These past months...

since February have been some of the hardest in my decade of being Orthodox.

The decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch to change the status of our Diocesan Bishops to auxiliaries has ignited a firestorm in our Archdiocese. Leaders are troubled. People are asking questions. Old wounds have been opened and new ones inflicted. Speculation abounds and people are still struggling to understand. Why was this necessary? What does this mean? What are the grounds for this decision? Many, including myself, hope for the best but answers, at the present, are few and far between.

There is a kind of fear among us as well. Some are afraid to speak because they imagine the consequences. News and rumors float about on competing websites. Angry words are being written and spoken. The future seems uncertain. The rationale behind this change, according to official sources, was the unity of the Archdiocese but the result has been exactly the opposite as people are divided and hurt and trying to make sense of it all. I can't imagine what the diocesan and national conventions will be like if this is not resolved.

When I was first a Baptist Pastor I was given these words of advice, "God leads, the Devil stampedes" and I feel we're being stampeded in many directions in the aftermath of this decision. Satan is creating havoc among us and God is allowing us to be challenged. Wheat and chaff are being separated and fire is in the process of burning out impurities. Yet while this happens people will be lost, people who will grow tired and disillusioned and give up and walk out the door and people who, looking at us from the outside and seeing this shameful mess, refuse to step in the door. Hard lessons are being learned.

This is wrong. This is sad. We need to be better.

So many, myself included, were hopeful that our new dioceses and self rule would be the seeds of a united American Orthodox Church, another step towards a correct canonical status and a shared Orthodox voice in this country. We hoped that disunity and chaos would someday end. We thought our leaders wanted this too but one day it was there and the next it was gone. Who can we trust? What set of events would require such a change? I feel confused, sad, and perplexed.

I love the Orthodox Faith so I could never walk away but I despair for all this has brought. Whether the Holy Synod's decision on the status of our Bishops stands or is changed there will be a great silent undercurrent of fear, hostility, and lack of trust that will cripple us regardless of the proclamations and documents that follow. The things said and done in this time will hobble us and scandalize both the faithful and those who are searching for the Faith. We need trust to work together and that trust has been terribly strained.

I'm just a Priest from a small church on the western edge of Wisconsin, what I have to say doesn't matter much. But I do pray for our Bishops, our Metropolitan, and our Patriarch and hope they see the sad results of what has happened and think deeply and spiritually about all of this. I especially pray for Bishop Mark who has endured so much before and after this and Lord knows what he may have to face in the future. All of our Bishops, agree or disagree, should be in our prayers. As we see what is happening we need to be prayerfully, respectfully, involved, seeking out the truth and acting on it as best sinful people can.

Yet in all my struggle with these things I have hope as well. I've seen men and women rise to the occasion and thoughtful people stand and be counted. That this is all worth fighting over says something about how we value it. If the weeks past are any indicator we may be in for a difficult journey but I have confidence in God. Somewhere in all of the shouting we will hear the still small voice.

And as part of this I've already expressed my opinion on this to my Dean and Bishop and they know that I believe that for practical, spiritual, and canonical reasons we need to retain our diocesan Bishops. Beyond the pastoral and canonical issues it just makes sense. I say this with no malice, no disrespect, and no anger towards anyone who may differ from me. Future events may reveal this opinion to be wise or I may have to be accountable for it. Regardless I will stand here and trust that God will care for me and the Church as needed.

That is where my hope is. I would like amicable resolution, the reattachment of sundered bonds, a Christian way to work through disagreements, and a drawing from the deep well of our Tradition for wisdom in troubled times. Our world needs the truth of Orthodoxy. But if those fail I still believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to take even these hard days and make something holy of them. Somewhere on the other side of this all is where we need to be and God will help us find our way home.

For that I wait, and pray, and hope.

1 comment:

s-p said...

Amen. I've also been a decade Orthodox and have been through the fire in various ways for most of that time. "Where else can we go...You have the words of eternal life" is just as true now as then in the face of hard words and controversial circumstances. This too will be "Church history" some day, as an old timer once said about a past controversy that lasted over 60 years, "Oh, THAT? It was just a blip on the screen". Orthodox perspective.