Priest John E. Parker III was appointed chair of the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Evangelization by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, on October 24, 2011.
“I am very grateful, and humbled, to be appointed to this position, and I shall do all that I can to be a faithful servant of Christ in this life-giving department,” said Father John, who also serves Holy Ascension Parish, Mount Pleasant, SC.
Prior to his reception into the Orthodox Church, he served as an Episcopalian youth pastor where, in addition to his regular duties, he facilitated partner-parish inner city youth mission trips. In addition to earning a BA in Spanish with a minor in German at the College of William and Mary in 1993, he received a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, whose curriculum heavily emphasized missions, evangelism, and Biblical studies, in 2001. He served briefly as an Episcopal priest on Sullivan’s Island, SC.
After Father John and his family were received into the Orthodox Church by Archpriest John Breck at Holy Ascension Mission in July 2002, he enrolled in Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY, where he earned a Master of Theology degree. The theme of his thesis was “The Sanctity of Chastity: An Orthodox Approach to Homosexuality.” After his ordination to the diaconate and priesthood, he was assigned priest-in-charge of Holy Ascension Mission. During his pastorate, the mission experienced more-than-steady growth, necessitating the construction of a permanent, Byzantine style church building. Holy Ascension was one of a number of missions assisted through the OCA Church Planting Grant program.
Father John has written over seven dozen columns relating Orthodox Christian teaching to local culture and life in the local newspaper, and has been a frequent speaker on Christian life. He has led three short-term missions teams to Guatemala and Alaska through the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. He also has been a frequent speaker at various Orthodox Christian Fellowship conferences. At present, he is spearheading the planting of a new mission in Beaufort, SC.
Father John sees the Department of Evangelization as “literally the ‘Good News’ department.
“At a time in our Church’s life during which we are bombarded by bad news and all sorts of doom and gloom, I certainly hope that this Department will live up to its name, and will be a source and herald of truly Good News to the Orthodox Church in America, and the nations in which we minister,” he said. “This can occur only as we revitalize our own faith and parishes, and make intentional, concrete plans to plant new ones.
“For the long-term vision of the founders of the OCA to blossom from now-established roots, we must take ever more seriously the need to catechize, and not simply sacramentalize, our own people,” Father John added. “Many, many very faithful Orthodox Christians know quite well what Cheesefare Sunday is and when to make prostrations during the Great Canon of Saint Andrew, yet remain woefully ignorant of (or obstinate to) the Scriptures, the basic standards of Orthodox Christian daily living, and more specifically, the missionary ministry to which every baptized Christian is called. In a sentence, while we may have done an acceptable job serving ourselves and those in our care — this is chaplaincy — we are called to ‘Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… and teaching them….’
“In answering these and other questions, we must critically evaluate not only our catechism, but even the catechumenate. We must prepare ourselves to preach publicly, ‘using words when necessary,’ while living in the world in a fashion absolutely beyond reproach, according to the Scriptures,” Father John concluded. “We must develop intentionally, in every parish, a missionary mindset that asks questions, with every parish event, like: ‘how does this honor the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18ff?’”
Father John outlined three primary concerns for the Department’s work — Evangelization (reaching out to those who are not Christians); Missions (planting new Orthodox Churches as well as taking part in short term missions trips); and Church Growth/Revitalization of our current parishes for their missionary vocations.
Father John and his wife, Matushka Jeanette, have been married nearly 18 years. She is a nurse at the Medical University of South Carolina Hospital. They have two teenage sons.