Eastern Orthodoxy (Part VI)

By Frederica Mathewes-Green:

Eastern Orthodoxy is a fast-growing religious movement in North America. Why do you think this is the case?

Orthodoxy is fastest-growing in terms of percentage growth, but not in terms of numbers, I believe. The growth is undeniably due to conversions. In the jurisdiction (not denomination) that I belong to, the Archdiocese of Antioch (middle-eastern background, headquarters in Damascus on the "street called Straight"), the clergy are now 78% converts. This influx of educated, enthusiastic converts, lay as well as clergy, are bringing revival to the church. Historically, the church represented home-away-from-home for new immigrants, where they could speak the familiar language and eat familiar foods. I can sure understand that, when I picture living as an immigrant in Asia; the church attended by other Americans would be such a haven. But there is the danger that the church, obliged to fill so many roles, becomes a cultural emblem rather than truly a church. Praise God, I don't see revised, "updated," fashionable theology in Orthodox churches, but I sure do seem nominalism. When I travel and speak in Orthodox churches, longtime church members often tell me, "You converts are teaching us about our own faith, things we never knew." So there is renewal in Orthodoxy, though not at the numbers "fastest-growing" might suggest.

Here is a link to the rest of the interview.


Steve Scott said…

Thank you for your intresting series on Eastern Orthodoxy. It is very encouraging for an ignorant Evangelical Protestant like myself to hear of the revival in EO. This is encouraging but at the same time discouraging to know that our view of EO is one of deadness, even if there is revival. It may take a while for us to believe it.

Having an Elijah complex doesn't negate the 7000 others who are God's. Gee, can we trust Him with even that?
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Steve,

I think the growth of Orthodoxy in the USA is a good thing. Many of the folks becoming Orthodox come from an evangelical background actually, something with Mathewes-Green mentions throughout this interview.

I also want to point out that I have started to look at Christianity like the Orthodox: Eastern and Western, not "Bible-believing" and "nominal," or Protestant and Catholic.

Eastern Christians see Western Christians as part of one family, which means Catholics and Protestants are closer together than we may think.

In any case, I would say you should drop by your local Orthodox church and check it out. Very different, but there are aspects of the worship there that you may well appreciate. It certainly will feel less like a show/concert than what you may well be used to.
Steve Scott said…

My current church could be loosely called reformed baptist. I have also attended Dutch Reformed. A seed of interest in EO was planted about five years ago when an Indian national in our church who had immigrated to the US was married. Her family was Coptic and came over for the wedding. She married a bible-believing evangelical Indian (the bible-believing/nominal distinction was an issue) but the family desired a traditional EO element of the ceremony. They used our minister and an EO priest.

The EO elements of the ceremony were fascinating to me. Some of my co-religionists wrote it off as mere ritual, yet listening very closely I could discern that the content was not only Orthodox, but orthodox as well. Maybe someday I'll drop in to an EO church to check it out. Thanks again.
Abu Daoud said…
The thing that makes me really respect the Orthodox Christians is that between Islam and Communism it is a miracle they are still around at all. I mean, the brunt of those two movements did not fall on the Western churches at all, but almost entirely on the Orthodox.

I recently met with an Orthodox priest who has personally baptized over 500 Muslims himself. That seems hardly to match up with the lifeless church that American evangelicals think of, right?

Please do read the rest of the series on Orthodoxy and let me know what you think.

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