Come out from among them

A comment on the weblog Monomachos got me to respond:

Why would anyone stay Greek Orthodox with this now (speaking about regular people, that is, not those whose incomes are tied to this stuff)? How can regular people fight this? Withholding contributions from their parish? Every priest reports to his higher-up that reports to his higher up, eventually Elpi… are we condoning this by contributing funds to our churches?

That is the $64,000 question. Depending upon the makeup of one’s personality and the degree to which one has suffered in the past under episcopal misrule, the response will be different. I am a serious-minded former clergyman who has been fighting and regrouping from the onslaught of heresy for my entire adult life. Over the years, that tide flushed me toward Orthodoxy, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have finally discovered the Church of the Apostles, and though its customs are sort of weird, I can be confident that there is no farther to look.

Consider then how dismayed I was to see the infiltration of the atheistic utopian vanguard into Christ’s Church. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in particular has been severely compromised for the last century. The leadership’s recent forays into schism in the Ukraine, and into immorality regarding homosexuality and abortion, and the megabuck corruption in New York and Istanbul must not stand if the GOA wants to remain a canonical jurisdiction.

Throughout the so-called pandemic, I sat on the parish council of a Greek Orthodox church. That involvement gave me some insight into the inner workings of the broader Church. I saw some areas of strength in our metropolis’ governance, but other aspects were deeply troubling. One of those problems was the draconian measures that shut down the churches’ liturgical life in person and put it online. What a grave mistake that was! A misguided non sequitur! How can one then participate in the mysteries, which are essentially tangible means of receiving intangible grace? It is a logical impossibility, and yet our parish followed the metropolitan directives to a tee. Even our medical officers were duped as they considered protection from a bug that kills only those whose health was already compromised by age, disease or obesity. And our priest was weak, knowing that he might very well be removed from his pastoral cure and transferred – or worse, deposed and left by the roadside along with his family. Orthodox bishops carry a big stick.

And then we come to the issue of money. There was some temporary abatement of the parochial assessment, but our treasurer made it clear to us that the metropolis was very keen to have its pound of flesh. Our assessment for this year was a figure in excess of our income from stewardship pledges. Without the constant income from ownership of the land beneath the apartment building next door, parish finances would run into the red. With this in perspective, it was particularly irksome to watch with suspicion the financial malfeasance in New York, especially the astronomical sums of money that just poured into the construction of a national shrine that looks more like a nuclear power plant than a temple.

Some who are Greek Hellenists have a primordial bond with the GOA – a bond that can deny or withstand the corruption, both theological and financial, that has so soiled that jurisdiction. Knowing now what I had come to know, and being the wary warrior that I am, I got to the point where I could no longer stomach the corruption and left the parish and vowed not to return to the GOA until it had had a major overhaul. I.e., penitence and amendment of life across the board.

Hardly a saint myself, I needed to find a purer expression of Orthodoxy to find healing for my own soul and advancement in the virtues. Thanks be to God there was a Russian parish to which I could repair for that purpose!

Not everyone is willing to pack up and leave his parish. Many Greeks have their ethnic bond to the GOA which prevents them from leaving. Some converts from elsewhere remain ignorant of the heresy, schism and malfeasance. Or, they just feel comfortable in their habits. “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Let them all know that a goodly portion of their financial contributions to the parish go to the metropolis and the archdiocese, which are guilty of this corruption. Greek or not, if they feel that they must remain, it would behoove them to find a creative means of supporting their priest and his family that circumvents the need to pour money into a bottomless pit of corruption. Regardless of their personality type, loyalty to Christ and his greater Church demands that they pray for metanoia and that they protest the evil actions of Abp. Elpidophoros and Pat. Bartholomew.

There is a woeful lack of catechisis in the GOA, so ignorance of sacramental theology is a problem. Most laymen do not know that participation in the chalice at the parochial level is, among other things, an expression of support for the hierarch. Many months before I left my Greek parish, I decided that I could no longer remain loyal to hierarchs who were not loyal to Christ, so I stopped receiving the Eucharist and I stopped paying my pledge. Those were the practical means for me to both obey my conscience and express my displeasure. Months thereafter, weary of the cognitive dissonance, I left the parish altogether. Many others have chosen to do the same thing for similar reasons.

The watchword that directed me is, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” II Cor. 6:17 It would behoove other Orthodox Christians to contemplate the implications of that verse of Scripture.

Author: Lawrence B. Wheeler

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

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