The issue of Church unity is a bit of a sticky one. Everyone has his own idea as to what it should or shouldn’t look like. I too have many ideas of how I think things should be (even though it’s ultimately up to Christ and I really have no say in the matter). Being that I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I have my own opinions and biases. However, I do not intend for this blog to necessarily reflect my own convictions as much as to encourage active and constructive engagement between the faithful disciples of Christ. I hope that my words may serve as a challenge to cast aside pride and confrontation and to meet each other in the spirit of Truth and humility.
So, a little bit about myself and how I have been impacted by this issue:
I was raised in a charismatic-evangelical setting (Interestingly enough, by some twist of Providence, the very church I've been attending this summer) Thus, most of my family as well as my friends come from (and continue to be from) various denominationally nondescript evangelical contexts. While in my second year at university, I was introduced to Eastern Orthodoxy and was received into the Orthodox faith a year later. Being that my new-found faith was somewhat of a minority in the larger context of my relationships, I found that many “elephants” began to creep into my life. There are certain topics that just don’t come up in conversations because we have agreed to ignore them. At the same time it is rather funny that though many of my friends knew me before I became Orthodox, few actually remember that I haven’t always been so. I often get fed up with the unspoken differences and wish they weren't there at the corner of my consciousness. I often wonder if some people would be shocked if I told them some of the things I believe... Thus the elephants.
In the spring of this last year, I was very blessed to participate in a class called “Issues in Ecumenical Dialogue” that made me much more aware of the discussion. It was a unique opportunity to really see the process of theological discussion and inter-denominational conversation at work. The class was lead by two Professors, one Catholic and the other Protestant, and encouraged the students to engage with each other on the various topics discussed in class. It was during this class that I truly began to hope and pray for unity in a very physical sense. By the time the semester was finished we were really not anywhere nearer to a tangible unity per se and no one, to the best of my knowledge, converted to another “side,” however, we did come away with tools for engaging each other having been made much more aware of the challenges to such discussion. This class left me with a hope and a renewed desire to see the reunion of Christ's Body into a whole that truly is not divided in any way.
Since then, I have had many meaningful conversations and have thought a great deal about the “unity of the faithful.” I'm not really sure why I was “lead” to become Orthodox, but sometimes I wonder if there is some higher purpose to all this... it is often very difficult for me to be an Orthodox Christian in a completely Evangelical community, however, the conversation might be better served if we concentrated more on being Christians than on being Orthodox or Evangelical. Then again, even that means something slightly different depending on who you are...