*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 21st of March 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
I got an email from Jordan in Portland- an excellent source of mailbag questions.
“In reading a book recently, I came upon a reference to something called the Evangelical Orthodox Church that was purportedly started by staff and students involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, and I was immediately fascinated by the combination of Eastern Orthodoxy, campus evangelical groups, and the ever-changing landscape of American religious entrepreneurship. There must be a story here, right?”
Yup. And oh boy, it’s a story. In fact, when I first got this question, I thought I could make it into a Weekend Edition show- and I might, but I feel like another story of peculiar sectarians from California might be a little much right now. SO- let me tell you a brief account of the Evangelical Orthodox Church. We might reevaluate around at some point (I found a handful of primary sources)
So - it starts with Campus Crusade- today it is possibly the most prominent evangelical organization in the world- it started with Bill and Vonette Bright at UCLA in the 50s.
In 1967 Campus Crusade had its famed “evangelistic blitz” on the campus of Cal Berkeley. A number of the younger and zealous members were unconvinced that the evangelistic call was enough- some of them would start the Christian World Liberation Front (I apologize if you could hear my eyes roll when I read that…) others wanted Campus Crusade to become a church- citing no “parachurch” ministries in the New Testament.
Peter Gillquist led this group which, in the early 70s, would set up house churches and organized under the name the “New Covenant Apostolic Order” (and you thought Christian World Liberation Front sounded sketch- I don’t mean to make fun here- but these names scream 60s and 70s Christian subculture).
A few things:
The leaders of this movement referred to themselves as apostles.
They were connected to the Jesus People movement but wanted traditional liturgy.
Coming out of the Jesus People movement, they were involved with the Shepherding movement (we talked about this on the Lonnie Frisbee show- it involves complete submission to the local church in ALL aspects of your life and has been heavily criticized).
By the late 70s, the movement, which had splintered considerably- decided that it would adopt the theology of Eastern Orthodoxy. Peter Gilquist and five others dressed in their robes laid hands on each other and ordained each other as Bishops. This is curious. Without getting into Eastern Orthodoxy, one of the central claims of the church is an unbroken succession of Bishops back to the early church. There is no self-ordaining.
Despite having received some training from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, the Orthodox Church in America sought to distance itself from the group now calling it the “Evangelical Orthodox Church.”
They met with the smaller Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America and were similarly rebuffed. They then traveled to Istanbul to seek a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church (this would be like asking to speak with the Pope)- they made the trip but were denied the audience with the Patriarch.
They applied to join the National Association of Evangelicals back home and were also denied.
They continued, however, and one evangelical observer remarked.
‘The search for the original church had led these unsuspecting American evangelicals into a world of strange sights, sounds, and smells: clouds of incense, elaborate vestments, prayers to the saints and for the dead, and veneration of the Mother of God and the holy icons, some of which even wept occasionally”
They would make news in Santa Barbara where Peter Gilquist lived- in fact, of the 19 Bishops in the church, 5 of them lived in Isla Vista (this is the famed party community of UC Santa Barbara). The Orthodox Evangelicals (that were claimed by either group) decided they would win back Isla Vista for God. And they would do so by being on the city council- at one point, three city board members belonged to the small sect.
Ultimately the Shepherding emphasis would doom them- where to live, whom to marry (or divorce in one case), whether to quit your job- these were things that leaders could tell their parishioners- and failure to do so would lead to ex-communication. As one of the members told a newspaper in 1979- “membership is dependent on submission to the system.”
Although it still nominally exists today, the church fizzled without the New Covenant Apostolic Order that dissolved when many of the remaining church bodies joined the Antiochian Christian Archdiocese of North America.
Thanks, Jordan, for the question- send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Last Word for today comes from the Gospel of Luke:
And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of March 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Crusades include the Children’s, the Campus, and the Space- an old game on the Commodore 64. He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man whose bracket is busted. Although Houston is proving me right… that’s a good team at a five seed. I’m Dan van Voorhis
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.