David Schütz, a former Australian Lutheran pastor, now Roman Catholic layman, good-naturedly raises an issue with which I wrestled before agreeing to participate in "Faith of Our Fathers: A Colloquium on Orthodoxy for Lutherans." He asks if the conference was proselytizing. No doubt others might see it as an attempt at "sheep-stealing." The conclusion I reached was based on the common understanding of proselytizing, which understands "proselytize" to mean actively recruiting persons away from their self-stated faith or religion in order to join yours. Sometimes, but not always, a note of deception or fraud is attached to the word "proselytize." Often it carries a negative connotation.
But is it proselytising when you offer to explain yourself to those who have admitted confusion based on mischaracterizations and caricatures of your position? That was the stated purpose of both the Colloquium on Orthodoxy for Lutherans and the Colloquium on Orthodoxy for Anglicans.
Is it proselytising when you invite to your place whoever might wish to hear such an explanation? For that is what happened. The colloquium was not held a "hostile take over" of a Lutheran or neutral territory. Neither were bait and switch tactics used to invite those who came or those who will listen to the audio on Ancient Faith Radio.
Is it proselytising when, for the sake of clarity, you offer to explain yourself addressing specific issues over which one group stumbles, employing those who are most familiar with the invited group's issues and language? Archbishop Nathaniel forthrightly explained at the beginning of each colloquium (here and here) that the colloquiums were offered not to lure but to explain because (a) Orthodoxy in America is not well known and (b) Orthodox theology is often explained with categories unknown to Orthodoxy. Realizing that an explanation of Orthodox theology will raise different questions and issues depending on the background of those listening, His Eminence further stated that the colloquiums were an attempt to anticipate the issues and questions by different groups. And who better to anticipate such issues and questions but those who have had a foot in both places?
Concerning this latter point, I well recall when I was merely interested in Orthodoxy having to wade through defenses or criticisms of infant baptism or "rote prayers" or certain liturgical ceremonies which have never been at issue in Lutheranism. That is still the case today. The majority of books by Orthodox and non-Orthodox which present or critique Orthodoxy do not share the assumptions that most Lutherans--and especially confessional Lutherans--share. Why not then cut to the heart of the issues which Lutheranism raises against Orthodoxy while using a theological language familiar to Lutherans? Would such an attempt be proselytizing? Or would it rather be an attempt at true respect; an attempt to take seriously the issues and questions raised by Lutherans?
Finally, our American mentality, and the current modus operendi of ecumenical relations, might have several persons suggest--in fact, insist--that such a colloquium is "unfair" because it was not a dialogue, a free exchange of ideas by differing parties. In other words, what some might want was not a presentation of Orthodoxy but a debate on Orthodoxy. However, then the ears are not tuned to listen carefully to what one is saying, but rather to see who can score points and win. (Regrettably, that is the modern mode of debate.) Furthermore, the caricatures and mischaracterizations would most likely continue. Hence, the organizers determined that the best thing was to let the Orthodox presenters speak; and let the people who attended, of their own free will, as well as those who freely listen online, judge for themselves on the basis of what Orthodox representatives say about Orthodoxy.