"Evangelicals Turn Toward...The Orthodox Church?"

This is a GREAt article. As someone who regularly attended the Divine Liturgy at a congregation belonging to the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (though not IN Jerusalem), Orthodoxy is very significant and, at times, attractive. Truly, "it is significant nonetheless that a growing number of Southern Baptists and Presbyterians and Assemblies of God members have left the evangelical fold, turning to a religion that is not only not American, but not even Western. Their flight signals a growing dissatisfaction among some evangelicals with the state of their churches and their complicated relationship with the modern world."

I think this shift is very significant precisely because it is a departure from Western Christianity (Protestants, evangelicals, and Roman Catholics are all Western Christians, generally). Rather we see Americans embracing Eastern Christianity. In some ways the gulf between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity is wider than the gulf that Americans focus on, that is, the gulf between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

Many of you know little about Orthodoxy, but of all the Christian traditions it knows Islam the best. Please read, this is from the The New Republic:

[...] And, due to the prominent evangelicals he now ministered to, he became something of a prominent evangelical himself--routinely meeting with the many evangelical leaders who constantly came through Wheaton. "I was at the very center of the religious world that I'd been a part of for most of my life," he says. "It was quite a promotion from where I was before."

From a spiritual perspective, however, Ellsworth was suffering. Over the past 20 years, a growing number of evangelical churches have joined what is called the "church growth movement," which favors a more contemporary, market-driven style of worship--with rock 'n' roll "praise songs" supplanting traditional hymns and dramatic sketches replacing preachy sermons--in the hope of attracting new members and turning churches into megachurches. First Baptist of Wheaton was not immune to this trend: Ellsworth increasingly found himself fighting with congregants about the way worship was being done. "They wanted to replace our organ with a drum set and do similar things that boiled down not to doctrine, but to personal preference," he explains. "I said, That's not going to happen as long as I'm here.'" It didn't. In 2000, after 13 years as the pastor of First Baptist, Ellsworth was forced out.

For Ellsworth, his departure from First Baptist triggered both a professional and a spiritual crisis. But, before he could deal with the former, he felt he had to address the latter. He devoted himself to reading theology and church history. At first, he seemed headed in the direction of the Calvinist-influenced Reformed Baptist Church or the Anglican Church, which are where evangelicals in search of a more classical Christian style of worship often end up. But, as Ellsworth continued in his own personal search, his readings and discussions began taking him further and further past the Reformation and ever deeper into church history. And, gradually, much to his surprise, he found himself growing increasingly interested in a church he once knew virtually nothing about: the Orthodox Church. "I really thought he'd go to Canterbury," says Alan Jacobs, a Wheaton College English professor and Anglican who is friendly with Ellsworth. "But he took a sudden right turn and wound up in Constantinople."

Ellsworth began reading more and more about Orthodox Christianity--eventually spending close to $10,000 on Orthodox books. By 2005, he was regularly visiting an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago (the Antiochian Orthodox Church is Middle Eastern in background and the seat of its patriarchate is in Damascus). By late 2006, Ellsworth realized that he wanted to be Orthodox himself. On the first Sunday of the following February, an Orthodox priest in Chicago anointed him with holy oil and he was chrismated--or formally received--into the Orthodox Church. A month later, at the age of 62, he was ordained as an Orthodox priest himself.

[...]

Comments

Rob said…
Actually, many evangelicals come each year into the Catholic or Orthodox folds. The key issue seems to be apostolic succession and it comes about often after they study the Fathers of he Church and learn about liturgy.

Myself, I am happy for them to come into either Church and receive the sacraments. I suspect, on occasion, many convert to Orthodoxy instead of Roman Catholicism because it brings them into apostolic succesion but they still get to hate Catholics! LOL!
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Rob, I think one of the things attractive about Orthodoxy is that you indeed have a high view of Mary, but don't have to deal with teachings like the immaculate conception (which the Orthodox don't believe in) or papal supremacy.

That is what makes Orthodoxy somewhat attractive to me. But I think that there is still a very heavy identification with ethnicity in Orthodoxy in the USA, so you have ten Orthodox bishops (Russian, Greek, Antiochian, etc) in charge of the same city, which seems absurd to be totally honest.
Rob said…
-but don't have to deal with teachings like the immaculate conception (which the Orthodox don't believe in) or papal supremacy.-

Actually, the Orthodox do not so much as disbelieve in the immaculate conception, (many or most do). They resent the idea of making it dogma. As to Papal supremacy, they do believe in the bishop of Rome having primacy, but they resent the way it has been used historically and many think that there is no longer an official bishop of Rome since he is a heretic in their eyes.

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