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A church not known for tracts or tel-evangelism is discovering a renewed commitment to spreading the gospel message, thanks partly to the fervor of recent converts from evangelical Protestantism.

Eastern Orthodoxy has a long history of bringing unbelievers into the Christian fold. As a reminder of Orthodoxy's evangelistic heritage, Metropolitan Theodosius of Syosset, New York, speaking at the North American Orthodox Conference on Missions and Evangelism last month in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, pointed to Saint Innocent of Alaska, who crossed the Bering Strait in the early 1800s to bring the gospel to Native Americans.

As new converts turned away from shamanism and toward Christianity, missionaries built schools and churches, developed a written form of the native language, and encouraged intermarriage. Theodosius urged a renewed remembrance of Innocent, saying, "There has been a 200-year tradition of Orthodox evangelism in this country."

In recent centuries, Orthodox evangelism elsewhere has been jeopardized by persecution within Communist countries or by militant Islamic groups. And in America, new Orthodox immigrants, grateful for safety and opportunity, often remained within their own ethnic enclaves.

"Up until recently, Orthodoxy has been the best-kept secret in America," said Peter Gillquist, director of missions and evangelism for the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. "Those days are over." Gillquist has been a leader in the defection of evangelicals into Orthodox churches during the past decade.

Workshops throughout the week focused on practical motivational techniques, including "Selling Evangelism to a Reluctant Parish," by John Reeves, and "Overcoming the World: Orthodox Evangelism in the Western Roman Empire," by Michael ...

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In the Magazine

October 27, 1997

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