Hello my brothers and sisters in Christ,
I hope that this message finds you all well. Allow me to begin by stating that I have a great amount of respect for the zeal and fervor with which several of the forum members here have displayed for their Orthodox faith. It is truly a blessing to see that many of our youth and those who serve them have such a desire to pursue further knowledge in that which the Orthodox Church teaches, and that there are those youth who feel comfortable enough to share with us the struggles that they have encountered throughout their lives, whether as a point of gaining further advice on the matter in conjunction with that which they receive from their father of confession, or as a means of educating the rest of us living in this world as to the troubling tumults of the times, that we may steer ourselves clear from such things. I have abstained from posting on several of the topics, and have observed that some of the other forum members have done the same, but I feel that this is something which must be addressed.
I think that it is important that we have a firm grasp on the purpose of these forums so that we may approach things in the proper manner. I have noticed that there has been a recent string of topics and posts here that have addressed some of the beliefs of some of the other churches with which we are not yet in full communion with. There appears to be a number of individuals who, through the zeal that they have within them for protecting their own faith, have begun to very openly, and sometimes inappropriately, criticize these other churches. In some cases, such critiques have value to them, but let us examine what it is that we have been provided with on these forums. Certainly, we can see that there is an effort on a global scale for some of the churches to examine the faith of other churches so that we can gain a more general as well as detailed understanding of what it is that we believe. This is the first step in what may become a unified Church; this is not to say the Orthodox Church will compromise on any of its beliefs, but just as when one is asked to become a judge in a quarrel between two individuals, it is important that we first understand where the other person is coming from before we can come to a proper conclusion, or in our case, before we can approach them in the manner that is most conducive to their coming to the proper faith, that of the Orthodox faith. I feel that we should all be reminded that these forums are public and that anyone in the world has access to them, Orthodox or otherwise. Certainly, as one of the most prolific Coptic Orthodox forums online, people will come across this site if they desire to have more information on Coptic Orthodoxy. We must be able to approach these people in a manner of love and respect. I do not think that anyone has ever been won over to another mode of thinking, albeit a correct one, by force or by someone demeaning them or their beliefs. We, as Orthodox, believe that our faith is correct, and this is a blessing from God. I am certainly not saying that people have been less than loving or overly demeaning, but I think that it's important for us to be cognizant of this.
There are also a number of topics whose direct intent is either to ascertain some further knowledge of the Orthodox faith, or which as a byproduct of discussions, the topic comes up of what it is that we as Orthodox believe. Allow me to be a bit direct here and say that not all of us have been called to teach, and certainly, not all of us are educated in the proper manner in which we can accurately relate what it is that the Orthodox Church as a whole believes. Unfortunately, it is not rare that people in the Church are taught something that is not Orthodox and which they incorporate into their understanding, only to later relay that information to others. Much of what is posted here are what I see as being "personal reflections" on these matters. There is a reason why the Fathers of the Church are held in such high esteem. Can we not acknowledge that perhaps the grace that has been given to me from the Holy Spirit in this particular area may not be as abundant as that which was given to the Fathers? Some posters even use examples of men of antiquity who have not been acknowledged by the Church as being a source of theology, and yet, we see their theology in several of the posts here. Before I can be said to be in a position of teaching, I must properly pursue the education necessary to speak on particular topics. Some people on these forums have received some form of formal education in this regard, but this similarly does not mean that they are within their bounds to go and speak on behalf of the Church. We must be aware of the fact that several youth frequent this site and, whether intentionally or not, use these posts as a basis for their knowledge of the faith. We, therefore, must be very conscious of what it is that we are posting, and specifying whether or not it is our own reflections on the matter or if it is the Church which speaks as such on the matter. This is not to criticize any person or persons in particular, but something that we should all be aware of.
We are all here so that we can aid one another in growing in our faith, not only that which we have segmentalized as being "knowledge based" and informational, but that which is supposed to allow us to grow in what we have similarly segmentalized as being "spiritual." The two should not be separate. If I speak on an issue related to the Church, am I benefitting myself or those around me, specifically in their getting closer to God? If I am not, am I simply speaking in vain?
I am reluctant to post this entire message here, but I think that it is important that we gain a better understanding of ourselves as individuals. If I know who I am, I know my limitations, and I know that such limitations may not benefit others around me if I go beyond them. Please do not feel as though this is a personal attack on any one of you; it is something that we should keep in mind both on the forums and off, when we are speaking to family, friends, other members of the Body of Christ, or people who are outside of the Church.
Pray for my weakness as I struggle to identify my own limitations,