It is good to have you here - and the questions you ask are important ones.
Elsewhere here we are discussing Pope Benedict's recent pronouncement. There was a letter in last week's Times
which asked 'what are the consequences of not belonging to a proper Church?'; and that got me thinking along the lines you mention here.
I have just come back from a few days in Wales. Deep in the Brecon Beacons we came across a deserted site which once contained a Church dedicated to St Illtud (c425-c505). I knew little about him except that he had founded a college where Sts. David and Gildas were taught; but that did not matter - the place was clearly one of ancient holiness, and it needed no imaginative powers to see why one of the founders of Welsh monasticism would have thought it a suitable one.
This reminder of the longevity of Christianity in the British Isles stayed with me as we drove through the Rhondda Valley to Cardiff. In every town there were two or three great preaching houses called 'Gospel Hall' and 'Church of God'; this in addition, sometimes, to a Church of Wales Church or a Baptist or Methodist Chapel. No where here, of course, was there an Orthodox Church. My own son (whose degree ceremony had taken us to Cardiff) who is still, nominally an Anglican (he was baptised and confirmed in that Church), attends a large Church in Cardiff which was Presbyterian, but is now Independent, and every Sunday there are c.400 people at the morning service, and another 100 or so at the evening service. All in all, a great witness to the Risen Lord; but not being part of a 'proper Church' are all these people deluded and lost unless, by His Grace, God decides otherwise?
I said to my son that my poor view was that such matters lay in God's hands for us all, and that I could not presume to make any comments. But his question - which was if Orthodox people who say there is no salvation outside their Church believe what they say, why are they not night and day engaged in mission work? - was one which left me uneasy.
But breaking away from the thoughts about what our relationship to other Christians should
be to what it actually is,
came the realisation that in practice, ecumenism is the oil that keeps the wheels turning. Of course, like all virtues, it can become a vice, and if it becomes nothing but syncretism then it really becomes nothing at all. Only God knows if you can be a Muslim and a female Anglican vicar and be saved; but most of us can see that such a combination makes it difficult to describe yourself as a Christian in any sense where the word means anything at all.
The truly illumined heart should surely, be seeking the opportunities for inclusion which you mention. That does not have to mean concelebration of the Eucharist with those who do not hold it to be what Orthodox hold; but nor does it mean a narrow exclusivity where we privately thank God that we are not as other men.
Without the cooperation of Anglicans and others, we might have difficulty having many premises from which to conduct our Orthodox services; their recognition of what we stand for is a sign of their true ecumenism, and I am grateful for it.
Quote: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.
That I can relate to. And what I have found since becoming part of the BOC is that this is what is at its heart; a simple, yet profound longing to worship the Risen Lord before all else - and the sense that the most satisfactory way to do this is the one practiced by the early Church and preserved in Orthodoxy.
'Most satisfactory' is not the same as 'only'. I am not sure that I had an answer to my son's question - or even if this is a satisfactory way forward with our discussion here, Rick, but I hope the thoughts were worth sharing.
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)