Ochlophobist’s “brief outline of some of the grievances”

I appreciate Owen’s cataloguing of the issues many have had with Met. PHILIP. I am unable to speak to any of the assertions, having no direct knowledge about any of them, but I know Owen to be honorable and take him at face value. That said, having heard Met. PHILIP in person a handful of times now, I am also willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, at least as far as his intentions go. My impression is not of a man who seeks power for its own sake or who wants anything other than the best for the Church. Of course, even with that being the case, we all know the two principal materials used to pave the road to Hell. (Well, okay, we might not all know both of them — good intentions, of course, and the skulls of bishops, per St. John Chrysostom.)

Mostly, however, I want to draw your attention to the following portion of a comment on his post, left by one “Samn!”:

Both sides in the current fight in the Antiochian Archdiocese are culturally and spiritually estranged from the traditions of their church, and many on both sides aspire to extremely idiosyncratic visions of Orthodoxy. I have very rarely heard my Orthodox friends in Lebanon speak about the Archdiocese in terms that didn’t cast the suspicion of Protestantism or Republicanism on it. +Philip and his clerical friends are quite anomalous even in their generation of Arab Orthodox because they for whatever reason missed out on the revival that came from the Orthodox Youth Movement and were already in America by the time the Lebanese monasteries like Dayr el-Harf really started bearing fruit. And so, like Jewish actors acquiring waspy surnames, they went out of their way to trade in Orthodox ways for the ways of the perceived American elites of the early sixties, Episcopalians. (Freakishly quaint now, as it turns out.) And so, when converts came, they were unable to transmit the heritage of the Church of Antioch to them, but rather allowed a trial-and-error approach to figuring out what a lived Orthodoxy is. The anti-monasticism and the America-firstism that have been signature traits of much of the Archdiocese’s leadership (though, certainly, we all know the most prominent exceptions) have served to hinder spiritual bonds and bonds of affection and communication with the mother church. In the aftermath of this current crisis, those are the things that need to be cultivated, regardless of the Archdiocese’s ultimate autonomy, both for the sake of having a healthy and fruitful relationship with Damascus and for the authentic transmission of Antioch’s ancient heritage of lived Orthodoxy to all those who come to her thirsting for it. (emphasis mine)

“And so, when converts came, they were unable to transmit the heritage of the Church of Antioch to them, but rather allowed a trial-and-error approach to figuring out what a lived Orthodoxy is.”

That’s a pretty convicting statement. Along similar lines, a non-Orthodox friend of mine once made the observation to me that he appreciated the Antiochians’ willingness to take the best parts of Protestantism and roll them into a version of Orthodoxy that maintained the grandeur and the ritual while taking on an American populist flavor.

I am deliberately keeping my cards close to the chest, but what I will say for the time being is that describing the approach as “trial-and-error” really resonates with me. I believe I’ve seen that in action, as well as how it doesn’t work in the long run.

Beyond that, I’m more interested in hearing what others have to say rather than shooting my own mouth off on the matter.


8 Responses to “Ochlophobist’s “brief outline of some of the grievances””

  1. 1 Basil Crow 26 June 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Antiochian Americans not only failed to transmit the heritage of the Church of Antioch to converts. They also failed to transmit that heritage to many of their own children. As a particular example, take the oral tradition of Byzantine music, which has by and large been lost in Antiochian parishes in America. The loss of the oral tradition is lamentable, since any efforts to educate people in the received tradition of Byzantine chant now face immense challenges. Perhaps monasteries might have been able to preserve the oral tradition, but there are none. Instead, most chanters in Antiochian parishes in America, through no fault of their own, are dangerously inept (objectively). An unfortunate side effect of this lack of immersion in the oral tradition is that legitimate new Byzantine music efforts from the past decade have gone largely unnoticed by Antiochians in America (or, worse, these efforts have been resisted).

  2. 2 rwp 27 June 2009 at 11:14 am

    Sorry, but I’m unconvinced that anyone in the Old World has any business being morally superior. In the Middle East, they’re dhimmis and do what their Muslim overlords tell them to. The Russians’ idea of a good time is traditionally, and with the full blessings of the church, murdering Jews. And the Greeks? Well, take a trip to your nearest Greek church, with their “Hellenistic” organizations named after pagan deities set up in the basement.

    My priest used to say God gave the right religion to the wrong people. Boy, was he right about that. I think I’ll take my chances right here in the US, and let the Old World stay there where they can continue to murder each other over crap that happened hundreds of years ago. They may be Orthodox, but they’re barbarians.

    • 3 Richard Barrett 27 June 2009 at 1:03 pm

      Forgive me, Professor, but I’m somewhat unclear about to what, exactly, this is a response.

      • 4 rwp 28 June 2009 at 6:55 am

        To the implication of this: “And so, when converts came, they were unable to transmit the heritage of the Church of Antioch to them, but rather allowed a trial-and-error approach to figuring out what a lived Orthodoxy is.”

        By the way, the Finkes had their baby.

      • 5 Richard Barrett 28 June 2009 at 7:53 am

        As did Matthew’s sister and brother-in-law! Many years all around!

        I will let Owen or Samn! speak for themselves, but I’m still confused, because I don’t read what you’re objecting to as having anything to do with an assertion of moral superiority. The issue which is being raised, at least as I read it, is that the groups who came over to the United States were already bringing over an abbreviated version of Orthodox Tradition, at least as far as practice goes, and perhaps as far as the teachings go. I was having a conversation with my chant teacher this morning where he told me that the Greeks who came over to the United States, by and large, did so in the middle of a movement to heavily modernize their services, and so that’s the legacy that has been inherited in GOArch. The Church of Greece is now well past that, he says, and has re-embraced traditional liturgical practice and music, but because that isn’t what America got, it’s an uphill battle to try to right the ship, as it were.

        Thus — again, according to how I read Ochlophobist’s and Samn!’s postings — converts have been allowed to be even more selective, and even innovative, in what they choose to take on, to the extent that when they’re told that what they’re doing is out of the ordinary at best in the grand scheme of things, a reaction which can range from bewilderment to hostility is not uncommon. I’ve certainly seen it happen under various sets of circumstances, not all of which I’d want to go into in this forum.

        We’re not talking about moral superiority on the part of the Old Country(ies), at least as I read it. We’re talking about received tradition being treated as one part buffet of options and one part potluck, rather than as a seamless garment.

  3. 6 ochlophobist 27 June 2009 at 8:05 pm

    There is an Antiochian skete (St. Paul Skete) in Grand Junction, TN, a little over an hour away from my parish in Memphis (St. John’s). Mother Nectaria is not Arab. I suppose that is why her existence is ignored by the hierarchy. At an Antiochian women’s conference not long ago, +Thomas spoke of the plans to start the first Antiochian women’s monastic community in the US. He said that about an hour before Mother Nectaria was about to speak. Our parish is quite involved at the skete, frequently sending priests and deacons out there for services. When we don’t send priests there for Liturgy, Mother is at our parish. Her presence is a leaven. I am very grateful that my daughters are growing up thinking that it is perfectly normal to be friends with a nun.

    Samn!’s comment about the lack of connection between the AOANA hierarchy and the Arab monastic revival is telling.

    As an aside, we have both 4-part Russian-lite and Byzantine choirs at our parish, and we regularly have Byzantine chant classes, something along the lines of the work coming out of St. Anthony’s in Arizona. We only have a few of truly competent Byzantine chanters, but a number of us are working toward that end. Your prayers are appreciated.

  4. 8 ochlophobist 27 June 2009 at 8:09 pm

    I just noticed Basil Crow’s excellent Arab Byzantine resource, and I will certainly bring his work up at our next Byzantine chant class.

    I am glad to have found this thread and found that resource.

    Thank you all.

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