Works of the Order in Action: Department of Missions and Evangelism
In 1987 our beloved Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory established the Department of Missions and Evangelism, with the commission to bring America home to the Faith of Peter and Paul. This commission and calling, given not only to the leaders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church but to every Orthodox Christian living in North America, rings even truer today, and more urgently.
Without the necessary funds, however, such commissions often go unfulfilled. The Order of St. Ignatius has helped to fund this mission for over 25 years. Under the chairmanship of Fr. Peter E. Gillquist of blessed memory, and the spiritual advice of Bishop Antoun, the Department of Missions and Evangelism has been instrumental in raising up and receiving over a hundred church communities into our beloved Archdiocese. We cannot say that these churches were started only by the clergy, for the laity, moved to serve through the Order of St. Ignatius, provided the necessary funds for these efforts to bear fruit.
With the move of His Grace, Bishop Antoun from Englewood, New Jersey, to Florida, continuing as the Bishop of the Diocese of Miami and the Southeast, the newly consecrated Bishop Nicholas was charged early in 2012 with the oversight of the Department of Missions and Evangelism. A very experienced, well-known, and long-time member of the department, Fr. Michael Keiser, is serving as our new Department Chairman. In addition, Metropolitan Philip has appointed Fr. Kenneth DeVoie to the Department as a full-time missionary priest. Fr. Kenneth has significant experience in church planting and the establishment of new church communities, and his expertise will certainly benefi t the missionary efforts of our Archdiocese.
Recently, I was asked, “How has the direction of the Department changed with the new chairman?” My response: “I don’t think it has, but our operations have changed.” The direction is the same; it is the command from the Lord Himself: “Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19- 20). Amen.
The operations have changed, however. Fr. George Kevorkian is administrating the Department’s budget from the Archdiocese offi ces, as well as coordinating a monthly conference call of all the department members. These monthly calls have increased our effi ciency and accountability, and helped us to operate as a missionary team.
We all feel the rapid changes taking place in our society today; social, economic, political and religious. More and more people are moving out into small town and rural areas, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to assemble a sufficient number of tithing families to support a full-time priest, even in our cities and suburbs. Yet we still need to minister to the spiritual needs of the faithful residing in areas of our various deaneries where no organized parish or mission exists, and to explore the possibilities of establishing parishes or missions in these areas.
We desire to reach anyone who will listen, to enter into meaningful conversation with inquirers, and to preach and teach the theology, morality and worship of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We need to reintroduce Post-Christian America to the One True God, to that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.
We must go out and lift our neighbors from a meaningless sub-human existence to a vision of what it means to be truly human, leading them out of the moral corruption of libertinism into true liberty and freedom in Christ. And finally, we will continue to deliver to others that which we have received from the Lord, from His apostles, from His Church, our Mother: the worship of the Holy Trinity.
Without the generous support of the Order of St. Ignatius – over $100,000 annually – the work of the Department of Missions and Evangelism would be severely diminished. These monies help put three full-time missionaries in the field – to explore new mission opportunities, to serve existing missions, and to help them achieve full parish status. To date, 108 new missions have been established and 55 have achieved full parish status. Every dollar given in support of this Archdiocesan ministry brings us that much closer to fulfilling our Metropolitan’s imperative to bring America home to the Faith of Peter and Paul.
V. Rev John Finley
Full-Time Missionary Priest