Why People Become Orthodox

Photo by Ken Jarecke

by Fr. Stephen Freeman

Now this is indeed a presumptious title for a post – as if there were only one reason that people convert to the Orthodox faith. There are certainly many reasons, nuanced by the various personalities that come. And do they ever come!

I was asked in Minneapolis,

“What sort of Evangelism Events do you have at St. Anne?”

I had to confess that other than making ourselves accessible and somewhat “convert friendly” our only method is, “We answer the phone.” (And without a secretary that is not always certain.)

I could also say in a manner that avoids the topic, that people come for a variety of reasons. This is true but indeed avoids much of the obvious.

Several things of note among the many converts we have at St. Anne:

1. They believe the Orthodox faith to be the truth.

This is the reason I have stated for my own conversion. After every conversation, argument, etc. After every article and book, the simple fact is that I believe the Orthodox faith, including its ecclesiology to be the truth. I am willing to defend my acceptance of that, but the only defence that matters is the one I shall have to give on Judgement Day, and I believe that I will sit before a judge who Himself is the head of the Orthodox Church. The serious question will be: “What have you done with the faith I gave you?”

2. We looked at the other “options” and found them wanting.

Many Orthodox converts have looked elsewhere first. Perhaps even hoping that elsewhere would answer their questions and supercede the necessity of becoming Orthodox. But I think for those who become Orthodox, elsewhere just did not do the trick. There is a neatness and tidiness, for instance, about Roman Catholic ecclesiology. In fact, I think it’s so tidy that it is man’s invention and not God’s. But you can argue with me about that some other time. I can hardly think of a situation in which God has been so tidy elsewhere. Why should it only be ecclesiology?

3. “Deep calls unto deep” (Psalm 42:7)

There is an indescribable element of the heart in Orthodoxy. Despite many of its obstacles, individuals find themselves drawn here as the only answer to the depths of their heart. Everything else is rationalized, modernized, clinicalized. Orthodoxy, almost because of its strange rationality is the only thing that answers that deeper call. This has certainly been true of my own journey.

4. The tidiness and the untidiness.

There is a “tidiness” in Orthodox faith and belief, and yet that same security and assurance is coupled with an untidy approach (we call it “economia”) without which it would be impossible to know salvation (other than in a highly sterilized world of annulments and legal dispensations).

5. The saints.

There are marvelous saints in many places and yet the lives and teachings of many of the Orthodox saints, including the ones of the past century, seem to say, “This is home, come here.”

6. God told me to do this.

(No comment needed)

7. Are there other reasons?

Tell us!

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Comments

  1. stewardman says:

    Thank you Father. I suspect it’s often complicated for some yet simple for others. I’ve had a host of reasons I’ve call “Body-Blows” to my impregnable Reformed edifice — per the logic & historicity of Holy-Spirit-Tradition — promised & delivered. I first admired (via J-Pelikan then the Fathers) the beauty of it all from a distance, then at arms-length. Finally it dawned on me that Holy Tradition was personal (C-Carlton)…and had a claim on Me. Thanks be to God.

  2. Reality- IT gives you a real view of yourself in relation to an Almighty Creator and teaches you how to act appropriately

  3. For the first twenty years or so of my adult life I went back and forth between several different Western Christian denominations and several different eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism) and an new age group. I found no spiritual depth in the Western denominations and no Christ in the eastern religions and new age group. Almost 22 years ago I met an Orthodox priest and told him I really wanted to be Christian, but I found no spiritual depth in the churches I had attended. He told me to try the Orthodox Church. I did and have been Orthodox ever since.

  4. Joshua Wilson says:

    I’m still a catechumen in the Orthodox Church. I went from growing up in a broken home with many problems and living in the secular world and liking it. Yet always feeling dead inside or searching for something to fill that empty void. I always knew there was something out there that we couldn’t explain. How can we create something from nothing? I was still very skeptical and still am. You could say I’m a lot like how Thomas used to be. I found Protestant Christianity about 6 years ago. I’ve been to many different churches. From assembly Of God, Baptist, Anglican, non-denominational, Methodist, etc. Nothing did it for me! I felt like I had to force myself to go every Sunday. From the services being loud like a rock concert, to weird people who would yell out random giberish. It was just plain weird and extremely uncomfortable. It was like being on a constant emotional roller coaster. Kind of like my life growing up. I got into Christian apologetics and l liked it. It used logic and rationalism and seemed to have structure. It made you feel in control, yet over time it still didn’t satisfy my hunger or answer all of my questions. So anyway, my Father in law was going to Asbury university and studying the early church fathers in one of his classes. So he was telling me about the Orthodox Church and all the history. At this point my wife and I where very discouraged! We decided to go to the Orthodox Church. I can understand why so many people say it was like being in Heaven on earth. Our priest was so loving and the people where as well. I never felt so calm and peaceful in my life. I knew God was present in that place. We started coming back and I felt myself wanting to come back! I would even catch myself saying to my wife as we would leave Divine Liturgy,” Im glad we got to go home”.
    This is all still very new to me and Im learning so much.

  5. I’m not even a catechumen yet, but I Identify with all the points that Fr. Stephen offered and with Kathy (as well as Josh). It feels to me like the Orthodox Church gives the whole story of Christianity beginning to present day, and then ties the individual believer to it. I also am drawn to the way the Orthodox address suffering.

  6. Fr. John says:

    Myranda, Orthodox Christianity has had a lot of experience with suffering. In the last century, over 100 million Christians died for their faith. Over 99% of them were Orthodox.

  7. I came into the Orthodox Church at Pascha in 2013. The journey was one of gentle calling by the Lord, and no matter how many times I tested Him and questioned Him about it, He just kept calling and leading me home to His original church. As others have written in their posts, there is something mystical and unexplainable about the call to Orthodoxy, and at some point a person just has to answer Yes to Jesus when He says “Come and see”. A very blessed and wonderful welcome to all of my Orthodox brothers and sisters!

  8. Beauty of worship. Whether it be a humble storefront church or a majestic cathedral with several side chapels, One cannot deny the otherworldliness of the services that gives one a glimpse of what it must be like in heaven.

  9. There are a lot stories on the internet of people who convert to Orthodoxy, so many converts and from so many different backgrounds that I think it really proves the authenticity of the Orthodox Church and is a sign that the Lord himself calls these people into His Church. I myself was raised an Orthodox christian but believe me when I say that from the moment I discovered this site, till now, the posts that I have read here, have really helped me too.
    Reading stories from people across the world discovering and converting to Orthodoxy after years of searching for the truth, motivates me in my struggle to grow closer to God and I try even harder now to become a proper example of an Orthodox christian.

    Thank you Fr. John for all the work you have put into this site.

  10. Fr. John says:

    Thank you Jim.

    Please support our work HERE if it is meaningful to you. We get no help from any bishop, parish or institution – only readers.

  11. @Lola J. Lee Beno Beauty of worship indeed! I have also found that Orthodox hymnology retains its beauty even if it is not in its original language. The sound of the words may change but the beauty is still there!

  12. Joshua Greve says:

    Hats.

  13. Joshua Greve says:

    But seriously. I especially appreciated point 4. What an interesting way to put it, and so true.

  14. Fr. John says:

    Yep, it’s the funny hats. ;-)

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