This article on the WCC website, though more than a decade old, remains an accurate statement of the intentions of modernists regarding the Orthodox liturgy. The notoriously liberal monks at New Skete Monastery, formerly Catholic, but received into the notoriously liberal Orthodox Church in America (a jurisdiction whose autocephaly has never been universally recognized), corrupted by the modernist heresy so prevelant in the Roman church, manifested in the liturgical reforms in the wake of Vatican II (which, I should state, were a dreadful perversion of what Vatican II actually authorized; in terms of seeking reconciliation with the Orthodox, and in terms of the change of theological emphasis that Vatican II produced, it was, by itself, a movement in the direction of Orthodoxy), naturally want to do the same thing to the Orthodox church.
In this series of articles, I shall proceed to enumerate their desired reforms, and then explain why these reforms are deadly, from the perspective of Confessional Orthodoxy.
Suggestion no. 4: Messing with the Choir, and Deaconesses
"Do choirs and cantors facilitate the congregation's involvement? Does the music adequately convey the meaning of the text? Are certain classes and groups of persons systematically excluded from full participation (e.g., women, as a result of erroneous application of Old Testamental laws on ritual purity; children, as a result of being sent away to Sunday school during the Divine Liturgy)?"
Why this is a bad idea:
I fear to speculate on what the authors desire when posing the question "Do choirs and cantors facilitate the congregations involvement?" If the answer is more congregational singing; I must voice my opposition, for without an organ, which is not traditional in the Byzantine Rite, congregational singing quickly turns to cacophany, unless the congregation has the liturgical fervor and discipline of the Russian Old Ritualists, which alas, most congregations do not. This is not to say that we cannot have some form of congregational singing, but the idea that there is anything wrong with allowing parishioners to simply bask in the heavenly music of the choir, while lifting their heart unto the Lord in prayer, is deeply perverse. The development of a strong and enlarged Western Rite in Orthodoxy might well help allay this, by providing a forum for those attached to congregational singing to participate in the Orthodox faith. In addition, the bar should be lowered slightly for choir membership: in a Russian parish that worships in English and Church Slavonic, those who only speak English should be allowed to join in with the choir, and learn the English hymns, in which they would participate. This might well be done antiphonally following the two-choir model favored by St. Ignatius.
Let us now move on to the more seirous question raised. Are women being discriminated against in the Orthodox Church, for such an absurd reason as an erroneous reading of the Levetical Code? Surely not, for if that were true, it would mean that the Orthodox Church had, from its very beginnings, misinterpted the Levetical Code, and if that is true, then our claim to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is utterly baseless, and in fact the feminist Gnostic sects that Elaine Pagels alleges existed, and were suppressed by evil patriarchal bishops like Ss. Ignatius and Irenaeus, had it right. Nevermind the fact the Gnostics were misogynistic in the extreme, with the Manichaen Gospel of Thomas declaring that "Any female who makes herself male will inherit the kingdom of God," and Pagels' pop theology has been widely discredited by serious scholars of the Gnostic faith; it is frankly, wishful thinking. But let us suppose there were a feminist church, that the evil Orthodox suppressed 1,800 years ago. If that were the case, then we might as well reform everything, because that would mean that we were clearly in the wrong all this time, that we were never even close to being the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, but were instead a misogynistic cult that destroyed the faith of the Historical Jesus.
There are in fact many who believe exactly that; many of the clergy of the dying mainline Protestant churches, especially the Episcopal Church, USA, and the United Church of Christ. Others, refraining from the unethical desire to demolish the faith of an existing church, have moved on to denominations more suited to their worldview, such as the Unitarian Universalists and the Ecclesia Gnostica. Perhaps the monks of New Skete should consider such a move; one cannot help but feel that if their vocation were sincere, they would be happier in such an environment, where they could freely avail themselves of those aspects of Byzantine spirituality they found appealing, without demolishing the traditions of a beautiful religion, in the manner of the hateful anti-Wesleyan Methodist blogger Rev. Jeremy Smith (who has labelled the Orthodox Church and her persecuted sister churches in the Middle East "misogynist" for failing to ordain priestesses) or the Presiding "Bishop" Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who would be a wonderful Christian were her zeal for Christ as strong as her zeal for litigation.
The Orthodox Church itself is a realm of love, and the idea that we would systematically exclude women from the liturgy, for any hateful motive, is poisonous in the extreme. Anyone who believes that about the Orthodox Church should resign, or be excommunicated, for only those capable of participating in the love of the Holy Trinity, which is a complementarian love, with each person contributing in their own way, according to their individual traits.
Lastly, I should say regarding Sunday School, I am a strong proponent of developing the Third and Sixth Hours, presently an afterthought chanted hurridly before the Liturgy begins, largely to obscure the sounds of confessions taking place, into an extended service of preaching and hymn singing. Here, the children would participate separately in sunday school, and learn about the faith; it should remain open during the divine liturgy to provide Christ-centered diversions, should any children of intermediate age (4 through 7 year olds especially) become bored to distraction and disrupt the service, but in general, infants and as many children as could sit or stand through it would participate fully in the entire divine liturgy, while receiving age appropriate catechesis during the earlier Hours.
In the next installment, I shall answer the question as to why we no longer have deaconesses, and cannot afford to reinstate that ancient office in the near future, and address the very disturbing suggestion that the Orthodox Church consider ordaining women to the Priesthood and Episcopate.