Today is the Dormition (“falling asleep,” or repose) of Mary, the Mother of God, ending a short August fast. The fast comes to a very nice ending for me, but also, hopefully, others, not only for spiritual reasons, but also because The Orthodox Christian World, edited by Augustine Casiday, is now available in print.
This project ran a little late, but I’m hoping people will find it worth the wait. I say this not only because I happened to author chapter 13 on Orthodoxy in America (yay!) but also because this should prove to be a helpful resource to many. I would suggest parishes (including non-Orthodox ones that want to be up-to-speed on world Christianity) purchase copies in addition to libraries.
As with any such work, there are always areas that could be improved. Each chapter is really a survey of the topic and cannot highlight every aspect. That said, there are some things missing here and there. For instance, in my own piece, there is no mention of Amy Slagle’s important book on American converts: http://www.amazon.com/Eastern-Church-Spiritual-Marketplace-Christianity/dp/0875806708/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344542552&sr=1-1&keywords=Amy+Slagle. Why not? Well, because I wrote the piece before her book was published and by the time I noticed that I had not followed up with the editors on it, it was too late. Sorry Amy! Sticking with American Orthodoxy, I did not notice Bishop Basil (in his essay on St. Raphael of Brooklyn) make any mention of St. Raphael having possibly been involved in a shooting. St. Raphael was accused of fleeing the scene and shooting at a police officer. He said he simply fled and hid when the shooting started and had never once held a handgun. I honestly do not think he was guilty and he wasn’t found guilty of the accusation back then, but it seems odd to have omitted it entirely, especially since this is an incident that can also serve to highlight how difficult things were back then within the Syro-Lebanese community. BTW, if you’re interested, Matthew Namee, on a church history blog I helped establish a few years ago (though as of this spring, I’ve pulled back from involvement), has a good post on that incident:
Also, one might wonder why this person or that person was left out of The Orthodox Christian World. It’s a judgment call, and it’s bound to happen. Indeed, it has to. Neither the entries/chapters, nor the work as a whole, can be comprehensive and decisions must be made by authors and editors alike. Nonetheless, it’s still fair to ask: why include St. Raphael, but not St. Tikhon and/or St. Alexis, for instance?
Another question people might have is why not include a significant woman in addition to the Theotokos? Have there been no significant Orthodox women? Ever? What of St. Macrina? Or St. Melania the Younger? Or the Empress Irene? Or St. Helena or Olga? Anyhow, I do think this was an oversight, and one that I expect will be noted by some.
Those sorts of questions aside, I really do think this is an important resource and I would highly recommend it. Again, this is a collection of essays on various topics. They won’t provide the depth that the culmination of an intense research enterprise can produce (such as in Scott Kenworthy’s The Heart of Russia, which I’d also highly recommend: http://www.amazon.com/The-Heart-Russia-Trinity-Sergius-Monasticism/dp/0199736138/ref=la_B004IZWNS0_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344542456&sr=1-1). That said, I really hope libraries and parishes will purchase it. The cost (currently in hard cover) will prevent a lot of individuals from purchasing it, but hopefully their parish could throw it into their library holdings.