Saturday, July 23, 2011

Orthodoxy and the CEC

After the Malcolm Smith retreat, I wanted to find out more about his denomination, the Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC). I found some information on the web, and saw that there was a parish not too far away in West Plano. We decided to visit one Sunday morning, and were disappointed to find that we were two out of six people at the service. Still, the priest was very friendly, and took us out for lunch after the service. One of the things he said was that theologically, the CEC was very similar to Eastern Orthodoxy.

So, I decided to check out Orthodoxy, and called up Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas. I spoke to one of the priests, who was very friendly and invited us to come for a tour. He showed us the church, explained some of the worship, and gave me a book. A few days later I attended my first Orthodox Divine Liturgy service at Holy Trinity on New Years Day, 1999. It was beautiful, but the service was half English and half Greek. So I next tried St. Seraphim Cathedral, Orthodox Church of America (OCA), which had their services in English. They also had a Wednesday night Bible Study conducted by their Archbishop, who was doing a study in the epistle to the Romans. It was a great opportunity for me to learn the Orthodox approach to the doctrines of grace and salvation. I continued going to the Bible Study, and trying various Orthodox churches in the area through Easter of 1999.

Unfortunately, something about the Orthodox churches didn't fit for us, so we decided to give the CEC another try. The Sunday after Orthodox Easter, we visited Christ Church Cathedral in Sherman, and we liked it very much. After a while, we were going up to Sherman every Sunday, and often on Wednesday nights. That fall, I was invited to their seminary program, which was held in Sherman one weekend a month, with classes on Friday night, and all day Saturday, with lots of reading in between the class sessions. Theology in the CEC was rooted in the Patristic tradition, which means it was rooted in the theology of the Church Fathers in the early centuries of Christianity. This Patristic approach gave new life to my study of theology. We ended up moving to Sherman in the Spring of 2000, and lived there several years.

One interesting effect of my studies was a growing appreciation of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the CEC had its disagreements with Catholicism, they still respected the Catholic Church, and saw her as a sister church. I learned that in some cases I had misconceptions about actual Catholic beliefs, but I also learned the Biblical and historical basis for a lot of what Catholics truly did believe because there was a lot that the CEC and Catholic Church had in common.

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