The Word Magazine June 1997 Page 4-7




IN THE SUMMER OF 1985, I experienced what I like to call “the Spirit of Antioch” for the first time. Fr. Jon Braun, Fr. Peter Gillquist and I had the honor of meeting His Beatitude, IGNATIUS IV, His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP, and other clergy from the Archdiocese at a private gathering in Los Angeles.

Both hierarchs impressed us with their spirit of a shepherd caring for their flock. In addition, we were greatly encouraged by their willingness — indeed eagerness to receive new converts and for their vision for Orthodox outreach to North America.

Now that I have been Orthodox for ten years (1987), I believe these qualities are historically the spirit of Antioch from the New Testament days until now. Furthermore, I believe this spirit of Antioch is precisely what North America needs.

In several important respects the spirit of Antioch stands in marked contrast to the spirit of North America. However, this contrast is not meant by me to be adversarial in nature. Far from it. Rather, it is transformational.

Personally, I care about our country and am distressed at the direction it has taken, especially in the last thirty or forty years. It is what some call “post-Christian.” But then, the question arises: Was it ever truly Christian in the first place? Not if Christian equals Orthodox, which it certainly does in my view.

Therefore, if this be the ease, then the good news is, North America is not in a post-Christian condition. Rather, it is presently caught, I believe, in a no-man’s land between what it used to be and what it is trying to become. What it used to be was a Protestant nation in which the Reformation experiment has failed morally, philosophically and ethically. Now it is trying to become something else. Just what that something else will be remains to be seen. I believe that Orthodoxy, with its spirit of Antioch, has a golden opportunity to make North America a truly Orthodox continent. Or to put it in another way, a truly Christian continent.

What exactly, then, is the spirit of Antioch?

1. The Spirit of Antioch is trans-ethnic, whereas the spirit of North America is multi-ethnic.

By trans-ethnic I mean the ability to rise above ethnicity and bring various racial groups together in a genuine unity without

destroying the diversity. Also, by multi-ethnic I mean the existence of many diverse races and cultures existing in one nation but polarized into both diversity and disunity.

The ancient city of Antioch was a crossroads of many diverse races and cultures. Besides the native Syrians, there were significant Jewish, Roman and Greek communities. Nevertheless, the Church of Antioch was able to unite these people together within the bonds of Christ. Why? Because, early on, Antioch experienced the reality of what St. Paul said in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This spirit is present to this day in the Antiochian Archdiocese. Consider the clergy: besides our brethren with ethnic roots in the Middle East, many have ethnic roots in Western Europe. Why, we have clergy who are Jewish, Black and Hispanic —and may God send us many more.

However, the many and diverse races in North America are not only polarized, but tragically becoming more so as time passes. Racial hatred seems to increase in spite of civil rights laws passed in recent years. Gangs continue to spread, often based on ethnic identity. We have countless unsolved cases of arson directed at black churches. Furthermore, contrary to St. Paul’s exhortation, we are also seeing an increasing polarization between male and female in North America.

But Antioch’s spirit has the power to transform these polarities between the races and between men and women into a genuine unity. Why? Because Antioch is more than one race or ethnicity! It is trans-ethnic!

By establishing hundreds and even thousands of churches with the spirit of Antioch, in which all races can be united together in the oneness of Christ, Jew and Gentile, black and white, men and women, can live in peace with one another! Thus, the trans-ethnic spirit of Antioch can, I believe, transform and heal the multi-ethnic spirit of post-Reformational America into an Orthodox Christian America!

2. Antioch’s spirit is Christian, whereas the spirit of North America is Christian in name only.

The Bible says, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Therefore, the name Christian and the name Antioch are historically connected. The Church of Antioch carries in its very spirit the name Christian. St. Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch, writes in his letter to the Romans: “Only pray that I may have power, both within and without, so that I may not only be called a Christian but be found to be one. For if I am found to be one, I can also he called one, and then can be faithful when I disappear from this world (3:2).

Then again, in his letter to the Magnesians, St. Ignatius says: “It is fitting, then, not just to be called Christians but to be such (4:1).

The name Christian is to be experienced as reality, and that is what the spirit of Antioch is.

North America, on the other hand, is and has been Christian in name only. The U.S. Senate opens its deliberations with prayer, and then proceeds to pass laws which kill over a million unborn babies each year. The vast majority of Americans and Canadians profess to believe in God, yet rarely go to Church. Unbelievers call this hypocrisy. North America is nominal. Why? Because North America has not yet assimilated into itself the Christian spirit of Antioch. This spirit needs to interpenetrate all the present day churches and the nation itself. Can this happen? Most assuredly! Is it time for it to happen? I believe so!

3. Thu spirit of Anrioch is the spirit of Peter and Paul. whereas die spirit of America is rho spirit of Peter vs. Paul.

Peter was the first bishop of Antioch, and Paul was Anrioch’s first missioiiarv. The Church of Antioch is buih on the foundation of these two apostles, Both were in total harrnonx’ with 01W another, with Peter being an apostle especiaIlv to the Jews mid Paul to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9). And in Antioch both the de’vish and rhc

Gcntile Christians were united in peace within the Church because the same was true of Peter and Paul. Thcrefore, thc spirit of Antioch and that of Peter and Paul is synonymous; it is OIiC and the same spirit, the spirit of unity. It unitcs whatever it touches.

Ilowevcr, early in history, Petcr and Paul, so to speak, found themselves at odds ~vith each other. It

W8S flO longer Peter and Paul but

Peter vs. Paul. How SC- Peter

becanic a Romaii Caholic, and

Paul a Protestant!

I grew up iii the midst of this polarity. Aitcr all, Peter was thc first Roman bishop, too, and Paul

“withstood him to his face”

(Thiatians 2:11 ) over thc issue of legalism. Paul was my hero for doing this! In this I saw Patti facing off with the future bishop of Rome. Why, rherc was a time when I and many others didn’t even bclicvc that Roman Catholics were Christians. Remember the polarit

that was sccn when John F. Kennedy was tr ving to bccornc president of the United States in 1960? A great furor broke out! how could America tnisr a Ronian Catholic president? You still, on occasion, hear the Pope declared “the antichrist.”

Wlmt can solve this polarity and make Pctcr and Paul one again in Arneric&9 I believe ifs the spirit of Aritioch. \Vhv? Because in Antioch Peter anti Paul arc one in Christ. This oneness can transform the country and make it Orthodox! The majority of North Americans need to rediscover that Peter and Paul truly arc one spirit in Christ. Both Roman Catholics arid Protestants could be united togcthcr in this spirit within Orthodox Christianity.

4. In tim spirit of Aiitioch, Judaism is based on Chrisriaiiitv. whereas in North America, (:lidsthinitv is based on .hidaisiii.

Both the apostles Peter and Paul taught that Judaism is based


OH 1’or cxamplc. St.

Paul says, ilhcrclorc know chat only those who arc of faith arc sons of Abraham. .\nd tim Scripture, toresecing tWit God would justify the nations by faith. prcachcd the Gospel w Abraham beforehand, saving, in voti all the flations shall he hlcsscdi So then those who arc of faith arc blcsscd with bc1icvin~ AbraInn~

Galatians 3:7—9). In his Ictrer to the Magiicsians, St. Ignarius sax’s. ~For Christianity did not hasc its faith on Judaism, hut .JU(laism on Christflffltx’, in which \~vurv Ian— giuigc’ believing in God was ]~rought together (10:3).

Todax’ in our country one ottun hears the statement that Christ— ianitv is based on “the Jtidco—

·h~uc 1997 5

Father Richard Ballew


with faith and love. This is the true basis of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” described in the Declaration of Independence, drafted by the fathers of our country, which alludes us. Iris the true basis of life that can transform the spirit of independence into the spirit of interdependence within the Body of Christ. And this Body is just what North America needs most!

7. And finally, the spirit of Antioch is the spirit of martvi-dont whereas the spirit of North America is the spirit of self-preservation.

By the spirit of martyrdom is meant dying for Jesus Christ. That is what faith in Christ is: it is dying for Christ. This may relate to physical death or to a daily dying for Christ as one does his xviii. The spirit of self-preservation is either preserving one’s own individual life and interests, no matter what, or else the life and interests of someone else or one’s country. It may ex’en involve the giving of one’s life to this end.

St. Ignatius, as exemplifying the spirit of Antioch, the spirit of martyrdom, gave up his physical life for Christ. Listen to the description of his spirit in his letter to the


“I wish you not to please men but to please God, as you do please Him. For I shall never have such an opportunity for attaining to

God, nor do you, if you keep silent, have any better deed for xvhich to be credited. For if you arc silent about me, I am a word of God; but if von love my flesh, I shall again he only a voice. Grant me nothing more than to be poured forth to God while an altar is still ready, so that forming a chorus in love you may sing to the Father in Christ Jesus that God has judged the bishop of Syria worthy to be found at the xvest after sending him across from the east. It is good to set from the xvorld toxvard God so that I may rise toxvard him.

“I am xvriting to all the churches and I command all men: I am voluntarily dyin g for God if von do not hinder me. I exhort von not to be an ‘inopportune favor’ to me. (Let me be food for the xvild beasts, through xvhich I can attain to God. I am the ‘wheat of God and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts so that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.) Instead, entice the wild beasts so that they may become my tomb and leave no trace of my body, so that when I fall asleep I may not burden anyone. Then I shall be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, xvhen the xvorld will not see my body at all.

“I~rav to Christ for me that through these means I may be found a sacrifice to God. I do not give you orders as Peter and Paul

did. They were apostles; I am a

convict. They were free; I am still a

slave. But if I suffer I shall be

Christ’s freedman and in him I

shall rise free” (2:1-2; 4:1-3).

The spirit of martyrdom, as shoxvn in St. Ignatius, can transform the spirit of self-preservation into the spirit of dying for Christ. Instead of living or dying in order to preserve oneself, someone else, or one’s country, no matter what, one who has the spirit of martyrdom can die for Christ, xvhether in life or in death, no matter xvhat! Such is the spirit of martyrdom, the spirit of Antioch. It is the very spirit that can transform North America at this crossroad of historv in xvhich it finds itself. It can take our country from no-man s land to the promised land of Orthodoxy, where there is true peace and stability.

The spirit of Antioch has the golden opportunity of taking North America from what it has been for the past two hundred years to what it can possibly become as Orthodox nations! Max’ this be the will of the Father, Son and holy Spirit, to whom be glory, noxv and always, and unto ages of ages. Amen! ~

k’uther J. Richard J3allew is pastor of Sr. Arhanasius Aiitioch ian Orthodox Gb it rch in Sacramento, Calitbrn 1(1.