Thursday, May 18, 2006

Birds of a Feather

Since my last post, some may get the impression that my trouble with an ethnic centered Orthodox parish is based on language, and nothing could be further from the truth.

But language is just a symptom of a deeper struggle in an Orthodox parish.

And that struggle is the same struggle being played out in our nation over immigration - the struggle of assimilation.

But in a parish setting, the struggle moves to a deeper challenge from a doctrinal position.

The fact is, we Christians are called to reproduce ourselves through authentic discipleship and evangelism. The Commission of the Church is to bring Christ to every "ethnos" around the world (Matthew 28:19).

No bishop or priest I have ever spoken to about this denies this or even attempts to explain this away. They all agree that this is a spiritual task of the Church, but how do we do this?

Well, let me say right off that I truly understand the desire of many to have religiously familiar worship. It makes sense to me for Greek immigrants to want to preserve something familiar in a strange country. It makes sense to me for a Russian immigrant to America to at least have one place in a community that reminds him of the home he loves. This makes sense to me. It also makes sense form a sociological standpoint. People naturally group together with others like themselves.

Hey, its the very basis for my own struggle as a convert to Orthodoxy. I miss the familiar around me. I miss not being around people like me. But I value the theology of Orthodoxy over my own comfort. I value Orthodox theology because I am convinced Orthodoxy has preserved the fullness of the Christian witness for America, but along with that theology comes an "ethnic" package that is a stumbling block to the "catholic" message of the faith.

From a sociological position, people want to be with others like themselves, but the Gospel calls us to a radical viewpoint, and that is the healing of those things that divide humanity. The vision of St. John in the Revelation was one of all believers gathered before the Throne of the Lamb from every kindred, tribe, and tongue.

This isn't just happening here. The Russian Church is struggling with the same issue in England. See

To be sure, while we are here on this side of Eternity, we struggle with the ramifications of the Gospel, but it should be at least a value in our hearts and minds.

Besides, is the Orthodox Church truly fulfilling its call to be the Body of Christ here in America if it continues to either ignore or to marginalize the vast majority of the population?

I'm not sure I have any answers about this, but I do know that my heart breaks for the Americans who wander lost in a spiritual sea of religious confusion when all the while the Orthodox Christian faith holds the remedy for their lostness. Is there any Orthodox Christian leaders out there who weep for lost America?

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