More than two and a half years ago, I observed in a blog post that the Orthodox Church in America was rapidly gaining members/adherents, based on the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. And I have predicted for some time that, like a dark horse in the race of American religion, Eastern Orthodox (EO) churches in the United States will continue to swell as people hunger and thirst for ancient Christianity.
And now, according to long-term research, my observations and predictions are vindicated! EO parishes in the United States have grown an average of 16% in the last 10 years. And if you think about that for a moment, it is astounding, because many church bodies, especially mainline denominations, have contracted greatly during the same time. And that 16% is only an average: According to an article, “Two of these church bodies — the Bulgarian Orthodox Eastern Diocese and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese — experienced a growth rate of over 100 percent.” Wow.
And a further observation: If the EO bodies in America can shed their ethnic idiosyncrasies (like using foreign languages in worship, adopting an insular huddle mentality, and mixing ethnic identity with religious identity), and if they can forge a truly American Orthodox Church that is open to welcoming outsiders, then that faith will take off like wild fire.