Introduction: God’s Will
There will never be any new Local Churches in the Diaspora, if it is not God’s will. What is manmade, therefore in some way essentially denying God and replacing Him with a human institution, crumbles and becomes a Church in name only, calling itself after some human-being or nationality, for example: Papism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism, Wesleyanism etc. Man proposes, but God disposes. Therefore the questions that must be answered are what we can avoid from the past and how we can prepare for God’s will to be done amongst us in the future?
The development of new Local Churches in the Diaspora has been prevented in the past by nationalism and its squabbles – by anti-missionary principles. This can be seen particularly clearly in North America, where, until soon after the Russian Revolution, all Orthodox were in one Church. This Church was the Russian Church which contained autonomous ethnic dioceses and deaneries under a Russian-appointed Bishop. Why under the Russian Church? Because it was the first present there, the biggest, had the best infrastructure and the most multinational mentality. However, it is true that since 1917 this has by no means always been the case. Today’s Russian Church, suffering in both its parts from the consequences of the Western-planned and provoked 1917 Revolution, still, even 25 years after the collapse of the direct results of that Revolution, often has infrastructure and a multinational mentality which are severely compromised.
Deviations from the Past
There have been other anti-missionary principles at work in the past of the Diaspora. Firstly, there has been the problem of simony. Certain bishops of certain nationalities have been willing to ordain unworthy candidates for money – in 1991, for example, $20,000 was the going rate in one ancient Patriarchate to become a bishop. Secondly, there has been the problem of ego trips – front room Orthodoxy, garden folly Orthodox, the one man show, the big fish in the little pond – the individual who gets himself ordained by one means or another not in order to serve other Orthodox, but to serve himself. Thirdly, there has been the problem of convert ghetto Orthodoxy, in this country ex-Anglican ghettos, ‘Anglican vicar beard competition Orthodoxy’, often with as few as 5-10 individuals with a private club mentality or in inaccessible premises. None of these deviations from the past, examples of which are scattered throughout the Western world, have been of any help to genuine Orthodox missionary work and service to the Orthodox people.
Any new Local Church to be built in the Diaspora must be built on the fullness of the Tradition, on the maximum. Nothing can be built on compromises. New Local Churches are built on monastic life and holy life – examples are Sts Cyril and Methodius, St Herman of Alaska and St Nicholas of Tokyo. Any new Local Church in the Diaspora must therefore be built on the Orthodox (and not Papal/Protestant) calendar, on vigil services, in a word on the Tradition, and not on compromises. It must be clearly understood that there are not two traditions in the Orthodox Church – there is only the One Universal Orthodox Tradition. Anything else, with modernistic practices of doing away with confession before communion, the Orthodox calendar, the iconostasis, correct priestly dress, traditional liturgical language etc, is not at all part of the Tradition, of Orthodoxy, but merely part of decadence and compromise, of Halfodoxy.
Directions for the Future
To expand Church presence, we need to observe some basic Orthodox principles. Firstly, any new church must be based on the Gospel ‘where two or three are gathered together in My Name…’. In other words, there must be no ego trips and moreover at least one of these two or three must be able to sing prayerfully and form a choir – again in order to avoid ego-tripping. Premises used must be public access and located in a central city or town so that the church there can become a Regional or at least County Church centre. Premises must also be such that they can be converted for Orthodox use, so that an Orthodox atmosphere can be established in them. Little missions should not be set up from them for many, many years, otherwise this will merely disperses efforts and energies. One should be able to process around these premises, which should have facilities, toilets, and ideally a children’s room with baby changing, parking, a hall and a kitchen. These premises (owned or, if need be initially, rented) must be one’s own – they must not be shared with, for example, an Anglican church.
Conclusion: What is a Local Church?
An ethnic church is one that aims to gather together only one nationality and in a racist way has no time for those of other nationalities – a situation that is clearly against the spirit of the Gospels. An ideological church is one that aims to gather together only in the name of a narrow ideology, often personality cultish or sectarian, and not in the name of Christ – a situation that is clearly against the spirit of the Gospels. An authentic Local Church, however, is one that is made up of many local churches that gather together all local Orthodox, regardless of nationality and background, on the basis of the uncompromised Tradition, on the basis of Orthodoxy, not on the basis of Halfodoxy.