For only the third time in the history of the establishment of SCOBA (The Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops in the Americas) the member hierarchs are meeting in Chicago October 3-5 of this year.
The last time the hierarchs met in Ligonier PA, they discussed organizational unity and came out with a provocative (to some)statement that the Church in America should no longer be considered "diaspora" (www.orthodoxwiki.org/Ligonier_Meeting).
Regardless of one's opinions about the Ligonier meeting, it did happen. Our hierarchs did make the statements they made, and the "cat" as they say is "out of the bag." We will never be the same Church we were before this meeting, and the events (which I will not rehearse here) happened and the ripple effects of the discussion of unity cannot be put back in the bottle.
That's a good thing!
I have found that most people like to avoid conflict. They do their best to either placate or ignore. They will use every psychological defense mechanism they have to either pretend there is no conflict or to sequester themselves among others who agree with them. However, this is not the path of the Christian.
We were made, we were redeemed, to experience the Life of the Holy Trinity, and the Holy Trinity is One.
So, where does conflict (and make no mistake, conflict is inevitable) fit in this vision of unity among Christians?
It so happens that conflict is NECESSARY for unity to be achieved.
St. Paul told the Corinthians that he was glad there were divisions among them. It was in the disputes that St. Paul could discern the wheat from the chaff (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-19).
Conflict and the hard work of communion isn't for the squeamish. Conflict reveals motives, fears, agendas, and all manner of things most of us would rather keep hidden. But authentic unity doesn't come from hiding ourselves. It comes from revealing ourselves in the midst of the safe and healing community of the Church where grace and mercy are always in abundant supply.
But we NEVER reach this safe place without conflict, both internally and externally. And while this conflict my be unpleasant, it is still good.
Some believe that all we need in our Church here in America is organizational unity. Others claim we are still too immature to have that kind of unity. Still others fight against this idea because they are still much more immigrant than American and they fear loosing their only connection to their homeland.
The fact is we are already united. We all come to the One Cup and feed ourselves from the One Body and Blood of Christ. We ARE one. Our nationality does not hinder this, only our sin and ignorant pride.
Would we better witness to the faith if we didn't have so many duplications of efforts? Well, of course we would. But do we really believe that the average parish in America is ready to nurture the hurting and seeking souls of average Americans looking for the fullness of the faith?
To be sure, there are many parishes who are already doing this nurturing, and this is where our organizational unity will come - from the ground up, just as it always has among us Orthodox.
That doesn't mean those calling for organizational unity should be silent. On the contrary, let's keep holding up the ideal as a mirror to the sad waste of resources that are hindering our witness. But do not be discouraged when others of equal sincerity disagree strongly with you.
This is the process that conflict always puts into motion - we are either working toward unity or displaying for all to see our hidden desire for division because of our fear or pride. Lord have mercy.
In the end, we will have organizational unity. It is inevitable, but let us pray that organizational unity will be a manifestation of our deeper spiritual unity and not simply a facade to hide our divisions. That kind of unity will do as much or even more harm to the witness of the faith.
I long for a visible unity of our Church and every time I go to the Cup with my brothers and sisters, my longing is quenched!
Well, dear ones, by God's grace Alexandra Georgia came into His world at 10:36 PM September 22nd, 2006.
She weighed 6.5 lbs and was 19 inches long.
As God has now granted her the grace to see the created light of this world, so now pray she will be granted the grace of Christian baptism and eyes to see the Uncreated Light of God's gracious energies and the Life of the Son.
To have another chance to raise another daughter for the kingdom of God is an awesome responsibility. As weak and prone to sin as I am, I will depend on your holy prayers to have the strength to fulfill this great task. I will stand before God and give an answer for the "church at home" given to me as a "talent" by the Master of the House.
Please pray for Alexandra Georgia, my dear and gracious wife, Connie, and myself as we live out the challenges of life under the mercy.
Islam, the religion of peace, wants Pope Benedict XVI to accept his dhimmi status! They say "Accept all criticism from us, level no criticisms against us." This isn't a clash of civilizations, folks. It is a defense of civilization against barbarity. As Ronald Reagan said of his strategy during the last days of the Cold War "We win, they lose."
How can Islam expect the West to really believe they are a religion of peace when beheadings are happening and violence seems to be accepted, or at least tolerated, by all Muslims. When these kinds of protest marches start occurring after the outrageous acts of some of their fellow Muslims, then they can be taken seriously.
Either we defend ourselves against this Islamic Crusade or we will see our grandchildren either forcibly converted to Islam or living as second class citizens under the turbin.
On this fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America, I wanted to explore the current state of this third "world war."
The three great Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - share many similar theological positions. Most of these similarities are seen in the moral teachings of these three religions.
But Christianity shares something with Islam that it doesn't share with Judaism and that is a missionary spirit. Christians were commanded by Christ to make disciples of every nation and the Koran commands Muslims to bring all people to the prophet's teachings. These missionary commands mean that Islam and Christianity constantly face the possibility of a collision, and this has happened on more than one occasion.
The history of Christian and Muslim relations has always been tenuous at best, with usually the Christian population being made "second class citizens" (the law of dhimini) in Islamic countries. After the lightening fast and violent overthrow of the Christian population of the Middle East with the rise of military Islam, the prophet's armies swept whole Christian populations away, either through martyrdom or forced conversions. The response of the West was slow in coming, but finally the West reacted. The Crusades began and Jerusalem was temporarily recaptured.
Unfortunately, the Crusades were ultimately a disaster for the faith and the West. But this shouldn't surprise anyone, since our Lord told Peter to put his sword away because "he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword."
In our own day, we now face a radicalized Islam. Some would say that the Islam we face today is actually the Islam the prophet intended. It certainly is the face of Islam at its beginning. Islam has always grown through military efforts. There is scant evidence of any other missionary strategy ever spreading Islam to a people group outside of conquest. Note that there are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, and in fact it is illegal to convert to another religion from Islam under Islamic law. As an aside, I wonder how many Muslims would convert to Christianity if they were not threatened with death?
Fighting fire with fire will not prevent militant Islam from attempting to do what they failed to do during the Middle Ages, that is bring Europe under control of Sharia Law.
So, how do we address Islam and deal with this threat to Christianity?
By addressing this threat in the proper arena - theology! Islam will be shown to be what it has always been - a Christian heresy - by a robust theological response.
But that would require us to reinvigorate our own theological education and seriously embrace the theological wisdom of the Undivided Church.
Here are three areas to focus on and to study that I believe will help us successfully combat the theological weaknesses of Islam.
First, the doctrine of the Trinity. The revelation of the Trinity is unique to Christianity. All three Abrahamic faiths declare fidelity to monotheism, but Christianity alone understands monotheism in a Trinitarian way. Islam rejects the revelation of the Trinity accusing Christians of polytheism. Islam goes further in declaring "He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him." Islam's strict (I would argue "wooden") monotheism teaches God as wholely other from His creation. Christianity maintains God's utter transcendence but also declares that God displays His power and love by actually entering into His creation through the miracle of the Incarnation and redeems humanity by assuming human nature into Himself. Without the doctrine of the Trinity Christianity has no theological defense against the rationalistic and anti-incarnational Muslim view of the Godhead.
Second, the doctrine of Humanity. Islam, like Christianity, sees humanity as fallen. But because of Islam's view of God, they also see humanity as gripped by "fate." The famous Muslim exclaim of "inshallah" or "if God wills" denotes the fatalism that enslaves both the righteous and unrighteous in Islam. Man is not seen as joyfully and lovingly created for intimate communion with God, but only as the object of God's mastery. God is always and forever separated from His creatures and all we are left with is subservient obedience. Man was made to fear God.
Christianity on the other hand, has a much more positive view of humanity. While fallen, to be sure, we are not left to ourselves to reach God and remedy this fallen state. No, being the object of Divine Love, our God comes to us to rescue us and restore us to intimate communion. Man was made to love God.
Finally, the doctrine of Redemption. Both Islam and Christianity see the need for redemption for humanity. However, because of Islam's view of God and Man, redemption in Islam is based on rationalistic obedience to the revelation of the prophet in the Koran and the subsequent "hadith" or sayings of the prophet recorded by his followers. The redemption envisioned by Islam is based on rewarding the faithful for their obedience and works of righteousness. The hope of reward and the avoidance of punishment are the main motivators for the follower of Islam.
Christianity, on the other hand, since its view of God is not only more Personal, but also Incarnational, sees redemption as initiated by a loving God coming to rescue His creation from mortality by entering into mortality and death and swallowing up the poverty of mortality into the unconquerable victory of His own immortality. This salvation is received by the Christian as he is integrated in the salvific community called the Church through holy baptism and the regular participation of the live of the Church, which is actually the life of the Resurrected Lord in the midst of His Body, the Church. All of this is made possible by the active and ever-present presence of the Holy Spirit where the Spirit creates an intimacy between the believer and the Uncreated God that transcends mortality and time.
This Trinitarianan understanding of redemption is at the heart of a doctrine of salvation that is antithetical to the sterile and fatalistic doctrine of salvation in Islam.
The only way radical Islam will be confronted and defeated is with a robust theological defense of the classic Christian theology of the Church. Weapons and political might will not overcome the heresy of Islam. Only the Good News of the Christian Gospel can liberate this world from what is essentially a Christian heresy.
It is time for the faithful to be what they are called - reason endowed sheep of the Master's flock.