The Promise of Autocephaly in Ukraine: What’s at Stake?

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Ukrainian President

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Last week, news circulated that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is expected to issue a Tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. This news appeared on the heels of a meeting that took place between Patriarch Bartholomew, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his delegation after Pascha on April 9, 2018. The discussions between the presidential delegation and President Poroshenko were reportedly lengthy, and Poroshenko formally requested the issuing of a Tomos that would be presented publicly on the occasion of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’ in late July. The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, voted to voice its support for the appeal for the Tomos, and the synods of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) issued letters voicing their support for the Tomos. The press office of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) claims that the actions of the President and parliament violate Ukrainian law, since offices of the state are interfering in Church affairs, and the UOC-MP is also arguing that all of the Orthodox Churches must agree to autocephaly, and that autocephaly is no longer only a prerogative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The mechanism for granting autocephaly is a canonical issue that was on the agenda of the Holy and Great Council in Crete of 2016, but which was not taken up by the Churches that participated in the Council. Furthermore, there is no clarity on the recipients of the Tomos: to whom will the Ecumenical Patriarch grant the Tomos, where would the inaugural Liturgy celebrating the Tomos be celebrated, which bishops would concelebrate with the Ecumenical Patriarch, and whose names and sees would be entered into the diptychs of global Orthodoxy?

In the remainder of this essay, I will reflect on what is at stake for the major players in Ukraine and for the rest of global Orthodoxy. Continue Reading…

St. Kassiani, Sex Workers, and FOSTA-SESTA

by Katherine Kelaidis

This is not an essay 1) advocating sex work or 2) denying the need for repentance. This is an essay asking us to reconsider how we treat sex workers.

If there is one thing that even the most theologically illiterate can accurately remember about the life of Christ, it is that he hung around with a questionable crowd: tax collectors, zealots (the ideological equivalent of fundamentalist terrorists in 1st-century Palestine), prostitutes. This was no small thing for a pious Jewish man in 1st-century Palestine. Pious Jewish men did not spend any social time with sinners. It was among the first things that roused the Pharisees suspicions: “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them that “it is not the healthy who need a physician.” God does not  come to the holy when they are ready, as most supposed in the ancient world. He comes to those who need Him wherever they are, in whatever state. It was a radical, revolutionary idea then and it still is now. Continue Reading…

Towards a Reasoned and Respectful Conversation About Deaconesses

by the St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess Board: AnnMarie Mecera, President; Caren Stayer, Ph.D.; Gust Mecera; Teva Regule, Ph.D.; Carrie Frederick Frost, Ph.D.; Helen Theodoropoulos, Ph.D.

St. Olympia the Deaconess

The St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess advocates for the reinstitution of the ordained order of deaconesses for the benefit of the Orthodox Church today. We also appreciate that this is a significant issue that prompts a range of opinions, and we consider it to be part of our work to promote empirically grounded conversation.[1]

Unfortunately, distortions and misrepresentations of the historical record, as well as fallacies about the interest in renewing the female diaconate, have been propagated by some of those opposed to deaconesses. Furthermore, when making their case, some detractors misunderstand and misrepresent the ecclesiology, history, and theology of the Church.

Correction of these errors is necessary for honest dialogue. By no means exhaustive, this article by the St. Phoebe Center Board provides solid historical and theological information about the diaconate by theme. We undertake this project with humility, knowing that while we offer up our own efforts, the Holy Spirit is also at work. Continue Reading…

Joy Reconsidered

by George N. Petrovich

Humanity is a joyful being. This is not a simple desire, but a very normal human condition. Joy shares one divine characteristic in that it seeks to endure and to never run out. That which defines those captured moments within is the undying sense to exist in the same way that it appears. Joy strives for eternity and tends to be connected with it. In fact, joy by its nature loses its character if it ends. Humanity feels the call to be eternally joyful.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that joy is an unsatisfied desire, which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction (Surprised by Joy). Apart from any scientific observation, many civilizations have witnessed its primacy and occasion from the very early periods of life. Smiling and laughter, two prominent features of joy, accompanied by social games, are also signs of the joyful effect on human cultures. Analyzing the positive effect of joy in later life, it is possible to observe that if it is present in the infant stages of development it tends to be associated with a sense of vigor and with feelings of strength, confidence and competency. Functionally, it is centrally involved in the creation of social bonds—is it not enough to observe an infant’s ability to smile that elicits reciprocal smiling and joy, thereby fostering the bond of attachment? Continue Reading…