Monday, April 24, 2017

From the Episcopal Assembly, a report on evangelization

If the Assembly of Bishops is good at one thing, it's making reports. I'm not sure we do much with them or if they in any way improve our lot as Orthodox in the New World, but never bet against the Assembly putting out regular PDFs of some sort or another.

This study is worth reading if you are a priest (I almost said "a priest interested in the topic," but I take church growth as a given point of emphasis for all of us) or if you are someone who is interested in the state of evangelization right now. Having been a layperson in or attached to more than a few parishes, I think sentences like the below hit the nail on the head.

The study found that few clergy in both ʺexemplaryʺ and ʺnormalʺ parishes place a strong emphasis on an active ʺsearch for and bringing inʺ new members. Instead, a majority of clergy define evangelism in the Orthodox Church as ʺpassiveʺ (i.e. ʺCome and seeʺ) evangelism.
There's even a handy checklist of "Exemplary" vs "Normal" parishes that you can check off to see how your parish is doing and research areas where you might improve. Give the Executive Summary report a read, and if it piques interest, dive into the much longer Full Report.

(AOB) - The first ever, national study on evangelization and outreach in Orthodox parishes in the United States has been released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA.

Download the report in various formats:
The report "Go and Make Disciples: Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishes" explores the practices and strategies developed by some Orthodox parishes that can be viewed as "exemplary" in their missionary and outreach efforts. Examples of what the readers will find in the report include:
  • The "secrets" of being a parish that attracts and welcomes new members;
  • Eight good practices of welcoming first-time visitors and inquirers about the Faith;
  • How do "exemplary" parishes achieve a high degree of involvement of their members in parish life;
  • Four distinct features of religious education in the "exemplary" parishes;
  • Six "lessons" that Church leadership (bishops) can learn from the "exemplary" parishes.
Parishes of seven Orthodox jurisdictions participated in this study. The report was prepared by Alexei Krindatch, the Assembly's Research Coordinator in cooperation with Fr. Eric Tosi (OCA), Fr. John Parker (OCA) and Adam Roberts (Antiochian Archdiocese). The study was initiated and sponsored by the Committee for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations (Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, Chairman).


  1. This is like......really good.
    There's so much in this document, just so much. It's pretty phenomenal actually.

  2. I have only had time to read the Executive Summary but here are my (first) impressions:

    1) The table clearly points to the convert vs ethnic divide. While I agree with this in large part, I wonder if the authors might have focused on this aspect a bit too much.

    2) I wonder if "spiritual formation" is not a better paradigm than "education" - the authors seem to be infatuated with "education".

    3) I question the authors take on relationship and involvement "the community". They seem to believe that being "ecumenical" leads to more membership - I have never seen this. In fact, I wonder the opposite is the case. For example, I live only about 50 miles from the border and immigration is of course a significant subject. However, I don't believe some kind of political involvement would be beneficial at all. Are the authors merely mistaking their own preferred political (and secular) preferences for spiritual formation and what we are called to do/be as Church?

    4) the axiom "correlation is not causation" holds - the author's don't explicitly address this (perhaps they do in the deeper "Full Report")

    That being said, there is much to be pondered here and it strikes me as a report worth being considered by leadership on every level...