Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Orthodox Spirituality   Last Modified march 8th, 2004

Christ The Good Shepherd (St. Anthony's Monastery, Arizona) Icon Of Orthodox Saints Of America
Holy Orthodox Saints Of America

OCL Actions To Sue Christ Our Lord & His Church
by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Boise, Idaho, USA
23 February 2004
Holy Great Lent

Last June I published an article “The Greek Orthodox Church Is Not For Sale", in which I explained the situation that was developing with regard to members of the OCL (the Orthodox Chrsitian Laity organization) an appealing for wisdom and reconciliation. I wrote at that time, “Christians do not work against one another. They work together hand in hand, loving one another and living as true and faithful Orthodox Christians”.

I also appealed to the OCL in these words: “Cancel these meetings and bring to an end these words that bring dismay and schism! Seek out ways and means to bring growth and further development as Christians loving one another and supporting one another, as well as praying for one another. Let us look upon our Holy Orthodox Church as a Christian Church, and let us follow the examples of the teachings of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ

So it is with a heavy heart that I must now report that the OCL has not heeded these words, not the words of our devoted Venerable Archbishop and Bishops, seeking to bring a peaceful and loving resolution to this situation. Instead, we now find that their hearts and minds have become hardened to the point that they are suing the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. As you know, the Church is truly the Body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that they are taking Christ our Lord and His Church to court! Reflect on that astonishing thought, and humbly turn to our Lord in prayer.

St. Paul makes it clear in his Epistle to the Ephesians that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, whom our Lord has given us to be our Guide, can be grieved by actions such as the one proposed by the OCL. In Ch. 4, vv 1-3 he writes, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And later, in vv 29-32, he continues, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”

This is, and shall always be, the message and practice of our Holy Church the Orthodox Faith we all love – kindness, forgiveness and love, not false words, envy and greed. In the end, what shall prevail is that our Christ our Savior will triumph and we can be comforted by that truth.

It seems incredible that anyone should contemplate taking the Church, the Body of our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, to court! Our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is a living, dynamic part of the Body of Christ. Any attack on the Archdiocese is an attack on Christ Himself, Who established and gave His life for His Church –“and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” as our Lord Himself said (St. Matthew Ch 16.v 18). But it’s seemed that the OCL will not keep silent, and are neither happy nor obedient when it comes to the decisions of the Church. They seem to have no patience and no appreciation that the Church develops and grows in maturity and wisdom as the Head of the Body, the Lord leads us. The OCL wants to tell the Church what to do, and what it should be. It is the cry of our materialistic age, when self-gratification is the most important thing like the voice of a child throwing a tantrum – “I want it now!” It seems, too, that at the core of their demands are money, and the control of the money. By this legal action they are not giving anything to our Church, nor sharing in the Church’s spiritual beauty.

What a sad hour has come before us, what dishonor this action by the OCL has brought us. It is a matter for weeping! How we lament that the 35 members of the OCL who have put their signatures on the legal document were not more patient, did not heed the words of those with pastoral responsibility for them. Apparently they did not regard patience as a virtue, but are much more concerned to force the Church to act they way they want, to fulfill their wants and desires, and to take control of that which is already being led by the Holy Spirit. There is nothing honorable to the Church in this!

It is not significant that a tiny minority is making this entire clamor; whose interests and whose desire for power have become so clear to us? The vast majority of the faithful have no desire or intention to follow the OCL’ s footsteps, however, as we see all over this country, have been patient and devoted to our beloved Church. Our Venerable Patriarch and our Archbishop have always been most understanding and most considerate of the ideals of the OCL – but that organization refuses to listen to them, trying to give the impression that is they who are right.

What is being taken to court is the beauty of our Church, and we find now that those whom we seek to bring into the Holy Orthodox Faith to receive their salvation and be nourished by its Sacraments, are being scandalized by what the OCL is doing. They are placing a stumbling block in the path of those who are seeking our Lord Jesus Christ, and are preventing them from receiving all the blessings that the Church can give.

It is, too, a tragedy that the members of OCL who have been so hasty in bringing this action to court should have so little regard for the wisdom of Holy Scripture. The Church of Corinth was suffering from various actions and attitudes contrary to the will of Almighty God, and St. Paul had to write, reproving them and providing guidance into the correct paths. In his First Epistle Ch. 6, he writes: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?” The OCL does not have patience, and apparently cannot accept the guidance of the Church (the “saints”) instead, it has gone “to law before the unrighteous” – a secular court St. Paul is asking them, “How do you dare do this?” That last thing that the New York Supreme Court wants is to hear the OCL’ s case, as the court knows that it should not, indeed cannot legislate in this manner.

A matter of our urgent concern is the present state of society in this country of ours that has allowed this to come about. Look at what is happening every time we don’t agree with an issue; we simply think it’s all right to sue! The OCL by their action may have opened the door wider so that others may consider suing too. What a sad hour this has become for those who are supposed to believe in Christ our Lord. What a sad hour it is for us as we prepare ourselves during the holiest time of our Church – Great and Holy Lent.

Now is the time to come before our Blessed Savior with heartfelt prayers and, if the Holy Spirit so leads us, with weeping for what is happening in our beloved Church. Pray that the members of the OCL, who signed the petition to sue, should drop the ideas and withdraw this court procedure. The Church does not belong in the court The Church loves us all, and forgives those who have been tempted to bring division and turmoil. God forgives! Pray too for all those – in or outside the Church – who have been affected by this turmoil, that they will know in their hearts and minds the peace of Christ. Pray that all who are in leadership within the Church should be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit of our God empowered to teach and inspire and nurture their flocks with a sure and already hand during these days, leading them through Great Lent to the glorious celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord.

Let us truly be always known not just as Orthodox Christians, but also as pious loving Christians, helping one another and caring about the needs of our Church. Let us then begin to use the talents that God has given us, dedicating ourselves afresh to His services and the service of one another, being cleansed of all sinful desires, that there may no longer be division, hatred, malice and unkind words among us. Let us love one another so that in unity we may confess: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Peace to your soul!

Humbly In Christ Our Lord,

+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you!

Glory Be To God For All Things!
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(c) Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes