High quality recordings in both audio and video from the landmark ‘Jordanville Conference’ which took place just last weekend (March 7-9) are now available for online listening and download from Ancient Faith Radio.
Titled ‘Chastity, Purity, Integrity: Orthodox Anthropology and Secular Culture in the 21st Century’, this is shaping up to be the most significant Orthodox Christian conference yet of the new century. The fifteen presentations — more than five hours, not including the 48 minute long keynote address by Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option — present a wide variety of traditional, authentic, Orthodox perspectives on the anthropological heresy of our age. AFR’s special page for the conference recordings states:
Held at Holy Trinity Seminary (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) March 7 – 9 2019, scholarly and pastoral perspectives were shared with the goal of articulating the application of Orthodox Tradition and apologetics to current needs, in the face of current social trends regarding sex, body, and human nature.
Someone might ask, “You are doing a photo book on Orthodox monasticism. Why are you blogging about such a hot button topic completely tangential to your work?”
I am blogging about this conference precisely because it reveals something quite dynamic and critical to the health of Orthodoxy in America, namely the massive contribution Orthodox Christian Monasticism has to make to the very life and witness of the Orthodox Church, in America and around the world. It is precisely the Orthodox monastic ethos and phronema that undergirds this Conference which gives it its legitimacy, its authenticity, and its prophetic tone and urgency. I made that very point in my earlier post, in which I wrote:
This visionary conference, perhaps the first of its kind in North America, features speakers and a planning committee who hail primarily from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (ROCOR, Jordanville NY) and St Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (OCA, South Canaan PA), both of which are unique in North America among Orthodox seminaries for being linked to and deriving their traditional Orthodox ethos from the monasteries out of which they grew.
Clearly, there is a large amount of material to cover here. So far, I have watched four of the presentations (quite out of their chronological order), those by Dr. Mark Cherry, Fr. Peter Heers, Fr. John Parker, and Fr. Alexander Webster. These are each so weighty and intense, that I look forward to the rest, and am determined to make the viewing of these presentations an important part of my Lenten effort for 2019. Indeed, that may have been the aim of the conference planning committee, who timed the conference for the threshold of the beginning of Great Lent, and who obviously coordinated tightly with Ancient Faith Radio to make the presentations available less than a week after the conclusion of the conference.
(I should add that the videos are not raw, unedited uploads, but benefit from three or four camera angles, nicely varied, with the brief introduction of each speaker, and the speaker’s name and position/title recurrently displayed at bottom. This professional presentation adds to the significance of the entire effort.)
The talks by Dr Mark Cherry (Professor of Philosophy at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas) and Fr Alexander F.C. Webster (Dean and Professor of Moral Theology at Holy Trinity Seminary (ROCOR) in Jordanville, New York) serve to frame the conference as a prophetic moment in the life of the Orthodox Church in North America and the West in general.
Dr Cherry’s litany of examples of the secular world’s exaltation and “sanctification” of such anti-human abominations as abortion and deviant sexual immorality reminded me of Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina’s warnings about the spirit of the age over forty years ago. The “Religion of the Future” which Father Seraphim warned of continues to morph into ever darker and more subversive forms, marked always by a willing ecumenical alliance of apostate Christian sects on the one hand, and the danger of timid, lukewarm acquiescence to the spirit of the age by cowed Orthodox Christians on the other.
Fr. Webster explicitly called upon the attendees to go beyond Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option,” and to advance a prophetic Orthodox Christian witness to the world, even and especially knowing that this will result in our being openly persecuted by that uncomprehending world which, to refer back to Dr Mark Cherry’s observations, presents its abominations as holy, spiritual, and true, and condemns us as “haters” and sub-human merely for bearing Christian witness to the love of Christ, the eternal Truth of the Holy Trinity, and the living words of the Living Word of God, which shall never pass away (my paraphrase).
Fr John Parker (Dean of St. Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary) movingly spoke to the critical pastoral need to restore and update the ancient form of Christian catechism, which always had as a central pillar the renewal of the convert’s moral and ethical inner life in accordance with the Way of Christ. Fr John repeatedly emphasized the imperative that even while combatting the cultural and anthropological heresies of this dark age, that we strive never to break the bruised reed, nor snuff out the smoldering wick, thus aligning ourselves with Christ, of whom those prophecies by Isaiah (42:3) spoke.
Fr. Peter Heers (Headmaster of Three Hierarchs Academy in Florence, Arizona, and on the faculty of the ROCOR Pastoral School of Theology) addressed ‘The Orthodox Ethos: Its Distortion and Our Acquisition and Realization of It,” providing an historical and theological description of the West’s movement away from the traditional Christian Way of the Life in Christ and to a moralistic system, which set the stage for humanism and then individualism and today’s rampant secularism. Fr Peter compellingly called for our deliberate rejection of the false moralistic Christianity of the West, which is literally evaporating before our very eyes, and a deliberate return to the living, noetic process of repentance, purification, enlightenment, and theosis, as Holy Orthodoxy has always practiced and conveyed to Her children.
Based on these four initial examples of the talks, I see the Jordanville Conference as an essential primer on the very sources of authentic Orthodox Christianity for us today, and as a prophetic call to the Faithful to strive to the utmost to live fully the Life in Christ, that we may bear witness in all areas of our life to the radical new life which Jesus Christ has given us through His incarnation, death, and resurrection. It is this Life which can transform us, and bear witness to the world of Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
I strongly urge everyone to download and watch or listen to these proceedings. Make this an essential part of your Lenten podvig this year.
The West generally and America in particular is balanced on a tipping point, on the edge of a blade. A comfortable “life as usual” is no longer possible for us Orthodox Christians (as if it ever was). The Jordanville Conference, envisioned and set forth by seminaries linked to two of the most stalwart Orthodox monasteries in America, presents us with the Way forward, the Way of Life versus the way which leads to death, the Way to strengthen our most holy Faith in this dark, apocalyptic age.
And we have the Orthodox monastic witness to thank for this.