Voices from Russia

Friday, 30 October 2009

Is There a “Third Way?”

a fork in the road

Are there only two positions on ecumenism? Must we choose between “giving away the farm” or “speaking the truth in love”… or, is there a “third way?”


To me, the only really interesting part of all this is that I try personally to make a clear distinction between the kinds of ecumenical activity that seek some sort of forced-fit or dumbing-down of theology, and those that simply promote our knowing one another better and more deeply.  The former is something in which I have no inclination to engage; the latter, it seems to me, is a part of loving one’s neighbour, as Christ exemplified when he broke bread with Romans, tax collectors and other sordid characters… never giving an inch in terms of the significant differences they had between them.

In sum, if you were objecting to LK’s participation in the kind of ecumenical processes that “give away the farm”, then, I’m right with you.  I don’t know him well enough to make the same kind of judgement.

An honest and humble observer…


In this instance, I wish to totally protect my correspondent’s identity… I don’t wish any repercussions from the Syosset mafia to fall upon this estimable person. Such is my duty to my friends… it’s how I can best express my respect for them, isn’t it? This submission raises such good questions that I had to share it with you (and protect my interlocutor at the same time, no?).

What’s “giving away the farm?” A good example is the recent concordat signed between SVS and a heretical Episkie seminary, Nashotah House. The Anglicans compromised on none of their theology or on any practical matter… and received legitimation by their agreement with SVS. Nashotah House didn’t abjure the 39 Articles nor did they agree to condemn such things as female ordination or Calvinist theology. In short, SVS and an unrepentant Proddie body signed an agreement… with a bunch of Calvinists who’ve no intention of curbing any of their objectionable Protestant practises. In short, it was a classic illustration of an Orthodox body compromising its basic principles in its concessions to the party outside the Church, and the heterodox party emerged with its assumptions intact and whole, without making any attempt to fit them to the Church’s dogma and tradition. JP’s signature to all of that was an open and brazen slap in the face to the MP… which has broken off “dialogue” with the TEC and has condemned the “branch theory” explicitly, a heresy that the OCA implicitly accepted by its acceptance of a pact with a TEC institution. Don’t forget who wrote the MP’s condemnation… His Nibs did, when he was still a metropolitan and head of the MP DECR..

“Speaking the truth in love” appears more truthful… at first glance, only. Part of the problem with it is that unscrupulous sorts use it to continue the fruitless “ecumenical” dialogue. If there’s nothing of use in such talks, if it leads to nothing but the pointless issuing of papers on topics that the parties either never disagreed upon or will never agree upon (due to the basic dogma of the groups involved), “speaking the truth with love” is just as bootless as “giving away the farm”. Indeed, it’s WORSE… for the Orthodox party thinks that they’re “witnessing” to the heterodox. Trust me, the papists, Proddies, Pentecostalists, and the American Cultists (Mormons, JWs, et al) aren’t listening… they are NOT going to change one whit even if we were to talk until we’re quite blue in the face. Any discussion on doctrine is sterile as no party’s going to give in to the other. Ergo, this is worse than “giving away the farm”… it’s far more mischievous and we should stop it immediately.

But… isn’t there anything that we can do with those outside the Visible Church of Christ? Of course, there is! There’s a great deal that we can do together once we drive a stake through the heart of the ecumenical monster. People of good will can unite to support common goals in the community. We can work to help unwed mothers… we can help to feed the hungry… we can lobby politicians at all levels of government. That’s only a partial list. However… we can’t hold common prayer together or pretend that we’re one in Christ… we aren’t. To love one’s neighbour as a fellow human-being and to love what our Lord Christ taught us are two ENTIRELY different things. The first requires that we treat all of our neighbours with fairness and equity, at the least. The second requires us to understand that some are outside of the Body of Christ… and that this fact makes for a difference.

Yes, I agree that many disagreements and disputes between people arise out of ignorance, and that anything that “lights a candle in the darkness” is very good, indeed. No one’s more polite and civil to those outside the Church in personal situations than I am. They are what they are (and they’re emphatically NOT Orthodox). I’ve no right whatsoever to proselytise them (even if they try to proselytise me)… that’s the most inherently disrespectful thing that I can think of. I’d keep the discussion focused on things of common interest and approval, and would politely (but firmly) steer the conversation away from any doctrinal matters… that never leads to any good, I’ve found. It’s sad that there are neophytes in the Church who think that they should “witness” to others in the same way that they did in their former confessions. If any of you have met such, I apologise to you most sincerely and profoundly, and can assure you that grounded Orthodox do NOT act in such an inconsiderate and impertinent way.

So, is there a “third way?” Yes… happily, there is. In fact, the Church has followed it for many centuries… it’s NOT new. Let’s remember what a wise Ecumenical Patriarch once said…

Send us no more letters on doctrine. Send us letters of friendship, only.

Now, THAT’S what I agree with. I believe that I’m not alone…

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Friday 30 October 2009

Albany NY

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Whose House Is It, After All?

Filed under: intellectual,internet — 01varvara @ 00.00

Russian izba

Well, dear readers, you have often heard me say that my enemies are a greater inspiration than my friends… it’s happened again! Firstly, I had a couple of problematic “comments”, so, I e-mailed them (and my replies) to my staritsa in Russia for her opinion. She was to the point. “Remove them and your comments on them. You shouldn’t have been tempted to reply to such. You weren’t wrong, but, you were unwise”. That was the entire message… but, I don’t think that there is any ambiguity in it, is there? Those making the comments were not right… but, I was not wise in replying to them. I think that her message is clear… if someone wants to come to blows… spam them without mercy. Don’t reply… no matter how egregious and insulting it is. So, if you wish to begin a hue and cry, don’t stop here. I’ll spam you and that’s that. But, it does open up a discussion on what obligations an internet poster has to the public.

Firstly, you note that I often put URLs in my work as “footnotes”. That is, you can go and check my sources for yourselves. That is to say, I am not pulling “rabbits out of the hat”, so to speak. Sometimes, the information comes directly to me. I have no obligation to publicise my sources. Indeed, I have the duty to protect my sources, especially in times such as these (a priest-friend said to me, “There is a civil war going on for the soul of Orthodoxy in America. There are tons of information and disinformation out there”… I think that all of us would agree with that assessment). Then, why should you trust me? To start with, one can see that I am responsible in using public sources… ergo, it stands to reason that I would be as careful with private ones. I have had the time to build up a network of contacts (such does take time and effort… and some blind alleys, to boot), so, I do have something of value to offer the public.

Secondly, I do not waste my readership’s time. I have a duty to stick to the point, and come to my conclusion in as swift a way as possible. Otherwise, I waste your God-given time. That would make me a thief… no question on it. Therefore, each post is an essay of about 800 to 1,500 words. You cannot make your point adequately with fewer words than the smallest amount (800 words)… you don’t know what you’re saying if you can’t prove your line of reasoning with the largest amount (1,500 words)… so, there!

Thirdly, I must troll for information in all sources. You note that I use information from oca.org… they don’t realise that there are glaring lacunae obvious to anyone with knowledge of the history of the Church… but, it is useful despite the webmaster’s intent and Syosset’s skullduggery. Mark Stokoe’s site, Orthodox Christians for Accountability, is an interesting gemischlichkeit… on factual reporting, it is usually spot-on, but, its opinion pieces are, to put it mildly, “interesting”. I agree with neither of these sources… yet, you read things that you don’t agree with in order to see the situation in all of its facets. It is much like how we read Pravda in Sov times… you knew it was complete hooey in many respects, but, there was “gold in them thar hills”, so, you picked up your shovel and dug for it!

Fourthly, (this is the section that some are going to moan about) I have no obligation to give anyone a forum, but, I also have no right to egregiously attack any private person, that is the flip-side of that statement. Note well that there are different standards for public and private individuals. The bar is higher for ordinary people. That is proper, for “common folk” do not have the same influence on events as “public figures” do (therefore, they have a greater right to privacy). Most priests are “private individuals”… they don’t have any more power to affect events than you or I do. Some priests are “public figures”… by their offices, influence, and/or known ability they can affect events, often profoundly (examples would be Alexander Lebedeff in the ROCOR and Igor Burdikoff in the OCA… I am not comparing these two; I am simply stating that both are “public figures”).

Fifthly, and lastly, I shall not go behind someone’s back and try to enlist either clergy or laypeople in a personal campaign against any given private person (all understand the clear mean-spirited nastiness and brutish cruelty of such). I shall not post any critical comments slamming any ordinary person on any other website, nor shall I use a pseudonym to attack any common and private person. If I say something, it shall be here, under my name. If I were to do otherwise it would be beyond the pale and outside the limits of polite and acceptable behaviour. That is why the MP recently (and correctly) censured anonymous internet posting.

Whose house is it, after all? It’s mine! Ya’ll come and be welcome! To all people of good will… please, take off your shoes… here’s some slippers… come, come, to the table… eshli, eshli, na zdoroviye! To all those who are not of good will… I got a shotgun and I know how to use it… BLAM! …then, I’ll set the dogs on ye!

It’s all up to you…

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Thursday 29 October 2009

Albany NY

Intolerant Tolerance: Wonderful Words for Appalling Actions

crown of thorns barbed wire


We have a lot of that here in old famous, tolerant Sweden… intolerant tolerance. Vladimir Bukovsky, who went to the GULag for twelve years and now lives in Britain, says that we in the West have our own GULag: an intellectual GULag, which is the beginning of the physical one.

Thomas Hermansson

One of my readers, again, gave me the central thesis of the current submission. Thank you, Thomas… it all comes with ease after a coherent idea for the core of one’s argument is given. I’m in your debt, sir. One of the particular features of the intolerant élite is that nothing they say has any resemblance to frankness, honesty, and real toleration… indeed, their addiction to what Orwell called Newspeak deforms their every statement. Christianity hasn’t been immune to the ravages of this intellectual malady… it even ravages those portions of the Church that heterodox and secularist trends have infiltrated. Here are some extracts from an article, Reorganizing Religion, by David Mills. I’ll post the URL at the end for those who wish to read the entire piece.

These people will at least as often reject a perfectly sane orthodox man because he’s orthodox, although this is never the reason they give. They take his settled belief in the Creed as “rigidity”, or “legalism”, or intellectual immaturity, perhaps, hiding deep insecurity, if not something worse. If he shows any passion in his care for truth, he’ll be judged to be “angry”, or to have “authority issues”, or to be “unable to work with others”…

If he tries to defend himself against any of these charges, no matter how gently he speaks, he’ll be accused of “defensiveness” and an inability to listen to others, and, probably, also, of the ever-useful “issues with authority”. (I’ve heard, with some bemusement, men and women who proudly rejected most Christian doctrines, including the ones the authorities of their churches insisted they hold, cluck with annoyance at someone who had “issues with authority” because he disagreed with some diocesan resolution which had no actual authority whatever)…

These commissions will define “gifts for ordination” as the skills and personality needed to maintain the system more or less as it is. In other words, they judge people’s vocation by whether they’ll be good parish pastors who’ll maintain the parishes, which, in practise, often means inoffensive therapeutic types with a suitably elastic theology and a commitment to “be a part of the diocesan team”, which means, amongst other things, being happy to transfer a good part of the parish’s wealth to the diocese. Jesus wouldn’t have made it through the usual ordination process, nor would any of the apostles save Judas. I’m not joking, although this may be unfair to Judas…

The problems with such a system will only be seen in times of crisis, and, then, only by certain critical outsiders. When radical change is needed, the bureaucracy will be almost completely blind to it, and unless radically threatened (by a loss of funding, usually) won’t easily be brought to see it. To change will mean to give up what they’re doing, which very few of those in the centre can easily accept…


The above is a correct rendering of how things work in the OCA, especially at SVS. SVS is thoroughly infested with a heterodox ethos… the recent signing of a covenant by SVS with an Anglican institution points this up clearly… which one was which? What does such lead to, speaking frankly? It leads to people such as Timothy Blumentritt being put in positions of authority because of their “certification” as “therapists” (the high priests and gurus of secularism… SVS approves and employs such to show its subservience to the zeitgeist (in this, is it any different from Nashotah House, then?)). This, in turn, induces seminarians to trust such people. Finally, this leads to situations such as the affair surrounding Eric Iliff… let’s not forget that it involved a homosexual assault by a SVS faculty member that led to Eric’s eventual suicide (I find that Mr Iliff committed suicide only after he initiated a civil action against SVS highly problematic… I’m not alone in thinking such). SVS NEVER offered an adequate and real repentance for this situation… which was of its making.

In addition, note how this system circles the wagons around even the most egregious violators of pastoral norms. The Syosset apparat defends Raymond Velencia tooth-and-nail … they’re even willing to drive the OCA into bankruptcy to afford his legal fees. Why? He’s nothing but a dishonest and nasty-minded priest… if he were to go, well, it wouldn’t be a loss or menace to the Church at large. Indeed, it would’ve cost the OCA MUCH less money to have convened an ecclesiastical court, kicked the rascal out, apologised to Kristi Koumentakos, and compensated her for her actual damages. Why wasn’t such a reasonable course followed? To change will mean to give up what they are doing, which very few of those in the center can easily accept… I think that this wraps it up well. They refuse to change… why? If they were to do so, it’d mean that they’d have to abandon the project begun by ADS. They’d have to return to the ethos of the days of Leonty Turkevich and Kiprian Borisevich… and that they REFUSE to contemplate. It’d mean that not only their idol, but, they, themselves, were WRONG (and wrong not only for a short time, but, wrong since the late ‘70s at least). I’d argue that the Schmemannshchyna proper ran from the death of Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich in 1965 until the death of ADS in ’83… the Hopko and Meyendorff years weren’t as completely nasty… JM was an actual scholar (thereby watering down the evil sowed by ADS) and TH was incompetent not evil (although it’s true that the fumbling and bumbling of the inept does lead, too often, to an evil result… as we saw in the Iliff affair).

This is, indeed, an “intellectual GULag”, and no one can point it up. If one doesn’t parrot the secularist/heterodox party-line of SVS or Syosset, one isn’t allowed to become a priest or work for the Church. This has led to the current impasse. The mantra is, “Everything has changed”… then, why is Kishkovsky still in power, as he’s been for the last 30-odd years? Reflect well on the fact that many of the senior apparatchiki in the OCA started their rise in office in Soviet days… a friend of mine made the following comment:

As a rule, the Soviets only made people on whom they had kompromat into bishops (such was the case with Bloom… otherwise, they would’ve deposed him decades before). I’m sure that this was the foundation of the OCA.

This is the dirty and unspeakable secret… that the Sovs vetted almost all the upper level of the OCA (not only many of the bishops, but, many archpriests such as Kishkovsky and Burdikoff, as well) and these fellows were found acceptable to the Council on Religious Affairs (the Russians booted out such people, but, they lived on in the diaspora). Oh, yes… they parrot all the shibboleths about “peace”, “love”, and “politeness”. They’re so “nice”… however… reflect on the fact that these “nice people” tried to steal the parish property in Mayfield PA from the good folks of Russian Hill (only the wording of the original property-deed, which contained specific clauses and precise definitions to prevent the papist bishop from seizing the church, saved their bacon). Reflect on something else… they spare no cost on lawyers or out-of-court settlements. I’d say that they’re trying to cover appalling actions with sugary and wonderful words.

Which do you believe? Do you believe what your eyes show you? After all, it  only reflects what actually happened! Or, do you believe the honeyed words of JP and Co? Everything has changed… he says so (he DOES wear a white hat, doesn’t he?)!

I know what I believe… what about you?

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Thursday 29 October 2009

Albany NY

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

You Have the Right to Remain Silent…

Filed under: Christian,intellectual,religious,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00


One such fellow sent us a 7-page letter to the editor and demanded that we print it in full and embark upon a wide-ranging debate in the pages of our paper about why we were wrong. Needless to say, we didn’t do so. But, I have always wondered if there isn’t some tendency toward totalitarian thought among people like that. Probably, a nice guy otherwise, but, something about our resisting his “authority” rankled him.

Andrew Sabak

We have all met those who bloviate continually on “free speech”… how good it is… how much they are in favour of such… blah, blah, blah. There is one constant that I note in such sorts… you can say anything that you please… as long as it agrees with what they think is the truth. “You have a right to your opinion”… usually prefaces a rant demanding that one not only retract one’s statement, but, also remove it from public view and a demand to keep your mouth shut in future. A variation on this is, “I hate to criticise others, but…” This is nothing but weasel-words and mealy-mouthed hypocrisy. Such sorts do not “hate to criticise others”, but, since the therapeutese regnant amongst the overeducated states that “criticism” is a bad thing, they, of course, do not wish to do so… but, they MUST… because the object of their wrath is being so “nasty” to “nice” people.

One of my interlocutors recently started a post by saying, “I hate to criticise others”… I would say to that person, “Grow up! You wish to criticise me and you hate what I am saying against your idol. Be honest… be frank. Don’t be a phony and don’t be afraid of admitting unpleasant truths. You’ll feel better and be a better person to the others around you. In short, be less tight-arsed and overly-earnest… Disagree openly and without dissimulation… you will find that your opponents are often respectable folks (you might like them better than some of your allies… I have certainly found that true in life, dear) that will respect you for that. You’ll probably smile more and everyone will like you better”.

However, I think that Mr Sabak hits the nail precisely on the head with “I have always wondered if there isn’t some tendency toward totalitarian thought among people like that”. As for me, if you wish to disagree with me, well, I say that you should get to work and do your best! I don’t mind objective argument… note well that I do not bring up anything personal in my argumentation… anyone who replies in like kind is welcome. I would warn my readers that anyone who tries to destroy a thesis by ad hominem citations is beyond the pale and we must reject them out of hand as  uncivil and loutish people. Besides… ask yourself… why are they getting personal, especially when the original poster was not (note well that I do my best to protect the identities not only of my friends, but, of my foes also)?

Are there specific instances of “totalitarian thought among people like that?” Yes… I remember that after the death of Vladyki Cyprian in 1980, there was an incident at St Tikhon’s… a seminarian used “thee” to address God, and a modernist shoved him off the kliros… you see, the modernists insist that we use “you” instead of the more-traditional “thee”, and this seminarian’s action was just “infuriating”. No reason was given… those involved issued no apologies. This is how the Reonovationists imposed their liturgical innovations… in a nasty, cruel, and high-handed fashion. These are the people who the konvertsy praise and associate with… it makes me wonder how “traditional” they are… my Anglican friends assure me that many of those who convert to Orthodoxy are malcontents who tried their totalitarian shtick in their former confession, and failed. What’s that old saying…? Never buy a pig in a poke… It does seem to apply here.

Do be careful when listening to the totalitarians… they never tell the story in all of its fullness… then, they get upset if you add the missing detail… for instance, there was a fulsome (and disgusting) little blurb on oca.org pouring praise on Lyonyo Kishkovsky. You can see it at: http://www.oca.org/news/1974 (Here is a typical sentence from this tedious piece of fluff: He is especially recognised throughout the Orthodox world for his outstanding work in the field of inter-Church relations and ecumenical witness… doesn’t that make you wish to hurl?) It states that he has been rector of the OCA parish in Sea Cliff for 35 years… omitting the fact that there was a nasty court fight over the parish property and that most of the parishioners decamped for a new ROCOR parish founded after they lost their legal fight (Lyonyo was known for his personal nastiness in this case). It also omits to mention that Kishkovsky was head of the OCA DECR under Feodosy, Herman, and now JP… you see, JP claims that no major figure is left at Syosset from the former administration. THAT is a manifest lie and I shall say so openly. Totalitarian people not only lie by commission, they lie by omission as well… indeed, they may lie by omission more than they do by telling actual fibs. This is, perhaps, the most dangerous thing to watch for when you listen to totalitarians… do not attend to what they say openly as much as you should listen for what is left out.

You have the right to remain silent… to pay for the expenses of your betters… and to bow your head before their education and wisdom. After all, they only have your best interests in mind. The Church will be in danger if we tell you the story full and unexpurgated. Trust us… for everything has changed.


img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Albany NY

Editor’s Postscript:

I would like to thank Andrew Sabak for giving me the inspiration for this post. It all flowed easily once he gave me the central thesis of the argument. This is one of the more pleasant aspects of this work. I get to become acquainted with some very dear folk who spur me on to things that I couldn’t have thought of on my own. Vielen Dank! Ochen spasibo!

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