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About the Church - Some errors that should be rejected

“To God and Church we should be equally subjected. This confirms the harmony between clergy and laity, it makes them ONE BODY, that rises up in the graciousness of Jesus Christ” !

This simple and orthodox truth is sometimes in the shade of some ideas, that we had voluntarily or unconsciously accepted from the environment we are living in.

1. That comes from the uncritical worship of the democracy idea in the Church. Democracy is the greatest and the most humane ideal of human society. “The humans do not govern it”, and its purpose is not for the humans, but it comes from God, for the reign of God’s Kingdom. Its structure, dogma, liturgy and ethics do not depend on majority poll, because everything we have is from God and defined from Him, so that’s why clergy and laity are obligated to accept this, being obedient and subjected.

2. The idea of CLERICALISM as absolute reign, that says, clergy are not responsible to anyone, is false. In fact, a priest in the Orthodox Church should always be ready to explain his opinion, decision or statement, or to justify them as the truth of God’s will. Let me repeat, if we laity and clergy are subjected to God, this subjection is free and asks for our free acceptance. “I am not calling you servants, because a servant has no knowledge of his master’s business; but I am calling you friends because I told you everything I heard from my Father”, and “you will recognise the truth and the truth will save you”. (John 8:32)  In the Orthodox Church, maintenance of truth, missionary, charity …etc., should be the collective care of the whole Church and Christians, and they should be collectively responsible for the community’s life. Not blind subjection or democracy, but free and joyful acceptance of truth, gracious and constructive, in the spirit of God’s love and salvation.

3. False idea about “CHURCH POSSESSION”,  “THIS IS OUR CHURCH, WE BOUGHT IT, OR BUILT IT” …. No, it is never OUR CHURCH, because we devoted it and passed it over to God. It is not in the possession of clergy nor laity, but in the holy possession of God hilself. He is the real possessor, and if we have to juristic in accordance of possession, this jurisdiction has to be in accordance with God’s will. Here, I say again, the clergy and laity must bear initiative and responsibility, in accordance with God’s will. All this refers to church’s money, estate and other property “owned by the Church”.

4. The false idea about the clergymen’s salary …  “WE ARE PAYING HIM” …  NO, CLERGY MEN CAN NOT BE PAID FOR HIS WORK, because nobody can pay his own charity or salvation, nor work for the salvation of humans. The money that he (the priest) is receiving from Church (that is to say from God’s people), is not the money of the EMPLOYER to the EMPLOYEE, but its purpose is to free them for God’s service. Even he (the priest) as a MEMBER of the Church, cannot be “EMPLOYEE”, but a responsible actor in the decisions referring to money’s best purpose.

5. The false division between SPIRITUAL and MATERIALISTIC sphere in the Church: “Let the clergymen manage the spiritual needs, and we laity will manage materialistic things” … We believe that God’s  Son (Lord Jesus Christ) was conceived in human body. He appeared visible, to give spirit to all matter and to spiritualize all things that refer to God. Whatever we do in the Church is always spiritual and materialistic. We hold banquets, but if they are related to Church, their goal is always spiritual, it cannot be excluded from our faith, hope and love that God is asking for and that provides for the existence of the Church.

If all the above was not related to the Church, it will not do any good, in other words it would not be the “CHURCH’S BUSINESS”, it can easily become anti-church business !

From all this we can conclude, that believing, thinking and acting like spiritual can be divided from materialistic in the Church is anti-orthodox. Everything that is related to the Church for active participation of both, clergy and laity and of God’s people also !

From the study: “CLERGY & LAITY IN THE ORTHODOX  CHURCH”
Prof. Fr. Alexander Smemen