So what does incarnating the Orthodox Church into the Australian context actually mean? And how do we do it? The choice of the word incarnate is quite deliberate here. The Church (from now on, I shall simply use the capitalised word Church to refer to the Orthodox Church) needs to become Australian “flesh”, whatever Australian is in a multi-cultural, pluralistic, relativistic, post-modern society.
Raising Our Visibility
Firstly, the profile of the Church needs to be raised. Where Orthodoxy is even known it is viewed primarily as an ethno-religious enclave – Greek, Russian, Serbian etc. We must get past that perception (reality?!) to have any impact on Australian society. After all, nobody refers to their local Roman Catholic church as “the Irish church” or “the Italian church”, yet most Roman Catholics have arrived in Australia as immigrants, somewhat separate from the bulk of Anglo-Saxon immigration, in much the same way and at much the same time as the Orthodox have. Why the difference with the Orthodox then? Of course, Roman Catholics comprise a quarter of the population. They are much more visible simply for that reason. Perhaps it is also to do with the “disadvantage” of not having cardinals and a pope! Even if the Orthodox were united under one Metropolitan, they would still be a much smaller part of society than the Roman Catholics. As it is, divided into jurisdictions, that impact is diluted even more.
Becoming much more visible therefore, is essential. And this does not mean strident. There are a multitude of voices clamouring for the attention of the public, demanding to be heard, insisting that they are right and must be listened to. If we as Orthodox join this fray, we will gain nothing and lose much. Positive ways of raising our profile could include:
Let's be Ready
We need to be able to clearly communicate who were are. Especially as our public profile is raised, people will quite rightly ask:
Missing the Point
A note of caution here: if we promote the Orthodox Church as such, we have missed the point.
The point is the Lord Jesus Christ. God came to earth as a human being, that human beings might become partakers of the Divine Nature. The Orthodox Church is the fullness of his body here on earth through which he feeds, nurtures and strengthens his children.
If we promote the Church, we’re simply another voice, urging people to choose our denomination over others in the market of ideas and philosophies. On the other hand, if we promote Orthodox Christianity in all of its fullness, by word and by deed – by actually living our faith – we will not only have a greater impact, we will be fulfilling the Great Commission.