Skip to comments.Communion & Protest
Posted on 06/03/2005 5:08:48 PM PDT by sionnsar
Back when I was in seminary (Nashotah House, 1989-92), controversy was a given. We didn't have women clergy serving at the altar. But we did have some female students and even more advocates for change. In retrospect, from where things are today, it was a simpler time. Less nutty, but pretty intense.
One of the biggest controversies happened in my Senior year when the Presiding Bishop, Edmond Browning, visited the seminary for the first time. I was part of the seminary chapter of the Episcopal Synod of America [*] known as the DeKoven Society. Some of us were, by our own admission, BDACs (brain dead Anglo Catholics); others were more of the Prayer Book Society type. Being seminarians, we were naturally reactionary. No less, I must add, than the other side.
Anyway, due to his liberal leanings and guidance of the church, the visit of the Presiding Bishop caused a stir. Many members of the DeKoven Society planned to protest at the Evening Mass. That is, some planned to sit in their choir stall, arms folded, refusing to receive communion; others planned to stay home. Much to the dismay of some of my friends, I decided to take part in the service.
How can members of like mind behave so differently? One of my professors at the time, Dr Peter Toon, recently posted an article that touches on this in some ways. In other words, reading Dr Toon's words, I couldn't help but reminisce about seminary, that particular controversy, and the directions that many of my classmates have taken since graduation.
I became Antiochian Orthodox, as did one of my classmates. Another joined the Roman Catholics. Alums, before and after, found homes in Continuing Anglicanism, here, there, etc. Some eventually fell away from the priesthood.
With all the stuff going on in PECUSA these days, no one seems to ask anymore why I left the Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, given all the negative press, my admission to having once been Episcopalian sometimes solicits smirks or chuckles by folks who know nothing of the venerable history of Anglicanism. All they know about is Gene Robinson, clown masses, and gay marriage.
Yet, understandably, I do get asked why I switched jurisdictions within Orthodoxy. While there is certainly, as ever, a "back story" not suited for the Internet, the simple answer goes back to the essence of the seminary controversy. Mind you, mistakes were made but, the struggle is similar.
Back to 1992. We had a DeKoven Society meeting where members were talking of their planned actions during Browning's presiding at the Eucharist. After a bit of soul wrestling, I boldly stated that the Mass was not the place to stage a protest and if folks wanted to show their displeasure with the running of PECUSA they should stay home. I went on to state that I was scheduled to assist with the service and planned to do so.
My reasoning? I communed with Edmond Browning every single time I received communion in the Episcopal Church whether he was physically in the same building with me or not. Isn't that the nature of communion? We commemorated the Presiding Bishop at each and every Mass, and, as Episcopalians, we were in communion with him. (Duh!) What difference does it make when he's actually in the building? Did we want to hurt his feelings? Teach him a lesson? At the Mass?
Anyway, my decision found a few friendly ears but made many angry. The fated night came and went. A few of my pals and mentors did not receive communion, but it all passed without incident. During the service, I found myself seated beside Browning. I remember, unbelievably, saying to him: "I agree with you." What was I talking about? He'd preached a sermon about how we all needed each other in the church, there would be no outcasts, etc. And I heard him -- translated his words, perhaps -- to say that there was a place for "traditionalists" in PECUSA. This, I was glad to hear.
(History proved otherwise.)
Back to Orthodoxy. After several years as an Orthodox priest, I made a decision -- a protest, if you will -- and moved to another jurisdiction. Five years later, having ridden the pendulum the other way, and having experienced another type of protest, I came back home to the Antiochian Archdiocese. In my arrogance, I left Antioch for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) because I'd begun to feel that "traditionalists" were not welcome. I came back home to the Antiochian Archdiocese after being told by my Bishop that I was not to give communion to anyone who was not a member of the ROCOR. (Thankfully, this is not true of the ROCOR as a whole!) As we had people from the Moscow Patriarchate, Greeks, OCA, and Antiochians often visiting the parish, there was no way that I could, in good conscience, follow this mandate. Though I tried, there was no swaying this particular bishop on the issue. So I did what I considered to be the God-pleasing thing to do. I humbled myself and came back home.
In the end, it all came back to communion. I believe Orthodox is Orthodox: we all are fed from the same Chalice. I am no sectarian. There are struggles within any jurisdiction -- any human organization. As Dr Toon points out, and as one priest is currently proving, our answer may lie in different directions. Would that it were not so! Alas, this is the world we occupy.
This is one reason I look forward to the day, should God grant, that Orthodox jurisdictionalism dies in America. What a scandal! Antiochians could learn a great deal from the ROCOR, as could the Greeks from the OCA, et al, vice versa, etc.
Why can't we learn from each other now? Because we're all in competition over members, property, ideology, bureaucracy, cultural quirks, etc. Much of it smacks of territorialism, turf wars ... triumphalism. But you know what? We're still all in Communion with each other, whether administratively united or not. Whether in the same building or not. Same calendar or not. Ethnic culture or not. It might take something radical such as behaving like "reason endowed sheep" and talking to each other to resolve our differences. But, we're already in Communion with each other. Like it or not.
As Orthodox, we should stop protesting. Because, last I checked, there was another ecclesiastical label for groups that continue to do so. ;)
What is this priest talking about?????
I was hoping you'd tell me!
Thanks, sionnsar. His story makes me curious about his journey through Orthodoxy.
A close friend of mine in the Antiochian Archdiocese (with no plans to go anywhere, ever) describes Metropolitan Philip's approach to the faith "Vatican II Orthodoxy." He hastens to add that, as with some of the GOA's Abp. Iakovos' perceived shortcomings and the OCA's Metr. Theodosius -- a lot of this is a generational thing, and the future of the Antiochians is not there.
Fr. Joseph went to the ROCOR, and for some reason, Metropolitan Philip wouldn't give him a canonical release -- which is unusual, since Metropolitan Philip has given many priests canonical releases to go to the ROCOR. I've met several.
Fr. J went anyway, and the ROCOR bishop where he lived had the bad sense to accept him without one. That same bishop is notorious for holding strictly to the ROCOR position of not communing with the Moscow Patriarchate or anyone who is in communion with them until things get straightened out. Most ROCOR bishops and priests today ignore that, and Fr. Joseph was ignoring it as well, until some troublemakers decided to formally "turn him in" for communing non-ROCOR folks. For the reasons he outlined, he couldn't in good conscience do that, and since he had left without a canonical release, he had nowhere canonically to go but back to the Antiochians. Had he obtained a canonical release successfully back when, he could have left the ROCOR for a different jurisdiction -- private word is that he still wouldn't choose the Antiochians if he had a choice, but he didn't have one.
I met him when his parish was under the ROCOR, and had been for some time -- it was thriving and healthy at that time. The situation was tragic for the folks at his parish and for him personally. There is a silver lining, because it highlighted the fact that Bishop X of the ROCOR is not a reasonable fellow at all, and it played a role in sidelining him when it came time for talks with the MP. It also heightened a lot of people's desire to get this reunion with the MP done and to institute formal intercommunion again (even though informal intercommunion has long been the rule in most of the ROCOR.)
Finally, it reminded a lot of people that if one has problems in one's parish, diocese, or jurisdiction, the best way to deal with them is to prayerfully work to clean up one's own house -- not to jump jurisdictions. Lord only knows that I completely understand why Fr. Joseph left the Antiochians back when he did -- and I also understand why he left the ROCOR when he did. But these things are very hard on parishes.
Amongst converts to Orthodoxy who left churches that slowly slid into apostasy, there is that question always burning in the back of one's mind: what if it happens here? Why didn't I leave Anglicanism (or whatever other denomination) when I saw the first warning signs? There's a bit of that "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" mentality when troubles are seen in Orthodoxy. And I think that this is at least a part of what Fr. Joseph is talking about.
The jurisdictional situation in America is uncanonical and un-Orthodox. One can only pray that the current trend toward slowly and organically coming to a single Orthdox Church here in America will continue. Then tragic stories like these will stop.
We'll have different tragic stories then!
Nashotah House has sometimes been jokingly referred to as the OCA's 4th seminary, because of the string of Orthodox priests who have come from there. :-)
Bishop BASIL scandalized Nashotah House by thanking them for all the good priests they sent him. (I thing about 2/3 of the clergy in the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America are converts, a majority of those from Anglicanism, and I think a majority of those with degrees from Nashotah House, previously including my old parish priest, whom we sent off to the OCA to be Dean of St. Herman's Seminary.)
"I was hoping you'd tell me!"
The simple grandson of simple Greek peasants....
I'm glad Agrarian could enlighten both of us.
Aren't we a regular salon des philosophes around here!
"Aren't we a regular salon des philosophes around here!"
Bien sur! But my wife says to wipe off the boots before you come in.
LOL, the two of you. But thank you for the explanation, Agrarian!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.