Ben Lomond: When Antiochian Orthodoxy Drove Away its Converts

August 22, 2008

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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