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Author Topic: A Protestant Pastor's Response to an Orthodox Article  (Read 5815 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: February 09, 2011, 12:58:08 AM »

I hope that this thread will generate a productive and charitable discussion on the comparison between Protestantism and Orthodoxy. I sent this article by Rev. Dr. Miltiades Efthimiou to my dear friend and brother, Rev. Scott Castleman, and asked him to respond to it. He graciously took the time to provide a very well thought out and thorough response which I am reposting here with his permission. While I don’t agree with all of his points, I do think his response is worthy of consideration and reflection. He has told me that he welcomes critiques and criticism of his expressed views, but I sincerely ask that we all do so in a spirit of mutual Christian love and brotherhood.

Rev. Castleman and I have been close friends since our years in college together. In fact, he was the best man at my wedding. If it had not been for his genuine Christian love and loyalty over the years, I would not be Orthodox today. Rev. Castleman is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and is currently the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Selam


Here is the article I sent to him, and his response below in red:

HOW OLD IS THE ORTHODOX FAITH?
By Rev. Dr. Miltiades Efthimiou

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England, founded by Samuel Senbury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1606.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michelis Jones as founder because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1774.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, New York, in 1829.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are Christian Scientist, you  look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as "Church of the Nazarene,  Pentecostal Gospel," "Holiness Church," or  "Jehovah's Witnesses,"  your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past hundred years.

If you are Roman Catholic, your church shared the same rich apostolic and doctrinal heritage as the Orthodox Church for the first thousand years of its history, since during the first millennium they were one and the same Church. Lamentably, in 1054, the  Pope of Rome broke away from the other four Apostolic Patriarchates (which include Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), by tampering with the Original Creed of the Church, and considering himself to be infallible. Thus your church is 1,000 years old.

If you are Orthodox Christian, your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

It has not changed since that time. Our church is now almost 2,000 years old   and it is for this reason, that Orthodoxy, the Church of the Apostles  and the Fathers is considered the true "one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."

This is the greatest legacy that we can pass on to the young people of the new millennium.



Rev. Castleman's response:

I did read this. I value its look back to shifts in the church throughout history. The church is two things at once. It is the Holy family- the body of our Lord. It is also a human family in real time and place. It's truths are ancient. Its practices, though grounded in the timeless truth of God, can and should change in a way that reflects faithful incarnation.

The church has the beautiful privilege of being both ancient and modern- timeless and timely. Yes, my tradition is only 400 years old. But lost sinners and religion weary churchmen and churchwomen in Scotland 400 years ago needed an incarnate witness of timeless truth- they found that in the ministry of John Knox as well as others. That's not to say it was perfect truth- but the Truth, Jesus Christ, was clear enough to bear timely witness.

It seems to me that for all of the ancient practice of the Orthodox Church, it too has man's tradition- and much of it. It too has had to use common language as a means to understand an uncommon God. Whenever humanity strives with the Divine there is contamination. The Orthodox Church is not immune from that. The grace of God is that it is He who strove with us. In Christ God walked among a contaminated humanity- in real flesh and real blood- true incarnation. This is the mystery that makes the gospel good news. It says that at once there can be timeless divinity understood by common people in common language and in common practice. Our practice does not need to bear the burden of The Ancient exclusively- precisely because The Ancient bore the burden of our commonality.

I read this reply on one of your threads from (name withheld): “And it’s a church flag representing Ham, Shem, Japheth, 3 major races in the human family, and the HOLY TRINITY. Definitely not a secular flag, but must be placed on the right side of the altar during communion services in Ethiopian Churches as stated in the FETHA NEGAST."

This is a tradition of man. This was not instituted by Christ any more than the Presbyterian form of governance was. But it has value. It allows real people to remember a part of their story of striving with The Almighty. I should not begrudge this symbol of your ancient tradition anymore than one of your brethren should begrudge the lack of it in mine.

The variety of the expressions of ancient truth within the whole scope of the Church is our story. I can learn from the ancient practice and delight in the mystery of the Orthodox faith in the same way that the Orthodox tradition might be able to learn from newer expressions of those very same ancient truths.

Dogmatism is a slippery slope and people of all faithful expressions are ever in danger of becoming those who profane Christ by burning our heretics at the stake of our own human traditions.

Ancient traditions are at risk of losing their ability to become all things to all people that they might same some. Modern traditions are at risk of losing hold of the truth in their effort to become all things to all people resulting in saving none.

The incarnational burden means that as a church we take meaningful and decisive steps outward into this fallen world. But we pause, we look back from where we have come, and we take account to insure that those steps are consistent with where we have come from. The Church should always struggle with being ancient and modern all at once. If does not, it has lost sight of something Christ called his body to be about.

GMK, I value your passion. I value your story. I delighted in you discovering where God has called you to be in order to grow- to know- to be known. I wept at your story of baptism and renaming. I am challenged by how well you lead your family in the faith. Your devotion and striving with the Almighty has always blessed me- even through your darker times. Continue to love your home. Be careful not to begrudge others theirs’.

Your Brother in the Lord,
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2011, 01:17:14 AM »

Quote
It seems to me that for all of the ancient practice of the Orthodox Church, it too has man's tradition- and much of it. It too has had to use common language as a means to understand an uncommon God. Whenever humanity strives with the Divine there is contamination. The Orthodox Church is not immune from that. The grace of God is that it is He who strove with us. In Christ God walked among a contaminated humanity- in real flesh and real blood- true incarnation. This is the mystery that makes the gospel good news. It says that at once there can be timeless divinity understood by common people in common language and in common practice. Our practice does not need to bear the burden of The Ancient exclusively- precisely because The Ancient bore the burden of our commonality.
Contamination? Sounds rather gnostic.

In the Orthodox Church Christ God still walks among humanity. This Christ whom the Aposltes beheld has passed into the Holy Mysteries.

"Our practice does not need to bear the burden of The Ancient exclusively- precisely because The Ancient bore the burden of our commonality." Only if we have "The Ancient" in common: we must not bear "The Ancient" exclusively, but we must bear it.

Quote
This is a tradition of man. This was not instituted by Christ any more than the Presbyterian form of governance was. But it has value. It allows real people to remember a part of their story of striving with The Almighty. I should not begrudge this symbol of your ancient tradition anymore than one of your brethren should begrudge the lack of it in mine.
We begrudge you only those Traditions instituted by Christ which you lack.

Quote
The variety of the expressions of ancient truth within the whole scope of the Church is our story. I can learn from the ancient practice and delight in the mystery of the Orthodox faith in the same way that the Orthodox tradition might be able to learn from newer expressions of those very same ancient truths.
This is true, but I don't think in the sense he means it.

Quote
Dogmatism is a slippery slope and people of all faithful expressions are ever in danger of becoming those who profane Christ by burning our heretics at the stake of our own human traditions.
As a whole, the Orthodox have not been good at burning heretics at the stake for God's divine Traditions. There have been exceptions, but overall.

Quote
The incarnational burden means that as a church we take meaningful and decisive steps outward into this fallen world. But we pause, we look back from where we have come, and we take account to insure that those steps are consistent with where we have come from. The Church should always struggle with being ancient and modern all at once. If does not, it has lost sight of something Christ called his body to be about.
That's true, but it doesn't answer the question of the Protestant looking back and seeing where his tradition took the other side at the fork in the road from the ancient Church.


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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2011, 02:21:04 AM »

As I said, I think Rev. Castleman has given a very thoughtful answer. I think the salient point to address comes from this statement he makes:

"Yes, my tradition is only 400 years old. But lost sinners and religion weary churchmen and churchwomen in Scotland 400 years ago needed an incarnate witness of timeless truth- they found that in the ministry of John Knox as well as others. That's not to say it was perfect truth- but the Truth, Jesus Christ, was clear enough to bear timely witness."

I would absolutely agree with this statement. But I would argue that the imperfect truth and dimmed light of Protestantism should point to the perfect Truth and full radiance of the apostolic Orthodox Faith. A man dying of thirst will gratefully drink a dirty glass of water, but if he is offered a choice between clean water and dirty water, he will certainly choose the clean. Dirty water is enough to keep a man alive, but the palate and the body will still crave something pure and undiluted.

Rev. Castleman stated:
"It seems to me that for all of the ancient practice of the Orthodox Church, it too has man's tradition- and much of it."

Of course, as Ialmisry already pointed out, there is a difference between human tradition and Holy Tradition. Which side of the altar the Ethiopian Flag should be placed on is an important human tradition that is not insignificant, but is not a Holy Tradition on par with perpetual Virginity of Our Lady or the canonicity of the Book of Enoch, e.g.

"The variety of the expressions of ancient truth within the whole scope of the Church is our story. I can learn from the ancient practice and delight in the mystery of the Orthodox faith in the same way that the Orthodox tradition might be able to learn from newer expressions of those very same ancient truths."

“…newer expressions of ancient truths.” I would rather say, “a continued faithfulness to ancient truths which have continual relevance in modern times.”

"Dogmatism is a slippery slope and people of all faithful expressions are ever in danger of becoming those who profane Christ by burning our heretics at the stake of our own human traditions."

Amen! And to my knowledge, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has never burned anyone at the stake. That’s not to say that our Church is without error or fault.

"Ancient traditions are at risk of losing their ability to become all things to all people that they might same some. Modern traditions are at risk of losing hold of the truth in their effort to become all things to all people resulting in saving none."

Agreed. Again, however, I think we need to be careful to distinguish between ancient human traditions and ancient Holy Tradition. Holy Tradition must never be compromised in the effort to make the Christian Faith “relevant” or palatable to modern tastes. To do so would be the equivalent of Thomas Jefferson taking his pen knife to the Holy Bible, removing those parts that he thought to fantastic to be believed by rational human beings. But I agree that even within Orthodoxy there are those who confuse human traditions for Holy Tradition, and thus they greatly hinder the mission of the Church.

"But we pause, we look back from where we have come, and we take account to insure that those steps are consistent with where we have come from."

I think Rev. Castleman has stated it very well here. And perhaps this is the crux of the issue. Is Protestantism consistent with where it has come from? I think in many ways the answer is “yes.” The problem is in the ways in which the answer is “no.” If Protestantism acknowledges and embraces some wonderful aspects of the ancient Church from which it claims to have come, then why doesn’t it embrace all of it? Whereas Martin Luther ultimately decided to refute the corruption of Roman Catholicism with his own rationale (which included his own individualistic interpretations of Holy Scripture), Protestants today have the opportunity to return to the ancient apostolic Faith that is “once for all delivered unto the Saints.” [Jude 3] Why dangle from the branches when you can cling to the roots?

"Continue to love your home. Be careful not to begrudge others theirs’."

These are wise words my brother, and I truly thank you for speaking them. In my passion and zeal I can often be arrogant and offensive. In the sense that the Church is the mystical bride of Christ, I have no doubt that you and I are brothers. You have taught me much over the years through your loyalty, compassion, and faithful witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ. You are perhaps the most learned of my friends, yet you are also one of the most humble people I know. I have no desire to “convert” you. Instead, I simply look forward to continued mutual edification, friendship, and genuine Christian brotherhood.

Selam



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« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2011, 02:43:14 AM »

Your friend was much more charitable than I would have been, had I been a Protestant responding to such a triumphalistic piece  Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2011, 09:15:16 AM »

Your friend was much more charitable than I would have been, had I been a Protestant responding to such a triumphalistic piece  Smiley

Agreed. I didn't write it, but I'm afraid that I am guilty of often being just as "triumphalistic." My friend's Christian character and charity humbles me greatly (not to mention his intellectual prowess). I struggle to find the balance between affirming Orthodox Truth and being authentically irenic. I hope that this thread will help us all in our efforts to find this much needed balance.

Pray for me a sinner.

Selam
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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2011, 09:29:47 AM »

You have a kind and charitable friend.  Be good to him.
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« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2011, 09:39:54 AM »

You have a kind and charitable friend.  Be good to him.

Indeed! I can only hope to be half as good to him as he has been to me.


Selam
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« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2011, 10:21:41 AM »

Amen! And to my knowledge, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has never burned anyone at the stake.

I don't know about the Ethiopian Church but the Donatists were persecuted by the Empire and by the Bishops. If we understand that the OO Church is the pre-Chalcedonian Church it was the OOs who persecuted the Donatists.
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« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2011, 10:56:55 AM »

Amen! And to my knowledge, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has never burned anyone at the stake.

I don't know about the Ethiopian Church but the Donatists were persecuted by the Empire and by the Bishops. If we understand that the OO Church is the pre-Chalcedonian Church it was the OOs who persecuted the Donatists.


I do not know the specific details of this history. Could you describe the "persecutions" to which you refer? I doubt that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was involved in burning Donatists at the stake. If any Donatists were persecuted by the Empire, then if Ethiopia was part of the Empire then I guess the Ethiopian Church was guilty by association. However, I supsect that it is a matter of perspective as to whether or not Ethiopia was actually part of the Empire. I'm not an expert in Church history, so please forgive my ignorance.

Selam
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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2011, 11:11:48 AM »

I reject Fr. Miltiades premise: Orthodoxy was not 'founded' in 33AD.  The Church has existed from the 'foundations of the Earth.'  If you read the Scriptures and study the Fathers, the Church has always existed.  God has intended the Church from the beginning of Creation and the formation of man.

I'm sorry to sound so esoteric, but this thinking that the Church suddenly popped up after our Lord's ascension is leading right into a big intellectual trap because it is a false premise.  You can't build a castle on butter, and you can't build an argument for the Church on a date.
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2011, 11:19:39 AM »

He makes some good points - if I am looking at the Church from a social/cultural perspective.  Then indeed - this tradition and that tradition hold form and are valid and is defined by the needs of common man.

But.  

There is one definitive part of the Orthodox Church that is not held in the same . . .not 'tradition' but COVENANT as it was given to us by Christ Jesus, Himself - and that is the sacrament of Holy Communion.  I've been to every church within the Christian realm - THIS is what is lacking. . and without true Communion with God in His Covenant?  How can we be in communion with each other?  

When all the other sects and divisions and new and improved(s) find their way back to the One True COVENANT - the NEW COVENANT that Christ gave to us in TRUTH, then I will concede.  But not a moment before.

Yes, the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church is very traditional. . .but if you cut out the cherries from the pie, how can it be cherrie pie?

**getting off of soap box, now**

My apologies. . . the butchering of His Body and Blood at His table angers me to no end.  
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« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2011, 11:38:12 AM »

I do not know the specific details of this history. Could you describe the "persecutions" to which you refer?

I'm not an expert either but this is what I ran into while reading a Finnish book on St. Augustine. Let me translate a short chapter from it:

Quote from: Timo Nisula
In 405 was published "the Edict of Unity" which clearly expressed the will of the emperor: There is only one allowed Church in Africa and that was that was the Catholic Church of Caecilianus' followers. Assemblies of Donatists were prohibited, Donatists' clergy were exiled, Donatists' possessions were confiscated and the churches were given to Catholics. During the same summer many Donatist bishops left Africa and already in August Carthage's Catholic Bishop send an embassy in order to thank the emperor and carried out the confiscation of Donatists' property. It is widely held fact that the role of Catholic bishops in these confiscations was quite great. During 405-410 the churches of North Africa were in mess when Catholic bishops with different ambitions were allowed to carry out themselves due to the Edict

Since OOs believe that the pre-Chalcedonian church is the OO Church the Catholic bishops in question are OO bishops. Of course this is not the same as buring at stake but it's still correct to say that OOs have at some point of history persecuted other Christians.


Quote
...I doubt that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was involved in burning Donatists at the stake.

I was not talking about the Ethiopian Church but about the OO Church in general. I don't mean however that the OO Church was somehow more evil than my own. Since I consider the EO Church to be the pre-Chalcedonian Church this is obviously my problem too. All I am saying that OOs can't whitewhas their Church by saying that they haven't persecuted anyone. Every Church has persecuted some people on some point of history.
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2011, 12:17:56 PM »

The problem with the piece starts not with the Protestant response, but with the Orthodox assertion.  It's all well and good that we have our Tradition going back to the Apostles, but that's not what the argument is about.  The question is "Where (if at all) did the Orthodox Church go wrong?"  Your friend alleges that the Church must suffer from "contamination".  Where is the contamination?  

Protestantism starts with the basic assumption that somewhere between the legalization of Christianity within the Roman Empire and the Seventh Council the Church fell into some form of error.  Now, as an Oriental Orthodox you would agree and point to Chalcedon as being the departing point for the Eastern Orthodox churches.  But most Protestants are also Chalcedonians (when they think of the Councils at all).  Where Protestantism as a whole fails is in pointing out a specific departure.  A Baptist or Pentecostal might say that the legalization of Christianity was the beginning of the "contamination" (though they have to admit the Nicene definition but Oneness Pentecostals have side-stepped this), but a Presbyterian or Lutheran is pretty much forced to allow St Augustine into their ranks.  

Most Protestants have a false conception, as well, that the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches have their own "Pope" (in the Papalist sense, not in the title of office), Constantinople for the Byzantines and possibly Alexandria for the Oriental (truth be told the existence and ecclesiology of the Oriental Orthodox Churches is not as well known in Protestant circles).  We know this is not true, but to the Protestant mind the existence of bishops and patriarchs automatically leads to the position of "Pope".  It is not enough for the Western mind for there to be a limited hierarchy, to them autonomy and authority are mutually exclusive concepts.  If a pastor of a local church (where here "local church" means "parish") must answer to a bishop then that bishop must answer to the Patriarch.  A synod of bishops working in unity is to them a near impossibility (indeed, the fragmenting of the Anglican communion since the day Anglicanism left the Isle shows this to be so).  The Protestants have no problem with a "conciliar" approach, but to their minds every individual (or at least individual parish) should have a vote in the synod.

Because of these basic presuppositions in the Protestant mindset we get nowhere arguing that our Tradition is older.  The antiquity and lineage of our Tradition is indeed a beautiful thing, but that alone is not reason to be Orthodox (at least not for the converted).  We are Orthodox because that ancient Tradition is true.

I will answer your friend's assertion to Dogmatism: dogmatism is indeed problematic when more is proclaimed dogma than the Church together decides.  The Orthodox Church has very few- the Trinity, the Church, and the Saints.  Protestantism went off track when it rejected Tradition in favor of dogma: faith alone for the Lutherans, predestination for the Calvinists, sola scriptura for the Baptists.  It was this elevation of dogma that destroyed any hope of unity for the Reformation in utero and gave the West a stillborn Christianity.
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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2011, 01:24:57 PM »

 I, too, was struck by both the Pastor's charitableness and Fr. Miltiades' article's triumphalistic attitude.  I also would like to thank Fr. Giryus' thoughts on the matter as I believe he makes a great point.  Another thing about Fr. Miltiades' article that I don't particularly agree with is the idea that he seems to be saying that because a thing might be older than another thing, it is therefore better.  I don't want to seem as if I'm attacking Fr. Miltiades' work because I'm not; he may have been responding to an argument where his article might make perfect sense.  But if we're going to use the 'age' argument, I would imagine Judaism or Hinduism might have something substantial to say to us.  
 
 Regarding your friend's rebuttal, he does make some good points I think, but his overall point seems to be saying, "My tradition is not perfect, but, then, neither is yours."  Although to an outsider, or perhaps to someone not wholly knowledgeable, this might seem true enough.  But it's important to understand that it's not wise to judge a faith by human standards alone, which is what he seems to be doing.  The "Gee whiz, nobody's perfect." argument is a poor one.  His statement,

 "But we pause, we look back from where we have come, and we take account to insure that those steps are consistent with where we have come from."

underscores a very important point about our respective Churches also, and that is if you start out with an incorrect premise or foundation, every following doctrine will be suspect and subject to structural calamities.  Two, he seems to be ignorant (as many Protestants are prone to be) of Divine tradition and economy.  And this leads back into my first point.  His tradition has divorced the Holy Bible from the larger Holy Tradition.  When we do this, we render it impotent and unintelligible.  As his grace, archbishop ATHANASIOS of Limassol, Cyprus says (paraphrasing), divorced from Holy Tradition, the Bible is an empty letter.

    
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« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2011, 01:24:57 PM »

 The question is "Where (if at all) did the Orthodox Church go wrong?"  Your friend alleges that the Church must suffer from "contamination".  Where is the contamination?  

 I just would like to point out, using your post as a springboard, that this sub-forum "Orthodox-Other Christian" heading is grossly misleading and that we all should be cognizant of it's inherent problems, namely, the liberal use of the word "Orthodox".  We have Eastern Orthodox as well as Oriental Orthodox replying in this thread.  While it is commendable that both parties can contribute in meaningful ways, the two are not synonymous with one another.  I point this out as a red flag to the question, "Where did the Orthodox Church go wrong."  as this question cannot be properly answered without veering off topic.  It's one gripe I have with the wording on this Forum; many people land here assuming it's an Eastern Orthodox Forum when it is not.  I know assuming things is typically not smart, but given the fact that the homepage has an Eastern Orthodox church building, along with Eastern Orthodox icons pictured, it's a reasonable assumption that needs to be addressed.

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« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2011, 09:15:06 PM »

I reject Fr. Miltiades premise: Orthodoxy was not 'founded' in 33AD.  The Church has existed from the 'foundations of the Earth.'  If you read the Scriptures and study the Fathers, the Church has always existed.  God has intended the Church from the beginning of Creation and the formation of man.

I'm sorry to sound so esoteric, but this thinking that the Church suddenly popped up after our Lord's ascension is leading right into a big intellectual trap because it is a false premise.  You can't build a castle on butter, and you can't build an argument for the Church on a date.


I agree with you Father. Thank you for pointing this out. Of course, Protestants might argue the same thing.


Selam
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« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2011, 09:26:14 PM »


I will answer your friend's assertion to Dogmatism: dogmatism is indeed problematic when more is proclaimed dogma than the Church together decides.  The Orthodox Church has very few- the Trinity, the Church, and the Saints.  Protestantism went off track when it rejected Tradition in favor of dogma: faith alone for the Lutherans, predestination for the Calvinists, sola scriptura for the Baptists.  It was this elevation of dogma that destroyed any hope of unity for the Reformation in utero and gave the West a stillborn Christianity.

I think you make a good point here. Thank you. However, I'm sure that Protestants would take exception with the notion that theirs is a "stillborn Christianity." There is spiritual life within Protestantism - sometimes vibrant spiritual life - but it lacks the fullness of Christian Truth. So, I wouldn't call it "stillborn," but rather stunted, immature, and very susceptible to spiritual disease (heresy).


Selam


Selam
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« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2011, 09:34:30 PM »

I reject Fr. Miltiades premise: Orthodoxy was not 'founded' in 33AD.  The Church has existed from the 'foundations of the Earth.'  If you read the Scriptures and study the Fathers, the Church has always existed.  God has intended the Church from the beginning of Creation and the formation of man.

I'm sorry to sound so esoteric, but this thinking that the Church suddenly popped up after our Lord's ascension is leading right into a big intellectual trap because it is a false premise.  You can't build a castle on butter, and you can't build an argument for the Church on a date.


Correct.   In fact, the Synaxarion corrects the notion that the Church started on Pentecost.   It started from the foundation of the world, and it was at Pentecost that she in full became the Spirit-filled Body of Christ.   
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« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2011, 09:45:58 PM »


I will answer your friend's assertion to Dogmatism: dogmatism is indeed problematic when more is proclaimed dogma than the Church together decides.  The Orthodox Church has very few- the Trinity, the Church, and the Saints.  Protestantism went off track when it rejected Tradition in favor of dogma: faith alone for the Lutherans, predestination for the Calvinists, sola scriptura for the Baptists.  It was this elevation of dogma that destroyed any hope of unity for the Reformation in utero and gave the West a stillborn Christianity.
I think you make a good point here. Thank you. However, I'm sure that Protestants would take exception with the notion that theirs is a "stillborn Christianity." There is spiritual life within Protestantism - sometimes vibrant spiritual life - but it lacks the fullness of Christian Truth. So, I wouldn't call it "stillborn," but rather stunted, immature, and very susceptible to spiritual disease (heresy).

This seems a much better explanation.  Even the most reactionary of "Eastern" Christians should acknowledge that Christianity was not "stillborn" in the West.  Also, I don't think it's quite accurate to entirely separate Tradition from dogma.  I know it's a bad word, but Orthodox have dogma as well.

Edit:
Your friend was much more charitable than I would have been, had I been a Protestant responding to such a triumphalistic piece  Smiley
My inquirer's class uses something very similar, if not the same.  I thought the same thing about it.  One-liners that tear down whole traditions, many of which people are embracing Orthodoxy from, seemed a little much.  These traditions, as wrong as they may be, also believe that Jesus Christ founded their church.
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« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2011, 10:16:39 PM »

I, too, was struck by both the Pastor's charitableness and Fr. Miltiades' article's triumphalistic attitude.  I also would like to thank Fr. Giryus' thoughts on the matter as I believe he makes a great point.  Another thing about Fr. Miltiades' article that I don't particularly agree with is the idea that he seems to be saying that because a thing might be older than another thing, it is therefore better.  I don't want to seem as if I'm attacking Fr. Miltiades' work because I'm not; he may have been responding to an argument where his article might make perfect sense.  But if we're going to use the 'age' argument, I would imagine Judaism or Hinduism might have something substantial to say to us.  
 
 Regarding your friend's rebuttal, he does make some good points I think, but his overall point seems to be saying, "My tradition is not perfect, but, then, neither is yours."  Although to an outsider, or perhaps to someone not wholly knowledgeable, this might seem true enough.  But it's important to understand that it's not wise to judge a faith by human standards alone, which is what he seems to be doing.  The "Gee whiz, nobody's perfect." argument is a poor one.  His statement,

 "But we pause, we look back from where we have come, and we take account to insure that those steps are consistent with where we have come from."

underscores a very important point about our respective Churches also, and that is if you start out with an incorrect premise or foundation, every following doctrine will be suspect and subject to structural calamities.  Two, he seems to be ignorant (as many Protestants are prone to be) of Divine tradition and economy.  And this leads back into my first point.  His tradition has divorced the Holy Bible from the larger Holy Tradition.  When we do this, we render it impotent and unintelligible.  As his grace, archbishop ATHANASIOS of Limassol, Cyprus says (paraphrasing), divorced from Holy Tradition, the Bible is an empty letter.

    

Thanks Gabriel. You make some good points. I'm not familiar with Fr. Miltiades, and I agree that the article is a bit specious in its argumentation. That's one reason I asked my friend for a response. I think the difference in our foundational authorities is perhaps the biggest problem. "Sola Scriptura" is fraught with the potential for heresy, and is in fact a heresy itself. Protestants would dispute the assertion that the Bible divorced from the Church is an "empty letter." They will quote II Timothy 3:16-17, for example, to support their doctrine of Sola Scriptura. But indeed there is no getting around the fact that the Scriptures isolated from the context of Holy Tadition become malleable to the subjectivity of the individuals or sects that interpet them according to their own independent ideologies.

Selam
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« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2011, 10:45:31 PM »

For me, the issue with Protestantism is that, even though your refreshingly kindhearted friend gave lip service to it, it ultimately rejects the incarnational understanding of the Church, as Christ's Body, i.e. the literal Incarnation of Our Lord continued in history through the mystical union of the sacraments. There is no Body without people partaking of the Body, and there is no Body to partake of without the Eucharist, and there is no valid Eucharist without a valid priesthood and there is no valid priesthood without valid Apostolic succession and there is no valid Apostolic succession outside the Ancient Church.

Contrary to what most Protestants believe, it's not simply the doctrine to which you hold that makes you part of the Body of Christ. We're not simply talking about a "spiritual" truth or "spiritual" reality; Our Lord was real and He really united Himself to the material world in His Holy Incarnation, and the Body & Blood that He first gave to the Twelve was really His Body & Blood, and it was by that Communion that He continued to really be present in the world, and there is no other means by which a human being can really be united to Christ than to really partake of Him and receive the "medicine of immortality."

St. Cyril of Jerusalem says, “With full assurance let us partake of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the symbol of bread is given to you His Body, and in the figure of wine His Blood, so that you, by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, may be made of the same body and the same blood with Him.  For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members.  This is how, according to blessed Peter, we became partakers of the divine nature…"

More recently, Abp. Hilarion Alfeyev says, “Thus the union of the believer with Christ in the Eucharist is not symbolic and figurative, but genuine and integral.  As Christ suffuses the bread and wine with himself, filling them with his divine presence, so he enters into the communicant, filling our flesh and blood with his own life-giving presence and divine energy.  In the Eucharist we become ‘of the same body’ with Christ, who enters us as he entered the womb of Mary.  St. Symeon the New Theologian points to the connection between communion and deification, which is the aim of the Christian life, as well as to the tangible and corporeal nature of union with Christ.  In the Eucharist our flesh receives a leaven of incorruption, it becomes deified, and when it dies and becomes subject to corruption, this leaven becomes the pledge of its future resurrection.”

There is no other way to become one with God. And, leaving aside the doctrines we believe, the Scriptures we read, the "traditions" we all have, it really all comes down to this: Is there real communion with the Incarnate Christ within Protestantism? The Orthodox answer is emphatically, "No." How could there be?

I would challenge and encourage your pastor friend to ask himself what his hope in the final resurrection is, if he cannot partake of the true Body & Blood of our Lord.
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« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2011, 10:48:34 PM »

For what it's worth, Fr. Miltiades article may very well be a lightly edited version of a Roman Catholic pamphlet against Protestanism. I have seen the Roman Catholic version and suspect it's the original.

Here is your giveaway:

Quote
If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.
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« Reply #22 on: February 09, 2011, 11:11:28 PM »

Sleeper, why, as a Protestant, am I not allowed to receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox church?
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« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2011, 11:26:24 PM »

Sleeper, why, as a Protestant, am I not allowed to receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox church?

From Fr. Hill
Quote
One of the more persistent questions posed to the Orthodox these days concerns our practice of what has become commonly referred to as "closed communion."  Generally, these questions take one of the following forms; "Why can't my non-Orthodox friends or relatives receive holy communion when they visit my parish church?"  (or) ”Why can't I receive holy communion when I visit my non-Orthodox friends or relatives at their church?"  and sometimes even  "What gives you the right to judge anyone's fitness to receive holy communion?"  Inasmuch as our open and pluralistic society looks askance at any limitations placed on individual behaviors, particularly where religious behaviors are involved, it is needful that we here examine the Orthodox Church's Eucharistic and Ecclesial theology to better understand why our Rule of Faith is important and deserves to be upheld.
 
The religious experience of America is one of easy commerce between the multiplicity of "denominations," "confessions," "jurisdictions," "faiths," etc.  It is commonly accepted that ecumenical activities across the religious spectrum are the hallmark of an "open" and "friendly" church or parish.  And we Orthodox certainly involve ourselves in ecumenical activities where appropriate.  For instance, our 9/11 observances at the Cathedral this year were widely advertised and sought to include as many of our neighbors as possible.  Happily, many of them chose to attend our Memorial service in the evening and the coffee reception which followed.  But there is a fundamental and irreducible difference between an evening prayer service of a non-sacramental character on the one hand and the Sacraments (or Holy Mysteries) of the Orthodox Church on the other.
 
It is often stated by those who take umbrage with the Orthodox practice of "closed communion" that partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ is an affirmation of the communicant's personal piety, that it is a "private" act expressive of one's relationship with God and, as such, admits to no limitation or even discernment on the part of any church or priest.  But as popular and as widely accepted as this notion of a "personal communion" has become it is, nonetheless, plainly wrong from the point of view of Orthodox ecclesiology.  In fact, the receiving of the Holy Mysteries of Christ have never been understood as a "private" act in the mind of the Church.  That it is seen as such today only confirms how seriously eroded our own ideas of communion, unity, and the Church has become.
 
To accept on its face the rightness of a person’s decision to receive holy communion whenever and wherever one chooses is to first accept two underlying suppositions, the first of which concerns the nature of the Church.  To many, the term "Church" refers to an amorphous universal collective of individuals scattered throughout the world and inclusive of any and all "believers" regardless of whatever creedal or doctrinal differences may exist between them.  This model is commonly referred to as the "mystical" body but for a completely different reason than that behind the Orthodox use of that term.  For whereas we understand the phrase "the mystical Body of Christ" to refer to the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" as expressed in the Nicene Creed which is nourished and sustained by the Holy Mysteries or Sacraments (hence the term "mystical"), a very concrete reality easily identified, the popular meaning of "mystical" refers instead to a gathering too illusive to strictly define.  This commonly held notion of the Church is one that flies in the face of Orthodox ecclesiology which sees the catholicity of the Church fully expressed in each local parish.  The Church in its most basic unit exists and is fully represented around each canonically consecrated altar.
 
This model is affirmed in a variety of ways in the praxis of the Orthodox.  It is understood that a catechumen when baptized into the Church becomes part of a particular community and not, as many have come to believe, simply a "free-lance" believer hopping from one parish to the next.  Those who acquire the habit of doing so are viewed, to be perfectly honest, with no small amount of suspicion.  Further, it is customary that an Orthodox person, when visiting another parish, should make an attempt to introduce him or herself to the parish priest prior to approaching the chalice on Sunday liturgy.  In cases where a person may be staying for an extended visit, a letter of good standing is routinely provided to the priest of the parish being visited.  These customs exist to bolster the discipline of the Eucharistic chalice and to limit the ability of flighty schismatics from parish hopping.  To receive the Body and Blood of the Lord is always a privilege and never a "right."  It is Christ who seized the initiative in securing our salvation and it is He who is "the One who offers and is shared out" and who "when we were yet without strength, in due time died for the ungodly." (Rom. 5:6)  According to our rule of faith, only those Orthodox who have prepared themselves to receive the Holy Gifts by keeping the fasts of Wednesday and Friday, (or other applicable fasts depending upon the liturgical season) who have reconciled themselves to anyone they may have wronged throughout the course of the week, and who have recently confessed are invited to partake.  These admonitions exist not to exclude communion but to reinforce the connection between our daily lives in Christ and the sacramental grace we receive in the Church to live them to His glory.  Once this connection is severed, perhaps by coming to incorrectly view our access to the Holy Mysteries as a "right," then our partaking descends into the level of mere superstition and ceases to be transformative.
 
To those who would suggest that an "open communion" model is more appropriate to our now "enlightened," ecumenical and non-judgmental times, I must point out the conjugal nature of the Eucharist as viewed through the lens of Church history.  When we sing today the communion hymn "Receive me today, O Son of God.." we hear the curious phrase "for I will not reveal thy mysteries to thine enemies, nor will I give thee a kiss as did Judas."  This phrase refers to the time when disclosure of the mysteries of the Church to the uninitiated was an unthinkable breach of decorum.  The concourse between the Bridegroom and His Bride, the Church, was deemed to intimate an event to casually open to onlookers.  And just as a man would never in his right mind invite guests into his bedroom, early Church believers would never have dared to grant the uninitiated access to the Chalice.  Catechumens were themselves not instructed as to the details of the Holy Mysteries until near the end of their two or three-year catechumenate and were dismissed at the end of the Synaxis of the Word which concluded after the Epistle and Gospel readings with the blessings of the celebrant.  In like manner, penitents were also dismissed in some cases after the Gospel reading.
 
This bit of history is not offered to suggest a return to this model.  We welcome visitors into our services with open arms and are eager to share the Orthodox faith with the many that come to us week after week.  And we extend our love and fellowship to them in the form of the antidoron (the blessed bread) given to all at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. But is must be understood that the unity expressed in the Eucharistic chalice is the consummation of a relationship that begins with a catechuminate and continues on through Baptism and Chrismation into the Orthodox Church.  It is expressive of a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who enters into union with those whose lives are lived in the context of the Church, who are “ecclesial beings.” It is an intimacy expressed between committed partners who have already "taken their vows" in a sense.  To strive for this intimacy outside the bonds of that relationship is, to be blunt, not unlike sex before marriage from our point of view.
 
In Christ,
 
Rev. Economos Apostolos Hill, Dean
Assumption Cathedral
http://www.assumptioncathedral.org/index.cfm?page=Orthodoxy_Our_Rule_of_Faith
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« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2011, 11:37:56 PM »

Sleeper, why, as a Protestant, am I not allowed to receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox church?

Because the Eucharist is for those who have entered, by way of baptism and chrismation, into the sacred covenantal union with the Church of Christ. Those outside of the Orthodox Church, therefore, are not permitted to partake of this most sacred and intimate of moments.

In some sense, it's like the union of a husband and wife who, due to their sacred covenantal union, become one with each other and commune with one another. Those of us partaking of the Eucharist are in a sacred covenant with Christ, are becoming "one flesh" with Him and thus, only those who have entered into that covenant are permitted to partake.

Edit: the post above mine was posted while I was writing this and says what I was trying to say much better!
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« Reply #25 on: February 10, 2011, 12:58:29 AM »

Sleeper, why, as a Protestant, am I not allowed to receive the Eucharist in the Orthodox church?

I actually listened to a podcast on this topic just today, and it does an amazing job of explaining this if you have the time to listen to it. It's based on the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was a direct disciple of St. John the Evangelist and theologian, who brought us the Gospel of John, the epistles of John, and the Apocalypse (Revelation). These letters contextualize the ecclesiology of the late first and early second century church, just in the shadow of the apostles, and they were written around AD 110:

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/emmaus/voice_from_antioch_the_unity_of_the_church
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« Reply #26 on: February 10, 2011, 01:55:16 PM »


I will answer your friend's assertion to Dogmatism: dogmatism is indeed problematic when more is proclaimed dogma than the Church together decides.  The Orthodox Church has very few- the Trinity, the Church, and the Saints.  Protestantism went off track when it rejected Tradition in favor of dogma: faith alone for the Lutherans, predestination for the Calvinists, sola scriptura for the Baptists.  It was this elevation of dogma that destroyed any hope of unity for the Reformation in utero and gave the West a stillborn Christianity.

I think you make a good point here. Thank you. However, I'm sure that Protestants would take exception with the notion that theirs is a "stillborn Christianity." There is spiritual life within Protestantism - sometimes vibrant spiritual life - but it lacks the fullness of Christian Truth. So, I wouldn't call it "stillborn," but rather stunted, immature, and very susceptible to spiritual disease (heresy).


Selam


Selam

True.  I actually hesitated quite a time before using that word because it didn't quite capture what I was trying to say, yet was less inflammatory in sound than the other words that came to mind (retarded or infantile, not meant with the current connotations of intended insult but more along the lines of a diagnosis of a prolonged infant state [and as a further aside, is it not yet more an indication of the sickness of our culture that a word such as "retarded" could be considered more offensive than a word which automatically brings to mind an infant's death?]).  "Immature" doesn't quite capture what I was trying to say, the image that tends to spring to mind when this word is used is more that of a teenager or a tween, and almost implies a choice ("Why don't you grow up?").  Likewise "stunted" tends to imply a type of shortened physical growth.  Protestantism is more of a continued infancy, a Christianity on milk and pureed vegetables, a lot of life but not much direction.
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« Reply #27 on: February 10, 2011, 10:16:44 PM »

I had regret when I hit send on my previous post. I am aware of the reason why I am not to receive the Eucharist. Sleeper's post stirred in me the tension I have been dealing with for many years: a drawing toward participation in the Orthodox church, yet having my identity wrapped up as a United Methodist pastor. I just cannot affirm that my present charism has no integrity. Yet I long to belong fully within the Orthodox church. So many times I feel like the Syrophonecian woman who is grateful for the crumbs that fall from the Master's Table (the antidoran) but longs to sit at the Table, a Table that I preside over on Sunday at the church where I pastor. I'm just frustrated. Pray for me.

BTW, I also apologize for taking the OP off track. Sorry.
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« Reply #28 on: February 10, 2011, 10:48:58 PM »

I had regret when I hit send on my previous post. I am aware of the reason why I am not to receive the Eucharist. Sleeper's post stirred in me the tension I have been dealing with for many years: a drawing toward participation in the Orthodox church, yet having my identity wrapped up as a United Methodist pastor. I just cannot affirm that my present charism has no integrity. Yet I long to belong fully within the Orthodox church. So many times I feel like the Syrophonecian woman who is grateful for the crumbs that fall from the Master's Table (the antidoran) but longs to sit at the Table, a Table that I preside over on Sunday at the church where I pastor. I'm just frustrated. Pray for me.

BTW, I also apologize for taking the OP off track. Sorry.

How far are you from retirement? Many wait to collect their pensions before converting. I'm not sure how radically submissive that is, but I'm also not in a position to judge all the complicated nuances which exist.

At the same time, you might have a spiritual obligation to try to bring your congregation with you, which is always a disaster, but the Truth can be a sword.
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« Reply #29 on: February 11, 2011, 04:12:16 AM »

I had regret when I hit send on my previous post. I am aware of the reason why I am not to receive the Eucharist. Sleeper's post stirred in me the tension I have been dealing with for many years: a drawing toward participation in the Orthodox church, yet having my identity wrapped up as a United Methodist pastor. I just cannot affirm that my present charism has no integrity. Yet I long to belong fully within the Orthodox church. So many times I feel like the Syrophonecian woman who is grateful for the crumbs that fall from the Master's Table (the antidoran) but longs to sit at the Table, a Table that I preside over on Sunday at the church where I pastor. I'm just frustrated. Pray for me.

BTW, I also apologize for taking the OP off track. Sorry.

How far are you from retirement? Many wait to collect their pensions before converting. I'm not sure how radically submissive that is, but I'm also not in a position to judge all the complicated nuances which exist.

At the same time, you might have a spiritual obligation to try to bring your congregation with you, which is always a disaster, but the Truth can be a sword.

Kevin,

I applaud your honesty and I respect the integrity you have in this struggle. I agree with what Alveus has said here. It is easy for me to say that you should follow your convictions, have faith in Christ, and do whatever it takes to enter into the Orthodox Church. But I do not face such a difficult decision, and I cannot imagine the angst you must feel. It would be a very courageous act of faith to endeavor to lead your family and congregation into Orthodoxy. I imagine it may cost you your livelihood, perhaps even your marriage. It may ostracize you from lifelong friends and cripple your standing in the community. I doubt if I would have the courage to take such a step myself were I faced with similar circumstances.

I can tell you from my own experience that leading my family into Orthodoxy was not easy. My children were not the problem, but my wife was understandably very reluctant. She was raised Baptist, and Orthodoxy seemed very foreign to her- literally so, since I was leading her into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. But I am blessed to have a wife whose love for God and for her family enabled her to follow me even though she had many reservations. And although there are still aspects of the Faith with which she has difficulty (as do we all), I can see how our marriage and our family has been strengthened through the struggle. I guess that’s probably the main thing that I’ve learned from Orthodoxy- that struggle is good, spiritually beneficial, in fact essential. And in a divine mystery, we find peace in the midst of the struggle.

I have no doubt that God can continue to use you right where you are. His mercy and grace is not limited to Orthodoxy. But I know that if you were to bear the cross of conversion, there would be tremendous blessings- not only for you, but also for the countless lives that would be changed and inspired by your courageous example.

But ultimately the best answer I can give you is my prayers. I am moved and encouraged by your honesty and by your sincere desire to be where God wants you to be. We should all wrestle and struggle with such spiritual integrity.

By the way, I know there are some good books out there that deal with Protestant pastors’ conversions to Orthodoxy. I don’t know the names of any, but perhaps somebody else here can recommend some titles for you.

Peace to you.

Selam
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« Reply #30 on: February 11, 2011, 11:25:11 AM »

Dear Kevin,

Your experience once again underlines how easy it was for me to convert, having no real religion to begin with.  It is much harder to 'unlearn' and explain one's past than to simply accept the present.

I don't understand your issue with your present 'charism.'  It is what you had to do to get where you are.  God operates this way.  He allows us the freedom to explore, to discover, to experience, so that we can make the right decision.  Perhaps He is being merciful to those you minister to by having a man who is earnest in the place where you stand rather than an opportunist.  Asking why you are where you are and trying to give your circumstances a perfectly logical analysis is both fruitless and destructive: you are there because God has granted all your desires to be there.

Now, you must ask yourself whether your own 'identity' as a UMC pastor is worth the dissatisfaction you now feel and whether you can continue to be torn without breaking.  I have had to learn that, even as an Orthodox priest, I am only a priest for today and that my identity, which informed and shaped by my experiences, is not possessed by the identity of the priesthood.  I am only a priest today, and it can be taken from me at any time by the bishop with the cooperation of the Holy Synod.  It is a temporary condition with eternal implications.

Therefore, my identity must be separate from it, just as I am a father so long as I have children, yet the effects of fatherhood will be with me forever.  Temporary things can effect us forever.

I would add that you would not be hungry if the table you 'preside over' was the right one.  You would be filled, but you complain that you are not.  This is your contention, and so I am not trying to slam you for being Protestant.  I am pointing out your own conflict, one that I appreciate and have experienced under other circumstances.  It is hard to live in an entirely consistent manner.

Like Abraham, you may be required to place your Isaac on the woodpile.  You may even be required to sacrifice the ministry that you love and have tied all of your being to.  I recommend that you do it, if only to be liberated of the parts of it that are false.  What is of God will endure, and what is of man will perish.  Sacrifice what is pure and without blemish for the sake of His love, and He will reward you.  He will not ignore you.



I had regret when I hit send on my previous post. I am aware of the reason why I am not to receive the Eucharist. Sleeper's post stirred in me the tension I have been dealing with for many years: a drawing toward participation in the Orthodox church, yet having my identity wrapped up as a United Methodist pastor. I just cannot affirm that my present charism has no integrity. Yet I long to belong fully within the Orthodox church. So many times I feel like the Syrophonecian woman who is grateful for the crumbs that fall from the Master's Table (the antidoran) but longs to sit at the Table, a Table that I preside over on Sunday at the church where I pastor. I'm just frustrated. Pray for me.

BTW, I also apologize for taking the OP off track. Sorry.
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« Reply #31 on: February 11, 2011, 11:58:22 AM »

I had regret when I hit send on my previous post. I am aware of the reason why I am not to receive the Eucharist. Sleeper's post stirred in me the tension I have been dealing with for many years: a drawing toward participation in the Orthodox church, yet having my identity wrapped up as a United Methodist pastor. I just cannot affirm that my present charism has no integrity. Yet I long to belong fully within the Orthodox church. So many times I feel like the Syrophonecian woman who is grateful for the crumbs that fall from the Master's Table (the antidoran) but longs to sit at the Table, a Table that I preside over on Sunday at the church where I pastor. I'm just frustrated. Pray for me.

BTW, I also apologize for taking the OP off track. Sorry.
As you are likely aware, Kevin, one of the prayers before Communion includes the words "Of thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant..." During my journey into Orthodoxy, I prayed it as "Of thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me one day as a communicant..." It proved to be of great strength to me.
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« Reply #32 on: February 11, 2011, 06:21:39 PM »

dear kevin orr, may God guide u. indeed, He works in all the churches, but the fullness of faith is found in the orthodox church.
His ways are not our ways, nor are His paths our paths.
i too, was brought into the methodist church when my parents converted from athiesm in my early childhood. in that town at that time, there were many people who went to church just to look good, and about half (including the minister) did not believe that God and the devil were personal beings, they were more panthiests then monothiests.
this lead my parents to join a series of more independant churches, who promised that their teaching was purely from the Bible, their prejudices and theology being well-hidden; and to cut a 4 page story short, as i did not find all i was searching for there, i kept on seeking until finally God lead me to the coptic church.

i know many people still on the journey, and, as a leader, you are responsible to God for the education of many people, so your journey becomes more public than perhaps you would like, and many people will watch you.
do not fear. take your time. God works in mysterious ways. i also know the pain of looking at the Eucharist (although it was only about a year for me) and wondering when i will take part, don't worry, it's really worth it when it happens.
it's God's church, let Him guide you.
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« Reply #33 on: February 11, 2011, 07:30:57 PM »

If one thinks the Protestants are of an infantile faith, then we have to be clear, there is no more milk to be given.  Infantile faith are reserved for our newcomers and children, but the Protestants have rejected even an infantile faith with us.  All Protestants reject the unbroken continuity of God's tradition in the Church.  All reject the sacraments and believe them to be mere rituals that have no real salvific value in them.  This is not infantile faith to me.  This is rejection of the faith, and a subtraction to the fullness of the Christian faith.

I don't mean to feel triumphalist nor do I say my church is perfect in her men; one has to know that "perfection" is not about what man does in history, but whether the faith was kept.  The faith was indeed kept in the Orthodox Church.

I would ask the Pastor what exactly does he find in Orthodoxy that is "imperfect"?  And if we don't find the Church that held the perfect faith, what of Christ's promise that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the rock of the Church, i.e. the faith if no Church holds agrees that they hold the same faith?

Fr. Miltiades is rightfully triumphalist, not because he's arrogant about his faith, but he has finally found and trusted in the Church that is the fullest expression of what the Apostles intended her to be.  There is a drum of triumph for that.  After years of Protestant thinking, one has to feel somewhat in triumph for joining the Church, and to share his personal feelings.  No one should be offended of anyone's triumphalist attitude, so long as this doesn't turn into something pejorative.
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« Reply #34 on: February 11, 2011, 08:12:01 PM »

If one thinks the Protestants are of an infantile faith, then we have to be clear, there is no more milk to be given.  Infantile faith are reserved for our newcomers and children, but the Protestants have rejected even an infantile faith with us.  All Protestants reject the unbroken continuity of God's tradition in the Church.  All reject the sacraments and believe them to be mere rituals that have no real salvific value in them.  This is not infantile faith to me.  This is rejection of the faith, and a subtraction to the fullness of the Christian faith.

I don't mean to feel triumphalist nor do I say my church is perfect in her men; one has to know that "perfection" is not about what man does in history, but whether the faith was kept.  The faith was indeed kept in the Orthodox Church.

I would ask the Pastor what exactly does he find in Orthodoxy that is "imperfect"?  And if we don't find the Church that held the perfect faith, what of Christ's promise that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the rock of the Church, i.e. the faith if no Church holds agrees that they hold the same faith?

Fr. Miltiades is rightfully triumphalist, not because he's arrogant about his faith, but he has finally found and trusted in the Church that is the fullest expression of what the Apostles intended her to be.  There is a drum of triumph for that.  After years of Protestant thinking, one has to feel somewhat in triumph for joining the Church, and to share his personal feelings.  No one should be offended of anyone's triumphalist attitude, so long as this doesn't turn into something pejorative.

It's hard to disagree with what you say brother. However, I do believe that there is authentic and vibrant spiritual life in some Protestant Churches (although I would say only in a minority of them). I cannot deny the light and love of Christ that I see emanating from my dear Protestant friend. I see his love for the Holy Bible, his commitment to the sanctity of life, and his ability to be uncompromising in his convictions without being a fundamentalist. I also see his humility and compassion, something that is often lacking from others who are as highly highly educated as he is.

I have railed against Protestantism often, and I cannot dispute your arguments here. I have made the same points many times myself, and will probably continue to do so. But I am torn, because I see Christ working in and through my Protestant friend. And although I don't feel called to convert him, I do believe that the wonderful work he is doing now would only be increased and multiplied if he were to enter into the True Faith. But since he is a much better Christian than I am, I shall focus on working out my own salvation rather than focusing on his conversion. But yes, I would rejoice to see him eventually experience what you so wonderfully articulate here:

"Fr. Miltiades is rightfully triumphalist, not because he's arrogant about his faith, but he has finally found and trusted in the Church that is the fullest expression of what the Apostles intended her to be.  There is a drum of triumph for that.  After years of Protestant thinking, one has to feel somewhat in triumph for joining the Church, and to share his personal feelings."

Selam
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« Reply #35 on: February 11, 2011, 09:14:53 PM »

Thanks to all who responded to my confessional, and I do appreciate your prayers.
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« Reply #36 on: February 11, 2011, 09:34:43 PM »

Dear Kevin,

Your experience once again underlines how easy it was for me to convert, having no real religion to begin with.  It is much harder to 'unlearn' and explain one's past than to simply accept the present.

My experience as well Father! I grew up in an Evangelical household of sorts, but I never read the Bible or got into Church services so it was very lukewarm. I'm blessed in that aspect that I could receive fully the Orthodox way of life.

And it's funny because I asked my father once how he knew the Bible was true and he couldn't answer it. The irony is his Church is named the Bible Church. I was very surprised that didn't sound off a red flag.
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« Reply #37 on: February 11, 2011, 10:03:26 PM »

As someone who has been moving towards Orthodoxy from Protestantism, allow me to shed some light on why many Protestants fear conversion or are closed off to it. Before I do, recognize that I say all of this in love and I intend none of it for harm for either side. Just as I would ask Protestants to be self-critical and open to their flaws, I would ask that for some of the stuff I say that you sit and ponder on it rather than have a knee-jerk reaction against it. Again, I cannot stress how this isn't an attack against Orthodoxy at all, but merely why many Protestants move away from Orthodoxy:

1) They don't see any great social reformers - I can point to William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr, and many, many others and show how Protestant Christians have had a major impact on their culture for social issues. For many Protestants, they can't do the same with the Orthodox. Admittedly, a lot of this is due to ethnocentrism and focusing solely on Western history, but along those same lines I would argue that in America, there haven't been that many Orthodox reformers. Now, my argument for this point is that Orthodoxy has always been relatively small in America and even Western Europe, so it's less likely to see great reformers; likewise, I look to the Manhattan Declaration and see that multiple Orthodox clergy signed it along with Roman Catholics and Protestants. But at the same time, I do think this is a valid criticism that many Protestants have, and it's a criticism that I've heard from two Orthodox priests.

If you look to recent times, who are fighting the New Atheists? Protestants and Roman Catholics. Who are (seemingly) creating the biggest areas for helping those in need? Protestants and Roman Catholics (the Southern Baptist Convention's disaster relief efforts generally rival that of the Salvation Army and they were on the scene in New Orleans and Greensburg, KS before anyone else; the Roman Catholics are renowned for their charities in helping the poor). Anecdotally speaking, more and more PhD candidates are not only Christians, but Protestant Evangelical Christians. It seems (again, appears; I'm not saying this is actually how it is) that Protestants and Roman Catholics are impacting the culture while the Orthodox congregants are still explaining to us why they celebrate Easter on a different day than the Western churches...

2) They don't see an evangelical movement - this ties in with the first one. I think all Christians, whether Orthodox or not, can agree that the ultimate solution to the problems of the world is Jesus Christ our God. Now, admittedly, the approach the Orthodox Church has to evangelism is actually part of what has attracted me, but it is what turns off many Protestants. They have this view that if people say a magic prayer that person is saved. They also think that "evangelism" means going door to door on a Saturday morning, giving a five minute Gospel presentation, and then asking for a decision. While I am absolutely against this style of evangelism, what I have noticed with many of my Orthodox friends is that they go the opposite direction and offer no evangelism! I think there has to be a balance, with the balance being more towards the Orthodox approach, which is that salvation is a lifestyle that we're drawn into. However, I honestly don't even see this from many of my Orthodox friends.

One thing I enjoy doing is going to Starbucks or some other sit-down place, crack open one of my philosophy books, and just start reading. It never fails that if you're reading a popular philosopher someone is going to talk to you about it. I admit, I used all of this opportunities to express my love for Christ and how He answers all philosophical questions. I didn't ask them to say a prayer, to come to church, or to fill out a decision card. I simply asked if they wanted to keep in contact. Many times they did. But anytime I started discussing the Gospel, my Orthodox friends became very...quiet. They admitted that it made them uncomfortable. Again, this is purely anecdotal, but I shared this with 'my' priest and he said that he sees this as a problem too.

3) There seems to be a lack of personal holiness in the laity - when I say "personal holiness," I mean right living and respected spiritual advice. The appearance is that in evangelicalism, anyone can write a book on spirituality and be listened to whether that person is dead on spot or far off in left field. Orthodoxy appears to be more shut off to the laity. For instance, let's assume someone is not a priest, but still has valuable things to say concerning spirituality. Many Protestants think that the Orthodox Church would be closed off to having that person write books on spirituality or anything else because that person isn't a priest. Now, I know this to be false, but not many Protestants do because to them they don't see any laity in the Orthodox Church attempting to lead reform or call people back to spirituality. Basically, there's not a Francis Schaeffer or a Peter Kreeft in the Orthodox Church (or at least it seems that way).

4) There are legitimate doctrinal differences - a lot of Protestants, myself included, have been raised to believe certain things and told that if we don't believe certain things, we're going to Hell. So a lot of us are left looking at doctrine x, and if we believe x then one side says we're going to Hell, but if we don't believe x the other side says we're going to Hell. Put yourself in that position and realize the absolute magnitude of it! Even if we remove Hell from the equation, the fact is one side says if we believe x we'll be fulfilled in Christ while the other side says x is a hinderance to walking with Christ. This requires a great leap for many Evangelicals and Protestants. In many cases, disagreeing on x could cost them their jobs or relationships with their family. Others admittedly risk more in simply coming to Christ, but it is still a great act of faith for a Protestant to convert to Orthodoxy and I don't think the cost for many of them should be minimized. It's easy to say, "They reject the doctrines of the Church!" But when you've been raised that way and have honestly sought the Holy Spirit and searched out an answer and still come up disagreeing with the Church, it's difficult to get over that. Likewise, how is it that we see the Holy Spirit working in the lives of Protestants if they do not belong to Him? Never forget that the Sacraments are meant for man, but that God can work beyond them.

5) They don't know the difference between Constantinople and Rome - a lot the reason most Protestants never look into Orthodoxy (and this is the main reason in my opinion) is it looks too much like Roman Catholicism. This one wasn't a hinderance for me, but I know it is for many other Protestants. If it looks like Rome, smells like Rome, and tastes like Rome, burn it...or at least protest(ant) it.

For me, the biggest inhibitions have been as follows:

1) Where I am in life, I'm simply not ready. I would have to give up a lot, plus my girlfriend (who will soon be my wife) is not keen on the idea of conversion...yet. She is slowly moving in that direction, but she isn't as advanced as I am. While it is acknowledged among us both that I am the spiritual head, I don't want to force her into the Church. Beyond that, however, to convert to Orthodoxy would ruin multiple friendships that I have and likewise force me to drop a few substantial scholarships. Truth be told, however, if I knew I was ready to convert and my soon-to-be wife were ready, nothing else would matter.

2) Doctrinally, I'm not there. There's still about two or three things where I have a disagreement and therefore could not honestly say that I'm in unity with the Church.

To me, there is no doubt that the Orthodox Church is the original Church, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't overstepped its bounds on a few issues. For the sake of civility and to keep this thread on track, I won't list the issues where that could potentially be the case. Besides, I'm not even sure that is the case; more and more I grow comfortable with the fact that I'm probably wrong. But it's still a lot to get over.

I will say, from an anecdotal perspective, that I am bothered by the lack of involvement in the laity and the lack of social reformers. But this is not, nor will it ever be, an excuse to avoid conversion. If anything, that's partly why I feel pulled to the Church, because I feel that God has given me talents and gifts that He would best use in His Church. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant and if it does please forgive me. I am merely reflecting on what God has done. But again, I feel comfortable expressing my frustrations about the laity because I know this is generally a shared concern among Orthodox clergy.

Again, I hope that none of what I said above offends anyone. I fear that it will and for that I apologize and ask for forgiveness. I love the Orthodox Church and I love the people in the Orthodox Church, flaws and all, for I am just as (if not more) flawed. And most of what I said above can also be applied to the Protestant Church, but it's easier to criticize a neighbor's house from your own backyard.

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« Reply #38 on: February 11, 2011, 10:15:19 PM »

Nice writeup theo, I had some things to say later (I'm at work right now) but this caught my eye:

Quote
Basically, there's not a Francis Schaeffer or a Peter Kreeft in the Orthodox Church (or at least it seems that way).

I think it maybe because things are left as a mystery and not to be explained away. If any Orthodox Christians disagree with me, please correct me on this. That's just my take. There are 2 philosophers I know of, but I am not sure if they have written any apologetic or philosophical works in vein of Eastern Orthodoxy. The two that come to mind are David Bentley Hart and Richard Swineburne
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« Reply #39 on: February 11, 2011, 10:59:09 PM »

Nice writeup theo, I had some things to say later (I'm at work right now) but this caught my eye:

Quote
Basically, there's not a Francis Schaeffer or a Peter Kreeft in the Orthodox Church (or at least it seems that way).

I think it maybe because things are left as a mystery and not to be explained away. If any Orthodox Christians disagree with me, please correct me on this. That's just my take. There are 2 philosophers I know of, but I am not sure if they have written any apologetic or philosophical works in vein of Eastern Orthodoxy. The two that come to mind are David Bentley Hart and Richard Swineburne

Well, the thing that caught my eye...

There is a Francis Schaeffer in the Orthodox Church: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Schaeffer.  Whether or not you agree with what he's written since he's become Orthodox is entirely up to you.
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« Reply #40 on: February 11, 2011, 11:27:03 PM »

Everything I've heard from Frank has been vitriol.
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« Reply #41 on: February 11, 2011, 11:35:57 PM »

Nice writeup theo, I had some things to say later (I'm at work right now) but this caught my eye:

Quote
Basically, there's not a Francis Schaeffer or a Peter Kreeft in the Orthodox Church (or at least it seems that way).

I think it maybe because things are left as a mystery and not to be explained away. If any Orthodox Christians disagree with me, please correct me on this. That's just my take. There are 2 philosophers I know of, but I am not sure if they have written any apologetic or philosophical works in vein of Eastern Orthodoxy. The two that come to mind are David Bentley Hart and Richard Swineburne

Well, the thing that caught my eye...

There is a Francis Schaeffer in the Orthodox Church: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Schaeffer.  Whether or not you agree with what he's written since he's become Orthodox is entirely up to you.

I know Franky and I was doing Orthodoxy a favor by not associating him with Orthodoxy...that he's still allowed to take communion with the beliefs he has bothers me immensely, though I know that's not my call.

I was referring to his father when I mentioned Francis Schaeffer. The apple falls very far from the tree, and then lies about the tree.
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« Reply #42 on: February 11, 2011, 11:44:06 PM »

Dear Theo,

I found nothing offensive in your post, nor do I wholly disagree with it either.  I agree the Orthodox Church has its shortcomings in her actions, but certainly not in the faith.  I will answer your point numerically as you did:

1.  Reformers in the past have in fact changed the faith.  We have reformers in the Church over trying to adapt to a new age of evangelism, but not a change in faith.  One person in particular I have in mind is Fr. Peter Gillquist.  In the Coptic Church, we are reforming in the manner that we are making all our hymns in English and adopting some spiritual Western songs for our children and converts, increasing technology for the increase in participation and understanding of the congregation, and we have the British and French Orthodox churches as perhaps a look into the future of American Orthodoxy.  Slowly, the Church here in the US will evolve as her members assist in doing so.

2.  Reforming goes hand in hand with evangelical movement.  One has to remember that the Orthodox Church here did not start as a mission like the past, but as an already existing growth of immigrants, which make the Orthodox Church here unique.  For the first time in history, immigration has lead to different jurisdictions ministering to her flock in her own cultural understanding.  There are Western rite Orthodox churches, and there is the Evangelical Orthodox Church lead by Fr. Peter Gillquist, all are reforming the Orthodox Church and evangelizing at the same time.  They are small, but are growing, thank God.

The Coptic Church and Ethiopian Church evangelizes successfully in areas of the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia as well.  A friend of mine started a Coptic ministry to those in prisons in the NY/NJ area as well.

3.  This is partly due to the immigrant mindset of the respective churches.  Speaking about the Coptic Church in particular, if you go to the churches in Egypt, those who attend church there are truly spiritual people, fully participant in the Church hymns and mysteries.  Here in the US, those who attend church are a mix, but overall those who are not spiritual come to meet with those who they can relate (in other words, like an Egyptian Coptic club).  This of course isn't good in the short run, but in the long run, we hope we can turn some of these churches around and turn the non-spiritual into spirituality.  I understand other churches suffer of the same thing.

4. and 5.  I think when one does ministry for the Protestants, one probably needs to appeal to a "Sola Scriptural"-esque model of Orthodoxy to put ourselves in legitimate footing.  HH Pope Shenouda, the Coptic patriarch, has did a great job in his book "Comparative Theology" in doing this, and I understand other people like Fr. Peter Gillquist use Scripture to teach the Orthodox faith, including some hard things that a Protestant can't fathom to accept, but hasn't realized before.  If Protestants accept Scripture, Scripture has been used to validate Orthodoxy very well before.  There's an Syrian Malankara Orthodox series that I enjoyed very well called the "Anne Series" that does this as well.

For any Protestant, I usually recommend these resources:

http://tasbeha.org/content/hh_books/Comptheo/index.html
http://www.stignatious.com/annseries/annseries.html
http://www.stignatious.com/salvation.htm
http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Orthodox-Journey-Ancient-Christian/dp/0962271330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297482208&sr=8-1
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Vain existence can never exist, for \\\"unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.\\\" (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.
theo philosopher
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« Reply #43 on: February 12, 2011, 12:06:54 AM »

Dear Theo,

I found nothing offensive in your post, nor do I wholly disagree with it either.  I agree the Orthodox Church has its shortcomings in her actions, but certainly not in the faith.  I will answer your point numerically as you did:

1.  Reformers in the past have in fact changed the faith.  We have reformers in the Church over trying to adapt to a new age of evangelism, but not a change in faith.  One person in particular I have in mind is Fr. Peter Gillquist.  In the Coptic Church, we are reforming in the manner that we are making all our hymns in English and adopting some spiritual Western songs for our children and converts, increasing technology for the increase in participation and understanding of the congregation, and we have the British and French Orthodox churches as perhaps a look into the future of American Orthodoxy.  Slowly, the Church here in the US will evolve as her members assist in doing so.

2.  Reforming goes hand in hand with evangelical movement.  One has to remember that the Orthodox Church here did not start as a mission like the past, but as an already existing growth of immigrants, which make the Orthodox Church here unique.  For the first time in history, immigration has lead to different jurisdictions ministering to her flock in her own cultural understanding.  There are Western rite Orthodox churches, and there is the Evangelical Orthodox Church lead by Fr. Peter Gillquist, all are reforming the Orthodox Church and evangelizing at the same time.  They are small, but are growing, thank God.

The Coptic Church and Ethiopian Church evangelizes successfully in areas of the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia as well.  A friend of mine started a Coptic ministry to those in prisons in the NY/NJ area as well.

3.  This is partly due to the immigrant mindset of the respective churches.  Speaking about the Coptic Church in particular, if you go to the churches in Egypt, those who attend church there are truly spiritual people, fully participant in the Church hymns and mysteries.  Here in the US, those who attend church are a mix, but overall those who are not spiritual come to meet with those who they can relate (in other words, like an Egyptian Coptic club).  This of course isn't good in the short run, but in the long run, we hope we can turn some of these churches around and turn the non-spiritual into spirituality.  I understand other churches suffer of the same thing.

4. and 5.  I think when one does ministry for the Protestants, one probably needs to appeal to a "Sola Scriptural"-esque model of Orthodoxy to put ourselves in legitimate footing.  HH Pope Shenouda, the Coptic patriarch, has did a great job in his book "Comparative Theology" in doing this, and I understand other people like Fr. Peter Gillquist use Scripture to teach the Orthodox faith, including some hard things that a Protestant can't fathom to accept, but hasn't realized before.  If Protestants accept Scripture, Scripture has been used to validate Orthodoxy very well before.  There's an Syrian Malankara Orthodox series that I enjoyed very well called the "Anne Series" that does this as well.

For any Protestant, I usually recommend these resources:

http://tasbeha.org/content/hh_books/Comptheo/index.html
http://www.stignatious.com/annseries/annseries.html
http://www.stignatious.com/salvation.htm
http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Orthodox-Journey-Ancient-Christian/dp/0962271330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297482208&sr=8-1

Extremely informative and thank you for your honesty. I'm somewhat familiar with the late Fr. Peter Gilquest and respect him greatly. Unfortunately, outside of Orthodoxy he's not really known (which is a shame!).

I like your explanation too - like I said, for me personally the life of the laity has had little to no effect on my decision with Orthodoxy. I look to the faith, not the practitioners (after all, we're all flawed and being conformed to God). Still, it's very helpful to hear your descriptions. And I was already aware that sometimes orthodox churches can become social clubs (Serbian, Greek, Russian, etc), but it is good to see that this is recognized as a problem (because that means a solution is on its way).

And you're right on the Sola Scriptura view, which I see as a problem and I reject that doctrine. Rather, I take what could be considered a "prima scriptura," or that most things need to be evaluated by Scripture. But even then, I view apostolic tradition as equal...the question then becomes whether or not the Orthodox Church changed that tradition along the way (which is where I'm currently sitting for a few issues). I can't find a link to purchase the "Comparative Theology" book anywhere, so if you know of a good one I'd appreciate it. Otherwise I'll head to the local Orthodox bookstore (yup, we've got one in my town) and see if they have a copy.

Thank you for the links and I will look at them. You've been extremely helpful.

Also, as a side note, if you could let the brethren in Egypt (assuming that you are part of a congregation full of immigrants) know that I have been praying for their safety in the recent times. I know that last year they faced problems because of their view on divorce and then faced persecutions and beatings a few months ago. I will pray for their safety in the current chaos and that whatever the future holds, they will find peace in God.
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minasoliman
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« Reply #44 on: February 12, 2011, 12:16:56 AM »

Thank you for your prayers.  They are very much needed  Smiley

HH Pope Shenouda's book is actually one of the links provided for free  Smiley

Indeed, the social club aspect of the Church is a problem that is well recognized.  This column describes some of the problems we have as Copts:

http://www.efmevi.net/issue/8/wine-and-grape-juice

PS  Did Fr. Peter Gillquist pass away recently?
« Last Edit: February 12, 2011, 12:19:08 AM by minasoliman » Logged

Vain existence can never exist, for \\\"unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.\\\" (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.
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