Former Episcopalian new top dog in Orthodox Church of America

Gotta love this guy! Just read this interview. Here are the last two questions:

Q: Orthodox churches are getting a significant number of converts from Western Christian traditions. Is that a reflection on Orthodoxy, on Western churches, or both?

A: To a great extent, many of the other churches are falling apart. The mainline Protestants, the Methodists, the Presbyterians. The Episcopalians have lost half their membership. The Baptists, even. The evangelical movement is already coming to an end. It's only about 100 years old in American culture, and it's kind of come to the fulfillment of its potential. The Orthodox Church is the fullness of the apostolic faith and the apostolic tradition. People find in it what they always thought Christianity should be.

Q: Given that situation, how can Orthodoxy go about raising its profile?

A: We very much believe in free will. You can't drag people kicking and screaming into the kingdom of heaven, as much as you might want to try. While we have not had, for the most part, an aggressive outreach, I think we need to look at different ways in which to reach out to the general population. Truly as it's said in many circles, Orthodoxy is America's best kept secret, and it's our fault.

[Abu Daoud says: do you think the evangelical movement in the US is really coming to an end? Or is he perhaps being too hasty?]


abu 'n um tulip said…
Thing is, he doesn't mention people moving in the other direction. Certainly there are also large numbers of people leaving Orthodoxy for evangelical churches, and that is likely nothing new.
Is evangelicalism coming to an end? Depends what you mean by it. I would hesitate to refer to his main examples (mainline forms of Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian) as "evangelical" at least by the American meaning of the word. They are not evangelical groups although they have many evangelicals in them, including subgroups.
That being said, many evangelicals and evangelical groups are starting to capitulate to the culture as much as these more "mainline" groups, which I take as a sign that they are headed down the same road of decline.
--Abu Tulip
Joel said…
I don't have numbers at hand, but it seems to me that all stripes of Christianity in the USA are in flux, some good, some bad. Read Jenkins Next Christendom and you'll see what the future may look like. Anglicanism, while staggering from heavy blows, is being renewed as we speak. Newer movements like Calvary Chapel, Sovereign Grace and Acts 29 are planting churches all the time.

I know of people who convert to Orthodoxy and then find it lifeless, completely lacking in Bible knowledge, and with no desire to evangelize. Orthodoxy always looks good on paper, but I think the reality is not as great.
canicus said…
Even though I am Orthodox, I must say that he is exagerrating Evangelicals' plight. It's not going to fall apart any time soon. It may shrink, but the fundamentalist segmant is growing.

Evangelicalism is changing, becoming even more emotional and less dogmatic (e.g. the "postmodern" movements). These movements are attracting people, and they seem to change rapidly (I've a few friends that migrate between postmodern Evangelical groups, so it's interesting to see their praxy change).

Also, the only churches that seem to be on a point of no return nosedive are those that started compromising with modernism. I hate to use the term "liberal", but it fits. The more liberal a denomination becomes, the less it can retain its members. Whether it is the RCC's troubles after Vatican II or the Episcopaleans in recent years, almost invariably when a group decides to conform, they lose membership.

What's more, this is connected, not to their doctrinal stances, but their social and moral stances. The people don't seem to care much about doctrine, so both sides make the Christian litmus test to be issues revolving around sexuality, abortion, and so on. There isn't much discussion at all about creedal differences. So, it isn't doctrinal or institutional liberalism that is a problem, but social liberalism.

Evangelicals, on a whole, are not social liberals, even if their theology is liberal. I don't believe that they are in any danger of going the way of the dinosaurs (notice that few of the groups my coreligionist listed were indeed Evangelical). I suspect, to the contrary, that there will probably be overall growth among socially conservative groups and decline among their opposites, regardless of theology.
Brett said…
I agree with canicus that the move is purely social. I am here in Texas, in the heart of the bible belt. As the larger denominations become more liberal in their social outlook the congregation begins to exit. But much of it is to smaller nonafilliated bible churches.

People are also going to where the entertainment is at and where they can plug in to a social network. Most are completely ignorant of doctrine (and I can say this for protestant, catholic, and orthodox alike) They are just there for the feeling and the networking.

While I believe God will always pull his flock to where they can be fed, and right relationship is more important than right concept. The most growing churches here are nondenom bible churches who have a simple summary of their beliefs and the rest is up for interpretation. Which leaves the room for heresy great.

But from my experience when people leave the protestant churches for a more orthodox tradition, their three choices in order of interest are 1. anglicanism (which could be protestant, catholic, neither or both) 2. Orthodox 3. RCC
drinklife said…
I am an evangelical that is in the process of converting to Orthodoxy. To say that evangelicalism has reached its potential is completely accurate in my life. Evangelicalism led me to Orthodoxy. Jesus prayed that we would all be ONE. It is His desire for all who believe to be unified. In my search I decided to go back to the beginning, before the Bible and find the Church that Jesus set up. Of course Orthodoxy is not perfect. Of course there are people who just go through the motions. Of course there are people who do not know the Bible. Of course there are people who are not concerned with outreach. These are not issues that only Orthodox communities have. Protestant, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, and Fundamentalists also have these tendencies. These are not problems with Orthodoxy, but rather problems with humanity. We must be patient in the West with Orthodoxy. It has been a faith that has suffered much for Christ. Since the 1500's it has existed under a hostile government and experienced tremendous persecution. Much more than Atheists wanting to put a sign up next to the Creche at the Washington State Capitol building. But prior to the Ottoman persecution and the Communist suppression, Orthodoxy was responsible for maintaining the scriptures and for evangelizing the Slavs. Over the 2000 since Christ, many thousand orthodox believers fought and died to preserve the proper Nicean Orthodoxy. One can hardly say these people just went through the motions. I think one of the major reason people leave the Orthodox Church is that is a bit demanding (well demanding may not be the word). Going to a mega church and listening to a great speaker and really cool songs is pretty easy. But standing up for 2 hours, fasting 3 times a year and weekly are not comfortable. Our society is a society of comfort. If it feels good I will do it, if it doesn't I won't. I am not an apologist for Orthodoxy and neither am I trying to convert anyone. I am simply saying that we ought to give them a break. Judge them on the theology, not just solely on the practice. After all it is call Orthodoxy and not Orthopraxy. We should extend the same grace toward them that we extend to ourselves. If Evangelicalism is true and good, it should lead to further unity within the Church, not more sectarianism. So when Metropolitan Jonah says that evangelicalism has reached its potential, from maybe his perspective, if it is leading people back to unity in the church then it is.

What do you see as the potential of Evangelicalism? What is the goal of Evangelicalism?
abu 'n um tulip said…
You all make some good points. drinklife, you are completely right that the Orthodox Church deserves credit for keeping the gospel light aglow in some parts of the world despite over a thousand years of oppression. I live in one of those areas.
Fascinating that as we discuss the future of evangelicalism, a leader of the evangelical movement breaks with the official line, endorsing homosexual civil unions, and resigns from his position.
for commentary from a couple of evangelical pastors.
Umm Daoud said…
I don't have too much to add to this discussion other than my own experience. Having grown up in the evangelical community, I found something very refreshing about the liturgical aspects of the RCC and (to a lesser extent) the Orthodox church. I think these people who have left the evangelical church felt a sort of disconnect with the Church that has existed over the centuries, and Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism provides that connection that they so desperately crave.

That being said, while I believe that evangelicalism is on the decline (it's not "new" and "exciting" anymore), i agree with canicus in saying that they're not going anywhere anytime soon, because the evangelical church provides the discipleship and biblical training that (in general) the RCC and OC is lacking for its laity.
Lucian said…
... and here are a few apostates from Orthodoxy:
drinklife said…
Apostasy is nothing new to the Christian faith. Demas left Paul, because he loved this world too much. Plenty of people fell away during periods of persecution. I am not sure what you are saying by pointing out people who have left Orthodoxy. I believe the same can be said of each stream of faith.

What do you see as the potential of Evangelicalism? What is the goal of Evangelicalism? Can one remain evangelical and be Orthodox?
Abu Daoud said…
After this great discussion I have decided to start a new church: The Evangelical Catholic Orthodox Church, and name myself as the Metropolitan of Arabia and the Eastern Hemisphere and Texas :-)

Just kidding, but seriously, I am home in sharq al awsat (the Middle East) safe and sound.


PS: Traveling with a broken leg really sucks. Except for the part about being able to cut in line at the various security checks.
Lucian said…
I am not sure what you are saying by pointing out people who have left Orthodoxy.

Because of the stupidity said in the article, that "Protestantism is perishing! Boo!".

And because I honestly care about them. (Especially about that Rapahel fellow over at Sarx: have You ever read his [old] articles? How he struggled so much and so honestly with his own flesh? With his own passions? How he really wanted to change? How and why he converted from liberal Anglicanism to Orthodoxy? And now he's a liberal *again*. Were he to have converted to more traditional Anglicanism and continued his good fight, I would've been more relieved). The reason I care so much about people is because, unfortunately, they're irreplaceable.

I believe the same can be said of each stream of faith.

Precisely; so why drawing the derailed conclusions?

Can one remain evangelical and be Orthodox?

No. (Can one remain a Buddhist and be Islamist?). Can one remain a quince and be a coconut?

What do you see as the potential of Evangelicalism? What is the goal of Evangelicalism?

I have absolutely no idea. I honestly don't know. (It's not about potential, it's about being right or wrong).
drinklife said…
So you see evangelicals and Orthodox as being part of completely different religions?

I am sorry maybe I don't know what the definition of evangelical is. Are evangelicals only protestant? How would you define Evangelical and how are Evangelicals different from RCC, Orthodox and other non-evangelical protestants?
Joel said…
Not sure what to make of this, but it's a weird side of Orthodoxy:
Rob said…
Heck, I'm a Catholic and critical of the evangelical movment, but you could only think it was coming to an end if you didn't live here. Not only is it NOT coming to an end, it is an integral part of the American character. When evangelicals are gone, America will be gone.
Rob said…

I can't take seriously a blog that has posts from the year 2010. All would do well to simply ignore that blog. And I say that as a Catholic who would love to do some Orthodox bashing. (Just kidding, Lucian! >:)
Joel said…
Rob, I believe that she deliberately made that post 2010 so that it would appear at the top of the blog no matter what. Think about it. She sounds very serious and very damaged to me.
Brett said…
Evangelical is more of an attitude within protestantism than a division of it. In Texas the attitude seems to be evangelical or Fundamentalist. You will find Evangelicals are more likely to be ecumenical and more willing to talk about their faith in a nondebative manner. Fundamentalists are the ones that will want to debate you verse by verse.

But never discount a fundamental as unkind or unloving. It is just that they are really passionate about their faith and truly feel that the Catholics and Orthodox are following the wrong path. It may be harsh and misguided, but it is truly out of a desire to want to save your soul.
Don said…
I think pronouncing Evangelicalism as dead is a little premature, to say the least. For all of its problems, there is still much vitality there, both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The big question for Evangelicalism from a societal point of view, however, is whether or not it can fill the vacuum left by the decline of Main Line churches. It would definitely like to, but for a wide variety of reasons I'm not holding my breath.
Lucian said…
Ya'all out there,

Yes, precisely: Orthodox Bishop Jonah is --just like atheist Arch-Priest John Lennon-- "a dreamer // he dreams his life away". :-)


as a Romanian living in Romania, Orthodoxy is what everybody is around here, so I can't relate to weird X-Files-like phenomena happening in the States, where the Orthodox are a miserly 0.00% spread over an area that's half-a-continent wide. Her story rings true, since anti-Semitism has a three-century-old history in Russia (it appeared during the reign of Peter the Great, who is responsible for the Westernizing of Russia -- mainly a good thing, but not only the good things in the West were imported from there) And the Old-Calendarists are schismatics, so weirdness is the legitimate fruit of their isolation (just like the existence of kangaroos in Australia, or that of dwarf-dinosaurs in pre-historic Romania).

Drink Life,

Stop drinking, man! It's bad for Ya! :-)

I think it's better to understand the Catholics first: they are the middle way between us and their Protestant offsprings. Protestantism is nothing more than a highly-intellectualized form of an already-scholastic Catholicism.
Lucian said…
Just kidding, Lucian! >:)

Yeah, ... like hell You were! >:)
drinklife said…
"I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees."
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

There have been many many many anti-Semites throughout church history. Luther was one. It does not excuse it, but if we are going to blame Orthodoxy on antisemitism then we need to be fair and expose it where ever it pops it head up.

That is a horrible experience that the woman in the article has gone through. Unfortunately that is a very common story in faith communities. Cultish behavior is found in every faith stream. If the article is supposed to be an example of the evils of Orthodoxy, I think that is a bit unfair. What I read in the article is not Orthodoxy, but control. The same events can be found in cultic groups throughout the world. But even if this behavior is tolerated or acceptible in certain areas, I reminded of the saying
"The Church is a Whore...but she is still my mother."

What do you all think? Will we ever find the perfect church? Is it attainable? Is it desirable? how would we know when we have found it?
Rob said…
-understand the Catholics first: they are the middle way between us and their Protestant offsprings-

Abu Daoud said…
Meanwhile, this article at IHT is about how amidst economic uncertainty evangelical churches are filling up. There must be some sense that these churches are doing something right, bc the same is not happening at other churches, according to the article.

Lucian said…

when Christ said "drink ye all of this", He pointed to the cup, ... not to the barrel. :-)


really loved You in the Abu Trilogy. :-) :D

On a more serious note, there's really no point in continuing to prove wrong a sentence that's been doomed to be false from the outset.


here's a timeline:

800 AD: Charl the Great build schools, `cause he wants to be just as school, err, just as cool as the East.

1000 AD: Scolasticism.

1500 AD: Rationalism, Descartes, cogito ergo sum, Protestantism, Calvin(ism).

I'm sorry, but I can't just whip the poor Prots like the Catholics don't even exist ... :-( Let'em have it! They deserve it! They brought it upon themselves with their own bare hands.
Joel said…
I think the word 'evangelical' is meaningless. We would do better to speak of Protestant, Lutheran, or something more specific.

But there is a better way for Protestants. It is outlined in books such as *Angels in the Architecture* by Jones and Wilson. They call it Protestant Medievalism, and it is part of the way forward. See also Leithart, *Against Christianity, for the Church*.
Lucian said…
I think the word 'evangelical' is meaningless

And *I* think that the word `Evangelical` means Neo-Protestant. I've never seen an American use the later, or a Romanian use the former (except, of course, when speaking of the Evangelical Confession, a branch of Calvinism or Lutheranism, I suppose).

Neo-Protestants (Evangelicals) are the Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, etc. (Traditional or historical) Protestants are Lutherans, Calvins, Anglicans, etc.
Rob said…

Now that is an apophatic timeline.

Which, of course, means that I don't understand it. :-)

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