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Reformed Episcopal Church - Currently part of the Anglican Realignment but these days much more like the traditional Continuing Anglican bodies.


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Women Priests: History & Theology, Patrick Reardon

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"Eastern Right": Rod Dreher on Orthodoxy and Political Conservatism

When I opened the June issue of The American Conservative (TAC) last night, I was greeted by this article from Rod Dreher.  The following comment from the article stood out to me in light of the combox discussion that recently took place here at OJC  ("For Evangelicals and Others Considering Eastern Orthodoxy",  hereinafter "Considering Orthodoxy"):

On a practical level, any conservative who believes he can escape the challenges of modern America by hiding in an Orthodox parish is deluded. All three major branches of Orthodoxy in America have suffered major leadership scandals in recent years. And while Orthodox theology does not face the radical revisionism that has swept over Western churches in the past decades, there are nevertheless personalities and forces within American Orthodoxy pushing for liberalization on the homosexual question. And in some parishes—including St. Nicholas OCA Cathedral in Washington, D.C.—they are winning victories.

Dreher therefore corroborates what both Fr. Gregory Jensen and I have experienced in the Orthodox Church, as I set forth in "Considering Orthodoxy",  which is the increasing "Episcopalianization" of that communion.  If that weren't enough, several individuals commenting at Dreher's TAC article have also experienced it, and at least one person commenting there is an Orthodox Episcopalianizer.   The two individuals commenting at my "Considering Orthodoxy" article, Fr. John Morris and an "Orthodox Christian" who represents himself as a recently minted deacon, protested loudly about the liberalism charge, but here is yet one more witness to its reality in the Orthodox Church.  I reiterate, therefore, my caveat emptor to Evangelicals (who tend to be politically and culturally conservative) and other traditionalists considering Orthodoxy.

Here are some quotable quotes from the combox discussion at TAC (where, by the way, Fr. Morris carries forth his desperate apology):

As to Americans going to Russian or other Orthodox churches, I would have thought that men deserving of the name would stay and fight for what is theirs. Not slink off to someone else’s church, except under the sort of conditions that led to so many Protestants coming to this country in the first place. Until such conditions obtain here the rubric should be “I’ll take my stand” rather than “I’ll stand over there instead”.


Interesting piece, although, I think the bishops census of only 800,000 Eastern Orthodox adherents in the USA seems off by several million… And, more importantly, aside from the admittedly compelling, ancient beauty of its churches and liturgies, there can only be a tiny minority of Orthodox adherents or converts who experience or understand the church and its teachings at the level discussed in this piece. One wonders where the author and some of those commenting here are plugging into Orthodoxy. It cannot be solely from their experiences attending services or bible classess, can it?

Having grown up in a large Catholic enclave, and judging from what we constantly see going on in the headlines, on contraception, gays and gay marriage, abortion, sexuality in general, etc., I’ve always experienced the Orthodox church to be relatively liberal and non-doctrinaire, particularly when compared to Catholicism and many other US Christian denominations. I know Orthodoxy has largely conservative, unchanging views on all of these “values” issues, which do not substantively differ from those flowing from Catholic or Evangelical doctrine, but Orthodoxy does not seem to spend much energy on any of it, at least not here in the US. It has always felt more like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, its all good, do the best you can with your personal circumstances, God is with you just the same.

And, we’ll never see any Orthodox clergyman in the US refusing an Orthodox politician Communion because the politician commits to enforcing the laws of the land even if they may conflict with his personal views or the teachings of his church. We’re also not very likely to see any Orthodox clergyman suing the government…


Four years ago I resigned as the Rector of an Episcopal Church, left a decade long priesthood, renounced my orders, and along with the rest of my family became Eastern Orthodox. The particular jurisdiction that we became a part of was the Orthodox Church in America. I was sent by my Archbishop to an Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania for a year.

My family gave up a great deal so that we could become Orthodox, and we didn’t expect to be congratulated for that, but didn’t expect the cold reception that we got from many quarters either. We were ready to embrace Orthodoxy wholeheartedly, but never really felt like we were embraced back. The Sacraments that I had administered during my ten years of priestly ministry in the Episcopal Church were repeatedly characterized as being without any validity for the people I served. But, despite the arrogance, we found the OCA to be every bit as dysfunctional an institution, in it’s own way, as is the Episcopal Church. There seemed to be a disconnect between the sublime theology of the Church Fathers and our actual experience in the OCA. The reality we found in the OCA as an institution included an ethnocentric insularity and xenophobia among a great many ethnic Russians; anti-Semitism; a latent fundamentalism among a great many of the converts; shocking corruption and abuse of power in the hierarchy; and a good deal of hateful anti-Americanism among immigrant priests and monks, and even some American ones, that caused some members of my family to struggle with their faith in ways that they never had to do while we remained Anglican. That is perhaps the most pertinent reason that we decided to return to the Anglican Communion. But still it was a gut wrenching decision to make.

I was drawn to the Orthodox Faith because of it’s faithfulness to the ancient understandings of the Faith. My theology is very heavily informed by the theology of the Orthodox Church. I understand sin as bondage and sickness rather than as transgression. As a result, I have an Orthodox transformative understanding of salvation rather than a judicial one, meaning that the real object of salvation is God effecting an inner change in us. Again, the model of atonement I have is an Orthodox one of recapitulation, rather than appeasement. In other words, the need for the atonement was not to satisfy a need God had for punishment, but rather to recreate in us the image of God that we had lost, and to free us from the bondage of sin. I also share with the Orthodox church the focus on theosis – our participation in the divine life which changes us into the likeness of Christ. In that sense I see salvation not as a one time act, but as a growing relationship with God. I also am certain that the Orthodox church is right in their understanding of original sin, not as inherited guilt, but as our inheriting the consequences of living in a sinful world.

There is nothing keeping me from believing as I do and being Anglican. The Orthodox Church is however, at least as I have encountered it in the OCA, very defensive and aggressively anti-Western whenever talking about differences that exist between the two, no matter how small, no matter how long ago. I’m sorry but I’m simply not interested in nursing some old grudge about the Fourth Crusade, or about Eastern-Rite Roman Catholicism in the Ukraine. The Eastern Orthodox can be very enthusiastic grudge-holders.

I found that I needed to return to the Anglican Communion because I am culturally a Western Christian, and I see more clearly now than I did two years ago that the Western culture I was raised in is an inseparable part of who I am. It cannot be set aside without setting aside some things basic to who I am. Some might say, “What profit is there in saving your culture only to lose your soul?” However, I think that would be a false dichotomy. As I look around at the mostly eastern European congregations that are gathered in any Orthodox Church during the Divine Liturgy, I see that it is most often said at least partly in Slavonic, Greek or some other eastern language. It is obvious to me that, for those congregations, their ethnic identity and their being Christian are practically co-terminus. And perhaps that is not entirely a bad thing. The Christian Faith is fundamentally incarnational, and thus it naturally incarnates itself in a culture — be it Russian, or Greek, — or American, or British, or Chinese, or whatever.

I do not now belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church because I am not culturally Eastern, and I am unwilling and unable to live my life as a pretend Russian, or a pretend Greek. The faults of the Western Churches are the faults of Western culture. Eastern Orthodox Churches suffer from the faults of Eastern cultures. In the words of John Henry Newman, ”the Nation drags down its Church to its own level.”

Simply put, I was born and raised in the West so I am a Western Christian, I don’t think that I have any real option to be anything other than that. I have returned to trying to live out the ancient faith as best I can in the place in which I was raised and live. The Eastern Orthodox world, despite the things that it has to commend it, nevertheless has it’s own profound problems and I don’t think that running to it is the answer to what is wrong in the Western Church.

That last comment was, of course, particularly apropros.  Though I don't agree with every sentiment expressed therein, he got to the nub of it in his comments about Orthodox anti-Westernism.  If you convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, prepare to check your execrable Westernism at the door and to embrace the Eastern Orthodox ( = Byzantine) "phronema."

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Reader Comments (4)

As mention in the other post Justinian's Code influence but the east and west on sodomy laws until the 1950's in some countries. So, modern orthodox are much different than their Eastern Roman Empire counterparts. Justinian believe that God would punished the empire if their was too much homosexuality like the city of Sodom. The don't tell way of modern Eastern Orthodoxy is different than their ancestors. Justinian also hit Pimps of young girls in brothels in his law code infleunce by his wife who might had to perform in a brothel as a teenager and a nunnery was made into a home for ex- ladies of the evening by Justinian and Theodora according to Procopius. So, sex behavior mattered to the early Orthodox since the Church also got the emperors in the 7th century to abolished plays which were sexual in nature or made fun of the clergy. What a different from early Byzantium and Orthodox today. Orthodox today tend to emphasis what they think general american culture like which is not to talk about porn, abortion or homosexuality or be against those verbally.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergood point

Well, a lot of Eastern Orthodox have a romantic view of the Byzantine empire. Some on the left see it as a socialists society with equality but the Gini study on equality show it less equal then ancient Rome its predecessor. Byzantium like a lot of medieval societies had a land aristocracy the different is the ruler-the emperor and also his empress own a great deal of land because of the developments of the late Roman Empire. Also, the church had a lot of land similar to the church in Western Europe Also, modern Orthodox like to be pacifist while their ancestors couldn't since they had to first fight back Islam and of course lost a lot of land to Islam in the 7th century which brought Byzantium to becoming more medieval and less Roman in the ancient sense. They also fought the slaves to regain land in the Balkans and the relationship which took sour with the westerners during the crusade period which Eastern Orthodox do not forget the sack of Constantinople itself. in 1204.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergood point

I totally agree. The modern Orthodox, especially those here in the West and especially the Greeks, are not like their forebears, however much they go on about "the Tradition." Liberalism has infected their ranks just as surely as it has the Episcopal "church." The infection is simply not as advanced, that's all.

August 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterEmbryo Parson

Greeks today aren't what they used to be! We get that a lot.

Greeks don't fight like their Byzantine ancestors did. Hmmm, that's why Greece stood up to Italy in WWII and endured a vicious invasion by both the Italian fascists and Nazi Germans. Yugoslavia also stood up to Nazi demands and endured an invasion. Orthodoxy has just never developed a sophisticated 'just war' theory. War is a dirty but sometimes necessary business but we aren't going to fall into the trap that God thinks it's ok.

As for Orthodoxy and modern morality - I think modern Christians speak out too much about all sorts of modern moral issues, so much so that the public just doesn't listen anymore. In fact it is a fine line between expressing traditional views and being judgemental and hypocritical.

If you go to an Orthodox priest or spiritual father you will get the 'right' advice. Orthodoxy 'tolerates' its laity being siners for good pastoral reasons. What I find interesting is that clergy and laity aren't trying to 'lobby' to change things so things like abortion, pre - marital sex, alcoholism, practising homosexuality, pornography, etc are no longer sins. I've seen the pastoral approach work too many times to dismiss it. As people grow in Christ they adjust their behaviour to be more 'christlike'

April 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

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