Reader Responds To Anonymous Priest Critical of Manhattan Declaration

January 4, 2010

George Michalopulos answers the “Orthodox Priest” (name withheld) whose critical comments about the Manhattan Declaration were posted on by Harry Katopodis:

Reverend Father, bless! Christ is in our midst!

As you can tell by my name, I am a layman, not a clergyman. Neither am I a theologian, therefore what follows must be viewed with that in mind. Be that as it may, I am at a loss to understand how the Manhattan Declaration is a document whose “…theology is not Orthodox” (as you state). This is a bold assertion. Therefore I am forced to ask which heretical and/or heterodox teachings were promulgated within the Declaration. As two Orthodox bishops and several Orthodox priests were involved in its creation, I need to know if they were wrong in any way.

You then go on to state that the Declarations “approach to pastoral ministry…is not Orthodox.” Unless I am mistaken, this document makes no mention at all of pastoral responsibilities as its intent is simply a declaration of first principles as commonly understood within the light of 2,000 years of Christian tradition. Usually pastoral issues are the province of a pastor and his parishioner.

More troubling however is what comes next. You write that it is full of “fear, arrogance, and a lack of compassion.” May I ask, are you not fearful of losing religious liberties? I know many clergymen who have expressed concerns regarding the loss of liberty that has attended our society these last few decades. Perhaps you have not thought the implications of loss of religious liberty through: what will you do as an Orthodox priest when a homosexual couple arrives at your parish’s door and demands that you sanctify their union? Are you aware that if you do not, you may lose your church’s tax exemption? It is even possible that you can be condemned for committing a so-called hate crime (a logical redundancy if there ever was one –all crimes are the action of hate). These are not scare tactics. In Canada, pastors are forbidden from preaching on those biblical texts that condemn sexual immorality.

As for its supposed “arrogance,” since when is it arrogant to proclaim the common teaching of the Christian Church? And I simply don’t know what to do about your concern that the Declaration evinces a “lack of compassion.” Not to belabor the point, but the signers merely reiterated three fundamental principles of Christianity that the Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox signatories agree are fundamental and certainly not divisive. I’m sure that the one hundred and fifty-one signatories that gathered together for this historic document are any different in principle from the myriad of other ecumenical gatherings that you and other Orthodox clergymen have partaken of in the past. By this, I mean groups like the National Council of Churches and others of their ilk. Or am I to assume that you condemn Orthodox participation in these bodies and that you abstain from them based on your own principles? If so, then I beg your forgiveness as then you would be philosophically consistent in your abstention from signing the Declaration and advocating its repudiation.

As to your assertion that it contains “hatred disguised as fidelity,” I simply don’t know what to make of this. Have you been granted the gift of knowing what lurks in the hearts of the three authors and the 148 other signatories? That is a bold statement. Chuck Colson has spent the better part of the last forty years atoning for his sins by ministering to the wretched who are languishing in our worst prisons. By which benchmark would you consider this type of witness “hatred”? May I ask sir, how many prisoners have you ministered to?

And what am it to make of your statement that “you are tired of politics being shoved down our throats”? Fair enough, I know many people who likewise are tired of having “progressive” policies shoved down their throats as well. Right off the bat, I can think of things like mandatory sex education for their children, minors being taken across state lines for abortions, confiscation of primary domiciles for commercial purposes in clear violation of the Fifth Amendment, the excision of prayer from local schools, and so on. I suppose it depends on whose ox is being gored, as the old cliché would have it.

As to the parade of horribles that you aver has “co-opted” Orthodoxy, you assume too much. That the conservative side of the political continuum has been reduced to being the sole secular defender of traditional morality is no cause for pride. After all, according to popular mythology, it was the left side of this spectrum that traditionally championed the cause of the ordinary working man. If you permit me an aside here, as the son of a proud Democrat and lifelong union member, I cannot find a time in history in which the great heroes of that political tradition were as beholden to the family-destroying programs as they are at present. In fact, quite the opposite.

As for oikonomeia, what exactly are you talking about? You owe us an explanation as you are obviously perturbed that many Orthodox seem to not know what it means. Am I to assume that Christ died for us and accepts us as we are? Or are we to strive for theosis? How exactly does one accomplish this if his sins are given ecclesiastical sanction?

Finally, I categorically deny your baseless criticism that “this Declaration represents the cowardly way of hypocrites and scoundrels.” How so? Did they not sign their names to this document? Yes, they did, as did I. Your own epistle however is unsigned.

In Christ,

George C Michalopulos

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