Sunday, October 11, 2009

A response to an attack on Metropolitan +Jonah and the OCA

As much as I dislike criticizing other Orthodox bloggers, a recent post I stumbled on is really over the top and requires a response. I am not going to quote extracts of the blog post in question. Rather I would encourage the reader to peruse it for themselves in its entirety. It can be found here.

Done? Good.

In my opinion this is an extremely unfortunate piece which is based on misconceptions and a rather pronounced anti-convert / American prejudice. But here are a few quick points ...

1. Met +Jonah is meeting not with the Episcopal Organization (I refuse to refer to that body as a church) but with a group of High Church Anglo Catholics who have separated from the Episcopal Organization over precisely the issues which the author decries.

2. Only one diocese in the ACNA admits women to ordination. The others do not. And there is strong internal pressure to end the practice.

3. The rejection of homosexuality is quite clear on the part of the ACNA.

4. +Jonah in his address to the inaugural convention of the ACNA laid down a series of conditions that they would be required to meet in order for them to be accepted in Orthodoxy. Among those points were an unconditional acceptance of the decrees and canons of the seven OEcumenical Councils, a rejection of iconoclasism, a rejection of Calvinism which he pointed out is a condemned heresy, repudiation of the filioque, and the rejection of female ordination. He affirmed that these points were non-negotiable.

5. +Jonah has made it quite clear the OCA will not hold any dialogue with the Episcopal Organization nor any other "church" which has so grievously abandoned the most basic tenets of Christianity.

6. The very snarky and rather personal judgments and comments about Orthodox clergy and Hierarchs in good standing are unbecoming. I will not dignify them with any further comment.

7. The OCA is the daughter church of the Russian Church and is recognized by the Russian Church as THE CANONICAL AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH in North America. Further the Patriarch of Moscow has not forbidden any other Orthodox Church from holding dialogue with anyone. Indeed he could not do so if he wished (which happily is not the case). Patriarch Kyril is no more the Orthodox Pope than the Ecumenical Patriarch (though at times I wonder if Bartholomew gets it).

8. The question “should the OCA be permitted to continue its partnership with the Anglican Church?” is first offensive and secondly inaccurate as there is no partnership. This is a discussion with High Church Anglicans who have been alienated by their own communion and many of whom are looking at the Roman Catholic Church as a possible place to go. +Jonah is presenting them with an alternative to Rome.

The entire tone of this blog post is frankly shocking and filled from beginning to end with misconceptions, inaccuracies and really offensive references to clergy and converts casting aspersions on their faith while highly suggestive of a desire to preserve the Orthodox faith as some sort of ethnic club. Fortunately it bears no resemblance to the position of the Russian Church with whom the OCA enjoys very cordial relations.

For what it’s worth I have serious doubts about the process. I think the idea of bringing the whole of the ACNA into Orthodoxy is silly. But there are clearly some very strong Anglo-Catholic elements who are not far removed from Orthodoxy on a doctrinal level. Apparently the author sees no point in speaking with such people in the hopes of bringing them into the Church. But then again I haven’t seen any enthusiasm on the part of the author for missionary work on the part of Orthodoxy post 10th century when the Slavs were converted.

The last time I checked the Great Commission has not been repealed. And you can't convert people you wont talk to.

Hat tip to ROCOR UNITED.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this clarification John. I'll add a link to my original post to refer them back here. I admit my familiarity with the Anglican / Episcopalian situation in the USA could be better. Although Orthodox by baptism & practice - I attended a (conservative)Anglican school for all my school life and have a great deal of sympathy for the conservative Anglicans and share their distress at the damage the liberals have done to their worldwide communion in recent years. The situation in the US is not dissimilar to Australia. Indeed we have an unusual situation right here in Sydney where we have an very conservative Anglican bishop who unfortunately combines his conservatism with a fundamentalist evangelicalism (ie no room to talk to the Orthodox).
Re met Jonah - I actually quite like Met Jonah and I hope he does the right thing.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thanks for the comment and for posting the original article. I probably would have missed it otherwise.


yudikris said...

Thanks very much for this useful and full of love clarification. I was really shocked to read that particular post in that blog and the comments followed. I keep praying for new converts into Orthodox Faith, like myself to be delivered from doubts and confusions!

Thanks very much :)

Fr. Andrew said...

If you have ever read the weblog in question in the past, you will likely find that its author pursues a basic formula:

Muscovite Orthodoxy / Russian Ethnicity and Culture = Good

Anything Which Even Appears to Contrast With Moscow or Russianness = Apostasy

Once you get that basic formula down, you can see where pretty much everything else proceeds from there. I was particularly amused this time at the reference to "high class" Russian emigres in the ROCOR. (Being "high class," you know, is bad, especially when it means being Episcopalian. But if you're Russian, well, then "high class" is something to flaunt!)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nikolaus said...

I have followed her blog for awhile and find her opinions trending towards a reactionary, anti-convert fringe. She clearly prefers that Protestants in general, and very pointedly Episcopalians in particular, to risk their souls in their current denominations and stay away from Orthodoxy rather than "taint" her church.

The assessment above that anything which contrasts with Muscovite Orthodoxy = apostasy is accurate. She is passionately opposed to coverts. The fact that +Jonah is a convert supercedes the fact that he is the Metropolitan, duly chosen by the Synod, and she is particularly harsh on him.

Sadly, I see very little of the Gospel in her opinions. Thank you for this response.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

The saddest part about her blog is the blind support she receives from otherwise intelligent and thoughtful bloggers like Kevin Edgecomb and Esteban Vasquez. Just as there is a blind hatred out there for 'traditionalists' and either the EP or Moscow, there is a camp that is similarly blinded by hatred of the OCA and 'liberalism'. Of course, there is merit in critiques of both sides - as there is merit to some of the broad point raised by Vara/Stan - but they are often lost in hyperbole, straw men and a simple desire to be right and for 'them' to be wrong; there is little benefit of the doubt given and the other side is simply tarred by association with whatever seems most 'tarring' to one's own partisan passion, e.g., HOOM, SVS, New Skete, Athos, monastics, ROCOR, EP, Moscow, Antioch, converts, cradles, ethnicity, Americans, etc. Little in the way of listening or understanding is to be found, little in the way of simple Christian charity, much is given to partisanship and rivalries of the past, the assumption that converts never convert, ethnic Orthodox are always right (unless they are Schmemannites or Old Believers it seems; really it's just whether they are in a different 'camp' on a given topic), and that simply being associated with a 'bad group' (like the OCA) makes one as execrable as the most intransigent of heretics. This is simply a holdover mentality from the worst days of the MP/ROCOR/OCA/Evlogite schisms where everyone enjoyed anathematizing everyone else along stereotyped lines of argumentation - while ignoring the same 'tendencies' in their own group (e.g., Khrapovitsky was considered a 'liberal' prior to the Revolution).

The topics raised by Vara/Stan are interesting and should be discussed. I wish she'd simply ask the question first, though, or make a case rather than simply tarring organizations for affiliations. For instance, blaming SVS for the Iliff suicide is insulting: the affair was illicit, the Dean was fired, the Professor was fired and defrocked, there is a great deal of support for Iliff in the student body, etc. HOOM is treated as an OCA-specific issue when HOOM parishes and monasteries were primarily received into the Serbian and Bulgarian jurisdictions, and Met. Jonah was the head of a very ROCOR-friendly monastery before becoming Metropolitan (St. John of SF is still not 'officially' on the OCA calendar of saints, but he founded a monastery dedicated to him!). Essentially, most of Vara/Stan's diatribes are prime examples of the sort of 'remembrance of wrongs' Orthodox Christians are meant to confess.

And no, I am not a former Episcopalian, I am not affiliated with HOOM, I, too, have venerated the Kursk Root icon and have a copy of it, I, too, respect Met. Hilarion, I do not like the ecumenical movement, I have never attended SVS, I am not a fan of Schmemann, and all the other bugaboos of this nut. Everyone should simply ignore him/her.

Brad in KY said...

In the post to which you've linked she also takes several swipes at Fr. Stephen Freemen. In a comment I very respectfully asked her to substantiate her silly claim that Fr. Stephen would quickly leave the Orthodox Church if another truly conservative Anglican Church were to materialize. She deleted the comment.

Chukcha says, "Put your money where your mouth is." Chukcha says, "All bark, no bite."

That being said, I don't want any part of accusations that she's really a man, etc. unless that can be truly substantiated. Let her be the silly conspiracy theorist. Don't act like she does...

Anonymous said...

In the end we do need to pray for Barbara-Marie, because the hatred and anger that is coming from her towards her brothers and sisters in Christ is horrific, and can not be helping her spiritually either.

A priest needs to step in and help her, and be prepared to get a backlash from her, but try to help here nonetheless. What I find sad is that she is actually good friends with Fr. Andrew Phillips who runs an over the top slander site (Orthodox England), which in many ways is similar to hers, and he from what she says actually encourages her "work"! This whole situation is tragic!

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Hi everyone. I just got a chance to check all the comments most of which are very good. Thank you. However, I do need to remind people to stay on topic and not to post attacks of a personal nature. Also as a matter of courtesy please refer to the blogger by the name she has chosen.

And yes I have noticed (as I think I implied in my post) that Vara is a hard core slavophile who has little use for anything outside of her understanding of Russian culture.


Unknown said...

She often has great photos. She used to be on my blogroll, until she took out after me for using the word Rusyn, and used it as a springboard for her anti-Carpatho-Russian diatribe.

I removed her then.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Her blog does indeed have excellent photos. Unfortunatly the written material that goes with it seems to be crazy and half paranoid. Her pathological hostility to converts and anything she perceives as even remotely non-Russian would be amusing if it were not for the fact that as another comment above noted, there are people who actually take this claptrap seriously.

Under the mercy,

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

The saddest part about her blog is the blind support she receives from otherwise intelligent and thoughtful bloggers like Kevin Edgecomb and Esteban Vasquez.

Thank you for the (backhanded) compliment. I assure you we are both still intelligent and quite well-informed.

She is passionately opposed to co[n]verts.

This is mistaken. She, like all Orthodox, are not opposed to converts. She uses her term "konvertsy" for a particular kind of convert, particularly those who would try to adapt Orthodoxy to their immaturity, rather than to grow in the Faith. Others describe such converts as suffering from "convertitis". Her beef with those clerics she names are for their horrendous behavior, not for the fact of their being converts.

Photini said...

I posted a comment that for some reason did not make it through. I'll just reassert the main point. The distinction between "converts" and "ethnics" is not a meaningful one. We are all converts, without exception. God has no grandchildren. Whatever the weaknesses and sins of those not born into Orthodox families, it seems uncharitable to slap the hands of people trying to climb into the Ark of Salvation just because they are not the children of those already on board. Americans are drowning in a sea of false religions and Orthodoxy offers them the truth. People bring their baggage with them-some of it is compatible with Orthodoxy and some of it is not. That which is not may take a long time to get rid of-does anyone think that when the Slavs converted they all instantly became purely Christian, purely Orthodox? Anyone who goes to church with "ethnic" Orthodox, as I do, can tell you that "converts" have no monopoly on sin, ignorance and bad behavior. It is the unfortunate lot of us all. A baptized/chrismated Orthodox is just that-an Orthodox Christian. How good an Orthodox Christian they are is not based on whether they were born into a family that already had membership in the Church.

Photini said...

By the way, I would also add that when we disagree with people we are duty bound by our Faith to try to do so in charity. On Vara's blog she explicitly says that some people she disagrees with can "get stuffed and be damned." What is of Christ, what is of Orthodoxy in this attitude?

Reader Michael said...

Hello, John:

I just posted this comment over on ROCOR United (which, BTW, is one of my favorite blogs, along with yours and Fr. Stephen Freeman's).

I have asked the webmaster to consider removing Drezhlo's post from his website, and banning her work from ROCOR United in the future.

If ROCOR United does so, then I recommend that you consider removing this rebuttal post as well. The reason is, that we need to start "cutting off the oxygen" to such bloggers as these, in exactly the same way as you have urged the political Right in the U.S. to shun and disown "Birthers," "Deathers" and the like. Deny these people publicity, and the harm they can do will be minimized.

I usually stay out of comboxes, as I consider them to be spiritually unhealthy places as a whole. However, when someone starts telling willful misrepresentations about people I know, the gloves come off! It has been six years since the last time I had to do this. I hope I never have to do this again.

Reader Michael Martin
Auckland, New Zealand

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Reader Michael,
For what it is worth I generally concur with your assessment of the blogger in question. I have been perusing her blog and some of the posts are just beyond the pale. There is certainly no way I could ever in conscience link that blog on my own site.

That said, I am not a fan of blogging revisionism. Once I post something I don't like taking it down. It is a bit like erasing history. Only once in the three years or so that I have been at this have I deleted a blog post. (I posted a very erroneous and harshly judgmental attack on someone without the facts. After having my errors pointed out I posted a formal apology and deleted the original blog post.)

There is another problem and that is that like it or not, Vara claims to be Orthodox and presents her opinions as representative of Orthodoxy (which in many cases they are clearly not).

If an inquirer were to stumble on her blog and that post in particular they would likely never give Orthodoxy a second glance. While I agree that wing nuts and extremists need to be shunned I do not think that silence is always the best response. Sometimes one needs to forcefully condemn them. Silence can be interpreted as acquiescence or even agreement. It is worth noting that someone posted a link to my response in the comments of her blog post. (I and Fr. David were slandered in a most vulgar way.) But the point is that someone reading her viscous post will know that there are people in the Orthodox Church who think she is way off base.

Earlier today in correspondence with another Orthodox blogger I noted that I partly regretted my responding to her post since it would only give attention to someone I don't think should be getting any. But upon reflection I think we need to speak up and make it clear to all that this sort of thing is beyond the pale and not representative of Orthodoxy.

When someone makes manifestly false claims and does so pretending to speak for the Orthodox Church I believe that silence is not an option.

Under the mercy,

Reader Michael said...

@17: That is a good point, John, and well taken.

My only worry, is that it is easy to get sucked up in the drama these people create, and that is why I often avoid an answer. It does depend on context. Perhaps this worked out for the best after all.

Esteban Vázquez said...

Oh, my! I was utterly unaware that, while otherwise intelligent and thoughtful, in this matter I was lending blind support to anyone. And here I thought that I was merely expressing my approval of assessments of various situations with which I happen to agree! Clearly I will have to be more careful in the future; surely I would have no idea of what sort of sycophantic mischief I was up to unless I had been so enlightened.

Regarding the matter of the Primate of the North American Metropolia and his recent social engagements with heterodox of the Anglican variety, there are two separate questions on the table: his address to ACNA and the recent proceedings at Nashotah House.

In his address to ACNA, Metropolitan Jonah spoke of "full intercommunion" as the ultimate goal. This is a disingenuous thing to say to those poor people, particularly when one takes into account the long history of the use of this term in Anglican-Orthodox relations (for which cf. Archpriest G. V. Florovsky, "Orthodox Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century," in vol. IV of his Collected Works, pp. 213-277). With this word in the picture, whatever calls were proffered for adherence to Orthodox position on the points listed above do not equal a call to conversion to the Orthodox Church, but give the ACNA false hope for corporate intercommunion with the Orthodox Church that does not require their ceasing to exist as an Anglican body and their incorporation to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as an historical and tangible reality today. I can hardly think of a more uncharitable thing to do to such people, who as best I can tell, are full of nothing but good intentions.

And then, after telling the ACNA that the Metropolia would suspend all "ecumenical relations" (a meaningless expression if there ever was one) with the Episcopalians, he himself presides over the recent proceedings at Nashotah House, an institution which, whatever its sterling relations with the ACNA, still belongs to the former religious organization (and which, among other things, still provides institutional support for the ordination of women). This is a regrettable instance of double-timing.

As for the perceived "anti-convert" bias of Vara's blog, if she has it, well, then so must I. This would be hopelessly self-defeating--you know, like being a self-hating Southerner or some such. But in fact it is nothing of the kind, as Kevin (who also would be a self-hater in that version of the story) has already noted. Her "konvertsy" are my "militant Americanist Orthodox." Neither term is used solely of "converts," but various "cradles" likewise fall squarely within the definition. In fact, I rather like the "konvertsy" bit, which is pun well known among churchly Russians acquainted with this particular type: "konvert" is the Russian word for "envelope." And how is an envelope like these characters? Well, they come and go, they come and go...

John (Ad Orientem) said...

What Metropolitan are you referring to? I was referring to H.B. Metropolitan +Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. I am not aware of any canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in N. America that is called the Metropolia.

On a side note I would concede that there is plenty of room for reasonable debate over the extent and nature of Orthodox contacts with the heterodox. However the post I responded to is not reasonable. It is so full of falsehoods and distortions that I think the word slander is not off the mark. And some of the comments posted are simply venomous and repulsive.


Esteban Vázquez said...

John> Goodness! Between the "Estaban" and the "Vasquez," I'm starting to wonder if anyone is actually talking to me! ;-)

I am referring to Metropolitan Jonah, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America, usually styled the Metropolia. As for me, I am not aware of any autocephalous Church in this continent!

That aside, in my comment I sought to address some of the points you raised in your post regarding the recent contacts between ACNA and the Metropolia, since I assumed that to be at the heart of the discussion. Forgive me if I have misunderstood; it was not my intention to derail the discussion!

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Esteban Vázquez,
Please forgive my failure to spell your name correctly. I assure you no offense was intended.

As for "the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America, usually styled the Metropolia," in case you missed the memo; it was granted autocephaly by the Russian Church nigh on four decades ago. It is now known as the Orthodox Church in America and is referred to as such by all of the canonical Orthodox churches.

While the OCA's autocephaly is not universally recognized, its standing as a self governing canonical Orthodox Church is not disputed. The OCA is in full communion with all of the world's canonical Orthodox churches including the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

What you refer to as the Metropolia ceased to exist somewhere around 1970.

On the matter of relations with Anglicans I am actually somewhat sympathetic to your point of view. I think the vast majority of them can not be brought into the church in the sense that they are hoping for. It is true that several Orthodox churches granted some form of recognition to Anglican orders in the early part of the last century. But I place no stock in that at all for more reasons than I care to enumerate right now.

It is sufficient to say that I doubt any of those churches stand by their earlier positions on the matter.

The possibility however does exist that some of these could be brought into the Church via the Western Rite. But even there I understand that Met. +Jonah has been quite clear that their orders will not be accepted. This means they will need to be received as converts.

All of the above aside the point of this blog post was not to debate the wisdom of engaging traditionalist Anglicans in ecumenical dialogue but to refute a scurrilous attack on Met. +Jonah and the OCA.

Under the mercy,

Michael said...

In my opinion this is an extremely unfortunate piece which is based on misconceptions and a rather pronounced anti-convert / American prejudice. But here are a few quick points ...

It looks to me like she is anti - konvert or konvertsy. In other words she has a particular kind of American convert in mind alluded to earlier on in this comment thread.

Met +Jonah is meeting not with the Episcopal Organization (I refuse to refer to that body as a church) but with a group of High Church Anglo Catholics who have separated from the Episcopal Organization over precisely the issues which the author decries.

Nashotah House is no a longer a part of TEC? That is not at all clear from their website. According to their wiki entry they are still a part of TEC. Do you have verifiable information otherwise?

Only one diocese in the ACNA admits women to ordination. The others do not. And there is strong internal pressure to end the practice.

Then why did the speaker opposite Metropolitan Jonah at the Nashotah House conference go to such length to point out that womens ordination to the priesthood was a tough issue that needed to be worked out (the filioque and calvinism being the other two), and that most of the worldwide Anglican communion is not opposed to such a thing (women priests)?

He sounded like Nashotah and the OCA might agree on no women bishops but he wasn't willing to go there in terms of women priests.

Further he made it quite clear that they (Nashotah) would not go against the consensus of the worldwide Anglican communion on this issue (of women priests).

Out of curiosity, have you listened to the presentations?

The very snarky and rather personal judgments and comments about Orthodox clergy and Hierarchs in good standing are unbecoming. I will not dignify them with any further comment.

She thinks their silence regarding a number of issues (betrayal of the confessional by Valencia, the missing 4 years of financial records, etc.) makes them complicit in these affairs. It seems to me that issues of this nature should be just as pressing as all the issues surrounding +Philip.

It also appears that she is referring to the behaviors of particular people, not the people themselves.

The question “should the OCA be permitted to continue its partnership with the Anglican Church?” is first offensive and secondly inaccurate as there is no partnership. This is a discussion with High Church Anglicans who have been alienated by their own communion and many of whom are looking at the Roman Catholic Church as a possible place to go. +Jonah is presenting them with an alternative to Rome.

What exactly then is a signed "covenant agreement" between two theological institutions? Has anyone actually read it?

I couldn't find the language you quoted

“should the OCA be permitted to continue its partnership with the Anglican Church?”

in the post you linked, but it is clear from the Nashotah website there is an agreement between SVS and Nashotah.

Esteban Vázquez said...

John> Oh, I know that, of course! No offense was taken--I assure you that everyone else does it too. :-) I find it a bit amusing: "estaban" is, after all, Spanish for "they were at..."

Regarding the Metropolia, I'm sure that I didn't miss any memos that matter!

And I will refrain from commenting further on the Anglican-Orthodox issue, as you state it was not the thrust of your post, but I note that I concur with all of Michael's observations above.

Anonymous said...

A few general thoughts...

1) Regarding the blogger in question, contrarians attract contrarians (but eventually they also drive each other off). I will restrict any further specific observations about the blogger in question to criticism for saying things like "Mr. Freeman", "Mr. Paffhausen", etc. She may not like the people in question, and she is free to not like them, but to disrespect their ordinations is shameful and scandalous. In general, I'm afraid I fail to see how either Met. +JONAH or Fr. Stephen (of all people, good heavens) constitute "militant Americanist Orthodox".

2) Regarding the Nashotah House conference, I fail to see how an academic relationship between seminaries, is not a separate issue from the OCA's relationship with TEC. One might as well criticize SVS' relationship with St. Nersess Seminary (or even Fordham University, for that matter), or Holy Cross' participation in the BTI. If there is nonetheless an ecumenical flavor to the events surrounding the inauguration of this reltionship, I fail to see how it could be legitimately otherwise, given the unique context of Orthodox-Anglican relations (see also the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius). For it to be otherwise would constitute a failure to discuss the 2-ton elephant in the middle of the room.

In other words, I'm afraid I really don't see how there's any "there" there, one way or the other. Maybe that makes me "militant Americanist Orthodox" too, rather than a real Orthoox Christian, in which case I have no doubt that it will be brought to my attention.


123 said...

I, for one, am really quite saddened and hurt by the kind of language Vara uses on her blog. I find her less than fair on really any topic she discusses; I find that she purposefully misrepresents facts and actions to further her own partisan position.

I have been equally saddened over the years by similarly toned language against 'reactionary ROCOR' and the 'graceless MP' and the 'dhimmi EP'.

Many of the issues she touches on are important. So important, in fact, that they deserve far more serious and respectful treatment than Vara and her commentators give it on her blog.

Issues regarding what conversion means, what respecting ethnic traditions means, what are proper and improper ecumenical contacts, how autocephaly is granted, the canonicity of overlapping jurisdictions based on national origin, what first among equals means in practice (between local churches, within archdioceses, etc.) and how we highlight or obscure the gospel (what's that, again?) by our conversations and preoccupations are important topics. If they were as clear cut and easy to solve as those on every side of such debates would have us believe (or, so their self-righteous tone would imply), then I am sure the Orthodox would have figured it out by now, but they haven't. Let's be a little kind to each other as we are all in this mixed up mess inherited from previous cradle, convert, Russian, Greek and American generations of Orthodox that we are all convinced that they, and they alone, knew what really needed to be done. I would submit they were pretty much all wrong all of the time - and yet still we have received Orthodoxy from them pretty much intact despite all the monkey business (in all the jurisdictions and in all of the mother churches back home, regardless of education, lack of education, monasticism, anti-monasticism, language, conservatism, liberalism, ancient languages, translations, democracies, autocracies, civil wars, persecutions and plenty).

Referring to the OCA as the Metropolia is basically akin to referring to the Ecumenical Patriarch as Patriarch of Istanbul or Byzantium, or the Patriarch of Moscow as the Soviet Patriarch. Such things aren't said in love or with a care towards healing, they are side as mere swipes. This is especially true given Met. Jonah's statement that unity is more important than the OCA's autocephaly, even if that means the OCA gives its received autocephaly and 'primacy' up in favor of it.

Anonymous said...

My family was Russian Orthodox as far back as we have memory. I have worshiped in Russia in several cites and important Cathedrals and venerated many holy relics and icons in Russia. I have seen many problems in Russian and American Orthodoxy, but I have never met or encountered this type of pharisaical and un-Christian spirit in person. I don't say this to criticize anyone: I just hope that people don't find her blog and confuse it for Orthodox Christianity. The right response for all of us is not to comment or condemn: it is simply to pray.

Anonymous said...

Just my comment from ROCOR United re this issue:

I've reviewed all the material and taking note of John's comment directly above, as well as all the comments under his response on A/E, I'll leave the original post as it is. The response and comments address the issue succinctly and provide a solid refutation of Vara's opinion and I think that's sufficient. It was not my intention to bag the OCA and I did not read the original transcripts in as much detail as I should have. I am postively inclined towards the OCA and we have only published positive stories about them in the past. As I have probably mentioned before - although I grew up in an Orthodox family, I attended a (conservative) Anglican school myself for 14 years from kindergarten to the end of senior high and so am very familiar with their issues and have sympathy for the conservative, old-school Anglicans (and esp "High" or "Anglo-Catholic Anglicans" who have had it with the liberal dismantling of their church and are looking for somewhere to go. I agree that we should reach out to that faction and have a dialogue that faithfully represents Orthodoxy and if Metropolitan Jonah is doing that, then its fine with me

Alex - ROCOR United

Fr. Christopher Cantrell SSC said...

It is with some fear and trepidation that I post here - I am an Anglican priest of 22 years, the son of an Anglican priest of 52 years. I read the referenced post and was quite put off by it. Does it represent missionary outreach of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? If it does, then Wow! It appears that, if I believe what has been written, I am beyond the pale. And that saddens me greatly. I have personally been immensely heartened by the invitation that Metropolitan Jonah has extended to those of us Anglicans who sincerely desire to uphold and practice the Apostolic Faith. I have understood him to be proposing that we Anglicans journey towards Orthodoxy with the ultimate goal of full eucharistic fellowship. As Anglicanism collapses (and it certainly appears to be doing just that!), should we look toward Orthodoxy, or are we wasting our time?

I have no difficulty with any of the non-negotiables that Metropolitan Jonah put before us at the ACNA Provincial Assembly at our cathedral last June. He was very clear about that - I take him at his word that he was "speaking the truth in love," And I believe that most of the clergy in my diocese could join me in saying the same. But is there any point in us even considering looking toward you Orthodox? If we take up the Metropolitan's invitation to dialogue, there is no doubt that we must move toward you, we know that. But, again, are we wasting our time?

My understanding was that there was real ecumenical progress being made between us and you until 1979, when the Episcopal Church embraced the ordination of women to the priesthood. We here in Fort Worth have remained steadfast in our opposition to that and other innovations that we have seen to be departures from the Faith of the undivided Church. I also recall from my childhood many Orthodox who worshipped with us in our churches because there was not an Orthodox parish nearby. Are those folks still around?

In all humility, thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Christopher, as an Orthodox Christian who was confirmed and married as an Anglican, I certainly hope you are not put off. I am afraid that the days of Orthodox being told to go to an Anglican church if there is not an Orthodox parish nearby have been over for some time, but nonetheless the kind Russian gentleman running the book counter in the very first Orthodox church in which I ever set foot told me, when I said I was an Episcopalian, "Ah, yes. You're actually the closest to us."

I might broaden Fr. Christopher's question, however. Some decades ago a very young Anglican named Timothy Ware was told by a priest that the practical pastoral concerns of his existing parish community meant that receiving him as a convert would be impossible. One wonders from the current exchange if in some ways we have come full circle, if we're at the point where we're telling ordained priests, consecrated bishops, and chrismated laypersons who used to be Anglicans that they're not actually Orthodox.

It is incredible to me how quickly some Orthodox are ready to claim being more Orthodox than everybody else. Something about bearing each other's burdens comes to mind, but what do I know? I'm an American, a convert (what term would make people happier? First-generation Orthodox Christian?), and a convert from the Anglican world, so that's at least three strikes against me.

(My full real name being Richard Raymond Barrett, just in case anybody is curious. OpenID automatically fills in the name of my blog as my posting name.)

123 said...

I have rarely heard (though I guess I could have missed it) comments as bigoted as those by Vara. Given that many ethnic Orthodox converted as adults (especially if they grew up under Communism), I would say most Orthodox in the world are converts of one ethnicity or another. Immigrants can also go through a great deal of difficulty being bicultural in an emigre environment, i.e., how do differentiate yourself culturally, justify you residence abroad and embrace the country and culture you are living in (or not).

She hints at but does not really address the issue of conversion, though. Broadly, there are three types of converts: those that do not fully convert bringing with them a great deal of baggage with them and expecting to 'fix' Orthodoxy, those that over-convert and 'go native' adopting purely cultural aspects and opinions of ethnic Orthodoxy (e.g., the convert in Russian peasant shirt comes to mind as does the Greek language scholar becoming Orthodox), and those that find the historical middle way of religious conversion mixed with a respect for ethnic Orthodox cultures without abandoning their own culture's neutral mores and norms. Orthodoxy does not come to us hermetically sealed from cultural influence; Orthodoxy comes to us 'charged' with not just a culture, but multiple cultures. How to disentangle religious tradition from cultural tradition is difficult; there is not clear line of demarcation in cultures where faith was so interwoven with culture for so many centuries. The Soviet and emigre experience has helped to identify that line since it became possible for one to identify as Russian or Greek or Romanian without also being Orthodox, too. But, we are also dealing with generational differences: older Greeks grew up in a decidedly Orthodox milieu, younger Greeks have not always had the same experience; Russian emigres in the West may have grown up in a cultural that consciously held on to the religions and mores of Tsarist (or, Holy) Russia whereas Russians growing up under Soviet rule often converted only after the fall of Communism - there is a Romanian priest and his wife I know that only converted after emigrating to the US, in an anglophone parish in New York (are they cradle or convert?); I know the daughter of a White Russian refugee that converted in the same way, though she had grown up areligious in France.

Conversion is an art, not a science. There are pitfalls. Vara and those that support her kind of language and tone have fallen into one kind of pitfall (i.e., being born ethnically Orthodox means you are Orthodox in all you say and do vis a vis converts and their race-traitor friends), though the points they raise are not always without merit (i.e., there are too many too willing to 'americanize' the services).

123 said...


I for one simply think that each parish should be there to serve every Orthodox in the region regardless of culture, as well as all non-Orthodox regardless of culture. This will necessarily mean that liturgical practices unique to different cultures will be mixed, lost or maintained with those of other Orthodox cultures (e.g., 'Russian' parishes chanting "Most holy Theotokos, save us" during litanies; saints of both Calendars being commemorated; Greek parishes chanting the full antiphon Psalms, etc.) This will also necessarily mean that a language common to all the people will be used in the main; in the US, that would usually be English - thought smatterings of all the native and Orthodox tongues will likely be used (my multicultural parish serves primarily in English with good doses of Slavonic, Georgian, Romanian and Greek; we used to do Arabic, Spanish and French, too, when our community required).

I would note that many Orthodox wonder whether Western Rite parishes often 'fully convert'. I think it is easier to assume not much has changed and no conversion has taken place if nothing of a parish's worship and practice has changed in that conversion. This may be especially a danger for those that have knocked around various Continuing Anglican denominations. Such parishes also have their priests ordained in the Orthodox Church very quickly not allowing them to absorb what is different about Orthodoxy from being a Protestant. The Western Rite has not been a rousing success in the Orthodox Church to date, so many are wary of its wisdom and of the ability of the WR itself to 'carry' Orthodoxy successfully.

In short, ignore Vara and her ilk and keep talking to Jonah.

Fr. Christopher Cantrell SSC said...




Phil said...

Fr. Christopher, to put it less elegantly than orrologion, this person is one crank who runs a blog, not someone who speaks for the Orthodox Church in any capacity whatsoever. We should pray for her, not allow her to call the Orthodox path into question. Christ told us His Gospel was to be preached to the ends of the earth, not to the exurbs of Moscow. Draw your own conclusions as to the blogger in question and her supporters vis-a-vis their relationship with that Gospel.

123 said...

The more I have read of Vara's blog, the more I think of the Father Vasiliy character of 'The Onion Dome'. For a couple of selections see:

I'm not actually sure she is real. She's so over the top that I think she must be a character; the recent language against pseudonyms simply being ironic - maybe even performance art.

"Was it irony and blogs and godless performance art in Nineteenth Century Russia? No, it was not! Is outrage!"

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note on the issue; I live in Albany, NY, where "Vara's" blog originates. This individual was a member of my local Orthodox church and left under a cloud of personal tragedy and controversy. I do not believe that this, or any, is the forum to be discussing such matters, nor will I. All I will say, having a very good knowledge of the background of this person's tragic life, please take my word and consider the source, before possibly contemplating that hers' is the voice of Orthodoxy in America. I have found both this blog and ROCOR United to be very well balanced and thoughtful, as well as thought-provoking. And, of course, we should be mindful of all official websites.

Anonymous said...

As i pointed out on her blog. She is treating you the way Photios Jones treated other people. Which i think is an irony, given the fact that he was instrumental in helping you convert from Catholicism or at least SSPX. You're on the recieving end of this kind of vitriol, i wonder what your opinion of Jones is these days?

Parker Wise

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Daniel's decent into a schismatic sect is a source of great sadness to me. He was not always that way as anyone perusing his comments from several years ago could tell. He remains in my prayers.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Soson, Kyrie, ton laon Sou, kai evlogison tin klironomian Sou. Nikas tis vasilevsi kata varvaron doroumenos, kai to Son fillaton, dhia tou Stavrou Sou politevma. Amin.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Barbara-Marie or Vara is vindictive, even if she/he sometimes makes a good point. Google his/her name and you will learn more than you probably want to know.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thanks for your comment. Please be assure that it's not personal but I ask that any comments on the blog be posted in English. My general rule of thumb is that if I can't read it then please don't post it. Feel free to translate your comment into English if you want. Otherwise I will regrettably delete it later tonight.

This particular discussion has unfortunately not brought out the best in everyone (including me). So I feel that I really need to know what is being posted here. Thanks...


Fr. Andrew said...

For those who can't read the bit of Greek above, it's the apolytikion of the Holy Cross:

"Save, O Lord, Thy people and protect Thine inheritance, granting to the kings victory over the barbarians, and by the power of Thy cross preserve Thy commonwealth." (italics in original post)

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thanks Alice for you comment. Irrespective of what Barbara-Vara is posting on her blog about me or others, I do want to remind people to try (and I think I have slipped a bit here myself) to avoid getting personal. It is I think sufficient to note that almost everyone I have heard from on this issue seems to feel that her comments about Met. +Jonah and the OCA were way out of bounds and that a lot of what has been posted on her blog is at the least controversial and not representative of Orthodoxy.

Under the mercy,

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. Andrew,
Thanks for that translation. I will let the comment stand. Critical comments are fine and to be honest if in fact that was intended as a shot, I think it was one of the classier ones I have received over the years.

Under the mercy,
John (the Barbarian)

Fr. Andrew said...

John, my suspicion is that Romanos meant to make a pun on the name of the author of the subject of your post, which of course in Greek literally means "barbarian."

John (Ad Orientem) said...

FR. Andrew,
Well that went right over my head lol. Thanks for clarifying.

John (no longer the barbarian)

fdj said...

Vara posts nice pictures from time to time. Her words though, leave much to be desired. I only visit on accident.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Yes, brothers, I admit it! It was the pun on the name of the antagonist that I was pointing to in quoting the Greek hymn that I sing at least once every day, and NOT a stab at the author of this blog. I'm glad that Fr Andrew clarified it—he is quite correct in everything he said. Thank you, Fr Andrew, and forgive me, brethren, if I forgot that not everyone who is Orthodox knows a little Greek.

I too am one of the "konvertsy" according to Vara's lovely rhetoric, altho she has dignified me in her blog with more colorful epithets, such as "putz", "gasbag", "pseudo-elder" and "schmidiot". I suppose she uses these sophisticated names to demonstrate her ability as a linguist, such as when she ends some of her pronouncements with the phrase "nicht wahr?"

Just for everyone's info, since I've never commented here, I am a Polish-Jewish-American, former Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox (since 1989) layman living in Portland, OR. I blog for Christ and His Church, and my blog is directed to open a window for evangelical Christians on Orthodoxy as I think and practice it as a Greek Orthodox. (I am in good standing with my church.)

I speak and/or read and write a half dozen languages besides English, including biblical Greek, and I'm currently working on getting my Hebrew good enough to read unpointed texts. Not to brag, but perhaps to qualify, though I am just an am ha-aretz, a boor, I am nonetheless fairly well-armed in the attic, and consider it beneath my dignity to duel with a woman, but rejoice to get mud slung at me by one.

Alice C. Linsley said...

"beneath my dignity to duel with a woman..."

Ouch! But no argument from this woman, except to say that the "am ha-aretz" were probably Abraham's relatives, and as he is named the "Father of Faith" I'd not want to call them boors.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Hi Gang,
Recalling Fr. Stephen Freeman's rule that once a combox discussion hits 50 further comments rarely add substantively to the topic at hand; I think that it is time to draw the curtain on this one. What needed to be said has been, and I think everyone was given a fair opportunity to express their opinions. I appreciate everyone's input (including those who did not agree with me).

If anyone would like to discuss this post with me or feels that something needs to be added not already covered then feel free to drop me a private email.