What to Do?

I have recently returned from a long trip east to the West Coast. I guess you could call it a pilgrimage. One purpose of the trip was to get some rest and relaxation from the ennui of my life in Hawai’i. That’s not a joke. Ennui can set in no matter how swell your everyday paradise is. Go ahead; call me spoiled. However, the more pressing purpose of the pilgrimage was to find an answer to one nagging question. That is this:

Is it time for me to leave my parish in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese?

My travels took me from Los Angeles to the Puget Sound and back again. About 2500 miles of driving through the desert – also known as the Central Valley of California – through the “smoky mountains” of No. Cal. and Oregon to the clear cool skies of Washington. My purpose was to ask the question and listen to the opinions of various laypeople and clergymen, both secular and cloistered, at various parishes and monasteries of several jurisdictions.

All Merciful Saviour Monastery, Vashon Island, Washington

I didn’t get a straight answer. By that I mean that not everyone who opined had the same opinion. I boiled down the answers to four, from which I will have to choose one:

  • The Phanariot hierarchs are pursuing holy goals, so stay loyal to them;
  • Stay where you are and let God deal with the errors of the hierarchs;
  • As a layman, you’re free to come and go, so leave for the sake of your own conscience;
  • Leave because its the right thing to do.

Isn’t it wonderful that there is so much freedom of choice for the Orthodox layman? At the same time, isn’t it baffling that there is so much freedom of choice for the Orthodox layman? It would be easier if I had received one unequivocal answer and an easy way to walk it. As it is, I know that I’ll have to make my own decision – and soon, because I hope to do it before the end of the year. I’m in a position of responsibility at my parish, so I don’t want to fly by night and leave the others in the lurch. Timing is an important factor for all concerned.

The Phanariot hierarchs don’t appear to be pursuing holy goals at all. Patriarch Bartholomew’s meddling in Ukraine’s political and religious affairs is unconscionable. That bothered me more than a little until Abp. Elpidophoros’ recent antics took center stage. I was born an Episcopalian and was ordained an Anglican priest, so the commemorative Liturgy that Elpidophoros served at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Manhattan caused me severe consternation. The fact that our archbishop entered under the rainbow flag on a day during Pride Month and celebrated the Mysteries at that particular unOrthodox parish church bothered me no end. And he later returned to St. Bart’s for a grip and grin with their rector-bishop just to confirm his ecumenist interest in cavorting with the heretic.

St. Nick’s, New York

(And then there’s the BIG QUESTION regarding the $100,000,000 price tag on little St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center. Where did all of that money go, eh? And why hasn’t the little structure been completed…after 20 whole years?)

Back to Elpi’s Pride Month circus. It’s been three months since that day. As far as I can tell, the archbishop has not walked back his abominable act of treachery. Nor has there been a “great and holy council” to defrock the patriarch. Will God ever deal with the hierarchs? Dunno. So, it’s getting close to the time when I feel that I need to act for my own sake.

St. Bart’s, ground zero for the queering of Manhattan, during Pride Month

Back in 1994, I felt compelled to leave the Episcopal Church. No, it would be more accurate to say that I was forced to leave the Episcopal Church because I respectfully declined to accept the ordination of women, the marriage and ordination of homosexuals, and the abortion of the unborn. The “Church of What’s Happening Now”, aka the Episcopal Church, was embracing all three novelties. The diocese wrote me a letter saying that unless I renounced my “rigid views” – their words – they would not accept the transfer of my canonical residence. So I left, shaking the Hawaiian beach sand off my slippahs. It broke my heart to leave the Church of my ancestors, but it opened my eyes to the unsettling certainty that the world had worked its way into the Church that I so loved. Prof. Robert Arakaki has written about the “revolution within the form” in a previous blog posting. In 1994, the Episcopal Church was in the vanguard of the revolution. He and I will likely touch again on the topic as it concerns the Orthodox Church in the coming days.

And now, the same revolution appears to be happening by stealth in the Greek Archdiocese. The signs are everywhere, not just in the actions of the patriarch and the archbishop. Let me offer an example. There is a well-married, yet unbaptized, unchrismated parishioner in my parish who has been given a “blessing” to receive the Holy Gifts. What’s up with that? The camel got its nose under the tent half a century ago when the Church blessed the marriage, even though one of the spouses was a cradle Orthodox and should have been directed to marry someone within the Church. Now the other spouse is able to collect $200 without passing “Go”.

Who is that masked woman? Kim Kardashian’s latest contribution to avant garde fashion.

Loose on sacramental controls, our parish has been strict on the protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Sign up, mask up, take your temperature, answer the questions, follow the usher, maintain social distance. All of these directives have been followed to a “T” for the last year. But, on the other hand, there is no call for regular confession, adherence to the discipline of fasting, or frequent and timely attendance at the Liturgy. Is mine an Orthodox parish, or an agency of the local government, or a Greek social club? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”  Matthew 23:24

On my pilgrimage, I was counseled that it is imperative that I consult my spiritual father and stay where I am or find a parish where I can continue to work out my own salvation. That’s the most salient of issues here. Fortunately for me, our island is small. There is another parish not too far away to which I can repair for spiritual sustenance, if need be.

Well, thank you for allowing me to use you, dear reader, as a sounding board. I would appreciate hearing your opinion before I make my decision. Leave a comment below, if you are so inclined.

Author: Lawrence B. Wheeler

B.A., M.Div. Former Anglican priest, convert to Orthodoxy.

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