We Orthodox regularly mischaracterize ‘the West’ as a way of elevating a particularly Orthodox way of thinking about something. Our goal is not to understand ‘the West’ on its own terms, nor is it to learn (is this even possible) from its experience, but to elevate ourselves.  We do this by falsely characterizing and then denigrating the other.

I recently heard of a new test, “the Saint’s Test.” It is a “test” in which one asks if the Saints would approve or disapprove of a particular action. The question reflects a deep-seated value for communal discernment within the context of a particular moral tradition. Saints are, among other things, exemplars of a faithful life, models of Christian love, and women and men who invite us into creative participation in god. Unfortunately, while it has a nice ring to claim that the Saints would approve of this and reject that, it is a rather disingenuous test.

Permit me to tell two stories.  First, a passing conversation.  At a recent choir rehearsal we were rejoined by our organist who had taken a Sunday-morning position playing for a nearby Catholic church.  I entered the conversation just as she was describing a recent multi-cultural Mass which featured, among other things, hymns from around the world and a liturgical dance with lighted candles.

This blog was described to me recently as ‘irenic.’ This is a surprising compliment given that those who know me in person would likely describe me with other, less peaceful, words. That my writing is ‘irenic’ is a testament to the power of editing, of taking a deep breath, and a conviction that words must, whenever possible, be spoken with love and respect. But sometimes, when respect is impossible, taking a deep breath is overrated, and serves merely to hide the suffering inflicted by my church and its well-intentioned theologians. Theologians who seem to have no idea, as Metr.

I attended the workshop “Women in Worship” with high hopes.  The topic was women in worship.  Not women outside of worship, not women in ministry in general, but in worship.  When Orthodox say “worship,” we mean “liturgy.”  This was the only session on the issue of the liturgical participation of women in ministry.  It should have been quite good, given that women are participating in liturgy with increasing frequency (though still with painful slowness).  What an opportunity to hear reflections on this change, the struggles which remain, and encouragement to creatively persis

Before the conference, I was asked to be a “dedicated listener,” sharing my reflections in our final session together.  This is, for the most part, what I said, minus ad lib and tears:

The question with which I entered this conference, is how do we have this conversation?  I ask this because, as we have seen over the last few days, there is a wide range of thought, comfort, emotion and opinion on this issue.  Since it is apparently my call to ask questions, often uncomfortable ones, I would like to present questions which I hope reflect what was said, not simply what I heard.

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