FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How would you describe a typical worship service?
Worship in the EOC strives to hold in balance liturgy and spontaneity, antiquity and modernity, exuberance and dignity. All of our forms of prayer and worship are primarily based on those which were developed during the earlier, undivided centuries of Christian history. As a grand procession, our Sunday worship service includes the reading and preaching of Scripture, liturgical and evangelical hymns, songs of praise, intercessory prayers for the whole world, and finally concludes in partaking of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Eucharist. Throughout the Liturgy the music, imagery, and symbols involve one’s whole being in receiving and manifesting the Kingdom of God which has come to us in Jesus Christ!
What do you mean by signs, symbols, and imagery?
The cross, icons, water, incense, oil, bread, and wine are ancient Christian symbols. When we make the sign of the cross, we are expressing our belief in the Holy Trinity whose triune work makes possible our salvation, and in the cross of Jesus Christ through which that salvation has been accomplished for us. The icons are “windows to heaven” that help us see the spiritual realities. In Scripture the use of incense signifies the prayers of God’s people – both on earth and in heaven – rising up before God. Water, of course, is the symbol of baptism and Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Bread and wine are the sacraments through which we receive the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ. The ancient practice of raising our hands in worship symbolizes our surrender to the will and purpose of God, and the offering of ourselves in praise and adoration to Him.
Doesn’t liturgy stifle the life and flow of worship?
Actually, the liturgy does just the opposite. With people who are alive in their faith, it ensures that all the components of worship are present. It also provides a structure for freedom of expression as the Spirit moves, yet allows worship to be a common movement of the people gathered, promoting a majestic and orderly atmosphere for giving praise and glory to God. The life and flow of worship is always mutually dependent upon the grace of God and the delight of God’s people who freely offer themselves to Him.
How do you view the holy Scriptures?
We stand with the Apostle Paul, who teaches, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, correction, reproof, and instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). In matters of interpretation, we hold with the 5th Century St. Vincent of Lerins who wrote that in the Church itself, “the greatest care must be exercised to hold that which has been believed everywhere and always by all.” While we believe the Bible is profitable for personal instruction, we also believe it belongs to the whole Church and is not intended to be interpreted without accountability to the Church.
What do you believe concerning salvation?
We confess with the historic Church and Biblical witness that there is salvation in none other than Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God through His own incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension. He bids us to come to Him in faith and be washed in the waters of baptism, through which our sins are remitted and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received (Acts 2:38). We confess with the Apostle Paul that this salvation is initiated by God and accomplished by His grace, but that we must cooperate with His grace in faith and continually work out our salvation as He works within us. (Phil. 2:12-13)
Where do you stand on current issues?
The Church must be at one and the same time a place of mercy and healing and a place where God’s standards of purity are upheld. Therefore the Evangelical Orthodox Church affirms:
- All human beings have the right to life from the time of conception until natural death, and, therefore, abortion on demand and euthanasia are sinful and murderous. We also believe this is a complex issue that must be addressed on many levels, and that compassion and mercy must guide our actions.
- God’s creative distinction for mankind is male and female in their sexuality, and that only the marriage between a man and woman was instituted and blessed by God. Furthermore, sexual intercourse outside the context of heterosexual marriage is sinful, and homosexuality is contrary to the essential design of God. We recognize, however, that people sincerely seeking after God struggle with various sexual issues. Therefore, we strive to make our local churches havens of healing rather than places of condemnation and rejection.
- Offices and ministries are available to both men and women in the Church. The offices of bishop and priest are filled by godly men and the office of deacon and deaconess by godly men and women. Many other ministries in the Church are also exercised by both men and women. We oppose the notion that equality of value necessitates equality of function, and we uphold the balance between equality and differentiated order that God established in the beginning.
- The integrity of the family is to be preserved by the sanctity of marriage, and that the best solution to marriage problems is not divorce, but loving care, loving discipline, and self-sacrifice in the context of Christ’s Church. We also recognize that less than ideal choices must sometimes be made without fear of abandonment by the Church.
What do you believe about apostolic succession?
We believe that apostolic succession is primarily a matter of holding apostolic faith, which is substantiated by the evidence of the fruits of the Holy Spirit within the assembly of believers. We believe that the traceable lineage of bishops is one aspect of apostolic succession but not the exclusive condition upon which apostolic succession rests. We believe that the Holy Spirit, rather than detailed legal requirements, is the validator of the sacraments and that He in His divine freedom can raise up apostolic faith in any heart that turns to Him. The law cannot exhaustively manifest the full mystery of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit fulfills and interprets the law according to God's mind. To use and apply the words of St. Paul in a slightly different way, one might say, For he is not an Orthodox who is one outwardly, nor is apostolic succession that which is outward according to the flesh; but he is an Orthodox who is one inwardly, and apostolic succession is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not from men but from God. (Rom 2:28-29). In the EOC, the orthodoxy of our faith and life had been affirmed on many occasions by numerous canonical Orthodox people, including hierarchs. However, we have retained our self-governing status in order to avoid being required to follow some other ethnic expression of the faith rather than an indigenous and culturally authentic one.
Who can partake of the Holy Eucharist in a local EOC church?
Any sincere Christian, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and dedicated to living a holy life, by God's grace, who is able to freely confess with us the essential tenets of the Christian faith as expressed in the Nicene Creed, who is faithfully committed to and regularly offering oneself in a specific local Christian church in some place (special circumstances must be discussed with local church leadership prior to the service), who believes the communion bread and wine are, in a mystery, what Christ said - His own Body and Blood, and who is respectful toward the practices and people of the local church so that communion is shared in peace, is welcome to partake of the Holy Eucharist with us.