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Dealing with Dissent

One thing I wonder about Eastern Orthodoxy is how dissent is handled.

In Mormonism, I know that members have a pretty wide latitude to believe whatever they want.  Mormonism isn’t “creedal” and doesn’t necessarily have a set of dogmas that it requires its members to believe.  However, when people actively voice an opinion that is in opposition to the church, and take active steps to lead other members of the church in that direction, the church cracks down on that person.  So, for instance, in the case of Proposition 8 in California, members of the church were free to disagree with the church’s stance, and choose not to participate in the campaigns, but members were not free to actively oppose the church and say that it is wrong in a public way.  In theory, this could result in disfellowship or even excommunication.

Also, in Mormonism, a person might voice a doctrinal opinion that is not official church doctrine, but if that person were in a teaching capacity or in any kind of leadership, that person would not (again, in theory) be free to state his or her own opinions as church doctrine.

However, things are different in Orthodoxy.  I have often wondered what sorts of things Orthodox Christians are required to believe and still be regarded as full members of the church?  Online, I have seen enormous debates among Orthodox Christians about what truly is or isn’t “Orthodox” and lots of seemingly petty name-calling.  It has scared me away from certain online Orthodox hangouts.

Since there isn’t a “top-down” authoritarian structure in Orthodoxy like there is with the LDS church (or, say, the Roman Catholic church), the dynamics must be different for someone who openly opposes Orthodox doctrine.  There is no prophet or pope to fear!  But the more “liberal” (I know that’s not entirely accurate but it’s sufficient for these purposes) Orthodox bloggers like David Dunn are constantly hounded by very conservative, literalistic Orthodox for voicing differing interpretations of the faith, and it makes me wonder whether liberal voices are welcome in Orthodoxy or not.  However, this might be the result of my Western bias.  I assume I am looking at it as an outsider who doesn’t really understand the social and institutional dynamics of Orthodoxy.

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