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Orthodox Charismatic Movement Growing

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Orthodox Charismatic Movement Giving

By Glenn Gilbert

(News Religion Editor)

The charismatic movement within the Orthodox Church can report 100 per cent growth in its ranks — at least based on a national conference which concluded over the weekend here.

One-hundred-twelve persons registered for the second annual National Conference on the Charismatic Renewal in the Orthodox Church. That’s exactly double the number of registrants at last year’s conference, which also was held in Ann Arbor.

So, the leader of the two-year-old movement was talking differently this year.

Last year, Fr. Eusebius A. Stephanou, a former Ann Arbor pastor, said “there is a tremendous victory in the fact that this conference took place at all. There was much opposition, primarily from the clergy — or at least a segment of it.”

This year, he said the church hierarchy “placed no obstacles in the way of my ministry. I am in touch with my archbishop.”

Fr. Stephanou attributed increased participation in the conference to “a better spread of information on the conference. Last year, the announcement of the conference hadn’t reached all quarters of the church.”

Fr. Stephanou is founder and publisher of The Logos, a magazine which disseminated information on the conference, and head of the Logos Foundation. He said circulation of his magazine also has increased in the last year, but he would not state actual figures.

Participants in the three-day conference came all the way from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada, to Lebanon, although those from Lebanon had stayed over after attending the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference three weeks ago at the University of Notre Dame.

Fr. Stephanou said some 20 priests were among those attending the conference, compared to six a year ago. The conference was hosted by the local Word of God community and held at Ann Arbor Inn.

The 49-year-old priest, who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind., said three Orthodox parishes in the country are totally charismatic: those in Phoenix, Ariz., Huntington, W. Va. and Harvey, 111.

The “charismatic” movement has surfaced in all divisions of Christendom and is characterized by intensive Bible study, much prayer, speaking in unknown tongues, healing services and Pentecostal-style spontaneity.

One of the speakers at the conference was Fr. Boris Zabrodsky, pastor of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox in Harvey, Ill. He explained the transformation of his small church from a traditional parish to a charismatic parish in an interview. He became involved in the charismatic movement 1 1/2 years ago after meeting Fr. Stephanou.

“We lost some families,” said Fr. Zabrodsky. “But the leader of the opposition had a miracle in his life through prayer...The transformation (in the parish) has been good and is settled now.”

Fr. Zabrodsky said his 60-family congregation has members of all nationalities so he hasn’t received resistance based on ethnic considerations. He said the Divine Liturgy at his parish has been celebrated in English during the entire 14 years of his pastorate.

Similarly, “ethnic segregation” has not hurt the charismatic movement throughout the rest of the Orthodox Church, Fr. Stephanou said.

“Ethnic segregation is the symptom of spiritual erosion in the church,” he continued. “That’s the great thing about this (charismatic movement). It breaks down all such barriers.”

International evangelist Chris Panos also was a featured speaker at the conference. The son of a Greek Orthodox couple, Panos’ ministry is non-denominational. Panos has spoken in Iron Curtain countries and in his book, Faith Under Fire, describes how he smuggled Bibles into some of these countries.

During the conference, Panos demonstrated how he speaks with an interpreter at evangelistic meetings.

“You have to use short words and short sentences. You can carry an interpreter along pretty fast this way,” said Panos, whose ministry has headquarters in Houston.

With 200 million members worldwide. Eastern Orthodoxy has been the least touched by the charismatic movement of the three major branches of Christianity.

The charismatic movement in the Orthodox Church is about two years old.

Fr. Stephanou served as pastor of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor from 1953 to 1955. He is a celibate who received a BA degree from the U-M. His father and grandfather were Orthodox priests.

He also attended Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline,  Mass. and was the first, Greek Orthodox to receive master’s of sacred theology and ThD degrees at General Seminary, the Episcopal School in New York.

He also was the first Greek Orthodox to teach theology at Notre Dame and he represented Orthodoxy at World Council of Churches meetings.

Fr. Stephanou launched The Logos in 1968 with the goal of spiritual renewal within the Orthodox Church. His criticism of the church led to a six-month suspension from the pastorate of Holy Trinity Church in Fort Wayne. It wasn’t until 1972 that Fr. Stephanou became aligned with the charismatic movement.