Be of good cheer

Eastern Orthodoxy is splintering, Rome is burning, secularism’s gaping maw is at your heels and the Benedict Option won’t save you.

It will be fine.

Handle has read Dreher’s Benedict Option so you and I don’t have to. It is a lengthy and even-handed treatment and Dreher’s heart is definitely in the right place. Handle reaches similar conclusions to mine, including that Dreher, while sincere and offering a clear vision, still can’t work himself up to “go there.” As Handle puts it, Dreher tells us of a dire world of crumbling morality and overbearing government where Christians need to be prepared to run to the hills, only to assure everyone he’s not telling them to run to the hills. Rather, observant Christians can build up educational, financial, and social infrastructure centered, literally geographically, around their cathedral or parish. Dreher points to actual examples where this has been done and draws on the successful example of the Mormons, who build themselves little Zions in the heart of the American State.

Christianity needs a Christendom, but Dreher can’t find it in himself to put things in quite those terms, probably in recognition that Christendom on any significant scale would be an insufferable rival to the secular State. The Mormons avoid such conflict by touting themselves as the truly and inherently American creed, loyal to and increasingly employed by the American State.

mormon vision
Mormon President William Woodruff visited by the beatified founders of the USA, including Christopher Columbus. Few know this.

The future belongs to those who show up, and the Mormons showed up and carved out their space in the culture. And this highlights my (though not necessarily Handle’s) main objection to the Benedict Option: I don’t want Christians to hide from the State; I want us to capture the State, or at least be too potent to be screwed with. Again, that’s outside Dreher’s comfort zone, so he omits or overlooks a significant and pertinent phenomenon: the establishment of the highly successful Israeli State, of, by and for Jews so Jews can practice Judaism safely. So when it comes to carving out safe space for ourselves, I favor Free Northerner’s strategy of building up shadow elites who can seize the levers of power when it’s opportune. There is likely a synthesis between the two strategies.

As for Rome, her faithful should understand they have a Big Gay Problem at least as much as a pedophile/pederast problem, and until they make homosexuals uncomfortable in the clerical ranks they will continue to have that Problem. I’d suggest they ordain married priests, since there aren’t enough heterosexual men qualified to handle celibacy to staff all their parishes. Homosexuals go where the men and the fabulous aesthetics are, and the professional ranks of the Church are often where they end up. I’ll say no more. It’s not my Church and it’s the spiritual home of many Christians observing the Faith of their fathers, or who just find Eastern Orthodoxy too removed and alien for their Western roots.

And boy, is Eastern Orthodoxy ever alien, with an arcane battle royale between the Church’s oldest and largest Patriarchates respectively.

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Orthodox Church said on Friday it would no longer participate in structures chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, deepening a row in Orthodox Christianity over the Ukrainian Church’s bid to break away from Moscow’s orbit.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod ruling body convened on Friday to consider how to respond as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has courted Constantinople to formally make it a self-governing body independent of Moscow.

Ukraine’s pro-Western political leaders have sought step by step to take the former Soviet republic out of Moscow’s orbit after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and a Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Legoida, a Russian Church spokesman, said the Holy Synod had decided to suspend its participation in all structures chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It is also suspending all services with top priests of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and will not commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in its services, Legoida wrote on social media, summarising the outcome of the meeting.

“Essentially this is a breakdown of relations. To take an example from secular life, the decision is roughly equivalent to cutting diplomatic ties,” the Russian Church’s Metropolitan Ilarion was quoted by RIA news agency as saying.

I previously mentioned this sovereigns’ dispute here. The canonical Orthodox Church in the Ukraine is a metropolia seated in Kiev, whose Metropolitan Onufry is under the authority of +Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow. The Church in the Ukraine has a tangled history, with Moscow and Constantinople respectively claiming ecclesial authority at various times. The Ukraine and Russia have some differences, and at the moment the Ukrainians find it galling that their putative national Church still answers to Moscow.

Enter +Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Istanbul Constantinople, whom we also observed in these blog pages here.

old chum

My old friend.

my old friend

+Bartholomew is apparently pushing ahead with the grant of a Tomos of Autocephaly to Kiev, and here is where things get even more interesting.

“The Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced on 7 September 2018 that within the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed as its Exarchs in Kiev His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon [Ohio] from the United States, and His Grace Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton from Canada, both of whom are serving the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in their respective countries under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States is very young, and has its own tangled history, answering to the Ecumenical Patriarch and not, as one would assume, to the Metropolitan of Kiev. The Ukrainian Church in the US is open to converts, as you can tell from poking around their website, but is still popularly and culturally Ukrainian and apparently intends to remain so, even as their children marry out and converts marry in. Their bishops were members in good standing of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate’s bishops in the Americas, even though Moscow’s own Ukrainian Metropolia apparently has no parishes outside Ukraine. Are everybody’s heads hurting yet?

+Bartholomew plucks his two bishops from the Americas and deposits them, presumably without having to pry their fingers from the plane doors, back in one of the most uncouth, corrupt countries on the planet where they will prepare to accept the Tomos of Autocephaly and elect a Patriarch.

Wait there’s more.

United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback has said the United States is ready to assist in implementing a Tomos of autocephaly in Ukraine once it is granted to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “Following the decision to grant a Tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the United States will support this resolution,” Brownback said at a meeting with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Andriy Parubiy, according to the parliament’s official web portal. Brownback stressed that “at the stage of adopting a decision to grant the Tomos to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church we do not interfere. But once such a decision is arrived at, we will support it, and if we can be useful at the stage of its implementation, we will be happy to assist,” the U.S. ambassador said.

Parubiy thanked the United States for its support in many areas “in a very difficult time for Ukraine when we have to defend our independence with arms in our hands.” Parubiy also thanked for the attention to the issue of granting Ukraine’s Local Orthodox Church the said Tomos of autocephaly. He expressed his conviction that this is “one of the key issues of the existence of the Ukrainian state itself.”

The things you learn! In case you’ve been awake at nights wondering where former Kansas Senator Sam Brownback ended up, he’s apparently endowed in the indispensable office of U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

I can hear the young under-employed Mormons in the State Department typing up their report telling Undersecretary-Deputy-Assistant Somebody that this is A Good Idea all the way from here.

This is kind of a big deal in world Orthodoxy, as Muscovite, Greek and Ukrainian bishops in their turn withdraw from communion elsewhere. Antioch and Jerusalem are already not talking over their own jurisdictional fight, and Antioch is not on good terms with Constantinople either. There will be disputes over who does and doesn’t recognize the new Ukrainian Patriarchate, resulting (I don’t see how not) in further severances of communion.

If you’ve read me over the years, you’ll pick up that this is a problem arising from the Church’s continued employment of canons written for an Empire that disappeared almost 600 years ago. Then came trans-oceanic emigration, as the Orthodox faithful discovered they could just leave when the wars started or the jobs disappeared.

What a mess, amirite? But the affairs of sovereign bishops need not disrupt our Christian praxis and parish life. Before the current mess there was the Russian Revolution and Soviet Union, disrupting numerous jurisdictions. Before that was the fall of Constantinople and its attendant confusions and before that the Great Schism, and before that the Oriental Schism, and numerous conflicts and disputes in between. Really and truly, it has always been thus. As Fr. Stephen puts it, the history of the Church is the history of humans, and we love the Church just as we love humans (I hate humanity).

Besides, the more time the hierarchy has to spend defending their jurisdictions, the less time they have to spend lecturing us about immigration and global warming.

At some point these issues will resolve, probably with the American Churches telling the Sees across the pond how things will be going forward. Historically, ecclesial issues are resolved by fait accomplit.

6 thoughts on “Be of good cheer

      1. No really, he’s a faggot. A wimpy girly loser indistinguishable from the typical homos you see in any given big city. He wrote about being given a wedgie as a kid and apparently that deeply affected him to the very pit of his soul.


  1. So Archbishop Daniel from Ohio (the words Archbishop and Ohio just don’t seem to go together at all) and Bishop Ilarion from Edmonton (at least the weather is probably close to Ukraine’s) are picked to be in charge of a brand new National Church in the Ukraine? That’s just weird. I can’t imagine the populations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are very large in Ohio or Edmonton, but there’s a whole lot of Orthodox in the Ukraine. What qualifies Daniel and Ilarion?

    Then, somehow the US Government is involved, at least as encouragement. Since when did the USG care about religious freedom enough to dedicate a whole department to it? Especially when it comes to a Christian church? Maybe the department consists of Brownback and a secretary, but still.

    This sounds like more Western meddling in the Ukraine, in which case I wouldn’t blame the ROC for being pissed.


      1. No really, he’s a faggot. A wimpy girly loser indistinguishable from the typical homos you see in any given big city. He wrote about being given a wedgie as a kid and apparently that deeply affected him to the very pit of his soul.


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