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Author Topic: Ephraim Controversy  (Read 5700 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: November 10, 2004, 11:36:00 PM »

Ive learned enough on the topic to satisfy my ?'s. Thank you for all your insights.
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2004, 02:11:58 AM »

     I'm no expert, but I read something at some point about him being called a "cult leader" which was total garbage.  This Greek American kid became a novice, and his parents were upset about it.  Geronda Ephraim told them that he couldn't force the guy to leave, because he was an adult when he decided to become a novice, and they even tried to get the Archbishop and the Patriarch involved, to no avail.  So they did the next best thing...they contacted an alleged "cult expert" to basically smear Geronda Ephraim and his monasteries.
     I've also heard controversy over the fact that, though his monasteries are very Athonite, they're all on the new calendar.  I'm on the new calendar, so this isn't a cause of scandal to me, particularly because Geronda Paisios + predicted that he'd remain with the new calendar and loyal to the Patriarch amid all of the turmoil.  That and the fact that the man is wise and holy, and the monasteries are like water in the desert.  I recommend you go and visit one if at all possible.  St. Anthony's is beautiful.  It's like Eden in the middle of a wasteland.
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2004, 06:31:02 AM »

This is where my question comes in. Where does the controversy lie?

It is fabricated by the enemy and fuelled by jealousy of Elder Ephreim's influence on Orthodox faithful. Since bishops are chosen from the celebate priests, the monasteries founded by Elder Ephreim will probably be providing many of America's future hierarchs.

Regarding what J posted, here is the response of the young man he mentioned, to all of the controversy surrounding his becoming a monk.
http://www.athosinamerica.org/
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2004, 09:24:22 AM »

Lips Sealed

"All men are holy and I am a sinner," what other truth is there?

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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2004, 12:36:38 PM »

The GOA is scared of Fr Ephraim because of his rapid rise to influence in America. 18 monasteries in 10 years, all fully supported is a miracle from God.

Are there bad apples among Fr Ephraim's followers? Yes. I know a monk who left an Ephraim monastery because of some problems there. But all monasteries have problems, and anyone can become a spiritual dictator or a spiritual victim of abuse in the right circumstances, when guard is down and idealism is fueled. Instead, I believe we should rejoice in Fr Ephraim's work in general and be on guard for anything negative, and just use common sense.

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« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2004, 12:46:06 PM »

If it confuses you why do you need to know?

icxn Smiley

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Abba Joseph said to Abba Nisterus, "What should I do about my tongue, for I cannot control it?" The old man said to him, "When you speak, do you find peace?" He replied, "No." The old man said, "If you do not find peace, why do you speak? Be silent and when a conversation takes place, it is better to listen than to speak." - The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

PS. Just for the record, I know very little about Elder Ephraim.
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« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2004, 12:54:25 PM »

SCOBA is jsut afraid of monasteries...
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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2004, 12:59:10 PM »

Well, the OCA likes them but some Antiochians have an aversion to them in America.  The Greeks still have residual distrust in many cases for monasteries.

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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2004, 01:05:47 PM »

Was this where the rumor started that he (and the priests in the monasteries) was/were rebaptising people? Like, Orthodox people that just sinned a lot? I'd never be able to imagine anyone getting away with that, however, but maybe that's just one of the rumors that scares people.
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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2004, 03:40:34 PM »


I've thought about this a lot, and I think its primarily a cross-cultural problem.  And part of a general cross-cultural problem that's afflicting Orthodoxy as it tries to adapt in America.  Essentially, Orthodoxy is struggling to find a distinctively American way to express itself that doesn't compromise the Faith.  And I don't think we've found it yet.  Most groups tend to err either on the side of trying to look more Protestant on the one hand, or on the other, insisting upon particular customs from Russia or Greece or wherever in order to be 'really' Orthodox.

Orthodox monasticism has never been monolithic.  It has always adapted itself in each culture to which it has come.  Two of the greatest works of Orthodox piety were written by St. John Cassian for this very purpose.  Particularly in his 'Institutes of the Coenobitic Life', he discusses the differences between Palestinian and Egyptian monasticism in his time, and then gives guidelines for applying these principles in Western Europe.  He would favor one practice over the other, and in some cases would have to radically adapt or discard elements that simply wouldn't work.  (For example, he had to largely revise the monastic habit, as the climate of the Scetis is rather different than that of France and Germany).  As a result, the monasteries founded by he and St. Benedict were not the same as those of the Scetis, which weren't the same as those of Palestine, which differed later from Mt. Athos, which differed from the Russian monasteries, all of which were somewhat different than the Studion, etc. etc.

That's factor one.  Factor two is that some cultural expressions that are perfectly acceptable in other cultures are not acceptable in ours.  For example, if a typical American man walked into one of our churches, saw two men standing close together, holding hands, and talking, and then one of them ran over and kissed him on both cheeks, he would probably get the wrong idea.

All that is to say, I think the 'Ephraim Problem' is just the flip side of the 'New Skete Problem'.  The Ephraimite monasteries are fully functioning, normal Athonite monasteries.  But I don't know that Athonite monasticism is a good fit with American culture.  We have to have empathy for the way the surrounding culture perceives us.  The Gospel is enough of a stumbling block and scandal, we don't need to create more.  Lets put ourselves in their place:

Imagine that one of your children, as a teenager, decided to convert to a Protestant group that you knew very little about.  Not long after converting, he went to live in a compound with a bunch of other members.  The leadership there forbade your son or daughter from having any contact with you whatsoever, and told them that their salvation hinged upon their obedience to the leaders of the group.

You would think your son or daughter had joined a cult.  You and I may have a greater understanding of what Athonite monasticism is about, but the average American, even the average ethnically Orthodox American doesn't.  This is the core of the problem, and its the core of why the AOCA is dubious of starting monasteries in America at this point.

As mentioned above, the other end of the spectrum is New Skete, which seems to have gone out of its way to Americanize itself, thereby causing many to question whether they've lost critical parts of Orthodox Piety.  I think its wise to put deliberate effort into formulating an American Orthodox monasticism and make that the basis of our monastic institutions.

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« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2004, 05:13:34 PM »

I think that Athonite monasticism is no different from Orthodox monasticism in Romania, Russia, Serbia, and anywhere else where there are Orthodox monks. As such, we should just import it to America. It's already having a great impact on Orthodoxy here.  If some adaptations to American culture occur, fine. But to deliberately attempt an "American model of monasticism" will be an attempt sure to fail. We simply can't create such a model. It has to be organic and proceed from the beginning seed: generic, vanilla Orthodox monasticism.

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« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2004, 05:23:49 PM »

The GOA is scared of Fr Ephraim because of his rapid rise to influence in America. 18 monasteries in 10 years, all fully supported is a miracle from God.


Not to counter our esteemed administrator, and while I do find some resistence across the jurisdictional spectrum at large in America to Elder Ephraim, including in the GOA, this certainly is not true in the Metropolis of Pittsburgh where Met. Maximos has welcomed Elder Ephraim's assistance (and credited him directly) in the establishment of our two monasteries.

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« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2004, 05:27:30 PM »

A corrective: some in the GOA are scared... Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2004, 04:14:40 PM »

But to deliberately attempt an "American model of monasticism" will be an attempt sure to fail. We simply can't create such a model.

But, historically, there's no foundation for your case.  When St. John Cassian was enlisted to regularize monasticism in Western Europe, he sat down and composed works which compared and contrasted two existing forms of monasticism and then acculturated them for Western Europe.  St. Nil Sorsky composed a modified monastic rule when he brought monasticism to Russia.  So saying that an attempt to do the same in America is 'sure to fail' is just making a bald assertion with no evidence or argumentation.  I'm merely arguing that we should regularize Orthodox monasticism in America the same way its been regularized everywhere else its gone in history.

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It has to be organic and proceed from the beginning seed: generic, vanilla Orthodox monasticism.

There is no 'generic, vanilla Orthodox monasticism'.  But even if there were such a thing, why would contemporary Athonite monasticism be it?  Why shouldn't we pattern American monasticism after the Scetis of the Desert Fathers?  Why shouldn't we pattern it after the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia?  Or St. Basil the Great?  Or, since technically North America was Russian Orthodox territory, why not go back to St. Nil's rule?  Or more contemporary Russian monasticism?

There were differences in monastic practice from country to country already in the early fifth century, to argue that they've somehow lessened in the last 1600 years seems to me to be counterintuitive, and again, proposed with no argument or evidence.  Even the monasteries in the United States radically differ in style...even the monasteries within the GOA itself!

I'm not denying that both New Skete on the one hand, and the Ephraim Monasteries on the other have made contributions to Orthodoxy.  But at the same time they've done that, New Skete has alienated countless traditionalists here and abroad, and thereby deepened already existing jurisdictional rifts, while the Ephraim monasteries have further divided the already somewhat tempestuous atmosphere of the GOA, and have brought out evangelical protestant leaders denouncing Orthodox monasticism as a cult.

My concern, and my perspective, is that the chief goal is to bring every person in America to Orthodoxy.  If certain groups or individuals pursuing a solipsistic quest for greater enlightenment is making it hard to reach American protestants with Orthodoxy, or if any group is deepening the rifts of jurisdictionalism that present a scandal to the world within our Faith, then I'm opposed to both.  The basic principle that St. John Cassian tried to communicate about monasticism in his comparison of Palestine and Egypt and their monasticism was that to truly be a monk, and to truly serve Christ, evangelical service and hospitality must always trump 'correctness' of rule and adherence to traditions.

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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2004, 05:20:48 PM »

John Cassian,

I think you are making way to much of different "styles" of monasticism.  Orthodox monasicism as it has coalesced today is remarkably similar.  Whether in Romania, Athos, Serbia, or Jerusalem, the basic way of Orthodox monasticism is hesychasm, etc.  Jordanville, NY has the same essence as St Anthony's in Arizona, although the flavor might be different to some extent.

St John Cassian and St Nilus may have adopted monasticism slightly but monasticism spread to many other places without such formal codification. Also, monasticism in Russia was pretty much brought into line with Athonite monasticism thanks to St Paisios Velichovsky.

"There were differences in monastic practice from country to country already in the early fifth century, to argue that they've somehow lessened in the last 1600 years seems to me to be counterintuitive, and again, proposed with no argument or evidence. "

But that's how Orthodoxy has developed.  I don't need to "cite evidence" as this is an informal conversation on a message board; I wouldn't make "bald assertions" like this in print Smiley  Let me illustrate what I am getting at: over time, the number of liturgical rites in the Orthodox Church coalesced into one.  Over time, the typikon of the Studites was completely replaced everywhere by the typikon of St Sabbas.  Over time, the icon screen developed everywhere.  Over time, all Orthodox bishops began to dress more or less in the same vestments and hats, etc.  Over time, Orthodoxy has become more standarized.  All monasteries used to be able to have their own typikon. This does not really happen now, despite New Skete's worst attempts at it.  The history of the development of Orthodoxy has been a history of coalescing, not variety.  I am not denying that there are differences in all monasteries in their praxis but there is no way that the difference is as great as in the Roman Catholic Church where there are totally different themes and practices depending on the location.

"If certain groups or individuals pursuing a solipsistic quest for greater enlightenment is making it hard to reach American protestants with Orthodoxy, or if any group is deepening the rifts of jurisdictionalism that present a scandal to the world within our Faith, then I'm opposed to both. "

I think this idea is not right; Orthodox monasticism is not about seeking enlightenment but about living out the Gospel in its fulness.  Wasn't it St Seraphim of Sarov who said that if you save yourself, thousands around you will be saved?  Changing monasticism to make it "fit" our already degraded American culture is not going to make people Orthodox.  Instead, we need to strive to live Orthodoxy in its fulness and live it in our lives and people will see the change in us and be convinced.

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« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2004, 12:52:02 AM »

I think this idea is not right; Orthodox monasticism is not about seeking enlightenment but about living out the Gospel in its fulness.  

I absolutely agree.  And I think that this is the question around which the Ephraim controversy revolves.  Are these monasteries places formulated around the Gospel in its fullness, or have they verged into Encratism?  And if the latter, then aren't they actually a stumbling block in the path of the Gospel?

If they're really no different than any other Orthodox monastery, why aren't there similar controversies surrounding other monasteries in America, such as the several in the OCA, or even the other ones in the GOA?

As far as adapting to our decayed culture goes, I would make two points:  

1) By any reasonable standard, Hellenic culture was far more degraded when the Fathers adapted the Faith to it than American culture is now.

2) Orthodoxy has always practiced an approach in addressing other cultures not of dismissing them, but of finding what is best in them, sanctifying and purifying them.

Obviously I'm not arguing for nuns with bare midriffs.  But I am arguing for monasticism that responds to the positive basis of American family and social structures for example, and one which serves a socio-political function that serves the needs of the needy within our society.  Monasticism needs to confront our culture, but it needs to confront our culture with the best of our culture, as seen through the light of the Gospel, not with Greek culture.

Basically, I'm arguing that American Orthodox today need to fulfill the function in our world that the Fathers fulfilled in their culture.  Rather than merely appropriating their formulations and trying to plug that square peg into America's round hole.  Tradition is the working of the Spirit in the Church, and the Spirit is as active today as then, therefore, we need to rediscover a new American Orthodoxy in today's context, which will have complete continuity with what came before, but which will also be responsive to, intelligible to, and answer the deepest needs of modern Americans who can't tell a Greek word from a Latin one.


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« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2004, 05:04:11 PM »

Quote
It's like Eden in the middle of a wasteland.

I take great exception to that comment - the sonoran desert is not a wasteland!  If you visit at the correct time it is very green and quite beautiful - which is amazing considering we get less then 7 inches of rain a year.  But I am just an Arizona native and enjoy 120 degree days :-)

Regarding Elder Ephraim and monasticism in America:  

I've had nothing but positive experiences with Saint Anthony's.  I think most of the problems people have with it come from a lack of understanding of monasticism and its traditional role, but an open mind and heart fixes that.  A lot of it is also GOA politics, which is just a mess and best to avoid.  Thankfully I attend a small ROCOR mission type parish which is a-political.  It is also good to remember that many saints were persecuted and/or were not on the best of terms with the more "official" parts of the Church in thier day.
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« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2004, 10:20:52 PM »

Hi me,
The only quick comments I have on your post above is:
1) I have not found Elder Ephraim to refuse to help found a community WITHIN a diocese when asked and then step away and provide only advice IF asked.
2) Monks may very well be ordained priests or deacons, or not. When an ordained monk assumes pastoral duties, I do assume (with you) that he should have permission to do so.
3) "Monks out of monasteries: Fish out of water". Gosh, I hope not! All bishops are monks!

Demetri
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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2004, 07:03:50 AM »

As one who has just spent 10 days at St Anthony's in Florence AZ,  may I speak?

I met Geronda 5 times after Trapeza and once in Confession. As far as being a cult leader, he is the most humble man I have ever met who turns down many requests for monasticism, in fact, without mentioning names I was sharing time with a man who had gone to St Anthony's to become a monk and was turned down by Elder Ephraim, any cult leader would be willing to take on as many followers as possible, but the man Elder Ephraim doesnt want as many followers as he can get, he obviously wants those who he deems to be called by God to a monastic life, and such is his right.

Secondly, I have heard rumors that Elder Ephraim makes a novice cut off all ties with his family and "thus seduces him" into the monastic life, this also is false, a novice whom I befriended had his family show up while I was there and was in no way hindered from speaking and sharing time with them, a thing a cult leader would never allow.

On a personal note, Elder Ephraim is the kindest, sweetest man I have ever met in my life, may shame fall upon anyone who reads silly internet stories about him and makes judgements, the man Ephraim of the Holy Mountain has been blessed by God with Miracles and Clairvouyancy, I know this first hand.
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