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By Patrick Henry Reardon
The Other East
Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective. By Daniel B. Clendenin, Baker, 176 pp.; $14.99, paper
A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy. By Nathaniel Davis, Westview Press, 381 pp.; $75, hardcover; $27.50, paper
The Price of Prophecy: Orthodox Churches on Peace, Freedom, and Security.By Alexander F. C. Webster, Eerdmans, 388 pp.; $19.99, paper
Because of its numerical insignificance and the marginal position it occupies in American life and culture, probably not many people have observed the profound changes taking place in the Eastern Orthodox Church in this country. The Orthodox themselves, however, cannot help being aware of them. First, they know (and are often perplexed) that more and more Americans are manifesting an intense interest in this ancient expression of the Christian faith. For example, even five years ago a survey conducted by Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press, the most prestigious Orthodox publishing house in this country, revealed that three-quarters of its books and journals were being purchased by non-Orthodox readers.
Second, the actual circumstances within Orthodox parishes--those almost intangible elements that determine their atmosphere and tone--appear and sound different nowadays as Roman Catholics, and especially Protestants, continue to join up in record numbers, even by whole congregations. The latest yearbook of the Encyclopedia Britannica lists the Eastern Orthodox Church among the fastest-growing religious bodies in the United States.
These thousands of newcomers are normally of extractions different from the traditional Eastern European or Middle Eastern lineages of Orthodoxy. Also, their families have generally been in this country much longer than most of the older Orthodox. Moreover, they tend to be very literate and articulate on matters of religion; the vast majority have studied their way into Orthodoxy. The older members of my own congregation often remark on the superior, better informed understanding ...