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Armenian Pastor

A Christian Witness Since 301 A.D.
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What Does The Bible Say About Celibacy?

I am single and an ordained minister of the Armenian Evangelical Church. A common question I get asked is whether or not I can get married. The answer is yes! I can marry! Date me ladies! (Great job showing off your confidence Haigo!) However, not every church denomination allows for their clergy to marry.

To clear up the confusion, here is a breakdown of the rules each major Christian tradition has concerning whether or not their clergy can get married:

Roman Catholic Church: Celibate Clergy Only

If you want to become a priest you are not allowed to get married before or after your ordination. Rare exceptions have been made but the norm is celibacy.

Eastern Orthodox and Apostolic Churches: Both Celibate and Married Clergy

You can get ordained if you are married. But cannot get married if you are already ordained. Celibate priests are the only ones allowed to climb the hierarchy of leadership.  

Protestants (Anglican, Evangelical, Pentecostal):  No Restrictions

Clergy can get married before or after ordination, they also have the freedom to choose to be celibate.

Being single and wanting to marry is not celibacy, that just means you haven’t found someone yet or have no game. Did I mention I’m single?

So, what does the Bible say about clergy having to be celibate?

The answer is: if you want to get married go for it, if not that is okay too.

Most of the apostles were married and the single apostles had the freedom to get married if they desired. The Apostle Paul, who was single, says in his letter to the church in Corinth, “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?  Cephas is the Aramaic way of saying Peter, the leader of the twelve disciples. In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus Christ heals Peter’s mother-in-law of an illness when they visited her home after coming from the synagogue.  

The rules for required celibacy for priesthood developed later within church history. For a quick timeline click here

What are your thoughts about Celibacy? What are the pros and cons for being single? What are the pros and cons for getting married? Should clergy be celibate? Comment below. Subscribe. 

Warriors at Wizards 02/24/15

The Kerrs and The Armenians

Steve Kerr just coached the Golden State Warriors to the best season in NBA history. He surpassed his own record when he played shooting guard on Michael Jordan’s 1994-95 Chicago Bulls. Kerr holds the record for best three-point field goal percentage in league history. He is a six-time NBA champion (five as a player and one as a coach) and is looking to capture his seventh this season. But Steve Kerr’s accomplishments on the basketball court pale in comparison to his grandfather’s humanitarian achievements.

Steve Kerr’s grandfather Stanley Kerr worked for the American Near East Relief (now Near East Foundation), which organized the world’s first large-scale, modern humanitarian project in response to the Armenian Genocide. After the end of World War I, Stanley Kerr was given the task of relocating Armenian Genocide survivors to MarashWhile working in the Near East, Kerr met fellow relief worker Elsa Reckman, who would become his wife. Elsa also taught math at the Marash Women’s College. My grandmother Anna (Kalpakian) Kherlopian was from Marash and knew the Kerrs personally.

After the Great War, French forces were in control of Marash. However, war broke out again in the winter of 1920 and the French army abandoned the area. This left the remaining Armenians to face massacre once again. Churches and schools were burned to the ground with innocent civilians inside. An ancient civilization was completely uprooted.

Stanley Kerr wrote about what he witnessed in The Lions of Marash. His book also incorporates a collection of other eyewitness accounts from missionaries, clergy, doctors, and officials. He concluded his memoir with these words: “Of the eighty-six thousand living in the district of Marash in 1914, only twelve thousand were known to have survived …. The ancient city of Marash, with a history extending far into the dim past beyond the Hittite period and once largely populated by the Armenians, had finally become purely Turkish.”

Stanley Kerr left Marash in 1922 with a group of Armenian orphans to go to Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon. He was in charge of an Armenian orphanage there with his wife Elsa before it closed. In 1925, Stanley earned a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and became the chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the American University of Beirut.

Stanley Kerr’s son, Malcolm Kerr, followed in his father’s footsteps and became an academic. He later went on to become the president of the American University of Beirut. Tragically, on January 18th 1984, Malcolm was assassinated in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War. Steve Kerr was a freshman playing ball for the University of Arizona when he heard of his father’s murder.

When reading about the extreme atrocities and massive loss of life in the genocide, it is easy to lose hope in humanity. However, focusing on the people who offered precious help in that circumstance will enable us to see the goodness of humankind. The Kerr family is one of those lights within the dark chapters of Armenian history. They exemplified moral courage by their willingness to leave the comfort of America to educate and serve widows and orphans in a distant land. For us today, the question becomes whether we have a duty not only to celebrate their legacy but also to emulate it.

 

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American Board of Missions and Near East Relief personnel in Marash in 1920. Left to Right: Rev. James K. Lyman, Ellen Blakely, Kate Ainslie, Evelyn Trostle, Paul Snyder, Bessie Hardy, Stanley E. Kerr, Mrs. Marion Wilson, and Dr. Marion Wilson

HolyMartyrsIconLR

Raise Three Fingers for Your Faith!

Jensine Oerts Peters was a Danish missionary who spent her life serving the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Below is her account of the martyrdom of the men from Malatya, during the Hamidian Massacres in 1896.

“Forty-six men were lined up against the wall, their tormentors, armed to the teeth, facing them. They were given the alternative of raising one finger, signifying one God and Mohammed, His one prophet, to save their lives. Not a hand stirred as they stood facing death. Then they were asked to raise three fingers for their faith in the triune God, which would mean death. This time the hands came up with the three fingers. This done, they were led to the waiting block, and in less than thirty minutes all were decapitated, their bodies heaped up in a corner of the courtyard, and their spirits were in the presence of the Lord forever safe from their enemies.”

Jensine’s memoir about her work with the Armenians can be found online right here: Tests and Triumphs of Armenians in Turkey and Macedonia. 
TedNeeleyJesusChristSuperstar

Did Jesus Sing?

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. -Mark 14:26

Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples at the Last Supper. It was the last thing he did with them. I wonder what kind of hymn it was …

Was it considered contemporary or traditional? Was it sung in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek? Was it done acapella and did Peter ‘The Rock’ Son of Jonah have a solo? Or was there instrumentation? Maybe James and John are called the ‘Sons of Thunder’ because they can play a mean harp. (“Sons of Thunder” is the name of an 80s Christian rock band. I Googled it; check it out, actually, please don’t.)

Because the song was after a Passover meal, it was most likely one of these Psalms: 113-118. If I were to pick one, I would go with Psalm 118, which is often quoted in the New Testament. Plus, it is a victory song speaking about the day when God becomes our salvation:

“The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous… The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  ––Psalm 118:14, 22

The truth is no one knows for sure what was sung that night, but I am certain the disciples sang that song again and again and when they did, it reminded them of their friend Jesus and what he did for them on the night of his betrayal.

I love the Armenian instrument of the duduk because of its range of emotion. It can produce the saddest noise imaginable(The Passion of the Christ and Gladiator) but it can also get people celebrating on the dance floor. I imagine the hymn the disciples sang with Jesus probably had the emotional range of a duduk, where it started on the low note of Good Friday but ended with the high note of Easter.

The hymn sung at the Last Supper was the first of many hymns that would remind disciples throughout history of Jesus’ victory over the grave. Thousands of songs have been written in various periods and languages since that night, praising Jesus Christ for his sacrificial love and the salvation he brings.

Church, let us sing and be grateful for our Singing savior!

OXYGEN VOLUME 13

Spiritual But Not Religious?

 

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”—James 1:27

Half of the people my age have a negative impression of religion. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, only 55 percent of millennials (ages 18-34) think that religious organizations have a positive effect in the United States. This is down from 73 percent in 2010. I believe that this decline is due to the church’s failure to live out its calling among the general public. I also blame the trendy phrase, “I am spiritual but not religious.” The church in America needs to reclaim a Christian understanding of the words “religion” and “spirituality.”

Young evangelical Christians often say they are spiritual but not religious to emphasize their personal relationship with Jesus Christ over rules and commandments. I have also heard it from my friends who acknowledge a spiritual nature to their existence while rejecting the dogmas of major religions. I am for religion so long as it is the one based on Jesus Christ. I am all for spirituality so long as it is Holy Spirit filled.

Calling someone religious may be a nice way of saying that person is a bit weird, boring, or judgmental. When we think of “religious” people, we may imagine people like the Pharisees and Sadducees, whom Jesus decried for being hypocritical and legalistic. Pharisaical behavior is what the Christian religion is called to condemn—not exhibit. For, Christianity is about loving others as Jesus Christ loves us. In its pure form, it is taking care of those in society who cannot give you anything in return.

Simply because something is spiritual doesn’t automatically make it a good thing. In fact, there are a lot of spiritual things that go against God. However, where the Holy Spirit is at work, God is present. Peace, love, joy, and kindness are the results of the work of the Holy Ghost (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit unlocks the mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and enables us to cry out to God as our Abba, Father (Romans 8:15). We cannot be Christian apart from the spirituality that is gifted to us by the Holy Spirit.

Let us call ourselves religious so long as it is based on Jesus Christ. Let us call ourselves spiritual so long as it grounded in the Holy Spirit. This is the type of religion and spirituality for which humanity is created.

Wisemen

Magi Vs Priests

Before Vartan the Brave made his epic stand against the Persian forces in the Battle of Avarair, there was a clash between the clergy. Before the Armenian warriors took on the war elephants by the banks of the Dughmood River, there was a war raging over the souls of the people. It was a battle between Christianity and Zoroastrianism, a fight between priests and magi.

The year was 451 C.E., and the Sassanid Persian King Hazegerd II felt politically threatened by the Christian identity of the Armenians under his rule. He made a decree that they renounce their Christianity and accept Zoroastrianism. The Armenians refused. In the writings of Yeghisheh, who chronicles the events of Vartan, two letters are preserved. One is from the magi of Zoroastrianism, which indicates what the magi found wrong with Christianity and why they insisted Armenians relinquish their faith. The other letter is a response from the Armenian bishops, defending belief in Jesus Christ.

The first grievance the magi had against Christianity concerned its view on creation. An ancient religion, Zoroastrianism maintains that two forces were at work in the creation of the world. These forces—a deity of light and a deity of darkness—are said to be in continual battle with one another. The opposite sides call to mind a backgammon game—only the world happens to be their board.

The Armenian priests responded to the first complaint by saying that they believed in one God who made all things good. He who created the world ex nihilo – out of nothing – is Himself outside of space and time. “God has not received a beginning from anyone else, but He is eternal through himself. He is not bound by space, for He himself is space. He is not confined within any time, for all time has its existence from Him.” God is the Creator who is control of His creation, and that creation is affirmed as good.

The second criticism that the Persian magi had regarded the Armenian lifestyle. Their complaint reads: “Do not believe your clergy when they say it is very sinful to accumulate wealth; they respect misery and denounce success. They ridicule the name of fate and mock fame severely. They love plainness of apparel and respect the dishonorable more than the honorable.” The way of life the Persians mocked was the life of Christ. Jesus reveals to us that humility is a virtue, that we should take care of the poor, and that we should serve others rather than be served. 

Thirdly, the magi opposed belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had difficulty accepting central tenets of the faith such as the Virgin Mary, the shameful death of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection. The Armenian clergy knew that Jesus was the risen Lord whether or not others believed it to be true. They had encountered the Holy Spirit; their only rebuttal was their willingness to be martyrs. Thus, they concluded their letter: “From this faith no one can shake us, neither angels nor men; neither sword, nor fire, nor water, nor any, nor all other horrid tortures. All our goods and possessions are in your hands, our bodies are before you; dispose of them as you will. If you leave us to our belief, we will, here on earth, choose no other master in your place, and in heaven choose no other God in place of Jesus Christ, for there is no other God. But should you require anything beyond this great testimony, here we are; our bodies are in your hands; do with them as you please. Tortures from you, submission from us; the swords is yours, the neck ours. We are no better than our forefathers, who, for the sake of this faith, surrendered their goods, their possessions, and their bodies. Were we even immortal, it would become us to die for the love of Christ; He himself is immortal and so loved us that He took death on Himself, that we, by His death, might be freed from eternal death.”

Let us be encouraged by the faith of our ancestors by living the same faith out today. Let us praise our Creator rather than the creation. Let us live like Christ rather than live for money, sex and/or power. Let us be empowered by the Holy Spirit to scorn any earthly shame that comes from believing the Gospel, for it is the power of life over death.

Dr. GrandFather Kherlopian

My Grandbaba: A Man of Faith and Science

I never got to meet my grandfather, but I have got to know him through memories he made with others. The information below comes from a book written in Armenian entitled: “Armenian History of Aintab.”

Dr. Yervant Kherlopian was born in 1890 in Aintab, which is currently called Gaziantep in south central Turkey. His father Hovannes was a prominent merchant and a pillar of the Protestant Armenian Church in the Kayajik district of Aintab. Hovannes was known for his prudent and ambitious commercial ventures and for his wisdom. Hovanness graduated from Central College, class of 1880.

Yervant grew up in Aleppo, Syria, where his father’s businesses had taken him. After completing grade school in Aleppo, he came back to Aintab to attend Central College, where he graduated in 1912. Later, Yervant enrolled in the Ottoman Medical University in Damascus, Syria. Since it was during the Great War and because the Ottoman’s were in need of medics, he was enlisted in the Ottoman Army and given the military rank of Captain. He was in charge of field hospitals near the Suez Canal. Because of his enrollment in the army, Yervant avoided being sent to Deir-Zor, Syria to be massacred in the Armenian Genocide. After the war, in 1917 he resumed his medical studies. Yervant graduated in the fall of 1918, at a ceremony where King Faisal personally gave him his certificate as a Medical Doctor.

Between 1918-1920, Dr. Kheropian served in the ruling British Army and settled in Aleppo, where he was the head of the Red Cross Hospital and the National Orphanage. During that time he was offered several opportunities to relocate to U.S.A., but he decided to remain in Syria to help both the Armenian and non-Armenian people there.

In 1930, Dr. Kherlopian married Anna Kalpakian (Daughter of Dr. Avedis Kalpakian) and had three daughters and two sons.

Yervant started a hospital in the small village of Ras-Al-Maara, Syria, which is between Aleppo and Hamma, further expanding the clinic in 1938 to the City of Homs which he used as base of operation, until he passed away at age 78. His funeral was on a Thursday October 24, 1968, for which hundreds of people of all ethnic origins and social classes had come from far and wide to give their respects.

Up to his passing, Dr. Kherlopian ceaselessly operated  both hospitals. Never to have been known to take vacation or time off for the 47 years that he dedicated himself to tend to the health of all people.

Dr. Kherlopian was a devout Christian. He preached the Gospel regularly at the Armenian Evangelical Church in Homs when resident clergy were not available.

He was also a leading supporter of AGBU and a veteran member. He dedicated his life with pleasure to the community in all aspects, including schools, orphanages, churches, and the arts. Dignitaries used to travel to see him and gave their respects to Dr. Yervant Kherlopian.

Խորհուրդ մեծ եւ սքանչելի, որ յայսմ աւուր յայտնեցաւ. Հովիւք երգեն ընդ հրեշտակս, տան աւետիս աշխարհի։

Ծընաւ նոր Արքայի, Բեդղեհեմ քաղաքի. Որդիք մարդկան օրհնեցէք, զի վասըն մեր մարմնացաւ։ Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ։

GREAT MYSTERY

The great and magnificent Mystery is revealed today; shepherds and angels shared the good news with the world; A new king is born in the city of Bethlehem; praise him, sons of men, for he was made incarnate for us. “Christ is born and is revealed.”

 Movses Khorenatsi, 5th Century

Photo and Art By Lionsketch

Patience Is A Virtue

The popular expression “patience is a virtue” derives from a fifth-century epic poem, “Psychomachia” (which translated means “soul war”). In the narrative, virtues and vices are personified forces that duel one another on the battlefield. One of the fights is between Patience and Anger. Anger assaults Patience with her attacks. Patience is able to hold her ground and take every attack Anger throws at her. Anger is so frustrated that her assaults are not working that she self-destructs, killing herself. Patience is victorious because she endures the punishment of Anger and does not respond in kind.

Love is the greatest Christian virtue, and patience is a vital component for being a loving person. While the statement “patience is a virtue” is not found in the Bible its sentiment is there. The opening line to the Apostle Paul’s love hymn is “love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Furthermore, patience is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 ESV). To be like Christ is to be patient. It is to be able to endure hardship, to resist being flustered easily and acting out in fear or pride. It is to be at peace knowing that God is in control.

Advent is a season for “patience training.” It is a time for waiting on God and trusting in the promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is a period to reflect on the truth that Christ has come and that Christ will come again.

However, Advent has been replaced by a season filled with the vices of consumerism and commercialization. Black Friday has become the most sacred of holidays during this time of year. We have become less grateful for what we have at Thanksgiving as is shown by our desire for more stuff at discounted deals. Black Friday has supplanted Christmas as well; rather than celebrate the free gift of grace, we take joy in gifts that do not last. Advent is a time for the church to practice patience and combat greed.

 

 

 

bbq-lamb-kebabs

I Eat, Therefore I am

Everyone needs to eat to survive; it is one of the basic drives we share with the rest of the seven billion people on Earth. But food also provides a unique cultural expression that gives flavor, as it were, to civilization. For example, what I first associate with the word ‘Mexican’ is not a neighboring country or its people, but a burrito (I know, feel free to judge me). When I hear the word ‘Thai,’ I don’t think about beautiful beaches and elephants but the newest Thai restaurant that has opened up in the city. Food is a vital cultural expression that sometimes supplants other cultural markers.

Food also helps us understand the diversity within cultures. Armenians love kebab, but one can tell whether people speak Western or Eastern Armenian based on how they prepare their kebabs. In America, pizza is from New York if it is thin crust and from Chicago if it is deep dish. Bagels are another example: if you are having a good bagel, chances are you are in the New York metro area, and if you are having an awful bagel, you are living elsewhere.

Further, trends in cuisine may indicate trends in society. There is a health movement where people are saying ‘no’ to fast food and ‘yes’ to what is organic and healthy (ba da ba ba ba i’m lovin it). In addition, food characterizes generations. I believe that Millennials will be remembered for their contributions to society of microbreweries, artisan coffee shops, and smoothie stands (Thank you Hipsters).

What is more, food is linked strongly to certain events, whether the Fourth of July (hot dogs and burgers), Thanksgiving (mashed potatoes, turkey, and stuffing), Christmas (hams), and Easter (lambs). For me, growing up as an Armenian-American, all of these holidays included an amazing assortment of appetizers and killer kebab as an additional entrée.

Is there such a thing as Christian food, something that unites Christians across cultures and places? Yes, the Eucharist!

The Lord’s Supper shapes our identity as followers of Jesus Christ. When we take communion, we are welcomed by the Holy Spirit to share a meal with God. The bread and the wine are our reminder that God has given us a new identity—formerly sinners, now we are sanctified. At Jesus’ table, we are told that God has created new life from death. The meal is the sign that we belong under the new covenant of forgiveness and redemption because Jesus Christ broke his body and shed his blood for our sake. 

Thanks be to God, who has prepared the meal and invites us to the table!

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