Fundamentally Flawed

3
John Kaloudis

John Kaloudis

by John Kaloudis

I was dismayed to read the following in the recent issue of the Orthodox Observer:

“Biden touched on three subjects that are at the core of the issues of greatest concern to Greek Orthodox Christians; the relationship between the United States and Greece, religious freedom, especially for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Christians in Turkey and the Cyprus question.”

If these are the core issues of the GOA, the GOA has abandoned the core principles as prescribed by Jesus in the New Testament.  I do not expect VP Biden to understand and/or promote the core issues prescribed for the Church in the New Testament; however, I do expect the authoritative mouthpiece of the GOA, The Orthodox Observer, to understand the issues of greatest concern.

I can name several core issues contained in the New Testament that are of far greater importance than the three presented in The Orthodox Observer, but I choose to focus on only one.  Jesus clearly and explicitly gave the Church a commission in the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, “then Jesus came to them and said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The GOA gives lip service to the great commission and primary concern to the three “core issues” expressed in the article. Has the GOA chosen to supplant the great commission of Jesus with three issues of its own concern?  Based on the GOA’s current practices, the great commission has become the great omission.  In reality, little is done to bring the broader public to Christ, in the context of the Orthodox Christian Tradition.  For many members of The Greek Orthodox Church, this concept seems strange.

The three issues presented in the article are important issues, however; they are not primary issues of the Church in America.  In the Book of Revelation, Jesus admonishes the Church of Ephesus as well as the GOA in America today, “but I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Rev.2:3)  At the time of judgment, Jesus is not going to ask us, did we work diligently to make sure Greece and the United States have a strong relationship, however; he will ask us if we shared the Good News of salvation and new life in Jesus Christ.

There is a choice before all people, both individually and corporately, presented in the Book of Deuteronomy, “choose this day whom you shall serve”.

Specifically, I suggest this is a challenge to the GOA.  Is the GOA the Body of Christ, as presented in the writings of St Paul and the Fathers of the Church, or is it the Greek Community?  Many among the members of the GOA think they are one in the same but this concept is not biblically supported. Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters because you will love one and hate the other.”

It seems to me that the “core principles” presented in The Observer are issues of concern for the Greek Community and not the Body of Christ.  At some point, the GOA needs to decide: IS IT THE GREEK COMMUNITY OR IS IT THE BODY OF CHRIST?   Being Greek (or for that matter any traditionally Orthodox ethnic background) can be an enriching part of a person’s life, however, it is not central to being a member of the Body of Christ.  Simply put, one can be very, very Greek and far from the kingdom of God.

John Kaloudis is Director of Stewardship and Development at the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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3 Comments

  1. +Christodoulos, priest-monk on

    Greetings “fr” John! Having already seen your “letter to the Editor” comments, I’ve had your heartfelt concerns in mind for some time now! And then this full article of yours came out (today?)! Quite naturally, because I feel nearly as passionately about our Church in America as you do, I thought to send you my love and regards (it’s been a while) – especially as your one son celebrates his nameday today! Να τον χαίρεστε! May the “ιατρός,” Απόστολος and Ευαγγελιστής whose name he bears, interceed for his good progress in “Theosis.” May your work too, be fruitful for “the body of Christ” – which indeed “has many parts.” My best regards also the rest of your loved ones for good health and hearts filled with peace …I remain, striving also to be “salt and light,” με αδελφική αγάπη, +Christodoulos, ierom. (Papadeas) Preacher/Confessor (Ierokyrix) of the Metrpolis of Atlanta

  2. Rev. Chris Margaritis on

    Flaws are limits to those who fail, but mere markers to those who succeed

    I can appreciate your efforts to add better focus to our Christian labors, however I have to take some respectful exception to your point. There is really no such concept or emphasis on the “great commission” historically in Orthodoxy. It is a term and focus of the reformist denominations where Christians track and score various converts who come and go from denomination to denomination like a carousel. The concept behind this great commission is that by appearing at the end of the Gospel it is the last and most emphatic command of Christ, and it does by appearance seem that way exactly as you quote from Matthew, which is of course also how the Gospel of Mark ends. However the Gospel of Luke ends with this commission, “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” The last chapter of John’ Gospel contains this commission, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

    So, if the so called “great commission” is indeed the last command issued by Christ on the earth before His Ascension, which is it, baptism or repentance of sins? Both seem to be the focal ending of at least two Gospels. Certainly the very ministry of Christ who we are to imitate was far more centered on forgiveness of sins than it ever was on baptizing new members. This is not to argue against you that we should NOT be baptizing and spreading our faith, to the contrary. Absolutely we should. However, it cannot stop there. We must also teach confession and forgiveness, and in fact exemplify forgiveness before we can ever hope to baptize anyone, not to mention things like love, unity, charity, prayer, fasting and many other things the Lord clearly has commissioned us to do.

    The Church today faces martyrdom in many places around the world to the point that we can unequivocally state that there are more Christian martyrs in this century than all previous centuries combined. No small statement. In addition, the Church faces the more peaceful yet just as deadly onslaught of political secularism. If that was not enough, our fellow Christian denominations do all they can to scoop up new members while looking down their noses at Orthodoxy, barely qualifying us as even being Christian. While we may laud their efforts and zeal, the net result of that viewpoint is to further divide Christianity so as to water down the faith to the tune of tens of thousands of separate denominations. If they live by the great commission, it is certainly at the expense of the sacred unity and Catholicism of the Church. I doubt Christ is pleased with such.

    Meanwhile, so called “Greek” or other political issues are not of concern to Christians? Certainly they are to Russians, Ukrainians, Serbians, Romanians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Lebanese, Copts, Armenian and Arabic Orthodox Christians. Issues like abortion, sexuality and religious freedom remain central themes in America, or did we not read recently how the openly lesbian mayor of Houston demanded by city ordinance the sermons of preachers there? Should we ignore such things? When did the true Church ever shrink away from political or ethnic issues? Especially in times when such issues cost the lives of Christians and undermined the fabric of our faith?

    I absolutely do not put forward ethnicism over Orthodoxy. I have myself fought hard too many years to bring people to Orthodoxy and to do so in their own language. However, it is hardly fair to polarize such issues or worse, to further task our own people (are we not after all their very descendants and kin?) who have only recently emerged from slavery, tyranny and martyrdom, fresh from the slaughter, asking them to simply set aside the needs of their brothers and sisters in and from the “old country” for the sake of a handful of converts that we can steal here. Lets face it, Americans are not knocking down our doors to join Orthodoxy. Our denominational competitors have done well in keeping the truth of Orthodoxy at a low estimation among the pilgrims of the New World.

    Perhaps that’s our fault. We certainly don’t put a lot of effort into spreading our faith or proselytizing. I honestly wish we would do more; I certainly have tried. Then again, is it unnatural for people like the Greeks who for millennia have been famous for their sense of hospitality, the very people who so willingly lead (and died for) the early explosion of Christianity to the masses, to become closed off and xenophobic when recent history has been so extremely harsh? The Church has provided enough new martyrs even within our own short lives to cause us grave concern, so that at the very least shouldn’t we keep any possible efforts going to preserve what is left of our people and heritage, both noble and Christian ones at that.

    Our expanded commission is to live our faith, and the Holy Spirit—should we prove worthy—will speak through us in various and unlimited ways, not only in words or deeds, but through our hearts, our disposition, even our endurance of faith. It is just too simplistic to say learn, teach and practice the basic tenets of the faith and stop there. Baptism is after all, merely the entrance and initiation to the faith. We must move far past that beginning to grow, mature and live our faith in a myriad of ways, so the love of God may pour through us, along with boundless energy and ideas. How can that be so if we apply that love and energy only for a minimum passing grade here in the country where we now live at the expense of those relatives we have left behind? Can we truly leave them that far behind and claim still to be faithful? Is that the mature nature of Orthodoxy?

    Christians are certainly as capable of multitasking as anyone. We have many things to do, many battlefronts to face, and the limitless energy of the Holy Spirit to push and work hard, and at the very least try. Is this not exactly the parable of the talents? Before our faith was called Christianity, it was simply known as “the Way”. That way is God’s way. It changed the world, and not only through baptism. Christianity lead by St. Paul of Tarsus and the hand of God, amazingly and almost single handedly conquered the Roman empire and was no small part of eliminating it’s habitual practices of conquest, slavery, gladiators, capital punishment and infanticide. Christians paved the way by inventing books, orphanages, university and networks of hospitals; hardly a narrow resume. I believe we can stay focused on Christ by welcoming and baptizing hordes as we have in the past, while at the same time we can certainly take on all other issues political and otherwise without one iota of diminishment; again just as we have done in the past. It is natural to emerge from bad times with a pendulum swing toward the more cautious and less energetic, but I don’t see that the Holy Spirit is somehow lacking when we don’t convert others who are in fact mostly already baptized, while doing all we can to help the universal Church in all parts of the world, especially the lands of our origin. We owe them that don’t we? Again we must look to our beloved St. Paul. Though his focus, efforts and sacrifices lead to the conversion eventually of millions, he clearly gave us an excellent model to follow in this exact situation, by giving gold and needed resources to the Jerusalem Church even as he faced rejection from the leaders of that very Church. We too must do the same. May God bless with much fruit in our every endeavor.

    Rev Chris Margaritis
    Assumption Cathedral, Denver, CO

  3. An excellent spiritually mature critical analysis from a real Christian who is not Jesus + Greek culture, ethnicity and politics = The Christian church.

    Jesus plus something else simply does not work and the GOA is demographically imploding from it.

    Jesus + Nothing is the Christian church. The plus something else is easily corrupted whereas Christ is not. If you want to corrupt salvation just turn it into Jesus + something else = Your salvation.

    Replacing the Great Commission with a Great Omission of the Great Commission is a serious corruption of the Gospel. It is a usurping of Jesus and replacing Him with something else. Could that something else have a NAME? Who is opposed to the Gospel and wants to corrupt and stop salvation? The spiritual problem is far more serious than Orthodox realized.

    The GO would do themselves a big spiritual favor if they came into an understanding of what Romans 12:2 talks about the difference between conform and transformed.

    Wow, a for real evangelical Greek Orthodox. First time I ever came across one. Very rare. I am truly stunned. The Greek Orthodox have never Christian impressed me. This man impressed me. Too bad he is exponentially out numbered by what I have come to see as dying apathetic and indifferent church of dead religion with an exclusive viewpoint of itself gone systemically corrupt with an imploding demographic trend taking place.

    The local church I attend is full of evangelical Christians who evangelically speak the name of JESUS. Its priorities are live for Jesus, worship Jesus and rescue like Jesus. The theme of the church is become more like Jesus. Jesus is the priority. Its a dynamic, alive, relevant and growing church of about 2,000.

    Four other evangelical churches in my city have over 2,000 in attendance each on Sunday.

    The GO parish here is about 100 on Sunday and it has been here for +60 years. I wonder if Jesus is its priority. It looks like its priorities are Greek ethnic, Greek culture and Greek religion. It seems rather exclusive to me. Last time I checked Jesus is inclusive. Orthodox Christianity is irrelevant in my city, but it does seem to be relevant only to the GREEKS inside of their exclusive Greek church.

    I wonder if the GOA hierarchy will pose to be a problem in all the Orthodox jurisdiction unity talk taking place. Does the first among equals see the other jurisdictions really as their equal? Will they want to rule over POU?

    Let’s see, would I rather like to visit a Community Orthodox Church or a Greek Orthodox Church? Seems to me that the word community is much more inclusive open inviting as a first impression over the word GREEK. I like that saying, you get one good chance to make a good impression. In other words, Greek does not impress me, but it does tell me it is really all about being Greek in a Greek church. I don’t know very people who are not Greek that want to be in a Greek church in America.

    I really like the name of my local church, Cross Point Community Church. It is not the Greek, Serbian, Russian, etc. Community Church or the Greek, Serbian, Russian, etc. Orthodox Church. Ethnic title is not pluralistic inclusive, but Jesus Christ in the Gospels is pluralistic inclusive.

    If would seem to me that if the Orthodox really want to be evangelistic relevancy to America that they would unify around one name with no ethnic in its title or at least each jurisdiction would drop the ethnic name and replace it with something more relevant to Americans. If you call it something like St. John’s Orthodox Church I doubt if many will relevancy relate to that well.

    You could call it something like the Orthodox Church of America. People would better relate to that in America. ROCOR and the like simply does not work. I am not a Russian Orthodox Christian outside of Russia. I am a pluralistic inclusive Christian living in freedom of religion pluralistic western, rational and modern America. I know who I am and where I live. I’m not trying to be something I am not and where I don’t live.

    I am simply not anti pluralistic, inclusive, western, rational, modern and America. I just can’t relate to Serbian ethnic Orthodox religion and what is under foreign rule. As a Christian I can’t relate to what is really anti freedom of religion by it being grounded in Byzantine Roman rule state. I just can’t see Jesus in the Gospels merged as one with the secular dictatorship king state. I see that as the greatest corruption in Christian history. I don’t see Jesus in the Gospels coming to us as that. Jesus + that kind of conform is just not Jesus in the Gospels to me. Jesus + the State just does not work for me. I do see Him in how He came to me as Philippians 2 by being the humble servant who transforms us. Humble servant Jesus + the authoritarian Roman dictatorship proud state is Jesus plus something else to me.

    Jesus + plus something else reminds me of Pauls confrontation of Peter in Galatians and I believe it correlates with Romans 12:2 very well. Can you relate? Jesus + conform just does not work. However stand alone Jesus is transformation incarnate and I relate to that spiritually deeply. So really only Jesus + Nothing is what I relate too. I just don’t relate with a top down authoritarian structure of rule that is also an exclusive, closed and isolated system that is subjective. How about you? Is that in your Orthodox Mind Jesus come to you? I see top down as push the church down and closed system as closing people out. I see humble servant Jesus as bottom up open system inclusive pluralistic raise you up. That is the Jesus that came to me and brought me salvation. What Jesus came to you?

    Orthodox, there is a difference between conform and transform. Do you know the difference? Do you understand how it relates to what I am talking about? It directly relates to church growth and relevancy development in the generation and society Christianity finds itself in. All church relevancy and growth development principles and strategy and what can kill relevancy and growth dead is in the Gospels and NT.

    Conform over transform will kill church growth and relevancy dead. It does not matter what the unity is conform over transform will kill church growth and relevancy dead over time. Is conform or transform Orthodox unity? I believe I know the answer to that question. I see the state of your church in America and I don’t believe it is caused by a lack of POU.

    Jesus + something else has great potential to kill EOC growth and relevancy development dead in America.

    Jesus + Greek is Jesus + something else. I see that +Gerasimos has a new save the GO diocese strategy. Is its basis Jesus + Something Else? That strategy was implemented in 2014 and I predict it will fail by 2019 and that the cause of its failure will be Jesus + Something Else. It looks and sound really good on paper. That is, until you come into an understanding of the unseen and denied systemic threats to it. The threats in their own ways are all Jesus + Something Else. There are 3 primary threats. Can you name them? If you are GO in this diocese and cannot name them that is a problem that has potential to kill this strategy dead. Your metropolitan cannot tell you what they are. He is Jesus + Something Else blinded and cannot see them. If told to him what they are he would deny they are threats. That’s a serious problem.

    One of the threats was exposed by the author of the article, but would he agree with me what the other two threats are?

    So, the Orthodox in America can come into a state of church growth and relevancy without corporate repentance and systemic bondage breaking? No generational transmission of systemic sin needed to be confessed, repented of and corrected? Oh, I see, its just the sin of no POU. Orthodox, it is much more than that.

    One of the core values of the +Gerasimos diocese strategy is transparency and accountability. I know all about the character of this metropolitan by direct experiences with him. Have any of you ever heard the name Scott Nevins? Need I say anymore about this core value?

    I wonder if the Greek Orthodox will pose a problem to POU?

    All of my predictions of the Orthodox come true. All of them.

    Please Pan Orthodox Unity correct me if I have any of this wrong.

    Jesus plus nothing,

    Ashley Nevins

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