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Sunday, August 8, 2010
Fr. Elpidophoros of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Hellenism & Orthodoxy
The following paper contains what appears to me to be a stunning shift in the thinking of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which, however, relies on historical precedent and tradition to explain why the shift (my word) is really, "the same song, second verse" and not the breakthrough, which to this observer, it clearly seems to be. Peter PetkasGreek Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
and the Church in the USA
V. Rev. Archimandrite Elpidophoros Lambriniadis
Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod
of the Ecumenical Patriarchate June 2010
at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood New York.
[For a PDF version of this document, go to http://www.myocn.net/files/Orthodoxy_He ... nglish.pdf
[In the version that follows, footnotes appear in brackets "[...]" within the text to which they refer]
The topic that I have been asked to address today: “Greek
Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Church in the USA.”
Beginning with the content and historical development of the phrase
“Greek Orthodoxy,” I will endeavor to explore its relationship to the
Ecumenical Patriarchate in order, finally, on this basis, to interpret the
perception of the Church of Constantinople with regard to the
ecclesiastical situation in the United States and present its vision for the
future of Orthodoxy in this land.
Read more »
Posted by Peter J. Petkas at 3:19 PM No comments:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Matsoukas comments on the Episcopal Assembly's work
Comments on the Episcopal Assembly
by George Matsoukas
Orthodox Christian Laity
We confess our fidelity to the Apostolic Orthodox faith and pledge to promote “common action to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in our region”…We call upon our clergy and faithful to join us in these efforts ‘to safeguard and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church of the region in its theological, ecclesiological, canonical, spiritual, philanthropic, educational and missionary obligations’ as we eagerly anticipate the Holy and Great Council.
MESSAGE: Bishops attending First Episcopal Assembly
What are the immediate accomplishments of the Assembly?
The First Episcopal Assembly of the Canonical Bishops of North and Central America took place at the Helmsley Park Hotel NYC, May 26-28, 2010. The 55 assembled bishops replaced the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops SCOBA and now all the bishops of all jurisdictions are the stewards of the Orthodox Church in the United States. They are working in a conciliar manner to develop a foundation to build a unified local Church to meet the spiritual needs of the people living in this geographic area.
The essential document to emerge from the historic Episcopal Assembly is the MESSAGE quoted in part as an introduction to my comments. The Message was collaboratively developed and approved by all the bishops. Further more the document enumerated long overdue actions including establishing:
A registry of canonical bishops
A committee to determine the canonical status of local communities in the region that have no reference to the Most Holy Autocephalous Churches.
A registry of canonical clergy
Committees to undertake the work of the Assembly, among others including liturgical, pastoral, financial, educational ecumenical and legal issues
A committee to plan for the organization of the Orthodox of the region on a canonical basis
A directory of all canonical congregations in our region.
Study this MESSAGE for it is a primary source of information and contains the practical results of the meeting. Brotherhood and Unity are hallmarks of the first meeting
Another excellent primary source that gives us a feeling of the historical nature of this meeting was developed by Father Andrew S. Damick who was present in the meeting rooms. His report has been transmitted on many Orthodox Christian internet sites and can be read at http://www.ocl.org
. Father Damick states “There was not politicking going on in the halls and at meals. There were just men working together. It was all almost routine, not particularly energetic. They were clearly comfortable with each other…. “Another priest present “interpreted this apparent brotherhood very positively, saying that this may represent another step in the formation of a mutual identity.”
Indeed the Holy Spirit is at work in this process of building up the foundation for a Unified Orthodox Christian Church in the United States through the common actions of our bishops to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful in this land and culture. We are gratefully to Lord that the bishops took positive long overdue steps to develop the blueprint for the unified, self governing Orthodox Christian Church in the United States. The bishops met in harmony and left in peace. They established positive relationships. Leadership Noted and Commended
The work of the Holy Spirit is carried out though faithful Servants of the Lord and we commend all of our bishops who attended. We especially note the leadership of Archbishop Demetrios, a man of prayer, who personifies the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. He is wise and worthy! He successfully convened and brought to conclusion this First Assembly. We note that much pressure was put on him before hand by the Patriarchate, special interests in the Archdiocese and foreign governments. It seems he has to always be looking behind his back to get things done. May God continue to grant him good health, strength and many years! We also credit the success of the meeting to His Beatitude Jonah, born and nurtured in America, not a prisoner of Old World History and the Roman Empire, free of foreign domination. He is an example of the servant Bishop and has through humility brought the bishops of the Orthodox Church in America OCA to the discussion as canonical bishops. Archbishop Demetrios and His Beatitude Jonah, by their example of love=giving something up for the greater good, have made the assembly representative of the Bishops of America so that the first steps can be taken to develop the blueprint for a unified, multicultural Orthodox Church in America. Despite the considerations of Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey (GOA) the seating of the OCA was a non issue.Moving Forward
Now the work begins and the details need to be worked out. The Secretariat of the Assembly elected and is headed by Bishop Basil of Wichita, KS. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese AOCA. The work of the Assembly is on a fast track especially if the Great and Holy Council will be convened as indicated by some as early as 2013. This Great Council is a meeting of all Orthodox Bishops throughout the world. They are called together to make conciliar decisions concerning issues related to the faith. The last such meeting was held over 1000 years ago. We look forward to see how the committees developing the foundation for the unified and hopefully self-governing Orthodox Church in the United States will be organized. How will the faithful People of God, clergy and laity, participate in developing the blueprint for a unified, self governing Orthodox Church in the United States? We also would like to know how this process of continuing the work of the Assembly will be financed. We also expect that the work of the Assembly will be transparent and accountable to the People of God as well as the ancient Patriarchs and all the participating local hierarchs. We are prayerful that a transcript of the May 26-28 meeting in NYC will be released.Communication with each other is necessary in this transitional period.
As we move ahead it is my hope that laypersons and clergy with courage will develop regional and local meetings and communicate with each other. The success of building up the Church in the United States depends on the thoughtful and active communication and participation of mature faithful people. We hope that each region’s clergy associations and hierarchs of all jurisdictions will meet together regularly during this transition period. The Pan Orthodox Meeting in Detroit in early May 2010 to discuss the conveying of the Episcopal Assembly is a model. It was highly successful and informative. Groups of laity such as OCL and others need to network and develop materials and regional forums to discuss WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A LOCAL CHURCH. We must stay focused in this transitional period and keep our eye on the prize of Orthodox Christian Unity and self governance. The grassroots faithful need to be actively involved in building up the church. They have been involved. They established all the SCOBA agencies and then when they were up and working successfully they were blessed. They established many of the Churches here before the archdioceses of any jurisdiction were in place. The faithful laity has always been as Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory said “the wind beneath the wings” of the bishops. It is time to bring them into the process. Building the Church in the United States is the work of all the people of God in synergy with each other.
Posted by Peter J. Petkas at 6:38 PM No comments:
Saturday, May 15, 2010Pentecost 2010 Springtime for the Church in the Americas!
Behold how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity.
Orthodox Christian Laity
During the week following Pentecost, May 26-27, 2010 sixty five Orthodox Christian bishops, who have their sees in North and Central America, have been invited to gather at the Helmsley Park Hotel. The bishops will convene as the Episcopal Assembly which is an interim-transitional governing body of the Orthodox Christian Church in this New World territory. The purpose of the Assembly is to begin the process of developing the foundation for a canonically ordered unified Orthodox Church in the Americas. The blueprint that they develop for a canonically United Church will require more than this initial meeting. This process must eventually involve the whole body of the Church including clergy and laity. The final product, fashioned through a conciliar process and representing the work of the people of God will be presented for approval by the Great and Holy Council of all Orthodox bishops. This Council is part of the process of Orthodox Christian renewal and will be convened in the near future. This first meeting of bishops is a step in the process of developing working relationships with each other, asking the appropriate questions, defining the geographic territories of the Church, identifying resources available to them and setting up the appropriate committees.
This first Episcopal Assembly is different from other meetings of Orthodox Bishops such as the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas SCOBA or other Episcopal Meetings because this meeting has the blessing of all 14 Old World Primates of Orthodox Churches. It is the result of the Synaxis of Orthodox Primates that met in Istanbul/Constantinople October 2008 in response to the call of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. At that time the Primates declared that canonical order needs to be established in the so called Diaspora. In Orthodox Christianity all of us are in a Diaspora waiting to go home to the Lord. This unfortunate term has been used to describe people not living in traditional Orthodox lands – i.e. lands beyond the Old Roman Empire. Orthodox canonical order relates to the fact that there should be one bishop in one city. All 14 old world Primates signed the document authorizing the establishment of Episcopal Assemblies that will take place in the New World, Western Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia. The Episcopal Assemblies are meeting with the blessing of all the Primates.
In June and December 2009 representatives of these 14 Old World Primates met in Chambesy, Switzerland. These meetings were convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch and chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon. The results were the Rules of Operation for the hosting, conveying and carrying out the work of the Episcopal Assemblies. Hosting an Assembly is not an easy matter for the North and Central America. This Episcopal Assembly brings together 65 bishops from 14 different jurisdictions, who are of different ethnicities, cultures and nationalities spread over an enormous land mass, many of whom have not met each other before, who are mostly extensions of their mother countries and not autonomous, who are governed by church “protocol.”
Notwithstanding these challenges we are confident that the imperative to Unite will overcome any differences because these bishops are all Orthodox Christians and are guided by the Holy Spirit. They reflect the realities of a multicultural Orthodox Christian faith – the Apostolic faith established at Pentecost in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago. They are the survivors of persecution, extermination, secularism, phlytism. “Their faith, even if it is as tiny as a mustard seed will make all things possible.” Matt. 17-20. They have been charged to create Canonical order which will lead to a glorious transformation of Orthodox Christianity in the New World.
The Rules of Operation require the conveners of the Episcopal Assemblies to be the representative of the Patriarch of Constantinople and if in some land he is not represented, the Order of the Diptychs will be followed and the convener is the next in rank as a matter of Protocol. In the New World we are blessed to have such a worthy leader in the person of Archbishop Demetrios. He personifies the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and will be able to assist and inspire his brother bishops to work in a conciliar manner. His coordinator is the indefatigable Father Mark Arey SCOBA Coordinator. He is working with selected members of the SOCBA planning committee to bring the First Assembly to a successful beginning. The Episcopal Assembly will meet on May 25-27 and will decide what administrative structure will be used for their future meetings when they meet on May 26-27. The Episcopal Assembly replaces SCOBA which is now disbanded. The Episcopal Assembly will decide how to integrate SCOBA agencies in the transformational structure.
What can we expect from the Episcopal Assembly? The Episcopal Assembly is not a business meeting. It is the bishops of the Church doing the work of the Church. The bishops of the New World Territories, North and Central America, will demonstrate to the Old World Primates that they can work together in a mature manner to establish a canonically united Church. If they cannot work together, then the canonical order will be imposed by the Old World Primates. The Plan they create will be presented to the Great and Holy Council for final decisions. It should be noted that the Rules of Operation call for the agenda of the meeting to be approved by the Assembly. Matters related to canonical order will be decided by consensus and each jurisdiction will have one vote. For example if 10 bishops are representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate they will all reach a consensus amongst themselves and cast one vote on the matter before them. The whole body will meet yearly or more frequently if they decide more frequent meetings are necessary. The Executive Committee will meet every three months and whenever necessary at the invitation of the Chairman or at the written request that shows cause of one third of its members.
Between now and the convening of the Episcopal Assembly it is recommend that you familiarize yourself with the primary documents associated with the meeting. They are:
1. Press Release pertinent to the October 2008 Meeting of All the Primates at the Ecumenical Patriarchate; 2. The Two Chambesy Documents: The Decision and the Rules of Operation June 6-13 2009 and 3.SCOBA Encyclical February 21, 2010 issued on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. These documents are posted on the OCL web site http://www.ocl.org
. You may also want to read the OCL publication Orthodox Christianity at the Crossroad: A Great Council of the Church-When and Why available on line at Amazon.com or at Barnes and Noble. The 1994 publication Project for Orthodox Renewal available from Light and Life includes a comprehensive chapter “Orthodox Unity.
It should be noted that 10 Bishops of the South American Church met April 16-18 in San Pablo Brazil. The host was Archbishop Damaskinos of the Antiochian Archdiocese. The meeting focused on the adoption of a Spanish version of the documents of Chambesy and presented the situation of each Orthodox Church in South America. The Assembly established an Executive Committee.
It is the duty and responsibility of the faithful – clergy and laity- to look beyond their local parish interests and be concerned with the renewal process taking place world wide in the Orthodox Christian World. The faithful parishioners – the royal priesthood -need to be aware of what when, where and how the Assemblies respond to the challenges placed upon them. They have the responsibility t ask questions of their bishops and provide them with input. The renewal of the structure of the Church impacts each and every one of us and cannot take place without our input and involvement. We are experiencing and living through the first steps of renewal of the Church in one thousand years. This is the opportunity and challenge of the laity and the clergy as well as the opportunity and challenge of the hierarchy.
What can we do? How can we help? I suggest that the first step of meaningful involvement includes praying for the Holy Spirit to enlighten our bishops to do what is best for the renewal of the Church in the New World. The petitions regarding this Episcopal Assembly that have been included in the Divine Liturgy of the Churches within the OCA are excellent prayers that we can pray everyday until the work of the Assembly is completed and the Great and Holy Council is convened. They are:
V: That the Lord may grant our Hierarchs gathering in Episcopal Assembly to grow in wisdom and strength, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to increase in love for each other, deepening Christian fellowship so that conciliar decisions may build up a canonically united Orthodox Christian Church of the Americas, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy!
V: That their work may be guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit of unity and love, of compassion and mutual respect, inspiring each to contribute what will build up the Body of Christ, may move us all to rejoice in the full unity of the Church, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy!
V: Furthermore, we ask that God bless the work of all His People, uniting them for the building up of His Holy Orthodox Church of the Americas, let us pray to the Lord.
Posted by Peter J. Petkas at 7:34 PM No comments: What’s Fate of Orthodox Unity and Diaspora? - The National Herald
May 7, 2010
"Behold now, what is so good or so joyous as for brethren to dwell together in unity?" PSALM 132
By Peter Marudas
Special to The National Herald
BALTIMORE- In late May, a meeting of potentially enormous significance for the Orthodox Church in America will occur in New York City when all Orthodox Bishops in good standing in North and Central America convene for a first-ever Episcopal Assembly. This unprecedented gathering has received little attention in most Orthodox circles and virtually none in the wider religious and secular media.
Nevertheless, its implications for the future of Orthodox Christianity in the Americas are both hopeful and controversial. The historic Episcopal Assembly will take place shortly after the Great Feast of Pentecost – the Kairos - when the Holy Spirit inspired the disciples to establish the Church.
Until 18 months ago, the mere contemplation of such a meeting would have been considered unthinkable in view of long-standing and entrenched official opposition to even discussing the question of closer intra-Orthodox relations. In recent years, a few Orthodox hierarchs with some support from clergy and laity openly but unsuccessfully championed unity initiatives. But with the exception of Orthodox Christian Laity, no group has consistently or aggressively pursued Orthodox unity in America. In October, 2008 the unity landscape experienced an earthquake, when His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened in Istanbul, a Synaxis (gathering) of the leaders of all Autocephalous (independent) Orthodox Churches; the entire leadership of world Orthodoxy.
At that meeting, Patriarch Bartholomew delivered a remarkable address about the dangers of division among the Orthodox in the so-called Diaspora and the pressing need for these believers to unify themselves in a way consistent with church tradition. Immediately, the assembled Orthodox leaders unanimously endorsed a communiqué calling for a process to address Diaspora issues - and to the shock of many - for the convocation of a Great and Holy Council of Orthodoxy; an encouraging announcement for those seeking greater Orthodox unity both here and abroad.THE SWISS GAMBIT
The Church leadership further directed their individual representatives to convene two meetings at the Patriarchal complex in Chambesy, Switzerland in June and December, 2009 to formulate specific plans for implementing their declarations regarding the status of the Orthodox in traditionally non-Orthodox lands. These deliberations expeditiously produced guidelines which required the formation of Episcopal Assemblies in a number of geographical regions and the Orthodox Church in uncharacteristic fashion managed in a matter of only 18 months to move from Istanbul to New York via Chambesy and convene this unprecedented meeting whose assignment is to chart the Church's future course in North and Central America.
This sudden change of heart and mind by Orthodoxy's leaders - all centered abroad - about Orthodox unity in the Diaspora has naturally provoked ecclesiastical and political commentary. Irrespective of such speculation, we can reasonably conclude that Orthodox leaders for whatever reason clearly decided to put aside any disputes in order to reach unanimous agreement on this unity initiative. Their actions should also be measured in the context of related developments, most notably the reunification of ROCOR (The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) with the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia, which ended a bitter schism generated by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. This reunion meant that the membership of SCOBA (The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America) for the first time included all recognized Orthodox jurisdictions. In that respect, there is already serious talk that one likely result of the upcoming Assembly is that SCOBA, whose membership is limited only to church heads; will dissolve to be replaced by a new entity.
While local Orthodox cooperation has generally been limited, national Pan-Orthodox organizations such as OCMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Center,) IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities,) OCF (Orthodox College Fellowship,) OCN (Orthodox Christian Network) and other groups continue to flourish and build strong bridges of intra-Orthodox collaboration of bishops have never publicly commented about Orthodox unity in the Americas, although some have called for an independent American church while others have expressed strong opposition to any change in present ecclesiastical arrangements.
As the regional representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Dimitrios will have the honor and critical responsibility of chairing this meeting. Perhaps the Assembly should be compared to our the Constitutional Congress where delegates had to organize themselves, create and adopt rules of procedure and then decide on an agenda which in this instance could be a topic of prolonged discussion and debate. Skeptics with some historic basis, but also with what some critics called hasty prejudgment, contend that the Episcopal Assemblies are merely a ploy by "Old World" Patriarchates to sidetrack any real progress toward unity.
They cite past actions by overseas Orthodox centers, which stifled efforts to seek unity and assert that the "church establishment" is deliberatively downplaying public attention on the Episcopal Assembly as a means of minimizing expectations and maximizing control. Others believe that such speculation, however, seems premature, as are more optimistic expectations that the Assembly would declare on the spot a united Orthodox Church in America, Canada and/or Central America. At this point, no one can with any certainty predict, given the unprecedented nature of this meeting, what will happen.HOW MUCH AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT?
A wait and see attitude is certainly in order but the Bishops might give a hint about their intentions when they organize relevant committees to carry forward the Assembly's work. Under the rules, the Bishops may form committees comprised of their own membership but also open to clergy and lay participation. Whether these committees and other Assembly organs reflect legitimate, real and broad-based lay participation in the spirit of Orthodox conciliation and American inclusiveness and transparency may reveal how much. How the Bishops approach this task and what plans they have for a broader dialogue within the entire church will be crucial indicators, those close to the church believe.
Orthodox Christian Laity and other advocates of Orthodox unity (Full disclosure: I am an OCL board member) support the process established by the Istanbul and Chambesy meetings and view the Episcopal Assembly as the fullest and most tangible expression yet of a united Orthodox presence in America.
Episcopal Assemblies are merely a ploy by "Old World" Patriarchates to sidetrack any real progress toward unity.
Any results or decisions emanating from New York are unlikely to have any immediate effect on the Orthodox faithful but the meeting itself will raise questions, such as:
•Will the move towards Orthodox unity deliberately weaken ethnic affiliations and lead to the imposition of an English language liturgy?
• Will church-related ethnic language schools be abolished?
That’s a question not just limited to the Greek Orthodox. No such actions are likely but in the months and years ahead the Bishops and the entire church must be prepared to deal seriously and honestly with these and many other similar, provocative questions.
Clearly the mosaic of Orthodoxy in the Americas is dramatically different from the immigrant-dominated Church of the early Twentieth Century. Recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East still enter the Church. But most members are descended from earlier immigrants and it is their marriages - many of them inter-faith – that have produced new members. These worshippers have also been joined in recent decades by an increasing number of Americans who have converted to Orthodoxy; sometime with families and friends. These developments pose challenges but also offer opportunities to acquaint the broader American community with historic Orthodox theology and practice.
One very current and extremely encouraging example of how Orthodoxy is preparing to engage the religious dialogue in America is expressed in the theme of the forthcoming St. Vladimir's Seminary Summer Symposium, "Hellenism and Orthodoxy (June 10-12.) Not only will Archbishop Demetrios deliver the symposium keynote but the Very Rev. Dr. Archimandrite Elpidophoros Lambrianiadis, Chief Secretary of the Holy & Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will discuss Hellenism and Orthodox Identity in North America.
The symposium will feature an impressive array of younger and thoughtful Orthodox speakers - panelists from America and abroad who will discuss how Hellenism, a critical component of Orthodox tradition, transcends conventional and generally narrower nationalistic perceptions. The seminar represents a working Pan-Orthodoxy at the highest theological and intellectual levels and perhaps could even eventually reach all the faithful.
Clearly something is stirring in world Orthodoxy. It was evident at the Synaxis of October, 2008, which forthrightly called for a Great and Holy Council- the last was held in 1872. It was also expressed at the subsequent Chambesy meetings and now is emerging in the regional Episcopal assemblies scheduled to convene around the world. These actions, unprecedented in both scope and speed, demonstrate to some that the Orthodox peoples are finally and confidently emerging from centuries of suffering and martyrdom to engage each other in the light of God's freedom. Strengthened by their sacrifices they are now able to bring the Orthodox message to the entire Oikoumene.
As these developments unfold, it is instructive to observe that as Orthodoxy embarks on what could be an unprecedented step toward unity in America, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism - in sharp contrast – have been and are consumed with fierce feuding involving both secular and faith matters; many of them so-called hot-button issues. This should signal caution to the Orthodox as they phase out from Old World divisions and into newer realities and many believe they must remain steadfastly faithful to the Church's theological and liturgical tradition and ever vigilant to avoid the fads, factionalism and rampant individualism, which regretfully constitute much of what they believe, passes for so-called contemporary American Christianity. On the other hand, they said that the Church, as it evolves, should seek to incorporate those practices of institutional integrity and collective and individual philanthropy, which distinguishes the many beneficent aspects of American religious life.
Perhaps guidance may also be found in the sentiments expressed by the late Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, the Twentieth Century's pre-eminent historian of Christianity who late in life left the Protestant Church of his childhood to become Orthodox. Following a lecture in 1998 at Baltimore's prestigious St. Mary's Seminary and University, he was asked why he had become an Orthodox? He initially declined to respond but then replied by stating he would provide his questioner with what he called a Western Answer: "What was de facto is now de jure," an obvious allusion to his long time sympathy for Orthodoxy and Western Christianity's preoccupation with legal definitions and theological precision. That could be an example as perhaps the Eastern Orthodox Bishops have already unified de facto by Liturgy and The Eucharist may also, in the spirit of Dr. Pelikan produce a de jure response at their May Assembly and maybe even produce the beginning of a clear path to ecclesiastical unity in America.
Posted by Peter J. Petkas at 7:21 PM No comments: Alex Petkas Update -- 24 March 2010
24 March 2010
TO: Friends and familyAlex (with wife Emily) has spent a year in Philadelphia in a post Baccalaureate program in Classics at Penn. He finished one semester at St. Vladimir's Orthodox seminary then returned to Houston for what would have been a year and a half non-academic "sabbatical." He learned about this program just in time to get into it last fall, so his sabbatical was mercifully cut short. Penn is one of several places on the planet that has a classics faculty -- we are talking Greek and Latin -- with special strengths in 2nd & 3rd Century AD and early Byzantine literature, Alex's areas of interest.
Needless to say, he did extremely well, impressed the faculty, and recently received rather generous offers to join the PhD programs at Penn, Princeton, and the University of California at Berkeley, the latter two also having special strengths in his areas of interest. Though he loves Penn and was much more impressed with Berkeley than he expected, when they flew him west for a rather intensive meet and greet, he made his choice official today by notifying Princeton of his acceptance of their offer. All three offered what amounted to 5 or 6 years of tuition waivers plus a generous stipend and summer subsidies. For us this means that Alex will be (at least officially) off our payroll while he works on his PhD and for him it will mean he will be more or less free of debt at the end. And for Emily it means she will be able to work somewhere else than Starbucks and, at some point along the way, go to law school.
To say that Martha and I – and Belle too – are proud of him would be an understatement, especially given his on-line gaming detour (and resulting academic stumble) during the first couple of years of high school. Emily has done quite well on her first run at the LSAT – well within the range of students at top law schools -- and hopes to do even better next time
Alex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on his cell at 713-2031529. Emily can be reached at email@example.com
or on her cell at 281-610-0657.
Posted by Peter J. Petkas at 4:21 PM No comments:
Tuesday, December 1, 2009"Right" to Life for the Born and the Unborn
This is one issue on which Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who has taken a very Orthodox and nuanced stance on questions of human life and human sexuality, and I are on the same page. We cannot become agitated about the right to life of the unborn, until we get clear on the right to life of the born – universal health care, the end of capital punishment, removing cancer-inducing chemicals in our food and in the air we breathe, preventing our children (and discouraging our friends) from eating themselves to death at McDonald’s and other fast food venues, dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, etc., etc., etc., etc. Let’s make life for the born at least as much a priority and with at least the same fervor, if not more, as life for the unborn. Stated another way, if we insist on bringing every fetus into the world, let us work hard to make the world safe for them and the rest of us – grant them a right to live as well as right to life. Or maybe, “If we grant those who have been born the right to live, then maybe we can figure out a way to perfect the right to life for the unborn.” I should add that speaking of these profound issues in terms of "rights" is a peculiarly Western and American way of thinking about values and obligations. There seems to be a Western compulsion to view even complex philosophical and theological questions in legalistic terms. By thinking this way we of the West tend to obscure nuances, subtleties, and mysteries, on the one hand, and force our thinking into narrow, rigid, and sometimes formalistic channels, on the other. By seeking to draw up "rules and regulations" about what is True and False, what is Good and Evil, we can lose track of the Big Picture, of the Truth of God, of the Mysteries of Life.
The Patriarch says it well and in a truly Orthodox way. In his 2008 book, “Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today” (p. 150), he writes:
I also encounter many and diverse issues related to the sanctity of life from birth through death. Those issues range from sensitive matters of sexuality to highly controversial questions like the death penalty. In all such social and moral issues, it is not one or another position that the Orthodox Church seeks to promote in a defensive spirit. Indeed, we would normally refrain from expounding a single rigidly defined dogma on social and moral challenges. Rather, it is the sacredness of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, that the Church at all times seeks to underline.
Those who would demand that our hierarchs and Patriarchs spew forth moral diktats and involve themselves in political controversies are, quite unintentionally I believe, pushing our Churches to become Eastern versions of the Church of Rome. If we as Orthodox Americans feel deeply about such issues as state-sanctioned abortions, or for that matter, safe workplaces, healthy diets, capital punishment, and clean air, to cite a few examples of issues laden with moral and theological implications, then we should exercise all the tools of citizenship in this great country to influence the debate and shape the outcome. We ought not drag the Church into these conflicts and thereby undermine both its moral and its doctrinal authority while re-defining its role in ways alien to Orthodoxy.
Posted by Peter J. Petkas at 1:34 PM No comments: An Evening in Beaumont 11/28/09
Last night Belle and I spent the evening at ”THE THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT / CURED PARTY” for Charlene Bourque at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers Hall on Spindletop Road in Beaumont, Texas, about 80 miles east of Houston. Charlene has been one of several cancer patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center here whom we’ve leant the use of our garage apartment for extended or intermittent stays during their treatment. Charlene is a friend of a friend of Belle’s daughter Amy. She suffered from acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and went through horrendously difficult chemotherapy for the better part of the 8 or 9 months (for her story go to http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/charlenebourque
Charlene and her husband Scooter (yes, Scooter) invited us to stay with them in their home in Lumberton Texas (about 9 miles north of Beaumont) last night after the big party at the IBEW Hall. Charlene and her family and her extended family are deeply religious. She called the 350 or so people who gathered for the celebration – of her apparent cure – her “prayer warriors.” You might think these folks must be Southern Baptists or Evangelicals. No, Roman Catholics. They are also deeply “West Louisianan” “coon-asses” (they call themselves that – proudly) -– Cajuns from that southeastern corner of Texas that, though west of the Sabine River, is culturally, ethnically, and every-otherwise-an extension of Louisiana Cajun country. For these people, family is bigger than faith, though faith is pervasive. The admixture of old French and more recent Italian, Greek, and Lebanese immigrants who worked – and still do – in the refineries and petrochemical plants and rice and cattle farms of the upper Texas and Louisiana coastal plan was, until last night, something I vaguely knew about, but had never experienced. (My dad grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana, whose culture now and in my Dad’s era, is a fascinating combination of the Red Neck South and Acadiana.
Listen to the names of some of the families at the party last night: Paladino, Garrod, Perello, Hebert (“a bear”), Pampolina, Gaspard, Restrepo, Boudreaux, Carizano, Begnaud (“beg no”), Pillitere, Guilbeaux, with a few Richeys, Davises, Smiths, and Murphys thrown in for good measure. Half the Italians had “Cajun” middle names and visa versa. The food was Texas Barbeque and potato salad and Cajun red beans and rice (“dirty rice” we call it – dark with filet gumbo seasoning) chased down with wine or Bud or Miller Lite. Local music impresario and cousin of Charlene’s, Phillip Pampolina, supplied the country & western, Cajun, and classic rock sounds as the women “line danced” and couples (like Belle and I) just danced to. And this was a family affair – kids of all ages infants to 83 (or more) – joined in the celebration.
A side note about Scooter Bourque whom I got to know a bit more last night: He grew up in Port Arthur, Texas (down the road a piece from Beaumont) and Brussels, Belgium, where he became fluent in real, not Cajun, French. His dad was a chemical engineer for Texaco. He spent 25 years as what Charlene called “a shift worker” at the North Star Steel mill in Vidor, Texas and then up and left and started his own now very successful business supplying air filtration equipment to schools, hospitals, and businesses in this corner of Texas. You can tell by his name, he’s a “coon ass.”
An evening to remember and cherish.
Posted by Peter J. Petkas at 11:30 AM