Scripps Howard News Service
When an Orthodox bishop enters a sanctuary, he is traditionally greeted with the following words chanted in Greek: “Eis polla eti, despota.”
In English this means, “Many years to you, master.” Witty bishops in the Orthodox Church in America have started using this sentiment as the punch line in a joke about the impact the episcopate can have on their egos.
“What happens to a guy?” said Bishop Jonah, during the church’s All American Council in Pittsburgh. “You put him on a stand in the middle of the church, you dress him up like the Byzantine emperor and you tell him to live forever. You know?”
The audience of clergy and lay leaders laughed, but it was nervous laughter. The atmosphere at the recent gathering was so tense, Jonah said later, that some of the bishops were afraid that “everything was about to unravel.”
Only 10 days earlier, the 49-year-old monk had been consecrated as assistant bishop of Dallas. Now, he was facing the clergy and lay leaders of a flock that was reeling after years of bitter scandal — including the disappearance of $4 million — that had forced the church’s last two leaders out of office.
The new and, thus, unstained bishop volunteered to face the assembly and answer hard questions about reform. The bottom line, he said, was that investigators found a “fundamentally sick,” corrupt culture inside the national headquarters that was rooted in fear and intimidation.
“Yes, we were betrayed. Yes, we were raped. It’s over. It’s over,” said Jonah. In fact, whenever church members seek healing, “we have to confront the anger and the bitterness and the hurts and the pain and the resentment that we have born within us as reactions against the people who have hurt us.
“By forgiving, we’re not excusing the actions. ... We’re not justifying anything. What we’re saying is, ‘My reaction is destroying me and I need to stop it. If I value Jesus Christ and the Gospel and communion with God, I need to stop it and move on.’”
The audience responded with a standing ovation.
Then, 11 days after he became a bishop, the assembly — in a move that shocked young and old — elected Jonah as the new Metropolitan of All America and Canada. Current plans call for his enthronement on Dec. 28 at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington.
The new leader of the Orthodox Church in America, which has its roots in Russia, was born James Paffhausen in Chicago and raised as an Episcopalian. He converted to Orthodoxy during his college years in California, went to seminary and, while studying in Russia in 1993, became a novice at the famous Valaam Monastery. After returning to America, he was ordained and spent 12 years building several missions and the Monastery of St. John of San Francisco.
Becoming a bishop turned his once-secluded life upside down, explained Jonah. Now it’s hard to even discuss his stunning election as primate on Nov. 12.
“They talk about ‘His Beatitude’ and I wonder who that is,” he said.
On his 12th day as a bishop, he found himself delivering an address on his “vision for the church.” The new Metropolitan Jonah stressed college ministry, calling for Orthodox housing facilities and evangelistic ministries near as many campuses as possible, to help students living in “Animal House” conditions rooted in “sex, drugs, alcohol and despair.”
It’s also time for leaders in the church’s many ethnic U.S. jurisdictions to work together on charitable projects whenever and wherever they can, grass-roots projects that he said will eventually produce Orthodox unity at the national, hierarchical level. Where are the Orthodox hospitals, schools and nursing homes?
If nationwide change is going to happen, said Jonah, it will have to grow out of respect and cooperation at all levels of the church.
“Hierarchy is only about responsibility, it’s not all of this imperial nonsense,” he said. “Thank God that we’re Americans and we have cast that off. We don’t need foreign despots. We are the only non-state Orthodox Church. In other words, we are the only Orthodox Church that does not exist under the thumb of a state — either friendly or hostile.
“So the church is our responsibility, personally and collectively, individually and corporately. What are you going to do with it?”
Scripps Howard News Service
Joplin church among United Methodists participating in worldwide event
Byers Avenue United Methodist will be among churches around the globe uniting for Change the World, the fourth annual such event that has spread like wildfire throughout the United Methodist denomination.
Craig Tally: Science, theology can coexist
It doesn't seem to matter that there are scientists who express faith in God, and there are religionists who have a high regard for science. Indeed, there are many people of faith who embrace the discoveries of science without fear and trembling.
Prayers credited with increase in FCA members at Carthage Middle School
Travis Bolin believes in prayer, especially when it comes to Carthage Middle School. The CMS counselor and Fellowship of Christian Athletes coach points to the dramatic increase in FCA membership at the Carthage school as proof of the power of prayer.
Terry Mattingly: Zombies, spirituality intertwined
But anyone who is interested in the worldview of zombie life must come to grips with the cable-television parables offered in the AMC series "The Walking Dead." This phenomenon, said Beard, has become so influential that it cannot be ignored by clergy.
Craig Tally: Missing occasional service is OK
My first experience with this tradition afforded me a grand introduction to Tanner, a delightful 5-year-old all-American boy who is now 10.
Area motorcyclists hit road to raise funds for Christian outreach
In pointing to Jesus as the light of the world, area members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association join others around the United States and Canada in CMA's annual fundraising ride, Run for the Son.
Terry Mattingly: Role of faith lacking in '42'
The problem, he said, is that "42" omitted many other details that would have demonstrated that faith was crucial to the whole story.
Garman marks 40th year serving in prison ministry
When Joe Garman started a prison ministry four decades ago in Joplin, he never imagined it would touch lives around the world and be recognized by four U.S. presidents.
Light the Night interfaith prayer service postponed
The Light the Night interfaith prayer service has been postponed.
Craig Tally: Blessings originate outside ourselves
So, if prosperity and health are not indicative of God's favor, and the loss of prosperity and health are not indicative of God's disfavor, then what is? How do we experience blessing from God? What happens in life when God is ignored?
- More Worship Headlines
- Joplin church among United Methodists participating in worldwide event