November 1, 2012

25th Eastern Orthodox Christian Laity Conference Looks to The Future

By Nathaniel Torrey

During the Eastern Orthodox Laity’s (OCL) 25th Anniversary laity conference this past weekend, a series of panels focused the history, present state, and future of Eastern Orthodoxy in North America. The OCL, founded in 1988, “is committed to establishment of an administratively and canonically unified self-governing Orthodox Church in the United States.”

On Saturday, October 27 the OCL’s conference took place in the form of three panels at George Washington University-Mount Vernon campus entitled, “Our Orthodox Past,” explaining the history of Orthodox peoples in the Americas, “Our Orthodox Present,” on the state of the church and the issues it faces today, and “Our Orthodox Future,” a panel on the future of Orthodoxy in America and how it can surmount the problems ahead.

Though all the Eastern Orthodox dioceses are in America and are in communion with one another as the groups share the same liturgics. However they have varying allegiances to different hierarchs throughout the world. This causes confusion not only for inquirers into Orthodoxy, but also between bishops when there are many overlapping archdioceses in a single city. Multiple bishops in one city not only leads to pastoral confusion: it is simply uncanonical. The OCL seeks to rectify this problem with all bishops in the United States under one autocephalous church.

Two speakers in the “Orthodox Future” panel, Nicholas Gvosdov, Professor at the United States Naval War College, and John Sitilides, Principal Trilogy Advisors LLC, pointed out the number of regular church attendees, chrismation of converts, and marriages in the Orthodox Church in North America are down. The archdioceses in American can all be said to be in some form of decline. Both used data collected by Alexei Krindatch, the research coordinator with the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North America.

Growth in American Orthodoxy is still currently due to immigration, mostly from Russia and other Eastern European countries. However, due to the radical secularism of these former Soviet republics, Orthodoxy is just as alien to them as it is to many people in the United States. “How do you strike the balance,” asked Gvosdov, “between keeping the people that we have, making outreach to converts and reverts to come back, and at the same time incorporate new waves of migration coming so those people don’t flow out of Orthodoxy? I think we have a real challenge.”

Education, Pan-Orthodox co-operation, transparency, and laity and clerical accountability, will be essential if Orthodoxy is to gain more traction in the United States. However, what is most important is that we speak the Truth in love.

In closing, Stilides said, “This all has to be done in the spirit of genuine Christian love, following Christ’s teachings of the two greatest commandments, so that we live and embody that love, humility and respect for one another and exemplify what Christ has asked us to do in our conduct. This way we can truly comprehend and transmit our Orthodox faith with strength and purpose into the daunting decades to come.”


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  • Fr. John W. Morris

    Not every Orthodox jurisdiction is in decline, the Antiochian Archdiocese continues to grow and prosper.
    The picture is actually quite bright. The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North America formed with the blessings of the Churches of world Orthodoxy has an ambitious program to promote Orthodox unity with the goal of creating a united American Orthodox Church.

  • cynthiacurran

    Hey, in Rick Warren land about 2,000 evangelicals have converted to Eastern orthodoxy and Orange County has only about 7,000 eastern and oriential orthodox so immirgants make a smaller growth than thought here. Father Wayne Wilson has a small church a little over 200 where at least 150 are converts. What happen is people in evangelical christianity grew tired of a christian movement that has no connections with the past. Orthodoxy could do better in the west if some anti-western feelings were removed usually it has to do eith what happen in the crusades or the Ottoman Empire and so forth. A good book is called Atheists Delusions about the Catholic Middle ages by an Eastern Orthodox and about the great influence in many fields by the Catholic West over the Roman period and the humane laws on women’s rights ans freeing of slaves and getting rid of cruxfaction in the Theodosian and Justinian Codes.