|Some say it happened with the ROCOR-MP union,
but I think it was the T-shirts that did it.
Did we win the battle for Orthodoxy yet? Because I want to be there with a camera as it happens.
Ok, that line needs some explaining.
When NFTU started in 2004, ROAC was in a period of upheaval and confrontation against an enemy it had never faced (in two schisms back to back; a heretical group trying to take over and an American Bishop leaving at once). The Greek situation was in chaos, only slightly improving over the previous 10 years (though changes occurred in the Matthewites). The ROCOR under Metropolitan Vitaly had just splintered. Traditional Orthodox families in ROCOR were being torn apart by a union which everyone knew was going to happen but only the most persnickety could prove and only the most paranoid were willing to accept as fact. True Orthodox Churches were not only unknown, they were being marginalized as cults. (Remember the bunker?) Everywhere you looked, normal life in True Orthodoxy just looked like a dream, and frankly, not a very good one.
Flash forward eight years. Globalization is moving along at its own pace, unification between Rome, World Orthodoxy, and “Christendom” continues. It’s become, in their circles, passe. Oh, here come the Cardinal, Pastor Jones, and Imam something-or-other for the yearly interfaith prayer service again. It was same-old, same-old in “World Orthodoxy”.
Yet somewhere along the way, we became visible. And I don’t mean NFTU. I mean True Orthodoxy. And I mean everywhere. True Orthodox Saints, who rejected the Patriarchate before it became a slogan adopted by Russian punk rock groups, are being venerated. Even in World Orthodoxy, they talk about True Orthodoxy like it’s something other than where they are. They may not like us, but they know we are here. The difference became clear. And now it’s obvious. This is not to say things are perfect or back to normal in Orthodoxy, but a major turning point has already occurred: Orthodoxy and “World Orthodoxy”, despite the best efforts of their apologists, are no longer assumed to be synonymous.
Maybe the union between a large, endowed part of ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate was the final turning point for some people. The point where either people said “ok, now I am in or out”. Now the good folks leading the union on 93rd Street in Manhattan are scrambling to figure out how to keep their cathedral. (Since it is common for World Orthodoxy now to point to celebrity conversions, let us ask: Tom Hanks, and guy from Depeche Mode, where are you?! “The people” need your financial assistance.)
And somehow, True Orthodox popped out to address the tragedy of the union and the worldwide dissatisfaction with official Orthodoxy everywhere in the world. Somehow churches and missions began to grow first in small cities, then states, then regions, countries, and now continents. When the line was drawn, people said “that’s it.”
And now, what began as a nice thing to do a few years back for a couple of epistles on the Internet to foster True Orthodox understanding has become a 30-plus Epistle chore (which I still haven’t finished). Suddenly, True Orthodoxy is everywhere. There are scores of Bishops in Greece, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Latin America (and start watching Africa and Asia– I say as your editor here that surprises are coming!)
True Orthodox are no longer being talked about (except at the missions level) in the dozens– but in the thousands. In the past few years– as it was 50 years ago– in the millions. As the “official Churches” continue to hemmorhage membership while building more expensive temples and moving forward in ecumenical union with the heterodox, the people are turning around. The people have had enough.
Maybe it was the T-shirts. The Russian T-shirts that said “Orthodoxy or Death” in front of them that only now the Patriarchate grudgingly accepts– too late. No one will forget their first, political, pathetic response, revealing the cowardice of their origins: “death? is religion really worth dying for? The ‘church’ can never be so extremist!”
Too little, too late. Consistency, perseverance, and vegetarian chili Fridays are hip again. (To most True Orthodox, these things are a given– but it’s worth noting that fasting has largely been abandoned over the past 40 years in World Orthodoxy, so its resurgence is worth noting.)
True Orthodoxy is winning where the established state Patriarchates are losing, and the process is no longer a quiet one. Either the official Churches will prove by their actions once and for all– and soon– that they alone have the right to call themselves the “Orthodox”, instead of embarrassing themselves like cheap frauds in someone else’s clothes– or the process that has been going on for decades will end as it began, with the uniformity and clarity of the Orthodox Faith of 2,000 years preached as always.
History and Tradition teach us this can only end one way. And NFTU, God willing, will be here to report on the process as it continues.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
Dcn Joseph Suaiden
NFTU General Editor