AT THE REQUEST OF FATHER BARANABAS I WILL POST HIS COMPLETE STATEMENT BELOW: His abbreviated comments above were intended to give a synopsis not to remove statements from context.
Below is a response I made to another poster who suggested that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not able to lead in the drive toward a unified witness of we Orthodox in this country because he is too beholden to "ethnic" pressures and has exalted ethnicity above Christ.
I respectfully disagree, but I also understand that when there are such strong opinions against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we have to ask what level of responsibility does the EP have for such strong feelings against its ministry of "first among equals" in our Orthodox Church.
Here is my response. As always, I would enjoy and appreciate your critiques and insights:
You have not been incoherent at all. In fact, reading your note and the scars you carry from the sad comments and actions of those connected to the Phanar puts me in mind of a story C.S. Lewis told about his struggle with some of the Psalms as they asked God to "destroy" enemies by "bashing" their children's heads against the stones, and other imprecatory words.
He struggled that such language would be in Holy Scripture and that such language would come from the lips of a follower of God. Finally, he came to the conclusion that these psalms were included in Scripture to show us just what we do to a man that we mistreat. We cause that man to wish the death of our children in as violent a manner as possible.
No wonder so many feel the way they do about the Phanar. As a convert, I am always amazed at the ignorant rejection of us by those who can ill afford to make more enemies! It seems that it is the height of arrogance to shun those of us who really want to be on their side. As I asked a congregation several months ago "Would Halki still be closed if 20% of Americans were Orthodox?" A group that so desperately needs friends comes across as unworthy of existence when they throw rocks at people who would be their allies if only they were open to the possibility.
Of course if traditional Orthodox countries were deeply Orthodox in truth as well as because of the happy accident of their births, these traditional centers of Orthodoxy would also benefit. But that reality will only occur when the Faith is believed deeply rather than seen as merely some cultural decoration.
I see this happening. I have spoken in several so-called "ethnic" parishes here in America and I am never disappointed by these dear faithful. Invariably someone comes up to me after my talk and says that they hunger for a more vibrant expression of their faith. I am convinced the rank and file Orthodox in this country and abroad are waiting for the leadership to call them to an actualized faith. I believe the leadership is preparing to do just that.
Chalk up my optimism to my naive convert status. Perhaps that is true. I do confess to a weariness of soul over the sick system of indirect communication and "byzantine" intrigue that all too often plagues some aspects of leadership in our Church. This legacy of the slave mentality is debilitating and weak and it is quite off-putting to those of us who prize strong and honest leaders who lead by example rather than intrigue and manipulation. I have seen enough of the latter to last a lifetime already.
Still, I have hope. I have hope and confidence that even if motivated by self-preservation, the Ecumenical Patriarch is not motivated "just" by this. To be sure, he, as all great leaders have, may have those around him who have agendas that are petty and small-minded, but I simply do not believe this is the case for the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Maybe this is because I watched him play with my little daughter and shower love and attention on her while all the "adults" discussed "weightier" issues. Perhaps it is because I want to believe that a man who lives under such persecution and strain cannot help but see that "fire" burn away those shallow and shortsighted motivations and agendas of the past failed policies. Perhaps I am too naive.
At the same time, I have no illusions that we are simply to cede all actions on behalf of the faithful here to those over there. I have come to gauge all actions and motivations from those in leadership with the simple litmus test of my mother: Will this or that action help my mom see the beauty and wisdom of Orthodoxy and convert or will these actions perpetuate the "wall" that keeps her convinced that Orthodoxy is simply an exotic religion that has no room for her.
I am counting on the "weakness" of the Patriarchate to protect him and us from the time-bound temptations of temporary power, and to call the world of Orthodoxy to that missionary genesis that saw this faith "turn the world upside down." This faith that created such beauty and the legacy of eternity I saw, albeit in "ruined" form, in city after city in Greece and Turkey and even in Rome.
Finally, please forgive the diatribe. I want so desperately to believe this obvious decline in Orthodoxy in this country is a necessary "pruning" ahead of resurgent growth and vitality. I believe this so strongly I have committed myself and my family to service as a Greek Orthodox priest in this country fully committed to the Hellenism that made Orthodoxy universal and equally committed to leaving behind the short-sighted nationalism that has kept Her imprisoned in a slave mentality that will be Her tomb if allowed to continue to dominate Her life.
I am an Orthodox Christian. My conversion, which may be discounted and derided by some, is lifelong. I am committed to the Church and to Christ, the Head of the Church, for the rest of my life. I choose to commit myself to the ecclesiology, the hierarchy, and the theology of the Church that calls on bishops to be authentic icons of Jesus Christ, not petty "princes" of ecclesial provinces where they rule as despots, but Chief Servants of the Chief Servant Who "made Himself nothing, and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross." I believe these men exist in our Church. I have met them. I am honored to serve such a bishop. This gives me hope.
In the end, we will see. Are there men among us? Are there men of courage that will lead or will our weak faith be judged by having weak men who are no more than "hirelings" to "lead" us; men who expend all their energies maintaining the "status quo" to protect privileges and perquisites. I believe we have true leaders among us and these men are now at work to bring our house in order.
We will "trust but verify," but we will go one step further: we will pray and honor those authentic leaders among us and we will support them with our love and prayers and our gifts and encouragements. They will know from our actions that there is a flock ready to be more than the circled wagons of fear-motivated persons only bent on "preserving" the last vestiges of an imagined past. We are a flock ready to be the Church here, in this place and at this time. We must be this Dean! My mother's salvation is depending on it. I love my mother, Dean, and so does Christ. This will be the motivation that moves the Church toward the authentic Orthodox ecclesiology we need to witness the faith to the whole world: we love our neighbor more than ourselves.