"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Orthodox Christian Worlds

I was talking recently with Augustine Casiday, the editor of a book whose official publication date is today. I am eagerly looking forward to receiving from the publisher The Orthodox Christian World (Routledge, 2012), 608pp.

About this book the publisher tells us: 
Over the last century unprecedented numbers of Christians from traditionally Orthodox societies migrated around the world. Once seen as an ‘oriental’ or ‘eastern’ phenomenon, Orthodox Christianity is now much more widely dispersed, and in many parts of the modern world one need not go far to find an Orthodox community at worship. This collection offers a compelling overview of the Orthodox world, covering the main regional traditions of Orthodox Christianity and the ways in which they have become global. The contributors are drawn from the Orthodox community worldwide and explore a rich selection of key figures and themes. The book provides an innovative and illuminating approach to the subject, ideal for students and scholars alike.
Casiday has already agreed to do an interview about this book, and I hope to feature his thoughts later in the year.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Notes on Notes on a Century

I recently finished the very enjoyable memoirs of the Princeton historian Bernard Lewis: Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian (Viking, 2012), 400pp. About this book the publisher tells us: 
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of What Went Wrong? tells the story of his extraordinary life. After September 11, Americans who had never given much thought to the Middle East turned to Bernard Lewis for an explanation, catapulting What Went Wrong? and later Crisis of Islam to become number one bestsellers. He was the first to warn of a coming "clash of civilizations," a term he coined in 1957, and has led an amazing life, as much a political actor as a scholar of the Middle East. In this witty memoir he reflects on the events that have transformed the region since World War II, up through the Arab Spring.
 A pathbreaking scholar with command of a dozen languages, Lewis has advised American presidents and dined with politicians from the shah of Iran to the pope. Over the years, he had tea at Buckingham Palace, befriended Golda Meir, and briefed politicians from Ted Kennedy to Dick Cheney. No stranger to controversy, he pulls no punches in his blunt criticism of those who see him as the intellectual progenitor of the Iraq war. Like America’s other great historian-statesmen Arthur Schlesinger and Henry Kissinger, he is a figure of towering intellect and a world-class raconteur, which makes Notes on a Century essential reading for anyone who cares about the fate of the Middle East.
Lewis is a prolific and elegant author and an incredible polyglot. He has done so much to advance our understanding of Islamic history, especially Ottoman history, not excluding relations between Christians, Jewis, and Muslims (though one does wish he had treated these relations more). One of the things I especially enjoyed about this book--which I do not think the author really intended--were his ad hoc reflections (especially in chapters 5 and 12) on historiography and historical methods. In reading Lewis, I was put in mind of another towering historian of his generation, the great Robert Taft, especially in his "methodological" article “Ecumenical Scholarship and the Catholic-Orthodox Epiclesis Dispute,” Ostkirchlische Studien 45 (1996): 201-226.

It is clear that both Lewis and Taft are historians of the "old school," which means that questions of "theory" and "identity" take a back-seat to what the evidence actually says. Both Lewis and Taft greatly embody what the latter calls "serene objectivity" in treating historical evidence, no matter how politically incorrect it may be today. How refreshing that is today when history--as Eastern Christians know only too well because we do it too often ourselves--is often used and abused for present felt purposes. In this regard, I am reminded of Margaret MacMillan's important cautionary tale, Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History (Modern Library, 2010), 208pp. 

MacMillan is also the author of the wonderful book Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (Random House, 2003).

This is a study of the Paris Peace Conference that led to the disastrous Versailles treaty ending World War I. I have had a longstanding interest in the so-called Great War and found this book un-put-downable. She writes with verve and elegance and tells stories--enlightening, often humorous and entertaining, sometimes shocking--about, inter alia, Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau. The book won a number of awards, and rightly so.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Christian-Muslim Encounters in the Middle East

I am delighted to be on a panel in Washington in October at the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa. Some details are here. Our panel is entitled "Christian – Muslim Encounters in the Medieval Middle East"and includes three presentations:

  • Muslim Conversions to Christianity in the Islamic World, 700-1000, AD ~ (Krisztina Szilágyi)
  • The Status of Monks in Egypt under Early Mamluk Rule: The Case of Ibn Taymiyya ~ (Fr. Jason Welle)
  • Some Methodical Considerations for the Study of the Historic and Currents Encounters between Eastern Christians and Muslim Communities ~ (Adam DeVille)

It is a great honor that Sydney Griffith has kindly agreed to serve as moderator. Griffith, as I have noted before, is the author of the acclaimed study The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam (Princeton University Press, 2010) and other important studies on the Christian-Muslim encounter, and on Syriac Christianity generally. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Michael Fahey On Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy

In the most recent issue of Theological Studies, a Jesuit journal which is regularly described as being the most prestigious of its kind in North America, the Jesuit scholar Michael Fahey says several nice things of my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, and concludes by saying that it is "written in an accessible manner and deserves wide reading."

If you haven't bought your copy today, what are you waiting for?

Conversion Under the Ottomans

We are seeing an upsurge in books about Ottoman history, and that is a welcome development in all sorts of ways. Much remains to be studied, including relations between Eastern Christians and Muslims in the empire. A new book may shed some welcome light here:  Selim Deringil, Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire (Cambridge UP, 2012), 294pp.

 About this book the publisher tells us:
The commonly accepted wisdom is that nationalism replaced religion in the age of modernity. In the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, the focus of Selim Deringil's book, traditional religious structures crumbled as the empire itself began to fall apart. The state's answer to schism was regulation and control, administered in the form of a number of edicts in the early part of the century. It is against this background that different religious communities and individuals negotiated survival by converting to Islam when their political interests or their lives were at stake. As the century progressed, however, and as this engaging study illustrates with examples from real-life cases, conversion was no longer sufficient to guarantee citizenship and property rights as the state became increasingly paranoid about its apostates and what it perceived as their "denationalization." The book tells the story of the struggle for the bodies and the souls of people, waged between the Ottoman State, the Great Powers, and a multitude of evangelical organizations. Many of the stories shed light on current flash-points in the Arab world and the Balkans, offering alternative perspectives on national and religious identity and the interconnection between the two.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mothers of the Church

We live in a time of unprecedented interest in, and publications about, those early Christians whom we call the Fathers of the Church. But given the concerns of our age, the question is raised: were there any mothers, and if so, what do we know about them? A few books over the years have attempted to look at early Christian women, including Laura Swan's The Forgotten Desert Mothers: Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women; John Chryssavgis's In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers; and Eva Topping's Holy Mothers of Orthodoxy : Women and the ChurchNow this year we have two new books treating these overlooked women: 

Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey, Mothers of the Church: The Witness of Early Christian Women (Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2012), 160pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Meet the heroines of Christianity's formative years! Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey, in a follow-up to the best-selling The Fathers of the Church, have penned an inspiring companion volume on the Mothers of the Church that, like no other book, explores their impact on history and the Faith. Mothers of the Church: The Witness of Early Christian Women will reinforce Catholics understanding of the part played by women in the early Church. Drawing upon a wide spectrum of sources, it illustrates the many kinds of women that left their mark on sacred history by responding to God s call. Whether they were martyrs, abbesses, mothers, desert solitaries, or managers of large family businesses, these women s stories will encourage you and deepen your faith. Each chapter features a concise biography that is supplemented by quotes from the Fathers writings concerning the woman in question, poetry concerning her, and other ancient testimonials. The authors authoritative yet accessible writing style deftly explores the important impact of early Christian women. The Mothers of the Church include: Holy Women of the New Testament --St. Blandina --St. Perpetua and St. Felicity --St. Helena --St. Thecla --St. Agnes of Rome --St. Macrina --Proba the Widow --St. Marcella --St. Paula --St. Eustochium --St. Monica --Egeria the Tourist
The second book, to be released next month, is Christine Valters Paintner, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated and Explained (Skylight, August 2012), 179pp.

About this book the publisher explains:
Wisdom from the very beginnings ofChristian monasticism can become a companion on your own spiritual journey. The desert fathers and mothers were ordinary Christians living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine and Syria who chose to renounce the world in order to deliberately and individually follow God s call. They embraced lives of celibacy, labor, fasting, prayer, and poverty, believing that denouncing material goods and practicing stoic self-discipline would lead to unity with the Divine. Their spiritual practice formed the basis of Western monasticism and greatly influenced both Western and Eastern Christianity. Their writings, first recorded in the fourth century, consist of spiritual advice, parables and anecdotes emphasizing the primacy of love and the purity of heart as essential to spiritual life and authentic communion with God. Focusing on key themes of charity, fortitude, lust, patience, prayer, self-control and visions, the Sayings influenced the rule of St. Benedict and have inspired centuries of opera, poetry and art.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Diaries and More Diaries

As I noted before, diaries are a fascinating and fun thing to read. This year seems set to be a banner year for those diaries--and many other books besides--commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. First we had, of course, the sprawling, wonderful diaries of Yves Congar. I have not finished them by any means. I read portions as time allows, saving more for another time, much as one does not quaff but sips a Lagavulin or Talisker or Highland Park, any of which you would be welcome to send me at any time for any reason.
Now I have recently received from the publisher the following: Jaroslav Skira, trans., The Second Vatican Council Diaries of Met. Maxim Hermaniuk, C.Ss.R. (1960-1965) (Peeters-Leuven, 2012), 333pp. About this book the publisher tells us:
The Second Vatican Council diaries of the late Met. Maxim Hermaniuk, C.Ss.R., provide a captivating glimpse into the public and behind-the-scenes work of this Council Father. Hermaniuk was a graduate of the Catholic University of Louvain, and taught for a number of years in Belgium in the study houses of the Redemptorist order before being named the first Metropolitan of the Ukrainian (Eastern) Catholics in Canada. Hermaniuk was by far the most active of all the Ukrainian Catholic bishops at the Council. Much of his work was carried out through his membership in the Preconciliar Theological Commission and in the influential Secretariat for Christian Unity. Hermaniuk’s activities centred on his proposal to establish an Apostolic College, as well as his call to nullify the anathemas of 1054 between East and West. He was a strong advocate of ecumenical dialogue with other Christians, particularly with the Eastern Orthodox churches. His work also included the promotion of dialogue with other faiths. In reference to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was at the time severely persecuted in the Soviet Union, one sees his affirmations of the particularity and dignity of his Church, his promotion of religious liberty, and his condemnations of religious and political oppression. These diaries also reveal how the Ukrainian Catholic bishops responded to the pastoral needs of their faithful — in liturgy, catechesis, education, mission and ecclesial governance — and the call to renewal made by the Council. Finally, the diaries are unique since they are one of the very few accounts of the Council by an Eastern Catholic Council Father.
As with the Congar diaries, these are a wonderful read, best savored over days and weeks to enjoy so many fascinating insights into the council, the Catholic Church at mid-century, Catholic-Orthodox relations, and the politics of the Cold War (inter alia). Skira has written a helpful introduction to the diaries and brief biography of Hermaniuk, who was not as well known as Congar, but was a very substantial personality in his own right. Born in Ukraine, and educated in Belgium, Hermaniuk became an accomplished biblical scholar whose early works are still cited in the literature. He was also a driving figure behind the council's decree on ecumenism and the Eastern Churches, as well as the recovery of the notion of collegiality; some have dubbed Hermaniuk the "father of collegiality." He was, as I noted in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, rather critical of post-conciliar developments that did not allow for the full flourishing of synodality in the Catholic Church and a dampening of collegial efforts. Late in life, in the 1990s, he became editor-in-chief of Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, of which I am now editor.

Reading these diaries takes us back into an age that still seems almost surreal: when the Soviet Union existed. How long ago that now seems, but what a time of darkness and endless suffering it was for so many Christians, Ukrainian Catholics especially, whose entire church was officially banned by Stalin and driven underground, all her bishops imprisoned or killed, and many others besides. The head of the church, Metropolitan Joseph Slipyj was sent with the other bishops to the Gulag, but was released in 1963 thanks in part to Norman Cousins, John F. Kennedy, and Pope John XXIII. 

It seems clear, especially from Hermaniuk's tone, that he and much of the rest of the Ukrainian hierarchy were out of sorts and did not know how to relate to Slipyj. This is not news to those who know the history, but it is somewhat startling to see that again and again there is a stiffness and awkwardness to Hermaniuk's tone when Slipyj is mentioned. For those who know the history, the Ukrainian Catholic Church from the 1960s until 1991 was suppressed in Ukraine, but flourished in North America, Canada especially. Bishops in these latter territories often had no connection to bishops in the underground, and ended up de facto leading the whole church, which was often said to be in some ways a surrogate for a free state of Ukraine. I'll have more to say about these fascinating diaries as I continue to explore them. They are at once a reminder of a world that is now gone--thank God--and yet of a Church in many ways still with us. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How Serious is Worship?

Released in paperback form this year after hardback publication two years ago is a new Festschrift for the Yale scholar of liturgy, who has written about both Western (Latin and Anglican) liturgy and Syriac: Simon Jones and Melanie Ross, eds., The Serious Business of Worship: Essays in Honour of Bryan D. Spinks (Continuum, 2012), 256pp. 
About this book the publisher tells us:
The study of liturgy has received criticism from scholars and practitioners alike: the academic discipline of liturgiology has been compared to the hobby of stamp collection, and proponents for liturgical renewal argue that worship must be made more accessible and relevant.   Bryan Spinks has been an important moderating voice in this discussion, reminding both academic and ecclesial communities that Christ is made known in the liturgical riches of the past as well as in contemporary forms of the present. Inspired by Spinks’ work, this volume brings together biblical, historical, and theological scholars to discuss the theme of continuity and change in worship.  Its historical range begins with the early church, extends through the Reformation, and concludes with a discussion of issues facing contemporary liturgical reform. In recognition of the fact that Professor Spinks’ work has been widely influential in both Europe and the United States, the editors have solicited liturgical perspectives from scholars with international reputations on sides of the Atlantic.
Table of Contents:Introduction (Melanie C. Ross) / Forword (Iain Torrance) / The Serious Business of Worship (Bryan D. Spinks) / Part I: Early Church and Eastern Traditions Introduction / Chapter 1 (Robert F. Taft): St. John Chrysostom, Preacher Committed to the Seriousness of Worship / Chapter 2 (Michael Daniel Findikyan): The ‘Opening of the Door’ Ceremony on Palm Sunday in the Armenian Church / Chapter 3 (Gregory Woolfenden): A Tension between Private and Public Prayer? Reflections on the origins of the day hours / Chapter 4 (Anthony Gelston): The East Syrian Eucharistic Prayers / Chapter 5 (Paul Bradshaw): Varieties of Early Christian Baptismal Anointing / II: Patristic and Reformation Eras Introduction / Chapter 6 (Kenneth Stevenson): The Transfiguration Sermon of Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny / Chapter 7 (Gordon Jeanes): Is the Institution Narrative Necessary in the Eucharist? The opinion of Martin Bucer, Corpus Christi, Cambridge, MS 113, pp.315-324 / Chapter 8 (Robin A. Leaver): Metrical Psalms and Canticles, the Book of Common Prayer, and Thomas Cranmer / III: Contemporary Liturgical Renewal Introduction / Chapter 9 (Joseph Britton): The Berkeley Rite / Chapter 10 (Philip Tovey): Two Models of Inculturation and Eucharistic Prayers with Children / Chapter 11 (Simon Jones): 'Outward Ceremony and Honourable Badge': the Theological Significance of the Sign of the Cross in the Baptismal Liturgies of the Church of England and Scottish Episcopal Church / Chapter 12 (Siobhán Garrigan): Is Ecumenical Worship a Serious Business? (Two Case Studies and a Funeral) / Chapter 13 (Maxwell E. Johnson): Is Anything Normative in Contemporary Lutheran Worship? / Chapter 14 (Melanie C. Ross): The Serious Drama of Worship / Chapter 15 (John D. Witvliet): From ‘DNA to Cellular Structure’: Charting recent evangelical scholarly engagement with corporate worship practices / Bryan D. Spinks: Bibliography of Principal Works / List of Contributors

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Uniate" History

The happiest and most rewarding summer of my adult life was that of 2001, which I spent teaching in Ukraine, a country I rapidly came to love, and where I came to meet the incomparable Fr. Bob Anderson and my great good friend, now the priest Jason Charron.

In mid-2001 Ukraine was not quite ten years out from the tyranny of Soviet communism, and I was astonished, even a decade on, to see the rot left by that evil system. As I put it to some companions not long after getting off the plane, I thought I was going to Europe: not the Third World. It was (as I have written elsewhere at length) a country of great contrasts: beautiful cities full in some cases (especially in Galicia, reflecting Hapsburg influence) of baroque architecture surrounded by primitive infrastructure and rural poverty of a kind that made me think I had been transported back to the prairies of the early nineteenth century.

It was there that I met the head of what was then called the Lviv Theological Academy, today known as the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). It has recently been announced that the priest-scholar Boris Gudziak, rector of UCU, has been made a bishop. It is not often--in fact, it seems sadly rare--when one can give a full-throated and unhesitating "Axios!" to such an election, but this is one. Gudziak has worked tirelessly to build up UCU (Peter Galadza once said to me of Gudziak, "It's not that he's burning the candle at both ends: he's thrown the entire candle into the fire!"). UCU's students were some of the finest I have ever taught, and who, notwithstanding a lack of so much we take for granted in North America, were far and away more enlightened than their counterparts here, and far better educated in some respects. I found especially moving their loyalty to Ukraine and determination to stay there and build a country out of the ashes rather than take the easy route of fleeing elsewhere.

Gudziak was trained as an historian at Harvard, and is the author of the invaluable study Crisis and Reform: The Kyivan Metropolitanate, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Genesis of the Union of Brest (Harvard UP, 2001, paperback).

This book is a landmark study. It is required reading for all who desire to understand the still-convoluted and controverted religious history of Ukraine, which has so often, sadly, been on the front-lines of Orthodox-Catholic conflict, especially over the so-called Uniate problem, which has so often been subject to "confessional propaganda" (Taft) on both sides instead of real history.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Orthodox Russia in Crisis

Northern Illinois University Press continues to publish important monographs on Orthodoxy, especially Russian Orthodoxy, and they have just brought out a new book: Isaiah Gruber, Orthodox Russia in Crisis: Church and Nation in the Time of Troubles (Northern Illinois University Press, 2012), 300pp. I asked the author for an interview, and here are his thoughts:

AD: Tell us about your background.

IG: I was born in the U.S.; studied Russian history in Canada; and have since lived in Russia, Israel, Australia, and Greece! That is probably a fair summary. I have always been interested in the history of religion, particularly the many and complicated interactions between Jewish and Christian ideas, people, and traditions. How have various sets of beliefs developed over time? What roles are played by specific texts, languages, concepts, changes, and errors? How do entrenched convictions affect human behavior? Why do communities hold to or abandon certain ideas? These are the kinds of questions I like to think about as I investigate the all-encompassing field of history.

AD: What led you to write this book in particular?

IG: A coalescence of personal research interests and current events. I had written my master's thesis on diplomatic relations at the beginning of Boris Godunov's reign. As a result, I was acquainted with historiography on the catastrophic "Time of Troubles" (a loose translation of Russian Smutnoe vremia or Smuta, usually defined as 1598-1613). A number of questions in that literature intrigued me, but especially the fact that the role of the Russian Orthodox Church always seemed very prominent but had apparently never been fully examined. Meanwhile, the trope of "Smutnoe vremia" was being used constantly to describe realities in contemporary post-Soviet Russia, including violence and lawlessness that had filled the void after the collapse of an apparently strong state. Moreover, the Orthodox Church was making a resurgence after the end of seventy years of communism. Indeed, many Russians were looking to the Church, which in some interpretations "saved Russia" from the Troubles of the early 17th century, as the way out of a "new Time of Troubles." I realized that the topic of the Russian Orthodox Church and religion during the Time of Troubles could have both great significance for historiography and great relevance for current affairs.

AD: You note that there is considerable dispute over the very periodization of the "time of troubles" and over its basic events and causes. Why is there such confusion and dispute?

IG: Largely because of the relative lack of sources, and the particular weaknesses of the sources that do exist. Many of the Russian narratives were written retrospectively and were strongly influenced by the political and religious orthodoxy of their time. This limits their utility in some respects if one is trying to understand what actually happened during the Time of Troubles. Many of the accounts written by foreigners have other biases or reveal a less than complete understanding of Russian realities. Meanwhile, actual documents from the period itself are far scarcer than one would like, and the ones that at first glance seem to contain the most information also turn out to be the most propagandistic (and thus not necessarily reliable)! So it is hard to know who or what to trust, and different historians have different ideas about how to deal with this complex material. Yet at the same time, the Smutnoe vremia is considered of such great importance for Russian history -- and was such a dramatic and catastrophic period -- that it has attracted and continues to attract a great deal of attention. Given this overall context, controversy is inevitable.
Boris Godunov

I think that the question of periodization per se is somewhat different. The early 17th century brought many calamities to Russia: horrendous and widespread famine, numerous wars, endemic banditry, political instability, and so forth. Contemporaries often described this period as smutnoe, which meant both "confused" and "rebellious." But of course time itself does not come with historical signposts telling us, "This is when the Confused, Rebellious Period began," or, "This is when the Golden Age of Spanish literature ended," or even, "This is when Rome fell." Such notions are usually the artifacts of historians and others working on the basis of their own conceptualizations. Hence any such periodization will be arbitrary to some extent, emphasizing certain factors at the expense of others. When it comes to the first Russian Time of Troubles, I think good arguments can be advanced both for the traditional periodization (1598-1613) and for several alternatives; for example, starting in 1601 with the onset of the Great Famine instead of in 1598 with the accession of Boris Godunov. Yet however one chooses to define it chronologically, obviously the Time of Troubles cannot be separated entirely from earlier and later events. The large number and considerable variety of proposed periodizations is also evidence of the deep fascination that the horrific Smutnoe vremia has ignited for 400 years among scholars, poets, musicians, churchmen, politicians, and people from all walks of life.

AD: Your preface notes that many of your sources treat "ecclesiastical" matters as one with what we today might call "political" or "economic." This has led some Western polemicists to reproach Russian Orthodoxy for being part of, and captive to, "caesaropapism." More recently, a number of scholars have come to dispute that charge. What does your research tell us about this notion?

IG: That is a good question -- and somewhat complicated. The prototypical example usually given for "caesaropapism" is that of Byzantium, or the Eastern Roman empire. But many historians now believe that even the Byzantine empire was not really, or not usually, caesaropapist at all. The idea of "symphony" is probably a better framework for trying to understand the usual conception of church and state within Orthodox Christianity. In other words, the "secular" and "spiritual" rulers and hierarchs were seen as conjointly constituting the right form of government, each side of the coin being indispensable for projecting God's rule on earth. Church and state were not supposed to be independent from each other, but rather interdependent. In my book, I compare the power of state and church to the power of the sword and the pen. These are different kinds of power: physical force vs. the force of ideas. One is not necessarily "stronger" than the other, although that can often appear to be the case. Hence the classic debating question: "Which is mightier, the pen or the sword?" Both sides can be argued convincingly.

In the Time of Troubles, the Russian Orthodox Church exercised an exceptionally important legitimizing role, ostensibly representing the "voice of God" in determinations of who was the rightful ruler. Partly as a result, every new tsar of the period had to have a new patriarch as well! If nothing else, this reality illustrates a deep interdependence of state and church in the politico-religious "public sphere" of early modern Russia. A tsar may have possessed the physical power to depose a patriarch; but he needed to do so only because the patriarch's voice also represented a very powerful force, one that might well undermine his power.

The fact that most "ecclesiastical" documents of the time are also "political" or especially "economic" in nature is simply a reflection of the actual activity of churchmen, which was not restricted to what we today call "religious" matters. The Russian Orthodox Church was deeply involved in territorial exploration, colonization, prison wardenry, banking, estate management, resource exploitation, trading, military service, bookmaking, and other matters that the modern mind does not automatically associate with "religion." In my book, I wanted to reflect the nature of the actual source base about the Church during the Troubles, not only questions that are categorized as "religious" today.

AD: Tell us about the role of monasteries in the period you survey, particularly their economic activity and impact.

Trinity Sergius Lavra
IG: First it is necessary to say that I was not able to investigate the activity of monasteries comprehensively, due to the weak source base. Hundreds of monasteries existed in Russia at this time. Yet we have documents dating from the Time of Troubles for only a relative few of them, due largely to fires and other tragedies of early modern history. Most of the surviving records pertain to the wealthiest and most famous institutions, like the Troitsa Sergiev and Kirillo Belozersk monasteries. 

These documents tell the story of vast landholding and commercial activities, of "mega-corporations" involved in trading salt, fish, grain, and a variety of other commodities while also administering estates and buying up property. Economic profitability was important to the managers of these wealthy enterprises, and at least some of them actually increased their revenue during the worst years of the famine. The major monasteries were able to stockpile large amounts of food, fodder, and other provisions even while, according to some estimates, up to a third of the population was starving to death. This seems to have contributed to popular resentment and distrust of the ecclesiastic elite, a probable factor in rebellion. Monasteries did also try to help the poor, but usually with only a minuscule percentage of their income. In 1605, Hegumen Antonii and Elder Protasii of the Solovetskii monastery traveled to Moscow, conducting a variety of business along the way. At one point, they gave the new Tsar Dmitrii -- often called "False" or "Pseudo-Dmitrii I" in historiography -- presents valued at 100 rubles. By contrast, they spent only a few altyny (equivalent to 0.16 ruble) helping the poor. Other documents show that this kind of ratio of business to charity expenditure was fairly typical for major monasteries at the time. The main purpose of these head monks' journey to the capital was to obtain several official charters granting economic rights and privileges -- charters that all the major monasteries aggressively pursued, and which led them to support whichever ruler might happen to come to power. The idea held by some that the Russian Orthodox Church resisted "False Dmitrii" as a non-Orthodox usurper is certainly not borne out by these or other documents. Instead, leading monasteries honored and supported him in order to continue to receive massive tax exemptions and usufructuary rights for their business enterprises.

The fragmentary data do not allow certain conclusions; but it seems that many major monasteries continued to be profitable until the latter stages of the Smuta, when the state itself finally collapsed and Polish-Lithuanian forces occupied Moscow. The monasteries' pursuit of wealth had contributed to perpetuating the Troubles by driving a further wedge between elite and populus and by failing to provide relief for endemic suffering. In the last years of the period, their own loss of economic profitability, along with the considerable destruction caused by foreign invasion, may have helped to provide a previously missing incentive for leading monasteries to act to improve the overall situation. Of course, smaller monasteries and hermitages probably had a different experience, but we have little evidence about that.

AD: You note that the painful memories of the "time of troubles" have shaped Russian consciousness ever after, and are even today still potent. Why is that? Why should events from 400 and more years ago still be so potent?

IG: Memory, whether of individuals or collectives, is a complicated and dynamic process. The Russian Smuta was an extreme, protracted, and excruciating crisis. This gave it the possibility of remaining deeply embedded in the national consciousness. Once historians, poets, musicians, and others repeatedly dramatized it as the period of greatest threat to the survival of Russia as a national and religious entity, that possibility began to come to fruition. With some legitimacy, the Time of Troubles was seen as "unquestionably" Russia's greatest crisis until the Revolutions of 1917. Other crises -- even Napoleon's invasion -- were compared to the early 17th century, thus further entrenching such an interpretation in the national identity. The Revolutions and subsequent brutal Civil War stimulated numerous additional comparisons, as Russia seemed to be repeating all the horrors of the original Time of Troubles: barbaric slaughter, famine, cannibalism, etc. And as mentioned above, many Russians have spoken of a "new Time of Troubles" even in the post-Soviet period, largely because of the great disorientation and uncertainty brought about in the wake of regime change and institutional collapse. The historian Ivan Zabelin once defined Smutnoe vremia as "a great reeling of the state."

Yet I think there is another dimension at play here as well. The Smutnoe vremia was so complicated and multifaceted that it easily lends itself to a wide range of interpretations and agendas. In 1913, the Romanov dynasty tried to shore up its hold on imperial power by making extensive use of the history of the Time of Troubles. In post-Soviet Russia, the national mythology and chief holiday (4 November) have been re-founded on themes from the Troubles, since Bolshevik observances are no longer suitable. Today Vladimir Putin tries to capitalize on the notion of a grave "threat from the West" by comparing contemporary American and European initiatives to the Smutnoe vremia. The Russian Orthodox Church takes a similar approach, citing the danger of "Catholicization" of the country that it sees as existing in both periods. Meanwhile, most ordinary Russians have come to view the post-Soviet period as a "new Time of Troubles" simply because the term speaks to them of chaos, collapse, corruption, violence, upheaval, and suffering. At the same time, one of the most prominent aspects of the historical Smuta was rebellion against the powers-that-be, combined with various forms of populism; and so dissent of all kinds can easily make use of this legacy as well. The official state and church may advance one type of interpretation while other groups use almost identical rhetoric to promote diametrically opposite views -- after all, that is precisely what happened in the original Smutnoe vremia!

AD: Could you say that part of the lingering pain of the memories of the troubles are still active today in the tension between Orthodox and Catholics, especially in areas once under Catholic domination like Galicia (Western Ukraine)?  

IG: Well, the issues in Western Ukraine among Orthodox, Catholic, and the hybrid Uniate belief predated the Russian Time of Troubles; and as you say, they have continued until today. Also, being outside the boundaries of the Muscovite state, Galicia was not directly affected by the Smutnoe vremia per se. However, related conflicts, and generally speaking the Russo-Polish(-Ukrainian) wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, certainly do figure into the narratives of the various sides. As for Russian Orthodox believers in particular, I would say that many of them still view the Time of Troubles as a result of Catholic aggression. So the Muscovite Smuta is one of a number of important historical events that can play into continuing tension among Orthodox, Catholic, and Uniate communities in the region.

AD: I recently interviewed Svitlana Kobets on her research into Russian "holy fools" (Iurodstvo o Khriste) and she notes that their numbers seemed to thrive during the 15th and 16th centuries. Would you see any connection between the time of troubles and the rise of such figures--especially a figure like St. Basil the Fool?

IG: I think it is quite possible.  Iurodstvo is a phenomenon characterized by extreme non-conformism and absolute refusal to accept the status quo and social norms. For the iurodivyi or "holy fool," even the highest rulers of state and church, who constantly present themselves as the embodiment of truth and justice, may in actual fact be liars and frauds. Attempting to strip away that pretense is certainly a form of rebellion, even if sometimes tolerated. Documents of the Time of Troubles include elements that are similar to the style of iurodstvo. One religious vision tale apparently dating from 1606 has Christ himself state, "There is no truth in the tsar or the patriarch!" In my book, I talk about the "fragmentation of Orthodoxy" that took hold as people increasingly adopted that illegal view and disregarded the word of the official church and state. In both iurodstvo and in the rebellions of the Smutnoe vremia, the dissenters did not see themselves as leaving Orthodoxy, but rather as presenting the true Orthodoxy in contrast to the polluted form prevailing in Moscow (or elsewhere). So there may well be a connection, although of course many other factors were also involved in the mass uprisings of the early 17th century.

A variety of other circumstances also suggest various connections. The iurodivyi Ioann of the late 16th century is traditionally interpreted as having predicted the Time of Troubles by telling people to expect "many visible and invisible demons in Moscow." Accounts of the Time of Troubles itself include numerous reports of strange predictions and omens. Svitlana Kobets and other scholars generally view iurodstvo as a distinctively Russian phenomenon, one that was influenced by the precedents of Hebrew nevi'im ("spokespersons" or prophets) and Byzantine saloi ("imbeciles" or holy fools) but came to assume a unique national form. I think there is evidence that the Smutnoe vremia also greatly advanced the formation of a specifically Russian consciousness or mentality. It is noteworthy that new national forms or ideas of the period sometimes adopted the language of official Orthodoxy but without accepting the dicta of the center. Finally, Patriarch Hermogen's role at the end of the Troubles might almost be said to represent an unintentional synthesis of official church power with iurodstvo. Imprisoned and mistreated for refusing to submit to the currently reigning powers, the patriarch rebuked his compatriots for what he saw as their willful destruction of the homeland and the true faith. Probably the humiliating and onerous conditions out of which he spoke (perceived as similar to those of a iurodivyi?) played a role in enabling the restoration of Russia as a country.

AD: You note that much has been written by historians on the time of troubles, and many histories of the Russian Church are also extant, but nobody has explored the role of the latter in the former. Why do you think the Church's role was overlooked?

IG: When I was in Moscow doing research for this project, Russian historians told me that they had often wondered when someone would finally take up the topic of the Russian Orthodox Church during the Time of Troubles! Yet within a few weeks of archival research I understood very well why seemingly no one had produced such a monograph in 400 years. The nature of the sources made it extremely difficult. Most things were impossible to know; most questions would have to remain unanswered. In addition, culling for clues would entail dealing with an unusually wide range of material, from theology to geology and diplomacy to music. It's not so much that the topic was "neglected" or "overlooked" per se -- after all, it was always considered of great importance, and a large number of published works do include information about it. Rather, scholars understandably focused on specific issues that seemed more accessible rather than attempting a comprehensive study of the Church during the Troubles, which may have seemed impossible or at least daunting. Hopefully in my book I have been able to offer a fair overview that takes into account both what is known and what is not known about Orthodoxy at this critical juncture in Russian history.

AD: The time of troubles coincides with the Raskolniks and that schism in the Russian Church. Tell us something of what you discovered about those developments.

IG: The Church schism (raskol) and related rebellions to which you are referring occurred about a generation after the Time of Troubles. Historians have often pointed to the Smutnoe vremia as the origin of this subsequent politico-religious crisis, calling the Time of Troubles a critical "watershed" in the history of Russian religion. But what precisely changed in the early 17th century, or how exactly the Smuta led to the Raskol, was usually left unstated. I wanted to discover if there really was a connection; and if so, what it was. My conclusions are necessarily somewhat speculative, but by drawing also on the work of other scholars I do see numerous such connections between the two crises. The split between official and unofficial Orthodoxies during the Time of Troubles prefigured the revolts of various raskol'niki (schismatics), who also refused to accept the word of patriarch and tsar. Readiness to fight and willingness to die for dissident politico-religious opinions characterized both periods. The best-known aspects of the Raskol -- controversies over correcting service books and other aspects of church ritual -- were already at issue during the Time of Troubles. In both crises, the official church and state had to war to retain their claimed monopoly on truth and consequent ability to control the population. Yet these wars were not 100% successful. A strong spirit of dissent lived on, not only through the 17th century, but also in the 18th-21st centuries. And the more authoritarian and repressive the subsequent regimes became, the more remarkable were their conscientious dissenters.

AD: You note that some Russians of the time began to see themselves as a New Israel, while others of the time spoke of a new or Third Rome. What do these self-designations tell us?

IG: The "New Israel" idea is one that has been foundational for virtually every form of Christianity, from ancient times until today. Although in the 1st century Sha'ul/Paul argued against this approach in his letter to the community at Rome (see esp. ch. 11), the decision was soon made to create a Gentile religion that would be completely separate from the Jewish people, faith, and customs. This intentional separation from Jewish antecedents and neighbors culminated in the Emperor Constantine's (in)famous verdict at the 4th-century council of Nicaea: "Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd." His ruling was followed in history by abundant laws (and inquisitions) designed to keep Jews and Christians apart and to prevent Christians from observing Jewish practices. Yet the Bible had been written exclusively or almost exclusively by Jews, provided no justification for such an approach, and spoke constantly of Israel. The solution that early Christian theologians found for this knotty problem was to posit a change in the meaning of the word "Israel." Instead of referring to the Jewish nation, it was said to refer selectively to the Christian community as a whole or to particular "orthodox" Christian communities. Thus the Roman and Byzantine empires viewed themselves as the "New Israel," and East Slavia or Rus' (the medieval antecedent of today's Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus) inherited this conception upon adopting Eastern Christianity in the late 10th century.

A number of circumstances coincided to give the New Israel idea special force in Muscovite Russia. Officially, all non-Orthodox (such as Catholics, Jews, and pagans) were regarded as infidels, heretics, or schismatics. Meanwhile, Muslim conquests of the Middle East and southeastern Europe meant that Russia could regard itself as the only Orthodox Christian state in existence after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This enabled a further conjunction of the national and religious identities. "Russia," "Orthodoxy," and "Israel" became nearly interchangeable in the minds of Muscovite bookmen. It was not uncommon for them to refer to Russia as "Israel" or "New Israel." During the Time of Troubles, Patriarch Iov proclaimed Boris Godunov to be "the liberator of us, the New Israel." The rebel tsar or "pretender" known as "False Dmitrii II" added "Second Israel" to his official title and declared himself "the only Christian tsar under the sun." It is likely that the ubiquity of such expressions led to similar "New Israel" ideas among the common people. One Russian folk tale of uncertain provenance actually modified the story of the Samaritan woman at the well found in John 4. In both versions, Yeshu'a/Jesus asks for a drink of water, which surprises the woman "because you are a Jew!" In the original account, his response leads to a discussion that includes the striking statement, "You (Samaritans) bow to that you do not know; we (Jews) bow to that we know, for salvation is of the Jews!" In the Russian folk tale, the response is quite different but just as surprising: "You are lying (when you say that I am a Jew); I am pure Russian!" Material such as this illustrates a popular variation on how Jewish writings were appropriated, modified, and assimilated into the national-religious self-conception of Russia.

The notion of Moscow or Russia as the "Third Rome" has a curious and still somewhat unclear history. A few decades ago, this idea was being touted as the key to understanding all of Russian civilization. Now some scholars think that it hardly existed at all as an official theory. And those who do accept its validity disagree on its meaning. According to what is still the most common interpretation, the "Third Rome" idea expressed a notion of translatio imperii, or "transfer of empire." Thus, the primacy of Rome in universal sacred history passed first to Constantinople and then to Moscow (or Rus' generally, or perhaps even Novgorod). Such an idea would not contradict but rather complement the New Israel formulation. Putting the two theories together, Russia figures as the second Byzantium, the third Rome, and the fourth Israel. In a religious or eschatological sense, Russia then looks like the repository of salvation and defender of truth for the whole world -- since, in the classic formulation attributed to the monk Filofei of Pskov, "a fourth Rome there shall not be!" Naturally, scholars disagree on whether Muscovite ideology of the 16th-17th centuries really had such a "messianist" flair or not. I do tend to think that an element of this was present, even if it has been over-emphasized at times. Russian scribes borrowed extensively from the civilizations of Israel, Rome, and Byzantium; but they also "competed" against those perceived former vanguards in advancing Russia's own aspirations to greatness. The Time of Troubles may have seen a maturation or crystallization of such national-religious identities and self-conceptions, both among the literati and the common folk.

AD: What lessons of the time of troubles do you see as being especially pertinent today?

IG: In my book's conclusion, I cite a contemporary author (Sergei Perevezentsev) who has written about the "lessons" of the historical Time of Troubles. In his view, Russians must learn to turn to Orthodoxy and the Church as the true path, the way out of calamity, and the means of strengthening the country. This is not an uncommon view in Russia today, even though the role of the Church has become quite controversial in contemporary society. However, my research on the Orthodox Church during the Troubles tells a somewhat different story. It reveals something that everyone should know already, but that is often forgotten or obscured: that a church organization (or government or corporation or sports team) is made up of varied people who are not necessarily any better or worse than those outside the organization. They can be just as susceptible to things like greed, deception, and extortion. The Russian Orthodox Church today manifests many of the same features that characterized it 400 years ago during the Time of Troubles, including with respect to its relationships with money and power. Patriarch Kirill explicitly seeks a new "symphony" with the state, and has been known to wear a watch valued at $30,000 while actually lecturing on the importance of asceticism! Could privileging the official Church help Russia become "stronger"? Possibly. Would there be a cost -- especially a moral cost -- associated with this course of action? I believe so. One "lesson" of the Time of Troubles is that the Church and Orthodoxy did probably help to end the period of calamity -- but they also helped to cause and to perpetuate the crisis. A better solution for Russia (or any country) is for all members of society to devote themselves to honesty instead of deception and to fair dealing instead of corruption. Official, institutionalized ideologies and religions are often incapable of delivering truth because they must preserve perceived "orthodoxy."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Steward of the Mysteries of God

One of the myriad reasons I do not think I should make a good bishop is that the burdens of the office seem so crushing as to leave little time for systematic writing. To not be able to write regularly at length is for me to be unable to breathe. Most bishops, forced to run hither and yon with too many responsibilities, seem to be essayists, specializing in ad hoc talks, short columns (often travelogues) for diocesan papers, and after-dinner remarks at parish praznyks or similar events. How far we are from the model--as my friend, the Orthodox priest and pastoral theologian Bill Mills has lamented--from the patristic era when pastors were bishops who were theologians writing numerous, lengthy, learned works we still profit from today. Where today is the equivalent of, say, Augustine of Hippo, Gregory of Nyssa, or John Chrysostom? 

One recent collection of talks and short reflections came into my hand earlier this month: Bishop Nicholas Samra, Steward of The Mysteries (Sophia Press, 2010), 267pp. 

Samra, to those who know him, is an interesting figure among Melkite Catholics, and has already been undertaking some encouraging initiatives in the diocese to which he was recently elected. 

In this book we have a collection of talks and essays on matters Mariological, ecclesiological, liturgical, pastoral, evangelical, and of course ecumenical, focusing on Melkite-Orthodox relations, which have for some time been extremely close, especially--until the recent unpleasantness--in Syria where for obvious reasons Christians have tended (if I may be forgiven for paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin) to hang together rather than risk being hanged separately. 

Of especial interest is his short narration of Melkite history, especially leading up to and since the schism in 1724 in the Patriarchate of Antioch, and of Roman interference and bungling thereafter. He quotes at length the speech of Patriarch Gregory II Yousuf at the First Vatican Council, imploring it not to go down a path that would deepen and harden relations with Orthodoxy. 

In the 1960s, the Melkite Church was led by the famed Patriarch Maximos IV, who not only advanced ecumenical relations and focused on de-Latinizing his church, but was also so influential at Vatican II as to lead the Ecumenical Patriarch to say of Maximos, "You  are our spokesman, the voice of Orthodoxy at the council!"

Samra spends understandable time detailing the history of the so-called Zoghby initiative, whose roots go back to the early 1970s, and were featured in such books of his as Tous Schismatiques? which was published in 1981. The actual "initiative" came out in 1995 and garnered great attention. It would be studied by the Orthodox and Melkite synods the following year as each assumed greater leadership for ecumenical dialogue without being hamstrung by leaders in Rome or Constantinople. This dialogue, as he later notes, lead to such local initiatives as a new church being built in the Damascus suburbs, a church that would belong equally and be used equally by Orthodox and Melkites. 

Zoghby's proposal led to an eight-point plan, "Reunification of the Antiochian Patriarchate" that was taken up for synodal discussion in 1996, basing itself in part on various agreed statements of the international Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and in part on the 1995 encyclical on Christian unity by Pope John Paul II, treated at length in 
Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity. One part of the reunification plan openly permitted what was a de facto reality anyway: communicatio in sacris. Samra does not speak in any detail of how the Zoghby initiative and subsequent plans were received in wider "official" Catholicism and Orthodoxy, except to allude once and vaguely to a lack of good reception based largely on fear. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eastern Christianity and Islam (V)

Given the critical comments I have advanced about recent publications--or the lack thereof--treating Orthodox-Muslim encounters in both the antique and modern period, criticisms I have put into a long "methodological" paper to be presented at a scholarly conference in Washington in October, I am very excited by the impending release at month's end of a new book:

Andrew M. Sharp, Orthodox Christians and Islam in the Postmodern Age (The History of Christian-Muslim Relations) (Brill, July 2012), viii + 281pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The patristic, ecclesiological, and liturgical revival in the Orthodox Church has had a profound impact on world Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement. Orthodox leaders have also contributed to the movement’s efforts in inter-religious dialogue, especially with Muslims. Yet this book is the first comprehensive attempt to assess an Orthodox ‘position’ on Islam. It explains why, despite being neighbors for centuries, relations between Orthodox Christians and Muslims have become increasingly complex as internal and external forces challenge their ability to understand each other and live in peace. It demonstrates how a growing number of Orthodox scholars and leaders have reframed the discussion on Islam, while endorsing and participating in dialogue with Muslims. It shows how a positive relationship with Muslims (and Islam in a general sense) is an essential aspect of Orthodox Christians’ historical past, present identity, and future aspirations. 
I have already contacted the author, and he has agreed to an interview, which I hope to run probably in the autumn.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Reader in Ecclesiology

When last year I taught ecclesiology to graduate students--all of whom were positively enraptured by reading  Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, an experience you will surely not want to miss--I made use of several books, including of course John Zizioulas' justly famous Being As Communion. Along with that, I used parts of the very useful collection amassed by Routledge: The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church. But this latter anthology may have found a worthy competitor in a book set to be released next month: Bryan P. Stone, ed., A Reader in Ecclesiology (Ashgate, 2012), 271pp.).

About this book the publisher tells us:
This Reader presents a diverse and ecumenical cross-section of ecclesiological statements from across the twenty centuries of the church's existence. It builds on the foundations of early Christian writings, illustrates significant medieval, reformation, and modern developments, and provides a representative look at the robust attention to ecclesiology that characterizes the contemporary period. This collection of readings offers an impressive overview of the multiple ways Christians have understood the church to be both the 'body of Christ' and, at the same time, an imperfect, social and historical institution, constantly subject to change, and reflective of the cultures in which it is found.
This comprehensive survey of historical ecclesiologies is helpful in pointing readers to the remarkable number of images and metaphors that Christians have relied upon in describing the church and to the various tensions that have characterized reflection on the church as both united and diverse, community and institution, visible and invisible, triumphant and militant, global and local, one and many. Students, clergy and all interested in Christianity and the church will find this collection an invaluable resource.
Contents: Introduction; Part 1 The Early Church: The New Testament; Clement of Rome (d.101); Ignatius of Antioch (c.35–110); The Didache (c.110); 'Father, we thank you' (based on the Didache, c.110); Epistle to Diognetus (c. 150–225); Justin Martyr (c. 110–165); Shepherd of Hermas (c.140); Irenaeus of Lyons (c.140–202); Clement of Alexandria (c.150–215); Tertullian of Carthage (c.160–220); Hippolytus (c.170–236); Didascalia Apostolorum (c.200–250); Cyprian of Carthage (c.200–58); Origen of Alexandria (c.185–254); Cyril of Jerusalem (c.315–386); The Apostolic Constitutions (c.375); Petilian of Citra (born c.365); Augustine of Hippo (354–430); Pope Gelasius (d.496). Part 2 The Middle Ages and Reformation: Urbs beata Jerusalem (8th century); Gregory VII (c.1020–1085); Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153); Isaac of Stella (c.1100–1169); Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179); Innocent III (1160–1216); Fourth Lateran Council (1215); Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274); Unam Sanctam (1302); Marsilius of Padua (1324); William of Ockham (1285–1347); John Wyclif (1328–1384); Jan Hus (1369–1415); Council of Constance (1414–1418); Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464); Execrabilis (1460); Martin Luther (1483–1546); The Schleitheim Confession (1527); The Augsberg Confession (1530); Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531); John Calvin (1509–1564); Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575); Menno Simons (1496–1561); John Knox (1510–1572); Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621); Richard Hooker (1554–1600); The second Helvetic Confession (1566). Part 3 The Modern Period: John Smyth (c.1570–1612); The Westminster Confession of Faith (1643); John Owen (1616–1683); Charles Wesley (1707–1788); John Fawcett (1740–1817); John Wesley (1703–1791); John Newton (1725–1807); Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834); F.D. Maurice (1805–1872); 'The Church's one foundation' (1866). Part 4 The 20th Century: Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918); Kanzo Uchimura (1861–1930); Ernst Troeltsch (1865–1923); Karl Barth (1886–1968); The Barmen Theological Declaration (1934); Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945); William Temple (1881–1944); Henri de Lubac (1896–1991); 'Here, O Lord, your servants gather' (1958); Lesslie Newbigin (1909–1998); Vatican Council II (1962–65); Basil Christopher Butler (1902–1986); Martin Luther King Jr (1929–1968); M.M. Thomas (1916–1996); John Howard Yoder (1927–1997); World Council of Churches (1967); Hans Küng (1928–); Alexander Schmemann (1921–1983); Juan Luis Segundo(1925–1996); James Cone (1938–); Gustavo Gutíerrez (1928–); Jürgen Moltmann (1926–); Oscar Romero (1917–1980); Leonardo Boff (1938–); Stanley Hauerwas (1940–); John Zizioulas (1931–); Rosemary Radford Ruether (1936–); George A. Lindbeck (1923–); Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (1938–); Bénézet Bujo (1940–); Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928–); Letty M. Russell (1929–2007); Delores S. Williams (1934–); Miroslav Volf (1941–); Elizabeth A. Johnson (1941–); Amos Young (1965–); For further reading; Index.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sex and the Canons

Last year at Orientale Lumen in Washington, I was on a panel with (inter alia) the great Robert Taft and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church of America. Taft ended his remarks by turning directly to the metropolitan and saying something to the effect that "some of us are 40-year-long fans of the OCA" and expressing the fond hope it continue to flourish. I greatly cheered that remark. I gave greater expression to and analysis of my esteem for OCA structures in my presentation to the Huffington Ecumenical Institute's symposium in March of this year, which you may watch here.

Now the OCA has been undergoing considerable struggles for some time, and today further details were released about the resignation of Jonah, the shocking details of which you may read here. Some scurrilous nonsense has been spread about in the last two weeks by ignorant journalists and bloggers and this is unfair and unhelpful (to put it mildly) for at least two reasons, one personal and another more academic. On the "personal" front, I have known the OCA chancellor John Jillions for the better part of a decade and work alongside him at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies. He is as fine an example of a gentleman-scholar and priest as I have ever known, and the idea that he would be party to some kind of politically inspired putsch is risible and absurd to all who know him.

On the more "academic" front, those alleging that the metropolitan was removed for his statements on homosexuality ignore the unanimous witness of the canons concerning clergy and sexual sins. Several years ago for an article I never finished I slogged through every disciplinary canon in all the councils--provincial, local, ecumenical, of East and West--that I could lay my hands on: one thing was constant, consistent, and completely clear in all of them: any hint of any sexual sin--including even consensual sins--of any kind, by anyone (perpetrator, "supervisor," or even victim) is grounds for permanent removal from ministry and perpetual ineligibility for any office in the Church. (The fact that some canons even say that boys who are sodomized by priests are themselves ineligible for holding ecclesial office struck me initially as rather unfair--blaming the victim--until I realized that the ancients knew what we only discovered about 20 years ago in modern psychological research: most victims of sexual abuse go on to become perpetrators, and even those who do not almost invariably end up deeply damaged and thus not ideal candidates for the enormous psychospiritual demands of pastoral ministry.)

Several studies of the canons, for those who are interested, may be found in the works of the Orthodox canonist Patrick Viscuso, including  An Overview of Orthodox Canon Law (Orthodox, Theological Library) and Orthodox Canon Law: A Casebook for Study: Second Edition. Also not to be missed is Viscuso's fascinating study--which I reviewed for a canon law journal years ago now: A Quest For Reform of the Orthodox Church: The 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress, An Analysis and Translation of Its Acts and Decisions. That congress was a fascinating affair, and Orthodoxy could have developed very differently if even some of the proposals from 1923 were carried out more widely.

An older, and not comprehensive, but still useful, study remains that of Peter L'Huillier, The Church of the Ancient Councils: The Disciplinary Work of the First Four Ecumenical Councils. Additionally, see the short little book of the Greek scholar Lewis Patsavos, Spiritual Dimensions of the Holy Canons
          Finally, a new study was released earlier this year, and is being expertly reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies next year: Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington, eds., The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500 (Catholic University of America Press, 2012), 356pp.
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