Yesterday, I met with my new friend Matthew. I first found Matthew via a blog search back in March. I made a comment on his blog, and began to follow him on Twitter. Eventually I asked him if he wanted to meet up, and this is now the second time that we were able to get together. Both times, we have gone to local establishments: Big Boss Brewing Company, and Carolina Ale House. You can read his account of our meeting here. While I am not militantly against chain restaurants and brands, I believe that supporting local establishments over chains helps to build our community, and as Christians, this is an important way for us to engage said communities.
Matthew is from a Baptist background, while I was raised Lutheran, spent a few years in the Roman Catholic Church, and finally settled in the Orthodox Christian Church, where I became a priest. For this reason, we have some differing doctrinal positions. Matthew is about to embark on international mission planting, while I am engaged in domestic mission planting (as a bi-vocational priest, or “tentmaker”). For this reason, we also have several things in common.
The basis of what we share in common is a desire to follow the Truth, Jesus Christ, and this allows us to rejoice in what is held in common, while also permitting us to engage the doctrinal divergences that exist in a spirit of honesty and charity. As is abundantly clear from my various writings online and my affiliation with a traditionalist Orthodox jurisdiction, I am not an ecumenist—I do not believe that we can reestablish some supposedly-lost unity by means of doctrinal compromise and joint social projects. This does not mean, however, that I am against one-on-one dialogue and discussion. These meetings allow me to understand the beliefs of others accurately, while explaining our Orthodox beliefs, and answering any misconceptions about such. It also affords me the opportunity to nurture friendships, which are so hard to find in these days of isolation and superficiality.
I thank God for blessing me with this new friendship, and I look forward to future discussions with Matthew, along with other non-Orthodox Christians living in my community.