these past few years have been bumpy in US Orthodoxy, especially when it comes to our Bishops. And the truth is that I don’t know either all the details or all the answers. One thing, though, seems clearer to me as the days go on and the events unfold; sometimes the people have to care for the shepherds.
Let me explain. I’ve been a Pastor in both congregational and episcopal polities and I’ve learned that when the devil wants to wreak havoc it can often come in the pattern of the polity. If the church is congregational the people get stirred up. If the church is episcopal the Bishops are attacked. People don’t understand this and often think of all the troubling things that are happening in these past few years as a matter of personalities, programs, or politics. I think we might be forgetting that there is a component of spiritual warfare in all of this.
In our case as Orthodox Christians if our leaders can be stirred up, in conflict with each other, or find themselves focused on the trees and not the forest the basic and primary mission of the Church can be hamstrung for as long as it takes to get these things worked out. Leaders who can’t agree. Leaders who listen to their passions. Those leaders will be diverted from their essential tasks and if the shepherds are struck the sheep can be scattered.
So sometimes we who are followers, with due regard for our own sins and struggles, need to reach out and deeply pray for our leaders asking God to protect them, to help them to stand for the Faith and against the fiery darts thrown at them every waking hour even as we pray for the same things for ourselves. Imagine what could happen if the Orthodox of this country prayed every day for their Bishops? Our prayers could become for them a wall of protection, a holy fortress where they can rest from the attacks of the enemy.
And imagine how that would change us as well!