Change in bylaws for election of new Pope

edited April 2014 in Coptic Orthodox Church

What do you guys think?

Personally I see a lot of pros: no diocesan bishops, every priest and full deacon allowed to vote (expansion of voting base), candidates unable to be nominated if ever nominated before (I read this, but can someone confirm that this is still the case), which stops people with a lifelong dream of becoming Pope trying twice.

However I see some cons: general bishops are still allowed - this rank will become an unhealthy 'training ground' for future Popes; tacit endorsement of the RC model of Pope in that people of all dioceses vote for him, not just his own diocese of Cairo and Alexandria (although the Orthodox ecclesiology of the papacy was stressed in other sections, albeit ineffectual, of the new bylaws.


  • I don't think this whole thing with a 'general bishop' works under the pope or another diocese bishop is a concern at all. Simply because there is an election that now includs much more people considering the expansion of the Church in the rest of the world and their number is huge compared to the number of bishops who are to vote. So, despite who is nominated, the final decision right because the sanctuary lot will be according to the votes. 
  • What you see as a pro, I see as a con. Diocesan bishops are not explicitly excluded from any canon on the election of the patriarch, nor does a diocesean bishop abandon or move to another city by becoming patriarch. We can argue this till we're blue in the face. So I won't reopen the canon issue. I simply want to say that the justification for the exclusion of diocesan bishops is not adequate. On the other hand, the only legitimate justification for this exclusion is that it was agreed upon by the Holy Synod and the current Synod has the authority to amend or revert any decision as they see fit. 

    Second major problem: The exclusion of laity from the nominees. No matter how much people want to turn a blind eye, our most famous patriarchs were laymen (St Demetrius, St Athanasius, St Cyril I, etc. Actually, the first recorded monk to be patriarch was Pope Benjamin I in the 7th century). I think it is too presumptuous to think that God will not choose the patriarch from among the laity, or that laity are not trained enough for the patriarchal duties. On the flip side and related to my last comment above, the current social and political milieu does not allow for laity election to the papacy and the current Synod believes it is better not to have the option. 

    Regarding general bishops: the problem is not that they can be elected to the papacy. The problem is that the office itself is hard to define. Since we have no clear definition of a general bishop, they should fall under the diocesan exclusion. But again, that is not the opinion of the current synod.

    Also, I fail to see why it is a problem if a nominee is nominated twice. The whole process is built so no self-nomination can take place. If someone is nominated twice, maybe there is a legitimate reason God gave that person a long enough, blessed life to outlive two patriarchs and be nominated by six other bishops twice. Of course, there are those who love conspiracy theories. Some conclude that a bishop will conspire with six other bishops for a nomination and this will occur twice. But I don't ascribe to such non-sense. I see no legitimate reason for this article. 

    Your view that these new rules tactfully endorse the RC model is unsubstantiated. For many centuries, the election and consecration for any member of the clergy, required a nomination process that may or may not involve other dioceses. For example, the election of a bishop requires 3 other bishop nomination. (Until recently, this had to include 3 diocesan bishops). This really has nothing to do with any RC model. Ironically, the general bishop office is very close to the RC model of assistant bishop, suffragan bishop and co-bishop. But no one seems to have a problem with that.

    In the end, it really doesn't matter what you and I believe. The only thing that matters is that the Holy Synod, through the authority given to them by Christ, and through fasting and prayer, have decided to come up with this proposal for the benefit of the Coptic Church. It is not a unilateral decision. It is a decision based on collective thought and spiritual insight. 

  • edited April 2014
    When you have peer pressure, where the Coptic Church is practically the only church that seems to have a significant group that cares about a specific system of ecclesiology, it is why many find it not a big deal to even allow diocesan bishops. I mean "they're doing it" (most recently we can site Ethiopians and Syrians), so why is it that we are so entrenched in it?

    I think these are the serious questions one needs to ask. I am personally convinced by a specific ecclesiastical system based upon a specific ecclesiastical theology. However, I feel like the system presently is "as long as we merely have priests/bishops/sacraments, we're fine". We need to seriously assess the theological significance of each clergy "status" and "layman" as well. Are we a church that cares only about bishops, less about priests, and the laity are just baby-makers?

    The fact is it seems that's the sad reality. No one really cares. Coptic people seemed to have held on to something remotely strong and etched in their psyche primarily due to recent events (failure of the 1920s-1950s, recent theological/ritual ambiguities, particular controversial diocesan/general bishops, etc), whereas only a minority of Copts can care less about persons and about the actual process.

    And practically every Orthodox Church is heading towards an RC approach of ecclesiology anyway. I find it hypocritical that some churches criticize RCs when we have also evolved into new "rankings" among the episcopacy with new "monastic" requirements. It's one of those "fix the log in your eye first before you try to remove your brother's faults".
  • Mina,

    I see you're passionate about this. However, you used the noun "it" so many times, I wasn't sure if you agree or disagree with my assessment and what exactly "it" is. I think we are agreeing on most points except diocesan bishop elevation to the papacy. If you want to get into more discussion on this we can. Suffice to say, that I only brought it up to show that the specific canons in questions are not sufficient justification for the exclusion of diocesan bishops. It seems however you are talking about the bigger picture. 

  • edited April 2014
    Hi Rem!

    I apologize for not being clear.  I even edited the post seeing that in some way I might have been ambiguous, which is somewhat the point, since I don't want to repeat old arguments hashed out already.

    In the first paragraph, "it" means the subject of allowing diocesan bishops to be patriarchs (or transferred to other dioceses) or not.

    My second paragraph alluded to a theology I'm personally convinced and believe in, but later I express my dismay at the lack of this theology shared by all in practice, not because of a mere disagreement at the position of diocesan bishops, but as you say, the "bigger picture", which I reiterate in my third paragraph.

    In the third paragraph, "it" seems to be a lack of sufficient theological understanding of church structure, organization, and purpose, for both the clergy and the laity, and in fact, undermining of the laity itself. 

    The last paragraph I think is straight forward.  I think we shouldn't criticize RC ecclesiology until we actually figure out what ecclesiology we believe in and how we should practice it, and not just give a utopian beautiful theological treatise.

    So, I'd say yes, I'd disagree that it's "okay" to have diocesan bishops to become patriarchs (and also for consistency's sake, I'd disagree it's "okay" to have general bishops), but I must confess, it's based on a utopian ideal that the Church once held.
  • edited April 2014
    HOWEVER I'm willing (since I am growing in learning on this, and in the last 2 years alone, I've learned so much about ecclesiology) to admit being wrong, but in so doing, willing to make far-reaching "controversial" agreements with those we used to criticize, which has very scandalous implications in the minds of many church members today, including me, something that makes me very uneasy.  And this is the reality I wish people see, and not just merely agree that if the Synod rules, therefore I must agree or submit.
  • edited April 2014
    @minasoliman totally agreed!

    @Remnkemi the diocesan bishop prohibition may not be explicit enough that you can't find a sophistic argument against it, but it is clear that has been the implicit consensus of the church, grounded in the various synodal and conciliar declarations that have been repeated ad nauseum, for over 1000 years. In any case, the Holy Synod has left the back door open for diocesan bishops, if you read Bp Serapion's article.

    I don't think it's a conspiracy theory to think that someone can be nominated twice out of their own desire, the Synod has a huge number of bishops, and is certainly not apolitical (no group of people is), so it shouldn't be too hard for a bishop, particularly one with a strong persona, to attract six nominations, even without actively 'conspiring'.

    In terms of the RC model, the idea that 3 bishops from another diocese need to nominate any other bishop is in order to ensure the unity of the church across dioceses. However, the idea of laity voting is to give them an opportunity to 'choose their shepherd'. However, the Pope is not our shepherd directly (assuming none of us live in Cairo and Alexandria), he only exerts strong influence over our dioceses through a heterodox ecclesiology. And if people were to vote for, say, the new bishop of LA, never in a million years would all Copts around the world vote, it would only be members of the diocese of LA. This double standard arises from a RC ecclesiology. I do, however, agree with you about general bishops also representing RC ecclesiology.

    In terms of the synod's decision, it is becoming more and more unilateral as more and more general bishops, all under the authority of one person, are ordained.

    @minatasgeel just because the people will decide, it doesn't mean we give them unnecessary opportunity to make the wrong decision. Eg, we don't nominate an Arian, or a Catholic bishop, or a Muslim sheikh, which is against the canons of the church, just because "the large voting pool will fix it up".
  • qawe wrote: the diocesan bishop prohibition may not be explicit enough that you can't find a sophistic argument against it, but it is clear that has been the implicit consensus of the church, grounded in the various synodal and conciliar declarations that have been repeated ad nauseum, for over 1000 years. In any case, the Holy Synod has left the back door open for diocesan bishops, if you read Bp Serapion's article.

    I think you are missing the bigger picture that minasoliman is speaking about; one that is unique to the Coptic Church. Ecclesiology in the Coptic Church seems to be built on an absolute understanding of canon law. If there's a canon, and someone does the opposite, he is violating canon law. This militant understanding is superficial and impractical. There are literally hundreds of canons that cannot be applied that way. There are canons for not joining the military, not bowing on Sunday, not allowing women in a priests house, and so on and so on. If one were to enumerate them all, then each and everyone of us would be violating canons every day. Canons are not laws - they are guidelines. The mere fact that there is a legitimate "back door open", as you state, shows that the canon cannot be applied absolutely. They are subject to interpretation and applied as directed by the Holy Spirit. A 1000+ years of precedence does not trump over ecclesiastical theology and the spirit of the Church. The letter and the law kills, the spirit gives life. 

    I will grant you that the guideline of the Coptic Church has long been to maintain the episcopacy separate from the papacy. But that development evolved over time. For the first 300 years or so, before Nicaea, the patriarch of Alexandria was chosen among 12 priests. Should we revert to that custom? No because the custom developed into what we have seen for hundreds of years. Now the custom is developing again. Whereas, the early church was largely agreeable to a layman becoming pope, it is forbidden now. Whereas, the patriarch was nominated from priests of Alexandria in the past, he is now nominated from anywhere. Whereas, only a handful of Alexandrians chose the pope, now the whole church chooses the pope. 

    The Spirit of the canons were directed to minimize an already ordained bishop from moving to a more desirable city. That is to combat what St Gregory Nazienzen and others did. It was never meant to establish rules for the election of a patriarch. For this reason, all other Churches in the world do not see the election of their patriarch from among the bishops as a violation of any canons. You cannot have the Holy Spirit telling one church an action is wrong, and the same Holy Spirit approving the same action in all other churches. It contradicts all ecclesiastical theology. 

    Your example of the LA bishop nomination doesn't apply. By ecclesiastical theology and practice, the pope by definition is directly shepherding all areas where there is no bishop, outside of Alexandria and Cairo. This was established in Nicaea. For this reason, all Copts must vote for the patriarch, since is also the bishop of non-diocese Copts. Also, it is possible after the death of a diocesan bishop, that the diocese can be annexed to the patriarch. In this case, every Copt around the world needs to vote. Also, we give the patriarch an extra honor as the universal father of fathers. No other diocesan bishop can do these things. The bishop of the LA diocese cannot directly shepherd or exert any influence outside the LA diocese in another diocese without the permission of the other diocesan bishop. (Ironically, that is specifically implicated in Canon 15 of Nicaea and other canons. This also proves that the papacy is not applicable to these canons.)

  • I don't think it is fair to say synodal decisions are becoming more and more unilateral because of general bishops. This type of judgement has no substance. Pope Tawadros is going out of his way to reorganize the Synod and create dioceses with more autonomy. And we are not present at the Synodal meetings to even give an opinion on how the bishops interact and come to their individual decisions. This isn't CSPAN and the federal government. The way the synod operates requires us to have faith in their deliberations. There is nothing to suggest unilateral influence and puppet bishops are operating in the meetings. 

    I would say a particular bishop with a strong persona (I'd rather call it a blessed spirit given by God) that can attract six nominations multiple times is exactly what we need. If, as you say, he is not actively conspiring, why can't we simply agree that he is an effective leader with grace from God. Why must we assume the worse? 

    There is nothing scandalous about modifying one's view (I would call it developing a more mature view) in order to agree with those who disagree with you. Was St Cyril I scandalous in the minds of anyone when he entered an agreement with John of Antioch after the council of Ephesus? No. It was a sort of compromise showing that he can understand an opposing view under specific considerations. Or as you put it, he understood that a utopian ideal, where everyone agrees with St Cyril and anyone who doesn't is heretic, is a fallacy. 

  • edited April 2014
    I think you're getting close to what I want to point at, but not close enough.  Not all canons are guidelines I feel, but rather reflect a theological comprehension of a system.  Extreme circumstances lead to a bend of the rules, but only in hopes to bring it back to fruition again.  This is how I feel about the choice of the patriarchate.

    For instance, I can concede that only monks are allowed to become bishops/patriarchs.  Why?  Well, because we laymen have lost the importance of asceticism in our lives.  Monasticism developed strongly because there was an abundance of "fake Christians".  And asceticism within married couples became less and less common.  (I'd say someone like Abouna Tadros Malaty deserves to be Metropolitan, or should have even been nominated for the papacy in my personal opinion).

    But this guideline should only be available to try to bring back the laity into what is theologically appropriate.  Same thing with general bishops.  I allow for a temporary concession of them because of the paucity of serious development of the deaconate or ascetic evangelists in our church.  But once we achieve that, we should chuck the idea of general bishops out.  We should do what the apostles did.  When the service to the widows and the poor was needed, they ordained deacons.  Forgive me if I offend some families or loved ones here, but I have heard people say some churches ordain old retired men to the deaconate so that they could help Abouna distribute the blood.  If that's true, that's an insult to the deaconate, not "bringing it back."

    The reason for use of scandal if it's not obvious what I wanted to point out is precisely the use of agreeing with the Holy Synod for the same reason of being an extremist for canon laws, because the theological significance is lost in the people's minds.  Both extremes (Synodal obedience vs. ancient canonical extremism) are symptoms of people just not caring about WHY there should be a certain system.  I am of the opinion that it's wrong to have a diocesan bishop to become patriarch.  But that's because I have a theological ideal in my mind, not because I want to avoid scandal or seeking power for higher "sees".  St. Gregory the Theologian himself did not even want to be a priest.  His humility made him eligible for Constantinople, and his humility is what made him resign from Constantinople to avoid scandal, (particularly our very own Pope St. Timothy of Alexandria was most scandalized).

    For the extremist, I agree, it's wrong to just be MERELY canonically strict.  A friend of mine used a tongue in cheek for them:  "they uncanonically use canons".

    For the MERE obedience of the Synod, it becomes a scandal to me because it means that any system of bishops/priests/laity is okay (as long as the hierarchy is clear).  For all we care, if the RC Church decrees that Papal/Petrine primacy is not dogma, but just a spiritual significance for them, a theologomenoun for other churches, there is no reason why we shouldn't be seeking unity with the RC Church, and for humility's sake, ask the Synod to develop a new system where we acknowledge the primacy and supremacy of the Pope of Old Rome as it seems to have a political advantage in the world anyway.  And frankly, you will hear some Copts who see this and say, "who cares if the Pope is primate of the world's church?  They still acknowledge the primacy of Christ, even though we polemically like to say so for ourselves as an opposition to the Pope; they still got sacraments, they still got clergy, they still got valid Christology, they still got good spirituality, etc."

    So what gives me a reason to criticize papal/Petrine supremacy if I should just merely bow down to the obedience of the Holy Synod?  I'm not saying we should rebel against the Holy Synod, but I think we should be a Church of thinkers, of "why" we believe.  We no longer can afford to live in an age where all we do is obey some high authority...

    Protestants:  What do I believe?  The Bible
    Catholics:  What do I believe?  Whatever the Pope says
    EOs:  What do I believe?  The 7 Magical Ecumenical Councils
    Canonicsts:  What do I believe?  The canons
    Passive Submissivists:  What do I believe?  Whatever the Synod says

    They're not bad answers.  It's good to be submissive and obey.  But Muslims "piously" do the same.  We need to understand what a proper ecclesiology is and why we should stick with it, rather than say because the canons say so or because the Synod says so.
  • edited April 2014
    Very interesting Mina. A few points raise more questions.

    1. You wrote: Well, because we laymen have lost the importance of asceticism in our lives.  Monasticism developed strongly because there was an abundance of "fake Christians".  And asceticism within married couples became less and less common.
    If you are operating your whole framework primarily under an ecclesiological theology, this comment begs the question: Are laymen supposed to be ascetics? We laymen are commanded to be fruitful and multiply. Again this alone, would make us baby-makers only and that is not the purpose of God's plan. But marriage is a complete whole image of (1) the Trinity, (2) God's salvific purpose with all mankind, (3) Christ's eternal status with the Church, (4) Christ's eternal status with all man, among other things. Expecting laymen to act as ascetics abhorring sexual relationships is a direct misunderstanding of theology. This is most evident in some of the Apopthegmata (Sayings of the Desert Fathers) and the Gospel of Thomas, where a girl is turned into a horse and Mary Magdalene is turned into a man because women are not worthy of the kingdom of heaven. This is wrong. It is not that laity lost asceticism, or lost the theology of asceticism, it is monasticism has run amok in some circles. (This is also true with comparative liturgics. But I lead Ramez to explain that) 

    How then can we say that laity are not supposed to become patriarchs because they have been somehow defiled? How does asceticism make a person holy, and marriage does not? It reminds me of the homily by St Shenute the Archimandrite that I am translating. He writes, "Monasticism is good. Marriage (literally having a husband) is good. It is sexual immorality that is bad." It seems we have unintentionally developed pseudo-theologies to justify canons (or even local customs). I do not think an ecclesiastical theology mandates laity to become ascetics. 

    2. Certain things God allowed on earth and will be rectified in heaven. God allowed Moses to issue certificates of divorce, but in heaven we will be like the angels. Even heaven and earth, where sin has found a domain, will be rectified in the final judgment. This begs the question, can these be classified as temporal concessions, if everything we know now is temporal? Yes, I'm getting overly philosophical. I just want to say that with many things that are done now and will never change on earth. or they will only change in the very distant future. It doesn't seem feasible to consider some customs require reversal, while others are perfectly acceptable as is. Christ didn't tell the Pharisees, Moses was wrong to give you a certificate of divorce, or that Moses' certificates are invalid and the custom must return to what it was in the beginning. He acknowledged a custom that will be changed, but didn't consider it as a temporal concession. In the same way, I don't think it is theologically fair to consider the general bishop as a temporary concession. While we all may want the ancient diaconate and khoriepiscopos order over the newly created general episcopacy, it is not theologically sound to bring back ancient customs because that is what we want or that the general episcopacy was always meant to be temporary. People think what is ancient is miraculously more appropriate than what is an innovation. 

    3. You wrote: I'm not saying we should rebel against the Holy Synod, but I think we should be a Church of thinkers, of "why" we believe.  We no longer can afford to live in an age where all we do is obey some high authority...
    Ironically, this is what Pope Francis is trying to do. He wants to decentralize hierarchal order and bring forth individual thinkers. This is good. And you are correct. But there is a point where we have to balance individuality with corporate faith. Otherwise, we will have a church where everyone thinks he knows better than the clergy (and everyone else). We would become a new protestant reformation. Corporate faith has kept us in peace for centuries. We shouldn't dismiss it in our modern age. No matter how smart we are and how we well we can answer "why" we believe, there is a point - illustrated in in Genesis 41:8, Daniel 4:7, Matthew 17:20 and 1 Timothy 4:1 - where intelligence and rhetoric will fail and simple faith achieves the goal. When the sultan challenged the Jew and the Christian on their doctrine, the Jew used logic to show that the Bible is illogical in Matthew 17:20. When Pope Abraam told all Copts to sing Kyrie eleson so the mountain can move, do you think it was intelligence, logic or rhetoric that moved all the Copts to follow? It was corporate faith in Christ their Savior and their appointed leader.

  • edited April 2014

    4. "Passive submissivist" or "passive submission" is a false description. Submission, real submission that is not violently enforced, is an active decision. A husband who submits to his wife, is actively exercising his faith, as is a wife who actively submits to her husband. I think anyone who is submitting his will and opinion in favor of the Synod, is actively exercising his faith in Acts 23:5 and Exodus 22:28 and the High Priest described in the entire book of Hebrews. Conversly, a husband who refuses to submit to his wife, is actively exercising his will against his marriage covenant and thereby exercising his will against Christ (Matthew 25 and Ephesians 5:22)

    I think we are essentially saying the same thing. Neither extreme canonism, nor extreme submissiveness is absolutely appropriate when defining and applying theology. However, I think it is better to "err" on the side of submitting to a leader the God has appointed. If that leader is claiming a lie, we are no longer bound to follow it, since only Christ has the truth.  More often than not, it is not the leader who is claiming a lie, rather it is people who object to a leader's decision because they are convinced they are correct or more intelligent than the leader.
  • edited April 2014
    I'm going to comment more, but just to quickly comment on asceticism, that's just it.  By mentioning asceticism already we defined it as "abhorring sexual relations", when in fact, asceticism comes in many forms, does not mean merely virginity, and does not "abhor" things of the flesh, but tames them.  Yes, all Christians must practice asceticism, but the misunderstanding is asceticism does not equate celibacy, and it saddens me that we defined asceticism as merely a sexual resistance, when it's much more than that.  We now made asceticism a monastic issue, not a Christian issue.  Celibacy is a form of asceticism that few only achieve early (typified mostly now by monasticism, although this need not necessarily be so), but sooner or later would be achieved by all, expectedly at an elderly age.  The Church for instance asks us all to fast on specific times.  This is a form of asceticism as well.  The Church asks us to exercise our spirituality in many ways, by prayers, metanoias, reading the Scriptures, by evangelizing and serving the community, by self-sacrifice for the other, by raising children (biological or spiritual), etc.  Asceticism is the heart and soul of a Christian, married or celibate.  I'm quite convinced of this.  It can be possible to find a married person perhaps to be more ascetic than a monk!  We hear of the story of St. Macarius who visited two women who were mothers and married to brothers, and were revealed to St. Macarius by God as the most perfect in virtue.  I'll quote the OCA lives of the saints:

    The women answered with surprise, “We live with our husbands, and we have not such virtues.” But the saint continued to insist, and the women then told him, “We married two brothers. After living together in one house for fifteen years, we have not uttered a single malicious nor shameful word, and we never quarrel among ourselves. We asked our husbands to allow us to enter a women’s monastery, but they would not agree. We vowed not to utter a single worldly word until our death.”

    Asceticism can be that simple, obtaining a virtue that destroys human pride and avoid malicious words and quarrels.
  • Mina, I'm waiting in anticipation for more responses. 

    Let me respond to your comment by stating that I should have first setup a working definition of asceticism. I simply assumed we would both be using the same definition of asceticism (particularly the definition meaning against sexual relations). You are correct that there are many definitions of asceticism. And if, using the definition that asceticism is the virtue that avoids sin, pride and quarrels, then the laity is expected to be ascetics. 

  • edited April 2014

    Asceticism is from "ascesis" meaning literally: struggle, exercise, discipline. It is never understood theologically only in this narrow sense of "sexual abstinence" and is never used as such by the ascetic fathers and writers.

    Now, it is true to some extent that most of our famous "ascetic literature" from the Patristic era was written by monks and for monks, such as the Paradise of the Fathers, the Philokalia, the Sayings....etc. One may get the impression then that "ascesis" is a monastic thing and has to do mainly with celibacy, but that's incorrect of course. There are only expressions of ascesis that are meant for the monastic lifestyle (and we can debate what those are), and the rest are the ideals and expressions of the spiritual life of any Christian. Ascesis therefore is a general term meaning any form of discipline and rigor, some of which may be monastic and/or focused on sexuality, but a lot of it is not.
  • 1.  On my drive to a class today, I was listening to an Orthodox lecturer mention the word "ascesis" is the Greek word for athletic training.  EXACTLY!  And it makes sense how St. Paul would say, "I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race."  Ascesis or asceticism to me I feel is the very breath, the heart and soul of repentance.  That is to achieve a new virtue and a new level of spirituality in life that to go back from it would be as if it was sin.  And because Christianity is about high standards, avoiding sin is not merely the avoid of the bad, but the achievement of the good.  The man who didn't multiply his talents was just as damnworthy as the man who is entrenched in lusts, and the man who overcame His prodigal living is just as rewardable as the stranger Samaritan to saved the hurt.

    Monasticism seems to be the only visible institution where asceticism is taken seriously with the addition of lifelong non-married state in celibacy.  There was a point in time when even married folks would seek to join the monks and nuns in this "athletic journey" and from henceforth practice celibacy even though they may have consummated the marriage earlier.  What if we had communities that encouraged one another in this ascesis, a town filled with Orthodox Christians, where the life-long celibate is mingled with the wedded?  When the day comes when the laity actually becomes quite strong in the life of asceticism (celibate or married), the institution of monasticism would become obsolete!

    Then there wouldn't need to be the choice of a select few "notable" laymen and laywomen for voting for a bishop or priest in an area, but the whole community being made worthy in their journey of asceticism and unfaltering service in the community and evangelism around them, to be involved in the choice of someone noteworthy in their community who can lead them, rather than someone in the deserts who does not know them.  This is my utopian ideal, the ideal that we become the Christians of the first 3 centuries, before St. Antonios and St. Paul the hermit, two saints who sought to imitate those same Christians rather than live with those who were lax, who though may be "sinless", does not achieve anything more encouragement in the spiritual life and growth for them as the early centuries did.

    And we want to get to the point in our lives where we can say, "food is good, sex is good, refuting heretics is good, but I want to achieve a day when I am ready for the Kingdom of heaven, where I can say the worldly food I am in no need of, but my food is Christ, and and the needs of the flesh is no longer something that captivates me or desirable, but my passion is His life and to bear spiritual children for Christ, and the zeal in me to defend the Church against enemies no longer captivate me, but my zeal is to sacrifice myself for even the enemies that they may become my beloved brothers.


  • edited May 2014

    I suppose this leads to point number 2.  There will be things we do now that is not needed in the eternal kingdom.  Many people believe these were some of the various physiological functions.  I tend to be a bit more agnostic concerning this since I’d rather say “neither eye seen, nor ear heard, nor heart contemplates”, but yes, I think there are some things in the Kingdom that will be done away with or at least as you put it “rectified” in Heaven.  There will be “gifts” the Holy Spirit gives us that might not be necessary anymore in Heaven (maybe even no more clergy).  There are however a few things I do find that are interesting.  We tend to stress for instance marriage is an eternal contract, not a temporal one.  A second marriage is considered in our church a concession, not an “ideal”.  So, this is proof that we as the Church tend to have a high ideal of marriage, a theological understanding of marriage.  Yes, for the woman who had 7 consecutive husbands, you need to stress there’s no marriage in heaven.  But marriage in the Church is not merely the unity of two companions to make babies, but for the two people who took marriage seriously as a way of “ascesis” for the Kingdom of Heaven, these two will not cease to be married even in Heaven, since they become one body, one soul, and one spirit, just as the Church is the body of Christ, wedded together in eternity.  I would imagine for those widows, a good patron saint is Abouna Mikhail Ibrahim, a wonderful man who was widowed, never took off his ring, and stressed how fortunate he is that his wife (among also his beloved children as well who died) is praying for him.

    And we need to have a high view of marriage when clergy are involved.  If you are married and you are chosen for the clergy (deaconate/priesthood/bishops, pretty much any rank that gives you the privilege of entering the altar and holding the body/blood of Christ), you have to consider the strong eternal character of marriage, i.e. you are LITERALLY one flesh/soul/spirit with your wife and you are going to be ordained.  This is just a bit of food for thought.

    And speaking of the clergy, because the deaconate has the importance of entering the altar and communing Christ to people (especially those who are unreachable), then there is a theological significance that I feel is important for their revival.  Why not?  I’m not saying we should revive the order of doorkeepers because this is an order of the laity that can change and does not involve the Eucharist.  But for sure, the importance of the clergy is the Eucharist as well as the administration of the sacraments (deacons once baptized).  So why chuck away deacons and call it a temporal concession?  Perhaps it’s a concession for this life and not the life to come in the Kingdom, but it’s certainly of great theological importance to keep the deaconate absolutely when we are still in this earthly life because they, like bishops and priests, have been an Apostolic establishment.  St. Ignatius writes without bishops, priests, and deacons, there is no Church.  Therefore, the deaconate must be taken as seriously as the priesthood and the episcopacy.  Would St. Ignatius be pleased if we replaced deacons with general bishops, as so we only have a system of priests and bishops and no deacons? (and from what I understand a chor-episcopos is a rank of priesthood made necessary for villages that a bishop is unable to reach, and by concession allows a priest to pray the Eucharist, so in essence, every priest today is actually a chor-episcopos by ancient standards, and every general bishop is a deacon/chor-episcopos combo by ancient standards).

    St. Ignatius writes:  And do ye reverence them [i.e. deacons] as Christ Jesus, of whose place they are the keepers, even as the bishop is the representative of the Father of all things, and the presbyters are the sanhedrim of God, and assembly743 of the apostles of Christ. Apart from these there is no elect Church, no congregation of holy ones, no assembly of saints. 

    Elsewhere St. Ignatius also mentions that the Trallians are to be subject to the bishop as they are to Christ, and subject to the authority of the deacons, being the ministers of the bishop are ministers “of the mystery of Christ”.  The priests he is very consistent in calling them the “sanhedrin of the Apostles”.  So this relationship between the bishop and the deacon in his analogy means that there is an inextricable relationship between the bishop and the deacon.  Just as marriage has a theological importance as typified by the imagery of Christ and the Church, so does the threefold clerical organization of bishop, priest, deacon hold importance as typified by the imagery of “Father, Apostles, Christ,” or “Christ, Apostles, Ministers of Christ.”  And here may I add based on contemplation of this Ignatian ecclesiology, the most important thing to concentrate on in this heirarchy is the deacon, for the deacon is the perfection of the goals of what the laity to should aspire to become, and the priest and bishop never stop becoming “deacons” in the essence of their spirituality, but are given the grace to perform important duties that befits the necessary existence of the Church. 

    BUT just as when you merely ordain deacons to fill a void of communing the blood while they don’t engage in very strong social services and evangelism is an insult to the deaconate (since ministering Christ to people should not only be literal, but spiritual as well), one can feel also theologically a bishop ordained without a diocese is an insult to the episcopacy (overseer of abstract youth services, or overseer of secretarial Synodal work, rather than overseer of an actual “see”).  So then the question becomes what is a deacon?  What is a priest?  What is a bishop?  If the definitions of these clerics change over time basically because we have “changing circumstances”, then perhaps one day we may need to ordain almost every man a priest, every reverend leader of a parish a bishop, and every culturally connected peoples a televangelical “Pope”, and find ourselves no different than Protestants in a functional aspect (and possibly useful in attracting Protestants to the Orthodox Church).  Everyone should be able to administer the Eucharist at their community homes, while the big guys in the Synod should be able to vote on matters of faith like important committee leaders.  Is this a plausible or acceptable system in the future?


  • edited May 2014

    3.  It is encouraging to hear that Pope Francis is trying to decentralize the Church yes, but that doesn’t mean Papal Infallibility isn’t still dogma.  He cannot do a thing against that, and perhaps as a society that allows changes what it essentially means to be a priest or bishop or deacon, maybe the “need” to develop a non-dogmatic form of Papal Infallibility is not something to be opposed to either.  A while ago, when we had the Papal elections, when I first read how the system of general bishops was criticized to be like a Cardinal system, I was curious about the Cardinal system.  So I looked it up.  It is a very strange system.  A Cardinal can be both an archbishop of an archdiocese and a deacon of a titular see or service in the Vatican, and can be called “Cardinal Deacon” even though he is bishop!  That’s what I see a general bishop is.  He has voting rights in the Synod, but not allowed to ordain priests.  I find that a waste of bishop.

    Maybe we shouldn’t create new systems of our clergy, but we try our best to maintain what the theological purpose of those systems were and how we can maintain the same purpose today.  Otherwise, our system is subject to vanity I feel.

    4.  I think making the excuse of accommodating for changing times is not a bad excuse, but it should be for a purpose of pulling back to the ideal, not to perpetuate and prolong the new norm.  That was the mistake of the Law in the Old Testament, but as Christians in the New Testament, our standards are expected to be higher, not make more concessions, but add more ways to reach virtues.  For example, can you make a concession on self-defense?  Yes!  Perhaps…but Christ still said the high standard is to turn the other cheek.  That’s the goal, and one cannot beat around the bush to change that.  Concessions are between you and the priest, not a matter of Church structure or beliefs that cave in to societal “pressures”.  You may go fight and kill in wars, but when you come back you are still to go through a period of penance, and also might most probably need to avoid seeking the clerical offices since your hands are stained with blood and should not handle the blood of Christ.  Does that mean we should encourage war?  No, it's a concession when we have no choice but war, but war is an evil, and hopefully to be gone later.

    When it comes to matters of ecclesiology therefore, people become passive submissive, perhaps not because they are intentionally passive in all matters, but they generally don’t care what type of ecclesiological system we have.  As long as someone is a bishop and priest, we’re fine.  I can’t just accept that.

    Sorry for the length...I got carried away...:P

  • edited May 2014
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