Orthodoxy and the Charismatic Movement

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Pentecost: Pentecost and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Orthodoxy and the Charismatic Movement describes the synthesis of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the charismatic movement.


The Charismatic Movement in the late 1960s and 70s, swept through both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. In 1968, Archimandrite Rev. Fr. Eusebius A. Stephanou, Th. D. of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America experienced along with other Orthodox priests an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Though, the Charismatic Movement in the Eastern Orthodox Church never exerted the influence that it did in other mainstream churches. Individual priests, such as Fr. James Tavralides, Fr. Constantine Monios and Fr. David Buss, Fr. Athanasius Emmert of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, Fr. Eusebius Stephanou of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, founder of the Brotherhood of St. Symeon the New Theologian and editor of "The Logos", and Fr. Boris Zabrodsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate in North America, founder of the Service Committee for Orthodox Spiritual Renewal (SCOSR) which published "Theosis" Newsletter, were some of the more prominent leaders of the charismatic renewal in Orthodoxy. Of those priests, Fr. Eusebius Stephanou is perhaps best known because of his teaching at a seminary. In response to His experience, he wrote many books and articles, and founded two groups, The Brotherhood of St. Symeon the New Theologian Symeon the New Theologian and the Orthodox Renewal Center.[1]


Views on Holy Spirit Baptism[edit]

Views on Holy Spirit Baptism - Orthodox Charismatics such as Fr. Eusebius believed the Orthodox Sacrament of Chrismation is equivalent to "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" spoken about in John's Gospel. It was not missing from Eastern Orthodoxy but "underemphasized"[2]

Views on the Charismata or Gifts of the Holy Spirit[edit]

"Following the teachings of St. Symeon the New Theologian and other Church Fathers, we hold that the charismatic ministry is just as essential to the life in the Church as the ordained ministry. We encourage the laity to recognize the charisma or ministry gift received from God and to exercise it "for the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church" and "for the perfection of the saints."


A Forerunner of Renewal?: St. Symeon the New Theologian 922AD

Views on Holy Tradition[edit]

Orthodox Charismatics believe the supernatural gifts are normal and have always operated in the Holy Orthodox Church.

St. Symeon the New Theologian[edit]

Fr. Eusebius Stephanou connected this tenth-century saint who was persecuted for his devotion to the Holy Spirit with the cause of Orthodox Renewal.

Seraphim Rose and controversy[edit]

Fr. Seraphim Rose wrote Orthodoxy & the Religion of the Future,[4] a detailed and sweeping comparison of modern ecumenist movements with traditional Orthodoxy. In it, he warns strongly against many Charismatics.

St. Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, California (near Redding) is an influential printing and book translating group whence Fr. Seraphim's warnings have been widely spread. His views have been adopted by many Orthodox Christians as dogma. Others, including Fr. Eusebius's bishops, have expressed their approval for the "renewal," supporting it financially.[citation needed]In 1968 Fr. Stephanos was suspended by the Church authorities, initially for six months, for his preaching on renewal and was essentially marginalized for nearly two decades[5]

Orthodox Christianity teaches the supernatural gifts do all exist, but various groups are in disagreement as to the means of acquiring supernatural gifts or if it is even good to do so.

St. Paul advocates desiring spiritual gifts 1Co 12:30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?1Co 12:31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.1Co 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts

More recently, Holy Fathers have parted with the Apostle Paul's teaching to "desire earnestly spiritual gifts" and discouraged desiring spiritual gifts because of fear of falling into "prelest" a condition where real spiritual gifts are counterfeited. They advise, To avoid "prelest" spiritual accountability of a priest or abbot. Fr. Seraphim was cured from this condition by his spiritual father, the blessed St. John Maximovitch; as a priest and monk himself, he had people under this condition come to his monastery for guidance and prayer. Despite, witnessing real miracles in his friend St. John Maximovitch's life, Fr. Seraphim Rose, did no miraculous deeds (that we are aware of) and discouraged the pursuit of Charismatic gifts at all. Though he made many great contributions to Orthodoxy in both founding a monastery and publishing many books, arguably Fr. Seraphim taught "The heresy of pusillanimity which proposes that since we are not living in the time of the apostles, and are not in the immediate physical presence of the Saviour, it is impossible for us to become holy in the way the apostles were holy." In his lecture, Living the Orthodox Worldview, Fr. Seraphim taught that we can't even approach the saints of old or even regular Orthodox Christians from 100 years ago. Sadly, this belief produced its result with Fr. Seraphim living a life void of the supernatural miracles that followed his friend St. John Maximovitch along with other factors causing him to reject the Charismatic movement. St. John Maximovitch like many non-orthodox charismatics advocated friendship with the Holy Spirit and taught this even to small children(see Illumined Heart podcast series on St. John). This friendship with the Holy Spirit, visible in the lives of St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Symeon the New Theologian, and in the life of St. John Maximovitch produces all true miracles and is the heart of the charismatic renewal within and outside of Eastern Orthodoxy


Fr. Seraphim Rose, Fr. Eusebius Stephanou and the Charismatic movement as a whole all promoted eschatalogy (study of the end times) and believed that Christ's return was very soon.

Current state[edit]

Organizations such as the Orthodox Renewal Center continue to promote Charismatic Renewal. It is unclear how widespread or how many priests currently are influenced by it. Many priests such as Fr. David Barr (who attended Oral Roberts University)come from a Charismatic evangelical background before becoming Orthodox. Countless lay people have converted from Protestant-Charismatic backgrounds to Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Orthodox Renewal Center, which opened in Destin (now Miramar Beach), Florida in 1989, is a place where men and women come to be refreshed and renewed in body, soul and spirit.The basic message of salvation of the whole man is proclaimed. People of all ages come to draw inspiration and encouragement for their walk with Christ.The Orthodox Renewal Center has a pan-Orthodox scope and looks to renewal throughout the entire Orthodox Church, indeed throughout world Orthodoxy. A branch of the Orthodox Renewal Center has been operating in Kenya, East Africa for a number of years and faith-partners can be found in Greece, Cyprus and Australia, countries where Father Eusebius has traveled and personally ministered to the Orthodox Christians as well as United States and Canada.[6]


  1. ^ Charismatic Movement
  2. ^ http://www.stsymeon.org/literature/Orthodox%20Renewal%20Series%20Booklets/index.htm
  3. ^ http://www.stsymeon.org/about/backgrounder.htm#historic
  4. ^ Father Seraphim Rose, His Life and Works, pp 673-701 Saint Herman Press (September 2, 2003)
  5. ^ Book Review: The Voice of a Priest Crying in the Wilderness by George Matsoukas 2008, [1]
  6. ^ http://www.stsymeon.org/about/backgrounder.htm#historic