Of course, as Rick rightly says: the Church is the whole people of God, fellow citizens with the Saints and of the Household of God, the Royal Priesthood of all believers ? the vast majority of whom are lay women and men.
I recently read an article by an eminent Jesuit scholar who declared that the major lesson from the child abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church was that the traditional rigid clericalism, and the pride and arrogance associated with it, must be abolished. To which I would say: so let it be in the Orthodox Church. And, sadly, I must note that the Orthodox Church has not been exempt from sexual abuse scandals; it?s just that they have attracted virtually no media attention. At least one website is devoted to exposing such scandals in the Orthodox Church and its accounts of abuse, physical and spiritual, make depressing reading. The responses of the Church authorities tend to make even more depressing reading.
Orthodoxy once had a strong tradition of involvement by all the People of God in the life of the Church. It had a strong tradition of lay theologians: look now at the average Orthodox theological college and try to find lay men and women in teaching positions. It had a strong tradition of lay spiritual guides (the staretz of the Russian tradition), both men and women.
Now the Orthodox Church is, essentially, ?men in black?. They may occasionally consult (usually in the most patronizing way) with the young (usually men). They rarely consult the women. Priests fill positions that have no vague relationship with priesthood (for example, the roles of administrators).
Yet ordination to the Priesthood conveys only one thing: the power and authority to administer the Sacraments. It does not convey wisdom, theological learning, administrative or financial competence, skills in counselling, good sense or pastoral competence. If, for example, there is some strange belief that ordination brings with it theological competence, and that no other education is required, the Church will be stuck with generations of theologically illiterate Priests.
The greatest and richest resources of the Church are found not in the ?men in black? but the men and women, young and old, who are its members and whose servants the ?men in black? are supposed to be.
A museum has curators and visitors. A living community only has participants, each fully sharing to the best of her or his abilities; participating differently perhaps but ultimately equally in the life of all the community?s members.
A museum preserves, conserves and protects the past. A living community builds on the inheritance of the past but necessarily invigorates it with the life of the present.
One of the participants in my recent Law School seminar on Orthodox Canon Law (a Marxist ?true believer?) declared that he could not see how Orthodox Canon Law, having been written more than a thousand years ago in an entirely different cultural context, could have any relevant in the contemporary world. He was, in part, correct. The dead letter of the Law has no relevance. The living principles underlying the Law, when properly discerned, are relevant because they convey guides for life that are beyond history or culture. Thus, the Blessed Apostle reminds us: ?for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.? [2 Cor 3:6] Or, as the New English Bible translates it: ?for the written law condemns to death, but the Spirit gives life.?
In every generation Orthodox are called upon to seek the guidance of the Life-Giving and All-Holy Spirit to re-interpret and express anew the Living Faith - not by changing or diminishing it, but by ?translating? it for the language of the time.