In 1987 our beloved Metropolitan Philip 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.
A recent opinion article in The Christian Science Monitor, titled, “The Coming Collapse of Evangelicalism,” by the late blogger and evangelical pastor Michael Spencer (also known as “The Internet Monk”), created quite a stir with its publication in May 2012. (It was originally written in 2009). His apocalyptic opening lines were: “Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants.” His prediction is that the evangelical movement in its varied forms is collapsing for a number of reasons, including the following:
- too close an identification with social and political conservatism and the so-called “culture wars”;
- failure to pass on to evangelical young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive;
- Christian education not having produced a people who can withstand the rising tide of secularism;
- Christian ministries increasingly coming into conflict with a secular society that sees its “good works” as “bad”;
- an inability to pass on to their children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith; and
- the sources of money will dry up.
Eastern Orthodox Churches will be shortterm beneficiaries
by Fr. Joel Gillam and Peter Schweitzer
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mt. 28:18-20)
St. Matthew’s Gospel concludes with Our Lord’s 'Great Commission', that we should “Go forth” and teach the entire world what He has revealed. This command is directed to every Orthodox Christian, to each and every one of us, through Holy Baptism. This is the mission that every generation is chosen for; the ministry that each of us as part of the royal priesthood offers (1Pet. 2:9). In order to fulfill this command we must know several things: 1) the message, 2) the people to whom we are delivering the message; and 3) knowing these things we must determine the means to deliver the message.
In the secular world, this is known as a communications plan. In the Church it is evangelism, bringing the people the Good News of Christ. In principle, what we are discussing is no different from any other communications plan devised by businesses, organizations, or political campaigns. Yet at the same time it is so that the world might know “God the Father, and Jesus Christ whom [He] has sent” (Jn. 17:3); the gift of eternal life. This is true mission work and evangelism.
In 2007 the leaders of two separate Christian groups in the Philippines contacted His Eminence Paul in Sydney, asking to join the Orthodox Church.
Many long and fruitful discussions were held between His Eminence and the two leaders, which culminated with His Eminence inviting them to Sydney for further face-to-face discussions. They arrived in May 2007, where they stayed as guests of His Eminence for three weeks. The teachings of the groups were considered and they also learned about Orthodoxy. At the end of the three weeks, both leaders stood and declared: “We accept what the Orthodox Church accepts and refuse what She refuses.” His Eminence answered them, “Welcome home,” the phrase with which Archbishop Philip welcomed the converts.
In December 2011, one of our Orthodox priests in Manila called His Eminence to report that he had been in contact with three different groups and some individual leaders who had all come to the conclusion that they would like to join the Orthodox Church. The Archdiocese began communications with these groups. We learnt that the larger group, consisting of some seven thousand families, knew much about Orthodoxy and that their leaders were very proud to call themselves “orthodox” with a small o.
On Saturday, January 28, His Eminence travelled to the Philippines to visit his parishes and to meet with the new groups. On Tuesday, January 31, His Eminence and seven clergymen of the two larger groups met and discussed their teachings over three full days. At the conclusion of this meeting His Eminence welcomed them to the Antiochian Orthodox Church and promised to bring some of their clergy to Sydney for training and ordination, to be followed by a trip to the Philippines by His Eminence to train and ordain the other leaders.
By Father Joseph Huneycutt
I’m a Southerner. I was born and reared a Southern Baptist; educated as an Episcopalian, and converted to Orthodox Christianity a decade ago. Since then, I’ve been struggling to be Orthodox. As a missionary priest, I’ve also struggled to bring others to Orthodoxy in the South. More than anything, I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn. I’ve also concluded that Orthodoxy, in its plethora of jurisdictions, will have to learn some things, appreciate some things, about Southern Culture before ever being truly successful in bringing Southerners to the Faith.
I was reared in a small town near Charlotte, North Carolina. Growing up, I never met a Jew, much less a Muslim. Lutherans were rare enough in my hometown, much less Roman Catholics. Basically, we were Baptists and Methodists, blacks and whites. I’d never even heard of Orthodox Christianity until I was on my way to the Episcopal seminary in the 1980’s. Come to think of it, I’ll bet most folks in my hometown still have never heard of Orthodoxy.