The Garden of All Saints
I’ve often lamented the parochial understanding of American Christianity, yet it is a daunting task to take into account all the varieties of Christianity that exist. It is sometimes hard to grasp, given the conservative (Western) Christian emphasis on mission and the liberal (Western) Christian de-emphasis of conversion and evangelism, the full extent of Christianity’s success. Understanding the lengths of Christian success in the world is something that makes it hard for me to countenance an understanding of the faith that sees only decline as possible as we move toward the eschaton–this is a conservative protestant error, I think, and illustrates a persecution fixation. The problem is that persecution tends to strengthen the church, not weaken it. But I digress… the point I’m trying to make is simply this: Christianity has been wildly successful, it is the largest single religion in the world and, if one believes Philip Jenkins, it is growing more rapidly now than it ever has before.
All of this means that the diversity of Christianity is simply increasing… if there’s any hope for a more fully unified (not necessarily in institution but in purpose and work) Christianity, then we need to wake up to that diversity and use the opportunities of globalization possitively to better understand our long-separated brethren. To this extent, I have been working–slowly–on a page that provides some information about what different Christian groups believe and how they are related to Christian groups with which many people may be more familiar.
So, what made me think of this? Evidently, some Syrian Jacobites have approached the University of the South about the possibility of a relationship with the University and Seminary. This has led two of our professors to try to figure out exactly who these folks are, and if we can have a relationship–the problem is there are so many different little tiny Oriental Orthodox groups.