CHRISTIANS COME HOME
Dear Christian and lover of Jesus Christ:
The Lord Jesus Christ prayed before His passion: “That they may be one even as We are one” (Jn. 17:22).
The Apostle Paul taught us that “There is one body and one Spirit…one faith, one Lord, one baptism” (Eph. 4:4-5).
Again, our Lord promised, “upon this rock I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18).
He was incarnate, died and rose from the dead in order to establish His Church, not many “churches.” He was born of the Virgin and “dwelt among us full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14) in order to establish His Body, not bodies; His Bride, not brides.
For approximately 1,000 years, there existed one, universal Christian Church of God, throughout the known world, founded by our Lord and Savior, guided by the Holy Spirit, and preserved by the blood of the martyrs and the defenders of the one Faith .
By the fourth century, this universal Church had five important centers (one in the West and four in the East) that maintained a brotherhood and doctrinal unity in the one faith of Christ: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. When some issue threatened this unity of faith, the resolution came through councils or gatherings of the bishops throughout the world (just as the apostles and elders gathered to resolve the issue of circumcision, see Acts 15:6). In order to be considered true and universal councils and expressions of the one Faith, the faithful Christians also had to agree and provide their "Amen" (some councils were rejected).
Tragically, in the 11th century, the bishop (Pope) of Rome, claiming an unprecedented universal authority over the whole Church and over his brother bishops, alienated himself from the other four Patriarchates and took the Christians of western Europe with him. (The Pope had also unilaterally accepted an unauthorized and theologically misleading addition to the Nicene Creed.) Known as the “Great Schism,”this tragic event resulted in the creation of a separate body claiming to be the Christian Church. And over the centuries this body became increasingly isolated and distinct from what, at the time, was majority of Christians in the East.
Over the next five centuries, more innovations were introduced into this new, distinct body. Thus, five Hundred years after the Great Schism, the Protestant Reformation begin from within this same western Christian body. And although sincere and earnest in seeking out the ancient and original Christian way, but now without an organic continuity with it, the reformers could not agree on what was authentic Christian teaching and practice. The Protestant Reformation quickly splintered into hundreds of divergent Christian bodies and theologies. All claimed to be following the Bible. Martin Luther, the initiator of the reformation, lamented that he had exchanged one Pope for 1,000 popes (i.e. Christian leaders who interpreted the Bible in their own unique way)!
Today it is estimated that there exists over 40,000 distinct denominations. How far we have traveled from Christ’s prayer, “that they may be one.” And what a tragedy and travesty that this sad state of innumerable “schisms” has become accepted as the norm and even a celebrated ideal.
Yet in our day, more and more seekers and sincere believers are coming home to their Christian roots, to the Church that has withstood the “gates of hades” and has kept the faith of the apostle intact, by God’s grace. This original Church has come to be known as the “Eastern Orthodox Christian Church” and is still represented by the original four Christian centers, along with others throughout the world. This Church has a common faith and has a continuous organic connection with the successors of the apostles, and with their successors. It is bathed in the blood of martyrs, even into the 20th and 21st centuries. And yet somehow it is the “best kept secret” in the West and is often misunderstood or mischaracterized.
In love and zeal for “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), we invite you to “come home” to the Church of your forefathers. If you are a Christian believer, the history of the Orthodox Church is your history. Those who kept the faith throughout the first ten centuries and beyond are your teachers and leaders. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).
We invite you to “come home,” as did the founders of Campus Crusade and 2,000 Evangelical Christians in 1987; as have entire congregations of denominational and non-denominational congregations; and as have many individuals and families throughout North America.
We are not personally perfect; far from it! We are sinners seeking an ever deepening union with God through repentance and faith. But we have been blessed to have either inherited or found this ancient and original Church, where the Holy Trinity is worshipped and is so palpably present. We simply invite you to “come and see” (Jn. 1:39, 46) this treasure which is known as the Orthodox Christian Church.