A last forum response: On Scandals and divisions, and keeping argument private

Dear _______:

Since the last time I discussed my distaste for private debates I ended getting sanctioned, I have no interest in rehashing my reasoning to disagree. I personally find the argument that we will scandalize people out of True Orthodoxy very problematic. If we have to cover up the truth to explain it, we are on far shakier foundation as Christians than we realize. A Christian should have very limited business in these debates anyway. The fact that clergy of jurisdictions “jockey” for faithful, competing and “counterarguing” is in fact the real scandal. If I know someone’s going to be happier in your Synod, I am not going to go out of my way to argue for them to stay with us. I know that isn’t true with a lot of clergy in a lot of places. I am not kidding when I say every time someone joins us– even if I had no idea– I get calls or emails from all over: “did you know he was with us?” “Are you looking for a fight?” (I’m most confused when strangers contact me).

The simple truth is that none of us are in this wildly amazing position where our [i]sole authority[/i] must be stressed or the whole thing comes down like a house of cards. Things are not so black and white, and I am comfortable in my faith, and in my Synod. I think some folks in every Synod are somewhat square pegs, and carry on ever uncomfortably out of a belief that if they go to another True Orthodox Synod they will have abandoned Orthodoxy. And we in the clergy are often to blame for this. This is a by-product of the constant barrage of inter-jurisdictional jockeying (it isn’t argument– argument deals with facts, events, and disagreement). People who are new to Orthodoxy have the joy altogether sucked out of them by the process.

You may be under the impression I am simply defending Archbishop Auxentios out of habit. Yet history has a right to judge him critically, if not generally harshly. Much of the failure in the reunion with the Matthewites can in fact be attributed to his actions, when many books today incorrectly lay the blame at the feet of the Matthewites. He had certainly earned his share of detractors by 1985, and I think much of the success in terms of the trial, regardless of how it was conducted, was because of a sense by many in the TOC that the deposition was at the least deserved, if not perfectly executed. Indeed, each one of the points I made could be debated, I am sure, but the debate moves forward when we move past the question of whether the other person’s truthful or not and get to the center of the argument. It’s not about finding a better sparring partner. It’s about just dealing with the uncomfortable facts. Don’t accept me as the authority on the trial. Take my points. Ask questions. Learn more. Move past polemic.

Relying on Moss was a mistake– but there is plenty in our actual history that has been problematic. We dealt with a number of ecumenists– even Bishops– in our Synod. We had a schism after we proclaimed a confession of faith. Before the Metropolia separated from Milan, we had to deal with a Bishop who had a secret past life that was a scandal broadcast throughout the Internet by members of the MP. People constantly refer to our Western Rites as “crypto-Papism”. I could go on.

I didn’t write these responses to display that the grass is greener on my side or yours. The above paragraph I could discuss at length– every single sentence. I write it with honesty, and with shame. I wrote this response because after years of dealing with the above issues– dealing with them honestly, and dealing with the consequences– we are stronger than ever. I’m not saying that as an advertisement for my Synod, but as helpful advice for any True Orthodox Christian. By challenging that which is not healthy in our Churches and striving for the good, we shall grow stronger as Orthodox Christians both as individuals and collectively. And then we can envision a future where our leaders will be unconstrained to reach out to each other as brothers estranged, the clouds of distrust having been turned towards dispelling the darkness within us each.