by Kevin Allen
This is an excellent and hard hitting piece by the host of Ancient Faith Radio’s Ancient Faith Today. Kevin’s show the only live listener call-in radio program that discusses contemporary issues from the perspective of the Holy Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Ancient Faith Today can be heard Sunday nights on Ancient Faith Radio Talk at 5 p.m. Eastern time, 6 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Central time, and 8 p.m. Eastern time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A recent opinion article in The Christian Science Monitor, titled, “The Coming Collapse of Evangelicalism,” by the late blogger and evangelical pastor Michael Spencer (also known as “The Internet Monk”), created quite a stir with its publication in May 2012. (It was originally written in 2009). His apocalyptic opening lines were:
“Within two generations,evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants.” His prediction is that the evangelical movement in its varied forms is collapsing for a number of reasons, including the following:
• too close an identification with social and political conservatism and the so-called “culture wars”;
• failure to pass on to evangelical young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive;
• Christian education not having produced a people who can withstand the rising tide of secularism;
• Christian ministries increasingly coming into conflict with a secular society that sees its “good works” as “bad”;
• an inability to pass on to their children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith; and
• the sources of money will dry up.
Eastern Orthodox Churches will be short term beneficiaries.
One of his predictions will interest Eastern Orthodox Christians and its church leaders. He writes:
“Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the ‘conversion’ of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.”
Regardless of whether the author’s predictions come to pass in full, they certainly raise provocative questions. We are certainly seeing the fulfillment already, especially with the influx of evangelicals, Catholics, and Episcopalians or Anglicans coming into the Orthodox Church communions in America. According to surveys conducted for a 2010 study by Alexei Krindatch, a religious sociologist who specializes in Orthodox data collection, Orthodox churches in the U.S., including non-Chalcedonian churches, grew by 16 percent between the years 2000–2010. Compared with Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, Eastern Orthodox have a higher percentage of converts from other faith traditions, and in 2010 Eastern Orthodox parishes grew more in attendance (by 18 percent) than Roman Catholic (-2 percent), mainline Protestant churches (-1 percent) and Evangelical churches (+8 percent).
Growth through immigration versus evangelism
Before Orthodox start doing cartwheels and raising high fives, however, it would be wise to notice some of our own demographic and structural challenges. Despite publicity to the contrary, the growth of the Orthodox Church has resulted largely from immigration from Orthodox countries in three communions – Bulgarian (+122 percent); Romanian (+121 percent); and, Malankara Syrian Orthodox (+89 percent). Much more modest growth was experienced in the three largest communions – the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (AOCNA) – despite their greater resources, numbers of parishes, infrastructure and the fact that the GOA, OCA and AOCNA account for 80 percent of all U.S. Orthodox Church adherents.
According to a recent survey, the average age of parishioners of the two largest Orthodox communions (GOA and OCA) is 52 years. That is not exactly a favorable demographic trend if it continues. Krindatch notes that, among GOA and OCA parishioners, only one-third are under the age of 45 years.
Problem retaining our youth
It is well-known that many of our Orthodox communions fail to retain their cradle-born youth. We Orthodox converts, too, have had to face the sobering reality that our own cradle-born Orthodox children and grandchildren are not any more likely to stay faithful to the Orthodox Christian faith than previous generations of cradleborn, or mainstream Protestants or Catholics, especially when they go off to college or marry outside the church. As a former Sunday School
teacher, I sense we are failing to educate and catechize our youth appropriately or successfully to meet the challenges of the American secular onslaught (what I call “the People Magazine culture”). Speaking anecdotally, my estimate is that 50 percent or more of the high-schoolers I taught in my classes are no longer identified with the Orthodox Church.
Where are the Orthodox colleges?
One of the ways of educating and retaining youth is through religious-affiliated college education. A cursory review of Presbyterian colleges, a Calvinist Christian denomination with two million members (down 2.9 percent in 2010, according to recent data), indicates there are over sixty Presbyterian-affiliated colleges and universities in the United States. How many undergraduate liberal arts colleges exist in the Eastern Orthodox community? Two: Hellenic College in Boston (part of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological Seminary and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese), and the newly-created pan-Orthodox Saint Katherine College in North San Diego, California. They have fewer than 500 undergraduate students between them. Even though the need is so great, organizations like the Orthodox Christian Fellowship – geared to college-aged Orthodox – struggle historically for financial and organizational viability.
Orthodoxy also has an “image” problem. Eastern Orthodoxy in the U.S. continues to struggle to this day with its identity, focus and purpose. Although 9 out of 10 Orthodox are born in the U.S., the impression people outside the Orthodox Church have is that we are still an “immigrant and ethnic church.” This is clearly an impediment to potential American inquirers. Frankly, the fact that Orthodox communions continue to identify themselves (except for the Orthodox Church in America) with names associated with their “old world” and ethnic origins – Greek, Antioch, Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian, Russian, and so forth – is a serious “branding” and evangelizing problem for the Orthodox Church in terms of appealing to Americans. Tied to this is the fact that foreign languages are still much more prevalent in Eastern Orthodox churches (46 percent) than in Roman Catholic (25 percent) and Protestant Churches (8 percent). An example of this continuing ethnocentric reality in some Orthodox communions is a recent poll, in which the largest Orthodox communion reported a margin of 52 percent of those polled agreed with this statement:
“Our parish has a strong ethnic identity that we are trying to preserve.”
This could be related to an existential fact: all the Orthodox communions in America (over 20), with one exception (Orthodox Church in America), operate under the ecclesiastical authority of Synods in countries outside the United States, in contradiction to Orthodox ecclesiastical canons. In some instances, there appears to be little understanding of American culture and its needs, or interest in them.
A distribution challenge
We have a “distribution” problem, too. 45 percent of all adherents of U.S. Eastern Orthodox Churches live in five states: New York (14 percent), California (10 percent), Illinois (8 percent), Pennsylvania (6.5 percent), and Massachusetts (6 percent). People in some cities and states in the U.S. could not find an Orthodox Church of any communion even if they wanted to. (The situation is far worse in Western Europe.) Nationwide, the proportion of adherents of the various Orthodox Christian Churches to the total country’s population is small – 0.34 percent.
Not reaching minorities
We Orthodox are also “isolationists” by a wide margin when it comes to ecumenical, social interaction and evangelism, when compared to Protestants and Catholics. One glaring example: we are not reaching minorities. Despite the fact that now over 50 percent of newborn babies are no longer Caucasian, the Orthodox Church has only one African-American priest (so far as I know). There is an inner-city mission in Kansas City in an African-American neighborhood (led by a non- African-American priest). I am not personally aware of any Hispanic priests, though we do have one or two local Hispanic ministries (Los Angeles and Dallas) led by non-Hispanic Spanish-fluent priests. These are excellent, but small ministries.
To the best of my knowledge there is no “strategic vision” for reaching Latinos and African-Americans in the Orthodox Church. Through the new social service agency FOCUS North America (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve) members of the Orthodox Church are making the Church more visible, and interacting with non- Orthodox. While they are serving the poor and needy in a few major “inner cities,” overall our interaction with minority society and culture in general is negligible.
Not on parity financially with Protestants or Catholics
Recent surveys also indicate that the financial strength of Orthodox parishes is weaker on a congregation-by-congregation basis when compared to Protestant congregations and Catholic parishes. This financial weakness affects our ability to provide sufficient incomes and benefits for our priests, to do missions, evangelism, youth and college ministry, ministry to our communities, social service and Orthodox media – all of which are vital to the growth and success of the Orthodox Church in the United States. Failing to evangelize the culture
Finally, we have not seen much success or, sadly, interest on the part of Orthodox communions in general in evangelizing our culture, beyond receiving a trickle of disaffected evangelicals. (The exception to this generalization are Orthodox new media, some individuals in the church, and Orthodox publishing houses.) Despite the fact that the demographic group in American society labeled “millenials” (age 18–30) barely self-identifies as “Christian” any longer, there have been no serious efforts so far as I can tell to reach this demographic group. We live in a culture hungry for “spirituality,” but again for the most part we are not reaching – or attempting to reach – spiritual seekers in new age, Hindu or Buddhist sects (there are over 800,000 American-born Buddhists in the U.S.). We are not targeting or reaching minorities. Our college students are largely on their own.
Are we ready?
So the question is, Are we ready to meet the challenges being presented to us in this culture by those who are becoming increasingly disaffected with other Christian traditions, and by spiritual seekers looking for meaning and purpose missing in the post-modern secular culture? As much as I love the Orthodox Church, my answer to the question is, sadly, “No.” By God’s grace, we need to raise up a new generation of visionary leaders – episcopal and lay – who see the Eastern Orthodox Church in the United States not as an ethnic or “boutique” church, not as an appendage to churches in other countries, but as a vital Church with the authentic apostolic tradition, legacy and legitimate mission in this land.
I called the local Greek Orthodox Church in my town.
I was treated in a rather cool manner by the Secretary and no return call from the Priest whatsoever. The smae has happened to a friend of mine when looking at other Orthodox Churches because he was not Serbian or Egyptian or whatever the ethnic group was.
On the other hand, at a small Church with Mission Status greeted all of us and gave Blessed Bread and went out of their way to explain some things in an instant tour. ( We were a combination of Catholic and Protestant -most with a Liturgy based background. So it was not our first encounter with the Saints and veneration of Holy Objects leading to Christ.) I love the Liturgy but most Churches seem to be so stand offish or assume that we know all that is going on—or they are mystified as to why we were there. Jesus is not ( nor ever was) an Arab, Russian, Greek, Serb, European or what not. Our Savior is JEWISH who calls us to the True Faith of HIS founding. I believe that to be Orthodox AND Catholic realizing that history and human mistakes and doctrine and pointing of the fingers and egos have done more harm than good. It is my prayer that we hear the words and the Liturgy of the First Church of the Disciples –who were JEWS–and we adhere to it very well! Orthodoxy is the closest I ‘ve seen to this with regards to Apostolic Succession and the direct line to Antiquity—and relevance and deep meaning to our lives today. The Image of Christ is what we are called to be transformed to. If Orthodox Churches are rather cool to their visitors, what good will that do for the Church? The beauty and Liturgy belongs to ALL who are seeking. Ethnic division is just a step away from prejudice and builds more walls than bridges. Think of this: IN WESTERN SOCIETY WHERE FAR TOO MUCH IS CASUAL-PERHAPS THE ORTHODOX CHURCH CAN TEACH ALL PEOPLE THAT THIS IS THE HOUSE OF GOD-AND OUR LIVES TO GOD AND WITH GOD IS ANYTHING BUT CASUAL. Worship, Liturgy and Community can only build up a person—regardless of that person’s ethnicity. Nationalism can be a club mentality and that is NOT what St. Paul pursued on his Journey’s after he encountered the Living Christ. I will go back again—and again—and ask and ask and ask questions. I know and love the same Lord and Savior. Please don’t shut the door in the face of many because I’m not from the Middle East or am not Slavonic. Orthodoxy redefines Beauty—invite all people –ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO ARE YEARNING FOR MORE THAN A CASUAL SERVICE WITH JEANS, FLIP FLOPS, OVERHEAD PROJECTORS AND BASING THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH GOD ON EMOTION!! THANK YOU!
Kathleen Peters says
My husband and I [and soon one of our 3 children,an 18 year old man] have converted from the Catholic Church to the Russian Orthodox Church. We attend liturgy at a monastery that is filled with other American converts as well as Russians. Sorry to say, but this article sounds very “Catholic” in the sense that the focus is on everything else-not evangelizing enough, poor money, not having resources, etc. Our very holy Archimandrite’s advice is to simply and very often pray, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct those who are seeking, even the ones who do not know where to look for the answers to their hearts questions.
Lola LB says
There is a Hispanic priest – Fr. Antonio Perdomo. His Parish is St. George – http://www.stgeorgepantry.org
From what I understand, they have liturgical materials in Spanish.
While I agree that there will always be administrative issues within any organized body, I do feel that this article lacks a very serious spiritual aspect. It seems to be focused on “numbers matter” rather than the quality or health of the church. We can never discount the work of the Holy Spirit in these matters. If one is drawn to the Church, these issues raised won’t matter. I’m a non-denominational, Evangelical convert myself. My parish is 95 miles from my home, there is no special outreach programs, or even classes. The youngest people in the Church are in their 40’s (we are a young family) and there’s no social media presence. But that never deterred us to join the Church. Because it wasn’t about all those things, it’s about the spiritual healing and rock-solid foundation that the church offer. Sure, I was tempted by my “logic” and dark forces to never visit again because of these things, because the drive was too taxing, there weren’t enough programs for my 4 year old, no one was our age, etc…but God gave me the strength to see through these temporary things and realize that it wasn’t about what the Church could offer me, but what could I offer to God? It wasn’t about my comfort, but my eternal salvation.
That isn’t to say these aren’t admirable goals to have. But the Holy Spirit will guide those that earnestly seek and give them the power to overcome any perceived “deficiencies” much like I did. In the stories that I’ve read on this website, that seems to always be the case. It’s the icons, sincere worship, and Christ-centered theology that brings people to Orthodoxy. We must be good stewards of that, some of which is contained within this article.
Fr. John says
That is, indeed, what Journey To Orthodoxy is all about.
Fr. Ernesto Obregon is a Cuban priest. He has a popular blog, “OrthoCuban.”
My small Russian parish has quadrupled (probably more) over the past ten years. Last Sunday a Mexican gentleman was baptized.
Fr. John says
Yes, we know of Fr. Ernesto’s excellent work – is there some other point you wish to make?
A great article for pointing out some of the problems in the Orthodox Church. One question that came up to me was whether the potential weaknesses of the Evangelicals can’t apply to the Orthodox. I think that we can easily get caught up in US culture wars and lose sight of educating our own people in the basics. (Fortunately we never had any sources of money that could dry up LOL)
Another point that I wonder about is whether our “foreignness” hurts us or not. I think that the Orthodox Church offers a unique voice among US voices because it bridges the gap between countries and cultures. For example, if it weren’t for the Orthodox Church, I would not see issues in Russia, Syria, or Serbia in the same light. Americans can be isolationist and closed-minded, but the Orthodox are bumping into “foreignness” all the time. It may be the only time during the week that an American hears a language besides English, and that’s not all bad. As Americans, we have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters from overseas, and the Orthodox Church offers a great venue for us to learn.
Kevin Allen says
Thanks for the comments! The article is not about Orthodox Christianity’s “spirituality” or a denial that some individual parishes are welcoming of non-Orhodox inquires (or not). Rather the article attempts to speak more broadly to the structural challenges that the Eastern Orthodox churches in the U.S. have in light of the opportunities we have to evangelize our culture, hungry for spirituality. The data that has been collected is not anecdotal or speculative. These are the facts about the administrative and objective “state of the Church” at this point in time. My purpose in writing the article was not to criticize or to focus on a “number’s game” (as one post indicated) but to challenge us not to be triumphal with our modest growth (which in iteslf is good!) , but sober-minded about our challenges and opportunities.
Fr. John says
I don’t think it is a matter of foreignness so much as ‘tribalism.’
One thing all Orthodox Churches suffer from is this – if you’re part of the ‘tribe,’ you’re not only welcome, but forgiven any anti-Christian, or anti-Orthodox actions or deeds or positions, but if you are not part of the ‘tribe’ you are never forgiven for not being part of the ‘tribe!’
The recent invitation of former pro-abortion Senator Paul Sarbanes as honorary chair of the IOCC anniversary dinner was an appalling example of this.
No, to be sure, tribalism is the terminal illness of Orthodoxy.
I mentioned Fr. Obregon in response to this line in the article: ” I am not personally aware of any Hispanic priests. “
Fr. John says
Kevin may not personally be aware of the many that we have, that’s all he was saying. And the number is growing!
Fr. David Wooten says
An all Spanish-language mission has recently been founded in Miami, FL. I am the priest there and, though I am not Hispanic myself (neither is my wife nor anyone in our families), this is a ministry type that we believe is necessary. Culturally, this is a new thing with little precedence, so please pray for us and for our continued development, that the Holy Spirit would guide us all in love and truth.
Fr. David Wooten, Priest, Iglesia Ortodoxa de los Santos Apóstoles.
Archimandrite John says
The dirty little secret is that the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese has a Western Rite Vicariate
(http://www.antiochian.org/western-rite) which has existed for over 50 years with full support of the Metropolitan (both Antony and Philip) as well as the Patriarchate. Unfortunately, it is often marginalized (sometimes, sadly, vilified) by some Protestant converts to Orthodoxy as well as others who have an incurable case of “romaphobia”.
We have a Cuban Western Rite Parish in Miami (Our Lady of Regla) served by a Cuban Priest, Fr. Miguel Lobo! There needs to be more Orthodox outreach and witness to the Hispanic Communities in the USA. This is very fertile ground as many have been disenfranchised from the RC Church and have been poached by the Evangelicals and Pentecostals. They are wonderful people and make truly devoted and faithful members of any congregation they join.
The support of the Vicariate is essential to non-tribal Orthodoxy as well as an authentic Orthodox voice to the West. We must not be afraid to embrace all in the West that is not contrary to the Orthodox Faith and make it speak for the Church to those in the West who have not heard the voice of Orthodoxy.
The West was fully Orthodox for a thousand years and much of that truly Orthodox teaching has remained. It need only be recaptured and embraced by Orthodoxy.
In the early days, the Apostles and their successors, as they taught the faith were not afraid to embrace the common philosophical vernacular of the Greco-Roman World to bring Christ to the non-Jewish peoples. This has always been the WAY of the Church.
Fr. John says
It’s no secret, and doing good work. Even ROCOR now has western-rite parishes and missions.
Ben Holmes says
Look at the case of Ireland. The Roman hierarchy is in a virtual free fall, especially after the Ryan Report came out a few years ago documenting decades of horrifying sexual abuse by Roman priests. This, of course, in tandem with a general rise of materialistic secularism.
Mass attendance is in great decline, as is youth participation at the parish level. Hostility to religion is at a sky-high rate in that traditionally Christian nation, and many pundits, perhaps, have rightly declared the demise of Catholic Ireland. Yet there is no united Orthodox Church serving as a “safe harbor” to the spiritual needs of the Irish people and to provide a moral voice in an increasingly dark age.
The anarchy inherent in Protestantism and the lack of central tenets is what will cause its demise. Most of them are good Christians, nonetheless, and they would provide such wonderful sources of evangelization for the Orthodox faith. But as long as too many people place ethnic traditions over God’s word, we probably won’t get too far.
Ben Holmes says
I think the major barrier is that many people are terrified of losing their ethnic traditions. We can and MUST still have Greek Fests and other festivals to celebrate our ethnic cultures. If you are a Serbian Christian (like myself), teach your children Srpski and take them on trips to the old country to reunite them to their primordial heritage. But in America, like all lands in which the Orthodox Faith was spread, preach the word of God in the language of the people.
God’s blessings, and good night to all fellow travelers on the road.
I am a Protestant who is deeply interested in Orthodoxy. While I can imagine that ” tribalism” can be a problem, I have not encountered it in the Antiochian parish that I attend. On the contrary, I have experienced nothing but love and genuine welcome. All institutions involving humans have flaws which need to be worked on, but some of the things mentioned in the article raise red flags for this Protestant. For example, observations to the effect that ‘our young people are leaving’ invariably lead to calls to compromise the faith to appear more attractive to the young-many of whom still have not learned the first lessons in following Jesus. I plead with God to not allow Orthodoxy to follow Evangelicalism and Catholicism down these paths. One of the things that I find most beautiful about the Orthodoxy that I have encountered is the emphasis on following the Shepherd rather than counting the sheep. Yours, in Christ.
Fr. John says
Thanks be to God for that. You are experiencing what we all wish to offer every soul in America – the Lord’s Gospel and His Church without barriers.
cynthia curran says
Well, what about reaching Asians, in California Asians are 14 percent of the population and Afro-Americans only 6 percent. Asians who come more from a non-christian background and think eastern might except Orthodoxy more. The biggest barrier is probably theological differences that developed from the east and west during the middle ages and sometimes before in late antiquity.
Michael Millard says
I would question some of premises for Evangelical collapse. They relate too closely to America. Globally evangelicalism is still on the rise, especially Pentecostalism (in South America) and other charismatic forms elsewhere. Here in England it is on the rise and is the only tradition within the Church of England that is doing so.
Fr. John says
Michael, Pentecostals aren’t Evangelicals. The charismatic ‘renewal’ has run its course in America, as it will elsewhere – neither form nor spiritual substance.
The article is pretty much correct. As a poor college student I attended an OCA parish for a year very regularly. At the end of the year, I knew only a handful of people and was tired of being on the receiving end of displeased glances from a clique of older and apparently quite wealthy parishioners who seemed displeased to see a few college students attending church in nice jeans/khaki slacks and polo shirts (my nicest clothes at this time).
There would be the traditional call to coffee hour, but the whole thing was more cliquish than junior high and everyone would sit in their private little groups every week. I remember one time a kinda young couple visited and they came to coffee hour where they spent about 5 to 10 minutes standing very awkwardly in the entrance to the community hall obviously not knowing what they should do before the wife muttered to her husband “lets just go honey”. So he grunted a yes and they did, and to my knowledge never came back.
The responses to all these real problems seem to be 1.) that being unwelcoming and deliberately foreign wouldn’t be a barrier for those who truly seek and if you burn out from all of that you must not be sincere and 2.) the Orthodox Church shouldn’t worry about such “western” or “pop-culture” or “protestant” things as numbers, trends and outreach, as it is the true church and of course the Holy Spirit will make it triumphant.
The problem with #1 is it’s an absurd No True Scotsman fallacy, and the problem with #2 is it’s ridiculous. Christ commanded evangelism. That means actively reaching out, not lounging and making oh so generous promises that if seekers (specifically in the Americas) manage to overcome all the barriers set in their way: cultural, social, logistical and theological, to join the church, they might be deemed worthwhile at that point.
Pardon me Fr John Pentecostals are definitely evangelicals. They’re just louder than their more reserved brethren. And not only are they not going anywhere but neither are the Orthodox or Copts or Roman Catholics or Traditional Protestants. We’re stuck with each other— in Christ. While our real enemies, out there, the atheists and the fanatic followers of a child marrying false prophet salivate at our divisions. I love you in Christ. I am Orthodox but I feel Jesus is bigger than Orthodoxy or Catholicism or Protestantism. You will see Orthodox and Protestants, Baptists and Roman Catholics sit together at the marriage feast of the Son. All Nicene Creed believing church members who are in Christ will be there. Yes I am sure some of you here would condemn this view and even me personally as a ‘heretic’. But let’s let time tell.
Fr. John says
I agree with your statements on Islam and atheism, but this isn’t a statement about love or loving each other in Christ – it is about Truth and the Church. Blurring the lines between differences, however charitably, does not do anyone any favors. We simply state and speak the Truth in love.
This podcast gave me some insights as to what is happening within the Evangelical Movements and within Protestantism as a whole.
It is amazing to me how there is an actual falling away (apostasy) taking place right now in the churches, under our noses, and we don’t even see it.
After listening to this lesson, it should be easy for us to see that there is a new gospel spreading all over the world.
This new gospel is not the Gospel that Jesus gave to the Apostles. This new gospel is centered around these temptations and they are not the Apostolic teachings handed down.
Could this new gospel actually be the falling away (apostasy) the Apostle Paul spoke of in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4?
If we hear someone preaching or teaching these temptations as our Christian inheritance, we need to – RUN !!! 2 Timothy 4:2-4
Fr. John says
Some of us are, and have been.
dean conzaman says
We need to spend out money on professional trained Orthodox youth directors with the resources and infrastructure to run great programs not build kitchens and banquet halls.
Fr. John says
Perhaps, but we don’t have any professionally trained Orthodox youth directors. And the ‘great programs’ thing is a canard, I think, to avoid working with kids to make them disciples. Keeping them busy in programs is not the way either.
All due respect, Fr John, a great many Pentecostal Christians of my acquaintance would greatly disagree with the assessment that they aren’t Evangelicals.
Bill Cordasco says
First, kudos to Kevin Allen, Fr. John, and all commenters. I think each perspective has great merit, but this ex LCMS Lutheran would advise not trying to be attractive to the culture at the expense of Truth, whose hard edges may repel some, if not most. Bottom line is we have to ourselves be witnesses by how we live, and when we have the chance, outreach to our neighbors, coworkers, friends AND relatives. Realize too that , to play on words and a great publication, we are all on THE ROAD TO EMMAUS. Christ spoke to those men on that road, person-to-person. That effort will,in my humble view, yield a richer, if smaller, harvest. Godspeed and blessings. Bill
Fr. John says
Bill, in reality, we won’t do ANYTHING at the expense of Truth, so rest well. That’s not an issue with us.
Tohoku Girl says
I am a liturgical, sacramental Christian who has held Orthodox Christian theological beliefs all through my walk from childhood to the present. I looked at Orthodoxy for over 20 years, but have not lived in a location where there was a church, or have encountered an Orthodox church of a certain origin where my inquiries were met with a grumpy response. This does not offend me or deter me from my path with God. As we have wandered from liturgical tradition to liturgical tradition like spiritual refugees, as those churches went apostate, or taught predestination which I cannot agree with, finally I am in a location where their are two Orthodox Christian communities. I am extremely blessed to be meeting with an Antiochian Orthodox priest and beginning classes to hopefully come home to the ancient church. This congregation is a mix of ethnicities and people both cradle Orthodox and those coming from other forms of Christianity. I understand what the author may be trying to express, that ethnic churches need to “break out of their ethnic ghettos”, as the Metropolitan who presided over the Evangelical Orthodox Group coming into Orthodoxy in the 1980s said, and welcome all those who seek to learn about and enter the Church of Christ, I strongly caution against the Orthodox Church worrying about image or that the origins of the churches such as Greek, Antiochian, etc. are the real issue. As if removing the names would make them more “marketable”. The ancient ties are part of the reason true seekers are here. Churches do need to reach out to people in English as well as the ethnic language by having different services if needed. Remember, people in any congregation of any denomination can be unwelcoming intentionally or not, it is not limited to ethnic causes alone. That is where the priest needs to be aware and cultivate in the laypeople to be welcoming, to remember it is Christ’s Body, not a social club. My experience is similar to WRClegg in the Antiochian parish I am attending, very welcoming. WRClegg, please remember brother that the Church is not an institution. Institutions are human in origin and as such will fail. The Church is the Body of Christ and the members have their human flaws as we are a work in progress as we walk the path of salvation, but the gates of hell shall not prevail over the Church. All the Orthodox writings and books I have read indicate, and I have also experienced, that it is not in numbers, it is in the quality of faith. Christ will draw people to himself, we are to provide the authenticity, the rock of faith, and the love and humility in receiving people. I am reading an excellent book that gives insight into how to set up the spiritual environment for God to work in. It is about the transformation of a community in Greece. It is entitled, Beauty for Ashes: The Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community, by Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffat. I highly recommend it as the “non-plan” that Bishop Meletios used in transformation was based on the spiritual, not the plans of man.
I apologize this was a bit rambling. Blessings to all. Christ is in our midst.
Fr. John says
A long post, but I’m going to allow it today.