The Christian Activist - Winter/Spring 1999
Letters to the Editor
[ A Letter to the Editor from Metropolitan Isaiah ]
I just reread Mr. Frank Schaeffer's recent editorial entitled "Back to Basics" and am compelled to write.
During my thirty-six years as an Orthodox Christian clergyman, I have become more and more aware of the fact that many times a convert to the faith who has found "the pearl of great price" has more clarity in his thinking than the cradle Orthodox often do. Most of the time cradle Orthodox cannot see the state of things in the Church as they really are, due to preconceived notions and prejudices which influence their thinking even before they examine a particular issue.
Frank Schaeffer's editorial is a bright light shattering the darkness of a sad and tragic situation regarding the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America in many of its current manifestations.
The ancient Greeks had a praiseworthy axiom which many modern-day Greek Americans totally disregard, except in regard to their very personal and dark secrets. Those of old lived by the saying "TA EN OIKO MH EN DEMO" or "the problems of the home are not put on public display." The fact that a number of our people have run to non-Orthodox entities and media to complain about an "in-house" matter reminds me of a relative of mine who as a teenager ran away from home and went to a friend's house to complain to his friend's family how terrible his own family was to him.
There is no question in my mind that what is happening in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese today pales before the devastating iconoclastic events of every description that have occurred from the days of the Apostles to our day. The Church has always survived all past upheavals, especially the more intense, internal ones, and She will survive the present state of things. Is this not what Her Lord promised? Even though it does not appear to be evident, the Holy Spirit continues to preside over the Church which our Lord Jesus Christ established by His Supreme Sacrifice. The Church will survive, albeit in smaller numbers, until the Bridegroom returns to claim His Bride.
As this past year's president of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, I can attest to the presiding presence of the Holy Spirit Who guaranteed the students a smooth, peaceful and productive year. The fifty-eight smiling faces of the 1998 graduating class on Commencement Day were a refutation of the dire descriptions regarding the School that were heard during the past academic year.
In regard to the overactive concern of a group of our laity and a few of our clergy about the current state of affairs in the Archdiocese, this, too, shall pass. I believe that most of the laity of the two organizations, OCL and GOAL, sincerely want the very best for the Church in America. However, while condemning the methodology of administration by our current Archbishop which they describe as despotic and autocratic, they must examine their own methodology which deliberately demeans persons instead of addressing problems. In their honesty they will confess that the spirit of fellowship and love which they profess are only words on paper. If one side of the issue is viewed as being caustic, has not the other side done a great imitation?
For laity to call themselves "leaders" according to the acronym of one of the lay organizations, is, in my optimistic belief, not as deliberate as it appears. I am certain that they simply want to stress their goal. After all, faithful Orthodox Christians see themselves not as leaders; for One is our Leader: the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us and thereby established His Church for our salvation. He is the only Leader because He is the only Head of His divine Body which is the Church. The rest of us, clergy and laity, are the members of His Body, although sinful as individuals. Moreover, on the dread day of judgment, only He, the Lord, will be seated on one side of the Judgment Chamber, while the rest of us will be on the other side.
Frank Schaeffer is absolutely correct in his observations regarding the clergy and the laity. All one has to do to be convinced of this is to realize that not once in the argumentation that has transpired - especially during the past twelve months and primarily on the Internet which allows for irresponsibility and unaccountability - has the Church or Her people been described as being in the world but not belonging to the world. On the contrary, if a non-Orthodox person looking in at us were attempting to describe our problem, he would have to conclude that people are fighting over how they want their "worldly club" to be administered.
It seems that the farthest thing from the minds of those embroiled in this dispute is the high priestly prayer of our Lord when He, praying to the Father, says, "I am not of the world and these whom You have given Me are not of the world." If we consider ourselves to be His, why, we might well ask, are we addressing this matter in worldly terms and in the public forum?
It is truly a sad testimony for one to participate in this see-saw exercise in futility and tragicomic confrontation from a safe distance, ignoring the fact that the Archdiocese (Church) is not public domain, but under the ownership of God.
In the face of over twenty-two thousand so-called Christian churches of different birth dates, Mr. Frank Schaeffer has discovered the One, true Church which the Lord established on the Day of Pentecost. His devoted defense of the Church and Her structure through the presiding Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne is to be applauded. For he sees that the Church of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with personalities in the realm of time, but has everything to do with defending the holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church, and not sullying it before those who have no regard or respect, bur rather only disdain, for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Faithfully in Christ Jesus,
Presiding Hierarch of the Diocese of Denver
[ The Christian Activist - Winter/Spring 1999 - p. 2 ]