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Author Topic: Jacobite Church Forbids All Unauthorized Prayer Groups  (Read 2647 times) Average Rating: 0
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Thomas Daniel (Reji)
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« on: January 12, 2005, 05:45:57 AM »

Jacobite Church (Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church) is banning its members from attending other prayer meetings of various groups. Those who are associating with protestant groups and/or any other new groups, which are working against the Church’s faith and traditional beliefs, will be removed from their parishes. The Episcopal Synod convened recently discussed these matters and also the way to implement the decisions taken there.

The Catholicose H.B. Baselious Thomas I issued a Bull to all churches, warning its members to stay away from the prayer meetings of other denominations or individual prayer groups, which are not authorized by the Jacobite Church.

“It is against the Church to actively associate with other denominations prayer meetings and taking sacraments from the Jacobite Church.” The Catholicos reminded the members.

“Those who would like to go out of the Church should end their relationship with their present parish. The Vicars of each parish should seek explanations from its members who are regularly attending other prayer groups and if found guilty, should take necessary actions, in consultation with the Diocesan Bishop.” The
Catholicose added.

“We have noticed that some prayer groups are working as if they are authorized and are part of the Jacobite Church. However, they are not recognized and are not having any relationship with the Church”. His Beatitude explained in the Bull.

The approved and recognized prayer wings of Jacobite Church are ‘The Evangelic Association of the East’, ‘All Malankara Gospel Mission’, ‘St. Paul’s Prayer Fellowship’ and ‘St. Paul’s Mission of India’. The Church is starting
“Gethsemane Retreat Centre” at Puthencruz on 15th January 2005, in order to centralize and coordinate the gospel works of Jacobite Church.

SOCM News Bureau - Puthencruz
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2005, 01:57:51 PM »

Well, I'm not sure when issuing "Bulls" became our practice, but I agree in principle with this decision, and hope the Orthodox Church will follow suit.  I've always been troubled by the popularity of these kinds of prayer groups, often led by men and women with Protestant ideas who teach them as biblical truth, and lead the people astray from Orthodox Christian teaching.  With solid leadership and guidance, they can be an asset to our Church, and not a danger.       
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2005, 09:43:45 PM »

I believe such a decision is a correct one. We have a similar experience in Egypt.

Back in Egypt, it was always discouraged to go to attend Protestants conferences and meetings, back in the day when they were most active. Their meetings appealed to the Youth in their teenage years in particular. To counter their effort, a group of bishops of great teaching ability were sent by the Holy Synod and H.H. the Pope to tour Egypt to strengthen the Orthodox Faith, specially in the troubled areas. H.H. the Pope devouted much time of his weekly meeting and his visits to his direct Episcopate churches to this issue. It brought great fruits and the foreign teachings were stamped out and many souls brought back to Orthodoxy.

While I personally believe that joint prayer meetings must be discouraged or condemned, in fact that would be linient considering the biblical and Traditional commands, but a positive effort has to be done in parallel to strengthen the faith and in the same time, talk to the unorthodox and preach the Faith to them.
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2005, 09:51:23 PM »

So do you mean that all those supercorrect, over-zealous, foolish, young converts who always brought up those canons about not praying with various groups were right after all?  :happy2:
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2005, 10:00:11 PM »

When it comes to praying with non-Orthodox groups, I would have to ask:

Why are they foolish ? Maybe the converts, more than anybody else, know where the others stand and can evaluate their faith and practices better than we do. I do not think that perserving the faith should be considered foolish. For if it is, St.Cyprian would be a fool and so would be a some politically incorrect biblical verses.
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2005, 10:03:41 PM »

Stavro,

I'm sorry, I was being facetious. I used to be (and guess I still am) one of those converts of which I spoke. I just thought the thread somewhat ironic. Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2005, 05:33:26 PM »

I think people should not be blamed for these prayer groups, not should they be removed unless they try to convert people or try to cause divisions based on different faith.  The Indian Orthodox Church is countering these movements through having prayer groups lead by Orthodox priests associated with parishes. Thus, most parishes have Saturday evening prayer meetings at homes lead by priests.  But continous activity is needed  Removing people just because they attended such a non-Church prayer meeting will not help. Church should counter through own activities.  The greatest problem with these prayer groups is that they cause division through establishing seprarate churches. This lack of unity is the most important problem. But in many cases they are just reading Bible, singing some songs etc. The tendency for division is what we should stop.

-Paul
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2005, 05:43:29 PM »

I am not sure how it works in the USA, but I had many Catholic friends who left their faith for Protestantism, noting the activity of the RC in North America and that they do not lack resources. It starts with singing, gospel reading, and these activities that may seem harmless but they have deadly poison. If there is a discussion of St.Mary, for example, what would you think would be the Protestant view ? Holy Communion in the Thursday before the Cross will be also misrepresented.
At least a warning should be issued,coupled with Orthodox activity and preaching to the lost and explain to them the Protestant heresies. But after repeated warnings, there is no need for a person who attends such mneeting to claim to be still orthodox, or why does he attend there ?
Lack of unity is not a problem, and should never be one. I do not see any basis for unity between Orthodox (EO or OO) and Protestants. These are two spheres of thoughts that are mutually exclusive. The same basis that started the unity talks between OO and EO is missing.
Division within the Church is never encouraged, but yet an extreme measure that needs to be applied. Nobody wants to have an inner part removed, or a member of his body, yet sometimes it is a procedure that is inevitable when the sickness has rendered this part useless, and in the same time dangerous.
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2005, 08:57:42 PM »

I think people should not be blamed for these prayer groups, not should they be removed unless they try to convert people or try to cause divisions based on different faith. The Indian Orthodox Church is countering these movements through having prayer groups lead by Orthodox priests associated with parishes. Thus, most parishes have Saturday evening prayer meetings at homes lead by priests. But continous activity is needed Removing people just because they attended such a non-Church prayer meeting will not help. Church should counter through own activities. The greatest problem with these prayer groups is that they cause division through establishing seprarate churches. This lack of unity is the most important problem. But in many cases they are just reading Bible, singing some songs etc. The tendency for division is what we should stop.

-Paul

Dear Paul,

I'm in agreement with you that part of a proper response to these things is to offer an Orthodox alternative, and I think everyone else in here would agree.  However, that alone is not going to fix the problem; our people have to know that there is a difference between Orthodoxy and everything else. 

Just the other day, I spoke with a member of my parish who attends prayer meetings, both those sanctioned by the parish and those founded by Protestant (specifically Pentecostal), or "non-denominational" (Protestant) groups.  He told me about his new car, and how he brought it to church that day.  I asked him if he was waiting for the priest to come out and bless it (he was waiting when usually he doesn't), and he told me he wasn't.  "If we really believe in God, then we have no need of a mediator between God and us...don't you believe that?" he asked me.  I told him I believed he misunderstood the meaning and office of the priesthood in the Orthodox Church, and that while he didn't *need* to get his new car blessed, it was still a praiseworthy thing to do, and that while he could and should pray for his new car before using it, it is still good to get the blessing of the Church.  This disregard for the meaning of the priesthood in our Church is just one issue, but it has profound ramifications: if we don't need a mediator between God and ourselves, then we don't need to confess our sins to a priest, we don't need the sacraments (we can do that ourselves), we can bllindly accept private interpretation of Scripture, etc.  Prayer groups can be nice, but if they are not grounded in Orthodoxy, then they will inevitably alter the faith of those participating.  At a certain point, the Church must be clear on what is safe and what is not safe for her faithful, and if that involves some sort of disciplinary action, I don't think that's entirely uncalled for: the early Church did at least as much.

Even though Justin was being facetious of his own admission, and even though I think those "supercorrect, over-zealous, foolish, young converts who always brought up those canons about not praying with various groups" do sometimes go a little too far in their super-correctness, he brings up a very valid point in this discussion: canons against "praying with heretics" had exactly this sort of thing in mind, IMO.   
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2005, 02:21:32 AM »

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This disregard for the meaning of the priesthood in our Church is just one issue, but it has profound ramifications: if we don't need a mediator between God and ourselves, then we don't need to confess our sins to a priest, we don't need the sacraments (we can do that ourselves), we can bllindly accept private interpretation of Scripture, etc.  Prayer groups can be nice, but if they are not grounded in Orthodoxy, then they will inevitably alter the faith of those participating.  At a certain point, the Church must be clear on what is safe and what is not safe for her faithful, and if that involves some sort of disciplinary action, I don't think that's entirely uncalled for: the early Church did at least as much.

Precisely!

Quote
I'm in agreement with you that part of a proper response to these things is to offer an Orthodox alternative, and I think everyone else in here would agree.

Does anyone know why any of the Orthodox Churches (Eastern or Oriental) have not sought out to try to make these sorts of things available? If these sorts of things are puliing people away from the Church, then why not attempt to offer these things to people, and young people especially?

I mention young people because I haven't seen many Orthodox churches provide any setting where the kids can get together and have group Bible studies, learning about their faith and the Church, as well as having some fun outings as well? I think these sorts of things are vital to keep kids involved in the Church and ground them in their faith so that they do not have to seek these sorts of things elsewhere - namely in Protestant churches where these activities abound. You have named the repurcussions of what can and does happen when they do, above.

Quote
However, that alone is not going to fix the problem; our people have to know that there is a difference between Orthodoxy and everything else.

Is this because of poor catechesis? Or just that people are not taught about such things in their Church? I ask because in my church, during some sessions about the Orthodox faith many people were surprised at how much the Orthodox faith differs from the various other brands of Christianity that exist out of the Church. It seemed as if most had not ever even experienced other churches before and if they had it was for weddings, funerals, etc.

Of course, the flip side of offering such classes is actually getting  people to show up! For many at my church it seems like going to Church is a Sunday and Holy Day affair, and that the various other activities and liturgies in the Church (especially Vespers!) are not "necessary" to be at.

How would/could the Church go about to try resolve these issues?

In Christ,
Aaron
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2005, 02:00:13 PM »

What I meant is that there is regular Saturday evening prayer gathering lead by the priest in most Indian Orthodox parishes. Regular Orthodox canonical Saturday evening prayers are said. In some parishes they gather at homes of members.  There will be canonical prayers,  reading of Bible, singing, a sermon by the priest or any one who wants to give a message. I do not see any deviation from Orthodox tradition here. 

There are so many influences today. I believe that instead of removing a person, the best approach is to help him with more care.


-Paul
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« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2005, 03:03:10 PM »

Dear Paul,

It is safe to assume that the regular prayer meetings, organised by our parishes, under the leadership of our priests, are sponsored by the Orthodox Church.  But it is not only to these meetings that our members go. 

When I was in college, I participated sometimes in a Men's Bible Study sponsored by the Indian Christian group on campus.  Usually, the subject of the study was something fairly innocent (e.g., the life of David as a model for Christian men).  If, however, a topic came up, and the Orthodox teaching was different from the Protestant teaching, that "non-denominational" meeting became Protestant quickly, the Orthodox position was either a) one opinion among several, or b) wrong.  After a while, I thought I was wasting my time there, and decided against attending (but how many others thought "Well, we're all using the same Bible, so how could they be wrong?).  I saw a Catholic graduate only to announce plans to go to "Bible College", and an Orthodox girl who didn't get anything out of the Divine Liturgy (I think I asked her "Is Jesus not enough?").  I don't blame these two individuals: they were earnestly seeking out the Lord, and the people who were reaching out to them effectively were not their priests or peers grounded in their own tradition, but Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and even Pentecostals. 

Just because their (and my) parents' generation is older doesn't make them less susceptible to such dangers.  I would argue that they are probably in more danger.  The gentleman I referred to in my last post was in his forties, but I know of people in their fifties who think we should not deny anyone Communion because "God loves everyone", and people in their sixties who think that God abandoned Jesus on the Cross because Jesus literally became sin, and this was abhorrent to the Father.  I promise you they didn't get these ideas from their participation in Orthodox-led prayer meetings.  It is from listening to the wrong teachers, be they on TV or through their books (they read the Scriptures, but how many of our older people have read the Church Fathers?  I know of many who have read Protestant authors, however), and from attending prayer meetings, "healing services", etc. where, for all the fruits that may be present, heterodoxy is preached as "Bible truth". 

I agree wholeheartedly with you, Paul, that we must do so much more to reach out to our people (and to those outside of the Orthodox Church) with the truth of our faith.  But we must also make clear to them what is to be avoided, and if forbidding, through some disciplinary means, them from attending these functions proves effective in making the point, we should not hesitate to do it in conjunction with providing positive means to encourage their spiritual development.  It's not "being mean", it is being a loving parent, and that is what our Mother the Church is.   
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« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2005, 03:21:22 PM »

Does anyone know why any of the Orthodox Churches (Eastern or Oriental) have not sought out to try to make these sorts of things available? If these sorts of things are puliing people away from the Church, then why not attempt to offer these things to people, and young people especially?

I mention young people because I haven't seen many Orthodox churches provide any setting where the kids can get together and have group Bible studies, learning about their faith and the Church, as well as having some fun outings as well? I think these sorts of things are vital to keep kids involved in the Church and ground them in their faith so that they do not have to seek these sorts of things elsewhere - namely in Protestant churches where these activities abound. You have named the repurcussions of what can and does happen when they do, above.

Dear Aaron,

In our diocese, the young people are doing just this sort of thing: Bible studies, prayer meetings, and social and charitable events, and it seems to be working.  There is still much more to do, but it's a start.  I believe the youth in the other Churches (e.g., Copts, Armenians) are doing similar things, at least in my experience.

I think part of the problem is that Orthodoxy needs to be presented in a way that makes it look relevant.  A traditional (read: old fashioned) Church, with traditional (read: not modern) values, with liturgical services (read: not spontaneous) in a language you may not understand (read: huh?), with"bad press" because of jurisdictional bickering and other problems is not going to look appealing.  Each of our Churches, Eastern or Oriental, suffers from this "image problem" to a greater or lesser extent in America.  Most of us are on this site because we feel that, in spite of the hurdles we have to overcome, Orthodoxy is not only relevant, but what people need the most.  We need to find ways, within our local communities, of conveying this to others who may see the variety of other Christian groups out there and think "which one fits me best?" rather than "which is true?".  God willing, we may be able to do this in our own community.         
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« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2005, 11:11:06 PM »

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What I meant is that there is regular Saturday evening prayer gathering lead by the priest in most Indian Orthodox parishes. Regular Orthodox canonical Saturday evening prayers are said. In some parishes they gather at homes of members.  There will be canonical prayers,  reading of Bible, singing, a sermon by the priest or any one who wants to give a message. I do not see any deviation from Orthodox tradition here.

That's a lot like what I was talking about Paul. I wonder why more churches don't have these sorts of things available? In any matter, I have to admit I am jealous.  Wink

In Christ,
Aaron 
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« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2005, 11:21:14 PM »

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In our diocese, the young people are doing just this sort of thing: Bible studies, prayer meetings, and social and charitable events, and it seems to be working.  There is still much more to do, but it's a start.  I believe the youth in the other Churches (e.g., Copts, Armenians) are doing similar things, at least in my experience.

Mor,

It sounds like the youth are quite active in their faith, which is not something a lot of churches can say, good for them.  Smiley

I have also noticed that such things have been available at the Coptic Orthodox church in my area as well. It seems like the Oriental Orthodox Churches are really on track with this, I wonder when the Eastern Orthodox Churches are going to get on the ball?

Quite frequently I have read of many EO complaining that their young people are leaving the Church, and I would like to think (I may be wrong) that if these sorts of things were made available to them, then perhaps it would stem the problem.

I do know that the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese has a national youth progrom (ACRY: American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Youth), and I also think the Greek Orthodox have some kind of youth program as well, but I am not sure how this all comes together on a parish by parish basis. I wonder why the OCA or the Antiochians do not have youth leagues like this set up? Or do they and I just don't know about them?

Quote
I think part of the problem is that Orthodoxy needs to be presented in a way that makes it look relevant.  A traditional (read: old fashioned) Church, with traditional (read: not modern) values, with liturgical services (read: not spontaneous) in a language you may not understand (read: huh?), with"bad press" because of jurisdictional bickering and other problems is not going to look appealing.  Each of our Churches, Eastern or Oriental, suffers from this "image problem" to a greater or lesser extent in America.  Most of us are on this site because we feel that, in spite of the hurdles we have to overcome, Orthodoxy is not only relevant, but what people need the most.  We need to find ways, within our local communities, of conveying this to others who may see the variety of other Christian groups out there and think "which one fits me best?" rather than "which is true?".  God willing, we may be able to do this in our own community.

Excellent point Mor, very well said.

In Christ,
Aaron

PS- I hope I have not hijacked this thread, if so perhaps this could be split into another section of the forum and others will also chip in their $0.02 cents worth.
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2005, 08:13:19 AM »



I do know that the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese has a national youth progrom (ACRY: American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Youth), and I also think the Greek Orthodox have some kind of youth program as well, but I am not sure how this all comes together on a parish by parish basis. I wonder why the OCA or the Antiochians do not have youth leagues like this set up? Or do they and I just don't know about them?

Aaron,

Both OCA and the Antiochians, as well as the Greeks and ACROD have them, as do many of the Eastern Catholic Churches.  I just posted links to pretty much the whole panoply over on the ByzForum about a week ago in response to a query there.  I'll try and locate them and repost them here.

Many years,

Neil
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« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2005, 09:33:38 AM »

So do you mean that all those supercorrect, over-zealous, foolish, young converts who always brought up those canons about not praying with various groups were right after all?  :happy2:

As you ought to know perfectly well, these "prayer groups" aren't just people praying together. They are also (probably most often unintentionally) places of mutual reinforcement in theological beliefs, and quite often places of outright study.

In college I found myself spending some time at the Kingdom Hall  Shocked for a class, and also was a member of an informal but extremely protestant bible study for some months. By that time I had been through four years of Episcopal sacred studies in high school (crammed into three!) and had done further theological reading both as a part of and outside of my studies. I was a lot better armed theologically than most kids my age were. And yet I felt the draw of these groups, and I was frequently force to resort to silence as the sole defense of my church's positions.

In this wise, the milieu is the opposite of the kind of public liturgical involvement that tends to get the most Orthodox condemnation. OK, so the baptists, the methodists, the lutherans, and the roman catholics show up at my church for the very ecumenical "community thanksgiving service" (basically, lowest common denominator evening prayer). Is there the slightest pressure in this to convert people? Not one whit. Is there such pressure in these prayer groups? You betcha. Krikey, I had a hard enough time with one evangelical office mate over lunch!
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« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2005, 04:44:50 PM »

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Both OCA and the Antiochians, as well as the Greeks and ACROD have them, as do many of the Eastern Catholic Churches.


Wow, I had no idea the OCA had a youth program, that's good to know.

Isn't the Byzantine Catholic youth prgoram called the ByzanTeens?

Do any of the other Eastern Catholic Churches have programs as well?

Quote
I just posted links to pretty much the whole panoply over on the ByzForum about a week ago in response to a query there.  I'll try and locate them and repost them here.

If you can find the links, I would be most grateful.  Smiley

In Christ,
Aaron
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