Monday, March 28, 2005

torn in two by missions

I have recently encountered two very different visions for how Orthodoxy should missionize in preparation for growing in America and claiming it's place in American Christendom.

According to Fr. John McGuckin Orthodox will always be somewhat small. However, he claims that our role is to "live as a witness", not to "build structures, gain heavy endowments, and play ball with the big boys." After all, the Catholics and Protestants here are in many ways big and bad, yet internally they're a mess. They have a hard time standing for truth because they're so tied to their structures. According to this model you want a small and quantitatively elite parish setup with a maximum target of about 100 parishioners, at which time the church spawns a sister church. He points out that it takes a great deal of courage, and we have to have the willingness not to tie ourselves to big structures that are locationally unreliable - this prevents a disconnect between an oversized laity and too few priests, and also means that we can pack up and leave bricks and mortar at a moments notice. Very New Testament.

Yet, there is something to be said for both visibility and pooled resources that come from large structures. They're a standing witness to your presence and also keep beauracracy centralized rather than having to pay a more numerous number of priests, setting up even more independently minded Parish Councils, and in the minds of many quantity has a quality all its own.

I'm torn as I can see both sides, and both are advocated by intelligent and God-centered folk. I'm not sure yet where to put my money and vision.

In a way I should praise God, what an excellent problem to have.


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