Alexander Schmemann, The Mission of the Church in the Modern World, Akritas, 1983, 255 pages.
This book by Fr. Schmemann is a collection of articles and essays, written in a period of more than twenty years and addressed to Orthodox as well as non-Orthodox readers.
In the book’s introductory chapter the author poses the basic question about the Orthodox Church’s destination in a world radically different to the one in which it was formed and developed, which led to the writing of the following texts.
In the 1st chapter there is an attempt to present the Orthodox world in the past as well as in the present through the East-West ecumenical dispute, the relationship between Church and state and interpretation of the term “Christian”.
In the 2nd chapter Fr. Schmemann attempts to consider the “Christian” world under the prism of the ecclesiological perspective, belied in the Orthodox experience and thought.
The 3rd chapter focuses on the issue of the autocephalus of the Orthodox Church of America and the complex issue of the different jurisdictions and criteria of canonicity, as well as on the ex traditione argumentation that was developed by the Orthodox churches.
In the 4th chapter the research focuses on the duty of the Orthodox theology in the present, which is defined at any given moment by the needs of the Church. The role of theology, which has always been pastoral, apostolic and prophetic is underlined and analysed.
In the 5th chapter the author re-evaluates the relationship between theology and liturgy. The crisis in theology and tumult is rooted in the absence of common and established terms of reference. At the same time, the crisis of the liturgical life is attributed to its growing nominalism.
In the 6th chapter there is reference to the idea of renewal and the renewal programmes, which accept the world as the sole criterion of ecclesiastical faith, life and action. However, the efforts for renewal have meaning only when the world refers to the Kingdom of God.
The 7th chapter focuses on the need to clarify the idea of synod (sobor), its position and function in the life of the Church.
In the 8th chapter the relationship between freedom and the Church is examined. These are considered and remain two distinct concepts, while there is an attempt to find the best way for their association and interaction.
The 9th chapter is an attempt to understand and analyse the dictate for mission in the Orthodox tradition.
Finally, in the 10th chapter Fr. Schmemann ascertains the duality in the Christian idea of the sacrament: on the one hand, the sacrament inheres in the nature of the world as God’s creation, and on the other, it inheres in Christ personally.