Fr Peter Farrington on Orthodox Mission and Evangelical Worship

“Catechesis does not begin with the Liturgy, but it must never include Hillsong”

Fr Peter Farrington on Orthodox Mission and Evangelical Worship

I am sad that a long term convert friend of mine in the US is deciding to leave the Coptic Orthodox Church after many years. It is an indication that there are some issues which need to be resolved, since he has been committed to the Faith for all this time. I pray that the Church will rediscover and be renewed in its catholicity… I know that my friend is also concerned, as many of us are, about the introduction of protestant worship and teaching into the Church. I think that he considers this is not being taken seriously enough in all places in the US… Singing protestant songs in any meetings of the Church with the ethos that involves… study of modern protestant teachers, watching their videos, reading their books, even as congregational projects… It is forbidden. But there are places where these instructions are ignored… I am happy to be more explicit and detailed. No protestant worship should be used in any mission Church if it wishes to be considered Orthodox. The evangelical roots of Orthodoxy are not found in modern protestantism.

My whole life is taken up with Orthodox mission and evangelism. Modern evangelicalism has no place whatsoever in such ministry… There is no worship within Orthodoxy that is not liturgical, and Orthodoxy rejects the playing with emotions that is the driving force of modern evangelical worship… there is no room at all for modern evangelicalism in Orthodoxy. And if it is used in mission then it will poison it from the start… introducing modern evangelical worship is not the answer… Of course we meet people where they are at. That is what I am doing all the time. But we must meet them with Orthodoxy in everything we say and offer and invite them to experience. Catechesis does not begin with the Liturgy, but it must never include Hillsong… We start by describing the faith, not inviting them to worship… Of course I am completely convinced that we have to begin with making what we share of Orthodoxy comprehensible. We begin with the basics and we keep it simple. But all that we present must be Orthodox even if we do not present all of Orthodoxy at once…

There are actually concerns about the contextualisation of Orthodoxy in Kenya. The problem is that you seem to be suggesting that people experience Orthodoxy in their spiritual culture. That is not permissible. In their own language, of course. But protestantism, in all its variety, and I am well schooled in all of the variety from Luther to Osteen, is not a culture that can be made Orthodox. It is a spiritual culture that must be rejected, even while aspects of it are certainly used by God in our spiritual pilgrimage. I am grateful for my time as a evangelical, but I believe that everything distinctively evangelical is wrong and is error. I left it behind, grateful that I had learned some things and met some good people, and I became Orthodox as something else, something more. They are not compatible and there cannot be an Evangelical Orthodoxy…

Charismatic worship is absolutely not acceptable in Orthodoxy. It is cultural, certainly, but it has more in common with non-Christian culture. Charismatic worship is rooted in Pentecostalism. It has no place in any Orthodox community anywhere… the word charismatic… has a certain meaning within Christianity. If you mean emotionally exuberant, then most cultures have elements of this. But it has no part in our Christian worship whatever our secular culture…

I understand that when protestant songs are introduced into the Church then what is introduced is protestantism. It does not matter at all why it is being introduced. The music and culture of various groups has never been assimilated in the way you suggest. The Coptic chant is no secular Coptic music and never was. The chant of the Ethiopian Church, though entirely Ethiopian, is liturgical chant. The chant of the Armenian Church, reflecting its own culture is also local to it, but is not secular music brought into the Church, far less is it heterodox music brought into the Church. It is liturgical music of the highest quality.

It does not matter, liturgically speaking, what music Americans like when they kick off their shoes and relax at home, the content of liturgical worship does not reflect such secular and popular forms but is of a higher quality and different purpose altogether.

The liturgical music is always something different to the usual experience. It is to raise up and spiritualise life. We never import dally music and culture. There will not be a reggae liturgy. There will not be a salsa liturgy. Not within Orthodoxy at any rate…

[Regarding] drums and dance in the [Ethiopian] Liturgy… It is part of their own ancient spiritual culture, it does not give licence to anyone else to introduce drums and dancing. And what is called dance is not dance at all… the cymbal is not an instrument, and it is sometimes over used in present circumstances, it is only to be used to keep the rythym of the chant as necessary…

The music of Coptic chant, though Egyptian, cannot really be traced back to Pharaonic times. It is certainly ancient, it was never Egyptian popular or secular music. Indeed it was forbidden by the Fathers in Egypt to introduce secular and popular music into the Church.

Offering one anecdote does not negate the teaching of the Church which is quite clear, and which has been reiterated by our own bishops under Pope Shenouda and Pope Tawadros. Clapping and dancing features in the cultures of all peoples. But it has never been allowed in Orthodoxy in the East or West…

There is no clapping in the EOTC in the Liturgy, and only to produce the same rythym that the cymbal does in the Coptic Orthodox. There is no clapping as in a protestant church, far from it.

With respect, I have a very clear idea and understanding indeed of what protestantism is, what it teaches, what it aims to do in spirituality. There should be no pentecostalist passion in preaching, in the way I think you mean.

It is not very reasonable or fair to say that Orthodox preaching has no conviction. But it is not protestant. A brief google will find examples of some Coptic communities rather problematically studying protestant books together, and even repeating protestant sermons…

You are substituting a cultural connection for a spiritual one. You will end up with Protestants dressed as Copts… what you don’t realise is that all liturgical forms are alien to most people in the West. It was all alien to me. I had to change my culture as I became Orthodox because the Protestant culture I had grown up in had abandoned most of Orthodoxy. I remained English. I am always English.

What you suggest about meeting people is not objectionable. It is the basis of all my missionary ministry. But you wish to use Protestantism. Doing so produces Protestants. I absolutely reject the use of Protestant worship, teachings and spirituality as unsuitable and harmful for Orthodox mission.

We do not begin by inviting people to the Liturgy, so the Liturgy does not need to be changed. We begin by speaking about faith and spirituality.

At no time do I ever use Protestantism. I have not ceased being English, but my Protestant culture certainly had to be challenged and rejected to a great extent. Your mistake is in collapsing Protestantism and Western Culture as being the same thing. They are not.

I am quite happy to restrict my main concerns to modern evangelicalism and pentecostalism. It is these that pose the present concern. But I can speak about any of the historic forms of protestantism. I am well acquainted with them all. Filled with people who are seeking Christ, but the fullness is only found in Orthodoxy, and in a letting go of what is not Orthodox…

There are lots of reasons why we should obey in this case…

i. When we say to people that it is OK for them to choose what they incorporate into Church spirituality then we say that they can do this for any aspects of non-Orthodoxy.

ii. Perhaps one song is OK on all possible counts, but 99% are not. Yet when permission is given for one then permission is given for all.

iii. It is not only the words that are problematic, and I can think of few modern songs that are Orthodox in their texts, it is the tunes, and it is the intent with which they have been written.

iv. Those who are choosing to sing these songs are usually not mature in their Orthodoxy, and are therefore not best suited to judge for themselves, indeed the very idea of judging for ourselves is not Orthodox.

v. The hymns of the Church, of all Orthodox Churches, were composed by those of great spiritual maturity, trained in the rich Tradition of the Church, able to create poetic forms that were consistent with that Tradition. It is not Orthodox to treat the creation of hymns as if detached from such maturity and consistency with the Tradition.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/abouna.farrington/posts/10152958790115588