Moscow, April 25, 2017
A new study on the state of evangelization and outreach in Orthodox parish in America has been released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, a group including all the active canonical bishops of all jurisdictions in America.
The study, “Go and Make Disciples: Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishes,” is the first of its kind, exploring the practices and strategies implemented in “exemplary” parishes from seven Orthodox jurisdictions in America.
Both the Full Report, prepared by Alexei Krindatch, the Assembly's Research Coordinator in cooperation with Fr. Eric Tosi (OCA), Fr. John Parker (OCA) and Adam Roberts (Antiochian Archdiocese),and an Executive Summary are available from the Assembly of Bishops’ site.
“An urgent need exists in Orthodox parishes in the United States for a much stronger emphasis on evangelization and outreach. The national studies conducted in 2015‐2016 indicated that without paying serious attention to evangelization and missionary outreach, the Orthodox Church in the United States is likely to stagnate, lose its vibrancy and vitality, and decline in members,” the summary reads.
The study found that the majority of clergy, both in those parishes identified as “exemplary” and in the “normal” parishes, view Orthodox evangelism more as a “passive” (“Come and see”) endeavor, believing the Church’s teachings and practices and the beauty of its worship will serve to draw people to it, although clergy in the “exemplary” vs. “normal” parishes differ greatly in terms of how this approach is embodied.
The study found that essentially all clergy believe that genuine Orthodox Christian lives and parish communities are the best witness to the faith, but “exemplary” parishes provide a better example of it, as well as providing a more inclusive and meaningful worship experience.
Detailed information on these distinctions is provided in the full ʺGo and Make Disciples: Evangelization and Outreach in US Orthodox Parishesʺ report, describing those features of the ʺexemplaryʺ parishes that make them ʺstronger magnetsʺ for new members of the holy Orthodox Church.
The report includes:
The “secrets” of being a parish that attracts and welcomes new members;
Eight good practices of welcoming first-time visitors and inquirers about the Faith;
How do “exemplary” parishes achieve a high degree of involvement of their members in parish life;
Four distinct features of religious education in the “exemplary” parishes;
Six “lessons” that Church leadership (bishops) can learn from the “exemplary” parishes.
The present study focused on the beliefs, attitudes, and practices of Orthodox clergy in America, while recognizing the importance of the activity and input of laity as well. Thus, a further study is planned that will focus on the evangelization and outreach efforts of laity in the Church.