I read an interesting piece in the Jewish Daily Forward about why people leave ultra-Orthodox Judaism (it’s here, for those interested), and it got me thinking about the different “flavours” of Russian Orthodoxy. I’m not talking about Greek Orthodoxy… only amongst us “Russians”. I’m NOT talking about “jurisdictional divisions”… that’s something else entirely. There are “camps” amongst us, with such diverse opinions that it’s simply stunning to the outsider. New Skete is in the same Church as Jordanville is… Lazar Puhalo and John Whiteford are in the same Church… SVS and Monomakhos are in the same Church, too. In short, there’s an amazing diversity in the Church. Anything not defined in the Creed or synodically defined IS up for grabs. That doesn’t mean that there’s no unity in the Church… there IS. It does mean that the Church offers us a freedom not found amongst Papists or Protestants. Perhaps, it comes from the Greek roots of Eastern Orthodoxy (let’s leave Oriental Orthodoxy to the side for the purposes of this discussion). The Greeks have a love of intellectual argument and disputation… it started in pagan antiquity and carried over when Greece became Christian. Ergo, if one has a “Greek” orientation (and all Eastern Orthodox do), that means that one would welcome intellectual ferment as a way of coming to the truth.
This marks us as distinct from papists, with their insistence on the juridical importance of one man at the head of the church, and as distinct from Protestants, who’re all-too-often Bibliolaters. That is, both Western forms of Christianity (and the Sectarians who branched off from both) restrict enquiry. Of course, papal infallibility is a fallacy. Orthodoxy doesn’t and can’t accept that… it’s why they’ll never be official reconciliation with the Church of Rome. On the other hand, we’re just as adamant about “biblical inerrancy”. The Church existed before there was a canonical New Testament (a trait that the Oriental Orthodox and the Church of Rome share with us), so, we know that the Bible is the Book of the Church, it isn’t the SOURCE of the Church, as the Church existed before the Book did… the Church defined that Book… the Book did NOT define the Church. Ergo, all ecclesiologies founded on “biblical inerrancy” are trashy and without foundation.
This leads to a situation that many of the more literal-minded can’t abide. The Church normally doesn’t anathematise individuals, even those such as Florensky and Bulgakov who taught rank heresy. When it does issue an anathema, it’s usually for something serious, such as attacking the Church’s unity, so, most anathematisations are for those who set up opposition candy shops, such as Rusantsov and Denisenko. The Church excommunicated G P Yakunin for publishing lies about the hierarchy of the Church under the Soviets… so, one can see that the bloviations of Monomakhos, Dreher, Whiteford, et al are mere wind.
The Church WILL survive Lazar Puhalo… there’s no need to kick him out. Likewise, the Church WILL survive John Whiteford… in like manner, there’s no need to kick him out. The Church can even abide disagreements about relatively minor things such as the Calendar. I go to a parish that follows the Catholic calendar, but I don’t go to Catholic Christmas… I don’t make a sanctimonious fuss about it, either. I simply won’t sanctify the Catholic date. I believe that time will set this right… if we don’t make a narcissistic fuss about it, the way Dreher and the Monomakhos toddlers do.
The older I get, the more that I’m not bothered by diversity in the Church. Mind you, I’m NOT talking about kissing the Pope of Rome’s ass, as Jillions and some at SVS do… I’m not talking about “aerial toll houses”… the Church closed down all discussion on those. I’m talking about compassion to individuals. I notice that most of those who call themselves “Traditionalists” show an unforgiving and unloving attitude that they justify by saying, “We’re confessing the Truth in Love”. That’s utter rot; through oikonomia, through its creative wielding of the Canons as truly loving instruments of healing and reconciliation, the Church accommodates MANY who’ve fallen afoul of this-or-that rule.
Here’s the sad part… most of those screaming for “Tradition” don’t realise that our True Tradition is one of Accommodation… that’s what oikonomia is all about. The Church demands conformity in what’s needful… it allows freedom in all else. Ergo, Monomakhos isn’t outside the Church unless it moves itself outside (which could happen… heretics leave all the time because we’re “not pure enough” for them). That is, they’re in the Church until they leave. Merely being a pain in the ass doesn’t remove one from the Church or from God’s Love. If the Almighty can abide them, so can we.
I’m not saying that you have to agree with them… you don’t. However, until they leave, they ARE of us, and I’d defend that to all comers. In my Father’s House there are MANY mansions… do recall WHO said that…