A certain pro-communist transsexual blogger who from time to time feels the need to take shots at me has done so again. I usually ignore such nonsense, but a few things need to be pointed out in response to this latest post. For one, he shows a series of photos of Patriarch Kyrill with Socialist leaders, and then takes me to task for an article I wrote defending Patriarch Kyrill in particular, and the Russian Church in general. In a previous post by said transsexual blogger, I was accused of not having spoken out about the persecution of Christians in Syria... when in fact I have repeatedly, and did so in this same article. On the other hand, the pro-communist transsexual in question has refused to criticize Obama on his policies in Egypt and Syria, which have greatly contributed to the persecution of Christians in both of those countries.
Furthermore, the transsexual pro-communist blogger criticizes me for not having had an Orthodox seminary education. A good Orthodox seminary education is a beneficial thing, to be sure, but there were no Christian seminaries anywhere in the world until the 16th century. Such institutions began as part of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. The first seminary in the Russian Church was established in 1615. So during the golden age of the Fathers, there were no seminaries.Therefore, a seminary education can hardly be said to be indispensable. I converted to Orthodoxy largely as a result of the theological education I received as a Protestant. I was acquainted with the Fathers of the Church during my studies, and took it from there. Whether or not I was qualified to be ordained a priest was up to the bishop who ordained me, and whether or not I am qualified to continue to serve a parish is up to my current bishop. "Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls" (Romans 14:4).
What the pro-communist transsexual does not do in his post is
actually show how anything that I have actually said is incorrect. I am
always open to correction, when it comes from people who know what they
are talking about and have reason and evidence on their side.
One of my areas of study as a Protestant was missions, and one of the things I learned was that Churches that insist on a seminary education for all their clergy have chronic clerical shortages. This use to not be true of the Roman Catholic Church, but their insistence on clerical celibacy removed the family concerns out of the equation. When you have married clergy, married clergy tend to settle down and not be inclined to move... particular to areas that are not likely to result in a financial improvement for their families. So for example, if you get a man Podunk Kentucky to move to New York City to attend seminary, the chances of getting him to go back to Podunk Kentucky to serve a small parish is pretty slim... and that's if you can get him to pull up stakes in Podunk and go to New York City in the first place. So what happens is that in areas near a seminary, you have an abundance of clergy... probably more than you actually need there. But in areas far removed from those seminaries, you have shortages, and getting clergy to serve in rural areas is nearly impossible. If you actually want to grow as a Church you need to have the ability to train clergy where they are. You also need seminaries, but you need something else to get clergy to serve parishes in places like Podunk Kentucky. Fortunately, we now have good distance learning capabilities, and in ROCOR, we have established a 2 year program through the Orthodox Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America. It is not a correspondence program, but an internet based school that has a regular school year, class discussions, and lectures.
What is ironic is that this same pro-communist transsexual used to hold me up as an example of a good convert priest... until we had a private exchange by e-mail about welfare, and because I am not a socialist, I became an "evil" "konvertsy". The irony is, that while I have my opinions on welfare, I don't question the Orthodoxy of those who disagree with me on matters of public policy, when the Church does not have a clear teaching on the matter. And while the Church certainly does teach that we should help the poor, the Church does not teach that we have to lobby our government to raise taxes so that other people can be forced to give to government run programs for the poor... nor does it teach that we cannot do so.
One other curious thing about this post is that this pro-communist transsexual takes a shot at Fr. Tikhon (Shevkunov), who is one of the most prominent figures in the Russian Orthodox Church today, and whose website posted the article I wrote that this pro-communist transsexual is taking issue with. She points out that he also does not have an Orthodox seminary education, and then says he is one of my defenders. I would be honored if that were true, but to my knowledge he has never said or written anything about me, one way or the other. I have briefly met him on two occasions, but I doubt that the great impression those meetings made on me was reciprocated.
I am fairly confident that the vast majority of clergy in the Russian Orthodox Church in the past 80 years have not come away with a favorable impression of Communism, and there is certainly little evidence that supporting conservative Republicans was seen as being worse than a supporter of the KGB. There are martyred Russian clergy commemorated on almost every day of the year, who were killed by the Soviets, and some times the lists are lengthy... and the Russian Church is adding to the names of such clergy every year, as they research the facts of their martyrdoms.
As evidence of this, let me quote a letter Ronald Reagan wrote to our bishops, and then from their reply:
TELEGRAM OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OUTSIDE OF RUSSIA
I am honored to have this opportunity to extend warm greetings to the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad as you gather in Montreal.
You deserve the highest commendation for your efforts in support of the return of religious and civil freedom to the Russian people. Your work furthers the interests of all members of the human family, because it is inspired by faith in the Creator and by the desire for liberty that burns in the hearts of every man, woman, and child on earth.
The values you hold aid in the preservation of your own great heritage and in the strengthening of religious principles within each nation where your Church is located. In safeguarding the wondrous beauty and timeless grandeur of the ancient faith and culture of your motherland, you provide all mankind with the hope that this magnificent institution will one day be restored to its former place in the life of the Russian nation and people.
You have my best wishes for your meeting and continued success in all your efforts.
TELEGRAM OF THANKS TO PRESIDENT REAGAN, EPISTLE OF THE SOBOR OF BISHOPS OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD
Deeply-respected Mr. President!
The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, who have come from every continent to assemble in council, were deeply touched by your words of greeting and ask you to accept the expression of their gratitude.
While we are honored by the attention you have shown us, we value still more your grasp of the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian people who have suffered since 1917 under the yoke of atheistic communism. Millions and millions of martyred clergy and faithful from different social strata appeal to our Lord, but we rarely see such profound understanding on the part of government authorities as we have encountered from you.
In thanking you with all our heart, we pray that the Lord will preserve you in good health and strengthen you in your endeavors which have such importance for the United States and the whole world. May the Lord confer His blessing upon you in that position in which He placed you in order to fulfill His divine will.
President of the Sobor of Bishops
of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
Secretary, Sobor of Bishops
From: Orthodox Life, No. 4, 1985, p. 32f.