“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,

and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you:

but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,

but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV)

The word the Athenians used for their Assembly was Ekklesia, the same word used in the New Testament for Church
(and it is the greatest philological irony in all of Western history that this word,
which connoted equal participation in all deliberation by all members,
came to designate a kind of self-perpetuating, self-protective Spartan gerousia -
which would have seemed patent nonsense to Greek-speaking Christians of New Testament times,
who believed themselves to be equal members of their Assembly.)

- Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

“Oikonomia” or Self-Serving Expediency?

This community was treated, yet again, to the ongoing disingenuousness and outright mendacity of our “shepherd” – our spiritual leader – this time, in person. He excused the shabby way this community has been treated by, yet again, legalistically (as with the Roman Catholic theology he professes to disdain), relying on the Uniform Parish Regulations and the Church Canons. He continues to blame others, most particularly his own Archbishop of the U.S., Demetrios. He claims certain people have sown divisiveness here, ignoring that it is those he supports who are the ones guilty of such. He went so far as to criticize our youth! He has told us if he didn’t write it, he didn’t say it. After the meeting, he then tells a gentleman who he, IN WRITING, disallowed from entering his own church in November 2011 for a Special General Assembly, that he didn’t do that.

In a newer wrinkle, however, when asked about the plethora of inconsistencies, he now cites the concept of “oikonomia”.

In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church, and in the teaching of the Church Fathers, economy (Greek: οἰκονομία, oikonomia) has several meanings. The basic meaning of the word is "handling" or "management" or more literally "housekeeping" of a thing, usually assuming or implying good or prudent handling of the matter at hand. Oikonomia has come to connote discretionary deviation from the letter of the law in order to adhere to the spirit of the law and charity. This, in contrast to legalism, or ακριβεια — strict adherence to the letter of the law.

Metropolitan Isaiah offered the example where our Lord told those who were about to stone an adulteress to cast the first stone after reflecting whether they themselves were without sin. Oikonomia?? At that time “spirit of the law” sentiment in Judaic tradition did not exist. Adulteresses, rightly or wrongly accused, were stoned. Period. Our Lord’s words were not an expedient; they were an injunction against hypocrisy, by those who purported to carry out the law. Jesus didn’t bend the rule as an expedient; he broke it for the sake of justice!

The Metropolitan mentioned that an exception was given to his cousin in New England, who had married a Jew, but was allowed to partake in the sacraments because she went to Confession. Did anyone think to apply such “oikonomia” to the gentleman, a lifelong member and dedicated church worker, who at our recent assembly broached this subject?

Currently two churches in the Archdiocesan district are served and governed, as are we, by one parish council. Oikonomia, yet again. Did it EVER occur to our Metropolitan to apply this concept for our whole community’s benefit? No. Instead, even though a valid survey that he wrote he would honor, and vote after vote (when he deigned to allow them!) proved that his favored minority was just that – a minority, and a small one at that.

In the face of overwhelming opposition, demonstrated throughout the turmoil of the past few years, the Metropolitan acknowledged (finally!) that a split of our community cannot be forced. Yet we are still again treated to his inapt “mother/daughter” analogy that he is so fond of using. However, after so many years of struggle we begin to witness a grudging – and unbelievably slow – hierarchical acceptance that we wish to remain one community? Oikonomia? Perhaps.

The great majority in our community was squelched for years, not allowed General Assemblies, not allowed free elections, despite regulations that said such were to be held. Oikonomia? In the face of such “oikonomia” the majority had, sadly, to summon courage (and funds that could have been spent for more noble purposes) to force that acceptance! It was oikonomia – on OUR part – that caused us to insist upon a continuation for a united community that our forebears worked tirelessly and selflessly to establish and to demand the rights taken from us under highly flawed regulations.

It was oikonomia that initiated a drive by this community to institute - under the direct control of the General Assembly and the Parish Council – an entity similar to Leadership 100 to enhance the community’s ability to fund necessary projects and upgrades in order to thrive more fully for the benefit of everyone in the community – most especially, our youth. Incidentally, we are well aware that the Metropolitan himself conducts fundraising activities through his financially advantaged stewards and their wealthy, non-Orthodox, business and professional contacts. If such “oikonomia” is good for the goose, it’s surely good for the gander.

Strangely enough, he can't seem to pull yet another "oikonomia" out of his cassock and help us solve our leadership problems. We can't afford three top-salaried priests; he says he can't find a place to send one of them in order to help us resolve our economic issues.

Oikonomia has clearly been used as an expedient when its application is the sole prerogative of a short-sighted clergy and hierarchy. They make all the exceptions; they decide what will and what will not be an exception, what rules they will and will not enforce. And, lest we forget, such “oikonomia“ has been used to protect pedophile clergymen, while “economically” forgetting their victims – to the economic detriment of the Greek Orthodox flock. Oikonomia? Not!

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