Church

Eastern Orthodox Lose Two Evangelical Bridges

Christianity Today:

Metropolitan Jonah, by most accounts the highest-ranking, evangelical-friendly archpriest in North America’s Eastern Orthodox Church, resigned under duress in July.

His removal has observers less concerned about his leadership shortcomings, which allegedly led to his removal, than about the widening gap between conservatives and the Orthodox Church.

“His efforts were the most explicit attempt by any Orthodox hierarch to join with evangelicals and other conservatives in a common social agenda,” North Park University professor Brad Nassif said of Jonah’s nearly four-year tenure as primate.

Jonah, a former Episcopalian, was especially popular among the convert wing of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), which in 2008 constituted 51 percent of the denomination’s 85,000 North American adherents, according to the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute.

His ecumenical social efforts also endeared him to a wider conservative audience. In 2009, he linked arms with prominent evangelicals and conservative Catholics in signing the Manhattan Declaration, which defended a traditional definition of marriage and denounced abortion.

His bold social stances drew the ire of members of his own community, according to conservative pundit and Orthodox convert Rod Dreher.

Dreher, who broke the news of Jonah’s resignation, compared the OCA synod in a blog post to “a pack of ravening wolves” that he said has long been trying to unseat its leader.

The New York-based synod countered the Internet buzz with a statement outlining the allegations that led to Jonah’s forced resignation, including that Jonah knowingly harbored a priest accused of rape in his diocese.

The synod said its request “came at the end of a rather long list of questionable, unilateral decisions and actions, demonstrating the inability of the Metropolitan to always be truthful and accountable to his peers.”

Jonah’s resignation came only five days after the death of 73-year-old Peter Gillquist, who infused evangelical fervor into the Antiochian Orthodox Church beginning in 1987, when he led some 2,000 of his Protestant followers into Eastern Orthodoxy.

“If he had not come into the church and brought those people in, our church would have atrophied to the point of near extinction,” Nassif said. “Gillquist came along at the right moment in American Orthodox history.”

Among his many accomplishments, Gillquist helped create the first Orthodox study Bible and served for a quarter of a century as chairman of the archdiocese’s department of missions and evangelism.

Gillquist, like Jonah, served as a critical bridge for relations between evangelicals and Orthodox, having spent the majority of his career on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ before his conversion.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, a prominent Orthodox author and speaker, called the losses a “double blow” to American Orthodoxy. However, she doesn’t believe this will affect relations between the two groups.

“The change that has taken place so steadily over the years can’t be undone by these two losses,” she said. “And yet, they are losses we regret all the same.”

 

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Church

This Is How You Go…

I’m going to draw a rather unhelpful comparison. But I’m going to do it anyway. Why? Because reading of the recent ‘resignation’ of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, who was asked to step down by his fellow Bishops (and I have no idea why, or the politics/thinking behind the request), I could not help but ponder on just how different his approach, his words, and his conduct are, as when compared to that of a certain ‘former-Primate’, who was also asked to go by his Bishops (obviously, for different and possibly far graver reasons).

This is text of His Beatitude’s letter:

“To the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America,

“Brothers,

“As per your unanimous request, as conveyed to me by Chancellor Fr. John Jillions, I hereby tender my resignation as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and humbly request another Episcopal assignment.

“I had come to the realization long ago that that I have neither the personality nor the temperament for the position of Primate, a position I never sought nor desired.

“It is my hope that due consideration will be made for my financial situation, both in any interim and in consideration for any future position. I am the main financial support for both my parents and my sister, beyond my own needs.

“I will appreciate your consideration in this, and beg forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment.

“Asking your prayers, I remain faithfully yours, “Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington”

[A pdf. of the above is here]

And that’s how you do it. With your dignity and Christian conduct intact. You don’t self-destruct. You don’t destroy. You don’t run to the secular media/blogs crying foul for the world to see. You don’t advocate schism or start-up rival Synods. What  you do, as a man of God, is turn to your brothers in Christ, and seek reconciliation with as much as lies within you. That is how you go…

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.  Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

– St Matthew 5:1-12