In January's past, I've posted glum and glowering prophecies/prognostications and cranky resolutions.
But I've gotten tired of the chicken little rhetoric, and have gotten more used to flux. I say this with some caution: the fact remains that "the times they are a-changin'" is truer of the last decade than the sixties, I kid you not.
So instead of making an annual Jeanne Dixon litany of predictions, I'd rather list out a series of essays that need written for the American Orthodox audience.
These are things I think we need:
1. A history of the convert experience in the Orthodox Church. I suggest that we select, arbitrarily, 1987 as the "since date," since that is the year of the most famous influx of evangelicals into Orthodoxy. I would like to know how converts have fared in this odd new home that differs so profoundly from the American style protestantism that they left. There are so many paths that converts have taken: some have gone from one jurisdiction to another, seeking for the most faithful rubric. Others have become politically liberal -- even liberal in social moral issues. Others have gotten tired of the radical difference and have gone "back home." And others have rejected the Nicene faith entirely.
2. A study of the value (or unvalue) of maintaining old world cultural traditions in the contemporary American experience of Orthodoxy. Does ethnic tradition sustain retention? Does it help in evangelism? Is it as important as old world ethnics say it is? Is it really as bad as what many converts (and some ethnic rejectionists) say it is? Is there, really, a continuing value in hellenism or russophilism? Are these interchangeable values? Are "lesser" cultural traditions -- i.e., carpatho-rusin, serbian, syrian, ukrainian (vis a vis russian), georgian -- just as important? Should newer (at least "newer" to Orthodoxy) ethnicities be just as valued -- like hispanic, african (and I accept that this term is a simplistic abstraction of many distinct cultures), japanese, chinese and native american ethnicities?
3. A ecclesiological analysis of how church administrations have "programmatized" ministry into "needs segmentation" -- much in imitation of American protestant jurisdictions. We have church schools and youth ministries that are -- aside from some obvious content issues -- indistinguishable from their protestant analogs. Many Orthodox summer camp (itself an evangelical derivation) campfire song repertoires are exactly the same as evangelical campfire repertoires. It's really weird when a konvertski priest goes to an Orthodox event and finds himself singing along with "Pass It On" -- "It only takes a spark, to get a fire goin' ..."
4. A nice "projective" essay that draws a line between two realities: Orthodox Holy Tradition, with its ascetical and sacramental ethos of synergy in theosis, on the one hand ... and on the other, the realities of this American moment -- informed as it is by the very weird American narrative and its nested gnostic gravitation; and, at the same time, confronted by the aggressive press of technological and oligarchic globalization. In other words: If we had to do it from scratch, how would we do it -- without any concern for funding or keeping less-than-holy constituencies happy?
5. And finally: a good answer to the question "Have Cyril and Methodius arrived at the American analog of Prince Rastislav's court?" If not, how far have they gotten?
I can answer, confidently, the first of the two questions with a big fat No. But I'd like to ponder, with you, the second and more important of the two.