Reflections on Matthew Namee: The Myth of Past Unity

June 22, 2009

So far during the conference, all the speakers have been part of the “older generation.” They have devoted themselves in entire careers to researching and studying theology, dogma, church history, and/or also have decades of experience as a bishop, priest, etc. Matthew Namee was like a breath of fresh air being such a young speaker in his twenty-something years amidst the other much older speakers. The amazing fact about him is that he’s not in seminary or even taking classes in theology!

He gave an enlightening speech on the history and facts of ALL orthodox churches in North America before, during, and after the immigrants started to flood in from the Old World to the New. Among all the speeches earlier about the Russian Orthodox Church in America, and in an example he used of Fr. Schmemann, he showed that the “golden age” of past unity was a myth that was not entirely true. With the first Russian Orthodox church closed down in New York, there were after that just two Greek Orthodox churches that opened at the beginning of immigration to the U.S. I really was dumbfounded to hear that there were very few and far between churches in America that were not even conected to the Russian Orthodox church. Those who were connected to it like the Antiochian and others were still very ethnocentric, and still kept in contact with their “mother” churches from the Old World.

I thought it was very important that even though there were so many different church factions according to ethnicity, the essence and structure of Orthodoxy was preserved in these churches that immigrants had begun and continue to this day. So we have divisions throught Orthodoxy in America, but the tradition and heart of the church is still alive here in North America.

As Namee stated, more Orthodox organizations (such as IOCC, SCOBA, & OCF) are unifying the many Orthodox churches in their efforts, services and writing are more prevalently English, and surveys show that 80% of Orthodox approve unification. This is hopeful and heartening news, showing that we do have a chance to come together as one, and reflect the true body of Christ in Orthodoxy in North America. I for one am excited!

-Lydia

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