Justifying One’s Sins is Not Sincere Repentance

The Synod of Bishops has stumbled about looking for what their proper response should be to the scandal which dominated the OCA for the past few years.  The impending release of the SIC report caused them to try to find some kind of response to the crisis in leadership, vision and finances which sickened the entire body of the OCA.  Their most recent effort to offer a response and show some sense of leading the OCA came in the form of the October 9, 2008, Pastoral Letter from the Holy Synod of Bishops to the Clergy and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America.  You can read their Pastoral Letter and form your own judgment as to whether the bishops have finally come to grips with the crisis and their personal and collective role in the mess.

Mark Stokoe on OCAnews.org has issued a resounding and deserved critique of the weakness of their effort.   Personally I think one sign of how sincere the bishops’ own repentance is will be their response to continued criticism.  If their repentance is sincere, the bishop’s will see the criticism directed against them as justified and understand that they deservedly must take their lumps.  However, if they are only trying to justify themselves, they will critically respond against those who berate them.  Like the adulterer in a marriage who gets angry that his spouse can’t get over the affair and forgive him and acts as if he is the victim, so too our bishops will show their hand and reveal their hearts.

I find for example it strange that the bishops want each parish to have a rite of mutual forgiveness, as if the parishioners are somehow responsible for the grief through which the scandal has put the entire OCA.   It is a act of mass forgiveness in a church which has rejected general confession as a normative practice of repentance.     It would make more sense if the bishops and the former chancery workers would issue personal apologies to the church and then ask forgiveness.  Instead the bishops’ Letter blames the passion of anger in the hearts of the membership for the continuing morass.  The reality is the people had reason to be angry – the leadership had betrayed them!  Christ’s anger at the money changers in the temple comes to mind.  Maybe Jesus should have tried a rite of mutual forgiveness instead of driving the thieves from the temple turned den.

Would that the bishops would weep for their sins as they are the cause of the passionate anger in the hearts of the membership.  Instead of faulting the members for the passion of anger, they should confess and admit that they are the cause of this grievous sin in the hearts of the faithful!

Lastly their letter calls for the faithful to again support the work of the national church.  It is a euphemism for asking us to get the money flowing back into the temple again.  But in my opinion, before that happens there needs to be a clear commitment on the part of the bishops to some vision of what the OCA is or should be.   Just resuming what has been disrupted is not the desired result of resolving the scandal.  What is needed is a true change of heart and mind (metanoia, repentance), new leadership, new vision, goals to move us in the right direction, not to return us to what was interrupted.  It is not only a re-evaluation of the statutes which is required, or an episcopacy which will try to learn from its mistakes, we could use bishops who weep for their failures and then who humbly present themselves to the faithful as the servants of Christ who know it is time to lay aside their imperial demeanor and to wash the wounded feet of Christ’s brothers and sisters.  For this scandal was not one of the faithful betraying the Church, but the appointed leaders scandalizing the faithful and crucifying Christ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.