Whether secular or religious, “contemporary humanitarianism is remarkably passive, allowing its adherents to detach themselves from the great ‘communities of action,’ such as nations and churches. Instead, they find salvation for themselves in strident affirmations of individual and collective autonomy, and not in deference to the grace and goodness of God.” Whether religious or secular, the adherents of contemporary humanitarianism live in a morally bland and affectively flat world “without heroes or saints, a world in which the capacity to admire what is inherently admirable is deeply undermined.”
Beloved children in the Lord: May God’s grace and peace be with you.
As every year, we are communicating with all of you with a heavy heart from the historic and martyric Mother Church of Constantinople while prayerfully commemorating the Holodomor of the Ukrainian People, the tragic and inhumane events of the years 1932-1933, when countless human beings lost their lives through deliberate and brutal famine. This tragedy inscribes itself among other atrocities against humanity and God’s creation committed over the twentieth century, the most violent in history thus far.
As we pray for the repose of the victims’ souls and for the healing of this painful wound in the conscience of your blessed Nation, we remind all people of goodwill that the Church does not tolerate injustice or any type of force that undermines social cohesion. Rather, it underscores the social teaching of the Christian Gospel and promotes diakonia and philanthropy. Orthodoxy’s responsibility is to serve as a positive challenge for contemporary humankind, a God-inspired perspective of life and an expression of authentic freedom.
When remembering the past and learning from its tragedies, we ought to move ahead into the future with compassion and forgiveness. For, it is in the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, that we are spared from sorrow and suffering, while at the same time we find strength to forgive and love all people. Our Ecumenical Patriarchate is strong because it has a sacrificial love and acts through humility and the Cross. His story is filled with martyrdom and sacrifice for the world, for all peoples and for all nations. The Church of Constantinople, as the Mother Church, is the incarnation of the free love of Christ, who does not crucify but is crucified, who sacrifices His soul for His friends – for all men.
For this reason, it is inconceivable that the Ecumenical Throne – which according to the Holy Canons is responsible for the unity and stability of Orthodoxy – would remain indifferent when an Orthodox people, such as the Ukrainian people, suffer and seek a solution to the ecclesiastical problems that have tormented them for centuries. Therefore, we intervene by obligation – always on the basis of authentically ecclesiastical, truly universal and purely supra – national criteria – for the truth and tradition of the Church, the defense of canonical order and the identity of Orthodoxy, all for the purpose of building up the body of Christ, not for ourselves and not for demonstrating worldly strength and power. By remaining indifferent, we would be left with no excuse before God and history.
This great responsibility of the Mother Church, the Holy and Great Church of Christ, certainly has no limits. That is why, just as we have granted autocephaly to all local Churches, the Holy and Sacred Synod has similarly decided to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which is tormented in many ways, so that she, too, may join the plentitude of Orthodoxy in unity and internal peace. Only the First Throne of Orthodoxy, the Church of Constantinople, holds this high responsibility according to the Holy and Sacred Canons.
May God grant rest to the souls of all the victims of the Holodomor, and may He grant all of you, dear children, patience in trials, as well as love and forgiveness for one another. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 24thof November, 2018
The fervent supplicant befoe God,
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
I got this note from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous:
I don’t have accounts with any of the services required to leave a comment, so I submit here on the recent post, “American Orthodox Church by the Numbers.” On what basis do you conclude that converts depart “when the first flush of faith fades”? Have they truly lost their Christian faith? Have you data on the denominations-of-origin of converts, the average duration of their identification with Orthodoxy, or the destination denominations? Is there any sort of exit interview attempted by parish, deanery, or diocese representatives when someone departs? There are several publicly declared ex-Orthodox maintaining presence on the internet. Might interviewing them shed light on these questions? Thank you.
Over the years, I have spoken with those who have stopped attending the Orthodox Church. I’m more than happy to talk with anyone who wants to talk with me. However, I can’t respond meaningfully to someone who neglects (as in this case) to leave me a valid email address or some other contact information.Unfortunately, the data the questioner asks about doesn’t exist.
As for the data about why people leave the Church, it doesn’t exist. For my part, I’m happy to work to collect that data but that means a relatively large number of people need to speak with me about their experiences. Until then, the best I have in anecdotal information about what motivates someone to leave. More importantly, without at least a significant body of first-hand accounts, we not only can’t fix any problems, we can’t even identify problems in any meaningful fashion
More importantly, for the Church without a significant body of first-hand accounts, we not only can’t fix any problems, we can’t even identify problems in any meaningful fashion
As for the phrase “when the first flush of faith fades,” while the phrase is sharp, in context I’m talking about someone’s faith in the Orthodox Church, not Jesus Christ. Losing one’s faith in the Church doesn’t necessarily mean losing one’s faith in Christ. Neither, however, does losing one’s faith in the Church preclude an immature Chrisitan faith or indeed a loss of faith in Christ. Again, without talking to the person and without a broader context within which to interpret someone’s story, it’s hard to say why someone leaves (or indeed for that matter, stays).
In any case, No Spam if you, or anyone else, wants to talk about why you are no longer active in the Orthodox Church, I’m more than willing to listen to your story.
So, if you’re reading this blog and find what I post here interesting, please considering using the various sharing buttons to let other people know. It would also help me if you let a comment on a post you liked or used the rating stars to give me some feedback.
Having neglected to post on even a semi-regular basis, I’ve decided it’s time to rework my blog. I’ll be (selectively) uploading older posts and hope to add new ones in the near distant future.
So what’s going on here?
When my wife and I lived in Pittsburgh (the last time) I was asked by some laypeople to consider establishing a non-profit ministry that focused on spiritual formation and lay ministry. For a variety of reasons that project, the Palamas Institute for Orthodox Pastoral Studies, didn’t come to fruition. But I now think, please God, I have the time to focus on it.
In addition to my own posts, I am hoping to publish not only other Orthodox authors but also Catholic and Protestant Christians whose work can contribute to the pastoral life of the Orthodox Church. Specifically, I’m looking for people to write about Sacred Scripture, dogmatic theology, Church history, spiritual formation, liturgy and asceticism.
I’m also interested in cultural issues that have an effect on our life in Christ. So I’m also interested in authors who an offer an appreciative and critical understanding of philosophical, psychological and social issues in light of the Tradition of the Orthodox Church. But again, with a focus on the pastoral life of the Church.