Well, the dust has settled, and we’re still standing. By your prayers. I’ve taken some criticism for my candidness, but mainly LOTS of support. I know that I am better off when I live my life transparently and with accountability. Its not the EASIEST way to live, but boy do you sleep well….not having those skeletons in your closet keeping you up at night. I’ve been down that road before and it sucks, I’ll tell you.
I went back to Niagara Falls for the Parish Life Conference, that I was supposed to be ordained at. It was hard, but absolutley the right thing to do. It was so good to be with my father in Christ, Saidna Alexander and all the brother clergy and faithful of the Ottawa diocese. And of course our family of St. George Orthodox Church in Niagara Falls. (Having lunch with my mom certainly did not hurt either!) It was healing to worship God together…the bishop with the clergy and the faithful….receiving the body and blood of our Lord together…..
So, life goes on. The jilted bride recovers. I have the fall semester to prepare for, and some needed vacation time with Shamassey (for her, that is! She works so hard, she needs it! My life IS a vacation …) before that. I have the joy of helping out the new Antiochian deacons. They remind me of why I am here and, and why I became a deacon in the first place.
I am not sure what the future holds. Most seem to think my ordination is inevitable. I am on scholarship and the Archdiocese is going to want to see a return on their investment in me. Maybe my candidness has (or will) ticked some one off, and they will prevent me from being ordained. Perhaps God has something different for us to do. Only He knows the future. The thought of the priesthood does terrify me, and that’s only partly false humility. And you certainly don’t need to be an Orthodox priest to serve him….
But I do know that as I sit here on my porch, listening to the bull frogs on Crestwood Lake, that God is present in this moment. THAT is what I need to focus on.
What is His will for my life? “Right here, right now.”
Who is the most important person? “The one right before me.”
What is the best place to be? “Right where I am.”
By your prayers…..
I’ve been asked by several friends about how I can be a member of a hierarchical church and subject myself to the indignities that I have suffered, and no doubt will continue to suffer. After all, aren’t these hierarchies and traditions merely the creation of men? And this is indeed the crux….
I firmly believe that the Christian priesthood was established by God. It was Christ Himself who hand picked 12 men ( and the 70, etc), breathed His Spirit into them, and “gave them the authority to forgive the sins of men.” And “binding and loosing” and all that jazz. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles and in the Pauline epistles and other letters we see how this ministry grew and how the apostles anointed other men to lead the local churches they established. Its well known that St. Timothy was established as an early bishop. James, “the brother of the Lord” was the well known bishop of Jerusalem, and who presided over the first recorded Church council. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” A very bold proclamation.
And this ministry continued beyond the years recorded in the New Testament. The “disciples of the disciples” were established in various cities to lead the Church as it grew: Ignatius in Antioch, Polycarp in Smyrna, Clement in Rome are just some examples. These men authenticated their apostolic leadership by their lives and martyrdom. And this ministry has come down to us in our own day. I of course embraced Orthodoxy, because I saw there that this apostolic order and tradition of ministry was honored and continued unbroken. I submit to my bishop as I submit to Christ who breathed into them and said, “If your remit the sins of any they are remitted. If you retain the sins of any they are retained.”
Now this does not preclude the fact that bishops are men like me, and thus capable of error and even evil. Our history is rife with both saints and great sinners in the episcopate. But the Church is still the Church. And ungodly man leading the local church does not change (nor can he change) the truths and salvific doctrines of our church. Truth stands above man and the bishop is accountable to Truth….else he forfeits his position ” and another, let his office (episkopos) take.
As I have mentioned, I am disappointed in the Antiochian Orthodox Church, both in American and in the mother country. We have our work cut out for us in assisting the Holy Spirit in “righting the ship.” But it is still Christ’s body and blood that I gratefully receive each Sunday and Feast day. It is still the company of Saints that my family prays with each morning. The Church is still the bride of Christ, whom He loves dearly and gave his life for.
No, I am still a faithful Orthodox. I am justmore zealous than ever in protecting the healing ministry of Christ’s Church, no matter the personal cost.
Pray for me as I travel and meet with the rest of the clergy of my home diocese as we unitewith our bishop and Father in Christ, Alexander of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate New York. Pray for my family as we continue to heal and experience God’s purifying grace. And please pray for the Antiochian Orthodox in North America as we struggle to bring peace and holiness back in our Church.
I am a faithful son of Antioch. I strive to be obediant and a faithful son of the Church. I pray that the church will right itself this summer as we hear the news from Damascus and Palm Springs. BUt God IS on His throne, and we need not despair. Fleeing to another jurisdiction is not the answer. Every jurisdiction has its own problems as well as its own strengths. My dad told me when I was young (perhaps the only useful advice I recieved…)”You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” My kids are sick of hearing it from me. But its true.
The previous posting was an attempt to get the word out to my friends and family that I was NOT being ordained, and to try to explain why without contributing to slander and gossip. I did offer some criticism of my bishops. Maybe I wrong and my frustration and pain overrode my common sense. Perhaps I will PAY for my candidness. But “My hope is in the Lord, what can man do unto me?”
I am not trying to stir up rebellion or become a rallying point for dissent. My family and I have been hurt (with God’s grace we’ll get over it) and I am just expressing it. I am very hopeful for my church, and the Orthodox Church in North America in general. Any new birth is accompanied my much pain and sweat, blood and tears. I think God will use it to unify His Church (through love, not might and intimidation). If our relatively minor suffering is a means to that end, may it be blessed.
Keep your holy prayers lifted up to God…..
Well, it’s certain now that I will NOT be getting ordained on June 28th. Certainly an explanation is in order, although to do so sheds my church, particularly its bishops in a bad light. The bottom line is that I got caught in the middle of bad blood between bishops. I’ll spare you the details, but if you want to know shoot me a note and I’ll be happy to share. I am reminded of the story of Noah and his sons, and the admonition to cover your father’s failings and not expose him to ridicule. (I certainly hope my own children heed that admonition!)
In any event, it’s understandable the frustration and disappoint that we feel….felt not only by us but by all those who love us. Plans had been made and invitations sent out. Family and friends had plans to travel and in some cases had cancelled other plans. I am extremely sorry and ask that you forgive us and our dysfunctional church.
Of course I am also feeling embarrassment. I have not yet purged myself of pride and can’t help but be upset and feel foolish. But embarrassment is good for the soul, as we learn to embrace humility, and with God’s grace I know I can deal with appearing foolish. (Besides, that’s something I have MUCH experience with!)
But much harder to deal with is my embarrassment with my church, particularly its bishops. The church functions most effectively when the bishops are working in concert with the clergy and the people….an ecclesiology articulated by St. Ignatius of Antioch in the 1st century. Our bishops are guilty of neglect…..of our parishes and the clergy serving them. But also of the seminarians who are training to serve the Church. It is true that most Antiochian seminarians are on scholarship; we are truly blessed by this and thankful to God and the church for providing this for us. But we are not cared for and are given little or no guidance and direction. We are supposed to be here at school learning to pastor God’s flock, how can we learn this unless we are being pastored ourselves? And our witness and ability to testify to the Gospel is severely wounded by this foolishness. The confusion over my ordination is just the latest experience.
So, we are hurting, and are very much in need of your love and prayers. We are undaunted in our desire to serve God in the context of the Holy Orthodox Church, as we still know it to be the Faith of the Apostles. Our bishop’s failings are not proof against that, but betray the extent of the fall in all of our lives. “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I am in a sense a little relieved at not facing the great task and crucifixion of the priesthood (at least not yet), and am now in a position where I can speak honestly (and prophetically?). I don’t owe anyone anything, “except to love one another.” As my good friend Christopher reminded me, “Deacon, remember one thing and never ever forget it. Priesthood is the Lord’s and not man made. The Lord gave it to you and no one can and will be able to take it from you. It is though in the Lord’s time.”
I owe many of your personal correspondence and explanations, but right now my family and I are on vacation. We’re being ministered to by the Robichaus, and God always provides in His providence. So we will be in touch, but know that we feel your love and prayers.
I take heart from today’s epistle reading from St. Paul’s words about Abraham in Romans 4: “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.”
(Hey, what can I say….I am not a member of any organized religion….I’m Eastern Orthodox!)
Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!
Well, I’ve just finished my first year of seminary. I don’t have most of my grades back yet, but they should be OK. There were many points along the road where I thought I wasn’t going to make it, but God is good, and by your prayers I persevered. Now only two more years to go!
May has turned out to be a somewhat tough month, as Kelly and the kids have been back in Buffalo for the whole month (tending to doctor’s appointments and such as well as catching up with family.). It wasn’t so bad my last week of classes as I worked sun up to sun down to get my patristics paper done, and of course I took full advantage of the peace and quiet to make the most out of finals week, but now I really miss Kelley and the kids.
I did flee to Western New York after my last final last Tuesday to be with them, but had to return on Friday for Graduation Weekend and this week we are training for our chaplaincy program at the hospital. (I have to put in 80 hours of chaplaincy by the end of next year, so by getting my training now, I can get a head start on it through the summer.) But when we are done Thursday, I’ll leave again for home and spen the remaining days of May there till we return to SVS by June 1st.
I am to be ordained to the priesthood this summer. Those of you who know me or have been following along, know that I did not come to St. Vlad’s seeking ordination. I was kind of hoping to serve out my days as a deacon, which has been an immense blessing to me. BUt it seems evident that I should accept this call to the priesthood with all the advantages and trials with which it brings. The priesthood is not an office to seek, but a crucifixion. BUt it is only through crucifixion that there is resurrection. Your prayers are needed for me and my family as we prepare for God’s call in our life.
So the summer will be busy. We will vacation with the family at the beach in Wilmington, as friends of our will be based there for the summer. JUne 28 will be the ordination at our diocese’ Parish Life Conference which is being hosted by our parishin Niagara Falls. I would rather be ordained in our pretty church than in a hotel ballroom, but it will be special with all of our diocese clergy and lay leaders with us. There are plenty of hotel rooms in Niagara Falls if any want to attend.
In July, as our two oldest attend camp at the Antiochian Village, Kelley and I will will fly to St. Croix for a second honeymoon in the Virgin Islands. And finally we plan on spending a week at our parish’s family camp, held in the Allegany foothills in New York’s Southern Tier. Then to start my second year of serminary in late August!
Hopefully I’ll be posting here during the summer….you’ll probably see some of my papers showing up!
Please keep us in your prayers.