Re. Reply No. 66, Wyatt,
The overwhelming majority of Eastern Orthodox Christians who I know, fellow parishioners mostly, and parishioners of local parishes, believe Orthodoxy has a unique tradition to which they are attracted, but they also think the services are too long, have little interest in the Divine Services of the church other than the Sunday Divine Liturgy, do not think the differences between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church are substantive (very typically rolling their eyes when I explain the "innovations;" they think the Orthodox Church governing structure is lacking, too loose, more authority should be granted to the primates as opposed to the local bishops), and wish there could be some sort of union between the churches wherein, the Orthodox could retain their Eastern liturgical tradition, but there would be union between the churches; (sort of like the Roman Catholic Byzantine Rite, I guess). Many perceive that our differences are for theologians to argue about, that the common laity don't care about these disputes, and that, a union betwen the Orthodox and Catholics, and perhaps traditional Protestants, is vital to combat the real evil in the world, the Moslems. I AM NOT MAKING ANY OF THESE ARGUMENTS AND DO NOT AGREE WITH THEM, but this is my opinion of what an overwhelming majority of common laity I encounter in the Orthodox Churches in the United States hold. They typically attend church perhaps once a month or so, and are not involved in parish ministries (like Bible Study), other than, perhaps, youth activities for their children.
One reason for much of these types of feelings I think, is that our differences are not really emphasized in sermons, (Orthodox teaching is emphasised, our life in Christ is emphasized, our path to salvation too, but not how our theology differs with Catholicism). Differences are mentioned in catechism classes, but they are not emphasized and very few parishioners attend. We had an assistant priest for a year or so, who would tend to stress our differences with Roman Catholics, and he became quite controversial. Another reason I think for this, what I would call weak theology, is attributable to the significant amount of intermarriages in our families. I recall after hearing one of these sermons from the assistant priest I referred to, a little girl cried and asked our presiding priest if her grandmother (who was Roman Catholic) was going to go the hell.
Another example of how I find peoples views such as I'm stating, is the experience of my parish's nameday, June 29th, the Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul. Frequently, the former bishop of our diocese would be conducting a pastoral visitation on that day, as our parish is named for St. Paul the Apostle. He was a co-chair of the dialogues between Orthodoxy and Catholicism in North America. In his sermons on those days, he would typically note that a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was making a fraternal visit to His Holiness the Pope, at the Vatican on that day, the occasion of the Patronal Feast of the Church of Rome. He would also point out the differences between the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Churches. Our parishioners think he is a critic of Catholicism, while many in the Orthodox Church consider him a modernist who is too cosy with Roman Catholics.
Some of my experience too, in this regard, is feed back that I get from Orthodox who attend the church tours that I give during our festivals. Explaining the symbolism of the church architecture, accoutrements, and iconography, explains our theology, and prompts feed back from those who have learned something in these tours.
Just some perspective of what we have to deal with in some of our parishes.