Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Church Growth and Decline in the COVID Crisis

This isn't a political discussion (have no fear), but rather a talk on what new struggles COVID has given us and what opportunities it has offered us.Also, longtime readers will know I am a big fan of Bishop Irenei of Great Britain and Western Europe, but I think this series transcends my bias.


  1. I'm a eyewitness to the growth of a Russian Patriarchal church in my town that never shut down or denied the Sacramental life to any Orthodox from any other jurisdiction in my town. What the bishop said is TRUE.

    1. This is clearly impossible as such a parish would not have anyone left alive in the midst of this deadly pandemic.

  2. I don't think "fear" (phobos) has much to do with it, rather it is the second thing he points to "wordliness" and unbelief in the form of a habit of mind and heart usually called 'secularism'. "fear" is just an emotional data point, usually of something only partially understood but nevertheless that which has the ability to harm you, those you love, society, etc. I want my children to "fear" what a 2 ton car can do to their little bodies, so I want them to have the appropriate rational response, such as looking both ways when they cross the street or clicking their seatbelts when they get in the car.

    Deadly pandemics are rightly "feared", and in this I can't tell if the good bishop is joining with those who use the term in an immature, accusatory and taunting way. Christ certainly "feared" suffering and death (take this cup, why has thou forsaken me, etc.) and thus fear is not in of itself a sin, though as the good bishop points out Christianly hope and faith in the resurrection is what takes the sting out of death.

    In the end, his thoughts (and certainly Trenhem's) on "fear" and the effects of this pandemic in the Church certainly strongly correlate with the usual progressive vs traditionalist, greek vs russian polemics and this takes away from their voice in my opinion.

    1. It's not a "deadly" pandemic at all. Teach your children basic statistics.


      If you think this pandemic is deadly then you and your family just need to stay home.

  3. Always so refreshing to hear another voice of reason in the sea of fear mongering.

    Also somewhat ironic given that at least one person in that room is incredibly biased (to put it nicely) against ROCOR, and the OCA has been enforcing fearful worldliness as the bishop put it.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. A great video! I don't necessarily see it as a subtle slap against "modernists." It depended on the parish and the state. You saw Greek parishes being staunch in trying to stay open, and ROCOR parishes that were restricted. I think it is a mistake to read our political squabbles into the situation.

    As for the Pandemic, for some communities it is very deadly. In some areas, the hospitals are fine. In other areas, they are overflowing. Just because things are fine "where you live" doesn't mean things are fine everywhere else. Statistics can be misleading, as anybody can fudge numbers to say what they want (it also takes a discerning eye and knowledge to accurately interpret that data, something many people can't do---although they pretend they can to get likes or hits on Youtube).

    Those who call COVID "a hoax" say that "normal, healthy people" aren't dying. Well, the problem here, is that the majority of Americans are not "healthy people." Obesity and other health problems from our lifestyles are killing us slowly. COVID just came along and sped up the process, hitting us in our weakened state. Public health and preventative care is not a political winner, and infringes "on freedom" (it reminded me of the ugly pushback First Lady Obama got when she wanted to reform the school lunches in America).

    COVID has laid bare our moral, spiritual, political, intellectual and physical bankruptcy. "Deniers" and "Vaccine Moralists" are two sides of the same coin, in that their obsession with "normal" prevents them from seeing the bigger picture---that picture being the Pantocrator that watches over all.

  6. It's sad that the pandemic was highly likely man made.

  7. Fear is the greatest weapon of tyrannical authoritarianism. The sheeple played right into their hands. It is said many times in Scripture "Be not afraid." The Church must take a stand against Covidism!

    The pandemic is to force you to get the vaccine. The vaccine is to force you to get the vaccine passport. The vaccine passport is to force you to get the social credit score. The social credit score is to force you to obey the government. The government can then deny you food, housing, medicinal, travel, etc.

    Be watchful. Marxism is alive and well.

  8. Mikail,

    Fear is a weapon of an enemy, yes. But it is the ancient enemy we have to worry about, not "tyrannical authoritarianism," which the Church has seen come and go.

    Interestingly, the conspiracy theories that are so popular in America are not quite playing out globally. EU countries are moving in the OPPOSITE direction, with Denmark and soon Sweden to drop ALL Covid restrictions (the UK also scrapped their plan to increase restrictions). If this is successful, other EU countries will undoubtedly follow suit.

    Vaccinate, Mitigate, and Move On seems to be where they are going. But the EU is the socialist behemoth flirting with Marxism, right?

    What is really going on?

  9. Australia is like a Marxist fortress. America is terminating employees. Healthcare workers who were yesterday's heroes, are today's villains. Canada is not much better than Australia. I hope you are correct about some of the EU nations reversing course. But one thing you are terribly mistaken about Dave...inoculation is not the answer. One cannot even call them vaccines. Not only is there a horrific spiritual admonition (the link to abortive fetal tissue) but the mRNA shots have the potential to cause even more injury and death than they already have.

  10. Australia and North America are reacting based on their own contexts. "Zero Tolerance" was the policy Australia enacted. The US didn't have a coherent COVID policy, which accounts for the gross inequality of result in fighting this pandemic. Canada sits between Australia and the US. Everybody is dealing with COVID as best they can, making mistakes along the way.

    The Vaccine is not the answer, that I agree with. Vaccination is only one aspect of disease control. Our lifestyles and habits are also a part of it.

    mRNA has been around for awhile. The fetal links were not an issue before COVID, when everything else that was tested on these fetal cells was freely used by those making a ruckus now. It is political grandstanding, as time and experience debunk the anti-vax arguments one bullet point at a time. The goal posts keep shifting, going from "the vaccinated will be dead in two years" to "dangerous placebo with adverse effects" and now they are pivoting to the "freedom and abortion argument."

    People can do what they want, but let's be real about things.

    1. I would also add that the Church has spoken sensibly about this issue: The vaccine is not evil, nor is it a magic cure.

      The obsession with "normal" and the visceral clutching of "how things were" has driven people mad, especially in America. I think "how we got here" is a more important question that isn't being seriously considered.

  11. "mRNA has been around for awhile."

    It has never been very successful.

    "The fetal links were not an issue before COVID"

    Poppycock! Of course they were. They have always been an issue! Abortion is abortion!

    "goal posts keep shifting, going from "the vaccinated will be dead in two years" to "dangerous placebo with adverse effects" and now they are pivoting to the "freedom and abortion argument."

    I don't know about dead in two years, Dave. I suppose time will tell. I do know that these so-called vaccines are not blessed by God because of the abortion link...and none of your sugar-coating and justifications will change that. My argument (aside from the obvious abortion link) is that people should have a choice. If you want the mRNA jab...get it. If you don't want it, your livlihood should not be destroyed. That is tyranny.

    1. I didn't see any real push to boycott those products before COVID, and I am not seeing any serious discussion about doing it now, just a lot of flustered huffing and puffing, along with the usual diversionary rhetoric wheeling around back to COVID conspiracies and their derivative arguments.

      It's like "defenders of marriage" being ok with No Fault Divorce and Elvis Weddings (or watching shows about "Bridezillas" and "Bachelors"). Hypocrisy is not a good look on anyone. Horses and barns and all of that.

      There is nothing sweet about any of this. And yes, there is Sin involved when it comes to using abortion tissues. HOWEVER, if we look at the morally illicit (and at times repugnant) means used over time to gain our medical knowledge, how far can we take such argumentation? The "absolutist" argument inevitably comes out self-serving and hypocritical. What good does that do? Our Church deliberated and has come to a sensible and balanced position, I think.

      You can disagree, of course. But again, where does this disagreement come from? I think that is also a question worth reflecting on.

      I won't argue the point with you, as I am firmly with the Church on the free choice of every person. But the "anti-vax" people are just as shrill in their condemnation of those who get "the jab" (cue doom music) as those moralists who condemn the unvaccinated as extremist rubes.

      I think that is also something worth reflecting on.

  12. "I didn't see any real push to boycott those products before COVID"

    That doesn't mean it is blessed by God.

    "But the "anti-vax" people are just as shrill in their condemnation of those who get "the jab"

    Neither side should denigrate the other. And by the way,the majority are not "anti-vax"...they are anti-mRNA.

  13. Freedom of choice seems to be OK with abortion, but, "not OK" with with the vaccine. Umm!

  14. "Our Church deliberated and has come to a sensible and balanced position, I think. You can disagree, of course. But again, where does this disagreement come from? I think that is also a question worth reflecting on."

    It's a great question worth reflecting on. Some Hierarchs within the Church have fluffed away the abortion question. They have jumped through hoops and used worldly justifications to give the green light. Other Hierarchs have stood firm and proclaimed that the properly formed conscience does not give such permission...it is the Law of God. In the end, if you are an advocate for the mRNA inoculation, you will side with the former. For me, when I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, this is one issue where I do not want to be on the short end.

    1. The Church has left the decision up to you, so do what you will. But as I said to Father Alexis, we can invoke St. Mark of Ephesus, but I think it is safe to say that we (and I include myself first in line) are nothing like him.

    2. I did not say that myself or anyone else on this blog is like St. Mark. That would be prelest.

    3. I just read an article about WEIRD culture by Rod Dreher. I’m woefully out of the loop on these things. It brought to mind the question though of if decisions to go along or go against certain people come from a place of WEIRD culture

  15. Dear David B.,

    We might be small in number, but we’ve opposed the use of fetal tissue and cell lines in medicine and vaccines for nearly a decade (some folks longer). It’s not new and it’s not just because of the Covid vaccine. We realize this information is new to most people especially in the church.

    1. Father, Bless.

      I think that is commendable and a blessed work in principle, but despite your disagreements with Jake, his point about the Medical Industry is a good one. I used the Horse and Barns cliche for a reason in an earlier post. Moral theology brings about some hard questions, and the "greater good" argument is one of the most vexing.

      That is why I think we should listen to our Bishops on this one. They are our shepherds. If it was just the Ecumenical Patriarchate encouraging vaccination, many here and elsewhere would scoff. But it isn't just HAH Bartholomew. The Moscow Patriarchate, and every Holy Synod of the Church has blessed the laity to receive these vaccines (while also saying there should be no coercion).

      There are many voices who are contrarian, and wave St. Mark of Ephesus' Icon like a flag. But do we have his humility or discernment? That too, is something to reflect on I think.

    2. "That is why I think we should listen to our Bishops on this one."

      "Do not show obedience to bishops who advise you to do and to say and to believe in things which are
      not to your benefit.” Saint Meletios of Antioch (†381)

    3. Dear David,

      The Lord Bless you!
      I’m thankful for your reply and thoughts. I don’t wish to belabor this topic and related tangents. You’ve offered a nuanced and principled reflection, May God bare the fruit.

      I agree with you, St. Mark is a good example for many reasons and he isn’t a flag to be used. Although he was imprisoned for his lack of capitulation, then subsequently persecuted for that until his death.

  16. In terms of a real “push”, we are basically powerless, so you will continue no real options or alternatives for us.

    But I will point out, in terms of lobby, it’s there. In fact, President Biden specifically undid a President Trump Era restriction of use of fetal tissue.

    Aside from letter writing, essay/article writing, resisting vaccine mandates on religious grounds, discussing with our hierarchy and asking their support and clear teaching, lobbying the federal government, and petitioning companies to produce ethical vaccines, and supporting companies who are working to produce ethical vaccines, I’m not sure what more you think we can do, but we are certainly open to new ideas!

  17. "...I’m not sure what more you think we can do, but we are certainly open to new ideas!..."

    What I really like about your list Fr. Alexis is how it highlights a fundamental (Orthodox) Christian Integrationalism. In other words all its tools/methods (i.e. letter writing, lobbying, petitioning...) are the tools and limits delineated by Classical Liberalism and the society it produces - our society.

    Your not proposing anything more or less than an integrationalist response, such as producing, from the *Christian* ground up so to speak, a real Christian medical alternative structure to the medical industrial complex we all participate in - a serious of Orthodox pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and doctors that would be separate and sustainable alternative system from the current one, and would be inline with our theological anthropology and its ethical implications.

    I agree with you in that "powerlessness" from a Christian ethic is the right word to describe the integrationalist response. Classical Liberalism has it's own ontology and ethic, one that explicitly "brackets off" all other anthropoligies (such as Christianity) for its own view of man and the relationship of practical to theoretical reason. Christians, if they are a majority, can make space for their ethic, but can never triumph. When out of the majority as we are now we are just a small and largely vain voice and we are rightly (as defined by CL) ignored on anything of import.

    Where I disagree with you is your take on vaccine mandates. As near as I can tell your trying to wield CL itself, in this case in the form of "freedom of conscience before God" that is built into it (and birthed in the Protestant Revolution) as a theological and ethical justification within an Orthodox context.

    This is a hypocrisy in that you, your family, your flock are all integrationalists and full participants in the medical industrial complex as it is. When (not if) you, a member of your family, or your flock have an emergent condition, when (not if) you have a chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, etc. etc. who you gonna call? 911 of course and whole body of the current system. Thus, your objection to these specific vaccines and public health mandates are simplistic reasonings - your doing (ethical) arithmetic when the hiearchs of GOA and others are at least doing algebra because they at least account for the complexity that pandemics are not in fact "private" medical affairs, these cell lines and technologies are embedded in *most* of the medicine, etc. etc. In this you claim our are being ethically consistent with Orthodox beliefs, but in fact you are ignoring the consequences of your position to your brother (Orthodox or not). When push comes (and it will), you will lay aside your rigorous ethic and rush yourself or your loved ones to the medical industrial complex just as the integrationist hierarchs you criticize.

    This is all part of being limited to working and living *within* the CL system and trying to be Orthodox in an integrationalist way.

  18. Dear Jake,

    I read your response to me, full of disparaging comments, accusations, and false (inaccurate?) associations. It warrants no response.

    I realize you don’t know me or really anything about me. I am thankful for you demeaning me. God Bless you!

  19. Bless Father Alexis,

    You can always count on Jake for a good dose of calumny.

    1. Dear Mikail,

      May the Lord Bless you and your family and keep us all! Thankful for your prayers!

  20. Puuuleeeease Fr. Alexis, you just this morning (on the "greek-archdiocese-dissolves" thread) said of Archbishop Elpidophoros of, and I quote:

    "...for His Eminence to then throw his clergy and people under the bus rather than support them is a special kind of terrible..."

    This, after accusing him of of false theological and moral reasoning, naturally asserting your reasoning is the Orthodox moral way.

    Instead of throwing a fit, why don't you support your moral reasoning against my rebuttal rather than *simplistically* (and falsely) accusing me of bad faith, mean girl intentions, or whatever is in your mind...or is it *simply* a "special kind of terrible" when other Orthodox folks don't agree with you.

  21. Dear Jake,

    More ad hominems and accusations.
    I’ll be passing up the opportunity of “rebuttal” this time (and for the foreseeable future).
    God Bless you!