Dear Peter, Dear All,
Thanks for contributing such an even handed post which, I think, makes a very helpful distinction. When you say:
Quote:If we categorize so that we can prevent others being welcome with us in God's presence then that is difficult, but if we categorize so that we can serve others, is that a way forward.
I think you take our conversation to the next level as you emphasize such things as motives and intentions. Yes, the heart of the matter! As I mentioned in my last post, "when the time comes to reach out to our brother or sister, or neighbor," are we attempting to divide and exclude, or do we desire to embrace and include? What is our motive? What is our intention?
But, even more so, I would ask when we get right down to it here, what is really going on on this level? Is there really anything more than one grateful beggar telling another beggar where he has found some bread? In other words, lets bring this down out of the clouds to where the rubber meets the road . . . I have never been to the UK. I hope to visit one day. But, in terms of "A British Orthodoxy," and in terms of what the implications of this are for those who live in the areas around the British Orthodox parishes, I am obviously completely ignorant.
But, I would think some of the things I have experienced here, in my neck of the woods, would still apply. For example, I remember when I was a Protestant, but I wanted to check out Orthodoxy. Based on my studies of Church History and the History of Christian thought, I became convinced that Orthodoxy today did provide a true link to the past. I was attracted to an historic Orthodox approach, and I wanted to find out more.
I did not want to make any commitments. In fact at one time, I did not even want anyone else to know that I was investigating the possibility to be brutally honest with you. But, even more so, as I started to visit some websites that spoke of "Orthodoxy in America," the last thing in the world I wanted was for someone to interact with me or speak to me as if I was outside of the church. Gratefully, no one overtly did this during my time of investigation and ultimately through the final stages of my journey to Orthodoxy.
Fortunately, in my case, there was no one to divide or categorize what I was or what I wasn't during my time as an inquirer. By God's grace, there were only other Christians in my local Orthodox church who spoke of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Love. I am not sure that there was a time when I was not one of them from the beginning to be honest with you in this respect.
But, I say all of that to say, as it relates to "A British Orthodoxy," I think of the Baptists and the Methodists, and the whoeverists that live around the British Orthodox parishes right now. I think of some of these folks who may be in the same boat that I was a few years back. They are steeped in their traditions and heritages (especially the Baptist and Methodists with their rich history in the UK). Possibly, even some of these folks are reading this now, like I did when I was first attempting to learn more about Orthodox--or, even back further when I was first searching and investigating Christianity for the first time.
And, it occurs to me, from the viewpoint of the one who would be Orthodox, it matters not what 'we' feel our responsibility is to "them," or even what categories 'we' may or may not see "them" in. All "they" want is to have their questions answered, and to see for "them"selves what 'we' are all about. "They" may be apprehensive about entering into one of 'our' parishes. I know I was. I was in my 40's the first time I set foot in an Orthodox parish, and I will admit that it was somewhat intimidating to me (although I was no stranger to a Protestant church by any means). But, the point is in reality there are distinctions--there is an "us" and a "them;" but, and here's the thing, in my view, when the "us" and the "them" come together in such a way as the above, when 'our' motives and intentions are coming from and inline with the motives and intentions of Christ, the language of "us" and "them" is no longer spoken--all such divisions are transcended and become really unnecessary. All of this is superseded by the Language of Love. In my view, when the real thing is going on in terms of outreach to the non-Christian, or when the work of unity/union and reconciliation is taking place within some parts of the Body of Christ, all such ways of speaking and knowing and being which utilize catagories, really are not helpful. As has been said elsewhere, "in Christian theology, particularist thinking is schismatic thinking." Especially, in the ministry of reconciliation I think we see that we must transcend all divisions in the Body of Christ.
And, I realize that we have multiple conversations going on here at the present. But, that's okay. Possibly, someone will see an aspect that he or she would like to pursue or develop further.
Or, possibly better yet, while we are on this topic we could hear from some who may be "lurking" here on this website, like I was at one time in my neck of the woods. In the past, while I just lived 10 minutes away from the little Orthodox Church in my hometown, instead of going there to visit and to inquire initially, I went online to a place similar to this site.
In my area, there is an inquirers class that is offered at the local Orthodox churches once a year, in the fall. But, that's it, nothing except in the fall of the year. But, as I wind down this post here, I am wondering if there are any here who may just be reading these posts or "lurking" like I did once? If so, I am wondering if any who may be searching or investigating an Orthodox Christian approach like I did (or even some who are non-Christians now), would care to muster up some courage, and to register and weigh in on this conversation.
If so, possibly we could all learn together here about such things as categories and divisions, and how and when to transcend such things. I will share with the community here I have a Methodist background, many of my relatives are Methodists today. And, I also have a Baptist background. I have been an ordained Baptist pastor as well. So, possibly we could have a very illuminating discussion here in this thread--all things considered.
This could be very interesting now that I think about it. I know that when I was "lurking" on sites like this at one time, I would have considered such an offer as this to be a golden opportunity.
So, as it relates to categories, in the real world--where the rubber meets the road--I guess we will see Peter, as we continue on one step at a time . . .