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7 Mediators Between Heaven and Earth: The Forms of Spiritual Guidance and Debate on Spiritual Elders in Present-Day Russian Orthodoxy

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses specific problems that eldership has raised within the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), such as the limits of the pastoral power, individual freedom, the status and authority of a religious leader, and the healing power of holiness. It talks about starchestvo in today's Russia in four related contexts: as a genre; as a pastoral model based on a more intense relationship between the elder and his disciple; as a network, that is, a specific social structure within the church, often characterized by anti-globalist ideology; and as a debate on starchestvo in the church and mass media, including the critique of the so-called младостарчество (mladostartsy are literally "young elders"). The revival of spiritual elders and spiritual kinship in postsocialist Russia is a process that indicates the inclusive character of Orthodox ecclesiology which accommodates both hierarchical and non-hierarchical principles, institutional and charismatic forms of church authority.

Keywords: pastoral model; postsocialist Russia; Russian Orthodox Church (ROC); spiritual elders; starchestvo



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