There has been much discussion around the internet these days on the purpose of the church. The Roman Catholic bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts recently told one of the Roman Catholic colleges in his diocese to disinvite a speaker who is known to be pro-abortion. His actions have come under harsh criticism from those who hate that the church would dare to speak on such issues, but dear readers, that is exactly what the church is supposed to do. I have said in other places that the church is not to conform to the ways of the world; it is the church that is supposed to influence the world and act as the moral compass of society.
So what is the definition of the church? For the purpose of this essay the church will be the local parish, the visible presence in the local community. The parish that I serve is part of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese and as such we have statutes that cover the working of the church. Chapter 22 Article 2 of the Statutes of the Archdiocese defines the aims and purposes of the parish with these words:
“The aims and purposes of the Parish are to preserve, practice and proclaim the Orthodox Christian Faith pure and undefiled.”
The Orthodox Christian Faith is that which has been handed down to us from the Apostles in an unbroken line and as confirmed in the Seven Ecumenical Councils of blessed memory. The bishops of the church are the authentic teachers of this faith and the local clergy are their representatives. God reveals Himself to and through the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her ministers do not interpret the teachings of the church based on their own knowledge but upon the teaching of the church as revealed through the church and tradition. That’s it in a nutshell. Just because some opinion poll says we should believe one thing does not mean that is what the church is going to believe. That attitude is what lead to the heresy of the so called reformers and is what has splintered Christ’s Holy Church.
The Statutes further define the work of the local parish in Article 22.04:
“The ministry of the parish will include proclaiming and teaching the Gospel in accordance with the Orthodox Christian faith; sanctifying the faithful through… God’s grace in worship, the Divine Liturgy and the other sacraments; enhancing the parishioners’ spiritual life, and adding to the numbers of the faithful by receiving persons into the church through instruction, baptism and/or chrismation.”
It is the roll of the church to preach and teach the faithful in season and out of season in all situations.
Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, have been given free will. God desires nothing more than that we love Him and we love our neighbor and to love Him is to obey His Word as has been revealed to us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in His church. Free will enables us to choose which path we wish to follow.
If the bishops and by delegation priests, did not speak up when the faithful are being led a stray then they are not fulfilling their role as shepherds of their communities. God has entrusted the care of these communities to us and it is an awesome responsibility to care for them. The shepherd’s role is to protect the flock from the predators that will attempt to take their lives. The shepherd’s role is guide the flock when they are being led in the wrong direction and to keep them on the right path. Far too many people believe the church should do what they want, and believe the way they want to believe, and not what God wants. This is just not possible!
Orthodoxy, unlike other faiths, is a lifestyle. Orthodox Christianity should pulse through the veins of the faithful as blood courses through. When an Orthodox Christian receives the Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, this is more than just food. Jesus Christ becomes part of us through this taking and He dwells in us and strengthens us. This is not something that we can discard the moment we step outside of the Church.
For me, it is incomprehensible for the church to remain silent on issues that so directly affect the spirit of the faithful, and so clearly led the faithful toward sin and away from God. We need to stand as the soldiers of Christ that we are called to be to defeat evil in this world. That is the task of the church and I so one will not be silent!