Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Antiochian Convention

Regular updates are being posted by the Ochlophobist and at OCANews which is also live blogging the convention. If anyone else is posting updates on the convention please leave a link in the comments or drop me an email (link in sidebar). I will update this post periodically as additional convention related sources are brought to my attention.

Some of the events so far have been absolutely shocking.


Update: The Ochlophobist is so far the only online source that is providing regular "as it happens" (or close to it) updates. Just be sure you have set your coffee down before going there.


Anonymous said...

An old order is fading away but it's death throes are painful.

Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
LaCrosse, WI

Dcn. Carlos Miranda said...

This kind of stuff could keep a person from making the jump to Orthodoxy.

L.G. said...

Dear Fr. Carlos,

Don't be afraid, and try not to let it discourage you.

This is just our precious Lord cleansing His temple. It is hard to watch, but oh so necessary - and it is mostly hard to watch because we are aware of our own sinfulness, and great need for mercy.

The Faith is the same from age to age. Orthodox folk must necessarily take the long view...

I am praying for all that are struggling. You pray too, please.

And while I've got the chance - because I almost never post anything on a blog - let me just say that Fr. Oliver Herbel is a wonderful, wonderful priest. We had the honor of having him come to our parish and serve Liturgy a couple of years ago.

I am praying for you Fr. Oliver!

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. Carlos,
If your looking for a church free from the passions and vices that afflict all humans you will not find it in Orthodoxy. We are not a church founded for the righteous. The Orthodox Church was founded for sinners and is heavily populated by them.

On the other hand I think it's important to differentiate the personal vice and sin from institutional heresy. There has never been a moment in the history of the Church when the former has not been present. But that's a far cry from open heresy.

What we are witnessing here is good old fashioned base corruption. It's sad but it happens. Of course the good news here is that we see virtuous people standing up against the corruption and fighting it. Just as there was a nasty scandal in the OCA a while back which has now largely faded to the history books, this too we will overcome.

It will probably be overcome in much the same way. An alliance of concerned clergy and lay people are rising up and making it clear that they will not tolerate corruption in high church offices. The OCA scandal ended after a messy fight with the "retirement" of it's primate and the election of a holy monastic who had never even been in high office before as his replacement. This sent some tremors through the Orthodox world, and aftershocks are still being felt. As a matter of opinion I think that what we are witnessing in the Antiochian Archdiocese is one of those aftershocks.

What is going on now is the internal house cleaning periodically required when you let too much dirt build up. It's messy, but sometimes necessary.

If this is a deterrent to someone's conversion it can't be helped. Those seeking perfection in their church are likely to be disappointed until they join the Great Majority.

Under the mercy,

VSO said...

Dear Fr. Carlos,

If this was normal we wouldn't be so upset. This is an abomination. I'm more offended by +Phillip and his gang than I am by the gay gestapo.

Ed said...

Perhaps another thing to remember is that any present crisis here is nothing in comparison to some of the previous struggles within the Church.

Let us not forget that it was men of our Church who have had saints put to death, exiled, beaten, and mutilated. Maximus Confessor, after being convicted by the Church of heresy was tortured, had his tongue cut out and his right hand cut off, and was sent into exile. John Chrysostom was condemned by a synod and sent into exile. And indeed many others that the Church is assured are in fact among her greatest saints have been persecuted by men of the Church. Even St. Patrick was ill-used by some of his "brother clergy."

The spirit of Judas is still with us. There will always be weeds in the wheat.

No doubt anyone who would turn back on account of this sort of thing could never have joined the ancient Church at Corinth.

Still, even if one finds oneself faced with a "Corinthian Church," the call of truth and the call of God are still there. Even if dimmed by the blackness in the hearts of some, the Light still shines.

Glory to God for all things!

Visibilium said...

Well, at least the Met isn't backed by the power of the State.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Carlos:

Sin is sin. It is ever present and will attack the Church again and again. There can be no doubt that the actions of some compromise the witness of the Church when they fall to sin. But the promise of Christ is that the gates of hell will not prevail.

What happened in the OCA is ultimately an astounding story of repentance and forgiveness. We pray the same will be true in this case as well.

Dcn. Carlos Miranda said...

What mechanisms exist in the Orthodox church to oust those who violate the sanctity of their office? Can a Metropolitan be removed, if so how?

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. Carlos,
The Orthodox Church is a hierarchical Church that is also synodal and conciliar. Authority typically sits with the local bishop. However each bishop is subject to the authority of the local synod (where there is one) and that to the authority of the Holy Synod of the local church. All Orthodox are subject to the authority and canons of Great Councils of the Church sometimes referred to as pan-Orthodox synods. And of course there are the OEcumenical Councils at the top of the pecking order. Any bishop including even a patriarch can be disciplined by his Holy Synod or a Great Council.

There have been two recent instances of Orthodox primates being removed from office. The first was the most recent former Patriarch of Jerusalem who was actually deposed for corruption involving church owned real estate. Not only was he removed from office but he was deposed from the clerical state altogether and reduced to the state of an ordinary monk. The second was former Metropolitan +Herman of the OCA who "retired" after dragging the OCA into a multi-year scandal and cover up of malfeasance in the central administration of the church. Although officially he retired unofficially it is well known that he was given an ultimatum by the Holy Synod to either step down or be deposed.

This sad time of trial lead to the stunning election of Metropolitan +Jonah. Under his leadership with active assistance from a reform oriented Metropolitan Council the OCA has largely relegated the scandals to the history books, although we are still cleaning up some of the mess left from that sad time. For his part +Herman has been sanctioned by the Holy Synod and is banned from celebrating the Liturgy outside of his current parish.

Metropolitan +Philip is in theory subject to the authority of the local synod of the AOANA. However, he is most definitely subject to the authority of the Holy Synod of Antioch (which actually sits in Damascus). There are many instances in the history of the Church where corrupt hierarchs were effectively removed as a consequence of popular revolts on the part of local clergy and laity. We may be witnessing the beginnings of just such a revolt here. I don't think it will be a mob chasing the Metropolitan from his throne with torches and pitchforks (although that has happened a few times in the past). But we could see a massive refusal to send money to the diocese until reforms are firmly in place and we may also see a direct appeal to the Holy Synod and the Patriarch. There are many ways to exert pressure on corrupt hierarchs.

This convention was just the opening skirmish. I really think +Philip has lost the battle already. He just doesn't realize it yet.



Dcn. Carlos Miranda said...

In light of the process you have described, & if the allegations are true, then it should only be a matter of time before proper order is restored.

As you have pointed out, the OCA's pains turned have out to be a great blessing with +Jonah being made the met., let's pray that the same will be the case for Antioch.

I must say however, that thus far in my inquiries into Orthodoxy I am most impressed with the OCA; Is their any talk of a western rite for the OCA?

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. Carlos,
A number of sources have given me reason to believe that +Jonah is more receptive to the Western Rite than either of his predecessors. That said it wold require a decision on the part of the Holy Synod to erect one. At present there are only two jurisdictions in N. America which have a Western Rite. The first being the Antiochians and the second being the Russian Church Abroad.

It is widely believed that at some point the OCA and the Antiochians will merge. When that happens the Western Rite will of course come with it.


THE AXED said...

Did anyone see the AFR #'s 250,000 downloads per month and 45 podcasts. That is 6,000+ downloads per podcast. With 100,000 people between the Antiochians and OCA that means everybody is downloading at least 2 and a half podcasts per month...

Visibilium said...

There will be no WR in the OCA in this century.

Why not? Widespread opposition to reverse Uniatism.

I'm just reporting the facts. Feel free to shoot the messenger.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I am not gong to shoot you. But I will respectfully disagree. Trying to predict what is going to happen (or not) over the course of a century is a rather futile effort I think. However, even beyond the long term possibilities there are several reasons why I see the Western Rite likely to gain acceptance in the OCA and it is going to happen in the twenty years, not one hundred.

First, I think your reports of widespread opposition are either overstated or outdated or both. What you say was true twenty years ago. I believe it is far less so today. My sources suggest there is a growing interest in the W/R although there are some concerns about the way it has been done in the AOANA.

Secondly, +Jonah is by all accounts highly receptive to the W/R. That counts for a lot. He also is entering into serious dialogue with the new Anglican Church of North America (although his words are clearly aimed mostly at the Anglo-Catholics). He understands that if there is to be any kind of mass conversion into Orthodoxy on the part of the Anglo-Catholics it will require some sort of accommodation for a Western Rite. If there is no room for the W/R then these discussions are utterly pointless.

Third, the W/R already exists in the AOANA and it's not gong away. The OCA and the AOANA are likely going to merge. I see this happening within the next twenty years if not sooner. When it does the W/R will become part of the entity.

All of this said, I think there is a realization on the part of +Jonah and others that the W/R as it has been done in the AOANA has had problems. But +Jonah is not dismissing the W/R because of these. He sees them (rightly IMO) as fixable issues which need to be addressed. The very real issues in the Antiochian W/R do not rise anywhere near a justification for suppressing the W/R as a whole.


Ochlophobist said...


I agree with your assessment with one caveat - it is only recently that +Jonah has spoken in a seemingly pro-WR manner. He has spoken in a very different manner in the past. It seems his views on the matter have changed.


If you are in the OCA or familiar with it, what is your sense of the "political" reality on the ground there? I have heard other OCA folk (mostly priests, in fact) articulate the matter in exactly the same manner you have. What is you sense of how strong the feeling is in regard to this within the OCA? I can speak of two dioceses within the OCA in that regard (as I am familiar with them), but not the OCA as a whole.

Anonymous said...

I have heard others say that they see the AOANA and the OCA merging...I personally would be all for that, but on what is this thought based upon?

Visibilium said...

John and Och,

I hobnob with just about everybody.

The OCA clergy is the source of the opposition to the WR. I've seen near-ecumenist younger priests become apoplectic at the mention of the WR. It's interesting to watch.

The OCA lay converts have already accepted the Eastern rite, otherwise they wouldn't have been received. Any enquirers looking for a WR aren't received into the OCA. Therefore, any of the OCA laity who are aware of the WR issue don't give a rat's patoot, except perhaps as some abstractly desirable evangelism tool.

As far as I can piece it together, the OCA opposition comes from Fr. John's (Schmemann) 1958 article. My view is actually more liberal than Fr. John's since I'm fine with the WR as long as a deliberate and prudential jurisdiction, such as the ROCOR, supervises it and can bring it into the mainstream of Orthodox life. Look, I'm not trying to diss Antioch, since I've received assistance with various matters from fine Eastern and Western Rite Antiochian clergy, but Antioch's reputation for doing new things is clear.

Unless someone is going to execute all of those St Vlad's alums who can spout Fr. John's views in their sleep, the WR is a dead issue in the OCA. And don't forget that the OCA's birth was the result of what some view as an inevitabile outcome of Uniatism.

Let's move on to John's point about a possible Antioch Arch./OCA union. First, such a combo wouldn't result in the OCA as presently constituted, but would be a different entity altogether, owing to the different approaches of the two Churches. The WR would be a part of the resulting entity, but the OCA folks wouldn't have any routine dealings with it. That's the best you can expect. The worst is a shunning of WR clergy by some OCA clergy. Believe me, all of the mythical nonsense about how Orthodox don't do anything unless there's unanimity--that's not true at the grass-roots level and never has been true.

Second, from what I've seen of the recent Antiochian meeting, thanks to Och's diligent reporting, Met Phillip would be nuts to merge with anyone. He's got a good racket going--why spoil it?

Third, Met Jonah is positioning himself to be an American Patriarch. He isn't pro-WR; he's pro-OCA-led American Patriarchate. He's trying to broaden his appeal and let everyone forget that he was just elected the dark-horse head of a scandal-ridden "autocephalous" and "indigenous" metropolia. He's saying everything that Moscow wants to hear. If the OCA could be top dog in a new American Patriarchate, of course they'd swallow the WR. But, then again, the resulting entity wouldn't be the OCA and individual OCA clergy would still be free to not to associate with WR clergy.

Dcn. Carlos Miranda said...

What is the difference between the way that Rocor and AOANA treat the WR?

Visibilium said...

Fr. Carlos,

An academic-style description of the differences is beyond the scope of my involvement in online forums, and ultimately doesn't matter. If you're considering becoming Orthodox, you'll have bigger fish to fry. Finding someplace where you're comfortable is more important than the nice distinctions I'm making. If you develop a habituation to Orthodoxy's Easternness, the WR's importance to you will recede. In my opinion, developing such a habituation will more easily facilitate your acquisition of an Orthodox mindset, which is the essence of being Orthodox. Whether the WR easily facilitates the acquisition of an Orthodox mindset is my primary concern in the whole WR issue. In my opinion, the ROCOR is better suited to shepherd the WR than Antioch at this point in time. As you may see, each jurisdiction's specific treatment of the WR is sort of beside the point.

Xristoforos McAvoy said...

I believe that you are correct that in some aspects, perhaps the majority of them, ROCOR has better handled the western rite than Antioch. On the other hand, Antioch has grown to 10 times more western rite laity than has ROCOR. So I have to be careful to say one is better than the other considering only one has many members, also my experience with ROCOR is based on what i read and am told, whereas I actually attend in person an Antiochian WRV Holy Mass (liturgy) once a month. My top 5 complaints about the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate are: #1 lack of pre-schism western rite/gregorian chant (only forming about %10 to 20 of their music), #2 lack of western rite iconography or frescoes, very plain churches usually. #3 eucharist bread that looks unleavened even if it is leavened, this is rather ridiculous and scandalous. #4 vestments tend to not reflect the actual styles of the 900's to 1200's but are simply the same modern ones worn by everyone else. #5 I believe that it is most sensible to restore the great litany that came inbetween the kyrie eleison/christe eleison responses, even though this litany disappeared by the 900s, we do know for certain what the words were (they are almost the same words as the byzantine great litany) and frankly it makes little sense to continue say/pray responses out of thin air. This also allows the western rites to make more sense compared to the eastern rites. Any historical commonality should be maintained for spiritual and practical reasons. ROCOR does use the litany with its kyrie/christe eleisons and for that reason I admire it slightly more, though I do not particularly approve of them adding a trisagion into it (nothing inherently wrong there but thats too much of an overt byzantinization to happen without the majority of western rite people letting it happen organically it has no prior history in the west except in the gallican liturgy..).

Now I admit these may not be the absolute most important complaints, but for me, miserable sinner that I am and limited in theological understanding, they stood out most obviously. I will add that I am working on adapting the proper english gregorian chant verses used by antiochian WR for every sunday and major feast of the year into Bruce E. Ford's "American Gradual" which was based on neumes in a 10th century gregorian gradual manuscript along with accompanying "prosa ad sequentia" hymn chants from the same period. My complaints are not without realistic remedies. :-) I'm doing something similar with the iconography, with plans and layouts of old and new testament scenes from pre-romanesque italian basilicas and 12th c. central french rural parishes.