We, the Orthodox, are often reproached with being conservative. “Why cannot you open up more? Why are you still clinging to the middle ages?” we hear from our critics. – “Make modern Russian the language of your worship! Shorten your services and fasts! Reach out to the youth subcultures to draw in more young people!” they clamour. “You should reconsider the role of women in your liturgics,” they advise. Customarily, to their recommendations they would add the phrase: “Like the Catholics do” or “Like the Protestants have been doing”.
Yet in this addition lies the main problem.
In almost two millennia of church history, we saw numerous examples of different communities splitting from the church. We have learned from the causes of these schisms and their consequences. We have seen the extent to which these communities have strayed from the truth of the Christian faith.
To some, I may come across as too harsh. Still, let us put aside our political correctness for a moment and look at the facts as we see them.
The split of the Roman Church was the result of the political ambitions of its leaders. Then came the split of Protestants from the Roman Church, in opposition to these ambitions and its other abuses. Not only did the protestants not succeed in returning to the purity of the true faith, but they also rejected the Holy Tradition of the Church. Today many are beginning to drift away even from biblical truths to ‘keep at pace’ with the time.
What began with laudable calls to return to the simple evangelical teachings of the early church eventually degraded, in some invisible way, into tolerance of sin and even to its direct condonation in some denominations.
Calls for mercy to sinners eventually transformed into calls for patience towards the sin.
No wonder, then, that many followers of the Orthodox Church have viewed with extreme suspicion the innovations proposed to them, especially since so many of them come from the churches that they know to be schismatic.
Certainly, one should not be fanatical about the less important things, but some things cannot be ignored.
Today, some in the Constantinople Patriarchate are proposing to revise the attitudes of the church to the remarriage of the priests, and the Patriarch of Constantinople himself has been speaking with a tone reminiscent of that of the Roman Popes of the times of the Western split.
Some may see no point in arguing over such ‘minor’ issues. But the history of the Church teaches us not to be complacent. The split from the true faith always started from diversions in these ‘small’ things.
Today, conservatism is not in fashion. But it is better to be called a conservative than to step on the path towards apostasy. It is better to be labelled a fanatic than to start making concessions to human passions even in small things. What seems small at first may eventually lead us to full acceptance of the sin.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds