Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mission and Identity - a Conflict? Really?

I came across this in Ad Orientem, but John over there got it from Eirenikon, and the original is from the blog of a Traditional Anglican priest, whose group is seeking communion with Rome.

The Christian world has been torn between relevance to the world and its specific identity…

This is a problem that is intrinsic to Christianity. If a religion is to expand and assume a missionary vision, then it must be prepared to compromise its identity and inculturate. Western Catholicism is a missionary religion and addresses itself to the world. Eastern Orthodoxy, like Judaism, is a vast “monastery” and keeps its identity by keeping the infidel out and at arm’s length. The latter vision is coherent if it considers, like Jansenism and Calvinism, that the majority of humanity is nothing more than “hell fodder”.

The Orthodox, like the Roman Catholic traditionalists (especially the sedevacantists) have come to this [a negative stance toward ecumenism] out of an instinct for survival. We traditional Anglicans also to an extent, because we can only survive by our difference from secular humanism. When you look at the historical pattern, we can begin to understand. All this is to say that I understand those Greeks who have had enough of relativism and liberalism. But, where is the love and charity or the will to share the Gospel with the world as Jesus asked of his Apostles?


This alleged conflict must belong to someone else. For Orthodox Christians, there simply is no conflict between maintaining the Church’s identity (Christ) and missionary endeavor (Christ’s work).

For us, the word “catholic" asserts that Christ and His worship and, yes, His way of life are relevant to and appropriate for all men in all places and in all times, “For All Sorts and Conditions of Men”. Christ should form and inform a culture; He is not to be formed by it.

Nor do we keep the infidel out; plenty of us are unfaithful daily and hourly, and not a few, constantly, willfully, and egregiously. We have the wheat and the tares all flourishing among us. The Church is right where an infidel belongs; it is a hospital to treat our infidelity. I wouldn't presume to know for sure, but many Church buildings might perhaps be empty if purged of all infidels.

What we do keep out is false doctrine. We are not syncretists. Syncretism is not love; keeping pure the saving doctrine is.

Where’s the love? The missionary work has been slack for a while, unfortunately, for numerous serious reasons, including severe persecutions (Communism), but not from lack of love. Come see; among the Orthodox you will find love such as you never found before, nor ever can find anywhere else.


Anonymous said...

Hello again. I must admit, I had to go to the blog page and from there to the page he referred to so I would understand what the Angelican priest was talking about.

And I'm sorry to say...I agree with him. Eastern Orthodoxy, traditional Roman Catholics, Fundementalist Evangelical Christians, and even those of other faiths with fundementalist/traditionalist leanings (Islam and Judiaism come to mind) tend to prefer keeping their identity above staying relavent to the word. In your words "keeping pure the saving doctrine". It is the extent to which members of a church will say "My church has the Truth, the Whole Truth and no one else has it." And I know that Orthodoxy feels that way. As do the others I mentioned before.

I'll use baptism as an example. If I were to start going to an Orthodox church and want to join, I'd have to accept being baptised in that church. (I was baptised as a Baptist when I was a teen). Why? Because Orthodoxy feels that other churches baptisms are not the True Baptism.

But when I joined a liberal Roman Catholic church, my Baptist baptism was accepted, no problem. The same would be true if I wanted to join a Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, or Presbeterian church.

If I were to now return to the Baptist church, I very well maybe asked to be baptized again because my involvement with the Catholic church must mean that my original profession of faith/baptism wasn't a genuine thing or I never would have fallen so far as to become Catholic. Catholics (to most Baptists) do not have the Truth.

It is this Us vs. Them mentality that makes those of us who are part of the Them ask...Where is the love? I feel that when I go to my parent's church (They are still Evangelical Prodestants). Their pastor has actually seen in with them and preached specifically on the wrongness of Catholics, knowing I'm Catholic.

When I read the blog of the Anglican priest and then went to the site that he was referring to ( ) I recognized that Us vs. Them attitude all too well. It is a large reason why I left Evangelical Christianity, why I don't think I could be Orthodox, and why, if Traditional Catholics take over Rome, I'll probably have to leave the Catholic church too.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Hi, Andrea, and thanks for making me understand where people like this priest are coming from. I was baffled.

So what would you have the Orthodox do differently?

(We already, for love's sake and to avoid scandalizing people, receive converts such as you would be by Chrismation instead of Baptism.)