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Orthodoxy’s Presence in The World

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by Father Andrew George

Orthodoxy’s Presence in The World

With the Sunday of Orthodoxy just ahead (March 16), the day upon which we remember in a special way the “victory” of the Orthodox teaching of the Incarnation against those who rejected the teaching which included the honor given to Saints and the depiction of Christ and the Saints in various forms for veneration, we also extend this observance beyond parish boundaries and celebrate with other Orthodox Christians around the world. This is why on this day in almost every major city of the world where Orthodox Christians live, they will gather together for a joint service, celebrating as it is “their oneness in the same theology.”

When we say “Orthodox Christians around the world” this may seem strange to some of us, for we might think that Orthodox Christians are largely in eastern Europe and the Middle East. But the truth is that Orthodox Christians live literally around the world, even in places were we might not usually think there would be Orthodox people. In the heart of Africa, in Ethiopia, we find one of the largest Orthodox Churches (16 million strong) native Africans, not immigrants from eastern Europe. In fact it is the largest Christian denomination in that country, more than the Catholics. In the country of India......we usually think of it as a Hindu nation, yet there are close to two million Orthodox Indians. In Japan, again native Japanese who are Orthodox Christians, in Finland, again a rather large church which is actually an autonomous Orthodox jurisdiction, native Finns from the 9th century being Orthodox.

Another important aspect of Orthodoxy’s presence in the world scene is to look at numbers. Have you ever thought about “how large” we are? World wide we are the second largest Christian Church. The Catholics are the largest, the Orthodox are next. This may seem strange to some of us born and raised in America, for in America, we are small group (only six million counting all the various Orthodox jurisdictions), so we usually don’t think of ourselves as very large. We need to note that some almanacs may give a different picture, but their accounting is wrong, for they count Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.....just three categories. The Protestants should not be grouped or counted together for they are very separate and different groups one from the other largely and should be counted separately. The doctrines of the Lutheran Church for example are very different than the Baptists, its just not right to count them as one and the same.

This then brings us to a different understanding of ourselves here in the U.S.A. Is six million really that small? In the USA there are about 2.5 million Episcopalians, eight million Lutherans, three million Presbyterians, barely two million members of the United Church of Christ. Even looking at non Christian groups....there are about 4.5 million Jews. So being six million Orthodox doesn’t really make us small even in the USA.

Numbers aren’t always important, but history is when you talk about Christianity. The Sunday of Orthodoxy is a time to remember our roots and how they spread to just about every corner of the world. May we all do our part in keeping it alive for future generations.