Word Magazine December 1968 Page 11
THE ROAD TO UNITY
By the Very Rev. Father Vasile Hategan, Pastor
St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church, Cleveland, Ohio
Editor of SOLIA, Official Publication of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.
There seem to be two extremes in the Orthodox Church here in America. One is “conservative” and the other is “liberal.” We have a tendency to align ourselves and all others with one group or the other.
Say that you want to maintain the status quo in the Church, that you don’t want the Church involved in the Ecumenical movement, that you want to preserve the mother tongue and canonical relations with the Mother Church, that you are against renewal, and you are classed as “conservative.”
On the other hand, say that you are not satisfied with things as they are and want a change, that you feel the Church should be more active in Ecumenical affairs, that we should adopt the English language and the “new” calendar, that you want your jurisdiction to break with the Mother Church and establish an autocephalous Church in this country, uniting with others, and you are looked upon as a “liberal.”
It is not as simple as all that! There are those who are in one group on some issues, but are identified with the other group on others. It becomes impossible for them to be consistently a part of either extreme camp. We can readily recognize these characteristics in the so-called contrasting groups within the Orthodox Church. There are many among us who are extremely conservative, theologically, but are very liberal otherwise. This may be conversely true.
There is a great danger in categorizing all Orthodox in one or the other extremes. Men of good faith in both groups want to see unity and harmony prevail in the Church. One “extreme’’ may see this coming of its own accord, slowly but surely, while another “extreme” may want to force the issue and bring them about more abruptly and quickly. Actually neither of these positions represent that of the intelligent and devoted Orthodox. It is not factual to identify all of their group with the “extremists.”
There is a third group to which most of the Orthodox belong and which is not to be identified with either “extreme.” Within this group there is no hate, no bigotry, no superficiality. Rather there is much clarity of thought, largeness of heart, sensitivity of soul and a lot of patience. This group will determine the future of our Church in this country.
There are many devout and sincere Orthodox in all groups. We must permit men of good faith to have convictions on how to go about bringing Church unity in this country without arbitrarily categorizing them as “extremists.” We must refrain from belittling and insulting persons who hold a position different than our own. We wish, expect and demand for ourselves the right of personal privilege to interpret and understand the will of God as led by His Holy Spirit for the future of His Church in this country. This right, in a spirit of Christian love, must also be granted to others.
We must seek areas of agreement without alienation goals and objectives which can be attained without being objectionable and a way to cooperate with diversified concept within the same Church. This we can do, and this, with God’s help, we must do.