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Re: Church position?

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  • Zachariah George Arapura
    I share the concern of Dn.Bobby. I am a Syrian Orthodox Christian studying in a professional college in Chennai. In our college protestant groups are
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 6, 2007
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      I share the concern of Dn.Bobby.

      I am a Syrian Orthodox Christian studying in a professional college
      in Chennai. In our college protestant groups are organizing prayer
      meetings. These payer meetings are lead by Pastors of Charismatic
      groups. In these meetings they offer a different interpretation of
      Bible. They encourage heretic views among the students.Many students
      other than protestant denominations are attracted towards these
      prayer groups. Its high time that our church awakens and react to these threats.

      I would like to know the location and timings of our parishes in and
      around chennai.

      Zach Arapura

      --- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Rev. Dn. Boby Thomas wrote:
      > Hello all
      > I want know about Jacobite church position.
      > What the church provide for the young people? And what they
      expects from the church?
    • Mike Wingert
      Dear Shemachan Boby, Greetings in the name of Christ. You ask a series of much needed questions for all of us; the answers that I will provide may sting. The
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 7, 2007
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        Dear Shemachan Boby,

        Greetings in the name of Christ.

        You ask a series of much needed questions for all of us; the answers
        that I will provide may sting. The Malayalee Christian community has
        many great qualities that others can certainly learn from, but since
        the nature of your questions begs a critique, I will focus on answers
        to these critical issues within our Church. Accordingly, this email
        will observe some of the negative qualities we possess, in the hope
        that we may address and rectify such qualities. So if anyone is
        reading and apprehensive about what I hereafter convey, stop reading now.

        Your questions can be summarized in two parts: What is the role of
        the Church in the life of the youth/young adults, and why are some
        young people enjoying (certain types of) Protestant groups, instead of
        our Church?

        Who is the Church? In my experience with the Malayalee Christian
        community (as well as various other Orthodox Christian cultures), this
        is a question that many laity find difficulty answering. The Church
        is every human being baptized into the One Holy Universal (Qatholiki)
        and Apostolic Church: This includes all those who are canonically in
        communion with our Church (including the Coptic, Armenian, etc.) and
        possibly some other individuals or groups. WE are the Church. Dear
        Dn. Boby, what do you have planned for the young people? What do the
        moderators of this forum have planned for the young people? What do
        the readers have planned for the young people? The Church is not
        simply a series of clerics; the Patriarch and Catholicos are not
        executives of a corporation per se. Clerics all have a role in the
        Holy Church, just as you and I have roles in the Holy Church. As a
        deacon, your role is to serve at the altar and serve the Church
        community in whatever their needs are. Clerics have a duty to
        dispense the Holy Sacraments, or assist in their dispensation (as in
        the case with the diaconate). When one reads through the lives of the
        saints, one will see that these holy men and women had all sorts of
        vocations; many were clerics, and many were not. Each of them, and
        likewise each of us, has a role in the history of the world. We all
        have a purpose.

        The problem we face is ignorance. Often, I have seen many in the
        Malayalee community apply their personal misunderstandings of the
        Church to the detriment of the youth. I will provide some examples.

        - The Rank of the Shemachen.
        Traditionally the "Fr. Deacon" is a title reserved for those who have
        received the rank of Deacon (Diakono / Ewangeloyo), and is not used
        for minor ranks of the diaconate such as Reader (Quroyo) or Sub-deacon
        (Apo-Diakno) in every Orthodox jurisdiction--especially in our own
        Syriac tradition. I have most commonly found that among Malayalees,
        when one receives the rank of Quroyo, they are treated as a true
        Shemachen (though I also know of a few exceptions). Why do I bring
        this up? For the Shemachen himself, this usually is not an issue
        because he is serving the Church, but for the people it is
        problematic. The position of Reader (Quroyo) is called such because
        this is a person who has been ordained to read from the Holy Bible
        during the Qurbono. In most Malayalee churches I've visited, those
        who were reading were simply Cantors (Mzamrone). Many were older
        gentlemen. Many of my friends who served the altar as Cantors had
        expressed to me their desire to become ordained to one of the lesser
        ranks of the diaconate, as it is the case in the rest of Orthodox
        jurisdictions in the world, but they also told me of the potential
        problems they would face. Apparently, a great amount of social
        pressure is placed upon the Quroyo, as many (if not all) of his
        community will then hassle the person about becoming a priest. This
        has become such an issue, that now many will only become ordained to
        the diaconate if they later intend to become a priest. This
        misunderstanding has two negative effects. The first is that many who
        are called to the diaconate and not the priesthood, avoid their
        calling from God and miss out on service to the Church because of
        this. The second negative point is that this creates in the mind of
        the laity that one must wear black and have a title in order to be a
        leader in the Church. Each of us have roles and responsibilities; we
        must not leave everything to the clerics. We must not create such a
        gap in people's minds as if there are two different classes of Christian.

        - The Celibate Priesthood.
        If we are referring to monks, who are ordained as priests, this is not
        a problem. But a priest should not be ordained if he is not married.
        This is unfortunately a legacy left-over from the Roman Catholic
        conquest of the Syriac Orthodox Christians in Kerala. This evolves
        into a problem when people misperceive holy orders. I once had a
        conversation with an individual from the IOC who loved the idea of the
        celibate priesthood because it allowed for one to "shoot for a higher
        goal like bishop." If one is desiring to become a bishop, such a
        person needs to be the first person crossed off the list of potential
        bishops. Shepherds are called by the will of God and not their own
        will. The episcopate is not a political office. It would be better
        for such a person to walk into the desert and spend the remainder of
        his life there than it would such a person to shepherd other souls.
        One must not plan to be a bishop; one must simply be a good Christian
        and yield to the will of God. Such a person makes for a saintly bishop.

        - "Bishops are living saints."
        I have heard of this from several people of Keralite origin (both
        Syriac Orthodox Christians and those among the IOC). I was told by an
        IO priest that "we can venerate whomever we want no matter how bad
        they are or whichever Church they are from, because all bishops are
        living saints." (I guess this is why they acknowledge a militant
        Syriac Orthodox Christian such as Mor Gregorios Gewargis of Parumala).
        In any case, I don't have a problem with the idea of "living saints"
        because this is the calling of ALL CHRISTIANS. The problem lies in
        that people misinterpret the word "Mor" to mean "Saint", when it
        really means "My master". By saying "bishops are living saints,"
        people do themselves and their community a disservice by distancing
        themselves and their personal responsibilities as Christians with
        those of the episcopate. Bishops have a certain role in the Church,
        and so do each of us. No role is more important than the other; our
        roles are just different.

        - "It's All the Same. We're All Christian."
        Is it all the same? Are we "all Christian" as many uncles and aunties
        and even priests teach?! Too often, this is the mantra of our
        faithful. I will give an example. Here in Southern California, we
        have many ecumenical events where all the various Orthodox gather
        together to celibate the liturgy, to have joint prayers, Bible
        studies, youth trips, etc. This applies to all the Orthodox
        jurisdictions, but the Oriental Orthodox in particular... yet when one
        hears about an ecumenical event at a Malayalee church, it means, all
        the Keralites from competing Christian denominations and different
        beliefs come together because of their nationality. While the rest of
        us Orthodox are gathering together based on our common faith, many
        Keralites gather together based on nationality. Is it any wonder then
        that the children of people who engage in such activities abandon the
        faith for other denominations? When the young people are taught that
        "it's all the same," then who can blame them for abandoning the faith?
        According to what they've been taught, they are not abandoning
        anything since "it's all the same anyway." [NOTE: Malankara Syrian
        Orthodox Christians participate in our pan-Orthodox gatherings, but
        the numbers are not as high as the pan-Malayalee events].

        - Inter-faith Marriages
        Often, it is the same uncles who engage in bitter arguments with those
        outside the Holy Orthodox faith who will quickly attempt to marry off
        their daughters to those same groups they are arguing with! "Oh, he
        has good job. He has H1 Visa!" And another thing... this whole idea
        of the daughter converting to her husband's religion is Islamic, not
        Christian. If the uncles believe that the Church is worth fighting
        for, why are these same guys throwing their own flesh and blood to
        those they fight against?

        - Keyboards
        What is happening to our liturgies?! The use of the organ was
        permitted in the early 1900s, not for its musical value, but so that
        it would be easier for populations to learn the Beth Gazo--our system
        of chanting. The early 1900s represents a difficult period in our
        Church history, as we were on the receiving end of two disastrous acts
        of genocide. With population decreases, it is only natural that we
        find ways to educate our faithful when many of our educators had been
        put to death. Instead of a culture of those educated in our musical
        tradition, the organ found itself being transformed into an electronic
        instrument--the keyboard. This keyboard came to be used to compete
        with Protestants and the RCC who permitted its use. As such, we
        substituted the beauty of Orthodoxy, for trendy and ever changing
        tunes that sound like film scores more than they do the divine
        worship. Aside from the fact that the music (or better stated,
        "noise") sounds horrible, the tragedy of all of this is that we now
        suffer far less participation in the service. The whole point of
        employing these hymns and chants in our liturgy is to serve as a mode
        of education to our faithful. They are so deep! When people stop
        engaging themselves in the Qurbana, are they rightly preparing
        themselves to partake in the holy mysteries? My prayer is that we
        will rid ourselves of this wicked instrument, sell these, give the
        money to some good use, and use this energy that some people have to
        further educate and enhance the lives of our faithful. Right now, we
        pray for men in the 5th Diptych who condemned the use of instruments,
        then follow their commemoration by playing these silly instruments.

        - General Ignorance
        If we perpetuate ignorance, we should not ask questions about why some
        leave the Church. I will provide a few more anecdotes:

        I knew a Malayalee Christian girl who went away to school and made
        some Pakistani friends, and wanted to be a Muslim for the following
        reasons: "In Christianity, you're allowed to do whatever you want
        like have sex or drink and stuff, but Islam is different. They
        believe in praying and fasting. How come we don't believe in
        fasting?" This statement was incredibly ignorant on her part, but to
        what extent can she be blamed? Certainly in the end, we are all
        accountable for ourselves--God has given each of us the ability to
        learn and the faculty to reason. But if this girl, who was raised in
        our faith thought that sex (outside of marriage) and drinking to
        drunkenness are permitted in Christianity, and that we do not believe
        in fasting, then somewhere along the line, someone did her a major
        disservice. The great irony is that Islamic fasting comes directly
        from Syriac Christian fasting. We fast from sun-up to sun-down,
        having nothing during this time, but unlike Islam, we abstain from
        animal products during the times of our fasts (which tend to last
        longer than Islamic fasts).

        I've met many other youths who also know little to nothing about our
        faith, and when they learn of it, they are blown away by how profound
        real Christianity is. Recently at the family conference of the
        Malankara Archdiocese of the SOC here in North America, I met some
        individuals who had become "Non-Denominational" Protestants. Their
        experience at our family conference had opened up their minds to the
        Syriac Orthodox Christian faith in ways they had never known before.
        Praise God, they have returned home to the mother Church. Their
        biggest struggle growing up was that they were not taught the
        Christian faith, either by word or by deed. They were introduced to
        Christianity generally speaking, but who were their role models, and
        who was there to feed them spiritually?

        Some Solutions

        The first solution is to observe the issues we are facing and then
        provide the appropriate education so that individuals can make
        decisions on their own. Education is a key point. On the West Coast
        of the United States, we have a lot of educational initiatives.
        Perhaps these same initiatives can be undertaken in India also.

        Education alone is not enough! We must live a life of faith! We must
        live the lives of saints! This is the more important point. Knowing
        about Holy Orthodoxy and living the life of a true Orthodox Christian
        is not the same. It is a challenge that I myself must confront on a
        daily basis. I am in a unique position, having learned much about
        our faith; but the more I learn, the more responsibility I have to all
        of mankind. This is our collective challenge as Christians. In life,
        we are gradually learning more and more, and as such, we find
        opportunities to interact with God. It is very easy to acquire an
        education and use it for the wrong reasons. We must be living examples.

        Maybe this was a long answer to your short question, but there are
        indeed reasons why young people are leaving the Church. They are
        doubly poisoned by ignorance and lack of saintly examples (starting in
        the home). If a person has a genuine love for Christ and then
        encounters Syriac Orthodox Christianity, such a person cannot turn away.

        Mike Wingert
        # 0902

        --- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Rev. Dn. Boby Thomas wrote:
        > Hello all
        > I want know about Jacobite church position.
        > What the church provide for the young people? And what they expects
        from the church?
        > Now days so many protestants groups are starting, and our young
        people like these groups more than our church? Why it is happening?
        > Dn.Boby
        > # 3089
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