Monday, December 18, 2006
It's all Greek to me?? Hardly...
Last Sunday I took my worship class on a fieldtrip to our local Greek Orthodox Cathedral here in Houston for the Sunday Divine Liturgy. The purpose of the trip was solely pedagogical, yet I could not help reflecting on the sad state of my own denomination, and my commitment to remain a part of the Anglican tradition.
Admittedly, the service felt a little alien to me at first, despite the fact that I was quite able to follow the liturgy, and even to respond in Greek somewhat proficiently. That being said, the liturgy was enthralling, and before I knew it I was musing that I could quickly get used to worshipping in this manner on a weekly basis. Then it hit me. I already affirmed everything they affirmed. I believed as they believed. There were no obstacles -- not doctrine, not icons, not piety, not the filioque -- standing in the way of my becoming Orthodox (with a "big-O"), that is, if I so desired. Nothing at all. So naturally I was faced with the question: as a "small-o" orthodox Christian, why remain Anglican?
On the way home that afternoon, I came up with three answers (only two of which I'm ready to share with my readers. The third, still provisional, will have to wait):
(1) I remain Anglican because the Anglican way of orthodoxy is something worth staying in and fighting for. In its best expressions, Anglicanism is a wondrously beautiful vehicle for the transmission of the orthodox faith. Not only do I believe it can be so in the future, but I believe it is so now in the present (albeit in limited contexts). The loss of Anglicanism to the cancer of relativity, God forbid, would be a loss not only for a few Episcopalians, but a loss for the whole Body of Christ as well. Some of my friends have suggested that the Western-Rite option in Eastern Orthodoxy could easily fill this void. My response: Anglicanism is a natural home for orthodoxy (small-o), but Orthodoxy (big-O) could never be a natural home for Anglicanism.
(2) I remain Anglican because I am culturally an Anglican Christian, and I see my culture as a heritage entrusted to me to pass on to future generations. Surely, some of my friends might object, "What profit is there in saving your culture only to lose your soul?" However, I think this is a false dichotomy. As I looked around at the mostly Greek congregation gathered in that Greek Orthodox Cathedral during its Greek liturgy, it was obvious to me that, for that particular congregation, being "Greek" and being "Christian" were practically co-terminous. Corporately speaking, culture is the soul of a church. The Christian Faith is fundamentally incarnational, and thus it naturally incarnates itself in culture -- be it Greek or British.
Simply put, I am an Anglican Christian, I can be no other.
Until next time.
P.S. I'm still pondering this question, of course.