Orthodox England

Excerpt from: Volume 7 Issue 4 Date 1st June 2004


On The Preaching of The Gospel

And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall come the end.

Matthew 24, 14

On interpreting this verse of the Scriptures, St John of Shanghai and many other holy ones concluded that before the end of the world, the Gospel must first be preached worldwide in its Orthodox context. Indeed it is these very words which inspire us in our task of putting the Western saints back into their Orthodox context, instead of seeing them through the prism of distortion. Our task is to take people back to their roots. For although only a few may recognise it as yet, the roots of all Europeans are in Orthodox Christianity.

It was in this light that when we launched Orthodox England in 1997, we wished to speak of three particularly important English saints in the God-given lifetime of this journal. They were: St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, St Guthlac of Crowland and St Boniface of Crediton. Not only because of their importance in themselves, but also because they have particularly ancient, detailed, authoritative and edifying Lives.

This task reaches a particularly important moment in June of this most European year, 2004. For 5 June marks the 1250th anniversary of the martyrdom of not only one of the greatest English saints of all time, but also one of the greatest European saints of all time: St Boniface, the Apostle of the German Lands. It is this that we commemorate in this issue and the forthcoming issue of Orthodox England.

St Boniface is generally described as a missionary. Unfortunately, in our times, the word 'missionary' has gained unOrthodox overtones. But this in no way means that the Apostolic work of preaching the Gospel is not Orthodox. To answer yes to that question would be to deny the Gospel, which commands us to 'go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'. Although most of our contemporaries openly renounce these words, yet they are the exact words fulfilled by the Apostles old and new, from the Twelve on, from St Nina of Georgia to St Augustine of Canterbury, from Sts Willibrord and Boniface to Sts Cyril and Methodius, from St Herman of Alaska to St Nicholas of Tokyo.

In one contemporary land of Orthodox Christian mission, Albania, the following has been achieved in the last twelve years: 140 churches repaired; 83 new churches built; 72 churches and five monasteries restored; 125 Albanian clergy trained and ordained. As a contemporary and truly Orthodox Archbishop, Anastasius of Albania, has written:

Countless Orthodox Churches, with thousands of clergy and monks, are circumscribed within their ethnic boundaries. They dare not, or rather they do not even think to send even a handful of properly prepared missionaries trained in the correct understanding of the Church to work in other places, to strengthen the often small cells of Orthodox believers already there. But this exclusive turning inward to one land or one ethnic group does not correspond to the meaning of apostleship, of mission, as it is defined in the New Testament ... We are called to go from the confines of closed, entrenched communities, to transcend our prejudices, misgivings, fears, and bear witness to the Risen Lord.

Such words are nothing new to us. We have been saying them for the last thirty years: others for much longer. But how refreshing to hear an Orthodox bishop saying them, and what support they give to us in our lonely struggle here for the Truth against all the forces that are set against us. May we be inspired by Archbishop Boniface the Martyr to be faithful to the Gospel.

Fr Andrew

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(c) Orthodox England - Published within the English Deanery of the Church Outside Russia: with the blessing of the Very Reverend Mark, Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland.