Former archdiocesan cathedral musical director: Why I'm leaving the Greek Orthodox Church. Sounds promising. By the way, born Orthodox, don't panic. Regular readers know my line: we're not trying to break you up; we want to bring you all into the church at once and leave your rite alone.
My experience of church is beginning to take a different shape, however, after several years of difficult and painful discernment. I am now leaving the Greek Orthodox Church, and continuing to live out my Christianity as an Anglican, in the Episcopal Church in the United States.Uh oh. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? These days that's usually what this means. (Hint: World War G.) There are principled people, even ex-Catholics, I respect who join things such as the Episcopal Church; Fr. Jonathan Mitchican, for example. True believers in the English "Reformation" and Elizabethan Settlement. More normally it's a few divorced and remarried boomers (younger people don't go to church) and fewer homosexual ones who've rewritten their principles to suit their circumstances, just like Henry VIII. A church musician, someone in the arts? Not a knock on all such (I love their work), but you know what I mean.
I grew up in a loving parish in North Carolina, where I assumed duties as church organist at the age of 13. I had taken piano lessons and played by ear, so I eagerly jumped into the complex world of Greek Orthodox choirs, replete with arguments over composers that were too “modern”, the appropriateness of choral music versus Byzantine chant, the use of the organ, and more. I attended regional choir conferences, collected scores, and purchased almost every CD of Greek Orthodox music on the market.Took me a minute to realize Gus Chrysson isn't a convert or a second-generation one (maybe a Swede from Minnesota) but an ethnic Greek (Constantine is shortened to Gus for some reason). His picture confirms it.
During the length of my tenure, I experienced the same, persistent feeling of underlying panic in church that had begun when I was a teenager and had come out of the closet.I called it. The bad kind of assimilation, nothing theologically profound. Most Orthodox in America leave by the third generation just because they're not really Greek, etc., anymore (American Eastern-rite Catholics lose their people for the same reason), and as a Catholic friend told me, anybody who's really spiritual and/or fairly intelligent sees through the ethnocentrism masquerading as a faith.
Some will ask if these stories signal the American mainstream turning on the Orthodox like the old Protestant one understandably never really liked or fully trusted Catholics. I predict no. The Orthodox are and will remain too small for that. Most American Orthodoxy is Greek Orthodoxy, and that's largely Greek immigration. American Protestants were afraid of us partly because there were so many of us. By 1960, parts of the country had become Catholic. Vatican II, the Pill, and the Sixties in general did what many American Protestants wanted: assimilating the country's huge Catholic minority.
Then there's the matter of, yes, even the outwardly conservative Orthodox going with the flow on homosexuality as they have long done on divorce-and-remarriage and now do on contraception, on both of which they now sound just like Protestants.
Several progressive priests encouraged me to stay on board and fight from within.Maybe even doing it because of their anti-Westernism, namely, to spite us Catholics. Another reason the American mainstream has given them a free pass. St. Vladimir's Seminary or Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology 20 years from now: "As part of the church's patristic renewal and gradual liberation from Western captivity, leading scholars now say the mind of the Fathers says..."
My prediction: their first public gay weddings will be attempts by desperate clergy to keep some ethnics from leaving.