Having been traveling in the ecclesiastical maze of the Orthodox Church for eight years, half of that being in the Old Calendar maze, some air of reason has filled my lungs. This deep breath has given me the strength to ask a question in this public forum: What does the ecclesiastical disunity, independence, battles, conflicts, secluded sects, disputes over which bishop/jurisdiction is authentic and which isn't, say about the claim that the Orthodox church is that true, unified expression for which Christ prayed?
The heart of my question is better illustrated, not by me, but by a convert to the Catholic Church. His article compares the disunity of Protestants with the central unity of the Catholic Church. Could the same be said of Orthodox disunity? Here is a section of his article with my contribution:
Unity: Jesus’s fervent prayer
Thirdly, the prayer of Jesus in John 17 had long haunted me as I surveyed the state of the Protestant [Orthodox] world. It records that Jesus intercedes for His disciples and repeatedly prays for their unity – a required ingredient if the world is to know the Gospel as truth. Consequently, unity and authority are of paramount concern, for unity is sustained and directed by authority. A Church led by the Holy Spirit, made up of Spirit-filled people, would by definition be consumed by these prayer concerns. There is then an inconsistency in claiming to be Spirit-led while furthering disunity and rebellion.
I once read the words of Sagoyewatha (ca. 1758-1830), also known as Red Jacket, a chief of the Seneca tribe. He responded negatively to the request of a Protestant [Orthodox] missionary to work amongst his people by saying, in part, “Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?”
He further stated, “[Also] we have been told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place … we will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them.”
Sagoyewatha intuitively understood a painful fact: disunity and increasing fragmentation is a witness that brings disrepute to the Gospel. Jesus established a Church that was united under a hierarchy of bishops, whose authority is traced to the Apostles, and focused in its message and purpose, not a fragmented, chaotic entity that communicates to the unbelieving that the love of God is weak and His purpose in the Gospel is a failure. Those who remain divided are unwilling to consider how disunity has worked against the growth of the Kingdom. +
Well, I too have "waited a little while" in the doors of the Orthodox Church and I am not sure I am as settled in this question as I once was. What say you?