I thank God everyday that His Holy Spirit led our family to the Orthodox Church. Though we are unworthy of all Her beauty and riches, God in his forbearance and love for mankind brought us, and is bringing the historic apostolic church to the attention of Western Protestant folks… like we used to be. Glory to God for this.
But here is the rub. Many Orthodox Christians, cradles and converts alike, are content to smile and feel good about this comment, I think from a Bishop of the Orthodox Church, that Orthodoxy is the so-called
…best kept secret in America…”
Why do some Orthodox feel good, or at least content, about a statement like this? Perhaps yes, it is actually true – but the bigger questions are these: “What will you do? What will we do to make sure that this statement is eradicated in our lifetime?” Jesus I am quite sure did not command us to go into all the world and keep his Church and Gospel the best kept secret…? Certainly we must act for we do indeed have the pearl of great price in our hands and no doubt we Orthodox will be held doubly accountable on the day of judgement for what we did with this pearl in our culture. And don’t let anyone kindly patronize you with “Well we need to adopt the maxim of Seraphim of Sarov… who said ‘acquire the spirit of peace and thousands round about you will be saved…’.” First, nothing against Saint Seraphim – a godly and holy saint… but this is a faulty mistranslation of his words… accurately rendered it should read… “acquire the Holy Spirit… and thousands round about you will be saved…” It is not some ethereal, passive, spineless, toothless ‘peace’ that will save… but it is the fire of the Holy Spirit living and active and emanating from every Orthodox Christian that will have the power and potential to save millions right here in our own land.
Read this article (if you dare) from Fr. John Peck about the future of the Orthodox Faith in America… So what should we do? Sit idle? Or act? I say give your life away to something that is bigger than you and something that will endure for eternity. First, by living utterly holy, humble, but aggressively sanctified lives (for which saint are you aware of who simply sat around – and did nothing?) and second – ‘speak’ – ‘act’… with your words and your lives, don’t be passive. We have been given the pearl… what will we do to share it with America and the world?
From Fr. John Peck ….. “…Twenty years from now, I anticipate we will see the following…”
- Vastly diminished parishes, both in size and number. There will be a few exceptions, (and they will be exceptional!) but for the most part, most current Orthodox parishioners will age and die, and have no one to replace them. Why? Because as they have taught the context of their culture, instead teaching the context of their faith. Some parishes will simply be merged with others. Many will close outright. A few will change how they do ministry, with a new vision of parochial ecclesiology. These newer parishes will be lighthouses of genuine Orthodox piety and experience. Some parishes, I believe, will actually be formed specifically, in the old fashion, by purchasing land, building a chapel or Temple in the midst of it, and parishioners building or buying homes around it. The Church will be the center of their lives, and many will come from far and wide to experience their way of life.
- Publicly renowned Orthodox media and apologetic ministries. These ministries are the ones providing a living and powerful apologetic for the Orthodox faith in our culture (that is, our 21st Century life in the United States), and actually providing the Gospel in its proper context – engaged in society and the public arena. These will succeed in visibility and public awareness more than all the speeches before the U.N. and odd newspaper stories about Orthodox Easter or Folk Dance Festivals could ever do. In other words, the Orthodox Christian faith will become that most dangerous of all things – relevant to the lives of Americans, and known to all Americans as a genuinely American Christian entity.
- More (and younger) bishops. If our current slate of bishops has been mostly a disappointment, reducing their number will only tighten this closed circle, making the hierarchy less and less accessible, and more and more immune to things like, oh, the needs and concerns of their flock. The process of selection for the episcopacy will contain a far more thorough investigation, and men with active homosexual tendencies, psychological problems, insecurities, or addictions will simply not make the cut. We aren’t far from open persecution of Christians by secularists in this country, and we need bishops who know the score. With better bishops, no one will be able to ‘buy’ a priest out of a parish with a gift of cash. Conversely, parish councils will no longer be able to bully priests into staying out of their affairs, and will be required to get out of the restaurant/festival business and get into the soul saving business.
- A very different demographic of clergy. Our priests will be composed of converts, reverts, and the sons and grandsons of venerable, long-suffering clergy. These men all know the score. They won’t tolerate nonsense like homosexual clergy (especially bishops), women’s ordination, or financial corruption. They will not tolerate the Church being regularly and unapologetically dishonored by her own clergy. Twenty years from now, these convert and revert priests will be sending life-long Orthodox men, a new cradle generation, en masse to our seminaries. They will be white, black, Asian, Polynesian, Hispanic, and everything in between. Fewer will be Russian, Greek, or any other traditionally Orthodox background.
- Orthodox Biblical Studies. Orthodox Biblical scholarship will flourish, and will actually advance Biblical Studies, rather than tag along for the latest trends, staying a minimum safe distance back in case the latest theory tanks unexpectedly. Septuagint studies are already on the rise and Orthodox scholars will usurp the lead in this arena, establishing a powerful and lasting influence in Biblical Studies for decades to come. Orthodox higher education — specifically in Biblical Studies in the Orthodox tradition — will finally have a place at the doctoral level in the Western hemisphere, and it will become a thriving academic entity. The whole Church will feed on the gleanings of this new scholarship and Scriptural knowledge, preaching, and Biblical morality will invigorate the Church for generations.
- A much higher moral standard from all clergy. The next twenty years will see a revival of practical ethics. Instead of trailing military or business ethics, the Church will, once again, require the highest standard of ethical and professional behavior from her clergy — and they will respond! The clergy will not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing and hold to account those who practice these vices. They will vigorously defend the honor of Christ’s priesthood, and Christ’s Church. I dare say, even the clergy will finally respect their own priesthood.
- Vocations will explode. As a result of the elevated ethical standard publicly expected from the clergy, candidates in far greater numbers will flock to the priesthood. There will be full classes, distance education, self-study and continuing education going on in every location. Education at a basal level will disappear, except in introductory parish classes. Clergy will powerfully articulate Orthodoxy to the faithful and to the culture around them. Personal opinion will no longer be the standard for clergy when articulating Orthodox ethics and morality. Our seminaries must become beacons for this teaching, and give up “training culture” once and for all. We will finally begin to penetrate our society, rather than go along for the ride like a tick on a dog’s back.
- Philanthropy will flow like the floodgates of heaven. Finally, the many Orthodox Christian philanthropists who annually give millions of dollars to secular institutions will finally find their own Church completely transparent, completely accountable, and worthy of their faith-building support. Let’s face it, there is more than enough money in Orthodoxy right now to build hospitals, clinics, schools, colleges, universities, and a new Hagia Sophia right here in the United States. The reason this is not being done is because these philanthropists are intelligent men and women who do not trust the hierarchy to do the right thing with their millions. This will change in short order once it is shown that transparency doesn’t destroy the Church, but strengthens it immeasurably. Frankly, I don’t anticipate every jurisdiction to do this in the next twenty years, but those that are practicing transparency will emerge as the leaders in every arena of Church existence.