Sunday, October 16, 2011

ROCOR: The Orthodox approach to mission

Remarks Given at the XII All-Diaspora Youth Conference in Paris, 5th July 2011
(ROCOR) - Your Eminence, Your Grace, Reverend Fathers, Beloved Brothers and Sisters:

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: Amen.

It is a joy for me to be giving what amounts to the first ‘formal’ lecture of this blessed conference, in which our whole aim is to explore mission and missionary work, especially in practical terms which you as the youth of our Church—spread out as she is to every corner of the world—might take up and live out when you return home.

Given the timing of this talk here at the beginning of your reflections, I thought it best to take advantage of its position and to ask a few fundamental questions. I do this not only because it is good, as a general practice, to ask what we do and why we do it, before we engage in any activity that we hope will bear fruit; but also because the theme of missionary work, broadly speaking, is one that is very often marred by a drive for action that ‘skips over’ this very need to ask fundamental questions.

Driven by the desire to do something, anything, missionary work is too often based purely on a vision of action. And yet, as Orthodox Christians all our actions are to be grounded in truth—the Truth that is Christ Himself; and without a knowledge of this truth, our actions are shallow, and the fruit they bear is scant and small.

So if we are to seek ‘practical’ guidance on Orthodox mission, and if we are to seek it in a genuinely Orthodox manner, we must start by recognising that it is not authentic to the ‘practicality’ of Orthodoxy simply to ‘go out and do something’. An Orthodox approach begins with a heart turning to God, seeking understanding.

And so we must ask ourselves the most basic question of all, as it relates to our conference here: just what, precisely, is ‘mission’ in the mind of the Orthodox Church?

Before we attempt to focus ourselves too precisely on how to exercise it, how to accomplish it, we must took at the very concept itself. What is our ‘mission’ as Orthodox Christians? And what does it mean to be a ‘missionary’ in our contemporary world?

Often, when we hear these terms we instinctively, automatically, begin to think in the framework provided for us by outside influences. There are many religions that engage in what they call ‘missionary work’, and they are often quite visible in this; and so our understanding of what it means to be missionary, and what mission itself might mean, is regularly influenced by what we see and hear in these others. And in their examples, ‘mission’ often means ‘telling other people what we believe’, and ‘trying to get them to believe as we do’. In effect, the idea of ‘mission’ is combined with another, that of proselytism, which is the technical term for the work of drawing other people into one’s own religion or belief system...
Complete article here.

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