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Nurturing Children for Service

by His Grace Bishop John, from The Word Magazine, September 2016

Metropolitan Joseph strolled into the meeting of the North American Board of the Antiochian Women after spending over an hour with the archdiocese teen leadership. With what at least one of our women described as "a heavy heart," Metropolitan Joseph shared with the women that the Archdiocese will need more clergy to serve when our aging clergy retire, and we need monastics, people to build and maintain homes for the aged, people to take care of the unborn and their mothers, Christian educators for the young, as well as people to do all kinds of other ministries.

The Metropolitan shared that, in our Church, it has been the women, mothers and God-mothers, who have inspired and nurtured future church leaders. Today, too, it is mothers who give their children back to God to do ministry. It is the women who teach our children about God and then help our children encounter Him. It is the mothers who plant the seeds of ministry that God and the Church nurture and grow. Sayidna Joseph says that we need the women to mobilize a ministry force for the Church to do her mission. With this introduction, Metropolitan Joseph challenged the women to make this work their project for the coming year and for the years to come: not just to raise funds for ministry, but also to raise people to do that ministry, to sacrifice our children to do ministry and to inspire others to do the same.

The Antiochian Women have never failed to rise to the challenges of a Metropolitan, but no challenge has ever been quite as involved. The Metropolitan is asking the ladies not just to raise funds, but to inspire people, to enter into Christ’s own ministry, to call and send people to lead the Church. Such a challenge presupposes a maturity of the Church in this land and a confidence in the ladies on the part of the Metropolitan. This challenge is an example of a vision of cooperation between the hierarchy and laity that will surely change our Archdiocese for all time. What might have inspired our Metropolitan to be so audacious?

During the week leading up to this challenge, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios spoke powerfully to the bishops and clergy of the Archdiocese, gathered for our regular Clergy Symposium. This world-renowned theologian and author addressed the real differences between Eastern and Western theology, and Orthodox psychotherapy and Western psychology, as well as the relationship between Orthodoxy and modern science. He did not shy away from the ethical dilemmas that arise. (These lectures are available on Ancient Faith Radio and are well worth the time.) Metropolitan Hierotheos skillfully explained how God saves and works in healing our souls, minds and bodies. He explained what he means by Orthodox psychotherapy and how we can be agents of healing in a fallen world. The Metropolitan also shared with us some powerful insights from the recent meetings in Crete. Such an inspiration was only part of what may have inspired our beloved Primate.

Metropolitan Joseph came to the Symposium and Archdiocese organizational meetings almost directly from special sessions of the Antiochian Holy Synod, which had gathered to respond to the meeting in Crete. Because of disappointing failures to resolve the problems involving the agenda, rules and procedures for the meeting, as well as broken promises concerning church order, the Antiochian delegation did not attend. Antioch had waited until just before the meeting to cancel our trip, in hopes of a resolution to the problems. The Churches of Moscow, Georgia and Bulgaria also were not in attendance. (See the response of the Antiochian Patriarchate at Antiochian.org.)

I am hopeful that the Crete meeting can be the beginning of fruitful cooperative work for the Church in this age. Perhaps lessons learned as we attempt to rearticulate our relationships with each other can bring forth a new level of mutual respect and cooperation, and help safeguard our Orthodox ecclesiology. In any case, the meetings point to our need to be faithful in our praxis or in carrying out our commission to share Christ with the people of North America in authentic Orthodox Christian ways.

Carrying out the direction of our work as an Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, I believe, emboldened our Metropolitan Joseph to engage our Antiochian Women in the service of vocations. Recognizing the challenges and needs of America and our Archdiocese led Sayidna Joseph to challenge the women to do what only Antiochian women have been able to do in the Antiochian Church for generations.

Bishop John