Well, we’re now well-and-truly past the one month mark for our blog, and we thought it might be time for some more reflections on how things are going.

Silence

Icon of St Nicholas of Myra

St Nicholas of Myra

It seems that after an initial onslaught, the pace of comments on our Greek Orthodox Church Adelaide Facebook page has slowed down somewhat. Some continue to post every now and then, but it seems for the most part any GOCSA sympathisers have chosen to remain silent. This is unsurprising, because on the various websites and Facebook pages of GOCSA they have been running a campaign to try and convince everyone that the best thing to do is to remain silent and not ask questions.

Of course, there are times for silence. The Fathers of the Orthodox Church were very big on silence as a way to draw near to God, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself at one point remained silent before his accusers (Matt 26:62,63). However, as the Bible itself says, there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecc 3:7). The Fathers of the Church and our Lord Himself showed by their examples that when the purity of the Faith or the unity of the Church is at stake, or when innocent people are being misled, that is the time to speak – in fact, it’s a crime to remain silent.

There are so many examples of this in the history of the Orthodox Church that we couldn’t possibly list them all. Instead we will focus on two examples (for reasons that will become obvious):

  1. St Nicholas of Myra is a greatly revered Orthodox saint. He was a participant at the First Ecumenical Council and stood up for the Faith and the cause of the Truth against the heretics and schismatics of his day.
  2. St Constantine the Great was the first Christian emperor and responsible for convoking the First Ecumenical Council in order to defend the Church against schism and heresy.

Had these two saints (along with many others) remained silent in the face of injustice and heresies, the Orthodox Faith would have been jeopardised. We venerate these saints precisely because they didn’t remain silent, but because they instead spoke up in defence of the Faith in order to protect the unity of the Church. Presumably the members of GOCSA also venerate these saints, as they have erected Churches in their honour! Why then will they not follow their examples?

“Church politics”

Icon of St Constantine the Great

St Constantine the Great

One common argument used to encourage silence on the part of GOCSA is to accuse those who speak out of playing “church politics”. “It’s all just politics”, they say. “Don’t get involved in church politics.”

It’s a brilliant ploy. In this country the average person isn’t interested in “politics” and politicians are considered by many to rank among the lowest lifeforms in our society. We definitely wouldn’t want to be seen to be guilty of playing that game. So if there are some inconvenient truths that you want to keep hidden, and someone starts asking uncomfortable questions, then what better way to scare them off than by accusing them of playing that game? Just say to them: “Don’t get involved in church politics!” In doing so, you will imply that they are “playing politics”, and they will be too ashamed to ask any more questions for fear of being accused of “playing politics”. Pretty soon people will stop asking.

The technique is even more effective if every time you say “Don’t get involved in church politics” you manage to get everyone else around you to join in the chorus. After all, as if it isn’t humiliating enough having one person accuse you of “playing politics”, how much more humiliating is it when all your peers attack you in the same way!

And what is even better about this approach is that, after a while, it is self-sustaining. It is like the monkey experiment – in that experiment, the monkeys would all join in and attack any monkey that tried to climb the ladder to get the banana. This would continue to happen even as new monkeys were put in the cage – any new monkey that dared to be different would soon be indoctrinated into behaving the same way by the other monkeys. Likewise, anyone in GOCSA who dares to be curious and ask certain difficult questions will soon be attacked with cries of “Don’t get involved in church politics!” Pretty soon they, too, will be indoctrinated to avoid asking the difficult questions, and to join in the chorus of attack every time someone else starts asking.

Saying “church politics” is playing church politics

Perhaps the most ironic thing about this tactic is that it is a very political manoeuvre. The thing that “politicians” do best (and the thing that we all hate them for) is that they are masters at covering up inconvenient truths. The whole “Don’t get involved in church politics!” approach is nothing but a ploy to do exactly that – to cover up inconvenient truths. A perfect example of political manipulation! Those who cry “Don’t get involved in church politics!” the loudest are in fact the ones that are most heavily involved!

So next time you hear someone cry “Don’t get involved in church politics!”, remember that saying “church politics” is playing church politics. Have the courage to question their political motives and to think about what it is that they may be trying to hide…

The Truth

Icon of the First Ecumenical Council

The First Ecumenical Council

Ultimately, the questions raised on this site are not simply a matter of “politics” – they are a matter of truth vs falsehood. Moreover, these are all questions on which the Orthodox Faith places great importance – they are issues that are too important to be simply waved away with a response like “don’t get involved in church politics”. The venerable saints of our Church (such as St Nicholas and St Constantine) who spoke out against heresies and schisms weren’t “playing politics” – they were defending the Truth and the traditions of the Orthodox Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that He is the Truth (John 14:6) – so those who defend the Truth are defending Christ Himself. Conversely, those who try to cover up the Truth are denying Him.

The bottom line is that these questions are not unreasonable questions to ask. It is not unreasonable to know if a church that claims to be Orthodox is considered Orthodox by the rest of the Orthodox world. It is not unreasonable to ask if someone who claims to be a priest really is a priest, or someone who claims to be a bishop really is a bishop. Only a fraud would try to dodge such scrutiny with comments like “a priest is a priest” or “don’t play politics” – a real priest has nothing to hide, and no reason to dodge such questions.

Unity between GOCSA and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, while a noble goal, cannot be achieved by putting our head in the sand and pretending that our differences don’t exist or that they don’t matter. Unity can only be achieved by resolving our differences, and we cannot resolve our differences unless we ask these questions and seek honest answers to them.

Lord Jesus Christ, our God, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, through the intercessions of St Nicholas the Wonderworker and St Constantine the Great, together with the Fathers of the Ecumencial Councils and all the Saints, may you guide us all into unity by your Truth. Amen.

Advertisements