Not Healing the East-West Schism

Like many pastors and churches in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I recently received (7/15/2011) an e-mail from the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate, condemning our denomination’s loosening sexual ethics for church leaders.  It is apparent that they culled the Internet for e-mail addresses related to Presbyterian congregations and sent out a massive spam.  Here is the text of the e-mail message in full:

 Representatives and members of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Dear Church representatives,

We have been informed that on 10 May 2011 You adopted constitutional amendments in Your Church and thus enabled active homosexuals and lesbians to be ordained pastors, elders and deacons. This step of public apostasy was preceded by a discussion lasting 33 years.

The very discussion and voting as to whether homosexuality is a sin and an abomination or not is a betrayal of Christ and His Gospel. The position of God’s Word on this abomination is unequivocal, diametrically different from Yours.

God punishes this sin by completely destroying the particular territory: “He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by reducing them to ashes as a warning to future sinners.” (2Pt 2:6)

Through the Apostle Paul God reveals that the root of homosexual perversion is a betrayal of the saving faith and idolatry: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men…” (Rom 1:25-27)

“Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Cor 6:9) “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Lev 20:13) St. Pius V (16th cent.) issued a decree stating that in case a cleric (deacon, priest, bishop, cardinal) commits the sin of homosexual perversion, he must be immediately degraded from ecclesiastical dignity and brought to temporal courts. This meant death penalty at the time. The Pope added: “This is the only way to stop and eradicate this epidemic of perversion.”

Dear representatives of the Presbyterian Church, You have betrayed the faith and God’s Commandments at the very foundation. You do not have the Spirit of Christ but the spirit of an impure perversion. How can You choose unrepentant public sinners as Your shepherds? Such shepherds lead the sheep entrusted to them along the broad way of perversion into hell. Your pseudoreligious association is no longer the Church of Christ but the harlot of antichrist.

Dear members of the Presbyterian Church in USA, we hereby call upon You to separate from the shepherds who betrayed Christ. This is a necessary step on Your part so that You may be saved from eternal damnation in hell.

Dear Church representatives, we hereby announce before God who shall judge the living and the dead, in the name of Christ crucified and risen, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that by reason of Your proclamation of an antigospel and receiving of the spirit of antichrist the Presbyterian Church in USA has fallen under God’s anathema (Gal 1:8-9). “Unless you repent, you will all perish!” (Lk 13:3)

On behalf of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate

+ Elijah
Patriarch

+ Methodius OSBMr      + Timothy OSBMr
Secretaries of the BCP

Lvov (Ukraine), 2 July 2011

Pretty strong stuff!

My search for information on the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate (BCP) turned up little–only a Wikipedia article that seems to paint the BCP (as well as its Patriarch Elijah) as an ultra-orthodox (Orthodox?) splinter group of the mainstream Eastern Orthodox Church.  Their Web site seems to be just a bunch of anathemas pronounced on a variety of Protestant and Catholic church bodies (There’s even an excommunication of the current and former pope!).  So I’m not too worried that the BCP folks have lumped me in with good company on their anathema list.  And it might be easy enough for me to just dismiss them as a bunch of cranks and disregard their comments as those of a bunch of fundamentalists.

However, I wonder if their shrill condemnations don’t represent an unspoken attitude prevalent among Eastern churches, officially and unofficially.  I wonder if we won’t hear similar (maybe more diplomatically worded) censures from other church bodies in the near future.  Or maybe we’ll just feel the cold shoulder when we attempt to initiate mission partnerships or theological declarations in the future.  I’m sure that lots of folks in the Eastern Hemisphere, Christians and non-Christians alike, see us Americans as morally degenerate and sexually permissive; and our debate about ordination standards and sexual ethics only seems to confirm that stereotype for them.

I’m also deeply concerned about ecumenical issues.  The Eastern and Western churches have been separated for almost a thousand years.  So how do our local, insular decisions affect the efforts to heal the East-West Schism still in effect?  My hunch is that we are only driving wedges between us and the majority of Christian bodies in the rest of the world.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Dr. Ken Bailey for expressing similar concerns about our denomination’s (shifting) relationship with world Christianity.

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4 thoughts on “Not Healing the East-West Schism

  1. I justst heard of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate about five minutes ago by reading about it on another blog Nouslife: With 'friends' like this, who needs other faiths?, and like you I was curious about what it was, and Googled it, which was how I found your blog.

    But it would be a mistake to think that this particular body has anything to do with the East-West schism. It appears to be a brand new sect formed for the express purpose of denouncing everyone they don’t like, East-and Wast alike. As far as I can ascertain, they broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. It’s hard to discover what they stand for, but they don’t hesitate to tell you what they are against, which seems tobe just about everything and everyone.

  2. Agreed, Steve. I don’t take this sect seriously, even though they apparently see themselves as the true remnant of the remnant–kind of a hyper-Orthodox body who exists solely to pronounce God’s anathema on…pretty much everything. But I do wonder if their hyperbole is simply an exaggerated version of a feeling that exists among other mainstream, worldwide Christian churches (Orthodox, Catholic, etc.). I wonder if average believers in Eastern churches look at our decadent, Western innovations in faith and practice and just shake their heads. A subtheme to all this is that we Protestant camps don’t (but should) take into consideration our relationship with other Christians when we make monumental decisions (like ordination standards).

    • Aye, there’s something in that, but then I think you would find that the Orthodox objection to Presbyterian ordination would not be primarily that it is women’s ordination but that it is Presbyterian ordination. The differences arise from different conceptions of ministry, and of the relation of ordination to ministry. Those differences can be discussed in an atmosphere of respect, which one does not find in the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate, which seems to have been founded for the sole purpose of providing the founders with a platform from which they can denounce everyone else.

  3. Pingback: Kakangelism on steroids: the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate | Notes from underground

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