The following is the letter I sent to my archbishop, asking to be restored to the rank of layman. Notice my carefully reasoned arguments and his dismissive response.
August 8, 2002
Dear Metropolitan PHILIP:
I hope and pray that this letter finds you and everyone else at the chancery well. Paula, Zack, and I are fine overall. However, for about the past four or five years, I have been agonizing over what to do about being an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a priest. As you know, I took a leave of absence from the ministry for the last few years. Now it is time to officially quit.
In my heart and in my head, I am not an Eastern Orthodox Christian anymore, or even a Christian for that matter. Towards my last year as a pastor in Niagara Falls, I began to disbelieve in the miracles of the Bible. To me they seem unproven, farfetched, and unnecessary for salvation. God can save us without becoming incarnate, being crucified, being resurrected, and ascending into Heaven. If God is just, then God will save those who deserve to be saved, that is those who consistently try to be good people. God will not save people because they are able and willing to believe in the miracles of the Bible. If they exist, even demons can believe in miracles.
Moreover, I began to disbelieve in some of the Bible’s morality. The following are five examples. One, the supposed flood in Noah’s time was the act of an evil being. God murdered almost all land creatures because people were not doing what He wanted them to do. Surely there had to be a better way to handle the situation than mass murder! Besides, the flood fixed nothing. Humanity soon became as evil as ever, after the waters receded. Two, the supposed holy war to conquer and settle Canaan was evil because the Canaanites were there first, all people are intrinsically equal, the Israelites were the aggressors, and the Israelites murdered thousands (if not more than a million) of innocent men, women, and children with God’s encouragement and help.
Three, the supposed Atonement is evil because God should make people responsible for their own freewill actions. Those who voluntarily do evil should be punished, and those who voluntarily do good should be rewarded. People should not be punished or rewarded because of what Jesus did. Furthermore, God would be evil to create the universe in such a way that a murder would be necessary for people to be saved. I know that, at least compared to traditional Roman Catholic and Protestant theology, Eastern Orthodox Christian theology downplays the doctrine that Jesus saves people through his sacrificial death. But this doctrine is supported throughout the Bible. At least collectively, Mk. 10:45, Rom. 3:21-26, Heb. 9:11-15, and many other Bible verses teach that Jesus had to be murdered (or, if you prefer, sacrificed to God) for any human being to be saved. Four, the supposed existence of Christian Hell is evil because nobody deserves to be tortured for all eternity, not even Satan himself.
There are many more Christian doctrines I believe are evil, but, mainly for brevity’s sake, I will only attack one more. Five, it is evil to claim that people must believe in what is absurd to be saved. If God is completely good, then we can be saved without being hypocritical and dishonest. In fact, we must be un-hypocritical and honest to be saved. We should apply the same standard of reason to religion as we do to the rest of life. Although doing so is difficult at times, I am convinced that this is what God wants and this is what is best for humanity and the creatures whom humanity impacts. If God does not want us to think for ourselves, then God should come out of hiding and directly tell us what we should believe and do. Otherwise, we have to think for ourselves. If we chose to let the Church or some theologian think for us, then we still have thought for ourselves and made a choice.
In light of all this, please do three things. One, please believe that I like and respect all the bishops of the Archdiocese as much as I know them, including you. Two, please realize that there is much that I like and respect about Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but it is not my religion anymore. And three, please laicize me as soon as possible. I have been heading away from Eastern Orthodox Christianity for about four years now, and I do not believe that I will be coming back. I hope and pray that being laicized will bring me some long overdue peace of mind and help me focus on the present rather than regret the past or fear the future.
Jayson . . .
Greetings in the name of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. I am in receipt of your letter dated August 8, 2002 in which you have denied the Holy Orthodox faith in general and your priesthood in particular. Needless to say, I am very saddened by the transformation that has taken place. Nevertheless, due to the nature of your heretical statements and clear misunderstanding of Orthodox doctrine, I have no choice but to depose you from the ranks of the holy and sacred priesthood and, needless to say, by your own actions and statements, you have excommunicated yourself from the Holy Orthodox Church, effective immediately.
I pray that in due time, the light of Christ, which illumines all men, will again pierce your heart with the truth and faith that was “once and for all delivered to the saints.”
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America