Russian Orthodox Cleric Visits Dallas Churches to ‘Build Bridges’

February 12, 2011  [, ]

East is meeting West in a most unusual way this weekend, with a visit by a top Russian Orthodox cleric to the heart of conservative evangelical Dallas.

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev will preach Sunday morning at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, a large, theologically traditional congregation within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

On Friday he toured Dallas Theological Seminary, a bastion of biblical inerrancy and generally conservative theology.

Why would a top official of a hierarchical church known for liturgy and incense, icons and the veneration of saints want to hang with a bunch of Bible-thumping American Protestants?

“I think we should build bridges between our church and the world of evangelicalism,” he said Friday. “We obviously have differences in theology, but we have very similar positions on moral issues.”

Alfeyev is not neglecting his own religious tradition while in Dallas and will participate in Saturday afternoon and early Sunday services at St. Seraphim (Orthodox) Cathedral.

He met early Friday morning with former President George W. Bush and was to dine Friday night with Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and a group of clergy.

But it is his visits to Highland Park Presbyterian and Dallas Theological Seminary that have caused a happy stir among evangelicals.

“I’m so pumped for this,” said the Rev. Ron Scates, pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian. “The Russian Orthodox Church wants to move toward American evangelical Christians. We’re so fortunate to be on the recipient end.”

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