Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Abp. Sotirios of Toronto on detractors: "Orthodox Taliban"

H/T: Orthochristian

Abp. Sotirios (Athanassoulas) of Toronto penned this letter entitled "On the Absence of an Ecclesial Consciousness." It's a confusing document. I can't tell with whom he is angry. There are no examples of the unchristian behavior he is so upset with seeing. But he is clear that those in opposition are in fact "tearing the robe of Christ," egotistic, and possibly not even really Orthodox. So I can neither judge the merits of his arguments nor the perfidiousness of the behavior he is seeing. What is the merit of this letter then? A warning to people who guess they are the target? A public message of support for Constantinople? Declaration of anger formatted with a grab-bag of complaints? I don't know. Will anyone know what he is talking about in 20 years? 10 years? 2 years? I struggle to know what he is talking about now and am curious if the average parishioner in Toronto who reads these letters does either.

(GOA-CA) - If you were to read the latest blogs authored by self-proclaimed adherents of the Church, you would be completely stupefied. One wonders whether these authors are really Orthodox Christians? (Patriarchs, hierarchs, priests, elders, monks)?

From their writings, we see that they lack love, peace, prudence, humility and judgment. Above all, they lack an ecclesial consciousness.

Do they remember what Christ said? “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Mat. 7:1). “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Mat. 12:25). “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mat. 24:12-13).

What does it mean to be first among equals? When he who is first presides over a Holy Synod (of a local Autocephalous Church or of a Patriarchate), can someone else be considered first (or equal) to him? When the leading hierarch presides over an Ecumenical Council, can someone else be first (or equal) to him? Is it not the teaching of the Church that in a Synod – any Synod for that matter – he who is first does not decide alone but respects the majority of members? Is it not equally true that neither the members can decide on their own? Would the members of a Synod be able to come together in session without the presence of him who is first? Certainly not. Such a meeting would be an unlawful assembly or an uncanonical plot. Is this not the true teaching of the Orthodox Church?

Those who possess an ecclesial consciousness do not tear the robe of Christ. They do not place themselves above the Church. They do not allow their egotism to dominate and make them believe that they are infallible. Not only in the Church, but also in any well-governed society, what is lately being presented by all kinds of Orthodox ‘Taliban’ in the Orthodox press – to the extent that we can speak of a truly Orthodox press – cannot be allowed to stand.

When some people reach the point where they interpret the will of God through their own egotism, then the situation becomes beyond repair, unless there is real repentance. Orthodox Christians, whoever you are, you need to develop humility, prudence and an ecclesial consciousness.

Those who truly conform to the Orthodox mind and cultivate an ecclesial consciousness do not appear on blogs, but wait to hear the true voice of the Church. The true voice of the Church is presented only by him who presides over a Synod or by the Synod’s official representative. Everything else is the noise and racket of non-Orthodox voices brought on as a result of luciferian egotism.


  1. Disagree with this terminology, rule one of trying to convince someone of your position is to not degrade them.

    1. Imagine if we all had an assistant that stood next to us, recorded our thoughts, played them back to us and then asked, "Are you sure you want to say/write this? What is your intention in saying/writing this?"

  2. If a council requires the approval of a supreme hierarch then why have we (Orthodox) engaged in a millennium of separation from Rome? And if this is the case why not defer to the original "first among equals", the see of Rome?
    Can someone sympathetic to the Ecumenical Patriarch explain this to me? This is a sincere question since I have been taught that the Church was conciliatory and relied on agreement among the various Local Churches and not the decree of one Patriarch.
    If I had been told this as an inquirer I would have, in all good conscience, rejected Orthodoxy then and there.

    1. For goodness sake don't read the 34 Apostolic Canon, your rejection will become complete...Also, Luke, I AM YOUR FATHER ;)

    2. Our Church is Perfect, not the men who run Her. Forgive them their egos and lusts for recognition, power and all that is common to us.

  3. The ecclesiological (not to mention a few other) views of Metropolitan Elpidophoros are not shared by his Constantinopolitan brother bishops. You may be relieved to know that the traditional views of the EP on the matter were expressed by Metropolitan John of Pergamos as follows:

    "Primacy [in the Orthodox Church] can only be exercised through the context of synodality according to the letter and spirit of the 34th Apostolic Canon. The Synod cannot play an advisory role but must decisively arrive at decisions. The primate expresses the consensus or majority of his Synod." - The Synodical System: Historical, Ecclesiological and Canonical Problems. Theologia, vol. 80, 2009, pg. 41.

    Metropolitan Sotirios is correct in deriding the habit of not going to the sources but rather relying on blogs with agendas and not the greater good of the Church in mind.

  4. The Archbishop's letter seems to be confusing, to me. The only issue that the Greek people are raising, at least in the province of Ontario, is his directive that priests must distribute Holy Communion with separate spoons for each person.

  5. “The true voice of the Church is presented only by him who presides over a Synod or by the Synod’s official representative. Everything else is the noise and racket of non-Orthodox voices brought on as a result of luciferian egotism.“

    This is the most problematic part for me. St. Maximos the Confessor called, he disagrees. How many times in the church’s history have patriarchs or bishops in general been the ones declaring heresy? The idea that only they can speak the truth or with authority is totally ridiculous.

    This is what happens when a new ecclesiology is being pushed where only Patriarchs get to vote at councils and you have a first without equal.

    1. The Church vindicated St. Maximus in 681 AD, proclaiming his teaching to be dogma twenty one years after his repose at the 6th Ecumenical Council. Patriarchs and bishops were involved.

      The other thing is that lots of people appeal to St.Maximus in order to circumvent the ecclesial process but since they lack the saint's holiness, it would be best that they do not do that. What will profit the Church is our obedience to our shepherds and when there is a need for a new St. Maximus, our Lord will surely send him.

    2. He’s hardly the only example, just one of the most dramatic ones, but my main point is that it’s simply not true to say that only bishops can speak the truth or the mind of the church.

      It’s also highly convenient to ignore the fact that Ecumenical councils and synods in general, were never just the result of bishops or patriarchs. Laity. Monastics, deacons, priests and monarchs, etc were all involved and important to the process.

      Also, most importantly, what makes a council Ecumenical? The people and the local clergy have to accept it. If the laity universally reject a council, as has happened many times, the bishops are powerless to impose their views. They’ve even been driven out and deposed for robber councils.

      We have a vast history of Saints that weren’t even clergy, let alone bishops and Patriarchs, that have spoken through the Holy Spirit.

      If anything, a more accurate statement would be ‘we often rely on councils to recognize the legitimacy or otherwise expose the error, of something that has come to the attention of the faithful or become a stumbling block’

      And yes, I’d love a council to get together, with clergy of all ranks and monastics and laity, to discuss all the difficulties of our current situation and what theological issues and questions it has raised.

      Assuming it was held in good faith, it could be a great help. But I don’t know that we’ll ever get another ecumenical council before t he 2nd coming at this rate.

      Instead we’re getting the occasional angry rant from bishops like this who don’t like being questioned or criticized, and the occasional letter of encouragement etc and people will listen to the ones they like and ignore the ones they don’t and that’s entirely fine, because none of these carry universal authority.

      We don’t have a first without equal, or any bishops that are Infallible.

  6. Is the intent so foggy? It seems clear to me (although the language and structure are horrible). Follow Constantinople to Rome or you are worse than dirt.

    The man behind the Throne of Constantinople is Mike Pompeo. He is trying to build a strategic wall against Russia.

    I do not know who is behind Pompeo but it used to be the Koch brothers. All my fellow Kansans.

    Do not underestimate Pompeo. He is a man who holds enormous power, has no real conscience but also has the capacity to seem like a nice, well-meaning guy. He has been working on this strategy for a long time. Just because he is no longer "in government" does not mean he has stopped. He is now with the Hudson Institute as a "Fellow"

    1. This analysis is not deep enough Michael, too simplistic. You basically asserting a "follow the money", who is behind who, until we get to the muppet-master methodology. Predicatively it always comes back to the alleged GodFather(s) of the inner circle of the neo-conservative establishment in USA.

      Wholly absent from such thinking is the Greeks, Arabs, Russian Orthodox themselves.

  7. Jake, not the money. I am sure money is involved but it need not be complicated on one level. Pompeo and those behind him are master manipulators and con men. They are able to perceive/learn the prejudices of those they wish to manipulate and use them. In this case they are playing a long con using the rather obvious fact that no one in the Orthodox ethnic world likes anyone else. Exacerbating a pre-existing condition. That condition is, as you suggest, where the complications are.

    Plus, Pompeo et. al. hate the Russians.

    BTW, if you ever are in Wichita you have a standing offer of a meal with my wife and me at N&J Cafe: a Lebanese restaurant that makes hummus that is food of the gods and other wonderful dishes as well.

    1. Yep, that "condition" is the ancient tension within our ecclesiology between primacy/hierarchy and local 1 bishop oversight, between multi-ethnic Empire and unam sanctum, etc. that carries forward through history post-empire, Ottoman and Slavic isolation, nation states, the split of the Church between East and West, yada yada yada.

      I the 20th century you get the Greeks aligning themselves post Ottoman & population exchange with "the west", but this is understandable from *their point of view and interest*. Pompeo and the like are quite beside the point.

      Finally none of this has much to do with the common fear of the EP angling for a false union with Rome. Indeed its quite the opposite, the EP is emphazing that ancient aspect of primacy *within the Eastern Church*, but all this is too subtle for poorly catechised converts/cradle who want to lap up the MP's counter argument and propaganda...would love to meet with you! Hopefully I can make it out there this year!

    2. Jake I think the natural alignment angle is really unfortunately downplayed. It's sad this isn't brought up more. The sad thing is that to recognize this people would realize Moscow is subject to its own alignments and has less politocal independence then it would like to acknowledge.

  8. Jake, if you are coming you can contact me through my wife at Wyldewood Cellars www.wyldewoodcellars dot com.

    {shameless plug} they also make and distribute one of the most potent natural anti-virals available: Elderberry Juice Concentrate--100% natural elderberries and some of the finest non-grape wines anywhere.