Through Our Own Perspective II
John, I wonder if you remember Herman the Pooh over in that other woods. When a conversation takes the turn that this one has, he is fond of restating the fact that he "has no where else to go." What he is saying is that he has both exhausted all of his options and that even though there may be shortcomings where he is at, he is simply saying, for him, there is no where else to go other than Orthodoxy, for him this is IT. With him there is something akin to a sweet spirit of resignation at play. Or, possibly more accurately there is a somber joy involved.
Part of that situation speaks to my comment above about when the dreaded smile of resignation starts to grow on a man's face. And, I'm not sure that what I am stumbling towards here has ever really been addressed. I know when folks go through that back door of a local visible church for the last time, there is never any kind of exit interview. If anything there is only a covering of one's eyes or a wagging of the head on the part of those left on the 'inside.' So, why would this be addressed? The front door "conversion" numbers are still intact. Evangelistically speaking it was still a good year . . .
But, there comes a time when a person has gone through the back door so many times that there really is no other place to go after a while. And, coupled with this, when one suspects Orthodoxy just might be IT on this side of Heaven, regardless of the shape of Orthodoxy Today, the feeling that there is no where else to go is reinforced.
So as some may look at the shape and dimension of Orthodox Missiology and the condition of the local visible church this comes into play at times. As some may look at the others who make up the numbers of Orthodox converts, specifically the one's whe "converted" the same year that he did, and as he realizes that they have all simply faded away . . . why would he want to bring any of his friends or associates into this realm so that they can fade to black with this smile on their faces.
That would make a good book title, "Atomized Churches." Or, maybe as well "An Atomized Orthodoxy?"
Although it is a bleak thought, like the smile itself, what happens to something when it is atomized? That's right it disappears, at least to the naked eye. What if it is true that many of the churches have been atomized and this is why even though they are still there going through the motions, the substance one hopes to find does not abide in a real way in these groups anymore than it does in other associations or societies. And, lest we become happy-clappy or participate in some sort of giddy superficiality, this is why there seems to be only two other options. One, enter into a kind of sweet resignation and fade to black within the local visible church. . . in this sense play your part along with the others who smile every Sunday. Or, two, become atomized yourself and just fade away.
Or, maybe for those of us in the US who find ourselves in this place, there is another option John. But, how could this other option be much different from what the Reformers have done? Regardless of the degree of error or deadness of a Church, does there ever come a time when there can be a kind of insurrection that does not have disastrous results or one that is not evil? What does any kind of rebellion, limited or other, have to do with Orthodoxy and obedience?
But, as I allow some room for Orthodoxy through our own perspective, and specifically from my perspective, maybe this does not apply to what is going on in the BOC. I suspect it doesn't really apply, based on what I have read here and elsewhere. There seems to be a lived experience in the BOC and I have read Father Peter's words in another thread today where he wrote that the British Orthodox Fellowship is committed to missions. I have known some groups that say they are committed to missions, this is what they tell people . . .but, when you look at where their resources go it is obviously a lie. But, I get the feeling that the BOC is committed to missions just because of the way Fr. Peter wrote in that post. Hopefully, they are committed to the "converts" as well once they come in the front door and are recorded as a number.
I can see that some of the churches in the BOC are very small. So some of these churches do not need a large staff in order to function at their current level. But, even here as we might consider such things as Church Growth and Church Planting, regardless of the age or size of a local visible church or mission church, which is more important: a.) the size of the body? or b.) the health of the body?
Regardless of whether there are 3 or 300 members in a given parish, the health of the body is what's most important in terms of both salvation and evangelism. An unhealthy church is not going to be an evangelistic church and even if there is some effort on this front what will happen to the new "convert" if he is to come in the front door of an unhealthy local body of believers?
You wrote once before John, about the unique place of the United States as it relates to An American Orthodoxy? But, the more I think about it, the more I can see that in Orthodoxy Today, the tiny BOC is the one positioned most uniquely.
But, again, it's not the size of the local body, but the health of the body that always takes precedence, right?