2. Respecting the Present (Part III of IX)
Anchored as they are in the Church’s Tradition, the Orthodox do not so readily succumb to modern pressures to change doctrine and canonical practice. More than many, the Orthodox Church understands that the most pressing concerns of today are frequently left on the ash heap of history tomorrow.
History is, in part, a display of ephemeral fashions. I think it was Chesterton who expressed something like, “He who today marries himself to the present age, will tomorrow find himself a widower.” Churches that find their guidance for life in the modern age find themselves bound to the age and unable to speak a credible witness against it.
The Episcopal Church has endorsed abortion by refusing to condemn it in General Convention referenda. Both the Episcopal Church and my heritage churches accept, and even encourage in some cases, divorce. The Episcopal Church accepts the propriety of sexual acts outside of the marriage covenant of one man and one woman. But all these beliefs are unremarkable to the present age. After all, this is what the present age itself believes. And so the present age largely ignores the Episcopal Church and my heritage churches. The present age certainly doesn’t need its beliefs reinforced by these churches. The popular media functions in that role quite nicely. Indeed, these churches only look silly to the present age precisely because they are so far behind the curve. My heritage churches only now are investing thousands and millions of dollars in media equipment. But MTV was on this “cutting edge” of marketing and outreach more than twenty years ago. The present age bought in to indiscriminate sexual activity more than thirty years ago (though personal immorality has been around, oh, since the Fall). The Episcopal Church has only just got around to endorsing it in the General Convention previous to this last one (though individual parishes and dioceses have been doing it for some time).
So here’s my question. When the present age–even if only from nostalgia–returns to a marriage as one-man-one-woman-for-life sexuality, as an unbroken lifelong covenant, will these churches take twenty or thirty years to “catch up”? The present age–at least the gen x and younger crowd–seems to be abandoing the ethic of abortion on demand. Will it take those churches who endorse it now twenty or thirty years to finally acquiesce to this development?