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Author Topic: Strictness for Priests?  (Read 8903 times) Average Rating: 0
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BrotherAidan
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« on: January 31, 2007, 01:00:43 AM »

I think all jurisdictions, as well as various Christian denominations should limit "conversions" to once per decade and not receive anyone, though they beg, cry, volunteer fortunes, threaten self-destruction, and most importantly, though they be talented individuals that the church bodies could put to good use, nonetheless, if they don't pass the 10 year test where they already are, no deal. Come talk to us in however many remaining years. And then you better have a real good, well reasoned and responsible reason for making this proposed switch.

And I would recommend this legalistically and rigidly. No spiritual father, no clairvoyant monk, no hierarch, could over-ride this rule.
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2007, 09:13:55 PM »

I think all jurisdictions, as well as various Christian denominations should limit "conversions" to once per decade and not receive anyone, though they beg, cry, volunteer fortunes, threaten self-destruction, and most importantly, though they be talented individuals that the church bodies could put to good use, nonetheless, if they don't pass the 10 year test where they already are, no deal. Come talk to us in however many remaining years. And then you better have a real good, well reasoned and responsible reason for making this proposed switch.

And I would recommend this legalistically and rigidly. No spiritual father, no clairvoyant monk, no hierarch, could over-ride this rule.

If money were never a consideration (and, for many Christian denoms, even the Orthodox Church, unfortunately, it is), this would be a great rule.  Get one of the hierarchs from the GOA, OCA to propose it at the next NCC meeting (we Antiochians aren't a part of it anymore; thanks be to God!) and see where it goes.  I'd just like to see the various delegates go on record about this one. Cheesy

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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2007, 10:41:11 PM »

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it is equally wrong for Orthodox to cry sour grapes

Nobody is disparaging Catholics here.  That would be sour grapes.

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If you can't wish him well, offer him your prayers, if you can't do that then you shouldn't say anything

I absolutely disagree and I see no point in muzzling the discussion.  When a priest leaves the church and renounces his orders, people (especially those affected by the situation), deserve an explanation and an understanding of what brought that about.

Quote
I think all jurisdictions, as well as various Christian denominations should limit "conversions" to once per decade and not receive anyone, though they beg, cry, volunteer fortunes, threaten self-destruction, and most importantly, though they be talented individuals that the church bodies could put to good use, nonetheless, if they don't pass the 10 year test where they already are, no deal. Come talk to us in however many remaining years. And then you better have a real good, well reasoned and responsible reason for making this proposed switch.

BrotherAidan, I understand your suggestion, but for lay people I don't think I agree.  We live in a free society, and people should be able to move around as they please.  It certainly makes sense for churches to impose some reasonable limits such as saying one must be a member for a certain period of time to serve on the church board, etc.

I think however it's different in the case of priests.  There I think the church should be much more cautious, and maybe this will serve as a future warning.  I mentioned that all of this reminds me of a priest I knew that renounced his orders (he too had given up a permanent assignment to become a supply priest in the process).  Ultimately he simply left the church, which I think may have been the right step (at least the part about returning to being a lay person).  It was obvious he couldn't manage his own spiritual life and was all over the map .  He certainly had no business overseeing anyone else's spiritual life.

Someone said on Byzcath he can bring a lot to them (the BCC).  All I can say is be careful what you wish for, you may get it, and I remain amazed they gave him his faculties as a priest.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2007, 10:42:12 PM by welkodox » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2007, 10:56:42 PM »

Andrew,

I have noticed that certain personalities who have entered the priesthood have caused alot of spiritual damage in their wake. There seems to be a patttern many of these men have with obedience to authority (the bishop). Another aspect is their ablity to bring many people into the faith through their personal charisma and insights. People should be aware that some of these men may be bi-polar. I have a relative with this disease. When he is riding high he will convince you that anything is possible and that he some grand schemes that are sure to bring him fame, money, etc. But then when he starts his descent downward he will quit is job and start another project, get another job etc. One Antiochian priest followed a similar pattern. He has now been a member of every major jurisdiction in the country. I think we need to accept the fact we need to have some kind of screening process before we ordain a man. Besides background checks I would think psychological tests should help identify any problems.
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2007, 11:16:12 PM »

I think we need to accept the fact we need to have some kind of screening process before we ordain a man. Besides background checks I would think psychological tests should help identify any problems.

At least in the GOA for the past four years, a psychological evaluation is required for every ordination candidate specifically to try to limit the potential damage that some priests may give to others, as well as to help those who need such help (yes, some candidates at Holy Cross were identified for future psychological care through this process...)
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2007, 11:36:25 PM »

How would his parishioners benefit if he no longer believed in Orthodoxy but still shepherded them out of a feeling of obligation?

Nobody anywhere has suggested that.  In reality it's a no win situation for his former flock.

Quote
I mean, what has he done other than decide to change churches?

If somebody wants to go on a spiritual quest, that's their business.  When you take other people along for the ride, that's a problem.  When those who should no better allow that to happen, it's even worse.
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2007, 11:42:28 PM »

At least in the GOA for the past four years, a psychological evaluation is required for every ordination candidate specifically to try to limit the potential damage that some priests may give to others, as well as to help those who need such help (yes, some candidates at Holy Cross were identified for future psychological care through this process...)

And an unfortunate legacy of the Antiochians is that many priests (including Fr. Mack) are ordained through the St. Stephen program, as opposed to submitting to the scrutiny of attending an actual seminary, let alone a psychological exam. I do credit the Greeks for looking at their future priests with more care.
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2007, 11:44:31 PM »

If somebody wants to go on a spiritual quest, that's their business.  When you take other people along for the ride, that's a problem.  When those who should no better allow that to happen, it's even worse.

But, ultimately, everyone has a choice to make...these people arn't 'taken' along for the ride, they voluntarily go. That's one of the great blessings and great curses of living in a free society...responsibility.
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« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2007, 11:52:49 PM »

The fool who believed him is as much at fault as the man who preached this nonsense.

A reality of life is that some people for various reasons can fall sway to those in power and authority.  What happens to them may appear to be foolish, but the fact is we don't discount them as fools (at least the people who take seriously that they are spiritual shepherds which you and I are not).  We live in a free society, but we also recognize some people in a free society need protection, and allowing them to be taken for a ride is not acceptable.

Also along the lines of people willingly following along - I would guess many people had no idea what they were getting, and may have left when the found out.  They didn't go along, which is as much a tragedy.
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2007, 12:05:30 AM »

A reality of life is that some people for various reasons can fall sway to those in power and authority.

It is also a reality of life that some people for various reasons abuse power and authority...the fact that it's a reality of life doesn't make it any less wrong and sinful.

Quote
What happens to them may appear to be foolish, but the fact is we don't discount them as fools (at least the people who take seriously that they are spiritual shepherds which you and I are not).  We live in a free society, but we also recognize some people in a free society need protection, and allowing them to be taken for a ride is not acceptable.

I fear that I take no one who claims to be a spiritual shepherd seriously...which is a completely different fault. And while I do not like seeing people 'taken for a ride,' ultimately, they are adults and they can make their own decisions. There comes a point where you must think for yourself, and if you dont there can be serious consequences...again, it's called responsibility, you have to give it to people at some point.

Quote
Also along the lines of people willingly following along - I would guess many people had no idea what they were getting, and may have left when the found out.  They didn't go along, which is as much a tragedy.

When someone start's saying that obience to him is more importance than obedience to God...you have two choices, either condemn this man for the heretic he is or make him your God...ultimately that's what his followers did, made him their God...they are idolaters by their own choice
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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2007, 12:16:23 AM »

Quote
ultimately, they are adults and they can make their own decisions.

GiC, bishops have to consider there are people in all states.  Some are not adults, and children suffer equally in situations like this.  Ultimately bishops should do their utmost to protect their flocks, because the trust between a parishioner and a priest is great.  None of that obviates personal responsibility.

-----

One thing I think that is worth considering are two posts made at the start of the thread by a self-stated parishioner of the mission

Quote
Oh my Lord have mercy upon me and save me!!!
  Father Mack brought my family into the church. He was my priest ( in Lawrence ,KS.)
He remains and always will be my brother in Christ.
 I am deeply bitter about his departure from Orthodoxy as he was forced out of the church the details of which involve long standing vendetas from the Antiochions and pressure applied on the OCA by said Antiochions and has caused me to withdraw from regular church attendence.  It is a long and very sad story and a demonstration of why there will never be a United church in America.
 As my Greek friend said when I told him about Fr. John leaving the church  ..." This is a huge loss to the Orthodox faith."
  I was the Parish Council President when he resigned . What I state is fact as I saw it unfold.
I make no apologies for stating the truth . He was forced out .

Quote
I saw that thread and thought about posting but withheld. I am going to irritate a lot of people on this forum ( as most of you know , I am the least articulate here and can`t spell to save my life) but .....
   High placed Antiochians in Wichita KS. (St. George`s) had issues with Fr.John dating back to his days as an Antiochian Priest. I am not famliar with the details, though I do know that his critics continued to conspire against him.
  So, I`m going to break it down.....The OCA is in a SEVERE financial crisis.....The Antiochians have money...LOTS of money.....in exchange for certain favors, the Antiochians donated a considerable amount of monetary support to the OCA......
 Father John was an awesome Priest and brilliant articlulater of the faith and did not deserve to be sacrificed by the by Met. Herman in order to save himself. For this reason alone, Met. Herman should resign.....oh yeah...there`s that money thing too

My comment was it sounds like the OCA and Antiochians are like the Mafia.  Either that is the case, or some terribly misleading ideas were floating around.  I'm assuming the person in question got these ideas from somewhere.  Balance this forced out/vendetta statement with the "just leaving cause of sectarianism/following conscience" thing.    Then take in to account what Corsair is saying.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 12:17:31 AM by welkodox » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2007, 02:48:56 AM »

Tamara:  an Orthodox friend of mine, only 25 or 26, told me that he was recently diagnosed as being bipolar.  He said that he also wants to be a priest.  He says that the bipolar claim is really only a label attached to some crazy behavior he's had in the past of staying of a few days straight.  I feel for him.  He seems to be really nice and genuine - even someone I'd trust a female friend or even relative to marry (THAT'S tough for a guy).  I feel that his journey could get quashed by being knowingly bipolar.  Just thought I'd share since you'd brought it up.

Others:  so what the heck is a "sectarian" supposed to be?
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« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2007, 03:25:26 AM »

This is to be a continuation on the sub-topic that had formed in the Father John Mack thread.

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« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2007, 09:33:29 AM »

At least in the GOA for the past four years, a psychological evaluation is required for every ordination candidate specifically to try to limit the potential damage that some priests may give to others, as well as to help those who need such help (yes, some candidates at Holy Cross were identified for future psychological care through this process...)

Is the GOA the only jurisdiction doing this?
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« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2007, 10:04:08 AM »

To be a priest, you have to be a little crazy.  No wonder the GOA seems to be short some priest.
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« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2007, 10:10:36 AM »

To be a priest, you have to be a little crazy.  No wonder the GOA seems to be short some priest.

I don't quite get the nature of this comment.
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« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2007, 11:26:08 AM »

At least in the GOA for the past four years, a psychological evaluation is required for every ordination candidate specifically to try to limit the potential damage that some priests may give to others, as well as to help those who need such help (yes, some candidates at Holy Cross were identified for future psychological care through this process...)


Well, I know for a fact that candidates for ordination in the GOA have had to take fairly extensive psychological tests (circa 4 to 6 hours) from an Archdiocesan approved psychologist for at least 10 years (since the very beginning of the Spyridon years). I wouldn't be at all surprised if His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos also required such tests, but I don't know firsthand.

What is "new" in the last four years is that first-year seminarians also have to take the tests. This allows for earlier detection and, possibly, help where it is needed.
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« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2007, 11:31:10 AM »

Is the GOA the only jurisdiction doing this?

Well, pensate beat me to the answer.  I do not believe that Iakovos required the tests, however - he judged himself a very good measure of character and ability.
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« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2007, 11:36:11 AM »

I don't quite get the nature of this comment.
It's just a little levity or tongue in cheek- made me laugh anyway.  As far as I know, the Greeks are the only ones who seem to have trouble getting priest; they are also the only ones who have psychological evaluations performed on those who want to be priest.
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« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2007, 11:55:03 AM »

As far as I know, the Greeks are the only ones who seem to have trouble getting priest...

I think the numbers tell a different story. Regardless, the single biggest reason why there would be more trouble (if there actually is) is because the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese does not ordain as priests men who have not graduated from an accredited Orthodox theological school. Thus, the standard (and sacrifice) required is much greater. One can't depend solely on one's other theological degrees or even on years of pastoral experience in another non-Orthodox Church. He must leave home, job -- possibly even family -- for anywhere from two to four years, and enter a difficult environment, fraught with temptation and spiritual challenge. He must be willing to put aside all his previous knowledge and experience and submit to instruction as if he were little more than a neophyte.

This is particularly significant because so many vocations (in all jurisdictions and even in various denominations) are coming later in life. If one is in such a situation (older, established, with bills to pay and a family to feed), it's much easier to take a correspondence course or even get chrismated and ordained on the same day.
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« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2007, 11:59:20 AM »

I think the numbers tell a different story. Regardless, the single biggest reason why there would be more trouble (if there actually is) is because the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese does not ordain as priests men who have not graduated from an accredited Orthodox theological school. Thus, the standard (and sacrifice) required is much greater. One can't depend solely on one's other theological degrees or even on years of pastoral experience in another non-Orthodox Church. He must leave home, job -- possibly even family -- for anywhere from two to four years, and enter a difficult environment, fraught with temptation and spiritual challenge. He must be willing to put aside all his previous knowledge and experience and submit to instruction as if he were little more than a neophyte.

This is particularly significant because so many vocations (in all jurisdictions and even in various denominations) are coming later in life. If one is in such a situation (older, established, with bills to pay and a family to feed), it's much easier to take a correspondence course or even get chrismated and ordained on the same day.

Well, kinda...there are, of course, many ways around said requirement...depending on the Bishop, of course.
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« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2007, 12:11:10 PM »

Elisha,

When my relative is on his medication he is just fine and I have allowed him to babysit my boys. There are different levels of severity with bipolar disease. Some function very well on the medicines with therapy but others struggle their whole lives. Some will never stay on the medicine so they continue to have cycles of mania and depression which tend to get worse each time they go off the medicine. This cycle leads to a very unstable lifestyle. Many bipolar patients become drug-users or alcoholics, some spend money extravagently until they are bankrupt. Thank God my relative is not an alcoholic or drug-user but even so, his cycles of being on the medicine and then off again have lead to a very unstable lifestyle for him. The ups and downs of these cycles can be extemely hard on a spouse and children so I would imagine it would be very hard on parishioners if a priest had this condition. I wouldn't say a man with bipolar disease shouldn't be a priest but it is definitely something the bishop should know about before he decides to ordain him.
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« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2007, 12:12:30 PM »

Well, kinda...there are, of course, many ways around said requirement...depending on the Bishop, of course.

Sure, some bishops are more strict than others, but I think you should re-read what I wrote. I know of a case where someone with extenuating circumstances and lots of experience didn't get another M.Div., but he still got a degree. Perhaps a true exception to this rule exists, but I know of no priest who was ordained by the GOA without a degree from some approved Orthodox school/seminary (in the U.S. or abroad).

As you well know, there are currently many men at Holy Cross right now who fit this profile, and the standard is so common that it obviously influences many potential ordinand’s plans. The details and (alleged) exceptions are irrelevant if the aggregate still produces a noticeable effect.
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« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2007, 12:31:50 PM »

Two things come to my mind when thinking about this issue.

One is that I think we need to consider the importance of the diaconate in priestly formation.  I would say especially for someone outside the church who comes in, even if they were previously ordained.  They should spend time in the diaconate first.  Obviously that would not be the case when it comes to changing jurisdictions, which leads to my other thought.

That is the situation that spawned all of this is to me a glaring example of the problem of our jurisdictional fragmentation, and that there is a system that has evolved that can be worked or exploited.  Maybe this whole thing would not have been avoided, but I can’t help but believe that maybe it could have been.  Especially vis-à-vis being able to put half a country between oneself and a bishop.
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« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2007, 12:44:41 PM »

Two things come to my mind when thinking about this issue.

One is that I think we need to consider the importance of the diaconate in priestly formation.  I would say especially for someone outside the church who comes in, even if they were previously ordained.  They should spend time in the diaconate first.  Obviously that would not be the case when it comes to changing jurisdictions, which leads to my other thought.

That is the situation that spawned all of this is to me a glaring example of the problem of our jurisdictional fragmentation, and that there is a system that has evolved that can be worked or exploited.  Maybe this whole thing would not have been avoided, but I can’t help but believe that maybe it could have been.  Especially vis-à-vis being able to put half a country between oneself and a bishop.




Oh Andrew...you are so right. Our fragmentation causes so many problems. Jurisdiction hopping along with the fact  that some jurisdictions have a priest shortage guarantees these problems will continue. This situation can be aggravated when bishops in the same region refuse to communicate with one another.
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« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2007, 02:02:23 PM »

Sure, some bishops are more strict than others, but I think you should re-read what I wrote. I know of a case where someone with extenuating circumstances and lots of experience didn't get another M.Div., but he still got a degree. Perhaps a true exception to this rule exists, but I know of no priest who was ordained by the GOA without a degree from some approved Orthodox school/seminary (in the U.S. or abroad).

I can't think of any specific example of an actual ordination by a GOA bishop without some formal orthodox education, but I know of two instances where a Greek Bishop transfered someone who lacked any formal orthodox education for the express purpose of Ordination, after which they were given a canonical transfer back to the Jurisdiction of the Greek Bishop...an easy way to get around the requirements of the eparchial synod.
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« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2007, 02:18:45 PM »

[quoteAnd an unfortunate legacy of the Antiochians is that many priests (including Fr. Mack) are ordained through the St. Stephen program, as opposed to submitting to the scrutiny of attending an actual seminary, let alone a psychological exam. I do credit the Greeks for looking at their future priests with more care.][/quote]

Corsair, when you are on a campaign to grow a jurisdiction at all costs some standards invariably fall by the wayside. This to some extent is the failings of business and it is my opinion that the AOC is run more like a business than a church. As a result you have priest being ordained that do not have the necessary skill set to be a good priest. I know. I was in an AOC church that suffered as such. The priest was schooled in a Presbyterian seminary and then just went through St. Stephens.  Go figure.
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« Reply #27 on: February 01, 2007, 11:59:19 PM »

I am always amazed that mental illnesses, so labelled are taken as concrete fact.  What's the test for schizophrenia.   "Do you have a split personality?"  Answer; "yes and no".

Are priests not allowed to get depressed?  Are they not supposed to have spiritual struggles like the rest of us?  A hedonistic society doesn't want any unpleasantness.  I hope those psycho tests are not the same as for ADD and the new OCD nonsense.
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« Reply #28 on: February 02, 2007, 12:08:18 AM »

Dear Friends:

The only person responsible for John Mack's actions is ... John Mack. It is unseemly to try to blame others for his choice to leave the church.

We are created with free will. Sometimes, people we love and respect act in ways we neither understand nor approve.

John Mack's true reasons for leaving are, and I suspect, will remain his own. The explanation offered on the Byzantine Catholic web site is as improbable as the story he told his parishioners in Lawrence. ' I'm leaving the Orthodox church to cure myself of being a Protestant ' is as silly as ' The Lebanese mafia forced me to do it ' Frankly, his reasons are irrelevant. What is relevant, and reprehensible, is that he lied to his parishioners and slandered innocent people in order to justify his actions.


I think we've given John Mack enough of our attention already. We need not spend any more brain power trying to figure out what went wrong, nor do we need to second guess our bishops. It is true that many of our convert clergy came into the priesthood with little formal preparation. But, overall, can we say that those clergy have performed worse than our usual clergy, who underwent the usual training ? The fact is that every jurisdiction has had its embarrassments. It is true that Metropolitan Phillip has been more willing to take a chance on convert clergy. The majority of those have performed faithfully and without scandal. We need to not lose sight of the big picture. It is far too easy to take pot shots at the bishops.

Several years ago, I watched a television interview with one of the Metropolitans of the Moscow Patriarchate. When he was asked about the compromises made during the communist times, he answered:
" Öf course there we made mistakes. The only way to never make a mistake is to do nothing, and that may be the biggest mistake of all. "  I think that there is true wisdom in that statement.

Instead of always criticizing each other, we should support each other and pray for one another. That is the true way to heal the church's troubles and divisions.

Best wishes to all for the coming Holy Fast,

Francis Frost
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« Reply #29 on: February 02, 2007, 06:34:34 AM »

I am always amazed that mental illnesses, so labelled are taken as concrete fact.  What's the test for schizophrenia.   "Do you have a split personality?"  Answer; "yes and no".
observer,
Psychological profiling does not simply test for mental illness. There are many people who may not have a diagnosable mental illness, yet who are psychologically unfit for certain positions, including the priesthood. Someone with poor coping skills may not be mentally ill, but you wouldn't send them up in a Space Shuttle.
As for mental illness, in some cases, there are specific tests, but all diagnoses of mental illness require that certain criteria are met. By the way, schizophrenia and "split personality" (more correctly, "Multiple Personality Disorder") are two completely different illnesses. Schizophrenia is a psychosis, "Multiple Personality Disorder" is a neurosis.

frost,
This thread isn't actually about Fr. Mack.
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« Reply #30 on: February 02, 2007, 08:29:06 AM »

Frost:

You have good points. It is easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback when you're not actually playing in the game.
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« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2007, 10:15:14 AM »

On a related note, I'm becoming a big believer in generally making all converts fulfill the entire catechumate (three years minimum, isn't it?)  I think it's only because  mangled ideas have prevailed amongst many Orthodox (and sadly, many adult converts to Orthodoxy) about just what it is to be a Christian (and just what it means to be a participant in the Holy Mysteries.)  There's kind of a "Roman Catholic" idea in a lot of folk's heads, that if they're not able to approach the Chalice (or in stricter practice, not being allowed to attend the Holy Oblation in the Divine Liturgy, which I'd actually like to see "brought back" as it re-enforces an important truth), they're simply spinning their wheels and not going about anything spiritually important.  That idea has to get pushed out of people's minds.  "Liturgy" is a big idea, and rightly encompasses far more than the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and it's all very important.  This is why when catechumen complain that they are not able to go to Holy Communion, I cannot help but sense a failure on the part of their pastors and mentors in properly instructing them.

It's well known that most adult converts to Orthodoxy come from some other "Christian tradition."  While it's true that there has commonly been some leniency in receiving people from heterodoxy in terms of the length of their preparation for Baptism (esp. when it comes to "corporate conversions"), I think the belief that this still applies today is misguided, since that leniency reflected a very different set of circumstances.  Save perhaps the anti-Chalcedonians and some of the Uniates, the "church life" of most religious westerners (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) is now so alien to Orthodoxy on a theoretical and practical level, that the idea that it's a "shorter jump" for them to come to Orthodoxy than for someone who is from another kind of background (non-religious upbringing, Muslim, Jew, etc.) is incorrect.

btw. St.Paul warned against the danger of "laying hands" upon a neophyte.  Much like maturity in other areas, I'm inclined to believe that this warning does not only include those "who have been Orthodox for less than X number of years."

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« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2007, 10:50:09 AM »

Are priests not allowed to get depressed?  Are they not supposed to have spiritual struggles like the rest of us?  A hedonistic society doesn't want any unpleasantness.  I hope those psycho tests are not the same as for ADD and the new OCD nonsense.

Should the tests reveal a tendency to depression, it would not necessarily constitute an impediment to ordination. But the tests could, of course, reveal significant problems that may constitute an impediment, e.g. alcohol and/or drug abuse, a history of physical or sexual abuse, etc.

At any rate, why would it be bad for the Church leadership to know an ordinand had a certain struggle? Not only does such provide transparency in deciding whether or not an ordinand has an impediment, it also provides better opportunities for addressing and healing said struggle.

Further, a standard battery of psychological tests gives the Church leadership, including one's ordaining bishop, a number of important insights that have little -- if anything -- to do with diagnosing psychoses. From the tests, the bishop can learn about the ordinand's personality type, strengths, weaknesses, social coping skills, sense of self, leadership characteristics, ability to handle conflict, etc. -- all of which allow the bishop to better decide where the ordinand needs further mentoring, oversight or, perhaps, where the ordinand already possesses certain characteristics that could be put to use in the Church immediately.
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« Reply #33 on: February 02, 2007, 12:06:42 PM »

There have been several comments on this topic relating to  the St. Stephens Program at the Antiochian House of Studies that I believe need to be clarified.

The St Stephen's Course in Orthodox Theology is but on of several programs at the Antiochian House of Studies:

1. The St. Stephen's Course in Orthodox Theology - a distance education-based, non-degree program. Aimed at introducing practicing and future church workers to the richness of Orthodox theology. Reading courses are mentored by mail, while local clergy provide auxiliary support and praxis for the student.  Three one week courses are required at the Residency Program for St. Stephen's students.  Graduates will receive the St. Stephen's Diploma. 
      a. It is a requirement that former Clergy from Heterodox communions that convert to Orthodoxy and wish to be ordained have to go to St Stephens Program as per Metropolitan Philips directions so they may take their theological education (most if not all of these former Clergy have Theological degrees from Heterodox Seminaries who often have Orthodox Priests on their faculties teaching Patristics, Greek, and early Church History) and mold it or correct it along Orthodox standards.
      b. Not all who attend the St Stephens Program are studying to become  members of the clergy.  There are programs that include studies in Youth Ministry and Church Education as well.
      c. All of my instructor/mentors at St Stephen's Program have been noted Orthodox Scholars and authors often teaching at St Tikhon's and St Vladimir's Seminary. Their comments on my written papers have been very edifying and corrective when non-orthodox thought has come in to play within  my papers. They have also been available for private discussions via e-mail and telephone as needed. 

2.The Masters Degree in Applied Orthodox Theology- a formal degree program in cooperation with the St. John of Damascus School of Theology of the University of Balamand.  Leads to a Master of Arts in Applied Orthodox Theology, which is accredited by the Government of Lebanon, and is awarded by the University of Balamand.  Requires the St. Stephen's Diploma, the completion of a Master's Thesis, and one additional pastoral project.  A new concentration in Youth Ministry is now being offered.

3.The Doctor of Ministry Program- an intensive program conducted in academic partnership with Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Available to those who have acquired a Master of Divinity (M. Div.) degree and have served in a full time ministry for at least three years following graduation from seminary. This program leads to an accredited Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) degree.

4. The Residency Program- a residency-based, intensive program, aimed at practical issues within the theological training received by seminarians and St. Stephen's students. The Residency Program provides face-to-face training for recent and soon-to-be candidates for ordination.

5.The Clergy Symposium- a biennial conference for all clergy of the Archdiocese. Provides a forum for both theory and praxis in the ministry of the priesthood.

I have seen much valued fruit come from the Antiochian policies that do develope good Orthodox leadership. Perhaps one needs to see the whole picture of training and continuing education before we throw the AOA out the window as ill educated and prepared to serve the Church. BTW, at least one Antiochian Bishop who is seen as a great pastor and leader is the product of conversion from the Protestant Church and studies the the Antiochian House of Studies programs. Who knows what valuable American born Orthodox Church Leaders will come from these programs in the future in the future

In Christ,
Thomas


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« Reply #34 on: February 02, 2007, 12:49:59 PM »

Perhaps this quote from Father John Abdulla of the Antiochian Archdiocese is  a better cite for this forum question:

After loving one another, we need to learn real obedience.  Such obedience cannot be reduced to blind adherence to every whim of authority figures.  Christian obedience involves church leaders and faithful alike seeking to understand God, and then in a loving and trusting relationship, relate that which will bring the other into a better understanding of God's presence and will.  All in the Church must be accountable to each other.  Spiritual gifts are not reserved for clergy.  God works in all who put Christ on and embrace God.  We Christians must always be first obedient to God, and then seek God's direction for each other.  This is a sacred responsibility shared by the shepherds and the reason-endowed Christians together.

In Christ,
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« Reply #35 on: February 03, 2007, 12:30:07 PM »

There have been several comments on this topic relating to  the St. Stephens Program at the Antiochian House of Studies that I believe need to be clarified.

The St Stephen's Course in Orthodox Theology is but on of several programs at the Antiochian House of Studies:

1. The St. Stephen's Course in Orthodox Theology - a distance education-based, non-degree program. Aimed at introducing practicing and future church workers to the richness of Orthodox theology. Reading courses are mentored by mail, while local clergy provide auxiliary support and praxis for the student.  Three one week courses are required at the Residency Program for St. Stephen's students.  Graduates will receive the St. Stephen's Diploma. 
      a. It is a requirement that former Clergy from Heterodox communions that convert to Orthodoxy and wish to be ordained have to go to St Stephens Program as per Metropolitan Philips directions so they may take their theological education (most if not all of these former Clergy have Theological degrees from Heterodox Seminaries who often have Orthodox Priests on their faculties teaching Patristics, Greek, and early Church History) and mold it or correct it along Orthodox standards.

[snip]

I have seen much valued fruit come from the Antiochian policies that do develope good Orthodox leadership. Perhaps one needs to see the whole picture of training and continuing education before we throw the AOA out the window as ill educated and prepared to serve the Church. BTW, at least one Antiochian Bishop who is seen as a great pastor and leader is the product of conversion from the Protestant Church and studies the the Antiochian House of Studies programs. Who knows what valuable American born Orthodox Church Leaders will come from these programs in the future in the future

I'm not sure what all of the other elements of the Antiochian House of Studies has to do with the basic point that  non-Orthodox clergy are prepared to serve the Antiochian church by going through the St. Stephen's Course. By it's very nature, the St. Stephen's Course is still essentially a correspondence course and what one mainly gains is book knowledge.

I would argue that the formation of clergy is far more than book knowledge, regardless of who is reading one's papers. There is something to be said for forming clergy in seminary--an explicitly Orthodox environment in which the future priest lives in for 3-4 years before being ordained.
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« Reply #36 on: February 03, 2007, 12:44:00 PM »

Dear Corsair,

I have to agree with your comment. Unfortunately there are too many former whatever clergy at least in the Antiochian Archdiocese that have as their claim to Orthodox formation the Saint Stephen's Program. Maybe if the hierarchy was not in a rush to bring these clergy and their communities into the church, they would have the proper formation time in a proper setting.

Friar Tuck
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« Reply #37 on: February 05, 2007, 12:03:21 PM »

Corsair & Friar Tuck

And why then is the AOC in such a rush to ordain clergy and bring in their respective communities?

Can I be so bold as to say it surrounds money!  More parishes hence more cash and all know that former Protestants are more likely to give financially as that is how they were trained in their former churches.

Follow the money trail my friends!  Undecided
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« Reply #38 on: February 06, 2007, 09:30:41 AM »

...follow the money trail is correct. Most Greek parishes are large and can support a full time priest. Many Antiochian one's cannot. Therefore, many men could not afford to attend the seminary and then get paid a very small salary. Is this an indictment of their faith? No, it is just a reality.

If one looks at the official Antiochian policy and the printed and spoken desires of her bishops, going to seminary (even for converts) is encouraged for those who want to be ordained. In fact, rarely are converts who were not clergy before ordained anymore if they don't go to seminary.

While the St. Stephen's program is very good, it does lack any sense or mentorship or liturgics. One should be apprenticed to an established priest if he is in this program. Technically, this should be one's parish priest but if he is an unsure convert as well, then you have trouble.  One other concerns is that I have never heard of any who was ordained after being in St. Stephen's having been required to take a psychological test or even a criminal background check. Those things should be done.

Basil

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« Reply #39 on: February 06, 2007, 10:26:27 PM »

In my immediate experience, I have come across 2 priests and 1 deacon who are graduates of the St. Stephen's Course...all are outstanding clergymen. I believe the St. Stephen's Course assumes an active life in the parish, mentored by your father-confessor for its students.  Granted, the course doesn't provide hands-on liturgical experience and what-not, but that can be learned in the parish by watching the priest, asking questions, serving in the altar, chanting, etc... for those who for whatever reason do not attend an established Orthodox seminary.
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« Reply #40 on: February 07, 2007, 10:49:46 PM »

As one who attended a protestant seminary and received a M.Div. degree, I must say that seminaries mostly produce young men filled mostly with book knowledge and not much else (other than themselves). The St. Stephen's course can't take the only hit there.

I have not been to St. Vlads, St. Tikhons, or Holy Cross, so I can't comment. I would imagine that the temptation to hubris is greater coming out of one of those institutions (just like it is from a protestant seminary) than from a "correspondence" course.

I personally think that priests should be made to apprentice for a couple years as a reader or sub-deacon; then go to a campus for intense theological studies for a year, then go back to working under a mentor and complete the rest of their "book" training on-line. Do that for a couple of years before submitting them to the rigors of ministry as an ordained priest.

For convert priests, some time could be granted for years of pastoral experience and for some of their theological training, but they might have to work a secular job for a couple years while they are mentored.

Of course, then we might never get any new priests!
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« Reply #41 on: February 07, 2007, 11:39:07 PM »

As one who attended a protestant seminary and received a M.Div. degree, I must say that seminaries mostly produce young men filled mostly with book knowledge and not much else (other than themselves). The St. Stephen's course can't take the only hit there.

The Orthodox solved that problem...the whole 'knowledge' component has been cut out. Now they're just full of themselves and not much else. Not that I think your plan would be a substantial improvement...most seminarians come full of themselves, no training is required for that.
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« Reply #42 on: February 07, 2007, 11:46:30 PM »

The Orthodox solved that problem...the whole 'knowledge' component has been cut out. Now they're just full of themselves and not much else. Not that I think your plan would be a substantial improvement...most seminarians come full of themselves, no training is required for that.

Case in point, the person I am quoting...but I digress.
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« Reply #43 on: February 07, 2007, 11:47:18 PM »

The Orthodox solved that problem...the whole 'knowledge' component has been cut out. Now they're just full of themselves and not much else. Not that I think your plan would be a substantial improvement...most seminarians come full of themselves, no training is required for that.

Just for the record, you attended Holy Cross, didn't you, O Sith Lord? Wink
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« Reply #44 on: February 07, 2007, 11:48:47 PM »

Just for the record, you attended Holy Cross, didn't you, O Sith Lord? Wink

I beat you by 48 seconds....hah!
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« Reply #45 on: February 07, 2007, 11:51:14 PM »

I beat you by 48 seconds....hah!

I got the smiley action on, though, so I win.  Tongue
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« Reply #46 on: February 08, 2007, 04:02:47 AM »

Just for the record, you attended Holy Cross, didn't you, O Sith Lord? Wink
To be fair there isn't much difference between the seminarians who attend Holy Cross, St. Vlad's and St. Tikhon's. If anything Holy Cross seems to do the best job of weeding out the really weird ones. The really screwed up seminarians are the ones who have not spent enough time in parish life.

As for the Antiochians, one must be in a parish for at least 3 years before applying to seminary with the Bishop's blessing. Even now those clergy who are converting are required to spend time in a parish while completing St. Stephen's in order to receive mentoring from a current priest. Chalk it up to hard lessons.
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« Reply #47 on: February 08, 2007, 08:18:13 AM »

To be fair there isn't much difference between the seminarians who attend Holy Cross, St. Vlad's and St. Tikhon's. If anything Holy Cross seems to do the best job of weeding out the really weird ones. The really screwed up seminarians are the ones who have not spent enough time in parish life.

Uh, I only pointed that out by way of saying GiC was one of those seminarians he was talking about, not as any comment of Holy Cross per se.
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« Reply #48 on: February 08, 2007, 08:36:12 AM »

Just for the record, you attended Holy Cross, didn't you, O Sith Lord? Wink

You're right there, and while I may not be the must humble and spiritual of its graduates, rest assured I am by no means the worst. Smiley

As for the Antiochians, one must be in a parish for at least 3 years before applying to seminary with the Bishop's blessing. Even now those clergy who are converting are required to spend time in a parish while completing St. Stephen's in order to receive mentoring from a current priest. Chalk it up to hard lessons.

There are, however, many people who have been Orthodox their entire lives that have no business being oradined...I wish it was that simple but it isn't. I think the problem is more fundamental, the only candidates we have for priests are people who not only make the point of comming forward asking to be ordained, but those who are willing to spend large amounts of time and money to, effectively, purchase the position.
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« Reply #49 on: February 08, 2007, 10:07:56 AM »

Case in point, the person I am quoting...but I digress.

There are better ways of using ad hominem... You should learn from the Jedi whom you "beat" by 48 seconds...

The Orthodox solved that problem...the whole 'knowledge' component has been cut out. Now they're just full of themselves and not much else. Not that I think your plan would be a substantial improvement...most seminarians come full of themselves, no training is required for that. 

In each incoming class there are really quality guys, and then there are the guys that GiC has pointed out.  I don't know why we've had more of the latter coming in the last 2 years than the former - for as much as GiC and our classmates and I have had our problems, we can both admit that a) we had an exceptional incoming class, with some really good scholarly types and some very adept pastors, and b) the situation is not hopeless in the seminaries.

You're right there, and while I may not be the must humble and spiritual of its graduates, rest assured I am by no means the worst. Smiley 

Amen.

There are, however, many people who have been Orthodox their entire lives that have no business being oradined...I wish it was that simple but it isn't. I think the problem is more fundamental, the only candidates we have for priests are people who not only make the point of comming forward asking to be ordained, but those who are willing to spend large amounts of time and money to, effectively, purchase the position. 

I think part of what has happened is that the movement from the priesthood being a "community" calling to being an "individual" calling has drastically effected the quality of the applicant and the esteem of the position.  I would speculate that if the Priesthood was still held in high regard amongst the common person, and if the community had a larger role in sending the best candidates (rather than just confirming or pseudo-confirming who "wants" to go) then this conversation wouldn't be happening (or would be applied to a smaller percentage of the population).
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« Reply #50 on: February 08, 2007, 01:19:17 PM »

There are better ways of using ad hominem... You should learn from the Jedi whom you "beat" by 48 seconds...


Depends on who's eyes you're viewing through...and in my case it was being the first to point out the hypocrisy. Wink
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« Reply #51 on: February 08, 2007, 02:02:25 PM »

You're right there, and while I may not be the must humble and spiritual of its graduates, rest assured I am by no means the worst. Smiley

In the interest of full disclosure and clarity, shouldn't you also mention that you did not graduate from Holy Cross with a pastoral degree, or as a seminarian?
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« Reply #52 on: February 08, 2007, 02:12:05 PM »

Depends on who's eyes you're viewing through...and in my case it was being the first to point out the hypocrisy. Wink

I dont believe there was any hypocracy, I was actually including myself in the statement I gave.

In the interest of full disclosure and clarity, shouldn't you also mention that you did not graduate from Holy Cross with a pastoral degree, or as a seminarian?

In the interest of full disclosure, I was a seminarian, but I did not graduate with a Pastoral Degree, though I did complete the majority of the required Pastoral Classes by the end of the Third year, you know where the one where I made that huge mistake and actually returned, instead of cutting my losses and leaving with my more Academic M.T.S. Wink
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« Reply #53 on: February 08, 2007, 02:48:20 PM »

In the interest of full disclosure, I was a seminarian, but I did not graduate with a Pastoral Degree, though I did complete the majority of the required Pastoral Classes by the end of the Third year, you know where the one where I made that huge mistake and actually returned, instead of cutting my losses and leaving with my more Academic M.T.S. Wink

Seminarian status is only awarded after a probationary period. I may be wrong, but I do not recall that you ever received seminarian status.

At any rate, I bring this up for its broader (not personal) implications: Many people think all students at seminary (and all graduates of seminary X) are/were "seminarians," and are thus the products of a seminary's full program of pastoral formation. This is simply not true.
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« Reply #54 on: February 08, 2007, 05:45:33 PM »

Seminarian status is only awarded after a probationary period. I may be wrong, but I do not recall that you ever received seminarian status.

Ah, I guess your right on that technicality, I left after that first year in the seminarian programme, which was my third year at the Institution.

Quote
At any rate, I bring this up for its broader (not personal) implications: Many people think all students at seminary (and all graduates of seminary X) are/were "seminarians," and are thus the products of a seminary's full program of pastoral formation. This is simply not true.

This may also be true, on a technicality. However, the degree of actual spiritual formation present makes this distinction purely academic. If anything, I observed this 'full pastoral formation' to be even more detrimental to the student's spiritual well-being; however, as I said it was so minimal and the sample size so small it would be possible definitively make a general statement to that effect. However, I can with certainty say that the 'total institutional' psychological factors were definitely the dominating factor in the psychological and spiritual developments of the inmates...err, students. My initial points remains, first of all the manner in which we choose candidates for the Priesthood is flawed and thus produces flawed more results far more often than should be acceptable (as quite well explained by cleveland) and also that the the institution has effectively failed in its stated purpose. Of course, this is not a problem restricted to Orthodox seminaries, there was a study not long ago that demonstrated across the board (I belive the study was done in Catholic and Protestant seminaries), the longer one remains at a seminary the weaker their faith and spirituality will be when they leave.
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« Reply #55 on: February 08, 2007, 06:38:23 PM »

GiC,
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the longer one remains at a seminary the weaker their faith and spirituality will be when they leave.
      I find the last part of your message quite tragic and disheartening! Is it the academic load of the seminarian which saps one's spirituality?  What do you mean by pastoral formation?  Are there "pastoral" teachers (I assume they are/were priests) who try to make students conform to a certain configuration?  I would be interested in hearing about your experiences.

Juliana
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« Reply #56 on: February 08, 2007, 06:55:59 PM »

Is it the academic load of the seminarian which saps one's spirituality?

Not at all, the academic load is relatively light. More than anything it would seem that the problem is the institution itself; especially it's relative isolation from the outside world. Many lose touch and have their outlook governed by the institution itself (it happens to everyone to one degree or another).

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What do you mean by pastoral formation?  Are there "pastoral" teachers (I would hope priests) who try to make students conform to a certain configuration?

Yes there are pastoral teachers, no they are not necessarily priests. As for the formal classes, they tend to be severely lacking and of minimal use. Though I was really speaking of the spiritual formation found at a seminary, the personal preparation spiritually and pastorally for ministry. This is quite lacking. Yes, they have various programmes in place such as spiritual mentors (who are priests), the effectiveness of which varies considerably from student to student and from mentor to mentor. But in general the spiritual guidance is minimal, more often it comes in the form of bureaucratic mandates for campus wide spiritual improvement. I'm sure you can guess at the effect.

In the end the main problem seems to be that the seminary is essentially a 'total institution,' and as I mentioned above this is the dominating psychological/sociological factor. Accordingly issues like conformity and authority dominate the landscape, spirituality must, by necessity in such a situation, be secondary in significance to the same and, as such, will often be twisted or misused to advance the primary objectives of any 'total institution.'

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I would be interested in hearing about your experiences.

I generally avoid commenting too much, lest I come across as being too negative. Though a certain degree of transparency is needed.
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« Reply #57 on: February 08, 2007, 10:40:54 PM »

GiC,
I appreciate your candor and opinion of your seminary experience.  Did you originally plan to study to become a priest?  What improvements could be made to help the men (who are hoping to become priests) nurture their spiritual lives instead of negatively impacting on them? Do you think that the seminary should be structured differently?  Maybe the academics (I am assuming Church History courses, Bible History and social service courses?) could be totally seperate from the apprentice process?  It is important that the institution holds to certains standards; however it is unfortunate if the few men in this world who feel they are called to be priests become disillusioned by the bureaucracy of the school.

Juliana       ps.  What "formal" classes are required?
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« Reply #58 on: February 09, 2007, 12:16:14 AM »

From everything Cleveland and GiC have said, this is precisely why I have no problem with the Antiochian "correspondence" course.

Seminaries are more a product of the high middle ages in the west than they have anything to do with traditional Orthodoxy. It is a primarily academic and flawed way to produce pastors. And most of the scholars seminaries produce only get infected with enlightenment skepticism and have long forgotten that the theologian is one who prays. No, in this system, the theologian is not one who prays but rather is one who knows Greek and Hebrew and can read theological German and French, reads 10,000 pages per academic year, accumulates lots of books, and disdains parish ministry, seeking an academic position worthy of his/her PhD.

At the protestant seminary I attended, the underlying assumption was that the non-academic guys, meaning those with QPA's under 3.6, would become pastors cause they had "good hearts" with the implication that they had weak brains. The "stars," with their fellow students and with the faculty, were the PhD bound folks.

This is a sick way to train pastors, ministers, priests, preachers, whatever the church denomination calls their shepherds of the flock.

I am virtually against seminary training of all sorts. Better to serve under a good priest for a half decade, then go to a monastery for a year of prayer, then maybe, maybe, go to some sort of institute for a year of intense theological studies. Then go back to a mentoring priest (so an unsuspecting congregation is not subjected to the sudden "knowledge" the fellow has picked up). Finish off with another couple months in a monastery and maybe you will have decent priest at the end of it all.
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« Reply #59 on: February 09, 2007, 03:02:01 AM »

From everything Cleveland and GiC have said, this is precisely why I have no problem with the Antiochian "correspondence" course.

Seminaries are more a product of the high middle ages in the west than they have anything to do with traditional Orthodoxy. It is a primarily academic and flawed way to produce pastors. And most of the scholars seminaries produce only get infected with enlightenment skepticism and have long forgotten that the theologian is one who prays. No, in this system, the theologian is not one who prays but rather is one who knows Greek and Hebrew and can read theological German and French, reads 10,000 pages per academic year, accumulates lots of books, and disdains parish ministry, seeking an academic position worthy of his/her PhD.

At the protestant seminary I attended, the underlying assumption was that the non-academic guys, meaning those with QPA's under 3.6, would become pastors cause they had "good hearts" with the implication that they had weak brains. The "stars," with their fellow students and with the faculty, were the PhD bound folks.

This is a sick way to train pastors, ministers, priests, preachers, whatever the church denomination calls their shepherds of the flock.

I am virtually against seminary training of all sorts. Better to serve under a good priest for a half decade, then go to a monastery for a year of prayer, then maybe, maybe, go to some sort of institute for a year of intense theological studies. Then go back to a mentoring priest (so an unsuspecting congregation is not subjected to the sudden "knowledge" the fellow has picked up). Finish off with another couple months in a monastery and maybe you will have decent priest at the end of it all.

I wouldn't throw out the baby with the bath-water - while I'm not a huge fan of seminaries in general, being at an Orthodox seminary hasn't been all that bad:

1. It has been repeated in class (in various classes, actually) that none of this theology does any good without prayer and charity (one of our professors goes so far as to call ministering to the poor a sacrament, which I almost agree with, really).

2. The school realizes the inherent limitation of trying to form priests in an academic environment, which is why they're exploring all they can to widen the field education experience, possibly into even semester-long shadowing a priest in some of the better parishes of our Archdiocese.

3. The emphasis on the Seminary experience comes out of the Greek (and later Russian) emphasis on an educated Priesthood, which nowadays is more necessary than ever, with so much access to theological materials and so many challenges by actively proselytizing Protestants.  Even though the experience is not perfect (but I can attest that even at other schools it never is) it is at least a starting point for future learning and/or development.

4. I would take the words of anyone who comes out with a rosy-perfect, or doom-and-gloom, picture of the seminary with a dumptruck full of coarse road salt.

One could argue that my position is overly biased, as I have a) made the conscious effort to stay here, and thus might feel the need to defend this decision, b) have invested myself in the well-being of the school by being very active in Student Government and whatnot.  I would argue positions contrary to those, but it's 2am and I'm tired.
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« Reply #60 on: February 09, 2007, 08:01:01 AM »

I wouldn't throw out the baby with the bath-water - while I'm not a huge fan of seminaries in general, being at an Orthodox seminary hasn't been all that bad:

I agree that a formal theological education is absolutely necessary for priests, especially in this day and age...the uneducated village priest just wont cut it in a 21st century western city. Though I would suggest that the school should focus only on academics and leave the spiritual growth dimension to someone else. This would probably be the easiest way to most dramatically improve the system. This is essentially how the system works in Greece, which I believe shows more promise.
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« Reply #61 on: February 09, 2007, 08:42:47 AM »

I agree that a formal theological education is absolutely necessary for priests, especially in this day and age...the uneducated village priest just wont cut it in a 21st century western city. Though I would suggest that the school should focus only on academics and leave the spiritual growth dimension to someone else. This would probably be the easiest way to most dramatically improve the system. This is essentially how the system works in Greece, which I believe shows more promise.

I suppose that kind of goal could be accomplished through a mentorship program, where the Archdiocese picks out the parishes/priests that are its best and each potential seminarian is required to spend 2 years with them, and then 2 years of theological education.  This way the Teleturgics, Pastoral Care, Field Education, Parish Administration, Holy Week, Byzantine Music - these all can be taken care of in the Parish, and the other subjects can be covered in a 2-year program.
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« Reply #62 on: February 09, 2007, 09:48:45 AM »

I suppose that kind of goal could be accomplished through a mentorship program, where the Archdiocese picks out the parishes/priests that are its best and each potential seminarian is required to spend 2 years with them, and then 2 years of theological education.  This way the Teleturgics, Pastoral Care, Field Education, Parish Administration, Holy Week, Byzantine Music - these all can be taken care of in the Parish, and the other subjects can be covered in a 2-year program.

That would be a substantial improvement over the current system.
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« Reply #63 on: February 09, 2007, 10:18:10 AM »

I believe what you have proposed is what Holy Cross and Saint Vladimir's are moving towards. From what I have heard from those in the know at St. Vlad's their mentorship/intern program is going to be expanded and in place for the upcoming academic years and mandatory for those on the ordination track. I have not heard when Holy cross plans to have it in place.

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« Reply #64 on: February 09, 2007, 01:27:13 PM »

I believe what you have proposed is what Holy Cross and Saint Vladimir's are moving towards. From what I have heard from those in the know at St. Vlad's their mentorship/intern program is going to be expanded and in place for the upcoming academic years and mandatory for those on the ordination track. I have not heard when Holy cross plans to have it in place.

Friar Tuck

I don't know if it is exactly what they are moving towards... but close.  It seems as if they want to do maybe semester-long, summer-long, or year-long mentorships, not a full two as a full-timer.
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« Reply #65 on: February 11, 2007, 12:59:45 AM »

I will go along with you two on the 2 year theological studies and 2 years mentoring or spiritual formation elsewhere than the seminary.

But, IMO it would be very difficult for these institutions to give up the third year of income from students to go with a two year academic program then release the students for two years of mentoring. I would not be surprise if the seminaries, rather than the jurisdictions will want to oversee the mentorships (internships?) and charge tuition for doing so.

Seminaries should thus just be academic, two year grad schools offering a Masters in theology. Seminaries should not be able to offer a master of divinty degree. Only jurisdictions should be able to offer a certificate of pastoral guidance/liturgics (and all the other things Cleveland mentioned) to go along with ordination.

I agree, separate the two aspects of training for pastoral ministry. Although the classroom can instruct the heart and prepare the priest,it will only be by accident; a mentoring priest and worshipping community can do this far better.
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« Reply #66 on: February 11, 2007, 01:05:12 AM »

I would still like to see the candidates sojourn at a monastery for a period of time as well.
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« Reply #67 on: February 11, 2007, 08:57:11 AM »

I will go along with you two on the 2 year theological studies and 2 years mentoring or spiritual formation elsewhere than the seminary.

But, IMO it would be very difficult for these institutions to give up the third year of income from students to go with a two year academic program then release the students for two years of mentoring. I would not be surprise if the seminaries, rather than the jurisdictions will want to oversee the mentorships (internships?) and charge tuition for doing so.

Agreed.  It would be a huge financial burden - but it would probably also encourage more people who are "on the fence" about going, especially those who are already married with families to take care of.

Seminaries should thus just be academic, two year grad schools offering a Masters in theology. Seminaries should not be able to offer a master of divinty degree. Only jurisdictions should be able to offer a certificate of pastoral guidance/liturgics (and all the other things Cleveland mentioned) to go along with ordination.

I don't know if I necessarily agree - the priests graduating with the M.Div. gives them the opportunity to continue on to doctoral work during their lives if they wish - leaving the door open for Doctor of Ministry, Theology, etc.  Degrees such as those also have real pastoral application and can greatly enhance one's ministry.  If a seminary were to offer a 2 year degree only it wouldn't be a "Masters of Theology" because that degree would not cover basics in the various necessary fields - over half the classes must be 6000/7000 level, not allowing for all the introductory classes in Pastoral Care, Dogmatics, etc.  No, the degree would probably be a MA in CHurch Service or a Master of Theological Studies, which are generally the M.Div. lite.
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« Reply #68 on: February 12, 2007, 10:41:30 AM »

I will go along with you two on the 2 year theological studies and 2 years mentoring or spiritual formation elsewhere than the seminary.

1) The latter half of your suggestion is already the case in the GOA. While there are obviously some exceptions, most graduates who intend to serve the Archdiocese as clergy leave Holy Cross and (a) are ordained and then assigned as an assistant pastor at a larger, established parish with a senior priest who mentors them for 1 to 4 years, or (b) they work as youth directors, lay assistants, etc. for a number of years -- thus gaining plenty of practical parish ministry experience -- until they and their Bishop feel they are ready for ordination (or until they get married).

2) My last two years at seminary have been essential and very beneficial spiritually, both in terms of personal growth and in terms of pastoral awareness, formation, etc. In fact, my experience has been that the "academic" parts (i.e. those parts which people are saying should be the only content of seminary) have been the least helpful in preparation for ministry, while the explicitly pastoral, spiritual and practical parts have been the most helpful. Thus, if one were to actually adopt the curriculum proposed in this thread, I think one would eviscerate the best parts of seminary and emphasize the worst.

3) A certain monk once said: We are like pots with residue and gunk encrusted on our insides. When we go to seminary (or enter any major arena of spiritual testing and struggle), the grace of the Holy Spirit, as if fire underneath our pot, begins to boil the water within us. At first, it is pleasant. Then, as time goes on, all of the residue stuck to the bottom begins to break loose and cloud the water, filling it with grime, dirt and nastiness.

Struggles -- deep, dark, difficult ones -- are not only par for the course at seminary, they are necessary for our spiritual advancement and pastoral formation. There's a reason seminarians undergo that period of difficulty and drought. One has to at least face one's spiritual struggles (if not overcome or resolve them) at some point. The pot can't be cleaned without first appearing to be a mess.

(And anyone who thinks that living in a monastery for a year or two would be different probably hasn't tried to do so!)
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« Reply #69 on: February 12, 2007, 11:22:07 AM »

Pensate--

Excellent post! Especially apt was the description of the seminary life as that of cleaning out a pot, eventually leaving the image of the original pot made cleaner so that this clean pot can be used to serve others!
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« Reply #70 on: February 12, 2007, 11:52:24 AM »

1) The latter half of your suggestion is already the case in the GOA. While there are obviously some exceptions, most graduates who intend to serve the Archdiocese as clergy leave Holy Cross and (a) are ordained and then assigned as an assistant pastor at a larger, established parish with a senior priest who mentors them for 1 to 4 years, or (b) they work as youth directors, lay assistants, etc. for a number of years -- thus gaining plenty of practical parish ministry experience -- until they and their Bishop feel they are ready for ordination (or until they get married). 

I don't know if this is exactly what I was barking at with my suggestion: there is a difference between a seminarian being assigned to be mentored at a parish and an assistant priest.  What I was hoping for with my suggestion was a situation where one could be in a full-time mentoring situation before they are ordained, as I only partially agree to the idea that one should get ordained to learn the ropes, so to say.  What it is in response to is my observation that far too many of our seminarians have come here with little to no knowledge of what really goes on in the ministry, and certainly with severely deficient liturgical knowledge/experience.

It says something that I, in my first month in seminary (!!!) had to give instructions to a newly-ordained deacon in his first solo Liturgy - nerves are one thing, but what happened there was inexcusable and, sadly, wasn't the only time I've had to do it.  While there are some of our mutual friends who think that they are liturgically inept, they don't even put a dent in some of these other jokers that I've had to serve with.

What makes it worse is that I don't have any special calling in this field, or some sort of secret instruction - what I know comes from going to liturgy... Lots.  (Didn't have a choice when I was younger, but made the choice once I had decided that Seminary was in my future).

I bet that if we asked Fr. Chris about it, he would state that his time in the Arlington and Watertown parishes helped tremendously with his liturgical knowledge, and smoothed the transition from layman to deacon to priest.  (Personally, without sugarcoating anything, I think Fr Chris' ordination to the priesthood was one of the best I've been to - although Metropolitan ALEXIOS has become legendary for his patience with the newly-ordained in his metropolis, very little of this patience was even necessary on Fr Chris' big day.)

As to the rest of your post: I agree wholeheartedly.  I don't even know if the best approach is to cut a full two years off the seminary experience (I personally wouldn't trade them out, and I know of a close friend who laments having a year cut by necessity), but I do know that having guys living in a parish for 6months-1year-2years before ordination is a must.  The same routine of guys being Seniors in the grad school while not knowing even the most basic of liturgical or pastoral tasks tires me.
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« Reply #71 on: February 21, 2007, 12:37:17 AM »

And anyone who thinks that living in a monastery for a year or two would be different probably hasn't tried to do so!)
[/quote]

Sorry, I'm married, still supporting kids and I work two jobs. I have been to a monastery for vespers and a liturgy (does that count?). But I just happen to be naive enough to believe that maybe a monastery would be a good proving ground for a priest because -- from what I have read and been told, and I will be careful from here on out to point out that I have NOT experienced it, monasteries are places of spirtual battle, intensely so, and if you come out of that with spiritual improvement, maybe you can better withstand the rigors of parish ministry. But that's only what I've read or been told, mind you.

What I HAVE experienced is ten years of church ministry as a protestant youth minister. Whether you wear a cassock or a polo shirt and chinos, when you are ordained and in a position of church leadership, parishoners can be brutal. I wish the tradition I had been in back then had better prepared me. Personally, I thought that it was precisely the theological, biblical and historical courses that gave me the ONLY useful tools for survival. All the pastoral stuff was fluff and theoretical meandering.
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