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A comment on “The vision of Fr. John Peck, in which the author sighs, ‘It’s all Greek to me'”

I just checked my spam comments, and there was one from a few days ago which was clearly not spam. It commented on “The vision of Fr. John Peck, in which the author sighs, ‘It’s all Greek to me’“, and was of enough substance that it seemed too bad that the post to which it referred had scrolled off the main page, so I repost it here (please read the post on which it comments for proper context):

John9 October 2008 at 8:02 pm

Fr. Peck little diatribe has no basis in fact, but instead is based on prejudice, ignorance and not a little anti-ethnic wishful thinking. He deserves to be sacked for his ingratitude and for his delusional pseudo-prophetic screed.

Here’s are the facts:

Excerpted from:

‘More Orthodox’ than the Orthodox
Christian Century, Dec 28, 2004 by John Dart

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_26_121/ai_n8702767/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1

IT’S COMMONLY observed that converts to a faith are the most ardent defenders of it. That seems to be the case with American converts to Orthodoxy. The large number of converts attending Orthodox seminaries prompted Alexey D. Krindatch, a sociologist of religion, to wonder whether an “Americanization” of Eastern Orthodoxy might lie ahead. His conclusion: “Probably not.”

Responses from students at three seminaries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)–the two largest Orthodox bodies in the U.S.–confirmed, he said, “the widespread notion that Protestant and Catholic converts tend to be ‘more Orthodox’ than persons who were born and raised” as Orthodox.

======
The “Americanization” of the the Orthodox Church in America is just a racist pipedream.

And here is the article to which he refers in full:

‘More Orthodox’ than the Orthodox

IT’S COMMONLY observed that converts to a faith are the most ardent defenders of it. That seems to be the case with American converts to Orthodoxy. The large number of converts attending Orthodox seminaries prompted Alexey D. Krindatch, a sociologist of religion, to wonder whether an “Americanization” of Eastern Orthodoxy might lie ahead. His conclusion: “Probably not.”

Responses from students at three seminaries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)–the two largest Orthodox bodies in the U.S.–confirmed, he said, “the widespread notion that Protestant and Catholic converts tend to be ‘more Orthodox’ than persons who were born and raised” as Orthodox.

The converts expressed more conservative attitudes than Orthodox-born seminarians did on, for instance, accepting the authority of bishops and discouraging ecumenical worship and religiously mixed marriages. Krindatch reported his findings at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Asked why the tradition-bound, liturgically intricate Orthodox churches are attracting converts, Krindatch suggested in an interview that many of the former evangelical Protestants studying for the Orthodox priesthood see a “discrepancy” between their strong personal faith “and the fact that their churches have no historical roots in original Christianity, no apostolic succession and no liturgical atmosphere.”

In the case of former Catholics and Episcopalians, however, converts are attempting to “return to their churches’ religious experiences of 20 to 30 years ago, when their churches were more ‘traditional.'”

While both Orthodox-born seminarians and the converts were relatively similar in religious upbringing, education and family income level, the former evangelicals “come from much wealthier families” that were very active churchgoers. The ex-evangelicals were more likely to have a higher level of secular education as well as businessmen fathers, and they “were more definite in their plans to be ordained and serve as priests” than were their classmates.

Krindatch surveyed seminarians at Holy Cross (Greek Orthodox) Seminary in the Boston suburb of Brookline, where 25 percent of the students are converts, and at two OCA seminaries, St. Vladimir’s in Crestwood, New York, and St. Tikhon’s in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. The majority of the students at the latter two are converts, he said.

Krindatch recently was named director for campus ministry and church growth at the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, which is part of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Krindatch, a faculty member at the Institute of Geography in Moscow, had been doing his research as a visiting scholar at the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, California.

The institute in Berkeley previously has dealt mainly with theological and historical issues, said Krindatch, but it “hopes to concentrate its future studies more on the contemporary situation and social changes within various American Orthodox churches.”

Change has been slow by Western standards. In his survey, Krindatch found that 57 to 64 percent of convert seminarians agree that while most Orthodox Christians “are socially integrated into American society, the Orthodox churches as institutions are still perceived by the vast majority of Americans as “immigrant communities,” compared to 46 percent of Orthodox-born who say that. At the same time, the proportion of the most pessimistic seminarians–those who say “the Orthodox churches still are and will remain ‘strangers’ to American society”–is higher among “cradle Orthodox” than among convert seminarians.

Cradle Orthodox students are also more pessimistic than the converts that the ethnically oriented Orthodox churches eventually will gain autonomy from mother churches abroad, or that a unified American Eastern Orthodox Church will emerge in decades to come.

Ex-Protestant seminarians may hope for ecumenical progress within Orthodoxy, but they tend to reject joint ecumenical prayers or services with non-Orthodox. Also, a significant proportion of both ex-Catholic (34 percent) and ex-Protestant (.36 percent of ex-mainliners and 52 percent of ex-evangelicals) seminarians say that Orthodox priests should try hard to discourage mixed marriages. Seminarians raised in Orthodox churches are somewhat more lenient on the issue, though not as accommodating as current priests in Orthodox parishes.

A separate survey of priests in Greek and OCA parishes found that two-thirds take a more liberal position on mixed marriages–but stay within church guidelines. In other words, priests would conduct such weddings when they are held in the Orthodox Church, and would encourage the non-Orthodox partner to join the church. “Only a minority of all seminarians (31 percent of OCA seminarians, 48 percent of Greek Orthodox seminarians) share the same view,” Krindatch said.

Krindatch acknowledged that the seminarians’ conservative stances, even if reflective of a generational trend, may evolve during “actual work in the parishes.”

John Dart is the CENTURY’S news editor.

COPYRIGHT 2004 The Christian Century Foundation

I will comment in the combox.

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3 Responses to “A comment on “The vision of Fr. John Peck, in which the author sighs, ‘It’s all Greek to me'””


  1. 1 Richard Barrett 15 October 2008 at 10:13 am

    Hi John,

    Thanks for commenting and bringing Mr. Dart’s article into the discussion. First off, I’m sorry about how you perceive Fr. John’s article; I don’t get the impression he means it to be racist or “anti”-ethnic, but the perception gap which this demonstrates is surely real and needs to be bridged somehow.

    Secondly, I’m not certain that Mr. Dart’s article shows what you seem to think it shows — but it depends on what one means by “Americanizing.” This term is not really defined in Mr. Dart’s piece, and in fact seems somewhat out of place the way he uses it. His overall point seems to be that converts in the seminaries tend to be more conservative and “traditional” in their approach to the faith than their cradle brethren, and that overall, the convert presumptive priests are outnumbering the cradles, taking as a whole all three major seminaries. As a result, Mr. Dart appears to be saying, a major liberalization of the Orthodox Christian faith in this country, such as that which has occurred in the ECUSA or in pockets of Roman Catholicism (and perhaps that’s what he means by “Americanization”), does not appear to be in the cards at this point. I would argue that this supports Fr. John’s main point rather than undermines it.

    I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate for anybody to start asserting that somehow they’re “more Orthodox” than other Orthodox; we all have our struggles, and it’s really not up to us to be judging other people for whatever their individual struggles might be — rather, it’s up to us to love, show compassion, and to try to bear each other’s burdens. I don’t think it’s any mystery that laypeople who read the collected works of Lossky and Schmemann before ever attending a church service are going to run into cultural hang-ups if they start trying to assimilate into a parish, any parish. Trying to reconcile the “perfect church” which they’ve built in their heads to the realities of a community trying to function is difficult at best. By the same token, a group of people for whom ethnic and religious heritage are not discrete entities may indeed genuinely not have any idea what to do with somebody who walks through their door who isn’t one of them, and they may legitimately wonder how somebody who isn’t part of the tribe can have any inkling of what it means to actually live as a member of their faith. I run into this every time a Greek (or Russian, or Romanian, or…) person whom I don’t know sees my cross and says, “Hey, that’s an Orthodox cross. What are you doing wearing that?”

    The trick to bridging the gap, I think, is that converts have to be willing to learn, and the cradles have to be willing to teach. That will go a long way towards resolving misunderstandings like this.

    I’m aware of a situation where two people who went through catechism, making it absolutely clear from the get-go to all concerned, including the priest, that they intended to get married and that the spiritual formation was part of their marital formation, and were baptized together with the same godparents. Somewhat after the fact, in the midst of wedding planning, it came up that there is a canon saying that godchildren of the same godparents may not marry. Somehow this never came up once during catechism or anything else; it was even looked for ahead of time, and the only restriction that was found was that godchildren and godparents may not marry. When this was brought up to the priest, he said, “Oh… right.” The solution was, evidently, to reissue baptismal certificates after the fact to show different godparents. In discussing this story with a cradle friend of mine, one of the godparents in question suggested that this seemed like a really obscure point. The cradle friend replied, “No, actually, it isn’t. Back home this would have never happened because you would have already known that godsiblings can’t get married. The reason they didn’t find it on any church website is because to us, it seems so obvious we don’t think we need to spell it out. But,” this person said, “that’s the fault of us cradles for not bothering to explain things, not the fault of you converts for not knowing it.”

    The cultural hang-ups and a seemingly know-it-all attitude are what occur in the absence of good catechesis and a welcoming spirit — and that’s on both sides, cradle and convert. I suggest that if we spent more time trying to be Christlike to each other, we’d be a lot less concerned about whether or not something was “Greek enough” or “American enough”.

    Richard

  2. 2 +Stephen-Anthony 16 October 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Dr. Mr. Barrett,

    Thank you for bringing up this very difficult subject on your blog. I would like to remind all the Orthodox in the Americas that there is no division in the Church. It is artificial and not useful to think of yourself as Greek O. or Russian O. or Antiochian O. We are one Church.
    It is not useful to use terms such as “cradel – Orthodox” or “convert” to distinguish your selves one from another. This creates division and this is not the will of the Lord as I understand it. “In Christ there is no East or West, North or South…” We are who we are.

  3. 3 Richard Barrett 16 October 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Stephen —

    Definitely not “Dr.”, and please not “Mr.” Just “Richard,” if you don’t mind — sometimes I tell people that the reason I will never be a deacon or a priest is that I don’t want people to feel obliged to mess with titles when talking to me.

    And yes, you’re absolutely right. Thank you for putting it that way. One hopes that eventually the external reality may match the ideal you point out.

    Richard


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