Eddie and Sue Arthur

Orthodox Missions

Jesus is the model for all Orthodox missions.  He left the culture of heaven and entered into our world as one of us – completely human and God the Son.  He learned our ways, ate our food, spoke our language.  When He taught, He used illustrations that were taken from the way we actually lived.  He constantly found ways to connect the Good News with the realities He engaged.  His mission was to overcome every barrier blocking our relationship with God the Trinity and our relationships with each other.  Neither cluelessness, nor unbelief, nor hardness of heart, nor murderous anger, nor human injustice nor even death itself could frustrate His work.  Jesus’ faithfulness, His work and His Gospel were all vindicated when He walked out of His tomb alive.  And while the world of humanity has continued for the most part in rebellion against the Creator, increasing numbers of men and women and children have heard of what Jesus did and who He is and of what He continues to do in our midst.  These people are tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, their lives have been touched by the love of the holy Trinity, their own priorities and way of life are being transformed.  And in contradiction to the surrounding world, their societies become a counter-culture, the place where heaven intersects earth, where life is transformed by life, where the love and power of Jesus and His Gospel touches hearts and changes them forever.  The movement started small, but has in time become a fulcrum that is moving the world.

At one point, I used to quote fair bit from Onesimus’ blog. However, over the last few years, he has blogged less about mission and more about other things going on in his life; his conversion to orthodoxy, some very personal struggles and running. I still read everything he posts and find it interesting, helpful and sometimes poignant. But I don’t post much of it here, because it doesn’t overlap with the rather restricted scope of what Kouyanet does. The most recent post on Orthodox  Missions does scratch where I itch.

Three things struck me about this post.

  • Much of what Onesimus has written could equally be applied to Protestant and Roman Catholic missions. Don’t think you have nothing to learn from this piece because it is just about Orthodoxy.
  • I am not entirely convinced by the appropriation of Patrick and the Celtic missions by the Orthodox church. They certainly weren’t Roman, but I’m not convinced they were Orthodox, either. My own view would be that they represented a distinct stream of Christianity which slowly withered after the Synod of Whitby.
  • I was surprised to that there was no mention of the liturgy in the post. Just about everything I have read about Orthodox missions highlights the importance of the liturgy as an ongoing witness to the work of Christ. I’d like to know more about this one.

And in closing, one last quote:

Even when enduring spasms of persecution, Christian churches continued to grow, mainly because the contrast between the Christians’ way of life and their love for each other and the ways of the surrounding culture could not be denied.  Historians tend to gloss over the Christianization of Roman society over the first four centuries as if it were somehow explained by social or political factors.  But the real story is not some banner headline, but hundreds of tiny stories of how Christians lived as Christians amongst their neighbors, and how increasingly those neighbors found this compelling.  This is how all true growth of any church occurs.

This post is more than a year old. It is quite possible that any links to other websites, pictures or media content will no longer be valid. Things change on the web and it is impossible for us to keep up to date with everything.

3 Comments on “Orthodox Missions

  1. Eddie, thanks for this post – I’d lost track of Onesimus’ blog for a year or so now so a good reminder. Have pinged a couple of friends and colleagues in the Orthodox Church and will let you know if they come back. Certainly I likewise was surprised to see the absence of liturgy but on a positive note would say that I have been encouraged to see a growing emphasis on mission within various wings of the Orthodox Churches…although generalising across Orthodoxy is potentially more perilous than across Evangelicalism!

  2. Thanks for your comments and interest! Just a few comments of my own. Like all my posts, I write off the top of my head, so to speak. I don’t presume to speak for the Orthodox Church, or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is, by accident, the jurisdiction in which I find myself whilst in North American exile; nor do I speak even for my little parish. So all surprises reflect my own lacks. That being owned, liturgy, as noted, is indeed important in the Orthodox Church, as we are nothing apart from right worship of the Holy Trinity. And I could have talked about the efforts made to get the liturgy into the language of the multitude of ethnic groups into which the Orthodox Church is growing. But that would be to add a level of complexity beyond which most non-Orthodox can’t comprehend, however important it may be for the Orthodox themselves. So I’ll take my lumps from those outside the Church who know more than most for the sake of the most who might otherwise get lost in details that are meaningless to them and which any effort to better inform them would take us down a very long path which would defeat the purpose of what is, in the end, a blog post.

    Now as to St. Patrick, the revelation to me when I was first discovering Orthodoxy as a PhD student in Cambridge back in the 1990s was that the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the first millennium was the Orthodox Church. It was the Roman patriarchate that decided to leave the Pentarchy by unilaterally changing the Nicene Creed agreed upon by all the Church. Yes there were cultural and linguistic differences between the eastern and western churches. But all agreed on doctrine and purpose. St. Patrick was as Orthodox as St. Athanasius was Catholic. As a Protestant, I used to leap over the first millennium in an effort to get to the New Testament Church and the authors of our authoritative New Testament. But first millennium Christianity lasted about as long as 2nd millennium Christianity, which is to say, a very long time. And it was full of astonishing acts of faithfulness, as well as astonishing failures of love, much as the 2nd millennium has been. But just because nobody (in the West) has been paying attention to the Orthodox when they claim the first millimmium ‘western’ Christians, including Patrick, as their own, it doesn’t mean that it’s not the case. The Orthodox also make the case that it’s the Roman Catholics who innovated and continue to innovate from the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers of the first millennium. I, as a Protestant pastor and scholar, was shocked to learn about these sorts of claims. But the more I looked into the actual history (rather than the denominational propaganda that sometimes passes as ‘history’), the more compelling it became. Just saying.

    • Thanks, for your reply Bill.

      I fully understand not being able to put all that one might wish in a blog post, you simply can’t do everything. However, if you ever have the time or inclination to write about it, I’d love to know more about how translation and mission from your perspective.

      I take your point about Patrick, though I’m not sure that I was entirely inaccurate in my remarks.

      As always, thanks for your insightful and interesting blogging.

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