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Church, State, Mission.

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  • Peter Joshua Hatala
    Editorial - Church, State, Mission Priest Andrew Phillips With the doors in the former Soviet Union now open to religious freedom, many people there are
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 29, 2004
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      Editorial - Church, State, Mission

      Priest Andrew Phillips

      With the doors in the former Soviet Union now open to
      religious freedom, many people there are searching
      through a maze of different confessions for the path
      to God. They are not alone. Scores of disaffected
      Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Protestant
      Evangelicals, dismayed by the modernist drifts and
      shallow theologies of their respective faiths, are
      likewise seeking for that fullness of faith which was
      once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Are we
      doing anything to help them?

      Next year the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
      will glorify three hierarchs: Innocent of Moscow and
      Alaska, Nicholas of Japan, and John of Shanghai and
      San Francisco. All three were apostles, all three
      drew hundreds of souls into the saving enclosure of
      the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Their
      success was due not only to their personal sanctity
      but also to their well-defined vision of the
      Church-her nature, her vocation and her relation to
      the world.

      One of the most difficult dilemmas that has always
      faced the Church is her relations with the State, the
      paradox of being in the world but not of it. Through
      the Incarnation the Church, the Body of Christ, has a
      human nature, but she also has a divine nature, a
      spiritual ethos, for My kingdom is not of this world
      (John 18:36). Sadly, the delicate and fine balance
      between being in the world but not of it, of rendering
      unto Caesar the things of Caesar and unto God the
      things of God (Matt. 22:21) has rarely been achieved.
      We have only to think of the heretical Patriarchs of
      Constantinople, who signed anything the Emperor told
      them to; or those Russian rulers and nobles who
      interfered in the spiritual realm: Ivan the Terrible,
      Peter I ("the Great"), Catherine II ("the Great");
      there is the case of the Romanian Church in the
      inter-war and post-war period with its State-appointed
      bishops and vicious persecution of those who had
      another vision of the Church. In the Donatist schism,
      which plagued North Africa in the fourth, fifth and
      sixth centuries, and among the Russian Old Believers
      who did not accept the seventeenth century Nikonian
      reforms, there were strong currents of a sectarian
      mentality.

      There have been, however, periods of harmony or
      symphony between Church and State, when the State saw
      to the physical well-being and safety of its citizens
      and the Church was free to look to the spiritual
      well-being and safety of her flock. Thus the period of
      St. Constantine the Great or Sts. Justinian and
      Theodora, or Kievan Rus', or Muscovite Russia before
      the deposition of Patriarch Nikon in the seventeenth
      century, or in England before the martyrdom of St.
      Edward in 979, or in Ireland after its conversion and
      for several centuries thereafter. And there are many
      other examples from church history.

      What is the situation today? We see church leaders
      playing the "nationalist card", turning the Orthodox
      Faith into a nationalist cult in order to keep "in"
      with a hostile or indifferent State, catering to
      masses who, though indifferent to religion, will still
      come along for an ethnic fiesta. We see extreme Old
      Calendarists in Greece and certain "catacomb" groups
      in Russia, modern Donatists, who condemn the
      sacraments of all other Orthodox as without grace.
      Thus contemporary Orthodoxy is dominated on the one
      hand by churches that are "officially recognized" but
      have introduced all manner of uncanonical practices,
      and on the other by groupings that claim to be
      Orthodox, are pious and persecuted, but seem never to
      have heard the words of St. Simeon the New Theologian:
      "Theology without love is the theology of the demons."

      Fortunately, this polarized view does not give the
      whole picture. There are, for instance, many in the
      "official churches", laity and clergy, who are sincere
      and pious and wish to follow the Church's teachings
      whatever their bishops and "theologians" may declare
      at ecumenical meetings and in masonic lodges.
      Similarly, there are moderate Old Calendarists in
      Greece, Romania and Bulgaria, and those in the Russian
      catacombs who simply want to be obedient to the
      Church, not condemning others with censorious pride.

      What can be done in this situation? Here are some
      observations of a parish priest of the Russian
      Orthodox Church Outside Russia on what this Church can
      do:

      1. Conserve the Orthodox Faith among the Russian
      emigration. This task is complicated by the secular
      nature of modern life, with Orthodox of Russian origin
      being assimilated into the countries where they live.
      The result is that in Protestant countries there is a
      tendency for the Orthodoxy of parts of the emigration
      to resemble an "eastern-rite" Protestantism or
      Anglicanism, and in Catholic countries, Uniatism. At
      the other extreme there is the temptation to form
      ethnic ghettos which simply die out after a generation
      or two, as the memory of the "old country" fades away.
      We must conserve the Faith, not merely preserve it-
      in whatever language it is necessary to do this.

      2. Continue the missionary work of the Russian
      Church in which were involved such holy men as St.
      Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, and the three holy
      hierarchs-Innocent, Nicholas and John-whom we are soon
      to canonize. Make more use of the local language to
      attract converts, following the example these
      hierarchs. Encourage more non-Russians to enter the
      priesthood; we should fear not de-russification but
      "de-orthodoxisation".

      3. Help to restore Orthodoxy in Russia. There we
      must witness that, although in the world, the Church
      is not of it. And to do that we must in no way
      compromise ourselves through possible political
      temptations, the seductions of power, glory, pride or
      financial gain. Our witness must be spiritual; only
      thus can our help be positive and canonical.

      These threefold tasks, carried out in humility,
      avoiding extremes, are Trinitarian in their inner
      meaning. To conserve the Faith is to be faithful to
      the Father. To continue our missionary tasks is to be
      faithful to the Incarnation of the Son. And a
      spiritual witness in Russia that the Kingdom of Christ
      is not of this world is faith in the Holy Spirit. And
      if we seek a living icon of one who did his utmost to
      carry out these three tasks, I can think of none so
      clear as Blessed John of Shanghai/Paris/ San
      Francisco, who embodies the very vocation of our
      Church: to bring all who wish to follow Her to the
      life and salvation in Christ, the Crucified and
      Resurrected Lord of all.

      Priest Andrew Phillips
      Church of Christ's Resurrection, Meudon-la-for�t, France
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