Re: New Church Construction at Parumala
- I also support Jacobite groups right to construct a place of worship for our God.
However, I do have reservation about anyone constructing a new church few hundred meters away from the existing church.
It is true Jacobites always claim that they are a separate church & has nothing to do with MOSC faith, etc but same time they address MOSC as "methran kakshi". That means when they are claiming a separate identity their conscience says it is not separate but a faction so calling the other faction as "Methran faction".
Though Jacobite is calling them "Jacobite", the fact is that MOSC is also Jacobite for the reason that MOSC also practices the faith of Jacob Burdana. I use the term "Jacobite" to refer the other party only due to the absence of a term to indicate this group as HB Thomas I made them a nameless group. Earlier, we had two different groups called Patriarchal faction & Methran faction. As HB Thomas I wanted to establish that it is not a faction but a separate identity, he has selected the word "Jacobite" in the society constitution. This has only supported the claim of Roman Catholics as they were saying RC was the only church in the world established 2000 years ago & rest all churches got divided from RC. RC is even using the word "Jacobite" to establish their claim that orthodox church (both Malankara and Syrian) was established only after Jacob Burdana. The term "Jacobite" was rejected by SOC and also this term is mentioned in MOSC constitution indicating as a wrong practice.
Since we practice same faith, I wish if any group is going to build a new church, it should be at least 5 kilometers radius away from the existing church, so that it will be convenient for those who are staying far from the existing church.
I believe someday we will become a united church and two churches few meters away from each other makes no sense for their faithful. For the same reason, I consider any loss of MOSC is a loss of Jacobites also and any loss of Jacobite is a loss of MOSC also. And I always look at MOSC/ Jacobite happily when they grow as that growth is eventually going to be a growth of our united church.
However, if this was a Pentacostal church or Marthoma church, I would have taken a different stand as they are totally a separate church and have got nothing to do with our faith.
Sajy Thannikkottu, Kathmandu
- Dear Mr Alexander,
You ended your last correspondence with me by implying that my post was
specifically directed towards you. While I admit that your and Mr Eapen's
comments were the immediate cause for my jumping in when I did, I did not
address anyone in my response because you are not the only one in our Church
who has these opinions, and so what I had to say I said to all. But I would
like to address some of the issues you have raised.
Evidently, you have a big ax to grind with the "Western missionary model"
(from our previous conversations, I wonder if you don't have an ax to grind
with "the West" in general, which is ironic since you're from New York). In
this conversation, we haven't really defined what the "Western missionary
model" is and what it is not, but I think we have some of the same things in
mind since there is a standard stereotype of this model. I thought my post
was sufficient in its rejection of this, but you disagree, citing my
"begrudging" acknowledgment of some of your points followed by a summary
dismissal. You may think that last sentence is a perfect example of this.
But in viewing things this way, you betray your hand and illustrate my
point. It is true that much damage has been done in the name of
evangelization, but abusus non tollit usum. We must reject the "Western
missionary model" if by that one means the spread of Christianity not for
the sake of bringing people to life in Christ, but as a means toward
cultural, political, economic, or other domination of peoples through
various ways and means. But that doesn't require that we eliminate the idea
of evangelization in toto. On the contrary, evangelization is an authentic
part of the Church's life and mission, without which the Church cannot be
who and what it was constituted to be. The "Western missionary model" can
be a powerful reminder to Orthodox Christians of what not to do, without
discouraging us from evangelization completely. There are many bad examples
of missionary work in the West, but there are also a number of good ones.
Similarly, there are numerous examples of missionary work in the Orthodox
East that involve more than what I'll call the "quiet witness" model of
evangelization. To see them will require removing the blinders from one's
The experience of the saints in the Orthodox Church is all love and
humility. Their humility (which is not a character trait alone, but a gift
of God) leads the authentic saints to realize precisely how far from
holiness they really are--a paradox to our minds, surely, because we see
them as super-holy compared to ourselves, but this is their experience,
because they see God as super-holy compared to themselves. So yes, on their
own authority and initiative, none of them would dare to take on such
activity. The authentic saints always ran away from office: St Ambrose
tried to avoid becoming bishop of Milan; St Ephrem, St John Chrysostom, St
Gregory the Theologian, etc. all had the same experience. But their
humility is also such that when the Church gives them a responsibility, the
authentic saints will take it up wholeheartedly, because their trust is in
God. That's where their love comes in: the love of God, and the consequent
love of neighbor, which is also the gift of God, and not a mere human
virtue. So I am not saying that the true saint will never, ever undertake
this work, as you allege I said; they will never take it upon themselves, on
their own initiative, to do this work, but only if it is given from above,
and if it is given from above, then they will live, breathe, and bleed this
work, because the call is from God. This is the difference between true
humility and false humility: the saints' humility will have them believe,
with St Paul, that they are foremost among sinners, but they are not too
humble to utterly reject the call of the Church and of God for a certain
work. They may believe themselves to be eminently unqualified, but they
will put their trust in God and do it to the best of their ability. False
humility will reject the call of the Church and of God no matter what,
because it is ultimately born of pride.
In your post, you make several allegations about my position, among which
are that I prefer to "lower the bar" for the Church's missionaries. I
categorically reject this and all the others as your misunderstandings of my
position, and nothing more or less. I think I am maintaining a high
standard for Christians in general, and for ministers in particular. We are
called to be saints, and it is definitely possible to be saintly in this
life. Your statement that "If we cannot raise enough saintly people up in
our community, then we have no business preaching our religion and values to
others" is based on a false premise; namely, that our faith and values
derive their authority from the sanctity and perfection of those who profess
them. This is wrong: our faith and values are revealed by God in human
history, and their truth value is not dependent on us. If we believe the
things we say we believe, then we ought to share them with others so that
they may freely choose to enjoy the same blessings. We don't need to have a
certificate of perfection to do this (who would even be able to award this
degree?); human weakness is to be constantly engaged so that we can become
holy--only hypocrisy and pride are to be shunned.
Your remark that I "would rather see more outside converts, than more saints
within because you believe it is impossible for a good number of us ordinary
people to be saintly" is simply flat-out wrong, as anyone with a clear mind
should be able to see by now. First off, I reject as false the apparent
dichotomy between "us ordinary people" and myself. I consider myself an
ordinary person; my diaconal ordination did not render me a saint, it made
me a servant of the "ordinary people": to the best of my ability, I am
called to try to help them, and they often help me more and put me to
shame. Secondly, I have already rejected the idea that "ordinary people"
cannot in great numbers become saints: to become a saint is the vocation of
every baptized Christian, because to be a saint is to be in communion with
God. It's not that I prefer the number of outside converts to be higher
because it's impossible for many to be saints: I would like more people to
enjoy fellowship with the true God than just the three million or so members
of the MOSC. In that sense only is it a "numbers game". Thirdly, why are
they "outside converts"? If they join us freely, they are not "outside",
they are "us". People will sometimes say such things with the implication
that "Orthodoxy" is nothing more than a caste, and I reject that, and so
ought the Church, as it has done and continues to do throughout its history.
In my post, I accused you of nothing you allege, because I wasn't addressing
you specifically. I was simply making the observation that there are those
who look at evangelization and equate it with the negative "Western" models
they have seen or experienced. Like you, I decry the fact that "we have
equated evangelization with its Western definition and model", primarily
because evangelization is of the esse of the Church and should not be
abandoned because of abuses, but also because I reject the idea that there
is a "Western definition" of evangelization that involves all the negative
things you seem to think are part of it. I think that the authentic Western
Christian tradition has more or less the same vision as we do in the
Orthodox East regarding evangelization, but this has been hijacked over time
by kings and rulers in the name of cultural, political, and economic
concerns, by opportunistic religious leaders for the advancement of their
teachings, and so on. I reject the hijacking, I want to promote the truth.
Finally, a note about your quote from the late Metropolitan Paulos Mor
Gregorios. You have not identified the source of the quote, context, etc.,
and so it is hard to address it, except as your attempt to pit Paulos Mor
Gregorios against me. From what little you have quoted, I'm not convinced
the late Metropolitan and I would disagree on this matter substantially; as
an Orthodox bishop and theologian, I trust that his views on evangelization
throughout his body of scholarly and pastoral work were more nuanced than
the precious little being presented in this tiny quote. But insofar as
church history demonstrates that even Patriarchs can fall away from
Orthodoxy, the Gospel and its proper interpretation (that is to say,
Orthodox theology) must be the final criterion for all of us. Name dropping
doesn't work in matters of faith because truth is no respecter of persons.
Metropolitan Mor Gregorios would certainly agree with this, as he was
ordained, as all Orthodox bishops are, under an opened Gospel book.
Anyway, I do not wish to carry on a lengthy debate here and take up the
readers' time. If you would like to continue this further, please let the
moderators know, and we can arrange something offline.
Dn Philip Mathew
St Mary's Orthodox Church, Bronx, NY