Hi, I'm Marty, and I'm an Orthodox Christian.
I know, I know. Orthodox Christians don't generally associate themselves with interfaith dialogues. Perhaps that makes me not a very good Orthodox Christian. I'm not at all sure. Especially as ordained clergy (I'm a Deacon) which means I have sworn support and obedience to my bishop in my duties for the Church.
I attend a small Orthodox Christian seminary, attached to a monastery, in the heart of the Pocono Mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania, several worlds away from my Southern Baptist upbringing. My seminary just admitted its first female full-time M.Div. student last year. One might use the word "conservative" to describe the community of Seminary.
When someone on the Orthodox Peace Fellowship mailing list decided to post the call for seminary students to contribute, my first thought was to thank God. I had been searching for the opportunity to explore how a dogmatic faith, some would say backwards faith, can exist in a respectful, tolerant dialogue with other people of faith, and yet remain true to my core beliefs.
My faith cannot be considered progressive by any sense of the word. We do not ordain women, nor a good number of men. My faith does not recognize a same-sex sexual relationship as blessed. Divorce is a sin, although one that is reluctantly tolerated. We believe in the reality of the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We honor the holy people gone before us. We have a healthy not-quite-obsessive/compulsive relationship with change and tradition. We still fast, we still pray, we still stand in Church for a liturgical worship that traces its origins to the fourth century and elements earlier than that.
Even the name we give ourselves, Orthodox, means "correct or right glory" and can be dogmatic.
Just joining the group has forced me to contemplate what I hope to achieve by participating here. I look at the list of contributing scholars and I see such bright, talented, gifted young academics that have chosen their own paths different from my own. Our beliefs and dogmas are so different, and yet I am commanded to live at peace, and not just tolerate, but to embrace - to love - the ones who believe differently than I.
Participation here will force me out of my comfort zone. The only way to learn to love, is to interact with those different than myself. We can't love that from which we isolate ourselves. Doesn't matter if it is faith, politics, wealth, race, gender, class, sexual orientation, or favorite Stooge or peanut butter or television character. Isolation leads to generalization and then to demonization. And that strikes me as the opposite of love.
Most of the challenge will be internal, but I pray that God will grant me the ability to share that internal journey with you. Selfishly, I know I will be the one blessed, but perhaps you will indulge me by allowing me to share my journey, and what observations or truths I find in yours. Thanks to each of you here for sharing your journey with me.
Finally, I hope my sojourn here adds to my own understanding of my own faith. My fundamental faith precept is that this faith and belief system was meant for the entire world. In examining my faith in the light of the experience of others, I hope to gain new insights into Orthodox Christianity itself. By attempting to see how others view my faith, I will (hopefully) be forced into new interpretations of Orthodox Christian doctrine and dogma.
So I beg your forgiveness, and hope you who have been here longer will be patient with me. Like the bumper sticker says, God isn't finished with me yet.
I am attending St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, with the hope of becoming an Orthodox Christian Priest. I am interested in how to maintain the integrity of belief while keeping the fellowship of and dialogue with other faith backgrounds.