Tag Archives: The Pastoral Crisis

The Crisis in the Orthodox Episcopate

There are just over 1,000 Orthodox bishops in the world, although well over 100 of them are retired through ill health or extreme old age .Despite this figure, which is much greater than a generation ago, though far less than in the early centuries, there is a great shortage of bishops in certain, though not all, Local Churches. A figure more than double, of about 2,200 bishops, to care for the world’s 220 million Orthodox Christians, would be far more appropriate. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church has only 400 bishops, a figure that needs to be quadrupled for the 164 million Russian Orthodox, 75% of the total. This would give one bishop for every 25 parishes, which is not unreasonable, given that the number of parishes is still rapidly increasing.

The problem in this matter is that bishops must be single, that is, celibate, specifically in most cases, they must be monks. As this severely limits the pool of available episcopal candidates, what can be done?

Some of a Protestant and modernist ilk immediately suggest that married men should be allowed to become bishops. This is absurd. It is also uncanonical. The canon forbidding married bishops (Canon XII of the Sixth Council in Trullo) is there for at least two reasons:

Firstly, there is the ever-present danger of corruption and careerism. We can think of the case of the schismatic Filaret, who appointed himself ‘Patriarch of Kiev’, who was married and allowed his wife to vet all candidates for the priesthood, according to what bribe they gave her. And inevitably, a married bishop will be tempted to find jobs for his children.

Secondly, poor wives! It is bad enough being married to a priest. When would a bishop’s wife ever see him? He would be far too busy.

However, the situation is even worse. Since a potential bishop has to be single, you will inevitably attract perverts. A single man does not make a bishop. He can, however, be a homosexual, either physically or else psychologically (psychological homosexuals are generally narcissists who persecute married clergy because the married have everything that they do not have, or, far worse, they may be pedophiles – as the Roman Catholic world knows to its cost. Thus the pool is even more limited. It has to be a single man who is sexually, and so psychologically, normal, not a dry and formalistic monk who has everything, but because he has no love, only a sadistic jealousy, he has nothing (1 Cor 13).

What is to be done, given such a very limited pool of candidates? While we are waiting for a monastic revival and so more candidates, bishops will simply have to delegate far more than they do at present, to married priests and laypeople. Ultimately, after all, there is only one thing that they cannot delegate – and that is ordination.

 

At Last a Real Cathedral for all Orthodox in London?

One of the greatest pastoral problems in London is the chronic lack of Orthodox churches. For example, St Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow Road is very small, hardly a Cathedral at all, and the medium-sized Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Knightsbridge is smaller than St John’s Russian Orthodox church in provincial Colchester. Of course, there is one church building that would suit Orthodox in London, providing it was frescoed and fitted with iconostases and other Church furnishings. One person who works there would be glad to help us use it.

St Paul’s Cathedral is located on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. Its dedication to the holy apostle Paul dates back to the original church on the site, founded in 604, though unproven stories assert that this was because St Paul actually preached here. The present Cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was until 1967 the tallest building in London.

The first recorded Orthodox Bishop of London was called either Restitutus or Adelphius and attended the Council of Arles in 314. However, the location of his Cathedral is unknown. St Bede recorded that in 604 St Augustine consecrated Mellitus as the first Bishop of the East Saxons, whose territory covered London, and their King, Sabert. Sabert’s uncle and overlord, Ethelbert, King of Kent, built a church dedicated to St Paul in London, as the seat of the new bishop. It is assumed that this first Cathedral stood on the same site as the present one.

On the death of Sabert in about 616, his pagan sons expelled Bishop Mellitus from London and the East Saxons reverted to paganism. Christianity was restored later in the seventh century and it is presumed that either the Cathedral was restored or else a new one was built as the seat of seventh-century bishops like St Cedd and St Erconwald, ‘The Light of London’, who was buried in the Cathedral in 693. This building, or a successor, was destroyed by fire in 962 but rebuilt in the same year.

In 1016 King Ethelred the Unready was buried in the Cathedral. This was burned down with much of the city in a fire in 1087. The Norman occupiers then built a new Cathedral, known to history as ‘Old St Paul’s’. This Gothic building was in turn gutted by the Great Fire of London of 1666. While it might have been possible to rebuild it, a decision was taken to build a new Cathedral. The task of designing it was assigned to Sir Christopher Wren in 1669.

The design process took several years, but the result was the present St Paul’s Cathedral, modelled partly on St Peter’s in the Vatican. St Paul’s is still the second largest church in Britain. The building was financed by a tax on coal and was completed within the architect’s lifetime. It was declared officially complete by Parliament on 25 December 1711, though in fact construction continued for several years after that. In 1716 the total costs amounted to £1,095,556 (£148 million in 2015 money).

Today, though with a small but active Protestant congregation, St Paul’s is largely a tourist monument. With an area of some 6,000 square metres and several altars, it is ideally suited for London’s huge numbers of Orthodox Christians. Consecrated to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, it could become the Cathedral for all Orthodox in London. Fantasy? But our God works miracles.