My Journey to Orthodoxy
Letters to:My Church + My Beloved
Raised 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
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 oppenents to be far more right than I ever thought them
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 actally
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 thorougly 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
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
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 ecclesiology (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.
More about Orthodoxy
Orthodox Christianity, with 2000 years of history behind it, is a huge subject!
Fortunately, there are a great many excellent resources on Orthodoxy available, both
in print and on the net (where, unfortunately, you can also find some not-so-excellent resources as well).
I was particularly helped by Bishop Kallistos Ware's excellent introduction
to Orthodoxy, The Orthodox Way,
in which Bishop Ware points out that, ultimately, Orthodoxy Christianity is
not something you can learn from books.
This was one of the things that led me to "check out" the
reality of Orthodoxy at my local Orthodox church, Saint Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
in Surrey, British Columbia (Canada).
I was particularly fortunate to be introduced to Orthodoxy in the wonderful
community there by a exceptionally knowledgeable and understanding mentor,
himself a convert to Orthodoxy, Father Lawrence Farley. Saint Herman's is part
of the Orthodox Church in America,
a particularly evangelical branch of the Orthodox Church which, as a spiritual
child of the Russian Orthodox Church,
first began Orthodox missionary work here on the continent when
came over to work with both the Russians and the Native Americans in Alaska in 1794.
Inspired by Father Lawrence Farley's example, I am now studying to be a priest
at Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary
in New York. I haven't written a whole lot while there yet, but, if you like,
feel free to check out the pastoral essay I wrote on
why it's important to go to church for my class on
Probably the most important resource on Orthodoxy available on the net (besides
the Bible) is the
collection of the writings of the Early Church Fathers,
available, along with a variety of other books, at the
Christian Classics Ethereal Library. It was
in reading the writings of the "apostolic fathers"
(particularly Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch, and
Justin the Philosopher) that I finally realized that while I could not make
either my Anabaptist-Protestant ecclesiology (understanding of the Church) or
soteriology (understanding of salvation) fit with any of these very early and
important witnesses, everything that these "apostolic fathers" had to say about
these subjects fit with the doctrines of Orthodox Christianity alarmingly well!