Matthew Gaul's Reviews > The Eastern Church in the Spiritual Marketplace: American Conversions to Orthodox Christianity

The Eastern Church in the Spiritual Marketplace by Amy Slagle
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it was amazing
bookshelves: eastern-christianity
Recommended to Matthew by: easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com
Recommended for: Eastern Catholics and Orthodox

I purchased this book to see what I could glean to help Eastern Catholic evangelism. As expected, almost all of the insights are applicable not only to Orthodoxy, but also to Greek (Byzantine) Catholicism as well.

In sum, author Amy Slagle talks to converts to Eastern Orthodoxy from several parishes largely in the very different religious arenas of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Jackson, Mississippi. She also compares and contrasts those who marry into Orthodoxy, for whom the faith begins as incidental to the spousal relationship, with "seekers," those persons who set about looking for a new spiritual home. Without needing to break down her findings into statistical analysis or reductive bullet points, the common threads between the converts' histories and spiritual needs quickly becomes obvious.

While the conclusions that I drew were often exactly what I expected - Eastern Christianity's main evangelical strength is its liturgy and antiquity, trying to compete with the Protestants' expertise at providing "goods and services" (my words) is not productive, ethnic culture is a draw for some seekers and a hindrance to others - many of the other common themes were surprising. Particularly interesting is the picture of the typical Eastern Christian seeker convert as communitarian, well-educated, and middle-to-upper-middle class, and how often their interest is originally piqued by seemingly happenstance events (grace?), even if they only act on them years later.

Although most converts were attracted to the rigor of Orthodoxy, a few of the interviewees were happy to be away from what they perceived as Catholicism's stricter morality - on all the issues you'd expect. As a Catholic I find this unfortunate, but even if we do not win those converts, I am grateful that Eastern Catholicism retains its ethical valor.

The book is decidedly sociology, but the author writes in a conversational tone. For the non-academic, the work is not bogged down in the ponderous, awkward, and often obscure style common to the sociology of religion.

If you are an average Eastern Catholic or Orthodox cleric or lay man looking to understand what type of religious seekers would be interested in your parish and why, then "The Eastern Church in the Spiritual Marketplace" is worth your time to read, highlight, mark up, bring to parish council meetings, and keep in easy reach while planning your next evangelism project.
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Reading Progress

September 7, 2014 – Started Reading
September 7, 2014 – Shelved
September 30, 2014 – Finished Reading
October 11, 2014 – Shelved as: eastern-christianity

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