The following encyclical was issued out of the Metropolis of Denver and written by Metropolitan Isaiah.
28 October 1998
The Pious Pastors of the Holy Diocese of Denver
Beloved in the Lord,
The Lord does not want slaves in His Kingdom.
We are living at a time in which most people stress their total independence of all things or they prefer to come under the shelter and obedience of a charismatic leader. Few are they who follow the Christian principle of adoption as God's children.
Nowhere in the oral and written testimony of the Church does one read that a person should be totally independent of all influence which is an impossibility, nor does one find that a person should practice blind obedience to any other person.
Our Lord says, "Whoever wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34)
Having been created in God's image, we have intellect, cognition, freedom of choice, and understanding. When the Lord invites us to deny ourselves, He does so in order for us to realize that we must first make the decision that we are not who we think we are, but that we are to seek and find Christ within us as our real selves. Once we find Christ within us and we understand and accept that we are created in His image, He then adopts us, not as slaves, but as free and loving sons and daughters (cf. Galatians 4:1-7)
For one to have a blind obedience to another, whether a lover, or a master, or a religious guru, means that such a person no longer has a free will but has turned it over to another creature.
When a Christian turns his free will over to Christ, the Lord purifies it and returns it to him so that his obedience thereafter is based only on love exercised through that free will.
When our Lord expressed His obedience to the Father by emptying Himself of His glory and becoming one of us, He did so with the exercise of His free will. Otherwise He could never have said on the Cross, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." It was His free will in obedient love to the Father that effected the Supreme Sacrifice.
Today it seems that some people will not make a move unless they check with their spiritual father in virtually everything. This phenomenon happened with certain converts to Orthodoxy some years ago when they were told where to live and where to work and how much money to contribute to the Church.
They thought that they were imitating the first Christians in the Book of Acts who held everything in common. But they did realize that the first Christians lived this way because they believed that the Lord was to return during their lifetime. Consequently these new Orthodox converts exercised a blind obedience to their religious leaders, relinquishing their free wills and their responsibility for making their own decisions regarding their families, their livelihood, and their welfare.
This spirit of blind obedience with the deadening of the free will is unfortunately being practiced among some of our people and even by some of our clergy. They will not do anything without first receiving a "blessing" from their "spiritual father." And if they have been convinced that the spiritual father is a walking saint, they will eat his unfinished food after the common meal and even consume other things which may have touched the spiritual father in some particular way. This is nothing more than idolatry. It puts God aside and constitutes the worship of His creature.
It may be that some of our people, by following the monastic rule in the outside world, feel convinced that they are becoming more spiritual. However, they are sadly mistaken; for the monastic, as a novice, is willingly obedient in order to determine if he wishes to live the life of a monastic. Once he is accepted as a monk, he must resume the use of his free will in conforming to the way of life which he has chosen. The laity, on the other hand, cannot use the monastery or the spiritual elder as one uses a horoscope, not functioning unless they receive permission.
Actually, such an attitude betrays the fact that these people do not wish to accept the responsibility of directing their own lives, and prefer to pass this responsibility on to another.
If there are members of the Diocese who have fallen into the error of negating their free will and being totally dependent on what their spiritual mentor instructs them to do, let them know that God does not want slaves in His Kingdom, but obedient children who constantly exercise their free will as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.
With Paternal Blessings,
Metropolitan Isaiah Presiding Hierarch of the Diocese of Denver
A follow up to this encyclical was written by Metropolitan Isaiah on January 21, 1999.
The Pious Priests and Deacons
of the Holy Diocese of Denver
Beloved in the Lord,
May God's blessings enrich your priestly ministry throughout this new year.
Last Fall and specifically on October 28, 1998, I wrote an encyclical to you numbered 98-21 regarding the use of the free will and how certain individuals prefer to negate their free will and to depend solely on spiritual mentors in all things.
I am totally surprised that certain persons misinterpreted the encyclical and thought that I was criticizing our Orthodox monastics and specifically one or two of our Orthodox elders. Obviously such persons do not fully understand the English language; for if they had read my letter carefully, they would not have thought that I was critical of religious or spiritual leaders per se, whether legitimate ones or false ones.
I was clearly referring only to those followers who relax or negate their free wills. It is never a truly spiritual mentor or religious leader who relaxes his followers' free will; rather it is the followers who prefer to do this because they do not want to be responsible for their own lives. Such individuals even include priests who on occasions use religious leaders like others use a horoscope.
I am disappointed that certain individuals stated that I was critical of real spiritual leaders. They should understand that I was cautioning the clergy to make our people aware of the fact that they, the people, must continue to exercise their free will in following religious leaders, and to continue to use their free will while being obedient to such leaders or to the life style they believe will edify them.
Please read my encyclicals with care. Do not read into them, but read out of them.
With Paternal Blessings,
of the Diocese of Denver