Orthodoxy, American style

I remember one time that an ethnic Orthodox Christian was criticizing Fr. Peter Gillquist for implying that he and his incoming group were bringing something of significant value to the reunion table with Orthodoxy in America. The internet author (probably on the Indiana list) was scandalized - apparently - that Fr. Gillquist would even remotely imply that his group of converts were doing anything other than complete and utter prostrations and wailing innumerable thanks in the direction of Damascus for being allowed to enter into Holy Orthodoxy.

Fact is, I think Fr. Gillquist is right in saying that the rush of converts has done much to bring renewed zeal to Orthodoxy in America. In fact, I would go even further and say that we converts are the very key to the future of Orthodoxy in America. Now, having already been accused of being a "crypto-protestant" (for offering political support to Israel of all things!) I recognize the "fears" some ethnic Orthodox folk have with converts bringing too much protestant baggage along with them.

As if ethnic Orthodox Christians bring no baggage from the old world? LOL! They bring trainloads of it! The very accusation that I am being too much like a protestant for supporting the state of Israel is a perfect example of such baggage. Sometimes we are told that American Orthodoxy isn't mature enough yet for autocephaly, and to that I would proclaim: what a bunch of hypocritical regurgitation. A friend recently emailed me a short list of all the immaturity and chaos that can be found throughout the Orthodox old world (one can add the jihadist bishop Hanna as another example that no American Bishop in ANY jurisdiction can quite match - are we really supposed to look at an old world Orthodox jurisdiction ruled by a bishop advocating suicide bombings and consider them MORE mature than American jurisdictions?)

So, count little (or big) old me - just a voice crying out (i.e. a loudmouth jerk) in the Kitsap county wilderness - as one who believes very strongly in celebrating AMERICAN Orthodoxy. It is time. Were it up to me the OCA would stop whispering about their autocephaly (who cares if the Patriarch of some two or three dozen dying Christians in Istanbul disagrees? He is after all only 2nd amongst EQUALS).

Orthodoxy isn't genetic, if it were then I would have some claim to special authority myself. I propose it is time that we Americans - convert or otherwise - start standing up and figuring out what American Orthodoxy looks like...without asking Greece, Ukraine, Russia, or Lebanon, Turkey, and Syria - we've had enough of their input, and in fact in the latter three Orthodoxy is dying or all but dead.

We are the future of Orthodoxy...far more so than most of the primordial Orthodox soups. But, what am I saying practically? Well I am still formulating these thoughts...stay tuned...or not, if I grieve you further.


Anonymous said…
You've uttered the "f" word that grates on me. For years I've heard various hierarchs of every description say that (usually "the youth") are "the future of the Church", with a whoop of approval. I'm not a youth anymore, and am post-whoop. The "future" of the Church isn't there; everyone baptized is either the present or nothing. The future stuff is to keep people at arm's length. You're quite correct to say we don't need any strings, purse or other, to connect us to an "old country". I know a priest who always says "look out the window, what country do you see?" if he's hit with whiney requests for something "more" like any particular ethnicity. If there's steppes out there, fine, more Slavonic, etc. The Russians in fact got their autocephaly the old fashioned way, they took it. They didn't ask for a piece of paper, notarized. The old world patriarchates are pretty meaningless. For instance, I expect you now have Suquamish as return address? Not Bothell? That's because you *moved*. Why then, does the Patriarch in Damascus, where he's lived since Antioch was razed by Muslims in the 13th century, still go by "Of Antioch"? Oh, that's different... --- Bob
Anonymous said…
With respect to standing up and showing what Orthodoxy looks like, we are all already doing that, unfortunately. There is such a total temptation for converts to "teach" cradle Orthodox and likewise there is such a temptation for cradle Orthodox to tell us converts that we don't know anything. Perhaps, both sides need to acknowledge that they have a really long way to go and rather help the other in love and humility.

fdj said…
Bob and Rick...I agree and agree for the most part...a few thoughts:

You've uttered the "f" word that grates on me

I think I understand your point Bob, but I also think you will agree with me that Orthodoxy (and indeed all religions) have more hope for a "future" of any sort in America than it does where 3 or 4 out of the five great historical Patriarchal seats are to be found. At least for the time being.

With respect to standing up and showing what Orthodoxy looks like, we are all already doing that, unfortunately.

Well that's not what I meant...what I mean is what will American Orthodoxy be like...as opposed to Greek Orthodoxy that happens to be in America or Russian Orthodoxy that happens to be in America. How are we going to take Holy Orthodoxy and incorporate it practically into our lives uniquely as American families - it seems to me we are still working this out and in time I would expect to see a more cohesive understanding and practice (again - unique to America) regardless of jurisdiction , perhaps with our grandchildren or great grandchildren.

For instance...perhaps breaking the fast on thanksgiving will be a given as opposed to something you "talk to your father-confessor" about. Little things like this I think will go a long way to helping us all as Americans (convert or otherwise) to OWN an authentic American Orthodoxy. I have more thoughts and suggestions as well. Not the least of which is a greater sense to EVERYONE inside and outside that Orthodoxy is NOT an ethnic religion here in America anymore.

Yes, let us and the cradles learn from one another - always understanding, I think, that coming from Belarus or Ukraine or Serbia or Greece or Holy Mother Russia does not make one an expert on Orthodoxy, Liturgical Practice, or on the "proper" little traditions that surround "o"rthodox cultures. Much can be gleaned and learned, but there is also much that just does not fit for Americans.

And for the sake of all things merciful let us never think that we converts, because we have read forty-seven tons of conciliar press books that we must have a better understanding of Orthodoxy than an illiterate ethnic peasant.
Anonymous said…
Of course if American Orthodoxy means suffering more converts doing the weird arms-stretched-out-pamls-up thing when the priest says, "Let us with our hands up onto the Lord.", I'll take old-world Orthodoxy any day...

fdj said…
Oh that will be the LEAST of your worries Rade :)
Anonymous said…
People dragging in their pet loves from Catholicism and Evangelicalism ARE a problem, and there are lots of them, wanting to recreate Orthodoxy in the image of what they left. Personally I am awfully tired of recent Catholic converts whining about contraception (as if the NFP they all use to stop at 4 kids is not contraception). People like Bishop Hanna are wrong because they are wrong, not because they are "old world". Orthodoxy in the new world, inc the UK and the US, is great, so much better than when I was a kid. Yet as a cradle Russian Orthodox who found Christ, or rather was found by Him, in an Anglo-Catholic church, I am a little worried about the speed at which things are going. A guy, Methodist or Anglican or whatever, converts to Orthodoxy and is a priest in two years - that scares me. It scares me too when it happens in Russia - from confused agnostic to priest in two years is no better. I appreciate the growth rate sometimes gives us no choice (and that is good) but there are still misgivings for the identity of Orthodoxy. Americans in particular have a centre of the universe mentality (no offence, I am far, far from anti-American) and one hears things like "let's change the fast, let's have tuna and eggs because they're cheap and convenient" and it bothers me. A lot.
fdj said…
Margi, I what you note here is all apart of how we will figure out what will be unique and "homegrown" if you will, with regard to Orthodoxy in America.

Fact is, the "old world" is not a united front of cookie cutter Orthodoxy. My Slovak-Rusyn ancestors "did" their Orthodoxy with Slovak flavor and Russians do their Orthodoxy with Russian flavor and Greeks etc etc etc...the point being, that the expressions are the same and yet they are different. Finding those things that NEED to be the same and those things that do not need to be the same is the trick.

I would contend that every Orthodox ethnicity has a tendency to believe they are the center of the universe in one way or another and in terms of being "TRULY" Orthodox we see this even more being the case.

Little things, like Thanksgiving falling during the fast is something we have to work out. It's something that would not have occurred in and Orthodox country for obvious reasons, but if Orthodoxy is going to return to her evangelical roots (meaning: evangelizing people) and expand into different cultures it is going to have to get back into the venerable and traditional business of baptizing new cultures as opposed to exporting Russian, Greek, Serb or even Slovak culture.

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