Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | February 15, 2011

Egypt and the Episcopal Assembly

I was reading a post by an OCF member on the St. Andrew House Discussion Forum regarding the views of his peers on pan-Orthodox unity. The views of our youth do seem so often in contrast to those of our older members. My bishop once told a story about a fellow who was desperate for unity and blamed him as a bishop for standing in the way. His grace responded instead that the fellow was welcome to address every congregation in his diocese on the matter and he would gladly arrange for him to address local congregations outside his jurisdiction on the matter as well if he wanted. His grace then assured him that he’d be disappointed. “They don’t want it. Believe me. I know. I tried it myself.” And so began a year or visits and talks. The fellow gave up after a while… because he found indeed his grace was on the mark.

And yet I wonder whether they don’t want it because they don’t want to do the heavy lifting, don’t think it will add anything, don’t see the point, or have simply given up after trying on their own for some time as well. And it’s here that I began to wonder sadly how frozen attitudes are often the legacy of inaction. And forgive me, but it made me begin to wonder about that Gibraltar of the Middle East – Egypt, Tunisia and all the other nations run by aging despots. It’d long been known by everyone outside government that the powder keg could go off at any time, but no one knew when nor did they know what would set off real change.

And I began to wonder whether or not this isn’t precisely the sort of thing we have here. I won’t suggest our hierarchs don’t want this, because many indeed do. I know folks like to suggest all sorts of subterfuge and posing on this, but I think they genuinely do want unity. I also won’t suggest that our people don’t want it, because again, many indeed do. But I think there are many careful types with less enthusiasm who don’t, and for a long time, they’ve kept the lid on things as much by disinterest than anything else. I’m too much of an optimist to believe there are many consciously undermining the ambition, but surely there are those as well who have some rightful concerns for where the whole is taking us.

What I think is curious though is the doubt about whether indeed there is a process. From what I see, the process in England has begun to get involved in more than house keeping, but we’re still busy arranging the deck chairs.  There is a process… but ours is a decidedly more cautious process. So if there is a criticism that’s fair, it’s the distinct lack of a sense of urgency. Yet this may be good. Get everyone seated, lull them with some platitudes, let them attend a few meetings, understand there’s not as much risk in dealing with each other as might be feared. Then let them stew on that for a while and meet until their eyes are bulging for sitting so long. Then they’ll want to get up and do something… even if it’s to leave. Maybe expecting 100% agreement at first isn’t realistic. Our Constitution allowed for taking effect without 100% ratification (I think I recall this… but I’m not checking either)… so maybe we need something similar. So we need a plan for action after our period of inaction expires… say in six months or a year.

The whole has got to be something like a marriage. It should have a couple of dates that work out well with everyone looking forward to the next meeting. There should be a screw-up somewhere so the luster of perfection can fall away and folks enter further with their eyes wide open. The parents need to meet up with each other and lay the old hairy eyeballs on each other… even on the crazy cousins, brothers, sisters, and step folks.  There should be some quiet “alone time” to allow the couple a chance to “moon” and “spark” over each other, but then it should set a date and get’em hitched before anyone gets too anxious or disappointed. No need to load the shotgun… but no need to give it away either. Just keep it on the rack behind the driver’s seat maybe. Just in case and all that.

In a sense, this should be so much simpler: All anyone is asking is for the Church to be the Church. Separate… we’re not and cannot be the Church in full, we don’t live our creeds, and as much good as we may do individually, we give a poor witness to our faith in a wider sense because we’re not living it truth and in spirit. By what right do we have to encourage our people… let alone those we evangelize… to do the same? So let’s get on with it.

I mean really. I’m not much into standing in the streets, yelling and throwing things just to get the bishops to do something. Anything. Know what I mean? But it’s an idea.


  1. ISTM that a quest for real unity would not just involve asking the Church to be Church, but asking a lot of non-churches to be Church, and that’s not quite as simple.

    • Ah… the ol’ real vs. fake unity question. I’ll settle for fake now, real later. What’s that they used to say? Fake it ’til you make it? Seems not too far off. 😉

      • “Fake it ’til you make it?” Sorry, the Anglicans have tried that one already.

  2. The elephant in the room is the definition of unity. You know what happens when we assume….

    • Actually, I’m not sure I do. Does the elephant do something bad? Skewer someone with a tusk? Dance with a mouse? Leave a Snicker’s bar in the pool?

      • Haha, yes. Well it goes something like this: what you call a mouse, I may call an elephant, or the other way around, however you will. But whatever definition is used, it won’t be brought up, for unity itself is cause for division.

      • You seem quite the pessimist. Why do you think unity is so impossible for a people with a common faith and already in full communion with each other?

      • I dunno, history? current state of the church? You say unity, I ask what kind of unity? Administrative? Liturgical? Linguistic? Jurisdictional? Geographic? Theological? The assumption is that we are not already one. We can’t commune each other? No?

      • Okay I’m enough of a short-timer to not claim to be some sort of expert, but unless I missed something, I think we commune everyone who is in a canonical Orthodox church. Have you found otherwise? I think we’re really talking administrative unity because that it is jurisdictional when it comes to Orthodox churches. We have theological and liturgical with reasonable allowance for variations in practice. Again…are you finding otherwise? So that’s why I see the rest as “ought” to be a small thing. It’s not. But it ought to be.

  3. I think you hit on something I realized a while back: we converts don’t “get” the Middle East. The culture of the Church and its “politics” are a reflection of the “old world”. We (American converts) and the few politically active “cradles” are kicking against the goads. It is not so much a theological issue as it is a cultural one.

  4. Ah… good point: Mubarak doesn’t even get the Middle East. May not even be in it anymore.. much less understand it. Why should we?

    Now “goad”… had to look that one up. Kind of like “What the heck’s a Hoya?” Maybe a goad is a theological AND cultural issue: Has points… and pokes at you.

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