Friday, December 03, 2010

From my brother at First Things

This strikes a deep personal chord. It is from the First Things website, and in accord with proper internet etiquette, I am lifting it with a link (in the title) to the original source.

In the August/September issue of First Things , Matthew Milliner gave a delightful account of his visit to the Eastern Orthodox Monastery of St Anthony in Arizona’s Sonora Desert. At least, I quite enjoyed it—though, truth be told, I would have enjoyed it considerably more had it not included a brief exchange Milliner had with the monastery’s abbot:


“Is holiness possible outside the Orthodox Church?” I inquired. [The abbot] responded with tired eyes: “A measure of virtue perhaps, but holiness is not possible.” The Orthodoxy on offer at St. Anthony’s does not mince words.

No, apparently not. Jesus, of course, rather mysteriously asserted that the Holy Spirit goes wherever he will, so it’s good of the abbot to provide a clarification on this point: the Holy Spirit may go wherever he likes, it seems, so long as he confines himself to the right neighborhoods.

This is not, incidentally, the official teaching of the Orthodox Church (so few things are), and most Orthodox Christians would tend to regard it as the embarrassingly silly twaddle it is; but it is something that certain hardliners like to say. And, to be fair, I’ve heard something similar from one or two Tridentinist Catholics I’ve tripped over in a dark alley now and again.

Most of us know the rules here, of course: When some hoary-headed old mammal in monastic garb starts spouting nonsense of this sort, no matter how offensive we find it, we’re supposed to shrug patiently and smile a gently ironic smile, reminding ourselves that a dash of curmudgeonly sectarian insularity is frequently the inevitable concomitant of deep piety. But I don’t want to play along.

The wonderful thing about holiness, when you really encounter it, is that it testifies to itself. This is not to say one can never be deceived; it’s easy to mistake personal charisma for genuine grace, or to be misled by plausible charlatans—until, that is, one comes across the real thing, at a moment when one is open to it. Then one knows it for what it is: a quality of such lucid and incandescent simplicity and of such moral beauty that one feels simultaneously deeply happy in its presence and ashamed of one’s own failure to have realized it within oneself.

At any rate, I’m quite convinced I’ve met a small number of truly holy persons in my life. Some were indeed Orthodox; some were even Orthodox monks. Others were Christians of other communions. And still others were not Christians at all. And, if I were to try to say who the first person was who made me aware of what genuine sanctity is, I think I would have to point to a woman who probably never even set foot in an Orthodox church.

Her name was Mrs. Estelle Hayes, though in my childhood I only ever knew her as Aunt Susie, which was how my brothers spoke of her. She was a black woman who helped make ends meet by cleaning the homes of middle-class white people; having been born a little before the turn of the last century into the rigid caste system of segregated Maryland, she grew up without any opportunity for a more rewarding occupation than that.

The name Susie had displaced her proper name when she was still a baby. She had been born at the southern end of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where the whistles of the steam ships that sailed down the Chesapeake Bay from Havre de Grace and other ports were audible day and night. She had, it seems, a powerful set of lungs, and so her family started calling her after the ship with the loudest whistle of all, The Susie.

She entered my family’s life well before I was born, and by the time I came along she had largely departed from it, so my own contact with her was as fleeting as it was moving. She had helped my father’s mother keep house before my parents were married, and later began coming to help my mother once a week as well. She was still keeping things in order in the years when both my brothers were born, neither of whom ever had reason to suspect that she was not, in a strictly technical sense, one of their aunts.

I never met her husband, Al Hayes, who was a professional gardener among other things, but my father often described him to me as a fine gentleman with a great salt-and-pepper beard and impeccable sense in clothes (including a fondness for spats); and once I overheard my father remark that Mr. Hayes’s beard made him look a little like God. As I was about four at the time, I took this rather more literally than my father intended, no doubt, and for the next few years my mental picture of God was pretty firmly fixed as one of an older black man with a flowing white beard.

Aunt Susie had a strong and somewhat conservative personality, and a deeply generous nature; she was, most importantly, a fervent Christian who spoke of her faith with a great and convincing clarity. She had worked to earn registration as a practical nurse, and in the time she had free after cleaning houses and doing laundry she devoted herself to the care of others, visiting elderly shut-ins, preparing meals for the hungry, and generally bringing food and basic medical assistance to those most in need.

She was a physically strong woman, and seemingly indefatigable at the chores by which she earned her pay; but she was even more tireless at the end of the working day in performing works of Christian love. In her church, she was regarded as something of a saint.

There was something about her, moreover, that convinced one that her prayers were of a more powerful variety than most. When my parents lived in a house on a hill above Ellicott City in Howard County, my father used to pick her up from and then take her back to the streetcar in Catonsville just over the line in Baltimore County; and one evening, during a winter storm, the car went into a violent skid towards the tree line, and then just as suddenly straightened itself back into its lane before my father really had control of the wheel.

Over the rapid beating of his heart, my father politely inquired of Aunt Susie whether she had just been praying, to which she calmly replied that she had indeed, and that the Lord had taken over from there. Coming from her, it seemed simply a plain statement of fact.

In any event, that was all a little before my time. During my childhood, I heard a great deal about Aunt Susie, but I did not meet her until she came to dinner when I was about ten. I was deeply impressed by the warmth and forthrightness of her character, and naturally addressed her—as I had always heard was correct—as Aunt Susie. But, thereafter, I saw little of her.

My last encounter with her—one of the more indelible memories of my life—came a few years later, when she was dying in a somewhat dilapidated wing of the Women’s Hospital in Baltimore. We went to visit her in her room, and found her in her bed, lying on one side, much frailer and much smaller than she had been in previous years.

While we were there, a group of her parishioners from her church dropped in—to show their respect, dressed as though for services—and she insisted that we all pray together and join in some songs of praise. Since the charismatic movement had wafted through the icy halls of the Episcopal Church a few years before, my family actually knew the Pentecostal hymns that she wanted to hear, so we all joined hands around her and did as she asked.

It would be quite impossible for me to explain what the hour we spent there was like, or what effect it had on me. I can only say that Aunt Susie spoke about her love of Christ in a very clear and confident way, with a power that the weakness of her voice did nothing to diminish. From that day to this I have never heard another profession of Christian faith that seized me with such irresistible force. I am not a very emotional person, as it happens, but I was almost overwhelmed by the unutterable beauty that emanated from her.

Just as we were about to leave, Aunt Susie said that the Lord was telling her she would not see us again. We assured her that this was not so, and that we would be back before long, but she was quite certain that she was right, and so her last words to us had something of the quality of a valedictory blessing. And, of course, she was right; she died before we could make another visit to her bedside.

Anyway, I don’t really imagine I can convey what I would like to about her in a short column of this sort. I only want to make clear why I cannot listen to remarks of the sort made by the abbot of St Anthony’s with quite the seemly equanimity I probably should, and why I see them as being a little blasphemous.

To put the matter very simply, I am absolutely sure that Aunt Susie was a great woman, who probably did more good on many days of her life than most of us ever will really accomplish over the courses of our lives. But, more than that, I am convinced that she was genuinely a woman of resplendent sanctity, and one from whom the good abbot—had he had the good fortune to have known her—might have learned a very great deal indeed about what true holiness is.

David B. Hart is a contributing writer of First Things. His most recent book is Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Yale University Press). His previous “On the Square” articles can be found here.

79 comments:

Jackie K. said...

I had a woman in my life like that. Aunt Onnie (notice that elderly of great respect in the South are our Aunts and Uncles?). I grew up in a church that started as a Pentecostal Holiness church and went Wesleyan. Aunt Onnie, without fail, would get up each Sunday and "testify" to all the good things the Lord had done for her in her many years on this earth. I'm sure she and Aunt Susie are among the saints watching over us now.

-

Anonymous said...

Having had a couple of Aunt Susie's in my South Carolina childhood (their names were Aunt Sally Hefner and Aunt Jessie Gilmore), I fully relate to this picture of sanctity. Aunt Sally used to have large gatherings on Sunday afternoon of people in business attire around her cabin. Years later we learned this was an underground chapter of the NAACP.

When a wacko priest named Father Feeny was preaching an over-the-top interpretation of of "Extra ecclesia nulla salus," he was sternly rebuked and ultimately excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church. But in EO, this kind of rubbish seems to be rampant. Their blasphemous habit of re-baptizing converts from Anglicanism runs unchecked.

We frequently hear a distinction between radical and moderate Islam, and a question is raised, Why don't the moderate Moslems stand up to the radicals? I myself am wondering why the sane element in EO does not stand up to EO terrrorists like this wacko Abbot.

This man is not some obscure or marginal figure. He is head honcho in a sizable monastery in the largest EO jurisdiction in the USA. But we would wait in vain to hear of him being rebuked or silenced by the EO hierarchy.

When EO clerics are invited to speak at traditional Anglican gatherings, they should be confronted publicly and called upon to repudiate and repent of such heresy.
LKW

Canon Tallis said...

I have known more thqn a few very strong women of the Aunt Suzie cast. They have a marvelous way of having an almost sacramental cast about them. We are all the more fortunate for their existence and the overwhelming love of Jesus they exhibit with both joy and fearlessness.

Tom said...

Like the other writers here, I grew up in the South where "Aunt" was a term of the greatest respect. In my case, it was the woman who cooked for my grandmother. "Aunt Ruth" was the only person able to get me to eat peas when I was a child. At the time of my marriage, she told me, speaking of my wife of (now) 35 years "You be good to that lady, you hear." Her obituary in the local paper (she lived to be 94) was full of the many good works she had done, but the most important comment was 'She loved her Lord.'

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Wells:

Doesn't my brother count? He is EO, in fact no small figure in Orthodoxy, and he is the one repudiating the words of the abbot.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to your estimable and learned brother, I fear his opinion may carry a trifle less weight than that of an Abbot. When SCOBA deal with this heretical nonsense as definitively as the RCC Church dealt with Fr Feeny, I will be placated. My strong suspicion is that the Abbot represents a strong majority opinion in that branch of Christendom.
LKW

Jack Miller said...

A wonderful lesson in humility...

Jack

Fr. Robert Hart said...

My strong suspicion is that the Abbot represents a strong majority opinion in that branch of Christendom.

We find such thinking in both of the Two One True Churches. But, many of the EO live in countries under persecution from Muslims, where the Christians by and large pull together. In that setting, they don't have time, or any use, for thinking like the abbott's.

David said...

Outside of the church there maybe virtue but not holiness. It isn't the Abbots place to speculate on whether or not any Anglican is Orthodox or not. If this is the same Monastery that is in Florence, AZ I can tell you I know the Abbot gave his utility truck to a family that wasn't Orthodox or even Christians because I charitably assume he loves his neighbor.

It is a mistake to call on moderate Islam to have to answer for Radical Islam. I wouldn't ask any Christian to answer for Fred Phelps and his ilk. Fundamentalist run in every stripe. I know of an Anglican that loudly broadcast that he knows that Cardinal Newman was gay and that the Roman Catholic church is a club for gay priest. There should be no expectation that Fr. Hart should have to answer for that. If there is one thing missing in Christianity as a whole it is charity. I know there are fellow Orthodox Christians who don't think I am really Orthodox because I don't wear a full beard or because I am not Greek. I also was cautioned many times that the claim of exclusiveness is essential to Christianity, our judgment of others is not. In a tract "What about the non-Orthodox" it states that we know where God is, we don't know where he isn't.

I understand the hurt that a comment like this can make. I do believe I belong to the Church of Christ. My beloved and saintly Grandmother was not brand Orthodox however when I read about the holiness of the Saints I see her mirrored in that holiness. I also know some brand Orthodox who don't seem to have a single fruit of the spirit between them. Not being there to hear the conversation or knowing the context all I would venture to say is that given so little information I don't know if the Abbot believes in a branding or faith. I am not going to condemn him nor is there a moral necessity that I condemn anyone who may be mistaken but faithful or down right heretical. The church fathers didn't always agree with each other, I have no expectation that any of us today will agree with them 100% or with each other even 10%.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Advent! Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Before we get all misty-eyed over Islamic persecution of the Orthodox (a plight shared by all branches of Christianity alike), perhaps we should mention the Orthodox persecution of Evangelicals in
Russia and Eastern Europe. The RCC eventually came around to accept religious freedom, thanks to Fr John Courtney Murray and Vatican II. But no similar reform can observed within EO.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Women like Aunt Susie are not only messengers of Christ's love... they are extraordinary role models whose lives bring to mind the words of Mary, the Mother of God:

"My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour..."

And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word..."

First Things is a wonderful website - I visit it often!

Susan

David said...

"Before we get all misty-eyed over Islamic persecution of the Orthodox (a plight shared by all branches of Christianity alike), perhaps we should mention the Orthodox persecution of Evangelicals in
Russia and Eastern Europe"

Before we make a statement like this maybe we should stop and educate ourselves on the subject. Evangelicals coming from America and Europe frequently don't even believe the Orthodox, RC, or Anglicans are even Christians but rather ritualistic, religious people lacking a personal relationship with Jesus. In Iraq and Afghanistan these Evangelicals aren't just asking for a conversion experience they want those people to become American Republicans. It is the flip side of the same coin LKW. Before you get on your high horse and start judging the hearts of people stop and try and figure out why people would hold such positions. I know plenty of "evangelicals" who would say you aren't even a Christian because you believe in works righteousness (ie. the eucharist and baptism) they are wrong, they judge your external actions giving them a meaning that you yourself do not have. It isn't fair to you and you are not being fair to others. The accusations and name calling need to stop and instead we need to start listening to one another. I think a great many Orthodox would come to understand just how Orthodox the Continuum is if they had the charity to stop and listen rather than make generalizations and spout their ignorance. That is a human condition, not a Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox exclusive condition.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the exchange between Fr. Hart and Fr. Wells on just how "rampant" the abbot's sort of thinking is in EO, as a former EO who is seriously considering Continuing Anglicanism, I'm inclined to take Fr. Wells side on the matter. It isn't *quite* as rampant as he seems to imply it is, but it is a sizable minority position, mostly among Athonite-type monastics and their ardent followers among converts to Orthodoxy. But there is a goodly number of "cradle" Orthodox, especially in Eastern Europe, who so believe.

In fact, I can mark the day of the beginning of my own departure from Orthodoxy, when a well-known, cantankerous OCA bishop, now happily for his diocese retired, suggested to me that the "signs" I observed among the Evangelicals who buried my father, a holy (but unbaptized) Christian man if there ever was one, as well as certain signs surrounding the funeral, were just so much "prelest" - deception. Well, I know differently, and what's more, I know that particular bishop was in any state of holiness himself that would have enabled him to opine accurately on the matter.

So this issue "strikes a cord with me" too, Fr. Hart. Your brother's article was just superb, and I thank you for sharing it. I don't get over to First Things much, as they are a bit too neo-Catholic and neoconsevative for my taste. But they do write some very good stuff. And it is true that an increasing number of Orthodox Christians are jettisoning the old unbiblical and unempirical views about the "fate of the non-Orthodox."

BTW, it wasn't just the experience with the bad bishop that sent me packing. Orthodox parochialism played a big part too. I don't know how many sermons I heard about "the West this" and "the West that", but I finally got a belly full of it, being a proud Westerner myself and all and knowing that many of their criticims of the West were rooted in in excusable ignorance and ideologically (ecclesiologically)-driven concerns.

Caedmon

Acolyte4236 said...

Apparently, someone needs to inform the poor ignorant Abbot that he needs to read the Scriptures since apparently he couldn’t possibly give a reasoned response to such proof texting as the Spirit’s wanderings.
Of course it might be helpful to evaluate his remarks in the context of either Orthodox ecclesiology or how the Orthodox view the Spirit’s work in the OT in contrast to the New. If memory serves, St. Maximus, among other Fathers give helpful elucidations on this point.
If something is not the “official” teaching of the Orthodox Church, it would be nice to see some reason to think that it is not. My money is on the Abbot since we are only talking about the contrary opinion of an individual layman. After all, if there is no salvation outside the church, can there be holiness? Perhaps DBH thinks that the Church is something wider than the Orthodox Church, in which case, I’d suggest persons who think such a thing find some other tradition.
As for what most Orthodox think, I’ll chalk that up to what most of any group think, which is often quite ignorant or misinformed.
Of course as noted the polite thing to do is to smile when someone says something that might offend you. Somehow though I don’t think it includes doing a blog post about it, at least not to the benefit of one’s soul, let alone anyone else’s.
The rest is fairly typical of the convert who really feels bad about drawing the lines of the church so that it excludes others. The appeal is to anecdotal evidence, but unless someone is seeing the uncreated light beam off such people, I can’t see that this really moves the ball down the field in their favor. After all, we need no deny that such persons have a measure of virtue. Augustine is clear for example on the real acquisition of virtues by pagans. Why draw the line at professing schismatics and heretics? (Article 22 seems to smack of iconoclasm for example, not to mention the “F” word in Article 5.) Truth be told in my own experience some of the most noble people I have ever known were an OPC Calvinist family who exemplified biblical parents beyond anything I had seen or seen since. Can heterodox Calvinists have “holiness” in terms of that conveyed through the Sacraments of the Apostolic Ministry? I don’t think DBH would say yes.
Here the framework of “holiness” seem to be drawn too large as to include the virtues of the pagans, something strictly speaking, East and West would exclude.

Acolyte4236 said...

Anon,

I have no idea what your experience is, but neither my wife nor I were rebaptized by the Orthodox when were received. I was baptized Catholic and she in TEC. So when you such a thing is rampant, it doesn’t seem so across at least three jurisdictions in three states.

If you take the view express by the abbot to be heresy, it might be helpful to give some evidence from the tradition that would have weight for the Orthodox for thinking it is so. Otherwise, it is a naked claim.
As for confronting Orthodox clerics at Anglican gatherings, I wouldn’t think it wise to alienate the few friends you have. Of course, given what Met. Jonah has said about the heresy of Calvinism, I’m quite sure he’d welcome the opportunity to instruct Anglican objectors on the Orthodox Faith.
And FYI, SCOBA doesn’t exist anymore. You might wish to update your files. And SCOBA couldn’t necessarily issue any definitive condemnation since it is not tantamount to the patriarchal sees or an ecumenical synod. I’d bet real money that the patriarchal sees are in the main in line with the Abbot.
As for the Muslims persecuting all branches of Christianity, this assumes that there are “branches” in the first place and historically, it is beyond question that Eastern Christendom has born the brunt of the scimitar’s blade.
And if memory serves Anglicans did their own persecution of Evangelicals. If memory serves England even had a military confrontation or two concerning it, complete with imprisonments and the cutting of tongues. Puritan works are full of such accounts. This appears to be a glass house to me from which you are hurling stones.

Acolyte4236 said...

Addendum.

Anon, the rebaptism or Anglicans or the lack thereof wouldn't of course imply a thing one way or the other about the sacramental validity of their baptism outside of the Orthodox Church. Even Arians for example have been accepted by Chrismation canonically in the East without re-baptism and certainly following Athanasius, Basil and others, their baptism wasn't sacramentally valid.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Mr. Acolyte:

Thank you for demonstrating how ugly the Ugly EO can be. You are a good argument for giving your brand of neo-"Orthodoxy" a wide berth.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Perry Robinson (Acolyte4236) from the "Energetic Procession" blog surfaces, spouting the hatred of everything non-Orthodox that is typical of his small and eccentric band of would-be Ortho[i]philosophes[/i].

Mr. Robinson, I see that your guru Joseph P. Farrell (writer of a few mostly inscrutable and axe-grinding theological books, and formerly (?) "Bishop Photios" of one of the sects from the "Orthodox Miscellany" called the "Celtic Orthodox Church" or something like that), is now lecturing and blogging on UFOs, Giza Pyramids, Tesla's physics and other matters, and palling around with the likes of Whitley Strieber.

That's got to be embarrassing.

Caedmon

Fr. Robert Hart said...

FYI: html with this blog host makes use of <> instead of [].

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I don't know who is more silly: Perry the "Orth", Mark Bonocore the RC, or Charlie the wannabe "Five point Calvinist." The ultimate Hell for each of them would be to have to spend eternity in a room with each other, debating about which one is in the True Church. The pointlessness of the debate would elude them there, no doubt.

Acolyte4236 said...

Fr. Hart,

Please notice that my remarks weren’t rhetorically filled, but by and large aimed at the issues presented. Perhaps rather than tossing insults my way, you could engage the argumentative points I posted since as things stand, they remain untouched.

The original post makes claims for example about what is or isn’t “official” Orthodox teaching. As things go, that claim is still unsupported. Perhaps you could remove the insults from your future posting and engage that or many other issues I addressed.

As for Anglican baptism, this wasn’t meant to be an insult, since I’ve maintained the same in reference to Catholicism. I am an equal opportunity discriminator in that regard. My remarks were motivated by the canons of Constantinople I as well as other later canons regarding the reception of various sects and heretics. This is why I mentioned that some Arians were received into the church without rebaptism, as an implicit demonstration that even if the Orthodox did accept Anglicans, Catholics or Lutherans without rebaptism (they did with me anyhow) it wouldn’t imply some kind of sacramental standing apart from the Orthodox Church nor any kind of invisible church or branch ecclesiology. So this is why I think you’ve misinterpreted my remarks. In no way were they meant to put Anglicans on a par with Arians, TEC perhaps excepting.

Acolyte4236 said...

Anon,

I have no idea who you are, but please allow me to bring you up to speed on a few things.

I don’t believe I have here or in any other venue spewed any kind of irrational hatred for anything and everything western. In fact, on not a few occasions I have defended Augustine, Scotus, Aquinas, et al from rather silly objections. I’ve gone out of my way defending Catholicism in other venues, as say the folks over at Called to Communion can attest against Protestant objections. Fr. Al Kimel, among others will attest to the same.

I am rather eclectic or better yet, reasoned in what I take to be problematic in western theology during certain periods. Others of course disagree with my reasons and that is just the way the world is. Of course, I have the same criticisms to make of theology done in the East in certain periods, say during the height of Origenism or in post-Chalcedonian Coptic Christology or Armenian Christology. Geography matters little to me. Since the mainstay of logic is truth preservation, what matters are whether the arguments for any given position are good ones, that is, they preserve the truth or not. Since you’ve presented no arguments so far, nor interacted with any that I presented, perhaps you might wish to present some as to why you think I am mistaken. This might prove all the more useful since you express your desire to leave the Orthodox Church for a continuing Anglican body, which given my own personal history in the latter could turn out to be a profitable discussion.

As for what you write about Orthodox preaching, I must confess in over ten years of being in GOARCH I’ve never heard such a thing. To be frank most of the sermons that I’ve heard are the run of the mill expositions of the Gospel lessons and perhaps too often some of those fall into bland moralism, with perhaps a Greek accent. I suspect you’d hear sermons like the ones you mention in Antiochian parishes with lots of converts, in which case the priest is preaching to the choir and probably has a need to justify his position or feel better about himself. I’ve been no small critic of people who convert too quickly without doing their fair share of home work. If they aren’t willing to do the work and wish to convert, that is fine, but I recommend that they keep their mouths shut. Consequently, my name is not “Frederrica.”

Acolyte4236 said...

Anon, (cont.)

As for Orthodox philosophers or philosophers who happen to be Orthodox, if you have certain people in mind, then please bring them forward, but the people I have in mind by such a designation are people like John Jones out of Marquette or David Bradshaw out of Kentucky. If you have a demonstration on hand to actually show that the views they express are “eccentric”, among other things, please do so. Without such a demonstration, I have no reason to take what you baldly claim to be true, in which case your remarks smack of just so much anger and prejudice.

As for Joseph Farrell, I’ve only had communications with him on fewer occasions than I have digits on one hand. His book on Maximus and free will was instrumental in my conversion to Orthodoxy. When he wrote such a work for his doctorate at Oxford he was writing in his own area of expertise and such it appears referenced in the professional literature on Maximus. (The introduction is by Bp. Ware after all, one of his doctoral advisors I believe.) And there isn’t much in that work that I can’t find in other subsequent monographs on Maximus’ theology. Consequently whether Farrell is a fruitcake is inconsequential for what I claim since I can bring forward Bathrellos, Thunberg, Cooper or Hovorun, to list just a few. For what I claim about Latin Scholasticism, this can be found in a variety of primary and secondary works, some of themironically by Anglican authors.

It is true that Farrell was once a canonical priest, but no longer, and at one time if not now claims to be a bishop in the body you mention, which I do not recognize in the slightest, especially since he serves no congregation of any kind that I know of and was ordained by vigante bishops, at least one of a Nestorian variety. So I am quite comfortable in calling Farrell out on the same things you list. But of course, at least as far as the “Celtic Orthodox” body goes, I can’t see how any of that would bother continuing Anglicans, at least in principle.

So the attempt to tar me with Farrell’s idiosyncrasies seems to me to fall flat. I am afraid that if you wish to establish a point, you’ll need to actually make an argument.

On top of this I have little time or patience with conspiracy theories, fringe groups, UFO’s and such things. I ignore them and I counsel others to do so, usually on peril of their souls. Even if such conspiracies were true, they are practically useless and only fuel an unhealthy aestheticism and pride. Simply put, they are distractions from Christ.

melxiopp said...

Insofar as Acolyte's "ugliness" was due to comparing Anglicans with Arians, I always think it's an interesting thought exercise to consider how Mormons and JWs feel when they here Anglicans, Orthodox, Catholics, etc. say they aren't Christians, aren't in the Church, lack grace, etc.

A theological position is not, in itself, good or bad, nice or not nice, etc. It simply is the position of that Church or theology. One can value that theological position according to criteria like nice, ugly, modern, etc. but these are value judgments that do not necessarily rise above the level of opinion and feelings. Treating theological dialogue otherwise is an example of the kind of ecumenism that is code for "very polite, but very violent, assimilation" of theological differences - the kind of dialogue that has resulted in grayish liberal Protestantism.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

melxiopp:

If I considered "Acolyte" a spokesman for a genuine tradition in Orthodoxy, his ideas would at least carry some sort of weight. He has not expressed the theological position of anybody but himself and other individuals.

Here, then, is a theological position. Holiness is possible only by grace. Grace comes directly from the Holy Spirit, and from Christ who is fully God and fully human. Everyone who is baptized is in Christ, and those who believe receive the grace that comes with daily renewing of the inner man.

That grace is not a club membership card.

Acolyte4236 said...

Fr. Hart,

Please notice that I do not believe I made the opposite claim and so I bear no burden. But even if I did, I would only bear the burden from my own statements while your brother would bear the burden for his own. So far, I haven’t seen any support for his own claims, but bald assertions.

Actually, I need to correct you as to my past exchange with your brother as well since you’ve forced my hand. First, your brother is not beyond logic so his academic credentials mean nothing as to the validity of his arguments. So his standing is irrelevant and this is so for any academic. Second, years ago your brother burst onto then Kimel’s Pontifications without knowing what in fact my position was. He made claims that I was a crypto-Calvinist, Nominalist and such, all of which were obviously not true to anyone who had read what I in fact wrote. What he was responding to were remarks made by some third party unknown to me and then he went onto Kimel’s blog to blast me.

We then had some correspondence via email where I not only corrected the false views imputed to me, but he issued an apology to me. I still have the emails in question where he does so. Perhaps I can post them on a separate blog post on my blog making them public. So perhaps when you write that the sight was not pretty you mean to refer to his imputation of views to me that I did not hold and then his subsequent apology to me? Please clarify. Perhaps your brother is in the habit of apologizing quite easily or something. I do not know because he is not my brother so perhaps you do know. I have kept the incident private as the emails were private, but if you prefer, I can make them public. Please let me know one way or the other. There are other private exchanges and documents we could also make public like some reviews of your brother’s works by other Orthodox and non-Orthodox writers which didn’t out of charity see the light of day and so air out all the laundry. But I don’t think that would be pretty either. But by all means, let me know if you wish to make public these and other documents. I’d suggest checking with your brother first.

I am well aware that you think you refuted me, but here I think you confuse a refutation with issuing a reply. So needless to say, I disagree. As for your claims about my supposed mischaracterization of western theology being a distraction from Christ, I’ll simply meet your naked assertion with a bald denial.

My remark about the “Celtic Orthodox” and Anglicanism wasn’t meant as an insult and so you misrepresent my position. I have no doubt of the kookiness of the former. It was only meant to point out that they are founded on the same principle, while obviously the historical facts regarding them differ. Consequently, Anglicans in principle have no grounds in principle on recovering an ancient pre-Roman tradition to object to such bodies. They seem to me to have to look elsewhere for arguments against such bodies.

If you know that I think myself an expert on Continuing Anglicanism, then you know something in my mind that I do not myself know. I do know that I spent a fair amount of time in it at both a parish and regional level. Ask Canon Stahl if you like.

As for my views not representing the teaching of my Church, this not only smacks of an ad hominem, but is without demonstration. You are correct that I didn’t pick out the position of my church in this matter (which is why I don’t bear the burden of proof) but I did point to normative sources for teaching that Orthodox would recognize. Consequently I pointed readers to doctors of the church and not myself.

As for your stated theological position it seems mistaken on at least one point on your own principles. That is grace is not necessarily unmediated. And certainly baptism doesn’t license anyone to partake of the Eucharist across bodies, not evening Continuing Anglican bodies.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

But of course, at least as far as the “Celtic Orthodox” body goes, I can’t see how any of that would bother continuing Anglicans, at least in principle.

If you can write that, then don't pretend to be above dishing out insults. You know perfectly well that the Celtic "Orthodox" are a group of kooks, with their feet firmly planted in the clouds (of some sort of smoke, no doubt). I know you think yourself an expert on Continuing Anglicans and the ACC, but I see nothing realistic in any of the things you have said. You claim to have been on the inside long, long ago. Maybe so, long ago.

Anonymous said...

Oh come now, Mr. Robinson. One cannot even peruse your blog – or dialogue with certain of your associates, as I have in other discussion fora – without being treated to a heap of panegyric devoted to “His Grace” + Photios Farrell. As far as your particular relationship with him is concerned, well, it seems it is or at least was close enough for you to merit the receipt of an “(autographed) copy in book form of his most prolific work, God History and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and Their Cultural Consequences.”

http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2008/01/07/huge-news/

You fault me for presenting no arguments, but it was not my intent to present any. I only meant to comment briefly on how embarrassing Dr. Farrell’s going off the deep end must have been for you.

True, I did also assert that you belong to a “small and eccentric band of would-be Orthophilosophes” (note the deliberate absence of the “r” in the italicized portion), but that’s simply because I think this is true on its face. Following certain Fathers who were in my estimation influenced more by Origen’s Neoplatonism than by the Gospel (i.e., it wasn’t just Augustine's progeny who were overly influenced by Neoplatonism – even Fr. Meyendorff seemed to admit that), and relying substantially on Farrell’s work, you present Orthodoxy not only as some sort of philosophical system that almost looks like some sort of “theory of everything”, but the key to understanding all the “errors” of that damnable “West.” If, as Dr. Farrell has been, you are critical of some untenable arguments made by the Eastern Orthodox against “the West”, well, I commend you. But anti-Westernism and Orthodox cheerleading pervades your blog nonetheless.

You write, “I must confess in over ten years of being in GOARCH I’ve never heard such a thing (in Orthodox preaching about the West).” Well, that only means you must get around much. It is the topic of discussion in many a writing, both online and in print. I must have heard my own GOARCH bishop criticize the West a dozen times in the perhaps two dozen sermons of his I heard. Orthodox writer Bradley Nassif alludes to it here in an article entitled “Reclaiming the Gospel”:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/NassifGospel.php

You yourself allude to Frederica’s obsession (a woman I nonetheless continue to admire). Where did she obtain her thoroughgoing anti-Western views, if not from certain Orthodox “authorities”, including presumably a priest or two? Like maybe her husband.

(cont. below)

Caedmon

Anonymous said...

Oh come now, Mr. Robinson. One cannot even peruse your blog – or dialogue with certain of your associates, as I have in other discussion fora – without being treated to a heap of panegyric devoted to “His Grace” + Photios Farrell. As far as your particular relationship with him is concerned, well, it seems it is or at least was close enough for you to merit the receipt of an “(autographed) copy in book form of his most prolific work, God History and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and Their Cultural Consequences.”

http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2008/01/07/huge-news/

You fault me for presenting no arguments, but it was not my intent to present any. I only meant to comment briefly on how embarrassing Dr. Farrell’s going off the deep end must have been for you.

True, I did also assert that you belong to a “small and eccentric band of would-be Orthophilosophes” (note the deliberate absence of the “r” in the italicized portion), but that’s simply because I think this is true on its face. Following certain Fathers who were in my estimation influenced more by Origen’s Neoplatonism than by the Gospel (i.e., it wasn’t just Augustine's progeny who were overly influenced by Neoplatonism – even Fr. Meyendorff seemed to admit that), and relying substantially on Farrell’s work, you present Orthodoxy not only as some sort of philosophical system that almost looks like some sort of “theory of everything”, but the key to understanding all the “errors” of that damnable “West.” If, as Dr. Farrell has been, you are critical of some untenable arguments made by the Eastern Orthodox against “the West”, well, I commend you. But anti-Westernism and Orthodox cheerleading pervades your blog nonetheless.

You write, “I must confess in over ten years of being in GOARCH I’ve never heard such a thing (in Orthodox preaching about the West).” Well, that only means you must get around much. It is the topic of discussion in many a writing, both online and in print. I must have heard my own GOARCH bishop criticize the West a dozen times in the perhaps two dozen sermons of his I heard. Orthodox writer Bradley Nassif alludes to it here in an article entitled “Reclaiming the Gospel”:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/NassifGospel.php

You yourself allude to Frederica’s obsession (a woman I nonetheless continue to admire). Where did she obtain her thoroughgoing anti-Western views, if not from certain Orthodox “authorities”, including presumably a priest or two? Like maybe her husband.

(cont. below)

Caedmon

Anonymous said...

Oh come now, Mr. Robinson. One cannot even peruse your blog – or dialogue with certain of your associates, as I have in other discussion fora – without being treated to a heap of panegyric devoted to “His Grace” + Photios Farrell. As far as your particular relationship with him is concerned, well, it seems it is or at least was close enough for you to merit the receipt of an “(autographed) copy in book form of his most prolific work, God History and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and Their Cultural Consequences.”

http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2008/01/07/huge-news/

You fault me for presenting no arguments, but it was not my intent to present any. I only meant to comment briefly on how embarrassing Dr. Farrell’s going off the deep end must have been for you.

True, I did also assert that you belong to a “small and eccentric band of would-be Orthophilosophes” (note the deliberate absence of the “r” in the italicized portion), but that’s simply because I think this is true on its face. Following certain Fathers who were in my estimation influenced more by Origen’s Neoplatonism than by the Gospel (i.e., it wasn’t just Augustine's progeny who were overly influenced by Neoplatonism – even Fr. Meyendorff seemed to admit that), and relying substantially on Farrell’s work, you present Orthodoxy not only as some sort of philosophical system that almost looks like some sort of “theory of everything”, but the key to understanding all the “errors” of that damnable “West.” If, as Dr. Farrell has been, you are critical of some untenable arguments made by the Eastern Orthodox against “the West”, well, I commend you. But anti-Westernism and Orthodox cheerleading pervades your blog nonetheless.

You write, “I must confess in over ten years of being in GOARCH I’ve never heard such a thing (in Orthodox preaching about the West).” Well, that only means you must get around much. It is the topic of discussion in many a writing, both online and in print. I must have heard my own GOARCH bishop criticize the West a dozen times in the perhaps two dozen sermons of his I heard. Orthodox writer Bradley Nassif alludes to it here in an article entitled “Reclaiming the Gospel”:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/NassifGospel.php

You yourself allude to Frederica’s obsession (a woman I nonetheless continue to admire). Where did she obtain her thoroughgoing anti-Western views, if not from certain Orthodox “authorities”, including presumably a priest or two? Like maybe her husband.

(cont. below)

Caedmon

Anonymous said...

Caedmon, continuing:

You express some interest in why I’m leaving Orthodoxy for Continuing Anglicanism. It is related in large part to the foregoing, this attempt to morph apostolic Christianity into some sort of Christian Hellenistic philosophy that picks and chooses what aspects of Neoplatonism it will accept and reject. My departure is also in no small part due to ecclesiological issues. In short, I’ve determined that it’s not only Rome’s claim to be the “one true church” which is false, but Orthodoxy’s as well. Fr. Kirby’s three-part article here in The Continuum, “Catholic Ecumenism and the Elephant in the Room”, is illustrative of an argument that should force one to this conclusion.

What’s more, the argument put forth in Fr. Hart’s blog entry here – God’s grace being manifestly operative outside of the canonical boundaries of the apostolic and Catholic church – accords well with my own change of ecclesiological mind. Frankly, I find the statement made by St. Anthony’s abbot to be nonsense on stilts (and, alas, typical of that place), but it unfortunately represents a mentality that is all too pervasive in the Orthodox Church. Happily, there are signs that this mentality is giving way in the Orthodox Church to one that accords better with biblical and empirical considerations, but time will tell if the monks will follow. And “monasticism is the heart of Orthodoxy”, is it not?

I am joining Continuing Anglicanism also because I am the son of Englishmen and Celts, and a citizen of a federation of republics peopled by them. As an American Catholic Christian who rejects the papal claims, I must therefore consider the Anglican Catholic bishops of America to be my bishops, and not bishops transplanted from the Middle East, Greece, Eastern Europe, or subject to hierarchs there. And if the Orthodox in America refuse to be in communion with this nation’s native bishops who have held fast to the faith of the undivided church of the first millennium, well, as argued here in The Continuum, that’s their problem.

Lastly, I am not, and will never be, a Byzantine. I tried real hard to get that Byzantine Orthodox “phronema”, but the dang thing would never take. Alas, I am a Westerner. Why should I belong to a communion, Eastern Orthodoxy, whose contempt for my cultural and philosophical patrimony – or my “filioquism”, as you would likely put it - is palpable? The Western Orthodox Rite is no solution if you ask me. Not only is there great animosity toward the Western Rite in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the WR folks themselves are known to bitterly complain about “Byzantinism”, past and present. How can such an alliance last for long? Those traditional Anglicans who left PECUSA for WRO should have sought refuge in Continuing Anglicanism, and not in a part of the church that only tolerates them, and that maybe only temporarily. Why did they seek to come under the omophoria of alien Eastern Rite bishops? I intend to avoid that mistake.

Hope that all clears it up some.

Caedmon

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Perry:

Inasmuch as you were offended by a few remarks I made, and the subject itself is not all that important, I removed them (after several days and new postings, who is reading the comments anymore but us?), which is also an apology for unnecessary offense given. Therefore, direct references to my offending words has no context here.


If you and Mexl want to discuss theological positions then we may do so. But, that a modern version of Orthodoxy is popular among the stylish, and that some of my younger brother's views are not in style, and that some ancient writers may be invoked (accurately or inaccurately) as witnesses, is beyond debate. Certainly, a lot of links can be given to essays by various writers meant to demonstrate that the old Abbott is in the mainstream of Orthodoxy, but that hardly proves anything, inasmuch as you cannot prove that the Abbott's opinions are official doctrine, which was David's only point on that (in EOoxy, as he said, very little is).

The theological opinion is obvious: The EO Church is The One True Church (in competition with Rome for the same titular honor), and grace that produces holiness is only possible in the Church. Therefore, only Orthodox Church members can be holy in the true sense.

Fine. We get it. We always did. Lining up a thousand essays to prove that this is EO doctrine, in the eyes of a great multitude, really does not touch upon that one simple line in the First Things piece, which was not the main issue anyway. The issue is what a stupid position it is in the first place.

It is easier for both Frs. Hart than for Dr. Hart to take this position, as he is the only EO in the family. But, I am proud of my baby brother that he appears to have retained the good Anglican Reason necessary to have utter contempt for the whole One True Church claim by either of the Two One True Churches. We have contempt for such a stupid claim ourselves (inasmuch as the Branch Theory/Fact is obvious to anyone with a functioning brain), and I hope he has retained it himself in more than mere appearance.

melxiopp said...

Therefore, only Orthodox Church members can be holy in the true sense.

Fine. We get it. We always did.


Actually, the reason those links were posted is because the position of the Orthodox Church is more nuanced and complex than you have presented it - or as you have had it presented to you. I think you - and your readers - might have found some of the posts rather surprising both in tone and content.

Of course, not even an active 'ecumenist' Orthodox Christian such as Prof. Peter Bouteneff accepts anything like the Branch Theory (see his letters back and forth with Patrick Barnes online), so this is really where the fault line is to be found - and where dialogue ends since this view is simply not a normative part of the (Orthodox) Tradition.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Officially, the Two One True Churches haven't the sense to see the obvious, that the Corinthian problem of division continues to this day. St. Paul did not try to determine which group was the True Church. Such arguments, as which Church is the One True, are carnal and infantile according to St. Paul). The division men have created among true believers is an obvious fact of history, one that only Anglicans seem prepared to deal with honestly.

mome said...

Caedmon said: "I am joining Continuing Anglicanism also because I am the son of Englishmen and Celts, and a citizen of a federation of republics peopled by them. As an American Catholic Christian who rejects the papal claims, I must therefore consider the Anglican Catholic bishops of America to be my bishops, and not bishops transplanted from the Middle East, Greece, Eastern Europe, or subject to hierarchs there. And if the Orthodox in America refuse to be in communion with this nation’s native bishops ... . Why should I belong to a communion, Eastern Orthodoxy, whose contempt for my cultural and philosophical patrimony ... is palpable?"

Brilliant! Fight phyletism with phyletism!

Yes, using a rationale such as this, why should anyone in India or China or somewhere else join any Christian communion?

Fr. J. said...

I don't know who is more silly: Perry the "Orth", Mark Bonocore the RC, or Charlie the wannabe "Five point Calvinist." The ultimate Hell for each of them would be to have to spend eternity in a room with each other, debating about which one is in the True Church. The pointlessness of the debate would elude them there, no doubt.

I have been away from the religious blogosphere for over a year. To come back and see that it and its comboxes continue is both heartening and disheartening.

Fr. Hart's words above, however, brought me the greatest satisfaction!

Sava said...

Let me know if this makes any sense or is for some reason impossible:

I don't think the following propositions are necessarily incompatible:
The Orthodox Church is one true church.
There is no salvation outside the church.
People who are not "members" of the church are obviously part of the Church.

I don't see why the Orthodox Church is necessarily confined to those people that parishes can count, instead of it being a body of redeemed individuals that is accessible by grace reached through mysteries, prayer, fasting, repentance, and love. Then what role does the church play? (Ideally) Unity for Christians, proper instruction and guidance and encouragement, and the participation in holy mysteries unique to the physical Church.

To put what I am saying in a different way: I don't think agreeing with Melxiopp's theological position (which is the only position I have encountered as of yet in the Orthodox Church) is necessarily an endorsement of the branch theory of the Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Mome:

Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that Christianity already exists in India and in China. The Church was there before America was discovered. Also, your comment implies that you accept the standard criticism that EOdoxy tends to be overly given to ethnophyletism- which it does in most places.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The "Branch Theory" is generally misrepresented by RC and EO critics. They wrongly think it implies that Christ has established three divisions as part of the plan. But, that is not an accurate representation at all. Neither, however, is it true doctrine to insist that only one party can be the True Church.

In fact, the First Epistle to the Corinthians shows that a theory of manifest political unity as a mark of the Church is, itself, utter non-sense. That the Church has been divided partly by men's failures is obvious. That it was destined to have divisions like the divisions of a single army is also obvious.

History has left us, as was unavoidable, with a combination of these two factors. This is why I call it the Branch Theory/Fact. The Church is fully valid and real in its different human manifestations. the divisions are partly good, because the Church exists among all nations by God's plan. They are partly bad, because human sin has created the Great Schism and other partisan divisions. but, even that was taken into account by God's foreknowledge.

Choosing which party is right is a waste of time.

"XIX. Of the Church.
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."

Anyone who cannot see the truth of that statement is simply incapable of understanding the Church, and is blind to what truly matters.

Anonymous said...

mome:

First of all, that was only one reason of several.

Secondly, phyletism is technically "the confusion between Church and nation"; "the idea that a local autocephalous Church should be based not on a local [ecclesial] criterion, but on an ethnophyletist, national or linguistic one." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyletism

I do not confuse Church and nation. I merely set forth the obvious, which is that the Church naturally organizes itself along ethno-nationalist lines. American Catholics would be expected to be subject to American bishops therefore, Romanians to Romanian ones, Russians to Russian ones, and so on. But this doesn't imply that the American Church is any more the Church of Christ than is the Russian Orthodox Church, etc. If you look at the circumstances that led the condemnation of phyletism at the 1872 synod has nothing whatsoever to do with what I wrote.

Lastly, as Fr. Hart notes, the heresy of phyletism is especially acute among the Orthodox. This xenos finally grew tired of always feeling like something of an outsider among the Greeks, God love them, and that's why the church that has historically shepherded my Anglo-Celt forebears started looking more like "home" to me.

npmccallum said...

Fr Robert,

I've never been to a church that wasn't swarming with ethnophyletism (RC, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian or otherwise). Its just that most people only recognize ethnophyletism in churches that are not of their own ethnicity.

Your Corinthian Paul demur also rings hollow considering the vast majority of Pauline scholars hold that the Corinthian church was not yet at a point of schism and that the issues involved in Corinth are the natural result of a rapid succession of pastoral leadership. The dispute was over how to properly structure their shared worship and life, not how to resolve competing truth claims. In fact, it is the utter lack of competing truth claims that makes Corinth the quintessential case-study for useless schism since Paul, Apollos and Cephas have all delivered the same faith (you are of course free to argue otherwise, but the end result of such argumentation is the complete destruction of the canon of faith; Pagels and Ehrman could use some company). This is precisely *not* the case of our contemporary controversy which involves competing, exclusive truth claims.

It is this fact that makes me a bit skeptical when Anglicans dismiss "True Church" claims as "infantile" without so much as an argument, considering the Anglican truth claims depend on the successful defeat of the "True Church" claims of the other bodies. The argument (or lack thereof) is entirely self-serving. So dismiss such claims all you want, but at least admit that what is at stake is the validity of Anglican orders and sacraments.

npmccallum said...

Anon,

I fail to see how your leaving a local American bishop who does not share your ethnicity to find an American bishop who does share your ethnicity so that you can feel more at "home" is anything but phylitism. If we grant your notion that the apostolic orders of both bishops are valid, you are essentially choosing Apollos over Peter because, well, Peter's just too dang Jewish.

Forgive me if I appear to be questioning your personal decision, which is entirely yours. I am in fact questioning your reasoning that Orthodoxy is phylitist because its filled with lots of non-Anglos. On a personal level, I'm sorry your experience with GOArch has been so bad. It does not, however, reflect my experience.

mome said...

I am quite aware of Christianity's presence in India from apostolic times and in China from at least Nestorian times. That hardly makes the kinds of Christianity presented by many missionaries or local evangelists in either land a "native" phenomenon or one that is particularly accommodating to more culturally entrenched Hindu/Buddhist/Daoist/Confucianist/Muslim/What Have You ways of thought in those lands. It also doesn't address the point I was making to Caedmon, which had to do with rejecting a form of Christianity on the basis of its regard for one's own cultural/intellectual/spiritual heritage. Go back far enough, and any appearance of Christianity on the scene can be seen as an affront to the prevailing cultural/intellectual/spiritual heritage. A stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. One may attempt to make the case that one's cultural/intellectual/spiritual heritage is a properly Christian one, or is Christian enough, which may very well be Caedmon's contention. But would that not be one of the basic points of contention in the debate over these matters between Orthodox and Anglicans?

As for the second point, no, my comment does not imply that I accept the standard criticism (standard among whom?) about phyletism in the eastern churches. I do not deny that such a problem sadly exists in some places, but to say, as you do, that this is a problem in "most" Orthodox haunts and that the Orthodox churches are "overly given" to phyletism is, I believe, highly exaggerated (unless one believes that any preservation of non-Anglo elements, accents, words or hierarchs in an American church is a problem). Rather, my punnish comment simply highlights that Caedmon seems to believe that this is a great and unbearable problem in the Orthodox churches. Thus, he fights the phyletism he seems to perceive with another phyletism that he, presumably, does not perceive ("I am the son of Englishmen and Celts, and a citizen of a federation of republics peopled by them. ... I must therefore consider the Anglican Catholic bishops of America to be my bishops").

mome said...

Caedmon

My previous comment was written before I saw your 12:26 comment. If you write anything between then and this comment of mine, I'll have to address it later.

I know that was one reason out of several. I wouldn't dare to presume to know all of your thinking on your spiritual journey. I don't know you or your experience. But you alluded to these things, so I do assume that they have some significance to you.

Wikipedia aside, I think phyletism is not restricted to a confusion of church and nation if "nation" is understood in the sense of a nation-state. When most people discuss phyletism in an American context (and when they raise the charge against the Orthodox), what they are talking about has to do with ethnicity and how old world cultures persist in new world settings and make those who don't share in that culture feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. In your comments about your Anglo/Celtic heritage, you suggest that this heritage is an important reason why you should follow bishops who are part of an Anglo/Celtic tradition. To me, this resembles what is often lambasted as phyletism in Orthodoxy enough to refer to it as such or suggest that there is a similarity. The 1872 holy synod's condemnation of phyletism was a condemnation of racial discrimination. When you say that you should follow Anglo/Celtic bishops because you come from Anglo/Celtic stock and live in a land where a lot of Anglo/Celtic people also live, you seem to be at least as guilty of whatever it is that Greek people do when they find it fitting to gather together in a church full of other Greek people in such numbers as to make Anglo/Celtic Americans feel like outsiders.

I don't know if I would say that the heresy of phyletism is "especially acute among the Orthodox" as opposed to its presence in other corners of Christendom. Using Wikipedia's summary of the condemnation of phyletism as that "the Church should not be confused with the destiny of a single nation or a single race," I would quickly recognize such a confusion, explicitly, in any number of American evangelical and charismatic Protestant groups (where the American nation is often seen as one of God's great gifts to the rest of the world) and, implicitly, in many WASPish Anglican and mainline haunts (where if you don't fit the mold you just couldn't possibly feel comfortable there). It's a huge problem in American neoconservative religiosity in general (but I gather from one of your earlier comments that you aren't too sympathetic with neoconservatism). In more liberal climes, where there is much talk of diversity but it is usually coming out of white upper middle class mouths, it could be seen as a problem as well. The thing is, a tendency towards a phyletism that looks and sounds like oneself is harder to recognize than such a tendency in a group of "foreigners." And in churches where the word "phyletism" is rarely if ever uttered, the notion would scarcely be brought to bear in their discussions of internal problems. That the Orthodox happen to recognize that this can be a problem amongst themselves and that they tend to be the ones discussing how it does or might manifest itself in their own churches, seems in itself to make the Orthodox more open to the criticism. But I think it's a far more equal-opportunity criticism than is generally recognized.

Perhaps you would suggest that some of what I describe cannot fall under the heading of phyletism, and perhaps you would be right, but I think there's quite a kinship between what I describe and what is, by the strictest definition, phyletism.

Really, my main concern in making my initial comment was to get a cheesy pun out of my system. In the end, I hope I have not overly offended you and I wish you all the best in your pursuit of Christ.

mome said...

... Continued, to Caedmon

I don't know if I would say that the heresy of phyletism is "especially acute among the Orthodox" as opposed to its presence in other corners of Christendom. Using Wikipedia's summary of the condemnation of phyletism as that "the Church should not be confused with the destiny of a single nation or a single race," I would quickly recognize such a confusion, explicitly, in any number of American evangelical and charismatic Protestant groups (where the American nation is often seen as one of God's great gifts to the rest of the world) and, implicitly, in many WASPish Anglican and mainline haunts (where if you don't fit the mold you just couldn't possibly feel comfortable there). It's a huge problem in American neoconservative religiosity in general (but I gather from one of your earlier comments that you aren't too sympathetic with neoconservatism). In more liberal climes, where there is much talk of diversity but it is usually coming out of white upper middle class mouths, it could be seen as a problem as well. The thing is, a tendency towards a phyletism that looks and sounds like oneself is harder to recognize than such a tendency in a group of "foreigners." And in churches where the word "phyletism" is rarely if ever uttered, the notion would scarcely be brought to bear in their discussions of internal problems. That the Orthodox happen to recognize that this can be a problem amongst themselves and that they tend to be the ones discussing how it does or might manifest itself in their own churches, seems in itself to make the Orthodox more open to the criticism. But I think it's a far more equal-opportunity criticism than is generally recognized.

Perhaps you would suggest that some of what I describe cannot fall under the heading of phyletism, and perhaps you would be right, but I think there's quite a kinship between what I describe and what is, by the strictest definition, phyletism.

Really, my main concern in making my initial comment was to get a cheesy pun out of my system. In the end, I hope I have not overly offended you and I wish you all the best in your pursuit of Christ.

melxiopp said...

History has left us, as was unavoidable, with a combination of these two factors.

You are right that not all 'schisms' are due to one side being right and the other wrong. The East and West were divided from each other for about half of the first millenium before the Great Schism, but the 'schismatic' saints of each side are recognized by the other.

However, you are ignoring the also incontrovertible fact that not all schisms were over trifles and that the Church identified many competing churches as wholly heretical and outside of the Church.

That is, while "Choosing which party is right is a waste of time" sometimes - maybe even a lot of the time - it is not always so (and never has been). That is also a fact of history, unless one wants to turn back the clock to declare Arius and Athanasius members of the same Church, sharing the same faith. Assumptions that "we're all the same" get even more dicey when comparing the orthodox/catholic churches with the variety of Gnostic heresies, proto-Charismatics like the Montanists, the Bogomils, etc. Even 100 years ago one might be forgiven for seeing the commonality rather than the diversity between Christian churches (excluding Unitarians, JWs and Mormons), but the spectrum of idiosyncrasy in self-styled Christian churches has widened radically in only the last 50 years, e.g., the Anglican Communion itself as well as the various self-styled Anglican denominations. Still, the assumption that all Christian churches are the same is as factually dishonest as the assumption that all religions are the same (cf. Prothero, God is Not One).

melxiopp said...

Caedmon,

"The confusion between Church and nation" means organizing the Church along "ethno-nationalist lines". Nation in the decree against phyletism does not mean "state" or "country", it means "an aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family, often speaking the same language or cognate languages."

Thus leaving a church that "organizes itself along ethno-nationalist lines" (Greek) for another church body that "organizes itself along ethno-nationalist lines" is phyletism. Of course, I'm not sure if phyletism is even seen as a theoretical problem in Anglicanism or the West. Orthodoxy has at least defined the sickness, though it has been unable to cure itself of the disease as of yet (at least in lands abroad where Orthodox immigrants from various local churches have emigrated; it should be noted that phyletism isn't a problem abroad where populations are relatively homogeneous.)

And, believe me, I get the frustration with Greeks, as have other Orthodox peoples (especially during the Ottoman era, e.g., Bulgarians, Arabs, Romanians) but also including the late Roman and Byzantine periods, e.g., Armenians, Copts, Arabs). I've always considered the Greeks to be a little like a child prodigy who produced his best work as a child and adolescent, but who has done little of note since; it's a perhaps impossible legacy to live up to gracefully. This is compounded by the fact that Greeks are the richest, best organized and most numerous of Orthodox jurisdictions in North America.

Anonymous said...

The heresy of phyletism was condemned after Bulgarians living in Constantinople (I will never call it "Istanbul") organized a Bulgarian bishopric and formed parishes that were open *only to Bulgarians*. That is not the fact pattern in my case *at all.*

At the Holy and Great pan-Orthodox pan-Orthodox Synod held in Constantinople in 1872, at which the the heresy was condemned, the Synod declared, thereby defining phyletism:

"We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which 'support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.'”

I am not a racist or a supporter of ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ. I will perfectly fine, as an Anglican, with persons of whatever race who chose to join my parish. I will be perfectly fine being in communion with dark-skined Anglican Catholics around the world (the Africans being some of the most fervent), and if they ever wanted to highlight the fact that "anglo" is not really their ethnic background, I would not object one bit if they jettisoned the word "Anglican" and renamed their church the "African Episcopal Catholic Church" or whatever. I would still be in communion with them.

But it's just a fact that the Church, as it has moved and will move around the world, will organize itself somewhat ethno-nationally. That's just obvious.

Sorry, mome and melxiopp, but your dog just won't hunt.

Caedmon

Anonymous said...

Oh, and include npmcallum's dog too.

Anonymous said...

An Orthodox blogger on what phyletism is - and is not:

http://wabisabifaith.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/phyletism-unity-through-not-in-spite-of-diversity/

He's only a blogger, but he happens to be right.

mome said...

Caedmon,

Nice link. It had a lot of good things to say. Thanks.

As for your response, I already said this:

"Perhaps you would suggest that some of what I describe cannot fall under the heading of phyletism, and perhaps you would be right, but I think there's quite a kinship between what I describe and what is, by the strictest definition, phyletism."

In other words, I acknowledged that I might be stretching the strict definition of "phyletism" in order to make my point. However, I continue to contend that what I have described above is a problem whose fundamental motivation is quite similar to the motivation behind phyletism. That said, my arguments still stand. You seem to fix on whether I use "phyletism" correctly, pointing to the original situation that prompted the 1872 synod's pronouncement. But there is nothing unusual in extending particulars into more general situations, as I have done, and as many have done when pointing fingers at Orthodox churches. If my use of phyletism is too cavalier and broad, then the same can often be said of those who toss that accusation at American Orthodoxy, saying it is "a heresy that is especially acute among the Orthodox" and similar statements.

But still, in my comments, I pointed out that the very same problems about which people frequently harp on the Orthodox exist in an equally or more acute way in other American churches. It's just less recognizable when it reflects one's own biases. That problem is often called "phyletism" when directed at the Orthodox, but when it is applied to someone else, as I and others have done here, the chief response is a lesson about what is or is not truly phyletism, which therefore renders the hunting dog lazy and toothless, or so it is claimed. Well, the critique still stands and has not been addressed. I believe you when you say that you don't support ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions. I also believe you when you say that you will be fine with people, whatever their race, who come to your parish. But still, you said being an outsider in a crowd of Greeks had become tiresome for you, and you said you grew weary of hearing some foreign bishop supposedly railing against your beloved western heritage (when most likely the railing was really just about some particular theological and philosophical tendencies that have taken hold in western thought and run contrary to Orthodox thinking). Who's to say that many people of other races won't also grow similarly burdened by the ethnic/cultural dominance of Anglo/Celts in Anglican circles, even if the "at home" Anglicans are happy to have them there? The fact that there are countless fervent Anglicans in Africa has nothing to do with daily parish life in America and all the little unspoken ways by which we can communicate our unconscious racism.

mome said...

Caedmon,

Nice link. It had a lot of good things to say. Thanks.

As for your response, I already said this:

"Perhaps you would suggest that some of what I describe cannot fall under the heading of phyletism, and perhaps you would be right, but I think there's quite a kinship between what I describe and what is, by the strictest definition, phyletism."

In other words, I acknowledged that I might be stretching the strict definition of "phyletism" in order to make my point. However, I continue to contend that what I have described above is a problem whose fundamental motivation is quite similar to the motivation behind phyletism. That said, my arguments still stand. You seem to fix on whether I use "phyletism" correctly, pointing to the original situation that prompted the 1872 synod's pronouncement. But there is nothing unusual in extending particulars into more general situations, as I have done, and as many have done when pointing fingers at Orthodox churches. If my use of phyletism is too cavalier and broad, then the same can often be said of those who toss that accusation at American Orthodoxy, saying it is "a heresy that is especially acute among the Orthodox" and similar statements.

continued ...

mome said...

... continued

But still, in my comments, I pointed out that the very same problems about which people frequently harp on the Orthodox exist in an equally or more acute way in other American churches. It's just less recognizable when it reflects one's own biases. That problem is often called "phyletism" when directed at the Orthodox, but when it is applied to someone else, as I and others have done here, the chief response is a lesson about what is or is not truly phyletism, which therefore renders the hunting dog lazy and toothless, or so it is claimed. Well, the critique still stands and has not been addressed. I believe you when you say that you don't support ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions. I also believe you when you say that you will be fine with people, whatever their race, who come to your parish. But still, you said being an outsider in a crowd of Greeks had become tiresome for you, and you said you grew weary of hearing some foreign bishop supposedly railing against your beloved western heritage (when most likely the railing was really just about some particular theological and philosophical tendencies that have taken hold in western thought and run contrary to Orthodox thinking). Who's to say that many people of other races won't also grow similarly burdened by the ethnic/cultural dominance of Anglo/Celts in Anglican circles, even if the "at home" Anglicans are happy to have them there? The fact that there are countless fervent Anglicans in Africa has nothing to do with daily parish life in America and all the little unspoken ways by which we can communicate our unconscious racism.

Also, you argued that the bishops who belonged to the Anglo/Celtic line are the truly "native" bishops of this land, or you at least implied that they are the rightful bishops for the many Anglo/Celtic folks who live in this land. I can't see how this thinking is much different from what so many people bewail in Orthodoxy. Of course I know this is only one reason among several for you. You couldn't have even come to this conclusion unless you had first come to the conclusion that the Anglican bishops who came to America were rightful bishops in unbroken succession from the Apostles. The Orthodox who came to America, of course, could not accept this claim because they recognized in Anglicanism significant differences in matters of faith (even if many were able to find much common ground). But still, you brought your ethnic motivations into the discussion. It may not be phyletism strictly defined, but it's certainly a close cousin.

continued ...

mome said...

... continued


Also, you argued that the bishops who belonged to the Anglo/Celtic line are the truly "native" bishops of this land, or you at least implied that they are the rightful bishops for the many Anglo/Celtic folks who live in this land. I can't see how this thinking is much different from what so many people bewail in Orthodoxy. Of course I know this is only one reason among several for you. You couldn't have even come to this conclusion unless you had first come to the conclusion that the Anglican bishops who came to America were rightful bishops in unbroken succession from the Apostles. The Orthodox who came to America, of course, could not accept this claim because they recognized in Anglicanism significant differences in matters of faith (even if many were able to find much common ground). But still, you brought your ethnic motivations into the discussion. It may not be phyletism strictly defined, but it's certainly a close cousin.

And it's one thing for churches to organically organize themselves somewhat ethno-nationally, if for no other reason than that parishes are planted in particular places that typically happen to be marked by ethno-national homogeneity. But it's another thing to make that a conscious motivation in choosing a church in America's marketplace of religion. If it's OK for the Anglos, it must be OK for the Greeks, too.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Maybe there is such a thing as unconscious racism, but I doubt it. It seems to this old geezer that racists know who they are, and, sadly, are not ashamed.

But, anyone who has attended a Provincial Synod of the ACC has seen the universality of genuine Anglicanism. I really believe we are free and clean of the ethnophyletism problem.

mome said...

Fr. Hart,

When I speak of racism, I do not simply mean the kind that hates the other. Racism is any attitude that makes unfair, stereotypical assumptions about other people because of their race. Such attitudes can be admiring or patronizing or fearful, and that's when they tend to be unconscious. Such attitudes tend to put the other into a category of "not like us" in a way that goes beyond mere cultural differences. It's hard to be unconscious of one's hatred, true. But many ways in which people look kindly or indifferently at individuals from other ethnic groups serve to reinforce common caricatures and prejudices. That it is unconscious can be seen when the unwitting racist can't understand why his or her presumably well-intentioned actions or statements provoke resentment from a given minority group. Take would-be senatorial usurper Sharron Angle here in my home state of Nevada. She hoped to scare up support from those who want to enact tougher immigration restrictions, so what did she do? She aired a TV commercial showing a bunch of mean-looking Hispanics crossing the border like hordes of criminally-intentioned invaders. And then she scratched her head about why the state's Hispanics were offended and helped to soundly defeat her in November. I believe she truly did not understand how her commercial was racist until it was too late. You could say that my example is one of stupidity or naivete rather than of unconscious racism, but I'd say it's an example of all of the above.

Subtler examples exist. I could come up with other scenarios of unconscious racism, but I fear that my own descriptions of them would themselves be unwittingly racist, so I'll refrain. I think you get the gist of what I'm saying.

mome said...

... continued

As for whether genuine Anglicanism is free and clean of the ethnophyletism problem, I really wouldn't know. I do know that a variety of people familiar with Anglicanism have described witnessing Anglophilic tendencies in Anglican churches in America. I don't really fault anyone for this, but I'm sure that, if such tendencies are prevalent enough, it makes the whole scene somewhat less than inviting to people who don't fit the mold, just as some people describe Orthodox ethnic enclaves as less than inviting. And this really is one of my main points in this thread. There is a haste to see the log marked phyletism (or exclusivism by some other name) in the Orthodox eye, but no awareness of any speck of it in the Anglican eye. But like I said, I really don't know. I just tend not to trust people who think there is no problem when others suggest that there are hints of a problem. I looked at some photos on the Web from the 2009 ACC provincial synod and saw a lot of white people. But that's neither here nor there. I know there were at least some representatives there from churches in other countries (and I see that there was even an Orthodox guest as well). Whether Anglicanism at large, existing as it does on multiple continents, is universal doesn't really address the situation at the level of American parish life. Caedmon above made the claim that going to Anglicanism made him feel "at home." He related this statement to his Anglo/Celtic heritage and contrasted it to his sojourn in Orthodoxy, which he described as less than friendly to his Anglo/Celtic and "Western" sensibilities. He also made a claim that seemed to indicate a belief that Anglo/Celtic bishops are the rightful ecclesial leaders in this realm, and that this has something to do with the fact that they have Anglo/Celtic succession and that there are a lot of Anglo/Celts in the population.

melxiopp said...

It's also useful to put the immigrant Orthodox church experience in the context of other immigrations. The Lutheran churches in the US remained heavily German and Scandinavian for quite some time. Heck, as a child I was still memorizing things in German in the 1980s and my my teachers remembered German language services through their young adulthood in the 50s and 60s. One would be hard pressed to find truly ethnic enclaves in American Lutheran churches today, though, after a few generations.

Much the same could be said of ethnic Catholic churches of the past (Irish, Italian, Polish) and today (Latin American, Filipino).

The Greek Archdiocese had a huge wave of immigration in the 1970s (due to the military junta in Greece and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus), so a large number of the parishioners at my GOA parish are off the boat (or the children of those immigrants). It is only reasonable to expect growing pains in such a situation. Until the 1990s, most other Orthodox jurisdictions were predominantly 'American', but the fall of communism brought a flood of new immigrants from behind the Iron Curtain.

As to diversity in the Anglican church, this may be true. However, the Orthodox churches never had the same level of colonialist expansion and thus have fewer ex-colonial churches. The one Orthodox church that did have colonialist reach (the Russian Church) is also the most diverse Orthodox church with Central Asian, Siberian, Japanese, Chinese and Native American/Aleut faithful to this day, in addition to various Slavic peoples and Finns. The Greeks have also had quite active missionaries in Africa (e.g., Kenya, Zaire) and a few hundred thousand Central American Indians just converted en masse. All this in addition to re-evangelizing traditional Orthodox peoples in eastern Europe and Georgia following 70+ years of mass martyrdom and persecution under militant atheism.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I looked at some photos on the Web from the 2009 ACC provincial synod and saw a lot of white people.

A lot, no doubt. After all, most Americans are white, and the Provincial Synod was held in America. But, the things that happened at the Synod itself showed how unimportant and irrelevant the whole subject of race is to the people of the ACC. The help given to people in need in our churches around the world, Africa, South America, Haiti, etc. was not based on race, but need. We had bishops from India, the Sudan, etc. representing their people.

But, in this country many black Christians belong to churches that are considered to be "black churches" that serve as the center of community life and represent some kind of empowerment in the process. We have several black members here at St. Benedict's, but they all came to America from African countries.

He also made a claim that seemed to indicate a belief that Anglo/Celtic bishops are the rightful ecclesial leaders in this realm...

I believe, from the context, that he was saying that his experience among the Greek Orthodox made this seem important, as if to say the whole ethnic attachment came from them. I do not think he meant that the ethnic bit mattered to him.

If he did, he may be disappointed. We have bishops of many races in the ACC. In America we have only five diocesan bishops, and one of them is Italian by descent. Anglo-Celtic is not important to us, and I would be willing to bet that Caedmon knows that.

Anonymous said...

"If he did, he may be disappointed. We have bishops of many races in the ACC. In America we have only five diocesan bishops, and one of them is Italian by descent. Anglo-Celtic is not important to us, and I would be willing to bet that Caedmon knows that."

Indeed Father, as I have already written. Thanks.

I once had a discussion with a Christian Reformed pastor about the "if you're not Dutch you're not much" mentality in his communion. He, being the wise man he was, said, "It's OK to be proud to be Dutch. You should be proud of whatever you are. But this shouldn't override the universality of the Christian faith." Neither should it be the basis of racism.

I don't give a tinker's damn about how politically incorrect it is, but I am proud of my Anglo-Celtishness, as the Dutch are proud of their Dutchiness, and I get so sick and tired of the hypocrisy exhibited by the politcally correct when it comes to this subject. So does the libertarian "Thomas Paine", blogging from Great Britain:

" (Our English culture is) a culture of tolerance, mutual respect, and good humour. A culture which involves profound affection and respect for the language, history, literature and peoples of these islands. A culture which includes the works of some of the greatest dramatists, novelists and poets the world has ever known. A culture open to new influences while firmly rooted in the history of European Christendom. A culture steeped in the concepts and traditions of the English Common Law. A culture which embraces a spirit of fair play. A culture which involves freedom of speech and thought, and a robustly contemptuous view of all those small-minded individuals who would seek to limit that freedom. A culture which respects its traditions of thought sufficiently NOT to pervert language in order to turn a phrase like 'celebrating difference' into a euphemism for 'submitting to intolerance.' A culture which is rich and multidimensional and which can neither be defined in few words in a comment box, nor dismissed with a knee-jerk, thoughtless, rant by some semi-educated leftist about 'colonialism' and 'racism'”.

Those are my sentiments exactly, but at the same time I realize other cultures and races have their own particular glories proper to them. God bless us in our places and races all.

But there's no escaping the fact that despite the Christian universality to which Anglicanism adheres, it is still *Anglicanism*, and that word means something in terms of history, geography and culture.

Caedmon

Apophatically Speaking said...

"Maybe there is such a thing as unconscious racism, but I doubt it. It seems to this old geezer that racists know who they are, and, sadly, are not ashamed."

Reality is a bit more nuanced, not quite that simplistic, methinks. Fr. Hart, do you mean to say we are always aware of our sin and shortcomings? I doubt it. Have you ever offended someone without knowing it?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Specifically, about racism, I think the only unconscious racists are liberals. Many of them see racism everywhere where it is not present at all, and fail to see their own fault in the matter.

The real danger in all xenophobes, racists, anti-Semites, etc., is that they actually believe their evil is virtue. Somehow, early in life, someone used a good thing, conscience, to make human hearts embrace hate. Twisting the formation of conscience in children, teaching them to hate, is the most destructive thing I can think of. Whether it is Hitler Youth or the "schools" under the Palestinian Authority, this insidious evil is the worst of all.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Nonsense! Sin hidden or otherwise besets all of humanity irrespective political persuasion.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Gee, I must be missing something. I did know we were discussing sin, a subject with general and universal application. I thought we were discussing one particular form of error and self-deception. Certainly, what you said about sin is true. And, what I said about racism is true also.

You can't fool me on the subject. I have lived in the real world much too long for that.

Apophatically Speaking said...

Fr Hart,

I am amazed that you would hold racism not to be a sin, a manifestation of a particular disordered passion. If we cannot agree on something so fundamental to the Gospel commandments, it makes very little sense for me to continue posting here.

A blessed Advent to you and yours!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am amazed that you would hold racism not to be a sin

I would be fascinated, from a purely psychological (or psychiatric) perspective, to know exactly how you draw that from my comments. Do you always have so active an imagination?

...it makes very little sense for me to continue posting here.

Apparently so, if your brain takes such strange twists and turns.

Fr. Yousuf said...

I have regularly read this blog because I am not without sympathy for Continuing Anglicanism, though lately I have found the harping on the Ordinariate proposal to be rather tiresome.

Nor I am rally offended that the PoV here does not accept the ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church, if you did, why would you be where you are?

But this thread really takes the cake. We Orthodox get it for the negative take on St. Augustine and Western Theology. Well, alright, plenty of it is deserved. I cringe at certain simplistic takes of what is “Western” that circulate amongst us. I certainly hope that at least some Anglicans can cringe at “heretical terrorist” as the knee jerk response to the abbot.

I think though, you are rather in a rut, where anyone who doesn't accept your take on what Anglicanism is and what it can claim for itself is branded “ignorant”. What so often is this case is that many of us have read all of these materials and simply don't buy the finished product: (For instance, the logic of the English Reformation. Yes, I know Jewel appeals to Antiquity, but the final determination was usually dictated by politics much more than patristics).

This rut can keep you from seeing some things that are rather obvious: such as that the teaching of this abbot which is found so offensive is a teaching found in a stronger and more uncompromising form in St. Augustine and the Western tradition, including, quite forcefully, the Anglican formularies, especially Articles XII and XIII. The good abbot is willing to see Virtue outside the Church, while St. Augustine, I believe, called such virtues “splendid vices”. Far cry from DB Hart affirming holiness in non-Christians.

Of course, you do not agree with Father Abbot's understanding of the Church. So what. Did we all not know well in advance that the average Continuing Anglican and the average Orthodox Abbot hold contradictory ecclesiologies? (If you didn't know that, you can just stop using “ignorant” as a descriptor of those who don't “get” your “platypus” position, or indeed as a descriptor of anyone at all.)

Something else which should be obvious: any of us who might like to assert actual Sanctity outside of the Church will have something of an up hill climb using scripture, tradition, and reason, especially of the “One Bible, Two Testaments, Three Creeds, Four Councils, and Five Centuries” sort. Using that standard to condemn as heretical the opinion that sanctity outside the Church does not exist will be more than an up hill climb, it is likely impossible.

Fr. Yousuf Rassam
(an Orthodox of the Diocese of the West, OCA)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Well, Fr. Yousuf,

Your comment only makes me wonder all the more how my brother can tolerate the tiresome hostility, and Pharisaic formality, of the Orthodox Church. I thank God I am not in either of the One True Churches, not just because of their errors, but more so, because of their hostility to everyone else, a violent attitude of hate and arrogance masquerading as Christianity.

I don't know how he puts up with it.

Fr. Yousuf said...

I seem to have failed to communicate.

Passions are running quite high, but it seems to me the most obvious question is not addressed, and I obviously did not succeed in pointing the attention to what I think the question is. The Theological position, not the personal one, so I will not refer to the particular case of any one's beloved aunt, but if need be, to more general categories.

An obvious question is “what is holiness as opposed to virtue?” in the Abbot's meaning. Then there is the question of the boundaries of the Church and how that is perceived in relation to the Sacraments, at root here is the scandal of particularity, which is quite present in any form of biblical Christianity, and certainly in the Articles of Anglicanism. I don't know the abbot in question, but I can make a pretty good guess that “holiness” in his vocabulary is an indwelling of the Holy Spirit mediated sacramentally and developed ascetically.

I do not think the following are that controversial: St. Augustine and Augustinianism after him are particularly strong on regarding “works done apart from justification. I believe he called virtues of non-Christians “splendid vices”. This Augustinian tradition is reflected in Anglican formularies, especially Articles XII and XII, which call “good works” done apart from “justification” sinful in nature. St. Augustine also opted for the position of St. Stephan of Rome (the usual Roman position) over that of St. Cyprian of Carthage, (the pre-Augustine usual North African position, and, with some qualification, the usual Eastern position). But I believe that St. Augustine did not regard valid baptism outside the Church as efficacious unto sanctification and salvation unless the person was received into the Church. Whether or not DB Hart is right in seeing holiness, not only outside the Church, but outside of Christianity, his position in the article quoted is much more 'liberal' than the 39 Articles.

Even if I personally disagree with the abbot, I can not regard as outside the pale a position which both St. Augustine and St. Cyprian would have agreed on, unless there is some sort of overwhelming patristic consensus or clear conciliar definition. I do not think the Abbot is outside that pale, nor is he outside of the universe of thought that produced Articles XII and XIII. (to be continued)

Fr. Yousuf said...

(continued...)
So first we have to ask what is holiness beyond virtue, and secondly if both are possible to one who believes in Christ but not the Sacraments, or who doesn't believe in Christ at all, how does this square with classical Anglican formularies?

An American Pentecostal may not be baptized, (even if we accept that baptism exists outside the Church), since many American Pentecostals do not baptize with the proper form. I imagine many a prudent Anglican priest might conditionally baptize a former Pentecostal unless he was sure that the Trinitarian form was used. (The first Continuing Priest I ever met certainly did!) But let us assume an American Pentecostal, or Evangelical, or Baptist, and assume that they are baptized. And ask, from a classical Anglican position: Are their denominations in the Church? If not, do they need anything from the Church? Do they lack something for not being confirmed? Not partaking in the Communion? Or do they actually take Communion? Could we call what they lack “sanctifying grace”?

Does not the whole continuing movement in Anglicanism exist in large part to ensure the continued and valid administration of Holy Communion as one of the Sacraments “generally necessary to salvation”?

When approached this way, I think we can all be a little calmer.

Fr Yousuf Rassam

PS, if I have time, I might be able to make a personal response later.

Fr. Yousuf said...

Dear Fr Robert,

Actually, this won't take that long.

I admit to some sarcasm in my first post on this thread. But I would have thought my post quite mild on a thread that had the very second response an anglican priest calling an Orthodox abbot a terrorist and a heretic. And I am writing on the blog where we have the "The Charism of Sarcasm" post.

So please, point to me where I am being hostile (beyond disagreeing with you), Pharasiac, violent or hateful. I am open to you convicting me of these and will repent.

Fr Yousuf Rassam

Fr. Yousuf said...

Dear LKW,

Fr. Feeney was never forced to recant a theological position, but he was effectively marginalized.

SCOBA has no ability to do anything to that abbot. SCOBA doesn't exist anymore, it is in the process of being replaced. Even when it existed, it was not a Synod, and had no power to discipline anyone.

St. Anthony monastery was forced by their then bishop to conform to the guidelines of the Greek Archdiocese when receiving converts, and were forbidden to re-baptize those that the Greek Archdiocese receives through Chrismation. They were also most forcefully (and rightfully)rebuked for "correctively re-baptizing" those already received elsewhere by Chrismation. As far as I know, those obediences on that community are still in place. The name of their hierarch, should you choose to make further inquiry, is Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco.

Those are the facts, whether you are placated by them or not is up to you.

By the way, aren't you the one who has told in Continuum blog comments, of how you were Baptized and Chrismated as an infant and then, in your youth, a bishop of PECUSA attempted to confirm you? Was that PECUSA bishop a wacko, a terrorist, a heretic, or simply a man trying to administer his pastorate to the best of his (in this case mistaken) understanding?

Fr Yousuf Rassam

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The answer must come in points.

1. The Abbott was specific, for the question was asked about the Orthodox Church.
2. He was, therefore, limiting sanctifying grace only to members of an EO Church.
3. Sanctifying grace comes in degrees to human beings, and at best it grows.
4. Some are outside of the Church (and I do not mean any specific portion of it) because they reject Christ, and others because of ignorance.
5. All baptized believers are in the Church, whether or not they understand its sacraments and order properly.

About invalid sacraments, though we may call them invalid in terms of what has been revealed, we may not consider them absolutely null and utterly void. That is, the Church must do what God has commanded, and therefore we have conditional baptism, conditional ordination, conditional confirmation, when the sacrament has lacked validity. But, validity is ecclesiastical. That is, we may know when the sacrament is valid, and even when it is invalid. But, we cannot know if a sacrament, due to invalidity, has been ineffectual. God knows that, and maybe some of His angels know that. We do not, for such knowledge exceeds revelation.

Applied to what was said about baptism: We may know when it has been invalid due to improper Form; but, the remedy is still conditional baptism inasmuch as we cannot know it was ineffectual. If you claim to have that knowledge, I must demand to know the source of your information. When, where and how did God reveal the answer, and why has the Church not known it until now?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

o please, point to me where I am being hostile (beyond disagreeing with you), Pharasiac, violent or hateful. I am open to you convicting me of these and will repent.

Those words were intended to describe the blog with the black face minstrel, and the hate mongering would be theologians and apologists. Apparently, I was not clear.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart writes: "He was, therefore, limiting sanctifying grace only to members of an EO Church."

Indeed he was, and speaking as someone who spent almost 15 years in Orthodoxy, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the message, most often implied but every once in awhile expressly stated, is that real sanctifying grace is only available to the Orthodox monastic. In another discussion here at the Continuum, a person commenting on a blog entry, who goes by the handle of "Wimsey", said this:

I think that Fr. Wells is spot on in identifying that the genius of the Protestant Reformation is the recognition that, during the Middle Ages, "ecclesial creep" in both the Western and Eastern portions of the Church had for all practical intents and purposes replaced Old-Law works righteousness with a new works righteousness based on the respective "New Law" of the West (the Penance-Merits-Purgation-Indulgences doctrinal phalanx) and of the East (the imposition of the Monastic Typicon upon the laity).

See
http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2010/09/two-heads-are-better-than-one.html for the discussion.

I came to see that this is it exactly, and it stems from this more-or-less official position in the Orthodox Church that "monasticism is the heart of Orthodoxy". (Google that phrase for examples.) The logical corollary of this is that it is only the Orthodox monastics who can achieve the greatest heights of sanctity (holiness), and those who "live in the world" rarely if ever attain the holiness of the monk.

The monks can only get to this exalted level of holiness through their ascetical "works". Hence Wimsey's point. More importantly, however, the Orthodox monks such as the abbot at St. Anthony's Monastery there in Florence, AZ must necessarily, when shown examples of Christian sanctity such as manifested in the person of Aunt Susie (who likely never fingered a chotki, said (or breathed)the Jesus Prayer, did 1,000 prostrations nightly, or gazed at her navel as she tried to facilitate the descent of the mind into the heart), write this sanctity off as mere "virtue."

Fr. Yousuf Rassam invokes patristic precedent in his defense of the abbot, but not only is his presentation of the evidence somewhat selective (as they arguably weren't of one mind when it came to the "heretics"), he fails to account for the fact that neither St. Augustine nor the rest of the Fathers were infallible. And the fact of the matter is, whether the Orthodox want to admit it or not, the historic apostolic churches of the three-fold ministry (including them, in their better moments) are to this day hammering out ecclesiology. It was in no small part due to my own change of ecclesiological mind that put me off the Orthodox "phronema" and on the trail to an ecclesiology which accounts for both biblical data and empirical realities, both of which point to the fact that the non-Orthodox are indeed in "the Church". They simply have to be. They simply cannot do the Christian feats they do if they weren't.

Caedmon

Anonymous said...

Stepping back and breathing a second: when an Orthodox says someone must be in the Church for such and such a reality to exist, he or she does not presume to know whether any given individual outside of Orthodoxy is indeed outside the Church. The abbot's second hand comment, if accurate at all, is likely to reflect what is more or less a normal (if not normative) Orthodox understanding that need not cause offense or reason for exception on anyone's part. The First Things article seems to have been fired off half-cocked and utterly lacking in Christian charity in the use of the abbot as a launching pad for what might otherwise be a reasonable reflection on a perspective with which I have a good deal of sympathy.
To be quite candid, though, it is not clear to me that anyone has been clear about what they mean by holy, which, theologically is where a much more interesting conversation might be had.

Lastly, I remain curious to learn the errors of which the Orthodox Church is guilty in doctrine or praxis - is there a web site or link that spells this out from a traditional Anglican perspective?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Anonymous:

Your entire comment falls on one fact: The Abbott did not say "the Church." He said "Orthododxy." And, the context provides no interpretation other than the EO Church.

As for errors of Orthodoxy, you should know what a slippery bunch they can be. If what they believe is all found in Seven Oecumenical Councils (as some claim), then there are no errors. But, when some of their theologians deny the Atonement (Propitiation), that is error, and a denial of the Gospel. So, I know of no Orthodox errors, but rather of errors held by some members of the Orthodox Church.

Also, I tire of the silly trendy arguments of the Anti-Western cult within Orthodox circles.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I guess I'd be inclined to be more decisive if the abbot's comments weren't hearsay. No doubt there is error in some members of any Christian circle - and no shortage of tediousness. Lord knows, no shortage at all.

Is there someone to read more about the continuing Anglican view of other Communions?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The interview was hearsay?

Did you read any of the relevant articles?