by George Demacopoulos
In a seminal essay in 1990, the eminent scholar of early Christianity, Elizabeth Clark, demonstrated that Christianity grew rapidly, in large part, because women served as the community’s earliest financial benefactors—they were “Patrons not Priests.” According to Clark, female patronage was not only a matter of Christian piety, it was also a consequence of broader social and cultural changes for women in the Greco-Roman world. At precisely the same time that Roman society was restricting women from serving as patrons for civic events, a small but determined group of female aristocrats turned their patronage toward Christianity. And the rest, so to speak, is history.
I would like to suggest that there is a parallel sociological phenomenon in the Orthodox Church in the United States today. While women are still unable to become priests, they are increasingly becoming scholars of Christianity. And this is having a profound, positive impact on the Church. Continue reading
by George Demacopoulos
In June of 594, Pope Gregory the Great received a letter from Constantina, the empress, asking him to send the head of St. Paul to Constantinople so that she and others might benefit from venerating the bodily remains of such a great saint. St. Gregory denied the request, noting that it was not the custom of the Roman Church to dismember the bones of the saints.
A great deal has happened between Rome and Constantinople since the sixth century, but Pope Francis’s decision last week to send the Ecumenical Patriarch an actual portion of the body of St. Peter should be understood as nothing short of remarkable. More than anything else, it is a clear indication of the pontiff’s desire to advance the cause of Christian unity.
A point of clarification might help to demonstrate why Francis’s gift is both so unprecedented and significant. Continue reading
by George Demacopoulos
Several months ago, a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity with the online handle “BigSexy” launched a Reddit thread decrying Public Orthodoxy because, he claimed, it is an affront to Christian teaching. My first impulse was to mock the absurdity—are we supposed to believe that “BigSexy” has a monopoly on theological insight!?!
I realized, of course, that I should not be surprised that people say silly things on the Internet—especially about religion. Nor should I be surprised that some converts come from traditions that encourage certitude rather than faith. An academic forum, like Public Orthodoxy, is threatening to this kind of Christian (and others) because it complicates simplistic understandings of the Church and its history. At the time, I told myself that no one encounters a faith tradition without the hermeneutical baggage of their past. Indeed, if a Christian as remarkable as St. Augustine was unable to move fully beyond his Manichean experience, could I really expect a convert with Fundamentalist tendencies to eschew the entirety of his former world view?
But the more I’ve thought about this episode over the past few months, the more I have realized that the problem isn’t the converts, their past, or their zeal. The problem is us—those of us raised in the Church. Continue reading
by George Demacopoulos | ру́сский
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev)
The three-way dispute between Ukrainians, Russians, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the possibility of Ukrainian ecclesiastical independence is shaping up to be the greatest challenge to Orthodox Christian unity of our generation. From a purely political perspective, Ukrainian autocephaly would represent an unmitigated disaster for the Russian Orthodox Church. Not only would it deprive the Russian Church of one third of its parishes and undermine its Russkiy Mir project, but it would dramatically belie the claim of the Moscow Patriarchate that it is the leader of the Orthodox Christian world.
In a desperate effort to thwart the independence movement, the Moscow Patriarchate and its surrogates are pushing a host of rhetorical and historical arguments but none is more belligerent or ridiculous than the accusation that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has succumbed to the “heresy of papism.” While this is not the first time that the charge of “papism” has been leveled in an inner-Orthodox dispute, the uncritical consumption of this charge reveals both a broad theological illiteracy and the potency of anti-Catholic rhetorical smears within inner-Orthodox polemic. Continue Reading…