Man, can't believe I missed this one...what a ride this thread's taken!
OK, from the top:
Being that several of board members are former missionaries who converted to Orthodoxy, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about your former activities.
Went three times with Teen Mania Ministries during the summers between years in high school--once to Ecuador in '95 for one month, and twice to Bolivia ('96 and '97, two months each time)--and primarily engaged in pantomime drama ministry, where we performed a mime presentation, set to music and Spanish narration, of an allegory of the basic gospel message. One of us then stood up afterwards and explained how the drama told the story of the Fall, the Incarnation, the Passion and Resurrection, and gave an opportunity for folks to pray with us to ask Jesus to forgive their sins and come into their hearts. They then filled out a card with their personal info, which we would then give to an Evangelical church there in town, who would then make contact with them after we'd left.
Other activities done by TMM were teaching English in universities (and witnessing through relationship evangelism, which made me drool to think about even then) and speaking in churches during evening services.
One example of arrogance I will never forget is when we went to do our drama in an old folks' home that was run by Roman Catholic nuns. We had a custom of having one of the team members pray before we left the bus to do each drama, and the girl who prayed before this particular one actually prayed that God would help us "save the nuns." Seriously. Thankfully, some of us that were there (me included) jumped on her for that, as we were not so anti-Catholic as to even consider the idea that these weren't already very humble, holy people.
There were also the times where, after performing a drama, someone would talk about how "Mary can't save you; the saints can't save you; only Jesus can save you." Sad.
When I came back to Bolivia in '97, I worked for the second time with the main pastor in Sucre, and he had said that our work, in terms of actual, long-term converts/disciples, was almost nil. Most folks prayed with us and filled the card out basically because it was something to do on an otherwise boring, hot day, and they were already "Catholic," so whatever. Definitely NOT the picture we teenage missionaries who were hyped up about "changing the world for Jesus" were given after returning to the States. I learned later that, were the numbers which Evangelicals are often given by missionaries concerning supposed conversion rates correct, the entire world--every last person--would have been converted several times over. For us Orthodox, this can serve as some comfort--but only a bittersweet one--for, while many supposed converts are only halfhearted in their intentions towards leaving Orthodoxy, this also means, in many cases, that they are often halfhearted in their committment to Orthodoxy, as well. It's good to hear, then, that Orthodoxy has much more immediate familiarity, relevance, and appeal to the "up for grabs" groups in predominantly Orthodox countries.
WTH? HUH???!!! Orthodoxy is all ABOUT "Don't question! You are thinking too western! What we say is the TRUTH! What we say has not changed in over 2000 years! Nevermind what history shows you! "
Bullocks, nothin'. I'm sorry your situation was such that folks stifled inquiry into the fathers, but the two priests I've been under have let me go off on my little "catechuman rants" (as I call 'em) and gripe to my fellow catechumen about how the "fathers clearly say this, so why the Church does this is beyond me!!" I calmed down, learned to see two sides of a story, accept the wisdom of the Church (and realize that they weren't going to change for just me or just anyone else...and I learned to be greatful for that), all the while "marinating" under the pastoral care of priests who, while firm in what the Church teaches, let me say what I wanted to and were never rude or condescending towards me.
The vast majority of Protestants are not being “blatantly dishonest” nor do they “lack interest in getting the facts straight”. I know there are some, and I have met them. I have a friend who is a professor and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and at his Seminary there was a Dissertation done on How to Convert the Orthodox, and it manifested much of the misinformation you spoke about. So I’ve seen what you’re talking about.
Hey, another formerly-Southern Baptist Texan! I live in Ft. Worth and have read the dissertation of which you speak. Ridiculous, you're right.
But even in that document, the person who wrote it wasn’t being “blatantly dishonest”. He was just ignorant. His mindset was such that if you venerate an icon, it’s idolatry. It doesn’t matter whether you make a distinction between veneration and worship. It’s meaningless semantics. You can criticize them for being wrong, but I think it’s blatantly dishonest on your part to criticize them for being willfully deceitful. They are, for the most part, very sincere.
I agree, but firstly, they are sincerely WRONG. When I went to Bolivia, I thought all kinds of things about Catholicism--that they never read the Bible, that they worshipped Mary, that they held to a medieval view of communion, etc. I was sincere in my desire to show them "true Christianity," but I was sincerely WRONG.
Secondly, a lot of these folks haven't let the churches they're going to encounter speak for themselves--or often, they've let them talk but to no avail. When I let the Catholic Church speak for itself, I changed my thoughts. A lot of these devout, missionary types within Protestantism believe what they believe about us groups in the catholic traditions, and no amount of our speaking for ourselves is gonna tell them any different, by gum!
As for a lack of interest in getting the facts straight, where are they going to go to get the facts? I have lived in Dallas, which has one of the largest Greek Churches in the Diocese, for 32 years, and until about 5 years ago, I didn’t even know there was an Orthodox church in our city.
To go back to this: are you still in Dallas? You can PM me about this if you like.
There would be no “unwary” for them to mislead if we were doing our job. As I have repeatedly stated in this thread. The problem is ours, not theirs.
Well, I know this was already talked through between you and Strelets, but I agree and disagree.
Agree because, really, there's a problem with nominalism within the Orthodox Church at large. Not everyone, everywhere; not even within a convert/cradle dichotomy--my cradle godfather is devoutly Orthodox and can explain what he believes very well--but many need to be educated about WHY they have this faith to adhere to in the first place. It'd help a lot.
Disagree because, as has been pointed out, we can educate all we like; there'll still be some "ebb and flow" because of marriage ("But I loooooove him/her! Doesn't that mean anything at ALL to God?! Aren't we all the SAME, really?!") or other relationships ("All my friends go to that exciting A of G church on campus; I just don't "get fed" at St. So-and-so like I do there."). Education and a good Christian example is NEEDED, but don't confuse it for a panacea that will cure all that ails us. Evangelical proselytism isn't doing us any favors; those in the Church who decry this are doing a GOOD THING.
I appreciate you opening up with what was driving your concerns. You're absolutely correct. There's an ethnic problem in the GOA. It's not something I've experienced personally as I'm not in that jurisdiction, but the complaints I've read and heard convince me that it's real. You're not the only one. I'd recommend you earnestly get out and find another parish. The OCA and Antiochians are typically ethnically neutral. Perhaps try to find a smaller parish that's economically diverse.
Oooooooookay. I know it's a free-for-all, but this is, I think crossing the "no-jursidiction-plugging/bashing" line...
[mod hat]Please refrain from denouncing any one Orthodox jurisdiction as having any certain problem at large. Furthermore, any suggestions that posters should find another parish--specifically within other jurisdictions--will not be tolerated.
We all know that there are "frosty" parishes all over, regardless of ethnicity or anything else. It's not unique to the Greeks or anything else. And I happen to know of a Greek parish up in Euless (if you're still in Dallas, SOA, that will mean something to you) that has some very warm members who visit us in St. Barbara's (OCA) in Ft. Worth from time to time.
Welcome to the board. Thanks for being so active, so quickly. Look forward to hearing from you some more.