In Other News

Continuing to bring you the latest from the Orthodox world, this offer from the Orthodox Church of Cyprus is rightfully making waves:

The head of Cyprus’ influential Orthodox church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, says he will put the church’s assets at the country’s disposal to help pull it out of a financial crisis, after lawmakers rejected a plan to seize up to 10 percent of people’s bank deposits to secure an international bailout.

Speaking after meeting President Nicos Anastasiades Wednesday, Chrysostomos said the church was willing to mortgage its assets to invest in government bonds.

The church has considerable wealth, including property, stakes in a bank and a brewery. Tuesday’s rejection of the deposit tax has left the future of the country’s international bailout in question.

Whether or not anything will come of the offer–and whether or not the church’s assets are enough to make a substantial difference in Cyprus’s financial crisis–it strikes me as precisely the right move for the church, which has been roundly and rightly criticized from all corners and in most developed countries for being inexcusably wealthy. I wonder what kind of dent the US churches could have made in 2008 if they had made a similar offer. Of course, they didn’t, and they lack the institutional unity to make such a gesture even if they had wanted to. No longer living in an age when the apostolic heirs can honestly say “Silver and gold I have not,” the Cypriot church has made a gesture that powerfully displays the way sacrifice on a church-wide scale can influence society.

Even so, there are many who would argue that the world is becoming an increasingly churchless place no matter what denominational bodies do. This “none” movement is constituted in part by those postmodern Christians enamored of the idea that Jesus never went to church, so why should they? Launching off of a quote from Toby Mac (“Jesus didn’t hang out in the church”) that appeared on the Huffington Post, Revelation rock star Rick Oster has thoroughly debunked the notion of a church-free Jesus:

Since everyone knows there was no Christian church in existence in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, this statement is designed for its rhetorical impact, rather than its historical accuracy. Sometimes, though, rhetorical statements have a life of their own, and hearers forget the limitations of rhetoric. More probably the rhetoric of this statement was meant to emphasize the viewpoint that Jesus did not spend time associating with religious/Jewish organizations or hanging out in Jewish meeting places or chillaxing with the officialdom of Jewish religion. A fact-check of this viewpoint led me to conclude that it did not represent the whole story of Jesus.

This anti-institutional view of Jesus has a long history, but it stands in stark contrast to the picture of Jesus given us by the major writer of the New Testament, Luke, and also by John the prophet.

…To be sure, the validity of Christian ministry is determined by the authenticity of its message and accompanying lifestyle and not by its location. Bars and brothels are certainly within the purview of modern Christian ministry, but we need to be clear that this was not the fundamental approach used by Jesus. Most of Jesus’ time was spent in synagogues, in travel through the Jewish countryside, and in Jewish homes. It does not seem to have been an erratic choice when Jesus decided to give his inaugural teachings in synagogues (Lk. 4:14-15).

…We contemporary believers just might need to reconsider whether we want to recapture apostolic belief by acknowledging and confessing “that Jesus is not a parachurch Messiah” ([Oster’s commentary on Revelation] p. 89), but a churchy Jesus, notwithstanding all the abuses and heresies propagated by his ostensible followers, both past and present.

Meanwhile, will Pope Francis go to Moscow? It’s hard to care when you consider the momentous event that just occurred in Melfort, Saskatchewan:

Wally and Kerry LaClare raise cows on their farm near Melfort, and have seen hundreds of calves born. But last week when one of their cows gave birth, they witnessed something they’ve never seen before.

“Kerry came into the barn, and noticed the cow was straining a bit,” said Wally LaClare. “I checked the cow and there was another calf, so we delivered it. We figured that was it, you never imagine triplets. When I came back in an hour later she was delivering her third,” he said.

The chances of a cow giving birth to triplets are so rare, about once in every 105,000 births, that a person has a better chance of hitting a hole in one.

I wonder how the chances of Orthodox-Catholic reunion stack up to that.

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2 thoughts on “In Other News

  1. Richard says:

    I appreciated your report and comments on the Cypriote Orthodox Church. That does reflect a generous offer that is rarely seen these days from established churches.

    My own view is that most American churches receive far too much tax benefit from the government. Make me the Emperor of the USA for a period of time and denominations would initially pay 10% on all their wealth, followed by a 25% tax annually on all their income/profits not used directly for ecclesiastical salaries, church buildings, educational activities, and eleemosynary ministries. To show compassion the tax on income/profits would begin at 5% and increase in 5% increment for four years.

    • Make me emperor of the US, and I would resign. (You of all people know what is prone to happen to emperors.)

      Even so, my suspicion is that soaring taxes may the closest the US church could ever come to experiencing “persecution.” Even then, we’d never stand for it, no matter whose face is on the money.

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