Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Confessing the faith that unites us - Fr. Mark Hodges

(YouTube) - Fr. Mark Hodges of St Stephen's Orthodox parish in Lima speaks at Baptist Palm Sunday service. As concerned as any Orthodox would be about the attendance of an Orthodox Christian clergyman to a Heterodox liturgical service and praying with the people present. He does raise some very important points as to what are the foundations for any sort of Christian unity, the practice and beliefs of the ancient Christians of Apostolic time, who were the ones that imparted to the world the salvific Faith in Christ. However his tone and stance is certainly not that which is characteristic of an Orthodox clergyman, but it is probably due to Fr Mark's intuition of his audience. Yet one cannot help feel that things come across a bit too touchy feely with its emotional sentimentality that the Orthodox phronema frowns at as a means of liturgical devotion. Nevertheless we place this clip as a means for reflection on the questions of ecumenism and Christian unity.


  1. For reasons I can't quite yet discern.....this video is deeply disturbing to me.

  2. Perhaps you are disturbed because an Orthodox Priest is forbidden by canon law and the old ecumenical guidelines of SCOBA which are still in force to participate in Baptist or any other denominational worship services.

    Archpriest John W. Morris

    1. Yes. I think that's it!

  3. This is uncomfortable because it seems to me to send a mixed message in the same way "comprehensive" sex ed. curriculum that teaches both that students should abstain from sex outside of marriage and also how to use a condom just in case students won't abstain sends a mixed message. However, to be fair there is a tension in Orthodoxy about heterodox Christians. Quite reasonably, we don't class non-Orthodox Christians with pagans. We do recognize a measure of genuinely Orthodox Christian belief and teaching among them, which we certainly want to affirm and build upon. We also want to build any bridges of communication and love with fellow Christians that we can and take any reasonable opportunity to witness to the fullness of the Orthodox faith. Our clergy preaching or teaching in their churches or other institutions is such an opportunity if it can be done without violating the spirit and intent of the canons. If I understand correctly, the canons are not rigid laws that must be enforced with exactly the same strictness everywhere at all times, but Bishop's have some discretion to relax their application if he discerns that this is necessary for the salvation of others. As far as we know, Fr. Mark did not participate in a heterodox Eucharist, nor commune heterodox in an Orthodox Eucharist, so perhaps this doesn't qualify fully as a heterodox "liturgy." Obviously, I'm not well versed in such things, but perhaps this was some of the thinking behind the decision to use this as an opportunity for an Orthodox witness. Because of this, I can't say whether Fr. Mark should be anaxios or axios. He did send a clear Orthodox message with his words, if not entirely to my satisfaction with his actions, that real Christian unity can only come around unity of Orthodox doctrinal confession and manner of prayer.

  4. If our Lord is working through Fr. Mark to bring that whole congregation to the truth of the apostolic Orthodox Christian faith, then who am I to frown upon it! If the intentions and subsequent results are worldly ecumenism, then we have a problem. I remember hearing a story once again my own Bishop George of Mayfield (ROCOR). He was driving to St. John's Cathedral in Mayfield north on Rt. 6 and the car was coming up upon the new Assembly of God Worship Center in nearby Peckville, PA. The building was huge and gorgeous and the parking lot was filled with cars. Vladyka George inquired as to what was going on in there that the place was so packed? He then wished his driver to pull over so he could go into the service and see what was going on. He wanted to go in, and see what was happening! Who knows how those people or the pastor would have reacted seeing an actual Apostle of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church walk right into their midst. For whatever reason he was convinced (probably due to time constraints of his schedule) not to stop in. But I have a feeling that one day he just might walk right into the Assembly of God see what ensues.

    So, maybe Fr. Mark has similar intentions in mind going to the baptist church, not participating, not praying, but speaking to these people as a legitimate apostolic elder of the One true church.

  5. Amen to Alex.

    I'm giving Fr. Mark the benefit of the doubt to think he may be attempting to bring these people out of error and into the fullness of communion with and knowledge of Christ. He certainly went a long way to speak in ways they understand. I'm also hoping his bishop is solid and aware of this. Surely, his presence will likely make some of them inquire about Orthodoxy. If he's violating the canons for some ecumenical foolishness...anaxios! If he has a blessing to economically bend the canons for the sake of the truth...axios!!

    Additionally, some of our hiearcharchs at the highest levels have repeatedly a lot worse (liturgizing, exchanging kisses of peace in a liturgy, jointly blessing the congregation, etc) and yet some Orthodox will defend their actions even though they're wrong likely just because they're a bishop.

    To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:21-23 ESV)

  6. From what I've read of statements by Fr. Mark Hodges, he seems to mistake membership in the Orthodox Church with membership in the Republican Party of the United States of America.