The Very Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky, Ecumenical Officer of Orthodox Church in America, and Dr. Helen Theodoropoulos, Adjunct Professor at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, and editorial board member of the St. Nina Quarterly, spoke at the Third Annual Symposium sponsored by Orthodox Christian Synergy. The symposium took place on Saturday, October 18 at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Father Kishkovsky addressed the question, "Is the Orthodox Church in Danger or in Mission?" He stated that as Orthodox Christians we must make the effort to rule ourselves by the Gospel and by Orthodox tradition so that we might travel on the right road in the secular world. "The Orthodox Church today exists in a time of both opportunity and vulnerability," he said. Some examples of our opportunities include numerous conversions; groups like Orthodox Christian Synergy; a vital mission program, International Orthodox Christian Charities-the only united agency working professionally in the world. He further indicated that our theological schools are vital organizations of learning and publishing and that we have a vast library of Orthodox literature.
However, he also cited the vulnerabilities that the Church has in the world which can diminish opportunities to bring our mission to humanity.
Father Kishkovsky also said that there are Orthodox fundamentalists in virtually all parts of the world and that there is sometimes anxiety, hostility, and fear among them. "The authentic way of Orthodox Christianity is that we are called to discern in humility. In that way, we can be bearers of the Gospel, rather than assault people with the Gospel."
Dr. Helen Theodoropoulos gave a talk entitled, "The Church Fathers Speak to us Today." She explained how Christians in every era have had to ask themselves how to live in a non-Christian world, because the forces of evil have been at work in every age.
Professor Theodoropoulos said that there are three main issues for us in the United States today: 1) excessive affluence and materialism; 2) crises of choice; and 3) the breakdown of social and family relationships. She explained that the Church Fathers tell us that we must detach ourselves from material things and redirect our lives to the practice of philanthropy. We must move away from the things of the world and move toward God. She further explained that we must recognize that our attachment to material things can be spiritually lethal and that, in the world, we are able to express our love for God primarily through philanthropy. Professor Theodoropoulos concluded her talk by stressing that the best way a Christian can live in society is through receiving the Holy Eucharist. If we make the Eucharistic experience permanent in our own lives, then this in turn can become the goal of the community, and thereby become a means for healing personal and social relationships.
*Orthodox Christian SYNERGY is an organization consisting of clergy and laypersons representing parishes in the Chicago area. SYNERGY, together with its parent organization, the Orthodox Christian Clergy Association of Greater Chicago, seeks to improve inter-parish communication, inter-jurisdictional understanding, and to increase awareness of Orthodox Christianity among the public at large.