Monday, January 30, 2006

Exploring Orthodoxy on the Internet

About fifteen people gathered last night at LSU to hear a presentation on Eastern Orthodox Christianity by Fr Peter Nugent. His talk touched on his own conversion to Orthodoxy from the Southern Baptist faith, the authority and place of Holy Scripture in the Orthodox Church, and some of the doctrinal issues associated with the first seven ecumenical councils.

One participant asked about resources on the internet for learning more about Orthodoxy. As is well known, a wealth of resources may be discovered online. At the same time, there is much that is unreliable and misleading. One of my goals for this blog is to provide an entry point into faithful resources that provide helpful and trustworthy information about the Orthodox faith and life.

A number of these resources are accessible through links on the right side of your screen. You'll see several "jurisdictions" listed, including the Greek Archdiocese, the Antiochian Archdiocese, and the Orthodox Church in America. These three groups constitute the largest Orthodox presence in North America -- all three are in full communion with one another and are distinguished primarily by cutural and linguistic differences. Of the three, the Antiochians and the Orthodox Church in America are firmly committed to worshipping in English. Historically, the Antiochian Archdiocese was ethnically Arab, while the Orthodox Church in America was Russian. Both groups are becoming remarkably diverse, in large part because of the high number of converts entering the Church throughout North America.

Several good introductions to Orthodoxy are available online. A classic, book-length text is Bishop Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Church, which provides an overview of Orthodox history, doctrinal teaching, and liturgical-devotional practice. Also very helpful is the five volume introduction to the Orthodox Faith by Fr Thomas Hopko, former dean of St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. The online catechism by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the Russian Orthodox bishop of Vienna, is an abridgement of a longer, published text by a "rising star" on the Orthodox theological scene. Personally, I think the Introduction to Orthodoxy talk given by Fr John Behr several years ago at the University of North Carolina is a wonderfully succinct and accessible overview of introductory themes.

To get a sense of the number of parishes and monasteries around the North American continent, visit Orthodoxy in America, a new website with a number of search options.

As I mentioned to the group last night, the best introduction to Orthodoxy is participation in the Orthodox life of prayer and worship. While there is much to read and learn, Orthodoxy is best experienced from the "inside" of her liturgical and devotional life. In the next month, I'll be organizing an opportunity for the Baton Rouge community to experience Orthodox worship first hand.

Until then, consider listening to Ancient Faith Radio, a 24-hour a day online radio station that features Orthodox music, prayers, and programming from around the world.