This paper will discuss the role of the Orthodox East in Christian evangelism. Whatever the degree of Orthodoxy’s presence in mainstream Christianity, it cannot be disputed that it has been somewhat of a muted one when compared to Western presence. But it’s precisely this enigmatic silence, coupled with a resolute unwillingness to deviate from its ancient principles, that attracts new members and religious enthusiasts alike to its doors. Drawing from missionary and out-reach efforts from a Church-wide and monastic perspective, we shall examine why Orthodoxy has maintained its presence over the years, and how it continues to attract new adherents to Christianity through its subtle, though staunch, evangelism.
This study will concern itself with two primary questions regarding Orthodox Christian evangelism:
1) Why is the Orthodox East reticent when it comes to outspoken, mainstream evangelism, as it is presented in the Christian West?
2) What are the main evangelical initiatives within Orthodoxy, and how do they serve as informative means to educate the public of Orthodox Christianity?
The primary research method will be to conduct several first person interviews. We shall consult priests, monastics, and academics who will contribute their own insights and experiences with Christian Orthodoxy and evangelism. Our secondary method will be historical scholarship. The co-author and I will examine Orthodoxy as an evangelical phenomenon in the first few centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, tracing the paths of the first evangelists in efforts to provide a foundation for the evangelical initiative. Lastly, we will conduct a survey to gauge the public’s knowledge of and interest in Orthodox Christianity.
The research will endeavor to firstly introduce a little known branch of Christianity to an unaware public. The second result will be to expose Orthodox Christianity as a religion concerned with the public by discussing its efforts to disseminate information about itself through evangelism, and we shall attempt to prove that such efforts to inform the public have been effective. Lastly, the writers will seek to demonstrate why a modest presence has worked well for Orthodoxy, preserving its integrity, with little compromise to its tradition.
Such findings are significant in the age of globalization because, not only does the research inform the public of its history, but the research also creates an awareness of how religion is practiced and revered in the modern world. Given the recent persecution of Christians in the Middle East, where Orthodoxy is predominantly practiced, this study will also offer insight into how this silent sect of Christianity has survived for so long, despite its reticence to have a pronounced public presence. Ultimately, our work will seek to demonstrate that Orthodoxy’s brand of evangelism, though somewhat unorthodox when compared to the ways of the West, is just as passionate about informing the public, though the method is slightly more modest.
Shannon Smith teaches Religious Studies at the University of South Carolina, Aiken, dedicating much of her pedagogy to the study of Orthodox Christianity. She is also a student of the University of South Carolina’s Master’s of Library and Information Science program.
Joseph Studemeyer is a student at the University of South Carolina, where he studies Philosophy and Religion. A recipient of USC’s prestigious Magellan Scholarship, Joseph has just recently returned from a trip to Mt Athos, the monastic center of Orthodox Christianity.