Jul 222010
 

Xenia a has been an online friend and companion on my journey for many years, before there ever was a Phoenix Preacher.

Since her first comment on an old email list and still today she has exemplified the positive virtues of the Christian faith.

It’s always been obvious that she belongs to God…and her journey to the East began my journey toward a love for and an embracing of the whole Body of Christ, not just the sects I was aligned with doctrinally.

I’m honored that she wrote this for us and I do indeed celebrate her presence among us.

Why I am Eastern Orthodox

First, a little background.  I was raised in a Christian home.  My parents were Baptists and we attended the little Baptist church across the road from our house in rural Ohio.    When I was twelve I walked the aisle to accept the Lord on an Easter Sunday and was baptized in Lake Erie soon after the spring thaw.  I had a great fear of going to Hell and that was my entire motivation for becoming a Christian.  I continued as a Baptist after moving to California until I was thirty when I discovered the local Calvary Chapel.  I continued at Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay for the next twenty years.

So what happened? Why did I abandon fifty years of comfortable Baptistic theology, my cool media jobs at CC, my cozy place in the inner circle of women’s ministry and pretty much lose all my friends to join an obscure and ancient church that did not even seem to use English?

A few Evangelical doctrines bothered me even from my youth.  The one that caused me the most grief was Eternity Security or Once Saved, Always Saved.  As I have shared here before, that doctrine kept me awake nights because it seemed to be based on nothing more than my own sincerity at the time I walked the aisle when I was twelve. (“If you really meant it when you repeated the sinner’s prayer….”)  Most of the time I did not feel like a Christian and I certainly did not act like one so I concluded that I must not have really meant it when I was twelve.  When my parents would watch the Billy Graham Crusades on TV I became so anxious that I had to leave the room and run upstairs and “accept the Lord” all over again because the last time didn’t take.  Whenever the pastor at church gave the invitation it was all I could do to keep from running up front to “really and truly” accept the Lord.  Only pride prevented me.  And this continued even into my Calvary Chapel days, with a new twist.  Why didn’t I receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit like everyone else did?  Pastors and guest speakers laid hands on me numerous times to receive tongues and it never happened.  Since the CC teaching on this was “Ask and you shall receive” I always left these episodes in tears, wondering if I was really a Christian after all.  So again I would go to my room and try to accept the Lord all over again.   And lest you think I was being overly neurotic about it a Famous Pastor’s Wife who was a guest speaker at our women’s conference questioned whether I should even be serving in women’s ministry since I had not received the Second Baptism.

Another doctrine that always bothered me was the Baptist / CC view of communion, which as you know, is symbolic, commemorative and non-sacramental.  I could never quite understand what the big deal was.  “Do This in Remembrance of Me” was carved on the table, but I could not understand how eating a saltine and drinking some grape juice helped me remember Jesus.  Everyone acted like it was a big deal.  The lights were turned down, the Baptist pianist or CC guitarist played soft, atmospheric music as we solemnly passed around the elements and partook in unison.  I just didn’t get it.  I didn’t know what kind of emotion I was supposed to be feeling.  I came to dread communion and went out of my way to avoid it.  It was meaningless to me.  When I read the New Testament and church history it seemed like communion meant so much more to those Christians of the past and I was envious of them.

A third problem was the discouragement of doing good works lest we appeared to be too Catholic.  I remember sitting in a women’s ministry leadership meeting as we tried to come up with stuff for the ladies to do besides Bible studies and tea parties.  I suggested volunteering at soup kitchens or working with migrant women but this was shot down as works-righteousness.   This upset me quite a bit.  It seemed that the only activity permissible was Bible study.  And believe me, I studied my Bible continually but guess what- I was not growing in the Lord one whit.  I was certainly amassing a lot of factual information but as an individual I was not becoming conformed to the Image of Christ.  In fact, I was becoming a bigger jerk with each passing year.  As I came to believe that the goal of the Christian life is to become conformed to His Image. I realized that what was being offered in the CC world was not going to help me in this endeavor.   No amount of study was going to take the place of actually getting up and doing the things the Lord told us to do, to feed the hungry, to dress the naked, to visit the captives, to shelter the homeless.

So, what to do.  That summer I visited a lot of local churches to see if I could find a better fit.  This was hard for me because I had been taught for the past 20 years that God was doing a special work in Calvary Chapel and that it was God’s cutting edge church.  No one else did verse-by-verse, etc. etc.  I found to my dismay that most of the churches I visited were trying to copy the CC model.  Even the liturgical church I visited had a drum set up front.  Shoot, if I wanted that I might as well stay at CC, which did this kind of thing really well.  I still believed in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith but I was seriously thinking about leaving the world of churches. I was just about out the door.

One Sunday morning, when my cup of disgruntlement was full to overflowing, I visited the Russian Orthodox Church here in Seaside on a whim.  A whim.  It was to be my last hurrah before I left churchianity for good.  I entered the mysterious, jewel-like little building with the attitude more of a tourist than a seeker.  But that’s where God grabbed me.  As I stood there in that tiny candle-lit space I had THE major mystical experience of my life.   I knew this was God’s Church.  This was the place.  I was full of faith and joy.  I was home.

Home… odd thing to say about a Church that was not even using one word of English the day I visited.  But I felt like I was home just as I expect we will all feel when we cross over into Heaven one day.  I felt like I was in the presence of God and the hosts of Heaven.  I felt like I belonged, that I knew with a certainly that eluded me most of my life that I really and truly was a child of God and that He loved me.  I was in the presence of a holiness that I didn’t even know existed on earth.  After maybe five minutes I knew I had to join this Church, that my very soul depended on it.  The simplest answer to “Why I am Eastern Orthodox” is that God grabbed me and told me I was home.

So, I joined up.  Not the Russian parish but a Greek parish in Salinas that used a lot of English.  The first thing I had to do was make a “Life Confession,” a chat with the priest where I confessed my major sins over the last fifty years, as best as I could remember them.  We got stuck on a biggie, but God forgave me.   This was big.  I had a load of guilt over a certain matter and the relief I felt at being able to confess it with the help of the priest is hard to describe.    It was more than just saying “Sorry, Lord.”    I felt truly forgiven and released from a big burden of guilt that I had carried around with me for a long time.

After I was received into the Church by the rite of Chrismation (anointing with oil) I was able to receive the Holy Eucharist, which we believe is truly the Blood and Body of the Savior.   I now look forward to Communion and believe that I am truly being fed by the Blood and Body of our Lord, for strength and for salvation.  Like the Lutherans, the Orthodox also practice closed communion.  To receive, one must be a baptized Orthodox Christian who has been to confession fairly recently and who has fasted since midnight.   I have seen strangers approach the Chalice who were grilled by the priest: Are you Orthodox?  Who’s your Bishop? Did you eat breakfast?  When’s the last time you went to Confession?

There are many things I love about the Orthodox Church; here’s a few:

The Divine Liturgy, which is beautiful, heavenly, timeless and Christ-centered.
The veneration of the Saints, which is not worship but rather a way to cherish the heroes and heroines of the faith.
Icons, beautiful timeless windows into heaven.
The Liturgical Calendar, with its feast days, fasting days, Saints’ days and scripture readings.  It is good to be literally on the same page as the rest of the Church.
The Orthodox prayer book with its morning and evening prayers.  I appreciate the fact that many Christians have a vibrant prayer life by praying spontaneously, but this was a very weak area in my life and I am so thankful for my prayer book which has enabled me to pray consistently each day.  Well, at least most days.
The wisdom, humility, kindness and gentleness of the Orthodox clergy.
Monastics and their monasteries, an integral part of Orthodox life.
Orthodox Church government, with an elected parish council to oversee the building and other earthly matters and the Bishops to oversee spiritual and ecclesiastic matters.  Everyone is accountable to somebody.
“Small” things, such a sweet smelling incense, candles, church bells, clerical vestments, standing during Liturgy, head coverings for the women, a cappella singing…. These things make the Liturgy heavenly and help us set aside all earthly cares.
Antiquity.  It goes without saying, this a is very old Church.  No fads, no attempts at coolness, no electronics.  It is not what you’d call “seeker friendly” but as my story (and many others) demonstrate, God can grab you anyway.
Of course, of the utmost importance are the Sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist.  We believe that God works through His material creation, such as in the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

In Orthodoxy, salvation is a journey along a life-long path with Christ leading you, nudging you from behind, holding both hands and carrying you as well.  He is in us and we are in Him.  As long as we stay on the path we are safe. He enables us to stay on the path.  He gives us things to do which help us stay on the path.  If we say we cannot do the things He gives us to do we need to remember that with man, nothing is possible but with God, all things are possible.  We can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength.

I am convinced that the Eastern Orthodox Church contains the fullness of the Christian faith and is the Church that was born on the Day of Pentecost.  I think when it comes right down to it, this is the reason I am Orthodox: I believe it’s the Church.  (To anticipate the question “Do I think people outside the Orthodox Church are genuine Christians” the answer is Yes.)

  No Responses to “Why I Am Eastern Orthodox: Xenia”

  1. Xenia,

    Thanks for this. Living in Greece now for 8 years I really appreciate everything you’ve said here.

    I love my brothers and sisters within the GOC. I teach ethics and “western religions” at our local seminary and I have met some of the most spiritual people I have ever met in my life.

    I haven’t taken the same official steps as you have but I have certainly experienced many of the same things you have. I guess I haven’t felt led “yet” but I did feel “led” enough to step aside as Pastor of the small congregation here while I wait and see where Jesus would have me.

    Thank you again Xenia!

    Phil

    PS: FIRST 🙂

  2. Thanks for this Xenia!
    It is beautifully written.

    Couple questions…In one of your paragraphs you mention that one of the major problems for you in the women’s ministries was that they wouldn’t participate in anything but Bible Studies and teas when you wanted to be more involved in “missions”.
    How is the EO different in that regard? What kinds of “missional” activities is your church involved in throughout your community? Are those activites official church programs?

    It was very interesting to me that the women in the church you described see soup kitchen work, etc as “works-righteousness”. I think that may explain some things I’ve been seeing lately. Hadn’t even thought of that.

    Thanks for writing this up

  3. Nice article, deeply touching.

  4. Thank you, Xenia!

  5. Xenia –
    Thanks so much for sharing your story! FWIW, I see a ton of differences between your testimony & what SHW was sharing the other day. Primarily in this paragraph:

    “In Orthodoxy, salvation is a journey along a life-long path with Christ leading you, nudging you from behind, holding both hands and carrying you as well. He is in us and we are in Him. As long as we stay on the path we are safe. He enables us to stay on the path. He gives us things to do which help us stay on the path. If we say we cannot do the things He gives us to do we need to remember that with man, nothing is possible but with God, all things are possible. We can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength.”

    From what I read of you, your faith is all about Jesus. We differ on a lot of issues, but if we can start with the foundation being all about Jesus & His all-sufficient work, then that’s a great starting point.

  6. While the gulf between my Baptist thoughts and Xenia’s Orthodox seems too wide to even think of crossing, I can appreciate that we are both centerring on Christ and doing what we can to glorify Him.

    Xenia, thank you for writing this. It was an interesting glimpse into a foreign world for me.

  7. Xenia- thank you for sharing your journey of faith. It is unfortunate that you experienced this in Calvary Chapel- I have never heard of any CC discouraging good works.

    I recently visited Greece and toured many Greek Orthodox churches. Beautiful, timeless, sacred. There is a feeling of Holiness within the sanctuary. The more I saw, however, the more troubled I became. Gold, silver, precious jewels, precious metals, all used to create ornate and magnificent icons, rather than to feed the poor, the widows, the orphans. That is my biggest problem with the Greek, Russian and Roman churches- the untold billions of dollars spent on material things- churches- icons-vestments. I believe it is grievous to God.

    One question. My experience in the Roman church was that members were discouraged from reading Scripture. That the priest was the messenger of God’s word and only the church had the correct interpretation. It wasn’t until I left the Roman church that I read the Bible and experienced the Holy Spirit speaking to me through God’s word. My question is-how does the Greek Orthodox church teach on private Bible reading?

  8. Mark:

    My feeling of the grandness of the icons, vestments and building is they appear to forget God left the “house” and dwells in His people now.

    However, too bad many of those with “simpler” faiths also forgot the house of God is now the physical body of His people. Romans 12:1

    It ain’t easy any way either way.

    Personally I appreciate the desire to be more spiritual and draw closer to the true nature of the church, but the EO just isn’t it in my opinion.

    Thanks for the post.

  9. This series is really amazing.

    X, your article is very well done. I can personally relate to the insecurity in eternal security. I’ve “accepted the Lord” a million times because I was afraid it didn’t take. I’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer more times than I can remember…

    While I don’t agree with all of Eastern Orthodox Theology…I believe there are many many Believers in your camp and the RCC for that matter. Jesus is solidly in both tribes, IMO….and who knows…when we get to eternity…you might be right…but, IMO, while it’s good and healthy to test one’s belief system and hash out Theological/Doctrinal issues…at the end of the day it’s all about Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, the Stumbling Block…and Jesus Christ is Alive in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  10. Sincere. Full of feelings too. The “I’s” are most revealing.

    Know the next to the last paragraph is not attributed to “Orthodoxy” only but to Christ Followers all…at least that is what the Lord’s word says.

    XENIA’S REFERENCE: In Orthodoxy, salvation is a journey along a life-long path with Christ leading you, nudging you from behind, holding both hands and carrying you as well. He is in us and we are in Him. As long as we stay on the path we are safe. He enables us to stay on the path. He gives us things to do which help us stay on the path. If we say we cannot do the things He gives us to do we need to remember that with man, nothing is possible but with God, all things are possible. We can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength.

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

  11. Xenia, Not only is yours a wonderful testimony of how the Lord leads His sheep, as He brought you to that first Russian Church on a “whim” – but yours is also a cautionary tale for all the CC pastors (and similar minded churches) of the damage bad teaching can bring on one of Christ’s own.

    I have said before, and say again now, the biggest knock on the CC movement that I repeatedly hear outside of the CC movement is not the abusive pastor, no accountability issue – as serious as that is in the churches where it is a problem.

    The biggest knock is bad teaching. Screwing up doctrines that really make a difference in the believer’s personal walk with the Lord.

    I shudder to think of being responsible for someone getting so discouraged that they plan on stopping church fellowship, after TWENTY YEARS under my pastorate. It is mind boggling to me, yet I completely understand why Xenia was about to do just that, based on her testimony.

  12. Xenia,
    well-written, but moreso, well expressed. Your heart is clearly apparent. Like Mike Macon, the “God brought me here” and “being home” portions really ring true.

  13. I have said before, and say again now, the biggest knock on the CC movement that I repeatedly hear outside of the CC movement is not the abusive pastor, no accountability issue – as serious as that is in the churches where it is a problem.
    ——————————————————————–
    And a simple plea…

    Let’s not hijack Xenia’s thread by arguing that abuse is more serious or causes more damage etc. I was just saying what I HEAR, outside the movement – since it fits perfectly with Xenia’s testimony.

    There are other threads and other days for that argument.

  14. Xenia,

    Thanks for sharing this, my friend. You are a true blessing.

  15. AV…I hear you. No thread hijack here…and thanks for the reminder.

    Another comment on X’s article: X, I hear you loud and clear on the “guilt” issue…boy have I struggled with that. Thank you for expressing your heart and giving us an intimate glimpse into your life and Faith.

  16. Xenia,

    Great job!

    I have a son who’s attending a Lutheran college. For one of his classes, he and other classmates attended an EO Service in Minneapolis. He was overwhelmed by the beauty and richness of the Service. Also a little tired if I recall because it was a long service and there was a lot of standing.

  17. Xenia, great article, thank you.

    Your comment on Communion rang so true. I have told the story often here that one of the major points of difference that led me to leave CC was what I had learn in Lutheran theology during my search and transition, about the elements. While sitting in a service where when it came time for communion, we were told that in the interest of saving time, to reach under our seat to find the elements – pre packaged!
    The obvious message to me that day, was that the pastor’s message was far too important to cut short and properly institute and distribute the Lord’s body and blood.
    It would have been better to have just skipped the communion, but hey, it was probably on the monthly calendar.

    Thanks Xenia.

  18. Xenia,

    I’m so glad you decided to share and then did it so well. God moves differently in different peoples lives and His ways are above our ways. And while I would have a lot of theological disagreements with the Orthodox church, it seems that God had a purpose in moving you this direction. I loved hearing your story. God bless.

  19. Xenia,
    Thanks so much for sharing your journey. It’s so interesting to see how God has worked in each life so differently.

  20. Not what I expected… and yet very much what I expected. Interestingly Xenia you seem to say simply that you did not ‘experience’ Christ in other churches in ways that you thought people were saying that they did. When you went into Orthodoxy you did. It was a coming ‘home’ for your soul. Then via investigation you concluded this to be the TRUE church.

    There is much in your story that is beautiful and much that is sad. Sounds like a normal journey into Christ. WIthout question if your experience of Christ in the evangelical world had been mighty, you would have stayed. I think that is probably fair to say. But I suspect that you would say something different.

    The surprise was how experiential your journey has been… you more often communicate theologically. So it was good to hear the personal side of your story.

    As I encounter people going into Orthodoxy there is much more of a doctrinal search for truth and a feeling that being disconnected from the historical church is unacceptable.

    Peace to you… above all things I think people like ministry of Christ in the communion being central over the ministry of the superstar speaker.

  21. Xenia,

    your words of your faith are alive and filled with the warm embrace of Christ. Thank you for sharing your experience, i know you were reluctant to.

    I have never visited an EO church. There is a lovely one only a few miles from my home…

    I am trying to be ‘open’ in where God wants me as i feel myself adrift after 25+ years of doing the non denominational (now a mega church) walk. Women’s retreats are not quiet, reflective contemplation as i envision them to be, but scheduled near other entertainment venues, speakers are motivational; be attractive, efficient, the 21st century Proverbs woman… i understand the need for this information, but time and expendible income is limited. The Women’s Ministry identifies this as the format wanted and attended. I ask, but what do we need? Even in my participation in organizing women’s ministries there does not seem to be an interest in any activity we cannot wear our courtre fashion to.

    I sit in services in a magnificent sanctuary filled with people (to be followed by 2 more services) top of the line technology etc. etc. modern music and sometimes, when there is an actual song that requires some reflective thought… at the end 1400+ people applaud. Are we applauding the performers? ourselves for contemplating? God? 🙄

    the horrible thought i had last week was ‘beautiful, painted headstones”

    🙂 wish God would “grab” me as i visit different churches

    thank you Xenia

  22. Dixie,
    Interesting point. Seems no matter if we are comfortable with the idea or not … our personal experience does play a large part in where we call home spiritually.

  23. Xenia,
    Thank you so much for your testimony.
    My daughter and son in law are Orthodox (after attending CCBC) and they both have a sweet walk with and love for Jesus. I visited their church last May when I was in the states and the service was beautiful. VERY different, but I knew Jesus was being preached and lifted up.
    I was truly blessed as I read your testimony. Thank you.

  24. Xenia,

    Wonderful article. A very thoughtful discussion of your journey of faith.

    I spent nearly ten years of my life in the study of Russian/Soviet History. I’ve been to Russia twice (1990 – USSR, 1994 – Russia). I would have to say that the Russian Orthodox Cathedrals in St. Petersburg and Moscow are some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. I know a lot of “Christians” are troubled by such edifices, but historically that is how Medieval and Renaissance Europeans worshiped God.

    My landlady on my second trip was Eastern Orthodox. She was one of the kindest and most real Christians I ever met. One morning, Nelia asked me and my roommate if we were Christians and proceeded to give us the gospel (in Russian. a language I have long forgotten). The week that I headed home for the States, she was going on a mission trip to France, which she referred to as “the most heathen nation on Earth” (I’ve always appreciated the candor of the Russians).

    I also visited a Russian Orthodox church in Palo Alto in 1988. It was a truly moving experience.

    Christianity can truly be found in many traditions. God bless you on your journey.

  25. Man, can I relate to your comment about people doing endless Bible Studies and shying away from good works in the world we live in. At one point this nearly turned me off from the church, as well.

  26. X,

    I’m stoked that you found a place where you can connect with Jesus at a level you had never experienced.

    He certainly moves us to different pastures to allow us to feed upon His faithfulness in a new and fresh way…so long as we are continuing to hear the voice of our Shepherd we are exactly where He would have us.

  27. Xenia, add my thanks for what you shared – as i read your experiences of the first 50 years of your pilgrimage with Christ, my heart ached for you and, yet, you very plainly expose what is shallow and wrong with Protestantism today. As you seek the Reality of Christ in the symbology and ceremony make God take you deep in Truth and strong in Christ.
    busy day – but just had to say 😉

  28. “make?” God, nope… make that “may” God … but on second thot… mebbe the former, too

  29. Mark,

    You said

    “I recently visited Greece and toured many Greek Orthodox churches. Beautiful, timeless, sacred. There is a feeling of Holiness within the sanctuary. The more I saw, however, the more troubled I became. Gold, silver, precious jewels, precious metals, all used to create ornate and magnificent icons, rather than to feed the poor, the widows, the orphans. That is my biggest problem with the Greek, Russian and Roman churches- the untold billions of dollars spent on material things- churches- icons-vestments. I believe it is grievous to God.”

    They do feed the poor and clothe the naked and do a far better job then most I saw in America. Not every Orthodox church in Greece has the windows and such as what you describe. In fact most are just tiny buildings where members come to worship and pray daily. Of course there are some huge ones and if you ever come to Corfu hit me up and I’ll give you a tour……that invite extends to everyone else from my PP family 🙂

    Phil

  30. Good morning P-Peeps 🙂

    Let me answer a few of your questions.

    London, regarding missions, typically, it is done by planting a mission church. A small church is built (or a storefront is renovated) and the priest or monastics begin conducting services, which people are invited to attend. “Come and see.” We don’t have large evangelistic crusades or even street witnessing (tracts) because we do not believe in what is sometimes called “decision theology” where a person agrees to become a Christian after becoming convinced of the truth of the Gospel and typically prays a Sinner’s Prayer. We would rather get them to come to our Church and let God work on them there with the hope of making them part of our community.

    A newish trend is the operation of bookstores / coffee shops on a busy street in a town or city. Our own parish has just such a bookstore on the main street of our town and many people are drawn to this very attractive little shop which is run by two monastics who are cheerful representatives of Christ and love answering questions about Christ and Christianity. Internet radio stations have been very instrumental in getting out the Good News. Ancient Faith Radio and the Orthodox Christian Network are treasure troves of information and inspiration and have helped many.

    Internationally there is the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) which operates mostly in impoverished Orthodox countries but was very active recently in Haiti.

    Parishes do a lot on a local level and will cooperate with other churches in town for the purpose of helping the poor- food drives, etc. Our parish is a part of a network of churches that help the poor in town. We also have a very large thrift shop which gives a way literally tons of clothes, housewares and bedding to the impoverished people in the area. These are the kinds of things most churches do and are not unique to the Orthodox. We are strongly encouraged to love our neighbor in meaningful ways, which is the topic of many homilies. We are encouraged to help our community by participation in services like Meals on Wheels and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. This is good not only for the people we are helping but also good for our own souls as we cooperate with God in doing His work.

    Mark, the Orthodox are not discouraged from reading Scriptures at all. An integral facet of Orthodox spirituality and piety is the personal daily reading of the Scriptures. We have a lectionary which lists the Gospel and Epistle readings for the day which we are strongly encouraged to follow. An Orthodox Christian is much more likely to read the Gospels over and over and over and maybe never read much from the Old Testament, except, of course, the Psalms. The Bible has been translated into the local languages from the very beginning, by the way, so any literate person has always had access to the Bible.

    Fred, regarding Church riches, I would only offer this: The Church belongs to everyone, rich or poor. The poor delight in contributing what little they can and therefore feel a real ownership in a beautiful church building. The parishioner may live in a slum tenement building but when he goes to a beautiful cathedral that he helped build through his humble offerings, he knows he is a part of it and not a bystander. In the Old Testament the people were very happy to give their gold towards the construction of the tabernacle.

    Dreadly, the Orthodox Church is very experiential which surprised me, too. It is a different kind of experientialism than we see in other churches, but it’s definitely a component of Orthodox life. You are right- if my experience in the Evangelical world had been more fruitful I would never have left. I know people who were instantly “converted” to Orthodoxy just as I was (experientially) but many others who came to Orthodoxy after months of study.

    Did I miss any questions? Thanks for being so charitable towards my article, everyone. I appreciate it.

  31. I can relate to some of what Xenia said in regard to thinking of doing good works as “works righteousness.”

    When I moved from Florida to South Carolina I experienced that at the CC I began to attend. Often I heard comments passed that being missional within the community was a type of works-righteousness. That type of thinking was so foreign to me since CC Ft. Lauderdale is very involved in mission for the city. Because of that I was often very miserable. When I would speak up on the issue the responses were cold.

    Now almost four years later I’m co-laboring in planting a church with A29 and am fired up about what God is going to do here in Greenville, SC.

    Bless you….

  32. Eric Hoffman, Thanks for sharing. I will be praying for your church plant.

  33. works-righteousness wow, what a twisted reframe of helping and providing service to others in the community as being ‘bad’ somehow for our walk…okay, the groups that blazen their logo or some leaders name on all things feel like it’s for show/glorification of one or a group…not Christ but the work should not be done because it is somehow us being self righteous Christians? 🙄

  34. This might not be the place to talk about that but sometime I think it would be worth, at least for me, a discussion on just what it means to “bring glorification” to Christ when we’re doing “good works”.

    Do we have to be blantantly saying “in Jesus name” every time we give someone something or do some sort of service for them, to qualify for that “badge” or is it enough to be doing the thing out of our convictions that it is what God would have us do?

    Don’t want to take away from Xenia’s thread, and I’m pretty sure I already know the answer most folks on this forum would give, but sometime maybe we can discuss it.

  35. London,

    That’s a great question.

    I don’t want to hijack the thread, either…but my short answer is, “No.”

    Luther said, “God doesn’t need our good works. But our neighbor does.” God can take care of Himself! Move forward knowing God is with you…but move! That’s my take.

    In other words…if you see a need, fill it! The rest, to me, examining motives, etc., etc. is pretty sterile and a waste of time.

  36. pontification alert!
    quick thot on London’s #36… truth is, we shouldn’t have to ‘say’ that… somehow, we should convey it by our (ahem) comportment… somehow and often the deed is done with the unspoken, but felt, message, “here this is because Jesus loves you (because, heaven knows i don’t).” better’n just tryin to look good, tho… or just doing nothing

    which is what i’m doing right now – waiting on someone

    some poet somewhere said? “words, idle words; i know not what they mean”…

  37. London –
    For my 2 cents, obey the convictions God has laid on your heart. Do you need to be wearing a “Lord’s Gym” t-shirt for every meal you give out? Of course not. But do what the Lord leads you to do.

    For me, I have zero problems with food ministries. My preference is to support (and assist) the ones that are also clearly presenting the gospel. That’s not to say other ministries are bad; but if given the choice, my personal conviction is to go to the one that gives the gospel in word & in action.

    Your mileage may vary.

  38. Berean, I did use the word “I” a lot but I didn’t know how to tell my story without talking about me. But I hear you.

  39. L- “Anytime you do these things unto the least of these…you do it unto Me.” You don’t have to tell Him your doing it for Him. Just do whatcha do cuz you love doing it

  40. Yeah, it’s mighty tough to tell a personal story without someone (“I”) telling it!

    Besides, it connects with people.

  41. Ah the first “communion” (ah, what a table). The disciples didn’t get it either at that point. Judas about to betray, Peter about to deny 3 x, all fighting about who would be the greatest and finally Jesus knowing as well that all would scatter. Then John 16:4, wow! And then the time comes, the ushering in of the church in Acts 1 and Acts 2. Acts 1:5 (there is John 16:4) the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes and opens up the remembrances of the WORD, because they knew the Word and the “church” spoke and lived out the wonderful works/words of God: Acts 2:11.
    Be careful of feelings and experiential things as proofs. Glad you seem to have found your “Philadelphia” amidst the other 7 Churches, or types, in Revelation 2 and 3.

  42. Bahahahahahaaa….
    So I’m sitting here worrying my head over the fact that I bought rulers for .27 a piece (100+ of them) and now the store has them for .05 a piece. Since last night I’ve been trying to get my head around should I take all those back and just use the money to get the nickel ones AND some spirals they have 6 for .50.

    Earlier today I was thinking that I’m making myself crazy over $20 (i’m telling ya…I’ve spent alot of mental energy on this debate with myself)

    My mom just handed me a note from a woman at her cardiac rehab place. Inside it was a $20 bill given to us “as a gift from the Lord to the kids” and “in the name of the Jesus child”

    Probably no one else will find that amusing but I find it hilarious in light of my earlier question today and my fretting about that specific amount.

  43. Thanks Xenia for your lovely article and the sharing of your journey, particularly the description of the sensory fulfillment drawing you into a multi-dimensional relationship with Jesus.

    What I read in your comments is the sense of majesty, reverence and sacredness that is lackingmissing in the contemporary evangelical realm.

    We read the Book of Common Prayer most days and like you, I am strengthened in knowing that I am part of the worldwide and historical church in the daily readings of the scriptures and liturgical calendar remembrances.

    I never had that sense of connection to the Historical Church in my decades of being in CCs. There was always a vague sense that the Bible had been discovered by Chuck Smith in 1970 and that no other work of the Holy Spirit had existed since the Book of Acts. (no disrespect for Pastor Chuck intended). I am grateful to be learning otherwise at last, largely thanks to the PP.

  44. Hahah London. That’s cool.

  45. London that is VERY cool! In my ‘profession’ this is labled as coincidental confirmation of ‘magical’ thinking…..

    too many times these ‘magical’ precise dollar amounts have ‘appeared’ in unusual ways in my life. I do NOT talk about it with unbelieving colleagues, HAH! even some believing ones… but when i receive unbelievably precise sums w the exact ‘extra’ to cover something else i considered…. well i just sort of go with it that just enlivens that child w/in

  46. then maybe I need to “magical think” up a million dollars 😉

    that stuff doesn’t happen to me. That’s why it was funny…I know other people say that stuff happens to them all the time, and there’s whole groups of churches etc that kind of rely on magical thinking (I call it the same too if I’d been praying for it and it “magically” appeared but, I’m defo not one of that group.

    But..that whole magical thinking and then finding ways to explain it when something happens is what makes The Secret a bestseller.

    I just thought it was funny…not something I’d be putting a whole lot of stock (pun unavoidable) in

  47. London, FWIW – that stuff does happen to me at the church fairly often. I don’t go looking for it, but a lot of times it seems when we have some unexpected need, we have some unexpected cash show up that will be within 5 bucks or so of the total. When I say a lot, I mean maybe once a quarter or so.

    I had one situation in my life when a mid 5 figure sum (under 50K) was met within 100 dollars on the same weekend. Long story that one, but quite a testimony to me at the time.

  48. In my area there are many orthodox, some very large and beautiful churches. A little reflection, when I first became a “christian” or “born again” I went to a small bible church right down the street from an Orthodox church. I remember this like it was yesterday not really sure why, its actually sort of stupid on my part. Well any way our faith community were sure the EO, Catholics, Most Lutherans, most Pentecostals (tongues was of Satan, just like most other things, including baptism of any type but ours, communion, etc.). Anyway the EO church got a new steeple and one of the deacons said looks like someone has a sugar daddy, I said I have a feeling if we go down and share with them they would come to the Lord or some such phrase, he rebuffed dont hold your breath. That summed up ministry, its something you have to do, but if it is not street preaching, apologetics, exegetical Debates winning arguments getting people to make a “decision for Jesus” ™.

    That almost 30 years ago, and I did learn what he said was almost pathologically true, Dont hold your breath, amen to that, it took my dumb blank long enough to learn. What is funny is they so ingrained, and I soaked it up like a mongrel stray dog. We were not a community, we were a group of individuals, following our individual Jesus, with our individual walk, our individual decision, our individual ministry, to other individuals, when we worshiped individually. If our paths crossed it was coincidence nothing more and we would call in fellowship. It was a type of lonely that chills to the bone, it is almost soul numbing. That was sort of what ministry was like to, I was involved in a group for years until I got the boot. We lived in close “communion” but we were individuals, separate, alone. Much like the book the Lonely Crowd or Habits of the Heart.

    At my old Church we did have a communion, that when I first got involved was one of the most mystical experiences I ever had, well thought I had, actually it was just emotionalistic clap trap on my part. God loathes experience, emotion, interaction and loved well not loved but accepted intellect, composure (unless the apologetic would be supported) for example some psychotic rant about Catholics gays evolution or other such nonsense. Now this same group considered folks like Dave Hunt, Keith Green, and Jack Chick “experts” on Catholicisms or in some degree EO. Some even held Mike Warnke and Bob Lar$on as experts on the occult. Gag. I mean we had the audacity to blather on about other groups doctrines when we followed a bunch of clowns with big noses in a little car just because they squeezed the big red bulb on the Horn.

    You know I went to confession one time, for two reasons one because all my evangelical friends were no longer my friends for the most part and two I knew the priest could not retaliate. I most likely will never go back, the anti catholic spew is still stuck deep down, yes the gift that keeps on giving. If I had to sum up my experience as a christian, and I lay most of this at my own feet, it is alone, individual, effective, efficient, success, or basically autonomous and anonymous.

  49. I do not include Keith Green the the clown car group sorry about that

  50. Ah the SECRET lolol it is so much about ME or us “thinking” it? Imagining IT

    i found myself having a truely viscerally negative reaction to the general concept, because if it didn’t happen then it is some failure in me failing to ‘relate’ to the universe?

    i think when these unexpected answers to what God wants is about Him (which is so missing from the Secret)

    so go ahead, imagine 2 million dollars if our Father wants it i think it does happen and it is about Him, not about what we want

    just one of those anomolies so many of us experience that makes life still a wonder

  51. Xenia, getting back to your article (sorry for the detour)…
    When I was in Ukraine, I went inside a couple of the churches there which were filled with all types of beautiful paintings, icons, mosaics and murals. There were old women who sold candles to light in front of icons as you prayed.
    Is that type of art typical (maybe not to that extent as this was a centuries old church) in Orthodox churches?
    What is the “role” if you will, of the arts in EO churches. Not just icons, but are their other ways that people express their creative sides. I know for many evangelical churches such as CC an others, that artistic expression is usually limited to the musicans in the “worship team” and the media team guys. What’s the situation like in the EO?

  52. Hi London,

    The Byzantine style icons you see all over the Orthodox world, even in Russia and Ukraine, are very typical. Russia went through a spell begun by Peter the Great when she was trying to westernize and during that phase some of the icons looked more western (Roman Catholic) in style but that was considered an aberration by many. The Byzantine style icon is the traditional and preferred style of icon-painting.

    As to your other question concerning the role of the arts, outside iconography and liturgical singing, I can’t really say as I myself am not involved in the arts so I haven’t paid close attention.

  53. Xenia, thanks so much for your words and explanation. Reflecting on “works righteousness”, sad that they didn’t see the wonderful blessing helping others is. The times I help others I receive great joy……it’s almost selfish…I “get” to help, I get to work at a place where food is given out to those in need. It’s FUN! Soon I will be part of a group that provides water to those attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. I’m not always clear about how I feel about “them” entering, but I AM clear about their need for water and that I don’t want them to die for lack of it. I am excited to be part of this. I am also very clear that God is in the process.

  54. Xenia

    Would you speak about Eastern Orthodoxy as the ‘true church’ and would you comment on the powerful resistance Orthodoxy is presenting to the evangelical push into historically Orthodox lands.

    Would you further comment on any negative fruit you see from Orthodoxy in history…for example many people point to seasons in Catholic history that are blighted by forced conversions, the inquisition, multiple popes claiming ascendancy etc… any seasons like that in Orthodoxy in your view?

  55. Dread, you are asking me to write a book here, a book I am not qualified to write.

  56. I will say this though. My experience in talking with evangelical (Calvary Chapel) missionaries to Russia and Ukraine have been unpleasant, to put it mildly. Their attitude is that the Orthodox are not Christians and that the Orthodox Church is not a Christian Church and the people need to rescued from Orthodoxy and converted to Calvary Chapelism. Needless to say, I don’t agree with this attitude and it’s not surprising that the Russians and the Ukrainians don’t appreciate it, either.

  57. Xenia, those are good questions. I’d like to hear what you have to say as well
    Cliff note version is perfectly fine 😉

  58. X, any Character issues in the leadership in the Orthodox Church? In your experience…and from what you’ve seen and heard from others in your tribe…are Character issues among the leadership equal, more or less than say CC or other Evangelical denoms? The RCC?

  59. X, how does EO handle Church Discipline and is there a Pastoral/Priest Standard?

  60. Ok, here goes:

    Yes, in Orthodox countries like Greece and Russia, outside missionaries are not welcome. The missionaries are not at all interested in cooperating with the local Orthodox because they don’t believe they are Christians. Their goal is to subvert Orthodoxy, as I have heard from missionaries themselves. These missionaries don’t know the first thing about Orthodoxy, from what I’ve seen. They’ve never read a book by an Orthodox Christian, never attended an Orthodox service, never talked (at length) with an Orthodox believer. All their info comes from evangelical web sites such as the totally erroneous articles on Orthodoxy you can read on sites like the Bible Answer Man and Dave Hunt’s. The Orthodox themselves consider these non-denom groups to be cults, although there is respect for established Protestant Christians such as Lutherans. In Russia, Orthodoxy is just getting back on its feet after 70 years of extreme persecution. In the Middle East, Orthodox lands are continually under assault by Muslims and the Orthodox “capital,” so to speak, Constantinople, is in Turkish hands and extremely constrained. So here comes waves of ill-informed heterodox western missionaries with a lot of money (relatively speaking) who seem to be kicking them when they’re down. No wonder they aren’t welcome.

    I remember getting an email from an old CC friend who was on her way with a bunch of church ladies to Ukraine, asking for my prayers. My goodness, how was she expecting me to pray, I wonder? I wrote her back saying I’d certainly pray for her health and safety but I was not going to pray for her success in converting my fellow Orthodox into Calvary Chapelites. She reacted poorly to my reply, to put it mildly.

    Ok, now on to history. Since Orthodoxy is centered in the East, it grew up with a different culture than western Christianity. The Byzantines were more known for their diplomacy than their warfare. Of course, the Byzantine Empire did engage in war, mostly defensive wars to protect their ever-shrinking borders from Muslim onslaught. The Crusaders felt the Byzantines were not war-like enough and even attacked and sacked Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. I am not aware of anything like an Inquisition, which isn’t to say you couldn’t dig up some awful Medieval stories about forced conversions, especially in barbaric Slavic lands. In Russia in the 17th century many Old Believers lost their lives as a result of the Raskol (Schism.)

    Yes, there have been awful Church leaders over the years. There have been recent scandals. A few years ago the Patriarch of Jerusalem received what amounted to a vote on non-confidence from the rest of the Orthodox bishops and found himself out of office. It had to do with a shady land deal, I read. An American Archbishop was forced to resign a few years ago as well, for financial misconduct. As far as predator priests go, there isn’t the same problem as the RCC have because we have married clergy which makes our percentage of pedophile priests about the same as any other non-RCC church.

    Accountability. My parish priests are accountable to their Bishop for ecclesiastical matters and to the parish council for more practical matters, such as Shall We Pave the Parking Lot? Bishops have the power to remove bad priests. I don’t think a parish has the power to remove an unpopular priest though, but they can appeal to the Bishop.

    There is a standard for Priests called Canon Law.

    I have only been associated with three Orthodox parishes and as far as I know, all the priests, deacons, and readers are men of good character. At my own parish (St. Lawrence in Felton) the clergy are among the best men I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. But my trust is not in these men, but in God. But I do trust them.

  61. …interesting stuff X. Thanks.

  62. I didn’t answer the Church discipline question.

    If a parishioner is in serious sin, s/he can be denied Communion, as in “Don’t take Communion until we get this problem settled.” In other words, a person who continues in riotous living should not receive Communion until s/he’s truly repentant. If a person is a heretic, they can be excommunicated. How much you can get away with depends on the priest himself and how strict / alert he is.

  63. You’re welcome. I thought I was going to be away for most of the day and didn’t think I had the time to answer Dreadly’s question but it looks like I ain’t goin’ anywhere today after all, so I have time to respond.

  64. Xenia,

    You are a very good sport… and a great person… thanks for your fairness and your courage to deal with stressful issues.

    As for the Orthodox resistance to evangelical Christians it seems to me pretty clear that the disregard is mutual. When a majority religion is making it hard for a minority faith to find property and to take root in the culture it can only appear to be persecution. So I do not think the Orthodox come out looking better than those who think them to be unconverted. So I am back to my feeling that the Orthodox see themselves as the true church and evangelicals as false.

    Peace to you. I always appreciate your interactions and thoughtfulness.

  65. Thank you, Dread. I always appreciate you, too.

  66. Not to take sides here, and I know Xenia isnt overly happy with me. But if you had someone whos faith was flawed (In your eyes) coming in your front door and recruiting your ‘members’ would you be going out of your way to make it easy for them? Understanding the Orthodox Churches are over areas it would, I assume, appear the same as someone walking in your front door and trying to garner those under your care.

    As far as bad periods go, being as the Orthodox church is 2000 years old, and most protestant churches less than 4-500, it would stand to reason they may have more of a blight.

  67. Oh, I love you to pieces Eric.

    🙂

  68. Thanks for the response Xenia. Very well written.

    My experience in Ukraine has been that some of the evangelical denominations that are being started by nationals meet some of the same resistance. I agree there’s mutual distrust between the Orthodox and the evangelicals who see the church (at least this is what I’ve been told) as a tool used by the governement of Russia to oppress Ukrainian freedom. There’s much distrust even internally there, so there’s no doubt going to be distrust of outsiders.

    What I do notice, and I don’t think this is about the EO particularly, is that the very same people who do not like the outsiders, sure like their money and invites American youth groups over for mission trips. They charge the Americans and play on their sympathies to get things funded. Smart…but, the disrespect and condesending attitutde goes both ways I’m afraid.

  69. Ukraine has some unique issues. Part of the country is RC and part EO. Some Ukrainians associate Orthodoxy with their former Russian overlords. Lots of back-story going on in the Ukraine. For example, for years the Russians wanted to Russify the Ukrainians and tried to claim that the Ukrainian language was just a hick dialect of Russian. So you’re right, London.

    And I could tell you the shameful details (but I won’t) of what happened when an Orthodox parish bought the land adjacent to my old Calvary Chapel. I won’t relate how that CC tried to block access to the property , etc. etc etc. It was shameful, and the courts agreed.

  70. Image the following scenario here in the US: Tragedy strikes and an atheistic totalitarian government is in control. All the Christian leaders are either killed or sent to labor camps: Chuck Smith, Billy Graham, John MacArthur, your own pastor- all of them. They are gone. And all openly Christians are treated likewise harshly- Michael Newnham, MLD, Dreadly- all of us here on the PP- gone. All the Bibles and teaching materials are confiscated and destroyed. All the church buildings are turned into museums or warehouses. Christian radio and TV- off the air. All Bible colleges and seminaries are closed. All Christian church services are either held in secret or are in the hands of people in the pay of the evil government. No more Calvary Chapel, no more Assembly of God, no more Lutherans, no more Baptists- all dead, imprisoned, or in hiding.

    After seven decades of this horror, a miracle happens. The prayers of the remaining, underground faithful have been answered. The evil government has fallen and Christians are free to be Christians again.

    Except where are all the leaders? No one’s been to Bible College or Seminary in 70 years and all the old leaders are long dead. The Christians that are left are poorly trained and all their books and tapes are dust and ashes. Yes the Gates of Hell have not prevailed, there is still a Church. But now comes a new adversary: foreign missionaries who don’t think you are even a Christian but a person who needs to be evangelized. After years of impoverishment, in comes waves of outsiders with rock bands and fancy literature and other media, beguiling your children. And, in your eyes, they are bringing an odd form of Christianity, one that is not traditionally American but is alien. And they are not at all interested in cooperating with you, in fact, they hold you in disdain.

  71. Xenia-
    I can not only imagine that, but in some ways, at least in Ukraine, they are currently facing the possibility of that same type of persecution happening again with the new Ukrainian president who is not someone of high moral standard, to say the least.

  72. They worry about his alligence to the Russians and thus in part to the Russian Orthodox church again being declared the “only official church” and that the evangelical churches, even those started and run by nationals, will be shut down and the leaders jailed or killed.

    The election happened when my friend was over here in the US and we had very deep conversations about the possibility of it, our relationship to him and his church, how we would communitate, what would happen, what would he do etc…

    At least in Ukraine, there’s resistance towards the Orthodox church and it is in part because of the things you mentioned.

  73. It’s ironic because Russian Orthodoxy got its start in Kiev.

  74. Yeah, I’ve been to St. Michael’s in Kiev. Beautiful!

    The problem is mixing polictics and church. Having a state run church causes all kinds of problems when the government is corrupt. It’s been the same for every state owned church throughout history. People don’t trust the government..hence..people don’t trust the church.

  75. London, yep. I agree.

  76. Post # 70:

    They made a movie of it called, “The Book of Eli.”

  77. Politics and religion shouldnt ever mix…except in Norway, where the official state government is Lutheran. Sweden should repeal theirs being as they are Reformed 😉

  78. Eric —

    LOL.

  79. Xenia,

    Sadly Xenia you are saying that the Orthodox treatment of evangelicals is excusable because the evangelicals have dismissed them as part of the problem. I say neither attitude toward the other is acceptable.

    But this stuff is pretty tough to parse out… but somehow we have to rise above our dogmas.

  80. Good article Xenia. It is beautiful how God reaches different people in different ways.

  81. IMV the only God pleasing reason for a Christian to go about missionary work (or for a denomination to send them) is 1-to awaken people to their need of Jesus Christ and 2-to awaken them to the critical need to walk with Him… there is no way to be pleasing to God in missionary endeavors that includes denominationalism…
    Awaken the hunger, give the tools to walk in discernment. Help them see that they have the right and duty to read the Scriptures (which are alive and powerful) and to chose their assembly. If their background or inclination is A. of G. or E.O. or whatever, if one can now grow in Christ there, then go there. But if there is nowhere to go? That’s when you can help them build or provide a place.
    not proselytize after all we’ve invested of our resources?… hmmm – easy for me to say 😀

  82. Xenia…I just now got a chance to read this and want to say thank you for writing it.

  83. Thank you Dear Sister for sharing of your experience. It is edifying to me. To God be the Glory. Jeremiah reads – If you seek Me, you will find Me, if you Seek Me with all of your heart.”

  84. Em… i am praying for and looking forward to a time we can sit on your porch and just talk….

  85. Na’amah, seems that wherever we were thru the years God always provided a sister or two for sharing things in the Lord; we’d talk and talk about Him… only one time were we both members of the same church… these days i’m all talked out and would be very boring company, but i bet i’d love to sit and listen to you 😉
    i miss those days, tho and am so encouraged and focused by all who post comments here – what a privilege to read so many pastors’ hearts and wisdom, too

  86. Em,

    It is an incredible privilege that Michael has offered to alll here. The interactions here from so many different viewpoints and the openess is a blessing. I appreciate, as best i am able to, the myriad of issues those serving as pastor’s navigate through. I still sense and feel the caution they share their POV’s even here. I feel a sense of ‘pride’ in the depth of thought, education (formal and informal) evident in the words shared here. This is in response to the denigration and incorrect assumptions made w/in the political peeps, ivory tower peeps in positions throughout my state regarding… ‘religious, church type and especially people who actually ‘talk’ about Jesus.’

    Em 🙂 my email is asiasea@live.com my dear sister, heaven forbid you are all ‘talked’ out! We can ‘sit on your porch’ or mine in cyberspace at least.

    and to my PP family… so many of you have your lifetime of experiences that so amazingly continues to further the Kingdom here.

  87. London #51,

    If I coud chime in for a moment. Iconographers are usually approved by the local bishop. There are rules that have to be followed for appropriate church art work. The art work has to be tied to some biblical person or event or some person or event in the life of the church.

    Icons themselves are more than mere pieces of artwork. Their purpose is more than to beautify the church. They are taken as pictures of family members and so shown respect and affection. Statues are generally not permitted.

    As for the Ukraine, the resistence there is due to a variety of factors, hardly none of them having to do with popular protestantism. That region went back and forth when Poland was a major power between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. When the Soviets took control, they made a bad situation worse by giving Orthodox churches to Catholics and Catholic churches to the Orthodox to make sure they fought each other rather than the state. There is a lot of bad blood, literally, due to the fact that in the purges of Stalin, about 40 or more million Ukrainians were executed by the (Russian) Soviet gov’t. That is more people that who died in Hitler’s concentration camps.

  88. Xenia,

    Good piece. 🙂

  89. Perry, welcome back – it seems like years since you posted.

  90. Perry,
    You’re correct. I saw no statues in the churches in Ukraine but many paintings and some mosaics. There were some great statues in some of the church yards, but not in the buildings themselves (not the ones I went into anyway) I have an artist teacher friend who took an icon painting class here in the US but gave up because of the tedious nature of having to paint them exactly as they’ve always been painted. Not a great task to set a creative artist to really.

    You’e also correct about the bad blood and the intense distrust and hatred of the Russians, and hence the church that bears it’s name in many of Ukraine’s people. I’m sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that many western missionaries have done damage to folks there do out of sheer brassness. cultural ignorance and well-meaning bumbling.

    One of the most touching things I saw there was a memorial statue in the back of St. Michael’s church, to the Ukrainian Genocide http://www.ukrainiangenocide.com in the 1930s.
    It’s a small memorial, but beautiful in it’s simplicity. They have a reason to distrust the Russians and resist any movement that would insist the people should belong only to the Orthodox church as well I suppose.

  91. Thanks, Perry. Good to see you!

  92. London,

    As far as the Ukrainians, a good number are Orthodox. What they reject is the dominance of the see of Moscow. Same goes with the spat between the Moscow patriarchate and the Bulgarians.

    The strictness of rules with icons has to do with the fact that they are to be use din churches and not merely religious art. Consequently, they are not striclty speaking symbolic but always tied to some historical person or event.

    Some statues are permitted in certain circumstances. On the kuvooklion where the epitaphion is kept, statues of angels are permitted atop. The former is the place where the gospel book is placed. The latter is an embrodered image of Christ entombed on Good Friday. This is carried about on Good Friday in a funeral procession for Christ. It is then held up and all of the people process underneath it as their participation in the death of Christ. The statues of angels are permitted since it harkens back to the Ark of the Covenant which housed the Law, the word of God.which had statues of angels atop it. Christ is that Eternal Word of God in his tomb and so is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant.

  93. I find your statement, ” I knew this was God’s Church.” troubling. The implication here is that all others are not, or that God’s presence is more powerful within the Orthodox “Church”. You also state you experienced the Holiness of God there like no where else. Does God need the Orthodox Church to reveal His Holiness to you ? That is the work of the Holy Spirit and He can do that while you are driving your car, reading your Bible or are in personal prayer and communication with the Lord. It seems to me that you are/were seeking an “experience ” based church via candles, bells, incense etc. As we know “experience” driven seeking can be spiritually dangerous. You state that even though you raed God’s Word you failed to grow. How can this be as Scripture tells us Gods Word contains all we need to do soon ? As for kind hearted Orthodox clergy I had just teh opposite. I once had a pen pal in Serbia who wrote me a letter in Serbian, she was from a CC there. I needed a translator so I asked a Orthodox Serbian priest at a local church if he could read me the letter. He said he would and I was anxious to meet with him. I had to drop teh letter off with hsi wife as he was suddenly called out of town when I was scheduled to meet with him. She said he would call me on the phone when he got back and read the letter to me. Well….a few days later I got a voice mail from him and he said he woul NOT read me the letter,a nd just what kind of “cult” did I belong to ? ! LOL. He was rude and said he would mail me the letter back. About a week later I just ‘happened” to meet a lady working at the mall who was Serbian and I asked if she would read me the letter. She did and all the letter contained was praises for Jesus and the great work He was doing in the writer’s life.
    As for you helping others-feeding the poor etc. you could very well have done that on your own-you didn’t need your CC womens group to do that. What stopped you from reaching out in your neighborhood to the elderly, the single mom etc. ? If YOU felt called, then YOU were called to act, maybe the others were not. If YOU saw needs then YOU were called to meet them.

  94. CL,

    What is it in us that makes us feel the need to parse how and where God meets people?

    Can we not just praise Him that He has offered Himself in so many traditions and rejoice when someone knows Him?

  95. CL,

    Way to behave like a temper tantrum throwing, rude jerk.

    Maybe your mommy forgot to teach you to read. In that case, below are the posting rules about these “Why I Am” threads.

    You owe Xenia an apology.

    “Today we begin a series of celebrations…celebrating and learning about traditions other than our own.

    Eugene Peterson wrote wisely:

    “Maturity develops in worship as we develop in friendship with the friends of God, not just our preferred friends.

    Worship shapes us not only individually but as a community, a church. If we are going to grow up into Christ we have to do it in the company of everyone who is responding to the call of God.

    Whether we happen to like them or not has nothing to do with it.”

    Hopefully we’ll learn to like each other as well…”

  96. I’m really not concerned about what Eugene Peterson wrote- I do not consider his “interpretation” of the Gods Word into “The Message” a text worth reading-is there something wrong with Gods Word in its revealed form that we need a watered down version ? You two posters did not address ANY of the issues I brought up in my OP you just mereley attacked my character-but there you go being non judgemental and rude -the same thing you are accusing me of. LOL. But we know our own sins always look worse on others don’t they. You can’t debate the issues so you say I am having a tantrum- how intellectual of you.
    The person who wrote this article is the one who stated she found the presence God in the Orthodox Church whereas it was lacking in all others she attended. But since your page is all about bashing CC and her example was a CC -well there you go…let the cheerleading begin.

  97. Thought I would point out the highly intellectual comment of CL:

    “is there something wrong with Gods Word in its revealed form”

    yeppers. That one brought me out of lurking. Which revealed form do you read from CL?

  98. CL,

    You either didn’t read Mike Macons article or you are just a jackass.
    We’re all about learning how God has met His people in many places.
    If that bothers you, then go away.
    I’m not bothering myself with your kind anymore.

  99. CL,

    My remarks aren’t meant to convince you, but to clarify. From the Orthodox point of view, the Orthodox Church is not a denomination. It is not one of many different manifestations of the same thing, which was a 19th century creation by and large. The Orthodox Church is the actual visible society of people established by Jesus and the Apostles in places like Jerusalem, Antioch, Thessaloniki, etc. continued right up to our own day. While the Orthodox Church views itself as the only true Church, this is not the same thing as saying that the Orthodox are the only recipients of divine grace. The Orthodox affirm that God gives grace to others outside the visible society that Christ established. Other professing Christians from the Orthodox point of view suffer from the sin of schism, either by their own fault or usually the fault of someone else.

    To ask if God needs the Orthodox Church to reveal his holiness is like asking an Orthodox if Jesus needs his physical body to reveal himself to the disciples. Its kind of the wrong question. The question is whether God has chosen to do so and has in fact done so or not?

    God is free to work as he sees fit, to be sure, but God has also revealed himself in certain ways through the apostleship of those men Christ appointed by giving them divine power and authority, through the laying on of hands, which they gave in part to other ministers, such as the deacons in acts 6 for example. From the Orthodox point of view, not just anyone who wears a police uniform is necessarily an authorized and empowered police officer, so to speak. In Acts, those sent out are done with letters of approval. So the first question in the early church is, Who sent you? And then, what do you teach or what message do you bring? Who sent these other ministers? What letters did they bring?

    From the perspective of many people in the “home countries” CC is a cult or cultish. It is recent, has fairly distinctive theological claims, is more or less built around a few individuals. It is not recognizable as other forms of Protestantism such as Lutheranism or Presbyterianism. What you need to grasp is that from the Orthodox viewpoint, schism is a real possibility because the church is a real society of people rather than a society of people who may or may not be members of the kingdom. If schism is a real sin and possibility, then separating from the society of Jesus and the apostles is a serious matter. Reflect for a moment on those in say Acts who separated from the society of people established by Jesus and the apostles. What did the apostles teach about those who did so and how one was to relate to them? Should they be treated as a brother in full or in another way?

    I think Xenia’s point abouthelping the poor was not that she could not have done so on her own, but that this should be a function of the church she was at.

  100. Xenia,

    Thank you for sharing your tradition with us and how you arrived there. I’m glad that you feel you have finally connected with Christ and are trusting Him as your Savior and serving Him. You and I have many differences in our beliefs (particularly in the nature of the true church itself) but I appreciate hearing your voice in the matters we discuss here.

  101. Well, I can’t think of much to say to CL so I’ll just say “God bless you” and go about my way.

  102. …good job X. You’re not going to find any consensus there.

    CL, you’re certainly entitled to your opinions…and we’re all quite full of them…kind of like certain body parts…we’ve all got them and sometimes they stink 🙂

  103. Xenia-I too am a CC convert to Orthodoxy. I need not comment because you and others have said it all. But I will say it all started when I watched this documentary on Fr. Solanus, a Catholic Priest who clearly had the gift of healings. I remembered all the anti-Catholic sermons and books CC put out and I thought to myself after seeing the documentary on this most extraordinary priest– am I really to believe this man was not a Christian?? That among other things started me questioning. I knew there were problems in Protestantism, in particular Evangelical Protestantism–like the fact there are so many divisive, contradictory interpretations of scripture and they all say they are right. As an example, how can Calvanism and Arminianism exist under the same umbrella of Christianity when they really espouse 2 different Gods?? When asked I was given the old, “In the essentials unity, in the nonessentials liberty and in all things charity.” Well, that just didn’t cut it. I ended up in an Orthodox church on the midnight service on Easter because someone I knew had just recently converted to Orthodoxy after not attending any church in almost 30 years, and I wanted to have something to talk to him about. I had no clue as to what was going on, but it was the most beautiful, wonderful, moving, awe-inspiring reverent and mystical church service I had ever attended. I never went back to CC. And you know what? After 13 years of attending CC, the pastor never even called me to find out why.
    The more I attend the Liturgy, the more I love it. I thank The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit, the Theotokos and all the Saints that I finally after so many years, found home…
    Thank you Xenia, creating this blog so I can post this.

  104. what a sweet thread. I am so glad Marta posted here to revive it!

  105. G, I had forgotten about this thread. Everyone was so gracious and asked such good questions!

    Hello Marta, I’m glad you found the Phoenix Preacher and my old blog post. It’s Michael’s blog though, not mine!

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