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A Church in Captivity: The Greek Orthodox Church of America [Paperback]

By George Matsoukas (Author)
Our Price $ 13.08  
Item Number 304534  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   116
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6" Height: 0.28"
Weight:   0.41 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 10, 2008
Publisher   iUniverse, Inc.
ISBN  0595480675  
EAN  9780595480678  

Availability  123 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 10:22.
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Item Description...
It is a disconcerting fact that decisions for Orthodox Christians living in North America are currently dictated by interests of foreign governments and patriarchates, all which contribute to spiritual indifference among the faithful. This collection of essays explores the loss of autonomy and unification within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and offers ways to create an all-encompassing church that respects cultures and philosophies.

George Matsoukas, Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Laity in West Palm Beach, Florida and an active member of his local parish, diocese, and archdiocese, chronologically presents personal essays that respond to regression in the life of the church during a seven-year period. He encourages constructive change through effective communication and a partnership between the church and the laity, ultimately resulting in a church that is able to meet the spiritual needs of all its members. Matsoukas provides insight on such topics as:

Transitions within administrative structures Relationships with mother churches Parish life including the role of women in the church

Matsoukas is passionate about creating a unified transformation and makes a well-informed case for a increasing the laity's role in the Orthodox Church in America and for the simultaneous liberation of this church from its historical oversight in various mother countries.

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Church Administration   [1756  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Orthodoxy   [387  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Compelling case to restore harmony  Jan 25, 2010
In order to spot changes in the Orthodox Church, one must take a long view. George E. Matsoukas takes a long view in this book. Captivity, which is a word in the book's title, pertains to a double entendre concerning freedom in Christ. On the one hand, freedom in Christ signifies freedom from following one's own will for selfish ends. For example, by adopting a view congruent with selfless service, the actress Marianne Moore once said, "You're not free until you've been made captive by supreme belief."

On the other hand, freedom in Christ became confused with freedom from obedience to authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, after the Enlightenment. Matsoukas advances the former perspective of selfless love--an ancient Christian meaning--and avoids any confusion that the latter sense of freedom implies.

The full title of the book is 'A Church in Captivity: The Greek Orthodox Church of America.' Matsoukas provides a long view to help readers see subtle developments in the governance of the Greek Orthodox Church of America (GOAA) over the span of years from 1990-2007. There is sufficient historical detail in introductory paragraphs of each chapter [e.g. 33, 83] to acquaint readers with little to no knowledge of the events, like me.

During the span of 17 years, Matsoukas and many faithful lay servants of the Greek Orthodox Church in America (GOAA) had called for improved communication inside the Church. Matsoukas and others believed that, because GOAA had been an eparchy [province] of the Patriarchate of Constantinople far too long, communication stood a chance of improving if this structure of governance [49-51,69-70] were to change.

His book explores how signal events [24-6,36,49,55-6] in these years caused communication to deteriorate, leaving an inevitable sense that poor communication and isolationist historical structures [68,70,88] contradicted the ancient Christian meaning of selfless love inside GOAA as presented in the canons [6,17,20,25,35,47-8]. Despite perseverance by lay leaders over many years, Matsoukas notes that these leaders still contended with apathy over affairs of the Church among other lay members [81,89]. Therefore, his book entertains the thesis that such apathy had become rampant due to the captivity of the Church.

Notwithstanding insufficient recognition of lay leadership to enhance communication, the pace of change has been measured and stolid in GOAA for other reasons that the book explores [2,20,33-4]. Indeed, prior generations identified benefits to the faithful by exercising caution. For example, caution has aided Orthodox Christians worldwide to reach consensus [16], on occasion, about their lives together in Christ [43]. Moreover, Orthodox ecclesiastical structures reflect differences in languages, cultures and ethnic traditions [9,16-7].

In addition, heterogeneity best portrays diverse ways that Orthodox Christians make decisions across jurisdictions [cf. questions of Hellenism, e.g. 17,65,81-2]. But within a single jurisdiction, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOAA) as Matsoukas presents, the Orthodox can behave as a "church in captivity" to governance, structures, and rigid interpretations of canons better suited to people far back in time and isolated in place, which cannot and do not apply locally [25].

Matsoukas asks critical questions about change in the first chapter to this 2007 publication. There are at least two questions that underscore why GOAA has become a church in captivity: (1) "What lifelong learning and continuous education programs exist for hierarchy, clergy, and laity?" and (2) "Does making appointments to boards for life make sense in terms of the ethos of our country" [2-3]? In reference to the latter question, Matsoukas refers to the ethos of the USA.

All but two Orthodox jurisdictions in the USA [72-5] are quasi-dependent children of national or ethnic Churches. GOAA is a dependent child of the Greek diaspora. It utilizes some resources while wasting much more due to negligence. Neglect of the voice from the laity is apparent in 23 articles authored by Matsoukas [20], which he compiles in this book by sequential chronology [xv-xvii], while restricting editorial corrections and clarifications. He invites readers to remember and reflect upon these events from his own eyewitness accounts that he composed at the time. In that way, the author introduces historical contexts before exploring what he experienced and meanings that he ascribed to administrative changes in GOAA across 17 years.

The author favors canonical representation by non-ordained ("lay") Orthodox Christians in Church governance, and identifies Greeks in homeland and diaspora service associations that illustrate such representation [12-3, 38-9]. Equally so, he advances cogent reasons for enhanced participation by parish priests in governance of their diocese or metropolis [12]. However, he infers doubts whether lay, as well as local-priest representation, has improved in GOAA after he served as a lay delegate to the 34th-Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of GOAA in 1998. I cite this particular discussion [24-7] to introduce a theme of authoritarian clericalism that I discovered in multiple entries.

Matsoukas reports GOAA was "...held in captivity by the mother countries" [81] as illustrated by the 34th Congress [24-6] that GOAA Archbishop Spyridon (1996-99) convened in 1998. The Archbishop turned the Congress into an advisory body. Earlier the Congress served as a legislative assembly with canonical consent required from the Ecumenical Patriarch. However, given that subsequent dissent emerged in the Clergy-Laity Conferences in 1994 and 1996 over the fact that the Patriarch had annulled the Archdiocese's 1977-78 Charter and directed creation of three metropolinates and one Archdiocese for governance, Spyridon reported that Bartholomew "...had not ratified the actions of the 1994 and 1996...Congresses" [24].

Allow me to clarify my last statement. The book only infers a causal relationship between Bartholomew's and Spyridon's actions. Therefore, I begin what I call my working hypothesis concerning causation in the chain of events that Matsoukas reports in Chapter eight.

Because Matsoukas omits reasons for Bartholomew's failure to ratify actions from 1994 and 1996, a reader must speculate whether ratification was necessary any longer. The Charter for the Archdiocese was gone, and nothing had taken its place as of this point in time. If rules and regulations for the Congress had been aborted by the Patriarch or Archbishop, then the Patriarch should not be required to ratify prior action, in other words.

My working hypothesis began with Matsoukas's report of events. Furthermore, the hypothesis has been based upon the author's surprise when he heard Spyridon's announcement during the Congress July 4-9, 1998 [22]. Matsoukas writes that he and many others in the assembly first learned in Orlando, where the Congress met in 1998, that the Congress now functioned as an advisory council to the Archbishop. Without prior warning to delegates of their lost legislative powers as required by the canons of the Church, Spyridon's announcement reflected authoritarian clericalism as opposed to ecclesial synergy.

Added to this surprise announcement, Matsoukas identifies the names of high-ranking clerics who mounted parliamentary tactics to silence dissent on the floor of the Congress. [Exact details as these make it easy for historians to retrieve archival transcripts and debate or confirm the author's conclusions.] Therefore, the assembly discovered that it had lost both rights of franchise and advice in 1998. Abuse requires a forum for discussion, reconciliation and healing. However, the assembly members were denied a forum in addition to loss of rights.

Who should read this book? I recommend this book to readers from all Orthodox jurisdictions because they face similar challenges as Matsoukas explores in GOAA. The book will interest students of ecclesiastical polity from other liturgical churches because it serves as a case study of how faith and history have been tested in the fires of colonial and post-colonial climes. Moreover, my enthusiastic recommendation to readers, both inside and outside Orthodoxy, is to identify in this book the ways that GOAA has struggled to remain faithful to a necessary interface that exists between holding fast to the Apostolic witness of Christ and protecting the canonical work of ordained deacons, presbyters and bishops, as well as non-ordained monastics and lay people.


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