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Church Mission In North America
A Critique Of The Mission Statement By SCOBA
Issued In December 1994, At Ligonier, Pennsylvania
By John Zarras - May 6th 2003
Source: Prepared For Fr. Luke A. Vernois "Challenges of Modern Orthodox Missions" Course Requirements


On Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, 1994 twenty-nine bishops representing all canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in North America convened for the first time as one body at a retreat center in Ligomer, Pennsylvania to outhne their future efforts towards becoming an administratively united Church and to present their vision for this united Church in the form of two formal "Statements." The subject of this paper focuses on the "Statement on Mission and Evangelism."1 More specifically it focuses on what the Statement said, compares its content and vision with the content of the materials presented in class, especially the writings of Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Albania, and then critically reviews the events and activities of the respective hierarchs, who were signatories to the Statement, subsequent to the Statement's release. This subsequent activity, will be reviewed, presented, and critiqued using the writings of Archbishop Anastasios. It will be clearly demonstrated, based on the historic record that although a united missionary vision for the Church in North America was presented and subscribed to by all the bishops in attendance, in actuality soon thereafter, two diametrically opposite courses of action, or Orthodox camps, have formed among the jurisdictions with regard to missionary activity in America. One camp has tried to be tme to the outward looking missionary spirit and vision of Ligonier, while the other camp has chosen to reinforce a long held inward looking vision of its mission in America. This paper will also comment on the affects of these two differing visions of the Church in America with respect to missionary work, framed to some degree against the subject and pronouncements of the second Statement coming from Ligonier, whose title reads "Statement on the Church in North America."2 The paper will conclude with a suggested course of action that should be taken to recover the original spirit and vision of Ligonier.


The focus on mission and evangelism at Ligonier took the form of presentations by two bishops on the subject, from which the Statement on Mission and Evangelism was issued; summarizing the work of the papers presented and the bishop's discussions pertaining thereto. By their outward sign of affixing their individual signatures to the Statement, one would reasonably conclude that the document truly represented everyone's views and that all signatories would be committed to the implementation of the vision in the time following the conference. Time and actions would prove this to be untrue on the part of some of the signatories. It is important to note that 28 of the 29 bishops present signed the Statement. The one bishop that did not sign did not do so because of having to leave the conference before its completion. Overviews of the content of the bishop's presentations follows:

Mission and Evangelism by Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. 3

The lead report and tone of the discussion on mission and evangelism was set by Metropolitan Philip. It is rather remarkable to find the great degree of similarity between the views expressed by Metropolitan Philip and the material that has been presented as part of the course curriculum in general and the writings of Archbishop Anastasios in particular in our class work. To illustrate and support this contention and to form a background for the subject of this paper the following extracts from Metropolitan Philip are presented:

"The Biblical text which I chose for this paper is Matthew 28:18 "And Jesus came and said to them 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age'."

"I have presented this historical survey on Orthodox Mission and Evangelism in order to re-emphasize that Mission and Evangelism is not, by any means, a Protestant idea."

"He commanded us, through His disciples, to do three things: (a) Make disciples, (b) To baptize, (c) To teach.

"Mission and Evangelism, therefore, in the Church is not a matter of choice. It is a Divine command. Jesus did not say "make disciples if you want," or "please baptize and teach if you wish." He said "Go" and the disciples obeyed and became fishers of men."

"This divine lesson transcends time and space. We cannot just seek the comfort of a past history and freeze there in it."

"As we prepare to face the challenges of a new century, we Orthodox of North America must ask ourselves: "To whom are we sent?"

"If the Lord has commanded the Church to make disciples of all nations, He must have meant this nation, too. Consequently, Orthodoxy has a mission to this country."

"We need missionaries and evangelists who know this country, its language, its history, its ethos, its problems, and its religions In summary, we need Orthodox missionaries who know how to communicate with America. "For these reasons, communication of the Gospel m a foreign culture can no longer be a superficial presentation of biblical Christianity. Instead, it must be a careful, thoughtful and precise cross-cultural communication which speaks in such a way that the biblical Gospel is understood within the culture and native framework of thought."

I believe from the extracts taken from Metropolitan Philip's paper it is rather easy for students of mission and evangelism to discern the commonality of thought between Metropolitan Philip and Archbishop Anastasios. This will become even more evident at a later point in this paper. It is also obvious that the power of the Metropolitan Philip's paper stimulated to a great degree the response from the audience of fellow bishops resulting in the issuance of the Statement on Mission and Evange1ism. While the initial enthusiasm of the reception of its message is obvious in the Statement, and in a recorded video of the conference, it soon waned in power and fizzled in its implementation as shall also be demonstrated.

In response to Metropolitan Philip's paper, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas (OCA) offered the paper titled Mission and Evangelism: A Response.4 Archbishops Dmitri's paper quickly affirms the position of Metropolitan Philip regarding making the case that mission and evangelization are at the core of what it means to being Church. However, the main body of his paper addresses the religious landscape of America that Orthodox missionary activity must be prepared to engage. He outlines the positive elements of American culture that will lend themselves to listening to the Gospel presented by Orthodox, as well as the negative elements that will be resistant to listening to the Orthodox Gospel. Once again, offered for the purpose of gaining a glimpse of how Archbishop Dmitri's presentation complimented the presentation of Metropolitan Philip the following pertinent extracts are shared:

Mission and Evangelism: A Response by Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas

"First, I believe he was right in establishing the fact that mission and evangelism are essential features of the Church's life, that they define the Church's work in the world."

"Second, it was good to consider the history of our Church's missions because this survey leaves no doubt that the Church has always been conscious of the fact that she is indeed mission."

"All in all, it seems to me that we are beginning to ready ourselves for what has to be called our mission to America, meaning, no longer piecemeal, individual and spontaneous efforts at bringing some converts to the Orthodox Faith, but a concerted, formal mission program to make America Orthodox."

"Among the advantages we are blessed with, I would place as first the complete freedom that we enjoy not only to organize our churches, to build our temples, and to worship according to our tradition, but also the liberty to preach the Gospel to all who are willing to hear it. In general, we have no interference from government agencies, local, state or national."

"Next there has been developing during the course of this century a deep religious dissatisfaction. Many of the Churches that were always thought to be stable in their theology have departed, some radically, from their traditional theologies."

"In general, the people of North America are heirs to a tradition of decency, of doing good, philanthropy, and leading a good moral life. This applies to many people who do not even profess a belief in God, atheist, agnostics and humanists, but do not recognize the Christian foundation of their good instincts or consciousness The people of America are m one way or another, always in search of the meaning of life Some of them of this category are undoubtedly open to being shown that these things, which they hold to be natural, have their foundation m the revelation of the truth that comes only from our Lord Jesus Christ, if only we know how to present it to them Some of the people who have already come to the Orthodox Faith had no religion, but only a strong sense of right and wrong Thus, our freedom and the existence of at least two groups of seekers of truth afford us unparalleled opportunities for evangelization."

"A more or less passive openness to receiving converts will not be sufficient. In order to take advantage of the opportunities that God has given us, we must be active in inviting those who are seeking to come in, preaching the Gospel fearlessly in season and Out of season (II Timothy 4:2)

Archbishop Dmitri then touches upon. what he conceives to be an internal problem that prohibits the effectiveness of an Orthodox mission and evangelization effort in America. He states the following:

"There remains now the need to make some references to our internal problems, and, to be sure, to the advantages that we Orthodox already have. I still feel obliged to mention once again, as a paramount problem, our jurisdictional duplication, the lack of unity in the administration of our work the existence, for example, often parishes or missions in a certain metropolitan area, each under the jurisdiction of a different bishop And again, independent mission programs, which do not necessarily conflict with each other, since they often target different groups of people, but give the impression that they are in competition The average American still thinks that Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox and Antiochian Orthodox, refer to different denominations or even faiths. The situation responsible for this perception obviously weakens our witness."5

I could not help but think how confusing it would be to the people of Albania if they would find themselves confronted by missionaries who came as Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, etc., rather as just Orthodox Christian missionaries laboring on behalf of the Albanian Orthodox Church. Would not missionaries who came representing different ethnic Orthodox Churches, find themselves first having to explain differences among themselves before having the opportunity to teach and explain the Gospel? Why should it be any different in America? Archbishop Dmitri is correct in stating our jurisdictional distinctions detract from an effective Orthodox witness in America.

The two aforementioned papers delivered by Metropolitan Philip and Archbishop Dmitri form the backbone of the issued Statement on Mission and Evangelism.

Completing the overview of the substance of the Episcopal Conference at Ligonier on mission and evangelization, through the papers presented, we come finally to the actual substance of the Statement on Mission and Evangelism, which has been attached to this paper as an addendum for reference purposes.

This Statement at the outset recognizes the historic opportunity for the Orthodox Church to once again engage in missionary activity challenged by the current events of the changing world it finds itself a part of. It recognizes and explores the need to address the missionary opportunities that came with the fall of communism around the world; but at the same time sees the equally important challenge facing the "millions of people in spiritual crisis in the United States and Canada" slightly paraphrased. Because SCOBA by geographical location represents the Orthodox in North America, the focus of the Statement is on the missionary challenge of the Church in North America. The elements of the Statement take their birth from the ideas, principles and admonishments of Metropolitan Philip and Archbishop Dmitri as previously presented. The Statement is historic in content, for never before had there been such an example of cooperation and purpose and commitment demonstrated by a gathering of Orthodox bishops laboring in North America, devoted to such a sharply focused agenda item of importance, dealing with the very essence of what it means to be Church. Their first and leading conviction states "It is our conviction that mission is the very nature of the Church, and is an essential expression of her apostolicty, and that the Orthodox Church is therefore commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to teach, to preach and to make disciples of all nations;" As anyone who has participated in the mission course would say, this opening expression is on the mark. It is from this opening conviction that all the other expressed convictions, presenting a vision for the mission and evangelization activity of the Orthodox Church in America, were formulated. All of them take root in the convictions of Metropolitan Philip and Archbishop Dmitri speaking to and on behalf of their fellow bishops.

It is evident that this outward looking vision was breaking new ground for what traditionally had been, for most of the represented Churches, an inward looking vision that viewed its main mission as one of preserving what had been brought to America as an Orthodoxy centered in the ethnic traditions of their mother Churches. As a proof source we read the following: "We believe that our task in North America is not limited to serving the immigrant and ethnic communities, but has at its very heart the missionary task, the task of making disciples in the nations of Canada and the United States;"

They go on to further reinforce the outward looking vision by saying: "We commit ourselves to common efforts and programs to do mission, leaving behind piecemeal, independent, and spontaneous efforts to do mission, moving forward towards a concerted, formal, and united mission program in order to make a real impact on North America through Orthodox mission and evangelism;"

From this point going forward we will examine the questions of: 1. Is the Ligonier mission vision in keeping with the missionary principles of Archbishop Anastasios and the related topics of the course? 2. What have others had to say about the cultural context of Orthodoxy in America that missionaries will encounter? 3. What are the two different visions expressed in America by Orthodox jurisdictions since Ligonier? 4. What are the possible factors and circumstances that are inhibiting the full implementation of a united mission and evangelism program by all the SCOBA jurisdiction working together in harmony, as outlined in the Statement. 5. What can be done to remove the inhibiting factors?

Ligonier's Mission Vision vs. Archbishop Anastasios' Mission Vision

It would be impossible not to conclude that the mission vision of Ligonier is in complete harmony with the mission vision of Archbishop Anastasios. There are countless examples in the writings of Archbishop Anastasios that confirm and support this conclusion. Having already extracted pertinent comments from the mission papers of Ligonier, it should suffice to only share a small sample of the writings of Archbishop Anastasios in support of the aforementioned conclusion,

"It is not a question of "can we" but of an imperative command "we must." "Go therefore and teach all nations." . . . .Mission activity is not simply something "useful" or just "nice" but something imperative, a foremost duty, if we really want to be faithful to our Orthodox Faith."6

"Church without mission is a contradiction in terms.. .if the Church is indifferent to the apostolic work with which she has been entrusted, she denies herself, contradicts herself and her essence, and is a traitor in the warfare in which she is engaged. A static Church which lacks a vision and a constant endeavor to proclaim the Gospel to the oikoumene could hardly be recognized as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church to whom the Lord entrusted the continuation of His work."7

"Mission is not a branch of Orthodox theology, but is central to a proper understanding of Orthodox theology."8

In taking these quotes from a collection of the Archbishop's quotations distributed in class, it is not possible to ascertain the date of their writings. However, because of the striking similarity between these writings and the writings, in particular of Metropolitan Philip, from Ligonier, one suspects that indeed Ligonier's mission Statement is framed on the writings of Archbishop Anastasios. If this is time, then Archbishop Anastasios has planted a seed in America of far reaching consequences that is just now beginning to germinate.

The American Cultural Context

Archbishop Dmitri in his Ligonier paper brought to our attention a general overview of how he saw the American cultural landscape in terms of both its inclination to receive the Gospel from the Orthodox Church and in terms of American cultural inhibitors that would incline towards rejection of the Gospel. Archbishop Anastasios has been quoted as saying "Love and freedom, these are the two most important elements of the Christian life." In this context it would be appropriate to say that it really does not matter what the reaction to a formal Orthodox mission program in America will be. People have the freedom to accept or reject the message. The import thing is that it is a command given to us by God to share the message in love with all we encounter in this land of ours, America.

It is interesting to note that in Archbishop Anastasios' writings on "Gospel and Culture" he calls attention to the elements that allowed the Greek cultural mind to accept the Gospel. There are strong parallels that can be found in American culture that in many ways are patterned on Greek democratic social principles and are expressed in its articles of government.

Specifically, the Archbishop writes:

  • (a) The Gospel’s emphasis on the unique value of the human person, as expressed in its teaching that the soul’s worth is beyond measure.
  • (b) The emphasis on freedom and on human responsibility.
  • (c) The proclamation of brotherhood and equality for all, without exception.
  • (d) The revelation of the supreme law of selfless and sacrificing love, which, by achieving harmony between human diversity and freedom, placed human relationships on a completely new basis.

    While some of these elements are being threatened in contemporary America by opposing forces, they are deeply rooted and therefore one could argue that an Orthodox understanding of the Gospel, conveying and reinforcing these thoughts through a mission program would act as a stimulant in support of an American population that is searching to recapture the principles of the founding fathers of the nation. There is a sense of patriotism that is emerging in America from underneath the liberal and secular thoughts that have gained hold in the public media and institutions over the last 70 years. What I am suggesting is the notion that an Orthodox led spiritual revival in America would be in harmony and compatible with what we today label as “conservative” values as we search to regain a sense of right and wrong, morality, purpose, and dignity in life.

    Father Thomas Hopko in an address given in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 1996 at an Inter-Orthodox Consultation on Gospel and Cultures said the following about contemporary American culture and society:9

    “As long as the “American experiment” remained rooted in its Christian soil, it worked. It was truly the worst possible form of human society, except for all others, as Winston Churchill once said. It deteriorated to its present condition not only by sin, or, as some say, by ceasing to be overtly Christian or Protestant. It decomposed when democracy became an idolized end-in-itself and every participant and group demanded its right not only to be respected and tolerated, but to be affirmed and approved without condition or question. It collapsed, and continues to collapse, not only through the loss of basic Christian doctrine and ethics, but through the loss of the conviction that there is objective truth and righteousness for all people in any objective form at all. Because of this, the transformation of modern American liberal democracy into a post-modern pluralistic plethora of hostile and warring interest groups, including some which bear the name “Christian”, was inevitable.”

    Hopko uses much stronger language than did Archbishop Dmitri to describe the culture that an Orthodox missionary effort in America should be prepared to encounter. However, if it is so, then what is at stake is not Only the salvation of individual American souls, but the salvation of a nation. And if we dare take this one step further, and inject into the prognostication the fact that America today is the unchallenged world power, than how it acts and behaves in the world literally affects all the people of the world. Serious Orthodox should ask themselves the question what if America became Orthodox in soul? Would it not affect the whole world? It is against this expanded vision of the potential of a successful Orthodox missionary effort in America, to America, by Orthodox Americans that we should aspire.

    A brief statistical overview of America will also illustrate another aspect of why mission work in America is as important as that occurring outside of America. Within a recently completed study in the year 2000 by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research’° and within a year 2001 survey conducted by the American Religious Identification Survey,” the following relevant statistics were found:

    Based on a total population of 281 million’2 in America, 23.5% were non-Christian, or about 66 million. 34 million people were living below the government defined poverty level. The largest Christian denominations in descending order were Catholic @ 24.5%, Baptist @ 16.3%, Methodist @ 6.8%, and Lutheran @ 4.6% of the total population. Orthodox were listed at 1% of the population while Muslims, who we hear so much about today were listed at less than .5% of the population.’3 With the Protestant world radically reinterpreting the Gospel, as Archbishop Dmitri pointed out, and the Catholic world embroiled in sexual misconduct issues, what would normally be deemed impossible to attempt, a 1% Orthodox minority leading a successful missionary crusade in America, becomes possible. There is a missionary window of opportunity that currently exists in America and as previously pointed out the stakes are very high.

    Why therefore, almost 10 years after the mission vision of Ligonier was put forth, do we still fall far short of its implementation?

    Ten Years Post-Ligonier

    To offer a possible assessment and response to why the Ligonier mission vision has fallen so short of its potential, requires a brief review of elements that have affected the American Orthodox world since Ligonier.

    It is the author’s contention that the single most important of these elements has been the actions and activities of the current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in the Orthodox world at large, and especially with regard to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America that comes under his omophorion.

    Soon after Ligonier, his immediate reaction was to ask all of the bishops of the Greek Archdiocese in America that were present at Ligonier and who signed the two “Statements” to rescind their signatures. This was soon followed by the resignation of the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Archbishop Iakovos, who presided at Ligonier. While the official pronouncement has always contended that the resignation of Archbishop Iakovos was voluntary, most at this time attribute the resignation as being forced by the Ecumenical Patriarch. It is important to note that the second Statement on the Church in North America, which has not thus far been the subject of this paper, outlined a road leading towards administrative unity of all the SCOBA represented churches into one American Orthodox Church, Although the carefully worded Statement was framed with language emanating from Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox meetings, it was in very forceful words rejected by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    This very disruptive act to unity for the Church in America, was soon followed by further acts of division within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, including the administrative separation of the churches in Canada and South America from the churches in America. Most recently, the original unified Greek Archdiocese of North and South America was further dismembered by the elevation of bishops and their dioceses into Metropolitans and metropolises, now commemorating liturgically the Ecumenical Patriarch. All these actions collectively can be viewed as a further attempt by the Ecumenical Patriarch to exert day to day control over his part of the Orthodox in America, namely those under his omophorion.

    While it is not the intent of this paper to delve into this subject in depth and speculate on matters beyond my knowledge, it is generally agreed by all Orthodox of all jurisdictions that the subject of administrative unity for all Orthodox in America is being thwarted by the Ecumenical Patriarch.

    The result of this activity has been the making of SCOBA into a body severely limited in its ability to undertake new challenges. It would be hard to comprehend that the Ecumenical Patriarch was against the Statement on Mission and Evangelism issued in Ligonier. A more likely reason for this visionary statement being placed quietly aside, leaving each of the jurisdictions to tackle their own independent missionary work in America, is that the “baby got thrown out with the bath water,” in this case the baby being the mission Statement, and the bath water being the Statement proposing North American administrative unity.

    Archbishop Anastasios, correctly foretold of the problem of “jurisdictions in his paper on “Theology-Mission and Pastoral Care” given in 1976 at the Second International Conference of Orthodox Theological Schools. He said:

    “Secondly, the problem of different jurisdictional areas sometimes has an inhibiting effect on missionary activities. The Churches with the largest numbers of Orthodox believers and, undoubtedly too, those most wealthy financially and in personnel, often regard the duty of mission as something not quite their business. They prefer to remain silent, rather that interfere with “alien’ affairs. This, however, gives rise to a theological problem: Is world-wide mission the exclusive obligation of certain local Orthodox Churches alone? is it not necessary for all in the Orthodox Church to seek essential and effective cooperation? And what is the meaning of “jurisdiction?”

    The question remains, did the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese bishops believe and support the Statements that they signed or were they merely caught up in the Spirit at Ligonier? While one cannot really know for sure, one would like to believe that they did sign out of belief and conviction. If their actions since then seem contradictory, then one can only explain this by attributing it to being faithful to the dictates of the Ecumenical Patriarch. It should be noted that since a unified effort towards mission in America is not happening under SCOBA,, nor until very recently was there a formal mission program within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the remaining jurisdictions have taken the path of implementing independent structured missions program. Both the OCA and AOCA have long established Departments of Missions, actively engaged in implementing elements of the Ligonier mission vision. It is too early to determine what actual path the new GOA department will serve to focus upon; true evangelism or what we have been warned, that sometimes appears as evangelism in name, that more correctly functions as pastoral care. The element that is missing in all of these independent efforts is unity of action.

    There now exists therefore, two different Orthodox camps, following two different visions and paths in America. This is evident by the different actions and works of the leaders of the different jurisdictions.

    Testimony to the outward vision, officially promoted by the AOCA, through Metropolitan Philip, and the OCA, through Metropolitan Herman and in keeping with the vision of Archbishop Anastasios, can be found by the continued mission pronouncements of their clergy and lay leadership in church publications and at public gatherings; Fr. Jon Braun of the AOCA has a goal of 20 million practicing Orthodox Christians in North America by the year 2020 and enabling everyone on the continent the opportunity of saying either “yes” or “no” to Orthodoxy by that time.14

    Fr. Kishkovsky of the OCA offers hope in his vision when he contends that after a millennium of Christianity in Russia, the Slavic culture has been baptized and the message of the Church has been deeply implanted in even the ‘secular literature, art, and the architecture of Russia. He believes that Orthodoxy should attempt to accomplish the same task here in America, although he acknowledges that the circumstances are different in that American culture is much more advanced vis-a vis Orthodoxy than was Russia in relation to Orthodox Christianity.15 And finally Fr. Michael Oleska of the OCA said that we should treat Protestantism or Roman Catholicism as the pre-Orthodox spiritual culture of America and affirm as the Alaskan missionaries did, all that is true, good, honest, and noble in them, presenting Orthodoxy as the completion, the fulfillment, not the abolition of what American Christians have already known. 16

    The second Orthodox camp clings to a vision that is inward looking and fearful of engaging the American cultural environment as called to do so as part of its apostolic mission, It clings to an ethnic model, that is imposed on those coming to the Church searching for the true Gospel, as a condition of entry. This model has been condemned many times throughout Orthodox history and is replete with many examples of failure. It is a Byzantine model, imposed upon the (IOA as we have shown by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Once again Archbishop Anastasios warns of the failure of this Byzantine model when he says:17

    “The lack of interest in Byzantium for a proper consequential and perpetual outward mission contributed to the evolution of a spiritual vacuum that encouraged Islam in the Arabian world, and finally helped to bring down the Byzantine Empire. If, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, the Byzantine church bad made a proper translation of the scriptures into Arabic, to foster a cultural identity among the Arabs, as it did later - in the ninth and tenth centuries for the Slays and the Russians of the north, developments in the south, and its own fate, would have been quite different.”

    Lest one judge that it is incorrect to hold the conviction that through the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the GOA is following a mission and evangelization policy completely out of phase with the apostolic mission of the Church, a brief review of events and pronouncement from its Episcopal leadership reveals the following:

    In 1985 the then Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios refused to grant an audience to a delegation from the Evangelical Orthodox Church led by Father Gilquist, seeking to learn how they might enter the Orthodox Church in America. As expressed by Fr. Gilquist, now leading the Department of Missions in the AOCA, there was a fear that “somehow their entry would water down Orthodoxy in America to a pop version of the ancient faith and not be supportive of retaining a commitment to Hellenic culture in the parishes.”18

    During the 2002 GOA Clergy-Laity Congress in Los Angeles, a representative Metropolitan from the Ecumenical Patriarchate expressed the view that the only reason the Antiochian Church was growing in America was it was allowing Protestants to enter the Church, who are really not Orthodox people.

    In a recent interview by the Greek ethnic New York paper, the “National Herald,” in response to a question of Archbishop Demetrios asking for his vision for the Church, the Archbishop responded that “he was focused on reaching his own people.” This often expressed alien idea of Church most often is expressed in Greek circles by the reference to people as “xeni” or strangers who are not of Greek bloodlines. The GOA~ Metropolitan of Atlanta, during a pan-Orthodox Epiphany celebration in Florida this year, at which the author was present, used the “xeni” word repeatedly in his Greek sermon when referring to the crowds present, many of which who were from other Orthodox jurisdictions. The (30A Metropolitan of Chicago was recently also quoted in the “National Herald” as lamenting the fact that there were so many “converts” in attendance at Holy Cross Seminary, implying that their presence was potentially harming the future Greek Orthodox Church in America.


    In summary what must be done and what can be done to regain the united mission vision of Ligonier? The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as led by the current Ecumenical Patriarch, must be shown the error of its ways regarding the mission of the Church in America; Absent this turnaround, missionary work in America, although carried out ambitiously by the other jurisdictions, will be less effective and hindered by the lack of a united witness. One would characterize the problem as a problem of Episcopal leadership. There are many of the GOA faithful, clergy and laity alike, that fully accept the vision of Archbishop Anastasios. The failure can only be attributed to a misguided view of Church mission in America, by those Episcopal leaders, especially those who reside outside of America, who fail to understand the American cultural environment.

    Education of all the faithful, particularly the GOA faithful, so that they are encouraged to support and participate and fulfill their apostolic calling must be of the highest priority. One of the most encouraging signs that this is happening, is the appearance for the first time on the American scene, in our seminaries first, and also lecturing in our parishes, experienced missionaries who are firmly mission grounded, and that can explain why missionary work is at the core of what it means to be Church.

    In addition letting the bishops of our Orthodox Churches know that their vision expressed in Ligonier has indeed been heard, is supported and desired. They must come to understand that an inward looking vision will be ultimately rejected by their faithful, even if this means putting at risk the current relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarch. United Orthodox apostolic missionary work in America must transcend the will of one man who appears to cling to a failed Byzantine model of Church. As said earlier, the stakes are far too high for the American people, and indeed for the world’s people to do otherwise.


    Anastasios, Bishop of Androusa, (1988) “Orthodox Mission: Past, Present and Future

    Bedrin, George and Tamoush, Philip, (1996) A New Era Begins - Proceedings of the 1994 Conference of Orthodox Bishops in Ligonier. Pennsylvania, Oakwood Publications, Torrance, CA

    Sauca, loan, Editor, (1996) Orthodoxy and Cultures, Geneva, Switzerland, World Council of Churches

    Liacopulos, George P., (2000) Lights of the Modem World - Orthodox Christian Mission and Evangelism in the United States, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Light and Life Publishing Co.

    Hartford Institute for Religious Research Study- Research on Orthodox Religious Groups in the United States, Issued by Orthodox Christian Laity, Detroit, Michigan, 11-27-02

    Ameristat Report, U.S. Population: The Basics from US Census Data, August 2001

    Kosmin, Barry A., Mayer, Egon, and Keysar, Ariela (2001) America Religious Identification Survey. City College of New York, New York, New York

    1Cieorg~ Bedrin and Philip Tamoush, A New Era Begins p. 17
    2Ibid p.21
    3lbid p.26
    4lbid p.37
    5lbid p.45
    6”Missionary Quotes” Passed out in consolidated form, assembled by Fr. Luke Veronis, in class.
    9loan Sauca, Orthodoxy and Cultures p. 137...
    10YHartford Institute for Religion Report, published by Orthodox Christian Laity, 11-27-02
    11Barry A. Kosmin, et al., City University of New York, for the American Religious Identification Survey 2001
    12United States Bureau of Census, Demographic data for years 1990 and 2000
    13Hartford Institute for Religion Report
    14Fr. George P. Liacopulos, Lights of the Modern World. 145-146
    15 Ibid p. 149
    16 Ibid p. 150-151
    17Bishop Anastasios of Anrousa,” Orthodox Mission: Past, Present and Future” (1988) p.6
    18Fr George P. Liacopulos, Lights of the Modem World p.126