Thanks for the Post

By dogcatcher on December 13th, 2013
  Some Interesting and Telling “Letters to Our Editors” Relating to Our Faith, Church and of Course, the Ephraimites Below is a selected group of “Letters to our Editors” from some of our readers. They paint a picture from the Laity’s view of the current condition of our Church and Faith. They are sent from different Metropolises and convey a personal understanding how decline within the Church affects the faithful. Where necessary, the letters have been redacted to protect the writer’s identity. Otherwise, the letters are word for word exact copies as sent to the Editors, and are copied without any editorial comment. In cases where there are very personal issues caused by the Ephraimite cancer, the Editors have taken great care to convey the essence of the problem without inflicting more damage on those who have already been hurt. The posting of these letters should not be taken as an endorsement of any position or opinion expressed in the letter. We only want our readers to understand and have access to the thoughts and perspectives of other readers. Letter Number One: [This is very typical of e-mails we receive from concerned family members.] Hello. I’m looking to speak to somebody… anybody on the subject of the Ephraim monasteries. I’m 25 year old …………. orthodox. My family has been going to his monasteries since I was 17. I went the first time and did not like it one bit. I found it in all honesty to be a bit crazy and completely different from the church I was raised in. My family has not stopped going. They swear by the words of Ephraim and Paisios (not sure on the spelling) and even have pictures of them throughout the house that they treat as icons! I never hear my family which includes two sisters, two brother in-laws and my parents, to speak of Jesus. They only speak of Ephraim or Paisios. Please I need to speak to somebody that knows about this, I thought I was the only one until I did a search on the elder and saw “Ephraim cult” was an auto suggestion by google. I feel as if I am going crazy because I don’t agree or see eye to eye with my family. The way they talk makes it seem like the world is a very dark and disturbing place. There is no light anymore and unless you visit the monastery you are lost in this world. My family (members) are good loving people, but a change has occurred within their life and I believe it is because of the elder and his monks. They are even suggesting that I go seek life advice from a monk I’ve never even met before in Michigan. When I tell them I don’t want to, their response is “one day you will find god”… making me feel bad as if I’m making a mistake. I apologize for the long email, but this honestly has changed my whole family. Letter Number Two: [This letter was sent to us from a Professor of Religion at an esteemed East Coast University, which has no affiliation with the Orthodox Church.] Thank you for these thoughts and your concern for the church. I agree with you that we should more forcefully be concerned with the fundamentalist movements of the church. I do think that you paint a picture of the hierarchs and clergy that is a little unbalanced, but I do think the push for accountability is absolutely essential. My only suggestion is that as you continue to think about these issues, it would be helpful for you to look at recent statistics about religion in America. The book, American Grace, is a must read, as well as recent statistics and discussions by the Pew Research Forum. One of the reasons for the increase in fundamentalist strands within all churches is the questioning of the relevancy of religion by more moderate members of the Church. In other words, the question of the younger generation is not “why God” but “why religion?”, and we are not addressing that question, we are not providing good answers to “why be Orthodox?” The fundamentalist response, as you rightly point out, with its tollhouses, rasa, etc., is attractive only to a small minority, but a minority that will soon dominate the churches only because more reasonable members will be leave. So, I would do additional research in order to amplify your arguments below. Finally, the decrease in baptisms is alarming, but the birthrate in US has declined. That needs to be considered. With that said, I do believe that we are losing the younger generation at an alarming rate, even if we lack statistics to prove it. You may want to google Alexy Krindatch’s work. Letter Number Three: [Sent from someone that has expressed themselves, in several emails to our site about the recalcitrant nature of our Church leadership.] Great writing …………, they will never wake up; it is not in their interests. Letter Number Four: [This letter was sent from a highly regarded attorney in the Metropolis of Chicago. It was sent in response to their reading of the article entitled “Designed for Extinction?” ( discussing an article authored by Mr. Andrew Manatos in the Orthodox Observer issue of June 2013 entitled “Our Children Victims of Darkness?”] Thanks for the post, but I think you fail to identify another root cause for the decline–the non-canonical ethno-centrism of our Church, to which Mr. Manatos alludes when he suggests welcoming especially non-Orthodox spouses of members. Personally, I think the decline in Church membership and sacraments he describes would be about the same even without the corrosive presence of the Ephraimites. We have enough Greek clubs–I belong to some myself–but we can’t profess a universal creed and be another Greek club. Hellenism in the service of Orthodoxy is a beautiful thing; Orthodoxy in the service of Hellenism only serves to trivialize Orthodoxy. When I see these bishops in their imperial costumes, I sometimes wonder if the seeds of our decline were planted with Christianity’s legalization. The hierarchs cite holy tradition when they have no scriptural authority, a tradition they claim is immutable as if the Church never changes. But it changed radically under Constantine (no fancy silk robes and gold crowns before that!) and I think it will always change, however slowly. (Which is not to suggest the message of the Gospels changes.) Now, I think the changes we need most are to ordain women and allow married bishops and ordain openly gay individuals. Thanks for all your efforts. Letter Number Five: [This individual has reported many irregular and anti-canonical activities generated by fundamentalism. Many of our e-mails report that these heresies are now common in the Metropolises of Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, and Atlanta.] Dear Editor, I have emailed you before regarding Ephraimite activity. My pressing concern and question at the moment is how does an Orthodox lay person practice the faith a midst all the strife, divisions, scandals etc., other than just staying home and praying, going about my daily life. How am I supposed to evangelize? Where would I take a person interested in the faith and what would I explain to them exactly ‘what’ the Orthodox Church is? Exactly what are the “Teachings of the Church”? Is it Cannon Law? Is it the Father’s of the Church? Is it the whims of the local priest or Bishop? Is it Greek, Russian, Serbian, ROCOR, OCA etc. Is it Autocephalous or Autonomous? Why are there so many Bishops and jurisdictions in any given area of America when the Church is suppose to be One? I actually wonder if there is a priest or bishop in all of America who could even list the Church Fathers by name and era, let alone their teachings. I know I can’t. But I’m not a priest or bishop. So my friend, if you have any suggestions please let me know. Letter Number Six: Dear Editor, At the outset I want to express our gratefulness to your website and contributors for the valuable work you have done. Your website and Fr. John Morris’ book (“Orthodox Fundamentalists: A Critical View”) were very helpful to us. We started attending ……………….. Greek Orthodox Church in …………. It is close to our home and my recent ………………. made it necessary to seek a church closer to home. We noticed a bible study listed on the church calendar and before long we started attending. {Editor’s Note: Complete sentence redacted here to protect author’s identity} The teacher is …………….. We were impressed with their breadth of knowledge and ability to speak without notes on almost any aspect of what the Holy Father’s taught on any subject. Before long we noticed statements regarding rebaptism for converts. Stories were told on how one convert was having a miserable time since he converted until he decided to become baptized at an Ephraimite monastery. Upon rebaptism things improved for him. This teacher also mentioned that “one’s nous would not be awakened without rebaptism”. [Italics added to emphasize a common theme to our website from individuals subject to Ephraimite Priests or Bible Studies teachers.] Once in a while mention was made [by the Ephraimite Bible Studies Teacher] that all men should have beards. My wife and I had a meeting with our priest, Fr. ……………. regarding this issue. He was very supportive of our concerns. Just prior to our meeting I wrote Fr. …………….. [a non Ephraimite Orthodox Priest and Theologian] who graciously wrote back his support for our struggles and gave us encouragement……….. [At this point in the e-mail, the author gave more evidence of issues that would, if disclosed, make his identity known. Several things are troubling about this email. First and foremost is the need that the Laity of our Church has to go “outside” our Greek Orthodox Parishes to find a sane voice regarding Orthodox religious beliefs. Here the Ephraimite Bible Studies Teacher was not removed from his duties. He has a relative in the Ephraimite Monastery nearby and the Hierarch is a close “friend” of that Monastery, thus tying the Priest’s hands. There are more of these letters than can be reproduced here, and the Editors are more and more concerned that the problems in the above letters are only the tip of the iceberg.]