Did you see the video of the Orthodox priest from Belarus offering an ecumenical greeting to the PCUSA assembly? The video and accompanying article can be found here. This is a very short, but powerful clip. Fr. Siarhei delivers a number of zingers, but he does it in such a nice way that you wonder if anyone even noticed:

  • First he tells the assembly that the Orthodox Church has an unbroken, unchanged, and unreformed Tradition and that our theology has not been changed in the past 2,000 years.
  • He spends a minute thanking the PCUSA for their partnership in social efforts, but that doesn’t deter him from what he says next…
  • He tells them that they are using the revised version of the Nicene Creed which includes the filioque.
  • He tells them that Christian morality has already been established and doesn’t need to be re-invented. He goes on to say that attempts to create a new morality look like attempts to invent a new religion; a religion that he calls a modern-day paganism. (This is in reference to some of the issues that the assembly was voting on, which you can read about in the article linked above).
  • He questions whether it is really the Holy Spirit that guides people to make such changes in doctrine, or if it is indeed a different spirit altogether. “Are there different spirits acting in different denominations?” wonders Fr. Siarhei.
  • He concludes by saying this his desire is that all Christians should contend earnestly for the faith, which was once and for all delivered to the Saints. (Jude 1:3)

Wow, he packed quite a lot into a 5-minute speech! While Fr. Siarhei was invited to deliver an ecumenical greeting he really ended up delivering a word of warning and a call to get on the right course. It is a powerful message and I appreciate that Fr. Siarhei was so careful to “speak the truth in love”.

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If you’ve recently heard about Orthodox Christianity and you want to learn more, then you are exactly where I was just seven or eight months ago!

I was researching Christian (Protestant) denominations and I knew I had to investigate Orthodoxy after reading this on Religion Facts:

Culturally, the Greek East has always tended to be more philosophical, abstract and mystical in its thinking, whereas the Latin West tends toward a more pragmatic and legal-minded approach. (According to an old saying, “the Greeks built metaphysical systems; the Romans built roads.”) 

I was quickly blown away by just how very little I knew about Christianity. Despite growing up in a very Christian household. Despite all the apologetics training I had as a teenager. Despite the many books I had read.

The resources that were most influential for me were those that were written from the perspective of former Protestants. If this isn’t your background, then these might not be quite as interesting for you as they were for me.

Ancient Faith Radio – I can’t remember how we learned about it, but we quickly became huge fans of AFR. The first podcast that we listened to was an interview with the founder of AFR. The first part of this podcast is John Maddex’s background in radio and I recommend skipping to 8:40 unless this is something that particularly interests you. At that point he gets into his own conversion story which was extremely influential for both me and my husband. In particular John discusses his presuppositions and how the standard he used to judge a belief was based upon the beliefs of the people that he respected. He realized that this was the wrong approach and that he needed to start from the beginning (the early Church) and move forward. Another interesting comment is one that his wife made about the Church: “if this isn’t it – then nothing is.” My husband and I have both had the exact same sentiment. There is no returning to Protestantism. It’s Orthodoxy – or it is nothing.

After listening to that I quickly bought one of the books mentioned, Becoming Orthodox by Fr. Peter Gillquist. This is the story of an en masse conversion of evangelical Christians to the Orthodox Church. This book is a great place for the Protestant to begin. It’s a quick read and gives a general synopsis of the Church’s major positions. I really enjoyed it, but in retrospect I offer a few caveats. First, it is rather simplistic. But I think it is such as to not overwhelm those unfamiliar with Orthodoxy. Second, there is a rather drawn out account of how this group came to be accepted into the Church. This might be interesting to some people… but frankly I haven’t met those people. I’ve given this book to three or four people and they’ve all said they were bored with that part. I’m the only exception – I found it somewhat interesting, but it is rather much considering that the reader of this book knows next to nothing about the Church.

Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells – I started this book immediately after Becoming Orthodox, so in my mind the two are linked together as stepping stones. The first book was an easy step, interesting but not too much to think about. The second book was a more challenging step and offered many things to ponder. This was another conversion story but the author went into far greater detail. Among the major themes that I recall are the Protestant doctrine of sola scripture, and Protestant rationalism and relativism. He also discussed many of the major themes in the Church, again going into greater depth than the first book did. As I read many things began to really click for me. I really enjoyed this book and plan on reading it again. I highly recommend this book and so do others – check out the Amazon reviews!

After reading the above (and listening to a few more podcasts) we attended our first Liturgy. Find a church near you here. We visited a ROCOR (Russian) parish before settling on a parish affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America.

I continue to find the OCA site to be extremely helpful. In particular I enjoy the Q&A section as well as this section that I am using as a catechism of sorts.