhood.

"Another reason given was that they said there were too many churches already," says Dacus, whose law firm is representing the church. "You know, it's not the business of government to dictate how many churches we need."

Church members were shocked at the city's attitude and observed that it reminded them of the hostilities they experienced in Romania, which had been ruled under Communism for almost 30 years during the Cold War.

The country's most infamous leader was Nicolae Ceausescu, whose reign of terror included spying on and imprisoning churchgoers.

Dacus explains: "They recognized clear similarities of the hostility that they had experienced in Romania, being persecuted as Christians, and they were having some of the same kind of resistance to be able to have a place to worship here in the United States."

The law firm reported in a press release that PJI attorney Kevin Snider spoke on the church's behalf at a planning commission meeting, where a 5-0 vote approved the church's plans.

Prayers, please.

This may be the second or third time I've asked for prayers in the seven years I've run this blog. I'll be short and sweet. I'm awaiting a final answer on a parish assignment and the money to make housing and such work isn't there right now. So, in your kindness, please remember my family and me as we go forward. Moving with school starting in three days is not ideal but I'm trusting in kairos over chronos here.

Antiochian Archdiocese adds missions

This might not be newsworthy if I were talking about ROCOR or the OCA, but the Antiochians and the Greeks take a very different approach to missions. I've looked at the Greek requirements for a mission and most Slavic parishes wouldn't qualify. Time will tell as to which model (OCA missions and mission stations or the high hurdles of Greeks) will prove most fruitful. I've been to Greek parishes in the rural South that have money but few people on a Sunday morning and OCA parishes that started with neither and are now thriving. I've also seen men out of seminary put into missions that couldn't support them, forcing young families to go on government assistance and putting them in dangerous situations where a rather pedestrian healthcare emergency bankrupts them. A few hundred years in and we're still feeling our way through how best to effect the Great Commission to the New World.

But, returning to the missions at hand, I'll be in both areas in the near future and hope to make a visit (and take a few pictures). If you, dear reader, visit these or any mission send me photos!

( - His Grace Bishop Thomas announces two new mission parishes being formed in the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic.

Beloved in Christ,

The Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, is pleased to announce that we are beginning to establish two new missions.

The first is a mission station in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For information about this mission endeavor, you should contact Paul Abernathy (; 412-334-0917).

A second mission endeavor is being attempted in Talbot County, Maryland. An advertisement offers information (PDF) about our first meeting, which I plan to attend.

I would appreciate it very much if those of you who are on the East Coast would regularly remind your faithful about both these movements. Those of you who are not in this area, but know people who might live in or travel to this area, please pass this information on.

On triple immersion

Fr. John Whiteford's blog, a post entitled "Stump the Priest: Triple Immersion." The video added is my own.

Question: "I am not opposed to triune immersion, but I do want to question the idea that triune immersion is the ONLY way. Why isn't there a single mention of triune immersion in the New Testament? Other than the Didache, I see no explicit support for triune immersion from the writings from the first and second century. Tertullian speaks of thrice immersions as being "an ampler pledge" than what is found in Scripture. Ampler means greater. Therefore, he is saying that triune immersion is somewhat greater than what Jesus described in Matthew 28, and therefore something beyond what Christ commanded."

There is no explicit mention in the New Testament of either single or triple immersion, and so we have to look beyond the New Testament for answers here. You say "other than the Didache", as if the fact that the Didache does mention this is a small matter. The Didache is the earliest Christian writing that is not part of the New Testament, and was highly regarded in the early Church, as can be seen by its mention in St. Athanasius' famous Paschal Epistle of 367, in which he provides the earliest complete list of the New Testament canon, as the Church has received it. Most of the writings that we have from the second century are Apologetic writings, directed towards those outside of the Church. The internal teachings of the Church were still intentional left unwritten, until the time that the persecutions in the Roman Empire ceased...

Complete post here.

How the world should feel.