Dear all:Of the reasons usually submitted on this subject, I don’t think any are particularly new.
In my own spiritual journey I can honestly say I had no idea about my Faith until I made a concerted effort to learn about it on my own. I never learned about our Patristic mindset or monastic heritage until I encountered it in books first and then within my college Orthodox Christian Fellowship. I learned that there is an unbelievable depth to our Faith which spends most of the time sitting on the shelf. For example, within Orthodoxy we have innumerable Saints, Fathers, and Mothers of the Church who have had a hand in forming our Tradition. In actual liturgical practice though, we venerate about five. And while I’ve heard countless references to Gandhi from the pulpit; not once have I heard a mention of the venerable saints who really exist within our tradition such as St. John Chrysostom or the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.
There is much to be offered within Orthodoxy that simply does not get taught or actualized within our daily experience of the Church. How much have we emasculated the Sacrament of Confession by giving no-questions-asked absolution? We have neither interest in iconography nor any theological reasoning behind our Church art and layout. We don’t preach that each and every person can truly pursue a profound personal relationship with Christ within the corporate body of the Church. We have no catechesis program for new converts into the faith (especially by marriage), and we have rationalized our way out of doing any meaningful evangelism work. Therefore, I ask the question: Are people really leaving the Orthodox Church, or are they leaving a shell organization with the word “Orthodox” written on the sign outside?
I realize that I am, of course, painting with broad brush strokes and there are very many reasons to be optimistic. My point though remains the same: people don’t leave the Church because we are “too Orthodox.” They leave because we aren’t “Orthodox” enough and they get a stronger, clearer message elsewhere which gives them a better feeling of fulfillment. We have the tools within the Church, yet we need the resolve to act accordingly. Overcoming the language barrier is but the first step in the process. We can no longer be simply carriers of the Faith, but rather proclaimers of the Gospel as we believe it was really intended to be.