An interesting article I came across recently asked this very question… “How Old is Your Church?” or better yet “How accurate is your Church? For the real issue here is not chronological age, but theological truth, adherence to the ‘faith delivered once for all’.
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 a Reformed Calvinist, your foundation is in John Calvin, if of the Dutch Reformed Church, you recognize Michelis Jones as founder who originated your religion in New York in 1628. If you are a Methodist or Wesleyan, 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 sect in Palmyra, New York, in 1829. If you worship with the Salvation Army, you 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 Eddyas its founder. If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal – Full Gospel, “Holiness Church,” or the sect “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” your roots are found in one of the hundreds of new ‘churches’ 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 changing (unilaterally) the Nicene Creed – the Original Confession of the Church, and made himself to be universal in authority and infallible. Thus your church is 1,000 years old. If you are an Orthodox Christian, your church was founded in the year 33 A.D. by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It has not changed since that time. This 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. by Rev. Dr. Miltiades Efthimiou
Pretty strong words, and in an age of tolerance, this kind of thinking and speaking (and blogging) would be called narrow-minded intolerance. In some circles, in fact in most circles due to a blind and ‘everyone is right’ and no-one is wrong Ecumenism today, statements like the above are considered rude, conceited, decidedly wrong and very ‘un-christian’. “Is he really suggesting that being ‘older’ is better?” “That John Wesley and John Calvin were somehow wrong?” “That only the Orthodox are right?”
But what if he is right? What if the timeline is right? What if Jesus’ claim that ‘I will build my church’ (singular) is right? What if that Church/ His Body was never meant to be broken or divided? What would that actually mean? Unity? Oneness? 1 church and not 42,000 variations of it? One in essence and undivided? Could it be? Is ‘repent and return’ the only real hope for Ecumenism?
Of course with the demise of so-called mainline “denominationalism” in favor of a new denomination which today is called “non-denominationalism” – many people would say that nothing of the above applies to them, since they are ‘doing their own new apostolic thing’ (which is very accurate to the tune of 42,000* different melodies of the same song). But however you want to spin it, the unvarnished reality remains the same: everyone is from somewhere… just follow the rope, or the roots long enough and you’ll find a beginning someplace or in someone. But is it in Christ? His Church? His Apostles? His martyrs and saints? Is it the faith delivered once, for all?
So is the timeline above “arrogant”, “combative”, “condemning” – “irrelevant” at best, and wrong at worst? Or is it right? Discover for yourselves, become a Berean who believed not because of what a Samaritan woman said but actually searched for truth. As for me and my house? We did search, we followed the ‘rope’ back to the beginning, and what we found is this: It is history, it is fact, it is Truth – She is the Church. For over 1,000 years, and still existing to this very day, there is One Church, the Church, established at Pentecost, led by the Apostles and their direct successors today, persecuted through the millenia, and yet She remains to this very day – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
*42,000 is the number of ‘denominations’ as of 2011.
The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not Protestant. It is orthodox, but not Jewish. It is catholic, but not Roman. It isn’t non-denominational – it is pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago.
It is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church described in the Nicene Creed. It is the very Body of Christ, which was, and is, and will remain forever – undivided.