Ben Lomond: When Antiochian Orthodoxy Drove Away its Converts

A terrible tragedy happened 10 years ago this month known as the Ben Lomond Crisis. According to these re-published accounts, it was an event characterized by rigidity, intrigue and ethnocentricism on the one hand, and a defiance of legitimate episcopal authority on the other, which ruined Antiochian Orthodoxy’s best hope for a major influx of Evangelical converts. The “Orthodox Moment” among Evangelicals began and ended at Ben Lomond, California.

While there are undoubtedly conflicting versions of this event, here are two accounts of what took place in this historic turn for Orthodoxy in America.

From Ben Lomond Tragedy:

An account from 1998, November 26, 1998 (broken into paragraphs for easier reading)

The parish in Ben Lomond, CA was then the largest parish of the Antiochian Evangelical Mission. In 1997, it was a parish of about 1500. Saturday Vespers had about 200 attendees. The entire congregation sang as the choir. It has a K-12 school, a world class choir, a hospitality house (for visitors), programs for teens, and a publishing house, Conciliar Press, which the evangelicals brought with them. The parish allowed a highly respected spiritual father from Mount Athos to visit them and to hear confessions and give guidance. People began to fast and pray more.

The hierarchy of the Antiochian Archdiocese then forbade any Antiochian clergy or faithful to go for a confession to a non-Antiochian priest. Their practice of having a complete round of daily services, with Matins, Liturgy, Vespers, and everything else, all well attended, was considered bizarre and no longer normal. Moreover, they had some unusual liturgical customs and Russian customs in their services. Certain Arab ladies in the parish got the ear of the local Bishop and started demanding that the thing was getting out of control; a new leadership had to be installed at Ben Lomond.

The hierarchy instructed them that no Russian music was to be used; all music had to be from the simplified Antiochian music packets. Eventually, there was a huge parish meeting and the parish petitioned Metropolitan Philip to release them to the OCA (Orthodox Church in America). In response, the main priest who had years before started the parish from scratch and all clergy who were felt to support him, got a sudden fax from Met. Philip saying they were all defrocked immediately. They appealed to the decision to an Antiochian trial council. Then they were all excommunicated, some for a minimum of five, some for a minimum of three, years. The majority of them were treated as lepers. The building, all property, the school, all the bank accounts, were seized by the Archdiocese. The original parishioners became scattered, confused, and priestless.

The court decisions came in in favor of the Archdiocese. However, the remaining small congregation hadn’t been the primary financial backing, and couldn’t support the church as it was. It abandoned the school entirely and gutted or abandoned other things, and began selling property. The OCA eventually received a large number of the faithful, on condition they keep quiet, likewise forbidding OCA clergy from discussing it. The Jerusalem Patriarchate received the rest. The Antiochian Archdiocese considered suspending relations with both. To this day, there is an atmosphere of watchfulness over parishes becoming too much like Ben Lomond had been. The clergy remained persona non grata for years, even after the imposed period of excommunication, and some died as such. Recently, the rest were received back into the AOA or elsewhere. The remainder of the parish is still there, but it’s not what it was. Nothing in the AOA has been like it since.”

This is a slight revision of a text written originally in 1998.

Another account from Ben Lomond Tragedy

Sentinel New Report, August 30, 1998 (broken into paragraphs for easier reading):

Sunday August 30.1998

They worshiped together under the same gold dome for decades. Not anymore. They are a church divided. What started as differences over litugical style at the St Peter and St Paul’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Ben Lomond has snowballed into a bitter dispute over power and money. The imbroglio has led to massive dissension, ex-communication of priests, and uncharacteristic visits by sheriff’s deputies as members squabbled over ownership of icons. It has pit godchildren against godfathers, and neighbors and friends against each other. In one case, a husband and wife are on different sides.

The struggle has even spilled into the courts and resulted in a ruling that says the church’s roof and the rest ofits buildings no longer belong to the parishioners and priests who poured over 1$ million into the property over the past two decades. The court battle ended last week with the smaller, so-called loyalist faction backed by the New Jersey-based archdiocese winning. In a case that raised constitutional, property rights and seperation of church-and-state issues, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Samuel Stevens ruled that the church off Highway 9 and its rellated properties ultimately belong to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

“It’s really sad,” said Sophie Majmudar, a Ben Lomond resident who grew up in the church built now worships elsewhere because of the court order. “All our tithe money has gone into this property.” But even the winners weren’t cheering when the judge reached his verdict. “There is no great joy that we went to court,” said the Rev. David Barr, who was appointed to serve at the church in the spring after 10 of the longtime priests at the church were banished. “It’s a tragic division,” Barr said. “No one feels vindicated.”

The schism has left more than 300 Orthodox Christians without a house of worship. The group made up about 80 percent of the St Peter and St Paul membership. But because they chose in February to remain loyal to the clergy who defied the Archbishiop, they, too, elected to seperate from the Antiochian Orthodox Church, a branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church based in Damascus, Syria.

According to court documents, the dispute began brewing last year when members of the local clergy disagreed with the wishes of the archbishop, known as Metropolitan Philip. “Ten of the twelve priests at the church and more than half of the deacons did not agree with the archbishop’s proposed changes, which ranged from where the priest stood and the style of singing to shortening the service,” members said. To the so-called dissidents, the changes amounted to a move away from the more traditional, conservative style they had been practicing for years. “He (Met. Philip) wanted to make it more compatible with American culture,” Majmudar said. “American people don’t want to stand for hours. THey want to get home and watch their football games.”

To the so-called loyalists, the proposed changes boiled down to simply following the orders of the head of the church they chose to join. “What mattered to me was having a loving spirit and order under the bishop,” said the Rev. Kent Washburn, one of the two priests who decided to stay with the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

In February, the larger group of parishioners and clergy requested a split. The priests asked to be “released” from the Antiochian Orthodox Church so they could start another parish under the Orthodox Church in America, which is more aligned with Russian practices. But instead of getting “released”, some of the priests were ex-communicated while others were suspended from the priesthood. The disciplinary action, which is under appeal to the church’s Spiritual Court in Syria, came after the priests openly defied the archishop in February. The act of defiance came after the archbishop announced he was transferring one of the priests, a founding father of the Ben Lomond church, to Chicago. “We knew it was not a routine transfer,” Majmudar said. “They just wanted him out of the way.”

At a Feb. 12 meeting, a priest, who was one of the leaders of the dissident faction, publicly criticized the auxiliary bishops and the archdiocese. According to court documents, he also refused to obey the archbishop’s order to have a dean of the region chair the meeting. Within two days, that priest and the priests aligned with him were immediately ejected from the priesthood – a move which made any other branch of the Orthodox Church leery of accepting them. If a branch such as the Orthodox Church in America welcomed the so-called dissidents, they were at risk of being cut off from the powerful – and rich – archdiocese. As a result, the dissenting priests and the majority of the congregation that supported them, felt almost churchless. But the dissidents believed the Ben Lomond sanctuary they had acquired and renovated with their own money and hands still belonged to them and they refused to give up their church.

The roots of the Ben Lomond church date back to the late 1970’s when several local evangelical parishes joined together. They later bought the church building at 9980 Highway 9, joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and erected the gold dome that has become the church’s defining feature. On the Saturday that the archbishop disciplined the priests, members of the dissident group wrested control of the church property by changing all the locks. So on the next day, the day of worship, no one conducted services there – not the ex-communicated priests nor the ones who were locked out. Instead, parishioners got onto Highway 17. One group headed to an Orthodox church in Saratoga and the other to a church in Cupertino. And in another ironic twist, perhaps instigated by a heavenly power, the sparring sides were forced to wait together as a road crew cleared a toppled tree off the highway. “Instead of worshipping together, some rotten tree fell over the highway and we were caught in traffic,” Washburn said. “There we were looking at each other, shaking our heads ruefully, to see ourselves in such a state.”

For weeks, the dissidents would not let the loyalists back into the church. Then Metropolitan Philip and the archdiocese went to court. They successfully convinced a judge to order the dissidents to let the loyalists back into the church. Then, on March 13, they sued the leaders of the dissident group, claiming the church property belonged to the archdiocese and not the local church corporation. The property in dispute was worth morth than $1.5 million , attorneys in the case said. It included the gold-domed sanctuary, classrooms for a 100-student parochial school, a fellowship hall, an office building in downtown Ben Lomond, a barn, two houses for the priests and a small publishing company.

The case, which went to trial last week, featured testimony from canonical experts, leading theologians, and specialists in church and constitutional laws. Attorneys for the archdiocese contended the Ben lomond church properties implicitly fell under the control of the archdiocese when the group elected to join the Orthodox Church. “It is an indivisible part of the whole church,” said James Hyde, a San Jose attorney. The dissidents “have a right to leave, but they can’t take the property with them.” Attorneys for the dissidents argued that the local church never signed any papers handing control of the property to the archdiocese. “It doesn’t say anywhere in the record that it was being held in trust for the archdiocese,” said Austin Comstock, a Santa Cruz attorney. “They bought some of these properties even before becoming part of the archdiocese, and they bought it with their own money.”

After a three day trial, the judge issued his ruling, Aug 20th, agreeing with the plaintiffs. Upset over the decision, members of the dissident group went to the church that same day and tried to grab vestments and icons they firmly believed belonged to them. A sheriff’s deputy was called out to help settle the civil dispute. Several days later, someone in the dissident group again tried to take an icon. Deputies were called out a second time, and then the loyalist group changed the locks to the church.

UPDATE: Additional Account from Conciliar Press here.

UPDATE: See Also the Orthodox Wikipedia account here.

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90 Responses to Ben Lomond: When Antiochian Orthodoxy Drove Away its Converts

  1. Forgive me Father John, but you have again misrepresented the Orthodox Church in a public forum. While not handled as well as one would hope, Metropolitan Philip acted as I dare say any Catholic bishop would in the face of clergy unwilling to be obedient to his directives.

    The Orthodox Church welcomes converts, indeed the majority of clergy in the Antiochian Archdiocese are themselves converts from a variety a religious and non-religious backgrounds.

    While I certainly understand that you have points of disagreements with the Church, your continual misrepresentation of the Church are unacceptable. I appreciate the fact that there are some Orthodox Christians who are most uncharitable in their statements about the Catholic Church, however there lapses does not justify your own.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory Jensen

  2. Father Gregory,

    The majority of this post is quoted text that Father took from the Orthodox author cited.

    I would be interested in hearing more about the “other side” of the story… The contagious enthusiasm of the 1990s found me considering leaving my Greek Catholic home for the OCA. Story after story of Evangelical converts to Orthodoxy and the Ben Lomand miracle circulated… The recordings done at Ss. Peter and Paul were absolutely amazing… The missionary zeal was encouraging. Even as a Catholic I was hopeful for this endeavor… Evangelicals who would never become Catholic MIGHT become Orthodox… And that is something to pray for.

    But how that chapter ended is almost NEVER discussed… I think it is worth hearing more about, and would welcome your thoughts and input.

  3. Fr J –

    I would also strongly encourage you to explore the Antiochian Archdiocese’s perspective on the whole Ben Lomond saga. The blog “Ben Lomond Tragedy” seems to be written by a man with a very serious axe to grind against the Antiochians – you may have run across his other blog called “Western Rite Critic”. As someone with some knowledge of the Western Riters under Antioch, I can say that many of the criticisms are justified, but many are really quite inaccurate and unfair.

  4. Simplesinner,

    My objection is not that Fr John records the facts of the case as recorded in the press. It is rather Fr John’s framing the situation as the Orthodox Church shunning converts. This is simply not true–we did not then, nor do we now shun converts. To say show is simply a lie.

    Nor was the situation in Ben Lomand brought about by the ” rigidity, intrigue and ethnocentricism in Antiochian Orthodoxy.” To claim, as Fr John does, that the Church’s disciplinary actions in the situation brought about the ruin of “its best hope for a major influx of Evangelical converts” is likewise untrue. As I said above the lapses in some Orthodox Christians toward Catholics does not justify Fr John’s own lack of charity and willingness to abuse the truth in the service of his stated desire to even the playing field.

    As for how the situation in Ben Lomond ended a three things. First, most of the Orthodox Church–and especially converts who were in the Church around the time–know about what happened. Second, as for how the story ended, that will have to wait the Second Coming of Christ. Third, between tragic time 10 years and today however, I should point out, most of community members have been reconciled to one and other and to the Church. Those who left SS Peter and Paul are now part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

    But again, I must insist that Fr John stop posting misleading and slanderous comments about the Orthodox Church. I have asked him both here and privately to cease. He has chosen not to do so. Instead he continues to act provocatively and, in the current post, in a racist manner.

    I am formally requesting that you please have Father John to stop his slanderous and racist editorializing about the Orthodox Church.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  5. Again, I have to agree with Fr Gregory here. The description of “rigidity, intrigue and ethnocentricism in Antiochian Orthodoxy” completely contradicts my own personal experience of communities, both “ethnic” and “convert”, in the Antiochian Archdiocese. In fact, the usual complaint against the AA is that it is far too accommodating to American converts! A little balance is in order here.

  6. Fr. J. says:

    Gentlemen,

    I intentionally made my intro as brief as possible. It would not make sense to re-post to a general audience without some minimal preparation. I tried to summarize the dynamics in the case as I understand them.

    A large congregation of Evangelical origin crosses over to Orthodoxy bringing with them their church building, a publishing company and later they build a new school. In their enthusiasm they incorporate chants from various Orthodox ethnic backgrounds and hold morning and evening prayer throughout the week. They have the single most vibrant parish in all of US Orthodoxy. The majority of that body was castigated for mixing chant styles, stripped of their church building, school and publishing company and had its clergy ecommunicated so they could no longer serve any other jurisdiction–instead of allowing them to move to a more hospitable jurisdiction. That is shunning to me. They were literally left homeless and without access to pastoral care. This is shameful behavior by the bishop as I see it.

    And they are smashed for what? Because they used Russian as well as Antiochian chants? Because they had monks from Mt. Athos give them spiritual counseling? Because they prayed too long and too often?

    No, I dont think a Catholic bishop would normally defrock and excommunicate anyone for these “offenses.”

    Rigidity— Declarations came down from the bishop which rent the fabric of this parish and he never paid a pastoral visit or tried to find a middle ground. Even in the Orthodox Church account, there is no attempt by the bishop to bring peace. He brought only a heavy hand.

    Ethnocentrism–Refusal to allow evangelical converts with no eastern ethnic background of their own to incorporate chants from various Orthodox traditions. Just prior to the fiasco, the pastor had written an article called Phyletism or Freedom?”

    Intrigue–You bet there was intrigue with some older Arab women going to the bishop because “it had gotten out of hand.”

    I have read the Church’s side–it’s a whitewash.

    I wasn’t going to editorialize, you have now given me occasion to do so. If the Orthodox are all one communion and really so united, then why is it so wrong to sing each others chants? to seek the counsel of a cleric of another Church? We Latins have our Greek Catholic priests come and hear confessions at our churches. If a Greek Catholic priest was giving spiritual counsel to a parishioner, the pastor should be pleased. Canon law could not even permit a bishop to forbid parishioners from seeking out another Catholic priest in good standing.

    Now Fr. Jessen, it is interesting that you bring up my bad experiences with other Orthodox clergy. You speak rightly. They are more often than not atrocious to Catholics and for no good reason except perhaps many are converts and brought their anti-Catholicism with them and found a very hospitable home for it in your churches. Other than that I can find no reason for the utter hostility toward Catholics that I regularly encounter with the Orthodox. Even most Evangelicals are much more civil toward us these days.

    Also, Fr. Jensen, I like your blog very much. It is candid almost to a fault. You have precisely the voice and personal skills to help Orthodoxy in America get out of its present rut triumphalism and polemicism which stimulates shallow converts who too often don’t last. You are doing valuable work. I tried to comment on your blog in a way I thought was helpful, but my comment was purged by you. You will notice that we do not eliminate your comments here at The Black Cordelias as you have done to mine on your blog.

    But, that is neither here nor there. I think of myself as a fair man. I made changes to another post on Orthodoxy because I was convinced by commenters that I had made errors. I stand by that post as it now stands, and apologized for the previous inaccuracies.

    Eirenikon Editor. I have to say to you that I am very much predisposed to hear what you have to say. You are the only fair minded Orthodox voice I have found on the internet. You have been good to myself and other Catholics on your blog, actually very generous. Let me thank you for that. Please just tell me how this is not a case of rigidity, ethnocentrism and intrigue and I will change the wording gladly.

    Yours in Christ,
    Fr. J.

  7. Fr John,

    The men who were defrocked were defrocked not for music but for refusing a transfer.

    The matter of the confessors from Athos–they did not have faculties to hear confessions from the local bishop.

    How did the Church whitewash the BL affair and I am candid almost to a fault? What is it that you want from us Father? (FYI, I was in Redding, CA at the time and, if anything, I heard more than I need from both sides of the dispute.)

    As for your comment on my blog, to the best of my knowledge, I have only deleted those comments that were anti-Catholic. What comment of yours did I delete?

    Finally, I will ask you again, please re-title your post and remove your racist editorializing–they serve no purpose but to inflame the passions and slander the Orthodox Church. We do not shun converts and the events in BL were not ethnically motivated.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  8. Fr. J. says:

    Okay, Fr. Gregory,

    Implying that I am a racist is not going to help things, my friend. I have made no racist commentary whatsoever. If I have said something in particular that you think is racist, then you will need to point it out to me and make a decent argument.

    I am glad to accomodate. But I deal in facts, not sweeping charges.

    The title does not claim that the Orthodox generally shun their converts. The well placed “when” in the title is of the essence. It refers back to Ben Lomond. In this case, I would dare say, as I have already said, that I consider this a case of shunning. The Evangelicals were forced out of the very Church which they brought with them into the Orthodox Church. As you know, Orthodox churches in the US change jurisdictions with property intact with some regularity. And, to not only defrock but also excommunicate the beloved pastor is a horrible insult added to injury. But, in this case they were deprived of both property and priest. Leaving a congregation banished, homeless and without recourse is as close to shunning as it gets.

    “Candid almost to a fault.” This was intended as high praise.

    I think reducing accounts of this incident to the defrocking of bad, disobedient priests is the most common way this event is whitewashed.

    It is pretty clear that the Bishop in this case was systematically dismantling his best parish because it was no longer Arab enough for him. This is the error of phyletism and it is a common complaint among those looking into Orthodox parishes. Let’s not deny this. I have old friends who are Maronites. I love them and their church. I am certainly not anti-Arab.

    I had commented, I believe helpfully, on your spiritual formation post on Aug. 14. To te best of my recollection, my comment was not anti-Catholic :-)

    Please, Father Gregory, just address your issues with an argument and without drama or accusations. Why does it so often have to come down to accusations? Why not a simple note to say “I think it would be more accurate to change x word for y reason?” Is that so difficult? Do we really have to wade through all this crud?

    Christ be our Light,

    Fr. J.

  9. Fr. J. says:

    In place of “shunned” what would you put, Fr. Gregory?

    To my reading, spurned, cast out, alienated, are all accurate descriptors.

  10. Father John,

    Let me begin with your comment on my blog–it was not deleted. I use haloscan and you may simply have closed the window before saving the comment. The link for those comments are here: http://www.haloscan.com/comments/frgregoryj/6971853919574603095/

    With regard to my use of the term racism, I am sorry that you find this offensive however you have chosen–inaccurately–to frame the events in BL in ethnic terms. SS Peter and Paul was never an Arab community. It grew out of an Evangelical congregation, Wee Kirk. Your assertion then that “It is pretty clear that the Bishop in this case was systematically dismantling his best parish because it was no longer Arab enough for him. is simply face. It was never an Arab community.

    Regarding your second description of Bishop Joseph decision as “phyletism,” this too is simply wrong. Phyletism is the heresy that excludes from the Church those not of a different ethnic background. The existence of ethnic Orthodox parishes is no more hyletism then is the existence of such parishes in the Catholic Church.

    Finally, that phyletism “is a common complaint among those looking into Orthodox parishes” is certainly true. But such complaints reflect an inaccurate use of the technical term. Further. and I served as a priest in the GOA for 11 years so basis on which to make this statement. while yes there often a bias toward a particular ethnicity in some parishes and dioceses, often those who complain fail to be aware of their own ethnic bias in favor of their own group. “Let’s not deny this” either. Greeks and Arabs are probably no more ethno-centric than any other group of individuals who have held on to their own ethnic identity. Or, as a friend of mine was told when he became Orthodox, “To be Polish is to be Catholic. If you are no longer Catholic, you are no longer Polish and so no longer a member of this family.”

    As for the regular change of parishes between jurisdictions without loss of property–Father who are you getting your information from? Yes there are policies and procedures in place for such transfers but these transfers are rather infrequent (nationally, I can think of maybe 3 occurrences in the last 10 years). BUT, by the time the community of SS Peter and Paul requested a transfer the situation had already escalated into a disciplinary matter. Also under Orthodox canon law, neither the parish nor the cleric requests a transfer–that request is made by the receiving bishop. Such a request was not made by the then bishop of San Francisco His Grace Tikhon. So no, the procedures in place were not followed–no canonical request was made for transfer.

    Father if you wish to not wade through crud, don’t post crud on your blog. You have stated directly and publicly that the scandals in the Catholic Church have been well covered by the press while scandals in the Orthodox Church have been largely untouched, True enough. So you have taken it upon yourself to expose the scandals in the Orthodox Church in order to level the playing field between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

    Your posts, such as the current one on BL and earlier one’s on the EP and comments by Metropolitan KALLISTOS during an interview ascribe to the whole Church the actions of a few. In the case of the BL affair you offer comments without any understanding of the context of the events. And again, you ascribe to the whole, in this case wrongly understood, sins of the one. Again, BL was not a matter of the parish not being Arab enough–such a charge is racist. I’m sorry but you are playing on American fears of outsider and immigrants just as much as the secular press played on America anti-Catholic sentiment.

    Let me address the matter of racism in response to how the post can be re-written.

    The title and lede should reflect the intent of the article. As written the title suggests that the Orthodox Church (“Orthodoxy’) as one pointed “shunned” converts. The lede says that this was done because of the “rigidity, intrigue and ethnocentricism” that is part of the Orthodox Church. Are you aware that these three terms are typical of slurs for Byzantine and Arab cultures? Neither your title nor lede suggest to an knowledgeable reader that you understand the events in BL or the larger context of these events. To be direct, they seem calculated to inflame and condemn–they suggest that, on ethnic grounds, the Orthodox Church turned her back on her children.

    So I would ask this: What are you trying to say here? Is this a case of your attempting to “level the playing field” between Catholic and Orthodox Christians? Do you trying to warn potential converts to the Orthodox Church that things aren’t perfect here and that they might re-consider the Catholic Church? Or are you trying to draw practical lessons for your own Church? Are you even aware of the history of lawsuits that have afflicted both our Churches here in America?

    Again you simply have your facts wrong about the situation. You are correct that this is a tragedy in the life of the Church here in America. But it is a tragedy that highlights the difficulty of not simply receiving and retaining converts–and this is a challenge not only for the Orthodox Church but also the Catholic Church. While both Churches can make converts, neither Church seems able to hold on to them for very long. We lose some 50% of our converts. In conversations with Catholic involved with lay spirituality they tell me that you all lose about the same number.

    Let me suggest that you may wish to title the post, “It is Hard to Make a Christian.” As for the lede–I’m sorry but it is a wash–you simply got it wrong.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  11. Fr J –

    I can’t say it better than Fr Gregory already has.

    I don’t have all the facts on the Ben Lomond affair – and, frankly, no offense, but neither do you. I’ve heard bits and pieces of both sides of the conflict.

    The blog you are getting your information from presents things very much from one side of the issue (and it seems to me that this blogger has some sort of axe to grind against the Antiochian Archdiocese).

    Since I don’t have a very detailed understanding of what went on a decade ago at Ben Lomond, I tend to want to give the hierarchs of the Church of Antioch the benefit of the doubt here.

    In the interest of fostering peaceful interaction between Orthodox and Catholics online (something you know I am very much concerned with), you might want to take Fr Gregory’s advice and moderate the tone of your post.

  12. Fr. J. says:

    Fr. Gregory,

    Beyond indicating that you have not liked the words I used on account of their being common complaints, you really have not explained why they are not applicable here.

    You have found errors that I have perhaps made here in the comboxes, but you have not really explained how this is not about

    1. Ethnicity: ethnic chants (Russian instead of Arab),
    2. Intrigue: some ethnic members complaining to their bishop and getting the new converts thrown out of the Church they themselves built.
    3. Rigidity: A bishop applies the very most extreme measures possible resulting in the ruination of his best parish.

    I will grant that the wording perhaps implies that ethnocentrism, intrigue and rigidity are constituent of Orthodoxy. That was not my intent and I apologize for that. My only intended claim was that this was a particular instance of those attributes. My apologies. I will change the wording to reflect that.

    As for my comment on your blog. I had submitted it twice. I did not neglect to submit it.

    As for your suggested title, I find it offensive in the extreme as it implies that all who are not Orthodox are not Christians. You could not have suggested a worse title in my opinion.

  13. One more time, Father, the three points you list above are simply not true. It was not a question of music, it was not a question of ethnicity, nor was Metro. Philip rigid. You are wrong on the facts Father.

    Your new wording is also simply false–the Church did not drive out her converts. We may have received them, or even formed them unwisely, but they were not driven out. In fact, those who left SS Peter and Paul established a new Orthodox parish, St Lawrence.

    Again, you are simply wrong on the facts, facts I hasten to add that are easily checked. Painfully I agree w/ Eirenikon Editor, you have an axe to grind against the Orthodox Church.

    As for my suggested title, I am sorry that you are offended, that was not my intent.

    I do not know why my blog will not publish your comment. Contrary to your assertion I am not blocking your comments. If you wish, send me your comment and I will post it myself.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  14. Fr. J. says:

    If there are are other accounts which explain the actions of the Metropolitan, I would like to see them. You both have blogs, maybe you would like to publish them.

    I am not sure that I understand you all. You say you dont mind my publishing these accounts, but you oppose my summary of the accounts which is based on them.

  15. “Painfully I agree w/ Eirenikon Editor, you have an axe to grind against the Orthodox Church.”

    Just to clarify: I said that the blogger “tuD” who runs both the Ben Lomond Tragedy blog and the Western Rite Critic blog seems to have some sort of vendetta against the Antiochians. He’s a good source for presenting the side of the deposed priests of Ben Lomond, but probably not a good source for discovering what Metropolitan Philip’s point of view must have been.

    That being said, there have been some posts here at the Black Cordelias (a blog which I enjoy and have in my RSS feed) that have not been particularly helpful in fostering the sort of peaceful online Orthodox-Catholic conversation that I’m interested in. Not that the Orthodox Church is perfect and above all possible criticism. There are many things that bother me about Orthodoxy … But these posts seem to mirror the strategy of some anti-Catholic Orthodox who like to contrast the very best of Orthodoxy with the very worst of Catholicism. That may not be your intention, but many Orthodox have had that impression.

    Anyhow, I probably should not have responded to this post at all, so I will bow out. Forgive me if I have misread anything. Again, I appreciate your blog and your participation over at Eirenikon. I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t added the Black Cordelias to my blogroll yet.

  16. Well, there is another side of the story. Fr. David Anderson, now a Greek Catholic priest in Ukiah, and former disciple of Alexander Schmemann, was a priest at that parish when it broke up. He once told me once that the experience taught him a valuable lesson. He said that prior to that experience, he used to think that the most powerful and despotic office possible was the traditional idea of the Papacy. Afterwards, he concluded that no one can exercise authority in such an arbitrary manner as an Orthodox bishop. Even though the largest chunk of the schism that ended up in St. Lawrence Orthodox Church in Felton would think that Catholics are unbaptized heretics, Fr. Anderson, now a Catholic, thinks that they were in the right.

    I have actually been to both churches. The Antiochean one when I went was practically empty during Vespers and the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. The Felton church when I went to it was always packed. The excommunicated clergy mentioned in the article serve at the Felton church. They have Divine Liturgy and Vespers everyday, and at the daily Divine Liturgy I attended, that started maybe around seven in the morning after a recitation of the Midnight Office, was attended by about twenty people. Vespers probably had about two hundred. I once stopped by there as a monk at the very end of Liturgy, and it was the only time in my life I felt underdressed in a church. There seemed to be a small army of people in riassas, klobuks, and other liturgical vestments. To my knowledge, I don’t know if the two churches are even on speaking terms.

    This being said, I think that all churches have their problems. Maybe in Catholicism we have legal mechanisms that prevent these things from happening, but all the same, with the recent crises in our own Church, there is little room to criticize others about their church.

  17. Fr. J. says:

    Thank you, Arturo, for your insights and observations.

    I have known about Ben Lomond for some time now. I offer these accounts less as a matter of criticism than as a matter of reporting. As the 10 year anniversary came around, I noticed that nothing was being written about it online. If this were a major Catholic crisis as it was for the Orthodox, America and Commonweal magazines would be writing significant retrospectives asking pertinent questions such as

    What really happened?
    Where are they all now?
    What have we learned from this?
    Could it happen again?
    How would we do things differently?
    What kinds of reconciliation are possible?
    Where do we go from here?

    The only online efforts by the Orthodox to deal with these questions has been by two Orthodox bloggers, both of whom I respect. And their efforts have been to react defensively to this post.

    Contrary to the way many Orthodox likely regard me, I am as concerned about the health of Orthodoxy as I am frustrated by its persistent anti-Catholicism. And the two are really sides of the same coin.

    Many Orthodox seem to think that triumphalism and opposition to Catholicism is their best way to get converts from among already anti-Catholic evangelicals. In so doing they emphasize their differences with Catholics and resort to anti-Catholic polemics. Constant comparing to Catholicism as we see on prominent Orthodox sites leads to a competitive relationship and fosters a need to present a triumpal self image. All is well. We have no problems. Just look at our liturgy and see how holy we are.

    One of the side effects of triumphalism is the need to cover up all blemishes, to black out negative history, which leads to missing the lessons of that history.

    How will Orthdoxy overcome its problems if it refuses to look at them? There are sites on the internet dedicated to reporting sex scandals among the Orthodox and financial scandals as well. These sites exist because the Orthodox Churches bury these blemishes. But, if these blemishes are buried, how can they be healed?

    Yes, Catholicism has blemishes for all the world to see. And it is this visibility which makes possible the changes in the Church which are truly necessary. This visibility of Catholic scandals did not come from Catholic sources either. But, they have proved necessary for our institutions to reform.

    So, yes, I am concerned for the health of Orthodoxy as much as I am concerned with its anti-Catholicism. I have no axes to grind as has been charged.

    In fact, I would challenge both Eirenikon Editor and Fr. Gregory to consider posting some in depth retrospectives on the 10 year anniversary of Ben Lomond. Whatever insights and thoughtfulness they would bring to bear would surely be read widely in the Orthodox community and be of great benefit.

    God Bless,

    Fr. J.

  18. diane says:

    I must step in here in support of Father J.

    Father Gregory correctly notes that Internet Orthodox sometimes uncharitably smear the Catholic Church. Father, that’s not even the half of it. Not even close.

    I have been visiting Internet religious fora, off and on, for over ten years now. When I started out, I had the typical happy-clappy Catholic attitude toward the Orthodox: Ooooh, they’re so close to us; we have so much in common; ecumenical group hug time!

    Man, was I naive.

    I quickly learned that certain Internet Orthodox are among the most viciously anti-Catholic people on the planet. I have seen Internet Orthodox screeds that would make Jack Chick blush. Like Father J, I have seldom encountered such vitriol even among fundamentalists. I have an Independent Baptist friend — a graduate of Bob Jones University, no less — who is a regular ecumenical teddy-bear compared with most Internet Orthodox.

    Father Gregory, with all due respect, I am not talking here about occasional exposure to uncharity and unfairness and misrepresentation. No. This stuff is pervasive. It is everywhere. The anti-Western / anti-Catholic Orthodox are relentless, often to the point of obsessiveness. And they are everywhere — not only on the Orthodox boards (most of which I studiously avoid) but on Catholic boards as well, where many Internet Orthodox polemicists come trolling in order to spew their anti-Catholic / anti-Western venom.

    And, man, it gets old fast. Really, really fast. Yes, I know, we’re supposed to turn the other cheek. But that doesn’t mean the slaps and punches don’t hurt. Nor does it mean that we should just sit by passively and put up with gross misrepresentation of our Faith (which could lead the ignorant and wavering astray).

    Several people here have alluded to the Catholic sex-abuse crisis. Hah! Classic textbook-case example of what I’m talking about. When the sex-abuse crisis was all over the news, the Internet Orthodox could scarcely control their glee. On the fora I frequent, they would not let us Catholics hear the end of it. Every other post was about priests “doing” boys — and the implication was often that it all priests were abusers and all bishops were enablers; IOW, complete corruption throughout the Catholic Church. (Maria Monk, call your office!) Never mind that every peer-reviewed study showed that the incidence of clergy sex abuse was roughly the same across all communions. Nope. According to these Internet Orthodox, the Catholic Church had cornered the market on sexual sin.

    Believe me, Father Gregory, I am not minimizing the horrors of the RC sex-abuse crisis. Not in the least. I am far angrier about the Scandal than any outsider could ever be. But this does not obviate the fact that it’s not just a Catholic problem. Not by a long shot. We didn’t invent sin, and we have not in fact cornered the market on it. Yet you’d never know that if you heeded these Internet Orthodox. Blithely ignoring the fact that a rip-roaring clergy sex-abuse scandal was then underway in Greece, these schadenfreude specialists obsessively rehashed the RC Scandal like a dog worrying a bone.

    Then came the OCA scandal, and suddenly the Internet Orthodox were not so quick to jump all over us papists. Except, of course, when they made excuses like, “Well, it’s just a financial scandal, so it’s not as bad.” (Yeah, right. What on earth did they think all that money was paying for? But no, no, no…per Certain Internet Orthodox, “We are the Orthodox; we can do no wrong — or at least not as muchwrong as those Catholics over there.”)

    Obviously, I am not referring to all Internet Orthodox here. As Father J noted, Father Gregory, you and Eirenikon Editor are shining counter-examples, for which I am endlessly grateful. There are other Orthodox exemplars of irenicism, too — and I am grateful to them as well. But there are far, far too many Orthodox Catholic-bashers on the Internet, and boy, do they get around. And, as I said, it gets old. Really, really old.

    At the same time, there’s this overweening Orthodox triumphalism. As Arturo once put it, the typical Internet Orthodox attitude (toward Catholics / the West / Protestants / everyone else on the planet) seems to be: “Our sh_t doesn’t stink, but yours does.” If there’s a Clown Mass anywhere on earth, no matter how rare or remote, our Internet Orthodox buds will ferret it out and make endless polemical hay out of it. (Rod Dreher’s pretty much the master of this, but he’s far from alone.) Yet there’s rarely a peep about any problems in Orthodox praxis — at least not for public view. Instead, we get treated — endlessly, ad nauseam — to screeds on How Superior to Everything Else in Creation Orthodox Liturgy Is; how there are more men than women in Orthodox churches (well, with 45-member congregations, I guess it’s easy to count, eh? ;-)); how much more spiritual the Orthodox are compared with those pew-warming hoi polloi in Catholic parishes; and on and on. Believe me, I have heard it all. And then some.

    Add the triumphalism to the relentless Catholic-bashing, and you can kind of see how Catholics might be pretty much over the whole Internet Orthodox Thing. I know I am. I am so turned off that most of my ecumenical bonhomie has evaporated. I’m not saying that’s a Good Thing. But it’s what happens after years of constant exposure to some of the most vicious, venomous, vitriolic anti-Catholicism in tarnation.

    So…when Father J turns around and posts a few pieces pointing out that Orthodoxy is not always the absolutely perfect paradise its Catholic-bashing proponents claim, I find it odd that the Orthodox response = howls of protest and demands that Father J cease and desist. It’s a good thing we Catholics are not that thin-skinned, seeing that we have to endure a heck of a lot more flak than this–on a much, much more regular basis. Sheesh, three articles! If I’d been exposed to only THREE Orthodox criticisms of Catholic praxis over the years, I’d be in seventh heaven. I’d still be brimming over with ecumenical bonhomie. I’d feel a lot less battle-scarred, a lot less gun-shy, and a lot less chary of dealings with Internet Orthodox.

    I apologize for my bluntness. I guess you can tell that I feel strongly about this, LOL. I guess the Internet has been a curse in some ways, at least as far as my ecumenical mindset goes. Needless to say, my bad experiences with so many Internet Orthodox have only deepened my profound appreciation for those Orthodox (both online and in Real Life) who show irenicism and ecumenical sensitivity toward us Catholics. Thank you again and again, Father Gregory and Eirenikon Editor, for being among that number. I cannot tell you how healing it is to encounter charity and understanding from our Orthodox brethren — who really are very close to us, whether they like to admit it or not. ;)

    Diane

  19. Kellen says:

    I sat on this for a while, but it’s night time, and I tend to be more loose-tongued. I reserve the right to delete this comment later. I get to do that, right?

    Perhaps as an ex-Protestant I tend to see things that aren’t actually there (and you wiser heads can correct me if so), but I view the Ben Lomond situation as being a quintessentially Protestant fight. The essence of Protestantism (in so many words) is thinking that you have a right to defy Church authority as soon as you think a) you have a greater magisterium than the Church, or b) that those in authority have sinned one too many times for your liking. The latter seems to be exactly what seemed to happen here. I’m sorry, you think a transfer order was suspiciously motivated? Is the loss of that priest going to ruin you? No. Is the priest going to be martyred? No. Why fight it? Suspiciously motivated transfer orders are no excuse for telling the bishop where he can stick it. The path of going and starting a new parish when you decide you don’t like the governing authority is a classically Protestant move. They think they’re great because they’re vibrant, they’re Orthodox, they do proper Orthodox stuff, they attend a lot of liturgies, they even brought out a monk from Mt. Athos! With all this righteousness, why bother with the bishop and canon law?

    I say this as a way of pointing out the poor catechesis present in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy when it comes to Protestant converts. RCIA is generally so bent on “appreciating” Protestantism that one might get the sense that they wish they were Protestant. Orthodoxy tends to be fond of Mathewes-Greenesque “here’s what the West got wrong” speeches, focusing on positive Eastern mysticism while neglecting to show the Protestants how to find the ugly, difficult root of the Protestant heresy within their soul. Having gone through both Orthodox inquiry and RCIA, I can safely say that both didn’t deal with the problem at all, and it wasn’t until after going through both that I found my own problem. Some teachers even inadvertently encourage residual Protestantism when they try to encourage the convert – it tends to manifest as anti-hierarchical stuff in Catholicism and polemicism in Orthodoxy – that particular horse has done been beat to death here.

    I think that, unfortunately, the Antiochian archdiocese gets an extra helping of this problem because of the presence of convert-dominated parishes. It’s one thing when the residual Protestantism gets spread out and diluted, it’s quite another when it shows up in the priesthood of a parish.

  20. Fr. J. says:

    Kellen,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you wholeheartedly. As the son of an Evangelical father who at once appreciated liturgy and abhored Catholic authority, I can attest to this fundamental Protestant impulse. And yes, the need of many Protestants to create a church experience that makes them feel oh so special and unique and wonderful, and better than everyone else.

    Frankly, the Ben Lomond experience is something that we Catholics should study as we consider taking on whole congregations of Anglicans. Your points about the problem of Protestantism as an anti-authortarianism which is magnified when it is concentrated is of particular concern in the years ahead for the Anglican Use.

    I will sadly delete anything you ask me to, but I think your comment was excellent and quite fruitful.

    Also, I like your blog.

    Fr. J.

  21. diane says:

    Kellen, if you can survive RCIA, you can survive anything. Think of it as a combination of penance and rite of passage.

    You say you are an ex-Protestant. May I politely and respectfully ask where you’ve ended up? Have you crossed the Tiber or the Bosphorus? Or are you still making up your mind?

    Diane

  22. Fr J, Diane, & Kellen,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Let me first say I agree with Fr J & Diane’s criticism of the anti-Catholic/anti-Western tendency in the Orthodox Church. For what it may be worth, while I am not a exemplary by any means, I have tried to counter this anti-Catholicism when I have encountered it. There simply is no excuse for such behavior either online or in person. And yet it continues and is even encouraged, or at least not discouraged, by many in the Orthodox Church.

    I also agree with Kellen that much of this is due to the presence of poorly catechized converts from Evangelical Christianity. Let me also say that I disagree with Frederica Matthews-Greene’s way of presenting the Orthodox Church as “how we aren’t the West.” One of her recent essays argues (unconvincingly on the empirical evidence I might add) that the Orthodox Church in the US has avoided the culture wars. We have, but only by failing to fight in the war by not presenting our own moral tradition. But this is a failing not of the Tradition but of pastoral praxis.

    At the same time, it is also clear that the anti-Catholic tendencies of converts have found support and encouragement among those raised in the Church. There is no question in my mind that there is especially in Greek and Russian cultures a tendencies that often take the form of a crude anti-Catholicism.

    Where I think converts to Orthodoxy, and outside Catholic critics, miss the boat is to assume that these anti-Catholicism is theologically grounded. It isn’t–or at least it isn’t simply theological. There is in both Greek and Russian culture a tendency toward xenophobia. Anti-Catholicism is one form it takes, but I think we must be careful not to confuse the symptom with the illness.

    In an American context, the cultural xenophobia we see in at some parts of Greek and Russian society often mixes with American sectarianism and anti-Catholicism to create a pathological expression of Orthodoxy–a toxic brew in words I used on my own blog. But while there is an convergence of belligerence, the causes are subtly different. At the risk of clouding the issue, for some in the Orthodox Church anti-Catholicism is a marriage of convenience, along the lines of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

    Though I have never met Fr David Anderson, I have heard those in the Orthodox Church I respect greatly speak highly of him–both as an Orthodox and now as a Catholic priest. He is right, Orthodox bishops can act despotically. (Without going into the details, I have been on the receiving end of harsh episcopal whim.) In this sense, I think we (the Orthodox) would do well to emphasis more the importance of canonical due process. Let me go further, the current financial scandals in the OCA (and the growing clergy sexual misconduct scandal in the Greek Archdiocese) are precisely scandals brought about by the lack of canonical (and I suspect, civil) due process. This is to say that they are scandals concerning justice.

    The Orthodox Church has a great deal to learn in administrative matters from our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

    Returning for a moment to the BL affair, I appreciate, and am grateful, for Fr John’s observation that it might serve as instructive for the Catholic Church as you contemplate the large scale reception of Anglicans. While I am confident that you will proceed with due caution and diligence, it would not surprise me–though it would sadden me–if you had your own BL event. The experiences of Greek Catholics when they came to the States offers us an historical example of Catholic shunning their own converts and consequentially in the birth of what is now the OCA.

    I should point out that the opposite is also true, it was not the Jesuits, but the sins of Orthodox bishops especially that contributed to Orthodox Christians going to the Catholic Church and this for the existence of the Greek Catholic Church. As anyone who knows the situation of Arab Orthodox Christians in the Middle East can testify, they are often neglected and grossly mistreated by ethnic Greek bishops even as the Russian hierarchy tends neglect the needs and dignity of non-Russian Orthodox under their care.

    This is not a anti-Catholic (or for that matter anti-Greek or Russian) slam on my part. But it is as least as true that Greek Catholics coming to America were the victims of an entrenched ecclesiastical bureaucracy as the faithful at SS Peter and Paul in Ben Lomand, or the Arab Christians under ethnic Greek bishops in Jerusalem.

    Large scale conversions and the subsequent need to integrate large numbers of new members, are unbelievably tricky. We see this both with Greek Catholics and Rome and with evangelical Christians here in the US.

    Try as we might, we will make missteps. The problems in BL that you report on here were present from the beginning. They represent a failure on the part of the Antiochian Archdiocese (AA) to properly catechize those who came from what was once Wee Kirk. It also reflects a failure, which the AA has now taken steps to correct through a more rigorous program of theological education and supervision of Protestant clergy who wish to be ordained to the priesthood.

    Fr John you wonder why the media has in the main given the Orthodox Church a pass on our scandals. First I don’t think they have–look for example at the reporting of Kathy Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or the posts by Rod Derher. These are two journalists who have looked at these problems.

    And there is of course Pokrov that looks at clergy sexual conduct and OCAnews that looks the financial mess in the OCA. Both of these sites not only do in house reporting, they also archive secular media reports both in the US and from overseas.

    Second, as Lenny Bruce once said, “When I say ‘the Church,’ I mean the Catholic Church.” Like it or not FrJ, the Catholic Church is simply bigger than the Orthodox Church and this both globally and in the US. There are not even 2 million Orthodox Christians in America–which makes the whole Orthodox Church in the US smaller than the diocese of Chicago. The Catholic Church is about 20% of the US population compared to the Orthodox Church being .6% (i.e., 6/10%). But again, the future as such is unknown.

    Third there is certainly pervasive anti-Catholicism that is out there. Often we get a pass in the media about our own faults and we shouldn’t. And yes, many Orthodox tend to gloss over our faults–if we know them at all–and seem in capable of passing on the latest Catholic scandal. It is also certainly the case that we have bishops (and lower clergy I should add) who act in ways that are despotic and authoritarian.

    That said however, there is hope–or at least how it seems so to me. There are those of us who are more irenic (and given that roughly a quarter of all marriages celebrated in the Orthodox Church are between Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics, I suspect we are if not the majority in America, a substantial minority). But this hope demands from both sides a change of heart about not only the other Church, but also how we relate to our own Church.

    When there is, for example, a Clown Mass or a report about the often dismal character of the RICA, who broadcasts this? It isn’t Orthodox Christians, we aren’t hiding in Catholic parishes waiting for the next scandal. And, as the BL affair, Pokrov, and OCAnews suggests, like Catholics with their own scandals, there are Orthodox who are more than happy to make public our own pastorally, sexual and financial failing.

    One of the things I’ve learned as a social scientist, there is never one explanation of anything I do, much less for the actions of an institution as large and complex as the Catholic or Orthodox Church. What is done is done for a mix of reasons and it is tempting for the critic to look only at the less noble reasons–or at least I know I have done that both here and other places. For this I ask forgiveness.

    I think Arturo has put his finger on it when he writes, “I think that all churches have their problems. Maybe in Catholicism we have legal mechanisms that prevent these things from happening, but all the same, with the recent crises in our own Church, there is little room to criticize others about their church.”

    The goal, or so it seems to me, is to find a way for both traditions to find each other–i am convinced that whether the voice is Catholic or Orthodox, the uninvited criticism or the other’s tradition, much less unasked for comments on their scandals, does not serve the reconciliation. Never have I spoken with an Orthodox Christian anti-Catholic bigot or polemicist who saw himself as offending against charity or the truth. Far from it in fact. This isn’t to deny the objective content of much the frequent, almost habitual, anti-Catholicism that one finds among Orthodox Christians. I simply fail to see how, whatever the intent, how the posting of Orthodox shortcoming by Catholics, or Catholic shortcomings by Orthodox, serves the cause of reconciliation.

    Among Orthodox converts, whether might be the intent, anti-Catholicism is back door means of proselytizing Evangelical Christians by poisoning the Catholic well. It is the rare commentator, Catholic or Orthodox, who can bring to light the flaws of the other Church without him or herself at least unintentionally also poisoning the other’s well.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  23. diane says:

    Father Gregory, what a beautiful post. Thank you so, so much. I agree with virtually everything you say. :-)

    About the only place where I disagree with you is in re Rod Dreher’s coverage of the OCA scandal. From what I’ve seen, Dreher has barely peeped about Orthodox scandals–he has even made lame excuses for his relative neglect thereof–while he continues to bash Catholicism (often on trivial pretexts) at virtually every opportunity. But that’s neither here nor there. Dreher’s always minuscule audience seems to be shrinking anyway (only a few lefty atheists plus a gaggle of Orthodox still comment at his blog), so his gross journalistic double standard is probably not worth fretting about.

    I think the media’s relative neglect of Orthodox scandals has two main causes. One, Orthodoxy in this country is relatively small and obscure, so it slides right under the radar screen. Two, the media have a gigantic ax to grind with the Catholic Church — not only because we are so large (the 800-lb. gorilla), and not only because anti-Catholicism is so deeply entrenched in American culture, but also because the media are fanatically pro-abortion, and the Catholic Church is famous worldwide as the preeminent defender of the Gospel of Life. This makes the Catholic Church a very tempting target for pro-abort secularists. She is their target of choice, public enemy #1. (Pro-life evangelicals are their second favorite target, it would seem. The Orthodox — obscure, exotic, and not known for public stands on pressing issues — are way, way down on the hit-list.)

  24. Fr. J. says:

    Fr. Gregory,

    I would like to add my gratitude for such a frank and thoughtful post. It has done for me more than anything else I have read by an Orthodox author.

    God Bless,
    Fr. J.

  25. Diane and Fr J,

    Thank you both for your kind words. Please forgive my misspellings and grammatical errors–I felt strongly that a frank response was need but after elbow surgery last year my typing skills are still a bit under par these days. Also the comment box is so tiny!

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  26. james g says:

    I appreciate Fr. J posting on the topic. I have heard of the Evangelicals converting but never hear anything about what happened later. If there are more accounts I would be glad to read them as well. It is an interesting story.

    Coverage of such matters is often superficial or biased. I can think of two similar incidents in the Catholic Church where parishes are/were being closed/suppressed in conflict with their bishop. Currently a diocese in England is closing a number of parishes and the parishioners are protesting it. There is much implying going on that one of the parishes is being closed because it says mass in Latin. There are accusations flying and a balanced account is not being given. Personally, I think the bishop is handling the situation poorly and being very closed mouthed about it. Then there is the well-publicized St. Stanislav’s parish that was suppressed for schism (currently being rehabilitated). In that case I think the Archbishop handled the situation well being very open and public about what was going on. Parallels could be drawn between these cases and what appears to have happened at Ben Lomond.

    I find it amazing that so many comments have been on the brief introduction Fr. J gave and not as much on the topic matter; I’m glad the conversation has moved on. One of the sources cited is quite explicit in attributing much of the conflict to ethnocentrism (ethnic conflict was a charge made in the Stanislav case as well) so it seems to me to be a valid topic of discussion. Given the charge, I see no reason why Fr. J should not have mentioned it. If such a charge can be proven false it should by all means be refuted.

    Metropolitan Phillip’s actions also seem rather extreme from an outsider and a Catholic point of view. Now maybe defrocking and excommunication is a rather common occurrence in Orthodoxy so what happened was routine but they are not common in Catholicism. The Stanislav case is on point in that it’s been going on for years and the process of laicizing the dissident priest is still underway. That so many clergy were summarily (by the first account’s accounting) defrocked and excommunicated seems very heavy-handed. Without more open communication those of us without insider knowledge have no counter-evidence to weigh.

    James G

    • Not everyone who converted was an evangelical, wee kirk was just one of several groups that merged together to form this church. And in my opinion it was not extreme what the Metropolitan did, there where too many chiefs and not enough Indians. I was a lay person so am speaking from my point of view, as a lay person. However an let me make this clear in no way does that make me less or more a Christian. I have had unique experiences that many a priest has never had and possibly will never have, happen to me. defiance of let us say a Cardinal by a parish priest in Catholicism would lead to a serious disciplinary action also in the Catholic Church. Also where did the Arab issue begin or end, I never ever once felt in this church discriminated against nor have I ever in any of the Orthodox churches, I go to worship GOD not to socialize with tom, dick and Anastasia. Good grief. I keep wondering where God is in all of this dialogue.

  27. Fr. J. says:

    The only other account I have found online, James G. is on the Orthodox Wikipedia, entitled “Ben Lomond Crisis, easily googled. It is just a skeleton of facts, but the essentials appear to be there to confirm the two accounts posted here.

    As you may know, I have reported Damian Thompson’s accounts of the British parishes case in Britain.

    Today, we may be the first Catholic blog to report on a similar case in Brisbane, Australia.

    I agree that the St. Stan’s case in St. Louis is another such case. As you said, that has dragged on for years with the Archbishop going very, very slowly toward the apparent same end with the priest. It remains to be seen whether St. Stans will end up in court over the parish property.

    Also, I am writing a series of childhood memories of my home parish (Good Shepherd, Alexandria, Va) which was a somewhat similar case in the 1970’s, though without the property dispute or defrocking. It will take another two parts to cover the story at least, so it is not a situation with which I am unfamiliar.

  28. Kellen says:

    Fr. Gregory –

    I may not be understanding your comment about the size of the comment box, but you can expand it by clicking and dragging in the lower right hand corner (at least you can in my browser). Hope your elbow gets better quickly.

  29. diane says:

    Metropolitan Phillip’s actions also seem rather extreme from an outsider and a Catholic point of view. Now maybe defrocking and excommunication is a rather common occurrence in Orthodoxy so what happened was routine but they are not common in Catholicism.

    Yes, that was my impression, also. That’s why I think it’s not 100% fair or accurate to say that the dissenting Ben Lomond folks were simply unreconstructed Protestants rebelliously defying legitimate episcopal authority. I’m sure there was some of that, but OTOH it would seem that the episcopal authority in question verged on the tyrannical. As always, there are two sides to every story.

    As Arturo noted, our Orthodox brethren often labor under the delusion that the Pope is a despotic tyrant wielding absolute power, utterly unchecked, the Great Papal Bogeyman, and so forth. Yet, in reality, our pope and our bishops behave like pussycats crossed with bunny-rabbits compared with the way Met. Philip apparently behaved. I do not say this to re-ignite heated discussion but simply because, like James G, I do find Met. Philip’s actions a tad extreme. It does in fact remind me a bit of the Bishop Ireland episode…but then, let’s face it: Bishop Ireland, he dead. We Catholics are trying to move beyond despotism and super-clericalism, no matter how slowly and fitfully….

  30. Let me add my two cents:

    While the events in BL were, as I said, disciplinary in nature and not ethnic, our canonical tradition does not allow for a double penalty. Clergy can be defrocked but not excommunicated for the same offense. And I think that the clergy should have been suspended, though not defrocked, for refusing the initial transfer order by Metro. Philip . Let me explain why.

    At the time of the blow up, SS Peter and Paul was served by over a dozen priests and deacons who were at that time needed elsewhere. There were so many clergy in fact that they would often not serve and instead sing in the choir. Indeed, some clergy simply did not know how to serve and so before they could be transfered they would have to have remedial liturgical education to be ready for parish ministry elsewhere.

    In large part this was a mess of the Church’s own making. Metro Philip blessed liturgical practices at SS Peter and Paul that were experimental in character. They were based on the liturgical scholarship of the late Fr Alexander Schmemann and included such things as beginning the liturgy outside the the Altar in the midst of the congregation and the clergy only entering the Altar during the small entrance. (This was a variation on the ancient practice and is similar to the current Eastern practice for Liturgy served by a bishop.) I suspect that parish’s the appeal to Schmemann’s works is in part the genesis of the Russian vs. Arab theme; the concern was not musical, Actually, given that about half the clergy in the Antiochian Archdiocese at that time studied w/Schmeman at St Vladimir’s there was a strong Russian flavor to much liturgical practice including music.

    Eventually, Metro Philip decided to end the experiment. No doubt he did this in part in response the concerns raised by “little old ladies,” but this rather different then him simply capitulating to an ethnic pressure group. The faithful were being confused and so just the bishop blessed an experimental liturgical practice for pastoral reasons, for pastoral reasons ended it.

    HOW he ended it was certainly not helpful and reflected a violation of good Orthodox canonical due practice. There was no spiritual court case before the men were deprived of orders–many believe that their appeal to Antioch was also less than fairly adjudicated. Diane’s characterization of verging on the tyrannical is one that would find a receptive audience among many Orthodox clergy.

    Actually the parallel w/Bishop Ireland’s treatment of St Alexis Toth is a good one. I think both our communities need, to quote Diane, “to move beyond despotism and super-clericalism.” That this is being done only “slowly and fitfully” in places is worrisome to me.

    It is too easy (and I say this from my experience as an Orthodox priest) to equate despotism with prophetic boldness. American’s especially are always rather taken with those who defy convention, at least if that defiance is to our advantage. That’s the thing really, w/SS Peter and Paul–Orthodox canonical procedures where not always followed and this includes not only how the clergy were disciplined (which was shameful) both also in how the parish was established and its clergy were ordained (too quickly, without proper education or supervision, etc.). What irritates me about those who complain about Metro Philip is that his behavior was consistent throughout–it’s just at one point he did what the clergy at SS Peter & Paul didn’t want him to do, end their experimental liturgical practices (which is not wholly unexpected, people get attached to the form liturgy takes, even if that is a bad form).

    God willing we (the Orthodox) have learned something from this event. Though I must say we still tend to act with greater boldness sometimes than prudence.

    FWIW, in my own diocese (OCA diocese of the Midwest) you would find the clergy and laity rather more forthcoming about the failings of the Orthodox Church than what you read online.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  31. Father Gregory,

    Thank you very kindly for offering these well considered and thought-out responses. The tone of this whole discussion has improved dramatically for the better. Ditto for EE – Big fan of Eirenekon here myself!

    I am at the end of a long day and attempting to NOT fall of my desk chair in exhaustion as it is… But 2¢ worth throwing in (or making change for) is sort of coming to mind…

    Namely when you (again, Father Gregory) write:

    Indeed, some clergy simply did not know how to serve and so before they could be transfered they would have to have remedial liturgical education to be ready for parish ministry elsewhere.

    Well I had heard rumblings and misgivings for how (perhaps too?) enthusiastically the converts were recieved and ordained priests. Some, as I understood it, were Orthodox laymen for 24 hours or less before ascending to Holy Orders… And this decision was made – I suspect – on the merits of their zeal and prior experience as “Evangelicals doin’ the Orthodox thing”. Some have opined that perhaps the problem was some of them may have “brought some water to the well” as they showed up on ++PHILLIP’s door already bearded, be-cassocked, and chanting. They were already functioning, prior to their conversion, as Orthodox (by the standards they had held pre-reception) who just “needed to be regularized.”

    In a real way this is not unlike any number of smallish Protestant groups (Think “Charismatic Episcopal Church”!) that start to function as liturgical protestants who fancy themselves “Catholic enough.” However well-intentioned, if a group such as the smallish (African American) High Church Pentecostals (AfAm ministers who are getting into being “consecrated bishops, using episcopal regalia and liberally borrow from the Roman Missal and BCP) showed up on Rome’s door, I believe some mechanisms would be in place to better equip those on the recieving end to assess where such a group would be. This is perhaps the “Trial and error” portion of the whole affair that offers the greatest opportunity for education… In a real way, some of the Ben Lomond experience might have in fact been “too much too soon”.

    Questions arise in the mind of some of my Orthodox interlocutors with whom I correspond privately, frequently, charitably, and consider friends. These questions correspond to misgivings about whether recent efforts in the Phillipines (bringing in another Evangelical proto-Orthodox network of congregatins en masse recently) or among ex-Anglicans being accomadated by with the Antiochian’s “Western Rite Vicarate”… Questions include concern if perhaps (in an effort to have lightening strike twice, and “strike while the iron is hot”) enthusiastic converts are not being recieved (and ordained!) too quickly before enthusiasm fades. That is a discussion worth having, especially in the light of the perhaps imminent announcement of arrangements for Christians of various and sundry Anglican traditions possibly being recieved into the Catholic Church in (the case of some!) aftermath of their displeasure with their own church.

    More tomorrow, my eyelids are begining to weigh a ton. Apologies for the the manifold typos and run-on sentences I will try to correct or edit tomorrow!

    – Simple

  32. diane says:

    I’ve been pondering Kellen’s points (echoed by others, including myself), and an irony has occurred to me.

    OK. Let’s say that the Ben Lomond guys were unreconstructed Protestants who, in typical Protestant fashion, defied and rejected episcopal authority. Let’s say that they should have obeyed their bishop, no matter how overbearing, heavy-handed, and unreasonable he was.

    Well (she asks with great trepidation): What does that say about Alexis Toth?

    Should Toth, too, have obeyed his bishop, even though the bishop in question was overbearing, heavy-handed, and unreasonable?

    If the bishop’s high-handedness does not justify the disobedience and schism of his flock in the Ben Lomond case, then shouldn’t that apply across the board, in all situations, including the Bishop Ireland / Alexis Toth situation? If it’s sauce for the goose, shouldn’t it be sauce for the gander?

    On other boards, Orthodox polemicists (not among present company) have sometimes thrown Bishop Ireland in our faces, charging that his intransigence fully justified Toth’s defiance and subsequent schism. But I would respectfully suggest that they can’t have it both ways. If Toth was right to rebel, then so was the Ben Lomond crowd. If the Ben Lomond crowd was NOT right to rebel, then neither was Toth. If episcopal authority trumps the grievances of the flock; if disgruntled Christians should obey their bishop even when he’s behaving despotically…then Alexis Toth should have put up and shut up.

    Seems reasonable to me. How about y’all? ;-)

    Diane

  33. Diane,

    Your point is well taken. Of course this also why many Orthodox Christians have objections about the Greek Catholics to begin with! ;)

    This is the problem w/schism, it justifies all manner of disobedience–parochial. and episcopal.

    In western PA, just as an example, parishes and clergy went back and forth between the two Churches for years–the last jump was 1990/91 when a small number of Byzantine Catholics became Orthodox. I have no doubt that there will eventually be a small number of Orthodox who go the other way.

    Schism breeds this kind of behavior and it is pointless to try and fix the blame on one side or the other. Both Catholic and Orthodox profit from it, and both Catholics and Orthodox suffer from it, both Catholic and Orthodox exploit it.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  34. Benedict says:

    The books produced by the Antiochian Archdiocese have tons of Russian music in them, and that comes from I believe Metropolitan Anthony Bashir himself. This seems like a trumped up charge that they were “using too much Russian music.”

    To me it seems the issue was the parish was screwy and turning into a cult, not that this was the end of some “convert boomlet.” I note that the Antiochians continue to grow–rapidly–to this day.

  35. To me it seems the issue was the parish was screwy and turning into a cult, not that this was the end of some “convert boomlet.” I note that the Antiochians continue to grow–rapidly–to this day.

    I would question the “rapid growth”… Or at least use of the term… Generous expansion seems somewhat more accurate. They continue to enjoy some success with setting up new missions and taking in new communities… But how many of them are expanding into viable and sustained parishes? The one I deal with on a regular basis was formed out of an OCA schism… Several others that I have friends in are VERY small (25ish on a good sunday) with bi-vocational priests who teach or work in business during the day.

    And there is nothing wrong with that – I wish my own Greek Catholic church were willing to take a chance on fostering very small missions and consider bi-vocational priests (to a limited degree.) As it stands right now (for reasons we could write a post on) our hierarchs are reticent to do so.

  36. diane says:

    I dunno. I have some reservations about those eensy-weensy parishes, especially those that essentially exist in a “convert bubble.” They are “intentional communities” rather than organic parts of the Body — not that it’s bad to be an intentional community, but it’s definitely a tad artificial. It’s like growing hothouse plants rather than garden plants. And it can definitely engender cultishness. I have seen that up-close and personal, although my personal experience was not with Orthodox parishes (although I have heard horror stories re cultishness and spiritual abuse in small EO parishes, and not just Ben Lomond-affiliated ones either).

    I think a lot of Protestant converts to Orthodoxy bring their Protestant baggage with them, including their Very Protestant Purism. They’re seeking the chimerical Church of All Wheat and No Tares–and they figure that, in their eensy 25-member EO parish, they’ve found it. Well, duhhhh, it’s easy to get 25 fervent committed people together…you can do that at the House of a Delivered Praise (the actual name of a storefront micro-church near me) or at a house-church or whatever. In a church that actually is growing by leaps and bounds worldwide — e.g., the Catholic Church ;-) — the parishes are much bigger, which isn’t always a good thing, but OTOH it’s much more like the Body, more like what Jesus described (wheat and tares growing together), more like what Paul described wrt the Corinthians — rather than this artiicial hot-house “purist” thing.

    Father Dwight Longenecker has an excellent post about this, “Size Matters.” I would recommend googling it. In it. he is addressing Anglican purists in the Continuum (denizens of artificially “pure” parishes of 25-45), but the argument could apply just as well to EO-convert purists.

  37. Philip says:

    As an Anglican living in south west England, I’ve read your article and discussion with great interest, and would like to compliment you all on the generally high standard of thought and debate. These are not easy issues you discuss, and there are no easy answers. But then, Christian faith and living are not meant to be easy.

    Anyway, I won’t disturb you for longer, must turn in now. My Christian blessings to you all.

    Philip

  38. Fr Gregory says:

    Diane,

    Having served both, I agree with you that there is nothing necessarily good about a small parish or bad a large parish. Many of us, even those of us who are converts, are skeptical about the “convert bubble” parishes as well. Without going into the details, concerns about cultish & abusive behavior were raised by area Orthodox clergy PRIOR to the reception of the community into the Church. Obviously the concerns were not considered sufficiently credible or serious to prevent Wee Kirk being brought into Orthodoxy and, well, now the Orthodox Church paid the price. My own mission parish Redding, CA (a few hours north of Ben Lomond) saw several inquirers walk away as a result.

    I’ve read Fr Dwight’s blog, and agree with his caution–I would add to it, the Catholic Church should learn from the pastoral failures of the Orthodox Church in integrating a (relatively) large number of converts and their communities. Great in theory, painfully difficult in practice.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  39. Father bless.

    In addition to the ethnocentrism and inflexibility among the hierarchy, there was also inflexibility and downright rebellion among the converts. It’s hard to take the protest out of a Protestant and when they didn’t like their bishop, they went to find another. This is the main problem with the Eastern Orthodox–jurisdiction shopping. Clergy, individuals, and whole parishes jump from one bishop to another when they can’t get their way.

    While living in Denver three out of four Antiochian parishes were “Western Rite”, two were basically high-church Anglican under the patriarch of Antioch. My WR priest often compained about his treatment from the “Byzantines”. Many Episcopal and Lutheran parishes that inquired about the Western Rite of the Antiochian Archdiocese were “persuaded” to go Eastern.

    But is that much different from how Eastern Catholics were treated by American bishops who tried to “Latinize” them in the early 20th century?” In fact, the OCA would be half it’s size and the Ukranian and Ruthenian Catholics would have twice the parishes if it weren’t for that dark page in American Catholic history. The OCA even made Alexis Toth a saint for “bringing the Uniates home”.

    Just last month I was received into the Holy Catholic Church after 12 years as Antiochian Orthodox. I wanted the WHOLE CHURCH with a desire to celebrate her UNIVERSALITY. I can be a Charismatic Byzantine Anglo-Catholic and no one is gonna excommunicate me for it.

    Now living in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area I belong to a Ukranian Catholic Parish and a Charismatic Catholic parish. When I miss the arabic flavor of my Antiochian days I visit the local Melkite congregation. But wherever I go, I am still in the embrace of Mother Church. I don’t have to worry about “jurisdictions” and political intrigue.

    My Ukranian Catholic priest laughed when I said a certain orthodox jurusdicion was schismatic and not in communion with another one. “That’s redundant” he quipped.

  40. Fr. J. says:

    May God bless you, Mr. Corduroy!

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment and welcome home.

    I feel the generous embrace of Mother Church whenever I meet or read of someone like yourself who has what can seem to an ordinary Latin like an exotic history and spiritual experience and has found their way to Rome without the least contradiction. So it is with the Catholic Church there is a corner of the grand broad tent for everyone. In a single body we have the Africans who celebrate with song and dance and joy like none other and those who love the Tridentine Mass and those who celebrate the eastern liturgies. From charismatics, to Eskimos, to Mongolians to Africans to Swedes, she takes us all in and gives us a home in the eternal Body of Christ.

    Again, welcome home!!

  41. A book could be written about some of the “Latinization” efforts… Not easy to boil down to a simple summation. Some of the “Latinization” came as a result of nationalism, conflicts with newly formed Orthodox counterparts, worldviews that saw some of our clergy taking a rather “cafeteria” approach to pieties, and was affected by ethnic high pieties of the era as well. (If you live on “Hunky Hill” with Slovaks, Hungarians and Poles, and they are all just wild about Lourdes… well you end up with an OL of Lourdes statue in the garden of the Greek Catholic parish because “we are all Catholics, right?”…) In as many cases as not, we simply were NOT the victims – we adopted and adapted any number of Latin pieties and practices for a number of reasons.

    Funnier still, we were doing Latin things that the Latins were not doing for decades in some places until recently. In a few places, we still are. (The Johnstown “Greek Catholic Orthodox” still do first communions at age 7, or at least did until 4 years ago…)

    All that being said, I have seen first hand how jurisdictionalism can work here in the US… Where I live a goodly number of “new missions” started have been disaffected members of one congregation seeking a new bishop to do their own thing.

    It hasn’t been pretty and the price that has been paid has been the division of one community into 5+.

  42. Orphan says:

    I found this looking for an explanation of Bishop Joseph’s perspective on the split after reading Fr. John Hardenbrook’s blog found here:
    http://benlomond.wordpress.com/1998/05/26/fr-john-weldon-hardenbrooks-defense/

    I was then sucked into this post. My hope is to add some personal perspective and offer a couple of thoughts based on how the split affected my walk.

    My parents were among the Protestant converts to Orthodoxy when the Ben Lomond church was planted. I was born into, and grew up in Saints Peter and Paul’s. I attended the academy that was run by the church until the split in 1998 when I was 14 years old. We moved out of state shortly after the split. I have friends on both sides and have been back to visit several times both to St. Peter and Paul’s and also St Laurence’s.

    What really happened?
    People are fallible even those who are earnestly following Christ and their understanding of right. Proud, judgmental people forgot the essence of what God has called us to be.

    Where are they all now?
    I’m not Orthodox – Apostolic tradition as foundation doesn’t look too hot when the Bishop whom the Holy Spirit should be leading the church through is more interested in making the Orthodox church acceptable to the world and keeping it within it’s cultural denomination than truth.
    I’m not Catholic – Apostolic tradition lead by 1 man instead of a council of Bishops…? I don’t think so…
    I’m not Protestant – Leaves me unsatisfied.
    I have really struggled with my faith since this. I realize that people naturally go through a point in their teens typically when they begin to challenge their faith and make their beliefs their own. My faith in Jesus Christ our Lord remains but participation in His earthly church has become a major issue for myself.

    I wanted to address something specific in these responses.

    Mister Corduroy says:
    “In addition to the ethnocentrism and inflexibility among the hierarchy, there was also inflexibility and downright rebellion among the converts. It’s hard to take the protest out of a Protestant and when they didn’t like their bishop, they went to find another. This is the main problem with the Eastern Orthodox–jurisdiction shopping. Clergy, individuals, and whole parishes jump from one bishop to another when they can’t get their way.”

    I passionately disagree if your intent is to label the “rebellious” group from the Saint’s Peter and Paul church as denomination shopping. I would ask you if you believe the Orthodox church is the One True Church and you believe that the Bishop you are under is telling your parish to handle itself in a way that does not line up with your collective understanding of true Orthodox Christianity?

  43. I’m not Catholic – Apostolic tradition lead by 1 man instead of a council of Bishops…? I don’t think so…

    That is a remarkably curious way to put it.

  44. Orphan says:

    I hope that my my statements in regards to Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism would be read with a grain of salt, they were meant as generalizations and didn’t intent for them to be points in a formal debate or discussion. It is also not my desire to create points of contention, merely to, as briefly as I could think of, paraphrase my understanding of issues that create cognitive dissonance for me in regards to association with a specific faction of The Church. I realize at 24 I am still very much a baby Christian but right now, I find my hope in Matthew 7:7-8.

  45. james g says:

    Orphan,

    I know you said your comment was to be taken with a grain of salt but “Apostolic tradition lead by 1 man instead of a council of Bishops…” seems like a very poor understanding of both the Papacy and the Catholic Church. I don’t know your personal circumstances (beyond what you have already shared) but if you are serious about seeking (your reference to Matthew 7:7-8) then let me personally invite you to knock on the door of the Catholic Church. I am sure that those here at the BCs or even this lowly visitor are happy to address whatever concerns, questions or misunderstandings you may have. If you would like to discuss the Catholic Church and the papacy more in-depth you can email me at jameg042(at)gmail(dot)com.

    James G

  46. Orphan says:

    James,

    I attempted to email you at jameg042@gmail.com and it was returned to me saying the address does not exist. Is there a different address I can reach you at?

  47. try JameSg042@gmail.com! I beleive you were both missing an “S”…

    Understand, I frequently mistype my own name!

  48. James G says:

    Thanks Simple. Orphan got a hold of me.

    James G

  49. sinner says:

    not sure that this is useful anymore

  50. Fr. J. says:

    Sinner,

    Thanks for stopping by. This was and is an historic piece and will remain on the record for those who are interested in the topic. The comments including your own are part of that record.

  51. Barbara Arvay says:

    Shame on ALL of you ! Fighting like a bunch of Mongols. May the Lord forgive you ALL!!! It’s embarrasing to read this. It’s the Lord’s House It’s a safe haven for prayer and repentence…. There is NO room for power and politics..( Full of dead man’s bones and all coruption )It’s more of a business then a house of pray..This makes me to NEVER want to go to church again. There are more important things going on in this world then your big ego’s and swelled up pride. Humble yourself and get ON with it.

  52. Barbara – ask forgiveness for the sins you struggle with. It is OK, they will be forgiven.

    God loves you. Come home.

  53. Diane says:

    Mister Corduroy, you have struck a chord with me! I keep meaning to write a blog post — “Jesus, I want it all” — about the freedom I have in the Catholic Church simply because it is such a Big Tent (in a good sense), with room for such a rich diversity of legitimate spiritualities. One has so many valid ways of being Catholic, of expressing one’s spirituality — one doesn’t feel boxed in, limited to just one spirituality or one cultural expression of the Faith (which may be fine for some but could be suffocating for others).

    I actually did post a comment about this at a tiny Catholic forum, but one of these days I’m going to get up the energy to expand it into a blog post. It is close to my heart.

    Thanks for the beautiful post!

    Diane

    P.S. Father Gregory, your points are very well taken.

  54. Barbara Arvay says:

    Never mind about my sins, thats between me and God. Worry about your own. I’m talking about the breakup of a church ( a group of people who used to pray together under one roof ) Then it was broken up over politics….Over silliness and pride and laws. The ones who pay the biggest price are the ones who want to go to church and pray for repentence. Jesus said ,you bow down to the letter of the law and violate the heart of the law, justice mercy good faith. I don’t think there was much justice in the breaking up a place of worship.

  55. diane says:

    Dear Barbara, you seem to have a chip on your shoulder roughly the size of Hagia Sofia. That must hurt! ;)

  56. Barbara are you worried mostly about your own transgressions when you take the time to post that we are fighting like a bunch of Mongols? (I rather imagine there are a few Mongolians you would annoy with that bit of sentiment!)

    You yourself have strong opinions you espouse about the situation.

    What is wrong with actually examing them?

  57. Barbara Arvay says:

    Again, I’m talking about the church that broke away, I am expressing my freedom of expression. This is still a semi free country. Stop judging me, your not God. He can judge me, not you. I have examened the break-up of this church and I find it disturbing. This will be my last write in, Very disturbed about a church breaking up like that, really makes ya wonder, and please stop acting like your better then me, we are all sinners and we ALL struggle!!

  58. Andy says:

    I am a sinner, a convert to Orthodoxy, and now attend a Roman Catholic Church – its closer in many ways. I think this hit the mark:

    “The ones who pay the biggest price are the ones who want to go to church and pray for repentence. Jesus said ,you bow down to the letter of the law and violate the heart of the law, justice mercy good faith. I don’t think there was much justice in the breaking up a place of worship.”

    Bishops are sinners too – they need our prayers and love, and they make mistakes – huge ones. Unless a house is built on the rock…..

    There is a reason Jesus instituted the prime minister foretold by Isaiah – there is a reason why Peter is a repentant sinner (like one of us), and there is a reason he is given the keys to the kingdom …forgiveness, forgiveness 70×7 – his keys are in the shape of the cross of his brother because he puts his brother first. When will the Bishops learn????

  59. diane says:

    Barbara, of course we are all sinners and we all struggle…but you came into this thread with guns a-blazin’, scolding us all for being so bad and unChristian. In other words, you, my dear, were the one who was playing God and judging others. It’s a bit rich, don’t you think, for you to then turn around and chide us for doing what you were doing in the first place? And you were doing it out of the blue — we didn’t know you from Eve, nor you us, but you apparently felt fully justified in rebuking us with all the harshness and vigor of a Scots Elder at a kirk session.

    It seems to me there has been fault on both sides, and a little Christian humility, love, and forgiveness might be in order. Sheesh.

  60. Barbara Arvay says:

    PS I was thinking about how much the 2 of you were only concerened about my chip and my strong opinions, not at all about this church that went belly up. That was probably one of the saddest things I’ve ever read and all your worried about is the “chip” that I carry, WOW… that says alot. I don’t know if you are a part of this broken church,I just find it very sad.

  61. diane says:

    Um, how do you know that’s all we’re concerned about? You cannot read our hearts any more than we can read yours.

    Please stop judging us. Thank you!

    (Lord have mercy!!)

  62. Barbara Arvay says:

    I had no idea that this was a closed format Diane. I thought talking about the crumbling of a church would be open to anyone, but I see its only for the chosen few.

  63. diane says:

    Huh?

    Pardon me for having the temerity to object to being harshly judged by someone who doesn’t know me from Eve.

    I give up. I cannot reason with someone who takes everything the wrong way. Please feel free to have the last word.

    Let’s pray for each other.

    Diane

  64. Barbara Arvay says:

    What ? You keep saying that I am judging you Diane, You don’t know me from Adam..Bottom line Diane, this is not about you. Its ABOUT this church that broke away. I’ve heard nothing about that, only about me and the way I express myself. Amen.

  65. Barbara Arvay says:

    By the way Diane, when I first went into this, I was referring to the people responsable for the break-up of this place of prayer, not you. In fact I thought it would be a good thing to BE that upset about a place of prayer weather I belong to the church or not. God for bid I get that upset about a church, what was I thinking…

  66. Andy says:

    Isn’t it amazing how the devil causes people to misunderstand one another so easily?

    Those are interesting articles, and sad ones. Everyone was sad about it on both sides.

    But both sides chose not to forgive…

  67. diane says:

    Thank you, Andy! (My head is swimming, LOL.)

    Andy–were you personally familiar with the Ben Lomond situation? What led you to consider Rpme? (I am just curious.)

    Peace, brrhren and sistern!

    Diane

  68. I am expressing my freedom of expression.

    So are we.

    Stop judging me, your not God.

    You do the same.

  69. Its ABOUT this church that broke away. I’ve heard nothing about that, only about me and the way I express myself. Amen.

    The whole darned post was about that, before you offered your 2¢ “shaming us”, Barbara. What do you want exactly? Your thinking is muddled here.

  70. happy says:

    This is just my 2 cents, but starting a post “Shame on ALL of you!” might not be the best way to begin! Lol.

    This has nothing to do with this post but thought you guys might enjoy!
    It is amazing!
    Blessings to all, Ally

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmm-0-Rdxo8
    (If you can’t get it just go to youtube “Drawing Heaven”)

  71. diane says:

    This is just my 2 cents, but starting a post “Shame on ALL of you!” might not be the best way to begin!

    Ya think?? Gee, I wonder why we felt harshly and unfairly judged? Can’t imagine.

    LOL, oh well, it only hurts when I laugh. :)

  72. diane says:

    BTW, happy–alas, I cannot access YouTube in work! But I will try your link at home. :) Thanks!

  73. Andy says:

    “Thank you, Andy! (My head is swimming, LOL.)

    Andy–were you personally familiar with the Ben Lomond situation? What led you to consider Rpme? (I am just curious.)

    Peace, brrhren and sistern!

    Diane”

    Hi Diane – very interesting trip. Had nothing to do with the referenced Ben Lomond experience. A Greek Orthodox friend of mine actually prophesied part of it – accurately – 20 years before. In fact I had a cascade of prophesy, some good and some bad occur at the same time.

    A Roman Catholic friend stuck with me and in essence, I could not be Orthodox anymore.

    Much of it is private, and I am a really big sinner – but suffice it to say I have an idea what it is like to be sifted like wheat by Satan….

    Orthodoxy is not invalid – it can be good for many people. But there are people it is not good for psychologically, and I am one of them I suppose.

    The RCC has a big tent – with many liturgical forms as the old Church had, and it has the primacy of love in Peter.

  74. diane says:

    Happy Feast of the Presentation!

    I am very very interested in what you say about Orthodoxy not being good for some people psychologically. I have several cyber-acquaintances who decamped from Orthodoxy (one is now an atheist) because of spiritual abuse at the parish level. I assume you are not talking about spiritual abuse, though?

    I have a goddaughter who suffered spiritual abuse for over 23 years at a predominantly Catholic (but ecumenical) para-church “charismatic covenant community.” Because of her experience, I’ve read up a lot on spiritual abuse. I understand some does go on in Orthodoxy (e.g., the Elder Ephraim Thing), but it doesn’t get as much press as the Protestant and related cult varieties of spiritual abuse.

    Just rambling; sorry….

    Diane

  75. Yanni says:

    Nobody mentioned this in the above, but Fr David Anderson was recruited from St Vladimir Seminary to help the Ben Lomond parish become ‘Orthodox’. When he was ‘arbitrarily’ transferred to Chicago, it was obvious to any impartial observer that this was a punishment (reportedly for the liturgical innovations that he had introduced). I was an observer nearby when the blowup occurred and spent some time in conversation with Fr David. He never served DL when I was around and he appeared to be kind of a ‘guru’ to me at the time, but I was coming out of Protestanism myself and trying to be Orthodox (14 years later and I am still on that path). In perspective and looking at both sides of the issue, I agree with the Antiochian point of view regarding disobedience, and several of the former BL clergy have returned to Ben Lomond confessing their disobedience, and I agree with the now Felton group who complain about the terrible treatment of the whole situation. The dissident group should have obeyed the ‘not unreasonable’ instructions/orders of the metropolitan and local bishop while the bishop/archdiocese should have been gentle in dealing with their children. I am noticing that, right now as I write this, that there are bigger problems in the Antiochian Archdiocese over essentially similar problems, the arbitrariness at the archdiocese level of operation and the similar disobedience (not as outwardly as Ben Lomond, lessons have been learned) at the clergy/laity level. There are still problems.
    Yanni

  76. diane says:

    Yanni…do you know of instances of “similar disobedience” nowadays? As an outsider, I don’t have a clue (or a dog in this fight), but some of the things I’ve heard about Met. Philip’s recent actions really shock and astound me. One observer called him “the Met. who would be Pope,” but that’s a wildly inaccurate cheap shot vs. the Catholic pope. No pope within recent memory has demoted his entire episcopate to auxiliary / assistant status. Or shouted people down when they were trying to voice concerns. Or had his henchmen case people’s private homes. Such behavior isn’t papal; it’s pathological.

    Based on the little I know, I side with the folks who find the Met’s actions un peu de trop. Obedience should not be blind. It doesn’t mean laypeople can’t disagree or voice concerns. Saint Catherine of Siena read the pope of her day the riot act — respectfully, of course ;-) — and she still got canonized. :)

  77. Yanni says:

    Hello Diane, I know what you mean by ‘I don’t have a pooch in this fight’, but I can tell you a little. As you stated, the recent actions of +Metropolitan Philip are questionable to put it mildly. He tends to outpope the pope as some might way, although I have high regard for the present pope. At the recent annual archdiocese meeting (all of America) in Palm Springs, CA there was a lot of rumbling from the ranks, not just the converts who now make probably in excess of 50% of the priests and laity, but also from among the ranks of those whose roots are in the ‘old country’. One priest, questioned +MP extensively and could not get answers, a bad situation. After returning back to his home mission parish, he was punished for daring to question +MP by being disallowed to serve in any Antiochian parishes. He was on loan from the OCA, similar to Fr David Anderson, above, and was allowed to return to OCA diocese of the West. His entire mission parish came with him. Many Antiochian priests post on the website http://www.ocanews.org/ anonymously questioning the actions of +MP. I personally belong to a Greek parish and formerly was a member of an OCA parish (before I moved) and my priest at that time is my spiritual father and is the OCA Metropolitan of America, Jonah. He would never treat people the way others are being treated in the Orthodox world even though he has a redhead’s temper. The problem is always people and their passions. We just have to pray, obey, pay and trust God. BTW, I now live close to a female Greek monastery where I attend church (not my parish) and I love it; the love and concern for the people is such a wonderful thing to experience and observe on the part of the abbess and the nuns.
    http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-8005-SF-Eastern-Orthodoxy-Examiner~y2009m7d27-Fresno-Monastery-to-host-retreat-lectures-on-the-Theotokos

  78. Andy Holland says:

    Have been going to the RCC awhile now – and I do miss the “male” oriented Orthodox Liturgy – but can always pray the Orthodox hours which are RC of course!

    Also the Rosary is wonderful to pray with the sentences – because its praying the Gospel and is very warm.

    Don’t miss the Orthodox Church otherwise. Many more opportunities to do real good in the RCC – such as prison ministry, birthright (for unwed mothers) etc….

    The thing that really amazes me is that the Papacy and the Pope are far gentler and more Orthodox in their Bishop approach than Orthodox Bishops. Orthodox Bishops try to appear nice and loving, but often their tempers flare and that is not a sign of the Holy Spirit. The Western Bishops are better at coping with the Worldly – at least that is the appearance so far – I am sure there are plenty of exceptions.

    Haven’t found a more Orthodox in mind Bishop than Pope Benedict – his writings are absolutely sublime.

  79. Christina says:

    Please change the title to this. The parish that they talk about here are still Orthodox.

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  83. WOW how un priestly all of this is. I got married in this church, and was a member, I was raised in the catholic church in Mexico which is more Orthodox in its practices than the catholic church is in the USA. That is what attracted me originally to St Peters and Paul`s. Plus many of my family members in the USA were evangelicals so it was a nice mix.But from the very bebininb before they joined the AOC I knew that they were not Orthodox truly. When I joined this church way back in the late 1980`s and before the schism occurred, one of the things that was practically crammed down our throats was that we should be OBEDIENT, so when I read about priests who were disobedient, over trivialities like changing songs into traditional Orthodox canting or whatever was requested, I am absolutely appalled, it borders on the behavior of two year old`s who do not get there way and stomp off in a pout, I say anathema, anathema, shame on you.And the priest who refused to move, good grief imagine if all the Irish and Italian priest refused to go where they were sent, there would be no Catholic church in America, and I did not ever notice any one demeaning the Catholics, no did I ever feel discriminated for attending in the past the Catholic church. If you want the truth I felt more demeaned and discriminated for being a WOMAN that I ever did for attending the catholic church. I moved prior to all of these shenanigans and that is what they were shenanigans-what did you think was going to occur when you converted, of course the dioceses was going to take control and make changes, and it was their duty as priests to set the example and obey. They were not asked to jump out of a window. And it does not take a brain surgeon to know that the church is a body, and when we converted the BODY and all its parts ie the buildings went along with the conversion, how materialistic and petty to break in to the church and steal icons, sheeeeesh, I am so glad I was up north when all of this appalling unchristian like behavior occurred. I now live in Mexico, I can no longer attend the Orthodox church as there is none here in La Paz.BCS. So I am reduced to attending the local Catholic Church, and Christ is my savior, always was, always will be and this fact will never change no matter what, and I think all that perhaps someone is being forgotten in all of this falderall and that is HIM, OUR SAVIOR, JESUS CRISTO NUESTRO SEÑOR! AMEN

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