Staying and Standing

A certain commenter on another blogsite has recently said, “Stand up for what you believe in peacefully and with conviction INSIDE YOUR CHURCH!!!” It’s a familiar plea, and one not without merit.

Alright, let’s make sure we know what she is talking about here. The word “church” is one of the vaguest of all terms in the English language. It simply must be defined properly. Since the commenter uses all capital letters, it’s impossible to know whether she means “church” or “Church”. The word “church”, beginning with a small “c”, normally means the building belonging to the local congregation of a parish (The parish originally referred to a district or a county, as it does in Louisiana.). It may mean the community of believers that meet in that building. Is that what she means? On the other hand, “Church” with a capital “C” refers rather to the legal denomination or, more theologically, to the mystically body of Christ, the family of God, or the bride of Christ. In other words, the Church, both seen and unseen, militant, expectant and triumphant.

I’m going to venture a guess and suppose she means “church” with immediate reference to one’s own parish. It’s where one goes on Sundays. Since she mentions in her comment the monks of Mt. Athos and the Ephraimite monasteries, let’s take a leap and make the assumption that she is talking about a parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

GOARCH is led by two heresiarchs, schismatics, ecumenists, and globalists. I think you know their names. Now, many people know that these men are a big problem for GOARCH, a ‘yuge problem, as they say in the Big Apple. However, parishioners blithely think that they can compartmentalize. They say to themselves that those men are in New York and Istanbul, and I am here, so I can keep my distance from them.

That is only partially true. And there’s the rub. The parishioner who vehemently disagrees with, for example the patriarch’s ultra vires meddling in Ukraine, or the archbishop’s worldly reaction to the pandemic, and yet, while disagreeing, continues to receive the Holy Gifts in his/her Greek parish and make stewardship contributions and volunteer to help, is tacitly supporting the radical hierarchy and confirming GOARCH’s now-shaky canonicity.

Such a willing parishioner is unwittingly acting as a part of the problem, not as a part of the solution to the problem. If one has the most elemental understanding of Catholic/Orthodox ecclesiology, one will know that the bishop is the sine qua non of the Church (capital “C”). Without the bishop, there is no Church, for it is he who is the successor to the apostles sent out by Christ himself to build his Church. (N.B. patriarchs, archbishops, metropolitans, diocesans, auxiliaries and suffragans are all just bishops, in essence.) The parishioner who is so conjoined to a Greek parish, who listens to the teachings there and who receives its sacraments, is in bed with these bishops. That is because the priest who serves in that parish serves as the bishop’s vicar. The mysteries that he serves he serves in the bishop’s stead, since the bishop cannot be at every parish in his diocese on any given Sunday morning. This is an unavoidable truth, whether or not the parishioner agrees with the priest or others in the parish on the current issues. By his/her mere presence and participation in parish worship he is telegraphing his support.

Do we think we can maintain our independence by simply staying and praying. Or, do we think that we can change things by speaking and acting in a disruptive manner? Can we get the bishop to repent? Or to resign? Or to be deposed? Can we get the priest or the parish council on board with us in opposition? Well, maybe, but probably not. It will do little more than ruffle clerical and “archonical” feathers. We may run afoul of the parish council.

I’ve tried all of those things recently and have little to show for it, except for the hope that the statements about where I stand got some of them to think and search their hearts. God alone can change the hearts of those who have been deceived. He alone can rearrange their erroneous thinking. Best to make your argument known publicly and dispassionately, and then to depart and work out your own salvation in a more orthodox branch of the Church, in peace and repentance if you can. Unless you are in possession of a particular type of personality, the cognitive dissonance or staying in and yet wishing things were different will lead to a disruption of the hesychastic spirit for which all Orthodox strive.

The commenter says, “We may go to another Orthodox jurisdiction but we must stay within the Church!” With that, of course, I fully agree. Not everyone will be able to make the necessary switch in parishes, but those who can make it should make it. Almost any other canonical Orthodox denomination is to be preferred over GOARCH at this point in time. But, God help us if the other jurisdictions succumb to the heretical sirens of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, so proud is it of its supposèd supremacy and numerical plurality.

Author: Lawrence B. Wheeler

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

2 thoughts on “Staying and Standing”

  1. Dear Mr. Wheeler,
    Thank you for your continuing commentary on the Orthodox world. I second your concerns and admonition in this meditation, and in the one concerning Abbot Tryphon and his vilification for speaking the truth.
    Of course, we have exchanged messages in the past regarding your journey from the Greek Archdiocese to ROCOR. I pray that the choice has proven spiritually-edifying for you and your family.
    As for the Archdiocese, I had seen on another site an Orthodox scholar comment that the Archdiocese is akin to the Episcopal Church in 1960 or so.
    Having seen their heresies for some time now, I must disagree with both your reasonably charitable description of them, and that of the other commentator, i.e. GOA as TEC circa 1960. They have long ago progressed to the point that they are, as an institution, in lockstep with the current TEC.
    Thank you, again, for your labors.


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