The Orthodox Church of Tomorrow

A new American Orthodoxy, one more vitalized by the Gospel, is taking shape now. There will be fewer parishes, more and younger bishops, a clergy that is better educated and morally rigorous. And, finally, the ethnic “coffee club” model of Orthodox Christianity will fade away. This is the vision of Fr. John A. Peck in “The Orthodox Church of Tomorrow,” just published on the AOI site.

“As frightening and disconcerting as it may seem to our leaders, they will learn that emerging from a cocoon, even a Byzantine cocoon, is not a bad thing,” Fr. John writes. “Orthodoxy is about to take flight on new beautiful wings.

Here he is on the future of the hierarchy in America:

If our current slate of bishops has been mostly a disappointment, reducing their number will only tighten this closed circle, making the hierarchy less and less accessible, and more and more immune to things like, oh, the needs and concerns of their flock. The process of selection for the episcopacy will contain a far more thorough investigation, and men with active homosexual tendencies, psychological problems, insecurities, or addictions will simply not make the cut. We aren’t far from open persecution of Christians by secularists in this country, and we need bishops who know the score. With better bishops, no one will be able to ‘buy’ a priest out of a parish with a gift of cash. Conversely, parish councils will no longer be able to bully priests into staying out of their affairs, and will be required to get out of the restaurant/festival business and get into the soul saving business.


  1. A very clear voice! What the author envisions here is actually a return to the original living faith. The faith of the Christians who were strong enough to face the persecutions of the first centuries of Christianity.

    Over the last decades, the Orthodox Church was ‘forced’ to lower its standards (teaching, preaching, etc) in order to accommodate itself to the expectations of the people, to their fading interest in religion.

    What the author predicts here as possibly happening in the next twenty years is done now in a very ‘sharp’ fashion by Elder Ephraim (disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast). He is being under attack by the secular world. One can notice in this secular assault that there is a very specific focus on Orthodoxy (none of the other denominations).

    Very interesting to see how those who do not understand Orthodoxy and its Sacraments are trying to combat it:

  2. I wonder if anyone is aware of the pressure that has been brought upon Fr John since the publication (and forced withdrawl) of this article? It is possible that he will no longer serve in the GOA after his upcoming meeting with his hierarch on October 16Th. Pray for him. This article – especially for a cleric in the GOA – was courageous and may likely cost him his ministry.

  3. Scott Pennington :

    I just had a chance to read Fr. Peck’s article and several things stand out to me. First, he is put off by the ethnocentric nature of some of the Orthodox churches in this country. I think this hostility goes some way toward explaining his quasi-prophetic statements about the futility of ethnic Orthodoxy in America.

    America is a unique place. There is no longer any group that can be identified as ethnic American. It used to be those of Anglo-Saxon ancestry, but those days are gone. What I mean by that observation is that I think that the Orthodox jurisdictions in this country will maintain their ethnic distinctives for many, many years to come since there is no American ethnic culture to defer to. Orthodoxy in Russia and the other Slavic countries became “slavified” by being immersed in the Slavic culture. There is no longer an Americana. What the Orthodox tend to do is translate Greek or Slavonic into English, keep the Greek or Slavic distinctives, and say it’s American Orthodox.

    Another thing about Fr. Peck’s article I noticed was his optimism about the new, non-ethnically bound, Orthodox future. I’m afraid my crystal ball yields different images than his. What I see is an Orthodox America deeply influenced by the heterodox religious practices of America. The New Calendar, pews, the disappearance of women’s head-covering, the mixing of the genders in worship – – all these seem trivial innovations to most Orthodox, but they are symptomatic of a much deeper disease of secular modernism which has infiltrated the Church in America, just as it has the Protestant and Catholic churches. These innovations came out of a desire to be “more American”.

    A Greek friend of mine lamented to me once that she was disappointed that the children she was teaching in church school didn’t even know that abortion was immoral. If I’d wanted to be critical, I could have said that by the way many of the women and girls dress, they appear not to know that pre-marital and extra-marital sex is also frowned upon by the Church. Unless the Orthodox in general, and especially the children, become convinced of the manifestly evil and anti-Christian nature of American society, there is no hope of getting them to take Church teachings seriously. They think the culture at large is acceptable or tolerable. It is only, I believe, if/when the old ways are revived, probably by a much smaller Church, that Orthodoxy will begin to flourish here. Not coincidentally, that will also be the time when it actually begins to have some postive impact on the broader American culture.

    Right now, we are sort of semi-Orthodox and reap some spiritual benefits of our semi-Orthodoxy and also suffer the spiritual curses of our semi-Paganism. There is no bright line between Orthodox culture and the general American culture. It is almost as if we are all “Americanists”, some Orthodox Americanists, some Catholic Americanists, etc. It is in this context that the “ethnic Orthodox” so deeply desire to be American. So the Orthodox, unless they are converts or re-converts (ethnic Orthdox who have simultaneously re-embraced their faith and rejected modern American values) tend to compromise more and more each year with a very unOrthodox, unChristian culture. Unless there is a massive realization on the part of the Orthodox leadership that Orthodoxy and Americanism are no more compatible than Orthodoxy and Gnosticism, etc., and unless that teaching is promulgated with the same urgency that some heirarchs tout their environmental concerns or their views of social justice, then I see the Church in this country as limping along indefinitely in its present state.

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