How Do You Sing the Songs of Zion…

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So many of our Mainline denominations are becoming pathetic shells of irrelevance and heretical teaching. There have been a variety of schisms and people in exodus for at least three decades, my Episcopal Church being a case study in hemorrhaging and splintering. There are basically two choices, Exodus or Exile. To exodus is to leave it all behind, to find solace in Rome, Orthodoxy, or some sort of megalomania church. Or, in the case of orthodox Anglicans, to ‘come under Episcopal oversight’ of a foreign body. The new body then becomes characterized by the bitterness and memories of the old. The new body then tries to create an idealism from a bygone era, whether that be the ’50s or (God forbid) the 60s or 70s, or even the mega-church 80s.

There then the bitterness will extend to the ‘foolish ones’ who chose to stay behind. ‘They just stay because they are afraid for their jobs (or pensions, or whatever).’ The insecurity they feel in their ‘safe haven’ is projected upon those who are still in the ‘apostate’ tradition.

But what of those who choose exile in their own traditions? What of those who choose to stay in the Episcopal Church, for example? What of their fate?

There are no easy solutions and tomes have been written in this regard. Can you be apostolic and missional in Babylon? Can you be Catholic in the midst of heresy? Can you have Catholic order amidst ecclesiastical disorder? Can you sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land?

We, who are orthodox must find a different way other than schism and compromise. There are tools in the unopened chests of our tradition that must be employed. The first is repentance. Years of compromise in areas of sexuality have left us where we are today. How can we speak against one form of fornication when we have turned a blind eye to other forms of fornication for years?

We also need to repent for neglecting widows, the fatherless and the sojourners among us. Conservative Episcopalians in the US have been the arrogant elite who have failed to care for the poor among us and our fellow Anglican Africans overseas. While Christians have been dying and abused in this and every land, we conservative Episcopalians have been sipping brandy and talking about the stock market. It is time to repent.

Secondly, we need to pray. We need to create monastic and neo-monastic communities within our churches that call upon the power of God. No structural solution is as strong as the power of God working among his people. Prayer is also an antidote to the venom that characterizes so many of our own ranks. When we have Matthew 5 and Luke 6 hearts, the world will take notice. Only prayer can get us there.

Lastly, we (orthodox) need to work together. We need to rely on the power of the gospel and the koinonia of our mutual work. We need to worship and learn together. We need to be inspired to grow our churches and our own souls. We need to find out why there is revival in our world and ask the Holy Spirit to bring it to us. We need to scan the world for the fire of God and follow its light. We also need to share resources and even workers in the harvest.

There are no easy answers for those of us in Babylon. Only the path of Jesus.

11 thoughts on “How Do You Sing the Songs of Zion…

  1. FrNeo,
    To me, the choices are a false dichotomy; near the beginning, you call the choices “Exodus or Exile” for leaving, and then call staying “finding a way other than We, who are orthodox must find a different way other than schism and compromise.”

    While I agree that leaving for the Anglican diaspora is schismatic, to leave for Rome or Orthodoxy isn’t schism. And I would argue that it also, for a traditional person who strives to live the church of the Fathers, isn’t a compromise either. In fact, to me, coming home to Orthodoxy has been undoing the schism of being in a church that was a schism to start with, and has been life-giving and healing from the compromises of being elsewhere….

  2. I found your blog a few weeks ago and have been waiting for the opportunity to post a comment. While I agree with what Matrix wrote for the most part, I found this comment a little too assertive.

    I am a former evangelical Episcopalian who lingered in high church Episcopalianism for the first 12 or so years of my conversion (at age 24) to Christ. The last 20 years have been spent as a Greek Orthodox. My family and I did not migrate to Orthodoxy because of any rejection of orthodox Anglican doctrine, though maybe the callousness we sensed in the practice had something to do with it. We lived in Vancouver BC for about a year and belonged to St James Anglican church at the intersection of Skid Row and Chinatown. Had we stayed there, we’d probably still be Anglicans today, for this was a parish both evangelical and high church, with a cottage of celibate priests built almost as a lean-to against the church walls, with a welcoming door that opened directly onto the sidewalk, to minister to the destitute. But alas! we returned to Portland, and St Marks, though astonishingly beautiful liturgically, left us with a sense of futile ceremonialism. When I as a lay minister tried to develop a viable penance group and street ministry based out of the weekly Friday vespers, the clergy tolerated but ignored us and finally, with no support from them, we folded. Not long after that we attended our first Greek Orthodox liturgy, and found ourselves at home with the Greeks. That was, as I mentioned, about 20 years ago. Now, after many full years of grace with genuine Christian Orthodox pastors, we have fallen under the sway of businessmen and a convert priest fresh from San Francisco, vegetarian, anti-government, ecology and pacifism pushing, and proud of his status of “proistámenos” even tho this is his first assignment. It feels as though apostate Episcopalianism has trailed us here. Welcome to The Father Paul Show, playing every Sunday at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral!

    Forgive me, Fr Neo and other readers, if I seem judgmental. I am, and I don’t like it one bit. But the simply true and evangelical ancient faith I found in Orthodoxy is now being infiltrated, at least in the San Francisco metropolis, by religious professionals, from the bishop right down to the parish level. The hirelings whom Christ warned of. But “saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, how long?” It’s good that we have been warned, and even better that Christ is among us, His people, even beyond the institutional labels.

    What makes us all Orthodox (you and us) is that we believe in the real Jesus, who is not merely a historical person to debate over, but the Living One who walks among us still and whom we can follow in bodily fellowship, as He goes forth to gather His lost sheep.

    As I have written in my blog, I think that we are not in a post-Christian age but in a post-Church one. Not “church” in the sense of the Bride of Christ, but only in the sense of the human constructs that pretend to be “the Church”.

    As a priest, you are very challenged by the current state of the construct, or you should be. But, to use the metaphor of The Matrix, it is still possible to perform our reconnaissance in the Nebuchadnezzar, locating those who are ready to be unplugged from the matrix and bring them, uniting their bodies to their spirits, into the ship, which is the pilgrim Church. Thank God for that. But though we may work within the construct, the churchly structures, our rescue mission (if it is real) is not contained by it.

    Perhaps I’m not saying anything meaningful or understandable. I will be watching you thru your blog, and praying for you, brother. I wish you well.

    Go with God!

  3. Orthodox guys,
    You’re option may very well be THE third way. The options are many (or there are at least two) for those who leave TEC to get away from Anglicanism. I am reflecting mostly on those wishing to remain somehow tied to the Anglican Communion.

  4. Romanós,

    It seems to me you are saying that the Church is a spiritual entity, but that the ‘post-Church’ you mention means there is not physical reality to the Church. Respectfully, as Christ is both Human and Divine (physical and spiritual), should not the reality of his Bride be the same? I do not believe we can have one and not the other, or all is truly lost — we are meant to know and love Christ, and the completeness of that involves being part of his body, the Church, and working out our salvation together.

    Certainly, any institution where humans are present will have issues (due to our sinning); I would not expect less — indeed, I will pray for your priest and church. All the demons wage war against the Church and her priests. Pray for them, and please do not fall into the trap of denying that the physical Church exists.

  5. This is not a ‘Dear John’ letter, but I am responding to John H.

    No fear, John my brother, I am not falling into the trap of denying that the physical Church exists. I am a believing and practicing Greek Orthodox Christian, and I affirm the faith that is affirmed by all (canonically) Orthodox Christians. If you visit my blog, you will see that I also affirm what Dietrich Bonhoeffer affirms about the Church, which is in line with the Orthodox fathers. I am NOT saying that the Church is a spiritual entity, that is, needing no physical manifestation. No, not at all. If it were, the devil would leave us alone, as a group, wouldn’t he? But I also abide by the Orthodox saying, “We know where the Church is [canonical Orthodoxy], but we do not know where she is not [other individual believers in and followers of Jesus].” This saying I received from all my pastors in Christ, starting with Fr Elias Stephanópoulos (of blessed memory) right down to my last local Greek Orthodox pastor, Fr James Retelas (transferred over a year ago to California). I think the saying may also be in Bp Kállistos Ware’s book, The Orthodox Church.

    Brother, are you a member of a canonically Orthodox church? Forgive me, if I have been unclear or dismissive; that was never my intention, but as you wrote, “where humans are present [we] will have issues due to our sinning.”

    Pray for Romanós the sinner.

  6. Fr Neo,

    Is your name Neo short for Neóphytos the martyr?
    (Revered as a holy martyr, Neóphytos was born on the island of Cyprus in the town of Lefkara and lived to see Richard the Lionheart’s conquest of the island. He lived in a cave most of his life and was eventually killed for his faith; his historical value lies in the accounts he gave during the tumultuous era of The Crusades and his understanding of the various power shifts that occured during the time. Living from about 1134 to 1219, Neóphytos embodied the model of a monastic life at the time. He shunned all material possessions and lived in utter seclusion. He could be your nameday saint.) Anyway, your handle is probably related to Neo in the Matrix, as you seem to have adopted this metaphorical disguise.

    You wrote above, addressing me and the other Orthodox guy, “You’re option may very well be THE third way. The options are many (or there are at least two) for those who leave TEC to get away from Anglicanism. I am reflecting mostly on those wishing to remain somehow tied to the Anglican Communion.”

    From the above, it seems that you want to address your blog to other Episcopalians and would be happier if the already Orthodox wouldn’t comment. Forgive me if I have intruded. It just seemed that for one so obviously seeking Orthodoxy, you would accept the comments of live Orthodox people, and not just those of authors of books, live or dead.

    We are followers of Jesus before anything else, so as to denominations, let’s let the dead bury the dead, and concentrate on serving Him in whatever circumstance (including church affiliation) we find ourselves.

  7. Romanos,
    I’m afraid that wasn’t the Neo of reference, but I like it! You’re right about my handle.

    I am glad you’re here! John H and I have great history together and I believe it was I who recommended Orthodoxy and the particular parish he is now a part of. I made some notes for a class on http://padreneo.blogspot.com if you would like to peruse it and hopefully you’ll find my thoughts on the Christian East.

  8. Romanós,
    FrNeo is correct.. he recommended the Orthodox church my family attends (years ago), also part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

    I’m sorry if I was forward. I am familiar with the quotes you have provided, and also with Bp. Kallistos’s book and that exact passage. I, of course, agree completely, but was unclear of the context of your first post. Thank you for clarifying!

    FrNeo perhaps was addressing those who wish to remain Anglican in this specific post, but it is in no way the theme for every post on his blog… Please, stick around, post comments. You have interesting and thoughtful things to say! (in case you ‘click through’ on my name, my blog link is actually mostly written by my wife, I post quite rarely)

    My brother, pray also for me, a sinner.

  9. Just ran across your blog. As a former Episcolpalian, I figured I should weigh in. I became Orthodox. Antiochian, because that is where the most converts are, I knew a priest for years from that Patriarchate, and God, it seems, wanted me there (too much to go into). My parish is one of the EOC parishes that originally came in 26 years ago. Theology is much better. And the Liturgy, to me, actually seems to have come from God where the Anglican always seemed man made. Looking back, it seems to be the poor cousin of St. John Chrysostom’s. Good books are “Becoming Orthodox” and “Looking for God in a Land of Shallow Wells”. Also, just read a 2007 article last night from The New Republic entitled “The Iconoclasts” http://www.tnr.com/article/the-iconoclasts#

    Hope this helps. I can’t tell you how happy I am in

    Orthodoxy. Finally Christianity ‘works’.

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