Letting the cat out of the bag…

[This is the first email I sent my mom, letting her know about my impending desire to convert from Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy.  At this point she is the only person in my family who knows.  The rest of the posts here are basically my research and responses back to family and friends.]

Hey Mom.  I wanted to send you a note to let you know some news.  I’ve been waiting a while to tell you guys about this until we were a bit more sure about what direction we were heading.  [My wife] and I are going through a transition time on our spiritual journey.  It’s actually been in progress for years.  For me this is a culmination of events I can see going back all the way to college.  It’s slowly picked up steam and really taken off in the last two years, and now it’s coming to a point where the momentum is huge.  It’s still not a definite thing, but the direction is now so strong that I’d like to make you aware of it so that you can begin to process it.  I decided to send an email instead of calling on the initial pass so that you could have time to think it over a bit before we talked.

So, the news…

After much study I have come to the place where I no longer agree with some of the tenants of protestant Christianity.  (Don’t worry, it’s that not bad.)  In particular the reformation doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide I no longer agree with.  This gives me no particular confidence in protestantism, but I certainly have other equally big issues with Roman Catholicism.

Consequently, I am going through the process of joining the Orthodox Church.  In particular, [edited out…].

I’m sure you have many thoughts and questions.  Let me try to answer a few.

1) How do you even join the Greek Orthodox Church, and why would you?  I’m not Greek.  Nor am I in Greece. To be technically accurate, I am not joining the national church of Greece.  What I am joining is the Eastern Orthodox community of Christians.  It just so happens that the local parish here in [Edited out…] that is in that communion has associations with the national church of Greece.  The church I’m joining has some Greek people in it, but also lots of other nationalities.  Mostly it’s Americans.  So, I’m not so much becoming Greek Orthodox as I am becoming Eastern Orthodox. [My local priest told me that the parish here, though a “Greek Orthodox” church is not connected to the national church of Greece. It is actually under Constantinople, not Greece; however, since the Orthodox left in Turkey are Greek and speak Greek it is not entirely inaccurate to describe Constantinople as Greek.] 

2) Isn’t this kind of sudden?  It is sudden for you, and I’m sorry for that.  I really don’t know of a way to tell you that I’m doing this in a not sudden way.  I apologize for the jarring nature of this.  I’m sure you’ll want to know why this is the first you’ve heard of it.  I’ll talk to you about that later, I promise.

3) Did somebody make me mad, or step on my toes in some way?  Is this emotional?  Am I mad about something?  Nope.  I’m not mad or hurt or anything.  It’s just the logical conclusion of a very long series of very small steps.  I think it makes the most sense now, so I’m making the switch.

4) When will I be joining?  I really don’t know.  I’m fairly settled in my decision to do this, but [my wife] is still working through it.  I’m waiting until she has been able to wrestle with the questions and we can come to an agreement on how to proceed.  In the mean time, I’ll exercise patience.  :o)  It could happen within the year.  It might take a few.  I just don’t know.

Beyond that, I can think of so many different questions you might have that I don’t even want to try to answer them here.  If I did I would be writing a book.  I’m happy to answer all your questions as best I can.  I just figure you’ll probably want to get on the phone and talk to me about this first.  Or maybe you’ll want to take a day and process your feelings a little.  Whatever you need to do, do it.  Just, please, keep this to yourself for the time being.  I haven’t let anyone else in the family know yet.  I want to talk to you first before we open it up to the rest of the family.

Over the intervening period we have before the joining becomes official I hope you will take the time necessary to becoming acquainted with Orthodoxy and to pray for us.  I would like for you to be able to become comfortable with what Eastern Orthodoxy is and be able to engage with it.  Maybe you already are!  I don’t know.  You’ve always done such a good job at embracing the things that us kids were involved in.  You’ve looked at the journeys we take and make them your own, to the degree you can.  While this may look like a really bizarre turn I think over time you’ll see what about Orthodoxy draws me and be able to wish us well on the journey, even if it’s not one you would take.

I love you and Dad.  I always have, and I always will.  Think about this email, and then give me a call sometime when we can talk privately about it.  Thanks.

Letting the cat out of the bag…

Why am I doing this?

Hello. This blog is a collection of correspondence begun on October 27, 2011, with my family on the subject of my impending conversion from Protestant Christianity to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. I have been a Protestant for my entire life (about 35 years), but for the last two or three years have been intensely studying Orthodoxy.   I recently started the process of informing my family.

I decided to post the letters for a few reasons.  I suspect that the issues I’m dealing with are fairly universal to converting Protestants.  You might find them helpful if you are thinking about Orthodoxy, someone you know is converting and you want to know more and why, or you are converting and want to have some help in letting your family know.  You can feel free to take these letters and use them for your own personal correspondence, modified appropriately. They took a lot of time and personal research to write, and while not perfect I’m sure, they might save others some time.

The letters are a mixture of personal reflection and thoughts, and the combined reflections of others much smarter and more versed in the issues than myself.  Since they are personal letters I didn’t spend a lot of time giving attribution for every person who unknowingly contributed material, but if I quoted anyone verbatim I tried to give attribution.

My family is all protestant, and more particularly that brand of Protestantism known as charismatic.  My dad and my mom were both raised in the denomination known as the Assemblies of God.  After marriage they intended to become missionaries, but for various reasons my dad became a pastor instead.  Growing up my dad was the only pastor I ever had.  He and my mom were my teachers and my examples.  They did a great job, and myself and my two sisters became and remain Christians to this day.  My parents did finally get to fulfill their desire to be missionaries for a few years, but health issues interfered and they came home and finally retired from full-time Christian work a few years ago.  I am eternally indebted and grateful to what my parents did for me.

One of my sister serves with her husband as music ministers in a very large Assemblies of God church on the east coast.  The other attends a Four Square church in the same town where I live, which is very similar to the A/G.  I have an uncle who’s an A/G pastor, and two cousins who are missionaries.  My family is full on both sides of deeply committed Christians, most of whom are charismatic.

I hope these ongoing letters are a help to others who may be on the same path.  Feel free to contact me if you want help with any issues.

Why am I doing this?