Plymouth Brethren To Orthodox

by Edward Justin

Plymouth Brethren converts to OrthodoxyRaised in a wonderful, loving, godly, Protestant (or, more precisely, Anabaptist) Christian home, I grew up believing in God and calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ to save me. I consciously committed my life to Christ at about age eight and was baptized when I was thirteen in the “Plymouth brethren” assembly in which I had grown up. From my parents I learned to seek the Truth with my whole heart, to speak it in love, and to live it.

From the assembly I learned to seek the Truth in the Scriptures and to love them and to study them diligently and to apply them to my everyday life.

From C.S. Lewis and the gospel of John I learned that Jesus Christ was the Truth—and the Way and the Life. I also went to a Christian high-school, where I learned to debate from and with a Lutheran friend of mine—against him on the question of infant baptism, and with him against most of my Mennonite teachers and classmates on the questions of pacifism and capital punishment.

I have often said that the only thing I like better than decisively winning a debate is decisively losing one—which is a good thing, since, in the long run, I have found my opponents to be far more right than I ever thought them to be.

Shortly after I graduated from high-school, I met an Orthodox Christian who seemed far more wrong on far more than any of my Christian opponents ever had been. Either that or (scary thought!) far more right. After about eight years of debating with him—and with his arguments when he wasn’t actually present—I decided I had to resolve the question one way or another (it was far too important to simply ignore it) by looking into the history upon which both our extra-Biblical arguments were based. (Even the most thoroughly Bible- believing Christian’s faith is ultimately founded on extra-Biblical arguments: if our Lord Himself could not bear witness of Himself, how much less can the Scriptures which merely testify of Him be an adequate witness to their own authority!)

After about a year-and-a-half’s worth of investigation, I had seen enough truth in the arguments for Orthodoxy to know that I had to check out the experience of Orthodox Christianity for myself. But I wanted to be sure, and I couldn’t just leave, without explanation, my dear friends and brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I had lived and grown up and fellowshipped for most, and, in some cases, all of my life.

So, at the beginning of 1997, I wrote two letters to my church, letting them know about my search, about what I was doing and why, letting them know a little bit of what I had found, and asking for their prayers.

At about the same time, I realized that I had finally found somebody with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life: a friend with whom I had been sharing my investigations into Orthodoxy and who had been faithfully challenging and considering the arguments and questions that I was wrestling with.

She, like me, loves and is completely dedicated to our Lord Who is Truth, and she is far better than I at actually living out the Truth in her everyday life. Unlike me, she was already very Orthodox in her beliefs and everyday life, but she shared my Anabaptist ecclessiology (understanding of the nature of the Church) and hadn’t done anywhere near as much research into Orthodoxy and Church history as I had.

By March I knew I had finally found the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Christ through His apostles. My friend Sarah, however, though she was now researching and thinking about the question more intensely than she had before, was still unconvinced. It was in the utmost extremities of agony that I now did what I knew I had to do: act on what I knew to be true, even if it cost me my beloved. I was received into the Orthodox Church as a catechumen on April 6, 1997.

Sarah, leaving for a week-long riding clinic in Alberta, asked me to write out for her what had finally convinced me of the truth of Orthodoxy. The result was a whole series of letters to my beloved. They didn’t convince her.

Very few are ever convinced of the truth of Orthodoxy simply by reading, just as very few ever become Christians simply by reading the Bible: Orthodoxy, like all true (orthodox) Christianity is not a book, it is a life. But she did keep on thinking.

And eventually she too became Orthodox, at great cost and agony to herself. But that is another journey and another story. Not entirely separate, of course, but then whose story is in this complex world of ours? And certainly not separate any longer. On August 16, 1998, Sarah and I were married—thanks be to God!—in the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” that we have both grown to love, and through which we have grown to love one another.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift! For His mercy endures forever.


  1. Dave Kinsella says:


    I’m just a little confused. Plymouth Brethren are not Anabaptists. They are non-conformists and in a sense derive their existence from the Anabaptists, as it was the Anabaptists who became baptists in England (which John Bunyan was). And it was out of this tradition of non-conformists, I believe, that the Plymouth Brethren (and subsequent splits including the Exclusive Brethren) came. I wonder where the connection is. Was this a sort of hybrid church? Was he surrounded by the two traditions? I would be interested to learn more.

  2. Alan Beagley says:

    It’s true that they cannot trace their ancestry back to the original Anabaptists, but they are “anabaptists” in the sense that they believe in rebaptizing those who were baptized in infancy and/or who were baptized other than by immersion.

  3. Well stated, Alan.

  4. How did you deal with the passage in 1 Corinthians 14? The Brethren claim this is reason for some kind of spontaneous but orderly worship. Was this indeed practice in the early Church? Of course St. Paul gives here rules how to keep order in the service but can one keep more order then St. Paul describes? For instance the rule about speaking in tongue’s: in the orthodox liturgy there’s no room for someone speaking in tongues when there is a interpreter (during the liturgy). Or am I wrong? Maybe the homily is some kind of prophesy (?) but there is only one giving this homily during the Liturgy, not two or three. Or am I wrong? St. Paul concludes: “Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy and do not forbid to speak with tongues.’ He doesn’t forbid. These words aren’t only directed to the Corinthians but also to all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as stated in the beginning of the letter. So I am a little confused, while I love the Orthodox liturgy I have a hard time to understand this passage, I couldn’t find Orthodox explanation of this passage, neither the Orthodox study Bible. If you have one, please explain.

  5. It’s so simple it is often hidden in plain sight. The gift of tongues is not the incoherent babbling which it is often passed off as today. It is speaking a real language – a human language. It’s one of the lower spiritual gifts. There are elders who have this gift, and they can speak languages which they never learned with ease. The Holy Spirit knows these things.

    If you want a fuller explanation, read the book “Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future.” And don’t assume that just because someone in the last century slapped the word ‘Christian’ onto something that it has always been considered a Christian practice. Tongues are a Christian spiritual gift, but following the admonition of St. Paul, removed from the public liturgy by and large, for the very reasons it has been removed from much protestant liturgy – it interrrupts worship for someone’s supposed ‘daily horoscope-style’ word of so-called knowledge. In other words, it is a spiritual failure, leading to spiritual fancy, spiritual pride, and rebellion.

    “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of fo
    reigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. (1 Corinthians 14:20-22)”

  6. I didn’t ‘assume that just because someone in the last century slapped the word ‘Christian’ onto something that it has always been considered a Christian practice.’ Neither I assumed that the gift of tongues is a incoherent babbling, Father. But St. Paul seems to have no problems with the gift of tongues (in Orthodox meaning) and prophecies during the liturgy per se but the wrong use of it. In the same passage about the liturgy St. Paul concludes “do not forbid to speak with tongues’. He doesn’t forbid it during the liturgy and he asks to others to follow him in not-forbidding. But the Orthodox Church do forbid, right? Or not always?

  7. It’s not forbidden, but it doesn’t happen, because the Eucharist is no longer the place for it. Remember, tongues is a sign for unbelievers. Wasn’t Paul complaining about that himself?

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