Hello - (I must warn apologize for the indirectness of this post, that is why I almost never post here or on other forums-)
This is my first post although I registered as a member on this forum almost a year ago, and I'm putting in the Orthodox/Protestant section in case my posts (or later ones in the thread) hint at any of the differences the two groups have that might merit further discussion. I grew up with a mix of Pentecostal/Assembles of God and evangelical Friends (Quaker) church attendance and approach to the Scriptures, and in the last few years, with attraction to liturgy I got baptized in an Episcopal church, which I guess I am an as-yet unconfirmed member of that denomination. So I would have to say that I am 'by default' a Protestant and not just a generic "Christian", because I still have quite a few reservations about many Orthodox beliefs for the usual Reformation-ist reasons, this in spite of reading only Orthodox (and some Catholic) apologetics material on the Internet for more than a year. (No comprehensive theology books though, as yet.) With that said...
Is it acceptable to Orthodox minds for self-identifying Protestants to perhaps regularly attend an Orthodox church (either the same one, or several concurrently) for an indefinite, ongoing period of time, without declaring an intention of enrolling as a catechumen or even meeting with a priest to discuss the prospect of this? (Or perhaps, should I, if inclined to do this, meet with the priest anyway and explain that I would like to attend the services without becoming a catechumen?) I should say that I have attended Orthodox churches in my city - one, a Serbian Orthodox church, three times, and a Greek Orthodox church once - and on outward appearance, I feel very out of place if I do not do any of the things that actual Orthodox do physically. Now, if I am not Orthodox or on a declared path to become one, need I worry about this feeling of un-ease? (It is why I only went to an Orthodox service once a month or so, and have not done so since the time of Pentecost.)
Perhaps I would, at a time foreseeably far ahead in the future, submit to “the mind of the Church” as I read about its defense all over this forum and on other online sources, and some snippets of a few books that I have read. Right now, I am not there although I admire what is, for the Orthodox who “get” it (or enough of it), the stalwart solid-rock defense of an ancient belief system continually renewed and re-articulated from previous into the present generations, without having diluting the traditions that have consistently voiced, imaged, written down and used all manner of faculties to express it. Where I am is theologically (for whatever that’s worth as a comparatively uneducated layman) conservative, aghast at the populist and “mega” trends attempting to deliver solid biblical truths in evangelical Protestantism, the seeming scholastically atheist and revisionist trends in mainline Protestantism, the saddening resignation of the “no-church” and “house-church” Bible-believing types – also I am enamored of historical continuity and so of traditional liturgies, disappointed by the passing of time-honored traditions in the liturgical Protestant groupings, and absolutely enamored of the thick and multi-layered liturgical and patristic offerings that I have seen in Orthodoxy. (I also see many, by the way, in Roman Catholicism, which also interests me but less so than Orthodoxy, and I’ll leave it at that.) What I have read of the Incarnation from several Church Fathers, and recalled in the texts of various church services that I have read online, as well as the centrality of the Life of Christ in Orthodoxy and worship of the Trinity is…well, transcendent, sublime. (Not to sound glib – the ‘stuff’ really is to me.) At the same time, I have typically Protestant “gut” reactions to much of Mariology, the understanding of icons as windows to Heaven, the seeming absolute denunciation of any concept of Christ’s death as substitutionary atonement, or the seeming lack of any serious consideration of the possibility of eternal damnation. (These are to name a few – and I wonder if the last two I mentioned are not used more polemically by zealous Orthodox apologists.) All that to say I feel like I am presently in an ecclesiastical ‘no-Christian’s-land’, if I may call it that.
So just to attend your services, read your literature, listen to your music and the like – but not declare or evince any immediate or even “soon” embrace of the Orthodox faith as a catechumen. How do you reckon most Orthodox would feel about that? (If it would probably be marked, that is.) Does one call attention to him- or herself if they, quietly and reservedly, frequently attend Orthodox services but do not make the sign of the cross, do not line up to venerate the icons, and do not meet with the priest to announce his or her visit either beforehand or after?
Many thanks for your thoughts!