A Generous Orthodoxy
03-08-2007, 03:46 PM
A Generous Orthodoxy
The questions you ask are crucial ones, and I suspect they may speak to others of us here.
When you ask:
Quote:what is it that determines where we assemble together, where we worship, and where we minister from as a home base? What determines our association with a particular local church? What determines when/where we go and when/where we stay?you ask something which most of us here will have asked themselves; and for now, if you will, can I concentrate on this point before coming back to others you raise, because I see this at the heart of a Generous Orthodoxy.
The first thing I would say is that for most of us there is indeed a choice. Those fortunate enough to be born Orthodox had no choice to make at that level - they could, of course, have declined from that Church, but they had no decision to make beyond that; I am not sure, on the basis of my experience that that equips them to understand converts very well; this is where 'generosity' is essential.
For years I stayed where I thought God had put me; I was English, I was an Anglican, my beliefs were, as far as I could judge, at one with Orthodox teaching; as a believer in the 'branch' theory, I could even convince myself that ecclesiologically I was, by that route, a part of the Orthodox Church.
Of course I recognised a certain amount of self-serving in the ecclesiological definitions I was using; but were they any more self-serving that the definition of the Church that said it had to accept the 7 Ecumenical Councils, or Papal Infallibility and Supremacy? It seemed to me you took your ecclesiology from where you were, and oddly enough (or not!) it answered the question of where should you worship.
But since no one else seemed to accept that Anglican ecclesiology, one could do two things: say, tough, this Church is Orthodox in its beliefs and its practices, and if the EO do not see that, well too bad, but that's life; or one could say, let us compare what is Orthodox with what is believed where I am. It was as the elements which were Orthodox became watered down that Anglicanism began to seem an unviable vehicle for Orthodox belief. True, that part of Anglicanism to which I belonged, that Anglo-Catholic tradition, was Orthodox - but at the other end of the spectrum of the same Church was something that seemed very unOrthodox. But still I stayed; who was I to decide where I should worship?
It was only when the pain and the barrenness of that place became too much to bear that I knew I must leave it; the pain was not that of subduing the will, but of hearing what was not and never had been Orthodox; Christ was not just a 'good man' who 'believed in social justice'.
What was clear to me from where I was (and that is a crucial part of deciding where one is heading) was that I needed to be in a place that was Orthodox: that left three places for me: the RCs, the EOs or, and these I discovered very late in my journey, the Oriental Orthodox.
I will say little about the other Churches. I have a great admiration for much that the Roman Catholic Church does in this world; but the Augustinian nature of its beliefs about Original Sin, and its innovations, made in a place that I could not go. Eastern Orthodoxy had long attracted me intellectually; but in practice I found it narrow, rigid and prone to confuse being Orthodox with being Russian or Greek; whilst I was the first, I was neither of the others, nor did I belong to that group of English slavophiles who want to turn Slavic. So for the longest time I felt there was no 'home', no way to Orthodoxy in a Church where I felt welcome and which would guide me to the loving God who made me in His image, an image which my own sinfulness and weakness had severely marred to the point it was unrecognisable.
Then, as I have said elsewhere here, I came across the BOC. Without it I would not have joined an Orthodox Church. It was Orthodox, yet eirenic in the best sense; it knew what was right, but you had to choose to learn the way; help was there whenever it was needed, but no one pushed, no one told one off for not knowing what was going on in the services; no one did anything but express friendship and generosity.
So, that was how I decided - although to me it seems it was 'decided' elsewhere.
What would I do if there was no BOC Church in Norfolk? Go where there was one as often as I could manage it.
Circumstances at Babingley mean we now have a Liturgy ever fortnight; personal circumstances mean that I missed the last one because I needed to be in Wales with one of my sons; so it is a month since I partook of the Eucharist; and I know I am suffering from that fast. I am trying to dedicate it to Him who made us all, but I sense it has made a difference to my spiritual state; I long for Sunday (and its long drive) like a man in the desert longs for water.
That is how I know I am in the right place. As an Anglican it seemed to make no difference if I took communion or not; now it does.
Since this is long enough, I shall come back to other points later - but I offer this as a testimony in the hope it is of some help, my dear Rick.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
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A Generous Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 03-08-2007 03:46 PM