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?