Category Archives: Church Life and Pastoral Care

Clericalism and the Sexual Abuse Crisis

by Matthew Briel

If we follow Augustine’s and John Henry Newman’s line of thought, the Church is fundamentally the body of Christ, with Christ as head and the faithful as the body. In Newman’s conception, the faithful consists of the entire Church, hierarchy and laity. The laity thus have an essential role to play in all aspects of the Church. The most recent rounds of sex abuse scandals have brought Catholics’ attention again to the question of the role of the laity in church life.

Indeed, Catholics’ anger at bishops in the past month has not been directed so much at the abusers as at those who facilitated this abuse, what some are calling the “second abuse.” Bishops and chancery clerics allowed this abuse to continue because their primary concern and attention was directed towards their fellow priests and not the abused laity.

Catholics know the reality of sin. We live in a fallen world and the rate of abuse among Catholic priests is comparable to that in other branches of Christianity, in our public and private schools, and in the scouts. What’s different about the Catholic abuse crisis, and what infuriates the laity above all, is the cover-up of abuse and the contempt not just for the victims of the abuse, but for the laity as whole. Continue Reading…

Internet Orthodoxy: Opportunities and Pastoral Challenges

by Richard Barrett 

The second International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care (DMOPC) took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Kolymbari from 18-21 June of this year. The event’s principal sponsors were Pemptousia and Vatopedi Monastery, and it was attended by Orthodox Christians from Greece, Lebanon, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Canada, Australia, the Czech Republic, Kenya, and more. Over four days, one hundred and three presenters discussed theoretical, theological, and practical impacts of technology on the Church of today.

As an American participant, what I saw very quickly was that the questions and concerns the presenters were talking about were deeply informed by vastly different cultural contexts. There were two basic categories of presentations on the Greek side; the first was academic, represented by the panel discussion “The Progress of AI as a Challenge for Theology” and the paper “Paul and the Ethics of the ‘Internet’ in the Globalized World of the 1st Century and the Post-Modern 21st Century.” The other category expressed anxieties about technology threatening the Church’s status as a majority religion. These concerns tended to emphasize the Internet as a medium by which people were exposed to other religions, perhaps even deciding to change religions as a result; in addition, the problem of webcasts of services becoming a substitute for in-person attendance was frequently referenced. Continue Reading…

A Renewed Diaconate Completes the Church

by Rev. Archdeacon John Chryssavgis  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

In recent centuries, the diaconate has only enjoyed a symbolical or transitional role in the church. Parish clergy are ordained to the priesthood after serving only briefly as deacons. It is as if they are expected to “move on!” or “move up!” The diaconate has been reduced to little more than a preparation or stepping-stone for the priesthood or episcopate. The latter two stages are often considered more significant for the ordained ministry, whereas the diaconate resembles a kind of sub-priesthood, rarely perceived as a lifelong or permanent office.

But this was not always the case—together with bishop and presbyters, deacons were regarded by Ignatius of Antioch toward the end of the first century as an essential part of the structure of the church, which realizes its unity—most completely and comprehensively—when the community is “with the bishop and the presbyters and the deacons who are with the bishop . . . Without these,” St. Ignatius adds, “[the community] cannot be called a church” (Letter to the Trallians).

St. John Chrysostom reminds us of how the early church perceived deacons when he remarks, “even bishops are called deacons” (Homilies on Philippians 1). Indeed, in the time of the apostles, there is no implication or indication that deacons were a condition or requirement for elevation to priesthood. This is why it is my conviction that there can be no clear understanding of the priesthood—or even of the episcopate—unless we first properly apprehend and appreciate the diaconate in and of itself. Continue Reading…

Bishops and Synods: Testing the Spirits

by Rev. Deacon Nicholas Denysenko  |  ελληνικά

In modernity and postmodernity, bishops and synods have taken varying approaches to testing the spirits and ascertaining what is needed for the renewal of pastoral ministry. The task engaged by the participants in the symposium hosted by the St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess on October 6-7, 2017, was to consider how the Church might renew the order of the diaconate. My lecture focused on the work of the Moscow Council of 1917-18, especially the conciliar engagement of a process for restoring the patriarchate. I proposed the council’s restoration of the patriarchate offers a pattern for the contemporary discussion of renewing the diaconate, since these are ministries performed by Church orders. Here are three approaches to ministerial renewal from the Moscow Council that can be applied today to the questions posed to bishops and synods as they deliberate the matter of renewing the diaconate: Continue Reading…