Archive for the ‘Metropolitan Jonah’ Category

Orthodox Conference on Missions and Evangelism 2009

September 17, 2009

Now posted on Ancient Faith Radio are the talks given at the recent Conference on Missions and Evangelism sponsored by the Antiochian Archdiocese.   This has been a very succesful, enthusiastically attended conference, attracting a Who’s Who of Orthodoxy, particularly well known converts.  The frank, heartfelt responses of Metropolitan Jonah to a variety of questions about Orthodox unity, missions and relations with the Oriental Orthodox churches are very edifying.  Every word I’ve  heard from Metropolitan Jonah has the power to move me in so many positive ways.   I always come away with a renewed sense of commitment and love for Orthodoxy and the Church in this country.  What a blessing he is for American Orthodoxy.

The Search Begins For a New Bishop

August 13, 2009

OCA Diocese of the South

The website for the Diocese of the South is reporting the news that Metropolitan Jonah has taken the first big step in the search for a new Bishop for the Diocese.  Metropolitan Jonah has been acting as locum tenens i.e. temporary caretaker (Latin, “one holding a place”) since our beloved Archbishop Dmitri retired in the Spring. 

August 12.   With the blessing of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South (‘DOS’), an Episcopal Search Committee has been established. The Committee was approved at the recently concluded DOS Assembly in Atlanta.

The Search Committee will consist of the DOS deans and the chancellor of the Diocese. Members of the Committee include, Archpriest Philip Reese, Archpriest Peter Smith, Archpriest Ted Pisarchuk, Priest Stephen Freeman, Priest Marcus Burch, Priest Seraphim Hisph and Archpriest Joseph Fester.

The Episcopal Search Committee is scheduled to hold their first meeting in early September.

I’m sure there’s going to be lots of idle speculation, rumors and blatthering from the peanut gallery.  The priests that have been selected are well-known and respected, not just for their administrative skills, but for their spirituality and love of the Church.  

The best we can do is to pray for them and the hard work they’re undertaking.  Filling the shoes of Archbishop Dmitri is going to be difficult but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit I believe they will find worthy candidates. 

Some Thoughts on Metropolitan Jonah’s Address to the ACNA

July 6, 2009

 metropolitan_jonah_119

 Since I was out of internet access for a good portion of the last 10 days, I’m catching up on a lot of news and videos (unfortunately, not far enough out of touch to avoid the 24/7 Michael Jackson death watch).   I just got finished watching the presentation of Metropolitan Jonah  (click on the scrolling photo of Met. Jonah) at the inauguration of the Anglican Church in North America in Bedford, Texas, between June 22nd and June 25th.

Every time I hear him speak I’m amazed at his natural and powerful speaking presence.  Sorry Rick Warren, but when I compared your message with Metropolitan Jonah’s, it became apparent that one was speaking with the a spiritual and intellectual mind rooted in the Gospel and the tradition of the Church; the other in cliched phrases and platitudes.  Words, no matter how cleverly presented mean nothing if there isn’t substance to support them.  

As far as the subject of the speech – the unification of the Orthodox Church with the “orthodox” Anglican Church – I’d have to say I’m one of those skeptics who looks at this proposal as maybe a little too visionary and ripe for a big let down in the end.  

My life as a former Protestant and my continuing observations of mainstream Protestantism just doesn’t give me much hope that a greater portion of these denominations won’t eventually fall into liberalism, compromise, and further inter-division.   Secularism and humanism are attacking Christian denominations from both the inside and the outside, weakening, polarizing and splitting what “orthodoxy” they still retain.  I would really like to believe that the ACNA will be different. 

Despite my misgivings, it was heartening to hear the loud and enthusiastic applause supporting the pro-life stance of the Orthodox Church and the ACNA.   But did you hear the crickets chirping when Met. Jonah firmly stated the impossibility of women’s ordination?   It’s solely my soapbox opinion, but I believe that the issue of women priests will be the ultimate stumbling block for this unification process.   Even more so than same-sex gender issues, even more than sacramental or theological questions.  The mad-eyed feminist genie has been let out of the bottle and won’t be easily or willingly stuffed back in.   Which of the proud, smiling, women celebrants at the ACNA inauguration is going to voluntarily laicize themselves for the greater good of unification?   Julia Duin of the The Washington Times commented a few days ago on the quandary ACNA is in with this issue.  I just don’t see how ACNA is going to keep up this schizophrenic liberalism on women priests while standing in the traditional camp on others.  It still sounds like the doctrinal picking and choosing which Metropolitan Jonah said cannot exist for a true orthodox Christianity.

In the end, who knows where this will lead.   Metropolitan Jonah may not know either, but he’s acted with the kind of boldness and promise that characterized his elevation to the episcopacy just a few months ago, and which has renewed the vision of the Orthodox Church in America.   Let us all pray for  Metroplitan Jonah and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in this bold process, and that all will come with a sincere desire to put the Church first for the glory of God.

Canon 28 and the Ecumenical Patriarchate

May 13, 2009

I really like George Michalopulos’  writing.  Finally, someone has written clear, concise background and analysis of jurisdictional issues and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s jockying for power in the US.   The American Orthodox Institute  has quite a few articles on these issues, but for a good overview try this one on the history of Metropolinitates and Canon 28 and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’.    

When you’ve finished those, here’s an excerpt from Metropolitan Jonah’s interview with the Russian Patriarchate’s news service during his recent trip, with specific emphasis on his vision for Orthodoxy in America and the OCA’s autocephaly.   This is a man who may have recently apologized to the Patriarchate Bartholomew for being too honest in an age of political correctness and diplomatic niceties, but he isn’t taking back the basic message – the Orthodox Church in America has no intention of looking to Constantinople for its leadership.   Personally, I think Metropolitan Jonah’s leadership style points up another characteristic in which America differs from the Old World – up front honesty – we lay our cards on the table even when it means stepping on some toes (how’s that for some blatant metaphor mixing!)

Here’s Metropolitan Jonah laying out some honesty in his interview-

The Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as some other Local Orthodox Churches do not recognize our autocephaly. And if they want to make any decisions affecting our life, this is only possible with our consent. Otherwise, it will be a great sin against us.

Metropolitan Jonah Apologizes

April 20, 2009

Hmmm….  I’m not sure what to make of this, but I think my take would be it’s an apology from the messenger, but not an apology about the message.   I concede that my recent hot-headed remarks  were much less charitable than Metropolitan Jonah’s original comments made at St. Seraphim Cathedral, but I hope you will see them in the same light – messenger vs. message.   I can’t change my fervent opinion that American Orthodoxy will ever achieve its full potential under foreign control.  Besides, I can shoot my mouth off with much less effect than a Metropolitan whose every word is weighed on the scales of diplomatic correctness.   Strong wording and you’ve got somebody’s under-riassa in a big wedgie.

Bright Week and Pascha Address of Metropolitan Jonah

April 20, 2009

pascha-6

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

I’m spending Bright Monday under the influence of sleep deprivation and a meat-induced food hangover, due to my gluttonous consumption of meat, cheese, sausage, paska, ham, chocolate…did I say meat already?  

It’s hard to write when you’re just emotionally and physically burned-out with the anticipation, joy, stress and type-A busyness of this over-achieving Orthodox Christian who’s just celebrated Pascha.  I shouldn’t complain nearly so much, considering how tired all the priests and deacons must be today.  I always imagined there’d be a market for a Bright Week Clergy Carnival cruise.    An aircraft carrier-sized cruise ship  leaving port in Florida with a boatload of tired clergy wearing Hawaiian print riassas, ordering umbrella drinks and skipping the salads and veggies on the buffet line.

freedom_seas_ship

Well, now for something more edifying, here’s the Paschal address of Metropolitan Jonah.  You’ll notice that I didn’t read his homily before I pigged out the past two days.   After reading this, I am wondering ‘what was the purpose of my lenten journey’?  Did I get so wrapped up at the end with the preparations for a big parish Pascha picnic, or with putting together a Pascha basket of goodies that I had craved and drooled over for 5 weeks?   Busyness, even church busyness, is not Christ’s business.  While he was busy dying on the Cross for my sins and lying in a tomb, I was busy cooking, rushing around to the grocery stores and doing errands in between Holy Friday and Holy Saturday services, and on Pascha morning itself.   Makes you think before you stuff another piece of ham in your mouth, doesn’t it?

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful
of The Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Beloved, let us greet one another with Paschal Joy, and exchange the kiss of peace.

Let us feast soberly, that our joy may be full. Let us not stuff ourselves to satiety with feasting, nor indulge our passions to insensibility. Most of all, let us not give ourselves over to the darkness of the fallen world from which we have sought to purify ourselves, lack of forgiveness, anger and judgment, bitterness and hatred.

Rather, let us allow our old selves to remain crucified and buried, that the New Man may live, resurrected in and with Christ. Let us live according to the Kingdom, in communion with the Holy Spirit, so that we may be renewed by the Resurrection.

Our Pascha is not simply the beautiful services and the good food. It is not just family and Easter bunnies. It is not just the fellowship and familiar old customs.

Pascha is the dawn of the Age to Come, the Kingdom of God radiating into our souls and minds and hearts. Pascha is the experience of salvation itself, the foretaste of the Messianic Banquet, and the transformation of our lives. In Pascha we behold Christ, Risen from the dead, the revelation of the Second Coming.

We have gone with Christ to His Passion, but have we been crucified with Him?

We have held vigil at His Tomb, but were we asleep, and missed Him? Did our minds betray us and we doubt His Resurrection?

Let the fruit of our Lenten efforts be the enlightenment of our minds and the renewal of our hearts that our repentance not be in vain.

Let us sing with joy together with the Angels and Archangels, and all creation which has groaned awaiting the revelation of the Son of Man. With all creation, the living and dead, the spiritual and material, and with all the saints, let us cry:

Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Христос Воскресе из мертвых, смертию смерть поправ, и сущим во гробех живот даровав!

Χριστος ανεστη εκ νεκρων, θανατο θανατον πατησας και της εν τοις μνημασι ζωην χαρισαμενος.

With love and joy in the Risen Christ,

+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South

Saint Tikhon and the Unity of the American Church

April 7, 2009

tikhon

Today is the celebration of the repose of one of the greatest American saints – Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Enlightener of North America.  He served as Archbishop of the entire North American continent at a time when communication and travel were difficult,  when no well-organized, central administrative structure governed the church in this country, when there were no seminaries, and the faithful were either new immigrants without churches or had been unpastored for decades in remote areas.  His time in America was relatively short – just nine years between 1898 and 1907, but in that time he transformed the Orthodox Church in America and gave it a vision and mission for self-governance and independence.

Ironically, the Orthodox Church in this country has entered a period that, I believe, will test the very limits of what Saint Tikhon envisioned and worked to achieve.  A series of events and actions are taking place right now which, if they do not seem divinely guided, at least are the kind of events that may one day be seen as the opening shots in a very strident conflict between the Old World and the New. 

1.   The election of Metropolitan Jonah to lead the Orthodox Church in America (the only autocephalous Orthodox Church in this country and a grandchild of Saint Tikhon).  Metropolitan Jonah is the strongest voice for American Orthodoxy – a hierarch who isn’t mincing words about the urgency for Orthodox administrative unity in America.

2.   The reigning in of the Antiochian Bishops of North America and Canada and the re-enforcement of submission to the Patriarch of Antioch, supported wholeheartedly by Metropolitan Philip.  

3.   The anticipated Pan Orthodox Synod  that is being convened by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Preparatory meetings are already scheduled for this summer.  Big topic of discussion – the church in the diaspora.

4.   Patriarch Bartholomew I’s strongly worded “suggestion” that American Orthodox fulfillment and unity are best achieved by submitting to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.   If you have a strong gag reflex, please be warned when you read the speech given by the EP Holy Synod’s Chief Secretary, Archimandrite Dr. Elpidophoros Lambriniadisthis, to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary on March 16th. 

Let me just make one observation here to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s proposal….. BAAW HAW HAW HAW.  Sorry, I don’t know how to write up the corresponding sound of me snorting my morning coffee all over the screen.   With all due respect Your Eminence, it seems that the more desperate your situation becomes in the oppressive, hostile, crushing state of Turkey, the more you resort to fancy tap dancing to extend your influence, power and importance over the Orthodox faithful in the diaspora.   We all feel for your difficult situation but this is America.  At least for us in the OCA, we’ve been handling things on or own for a good long while now – not always successfully, but we ain’t about to turn against the work of Saint Tikhon and go back to the Old Country, to an isolated, besieged patriarchate which, under the “freedom” of the Turkish constitution and the threat of terrorist attack, has zilcho autonomy and self-determination.   Let’s be frank – Your Eminence has been overseeing a slow death, 500 years in the making, while Orthodoxy in this country is young, alive and moving forward.  And we can go forward as co-workers and co-equals in Christ, but we won’t be doing it holding our Daddy’s hand.  

Metropolitan Jonah put this so much more eloquently than I do in his sermon during a Pan Orthodox vespers  at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas on April 5th (We had some parishioners attend and I can’t wait to get their impressions.)  I absolutely love Metropolitan Jonah!  This is the kind of leadership we have not had in the OCA in decades and it seems only by the providence of God that his election coincides with these new attacks on American Orthodox independence.

As Saint Tikhon observed in a speech given in March 1907 during the first All American Sobor (the precursor to the present OCA All American Councils) shortly before he returned to Russia (and you will excuse his use of the word “Russian” Orthodoxy – he was after all preaching to a predominantly Russian audience) 

…the more I study the history of the Orthodox Church in this country, the more I am convinced that our work here is God’s work; that God himself is helping us; that when it seems as though everything we do is ready to fail — the work of Russian Orthodoxy — on the contrary, it not only does not die, but grows in new strength and brilliance.

Forgiveness Sunday

March 2, 2009

panagia_and_christ_-_extreme_humility

Great Lent is finally here and I couldn’t be more excited and happy.  I ate blini and eggs at the Maslenitsa dinner till I could bust and  I completed my ritualistic, gluttonous consumption of Blue Bell ice cream this evening.  Somehow that makes me ready to face the Great Fast.   More importantly, my parish began yesterday afternoon with the Forgiveness Vespers service, personally embracing and giving a kiss of peace to each and every man, woman and child in our parish. 

There is something so humbling and spiritually cathartic about having to go from one person to the next in a receiving line and ask the personal forgiveness from your fellow parishioners.   The words are simple:  “Forgive me brother/sister”.   The response is “God forgives”.   Two words that contain the whole message of the Gospel.   You say these words as you look straight into the eyes of someone you’ve had a tiff with, someone you bad mouthed, a friend you failed, even your own children.  And at that moment of personal admission you connect with the one you’ve sinned against in a spirit of  real Christian brotherhood.  There is no hiding personal animosity from a person you’ve just embraced. 

I’ve learned some practical things about the service, such as don’t wear mascara, take your glasses off,  only air kiss the kids, and thank the men who’ve taken the extra care to close shave that morning.  But what I’ve never learned, no matter how many times I participate in this service, is how not to sin until the beginning of Great Lent the following year.   I am obviously a slow learner and a fast sinner and I humbly ask the readers of this blog for their forgiveness if I have offended with my hasty or unkind words, my presumption or my pride.   I wish everyone a blessed Lenten journey as we approach the life-giving death and glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah has written a very edifying message for the beginning of Great Lent and I post it below for your benefit.

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics
and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in the Lord:

Christ is in our midst!

Our Church has gone through a tragic and bitter episode in her history. Many souls suffered shipwreck, demoralized by the sins of a few. That is over. But the lingering bitterness and mistrust, resentment and desire for retribution, hang over us. We must heal this, both on an individual as well as corporate level. The only way to do this is repentance, using this season of repentance to make changes in our lives, cleanse our hearts and minds, and embrace the hope that can only be grasped by forgiveness. Unless we forgive others from our hearts, we cannot accept God’s forgiveness for our own sins.

Every time we criticize, judge, condemn or despise another person, no matter how gravely he or she may have sinned, we sin equally ourselves. All our self-righteous indignation is all hypocrisy that blinds us to our own sins. The resentment we allow to fester in our hearts gives us over to corruption and evil. We allow ourselves to gossip, and talk about other people, and forget that we condemn ourselves by doing so. It does not matter what another person has done; that is his or her sin. Why do I need to make his sin my own, by my judgment and criticism, and destroy my own life by resentment of someone else?

If I fast from foods, St John Chrysostom said, how can I devour my brother by gossip and slander? If we don’t eat things that have been slaughtered, why do I murder my brother by character assassination? If I abstain from wine, how can I allow myself to be drunk on my passions of resentment and bitterness? It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but rather what comes out of the mouth and the heart. It is these things, judgment and criticism, which reveal our piety to be a hypocritical sham. All our self-righteousness is as filthy rags before God, and we only condemn ourselves.

The only way of life for us, as Christians, is repentance and forgiveness. We must be “transformed in the renewal of our minds,” (the real meaning of “repentance”) and forgive those who have offended and sinned against us. Only then can we be free from our resentments, and our souls and livesand our Churchcan be healed. In short, we have to change our behavior, our words and our thoughts.

Let our fasting be accompanied by the refusal to indulge in judgment and criticism of others: gossip, slander, suspicion and innuendo, all that is hateful to God. Let us fast from meat, as we fast from the carnality of hatred and resentment of others, which is the source of our passions, pain and addictions. Let us fast from cheese, as we cut out the bitterness that curdles the joy in our lives, the pure milk of love. Let us fast from eggs, so that the seeds of corruption do not hatch in our souls. Let us fast from oil, so that we do not grease our lips to slander and fry our neighbor. Let us fast from wine, that we might remain sober and watchful, to maintain the purity of our souls, minds and hearts.

Let us make this Lent a spiritual fast, so that purified in mind and heart, as well as in body, we might behold the radiant Resurrection of Christ in the reception of the Holy Mysteries at Pascha, but most especially, in the resurrection of our souls. Let corruption be abolished, and let us be loosed from the sins that keep us enslaved. The only place to start is in our own souls, mindful of our sins, and in a spirit of love and compassion towards our neighbor. Only by the purification of our souls, freed from the guilt of sin and pain of resentment, will we be able to feast with Christ at His Messianic Banquet, illumined by His grace, being made partakers of the eternal Joy of His Kingdom.

Part 2 – Illumined Heart Interview with Metropolitan Jonah

January 8, 2009

I’ve been meaning to post Part 2 of Kevin Allen’s Illumined Heart  interview  for days now, but getting slammed at work wasn’t part of my post-New Year’s plan.  I wanted to ease into the routine after a pretty slow Christmas work schedule, not spend the last few days running like a hamster on a wheel.  Now that I’ve been back at work I have just today replayed this interview at least 6 times, and each time I hear something new and exciting.

In particular, it’s so encouraging to hear Metropolitan Jonah talk about the important position the OCA’s Metropolitan holds as the head of the autocephalous American Orthodox church.  For so long it seems the OCA has been insular and suffering from a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence.   The Church of Serbia, the Church of Finland, the Church of Poland, for example, are autocephalous or self-governing churches.   How are we any different?  Yet, I just don’t see the OCA confidently embracing itself as The Orthodox Church in or ‘of’ America.  If the OCA wants to see the growth of American Orthodoxy and unification of Orthodox jurisdictions in this country we need to act like leaders.   

It’s a given that unification wasn’t going to happen under the last two Metropolitans.  The will, the desire  just wasn’t there, and now that we know about the  financial mess, the credibility certainly wasn’t there either.  We were in “the desert…” as Metropolitan Jonah calls it.  I was shocked when Metropolitan Jonah said unification would be easy.  He jokingly states that with enough funds American Orthodox could achieve unity in one week if we just let loose the attorneys on the administrative details.   Seriously, he has no doubts about the feasibility of unity; it is just a matter of stoking the desire while setting aside pride and self-interest.

I say GIVE HIM A WEEK!  Give him all the time and whatever it takes to achieve this.  I want to be part of a united, strong witness for Orthodoxy in America.  It’s time we suck up our pride, our petty jurisdictionalism, the provincialism and culture club mentality and really be “The Orthodox Church of America”.  I am tired of explaining to my friends, family and acquaintances why there is no difference between Greek, Serbian, Syrian, Russian, ad nauseum, Orthodox Churches, much less how we are similar or different from Roman Catholics.

This is the clear and strong vision of Metropolitan Jonah.  This is what we all have to work towards – laity and clergy.  Who can’t be standing 100% behind him when he says

“I believe that our church is set at a crossroads…we have definitively left behind the old way of doing things.. and have embarked upon  a very new road, of really taking up the challenge of being  the fullness of the presence of the  Orthodox Catholic  Church in this country and the ministry at the cross that that entails.   The challenge to bring together, to come together with all the other Orthodox communities in this country, so that together we can create a new incarnation, as it were, of the Orthodox church in America, which embraces all Orthodox Christians in this country, so that we can reach out to and evangelize this country in new and creative ways which we may not have even thought of yet, so that we can challenge our society to live a life in accordance with the will of God, in accordance with the scriptures, in accordance with Christian ethics.  Not by being judgmental and critical of individuals, but rather of showing them in compassion that there’s a better way to live.  Orthodoxy is not just about what you believe, and it’s certainly not just about what you do in church.  Orthodoxy is about how we live.  It’s about how we treat one another.  How we forgive one another, how we’re transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit, how we let go of resentment, and bitterness, and anger, and vengeance, and desire for retribution and all of these things which defile our souls so that we can grow into the fullness of personhood that God intended for us.  This is my vision.”

I want this too and God-willing, with Metropolitan Jonah’s leadership, his devotion to the Gospel and God’s Holy Church, we are past the days when the Orthodox Church in America could do nothing more than shoot itself in the foot.

 

Illumined Heart Interview With Metropolitan Jonah Part 1

December 27, 2008

desert

In anticipation of Metropolitan Jonah’s consecration tomorrow, Ancient Faith Radio has posted a new Illumined Heart podcast.   Host Kevin Allen asked many background questions the average layperson has probably been wishing he could ask, particularly about his Beatitude’s  conversion to the Orthodox Faith.  It’s a voyeuristic curiosity among converts that we never get tired of listening to these stories.  Not to compare our faith with another believer, but as a reminder of where we came from.  I think it’s a way of renewing our zeal for the faith.

I loved the questions about Metropolitan Jonah’s favorite movies and books.  I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they read (Met. Jonah cites Edward Abbey among others), the movies they like and their childhood hobbies and interests.   For the record, my 8 year old thinks our new Metropolitan is officially cool.  Anyone, even a hierarch, who lists Star Wars among his favorite films is ok with him.

During the early 80’s as a college student studying wildlife science and parks and recreation, I think reading Edward Abbey, particularly Desert Solitaire, was as close to a spiritual experience as I’d ever had at that point.  To this day, a hike through the desert Southwest can feel like a second baptism.   It wasn’t until I became Orthodox years later that I got the same “religious” feelings from any other writer.  Some people think of Abbey as an eco-terrorist, a liberal radical, an anarchist.  Well, he might have been all that but he was also a philosopher.  The man who could say “Love implies anger. The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing”, can’t be totally without a spiritual core.

Two things really struck me about Metropolitan Jonah’s interview – one,  just how calm,  easy-going and sensible he sounds.  This is someone who knows people and how to deal with them; that is the strength that made him a good abbot and also what being an abbot taught him about dealing with people.

The second was how the Holy Spirit was working in his life even as a college student and Orthodox newcomer.   In the Orthodox college fellowship  that he founded, at least eight persons went on to become  priests, priest-monks, a nun, deacon and matushka.   That is a remarkable number considering most average parishes can count on one hand the number of priests, deacons or monastics ever produced during the community’s entire history.

I’ll post Part 2 as soon as it’s out on Ancient Faith Radio.  In the meantime, please keep praying for our Metropolitan.