ORTHODOXY IN DIALOGUE’S GLOBAL EVANGELICAL ROLE

Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of the Lord (Lagos, Nigeria)

When Orthodoxy in Dialogue published Why Are We Sitting Here? by Metropolitan Alexander (Gianniris) of Nigeria eight months ago, it became overnight—and remains—one of our most popular and most shared guest articles. A well-known British name in Orthodox academic theology exclaimed publicly on social media, “The future of Orthodoxy is in Africa!”

About two weeks ago, a young seeker in Nigeria reached out to us to discuss his interest in Orthodoxy. A significant factor in his search has been Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s content. With both his and Metropolitan Alexander’s consent, we introduced them by 3-way email. They met this past Saturday at His Eminence’s residence. (We have the young man’s permission to use the photo he snapped upon arrival at the cathedral compound.)

When our friend got home, he tweeted the Metropolitan’s essay with this message: “Met him today, and I love him so much!” Such a testimony to a true shepherd of the living Church, and to Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s small role in adding a new sheep to the portion of Christ’s flock entrusted to his care, brings tears of joy and gratitude to our eyes.

A week ago, a second young Nigerian seeker reached out to us. He doesn’t yet feel ready to meet the Metropolitan, but remains in contact with us.

Yet these two young gentlemen represent but the tip of the iceberg. Since Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s launch in August 2017, we have lost count of the number of Orthodox Christians around the planet who have written privately to tell us that we’re the only thing keeping them Orthodox, and of seekers telling us that we give them hope of finding a spiritual home for themselves in the Orthodox Church, and of the lapsed telling us that we inspire them to reconsider Orthodoxy.

This is not to say that the many who contact us to thank us for the support that we offer them unawares on their path to God—wherever they may find themselves along the way—or our hundreds of thousands of readers around the planet whose names remain forever unknown to us, or our several dozens of financial supporters, agree with everything we publish. We don’t agree with everything we publish. Yet what they all attest to valuing about Orthodoxy in Dialogue is the underlying premise of our work: to wit, not only that Holy Tradition allows robust discussion and disagreement on how it applies to the vital questions of this time and this place, but that Tradition in fact requires this in order to remain the living Tradition of the living Orthodox Church, and not an ossified archaeological artefact to be admired in a museum’s display case, or an escape hatch from the real world of this time and this place in which God has placed us by an act of divine providence. Those who subscribe to the notion that Tradition has somehow become “closed,” in a way analogous to the scriptural canon, adopt a position which is untraditional, unpatristic, and unhistorical. What date, or at least what century, do they proffer for the “closing” of Tradition?

The vibrancy of Orthodox theological discourse in Russia from the first half of the 19th century to the opening decades of the 20th, which then shifted to Paris and beyond with the Russian emigration after the communist revolution and two world wars—inseminating Greek, Romanian, Serbian, American, etc., theology with a similar spirit of engagement with the world’s cultural, philosophical, social, and political currents—stands as an eloquent case in point. The era produced the greatest lights of modern Orthodox thought known to us all: Florensky, Bulgakov, Florovsky, Berdiaev, Arseniev, Lossky, Evdokimov, Clément, Behr-Sigel, Lot-Borodine, Skobtsova, Schmemann, Meyendorff, Zizioulas, Yannaras, Romanides, Stănilaoe, Popović, and many others. They all, in their own way, struggled with the same questions that hold us in their grip now, from nationalism and ethnophyletism to politics, economics, sexuality, gender, ecumenism, ecclesiology, the role of women in the Church.

They all, to one degree or another, disagreed with each other, sometimes stridently. Berdiaev and Florovsky, for instance, had no use whatever for Florensky’s The Pillar and Ground of the Truth, nor did they mince words in saying so. Sophiology, as articulated in sequence by Soloviev, Florensky, and Bulgakov, found little support among their equally well-known peers. Bulgakov faced ecclesiastical censure, for a time, for his theological views. Even now, the meaning and application of Florovsky’s appeal to “the mind of the Fathers” remains hotly debated among Orthodox theological thinkers—while not one of them denies the importance and centrality of the Fathers as a permanent criterion of Orthodox theology, now and into the future.

Some of our detractors cackle gleefully at their own cleverness when they call us “Orthodoxy in Monologue.” First, it’s hardly a monologue when so many of our readers respond to us (the classic definition of “dialogue”) on social media and their own arguably monological blogs and online magazines. Second, we invite them to peruse our Letters to the Editors page, where we publish virtually every letter sent to us, no matter how harshly condemnatory of us. Third, we invite them to read the many articles that we reprint from elsewhere which take a position other than what we normally represent. Fourth, we invite them to read the contributions of the few hardy souls who have written for us directly to express their strong disagreement with the direction we take. And last, we invite them to write for us. Try us.

Pray for us, that we may continue to serve the Church everywhere in this humble ministry to the best of our ability.

Orthodoxy in Dialogue seeks to promote the free exchange of ideas by offering a wide range of perspectives on an unlimited variety of topics. Our decision to publish implies neither our agreement nor disagreement with an author, in whole or in part.
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