Tag Archives: Overcoming Scandals

The Church of Scandals?

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

Psalm 145, 3

Moscow refuses to give independence (Autocephaly) to the Churches in the Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics, Western Europe, and so its churches empty. People vote with their feet. Reality takes over. In Latvia even the State grants the Latvian Orthodox Church Autocephaly!

Some are scandalised by this. Why? Nobody should be surprised at this. In the 19th century Protestant British politicians gave the Church of Greece its Autocephaly and later the secular and nationalist Bulgarian government gave its Church Autocephaly. It took time for others to recognise it, but eventually those who objected just had to face reality and recognised it. In the last century the Churches of Poland and Czechoslovakia went through similar trials and in Brno in the Czech Lands the tribulation continues to this very day. The recent case of the Serbian Church and the Church of North Macedonia is just one more example of politicians declaring Autocephaly and a Mother-Church just having to accept a fait accompli after 60 years. Reality is always stronger than any theory or ideology, just as the pen is always mightier than the sword.

Bishops closed churches because of State orders regarding covid. Some faithful were scandalised by such bishops. Our church, like others, just went into the catacombs and we remained secretly open, faithful to Christ. ‘Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither allow them that are entering to go in’ (Matt: 23, 13).

In the USA many are scandalised today by the actions and words of Archbishop Elpidiforos. Others are scandalised in the USA by the actions and words of Metr Joseph of Antioch, by his mistresses and his money. In England a bishop stays at a hotel with his boyfriend. They spend the Saturday evening drinking beer in the bar before going up to their rooms. They did not know that the hotel manager who saw it all was Orthodox, a parishioner of the local church. The scandal was endless. Ordinary people are better than bishops. That is how it seems to so many simple believers, who are certainly not saints, but neither are they hypocritical pharisees. But we still pray for the salvation of all of them.

As one commentator put it: ‘It seems that bishops impose one set of standards and canons on clergy and laity, but they do not observe those standards and canons themselves and even cover up for each other’.

The number of well-known bishops of ALL jurisdictions whom I have known personally over the last fifty years who stole money, were freemasons, had boyfriends, had mistresses (and children), or caused schisms is almost endless. So what? Why are you scandalised? They will have to answer for their souls at the Last Judgement. As for us, we should be working on the salvation of our own souls and our answers at the Last Judgement.

For decades I have said that either bishops should be real monks, who have spent a minimum of ten years living the monastic life day in, day out, and learning how to love others through poverty, chastity and obedience, or else they should be allowed to be married, as in the first six centuries, indeed in some parts of the Orthodox world, for the first twelve centuries. You cannot have it otherwise. The Church is not a Californian cult. To paraphrase the bishop St Basil the Great: ‘O self-proclaimed Princes of the Church, your skulls pave hell’.

What can be said to the people who are scandalised by all this?

First of all, just remember that of the Twelve one was called Judas and he was a traitor. Do we celebrate him? Of course not. But we do celebrate the Eleven who remained faithful and Matthias, making again the Twelve. Stop looking at the negative. The negative you will always have with you if you keep looking at it. And look at the Positive, Christ, Who is always with us.

I will not throw away my basket of apples, just because one of them is rotten. And even though there are a thousand baskets of apples and in each basket there is one rotten apple, I will still not throw away the thousand baskets of apples because of a thousand rotten apples.

I go to church to meet Christ because He is there. I have no other reason to go to church. As for those who have other reasons to go to church, all we can do is to pray for the salvation of their souls.

The Church of Scandals? No, the Church of God.