Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Access Ann Arbor: an interview on the Orthodox faith

Fr. Andrew Damick on the state of Orthodox in America

A very good treatment of the topic for the non-Orthodox (history, jurisdictions, concerns) and an excellent refresher for those not familiar with the most recent events occurring in America (Assembly of Bishops decisions).

(First Things) - Are you Greek?” This is the question I get asked the most when I tell someone that I am an Orthodox Christian. At first, this question rankled, because I am not Greek. (I am, among other things, Lithuanian.) Mind you, I would have no problem being Greek. It’s a wonderful, ancient culture with much to recommend it. But what rankled was the sense that being Orthodox means being Greek.

It is a touchy subject for many Orthodox Christians in America, especially those who converted to the faith, because the implication of such a close identification of culture with faith implies that the faith is not really for people who aren’t from that culture. And no doubt it can also be touchy for the many Orthodox Christians in America who are from traditionally Orthodox cultures who are not Greeks. There are actually quite a lot of them—in America, there are Orthodox churches representing the Albanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Georgian (the Caucasian republic, not the southern state), Romanian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian traditions.

But I’ve come to see the question as mostly the fault of the Orthodox themselves, who have not quite figured out how to convey that Orthodoxy—being Christianity—is for everyone and doesn’t require a particular cultural identification. We eventually will figure it out, I think. Roman Catholics in America for a long time were pretty ethnicity-bound, as well (everyone knew which was the Polish church and which the Irish), but now hardly anyone expects a Roman Catholic to be from Rome. And it’s less than a century since the average American Lutheran church conducted services in German, Swedish, or Norwegian.

I also can’t blame the asker of that question too much, because recent demographic studies have shown that some 60 percent of Orthodox in America belong to the Greek Archdiocese of America. So, statistically speaking, “Are you Greek?” is a pretty decent guess, even if I wish it were irrelevant...
Complete article here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

cleansed head to toe / a anima usque ad pedibus

From the blog Lessons from a Monastery...

One of [Elder Epiphanios'] spiritual children held a high-ranking administrative position, and when he confessed he would often confess the same sin involving his subordinates over and again. One time during confession the Elder threatened him, saying that if he fell into the same sin again he would receive a very particular penance. “If you fall into this sin again,” the Elder informed the man, “I will make you sit down and allow me to wash your feet.” Unfortunately the spiritual child did fall into the same sin again and Elder Epiphanios made good on his threat. Naturally, this event proved quite a spiritual trial for the spiritual child. After the washing, the Elder said: “Since I know that this makes you uneasy, I will wash your feet every time you fall into that particular sin.” The man never fell into the sin again, though every time his subordinates pushed him to the brink he would shout: “You owe a great deal to the man who washed my feet!” They never knew what he was talking about.

Translated by Rev Dr John Palmer

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Orthodox seminarian charged with solicitation of a child

(Chicago Tribune) - A 22-year-old student at a theological college in Lake County has been charged with indecent solicitation of a child, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Dario Spasic contacted someone who he thought was a 14-year-old boy Friday through a mobile social networking app, and made arrangements for a meeting at 10 p.m. the same day, according to a sheriff’s press release issued today.

Spasic had actually been communicating with a detective from the sheriff’s cybercrimes unit posing as an underage boy, authorities said. When Spasic arrived for the meeting, he was arrested, the news release said.

The sheriff’s office confirmed that Spasic is a student at St. Sava School of Theology in Libertyville, and the address the department provided for him is the same block as the school’s location. St. Sava provides religious education and trains students for the Serbian Orthodox priesthood, according to the school’s website.

A man who answered the phone at the Serbian Orthodox campus in Libertyville, identifying himself as the property manager, confirmed there is a student there by the same name but deferred further questions to another priest, who could not immediately be reached.

According to a sheriff’s press release, the man who was arrested had "requested to meet with (someone) who he believed was the 14-year-old boy" with the intent to engage in sexual activities.

Spasic remains at Lake County Jail, with bond set at $100,000.

He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

Patriarch Kirill: I'm not a Kremlin crony

Moscow, September 25 (Interfax) - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia rejected accusations of being a vehicle of the Kremlin's policy.

"In some countries, - and the current situation in Ukraine exacerbates this issue, - the person of the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia is linked to the Russian Federation alone and his principles are equated with the policy of the Russian government," Kirill said at a meeting in Moscow with participants in the Faith and World festival of Orthodox media.

No statements by the patriarch or the church are cited in leveling such accusations at him, he said.

"This is done indiscriminately, especially in Ukraine today by members of, to put it mildly, non-canonical Orthodox entities. They just indiscriminately represent the patriarch as part of the state - he is a vehicle [of state policy], and so he mustn't be let in, and so he is all the bad things, and so forth," Patriarch Kirill said.

He said he was responsible for Moscow Patriarchate-governed Orthodox communities in all countries where they exist, and not only in Russia.

"The Patriarchate is not an entity within one specific country, it is not a church entity that covers one specific ethnos. It means canonical jurisdiction over part of the world," the patriarch said.

He added that none of these communities has privileges over others.

"They are all parts of his flock, and this puts certain restrictions on the patriarch, it makes the patriarch take account of the interests of all Orthodox people who are under his jurisdiction," he said.

Orthodox-Catholic dialogue produces statement

Amman (Zenit.org) - Here is the statement at the conclusion of the 13th Plenary Session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

The meeting was held Sept. 15-23 in Amman, Jordan. The commission is continuing its discussions on synodality and primacy.

* * *


The thirteenth meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church was held from 15 to 23 September 2014 in Amman, Jordan, a city with a long history related to the roots of Christianity. The meeting was generously and fraternally hosted by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Twenty three Catholic members were present, a few were unable to attend. All the Orthodox Churches, with the exception of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, were represented, namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

The Commission worked under the direction of its two co-presidents, Cardinal Kurt Koch and Metropolitan John of Pergamon, assisted by the co-secretaries, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Msgr. Andrea Palmieri (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).

At the opening plenary session held on Wednesday, 17 September in Mahktas, the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, the Commission was warmly welcomed by the host, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, who emphasized : "that there can be no genuine dialogue without the presence and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for it is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth (cf. John 16:3)".

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Dormition of the Theotokos in Bucharest


Indian Orthodox pondering an Orthodox university

BENGALURU (Orthodox Herald) - Indian Orthodox youngest bishop has set his vision for Bangalore Diocese with focus on the education sector. Metropolitan HG Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim has envisioned setting up of an ‘Orthodox University’ on the city’s outskirts.

In all about 10 to 12 acres, 30 kilometers beyond the Bengaluru International Airport in Devanahalli area, was spotted for the University. Registration deal for the property failed to materialize when real estate agents hiked up the prices at the last moment. Though, this has come has a setback, the Diocese is scouting for new spots around fast developing areas like Malur (in nearby Kolar district), Kengeri, the satellite area of Bangalore, for the project.

Disclosing these details in a telephonic interview with this correspondent, Mar Serpahim said he desires the proposed university to be set up on the lines of Christ University in Bangalore. Managed by priests of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, Christ University on Hosur Road, is a private deemed to be university and is the first indigenous Syrian Catholic religious congregation in India.

Land acquisition will be the main criteria for the Diocese in the coming days, Mar Seraphim said, adding that this will be the only project of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church if it comes up in future. “Agriculture lands can be used for educational purposes and the project will be launched in a phased manner, in stages of about 4 to 5 years. We will not launch it at one go, but go about in a phased manner – maybe start from primary school onwards and develop it further to extend it to university level,” Mar Seraphim explained.

A new blog: Notes on Church History

(orthodoxhistory.org) - This past weekend, I introduced a new blog, Notes on Church History, which is part of the brand-new Ancient Faith Blogs network. If you like our work here at Orthodox History, you’ll probably like the work I’ll be doing at Notes on Church History, and I really hope you’ll check it out.

OrthodoxHistory.org isn’t going anywhere, but as you may have noticed, our posts have become a lot less frequent. The main reason for that is that I’m now a lawyer with three kids, whereas when I started this blog I was a student with one. A lot can happen in five years.

Which might mean I’m crazy to be starting a second blog — after all, I can barely maintain the blog I have! But there is — I think — a method to my madness. In a nutshell, this is the plan:

Orthodox History is the place to go for original research and somewhat longer articles on specific subjects — basically, what you’re used to seeing there. Notes on Church History is more free-form. There will be shorter stuff there, and random facts and photos and trivia that I run across in my research. “This Week in American Orthodox History” will be there. When I publish something long and involved here at Orthodox History, I’ll make a shorter companion post over there. Notes on Church History is the hors d’oeuvres, Orthodox History the entrée.

Also, I’m not the only person who will be posting stuff at either website. Here at Orthodox History in particular, we get superb contributions from my fellow SOCHA directors Aram Sarkisian and Fr. Andrew Damick, as well as Nicholas Chapman, among others. I expect that you’ll see those names and others over at Notes on Church History.

That said, I should point out that Notes on Church History technically isn’t connected with SOCHA. It’s my own personal project, much like the American Orthodox History podcast. Orthodox History, on the other hand, is the official SOCHA website. Of course, given that I’m the editor and main author at both websites, they’ll naturally be interconnected.

So keep coming to Orthodox History for original research and new discoveries, and start reading Notes on Church History for fresh, random, and informal bits of information on church history.

I really hope you’ll enjoy the new blog, and that you’ll keep following us here at Orthodox History as well.

On the new online Masters program in Pastoral Theology

(Antiochian.org) - The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK recently announced that it is launching a fully online MA degree in Pastoral Theology. The degree will be offered jointly with the Cambridge Theological Federation. The Institute, with support from Antiochian Orthodox Christians amongst others, has successfully provided this degree in a face-to-face format at Cambridge, UK for 15 years and is glad that it now can be offered to people living around the world. The program is available to anyone who has completed a bachelor's degree or can demonstrate professional experience equivalent to an undergraduate degree. Fluency in English is necessary.

"The program," says Institute's Principal, Professor David Frost, Ph.D., "provides an opportunity to explore the intellectual foundations and spiritual dimensions of the Orthodox Christian faith. Each course module will assist learners explore the eternal significance of the human experience while illuminating God's transformational plan for them and their ministry whatever that might be. The degree's focus is to teach the faithful how to be an effective Christian and leader in today's complex world through sound biblical and doctrinal theological training provided by our expert and distinguished faculty members and outstanding tutors."

This graduate degree can be completed in either one or two calendar years according to Dr. Christoph Schneder, the Institute's Academic Director. He explained that: "Full-time students take two modules in each semester followed by the MA dissertation and are able to complete the degree within one year of registration. Part-time students take one module per semester, followed by the MA dissertation. The program must completed within 5 years of registration."

The degree offers, among other things, an opportunity for independent study, an Orthodox approach and understanding of ministry in its many forms, liturgical theology and the mission of the church, and an in-depth study of pastoral theology in history and practice.

To learn more, email info@iocs.cam.ac.uk.

Monomakhos: Episcopal assembly "voting with their feet?"

From the blog Monomakhos, a post entitled "Cracks in the coalition?"

Well, it looks like the Episcopal Assembly’s high point was the first year it met seems to me. Sixty-five bishops attended if memory servers. Every year since it has gotten fewer and fewer attendees. True, the Central American and Canadian bishops went off and formed their own Assemblies (as was logical). But even then we’re talking nine or ten bishops at most subtracted from the initial sixty-five. Also, the OCA has three vacancies, so that leaves at least fifty who should have been there.

According to the Assembly’s website, there were “more than thirty bishops there.” (The next day they revised it upward to “more than thirty-five.”) Well, that’s pretty pathetic if you ask me. It reminds me of the pettifogginess that we are used to getting from the GOA in past; i.e. “Archbishop Demetrios, spiritual leader of over 1.5 million Orthodox Christians,” or “Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual head of 350 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world,” etc. Such special pleading is unbecoming of a mature Church. Regardless, this downward trajectory was predicted five years ago by many on this blog (as well as others.)

Now please understand, we may just be talking about growing pains here. Last year ROCOR more or less said “thanks, but no thanks” to the entire process and the patriarchate of Antioch ordered all its bishops worldwide to pull out of all Assemblies. They’re now back, whether chastened or with some concessions in their back packet I honestly can’t say. It is to be remembered that they pulled out not because of the process, but over the uncanonical actions of the the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Qatar. Still, the optics of this last conference didn’t look good. Besides the radical diminution in the number of the bishops, the Question-and-Answer session was heavily scripted. Only five bishops were chosen to respond to some carefully-screened softball questions. And none of the bishops were from the OCA.

This is not usually the sign of a going concern. If I had to guess, I’d say that some bishops –and jurisdictions–are voting with their feet.

Canada gets a new Orthodox camp

I was hoping moving forward we would move camps into a more pan-Orthodox "feel" or at least start up new camps without a jurisdictional bent. Right now camps are overlapping and not coordinated in any way. If you go to a Greek parish you might have no idea there was an OCA camp being put on in a few weeks. How wonderful would it be if places where an Antiochian, OCA, and Greek camp already exist merged those efforts into a single, well-attended experience?

(Antiochian.org) - During the last week of August, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Camp St. Innocent (CSI) took place, the first ever Antiochian camp in Western Canada. The camp took place at the Gull Lake Centre, an excellent facility located about eighty-five miles south of Edmonton, Alberta.

The camp was sponsored by St. Philip Church in Edmonton and Annunciation Church of Calgary, but campers also came from Saskatoon, and Vancouver. There were 23 campers in total, which for a first camp seems to be a pretty good turnout. This is especially true if you consider the long distances some of the campers had to travel to come to camp. The campers from Saskatoon drove for over seven hours and the campers from Vancouver about twelve hours.

Although the travel times were long, the camp was worth it. The campers got to swim and canoe in the sparkling and warm waters of Gull Lake, they also spent one afternoon rock climbing, and on the rainy day played games in the very large gymnasium. And did I mention the food? From carmel oatmeal in the morning to build-your-own burritos and roast-your-own hot dogs over an open fire, everyone had plenty of good food to enjoy. As I heard one camper remark as he was going up for seconds: "But it's still not as good as my Mom's."

Three clergy attended the camp and provided morning and evening liturgical services and daily teaching for the campers along with lots of cheering and support during the game times. During the daily teaching time, the clergy spoke about the meaning of Faith, as the theme of the camp was "CSI: Investigating the power of faith." In addition, some of the clergy were even seen playing soccer and canoeing with the campers.

On the first evening of the camp, one of the clergy spoke to the campers about the life and legacy of our Father Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory and together we prayed the Trisagion prayers for the peace of his soul. Also, Chris Shahid gave an interesting talk on the life and ministry of St. Innocent (the patron saint of CSI) and then we all joined together in a service of supplication to St. Innocent.

By the end of the week, many strangers had become good friends, and everyone was eager to come back next year. So many people worked long hours and contributed funds to make this camp successful that I could never thank them all. However, I would especially like to thank Chris Shahid from the Antiochian Village who did an excellent job running the daily program and even pinch hitting as a cabin counselor when the need arose. But most of all I need to thank Nellie Salloum for the hours and hours of preparatory work she put into making Camp St. Innocent a reality.

And now we can all hardly wait until next summer. Since the first year of Camp St. Innocent has been such a success, I suspect that many more campers will join us next year.

Lengthy OCA response to "canonical restructuring"

(OCA) - A Preliminary Response of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to proposals with regard to canonical restructuring, a topic of discussion at the fifth meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America in Dallas, TX September 15-19, 2014, was issued and distributed to all bishops on September 17.

The text of the Preliminary Response reads as follows.


September 17, 2014

“The light of Orthodoxy was not lit to shine only on a small number of men. The Orthodox Church is universal; it remembers the words of its Founder: ‘Go ye unto all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature’ [Mark 16:15].... We ought to share our spiritual wealth, our truth, light, and joy with others who are deprived of these blessings, but often are seeking them and thirsting for them….” [St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Enlightener of North America Homily for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1903, San Francisco].

The fourth gathering of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North America (ACOB) took place on September 17-19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. At that meeting, the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning presented a Proposal for Canonical Administrative Restructuring, which was discussed in detail at several sessions by the assembled bishops.

According to the minutes of Assembly IV, “[t]here was a general sense that there was no agreement on the proposed model at this time, but that the model was a good starting point for further discussion and development.” In addition, the suggestion was made that, “following the conclusion of Assembly IV, there should be discussion within each jurisdiction about the proposals.”

More recently, the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning has forwarded to all the bishops of the Assembly an updated proposal for canonical restructuring in our region along with a second unsolicited proposal from an interested group outside of the Committee. These are being discussed at our Assembly gathered here in Dallas. Several jurisdictions have already offered responses to the most recent proposals or expanded on the comments they have made about last year’s Proposal.

The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America is presently considering its own fuller and more comprehensive contribution to the present discussion but offers the following points as an outline of some principles which we feel should be considered by the brothers of the Assembly:

Winning the race - slow and steady

Slow posting of late due to moving and parish assignment coordination. Thanks for reading and for your prayers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bishop Michael of New York visits Poland and Presov

(OCA-NYNJ) - At the invitation of His Eminence, Archbishop Abel (Diocese of Lublin and Chelm), Bishop Michael journeyed to Poland from 11-22 August 2014. Joining him from the diocese were Father Wiaczeslaw Krawczuk, Father John Shimchick and his son, John. Beginning in Warsaw, the group was formally received by the leader of the Polish Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa. Accompanied and guided by Archbishop Abel they visited many churches, monasteries, and pilgrimage sites.

Of note was their participation in the yearly celebration at the Holy Mountain of Grabarka on the Feast of the Transfiguration (old calendar, 18-19 August).

His Grace and Father Wiaczeslaw also traveled to represent the Orthodox Church in America at the enthronement in Kiev, Ukraine, of the newly elected primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry.

The visit also provided unique opportunities for reconnecting with family. While in Presov, Bishop Michael met for the first time a cousin, Father Michal Rosic, an Orthodox priest living in Slovakia. While the others were in Kiev, Father John and his son spent time with family in Jaczno, about an hour north of Bialystok.
Two very interesting stories from the trip available here.