Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on schism & heresy

Via T-19 Rod Dreher has a very thoughtful piece up on the pain of schism and heresy with an eye to the Episcopal Church. Which is worse? For the record I tend to agree with his views. Be sure to check out the comments below his article. Many of them are well written and thoughtful in their own right.


Anonymous said...

I just posted something on Rod's website, though I realized after I posted it that there's little point in someone listening to me.

I'm not sure what to do about that. For years I've engaged in all manner of online ... well ... fruckuses. But I've become disenchanted.

With online, with magazines, with podcasts, with all of it. Sometimes I think we would all be better off just spending the time we spent on this in front of our icon corners praying.

Anonymous said...


For every person who posts there are probably ten times the number who lurk and never say a word, so you never know what the impact is. If your responses are measured and respectful to those who disagree, and you are able to present the Orthodox position on the topic cogently, others may silently take notice, even if the intended recipient seems deaf.

I'm a recent convert to Orthodoxy (GOA), from TEC - I can't say that the online sites were a significant factor in my conversion, but encountering articulate Orthodox Christians in various comboxes, newsgroups, etc, over the years, helped put E.O on the map for me - otherwise I might have thought the Eastern Churches were a set of peculiar ethnic enclaves with a more or less Catholic theology, and would have never bothered looking.

But I agree that discussions about the TEC are largely a waste of time, and often spiritually unhealthy, particularly to converts who are tempted to look back like Lot's wife.

- Steve

Young fogey emeritus said...

I certainly don't think the Episcopal row is the most important religious story of 2008! First, it's not news: I understand the fundamentalist-modernist wars in Protestantism were in the 1920s after more than a century of discreet agnosticism after the 'Enlightenment', which Anglicanism, partially Calvinist and already compromising the truth thanks to Erastianism, was amenable to. (Conscientious Christians in Anglicanism always felt bad about that compromise; Evangelicalism, Methodism and Anglo-Catholicism all were attempts to fix it.) 'Don't believe in that crap?' Neither did Washington, Jefferson and so on. Second, mainstream society hasn't taken mainline Protestantism seriously in about 35 years as Joseph Bottum explains. So even if the schism were in a more important mainline church, like the biggest one, the United Methodists, it just wouldn't matter.

Dreher's right of course that certain issues are communion deal-breakers and it all boils down to authority, the one difference between catholicism including Orthodoxy and Protestantism when all else seems the same. Those deal-breaking differences are all symptons of the big one. Infallible church or fungible one?

I might have thought the Eastern Churches were a set of peculiar ethnic enclaves with a more or less Catholic theology.

Which I think is largely true.

Anonymous said...


Online websites were a large contributor to my own conversion (though a couple of odd websites/podcast were also barriers).

But two biggest resources were wikipedia (orthodox wiki didn't show up in searches and was very small at the time) and a few well-tempered blogs like that of Fr Stephen Freeman.

I really enjoyed the Crunchy Cons book (though it had nothing really to do with my interest in Orthodoxy), but that blog and other places like orthodoxinfo seem to agitate certain controversies which are not healthy to my thinking.

When I smell humility, love, obedience, sober joy, and such things I tend to stick around. When all the "opinions" and the activists they belong to, come out of the woods I have to leave.

Perhaps I need to learn to love activists better.

Most importantly, despite a good library (both from my protestant past and Orthodox present) I find myself largely unable to be useful in these debates. They are really formed around axiomatically different ways of viewing the world.

It might be valuable to represent the Orthodox way as best as I understand it (I'm pretty much an idiot), but I think its time for me to talk to my spiritual father about it.

God bless and thanks to Ad-Orientem et al.

Anonymous said...


Interesting comments - definitely the advice of your spiritual father would be good before engaging in a lot of blogging/combox communications.

I tend to be wary of what I read on line outside of official Orthodox sites, although some sources, such as 'Glory to God For All Things', are pretty self-evidently filled with the qualities you mentioned - humility, love, obedience, sober joy.

I too have to learn to love activists better, in particular when 'love' means being silent and avoiding an invitation to conflict, and when that means speaking up. I usually opt for silence, if for no other reason than to, borrowing from Satchel Paige, avoid things that angry up the blood.

I found 'young fogeys' brief comments about a historical perspective on the anglican troubles interesting. A lot of the anger I perceive in the comboxes of places such as T19 seems to stem in part from a view that a bunch of refugees and rebels from Catholicism or Evangelical/fundie churches wormed their way into the ECUSA system and are now trying to refashion that church according to an alien radical agenda. I've certainly met counterexamples to this - for example my former rector, quite the radical, is a lifelong Episcopalian. Over time I came to realize that the ingredients for one half of the conflict must have been brewing for a very long time - perhaps up until one generation ago the WASP veneer in American culture required that the modernist/radical tendencies only be clearly evident in the seminaries, such as EDS (my former rectors alma mater).

Anyway, a Blessed New Years to all!

- Steve

Young fogey emeritus said...

Thanks, Steve. I like Fr Stephen's blog too from what I've seen of it: about God, love and spirituality, neither unorthodox nor into polemics.

T1:9's combox warriors have a point that, much like online Orthodoxy, online Roman Catholicism and I pretty much suspect online anything, much of the noise and heat in online Episcopalianism does seem to come from converts, in this case homosexual (and homosexualist), very angry former (born) Roman Catholics and former (born) evangelicals.

I find that I can talk to and be friends with born Episcopalians towards the middle of the road on either side of the hot-button issues. The convert online hotheads are another story.