Orthodox Witness is dedicated to Orthodox evangelism. Our goal is to bring together Orthodox clergy and laity from all Orthodox jurisdictions into a unified and coordinated effort to spread the truth of Orthodoxy, its mindset and way of life to all people in their locality, through modern media: the web, social media, video, and other outlets, for the glory of the triune God and the exaltation of His Holy Orthodox Church.

Need

Orthodox Witness was formed in order to fill a perceived specific need in our area and, we believe, in other areas of our country. We felt that we Orthodox did very little in the area of evangelism and that we did not take very seriously the charge of the Lord to His disciples, and to their disciples, down to us,

“Go and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20).

We felt that we Orthodox kept the light of truth hidden in our parishes. We wanted to do something about it, right here, at “home”, where the Lord has planted us, and to let the light of truth, shining ever-brightly in our Church, illumine the world around us.

Inspiration

Our initiative was inspired and is in line with the SCOBA Millennium Pastoral Letter, And the Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us, which states,

“Our intention is to make the Gospel of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ known and embraced by more and more people in this land to which God has called us.”

This is precisely the purpose for which Orthodox Witness was formed. The work of our group aims at sharing the good news of Orthodox Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone around us in our contemporary society.

Scope

Our aim is not to send missionaries to other countries or to help establish new Orthodox parishes in this country–we understand this to be the mission of organizations like OCMC. Rather the scope of our organization is to spread the truth of Orthodoxy, its mindset and way of life, especially among the non-Orthodox in this country—at the local level—in our neighborhoods and cities.

Use of Modern Media

We have at heart to reach out to the world around us by using the means of our culture, such as social media, visual communication: graphics, audio and video recordings, etc. to transform the world around us. We intend to convey the truths of our faith to our society in relevant and meaningful ways. If the apostles used the dusty roads of the vast Roman Empire, we can use the vaster network of modern internet superhighways. Where they used the Greek language, we are using the language of internet, shared by untold millions. Non-Orthodox Christians have used the media successfully for many years. Now we’re here too.

Action Plan

We are working towards: establishing a weekly Orthodox Christian Radio Hour and a weekly TV program to answer questions; developing and/or disseminate more appropriate literature (books, magazines, pamphlets) and other media (downloadable audio and video, CDs, DVDs, etc.) for use by Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike; organizing regional and national seminars; and we continue to witness to non-Orthodox around us through other means of outreach.

Beginnings/History

Not-for-Profit Corporation

Orthodox Witness was incorporated in the State of Illinois as a not-for-profit corporation on May 30, 2001, and received its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service under section 501(c)3, on the same date.

Publications

As of February, 2017, we have published 5 books: Preaching Another Christ: An Orthodox view of Evangelicalism, by Saint Theophan the Recluse (2001); The Garden of the Holy Spirit, The Heavenly Banquet: Understanding the Divine Liturgy, Papa-Dimitri: The Man of God, and Jesus: Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective.

Conferences

We conducted 6 conferences from 2002-2006, with the theme, “Come and See: Proclaiming God’s Eternal Gospel.” Keynote speakers included Frank Schaeffer, Frederca Mathewes-Green, Clark Carlton, Fr. Peter Gillquist, Fr. Patrick Reardon and Fr. Thomas Hopko.

Clark Carlton speaking at the 2005 seminar.
Fr. Peter Gillquist with Fr. Emmanuel and local St. Louis clergy.
Frank Schaeffer, our first guest speaker, 2002.
Fr. Patrick Reardon speaking in 2005.
Frederica Mathewes-Green, 2004
Orthodox Witness team with volunteers and Frederica Mathewes-Green after the 2004 conference.

Our current work

Orthodox Witness currently focuses on developing new resources, promoting our publications, an icon ministry and weekly publication of articles. We are also preparing to make recordings of services and Orthodox songs for the youth. We are active in the Tampa, Florida area.

Vision—Model

The broader vision and intention is that the organization will serve as a model, or will set a paradigm for the establishment of similar Orthodox Evangelism Committees in other–hopefully all!–Orthodox communities and parishes around the country. Such committees would be composed of the priest, the parish council president (or another PC member) and a number of lay members (depending upon the size of the church) who share this vision. Thus every Evangelism Committee would operate within the structure of the Church and evangelism would be “officially” incorporated among its other national ministries (Benevolent Sisterhood Associations, Religious School, etc.). Such local committees could in turn form regional committees at higher levels for more efficient coordination of their activities and the formulation of broader synergistic plans of action at the regional and national level. The advantages of having an Orthodox Evangelism Committee in all of our parishes are many. To enumerate just a few: evangelism would be incorporated into the life of the parish, it would be budgeted annually, fund-raising activities would be planned, and the focus of the parish would be drawn to this vital ministry of the Church. Also the Committee, led by the pastor, would encourage all the parishioners to participate in the services of the church, particularly Vespers and other week-day services, religious education, Bible study classes and reading clubs on Orthodox spiritual life; to participate frequently in the sacraments, particularly Confession and Holy Communion; to have a prayer life and to be under spiritual direction. Our hope is that evangelism will become a viable and vibrant ministry in every Orthodox parish and that every Orthodox Christian and their community will be turned into centers of evangelism.

Precondition of Evangelism

We reach out to our own Orthodox people first, by teaching them the faith and by leading them to the fullness of the life of the Church and to sanctification (cf. 1 Thes. 4:3). After all, as it is stated in the Pastoral Letter quoted above,

“The primary witness we can offer to one another is the holiness of our life.” All of us should give ourselves completely to the Lord’s service, without any reservations (cf. 1 Cor. 7:35).

Motivating Others

We want to motivate others and get them excited about discovering the truth of our Orthodox faith. We are striving to increase awareness of evangelization in our communities. Orthodox evangelism for us is a mandate, a personal mission and a personal fulfillment. The words of the Apostle to the Nations ring in our ears and burn within our hearts:

“Woe to me, if I don’t evangelize!” (1 Cor. 9:16)

Financing

The work of Orthodox Witness continues through sale of what we produce (books, icons and donations).

The Joy of Sharing the Good News

A substantial section of the Pastoral Letter quoted above was devoted to what it called, “The Joy of Our Witness.” The sharing of the Good News was described as “the fundamental impulse of the Church.” We feel this impulse within our hearts and the joy of our witness. It is precisely for this reason that we named our mission Orthodox Witness.

Blessings

His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel, head of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (OCA), has been supportive of our work, writing among other things:

Thank you for the invitation to be one of the hierarchs who bestows a blessing on the Orthodox Witness. I accept with sincere recognition that this is the work of the Church … I am humbled by the great goals you have set and moved deeply by the Lord’s own movement of those who love Him and His beautiful Bride. I am pleased to do whatever is of use to the fulfillment of the goals of the organization which is, in fact, the fulfillment of the Great Command of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, to whom be all honor and glory.

We have also received encouragement from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in a letter written on behalf of Archbishop Demetrios by His Grace Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, which states in part:

Many thanks to you and your colleagues in Orthodox Witness for seeking to implement at the local level the thoughts and desires expressed by the SCOBA hierarchs in their Millennium Pastoral Letter. Such efforts are essential for the growth of our Holy Church in this land.

Final Goal

Orthodox Witness wants to strive to bring “all peoples, nations and languages”, that is the entire world, into the bosom of the Church, to make the entire cosmos Ecclesia, and to bring everyone and everything to the unity of Christ. The task is enormous, but with God’s help, the enthusiasm of Orthodox clergy and laity everywhere, and the encouragement and guidance of our hierarchs, we will continue our work to accomplish these goals, for the glory of the triune God and the exaltation of His holy Church. Amen!