Dear Fr. Gregory,
When you write:
Quote:Paul Negrut?s response to Peter Gillquist is generally worthy of consideration. Many (especially Protestant) converts to Orthodoxy lapse into some sort of idealistic (not to say romantic) stupor and see Orthodoxy through a perspective that is far removed from reality. Many of them ? and this is not reported in Gillquist?s statistics ? also depart from Orthodoxy in the not very long term.
If Orthodoxy is to effectively evangelise in the West it must look ? as Orthodoxy did from the beginning ? at adaption, at the elimination of that which is irrelevant (for example, the use of languages unintelligible to most of the congregation and to many of the clergy), and at recognizing that the needs of America, Britain and Australia (for example) in 2010AD are not the needs of the Middle East in 200AD.
You penetrate to the heart of an important part of Negrut's article. I remember when I was in the process of coming to the Church Abba Seraphim emphasising that one must be in favour of orthodoxy, not 'against' Anglicanism. If one does come as a counter-motion to something else then it is easy to retain the romanticised image - and then to drift away when that, too, turns out to be unsatisfactory.
Whether we like it, or even agree with the idea, it seems to me that we live in a society where we do effectively make a choice. Even if we are cradle Orthodox we make a decision to stay as such. In this sense we are closer to the society in which the first Christians preached the word. There were then a great number of possible religions, all of them generally 'approved' as long as one did not insist that one's faith was the only one. Belonging to the Christian Church involved social problems, and invited one's friends and neighbours to wonder a little about one's sanity.
And yet, those first Christians were very successful evangelists, and rather than trying to invent the round wheel for a second time, might we not learn something from them?
I do wonder sometimes whether that very success attracts us to the surviving externals of itself? So, we have a liturgy and vestments from long ago times, almost as relics of that great success which, if we adhere to us will, in some way, rub off on us. But the Apostles did what came naturally through the Spirit - they spoke to people in their own language and in their own cultures - all things to all men. What is it we can learn from St. Paul? Everything?
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)