EDITOR’S NOTE. With this inspired piece Jackie Morfesis is opening the curtain for one of the most important issues of Orthodox life in today’s America: The issue of our spiritual leaders’, priests and hierarchs, deafening silence on all those important problems faced by each one of us and by the Church as a whole. When are they going to overcome their fear and come out and testify the fundamental tenets of our faith publicly?
By Jackie Morfesis
I have titled this piece “The Tragedy of Orthodox Clergy Who Seek Security Over Truth”, but in truth, we can as easily and rightly say, The Tragedy of Orthodox Christians Who Seek Security Over Truth. However, for the purposes of this article, I would like to focus specifically on Orthodox clergy. For the very reason, that our clergy have received a special calling to be the hands and feet of our Lord in a very public way, indebted with shepherding the Lord’s flock in our holy houses of worship.
As someone who has bold faith and not only bold faith but whose heart is called to testify to what the Lord has done in my life and what the Lord can do in all our lives, I am doubly troubled when I see our clergy and leaders of the faith who display not only lukewarm faith but fear. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Every day we have the opportunity and moral choice to choose love over fear. And every day we see evidence, both tragic and disturbing of choices made that betray a lack of faith, and a heart filled with fear. None more so when it comes from the “leaders” of the faith.
Another sin is choosing comfort over holding close to God’s Holy Word. The great irony is that when we hold close to God and His Holy Word, we will know definitively that He is our comfort and our security. He is our rock and our anchor. Through every storm.
Not only when the storms come but every single day, this is the foundation upon which we must build our home and stand. Jesus said: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them will be liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. (Matthew 7:24 -27).
Jesus is our anchor. Through every storm. In every day and moment of our lives. Because of this, we are not consumed with fear. We do not water down our faith. We are not lukewarm. “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).
We know fully and completely that God has a plan for us and when we surrender to His will. He will guide our footsteps and protect us from the snares of darkness. “For I know that plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Why then, when we so hunger for our spiritual leaders to lead His flock with boldness, courage, and integrity, do we often find ourselves not only hungering but starving for more?
To be clear, I have only the utmost respect for every pastor who has served in every Greek Orthodox Church I have attended and held membership. In this respect, I am blessed. I am speaking to a larger issue that I encounter in the wider and broader context of theological discourse and current events and issues. Most recently, sharing God’s Holy Word thoughtfully to open discussion and instead of it being a moment to dive deeper into God’s Word, I was accused by an Orthodox priest, of having an “agenda” and for my words being “tangentially related” to the subject matter when I specifically used scripture to flesh out the discussion. This is what I am addressing.
Since when is scripture not relevant to a discussion? Since when is loving, testifying, and sharing God’s Holy Word having an “agenda?” It is when we are consumed with fear and towing the line. It is when we have an appearance to uphold. It is when we are more concerned with our comfort and security instead of having bold faith, speaking God’s Word, and standing at all times for those who are oppressed, have suffered, were abused, with an abundance of mercy, compassion, and understanding.
One might assume that I am disheartened. In truth, I am not, knowing full well “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I am neither disheartened nor defeated. “What the enemy meant for harm God meant for the good” (Genesis 50:20). In fact, moments, and experiences like this only serve to strengthen me. To move me to lift the veil of lukewarm water that flows over us in ways that seek to suppress the fullness of God’s glory within and without in the world.
I suppose my name is now synonymous with a woman who is unafraid. A woman who will risk her comfort and security to speak God’s Holy Word over every situation and circumstance. Even in response to words spoken by those entrusted to be shepherds of the faith if it demands greater reflection. So, someone who I once thought of as a follower of Christ, who I once served with side by side serving the church overseas, needs to circle the wagons and publicly protect himself from an association with me and my supposed “agenda?” It cannot be more transparent. Nor tragic.
The great irony perhaps is that behind the scenes we may support and agree with the writings of others, but in the public sphere we must disassociate ourselves for fear of retribution and the risk upon our security and comfort, as this article addresses. It is long past time for Orthodox clergy to put their faith in Christ and not man. To be fearful of God and not earthly authority.
When we find ourselves in a situation where we fear to be bold in our faith, to testify to God’s Holy Word, to stand against any and all authorities who seek to distort the foundation of our faith and chip away at the very rock upon which we stand we must get on our knees and pray. We also need to go to scripture to find confirmation and to do what is right. Jesus said if we do not testify for Him then He will not testify for us before the Father.
Let us never be ashamed to testify. To have courage to surrender to God’s will. To speak truth in the face of even our own clergy and leaders and friends for that matter who miss the mark. Let us never seek to shame nor smolder the light of our brothers and sisters in Christ, because we do not have the same depth of faith to be on fire for God.