And now for something completely different

Warning: The following post contains highly offensive language of a doctrinal nature, whether the journalists covering this event knew it or not. Proceed with care.

I need to explain something about large-scale denominational assemblies, even though it will be old news to journalists in the GetReligion audience who regularly cover this events — especially those held by oldline Protestant flocks.

Without a doubt, the most boring parts of these events — yes, even more boring than the business sessions — are the ultra-polite addresses delivered by special guests from the outside. These are often called “greetings” and they may be delivered by local civic leaders (“Thank you for eating lots of meals in our downtown restaurants”) or by local, national or international religious dignitaries.

During the heated 1984 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Kansas City, an Episcopal visitor suddenly appeared at the podium to say that the Baptists were welcome to tour his cathedral across the street and even to take part in services. However, he added, the cars of anyone who parked in their lots would be towed away. This drew a hearty laugh, because his remarks were refreshingly candid.

Normally, when journalists see the word “greetings” in a convention schedule, they know that it’s safe to step out and get a cup of coffee or some other legal stimulant (the nature of which depends on the denomination one is covering).

Well, something strange happened the other day during the latest national gathering of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) dedicated to discussing a variety of church issues, including, of course, the status of gay-marriage rites and the ordination of non-celibate gay, lesbian and bisexual clergy. It was not strange that the body said “no” to the former and “yes” to the latter, with a final decision to be made by presbyteries across the nation. (Click here to surf through some of the business-as-usual coverage.)

It was strange, however, that something newsworthy happened during one of those boring “greetings” by an ecumenical visitor. Here is the complete Associated Press report:

An Orthodox Church theologian who was invited to greet the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has criticized its approval of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy.

The Reverend Siarhei Hardun of Belarus said that vote and efforts to approve gay marriage looked to him like an attempt to “invent a new religion — a sort of modern paganism.” Hardun added, “When people say that they are led and guided by the Holy Spirit to do it, I wonder if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible.”

The Orthodox priest’s remarks drew applause from conservative Presbyterians who made similar arguments at the gathering in Minneapolis.

As you would expect, the only place one can find more extensive coverage of Father Siarhei’s remarks — which were spoken gently, but were extremely blunt — is in publications linked to the PCUSA conservatives, such as The Layman. For those who paid close attention to the doctrinal comments in his text, his words could only be called shockingly offensive.

How offensive? So offensive that covering them accurately would have raised Associated Press Stylebook issues.

For starters, Father Siarhei reminded his audience that he represented the Eastern Orthodox Church of Belarus, which means that he is part of a global communion that has “an unbroken, unchanged and unreformed tradition. And our theology has never been changed or reformed for almost 2,000 years.”

This drew a laugh from his listeners, part of a flock that has its roots in the Reformed tradition John Calvin.

Then, speaking to the leaders of a denomination that is in severe statistical decline, he noted that Orthodoxy is once again on the rise in Belarus after several generations of bloody persecution. Twenty years ago, he noted:

… “(We) had 370 Orthodox congregations and now we have over 1,500 congregations. New churches are being built everywhere. We also try to organize the social work of the church and in this we find support and assistance from the Presbyterian Church (USA). That’s why I am obliged to convey sincere gratitude on behalf of the Orthodox Church of Belarus to your church for its long standing support of our common projects in helping disabled people, lonely aged people, families with many children and other categories of those who are in need.”

This is the stuff of normal ecumenical greetings and the second half of that passage drew another round of applause.

Then Father Siarhei, searching for the right words in English, offered a few impressions of the assembly and its work. That led to these words on moral theology (the following may be from his prepared text, since the wordings in the video are slightly different):

“Christian morality is as old as Christianity itself. It doesn’t need to be invented now. Those attempts to invent new morality look for me like attempts to invent a new religion — a sort of modern paganism.

“When people say that they are led and guided by the Holy Spirit to do it, I wonder if it is the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspires the Holy Orthodox Church not to change anything doctrinal or moral standards? It is really the same Spirit or perhaps there are different spirits acting in different denominations and inspiring them to develop in different directions and create different theologies and different morals?

“My desire is that all Christians should contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints, as St. Jude calls us to do (Jude 1:3). And my advice as an ecumenical advisory delegate is the following: ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ ” (Romans 12:2).

So what is this Orthodox priest saying? Note that the term Holy Spirit is capitalized in that text, but that the second reference to “different spirits” is down. That would be accurate under AP style. Why? Well, the bible of mainstream journalism saith:

gods and goddesses: Capitalize God in references to the deity of all monotheistic religions. Capitalize all noun references to the deity: God the Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, etc. …

Lowercase gods and goddesses in references to the deities of polytheistic religions.

Lowercase god, gods and goddesses in references to false gods: He made money is god.

So what is Father Siarhei saying? He is saying something highly offensive and potentially newsworthy, especially since some of the Presbyterians in the room applauded (I would assume because they understood his words and approved of them). He is saying that the divisions inside the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may be rooted in a clash between those who are heeding the God of the Bible and those who are hearing the voices of, literally, another god. He is asking if part of the assembly is, in a very real way, possessed by a false spirit.

Whether one agrees with him or not, that is a truly radical and offensive statement. It might even be newsworthy. You think?

Did the reporters present realize what this priest had actually said?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Of course what the Orthodox theologian said was newsworthy– and especially in the forum in which it took place. But it goes against the favored pro-gay/lesbian marriage narrative the mainstream media has become the propaganda arm for. So much so is this true that, indeed, the reporters present may not have had the foggiest notion about what this priest actually said.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I realize that it falls outside the template.

    But I am asking if it would have been newsworthy since it WAS offensive. I am admitting that in the context of the event, and in light of the normal content of these “greetings,” that his remarks would have been news because they were evidence of the truly radical nature of the division in the body there. Again, who applauded?

  • Rebec

    Looks like the reporter was accurate in conveying the priest’s sentiments by formatting said priest’s quotes accordingly. If the priest meant spirit with a little ‘s,’ then that’s how it should have been written. How is that controversial? I say it shows that the reporter understood what was meant by the comments, and made sure to convey them accurately. Bravo, I say.

    Maybe I’m missing something…?

    (Long time listener, first time caller, here. Keep up the good work.)

  • http://AandBAcademy.com Don Ibbitson

    It is a newsworthy comment and I suspect that the reporter may have picked up on the term “modern paganism”. It’s an intriguing term really and reflects much of what is going in the political realm also as leaders attempt to mix a little of the Holy Spirit’s writings with the thoughts and ruminations of other spirits to meet their own needs.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    REBEC:

    The Layman is a conservative religious publication.

    It is not strange that its writer understood the implications of the words and, thus, the S vs. s references.

    However, I was asking about mainstream coverage, beyond the tiny little AP brief.

  • http://sanctusblog.blogspot.com James Gibson

    I do think the remarks are newsworthy, but it is not at all unusual in this kind of forum for Orthodox spokesmen to highlight the differences between their “unbroken, unreformed” tradition and the myriad of (what they would consider) aberrations in the West. At last year’s inaugural assembly of the Anglican Church in North America, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America ruffled a few feathers by calling Calvinism a heresy and pointing out differences of opinion over the role of women.

  • http://hymnbook.marxhausen.net Paul Marxhausen

    It *is* a deep rebuke, going beyond “disagreement about doctrine” or suggesting someone “means well but is misguided” or even, when it comes to it, more than a flat accusation of “heresy”. Accusing a Christian body of inspiration by an un-godly spirit is a breathtaking affront. But a mainstream media that is not studious about or attentive to theology can hardly be faulted for yawning and mistaking it for just another example of “the same old same old” denominational squabbles over fussy points of doctrine.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “a sort of modern paganism”

    Did someone call me? I swear I thought I heard something.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jason,

    Don’t forget that there are multiple definitions for Pagan/pagan. I’m thinking this is one of those times that distinction might have been made clearer.

  • bob

    It’s worth noticing that the most usual Orthodox presence encouraged at such events is the more “colorful” Orthodox; the ones who have an interesting accent, hair, beards and such. Inviting the Orthodox from around the corner is likely to get you a *former* Presbyterian, Episcopalian or what have you. No accent, possibly the same hair. Not as interesting or exotic as the above (very good) priest. He was certainly expected to provide decoration and gratitude but surprised people by talking about God. That was an unplanned aberration.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “Don’t forget that there are multiple definitions for Pagan/pagan.”

    Oh, I know, I’m just having a bit of fun. A small joke at my own expense.

    “I’m thinking this is one of those times that distinction might have been made clearer.”

    Interestingly, I think Father Siarhei uses the term in a more precise fashion that some other notable Abrahamic religious leaders and pundits do. He’s clearly inferring a sort of inadvertent polytheism with his multiple Spirit(s) quotation. So “pagan” is as good a word as any. Though I do think it would be interesting for a journalist to look at how say, the current Catholic Pope, uses the term “pagan”, and how that differs (or doesn’t) from the modern (neo) Pagan usage.

    As to the controversy, bringing in an outsider to (deliberately or not) make/illustrate a point for a certain faction within a church/organization/group is an old tactic. It would have been interesting to dig into who invited the Father, and if they had any particular axes to grind in the votes being held.

  • http://end21stcenturyslavery.blogspot.com Patrick Wilkes

    The Orthodox Church does not prohibit the ordination of homosexuals, provided that they set aside their active pursuit of that lifestyle in conformity with the teachings of the Church on sexual morality. Fr. Seraphim Rose – a venerable and holy monastic who died in the early ’80′s – had been immersed in the SF homosexual community and lifestyle prior to his conversion to Orthodoxy, for example.

    Should one wish to be ordained without the restriction of celibacy, the PCUSA and a number of other “mainline Protestant” denominations have departed from historic moral theology.

  • http://www.acupuncturebrooklyn.com Karen Vaughan

    I am interested in the omission of his statement about the difference between the Nicene Creed of the 4th and 11th centuries where the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (4th, Orthodox) as compared to proceeding from the Father and the Son. Is that a different Holy Spirit? Is he saying that the Presbyterian notion of Holy Spirit which is based on the 11th century filioque clause lies at the root of the modern paganism?

    That would really be theologically offensive. But of couse it is why the Orthodox church did not merge with the Roman Catholic church in 1439.

  • Brian Jackson

    “Is he saying that the Presbyterian notion of Holy Spirit which is based on the 11th century filioque clause lies at the root of the modern paganism?”

    Karen, I don’t think he is saying this. I am under the impression that he noted the filioque primarily because he was disappointed to hear it in the Creed. No Orthodox could fail to note it. Additionally, when one considers the broader context of his description of the Orthodox Church as “unreformed” and “unchanged,” he is pointing out that, from the Orthodox perspective, the Roman church is the one that changed (in many ways, filioque included), and that the “Reformed” churches, rather than returning to their roots in the undivided Church, instead continued the same errors that separated Rome from Orthodoxy and added to them. I think that one may infer that Fr. Siarhei is drawing a broad parallel in this way: the same expression of unileteral / unfaithful / temporally powerful will which led Rome to insert the filioque instead of submitting to the universal Tradition of the Church is what leads Reformation churches to assert new definitions while ignoring the morality of the universal Tradition of the Church which is based on Revelation. Both are examples of unfaithfulness to the deposit of faith which has been vouchsafed to the Church.

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com Bob Smietana

    Terry’s right — the comments were newsworthy.
    I’d hoped to get them into our coverage at the Tennessean.
    The problem? I was in Nashville, and Father Siarhei was in Minneapolis. I saw his comments on the simulcast from Minnesota, and thought, “Who is this guy?” as I’d missed his introduction. And no one I called who would have known was answering the phone. So he didn’t make the story.
    The Layman had a lot of advantages in covering this story.
    One, they are monthly, and weren’t on deadline (as other reporters covering this story were. That’s the big deal, as the big news from the meeting– that the proposal to change the definition of marriage was defeated by a narrow margin–came late Thursday night, after our deadline.
    Also, they’re a national pub, so they weren’t scrambling to find local reaction late on a sunny summer Thursday afternoon when most clergy are gone.)
    They also were in Minneapolis, and most other reporters weren’t.

  • Fr. Peter Jackson

    I was raised in the PCUSA, and I am forever grateful for my experiences in it: all that I learned about Christ, the opportunities to teach Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, sing in the choir, go on summer mission trips, etc. In my 30′s I discovered the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith, and I wholeheartedly embraced it — or rather, the Church received me — and I have never looked back. I thank the Lord every day for leading me to, as Fr. Siarhei quotes from St. Jude, the faith once delivered to the saints.

    I was so delighted to hear these words from Fr. Siarhei, delivered in sincere love and out of genuine concern. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. If anyone finds a way to be offended by his address, it can only be because they are predisposed to be offended. I pray that everyone come home to the Orthodox Faith.

  • Susan

    Thank you for posting the video. It was wonderful to be able to listen to Father Siarhei’s address. May God richly bless him.

    Is the the lack of coverage of Father Siarhei’s remarks merely a reflection of what we see across the MSM where stories about the progressive path are trumpeted from the housetops and the traditional path is ignored or shuttered in a closet? The prevailing mood seems to be to muffle or muzzle any news of opposition to the progressive agenda, so I would guess that IF they understood what was said, they might choose to not report it.

    I question whether they understand what it means for there to be 2000 years of unbroken doctrine or the history of the Nicene creed. There seems to be a prevailing ahistorical mood both in our churches and in our culture.

    I also wonder that they would understand the seriousness of the question of whether they were listening to the Holy Spirit or a different spirit. It takes an abiblical approach to approve passage of practicing homosexual clergy and/or homosexual marriage.

    I would guess that the majority of reporters just didn’t get it. And I would sadly guess that many of those who applauded did not fully understand what he said because I think the majority of Christians do not know church history or understand the doctrinal differences between the different denominations.

  • Dave

    Did the reporters present realize what this priest had actually said?

    Probably not, because he was saying that his hosts had been demonically inspired. And, yet, that was newsworthy, had it been understood.

  • Dale

    Probably not, because he was saying that his hosts had been demonically inspired.

    I think he chose his words carefully. If he wanted to say “demonically inspired”, he would have said it. Thanks for the demonstration of spin, though.

    tmatt;

    Considering that the theological left of the Presbyterian Church has no problem invoking other gods (it’s all about inclusivity), how do we know that they would take the father’s comments as an insult? They’d probably be more upset if the father had explicitly defended Nicene orthodoxy– it’s so exclusive.

  • Dave

    Dale, if it’s spin it’s not my spin; it’s Christian spin. That’s where I’ve heard that any inspiration not proceeding from the Holy Spirit is demonic. I’m sure the reporters have heard it, too, but didn’t think to apply it to this instance.

  • str

    Karen,

    I think omitting the statement about the Filoque is due to the interest of the reporter, who cares a lot about homosexuality but not about the Filoque or about Catholic-Orthodox relations.

    But maybe we should be thankful for that because then the reporter would have to disentangle what the Orthodox priest said from the actual facts of the matter, since the Filoque was not inserted into the Creed in the 11th century but centuries earlier (probably already in the 4th century), was protested by a troublemaking Patriarch in the 9th century but adopted at Rome around the year 1000. Rome later on merely insisted that to recite the Creed either way was not heretical – a proposition the Orthodox church agreed to when it merged with the Catholic church in 1439. But I don’t blame the priest for not looking beyond what Orthodox controversialism has turned into a cause a cause celebrée.

    As far as they kept the Nicene Creed, Protestants have always kept the word in, so the priests’ surprise is itself surprising and almost as strange as when in 2000, a German Protestant bishop criticised the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for using a text omitting the Filioque.

  • http://www.biblebeltblogger.com Frank Lockwood

    I’m guessing he won’t get an invitation to speak at the next General Assembly…

  • Brian Jackson

    “…since the Filoque was not inserted into the Creed in the 11th century but centuries earlier (probably already in the 4th century)”

    What? I’ve not ever heard a filioque apologist argue this before. It was in the fourth century (381) when the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was affirmed in its original form by the 2nd Ecumenical Council– sans the filioque. Whether or not the filioque represents some thinking unique to the West as early as the fourth century is something that str would need to demonstrate rather than assert.

    “…protested by a troublemaking Patriarch in the 9th century…”

    Hmm. Yes, those who assert the prerogatives of the universal Church in its ecumenical decrees over against the unilateral attempt to alter what the Church agreed on in a conciliar manner would be considered “troublemaking” by the willful. Thank God for the courage and honesty of St. Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople.

    “Rome later on merely insisted that to recite the Creed either way was not heretical – a proposition the Orthodox church agreed to when it merged with the Catholic church in 1439.”

    The Council of Ferrara-Florence is considered to be a Robber Council, much like the Council of Dioscorus. The Eastern bishops who agreed to compromise their doctrine betrayed the Faith delivered to the saints, with the exception, of course, of St. Mark, Archbishop of Ephesus who never agreed to the papal terms. That council did not lead to any real union between the churches. Honestly, even to assert that the filioque makes little difference whether included or not in the Creed is itself a ridiculous approach to compromise. Either it represents the faith of the 2nd Council or it does not. If not, then this insertion born at the local council in Toledo in the 6th century and not inserted into the Roman Creed until centuries later should be rejected. Additionally, if the West truly believes that whether inserted or not, no heresy is involved, then, out of love, knowing that the East does view it as heresy, it should be rejected for the sake of unity. Certainly the West can reject what is not that important; whereas, the East cannot accept what it sees as heretical.

  • james

    “Is he saying that the Presbyterian notion of Holy Spirit which is based on the 11th century filioque clause lies at the root of the modern paganism?”

    Karen,

    I believe he is. He basically says their church is possessed by demonic spirits and that it all goes back to their demotion of the true Holy Spirit of God in the 11th century. I think to assume his point about the filioque and his point about morality and the “different spirits” are unconnected is to underestimate this apparently quite remarkable priest. :)

  • str

    Brian,

    the Filoque was inserted into the Creed in early Latin translations. It was first asserted in Spain, adopted aroun 800 by the Franks and only around 1000 arrived at Rome, when Emperor Henry II for his coronation insisted to have the Creed recited during Mass (which was not a standard thing until then) – and he insisted on the text he knew. The conflict instigated by Photius however predates this.

    “…since the Filoque was not inserted into the Creed in the 11th century but centuries earlier (probably already in the 4th century)”

    And Photius was indeed troublemaking as he was trying to make the point that Rome had at least one tiny heresy too (after all the massive heresies admittedly prevalent in Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria) – he did not try to defend “prerogatives” of any “universal church” but to score points because he was under attack for very different reasons. He was wrong at least for two reasons: 1. Rome did not adhere to the Filioque then, had not “changed” any creed. 2. He cited the 3rd Ecumenical Council, which banned any further changes to the Creed (in an attempt to stifle theological thought) but the problem is that that Council did base itself on the original Nicene Creed, which had little on the Holy Spirit, nothing about His proceeding, and not that of the “2nd Council”, which to contemporaries was a second-rate regional council and thus not received everywhere.

    Photius, despite his later reconcilation, has done more damage in the long rung than Arius has.

    “The Council of Ferrara-Florence is considered to be a Robber Council”

    By whom? By those you never would be reconciled, surely. There was absolutely no force involved in that Council. The Eastern Church participated and accepted it, only for others to renege on it later. That it did not lead to “any real union”, alas, is true.

    Some think it ridiculous to assert that “proceeding from the Father and the Son” means the same as “from the Father through the Son”, they also think their narrow thinking “the faith delivered to the Saints” and would rather be subject to Ottoman rule then to have union with them bad westerners.

    Your logic “reject it out of love” is pure nonsense. Regardless of how that word was inserted (and it shouldn’t have been), the West took it on faith. And it never was a problem until Photius tried to paint his opponents heretics for associating with some who used it. Would “love” dicate that nobody ever dictate a different Creed (original Nicene or, more frequently, Apostolicum)? Would “love” dictate” that we scrap the Council of Chalcedon, as the Monophysites insisted?

    “whereas, the East cannot accept what it sees as heretical.”

    But, alas, the East originally only considered it heretical because it was looking for something to find heretical, to relish in its supposed supremacy. If you talk about unilateral, the West never demanded that the canons of the Quinisextum be repealed but merely that they should not be binding on the West, whereas the East insisted that that local council be held as Ecumenical. Hypocrisy!

  • str

    But back to Fr. Siarhei.

    I don’t think he asserts that Presbyterians are “possessed by demons” but is merely questioning their use of the word “spirit”, which might be fantasing just as much as posession.

    If you listen to some Christians (those mentioned by Dave) that doesn’t make any difference, but one need not follow them nor is there any indication that Fr. Siarhei does.

    So the priest is not “basically” saying anything of the kind.

    If he really conflates serious moral issues and the Filoque, however, he is indeed “remarkable” – but not in any positive sense.

  • Thomas a sinner

    We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.

    And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Uhhhhhhhh

    Thomas:

    What does this have to do with the JOURNALISM issues in the post?

    Gosh, I look away and we’re hosting a debate about the Creed!

  • Maureen

    I’m not sure why anybody is surprised about this Presbyterian happening. For all the mysticism and beauty of the Eastern side of things, I gotta say that the general Internet impression one gets of the Orthodox is blunt and truculent. Pretty much you can count down the seconds before you’re told why everything Orthodox (including cuisine) is intrinsically better, and everything else is either totally wrong or totally evil. That’s not everybody Orthodox I’ve met; but it’s a good chunk of everybody. …

  • Jamal

    I think the Presbys have very little Orthodox exposure like he has very little exposure of them. I’m sure the feeling was mutual. He probably seemed like a Pharisee to them…

  • Jon in the Nati

    I gotta say that the general Internet impression one gets of the Orthodox is blunt and truculent.

    At the risk of veering far off course:

    Converts. No born-and-raised Orthodox layperson I know is like that. That sort of attitude, while not embraced by all (or even many) converts, is very nearly exclusive to them.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    FOLKS!

    What does any of this have to do with journalism?

  • Pete

    Terry, you’re article on this article has become the main news source for this even happening! People are looking for somewhere to have their voice heard, and, unfortunately, they are opening up in your comboxes.

    Personally, considering the article, I would agree that the reporters pretty much wrote off the remark as the average denominational criticism, or else I feel much more would have been made of it. I wonder how many in general, Presbyterian or Orthodox or whatever, would actually catch that…

  • http://funkydung.com/family Eric Williams

    I’d argue it’s at least newsworthy to those who follow ecumenical happenings and interdenominational squabbles. Had the speaker been Catholic, it might have been of mainstream interest, and I suspect there would have been numerous prominent and ominous headlines about how the mean ol’ Vatican poo-pooed a popular progressive shibboleth. Can’t you see it? “Vatican guest speaker at Presbyterian gathering accuses gay rights activists of heresy and paganism”

  • stalnv

    … Father Siarhei’s address was probably not meant to be offensive but anyone is entitled to be offended at anything they wish – - that’s modern America. It seems he was saying that the spirit that was leading the PCUSA to progressive changes was not the Holy Spirit (as they claim) but another spirit. The implication is that it is demonic. The most cold-hearted thing you can do is not to tell someone who is being led to perdition that that is where their guiding spirit is leading them. …

  • Joe

    Secular reporters would of course miss the import of such words. Of course.

  • bob

    Oh by the way, in response to anyone thinking Fr. might be exaggerating the “pagan” aspect of things, you might check out this video of the opening, uh, worship:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4pr_E5Nbuc&feature=player_embedded

    Gee, nothing pagan here….Can’t think of what he had in mind…Probably difficulty with English, ya think?

  • http://stewedrabbit.blogspot.org Edwin

    str (post 26),

    Don’t you think that the doctrine of the Trinity is as important as questions of sexual morality? Of course in the West we aren’t used to thinking of the Filioque as a serious issue. But maybe we should.

  • str

    Sure it is but there not any utterance related to the Trinity is to be taken seriously as such.

    And I am certain that it is serious to Father Siarhei and every Orthodox Christian who speaks about it today. They don’t know that they are still following tracks laid out by Photius, who used the issue for purely political reasons.

    And that Father Siarhei was astonished or surprised to find a Creed including the Filioque at that conference speaks only of his own lack of knowledge. Why didn’t he also complain about the lack of icons.

    Yes, the Filoque is serious but the common Orthodox answer – as serious as it is to the Orthodox – is not the proper response if we are in any way interested in achieving unity among Christians. My point uttered above was that Rome (notwithstanding other bad decisions by Westerners) has tried to achieve union without forcing the word on the East. The response mostly has been “no!”, “repent!” and “do this!”

  • str

    Or in short: I can understand how Father Siarhei was surprised about utterances on sexual morality but not how he can be surprised on the presence of the Filioque in a Creed.

  • http://ericmesselt.blogspot.com Eric Messelt

    I take Father Siarhei’s comments to be a ‘prophetic utterance.’ Yes, it was a loving, gentle, but forceful statement of condemnation on the direction of the PCUSA. The AP reporter got it right.

    However, I find the initial question by this poster irrelevant.

    The issue is not whether the priest’s comments were offensive. The issue is whether the comments were accurate.