By Jackie Morfesis 

Again and again, we are confronted with a spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who seems to be having an identity crisis. The crisis? His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros simply does not know if he is a social justice activist or spiritual warrior. The truth is he has already drawn a line in the sand. Evident once again at his words delivered at the Ecumenical Prayer Service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York City.

Allow me to explain. As an Orthodox Christian, whether within the hierarchy of the church, or a layman, we are all called to be spiritual warriors, kingdom workers, and disciples of Christ. Clearly delineated and mandated to us by St. Paul in Ephesians 6:12. From the place and space of our spiritual foundation, the Holy Spirit within, and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we stand not only against the powers and principalities that seek to destroy our world, each other, but against all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice, and discrimination. This goes without saying.

However, the question is where is our foundation? Do we build our home on sand or rock? “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them not practice like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mind and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27).

If we build our home on sand, then a few things happen. Firstly, we are subject to the winds and tides of constant change. We find ways to incorporate ever-changing world views into our faith walk. We find ways to meld, mold, remake, revise, and reform who we are as Orthodox Christians. Simply, we find ways to please the world but not please God.

If, on the other hand, we see our foundation in God’s Word, God’s laws, and the doctrines and theology of Orthodoxy, then we stand upon the unshakeable rock, the rock that holds us in the storms and the rock that holds fast the Light not only within but as a beacon to us through every attempt of the adverse powers to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy”. “The enemy comes but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy, I come that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Again, social justice activist or spiritual warrior? Archbishop Elpidophoros has craftily fashioned himself as the former. He envisions himself as a social justice activist, but not a spiritual warrior for Christ. How do we know this? What evidence is given to us? He gives evidence every day by his words and his actions. He often mentions and in effect likens himself to the work and life of Archbishop Iakovos, former Archbishop of North and South America. The comparison falls flat for many reasons.

Firstly, Archbishop Iakovos bravely and courageously stood next to a man of deep faith, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who stood for non-violence. Dr. King did not espouse any political ideology or narrative that called for the destruction of family values, of the family unit, of the “peace that passeth all understanding.” We often forget, sometimes conveniently, that Dr. King was first and foremost a pastor, a preacher, and this was the source of his spiritual strength. Only from this place could he speak of being on the mountaintop. We know who took him there and who anointed his tongue with words of wisdom for God’s glory.

Archbishop Iakovos marched side-by-side with Dr. King, not as a leader who condoned violence or anarchy or ideologies that warred brother against brother, but in support of the ideals of equality, true justice, harmony and fellowship in our common humanity. In contrast, Archbishop Elpidophoros is not rooted in Orthodoxy as he moves in the world, he is rooted in an ever-shifting political ideologies and narratives that change with the wind depending on who is watching and who is listening. Granted when the storm comes – we will all be witness to the house falling. For the record, Archbishop Iakovos frequently visited my parish in New Jersey, and I met him several times as a youth.

The great irony that is missed by those who trumpet the politically correct horn of social justice at the expense of all, is that our God already laid the foundation for social justice. And our Lord and Savior reminded us in 1 John 2:3-6, that if we love God, we keep His commandments. That does not mean that we participate in, condone, or rally behind every new ideology that floats down the river. It means that we know whose hand steadies the boat in our lives, who is the anchor and who is the lighthouse.

In his attempt to position himself as a great and lauded social justice activist, Archbishop Elpidophoros has not only chipped away at two thousand years of Orthodoxy, but he is also wounding our Lord in the process. When we attack God’s house, we attack our God. Rest assured, not only our churches, but the faithful who are the church are being attacked and wounded. When we forget that our church is the Bride of Christ – not the nexus and locus for political activism, we forget our true identity.

One need only read his politically correct words that he spoke at this gathering: “The objectification of the “other” leads to the most inhuman of consequences.” I am well-aware of the cruelty of being objectified – which is certainly being dehumanized, however, there is a much deeper root to that horror, and it is evil, human, and demonic. And the “other”, more convenient verbiage to install shame and embarrassment on those who are not the “other”, perhaps those who are not marginalized. More words, in the ever-shifting landscape of linguistic coercion used to elevate and exclude, pivoted against those who are “privileged.” Words have meaning and purpose, but words are now used to weaponize. Weaponize against who we are as a child of God. Anything that seeks to denigrate, diminish, or demoralize who we are as a child of God is not from God, nor Godly.

Not once did the Archbishop speak truth to who we are as a child of God during the protests for social justice. Not once. Not once did he say as he proudly marched during the protests that all souls matter. Notice, I did not say that all lives matter, which we know, but that all souls matter, profoundly and eternally. Our Lord went to Calvary for every single one us, every single one. No, that is against the Archbishop’s identity as a social justice activist – against his narrative. His narrative of inclusion – which is really exclusion. But saying: “All souls matter” would be completely congruent with being a spiritual warrior. So would admitting that everyone deserves mercy, and that mercy should not be politicized. In fact, I wrote an essay addressing these issues that was rejected by the powers that be at “Publix Orthodoxy” at Fordham University, another bastion of political not spiritual correctness.

Moving forward, what exactly does the Archbishop mean by this words in his encyclical: “Our prayers this evening reflect our common aspiration as Christians to “do good,” and to “seek justice,” in accordance with the Prophetic calling that is our theme. What exactly is he seeking? And what prophetic calling has come upon us? He is once again speaking in riddle, rhyme, twisting words, with innuendo, confusion, and distortion (the tools of darkness). We must instead speak with full transparency at all times. However, that is dangerous – for those who receive personal power and benefit from smokescreens.

I am also curious, in the year 2025 when his “prophetic” dream of a unified Easter may come to pass – will the Holy Fire still come down inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to be shared with all the faithful as it is every year at midnight on Orthodox Easter? Or will Archbishop Elpidophoros send an official memo that since the date of Easter has been changed in the spirit of unity, we are no longer in need of this holy and sacred miracle?

God help us. Again and again, Archbishop Elpidophoros evidences that his aims are political not spiritual, earthly not heavenly, and with a personal not Godly agenda. Rest assured, the time will come when every Orthodox Christian, including our clergy, hierarchs, and those who serve God’s altar, will with a heavy heart repent for the day they kept silent when not only our faith was being dishonored, disrespected, and devalued, but our very future as the Early Church was placed in dire jeopardy.



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