Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Church: Rent and Distressed

The assigned sermon hymn in the one year series for Lutherans using Lutheran Service Book for this past Sunday was a beloved modern American piece entitled "The Church's One Foundation."

Written in 1866 AD, this hymn proclaims the mysteries of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. In the first stanza alone, the author 1) proclaims the centrality and the divinity of the divine person of Jesus Christ to the Church - linking the theological disciplines of christology and ecclesiology, 2) joins together eschatology ("new creation") and sacramentology in a biblical baptismal reference ("by water and the Word"), 3) invokes the incarnation, the monergism of grace, and the mystery of the Church as the Bride of Christ, and 4) introduces the sacrificial theme of the atonement.

And that's just stanza one.

The third stanza, however, is painfully poignant today. The author speaks of the Church "oppressed." Surprisingly, the author is not speaking of external persecution in the worldly sense (e.g. the Roman arena and cross, Communism, Islam), but rather "by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed."

For this is how the Church is truly oppressed, internally, by her most vicious enemy: the devil.

Luther considered the "cross" - that is persecution, to be a "mark of the Church." If Satan is not working night and day to destoy you, you have become uninteresting to him. Only one who is hopelessly lost has that kind of "luxury." As long as the Bride of Christ endures in the fallen world (and our Lord promises that not even the gates of hell will prevail against her) the true Church will suffer the assaults of schism and heresy bubbling up from within.

This reality is of great comfort when we see encroachments of the secular world upon the Church. For if she were not the Church, Satan wouldn't care to attack her.

No part, jurisdiction, denomination, or confession within the Church Catholic is exempt from such internal discord - though some feel the need to put forth the illusion that their particular denomination is free from such schisms and heresies.

The conservative element of my own confession, known historically as "Lutheranism," is particularly prone to triumphalism and false security because on the surface, we have resisted much of the world's encroachment. Our church body is unabashedly pro-life, we only ordain men to the pastoral office, we openly teach that homosexuality is a sin and not in accordance with God's created order, and we hold unequivocally to the inerrancy of the Bible. Our particular church body also clings without reservation to the 1580 Book of Concord - at least on paper.

All of this can make Lutherans - especially those from conservative American branches of Lutheranism - obnoxiously smug and arrogant. But we have much to keep in mind before we get on our high horses. We have utter confusion about who is authorized to officiate in Word and Sacrament ministry - and are subjected to an endless parade of Bible studies, CTCR reports, votes at conventions, opinions of bureaucratic boards and seminary faculties - all to figure out what the heck the office of the ministry is. If we don't know after 2,000 years, something is wrong.

As expatriots from our synod have rightly pointed out, we have aberrations and abominations regarding the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, whether it is served amid terrible irreverence which belies our confession of the Real Presence, or involves the substitution of foreign elements for the bread and wine used by our Lord. There are disagreements among us over whether or not the Lord's Presence expires from the elements, and whether the Real Presence exists from the time of consecration or only begins when the element is orally received.

We can't even find commonality in such externals as the liturgical forms used in worship.

And in spite of our official positions regarding women's ordination, there are lay members, pastors, and even high ranking church officials who believe women's ordination is not proscribed by Scripture. Many of our young people, according to surveys, believe in premarital sex, homosexual unions, and the legitimacy of abortion. We do not even have consensus as to whom should be communed at our altars.

World Lutheranism suffers from different schisms and heresies - such as a militant established advocacy of women's ordination and the encroachment of the homosexual movement upon theology.

Some see our church body "by schisms rent asunder, by heresies oppressed" and conclude that this cannot be the Church. For certainly, the Church, the true Church, would not be rent and distressed. For such people, the cross is not a mark of the Church, but rather a mark of not being Church.

Some flee to Anglicanism - which shares the Lutheran historical tradition of the western Reformation, and indeed much of our theology and hymnody - certainly our Anglo-Saxon liturgical tradition and western Catholicism. And yet, if there is any communion that typifies being rent asunder and distressed by schism and heresy, it is Anglicanism. There seems to be a special hatred seething in the heart of Satan for the Anglican communion, having used every trick in the book to rend and distress them, many identical issues to that which plague world Lutheranism: women's priestly and episcopal orders and the normalization of homosexuality being chief among them - all stemming from a claimed mastery over, rather than submission to, Holy Scripture.

Some take refuge in Rome, whose heavy hierarchical structure and authoritarianism (as well as gravitas of historical tradition) would seem to make that communion immune from some of the individualism plaguing the heirs of the Reformation. And yet, in the Roman Church, even under a conservative pope, there are still schisms and heresies biting and growling every which way. Feminism and secularism have made horrific inroads into mainstream Roman Catholicism - as well as irreverent entertainment-based liturgies, including clowns, rock music, and dancing girls; an almost flippant view of private confession, and preaching that is overwhelmingly the stuff of Marx and not of Christ. And yet, the Church is still there, for why would Satan be so keen to corrupt those who are not Christ's holy bride?

Many of the same battles are being waged within Reformed Christianity and among the heirs of the Anabaptist movement. American Christianity in particular has become a trainwreck of greed-motivated positive thinking combined with lurid professional wrestling-style showmanship and Madison avenue manipulation.

Many people see the schisms embedded in historic Protestantism and the heresies lurking among their Roman cousins, and begin to look to the East. In fact, "looking East" has an almost poetic and romantic sound to it, to look to the rising sun, facing the orient, keeping one's eyes to where our Lord both ascended and will descend, to take one's theology "ad fontes" - to the source.

And like Lutherans, many of those who have gone to the East are keen to present to non-Orthodox a squeaky-clean schism-and-heresy-free brand of Christianity (which is whet restless "home seeking" converts to Eastern Orthodoxy often seem to be after). The paradox is this: without the cross, there is no Church. Without the devil's constant attacks, there is no Bride of Christ. A perfect Church is no Church at all. And yet, Christians do find their perfection "in Christ," He who is the vine to our branches.

But thanks be to God the propaganda of zealous Orthodox converts is really not true at all. For Eastern Orthodoxy is indeed the Church - as are Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Protestantism where the Gospel is proclaimed in sermon and liturgy and where the Sacraments are administered.

And while Eastern Orthodoxy - especially here in the U.S., where they have been somewhat isolated from the larger culture - has done a remarkable job of keeping modernism and postmodernism at bay, the more "mainstream" Orthodoxy becomes, the more converts from Protestantism she takes in, the more she is integrated with American life - the more she too will be "by schisms rent asunder" and "by heresies distressed."

Just as homosexuality is often the cause of much of the rending asunder and distress within mainline churches, one can find gay and lesbian advocacy within Orthodoxy, especially in California, whose culture has great power in shaping young minds. The freedom of speech and anonymity of blogging can only result in even more previously-suppressed diversity of viewpoints regarding homosexuality within Eastern Orthodoxy.

Similarly, Eastern Orthodoxy is not without feminist influences. Indeed, there are even those pushing for women's ordination using Eastern church history as a basis. There are radical Orthodox women theologians pressing a feminist theological perspective. And again, the world of blogging makes access to dissenting views within Orthodoxy regarding feminism more readily available than in times past.

The St. Nina Quarterly is a feminist theological journal from within Eastern Orthodoxy. The late Elizabeth Behr-Sigel, a prominent radical feminist Orthodox theologian, served on their board of directors. Here is a review of her now-out-of-print book The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church, which incidentally, was co-written by Bishop Kallistos Ware - whose book The Orthodox Church has become a standard introduction to Orthodoxy to converts (both Ware and Behr-Sigel are converts from Protestantism). [The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church can be had, though as of this writing, they're rather scarce and a used copy will set you back more than $70.00 at Amazon.]

Syndesmos: The World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth sings the praises of Behr-Sigel, including her iconoclastic views of the male priesthood, in a newsletter that goes so far as to declare her to be a "father in the faith."

In her Times-Online obituary, Behr-Sigel, a former Protestant "pastor", is praised for her work as an Orthodox theologian:

She also argued for the possibility of re-establishing the ordained ministry of the deaconess — a ministry still in evidence well into the early medieval period and even, very occasionally, in modern times.

She sought to re-imagine what she called a “new humanism”; one that would not only fully embrace the feminine dimension of human experience but also balance and correct the “aggressive masculinity” that tends to dominate human affairs.

Her book, The Ministry of Women in the Church, which is in print, is available here.

Bishop Ware, for his part, is not without criticism for holding some rather shocking theological views. Here is a traditionalist critique of his famous book The Orthodox Church. Bishop Ware, comes across as being somewhat open to women's ordination - like (as asserted by the author) the Patriarch of Alexandria, Parthenos III, who openly endorsed the idea (not to mention the idea that non-Christian religions were "paths to God"). Patriarch Parthenos was indeed criticized by his successor Peter VII - but for being "too conservative."

These are the kinds of things that converts, and those seeking converts, are not eager to discuss - any more than we Lutherans are too keen on talking about the blasphemous abominations that occur in places bearing the name "Lutheran". These things are painful and grievous, but the Church, East and West, has always been "rent asunder" and "distressed" by both internal "schisms" and even by "heresies" emerging from within.

But these things in no way negate the faithful remnants within Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Protestantism as being constituent parts of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. In fact, the East's long history of struggles - theological and political - only serve to confirm that she, like the rest of the Church Catholic, is an enemy of the devil - because she is most certainly a part of the Bride of Christ.

While there is a place for theological debate, and even at times, polemics - we Christians would do well not to lose sight of who our real enemy is, as well as who our faithful Husband shall always be.

All Christians can indeed sing together stanza five of "The Church's One Foundation":

Yet she on earth has union
With God, the Three in One.
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won.
O blessed heav'nly chorus!
Lord, save us by Your grace
That we, like saints before us,
May see you face to face.


William Weedon said...

Beautifully said. Thank you! Hope you don't mind that I linked it.

Paul McCain said...

And, also to keep in mind as we lament the problems that abound in the Church militant:

Anxious hand-wringing and angst-ridden near-despair over the problems in Lutheranism is the mark of sinful pessimism:

It reminds me of the wise observation by Werner Elert:

He who is no longer deeply sensible of the joy in Luther’s Christmas hymns, of the jubilation in our Easter hymns, of Paul Gerhardt’s “God for us” and “Christ for me,” should examine himself to see whether his theology is not more closely related to the Koran than to the Gospel. (Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, 70)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Fr. Beane,

The fact that you provide links only to document your attacks on Orthodoxy suggests that this is the underlying point of your post.

Having said that, *this* is the best you can do?

> Your "feminist Orthodox" website hasn't been updated in 3 years.

> The big news at the "gay Orthodox" website (last updated September, 2005) is the story of a SCOBA statement of 2003 rejecting gay marriage.

> There is an Orthodox feminist theologian, teaching at a Methodist institution.

> And not everybody likes Bp. KALLISTOS' book.

Oh, my.

You neglected to mention that Metropolitan ANTHONY Bloom came out in support of women's ordination late in his life...or that the prisons in Russia and Greece are filled with many who were baptised Orthodox.

Actually, for those who are willing to click all the links you've provided, you make the case better than I have.

OF COURSE, Orthodox people--hierarchs and priests no less than laity--can fall into error.

Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful post. In my own wider family I see clearly those parts of the "faithful remnant" in my Lutheran, Catholic and Mennonite relatives.

Christ knows His own and His own know Him. The faithful Vine will always nourish His branches.

I am not, however, surprised that the first response to this post was from the Orthodox side .... :)


-C said...

Then it might surprise you, Christine, to know that the first 2 responses are from Lutherans.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Pr. Weedon:

No problem at all. You're always welcome.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Pr. McCain:

There is certainly a balance to be struck. We should not despair, nor should we casually sweep our problems under the rug and pretend we're the "perfect church" - which is what irks me about some of our Orthodox brethren.

I think we Lutheran pastors need to honestly examine our churches and honestly critique, but keeping things in perspective.

Thanks for your reminder and the quote!

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your response. I am award that Pastors Weedon and McCain are Lutheran.

My point was that some Orthodox seem to always be the first to jump in at any hint of critcism of Orthodoxy. I admire Lutherans for being honest in pointing out their own shortcomings before ever considering those of the wider Church (and there are plenty to go around).

We are all sinners saved wholly by the Cross of Christ.


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Hogg:

I only provided links to Orthodox problems because I haven't pointed them out at all in the past. Being a Lutheran, I am hardest of all on the Lutherans, on my own synod - as it should be. I spend my days tending to my Lutheran flock. The only reason I have commented at all on Orthodoxy is because you and your compatriots have made it an issue.

I don't visit your blogs, and I certainly wouldn't do so to pick fights (or scabs) or lurk around like a vulture trying to pick off disaffected parishioners (oh, I forgot, they don't exist in Orthodoxy).

This is not an "attack" - but a reminder that neither you, nor your fellow believers in Orthodoxy, are perfect - no different than me nor my fellow confessors of Augsburg. We Lutherans need reminding too, and I have hardly flagged in this responsibility. You've read my blog.

Your "marketing strategy" is to show up and circle around like buzzards whenever Lutherans are honest about their problems, and you present yourselves as a gleaming alternative to the "rotting corpse" of Lutheranism - as if you do not also live in the mortal flesh.

But you yourselves are not honest about your own problems. Your response here made me think of the president of Iran who told a group of American college students that they had no gays in Iran.

Eastern Orthodoxy is a venerable tradition within the Church Catholic - but when members of Orthodoxy (typically converts) start with the "my dad can beat up your dad" routine, you are indeed missing the point. Did our Lord take flesh, die, and rise again to give you bragging rights for joining the "right" communion?

And your excuse about mice and mountains is typical of an unrepentant sinner: "Our sins are little, your sins are big." Those who describe their own sins as mice *turn* them into mountains. Even little sins not acknowledged can become mortal - at least that's the Western view.

To be clear, most of my Eastern Orthodox family and friends don't have the haughty, predator attitude displayed by you and your friends who make it a habit to circle the Lutherans looking for sheep and shepherds to recruit - which wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that, like anyone selling a product, you are being deceptive in order to "close the deal."

But maybe it's the combination of the anonymity of the internet combined with "convert's zeal" that leads to this kind of thing.

Just don't expect me to roll out the red carpet when you're on your high horse looking down your nose at us peasants. Your horse still dumps on the street like every other beast in God's kingdom.

Tell you what, Gregory, you tend your flock, I'll tend mine. You ply your vocation to shepherd Orthodox Christians and help guide your churches, and I'll do the same with mine.

The word "pray" is spelled with an "a", not an "e".

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christine:

Thanks for your comment. I believe Fr. Weedon beat everyone to the punch, and he is a Lutheran. But he is certainly an "orthodox Lutheran." ;-)

Anonymous said...

Of course, "I am award" should be "I am aware".


Anonymous said...

Oops, my post crossed with Father Hollywood's !


Paul McCain said...

Has anyone claimed that the Lutheran Church is the perfect church?

Church of the pure Gospel and Sacraments? Yes, of course, absolutely.

Pure in the consistent living out out of both? No, never.

Simul iustus et peccator.

It's a Western thing, Easterners can't understand.

: )

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

Some of our rhetoric ("true visible church on earth") very quickly descends into a kind of triumphalism that, thanks to our sinful nature, can easily become our own brand of works-righteousness (The Meritorious Religion of Being Doctrinally Right).

In spite of all our preaching to the contrary, there are Lutherans who genuinely believe all their non-Lutheran relatives are damned, or that "The Church" means only the *Lutheran* Church, or that by remaining on the roster of the Lutheran church, they somehow have salvation through membership in the right denomination.

The irony is that the Lutherans and the Orthodox are very similar in needing to remind ourselves that we are saved by grace, not because our doctrine is meritorious. Satan knows what buttons to press for each group.

"Simul iustus et peccator" indeed! That little expression causes a lot of offense among many non-Lutherans.

It reminds me of the fact that the baby I am scheduled to baptize tonight. Baptists and (at least some) Orthodox claim the same thing as each other - that this will be nothing more than a baby getting wet - the former because the baby didn't "make a decision" and the latter because the pastor isn't attached to the correct bureaucratic structure.

In the case of this baptism, a good number of Protestants and all Roman Catholics agree with us Lutherans that this child will be regenerated tonight - not by his own choice or by the circumstances of who ordained the pastor - but rather by grace through the washing of regeneration. Woe to anyone who belittles this child's baptism!

I guess you could say we're the "Old West." ;-)

William Weedon said...

FWIW: this is from the Antiochian Service Book, pp. 130-131

A Prayer to the All-holy Theotokos

O All-holy Lady Theotokos, light of my darkened soul, my hope, my shelter, my refuge, my consolation and my joy: I thank thee that thou hast accounted me worthy, though unworthy, to be partaker of the immaculate Body and precious Blood of thy Son. But do thou, who gavest birth to the true Light, enlighten the mental eyes of my heart; O thou who didst bear the fountain of immortality, quicken me who lie dead in sin. O compassion-loving Mother of the merciful God, have mercy upon me and grant me humility and contrition of heart, and meekness in my thoughts, and deliverance from the bondage of my vain imaginings. And account me worthy, even unto my last breath, to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the immaculate Mysteries, unto the healing of both soul and body. And grant unto me tears of repentance and of confession, that I may hymn thee and glorify thee all the days of my life: for blessed and glorified art thou unto all ages. Amen.

Anonymous said...

a good number of Protestants and all Roman Catholics agree with us Lutherans that this child will be regenerated tonight - not by his own choice or by the circumstances of who ordained the pastor - but rather by grace through the washing of regeneration. Woe to anyone who belittles this child's baptism!

Amen and Deo gratias!


orrologion said...

There are many problems within Orthodoxy, even within the paradigm of Orthodox theology and practice. The ship of Orthodoxy is not without her crosses, both internal and external. Luckily, examples such modern, internal examples as you have given are rare and without broad support within Orthodoxy as a whole, which is far larger than anglophone Orthodoxy (SVOTS, Ware, Schmemann, etc.).

Anyone wishing to discuss the problems and issues these people and organizations raise regarding Orthodox Christianity are more than welcome to ask questions of the members of the Lutherans Looking East List on Yahoo!Groups - and looking can mean anything from simple inquiry and curiosity to preparing to convert, depending on the person. I mention the list only so as to avoid being seen as preying on anyone frequenting a Lutheran blog. There are answers and perspectives on these issues that can be given, but I wouldn't want to impose them to those not interested enough in understanding to ask the question rather than state an opinion.

No one should convert to Orthodoxy from anything; conversion to Orthodoxy is the only option. Anger and frustration will simply drive one from Orthodoxy into group after group after group, and finally out of Christianity and religion altogether. This is exactly the advice I have given a number of Lutherans, clergy and laity, as they have explored Orthodoxy. Anger over a given issue in one's non-Orthodox church may make one open to considering Orthodoxy, but it cannot be the basis of conversion.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christopher:

I agree with you 100%.

If people believe in Orthodox doctrine, that's where they should be.

I'm sure your experience is similar to ours that in our culture, people change churches for a lot of reasons other than doctrine: family, proximity to church, they like the pastor, they like the music, etc.

It is the inevitable result of a pro-choice postmodern mindset.

If people want to leave Lutheranism to become Orthodox, or leave Orthodoxy to become Roman Catholic, or leave Presbyterianism to become Lutheran, or any other scenario, their motivation must be embracing the doctrine and practice of the church they are joining - not merely trying to to run away from this problem or that problem in their former church.

Father Hollywood said...

Fr. Hogg deleted his recent comment, though there was absolutely nothing in it of a defamatory or rude nature.

Since he withdrew his comments, I won't address his specific questions or concerns, but his post did spark a thought that I believe I should express independent of his post.

This is a blog, it is free for anyone to read, and free for anyone to post - as long as they aren't profane or out of line.

But keep in mind that most of my readers are Lutherans - many are my own parishioners, people for whom I am spiritually responsible. I am concerned that in order to make a case for *their* faith, Orthodox posters to this blog must, by necessity, call the validity of Lutheran baptisms into question.

And when this happens, it is no longer just a spirited theological discussion or debate between clergymen who disagree about certain issues. Given the high view we Lutherans have regarding Holy Baptism, to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of my parishioners regarding their baptism is no longer just a discussion, but something I'm charged to defend against as a pastor. It's an act of war, and it's being done on my blog. I consider it an invasion, and I will fight for the faith I confess and for members of my flock who hold that faith.

I have recently had a parishioner become an Orthodox catechumen without telling me - all the while referring to me as his spiritual father. He finally got around to informing me a couple days before his chrismation. And though Fr. Hogg is not his current pastor, he had a lot of discussions with him. Fr. Hogg certainly had some influence. I'm less than thrilled and impressed by the serpentine cunning displayed by all involved.

I find this sneaking around behind the back of one's spiritual father to be disturbing.

I also find it disturbing that this parishioner seems to believe that his new pastor doesn't deny Lutheran sacraments nor the fact that we are part of the Church. I think Lutheran converts to Orthodoxy need to go in with eyes open. They need to realize that conversion is a repudiation of their Lutheran baptisms, that according to orthodoxy, they have been living a lie claiming to be part of Christ's Church. That should be made clear before people are chrismated.

I baptized a baby tonight (and I even chrismated him, and did so according to the rubrics in the pastoral care companion before a certain other Celtic Lutheran pastor starts getting out the claymore...). If I ask some of the Orthodox who routinely comment here "what happened tonight?" - at best I will get an "I don't know."

If I ask them if this child became a Christian, I will get "I don't know." If I ask if a sacrament took place, I will get "I don't know." But if I ask them if this child was baptized into the one holy catholic and apostolic *Church*, I will finally get a *definite* answer of "no" - though it may require tooth pulling from some, and none from others.

And to take it a step further, if we are not part of the Church, and if the Orthodox accept St. Cyprian's dictum that outside the Church there is no salvation, well, it's a pretty straightforward logical conclusion, isn't it? The only way both premises are true is that if all Lutherans are damned to hell. If this is what you believe, fine, but believe it and confess it boldly - without the waffling and whispering.

I am not going to invite and encourage people to comment on my blog if they are attacking the baptismal faith of my parishioners. They will be challenged rigorously. There is nothing unreasonable about that.

If they want to question our baptisms, they can do that on their *own* blogs. I have already lost one of my sheep through stealth and mendacity. Whether or not the Orthodox accept it, I was ordained and was given (symbolically) a shepherd's crook and the duty to protect my flock.

If anyone comes near my sheep trying to make them doubt their baptism and their salvation, I will protect my sheep. I'll use the crook. What else do you expect me to do?

I like Fr. Hogg. He's a scholar, he's witty, and we've had wonderful phone and e-mail conversations - but I'm sorry, I will not sit idly by while he, or anyone else, plants doubt in the minds of my parishioners regarding the status of their baptisms.

Maybe that is indeed best done on your own blogs or on your yahoo group list.

I hope this clarifies my perspective a little.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear William:

I think that prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos is an example of something a Lutheran convert is going to have to swallow very hard for in exchange for getting rid of shot glasses and assuring that incense will be used in worship.

It's an example that the cult of the saints, though perhaps not nearly as bad in the East as it got in the West, nonetheless still evolved to where Our Blessed Lady is being addressed as we should address Our Blessed Lord. This goes well beyond a request for general intercessions right into the realm of idolatry.

"Sacramental" grape juice and lay "ministers" are an abomination, but idolatry - especially when it is justified through mental gymnastics - is also an abomination. I fear than a lot of Lutheran converts to Orthodoxy seeking greener grass on the other side of the fence are only really going to find out that they have left the frying pan for the fire - and mixed metaphors are never a pretty sight...

Paul McCain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul McCain said...

Pr. Beane, thanks for your last post on the behavior of former Lutheran pastors, trolling Lutheran blogs. The behavior you have described has been repeated elsewhere, many times, and was part-and-parcel of the man's ministry before he converted and after. In spite of pious protestations, the LCMS pastors involved in the mess he left behind have confirmed and verified the sheep-stealing behavior of him and other converts. I have also heard directly from pious and faithful Lutheran laymen from these converts' former congregations who report the same thing.

I appreciate your defense of your flock.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. McCain, you need never fear that I would steal any of your sheep. Just to be certain, get me a list of their names.

But as for the charge of sheep-stealing, which you again raise here (thinking, I suppose, that repetition is the mother of truth, just as you often cut and paste the same words on as many blogs as possible)--I am content to be a sheep-stealer with that other well-known practitioner of the art-- St. Paul.

Fr. Beane, with regard to your former parishioner, I have known him for many years. Before he became your parishioner, he approached me about Orthodoxy. I answered his questions. When he told me he had decided to join your parish, I told him what I tell all Lutherans: "That's fine; just be sure to be the best Lutheran you can be. Take your confessional writings seriously." He contacted me in the last month or two, telling me of his decision to become Orthodox. In the interim between those two encounters, I've had minimal contact with him, and never told him or suggested to him that he become Orthodox. Why don't you ask him yourself?

Remember, gentlemen: Christ's sheep are *rational* sheep. They read and watch and think for themselves. They recognize Christ's voice when they hear it.

As to the prayer to the Theotokos that Pr. Weedon posted, it gives me an idea for a series of posts on my blog. I think I'll take such prayers, one by one, and discuss their theology. Thanks, Pr. Weedon, for planting the idea!

To any members of any Lutheran pastor's flock who read this blog: if you want to be Lutheran, be Lutheran. Read the Lutheran Confessions. Study them. Apply them. Hold your pastor accountable to them, and work to make other pastors and parishes follow them, too. If they are of God, nothing I say can stand against them. If they are not of God, nothing anyone else says or does will allow the community they describe to survive.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

orrologion said...

Thanks, Pr. Beane for clearly defining what your blog is and is not. I think none of us would have posted were it known to be as much a congregational blog frequented by your parishioners as your own personal one.

Everyone's conversion is different, but for those who were devout, serious believers before their conversion to __________ it is often a messy affair. How does one tell family, friends, parishioners, mentors, bosses (bishops, District Presidents), etc.? How do you boil down to a few concise comments what has likely taken years to understand (it took me over 6 years)? When one is in a position of authority, when one is the sole breadwinner in the family... well, I can understand how these choices can be difficult. I am sure that looking back, many a convert wishes they could do things differently (e.g., don't copy your parents on an email to a bunch of people about your conversion as their first notice) knowing now what they know then, but it's not something one prepares for when a devotee - I'm sure they don't discuss the proper way to leave the ministry in LCMS seminaries, for example, and I'm sure they don't at Orthodox seminaries, either. My advice to those in authority has always been to step aside, take a sabbatical, a leave of absence, go find a regular job (most non-ministers seem to be able to do it after being laid off) for a bit. Use that time to discern whether one is being drawn by God to Orthodoxy, or being tempted by the devil. That is too hard a thing to do while attempting to be a faithful minister of another confession - even if one were able to walk that tightrope, it would be perceived quite differently. St. Paul did not keep up appearances as being 'merely' a rabbi (though, synagogues were still open to the Christians for sometime, so there is a difference here).

Sheep stealing is just a silly accusation to lob at a convert. If one converts it is likely to be because they believe it is the truth, salvific. Any minister converting to Lutheranism would do the same thing. One can believe this new teaching is wrong, sinful, evil, etc., one can warn about the wolves, but the term seems to be used more regarding a shepherd stealing from another's herd rather than a wolf killing a sheep. That's just turf struggle and hurt feelings over someone leaving the club.

-C said...

Fr. Gregory,
With all due respect, I think this is the third time I have seen you compare yourself to the Apostle Paul.

I'm sorry, but I find this offensive.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear -c,

I do not mean to be offensive. The charge of sheep-stealing, given Rev. McCain's description of it, is one which could equally well be leveled at St. Paul by the Jews.

Two things which are similar in one way or another may be compared to each other in that respect, whether it be in terms of their being (you and St. Photini both have two eyes, for example), or in action (like Balaam's ass, I occasionally say something true).

I would welcome further engagement on this point at my email: pastor_hoggAThotmailDOTcom (I can't find yours anywhere).

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Paul McCain said...

Ah....interesting comparison of stealing sheep to the ministry of St. Paul. Good confirmation of Fr. Hollywood's point that the Orthodox can not even regard other Christians as Christians. Note well: we are either pagans or Jews in Fr. Gregory's book.

I'm glad to know that there are so few people who have any involvement in a Christian congregation [or in Hogg's opinion: non-Christian congregations] that he and his fellow Antiochians can only but poach from other churches/groups.

Pastor Beane is obviously free to do what he wants with his own blog, but the reason I decided to ban all Orthdox from commenting on my blog is well illustrated by Fr. Gregory's latest post here.

He is, and does, use Lutheran blog sites for two purposes:

To try to steal away Lutheran clergy and Lutheran laity.

I would not, and can not, in good conscience allow my blog to be used for such purposes, and allow Father Gregory a forum for his, as Fr. Hollywood put it well, "serpentine cunning."

And that is precisely what it is.

wmc said...

"I have recently had a parishioner become an Orthodox catechumen without telling me - all the while referring to me as his spiritual father.... I'm less than thrilled and impressed by the serpentine cunning displayed by all involved. I find this sneaking around behind the back of one's spiritual father to be disturbing. "

The very same thing has happened to me - twice. I don't know if Rob was involved, but the internet was certainly a major factor. The local Orthodox congregation, which consists mostly of ex-Evangelicals, never sends them back to their congregation and pastor at the very least to announce their departure publicly.

Luther once noted that serpents slither in the darkness, the Spirit operates in full view of the public.


Paul McCain said...

Yes, it does appear the Antiochian Church's program for evangelism is simply stealing sheep and ordaining convert ex-clergy in 90 days or less.

Go figure.

orrologion said...

There are obviously a lot of hurt feelings, mixed in with complete misperceptions and lack of perspective that underlie many of the comments here. I don't think it is wise to continue to attempt a conversation or explanation regarding any of the issues at this time, but know that I and others are available to discuss them with whomever would like to. I also hope that we all learn a little something about how to better handle and advise on conversions - first steps would be to make sure to be upfront and open with those you love, take a leave of absence if you are a clergyman seriously considering conversion, and do not devolve into childish name-calling and demonization more typical of sports rivalries and McCarthyism than matters salvific. People disagree, people leave churches, people we love and like start to believe things we don't believe and we can still love them and talk with them without fearing we'll somehow be brainwashed into joining their group. But, it seems as if we are all learning and deciding where these conversations should and should not take place online - one man's personal weblog is another man's electronic ministry.

Paul McCain said...

Yes, yes, it is all a big misunderstanding and if we would only but sit down together and engage in some estrogen laden navel gazing, I'm sure we would all be just peachy-keen.

No, Chris. This is about truth that frees and legalisms, doubts and errors that enslave.

This is about an insidious pattern of deception, dishonesty and perfidious sheep-stealing and rejecting those behaviors.

The kind invitation that you Orthodox have been extended here and elsewhere is to take a hike and do your thing on your own blogs, lists fora and the like and stop skulking and prowling around the Lutheran blogosphere.

We've heard it all before. Same old same old.

Yes, we know we are uncertainly, perhaps, maybe not, who knows if you are, Christians, in a non-Church, with non-Baptism, non-pastors and non-Eucharists.


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Rev. Cwirla,

I don't recall having any conversations with anyone out your way. In any case, I always encourage people who decide to become Orthodox, to go tell their minister and their family.

As I mentioned earlier, Christ's sheep are rational sheep. They can read and figure things out for themselves.

Rev. McCain, it must be hard for you not to be able to control the entire blogosphere. If only it were a CPH product...


Fr. Gregory Hogg

PS Fr. Beane, I apologize for any part I've had for taking this thread off-topic. And I do hope that you and your family can come to La Belle Provence sometime to exercise your skill in French. It truly is a marvelous destination-- "Europe on a budget."

Father Hollywood said...

All right, fellas. I think that's about enough. I'm going to call this thread over before it turns into the Mods vs. the Rockers (I just watched Quadrophenia for the first time in many years).

I don't know who would look sillier in zoot suits riding Vespas, but I don't care to find out.

Moreover, I don't know if any further constructive comments can be made here. I hope everyone has had his say, and if he hasn't, blogs are free and easy to set up.

And by the way, I agree with your assessment of Montreal and LBP, Fr. Gregory. Mrs. Hollywood hails from Ottawa, and even before I met her, I would regularly visit both Montreal and Ottawa. I really miss both of these North American jewels.

When you cross the provincial border into Quebec, it is like another country. It's not an accident that the provincial legislature is called l'Assemblée Nationale.

I hope you were able to visit the Basilica in Montreal. It takes my breath away every visit.

And, a personal trivial note regarding God's sense of humor - the first really nice restaurant Mademoiselle Grace and I went to together (New Year's Day 1992, I believe it was) was in Montreal, called La Maison Cajun. It served Louisiana food in an upscale setting, and had a comical sign out front with an alligator and the words: "Bonjour, y'all" (I just ran across the picture a couple days ago). At that time, neither one of us had ever set foot in the Pelican State.

Our honeymoon two and a half years later included a whirlwind visit to the French Quarter.

Little did we know...