An article recently started making the social media rounds, that describes the reasons why an individual elected to not become Orthodox. I started writing a response that was going to argue against his piece. It then dawned on me that perhaps the better approach would be to simply capture why I did convert and how to address the Episcopal Church from which I had come. In that, perhaps I could address some of his concerns.
My conversion process was ultimately a conversion from pretty serious agnosticism. The conversion began when, during a particularly difficult period in my life, I decided to go to church one Sunday morning. As it turned out, there was an Episcopal church in walking distance from where I lived at the time. Since I was raised in the Episcopal Church, it seemed like a reasonable place to go. I became a member and joined the choir along the way. Fast forward a couple of years, and I started dating a girl who challenged my level of commitment as a Christian. I took that as a challenge and began to attend bible studies with her, and started digging deeper into the historic faith. Since the Episcopal Church, and in particular, the AngloCatholic subset to which I belonged, expressed a strong belief in Tradition, I felt it appropriate to begin studying history. This all led to me ultimately joining the catechumenate program as, at first, a student, and ultimately as the lead instructor. During that process, we changed the program from a long weekend to almost a full year with multiple retreats.
I explored the history of the Church in more and more depth, and kept landing first in the Roman Catholic Church, then the Orthodox Church. Without getting into a lot of detail, the Orthodox Church won out on the basis of Tradition. Rome had been guilty of changing doctrine. Not simply clarifying, but actually changing. Although it is frequently related that at the various Ecumenical Councils doctrine was being established, what was happening was doctrine was being declared based on what had been handed down. New doctrines were not created. When England broke with Rome, they didn’t return to Orthodoxy, they established their own Church with new doctrines. Some remained the same as with Rome, others were derived from the various Reformation groups on the Continent.
So I became convinced that the Church of England and the Episcopal Church needed to return to Orthodoxy. I attempted this on the inside, but was ultimately led to the conclusion that I needed to leave. I addressed this many years ago in this article. You’ll note at the end of that article that there was a vast theological chasm between the two Churches. That is quite true. The question is, is the chasm one of full vs. not full (i.e., where one faith has simply not developed all the way), or is it a matter of contradiction?
If you read my old article, you’ll find many examples of teaching in our parish that was at odds with Orthodoxy (or even historic Anglicanism). Anglicanism, itself, teaches things contrary to Orthodoxy. Whether its the filioque (which is, simply put, erroneous), the canon of Scripture (the Anglican Church argues that the so-called Apocrypha are not scripture) or the nature of salvation, or any one of a number of doctrines, there is conflict between the two. It is not a case of Anglicanism having a more primitive type of the faith and it simply has not developed all the way, so Orthodoxy completes it, or fills it. Rather it is mistaken. If you convert to Orthodoxy, you must, in the interest of intellectual and spiritual honesty, reject the doctrines of Anglicanism that are incorrect. That is not to say that everything they teach is erroneous, but you cannot agree to the doctrines of both churches.
The same is true for Roman Catholicism and every variety of Protestantism. The author of the article belongs to a reformed church. That means he believes in sola scripture, sola fide, and predestination. All of these are incorrect. If he attempted to join the Orthodox Church and still hold to these teachings he would have been living a lie. Unfortunately, as much respect as I have for Met. Kallistos, he and others who play the “fullness” card in the interest of not offending non-Orthodox do both sides a disservice.