Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Battle of the Bishops - Round Two

Well, curious things have happened since my last post, and Bp. Gregory has been suspended if not removed from his office. Apparently supervision from Suzdal across a language barrier wasn't close enough.

Now the question is going to be whether fealty to Valentine through the proxy of Fr. Shishkoff will be enough. A quick look at the clergy shows the problem: it is largely a convert creation, and very many of the clerics have little history of Otrthodox experience and are relatively newly ordained. Are they any better clerics with a new bishop?

That's a major reason why Ilhoff, as Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, is not as bad a problem as would first appear. There's a great bulk of Episcopal history and tradition in the diocese, spread out among the laity and clergy; here the control issues work in favor of tradition instead of against it. The naive method of choosing on the basis of a suitable parish tends to work better here.

Meanwhile, the online participants are doing a lot of damage control. Gregory appears to have fled the scene of the crime, as it were, taking with him one of "his" clerics in a classic vagante act. Others about him have seen what side their bread is buttered on and changed their allegiance (or kept it there, depending on how you look at it). Those at a greater distance, and who are not yet really members anyway, have tended to defend Gregory. And in some respects they are bound to him because they have no way to participate in ROAC/AROC except through the agency of Gregory's long-distance recruitment.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You've got them sussed. It may be that for all his problems re: church order/polity, Valentin(e) may have been trying to run an actual church, if only of disaffected people he could snag from the Russian Church Abroad (owing to fear of the Commies) in a power grab - which was the first impression I had of him. Hence he entrusted most of his few American congregations to somebody who has his marbles (he's probably just wrong, not mad) and knows what the hell he's doing re: running actual churches with people and everything, Vladimir Shishkoff, who like Valentin is a former Russian Orthodox priest of long standing.

First Ben Lomond imploded, schismed and ended up with half of them under another Orthodox church (a real one, that of Jerusalem); now this circus along with the other online sideshows of strange young men LOUDLY joining churches and then pogo-ing to other churches again and again.

Think the recent (20 years) convert boomlet among the Eastern Orthodox is starting to crumble? My guesses are they weren't prepared for it, didn't seek it and can't handle it (they're ethnic chaplaincies - not set up for this kind of thing), so you're seeing this stuff happen. - The young fogey, A conservative blog for peace, http://aconservativesiteforpeace.info

Anonymous said...

I agree with the young fogey's assessment of ROAC but as far as the convert boomlet, I don't think it has anything to do with that. First of all, the Orthodox Churches in America are not ethnic chaplancies but are rather the Church of Christ (whether or not Catholics and Anglicans are also such is not part of my argument). True, Orthodoxy in the lower 48 came with the "etniks" but what of Alaska and its missionary zeal that outlasted the Russian trading companies? And the fact that by 1905 English was being encouraged and St Tikhon was commissioning proselytism? What of the Orthodox convert boom in the 1960's as the result of OCF? The Orthodox Church has been consistently doing what a Church does--evangelizing--in the USA since shortly after it arrived. While the majority of people at times were indifferent, this can hardly be the status nowadays, when at seminary the majority of seminarians are converts, and where courses on mission and evangelism are offered. Let's not also forget that real Orthodox priests are out in the real world doing real Christian mission work. I just don't see what ROAC has to do with Orthodox growth. Also, the Ben Lomond thing was quite a small affair--one parish out of the 60 new parishes since 1987 for the Antiochians is not terribly significant.

The young fogey said...

I agree with the young fogey's assessment of ROAC but as far as the convert boomlet, I don't think it has anything to do with that.Maybe it wasn't Valentin's intention initially - he was more interested in forming ROAC by scaring fellow Russians out of ROCOR - but ISTM 'Bishop Gregory' did take advantage of the boomlet and the online follies. ROAC as one sees it online is largely a convert or - in the case of the long-distance people who don't actually go to a church - wannabe phenom.

First of all, the Orthodox Churches in America are not ethnic chaplancies but are rather the Church of Christ (whether or not Catholics and Anglicans are also such is not part of my argument).Charley and I both know the Orthodox rhetoric in that regard, but be they what they claim they are, or ethnic/national parts of the Catholic faith with their distinctive rite and recensions, or merely denominations, functionally, ethnic chaplaincies are exactly what they are. They are only about 1% of the US population and their biggest church is a chaplaincy to Greek immigrants and Greek-Americans, full stop.

True, Orthodoxy in the lower 48 came with the "etniks" but what of Alaska and its missionary zeal that outlasted the Russian trading companies?Drop in the bucket. All the European churches 'followed the flag' and missionized as part of empire-building - that's why there's an Anglican Communion today, roughly coterminous with the ex-British Empire, and not just the Church of England - but historically the Orthodox never tried to do outreach unless it somehow benefited the emperor, Byzantine or Russian. After the abortive Nestorian attempt at a mission, the Byzantines traded with China for centuries - no evangelism. St Vladimir and the conversion of Russia? He got more political clout, and Byzantium neutralized an enemy and brought them into the empire, at least into its sphere of influence as Russia was too big for Byzantium to rule directly. As for the later Russian Orthodox in the Orient, Harbin, technically across the border in China, was a chaplaincy to the sizeable Russian population.

And the fact that by 1905 English was being encouraged and St Tikhon was commissioning proselytism?Yes, he took the Orthodox claim about themselves seriously, but again, drops in the bucket. Next to no Orthodox used English in 1905 or 1955 for that matter. He got a couple of high Episcopalians to join, a trickle one sees today. The boomlet of ex-evangelicals is new - about 20 years old.

What of the Orthodox convert boom in the 1960's as the result of OCF?Must not have been a boom really as I've never heard of it. Chances are only 'churchy' people know about the 20-years-on boomlet today.

The Orthodox Church has been consistently doing what a Church does--evangelizing--in the USA since shortly after it arrived. While the majority of people at times were indifferent, this can hardly be the status nowadays, when at seminary the majority of seminarians are converts, and where courses on mission and evangelism are offered. Let's not also forget that real Orthodox priests are out in the real world doing real Christian mission work.As it is a proper Christian church of course there are some attempts at evangelism but your second sentence here - true - proves my point. Just like the majority in those churches today don't care about abortion and practise artificial contraception with their clergy's approval - just like Protestants.

I just don't see what ROAC has to do with Orthodox growth.See above. As an American who'd been watching the church scene for a long time 'Gregory' knew how to play the boomlet and the online follies to build a little church fiefdom for himself. (Which apparently Valentin has halted.)

Also, the Ben Lomond thing was quite a small affair--one parish out of the 60 new parishes since 1987 for the Antiochians is not terribly significant.It was the flagship church of their big part of the boomlet - the self-conversion of the former 'Evangelical Orthodox Church' denomination - and its fall was a huge blow both to the Antiochians and the boomlet. (Metropolitan Philip, I understand, is a very nice man - one has to go well above and beyond to piss him off, which apparently they did.)

The young fogey said...

One more thing:

the majority of seminarians are convertsI think the Greeks mostly import their clergy from the homeland like most of their congregations. The lack of 'native' ethnic vocations among the other churches seems to say something and it's not too good.

Anonymous said...

Dear young fogey,

OK, I see how you are linking ROAC to the convert boomlet.

Continuing the discussion, I am finding it hard to reach some type of common starting point to dialogue on this. You seem to be trying to fit the data into some preconceived presuppositions. I am merely relying on my experience of visiting Orthodox Churches up and down the east coast and in the midwest, as well as attending seminary (this is Anastasios in case you hadn't figured that out yet). From what I am seeing "in the field" I just can't accept what you are saying--it may have been true in 1960 but certainly not today.

OCF by the way is the Orthodox Christian Fellowship and its work around many colleges in the 1960's sparked many conversions to Orthodoxy, among them John Erickson, the dean of St Vladimir's. He spoke fondly of the way he was evangelized by Orthodox at the campus he studied at (Yale).

The young fogey said...

Hello, Anastasios,

No, I didn't recognize you but did notice you were far more rational and civil than the usual hecklers Charley debates here. Maybe we haven't got common ground for a discussion. So be it. Funny, ISTM you're fitting things into preconceived notions - 'Resolved: the Eastern Orthodox communion is the Church of Christ'. I and I think Charley aren't doing what you describe but rather I at least am taking the Orthodox' rhetoric and claims into consideration but also my own quarter-century as a consciously practising Christian including, like Charley, over a decade's acquaintance with the Orthodox in person ('in the field' as you say), not just from books. I know what OCF is having seen an attempt at it at another fine Ivy League university, led by an enthusiastic convert priest, that was, well, underwhelming. It finally was put to sleep when the priest's daughter graduated. The Valley Girlish daughter and the handful of ethnic kids who showed up were, well, lukewarm. SVS is a lovely place but might I suggest the rosy vision of Eastern Orthodoxy it gives is through the glass of a hothouse? Again I've never heard of a 1960s 'boom' of newcomers to the Eastern Orthodox family of churches - so secret even the churchy don't know about it?

So... why aren't there any (hardly any anyway) ethnic vocations to those churches in America?

The young fogey said...

P.S. It seems either Blogger's in-house comments system can't handle code for links or there's some trick to it I don't know. To get my links to work remove the 'http://www.blogger.com/r' junk in front of them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Serge,

You will note that I purposely explained in my original post that by saying the Orthodox Church is the Church of Christ I was not attempting to exclude Anglicans and Catholics from such claims to Churchliness in this argument, but merely I was making an affirmative statement that since Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ (again, for the sake of *this* argument not saying that Anglicans and Catholics aren't), that they do churchly things like evangelize.

As far as SVS giving a rosy picture, I can assure you that that is not the case (not wanting to air dirty laundry online, I will refrain from backing up that assertion, I am sure you will understand)...my only point is that what I have witnessed is vastly different than what I see in your writing here...but I am fully willing to admit this could all be a matter of perception.

As far as ethnic vocations, there are plenty of those, too--most of the OCA ethnics go to St Tikhon's, it seems to me, and the Greeks don't actually import that many clergymen from Greece still, I am told by an aquaintance at Holy Cross, who tells me that there are many Greek-American seminarians there. The situation could be improved though, as there is a discrepancy in the propotional statistics, with ethnics being underpresented in the seminary system--but that could also be due to an overinflation of statistics as to how many ethnic people actually belong to the Orthodox Church here in the USA! :)

Anastasios