By Margaret Karakas

Dear Blagoje,

I am certain that you represent a faction within the Greek Orthodox faithful and thus my response regarding the u-tube video by Fr. Josiah Trenham posted by Nick Stamatakis on Helleniscope on  Saturday, August 29, 2020. (link here)..

It is difficult to isolate one part of this story from the broader issues at hand which are keeping services within the church frozen in an historical past from moving forward into the 21st century. The Church has FAILED. Not because of the lack of love and support given to our local parishes by the many faithful hardworking clergy and laity. It’s politically, morally and spiritually bankrupt due to the deep corruption within the upper echelon of the hierarchy which continue hold the church hostage in a time warp preventing the true movement of the Holy Spirit within the tightly controlled organizational structure of the church itself. ONLY, if and when (if ever at all), the church is aligned with the covenants, teachings and commandments of Christ, will it be allowed, to prosper. We are witnessing in real time the cataclysmal destruction of the GO church not only in America but globally, right before our very eyes and you still desire to maintain the status quo?

If nothing changes, nothing changes. It’s really quite simple and doesn’t deserve some long diatribe on the history and origins thereof, in order to explain or understand the principals and teachings of following a Christ-centered life. So, go ahead and call me a “Protestant universalist”. I’m not offended. I know who I am and more importantly, our Savior Jesus Christ does too. That is what I define as “authentic”. No facades, tall black hats or lavishly embellished robes behind which to hide here. While there are many at the clergy, monastic and higher levels within the church who are truly gifted and anointed with God’s calling to serve and minister (many are called, few are chosen), it is unfortunate and
unreasonable in today’s society to believe that you have to remain “celibate” in order to be “worthy” of being promoted into a position of higher authority and responsibility within the church, which is a future topic worthy of articles and discussion. If you can’t see the forest through the trees, then perhaps you are the one who is “color blind”.

Orthodoxy in America should be about worshiping God in the language of the land/country in which it is being ministered, being a loving Christian regardless of ethnicity and cultural differences, helping our fellow mankind, those in need both inside and outside of the Orthodox Church, those struggling with addictions, poor health and leading people of no faith to salvation and life eternal. That is why we are called to minister as Christ’s disciples. Are we so myopic and mired in the traditions of an ethnocentric historical past filled
with nothing but R-E-L-I-G-I-O-S-I-T-Y that we fail to see the true meaning of worshipping our Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST?

My questions are many of the same questions Fr. Josiah Trenham raises by speaking truths about how to bring unity within a Pan-Orthodox Church today. His grave concerns are out of his obvious love and compassion for Orthodoxy in America and are like many who are desperately seeking change by first addressing the over bloated governing body which prevent any modernization to services in order to be remain one of EXCLUSION rather than one of INCLUSION.

1. What is the future of the Orthodox Church in America?
2. What will it look like in the coming years?
3. How will we get there?
4. What do we need to do in order to “clean house” of the old ways which no longer have relevancy in today’s modern life?
5. Why are the faithful flock departing the church in herds?
6. How do re-structure the hierarchy (corporate structure) so that it is reflective and responsive to the many
needs of our local parishes and faithful disciples as Christ’s followers today?
7. How do we remove the barriers and streamline the current liturgy preached in the Greek Orthodox Church to be more inclusive?

There are countless more questions to be addressed. But since, you bring up the notion of “discrimination”, you don’t have to look any further than the GO church today in order to find as there are plenty of examples such as being refused communion if you are not a “member in good standing”, or were not baptized within the Orthodox church, etc.
Forget for a brief moment that we are neither Greek, Russian, Armenian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Ethiopian, etc. If one can’t simply speak, read or comprehend the language in an AMERICAN Orthodox Church in which services are ministered, it becomes a distraction in worshiping our Savior.

Remember, distraction is created by the enemy of our soul to further remove us from any meaningful relationship with Christ. So then, how do you attract converts or keep the faithful from fleeing in droves like the church is experiencing today? So that we can maintain the status quo and traditions of men, ethnocentricities and cultural pride? So that we can continue to live in the past glory days of an ancient Greece gone wayward?
Worshipping isn’t about adding another task or ritual on an already overloaded plate of responsibilities where sound bites longer than 50 minutes lose attention. Perhaps it’s time to move forward rather than remain stuck living in and looking to the past as reminders of what was once long, long ago…

Let us remember this: We are Christians FIRST, Americans SECOND who happen to be of many different Orthodox ethnicities THIRD. Perhaps you have this order confused? There are many both older and younger than I who have fled the church seeking greater authenticity. In closing, it is sadly becoming suspiciously clear to me as I read closely in-between the lines of a much broader issue at hand in what Fr. Steven Vlahos powerfully wrote in “Say it Loudly: OXI The Voice of Concerned Orthodox Christians” on 8/30/2020, concernedorthodoxchristians.wordpress.com that perhaps, just saying “perhaps” (hypothetically), AB Elpidophoros was sent to America by Bartholomew as the “new
concerned face”, “figurehead” of the GOA to further distract (by the enemy of our soul), foster, maintain and continue the ongoing shenanigans, illegal cover up into what “perhaps” may yet to be revealed as one of the greatest coup attempts in Christian history globally:

The complete authoritarian take over, closing and forced financial ruin and thus destruction of all Greek Orthodox Churches in America along with the crippling of our HCHC seminary forcing the sale of the many valuable properties on which our churches lie for the benefit of a more cynical and greater agenda, the complete destruction of Orthodox Christianity. Wow!

Looking back at the 25 plus years of so called “mismanagement” by the past leadership within the GO hierarchal governing authority, the controlling archons (and their political henchmen deep within the established swamp of government), it’s plausible to begin by exploring the notion that the “missing”, “misappropriated” or better stated as the stolen funds raised off of the backs of generous hardworking individuals on the grassroots level by local GOA churches, may very well be part of a well-organized, greased and calculated planned maneuver overtime which has now been accelerated by the funneling/wiring of
stolen funds from the St. Calatrava Shrine, HCHC, the Clergy Pension Fund and other notable Greek Orthodox ministry fund accounts to shall we guess Tu-k-y(?) in order to fund the takeover of Christianity globally, or provocation by Turkey and Erdogan’s regime planned maneuvers and attacks on the small country of Greece?

Call it a conspiracy theory? God already knows the answer. Time will reveal history.
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the Church is in our hearts. We don’t need decorated architectural monstrosities or intercessory icons to pray through in order to have a direct, open line of communication for a relationship with almighty God. Open your Bibles and start reading. Praying. And pray often as we are called.

Lord, thank you for the gift and blessings of this day and a life filled with abundance and provisions of food, clothing and housing. I ask your forgiveness as a sinner. Lord, I acknowledge we humbly dwell more in the valleys than on the mountain tops so that we may look to you above for our needs and not down with condemnation. We are in awe of Your almighty power and give glory and thanksgiving to You for the blood shed of the sacrificial lamb, for your unmerited grace and favor and for our salvation and promise of life
eternal. I pray that during this period of not only deep division within the Orthodox church but also government today, that we may seek Your truth, discernment and wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit within to prepare us and remind us as Christians why we are on this earth. Lord may you continue to shine your light upon our pathway as we venture into unchartered territory with complete trust and faith in You our Savior. Lord I pray for continued peace throughout the world, for the continued protection of the citizens and land of all those who reside within the great United States of America, the President of the United States, the US military for strength and resolve and for the love of mankind as brothers and sisters in Christ. In Jesus’s name we pray.

5 ΣΧΟΛΙΑ

  1. You’re certainties are misplaced on several accounts, starting with the claim that I am Greek Orthodox let alone a part of some “faction” of that group. If you believe that the Church has “failed” and needs to be brought into the 21st century, then I am not sure Orthodoxy is what you seek. Yes, Holy Cross Seminary is a mess (St. Vladimir’s has nothing to be proud of either) and Turkish-Greek-American machinations are silly, but if anything that is more a sign of drinking too much of modernity in the first case (I was shocked to learn that at least 1980s graduates of HC seemed to mainly just read cheap French and American authors during seminary, what a waste of Greek patrimony and easier access to Patristic literature) and of a persistent Ottoman hangover in the second. On that note, the American ethnocentrism being promoted (call it what is, regardless if one eats hot dogs on Oxi day or not) is not reflective of the first 1,500 of the Church but rather the past 500 years of Ottoman decadence and caesaropapism. Prior to the Turkish Empire Jerusalem, as an example, would have been both Syriac and Greek and even Latin liturgically (see the diaries of Sister Egeria from the ~4th century), even if all these languages were “fossilized” by modern standards in their own time periods, only to become monolithically “Greek” when Greeks became loyal Turkish/American dragomans. Ironically, such calls for “authenticity” as promoted here or elsewhere at best give us “facades, tall black hats or lavishly embellished robes,” covering up a shallow and careless faith. Orthodoxy saves all of history, history is not something to be shed like “the skins of animals” as an origenist or monophysite or “American” might
    prefer. To acknowledge it properly is to bear true witness to the Incarnation, to fail to appreciate it is to reject the Incarnation. It is found in the teachings of authentic witnesses such as St. John Maximovitch (who made sure his American altar boys knew their Church Slavonic) or Nektarios of Aegina, not in the wannabe philosophical musings of modern pop-theologians trying to look “up-to-date.” If anything, one of Orthodoxy’s most practical witnesses to “mission,” to use a Jesuit word, in this country is to restore a sense of history to a culture that categorically rejects, “Conservative” and “Liberal” factions alike. The baptism of Rome entailed a radical transformation of its culture in conformation with the Church, it seems here instead that people only demand a conforming of the Church to America, doesn’t seem like an authentic Christian let alone Orthodox approach. In many ways converts lose the most from this “pseudomorphosis” as Fr. Georges Florovsky would describe it, getting just the form and barely a taste of the substance which others get by osmosis, if they’re lucky. Ironically I find those most free of “distraction” generally have little more than a fast food understanding of the faith, while those raised more deeply in tradition and culture also have a more deep appreciation for the faith (and no, Greek Festivals do not count as deep culture). Thereafter everyone’s children fall away, and why wouldn’t they when they are taught that it doesn’t matter what they believe, just be a “good person,” “Jesus loves you” regardless, and that it doesn’t matter that they be faithful to their community? If you believe that your personal church needs to be 100% American and English and whatnot, fine, your gain/loss. If you believe that your salvation is a function of other people being under the authority of your boss and American and monolingual and are “outraged” that they don’t get with the times, then you are at best “distracted,” whether you do so in Koine Greek or American. If you believe your salvation is a function of maps, which officially was the main topic of the previous talk, then you are also clearly distracted.

    P.S. It is somewhat tangential to the question of jurisdictional organization but since Americans (and now Greek-Americans apparently) are so xenophobic, how do you deal with the fact the Church used fossilized Greek in its liturgies for over a millenium when it ceased to be the spoken language? Literally, from 600 AD to ~1960 Greek churches did not use spoken Greek/English (Byzantine Greek can be extremely different from from Koine let alone Attic Greek, regardless of what people pretend). Were 15 centuries of saints, in just the Greek tradition alone, not even to mention other ancient “ethnic” traditions like the Slavonic or Georgian, doing it wrong only for a couple of wealthy and spoiled Americans suddenly to get it right? I find that very hard to believe.

  2. It’s important to maintain the sense of history in things, whether it be in religion or the founding of the USA. Understanding where something came from so that you can learn from it and move forward appropriately, building on the history, not treating it as irrelevant, is worthwhile. However, history is no longer being taught in our classrooms today as it actually historical was documented. History is being taught by our so-called elitist “educators” who are trying to re-write history to conform to the narrative in which they are indoctrinating. One of my beefs with the Orthodox Church has been in the failure of the leadership at any and all levels to educate those in the pews. There are no Bibles in the pew pockets, only the Divine Liturgy which in my humble opinion, are words written by man thus “traditions of men” and not the words of the Gospel itself, the Bible. To understand Orthodoxy, you have to have an interest in learning the teachings and history thereof, which again in my humble opinion, remain as barriers to conversion and are thus part of the problem in those in the pews fleeing who are of younger generations. But I guess this is an extremely difficult thing to do without BOTH sides willing to exercise some give and take.

    On the other hand, if two sides can’t resolve issues, the only option is to revolt and break from everything that has gone on in the past. Eg, the American Revolution; the break within the church in 1066.

    But I’m equally fine with with just finding another method of worshipping that meets my needs as opposed to trying to change a church to fit my needs. As a person’s relationship with God changes over a lifetime, it is appropriate and reasonable to embrace different religious methods or embrace two or more at the same time. A person doesn’t need to be “married” to one church entity for a lifetime or exclusively a “member.”

    If the orthodox church can evolve into being more contemporary, that would be terrific. But if it remains static or moves in another direction that doesn’t “fit” who I am in whatever stage I am in with my relationship with God, then I face making a choice of looking elsewhere. And I fled like many others.

    The larger, more alarming issue for me personally, is the deliberate diminishment of a Judeo-Christian foundation in the US and globally, vs say, that female deacons are not permitted in the Greek church. In that respect, fending off Turkish, domination of the Orthodox Church is the more vital issue over some of these other more “minor” challenges.

  3. After continued reflection on Mr Blogoye’s post and his feigned erudition, I am convinced that he forgets the simplicity of the gospel. Most of the early Christians were simple, uneducated people who loved God. Certainly, the gospel does not encourage us to believe whatever we want and just be nice people, but to minimize or ridicule the fact that Jesus loves us is a grave mistake.

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