One of the mysteries of the American religious scene is why all but one of the Eastern Orthodox church bodies in this country are members of the National Council of Churches, the mouthpiece for liberal Protestant denominations. Not only that, the NCC consistently promotes abortion, homosexuality, a leftist social gospel, and a whole array of doctrines opposed to the traditional theology the Orthodox claim to champion. And it isn’t like the Orthodox representatives are speaking up all that much against the NCC’s anti-orthodoxy. John Lomperis of the Institute for Religion and Democracy asks some pointed questions. [Read more...]
Metropolitan Jonah, the evangelical convert who became the head of the Orthodox Church of America (one of several Eastern Orthodox denominations in the U.S.), has been ousted from his office. The reason, reportedly, is his aggressive public stands against abortion, homosexuality, and other controversial moral issues. (Metropolitan Jonah was one of the signatories of LCMS president Matt Harrison’s open letter opposing the Obamacare contraceptive/abortifacient mandate.)
I realize that Eastern Christianity is more quiescent on cultural issues than that of the West. Metropolitian Jonah is being accused of being political, but I suspect that’s more on the other side, since far more Orthodox are Democrats than Republicans. But then I read that part of the conflict has to do with a movement within the Orthodox Church, including some bishops, to change the teaching about sexual morality, including accepting same-sex marriage.
Now wait a minute. One of the major arguments I keep hearing from advocates of swimming the Bosporus is that Orthodoxy never changes. Has never changed. Can’t change. Has an uninterrupted universal doctrinal agreement among its members that goes back to the early church. Can it be that Orthodox Christians have theological liberals among them just like other traditions?
Some people convert to Catholicism because of the glories of Medieval theology only to find in their local parish feminist nuns, leftist priests, and treacly guitar masses. Or to Lutheranism only to find that the local congregation has sold out to the worst excesses of the church growth movement. Such disillusioning experiences do not invalidate the conversion. Inconsistencies, misbehavior, and doctrinal indifference do not mean that the underlying theology is necessarily wrong. It does, though, perhaps prove the Lutheran distinction between the visible and the hidden church. Though attacking that doctrine in favor of the notion that the church must be fully manifested in the visible institution is another major argument of both Catholics and Orthodox.
So what is orthodox about this teaching from an Orthodox patriarch?
Church debate in Russia continues to simmer over the role of dictator Josef Stalin, but Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church has said in a Moscow sermon that the Second World War was redemptive for his country, while making no mention of the former Soviet ruler's name in his address.
“The church does not look at the war as historians or politicians do,” said Kirill on 9 May at the Church of Christ the Saviour. “The church has a particular stance, a particular spiritual point of view.” The Patriarch said he believed the war had redeemed Russia from its sins.
“We know what took place among our people after the bloody events of the beginning of the 20th century,” said Kirill. “How many lies, how much evil and human suffering there was. But God washed away these lies and this evil with our blood, with the blood of our fathers, as has happened more than once in human history.”
“And that is why we must come to a special understanding of the redemptive meaning of the Great Patriotic War,” Kirill added.
The patriarch did not mention by name Stalin, who led the Soviet Union during the Second World War, but the church leader did take issue with historians who equate Nazi Germany with Stalin-era Russia.
“When some homegrown historians tell us that the evil here was no less than there, they are not seeing beyond their own noses, and fail to see the divine horizon beyond their extremely primitive and sinful analysis,” said Kirill. “The Great Patriotic War [as Russians call the Second World War] revealed to us God's truth about ourselves. It punished us for our sins but revealed to us the great glory and strength of our people.”
You get that in Dostoevsky too, the notion that OUR sufferings are what redeem us.