Monday, November 1, 2010

Dealing with Disagreements with Church Hierarchy

Elder Paisios gives us advice about how to deal with the numerous disagreements differing groups express about the Ecumenical Patriarch or other Hierarchs of the Church.  Some even talk as if they want to split from the Church and some even have. 

Here is a story told about Elder Paisios
A group of monks from Mount Athos, who were somewhat sensitive, were thinking of stopping commemorating the name of Patriarch Demetrios during the service, because they claimed he had publicly expressed a positive attitude towards the Vatican.  They went to Father Paisios to express their unbending opinion on the matter, and were bombarding him with various arguments to support their decision to stop commemoration of the Patriarch. 
When they asked him for his opinion, he replied:
- What can I say?  I am also very disappointed with our prime minister. He has destroyed Greece by passing so many anti-church laws, even though the Greek constitution is written in the name of the Holy Trinity. I cannot bear this situation any more, and for this reason, I decided to leave Greece and Mount Athos and go to Sinai.
The monks replied:
- For God's sake, Father, don't do such a thing.  Don't leave because of the prime minister, for any day now he will fall and we will find our peace of mind.
The Elder told them smiling:
- You do the same thing just as you have advised me to do.  Be patient because it is not right to be detached from the Church of Christ.  We must pray to God to enlighten the officials of our Church to teach rightly the word of truth.
See, again, how the Elder so wisely handles correcting others? 

Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 114

1 comment:

  1. This is a most difficult issue being considered here. While I see wisdom in Elder Paisios' answer, I'm not sure it always applies to every situation. A corrupt hierarch is one thing, an heretical hierarch is another.

    I suppose it can be argued that it is the heretic that has introduced a novelty, and by so doing has separated himself from the true Church, and if not removed from office, is in reality holding that office unlawfully.

    But removal is not something easily accomplished, nor should it be I would think. The people can, of course, rebel and express their displeasure to all the relevant authorities, and they can refuse to follow the heretic's instructions, but this does not solve the problem if he remains in office. Only removal from office can do that.

    But what if a whole range of hierarchs embrace an heresy, what then? Suppose that the hierarchs and synods of whole local churches, even the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and all those in communion with same, embrace heresy? What then?

    I can see the argument here, for example, from the Old Calendarist side. They would argue, I believe, that they are not the ones breaking communion with the true Church, but with heretics who have themselves broken with the true Church by the fact of their heresy, and that they will return to communion with the offending jusrisdictions when the heresy is abated and the heretics cast off.

    And could it be argued that, in the case of the Old Calendarists, that they have not broken with the "Patriarchate" of Constantinople, but rather with the person of the "Patriarch" of Constantinople? I'm not sure how you separate them, however, in any meaningful sense.

    BUT, for the average Orthodox person, who is not trained in all the relevant subtleties from a legal standpoint, I'm not sure how they make a decision in such matters that they can feel confident with. After all, we depend on our hierarchs to keep US on the straight and narrow, and that the Holy Spirit will straighten things out.

    We see from history that there have been times when the whole Church was divided and rocked by heresy, the Iconoclast period being a case in point. And even Mt. Athos broke from the Ecumenical Patriarch over the ecumenical heresy issue and the Calendar novelties being introduced. So were all the monks on Athos in the wrong?

    I believe in my heart, as an Orthodox Christian, that the gates of hell will not prevail, but history also seems to show that hell can really disrupt the machinery, and sometimes for extented periods of time.

    I admit that I am speaking here from the point of view of a simple and untrained lay person, who has no special expertise in the legal complexities of this most difficult of matters.

    I am in a jurisdiction that is in communion with the EP, but I must also confess that this ecumenical business and membership in the WCC is not something that I am in agreement with. Is it heresy? Well, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

    If it were ONLY a Calendar issue, it might not present so great a problem to resolve, but as we all know, the Calendar was only the tip of an iceberg, and we see the result...

    Division within the Church is never something to rejoice over, and it is most serious to pursue that course. But what is to be done when only one side is doing all the talking,and the other side isn't backing off from the novelties it has introduced and will not even discuss it?


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