Ethnic Orthodox

I have been thinking about the title of this post for a few weeks now. I know there is a group of people known as ethnic Jews, Jewish people who are ethnically Jewish but not religious so I am positing that the same thing exists in the Orthodox world. I would say the same thing for the Catholic although being Catholic is not an ethnicity as much as being Orthodox is.

Let me explain. In Eastern Europe, where the Orthodox Church is the largest Church, to be Romanian for example is to be Orthodox. Now that does not necessarily mean you will go to church every Sunday but you darken the door of the church now and again. So to be Romanian, Greek, Russian etc is to be Orthodox.

Here in the US we have this group of people who identify themselves as Orthodox but do not come to Church or if they do they do not participate in the Sacramental life of the Church. They consider themselves Orthodox but they do not hold to the teachings of the Church either the moral teachings or the practices of the Church i.e. fasting and Church attendance.

The question I have is how to we reach these folks? I have often said that we cannot hope to bring converts into the church if we cannot bring our own people to the church. A recent survey tells that there are about 1.5 million Orthodox in the US. This number comes from Church attendance and not from those on the rolls of the Church. I think if we used the number we have on our rolls it would be much higher maybe even double that amount. So how do we reach them?

This Advent season, the Roman Church has launched a program called Come Home, maybe we should do the same thing to bring our people home. But what about the ones we have that come to Church each and every Sunday but do not participate in the Sacramental Life of the Church? Coming from a Roman background it is hard for me to comprehend coming to church and not participating in the Sacraments. If we believe what we teach then we are missing out on Grace! I don’t know about you but I need all the Grace I can get!

I also think this ethnic Orthodox label leads to confusion among the people when we see politicians who are Orthodox but yet consistently vote in a very non Orthodox way. I believe the same thing happens in the Roman Church and all we need to do is look at the Tobin/Kennedy situation I have written about before. I will not go on about the absolute truths of the Orthodox Church and the fact that the church is not a buffet I have gone on about that before.

I have no answers to these questions but only wish to open a discussion about how we reach out. We Orthodox have the timeless truth but we cannot seem to get the message out. How can we do this effectively?

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